In a Pittsburgh school auditorium recently, about 30 high school students chose several partners to exchange bodily fluids with--all in the interest of science.
To demonstrate a new curriculum called the "Science of HIV," published last month by the National Science Teachers Association, the curriculum's author graphically displayed how the virus that causes aids can spread. After students at Allderdice High School swapped cups of chemically treated water with three different partners, a colored dye revealed that three out of four students had been exposed to the phony virus.
"They were very emotional about the fact they were infected, while others seemed relieved," said Michael DiSpezio, the author of the month-long course now being used in 1,200 schools across the country.
Putting the often explosive subject of AIDS education in between units on cell formation in a basic-biology class can be helpful for students and teachers, said Shirley Ireton, the director of special publications for the Arlington, Va.-based NSTA. One of the lessons recommends that teachers use props such as interlocking plastic Lego blocks to show how cells are formed by proteins and then how the cells can sometimes be dismantled by a virus that is immune to disease-fighting cells. "We felt there needed to be a science-based method of learning about this disease," Ms. Ireton said last week. "There's a lot out there that is just 'don't do this, don't do that,' but science can make the points for children so they understand why they shouldn't do things," she said.
The word "condom" does make an appearance in the course, however. It's mentioned as one way to create a protective barrier to pathways of infection.
The U.S. Postal Service kicked off a new program last week that will allow students nationwide to put their stamp on history.
The Postal Service teamed up with the U.S. Department of Education and 10 education groups, as part of a commemorative-stamp and education program honoring the most significant 20th century people, events, and trends.
Students in grades 3-6 will help choose the subjects to be featured on future stamps by learning about the 20th century, and then voting based on their lessons. The program will get started in February and will run through 2000. The effort is expected to reach 200,000 classrooms nationwide.
--JESSICA PORTNER & ADRIENNE D. COLES