civic


Using the Community to Improve Test Scores and Learning
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

haskvitz111

The St. Lawrence River was close to the school and so I walked the students in my special needs class to its banks. Most of the students had seen it everyday of their lives, but had never seen it. I took them close to the shoreline and had them look at the small fish and close their eyes to listen to rush of the water. I threw a piece of driftwood into the water. A student with a watch stood 100 meters downstream and called out the length of time it took to travel that distance. I threw another piece this time further out and they did the same. When we returned I showed them how to measure the speed of the river and noted that this is what sailors did in olden times to check their speed. The students found the water moved away from the shore. I asked them to draw the feeling the sound of the river gave them. After the spring thaw, the students returned to the river and instead of the fish there was trash and they didn’t like it.

In these two field trips a lifetime of environmental learning took place. Upset at what they had seen they turned to the community, created posters to display in stories, took photos, and wrote letters. The people responded and the primary goal of all learning was felt by all as the students were empowered to use what they had learned to make changes in society.

So too, my life as a teacher with a hidden agenda began. Today, nearly 40 years later I am now teaching social studies at a middle school and my agenda is still being followed, but no longer hidden thanks to the many teachers and organizations who have found that the community and the students need not be mutually exclusive.

My students have been involved in countless other activities to educate and improve the conservation of resources. Many times my students have been ahead of their times. In 1988 my students wrote a letter to the United Nations asking for a Day of Atmosphere Awareness. The return letter from Arthur Zegelbone promised that the United Nations was aware of the “greenhouse effect” and that there was going to be a World Environment Day on June 5th in Brussels. As we know, little was done since that time, but the students saw the problem and took action. A few years later they wrote and passed legislation that required all state funded building in California to use xeriscape landscaping to conserve water. The bill had overwhelming support. But that wasn’t enough.
After the first encounter with the United Nations they put together an entry that Target selected as one of the best environmental programs in the nation and they traveled to New York to contact members about their concerns. Target and the local water district paid for the trip and expenses.

The students noted the large amount of wasted paper at the school and came up with a method of self-sorting the trash. Not satisfied, they started a conservation club that recycles most everything at the school from printing cartridges to eye glasses. They hold community outreach events to educate adults and students from other schools as well. They started a Monarch butterfly garden to provide a safe home for these migrating butterflies as well as a Feed the Homeless garden that was fertilized using compost from a bin they had won at a country sponsored environmental conference. The recycle bins came from the city.

Nothing the struggle of the grey wolf, they raised funds to sponsor a young pup at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary. Noting that toilets were one of the main uses of water in a household they worked with the local water district to provide water displacement kits for city residents with the goal of saving six million gallons of water a year. To help residents understand the beauty of using landscaping that didn’t require a lot of water they designed and maintain a demonstration garden that shows these plants to residents.

Of course, some of their ideas met dead-ends because those in charge didn’t understand the value of their ideas. Supported by many water districts in the Western United States, they promoted the idea to taking a large trailer containing environment friendly plants to display at malls and major events. In that way, the garden would come to the people. The idea lost the competition, but the students learned a lesson about the difficulty of getting others to see the need to conserve.

Noting that need they decided to see how such changes were made. They decided to find out what was required for citizens to vote and were shocked to discover that they couldn’t understand the voting poll rules. They got a copy of the rules, rewrote them. and asked the Country Registrar of Voters to look at them. The Registrar accepted them and the changes were implemented making it easier for people to vote. They did the same with the state voter registration forms. Millions of California voters were impacted by their efforts.

They worked with the local police department to do safety belt checks and earn the community honors from the National Highway Safety Association. The police also taught the students how to fingerprint and they did this for all incoming students.

Working with local leaders they created a website that enabled communities to compare themselves to other communities in several key areas such as library books, business license fees, medical care facilities, and park space among others. It was judged to be of such value that the students were sent to Italy to represent the United States in international competition.

The students worked with the city landscape staff and came up with a plan which was presented at a City Council meeting. The plan was designed to save the city several million dollars in just a few years.

Making current events more meaningful, the students devolved and printed a newsletter that contained the highlights of every day’s events and faxed it to the local maternity wards where the nurses duplicated it and gave it the mothers of those children born on that day.

