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Archive for Monday, June 22, 1992

June 22, 1992

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Tom Christie, a teacher at Deerfield School, finds it hard to sit still, so it's not surprising that his educational interests reach far beyond his classroom.

He explored the complex issue of year-round school in his doctoral dissertation in 1989. He has represented the Lawrence Education Assn. in teacher negotiations, and in 1988 he received training from the Centers for Disease Control to provide workshops for educators in the area of human sexuality and AIDS.

Judging from two of his most recent projects a book to teach children about the environment and a proposal to get schools and businesses working together Christie hasn't slowed down.

Good Apple, a division of Simon and Schuster, has just published Christie's "Global Alert!", an activity book designed for grades five through eight. About 8,000 copies were printed in the first run for nationwide distribution.

CHRISTIE, WHO teaches science to fifth- and sixth-graders, said he got the idea for the book after writing a series of 10 articles on the environment for Good Apple during 1990 and 1991.

"I decided now that I've written all these articles, why not compile them into a book? It wouldn't be that much more work for me," Christie explained.

Christie already had written activities to go along with the articles, which look at issues such as acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, solid waste, recycling and animal extinction. However, Good Apple wanted something else to go along with the book.

"What I agreed to do was to add a game to the book, and that was the most difficult part," Christie said. "Part of the problem was coming up with something that didn't copy everything else that was already out as far as environmental games."

IN CHRISTIE'S game, players move their pieces around the board and try to save the Earth by collecting cards representing the seven continents. But in the process, the players have to grapple with tough environmental questions every time they land on certain spaces.

"You have been asked to negotiate an agreement between tuna fishers and Greenpeace," reads one question. "What are some of the areas you will discuss?"

Another question reads, "You have placed bins for glass bottles and cans next to the soft drink machine at work, but people aren't using them. What can you do?"

Christie said his goal was to steer away from having students spout off answers by rote.

"You have to answer a question, but there's really no right or wrong answer," Christie said. "It's trying to get them to use higher-level thinking skills."

AND WHILE THE game and book are geared toward academically gifted students, "That's not to say that other students can't use it," Christie said. "As a matter of fact, as I was writing the articles, I would field test them in my classroom and send them to a friend who teaches in an inner-city school in Kansas City."

Laura Nutt, educational consultant at School Specialty Supply, 2108 W. 27th, said the store will receive copies of "Global Alert!" this week. Nutt said the store also plans to arrange a book-signing with Christie in the near future.

On another front in his efforts to help improve education, Christie has developed a plan for fostering cooperation between schools and business. Christie has submitted the plan to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry for its consideration.

Called Partners in Kansas Education, the plan calls for appointing someone as a state-level coordinator to help communities create business-education partnerships.

CHRISTIE SAID that when he took part in last year's Leadership Kansas seminar, "The business people would always ask, `What can we do to help education? We know it's in trouble. We're all going to have to work together if we're going to have a better product at the end of our system than we're having now.'"

Those comments got Christie thinking, and the result was his Partners in Kansas Education plan.

"This program has an individual who is responsible for going to chambers of commerce and saying, `What skills do you want people coming out of your schools to have that they don't have?'" Christie said.

Christie said school-business projects might be started on a school-by-school basis rather than a district-by-district basis.

"If it worked in one school in a community, it could become a pilot program," Christie said. "Sometimes we try to tackle too much. Maybe we need to start looking at smaller bits of the whole and try to solve those problems."

IN ADDITION to his many activities, Christie has received a number of honors. In 1990 he was one of seven educators statewide named by Emporia State University as a Kansas Master Teacher. Last year, he was chosen for the Award for Excellence in Science Teaching presented by the American Medical Assn. and the Kansas Medical Society.

This year, Christie was one of three Kansans chosen for the State of Kansas Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. That makes Christie a candidate for the national-level Presidential Award. The recipients will be announced in the fall.

How does Christie explain his drive to get involved in so many activities?

For one thing, Christie has taken to heart something that Wayne Hird, the late Lawrence physician, once told him: "If you're the best at what you do, you'll always have a job."

ALSO, CHRISTIE said, "I guess I get bored easily. I always want to try to do different things. That and being a Type A personality, being never quite satisfied with what I do and wanting to do a little bit better."

In the classroom, that means seeking new ways to teach children.

"I guess the most important thing is that I would like to see the students who leave my classroom know how to learn," Christie said. "I guess I couldn't care less about the specific facts they learn. If they can learn those skills and techniques on how to be their own teacher, then I guess that's the best thing.

"I think one of the ways to do that is for students to feel good about themselves. I think a major role of educators has to be to impart a healthy self-esteem."

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