- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2001

Two District of Columbia elementary schools have received national recognition for a program that teaches youngsters about science.
Butterfly Mania, which introduces students to several scientific principles by closely studying the insects, garnered Watkins and Peabody elementary schools in Southwest an honorable mention in the second annual Unisys Online Science Education competition. The prizes were awarded March 28.
About 260 students in 13 kindergarten and second-grade classes partnered with the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies and the Capitol Hill Cluster PTA for the project.
Janice McKinnon, a librarian at Peabody who coordinated the project between the two schools, said the butterfly curriculum originated independently from the contest as a way to give students a hands-on approach to science.
"This is not something you do and it's isolated to your classroom," she said.
Ms. McKinnon said the goal of studying butterflies wasn't necessarily to create a generation of entomologists, but to get children to begin asking questions about the world around them and to instill in them a desire for seeking out the answers.
Under the program, about four or five caterpillars are distributed to each kindergarten class. The 100 or so students in the second-grade classes are given caterpillars individually.
The children feed and care for the caterpillars and observe their metamorphosis into butterflies firsthand over a period of several weeks. At the same time, they learn about the life cycle of the butterfly, its relationship to its habitat and its migration patterns, which they track via the Internet.
"It's motivating for reading and writing," said Watkins Elementary librarian Cathy Pfeiffer. She points out that before you can teach youngsters about a butterfly that migrates to Mexico, they have to have an understanding of where Mexico is.
The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies provided technical support and research resources for the project.
Gregor Kalas, teacher services manager with the center, said it encourages students to work with primary sources in this case insects and that the Butterfly Mania project was a model of that approach.
The 12 participating teams from across the United States were charged with creating Web sites that would reflect their studies of how science benefits their community.
But International Public Science Day spokeswoman Janet Mednik said the contest was about more than just creating a "sharp-looking Web site." She said the site should be "reflective of what [students] had been doing for weeks and months."
The contest was sponsored by Unisys, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. The top prize was $10,000, but each school was given a grant of $2,500.
On March 21, International Public Science Day 2001, each school presented its results during a Showcase of Science video conference, and five judges from the scientific education community selected the winner.
This year's winner was Chicago's Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez Elementary School. The first- and second-graders teamed with the Chicago Academy of Sciences and Friends of the Chicago River to produce El Agua Trabaja: How Water Benefits Quality of Life in Chicago's Little Village.
The results of the projects were posted on the Internet, along with artwork by the students and links to teaching resources. They can be found at www.fi.edu/psd2001.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide