Archive for August, 2009

Advice from behind bars

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

There’s been an ugly tug-of-war over prayer in schools going on at Pace High School, Pace, Florida. That issue is not something Florida Citizens for Science gets involved in; however, Dr. Dino apparently has no problems connecting school prayer to a certain subject taught in public schools. Can you guess what that subject is? Kent Hovind wrote an open letter (from his jail cell) to the school’s principal about it:

From what I can glean from the newspaper articles that have been sent to me (I know, never trust what you read in the paper – I quit taking it when my parakeet died), it seems that Judge Rodgers ruled that school officials could not endorse religion or talk about their religious beliefs within the school’s cases or at school sponsored events. If what I read on, June 4, is true, ACLU attorney Benjamin Stevenson said school officials have a responsibility to “protect the silently held religious views of others” and to be sure that no one will “impose their religious views” on others. One headline read, “Religion Banned from Santa Rosa Schools.”

If this is indeed what the court and the ACLU intend then you need to begin removing the religion of evolution from your school’s textbooks, tests, classes, and videos shown in class immediately! You certainly don’t want to be held in contempt of court!

He then goes on to give advice on how to do this. Good grief. (h/t Disptaches.)

I’m not letting you off the hook that easy!

Friday, August 28th, 2009

OK, folks, we’ve done a great job in our annual fundraiser (original press release)! I gave you a goal of $600 and you blew right through that in no time, accumulating more than $1,000 in donations to science education in Florida schools. That’s great news, and it’s made even better by the fact that Florida Citizens for Science will kick in its promised $600, too. All seven of the classrooms I signed us up for at the DonorsChoose website have been fully funded already, so I’ve added two more schools that can definitely be funded through the additional $600 FCS will kick in.

Before that money is dropped in the bucket, though, I want to try something else. If you take a look at the donations made so far you will notice that all of that money given so far came from only five people. My sincere thanks and admiration go out to those five people, but I think we need to boost that number up a bit. It would be great to show our support for science education through both cash and number of participants.

So, here is my challenge to you: donate $5 or $10. That’s it. Let’s see how close we can get to fully funding one of the two new classes I added to our DonorsChoose page through small donations only. I started you off with my own $10 donation to the Life Brings Life to Science Classroom project. When you go to donate, just erase the full amount pre-filled in the white box and replace it with your small donation amount. Easy!

The two new schools I’ve added are:
Royal Palm Charter School, Palm Bay
Franklin Park Magnet Elem School, Fort Myers


On becoming a science teacher …

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The past couple of weeks have been insanely busy for me. For those of you who don’t know, in addition to my full time job as a sheriff’s office spokesperson, full time job as husband and father, and part time volunteer for Florida Citizens for Science, I’m also attending college in my “free” time as I slowly work toward my ultimate goal of becoming a science teacher. It’s difficult to find time for work (which sometimes entails evening, weekend and holiday work), family, college and other pursuits (did I mention I just wrapped a summer season as YMCA basketball coach?), but I manage to get by somehow. College work really stacked up over the past few weeks, though, forcing me to take several days off from work to get it all caught up. There were several small projects and a couple of big research papers that completely drained all my brain power by the time I turned in the last assignment last night. It’s all done now! Onward to the next semester.

Over the past few years I’ve completed the basic stuff, of course, (history, math, literature, etc.) and then plowed through biology I & II, chemistry and natural sciences courses. With those behind me I finally started work on teacher prep classes like classroom management, diversity, testing, human development, etc. My next semester starting in September features some tough stuff: microbiology, anatomy and a science pedagogy course. And then in the semester beyond that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. During that semester I finally get a taste of the classroom as I do some observation projects and teach a few practice lessons. And then after that, which will be September of 2010, comes three months or so of student teaching. Yes, I am that close!

