A Writing Contest for Young Space Enthusiasts

  • Dec 18, 2015


As I write this, the unmanned Cassini spacecraft is headed for Saturn en route to a scheduled close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus on December 19th—a mission that will garner invaluable geological data about a world far, far away.

Just think about that for a moment. Scientific exploration of alien worlds via technology that was science fiction not all that long ago.

It’s a stunning moment in human achievement, not to mention STEM advocacy, but moreover it’s a golden opportunity to ignite the imaginations of those very people who may one day take the exploration even further: your students. Which is why we bring you news today of the Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest.

NASA Education invites students in grades 5-12 to pen a 500-word essay on the Cassini Mission for a chance to win once-in-a-lifetime recognition and a very special opportunity for their fellow students!

The winning essays and their student authors will be featured on NASA’a web site. In addition, winning schools will be guaranteed participation in a teleconference or video conference with Cassini scientists!

The contest meets U.S. National English and Science Education Standards. Deadline for submission is Friday, February 26, 2016. For more information visit the official contest web site.

And to find out about other great opportunities and free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Note: Watch the video below for a compelling overview of the Cassini Mission.

Campaigns in Your Classroom

  • Dec 08, 2015


With the commencement of the Iowa Caucuses on February 1 the presidential election season will be officially underway, and your students can have a front-row seat for the entire process with DIRECTV.

If your school is among the thousands across America who have raised their hands to receive complimentary programming via our  DIRECTV Goes to School initiative, you and your students already enjoy full access to some of the very best election coverage available on television—including shows and study resources prepared specifically for education.

For example, there’s C-SPAN (DIRECTV channel 350), the highly-respected source for exhaustive and unvarnished coverage of public affairs. Live coverage of daily politics is their mainstay, and it’s backed-up by a dedicated Road to the White House 2016 web site that’s heavy on study materials and completely free-of-charge for teachers and students.

C-SPAN’s sister network, C-SPAN2 (ch. 351), is another great resource for daily public affairs coverage, and it’s also included in our DIRECTV School Choice lineup.

Other news channels in your DIRECTV lineup include Bloomberg Television (ch. 353), CNN (ch. 202) and CNN en Español (ch. 419), Fox News Channel (ch. 360), HLN (Ch. 204), and MSNBC (ch. 356)—all of which will be covering the campaigns.

And of special note this election season is CNN Student News, a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program designed for viewing in middle and high school classrooms. Produced by the journalists at CNN, and anchored by Carl Azuz (students love this guy), this award-winning show is new and timely each morning on the CNN Student News web site.

All in all that’s a lot of presidential campaign coverage, and it’s coming your way every day via DIRECTV School Choice. You can record shows for use in the classroom; download lesson plans to incorporate into existing curricula; or even come up with special projects for extra credit. How you “elect” to use all this great material it is up to you.

So start exploring!

And to learn about some of the other great benefits of DIRECTV School Choice, just bookmark this site for regular updates, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Calling All High School Filmmakers

  • Dec 03, 2015


We received some exciting news today about the 2015-2016 TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, brought to you by Toyota and our friends at Discovery Education. Students in grades 9-12 (age 13+) are invited to create a short video on safe driving for the chance to win one of 9 generous cash prizes (and do something really important in the process).

The top prize winner will receive $15,000 and a chance to re-shoot their video with a professional Discovery crew!

The deadline for entries is 3/7/16. Please help us spread the word.

You can watch last year’s top prize-winning video below, and for more information visit the official TeenDrive365 web site.

And to find out about other great opportunities, as well as free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Inspiration Station

  • Nov 24, 2015


It’s a sad fact that in schools where space or funding are an issue, arts education suffers. Fortunately, though, there’s always plenty of room for arts ed on Ovation TV’s web site, and money’s not an issue because it’s always free of charge!

From music and theater to fine art and design, Ovation’s Arts Ed Toolkit offers free, curated content for your high school classroom. Each unit is comprised of a streaming video presentation culled from the network’s high-quality library of series and documentaries, and accompanied by a downloadable lesson plan supporting National Core Arts Standards.

Featured resources available right now include The Art Of: Photography; Raiders of the Lost Art: Leonardo da Vinci, a lesson in art history built around the theft of the Mona Lisa, and a look at music and songwriting with recording artist Sheryl Crow.

And that’s really just the beginning of what’s available. Check out the Arts Ed Toolkit and see for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: Ovation TV is channel 274 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Watch and Learn

  • Nov 18, 2015


Currently airing on National Geographic Channel, Breakthrough is a landmark series of six documentary films that explore new realms of scientific research in a variety of fields. And as a gift to educators, the series is accompanied by a web-based learning module that allows you to bring that cutting-edge science into K-12 classrooms!

With an eye toward the future, especially as it concerns passionate innovation and the evolving relationship between people and technology, each hour-long episode of Breakthrough is directed by a well-known Hollywood personality who approaches the material as a passion project:

Episode 1: Fighting Pandemics (Peter Berg)
Episode 2: More Than Human (Paul Giamatti)
Episode 3: Decoding the Brain (Brett Ratner)
Episode 4: The Age of Aging (Ron Howard)
Episode 5: Energy on the Edge (Akiva Goldsman)
Episode 6: Water Apocalypse (Angela Bassett)

Says Angela Bassett, whose Water Apocalypse deals with efforts to ensure that people everywhere have access to clean drinking water, “I would most like this film to be an impetus for inspiring young, creative minds, and even mature minds, to come up with innovative ideas that help solve our water problem. First, we have to think about it. We have to be concerned about it. We have to know that there is a problem.”

For more on the series, watch the trailer below. And for ideas on how to bring this important material to life in your classroom, be sure to check out Breakthrough‘s Innovation Lab, an online interactive education hub that offers engaging ways for K-12 students to learn more about the topics covered.

Breakthrough airs Sunday nights at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT on National Geographic Channel (DIRECTV channel 276).
Complete episodes are also archived for viewing on the Breakthrough web site.

To find out about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Great Opportunity for Student Writers

  • Nov 12, 2015


Teachers, do you have any talented young writers in your classroom? It’s possible. And wouldn’t you just love to be perhaps the first person in their lives to tell them they’ve got a gift?

If so, we’d encourage you to check out Scholastic’s annual Kids Are Authors competition, a wonderful opportunity for young writers and artists to pursue their crafts together on a serious level and possibly even get published!

The contest is open to all students grades K-8 in the United States, including its territories and possessions, and the deadline for submission is March 15th, 2016. There are two categories, Fiction and Non-Fiction, and the two grand-prize-winning illustrated books (21-29 pages) will be published by Scholastic and sold at Book Fairs throughout the country.

By the way, according to Scholastic this will be the final year for the competition, so now’s your chance!

For more information visit the official Kids Are Authors web site.

And to find out about other great free educational resources and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Adventures in Math

  • Nov 05, 2015


If you’re looking for a fun, engaging way to frame mathematics for primary students, look no further than Cyberchase, an Emmy Award-winning  educational series from PBS.

Geared to children ages 8-12 (grades 3-5), Cyberchase depicts a colorfully animated fantasy world wherein young heroes (and their cyberpal, Digit) must protect cyberspace from a hilariously villainous troublemaker named Hacker. Less a battle of good against evil than a match between mischief and intellect, each episode finds the kids using math concepts to thwart Hacker’s latest scheme. It’s all in good fun, and very funny, especially scenes involving Hacker’s somewhat less capable henchmen, Buzz and Delete.

Each episode concludes with a live-action segment entitled “For Real,” wherein young people use math to figure out solutions to everyday problems.

