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Hot Topics!

Updated – September 23, 2003 3:15 PM

International Trade Talks – The recent international trade talks in Cancun apparently went nowhere. Secondary economics or social studies faculty may this report from the BBC useful in outlining some of the issues that were up for discussion – and why all nations have a vested interest in preserving a dialogue on this topic.

File Sharing is a topic sure to spark a lively discussion about copyright, ethics, and the role of the web. While copyright laws are clear, many argue that the recording industy’s current approach may not be in its own best interest. Expose students to both sides of the discussion by reading the RIAA’s point of view, then the information posted by the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

Back to School Cartoons
The new school year brings out a variety of emotions, and these cartoons capture an assortment that should give anyone a chuckle or two. Pick your own favorites!

School Bus Safety Poster Contest
Students who visit this site can learn how to enter the poster contest for this year’s school bus safety week. Here’s an art or safety project with a purpose.

Shuttle Columbia Report
This is the home page for the final report on the Shuttle Columbia disaster. The report has received significant attention because it calls on NASA to reform and bolster many of the safety and management practices which, according to the report, have remained deficient for many years. For more information, see our related links below

Back to School – Did you know that this year there will be more students enrolled in the nation’s K-12 schools than at any time since 1969? The Census Department’s Back to School Facts page offers the details on this and many other facts associated with American education, school costs and enrollment, and the back to school season.

The California Recall Election – The Californians are nothing if not unique, and while the flood of candidates may cause a circus, the larger political implications of the recall movement merit much closer attention. For just that, try the ongoing reporting from the Sacramento Bee or the Los Angeles Times.

Crisis in Liberia – The ongoing civil strife in Liberia has raised interest in this African nation with unique American roots. The CIA Factbook page is organized in almanac format and is student friendly, dividing information among a number of topics. Students and teachers can examine Liberia’s geography, population, government, economy, military, and other characteristics all on a single page. This page is particularly helpful for factual research. A similar BBC Profile gives helpful information on Africa’s oldest republic, Liberia. The site profiles the country’s history and leaders while giving links to additional BBC news stories on the region. The site provides a good context for the current Civil Wars in the nation. There is also a printable version of the page for classroom use.

Identifying and Helping Troubled Students – Misinformation about the extent of school violence, and what educators can do about it, is common. This new TeachersFirst feature points out some common misconceptions and stresses the extent to which every teacher can help find and respond to troubled young people by keeping of communication with students open. Make this one required reading for your colleagues.


An Uncertain World…

As tensions rise in the United States, Europe, the Mideast, and the Korean Peninsula, major news organizations are flooding the media with reporting. We hope these links to original sources and academic perspectives will help teachers put some perspective on this torrent of information.

Iraq Conflict Resources – Our own collection of links to Iraq resources dealing with both the military action and the difficulties in rebuilding the country.

Military Maps from BBC – Prepared as background material to the increasing tensions in Iraq and the rest of the mideast, this BBC map collection offers surprisingly detailed information on force strengths in various mideastern nations. The page includes links to similarly detailed information on other aspects of this looming conflict.

Military Fact Files from BBC – Prepared as background material to the increasing tensions in Iraq and the rest of the mideast, this page offers summaries of military capabilities of the various nations that have troops in the area. These pages offer reams of information on capabilities, training, missions, etc.

Just War – The Carter Center’s Case – The concept of “a just war” has been debated for decades as a logical way to establish whether the use of force in a specific situation carries any moral weight. This page from the Carter Center reprints an Op-Ed article by former president Jimmy Carter in which he asserts that current operations in Iraq fail the “just war” test on several grounds. Lots of interesting discussion possibilities with this one.

United Nations News Center – The UN’s news site offers summaries of discussions on topics of interest to the UN, especially the efforts to achive peaceful resolution of areas of potential conflict. The site is updated continuously.

Secretary Powell’s UN Presentation – The US State Department offers the complete text of Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5.

Response to Terrorism – The State Department’s domestic terrorism as an issue of international security offers links to current administration statements and testimony, as well as an archive of past publications dealing with the impact of terrorism on both domestic and foreign affairs.

War With Iraq – Costs, Consequences, and Alternatives – Secondary teachers may find the report from The American Academy of Arts and Sciences an interesting counterpoint to those advocating for a quick attack. This PDF document outlines several possible scenarios and their consequences. It also includes retrospective listings of commentary on the conflict from major news sources.