There is much more, but the most vital thing I have learned is that having students apply their learning to real world concerns make the lesson more meaningful for them and thus improves society. Perhaps most telling is that despite doing all these projects my student’s test scores have gone up dramatically. My first year at the school the state average for social studies was in the 22nd percentile. Getting the students involved in the next three years helped drive the score to the 94th percentile. Today, 25 years later, the state has a new test but the results are the same. Teaching at a school with seven subcategories; four minorities, ESL, low income, and special education, my students have consistently been at the top of the state test results even compared with gifted magnet schools. Indeed, of my 170 students, nearly 99 percent finished at the top of the State’s yearly standardized test. In other words, the community can provide the motivation to help improve test scores.

The point is that teaching students about the environment by using the community is not mutually exclusive from teaching them subject matter. Just as my special education students did 40 years ago, using the environment as a foundation for a learning lesson encourages them to see the importance of what they are studying and self-motivates them. The results are a win-win-win for the students, society, and test scores.

Editor’s Note: Al’s students also helped Joy Hakim write one of her The Story of Us books. And the student’s Powerpoints on the Westward Movement were accepted by the California Oregon Trail Association to be shared with others as well as the DMV. They also worked to put the Parklands Initiate on the California ballot, created a website on The History of Government that a professor at Harvard had high praise for and created a website that helps others with the State social studies standards. They also created story tapes for the Junior Blind. Finally, there interest in cars resulted in their findings on driving more efficiently being posted on the DMV site and they published their own textbooks. He was selected one of the 100 most influential educators in the world and earned the coveted Cherry International Teaching Award, the only classroom teacher so honored. His students have earned trips to Sea World, Disneyland, CNN, Busch Gardens, Washington DC, New York, the United Nations, and Rome where they represented the USA in technology competition.

Election and Propaganda Lessons

This is a great time of year to use teachable moments in your curriculum. You can integrate election issues into current events, math, civics and social studies, history, life skills, and other areas. Here are some of the best resources I have found. Please feel free to send me your own by clicking on my name on http://www.reacheverychild.com/alan.html

Election Videos

A great collection on all aspects of voting and elections past and present.

http://www.watchknow.org/SearchResults.aspx?SearchText=election

Teachable moments

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/teachable-moments.html

 

Propaganda

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/propaganda.htm

Elections

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/election08.html

Prepare your students to vote

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/election.html

Voting sites

http://www.reacheverychild.com/socialstudies/civics/voting.html

Get Ready to Vote

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/elections.html

Presidential Links

Check out the mock voting sites. Excellent and involving. Also make sure you order materials from VoteSmart. Non-partisan, easy to read, and in many languages.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/presidents.html

 

Civics

http://www.reacheverychild.com/lessonplans/plan7.html

And

http://www.reacheverychild.com/socialstudies/civics/index.html

Contributions to candidates

http://www.fec.gov/DisclosureSearch/mapApp.do

Contributions by Zip Code

http://www.opensecrets.org/

And

http://www.opensecrets.org/states/index.php

General Sites

C-Span

c-spanclassroom.org

New York Times Learning Network

http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/category/civics

The White House

http://www.whitehouse.gov

This is a list of the most needed websites for educators. In contains links to everything from dealing with behavior problems to the law to assessments to finding jobs.

Because of the length of the free links they are listed here

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/teacher-survival.html 

The site was developed by the only teacher in history who has been selected a Reader’s Digest Hero in Education, a NCSS national teacher of the Year, a USA Today All American first team teacher, the winner of the Freedom Foundation medal of honor, and the winner of the International Cherry Award for Great Teachers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Scion xB

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

For educational resources go to

http://www.reacheverychild.com

You smile when you see a Volkswagen Beetle, you grin at a Chrysler PT Cruiser, but you openly laugh when you see the new Toyota Scion xB because, in a word, it looks like a Tonka toy. There is no question you are either going to love or hate this station wagon, but regardless, it is going to sell well. The reason is simple, it is priced well and has a very useful design and most people are going to take pleasure in the attention.

If you watch you option list you can be driving this Scion for $14,200 and get over 30 mpg and we strongly believe, excellent resale. In other words, Toyota has another winner in its stable, and this one is going to delight the all-new Scion dealer network because this little rig is a blank canvas waiting for some creative options. For example, Toyota lists as options some of the most unconventional items we have ever seen. You can load you Scion with illuminated cupholders, LED interior lights, bazooka tube subwoofer, satellite radio, carbon-fiber fuel door cover, special shift knob, cargo tote, sport pedal covers, mud guards, door sill enhancement B-pillar appliqué, and a rear spoiler to mention just a few. Add essentials such as curtain side airbags and front side airbags, remote keyless entry, and alloy wheels and you can pretty much be assured you are going to own an exclusive looking mass produced vehicle. Of course, if you order all those the list price is going to be at $20,000 so be judicious. All told there are about 40 options for the xB and Scion is said have a no haggle policy so what you read it what you pay. Some cavets when ordering the optional big subwoofer, it takes up a lot of storage room. In addition, the stereo reception is poor unless you get the satellite option, which is worth it.