The show’s stated philosophy includes a mission statement comprising four basic goals: To foster enthusiasm for math in the critical years when too many children decide they do not like or are not good at the subject; to model math reasoning and help children improve their problem-solving skills; to demonstrate the usefulness of math; and to inspire all children to approach math with confidence and a “can-do” attitude.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Cyberchase has been found via independent researchers to have a very positive impact on young math students. You can download and review those studies here.

There’s also an extensive Teacher’s Guide available for free on the PBS Kids GO! web site, chock full of activities and lesson plans which coincide with specific episodes.

Cyberchase airs weekday mornings on PBS (check local listings).
NOTE: Episodes may be recorded and archived for classroom use for up to one year.

To learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Good News

  • Oct 28, 2015


“We are all journalists now.”

Chances are you’ve run across that statement somewhere. More and more people are saying it, because it’s true. The line has been blurred. No longer do the professionals have a monopoly on published information. Whether you’re blogging or tweeting or posting things on Facebook, you are functioning—for all practical purposes—as a journalist.

But the question is: Are you a “responsible” journalist? Is the information you are publishing true, or propaganda, or (heaven forbid) an outright lie?

It’s an important question when you consider that we are all, each of us, now living in a virtual sea of information, and information is the stuff people use to make decisions. Decisions that have consequences. Information is a powerful thing.

I believe this point is especially relevant for young people, most of whom haven’t yet compiled enough savvy to recognize that not everything they read is accurate, or even true. Moreover, young people are digital natives, more likely than any other group to both publish and receive information exclusively via the internet.

For this reason alone, I believe that media literacy and a core understanding of journalistic principles are essential to modern education. And to that end, I bring you news of a new trio of resources from PBS Learning Media designed to foster media literacy and responsible citizen journalism in students grades 9 through 12.

Presented as learning modules comprising standards-based classroom exercises and support materials for teachers, the available topics are:

Writing and Reporting/Collaborative Research
A primer on news writing and reporting.

Current Events Awareness/Media Literacy
Consuming news with a critical eye.

Persuasive Writing: Take a Stand
How to state ideas clearly and back them up with proof.

These lessons and more come your way free of charge as part of an exciting new educational effort from the Emmy-winning PBS news magazine series, NOW. We highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Follow the Money

  • Oct 22, 2015


According to the Council for Economic Education, only 43% of American 12th grade students tested at or above proficient on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) economics assessment, and U.S. teenagers fall somewhere around the middle of the pack globally when it comes to financial literacy.

It doesn’t take an economist to point out that such numbers will only trend downward if uninterrupted, as acknowledged even by the White House last spring when President Obama officially proclaimed April, 2015 to be National Financial Capability Month.

Since then, financial literacy has become more and more a subject of national conversation, and if your school would like to have a voice in this conversation we know a good place for you to begin.

Econ Essentials is a free, web-based interactive resource from Discovery Education and the CME Group designed to help students in grades 9 through 12 gain a solid understanding of economic principles. Currently there are two core learning modules available on the site—both aligned with high school economics standards—as well as a more advanced section exploring investment concepts such as futures, hedging, and speculation.

It’s all very practical, even challenging, and a welcome real-world approach to what many students might otherwise view as dry material.

See for yourself. Check out Econ Essentials today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Explore a New World of Learning

  • Oct 16, 2015


Mars is everywhere these days, figuratively speaking. From breathtaking imagery captured by the Curiosity Rover, and growing excitement over possible evidence for Martian water, to NASA’s recent announcement of 3-part plan to put people on Mars within two decades, it’s safe to say that the red planet is having a moment.

Heck, it’s even co-starring in a hit movie with Matt Damon!

All this excitement presents teachers with a golden opportunity—a chance to present real-world  STEM application to young people who are watching scientific history play out before their eyes. Luckily, our friends at NASA Education are ready to help educators make the most of this opportunity with an exhaustive online collection of Mars-related STEM resources they call the Mars Survival Kit.

Well organized and easy to navigate, the site offers standards-based classroom projects and lesson plans for students in kindergarten through high school. And it’s all free of charge.

Check out the Mars Survival Kit for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio