Archive for August, 2011

Science education gets a couple of boosts

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The Space Coast Science Education Alliance pulls together a wide range of local resources with the goal of improving science education. Volunteer group promotes, supports science education:

An all-volunteer organization, whose members have a passion for science and a commitment to education, hopes to have a positive impact on students and teachers this school year.

The Space Coast Science Education Alliance includes more than a dozen local organizations that come together to donate their time and money to provide science opportunities for students — and recognize good science teachers.

The alliance supports science education in the county through projects including a speaker series and by sponsoring Research Rules! — a free workshop for students in grades 5-8 participating in a science fair project.

The group’s website is here. They’re always on the lookout for folks wanting to help.

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Biomed sciences comes to Palmetto High:

Fifteen-year-old Korey Kinder has found a course at Palmetto High School that he loves.

Korey, a sophomore, aspires to be an anesthesiologist. The course that he is obsessed with during this first week of school is Principles of Biomedical Sciences. It’s a class that forms the foundation of the high school’s new $550,000 biomedical sciences program.

“We’re breaking ground,” teacher Hanna Waldhalm said about the new program. “This class is why I came to Palmetto High School. This is going to light fires under students.”

Scott cancels Tallahassee appearance

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Eugenie Scott will not be at today’s screening of No Dinosaurs in Heaven in Tallahassee due to the hurricane. She will be replaced by Nobel Prize winner Harold Kroto, Florida State University professor. However, Scott said on her Facebook page that she will possibly “attend” via remote audio/video.

“No Dinosaurs” film in Tallahassee Sunday

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Showing in Tallahassee on Sunday: ‘No Dinosaurs’ doc tangles with creationism (Tallahassee Democrat article).

Eugenie Scott has no problem with those who believe in creationism, which is the belief God created the world in its present form a few thousand years ago. What she objects to is those who, “pass it off as supported by science. It isn’t.”

The documentary screening is sponsored by the Tallahassee Scientific Society. The film is being shown at the IMAX theater on Kleman Plaza. The 90-minute film starts at 7 p.m., followed by the Q&A session with Scott. Tickets are $10 at the door.

And here is my review of the film.

Okaloosa focuses on science

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Take a moment to read this recent newspaper story: Okaloosa to up the ante for science classes

“All kids are going to have to dig deeper in science to get that high school diploma, so we knew we had to make some changes,” she said.

In high school, the more remedial-type science classes have been eliminated. Students will either take regular, advanced or accelerated science classes.

Each course at all grade levels will emphasize hands-on activities to ensure students remain engaged.

The activities are possible largely because of community partners such as the Air Force Research Lab and the Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base have offered people and money to support the change.

This story gets it right

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Yes, I know; you are probably getting tired of my going on and on about the University of Florida car vandalism targeting evolution-related decorations. (My first post on this is here.) But bear with me for one more post about it.

The Gainesville Sun did a story about it: Biology professors say they’ve been targeted over evolution emblems. Finally, a story gets it all right. There were weeks of confusion over the victims saying they reported the incidents to police, and the police saying it was news to them. Now the police say they are aware of the situation. Yea!

“I think what we’re talking about is people who have a very narrow view of things and they consider the concept of evolution as a threat to their beliefs,” said Brian McNab, an emeritus professor of biology who had the bumper stickers removed and notes left.

Framework for K-12 Science Education story

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Here is a great piece on the National Academy of Science’s new framework for K-12 science education: New report lays out what kids should know about science

How different is this from what kids are learning in school today?

It depends on the school. It depends on the teacher. There’s nothing in this framework that hasn’t been done, but there’s probably no classroom that’s doing it all.

The current national education standards push for science as inquiry. And because inquiry has a whole different set of meanings to different people, the understanding that students should be doing science to learn science has sometimes been overwhelmed by the notion that that was just messing around, and that children really needed to be learning facts.

What the research on learning shows is that students learn better when they have a context in which to put those facts, where the facts are developed in a coherent fashion and where they get to understand what science is by engaging in scientific practices.

So we spell out very explicitly the practices of science we think students should be doing. That is quite a departure. That’s a list that has some pieces in it that very few classrooms are doing today.

How did you come up with the list of core ideas for each area of science?

We had a set of criteria for what constitutes a core idea for science learning. It’s not just what are the core ideas of the discipline, but what are the core ideas of the discipline that are important for students to learn about in K-12? For example in physical science, the core ideas are matter and energy and forces and interactions; those are the ones everyone would expect. But then another one is waves and their relationship to information technology. That’s for kids to understand that physics and chemistry have applications, and understand how these things play out in things they see in their everyday life.

Similarly, the last idea under earth science is the Earth and human activity; that has things like natural hazards but also human impacts on the planet. Both of those are important for kids to understand.

Are there any aspects of the material that may be controversial?

The standards based on this framework will certainly include evolution, and they will also include climate change. Both of those things are, at least by some people, considered controversial, although scientifically they’re not controversial. As the Academy we can say scientifically that this is what the science says and this is what students should know, and the standards will be written based on that. Then the states will have to decide what they do about adopting them.

Upcoming events

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Tonight, the Orlando Cafe Scientifique will host a talk about the Cambrian Explosion

Presenter: Werner, John
When: Wednesday, 3 August 2011 – 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Venue: Taste
Where: 717 W. Smith Street, Orlando

The Cambrian “Explosion” is a colorful name sometimes given to the adaptive radiation of animals with bilateral symmetry, seen in the early Cambrian period, approximately 540 to 510 million years ago. This critical span in life’s history has been a topic of keen interest for not only scientists but also many nonscientists ever since the publication of Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould (1989). In that provocative work, Gould emphasized the bizarre morphology and problematic taxonomy of some of the invertebrate fossils of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale. In the twenty-plus years that have followed, new discoveries from the fossil record and the living world have been producing a better picture of early animal evolution, shedding light on the origins of some of the major branches on the animal tree of life (including arthropods, mollusks, and vertebrates). Furthermore, the explosiveness of this adaptive radiation has been defused by improvements in the record of Early Cambrian and Neoproterozoic (pre-Cambrian) fossils. Proposed causes of the Cambrian radiation are numerous and varied; in this talk we will explore the merits of the most prominent ideas.

John Werner has been a professor of Earth Sciences in the Physical Sciences Department at Seminole State College since 2003. He obtained a B.S. in geology from the California Institute of Technology and an M.S. and Ph.D. in geology (concentration in invertebrate paleontology) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at UIUC, he earned that school’s highest award for undergraduate teaching. At Seminole State, he has originated three courses in geology, including Fossils and the History of Life.

The Florida State University Coastal & Marine Lab Conservation Lecture Series for August 11, 2011 will feature the History and Natural History of Dog Island.

The event will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the FSUCML Auditorium in St. Teresa, Florida.  The lecture will be presented by Dr. Fran James, FSU Biological Science Faculty Member Emeritus.

Dog Island is the easternmost barrier island off the panhandle of Florida.  A review of its history and natural history can tell us how human and natural forces have shaped its present condition and what it may be like in the future.  Today it is an ecological treasure.