Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Earth Day 2003 Brings Water into Focus

Save the Date! Earth Day 2003 is Tuesday, April 22. Begun in 1969 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is a nationwide holiday to celebrate the Earth and bring attention to the environmental challenges and perils facing the world today. Though initially a grassroots effort, Earth Day has become an icon in mainstream culture, with millions of people around the world participating in events and activities designed to raise awareness about the current and future plight of planet Earth.

According to the Earth Day Network, the focus of Earth Day 2003 is the Water for Life campaign, an international effort by students, families, and community groups to test the quality of local water resources. The health of the world's water supply is affected by a number of factors, not the least of which is pollution created by human activities. Earth Day 2003 provides an excellent opportunity for classroom discussion about the state of the water supply as well as changes that might be made to improve it.

Try using PeachStar's video streaming resources to supplement your discussion of Earth Day and world water quality. Visit the website, click on video streaming, and search by keyword, grade level, or subject area to find video clips to illustrate the complex scientific concepts you are sharing with your class.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Shining the Spotlight on Georgia Middle Schools

In 1999, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform launched the Schools to Watch Program, an initiative that recognized middle schools nationwide that met stringent criteria for high performance. In 2002, the National Forum selected Georgia, California, and North Carolina to pilot state-level Schools to Watch programs and introduce the criteria for high-performance to other schools across the country. Within Georgia, the Georgia Middle School Association (GMSA) and the Georgia Alliance for Middle Level Excellence (GAMLE) have taken the lead in sharing the criteria with schools statewide, and selecting as Georgia Lighthouse Schools to Watch those institutions that fully meet or excel those criteria.

For the 2002-2003 school year, Crabapple Middle School in Fulton County and Towns County Middle School have been designated as Georgia Lighthouse Schools to Watch. Congratulations to the educators and students at both schools. These schools ?were selected by state leaders for their academic excellence, responsiveness to the needs and interests of young adolescents, and their commitment to helping all students achieve at high levels.? In order to be considered for selection, schools had to submit a written application demonstrating their fulfillment of the criteria established by the National Forum, including student performance. State teams visited schools that qualified as finalists to observe classroom instruction; interview faculty, staff, students, and parents; and evaluate sample lesson plans and student work.

Towns County Middle School, located in Hiawassee, Georgia, serves 255 students in grades six through eight. The diminutive size of the school allows the faculty, staff, student body, and parents to be close-knit in an almost familial way. Despite this old-fashioned charm, however, Towns County Middle is a leader among Georgia schools in the use of educational technology. Now in its fifth year of universal laptop use, Towns County Middle uses technology as a tool to bridge the learning gap and assist students in achieving to high standards.

Crabapple Middle School, a Majority to Minority school located in Roswell, Georgia, serves 973 students in grades six through eight. Crabapple has a tradition of high test scores across the board, and disaggregated data shows continued improvement within targeted subgroups. The school achieves high standards by utilizing several recommended middle school organization models including looping, multiage teaming, and expeditionary learning to accommodate the different learning modalities of students.

Linda Hopping and John Lounsbury, the respective heads of GMSA and GAMLE and co-chairs of the Georgia Lighthouse Schools to Watch Program commend Crabapple and Towns County Middle as ?outstanding schools that promote academic excellence for all students, while responding to the unique developmental needs of young adolescents.? Both schools will serve as mentors for other schools across the state and nation by being showcased in such forums as the Georgia Middle School Association Conference, the National Middle School Association Conference, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform website, and the State Department of Education website.

PeachStar congratulates both Towns County and Crabapple Middle Schools on their excellent work. We would also congratulate the following schools named as Beacon Schools, schools that meet the criteria for Schools to Watch: Armuchee Middle School ; Floyd County; Mercer Middle School; Savannah Chatham County; Renfroe Middle School ; Decatur City Schools; and Taylor Road Middle School; Fulton County.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Prom Preparedness with PeachStar

Spring is here in Georgia and prom time is fast approaching. In recognition of the importance of student safety related to this special event, PeachStar has put together a block of programs to help you discuss prom preparedness with your students. The following programs will air on PeachStar?s Channel 420 during the month of April:
Drinking and Driving
Primary Influence
Ultimate Choice
Multiple Choice
Behind the Smoke Screen: Facts About Tobacco Use

These programs address important issues that become prominent concerns around prom time. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, alcohol abuse is the number one youth drug problem, killing six times more people under 21 than all other illicit drugs combined. Alcohol is a depressant that impairs judgment and alters perception, often leading to out of character sexual behavior, violence, and recklessness. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35% of all traffic related deaths in Georgia for 2001 involved alcohol. Those statistics grow even more alarming around prom time, when more than 55% of all traffic fatalities nationwide are alcohol related.

