2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

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Bringing the World to the Classroom

The Institute for Learning Technologies is using a real around-the-world sea voyage to enliven the study of geography and science for fifth and sixth graders in New York City schools.

Joshua Reibel, Associate Director of the Institute, said: "This project is an opportunity to develop rich content for academic programs and to advance our research mission."

The project is a joint effort by teachers in two New York schools, curriculum developers at the Institute, and a group of current college students and recent college graduates who decided to make an around-the-world trip an educational adventure.

Heather Halstead, a New York City native, came up with the idea for Reach the World, a nonprofit organization that is sponsoring the trip. Halstead, who graduated from Dartmouth College last year, has taught in inner-city schools in New Orleans, in rural Colorado, in Dartmouth classrooms, and on the Kenyan savanna. She said: "Each of these environments has helped me to realize how important it is for teachers to dedicate themselves to making social sciences curricula come alive for students."

The possibility of using computers and the Internet to accomplish that has always fascinated her. "Producing an Internet-based resource about world culture for students would help me contribute to education in the way I think is most important," she said.

Halstead and her three shipmates begin their 16-month journey in the Makula II, a 43-foot two-masted sailboat in January from Marathon, FL. The boat will carry them westward to Panama, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean and back to the U.S. (For more information, go to their web site, http://www.reachtheworld.org/.)

One of her crew members is Todd Parment, son of New York State Assembly Member William L. Parment. Todd Parment is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania working on a Ph.D. in Greek and Roman archaeology. "I have almost no sailing experience," he said. "Am I crazy? Maybe, but I am of the opinion that the best way to learn about anything is doing it." The next best way is to be in regular contact via the Internet with the young sailor/educators. Fifth graders at I.S. 52 will use the website and electronic mail exchanges with the sailor/educators to learn more about geography, religion, history and foreign cultures.

Rachel Balsam, who is a research associate at ILT, said that fifth graders at I.S. 52 will continue to participate in the project in the fall when the students start the sixth grade. At the Salk School of Science, sixth graders will exchange information with the crew about El Nino and weather patterns.

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