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Environmental education, a relatively new addition to the curriculum in most schools, may not survive federal budget cuts. But with help from the Center for Environmental Education, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, some children in nine Eastern and Gulf Coast states will continue to get a lively lesson on one environment--the ocean.

Called "Fur, Flukes, and Flippers," the lesson in sea lore has won widespread praise from educators. It is presented by Ozzie Tollefson, a teacher and actor who left the classroom five years ago after 15 years in teaching, and took his talents and some special "teaching aids'' to the stages of elementary schools.

Mr. Tollefson uses whale, seal, and sea turtle puppets, as well as slides, to teach children about the oceans, a resource on which land-dwellers are becoming increasingly dependent. His combined talents as an actor and a teacher are reported to make a long-lasting impression on the children.

"He comes to the school only once a year, but his lessons aren't one-shot programs," said one New Jersey principal. "Ozzie generates an interest that transcends the time he's actually here." The principal estimated that after four months had passed, the children still remembered 90 percent of what they'd heard from Mr. Tollefson.

The center is underwriting about 60 percent of the cost of the tour, thus reducing the price to $100 for each school.

For more information, write to: The Center for Environmental Education, 624 9th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Telephone: 202-737-3600.

A new, international study, expected to involve 40 countries between now and 1985, may provide American educators with some answers to a question that is growing increasingly problematic: Why, when the U.S. has spent billions of dollars developing science curricula, have students' science-achievement test scores continued to decline?

By looking at how science is taught in other nations, the study's planners hope that they can identify some of the factors that affect students' achievement.

Possible reasons cited by the planners for the wide variation among countries include time devoted to science instruction, the organization of science curricula, and the content of the courses.

The study, which will involve more than 10,000 American schoolchildren between the ages of 10 and 17, is being conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (iea). Willard J. Jacobson, a professor of natural sciences at Columbia University's Teachers College, is directing the U.S. component of the study and serves as a member of the international steering committee.

Trial tests will be given to small groups of students in participating countries. Initially, about 200 American students from each level to be studied--10-, 14-, and 17-year-olds--will take the test this spring.

A comparable study, "Science Education in Nineteen Countries," was completed in the early 1970's by the same organization.

The sun shines through a new science curriculum, developed by an interdisciplinary research team from the University of Southern California. Solar energy is the primary focus of the sequence of lessons, developed for kindergarten through sixth-grade children. But the intent of the lessons is to use technology as a vehicle for teaching the broader principles of science and the basic concepts of energy and energy conservation.

Children learn to test a hypothesis by covering a plant's leaves with a tin box, then drawing a picture of what they think the leaves will look like when they open the box several days later.

Or they may place two pieces of paper, one black and one white, in the sun; observe the difference in temperature between them; and "consider the reason for the difference," according to Kathleen Wulf, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Education. She developed the curriculum with Seymour Lampert of the usc School of Engineering, and Gilbert Yanow of the jet-propulsion laboratory affiliated with the university.

The curriculum is being tested by about 3,000 students across the country, according to the researchers. So far, they report, the material seems to be an effective way of teaching basic science, even to children who read poorly or who speak little English.

For more information, write to the University of Southern California Solar Energy Education Center, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90007.--Susan Walton

Vol. 01, Issue 23

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