Schools: What Works
Once a week, Washington, D.C., parents of preschool and elementary-school children gather at a busy McDonald's restaurant to learn how to reinforce a child's reading and writing skills. The program, called "Kids' Primetime," has been organized by the Basic Skills Parent Project of Catholic University's school of education. The instructors in the program are professionals in children's literature from the local public-library system, who read to the parents' children and help them write stories and lyrics to songs.
Catholic University, the division of children's services of the D.C. Public Libraries, Reading Is Fundamental (rif) of D.C., and the neighborhood McDonald's restaurant all contribute to the program, each absorbing the costs of its own participation.
The cooperative effort has two goals: to teach parents how to work at home to strengthen the literacy skills of their children; and to provide a monitored, yet casual, setting in which young children can practice reading and writing.
The trained librarians who run the sessions try to illustrate for the parents techniques of reading to their children and using "good" literature to enhance their children's informal education.
They recommend that parents schedule a story-reading time that is followed by interpretive questions, and they suggest, in addition, that parents have their children make grocery lists, read maps, use the telephone directory, and mark the family calendar.
"We're trying to show that books and learning are not limited to libraries, schools, and day-care centers," says a staff member of the program.
For further information, contact Gail D. Moeller, Parent/Staff Coordinator, Basic Skills Parent Project, School of Education, Catholic University, 620 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20064.
Water, water, everywhere ... but not enough is taught about it in schools, say the members of a consortium of educators and research scientists in Ohio.
So, to counter what they call the traditional "land-oriented philosophy" of teaching about the world's water resources, the scholars and scientists have devised a series of interdisciplinary workbooks that teachers in a variety of subject fields can use to draw their students' attention to the earth's bodies of water and the way societies use them.
The group developed 23 such supplementary study units, which they call "investigations," under a three-year grant starting in 1977. Each, they say, is "designed to take a concept or idea from the existing school curriculum and develop it in an oceanic and Great Lakes context." A cooperative effort of Ohio State University's college of education and school of natural resources, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Education, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the program now distributes the materials in Ohio and trains teachers to use them.
One of the most popular units is "The Great Lakes Triangle," which uses weather charts, ship models, and plotted bathymetric contours of a lake to investigate ship and airplane disasters.
In another unit, called "It's Everyone's Sea: Or Is It?," students study the War of 1812 dispute between the U.S. and Great Britain involving Lake Erie. They also role-play representatives of eight countries in a simulated Law of the Sea Conference.
Other frequently used "investigations" are "Erosion Along Lake Erie," "Getting To Know Your Local Fish," "Shipping: The World Connection," and "Oil Spill!"
According to the program's founder, Victor J. Mayer, professor of science education and geology at Ohio State and education coordinator of the state's Sea Grant program, school systems are encouraged to reproduce the materials for their own use.
The major goal of the interdisciplinary workbooks, he adds, is to promote "careful, planned use of oceanic and fresh-water resources." These activity units may be taught during art, geography, history, language-arts, mathematics, music, science, and social-studies classes.
For further information, contact the Ohio Sea Grant Education Program, The Ohio State University, 283 Arps Hall, 1945 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio 43210.
Students at the McConnelsville-Malta (Ohio) Junior High School who work diligently at their studies and receive no unsatisfactory marks for their behavior reap an atypical reward: They are allowed to play during school hours in a special "student honors room."
The room is open during the last period of the day when most students are in a required study hall; it contains ping-pong tables, card tables, and a record player.
Designed, according to the school's principal, to encourage 7th- and 8th-grade students to strive academically and to acquire good habits of conduct, the program is available only to students who receive A's, B's, and C's for the preceding grading period. Occasionally, a student who earns a few D's will qualify, but only if the teachers believe he or she is "working to capacity."
An academically accomplished student who receives "detentions" for minor discipline infractions is not eligible for this bonus recreation time. Students pay for their infractions by losing five minutes of recess for each.
The student council manages the facility and a teacher is present to monitor the activities. According to school officials, no students have been expelled from the room for misbehavior.
For further information, contact Robert Cosgray, Principal, McConnelsville-Malta Junior High School, 21 E. Jefferson, McConnelsville, Ohio 43756.
Word of innovative, effective programs may be sent to SCHOOLS: WHAT WORKS, Education Week, 1333 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., #560, Washington, D.C. 20036. (When writing to others for more details, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)