Carmel Church education site

For the last several months, Brett, Christa Winingham, and I have been working on a new website to provide information about Carmel Church. The first components of that site are going active today, and the site can be accessed at either carmelchurchquarry.org
or http://web.me.com/sciencegal/VMNH/Go_to_Homepage.html. I’m also adding a permanent link on the blog page.

When we decided to develop the new site, we had to accommodate several competing goals. One of our primary objectives was to make a site that was useful for teachers and that would encourage them to use the site for classroom teaching. That results in some obstacles; teachers are almost completely bound these days to various state learning standards. These standards (“Standards of Learning”, in Virginia) don’t often adhere very closely to what professionals in a given field do, particularly in sciences. Virginia’s earth science standards, for example, have very few references to such basic concepts as the age of the Earth, and practically none to paleontology. How, then, do you get a teacher to teach a concept that isn’t prominent in the standards?

A related issue is that standards are different for different grades, and of course different age students have different abilities. Do we focus on a single age group and ignore the others?

Another goal for the site is to reach beyond public school teachers. We wanted to make this information useful to college undergraduate teachers and to interested members of the public. But content that’s interesting, or that’s important for an introductory biology or geology class, is often at odds with what is mandated in state standards.

We decided to go with a rather complex site that on the first level is divided into an elementary-age section (up to 5th grade) and a secondary-age section (9th grade and up); middle school teachers should be able to use components from either or both sections, depending on the ages and abilities of their students. There is a fair amount of overlap in the content; if you look at each section you’ll see many of the same photos, and some of the same videos. The secondary section tends to add additional interpretation and content.

Within each section are topic-based modules. At the moment, the only active modules are “Marine Food Webs” in both sections, and “Tools and Techniques” in the elementary section. We’re currently working on several additional modules that will go live over the next couple of months. You can see from the inactive buttons some of the modules we’re planning to add.

To help teachers, within each module we’re also including supplemental activities for use in the classroom. These include ActivBoard files for the elementary modules, and possible discussion topics in the secondary modules. We’ll be modifying and expanding these areas in particular, and we’re always looking for suggestions for additional activities.

We’re launching this public beta at a very early stage because we want to get feedback before we get too far into the design process. So please, especially if you’re a teacher, go to the site, play around with it, watch the videos, and have a good time. But if you see things that are broken, like dead links or videos, things that just don’t do what they should from an educational standpoint, or things that you particularly like and want to see more of, send us an email and let us know.

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