Archive for February, 2010

We’re hosting a seminar!

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

The Florida Academy of Sciences is hosting its 74th Annual Meeting March 19-20 at Indian River State College, Fort Pierce. As part of that meeting, Florida Citizens for Science is proud to announce we are conducting a seminar:

“Attacks on Science, Science Education and Evolution” is co-sponsored by the Florida Academy of Sciences and Florida Citizens for Science, and will take place on Saturday, 20 March, 1:00-3:00 p.m., in the Health Sciences Center (room number to be announced). It will have four parts:
1) Evolution and the teaching of evolution. Speaker Dave Campbell (High School biology teacher, member of the new science standards writing committee, featured in a New York Times article on teaching evolution)
2) Myths about evolution. Speaker Debra Walker (anthropologist and member of Monroe County School Board)
3) The anti-science of antievolution. Speaker Wesley R. Elsberry (Biologist, involved in the evolution/creationist controversy since 1986, and worked with Genie Scott at NCSE from 2003 to 2007)
4) Brainstorm on how to raise the public’s understanding of science and its importance.

The seminar is free and open to the public. We invite you to stop by, say hello, and join in the conversation.

Call for submissions

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Florida Citizens for Science is working on the inaugural issue of a newsletter that will debut soon. Here is the call for submissions:

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Florida Science Matters is a quarterly newsletter edited and distributed by Florida Citizens for Science, a 501(c)(3) organization.  The newsletter features information and news pertaining to education and public policy relative to the teaching of science in Florida classrooms.

We actively seek submissions to supplement our content.  The audience is a broad group of scientific advocates, teachers and citizens concerned with exposing Florida’s children to the rigorous scientific topics and critical thinking methods they will need to succeed in tomorrow’s technical workplace.

While teaching of all areas of hypothesis-based science is important, the primary focus of Florida Science Matters will address the topic of evolution. Evolution is a scientific cornerstone that serves as a microcosm of the societal interface with science.  Evolution is the scientific topic that provokes attempted changes in public policy and tendencies for non-scientific discourse in and out of classrooms.

Keep in mind that your audience likely shares your opinions on teaching of scientific topics.  The object of submissions should be to broaden our understanding of existing topics or the way that existing science may be better disseminated. Submissions may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Accounts of recent peer-reviewed evidence supporting evolution
  • Examples of how to teach evolutionary principles
  • Methods to communicate the science of evolution more clearly
  • Means to refute arguments against established evolutionary tenets
  • Examples of teachers or courses that portray the study of evolution as a rigorous and supported scientific discipline.
  • News briefs of examples where teaching of non-scientific principles are being promoted or utilized as a basis for policy change or curriculum alteration.

Articles should be brief and will be reviewed by the editorial staff and anonymous review that may include relevant scholars in the area.  Submissions should be brief, as this is a newsletter and not a journal.  Guidelines will not be provided toward limits or appropriateness, but priority will be placed on concise works.

Please submit your articles to Kevin Folta (kfolta@ufl.edu ), Debra Walker (walkerd@terranova.net ) or Joe Wolf (joe.wolf@tampabay.rr.com).

Neil deGrasse Tyson in Tampa

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Mark your calendars for Feb. 25. Astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and Visiting Research Scientist and Lecturer at Princeton University, will be in Florida. Tyson will appear at 6:30 p.m. at MOSI’s IMAX Theater. His appearance is part of a new lecture series.

A Personal Thought for Darwin Day

Friday, February 12th, 2010

It’s hard to escape the glaring irony that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, in the same year, Feb 12th 1809. However, when we consider the facts, Lincoln is fondly lauded as an American icon who managed to preserve the Union and end slavery, while Darwin is still thought by 40% of the American population as “the British villain whose egregious discovery (The Theory of Evolution) seems to attack the very core of their religious beliefs”. In my humble opinion, Feb 12th 1809 was a great day for our country and our planet due to both of these men, one of them becoming an emancipator of humanity while the other became an emancipator of science.

