Archive for June, 2009

Stuff to keep you distracted

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Sorry that I haven’t been blogging much lately. Family, work, school, etc. You know the drill. Here are some interesting things to keep you occupied, though.

— The Scientist magazine took note of our Stick Science contest: Sticking it to science.

— The National Center for Science Education folks kindly posted online a lengthy story I wrote for their newsletter about the fight over Florida’s science standards.

— Did you know that some University of Florida folks put on a Veterinary Forensics Crime Scene Investigations workshop?

— Could a Florida archaeological find show that humans have co-existed with prehistoric beasts along the Treasure Coast more than 13,000 years ago?

— Here’s a couple of articles about a girls’ STEM summit here in Florida: here and here and here.

Twenty-six high school teachers stood with straws in mouths and spoons at the ready. Bowls of M&Ms rainbowed before them.

— This Miami Herald story asks, should schools cut animal dissections?

— Here’s a nice fossils for kids site.

— Research news from UF: 54-million-year-old skull reveals early evolution of primate brains.

— Florida teachers want to save their Sea World pass!

— I just love this one: “Her job is to separate hoaxes from actual Bigfoot sightings in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.”

Evolution Education Tactics

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

There is a TV station that does double duty of covering both Florida and Georgia, and so it picks up interesting subjects that don’t necessarily affect us Florida folk, but one of those tidbits caught my attention: Georgia Educators Learn Tactics to Better Teach Evolution.

And for teachers like Gail Jennings, who is guided by her Christian beliefs, teaching evolution is something she is trying to grow into. That’s why she enrolled in an evolution workshop being held at VSU this week as part of the Georgia Teacher Quality Program.

Sounds like a potentially good workshop. But in true local TV news fashion, the story is skimpy on real information. I assume VSU is Valdosta State University. This pdf document looks like it’s from a previous year, but is probably pretty much what the news story is referring to. And this web page indicates that the workshop is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education/UGA Teacher Quality Office. Cool stuff!

Florida Citizens for Science is exploring opportunities to get involved with such activities here in our state. We are possibly participating in a workshop in one county later this summer (I hope to give my history of anti-evolution in Florida presentation). The details are still being ironed out there. Since evolution is now in our new state science standards, we would be happy to help any other school districts out with similar workshops. This summer may be too late, but we can always start the planning for the next school year or the next summer. Just let us know.

And the winners are …

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Now that you’ve had a chance to see the Stick Science cartoon contest top ten entries, it’s time to announce the winners! Our celebrity panel of judges — Genie Scott, Carl Zimmer, Phil Plait, and Kate Miller — agonized over their choices before finally casting their life-altering votes.

Third place goes to Entry E submitted by Brooke Lundquist from Niceville, FL.

Second place goes to Entry G submitted by Benjamin Tichy from Calistoga, CA.

And first place goes to Entry C submitted by Richard Korzekwa from Los Alamos, NM.

Congratulations to all! It’s time to select your prizes.

Stick Science top 10

Friday, June 19th, 2009

The Florida Citizens for Science Stick Science contest is finally wrapping up. The good news is that we had 37 entries in the 13-and-up category. Entries came from all across the US as well as from Canada, Australia, Germany and Brazil. The bad news is that we only had two entries in the 12-and-below category, which, unfortunately, resulted in the cancelling of that particular contest. However, I plan on sending those two entrants some type of prize for at least entering.

A top ten was selected from the 37 entries. I invite you to have a look at them here. Click on each little picture to bring up the full size version. Our four celebrity judges have already submitted their votes, but I’ll do what any good contest host does: make you wait for a little while before I announce the final winners. Yes, I’m evil like that.

More This & That

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

— National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (the “mag lab”) folks in Tallahassee offer lunchtime tours of their facilites. So far, the tour program is getting a good response. More info on the tours found here.

— A University of Florida graduate hasn’t packed her bags for the red planet yet, but Kristine Ferrone is checking out the next best thing available. She will be spending her summer at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic.

— A Florida scientist is worried that the Australian white-spotted jellyfish will become become the Pac-Man of the Indian River Lagoon.

— I completely agree with this quote: “You hear people saying, growing up I saw fireflies all the time, now I don’t see them anymore.” I can’t remember spotting a firefly in many years. If you do spot some of those little critter, you can participate Firely Watch program.

