Want to See the World? Go on Summer Sabbatical

Teachers often tell their students that the world is their classroom. Thanks to one man's generosity, teachers can more fully experience that world for themselves—and inspire their students with a sense of adventure.

A decade ago, businessman Raymond Plank, chairman of the board of the Apache Corporation, established a program in his hometown of Minneapolis to provide teachers with summer sabbaticals that they themselves design. The positive influence of Plank's Latin teacher in the 1930s prompted him to create such a program. It grew into the Fund for Teachers, a public foundation that offers professional learning opportunities that take American educators around the globe. Fund grants are awarded to pre-K through 12th-grade teachers with more than three years experience. To win the grants, teachers submit a proposal that outlines how their summer fellowship will make them a better teacher.

Applications opened October 1, 2007, for summer sabbaticals in 2008 and must be submitted online. The application deadline is January 31, 2008. The program is limited to certain parts of the country, although Fund officials ultimately want to raise enough money to take the program nationwide. Currently, teachers in 29 states, Puerto Rico, and more than 100 cities are eligible to apply. (To see if you are eligible, check the map posted here.)

To date, more than 2,500 teachers from 47 states have studied and traveled throughout the U.S. and 91 other countries on all seven continents. The Fund has supported an array of learning experiences for teachers including the exploration of active volcanoes in Hawaii, the study of Islam through Morocco's political, social, and economic development, and a trek across Laos to observe Hmong culture.

To learn more, visit

Constitution DotOrg

Typically, teachers must take students on field trips to view our nation's most important documents. They're tucked away in libraries or stored under glass in museums where visitors stand in line to catch a glimpse of American history. For teachers who are tired of saying "No pushing!" and "Don't touch anything!" and students tired of standing in lines, there's good news: As of this fall, there's no more waiting. A comprehensive collection of Constitution-related sources and materials is now available online.

ConSource provides access to roughly 1,100 of this country's most important founding documents from more than 90 archives across the eastern seaboard. Several important collections are currently available, including James Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers, and the Bill of Rights' legislative history. More documents will become available on the site throughout the year. For instance, George Washington's private and public correspondence is expected by December.

With original constitutional sources located under one Web address, students can examine the Constitution firsthand, and gain greater insight into the ideals that brought our laws and freedoms into being. ConSource is a much-needed resource since the general public's knowledge of the Constitution is sorely lacking. According to a poll by the National Constitution Center, 62 percent of Americans cannot name all three branches of the Federal government; 84 percent believe that the famous phrase "all men are created equal" is in the U.S. Constitution; and one in five do not know that the President is Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

To freshen up on your constitutional history and provide students with the keys to understanding our nation's founding, visit

Wonder Girls

With all the famous men in science—Einstein, Newton, Watson and Crick—young girls may wonder, are there any women scientists, too? The answer, of course, is yes. But the truth is their numbers are few.

That's why the National Academy of Sciences has created, a Web site that features the accomplishments of contemporary women in science and the various scientific careers that young girls (and boys) can pursue. The site draws from Women's Adventures in Science, a biography series for middle school students that chronicles the lives of today's working female scientists.

Diane France, a bone detective, Shirley Ann Jackson, a subatomic explorer, and Adriana Ocampo, a space geologist, among others, are profiled on the site, hosted by a teenage cartoon character named Lia.

Research has shown that girls' participation in the sciences often lags behind that of their male peers. For instance, a report by the National Center for Education Standards (2000), Trends in Educational Equity of Girls and Women, noted that in fourth grade the number of girls and boys who like math and science is about the same. But by eighth grade, twice as many boys as girls show an interest in these subjects, a finding posted on

Besides interactive games, the site also provides a parent-teacher guide with suggestions for engaging girls in science in the classroom and at home. These include making sure to select girl volunteers just as often as boys and to praise girls for their intellectual contributions.

Have your students visit to start inspiring a new generation of female scientists today.

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