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Harry Potter hits school gyms

Columbia, Conn. - The world of Harry Potter, credited with inspiring millions of children to read, is being used to get students excited about physical education. Justin vanGelder, a first-year gym teacher at Horace W. Porter School here, is among those across the country introducing the game "quidditch" into the gym curriculum.

Quidditch, the main sport in J.K. Rowling's world of young witches and wizards, is played 50 feet in the air on flying brooms. VanGelder teaches a version of the game adapted for nonmagic folk, known in the books as "muggles."

Two Hula Hoops are squeezed between folded upright mats on either side of the gym. Third-graders with foam bats stand guard as "chasers" charge toward hoops with foam balls in hand, trying to avoid being tagged out by "bludgers" - students holding yarn balls - before they can score.

You'd better keep 'em separated

Ellenville, N.Y. - Boys and girls learn the same lessons in Mr. Miglionico's eighth-grade science class. They pour water from the same beakers and sit beneath the same periodic table poster.

But most boys and girls are taught in separate classes. Since last fall, Ellenville Middle School has offered middle-schoolers the option of taking four core courses in all-boy or all-girl settings.

A three-year experiment, which began in 2002, gives parents the option to segregate their kids for English, math, social studies, and science. Three-quarters of the children in those grades are taking "single-gender" classes, and Ellenville is one of 72 public schools offering such classes.

A case of gubernatorial incompetence?

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands - Teachers in the Virgin Islands have launched an effort to recall Gov. Charles Turnbull, accusing him of incompetence that resulted in a loss of high schools' federal accreditation. The teachers filed a petition last week requesting a recall election.

The 2,400-member union has until Nov. 15 to submit 17,000 signatures of support. It's then up to the territory's Senate to decide on a recall.

Web smarts


What: As world population swells and urban landscapes push further into what were once rural areas, a handful of resources have sprung up to monitor US consumption and population growth. Sprawl City, with the help of the US Bureau of Census Data on Urbanized Areas, does just that.

Best points:The Sprawl City site combines the expertise of two environmental authors, Roy Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz, to make census data and analysis of that data more digestible to teachers and students alike.

Whether it be for a school project or mere curiosity, this site is a primer for the latest "sprawl" vernacular - What is sprawl? Per capita land consumption? The difference between an urban area and a metropolitan statistical area? - as well as the latest government findings on population growth and conservation efforts.

What you should know: As with most websites attempting to sort through an abundance of data, this one has an agenda: to inform viewers about the (mostly negative) impact of sprawl. It provides links, however, to other sites, and the advisors are easily reachable if questions arise.

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