Space Shuttle STS-107 Links

"Life is not a rehearsal."
– Ilan Ramon, SS-107 Astronaut

The loss of the Columbia space shuttle will no doubt raise questions among students regarding how the shuttles work and what may have gone wrong in the re-entry phase of this flight. The accident also adds a note of uncertainty to the future of the International Space Station. The links below may be of some use in explaining these events to students.

Helping Children Cope with Disasters – This link will generate a listing of resources from our database that deal with managing children’s responses to disasters. These resources are drawn from professional societies, disaster management agencies, and related sources, and include information applicable for both teachers and parents. We will continue adding to this listng as we identify additional resources.

Audio History of the Space Program – Users with Real Player installed on their browsers can click on the Weekend Edition Sunday link for a well-produced, narrated history of the 45-year space program. It runs 14:20.

NASA STS-107 Information – A link to the media page at the NASA web site, which is carrying regular updates on the status of the STS-107 investigation.

Space Shuttle Aeronautics – This PDF file from NASA describes the shuttle aeronautics – including the re-entry phase – in terms understandable to students. It could well be a primary resource for helping students understand how the re-entry process should work.

How Space Shuttles Work – This page from the "How Stuff Works" series examines the way in which the shuttle works. This link displays the details of the re-entry process.

NASA Space Research – STS-107 – This page is NASA’s description of the STS-107 mission and scientific assignments.

Space Station User’s Guide – A more detailed description of the scientific experiments that were part of the STS-107 mission.

STS-107 Log Sequence – This privately published page chronicles the planned sequence of events for a shuttle mission.


UN Arms Inspections in Iraq – The UN Press Center’s summaries of the latest information from the arms inspection teams, including summaries and videos from the January 27 presentations.

Vermont Responds to "No Child Left Behind" – Concerned that the costs of implementing "No Child Left Behind" might exceed the federal funding Vermont receives, the Governor asked school superitendents to analyze the possibilities. One superintendent, also a professor of finance at the University of Vermont, offered an analysis that is available on this site from the Rural School and Community Trust.

Remember, Rebuild, Renew – The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s site offers presentations on the seven designs submitted for reclaiming the area once occupied by the World Trade Center buildings. Users can view slide shows for each proposal and read the architects’ descriptions of how their design best meets the LMDC’s three-part goal. What do your students think the best memorial would be?

North Korea is in the news, nearly 50 years after the conflict that divided that nation. For background information and varied perspectives on the current nuclear controversy, social studies and current events teachers may want to try the following:

The U.S. State Department offers an extensive look at North Korea, as well as links to profiles from the CIA and other U.S. government entities. Try this one for a basic introduction.

The Federation of American Scientists offers a detailed history of the North Korean nuclear arms program that is at the heart of the current tensions.

The Library of Congress offers a Country Study for North Korea. These studies are daunting in their detail, and this one is nearly a decade old, but its extensive social and political histories are probably unmatched on the web.

Check that Tradition – Not all those Christmas legends are true, and here’s a site that purports to sort it all out. This one’s more about fun than absolute accuracy, and teachers should preview before using with their students.

The Security Council and Iraq – The UN Security unanimous passage of a new resolution on Iraq will no doubt increase the "hype and buzz" in the media. This link, direct to the UN site on Iraq, offers the full text of the resolution along with background information on previous UN efforts to enforce international will on Iraq.

Halloween – Just for fun… Here are a couple of sites that play on young students’ interest in all things Halloween. NASA’s Halloween site lets students send e-cards to friends, and for the artist, Jack O’ offers detailed instructions for carving truly fancy pumpkins. Enjoy!!

The Hurricanes are back! – Here’s this year’s update of TeachersFirst’s resources for tracking and learning about nature’s big storms. There are lots of teaching opportunities in this topic, from weather forecasting to graphing, mapping, and simulating what would happen if your town had to evacuate.

Who’s Who in Iraq – Grades 9-12 – This BBC site begins by admitting that Saddam Hussein is really the only "who" in Iraq, but it goes on to identify some of the other leading figures in a regime known for rapid personnel shifts. Older students may find this one useful as a way of putting faces to some of the names that are certain to be in the news in the days and weeks ahead.

