Archive for the 'beekay’s college' Category

So near and yet so far

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

It’s almost over. Provided I don’t run into any unexpected road blocks, I will finally have my college degree and official certification to teach biology in Florida schools in just a few months. I completed my three-month teacher internship and received good, encouraging marks from the two people who graded me. Now I need to write a handful of essays that summarize various aspects of my time spent teaching. I’ve been procrastinating, but should have those projects done by the end of this month. Then I apply for graduation and finally get that all-important piece of paper that says I’m educated. But, it will be a while before I actually become a teacher due to some unfortunate timing. I’ll discuss that in a minute; first, let me tell you about my recent experiences. (More after the jump.) (more…)


Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

I’m chugging along through my college work. I’m reviewing photosynthesis in Biology and making my way through anions and cations in Chemistry. Let me tell you, those “for Dummies” books are great for getting your feet wet before diving into the deeper textbooks. I like to first look at Chemistry for Dummies when starting a new subject so as to develop a foundation. Then the textbook makes a bit more sense.

I’m now in week two of the AMNH Evolution course. We’re learning about “tree-thinking.” No, that’s not where I go out into a field and sway in the breeze, even though I wouldn’t mind getting away from the computer and doing exactly that. We’re learning the nitty-gritty of phylogenetic trees. This week we have a simple question to answer and then we also got to use some nifty research computer programs to create our own trees. Doing the phylogenetic research was fun and interesting.

So, this week’s question was:

What inferences can you draw from a phylogenetic tree? Why is knowing phylogeny important?

Answer below the fold. (more…)

AMNH Evolution Seminar week one

Monday, March 24th, 2008

As I’ve posted about before, I am taking college courses online in my “free” time. As part of my current Biology course, I am participating in an online seminar hosted by the American Museum of Natural History. The Seminar is Evolution.

Every week participants are given various reading assignments and other resources to use. We are then expected to participate in a group discussion based on that week’s question. Here is this week’s question:

Theodosius Dobzhansky, the famous evolutionary geneticist, wrote in 1973 that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Why is evolution the fundamental concept that underlies all life science? If evolution is “true”—if life really has evolved—what would we expect to observe as a consequence? How could this lead to testable hypotheses?

See my answer on the jump … (more…)

Heading into the next semester

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking college courses in my free time with the future objective of becoming a science teacher. It’s a long, slow road I’m traveling, mainly because I have to keep my day job in order to keep the family fed and such. And I can’t complain about my job, as it’s a good, exciting one. So, I just try to cram in my studies whenever I can.

I recently finished up (and passed!) a semester that consisted of a biology course, a literature course, and an ethics course. This new semester I just started is strictly science. I’m taking another biology class and a chemistry class. One thing I’m really looking forward to is an online seminar that’s part of the biology class. The American Museum of Natural History hosts Seminars on Science on a regular basis. During my first biology class, I participated in the AMNH seminar Genetics, Genomics, and Genethics. It was an eye-opening experience as I learned about the history of genetics and the tangled knots of ethical concerns. For instance, your genome can be screened for serious medical conditions, which can help you prepare for the future. But what if your insurance company gets a hold of that information and thus raises rates or denies coverage?

Anyway, the AMNH seminar I am signed up for this time is Evolution. The seminar instructors will be Niles Eldredge (I bet many of you recognize that name. Are you jealous?) and Joel Cracraft. This should be fun and informative!

The college I “attend” is Western Governor’s University. It’s 100% online, kinda like Phoenix University and such. WGU is the only online university to offer a teaching program. I had attended some local colleges, but started running into problems with scheduling since my evening hours couldn’t always match up with needed, available courses. So, I shopped around for an alternative and discovered WGU. I checked with my local public school district to see if a degree from WGU would be good to go for teaching, and it is. There are some tradeoffs in attending college all online. I tend to feel very isolated and on my own. On the other hand, I can get the work done when I have the time; I’m not locked into any schedule.

With the classes all being online, I wind up doing a lot of work and reading based on Internet sources. Below, you’ll find a link dump of many of the sites I used during my first biology course. And as I venture forth through this semester’s classes and the AMNH seminar, I’ll try to remember to post other interesting links here.

The Open Door Web Site
The Biology Project
Energy in the Human Body
Cells Alive!
The Virtual Cell
The Virtual Biology Labs
The Biology Place
BioLogica Web Labs
Pea Soup
Understanding Genetics
Understanding Evolution
PBS: Evolution
Biology in Motion
ActionBioscience: Intelligent Design?
Internet BioLabs
Synthetic Theory of Evolution
Island Biogeography and Evolution
The Virtual Fossil Museum
Genetics, A Conceptual Approach
Cool Science for Curious Kids
Bloody Character of Specific Immunity
Access Excellence Science Mystery
Shedd, The World’s Aquarium: Interactives
Sustainable Measures
Australian Museum: Sea Slug Forum
Physical Geography
The Field Museum: Project E.R.
NOVA Teachers 

Money for me? Wouldn’t that be nice.

