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Newark Star Ledger says Students' Signals were a HIT!

May 30, 2001 -


Of about 50 high-powered workshops at the Regional Technology Showcase, it was 11 seventh- and eighth- graders from Ann Street School in Newark who stole the show.

Sponsored by the New Jersey Statewide Systemic Initiative, the full day of presentations at Middlesex County College in Edison attracted about 400 school faculty members. The same week, a similar technology showcase was held at Richard Stockton State College in Pomona with about 300 teachers and administrators on hand.

The initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of New Jersey to promote improvement in math, science and technology education in the state's elementary and high schools. It is based at Rutgers University and also operates six regional centers.

Deborah Cook, principal investigator and project director of the initiative, said the showcases were created after teachers around the state asked for information on how they can best integrate educational technology in their classrooms.

From that came the topic "Successful Classroom Models of Technology Used to Achieve Mathematics and Science Standards," and the array of workshops, from "The Quest for the Perfect Technology Lesson" to "Technology Solutions for Science Teachers with No Time and Too Much Paperwork."

The day cost $50 and earned five professional development credits for teachers. It sold out a month in advance, even before all the presenters were listed.

The 11 youngsters from Ann Street School produced the workshop titled "NASA-funded Signals of Spring," with assistance from Carmen Salgueiro, vice principal, and Glen Schuster, a consultant to the school from U.S. Satellite.

They introduced themselves in their native languages, which included Ukrainian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish as well as English. Salgueiro explained the K-8 school serves 1,150 students from five continents, 50 percent of whom start school not speaking English.

A national Blue Ribbon School, Ann Street stresses "respect, responsibility and academic achievement" and has a "student disruption" rate of 0.5 percent.

Initially, "Signals of Spring" was implemented by students in the gifted and talented program, Salgueiro said, because it was easier to fit into the schedule.

However, it was such a success that this year it was expanded to involve all seventh- and eighth- grade students, and now the Newark school board will use it in 10 schools.

According to the vice principal, the school's regular budget covers the extra costs, in part because Ann Street School is badly overcrowded - there are classes of 40 - and state funding is based on numbers of children.

Signals of Spring is funded by NASA. "Students in expert teams use NASA and other Earth imagery to explain the migration of land and marine animals tracked by satellites. The project is interactive; students write in online analysis journals and receive feedback from wildlife biologists and Earth sciences," according to a fact sheet prepared by Schuster, the project director for U.S. Satellite.

Signals of Spring is in use in schools in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Houston.

Schuster said students tracked ospreys, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, red-tailed hawks, sandhill cranes, seals and sea turtles as they migrated from their winter homes in the South to their summer homes in the North.

Each youngster became an "expert" in one field. Diane Castello-Branco, for instance, specialized in bathymetry, the study of the topography of the ocean floor, and Alexei Yegorov concentrated on the meanings of seasonal changes. Mark Cerqueira built a model of an eagle's nest.

Mario Fuentes was a weather expert and told the group the sandhill crane he was following, named Zoe, was often affected by the weather. Jakub Wresilo was a weather expert for the osprey team, and he found the same thing.

Carlos Martins explained how land forms affect migration, and, serving as a vegetation expert, Maria Calvache explained her deduction about cloud cover obscuring vegetation in one photo from space.

All 11 youngsters spoke confidently and illustrated their points with maps, diagrams and satellite images.

The others who participated are Daniel Barroqueiro, Arthur Hooper, Peter Branao and Fatima Matos.

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