West Nile Mapping – This USGS site offers regularly updated, state-by-state maps showing the spread of West Nile virus in birds, animals, and humans. Apart from its news value, the site offers an interesting glimpse into the ways in which diseases spread through populations of different species. Try letting your students develop their own hypotheses about what might happen next.

One Year Later – Tips for Teachers – The National Association of School Psychologists has prepared this set of guidelines and recommendations to help teachers and schools cope with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in a manner that supports the needs of students and staff. Since the anniversary will come close to the start of the school year in many communities, this is an especially important topics. You can find related content for Parents and Teens at our companion TeachersAndFamilies site.

Who’s Watching Whom? – The federal government’s program to encourage average citizens to report sucpicious behavior is a sure-fire way to start a spirited discussion. Is this just a national version of the common neighborhood watch programs, or something that could become more problematic. Find opinions on both sides of the question by visiting the Operation Tips site and the ACLU’s "anti-snooping" efforts. Expect a variety of responses to this one.

All About West Nile Virus – While West Nile isn’t likely to be a specific curriculum element anytime soon, the Centers for Disease Control’s page about West Nile offers good content showing how public health officials monitor and respond to the emergence of new infectious diseases. Try this one in a current events discussion, asking the question, "How big a problem might this actually be?"

Drought Monitor – Working with NOAA, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has created one of the best looking drought monitoring sites we’ve seen. There are maps showing drought severity, crop data, rainfall, and related topics over a wide variety of time series, and the quality of the graphics is well beyond that of most similar sites. If your students are studying weather – or just complaining about this month’s heat – this site can shed some light on the problem.

Miner Miracle – The recent rescue of nine miners from a Pennsylvania coal mine was a triumph of both wills and technologies. CNN’s special on the event shows the many strategies that the engineers used simultaneously to extract the men from their watery predicament.

Balloon Around the World – Steve Fossett’s completion of a balloon trip around the world offers an opportunity to do some interesting map reading and plotting. Here’s the web site containing maps of the trip and the statistics for the voyage completed earlier this week. Lots of instructional possibilities here.

Western Wildfires – While heavy traffic due to the epidemic of fires in the western U.S. has made the Forest Service’s web sites almost unavailable, the National Weather Service’s fire forecasting site offers striking satellite imagery of fires and smoke, along with links to other fire tracking information. Those living near these fires should trust the inforamation provided by local authorities, not these images.

The Courts and the Children’s Internet Protection Act – Here’s a concise explanation of what the Supreme Court did and did not do when it ruled that public libraries cannot consitutionally filter web content. Written by an attorney, but in layman’s terms, the site sheds light on the principles behind the decision, and may be useful for school librarians or those interested in first amendment issues.

Follow the World Cup – The rest of the world is doing it, but Americans are slow to react. Here’s all the latest on World Cup scores, teams and competition rounds.

Court Strikes Down Children’s Internet Protection Act – On May 31, a federal court ruled that the Internet Protection Act unconstitutionally requires public libraries to filter web content. The ruling will affect both libraries and students, and so should be of more than passing interest to educators. This link is to the American Library Association, which argued against the provisions of the Act.

The Golden Jubliee of Queen Elizabeth II – Celebrations go into high gear on June 1, culminating in a thanksgiving service on June 4. Other observances continue throughout the year. Find out more official happenings at the British Monarchy Site, or at the Golden Jubilee Site, which contains a rendition of God Save the Queen that is not to be missed!

NPR Middle East Conflict Transcripts – National Public Radio offers this index to transcripts and audio files of its recent reporting on the Middle East. Users can read or listen to each report. There are also additional links to middle east resources from NPR and other sources. Great site for "beyond the headlines" information.

Threat Assessment Seminars – The U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education are conducting an ongoing series of seminars for school and public safety personnel in how to measure and deflect threats involving schools and/or students. This site offers information and registration information.

The Enron Collapse – There’s lots of reporting on this story, but this page from the Houston Chronicle appears to have daily updates and great depth. There are lots of stories within the story at this site.

No Child Left Behind is the title of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which alters many of the ground rules for federal funding and oversight of schools. Teachers interested in more details will want to examine the Fact Sheet on the act from the Department of Education. ED also has a more detailed description for teachers, as well as a general overview of the act. Testing is a major emphasis of the new act, and several educational associations have published testing recommendations (this link is to an Acrobat PDF file) that teachers may want to examine. Read all about it!