It’s so close that I had to take a couple of state certification exams already. Last week I took the four-hour-long basic skills exam consisting of general reading, writing and math. I aced that. Then a couple of days later I took my state biology certification exam. About halfway through the 120 question multiple-choice exam I panicked. I felt that I was going to bomb it! Rather than confidently picking out answers, I was taking educated guesses at best. I got more depressed, overwhelmed, and defeated the further along I went. Finally, I finished and got my “unofficial” results as I signed out. Pass! I was too much of test zombie to truly celebrate, but the state of Florida now says I’m qualified to teach Florida once I get that college degree in hand. How did I manage that?

But the truly scary part is yet to come. This time next year I will have a big decision to make. In order to enter student teaching I will have to quit my current job. For at least three months I will be without an income. Not only that, but I have to pay the college for my student teaching. With a family to support I have no idea how I’m going to manage that. Loss of pay includes loss of my decent medical benefits, too. Will I be forced to postpone the student teaching until I can better financially manage it? I don’t know. If any of you folks out there have suggestions, please lay them on me.

The next worry after that is finding a job. If I do start student teaching at the beginning of the school year, then will I be able to find a job with the school year already in progress? Even more important: are there any science teaching jobs here in the area where I live (Lake County and other neighboring counties) at all? There have been layoffs all over the place. What are the chances of a guy fresh out of college landing a job other veteran teachers are probably also fighting for?

So, on the one hand I’m feeling good about my accomplishments so far, and I’m looking forward to the advanced challenges coming up in the next semester. But beyond that things look rather gloomy. Anyone care to give me some advice and a pep talk? I’m all ears.

NWFSC evolution lecture series

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

I had mentioned here before that there is a series of lectures about to launch at Northwest Florida State College on the subject of evolution. Here is a story that gives a bit more detail about the first speaker and the subjects of subsequent lectures.

The first lecture [Aug 27], entitled “Evolution and Creation: conflicting or compatible?” will be led by Patricia Kelley, a professor of geology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“Patricia is perfect. What I think she brings to the table, which is real important especially for this area … is a real strong scientific background, but she also brings a kind of unique background because her husband is a minister,” said Allison Beauregard, the director of the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural and Environmental Institute at the college. “She can speak to our community better than someone who speaks strictly in a scientific sense.”

The other seminars will be held from 11 a.m. until noon and include: “Cellular Evolution: tracing our cellular lineage,” by Ritter on Sept. 18; “Evolution and the Extinction of the Fossil Record” with Jon Bryan on Oct. 16; and “Fossil Hominins: evidence for human evolution” by Beth Ritter on Nov. 20.

2010 Legislative Session already gearing up

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

The Gradebook blog notes that a bill filed in the House for the 2010 session focuses on math and science requirements for graduation. The part concerning science in HB61 states:

Beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2011-2012 school year, one of the three credits must be Biology I or a series of courses equivalent to Biology I as approved by the State Board of Education, one credit must be a physical science or a series of courses equivalent to a physical science as approved by the State Board of Education, and one credit must be a higher-level science course. At least two of the science courses must have a laboratory component. Beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2013-2014 school year, one of the three credits must be Biology I or a series of courses equivalent to Biology I as approved by the State Board of Education, one credit must be chemistry or physics or a series of courses equivalent to chemistry or physics as approved by the State Board of Education, and one credit must be a higher-level science course. At least two of the science courses must have a laboratory component.

You earned an A!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

A new study examining the mention of evolution in states’ science standards spotlighted us here in Florida for the huge turnaround from a grade of F to a grade of A!

