Getting a good education in this country isn’t always an easy or inexpensive proposition, but there’s hope on the horizon. In one A+, gold star example of good gov, 30 of our federal agencies got together and created a website called Federal Resources for Education Excellence, or FREE. The site is justsick with information, teaching tools, and school resources, to borrow a phrase from the students.
Spawning from an interagency’s workgroup idea “to make hundreds of federally supported education resources available” for Americans online, the FREE website was funded by an Innovation Fund from the obscure but impressive sounding Government Innovation Technology Services Board. Three hundred and forty teachers broke into ten teams to develop learning activities and lessons.
FREE’s website is not particularly impressive at first glance, but like a kiwi fruit, once you get inside it suddenly gets pretty interesting. A click on “World Studies – Africa” brings up an array of options from African Voices to Water in Africa, each brought to you by a different federal agency. African Voices sends you to the beautiful Smithsonian Institution site for an audio lesson, and from the Peace Corps’ Water in Africa you get pictures and lessons from the volunteers.
Take it from somebody who learned most of her lessons about the world from National Geographic magazine, this is a BIG step up. If you’re interested in rocket science, NASA can help you there with a “Rockets: Educators Guide,” or if that doesn’t turn your key you can try “Interactive Constitution” from the National Constitution Center. This website seems to cover it all.
FREE is an effort to give teachers in America a place to go to find resources that previously were not, well, easily accessible. Teachers can use it in a number of ways: searching by grade level or subject matter, tracking an RSS feed that announces new resources on the site, and following the FREE group on Twitter.
Imagine being a teacher faced with a twenty-year old textbook and a dreary lesson about the colonization of California in 1774. You log onto FREE and find Web de Anza, an entire site brought to you by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Oregon that’s dedicated to the study of Bautista de Anza’s two expeditions to Alta California. If that’s not helpful enough, the website also gives examples of how other teachers used the resource in their classrooms. And if that’s still not helpful … well, maybe you should consider a new career.
Everybody should take the time to stop by FREE. It’s a reminder of how our government can sometimes cooperate across agency lines to produce really valuable services. Oh yeah, and if you hadn’t guessed by now, the website is totally free. Ok, maybe not totally free, but we’ll leave that to the economics lessons.