Welcome the Euro – Grades 6-12 – Most of Europe got a new currency on January 1, 2002, and these pages will help students in all nations learn about the new coins and bank notes. American students will be interested that the Euro coins have one side common to all nations, while the reverse is specific to each participating country. There are also several Euro Games that will help students learn more about this currency.


Terrorism & Tolerance – Our ongoing collection of resources to help explain the post – 9/11 world. We’re adding new information regularly.

100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans – The Detroit Free Press offers a well-written background on Arab Americans, Arab culture, religion, and other topics. Succinct answers are written in language that many young people will understand. A great resource.

Remembering George Harrison – Teachers may know more about this Beatle than their students, but CNN’s commemorative site offers lots of information on the man and his music. Useful both for its history and its information on a performer who was a composer in his own right.

NASA’ s Mars Odyssey spacecraft entered orbit around Mars recently. NASA’s Odyssey site contains a prominent link to lots of educational resources about Mars and the current mission, including printable, full-color posters and a schedule of the mission’s scientific activities. If you’re studying the solar system, this one’s worth a visit.

The Nobel E-Museum – From the folks who award the Nobel prizes somes a redesigned e-museum site that highlights Alfred Nobel’s interest in both peace and science. While the site includes a number of scholarly essays on peace (thoughtful high school students may find them interesting) the science simulations will probably be more attractive to teachers. This site is well worth a look as both a teaching tool and a discussion starter.

Maps Galore – Maps are much in demand these days, and CountryWatch does a nice job of combining useful maps with background information on selected nations. Our link is to Afghanistan, but scores of other countries are available. This is a nice all-purpose physical and cultural geography resource.

The Stem Cell Debate – The conduct and funding of stem cell research raises an interesting set of scientific and ethical issues. Teachers interested in discussing the controversy in science or other classes will appreciate this special section from CNN which outlines the key issues as well as the potential this line of research holds. (This feature will open in a new window.)

The Latest on Mt. Etna’s eruption is available from this site, hosted at Michigan Tech University. It includes daily reports from sources in Italy, as well as a detailed chronology of eruptions at the site over the past few years. Long on text; short on images. However, you’ll find plenty at VolcanoLive, though not of the current events. This site also contains extensive links to other sites dealing with volcanos. Now that’s a Hot Topic!

China Gets the Olympics – Details of the politics and expectations behind the success of China’s Olympic bid – from CNN’s coverage. For more background on China, visit TeachersFirst’s China page in our World Cultures section.

HIV/AIDS Education Resources – Coinciding with the UN’s just-concluded international AIDS conference, this new TeachersFirst collection includes information on HIV/AIDS as both an international epidemic and an issue with which schools must deal at the local level. We have included resources from several countries, highlighting effective teaching strategies for an issue which mixes scientific, cultural, and bahavioral issues in a challenging combination.

Museum Teaching Kits – Here’s an idea for classroom exhibits. The Boston Children’s Museum offers a large collection of "exhibits in a box" for rental to schools. The topics cover social studies, science, the arts, even disability awareness. Costs vary, but the average seems to be $20 to $30 per week. This is a neat idea, and the cost might even be something that a school parent teacher organization could help cover. Take a peek.

Involving Fathers at School – Here’s a collection of examles of ways in which schools around the country are involving fathers in the education of their children, both at school and at home. We’re providing these examples for schools and teachers intersested in involving fathers in their own activities.

Father’s Day Stories – Teachers looking for activities for Father’s Day can take a page from this collection of Father’s Day essays and stories by children of all ages and situations. While the site has a sort of "earth friendly" overtone, the sentiments are genuine and the variety of stories is interesting. Worth a visit.

War Stories – from the Newseum – The Newseum’s latest online offering chronicles the people and technologies involved in reporting wars from the Civil War through the Balkan conflicts. Users with high-speed connections can view video clips and interviews. The Flash section on reporters and reporting is remarkably extensive, with great visuals and narrative. The site could be used in conjunction with study of Memorial Day, journalism, or any armed conflict.