Florida   Over the past decade, Florida has improved its standards more dramatically than perhaps any other state. The 1999 standards received an F from Lerner (2000) for their (lack of) treatment of biological and geological evolution and scored zero in the Fordham Foundation’s 2005 report, “The State of State Science Standards.” As both reports observed, evolution was not even mentioned by name at the time. However, after several months of public discussion and debate, the Florida Department of Education’s writing committee developed a vastly superior set of standards in 2007. Biological evolution became prominent, human evolution was explicitly discussed, and geological and cosmological evolution were covered as well. In February 2008, after fierce creationist opposition, the Board of Education approved a revised version in which evolution was persistently referred to as “the scientific theory of evolution.” A similar label was used for plate tectonics, cell theory, atomic theory, and electromagnetism (this tactic of protecting creationist-opposed topics by textually grouping them with less “offensive” areas of science, in order to imply that all are equally legitimate, is also used in the Minnesota standards; we discuss below why we believe it may be largely ineffective). However, the standards also explicitly required that students be able to “recognize and explain that a scientific theory is a well-supported and widely accepted explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life.” This does an excellent job of heading off “just a theory”-style attacks on evolution, and Florida’s current standards score a solid A.

Congratulations, everyone. YOU are the ones who helped earn this A for Florida. (h/t NCSE)

Lecture: Evolution and Creation Conflicting or Compatible?

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Public lecture:
The Mattie Kelly Cultural & Environmental Institute at Northwest Florida State College will host Dr. Patricia “Tricia” Kelley, a National Association of Geoscience Teachers Distinguished Lecturer, at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 on the main stage of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the Niceville campus. She will present a free public lecture on “Evolution and Creation: Conflicting or Compatible?”

The lecture kicks off a special semester-long series on evolution as part of the college’s regular free “Science Friday” seminar series held on the third Friday of the month from 11 a.m. to noon on the NWFSC Niceville Campus. Call 729-5376.

2nd Annual science education fundraiser LAUNCH!

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Florida Citizens for Science News Release
Contact: Brandon Haught;

Aug. 7, 2009 — Education budget woes felt throughout the state are preventing many teachers from obtaining necessary science equipment, thus crippling them at a time when a new set of science standards is demanding that they give students more in-depth science instruction. Florida Citizens for Science wants to lend a hand through its second annual fund raising campaign launched today.

Florida’s updated science standards introduced new units of study to the second grade, prompting a Jacksonville teacher to request materials needed to give students hands-on experience with the required concepts. Meanwhile, a fifth grade class in Bartow has books about simple machines, force and motion, but the teacher worries that her kids at the low income school don’t have the supplies that would make the science subjects come alive and be memorable. She is concerned about preparing her students for the science FCAT.

One Orlando sixth grade life science teacher wants to give kids hands-on experience in life science and chemistry, but says: “The supplies are very limited in my school and my resources are minimal.”
A third grade teacher in Mary Esther echoes that thought in her request for science supplies: “The resources in a project are so important, and each student needs to participate. With the economy the way it is, buying the resources you need is very limited.”

Florida Citizens for Science asks everyone who cares about science education across the state to pitch in. Through the nonprofit online organization, we have identified seven Florida teachers who have asked for help in funding science education projects. We are asking concerned citizens to donate money to help these fundamental science projects become reality. Additionally, Florida Citizens for Science will match contributions dollar for dollar up to $600. So, if donators raise at least $600, we will double that to a total of $1,200. Of course, we encourage everyone to shoot past the $600 mark!

All donations are accepted and appreciated, regardless of the amount. Just visit our “giving page” at DonorsChoose to make your donation. The money raised stays right here in our state, benefiting our students’ science education. We hope to wrap up this fund raising project by Sept 1.

Some of the schools we hope to assist:

>> Pride Elementary School, Tampa
>> Chets Creek Elementary School, Jacksonville
>> Kate Sullivan Elem School, Tallahassee
>> Florosa Elementary School, Mary Esther
>> Lockhart Middle School, Orlando
>> Gibbons Street Elem School, Bartow
>> Ocean Palms Elementary School, Ponte Vedra Beach

Last year we exceeded our fund raising goal, giving $1,507 to seven schools. Let’s see if we can do that again! Here’s a series of blog posts about last year’s efforts, including some thank you notes we got from kids.