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Earthquake safety lessons teach kids, bring recognition

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

(Photo)
Tamara McClellan
SIKESTON -- When Tamara McClellan, a science teacher at New Horizons High School in Sikeston, created a lesson plan about earthquake safety for her third grade class several years ago, little did she know that one day teachers from around the world would have access to her idea.

On Friday, McClellan learned her lesson, which is aimed at third and fourth graders and teaches kids what to do in the case of an earthquake, is posted on the Web site of SuccessLink, a grant program affiliated with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. SuccessLink serves all teachers with free lesson plans online. It recruits teachers to write lessons and submit them.

"I was amazed," McClellan admitted about her award.

For the past 10 years SuccessLink has awarded several teachers -- locally and statewide -- who have contributed their lesson plans to the site. But last September, SuccessLink created a new section under a federal grant called Emergency Awareness and Preparedness.

"Although we are primarily a Missouri-based organization (with Emergency Awareness and Preparedness), we recruit teachers from around the nation to submit their lessons on topics like earthquake safety, spread of disease or the act of an intruder," said Tem Hiesberger, Emergency Awareness/ Preparedness Project facilitator for SuccessLink in Jefferson City.

Each month 10 teachers are chosen to receive a $200-cash award or $50 per hour for creating or adapting lessons after they have been posted online. Winning entries are performance-based activities with an assessment and contain all required components. Teachers retain ownership of their lessons even though SuccessLink makes them available online, Hiesberger assured.

SuccessLink asks for lessons that have already been used in classrooms and the teachers feel were successful, Hiesberger said.

McClellan first learned of SuccessLink through teacher's workshops. After implementing her lesson plan, McClellan sent her idea into SuccessLink.

"I submitted it several years ago, but then SuccessLink contacted me recently and told me I needed to make to make a couple of changes so I did and sent it back a few weeks ago," McClellan recalled.

The whole purpose of McClellan's plan is for students to be able to properly execute an earthquake drill.

"Students check for safety hazards in the classroom. Then they get on a Web site and it tells them to go to another site. So they read information to find answers to questions," McClellan explained.

Finally, the students write a paragraph to explain how to check their home for earthquake hazards and make it safe during an earthquake.

"Children need to know what's going on and how to keep themselves safe," McClellan pointed out. "To me, my lesson plan seems like a very simple idea -- and I have seen other lessons like mine with the same format."

Hiesberger called SuccessLink a "wonderful, wonderful opportunity" for teachers. She recently returned from a convention in Atlanta, Ga., where teachers worldwide were familiar with SuccessLink, she said.

Hiesberger spoke with educators from South Africa and Puerto Rico who said they learned about the program just by surfing the Internet. Sometimes, teachers take a lesson they see on SuccessLink and adjust it to fit their class, she added.

"Teachers are such a wonderful resource for each other, but they live in a silo because their work is with their students," Hiesberger noted. "They don't get to brainstorm with other teachers. When they submit a lesson, they share it with others."

For more information, contact Hiesberger at tem@successlink.org or visit SuccessLink's Web site at www.successlink.org.