Flag issue, McFerrin and science

Monday, June 21, 2004

If you have a question, e-mail factorfiction@semissourian.com or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"

Q: I just went by the Teamsters' Hall in Cape Girardeau on Broadview Street and noticed the flag was not lowered to half-staff. Could you please try to find out why it was not lowered to half-staff to honor President Reagan?

A: Bob Hutchings, business representative for Local 600, explained, "No disrespect was meant to President Reagan. The reason it wasn't lowered is that after several thefts in the past, I had to tie the lines very high. We also duct-taped it. That makes it difficult to lower." Hutchings also said that the union will be putting a new flag up soon.

Q: Is it true that Bobby McFerrin, of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" fame, hanged himself at the height of his popularity? A co-worker swears this is true, but I seem to recall him playing in St. Louis just last year.

A: This rumor is false. McFerrin is alive and still performing as a solo artist and conductor, although he hasn't had a song reach the same popularity level as that 1988 feel-good melody.

Q: Is it true that Cape Girardeau Middle School fifth- and sixth-graders have no science textbooks? If true, why? How many years have they been without them, and how do they effectively teach science?

A: According to Cape Girardeau School District superintendent Mark Bowles, the middle school science program was designed in 1998 to emphasize activities and lab experiences rather than a single textbook. Since that time, teachers have created lessons from several resources, including traditional textbooks.

"Years of research on effective instructional practices for science indicate that the best learning takes place when students are actively engaged with science materials in a discovery-based atmosphere," said Bowles. "We seek to have students, as much as possible, discover information as they would if they were making their living as scientists. Support materials are generated as handouts, which, along with class notes, lab reports and classroom sets of textbooks, constitute the written materials used by students to prepare for tests."

When asked if the school district would prefer to buy textbooks for the students if finances weren't tight, Bowles replied:

"The decision to emphasize a hands-on, activity-oriented K-12 science curriculum was made for instructional purposes, not financial. The next review of the science curriculum will take place next year. During a curriculum review, all aspects of the curriculum are examined. Recommendations on grade-level objectives, activities, assessments and resource materials are made by the curriculum committee based on their training and experience in light of current educational research. Accordingly, this group will be charged with reviewing the textbook issue."

Jon K. Rust is co-president of Rust Communications.

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