Prom can be a safe and wonderful experience for your students if they choose to celebrate it responsibly. Take time to discuss these issues with your students before prom time and make sure they know all of the potential consequences of their behavior; use the programs above to reinforce your positive message about prom safety. For additional information on how you can help your students to enjoy prom responsibly, visit the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website or Teens Health.

Monday, April 7, 2003

The ABCs of KET's GED 2002

Adult educators in Georgia and nationwide have found the 26-part GED Connection series produced by Kentucky Educational Television (KET) to be a great help as you prepare your students to take the GED test. In addition to the videos, you can now take advantage of the GED 2002 Online Professional Development website, featuring an interactive orientation to the online training, which may be used as both staff development and as an instructional resource. This tutorial walks you through the online training site and prepares you to take full advantage of the resources it offers.

For those of you who are new to Internet usage, the orientation begins with a thorough explanation of Internet navigation and terminology as well as an overview of the GED 2002 website specifically. The initial overview explains why online training is the right choice for you as an educator and makes special note of the added values of online versus onsite training, including:

* Being available anytime anywhere
* Being self-paced
* Being interactive
* Allowing simultaneous web-exploration
* Serving as a book-marked online reference
* Doubling as both a staff development and classroom teaching tool

As you move through the orientation, you will have an opportunity to learn about the GED 2002 test itself, including its purpose, design, and scoring methods. Detailed descriptions of each test, including Language Arts Writing, Language Arts Reading, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics are provided along with essential information like number and format of questions, time allotment for test-taking, and a scoring breakdown.

Once you have finished learning the fundamentals of the GED 2002, you will be ready to move on to the training materials. Modules are available for each of the following areas: Math, Writing, and Critical Thinking. Each module is arranged into different topics of interest to educators; for example, Math is divided into sections on problem-solving skills, calculators, and grid formats. The modules will target different skill areas and offer suggestions for effective teaching strategies you might use to reach a diverse group of learners.

Sunday, April 6, 2003

PeachStar Classroom: The Year in Review

Throughout this school year, we've told you quite a bit about PeachStar Classroom, a credit-bearing distance learning initiative that gives Georgia high school students access to courses they might otherwise be unable to take. If this is the first time you have heard about PeachStar Classroom, take a moment to review a little bit about the program.

Since Georgia currently faces a shortage of certified teachers in specialized secondary-level science, PeachStar and the Professional Standards Commission have chosen physics and chemistry as the two pilot courses for PeachStar Classroom. The courses, being piloted in seven schools around Georgia, rely on the existing PeachStar satellite infrastructure to deliver video content produced in conjunction with certified science educators. In addition to the video component, the courses also feature print and online materials including labs, worksheets, teacher instructions, and note-taking guides.

All teachers participating in the pilot received training at the Georgia Public Broadcasting facility in Atlanta before courses began. In addition, these teachers have access to support via telephone, email, and website resources. On-demand remote trainings to be delivered via web-casting are anticipated for the 2003-2004 school year.

There are currently more than 75 students enrolled in PeachStar Classroom from the following school systems: Dodge County, Ben Hill County, Calhoun County, Gwinnett County and Taliaferro County schools. The response from participating schools has been overwhelmingly positive. Take a look at what some of the administrators, teachers, and students had to say about PeachStar Classroom during recent site visits.