Visit a Refugee Camp – Grades 9-12 – This on-line tour of the issues and remedies associated with war, displacement, and refugees will make students think twice about their own lives. Visually engaging, well-written, with sound clips and interviews that students can hear. Any study of armed conflict should include a visit here.

Ellis Island Records – Grades 6-12 – Created by the Ellis Island Foundation with assistance from the genealogy experts in the Latter Day Saints Church, this site has become instantly popular. Its online database lets users search for immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. Teachers will be interested in the sections on the history of American immigration, as well as the "American Histories" section, which shows how people have traced their own ancestry. Popularity means this site can be difficult or impossible to access at times, making it a poor choice for use as an in-class resource.

Chemicals and the Environment – Here’s a great analysis exercise for middle or high school students interested in media and the environment. Compare the presentations about workers and hazardous chemicals in the PBS program Trade Secrets with the chemical industry’s response in What is the real impact of these chemicals?

Ethics and American Youth – Grades 6-12 – This site made recent headlines for its mentions of guns and schools, but the real message – a look at young people and their ethical concepts – is far more complex. Are students always "me first," and how do individual and group needs mingle? Why is violence often the response? Lots to think and talk about here.

Campaign Finance Reform – It’s been passed in the Senate and faces challenges in the House. See what they’re all talking about with this link to the text of the bill, from Senator McCain’s web site.

The Seattle Earthquake offers an example of both the damage and the science involved in responding to earthquakes. Read about the impact on Seattle and the state of Washington in the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s coverage. For maps of the quake intensity, visit the U.S. Geologic Survey site, and for more on earthquakes in the Pacific northwest, visit the earthquake project at the University of Washington.

Foot and Mouth Disease is making headlines in Europe. Why is it a problem there? Is it a danger to humans? Should we worry? This Reuters report explains the basics. Learn about the disease in detail from this Canadian source.

Napster and Copyright – The Napster court case provides a great entreé to the issue of copyright and why students should understand it. This CNN special report highlights some of the copyright issues in the case. For more on copyright, see TeachersFirst’s Tech Topics.

How Good are Web Filters? – This article from consumer reports suggests that parents or schools that rely entirely on filtering programs to police students’ web surfing may be in for unpleasant surprises.

Hit that Asteroid – Watch and learn as scientists photograph and asteroid while trying to "soft land" a spacecraft on the asteroid’s surface.

Who’s on the Space Station – Students want to know: who gets to work on the space station and how did they get the job? NASA’s space station site offers profiles of the team members currently working in space. The site offers both standard and Flash-enhanced multimedia versions with audio and images from each team member.

Track the Space Station – NASA’s interactive tracking guide offers precise tracking information as well as generalized tracking information for major cities. The tracking applet is worth a look if you’d like students to experience the sort of math and calculations that go into space travel.

The President’s education proposals – This Department of Education link is a PDF file for president Bush’s proposals to improve American education. The file is about 1.6Mb, so it may take a while to download. If you would prefer to save the document, rather than simply view it, right-click on the link.

Ski Across Antarctica – Ann Bancroft (USA) and Liv Arnesen (Norway) have set out to be the first women to ski and sail across Antarctica. The trip will cover 2400 miles in 100 days, using 250 pound sleds in temperatures around 30 degrees below zero. Here’s a way for you and your students to participate without getting frostbite. The site includes an education section with a number of Antarctic science study activities.


Panda-monium in Washington – Pooh on politics – the National Zoo has pandas! The zoo has added several panda pages to its web site to help celebrate. There are several activities for students, a background resource on how pandas live, even a downloadable booklet on pandas for young people.

Year 2000 Scientific Review – Teachers – Scientific American offers an on-line summary of some of the more important scientific events and discoveries during the past year. For science teachers, this is a nice snapshot review of some of the elements you might include in future lessons.

Report of the Commission on Web Based Education – The final report of the Web-Based Education Commission (WBEC) was published on 19 December 2000. Senator Bob Kerrey (D. Neb.), Chairman, and Representative Johnny Isakson (R. Ga.), Vice-Chairman of the Web-Based Education Commission urge the new Administration and 107th Congress to make E-learning a centerpiece of the nation’s education policy.

A Christmas Eclipse – Open your presents, then watch this partial eclipse, scheduled for about 12:30 PM. The eclipse will be most prominent in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. This page from NASA provides the details.



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