Mom’s view: We tested the automatic transmission xB and found it plenty spunky at first thanks to the small tires and light weight. However, once the Scion is over 4000 rpm the acceleration ends and the engine groans and its time to think seriously about visiting your local tuner shop. We stopped at Autolinks Motorworks, 4961 Santa Anita Blvd, in San Gabriel, Calif. and were told even the more normal looking xA has drawn a barrage of customizers.

Despite the options, what I liked were the standard features. The xB comes with ABS; air conditioning; power windows, locks, mirrors and steering; a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player; a 60/40-split folding and removable rear seat; keyless entry; a rear wiper; rear defroster; a tachometer; and a ground effects kit as well as airbags.

What I didn’t like was its size. It is ten inches shorter than a Toyota Echo and people feel that since the Scion is small they can just shove you around in traffic. I used the horn extensively to no avail. I would pay extra for a louder horn. In fact, an air horn mounted on the roof would probably look great and give the bullies a clear message that they don’t own the road. Luckily, the Scion handles and stops quite well. And it comes well-equipped with active safety features: antilock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (which increases braking pressure in emergency situations) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (which apportions braking force to the tires with the most traction); Vehicle Stability Control (which attempts to restrain a vehicle from spinning out of control by adjusting the application of throttle and brakes); and traction control.

There were a variety of storage areas inside, including the usual glove box, and map pockets, and trays under the dash. What bothered me the most was the lack of good rear interior lighting when you were searching for dark items you dropped. Maybe this car is designed for younger eyes, but a more powerful interior lighting system wouldn’t hurt.

Overall, I liked the Scion and would recommend it to those who find its styling attractive. For a few dollars a month more I would prefer a more modest looking station wagon from Subaru or Volkswagen, but I would miss the attention the Toyota brings. A real plus is that I never felt I was driving a small car.

Dad’s view: I am way too old for this vehicle, and the Scion is selling well to those who are the proper age, 20 to 30. The reason is obvious, I don’t need the attention. However, every time I climbed inside I felt comfortable at home and eagerly tested the Scion with zeal. But, when I walked to the car I was always meet with the same look by those in attendance. You could read their eyes. They said, “What did your kid do wrong that caused you to take his car away?”

The Scion needs more power if it is equipped with an automatic transmission. The 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine has variable valve timing, but runs out of gusto after 4000 rpm.  It’s the same engine used in the Toyota Echo and creates 108 horsepower which is fine in city driving, but when passing or accelerating you need to plan ahead even thought the Scion weighs just 2340 and has 105 foot pounds of torque.

You can drive this Scion hard. It rides smoothly and is effortless to drive with good brakes. It’s no hot rod, however, so shifting into lower gears is needed for quick acceleration. Inside, it’s roomy and has a nice interior with controls that are easy to operate. The driver and passengers sit upright in chair-like seats and benefit from excellent visibility. As its looks suggest, the xB offers better cargo capacity than your average compact car.

Young working female’s view: This is a tall fellow. Its over 64 inches tall and offers an extremely roomy interior. It is uncomplicated to fit in a baby seat, don’t worry dad, and if you fold the rear seats down you have yourself 43 cubic feet of room. Forget the subwoofer if you want to haul things because it is placed right in the middle of the rear storage area.

In terms of appearance, there is little question this is a price leader. The interior is youthful and I found it very difficult to read the center-mounted gauges because of the poor lighting and the small numbers for the tach and fuel indicator. With an 11.9-gallon gas tank, you can go 300 miles, but we won’t try any more. I averaged about 28 mpg in mixed driving.

You can order the Scion with either an automatic-transmission or manual transmission, expect 0 to 60 mph speeds around ten seconds. However, with the gas pedal rigged to provide a lot of acceleration initially you feel you are moving faster. It does not take long to figure out that the feeling of speed quickly evaporates after 30 mph. Still, this is excellent for commuting, but not so hot for high speed passing.

There is no way that I would consider the Scion. Although the price is attractive, I would rather have the new Toyota Solara and drive a car that exhibits the appearance I want to display for the driving public.

