By Jody Steinberg

“The next 50 years are yours. What kind of difference are you going to make?”

That was the challenge Philippe Cousteau put before the fifth and sixth graders at Dunwoody Elementary School, which was showcased when the star of Animal Planet and Discovery Channel was in town to promote a unique partnership between Discovery Education, Georgia Public Broadcasting and Georgia schools.

Looking out to a sea of faces on the floor of the school cafeteria, Cousteau told the audience why he still enjoys diving into the freezing cold Arctic sea. “Every time I go, we discover animals we didn’t know existed.”

The grandson of the famous Jacques Cousteau spoke about exploring the oceans, punctuating his presentation with short clips from his shows. He showed the kids a clip from Disovery Education comparing film footage he took recently with images of the same reef – alive with far more color and marine life just 20 years ago. The obvious impact of video on the students reinforced the message behind Cousteau’s visit.

“Students don’t learn like they used to from textbooks when there is such a vibrant world out there,” he said later. “It’s important to bring stories to the students and to open their eyes.”

That’s the goal of Discovery Education, a package of interactive and cross-curricular media designed for the classroom. With subscription access, teachers can download over 60,000 film clips and 120,000 other forms of media. The tools are designed to carry a lesson across multiple subject areas, and are all aligned to Georgia Performance Standards.

Woodward Elementary principal Reginald Stephens is very familiar with Discovery Education, which was heavily utilized at Shadow Rock Elementary, where he was assistant principal last year.

“The students love it. It really gives them another insight, especially with the Science connection,” he said. But, he adds, it’s just one of many tools in the arsenal at his school. With their recent renovation, “smart” Promethean boards were installed in every finished classroom. The boards enable teachers and students to add, delete, enlarge and move elements to their work, project content from a computer and save board work to files.

Woodward school has a computer lab as well as a laptop cart that teachers can check for their classrooms. Woodward media specialist Judy Marsh, he adds, is an expert at multi media and uses it with every class she teaches – even for reading stories.

“The good thing about education today,” Stephens said, “is you don’t have any choice but to embrace technology in the classroom.”

Kelli Harris-Wright, DeKalb County Schools’ Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning wants teachers to use Discovery Education in every elementary school. Wright, who participated in a week-long Discovery Education national training institute last summer, plans to ask the DeKalb Board of Education to allocate funds for a subscription for Discovery Education Science for the elementary schools.