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Seeing as how I am currently in college studying to become a science teacher, this news is very interesting. I wonder if its practical application will trickle down to me in any way. I’ll have to contact my college to see if they know anything about it.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House approved legislation Tuesday intended to boost the number of highly qualified math and science teachers in U.S. schools.

The bill, which passed 389-22, would authorize more than $600 million through 2012 for scholarships and stipends for college students studying math and science in preparation for teaching careers. They could receive annual scholarships of $10,000 if they commit to teaching elementary or secondary pupils upon graduation.

The bill also would provide enhanced training for current math and science teachers. They could attend summer programs at universities or receive financial aid to pursue master’s degrees. It would establish a national panel to identify math and science teaching materials that have proven effective.

Interview with Wesley Elsberry

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

I had written a college paper on the subject of introducing intelligent design into the public school classroom. For that paper I had to do some primary research, which involved either an interview with a subject expert or a survey. I opted for an interview and I chose Wesley Elsberry of the National Center for Science Education because I have worked with him briefly in the past when I took over this Florida Citizens for Science website. It was a good, informative phone interview way back in October of 2006. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use many quotes from him in the paper. So I thought I would get some other use out of the interview by posting it here.

Wesley is just starting a one-year leave-of-absense from the National Center for Science Education. According to his blog:

Where I am headed is Michigan State University where my new position is as a Visiting Research Associate in the Lyman Briggs School of Science where I will be working with Prof. Rob Pennock on a project looking at the evolution of intelligent behavior using the artificial life platform Avida. This project brings together a number of the topics that have interested me throughout my life: computation, evolutionary biology, and cognitive science. We’re likely to be applying some ideas from artificial neural systems, which was the topic of my master’s degree. I’m looking forward to it.

I asked him if I could publish the full interview here and he agreed. Here it is for your information … (more…)

Essay: Battle for Evolution

Monday, February 12th, 2007

In honor of Darwin Day, I’m posting here an essay I recently did for a college class. I’m happy because just last week I got the grade back on it, and it was real good! Enjoy. 

The Battle for Evolution in Public Schools

Scientists today and throughout history are no strangers to debate and controversy. However, there is a solid foundation of knowledge that must be absorbed first before productive debate can even begin. The public school science classroom attempts to provide that necessary foundation for later learning and scientific understanding. In the high school biology lab alone there is a wide range of subjects to cover such as genetics, taxonomy, cellular biology, ecosystems and evolution. Without such basic groundwork the student stands little chance of succeeding in later scientific study and work. However, a few active, vocal organizations and individuals have worked hard in recent years to cast doubt on evolutionary theory and attack its teaching in public schools. Attacks on the teaching of evolution and the attempts to insert alternatives into high school instruction can be harmful to students’ understanding of basic biology and should be vigorously opposed. (more…)

Science Concepts project

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Earlier this year I had a college project to do concerning what people understand about some basic astronomy concepts. This was a fun project that produced what I thought were startling results. Feel free to leave your comments on how I did and what you think of the project results. My final evaluation by the teacher was great!

Students were assigned a Science Concepts Task. The instructions were to survey approximately 10 people concerning basic science concepts, analyze the information gathered from the survey and then interpret the results in a report with graphs.

Students were to choose one of two science questions to conduct a survey about. I chose to use both questions during my surveys with the objective of then doing a report about one of the questions that resulted in the most interesting results. Students were instructed to ask the question(s) and record the results without assisting the interview subject in any way. The questions were:

What makes the seasons?

What makes the phases of the moon?

When I asked these questions, though, I found that the subjects’ answers tended to be very simple and vague. I was afraid of influencing their answers by probing with questions of mine. So, to further refine the subjects’ answers, I used five multiple-choice questions found on the “A Private Universe Project” website ( These questions directly related to the two main questions and helped the subjects express their understanding in more detail.

When I approached each subject, I first made sure we had uninterrupted time to conduct the survey. I then briefly introduced the reason for the survey: This is a school project of mine about understanding science concepts. I explained that there would be two open questions and five multiple-choice questions, all about two aspects of basic astronomy. Once the subject understood, I then posed the two open questions one at a time. I made sure the subject understood each question when asked and then had the subject answer without any further prompting from me. I wrote down the answers as they were verbally given to me.

Without discussing the answers, I then gave the subject a packet of papers containing the five multiple-choice questions. I had the subject take his/her time reading each question and giving me each answer that I then recorded.