 Lincoln and Darwin were sober men of great character and commitment, with an unyielding passion for the truth and whose ideologies were to profoundly change our modern world. Lincoln’s heroic role is forever imbued in our history books, but what about Darwin’s contribution to modernity, should we owe him any of our gratitude or was his theory of evolution by natural selection, merely another meaningless scientific statistic?

It should be a sobering thought for all of us to imagine where the human race would be today without Darwin’s amazing discovery and the gigantic advances in science that discovery perpetuated. Understanding the theory of evolution through natural selection has helped us to live longer by enabling us to find cures for diseases and to alleviate pain and suffering. It has allowed us to interact with and understand people of other cultures and recognize what makes us similar as well as what makes us all unique. It has allowed us to gain a vital understanding of our natural world and has provided us insight into the complexities of all life. It has forced us to respect our environment and the multitude of species that we are now inter dependent upon. Darwin’s theory gave birth to bio diversity which in turn is reflected in agriculture, human health, business and industry and even includes our leisure and cultural activities.

For those who consider Darwin’s theory an attack upon their personal religious convictions, I can only suggested that many main stream religions see little threat from evolution and perhaps any perceived problems may stem from a lack of scientific or theocratic enlightenment. As Darwin once said “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little who positively assert that some problems will never be solved by science”

Charles Darwin bestowed our world with a marvelous legacy and arguable his theory of evolution gave rise to one of the most profound changes in scientific and cultural history. Weather we wish to accept that legacy, or to consider if the world would have been better place with or without him. The inescapable fact is, that all of us now live in “the age of Darwin”.

 

House Bill includes expanded science testing

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Florida House is the first out of the gate with a comprehensive bill that is meant to kill the FCAT, replace it with end of course testing, and beef up graduation requirements. The Orlando Sentinel blog the Gradebook (and this Sentinel article) and Paul Cottle’s blog Bridge to Tomorrow note that there are science exams on there beyond just Biology.

Contingent upon funding provided in the General Appropriations Act, including appropriation of federal funds, the Commissioner of Education shall establish an implementation schedule for the development and administration of statewide, standardized end-of-course assessments in English/Language Arts II, Algebra II, chemistry, physics, earth/space science, United States history, and world history.

Paul says that the Senate was supposed to file a companion bill the same time as the House. That apparently didn’t happen. Why? Last year the Senate had some hangups with similar proposed bills. Are we looking at the same problems this year?

A similar proposal last year passed the full House but died in the Florida Senate, amid concerns about cost and creating barriers to high school graduation.

Evolution lesson described in newspaper

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

How cool is this? The neighbors section of the Daytona Beach News Journal describes some local school activities, and among them is a great Darwin/evolution lesson description! “Activities such as the “evolution of the blob” and “wooly boogers” helped students understand the importance of adaptation to the survival of a species.”

Technology enabled students to create a virtual field trip. Students were assigned to research a location along Darwin’s journey aboard the HMS Beagle. They used Google Earth to mark the location, to embed photos and to write descriptions about the location and a native animal. Students used iChat to collect data about other places along Darwin’s journey from their peers.

This data was imported and added to the virtual field trip on Google Earth. With a click of a button, boys and girls can now visualize a journey from their classroom to places like the Galapagos Islands and Sydney, Australia.

Darwin Day, Florida

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Here are three Darwin Day events I know of here in Florida. If you know of others, provide information and links in the comments, please.

— Darwin Day at the Miami Science Museum Feb. 13, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Broward College North Campus, Feb. 13.

— University of Miami, Feb. 12, 5-7 p.m., Learning Center 160. A series of talks under the general theme “Darwin’s Theory and its Impacts”. Free food.

How is this for harsh

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Gotta love someone who tells it like it is:

“When it comes to preparing its students to shine in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, or STEM, Florida delivers like a Third World country.”