We are a small charter school with only one teacher per grade level. And because we only have one science teacher, of course, that teacher cannot be an expert in all of the science areas. So we considered PeachStar Classroom the ideal program so that students will be able to learn from an expert?s perspective all of the science areas.
Albie Arbee of Taliaferro County High School

I would tell any other principal that this has been a positive situation for us. That our students like it. Our teachers have made it work. It was a good program and we would like to offer it again next year. It is something we anticipate working with for many years to come.
Susan Long of Dodge County High School

The students enjoy it. It is a new technique for them. They were used to seeing the teacher lecture, model things on the blackboard. Of course, the teacher will still do that, but after they view the film and discuss it. It adds a different, expanded dimension to the class seeing it on tape first.
Albie Arbee of Taliaferro County High School

Being in the classroom as long as I've been, it's just important that I know that my students are getting the material that they need. I feel like they are getting the material [from PeachStar Classroom].
Melanie Peacock of Dodge County High School

It had been so long since I was around this [physics and chemistry] material. I was petrified. I didn't think I could do it. After a short time using the material, instead of having a dread, it became my favorite class of the day because I had learned to use the material and a short prep time of reviewing the tape and checking, of course, with our text.
Fred Whitaker of Taliaferro High School

I was skeptical about PeachStar Classroom because I'm a traditional classroom teacher and that is all I was accustomed to. So I thought my students might suffer if the program didn't go well. I decided to give it a try and I've been real pleased that I did.

Melanie Peacock of Dodge County High School

In the PeachStar Classroom it is not just watching television. There are also a lot of different things like handouts and labs that go along and really supplement the information that is given on the video.

Evan Clements of Dodge County High School

Students ask questions all the time about what kind of class this is and what exactly we do. And the first thing I let them know is that it is not just watching television all period. You really do work. This class is very challenging and that is what we need. I really enjoy it. It is challenging and you get great rewards from it.
Samantha Stevens of Dodge County High School

The quiz at the end of the episodes asks us questions about previous sessions and what happened during that session and it makes sure you paid attention and it recaps your mind about what went on.
Angelicia Harper of Taliaferro County High School

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Learning Is Sweet at the Atlanta History Center

Recognizing that anytime is a good time for ice cream treats, the Atlanta History Center (AHC) is now featuring Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop, an interactive family-focused exhibition documenting and celebrating the popularity of ice cream. The exhibition, open until May 26, is presented locally by Mayfield Dairies, with additional support from Publix Super Markets Inc. and Publix Super Markets Charities.

Last summer, the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, created Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop to bring to light the history, art and technology of American ice cream. Noting that smooth, sweet ice cream is as common and convenient as the grocery store that carries it, this exhibition takes a look at ice cream's past. In fact, this dish was once so costly and laborious that it was only set before Renaissance kings and courtiers. All aspects of ice cream's history are explored - from those early beginnings to the secrets of the great soda jerks, the origins of the cone, the art of proper dipping and some of the greatest ice cream formulas of the past. The Atlanta History Center is the first organization to showcase the exhibition since its original opening and the largest Southeast location currently booked to exhibit it.

According to the USDA, the total U.S. production of ice cream and related frozen desserts in 2000 amounted to more than 1.6 billion gallons, translating to 23 quarts per person. But this isn't a recent phenomenon. Our nation's affection for ice cream has been a long love affair. It is said that George Washington served ice cream, still a labor-intensive treat, at state affairs. In 1812, Dolley Madison served a strawberry ice cream creation at President Madison's second inaugural banquet at the White House.

The exhibition not only looks at the historical origins of ice cream; it also stirs up memories of recent decades when popular ice cream trucks and local attractions intertwined fun and food. While Atlanta's changes in growth and population are more recognizable, it's fun to ponder the city's own history with dairy products like ice cream:

* In the 1930s, DeKalb County boasted more dairies than any single county outside the state of Wisconsin.
* For three decades, more than 250 school children per day learned about dairy products at the R. L. Mathis Dairy in Decatur, each going away with a button proclaiming: "I milked Rosebud," the dairy's onsite cow. In a fun twist, the Atlanta History Center is offering 2-for-1 admission to the exhibition for any person who brings in an "I milked Rosebud" button during the showing.
* Residents longing for a cool treat in 1959 might have visited Wilson's Ice Cream Store at N. Decatur Plaza, or the Tastee Freez at either Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Chamblee or on Jonesboro Road in Forest Park.
* The clanging of bells on 42 ice cream trucks, operated by Atlanta-based Frosty Treats, might still be heard within your neighborhood. They have been an Atlanta tradition for over 30 years.

On Mondays during the month of April, the AHC is offering Magic Mondays, a fun program designed for children aged 1-4. Magic Mondays are designed to give children the opportunity to delve into the Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop while learning colors and shapes, participating in fun arts and crafts, and enjoying cool treats provided by Mayfield.

To learn more about Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop or Magic Mondays, visit the Atlanta History Center's website.