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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Class with Web-based and hands-on experiments wins Science prize

Students measuring light intensity and dissolved oxygen level in water.
[Image courtesy of Margus Pedaste]

As a young student in Estonia, Margus Pedaste was very interested -- and quite brilliant -- in biology. When he was in the seventh grade, for instance, he conducted his first real research. And by the time he graduated from high school he had already won his country's annual biology "olympiad" three times.

Still, he despised all of the memorization that was required of him in biology classes, and he couldn't understand why anyone would ever need to know, for example, the names used to describe the reproductive systems of 20 different animal groups!

"I'm a very practical person," Pedaste, who is a technology education professor at the University of Tartu, said. "I was always thinking, 'Why would I need that? It's not very interesting or effective.'"

He wanted to improve the ways that biology is taught around the world, so he joined the Science Created by You (SCY) project, which is funded by the European Union, and he helped create a new course called the ECO mission.

Because it's so effective as a teaching tool, the ECO mission -- an investigation of ecosystems that involves both Web-based and hands-on experiments -- has been awarded the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction (IBI). This IBI Prize was created to show off outstanding materials, for use in a wide range of schools and settings. An essay about the ECO mission appears in the 28 June issue of Science.