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Florida wins federal grant on education

The science departments of Florida elementary and secondary schools are about to become laboratories for finding new way to teach science.

Florida, along with four other states and the District of Columbia, has won a U.S. Department of Education grant to retrain teachers and redesign science curricula.

The Florida Department of Education will receive $333,000 a year for the next three years to develop new methods for teaching science. Results of the state efforts will be shared nationwide.

"Separate boxes of biology, chemistry and physics have become so overloaded by technology that we need to look at overlying principles," said Martha Green, author of Florida's winning proposal. "We need to teach fewer of the little factoids and more of the overall concepts."

Green, who heads the Florida Science Framework Project, the group that will oversee use of the grant, said Florida's plan would allow individual schools to choose different paths of teaching.

The project would give teachers several teaching approaches from which to choose, Green said.

Green said a booklet outlining the new programs and ideas will be available by next September. A computer program for use by school officials should be available the following year.

If all goes well, Green said, students should be learning by the new methods before the end of the decade.

Rep. Doug "Tim" Jamerson, chairman of the Florida House of Representatives' Committee on Public Schools, praised the concept behind the Florida proposal. Jamerson, D-St. Petersburg, said school needs to be something students can put their hands on, not just a place to hear lectures.

Other jurisdictions receiving grants, which cover both math and science education, are Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.