Online lesson sparks visit from Bill Nye for Prince George’s school -- Gazette.Net



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Greenbelt Elementary School students received an electrifying surprise Monday as they were entertained — and educated — by none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Television celebrity educator William “Bill” Nye, clad in his trademark bow tie and lab coat, performed science demonstrations for students as part of the school’s reward for winning a monthly drawing through the website www.Sophia.org, which offers free tutorial videos for secondary school students and professional development for teachers.

Users accessing the videos could enter a monthly drawing to win a free iPad tablet computer or the grand prize, 30 iPads and a visit from Nye.

“I didn’t realize there was a contest until I got to the end of [a tutorial], and so I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll enter it. What are my chances of winning?’” said sixth-grade science teacher Michelle Behnfeldt.

Behnfeldt said she was surprised when she received the phone call telling her Greenbelt Middle had won.

“I was in my car and I just started screaming. I was so excited,” she said.

Principal Warren Tweedy said Nye’s visit was a great honor for his school.

“To have someone in the media, whom the kids have seen throughout their lives, come here and talk to them, it gives them a sense of pride,” he said.

Tweedy said the iPads would be an important resource for Behnfeldt’s classroom and for the school.

The tutorials on the Sophia.org website offer resources for teachers to “flip” their classrooms.

“What is traditionally done as homework is done in the classroom. Now, traditionally, students would do their work at home and maybe have questions their parents weren’t able to answer. With flipped classrooms, the teacher presents what would have been called homework in class, but now the lectures are seen online as homework,” said Taylor Pettis, senior manager of marketing communications for Sophia.org. “It removes the lecture from the classroom, so they come back the next day for individualized instruction and help.”

Nye said he became involved with Sophia.org over a year ago and began producing videos for the website. He said he believes strongly in the “flipped” concept for science education.

“The idea makes perfect sense. You watch a little bit at home, and then you go to class and discuss it with the teacher. The lecture format is easy for the teacher but it’s not so great for the student, and I tell you as a guy who went to a lot of lectures,” said Nye.

Nye said he was hoping his demonstration would help students develop a greater appreciation for science.

Nye, a Washington, D.C., native, is best known for his show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which ran on television from 1993 to 1998, but he is also an author, engineer and spokesman for scientific research.

Nye told the students, “There are discoveries that are right out there, that are right under our noses, and that have yet to be discovered. I hope some of you in here are part of that. I hope some of you in here will make the next discovery that will change the world.”

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net