Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
When I was in graduate school, I was fortunate to have taken a number of interesting science education classes. One of these was a workshop based on Project WET, a non-profit water education program for science educators. The Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide is geared toward students ages 5 through 18. The nice thing about the book is that there are charts in the back, breaking down the activities by grade levels (K-12), time required, subject areas, topics, and things like group size. Activities range from looking for contaminants in soil, to holding water court, to imagining yourself as water. You can download a sample activity on Project WET’s Kids Page.
Monday, February 25, 2008
A recent edition of the Mizzou alumni magazine (Go Tigers!) pointed me to the Magic of ChemistryTM, a ten-year-old science program for girls that began at the
Friday, February 22, 2008
Derfel’s blog, Save Your Trash, includes links to what Derfel has learned by saving his trash and some of Derfel’s basic tips for reducing trash. I especially like the photograph of Derfel surrounded by his mound of trash. It is a sobering snapshot of American life.
[Please note that Derfel does save EVERYTHING and he mentions saving some items that might be considered unsuitable for little eyes.]
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
***LOOK FOR THE LUNAR ECLIPSE TONIGHT!!***
The National Science Foundation recently released Science and Engineering Indicators 2008. According to this report, “…In science, average scores increased for fourth grade students … held steady for eighth graders; but declined for 12th graders between 1996 (the first year the assessments were given) and 2005.”
What does this tell us? In the
One possibility? Poor instructional material. In 2000, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061 found the content of high school biology textbooks severely lacking. AAAS's 1999 study of middle school science textbooks was even worse, finding no textbook to be even satisfactory.
Whatever the reason, we need to be doing a better job of supporting and encouraging science education in the
***LOOK FOR THE LUNAR ECLIPSE TONIGHT!!***
Monday, February 18, 2008
This year, the Church of England has encouraged Christians to undergo a “carbon fast” for Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter. What is a “carbon fast”? It’s when you give up things that increase your CO2 footprint (or release more CO2 into the environment). The rapid increase of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is one of the causes of global warming. You can find out more about the carbon fast by visiting Tearfund. Participants are encouraged to do things like take a shower instead of a bath, turn the thermostat down by one degree (or up, if it’s summer where you are!), or, my personal favorite, remove one light bulb from your house as a visual reminder that you are trying to live with less during this Lenten season.
[Update: 2/11/10 -- Fixed broken link]
Friday, February 15, 2008
This week’s Website of the Week is Ask-A-Scientist, operated by the Division of Educational Programs at Argonne National Laboratory. This educational outreach program – now in its 17th year! -- is designed for students and teachers in grades K-12. Have a question about science that you just can’t find an answer to anywhere else on the web? This is a good place to post it. Previous answers are indexed under categories such as astronomy, materials science, veterinary, and weather. Want to learn about Cow Magnets? Why Boiled Eggs Turn Solid? Why people sometimes have Red Eyes in Photographs? These answers, and more, are waiting for you in the Ask-A-Scientist questions and answers archive.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
At first, I was mad. "But I checked!" I thought. "I was careful to get a fully inflated balloon." When I thought about it more, I realized something. So I decided to keep the balloon and test my theory. And I was right! When I took the balloon into my house, lo and behold, it was full again.
What was going on? There was about a 50 degree F temperature difference between the store (roughly 75 degrees F) and the outdoors (25 degrees F). The molecules of helium gas in my balloon moved slower in the colder temperature. This decrease in molecular activity caused the volume of gas to decrease in the balloon. So, even though there was the same amount of helium in my balloon both times, the volume of space it took up changed because of the temperature difference.
You know, I've often heard that fact about gases, but it's just been something I took on faith. Seeing my balloon deflate -- and realizing why -- was fun!
Monday, February 11, 2008
"Ten percent," came her prompt reply.
I stared at her. Ten percent? I thought. That’s only 1/10 off the original price. One-sixth of the socks, or more than 15% of the merchandise, is missing!
Needless to say, I took a pass on her offer. But the take-home lesson when solving equations – and this is true for science as well as math – is to always check your answers to make sure that they are practical.
Let’s say you are trying to figure out how fast an object is going and you are solving for speed. Don’t wind up with a negative number! (Or, as happened in one of my husband’s economics classes, don’t solve a pricing equation and give a negative number. It’s rare that a store will pay you to take their stuff!) John Hawley, of NEWTON’s Ask a Scientist presents a nice post - Negative Velocity - on this topic.
Learning complex concepts in science and math can seem daunting, but always remember to use that reality check! (It could even save you some money.)
Friday, February 8, 2008
Today’s website of the week, Thinking Fountain has a section dedicated just to mold. You can visit Thinking Fountain’s Mold Gallery, a place to share your mold photographs with everyone. There’s even a page showing you how to grow your own mold. The remainder of the site has other ideas and book suggestions to get kids excited about science. But I think the mold pages are the best!
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
So, maybe you’ve been reading my blog and thinking to yourself, “But I can’t be a scientist. I don’t agree with half the things I’ve read about science.”
Let’s dispel one myth right now. Science is not a list of hard facts set in stone. Some people try to teach it that way, but it’s not reality. Science is a dynamic series of ever-evolving beliefs about the world and how it functions.
Take something controversial, like the theory of evolution. (For the record, I happen to believe that God created the world and it evolved, a personal theory that sets me at odds with a great number of people). You don’t have to believe in a theory in order to study it. In fact, we need people to challenge theories in order to build upon and improve the science behind them.
A theory simply reflects our best collective understanding of the world around us. Many scientific theories are replaced over time, as new facts are discovered and change our perception of the world that we live in. As the late Dr. Walter Johnson (a wonderfully eccentric and enthusiastic economics professor who taught both my husband and me) used to say, “What we have here is a beautiful theory that’s been set upon by a nasty gang of facts.”
For example, when I was in graduate school, I studied the origins of the moon. Earlier in school, I had been taught that the
So, feel free to bring your disbelief to the table of scientific inquiry. Conduct your own research, generate a new set of facts to share, and help us improve the world of science.