Grants Offer New and Continuing Support

Maintaining our reputation as an innovative leader in educational research and curriculum design means striving to ensure we have the funding to carry on that work. That funding comes from both private organizations and taxpayer-supported agencies. In 2010 we were able to land some new work and also receive additional funding for projects we have been working on.

Likely the most popular website and learning tool we've ever created has been Exploring the Environment.® This site's 25 modules and activities have won a shopping basket's worth of awards over the years for introducing learners to the various issues involved with planet Earth and its major systems. Though creation of the site began back in the 1990s, Exploring the Environment remains a popular destination among teachers and students, logging more than 12 million hits a year from 600,000 unique users. In 2010 we received a nearly $210,000 grant from NASA to update the site with a focus on modules on global climate change. The funding allows us to create new modules, revise some existing ones, and add multimedia and much more NASA data than was available when the site first began. Soon visitors to Exploring the Environment will experience a new interface and new look, but the older modules and activities will still be available in a legacy package.

Also receiving funding this year was the Challenger Learning Center to develop its e-Labs program. The Benedum Foundation provided a $156,000 grant over two years to get the program off the ground. The e-Labs will be a series of 12 virtual and interactive lessons in various science and math subjects. The funding provides for pilot tests in 40 schools. The project specifically aims to help rural schools that lack adequate physical laboratories. e-Labs will be presented by trained facilitators (dressed in lab coats and linked live from a science lab) at the Challenger Learning Center who not only possess a flair for the dramatic, but also the ability to ask interactive questions to encourage critical thinking. Students will help design experiments and predict and explain outcomes.

In addition we received additional funding to carry on projects that started in previous years. The National Science Foundation is continuing funding for our CyGaMEs research into educational videogames and how they can best be used in classrooms. The National Institutes of Health is funding the CyberSurgeons™ online mission for high school students to put to use their biology, anatomy, and problem-solving skills. NASA has also continued funding for the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future program and the MoonWorld simulation in the Second Life and Open Sims virtual worlds.

On the private side the International Union of Operating Engineers provided funding to create units on green chemistry and green jobs and add those to its 8-hour and 40-hour hazardous waste operations and emergency response (HAZWOPER) course manuals.

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