Young working male’s view: I hope you got a chance to hear me at the House of Blues. Anyway, this is not my type of vehicle for only one reason, it is too trendy. I do appreciate what you get for the money. The car runs great and, except for the usual short wheelbase roughness over banged up pavement and low bidder highway potholes, the chassis does its job exceptionally well. If you want his car to handle better, the tires and rims need to be changed. I enjoyed driving the car and listening to CDs with the optional stereo and elaborate speaker system. But the radio reception was sub par except for the satellite stations which are worth the $10 a month extra fee.

Big trucks and side winds definitely alter your driving style as the square sides and lightweight conspire to make you well aware that you are piloting a small car. The good news here is that the Scion’s narrow stance leaves plenty of extra room in the lane so the gusts are unproblematic to compensate for.

The steering was very good; the brakes more than up to the task, and the interior surprisingly quiet. You have the feeling you are sitting high in seats that are a bit thin in the padding department. Visibility was well above average and driving in heavy traffic was only a problem when some large SUV was tailgating. I learned not to worry and just turned up the stereo and admired Toyota’s creativity.

Family conference: Scion plans on bringing out a coupe and perhaps a sedan later, but in the meantime, if the xB appeals to your sense of aesthetics we recommend you drive and buy soon because this is going to be a hit in some areas. What it is going to be like driving in the snow is another matter with its small tires and low ride height. Perhaps, in a few years, the Scion will come out with all wheel drive and it might appeal more to the snowbound. Regardless, this is a good vehicle, and a valuable one at the suggested base price. We would like to see the crash test results first, but we are sure that  Toyota has we spent a bundle to make sure the Scion is tough since a poor scores would be the only element that would hinder sales.  On the other hand you might want to wait until next year when a new, not so squared off version arrives. For all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.

2007 Honda Civic Sedan Review

For More reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/new/carreviews/index.html

For free educational materials go to http://www.reacheverychild.com

With starting prices ranging from below $14,000 to above $20,000 (US) the new Honda Civic has reasserted itself at the head of the class with exceptional fuel mileage, ride, braking, and literally in your face instrumentation.

Mom’s view: Despite its Toyota Prius like profile, the Civic is a much better vehicle than previous models. The interior is very iPodish with boldly colored gauges and a digital speedometer that can’t be ignored tucked just below the very steeply racked windshield. The automatic transmission dulls the reaction of the 140-hp engine, but still provides excellent economy seldom going below 30 mpg. We averaged about 34 in mixed driving. The 60/40 fold down rear seats of our EX test car expanded the trunk space, but there wasn’t as much room as the Toyota Prius. Honda did the right thing by providing standard side curtain airbags and ABS which are reassuring in smaller vehicles. You can even order a hotrod Si coupe with a 197 horsepower engine if you want to tempt the highway gods. Overall, I liked the Civic, but would go with the standard transmission.

Dad’s view: Larger, more powerful, more expensive, and more refined, the Civic sedan easily is the best in this segment at this moment. The four-cylinder engine with either the 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic work well together.

Honda Civic video review

However, the engine gets quite loud when acceleration demands are accentuated. Other than that this is a fairly quiet ride. Braking and steering are exceptional for the price. Overall a marked improvement with room for four and hybrid like fuel mileage, but not a speed merchant.

Young working woman’s view: There is actually room for two adults in the back seat. The seating in front is very good, with everything easy to use, even the emergency brake located under the stereo. By the way, if you get the GPS option be prepared to use the steering wheel ancillary gauges because the heating controls seem to always be in the way. The digital gauges are brightly lighted blue with white and red lettering at all times. It definitely keeps you awake. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and has a good feel. It takes a while to get used to the speedometer’s placement, but it is much appreciated for us leadfoots. Storage areas are most everywhere, but those in the back don’t get cupholders. The remote opens the trunk just enough to get your hand under it and the cargo area is adequate, but the hinges and smallish pass through into the rear seats makes loading large objects a trial and error process.

College going male’s view: Pay the extra and get the EX rather than the bargain priced DX or LX. You get alloy wheels, a moonroof, the split rear folding seatbacks, two extra speakers, steering wheel controls, and jack for plugging in your downloaded music players, hopefully filled with my CD at www.simple-thoughts.net, and most everything else. The upgraded stereo isn’t too bad, the radio reception above average, and the whole package is tight.

Family conference: A new Civic that is worthy of your attention, but don’t overlook the competition form Mazda and new Volkswagen. Best of all, don’t forget those superior crash test scores and the available hotrod Si version. Also available as a hybrid, coupe, and sports coupe. Bottom line: The best Honda ever for the price. For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheveychild.com and click on business.