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DOE launches learning guides for stuck-at-home students

The Department of Education doesn’t want healthy children who attend the as-of-now 19 schools closed because of swine flu fears to sit idly while they stay home. To keep them occupied, the DOE has made available optional “learn at home” activity guides, and Chancellor Joel Klein is urging everyone to participate.

The guides were compiled in short order by the DOE’s teaching and learning department and can be picked up in four locations or downloaded from the department’s Web site. Updated guides and a packet of work for high school students will be posted as soon as tonight, according to a DOE spokeswoman.

Chancellor Klein told reporters yesterday that he would like students who are able to complete the voluntary schoolwork. “I hope this is not viewed as a holiday,” he said.

The guides include daily schedules that break down four hours of learning into small blocks: 45 minutes each for English and math and half an hour each for vocabulary and science. Another hour and a half is divided evenly among fitness and health, arts and sampling educational television shows (one suggestion is Animal Planet’s “Meerkat Manor”) and Web sites.
The content includes excerpts from Web sites, commercially produced curriculum materials, and instructions compiled in-house at the DOE. For example, the eighth-grade guide contains a science article from the earth911 blog about how not to get tricked while “going green,” while the English section contains a poem (“Abuelito Who” by Sandra Cisneros) to analyze and the math section has questions about probability and factoring trinomials.

If more educational content providers digitized their content, it could have been easier for the DOE to provide appropriate work for children during a crisis like this one, according to Lynette Guastaferro, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Teaching Matters. But due to copyright issues, the DOE’s learning activity guides can’t contain curriculum resources from most textbooks, she said, even if the department is using the textbooks in its classrooms.

“Our hope is that in the future, schools will have their curriculum and entire learning environments digitized and Web ready,” Guastaferro said.

A DOE spokeswoman said she wasn’t sure how the department dealt with copyright issues when making the guides. She noted that this was the first time the DOE has ever produced this kind of guide.

Guides can be found at the following locations while schools are closed:

  • Brooklyn: 131 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
  • Queens: 30-48 Linden Place, Queens, NY 11354
    28-11 Queens Plaza North, Long Island City, NY 11101
    90-27 Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11435