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Students and teachers in seven New Mexico schools are exploring the cultures of the Southwest this year as part of a new interdisciplinary teaching project unveiled last month by Collaboratives for Humanities and Arts Teaching, or chart.

The $150,000 effort, known as "New Mexico Currents," is being undertaken jointly with the Hispanic Cultural Foundation, which provides training on Hispanic and American Indian cultures for participating teachers and supports a wide variety of classroom projects focusing on those subjects. Students in one elementary school, for example, are writing autobiographies and family histories. All of the projects are being conducted in collaboration with scholars and artists, higher-education institutions, historical societies, and museums.

Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, chart also funds 13 other projects nationwide to improve humanities and arts instruction.

Free copies of a notebook-sized version of the Periodic Chart of the Elements, a standard reference for chemistry students, are available to teachers through a nonprofit publishing house.

The chart, distributed by an arm of the pharmaceutical firm Merck & Company Inc., features the symbol, atomic number, atomic weight, oxidation state, electron configuration, principal quantum number, and X-ray notation of each of the more than 100 known elements.

The notebook version is designed to fit into a three-ring binder.

Teachers may order the charts by writing to Periodic Charts, c/o Merck Professional Handbooks, P.O. Box 2000-w.b.s.-435, Rahway, N.J. 07065.

As the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights approaches, two national organizations have launched a $1.5-million effort to promote teaching about constitutional protections.

"The Bill of Rights Education Collaborative" is a joint project of the American Historical Association and the American Political Science Association. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the collaborative will provide $890,000 in grants over the next two years.

Grants are available for teachers to fund short courses on the subject and to develop their own school and community projects in constitutional rights, as well as for state humanities councils to help teachers provide instruction on the subject outside school.

Applications for some grants are due by Jan. 15.

For more information, write to the collaborative at 1527 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, or call (202) 483-2512.--dv & pw

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