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Publication Date: Friday, November 02, 2001

Biology teacher gets award for Web site Biology teacher gets award for Web site (November 02, 2001)

Creekwatch director garners $30,000 for innovative use of Internet

by Stephanie Ericson

Amador Valley High School biology teacher Eric Thiel was one of four Bay Area teachers who recently received a National Semiconductor "Internet Innovator Awards," which comes with a check of $10,000 to himself and $20,000 to the school. Thiel was recognized for his development of Amador's Project Creek Watch Web site and its associated hands-on curriculum for the biological study of Arroyo Del Valle.

"It's not often that one encounters a multidisciplinary project that involves a district's entire K-12 community," commented LuAnn Jenkins, spokeswoman for National Semiconductor. "Project Creek Watch is an outstanding example."

This is the fourth year the company has conducted its awards program to reward teachers who use the Internet to enhance their curriculum, allocating over $1.4 million since it began.

In all, the company gave 11 awards to teachers or teacher teams out of 97 applicants in three states - California, Texas and Maine - where the company does most of its business.

The Project Creek Watch Web site provides information on the long-term scientific study of the creek, including student projects relating the health of various aquatic species, from algae to frogs, to water quality. Also on the Web site are a field guide to the flora and fauna of the creek environment, an interactive map, descriptions of data collected, and a virtual tour of the creek.

The project and associated biology curriculum was begun in 1994 by Thiel and several of his science department colleagues. Thiel, who has a master's degree in educational technology, led the development of the project's Web site and continues to oversee it.

Thiel and Project Creek Watch have received awards in the past. Last year Thiel was chosen as the school district's 2000-2001 Teacher of the Year and was similarly honored in the Bay Area region by the California Technology Assistance Project in 1999. That same year the state designated the project as a Golden Bell Winner for its "exemplary curriculum," said Thiel.

"I hope the publicity I may get for winning the award will help to get the community more interested in visiting our Web site and finding out about our work in the creek," commented Thiel on his latest award. He added that he also hopes that Pleasanton's creeks will become viewed more as a treasure than a garbage dump, noting that a creek cleanup conducted Sunday yielded television sets and signs and other rubbish.

The $20,000 for the school will be spent on promoting the greater use of technology at Amador, said Thiel. Spending will probably include some staff technology training, and possibly some infrastructure to give the school wireless capability, he said.

As for his own award, a significant portion of it will offset some family medical expenses, Thiel said. He also hopes to use some for a family vacation.

The Project Creek Watch Web site is

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