Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Science taught by activity

Participants hope Ohio doesn't stop funding program

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Joe Kohne is still excited about his field trip — to Hawaii.

        It wasn't a vacation, but a chance to perform science experiments in lava fields with some of the most renowned scientists in the world, including Robert Ballard, who discovered the RMS Titanic resting at the bottom of the Atlantic.

        “It was a lot of work, but it was worth every minute of it,” said the 14-year-old eighth-grader at St. William Catholic School in Price Hill. He was chosen from thousands of applicants to spend two weeks with the Jason Project.

        The project, founded by Dr. Ballard, brings middle school students from all over the world on science expeditions, exposing them to world-class scientists, researchers and expedition experts in some of the more exotic world environments.

        But that kind of hands-on experience could be endangered because state funding for the project was cut in the governor's budget proposals.

        The project, funded the last two years, received about $100,000 annually. Educators have asked the Ohio Legislature to continue funding the inquiry-based program integrating science and technology into the classroom.

        If Jason loses funding, it would not kill the project in Ohio, but it would reduce opportunities and make it more costly for students and teachers. And that, Joe said, would be a shame.

        “It's such a great pro gram,” he said. “It really gets kids interested in science.”

        The Jason project reaches 30,000 Ohio middle school students and teachers who participate in a yearlong curriculum designed to inspire learning in science, math and technology. The Jason project wants to expand that number to 90,000.

        Jason also offers teacher workshops to make science alive for students and incorporate technology into the classroom.

        Kelly Wenzel, Joe's fifth-grade teacher, took the Jason training and uses the curriculum.

        “There are so many hands-on activities,” she said. “It's not just a sit-and-read program.”

        When Joe was selected last summer, it meant a yearlong commitment to the project, preparing for the field trip online and doing experiments with other student “argonauts” selected for the trip. The Jason Project takes its name from the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts.

        While Joe was in Hawaii, Jan. 29-Feb. 9, the group spent time at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Their work, which included studying volcanic activity and its effect on the environment, was broadcast worldwide. Joe participated in five broadcasts a day, six days a week.


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