One day at a time; Back to nature

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Fooling their parents about school was so simple, Robert and Anthony Duran made it a habit.

The twins played hooky from their high school in Corona, Calif.--spending their days watching videos and listening to music--for two entire years, skipping their freshman and sophomore years.

But their truancy was discovered when the boys' father called Corona High School earlier this month to request the report cards that his sons had repeatedly "forgotten."

"Believe me, I was very upset with them--with myself mostly," Armando Duran told a local newspaper after school officials alerted him to his sons' absenteeism.

District policy considers students who are absent more than 50 days to be dropouts.

"If we can't find them, we can't find them," said Barbara Falconer, the principal of Corona High School.

The boys, now 17, said they had "planned to tell their parents every day," but were too afraid, according to news reports.

The teenagers have enrolled in an accelerated career academy to make up their missed credits and plan to graduate a year behind their classmates.

Imagine learning math by calculating how much bears eat each day or by studying ornithology in an aviary.

About 100 students will have such opportunities next January when the Providence, R.I., school district--in collaboration with the local park service--opens a middle school at the zoo in the city's 430-acre Roger Williams Park.

A school building near a park entrance will serve as a central meeting place, but the park grounds are intended to be the real classroom, school officials said.

Plans call for students to wear zoo uniforms to the school and to perform certain tasks during the day, such as feeding the animals.

"The idea is to use the park campus as the school," said Arthur M. Zarrella, the superintendent of the 23,000-student school district.

Mr. Zarrella said he envisions science classes in the park's greenhouses and history lessons in the park's museum.

"It's a beautiful place," he said. "I've always felt it had the potential for being an exciting place for kids to learn."

--Jessica Portner

Vol. 14, Issue 18

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