— The Orlando Sentinel warns: Swimming in Orlando area? Beware of killer amoeba.

— Challenger Learning Center board member Jimmie Lee Davis Jr. says STEM education is important.

If jobs and employment are the tree and a living wage is one of the fruits, then education is the seed. Our students need more opportunities both in, after and out of school to be not only proficient but excellent in STEM disciples.

— Mount Vernon, Ohio case about teaching of creationism & a bible on teacher John Freshwater’s desk is being watched across the nation.

Freshwater is fighting to keep his job after several allegations, including that he taught his religious views to students rather than teaching them science. Other accusations were that he defied an order to remove his personal Bible from the top of his classroom desk and that he used a classroom device to burn the image of a cross onto a student’s arm.

The teacher was fired, and is fighting the school board’s move in ongoing hearings. The freshest wrinkle is the lawsuit he filed against the district last week, contending that his free speech rights were violated.

— A new statewide council was recently created in an effort to strengthen the science, technology, engineering and math skills of the state’s students. The Florida STEM Council will focus on addressing the increasing demand for jobs requiring strong foundations in these skills, a release said. Here’s a “discussion paper” (pdf) about the creation of the Florida STEM council. Good stats in there.

STEM Camp Introduces “Hands On” Science Curriculum, Florida State University – Panama City.

— MariaCarla Gonzalez is looking to shake things up this summer. The incoming senior at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School is headed to New Mexico to study volcanoes and tectonics alongside a team of scientists.


Who would’ve thunk it: science is important

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

A report was released today by the Carnegie Corporation of New York-Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education that makes the case for emphasizing science and math education in our nation’s schools.

Our nation needs an educated young citizenry with the capacity to contribute to and gain from the country’s future productivity, understand policy choices, and participate in building a sustainable future. Knowledge and skills from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the so-called STEM fields—are crucial to virtually every endeavor of individual and community life. All young Americans should be educated to be “STEM-capable,” no matter where they live, what educational path they pursue, or in which field they choose to work.

I haven’t had the chance to read through the thick report yet. I welcome you to do so and leave your impressions in the comments.

(H/T The Gradebook)

This & that

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

— Summer vacation for science teachers? Well … a working vacation for some. Florida science teacher Carol Polkowski is heading out to hunt fossils. It’s part of Cornell University’s Fossil Finder summer professional development program. Other Florida teachers are participating in a six-week long program at National High Magnetic Field Laboratory to do some “real-world scientific research.”

— High school biology teachers are being asked to take this survey about perceptions of synthetic biology. And if you are still in the survey mood, help Kansas Citizens for Science with a little Year of Science project.

— Filling in those horse evolution fossil “gaps.”

PANAMA. Archaeologists of the Smithsonian Institute found fossils of a horse during the widening of the canal excavations works.
Aldo Rincon, paleontology intern at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, unearthed a set of fossil teeth which was identified by Bruce J. MacFadden, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida in Gainesville, as Anchitherium clarencei, a three-toed browsing horse.

By far the most complete fossil of a horse collected at the site in excavations spanning the last century, characteristics such as the shape of the teeth confirm the identity of two earlier finds and indicate that this horse was primarily a forest-dwelling browser living in the area between 15 and 18 million years ago.

— The National Science Teachers Association is hosting a summer institute in Orlando August 3-5. Professional Learning Communities in Science: Designs, Tools, and Resources for Improving Student Learning.


Monday, June 8th, 2009

Did you know that Florida Citizens for Science is on Twitter? It took a while, but we’re now up to more than 230 followers and growing. If you have a Twitter account, please consider following. I post a lot of interesting updates with links that either take me a while to post to this blog, or don’t make it to the blog at all. If you don’t have a Twitter account, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s an interesting and useful tool for learning about new things, finding out about events as they happen, and getting word about your own stuff out there. Despite what you may have heard, if you network with the right people you won’t be swamped with useless “what I had for lunch” updates.

For many of my updates I use a nice app I recently installed on my phone: twikini. I like things that are functional and simple rather than full of bells and whistles, half of which I have no use for. Twikini fits the bill nicely. I’ve installed other apps on my Windows mobile phone, but they either weren’t entirely compatable or were just too complex for my tastes. So, if you have a mobile gadget and want to try Twitter on the go, give twikini a test drive. (In case you are wondering, I’m writing this post to earn my free registration. However, everything I’ve written is my honest opinion.)