Monday, March 11, 2002

Teachers open to Dragonfly

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        MASON — Do you know how to get electricity from a cow?

        That is the type of question Project Dragonfly uses to bring science to young students. Project Dragonfly, which got its start in 1994 through Miami University and the National Science Teachers Association, is a children's science magazine.

        Nearly 40 Mason teachers (grades 1-8) are taking two semesters of Project Dragonfly's workshops, which are presented online by Miami University.

        This year's Ohio-based focus has attracted more than 300 teachers statewide, said Chris Myers, director of Project Dragonfly.

        Since January, Mason teachers have been learning how to bring Project Dragonfly's student-directed scientific method to classrooms.

        Rather than setting up textbook experiments for students, teachers direct children to determine their own questions and set up experiments to determine answers.

        Mason students are already being exposed to Dragonfly's method, said Linda Sutphin, Mason's secondary science curriculum leader. “The kids love it,” Ms. Sutphin said. “It really does allow them to be true scientists.”

        Ms. Sutphin said that students in Cassandra Eppley's eighth-grade class at Mason Middle School asked why Ohio does not have major earthquakes. Students found the answer by charting major earthquake sites on a world map. They predicted that these sites would be along coasts, but found that their charted earthquakes outlined the earth's tectonic plates.

        Ms. Sutphin said that changes in Ohio testing, coupled with a new salary incentive for Mason teachers to further their education, encouraged teachers to join Dragonfly.

        When combining the Internet, Miami's Dragonfly magazine and PBS-TV's Dragonfly (Sunday, Channel 48), students can find new experiments, interact with others across the country and read first-hand accounts from modern scientists.

        As for the cow and electricity, the best way is to use manure to produce methane gas, which can be used to fuel a machine that turns an electric generator.

        For information about PBS Dragonfly, visit


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