Archive for science education

Online labs and activities for environmental science

Posted in environmental science with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by airtightnoodle

If you teach environmental science or APES (Advanced Placement Environmental Science) you may want to check out the following link:

NROC Environmental Science

The site is designed to be an online APES class and claims to cover all of the material the College Board dictates must be covered for APES.  I haven’t looked through the entire site myself, so I can’t speak for that assertion.  However, there are some neat online labs where students have to change inputs and then assess what happens, and so on.  Check it out.

I failed as a teacher

Posted in Education with tags , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by airtightnoodle

Yesterday I visited my local evil government house of mail (a.k.a., the post office).  While waiting in line, I overheard a young boy behind me asking his mom, “But I don’t understand how DNA works.  I don’t get it.”  I glanced back and smiled at him and his mom, impressed that a boy that looked so young would know anything about DNA.  His mother explained patiently that she didn’t know and advised him to ask a science teacher. 

Cue the superhero music!  Science teacher to the rescuuuuue! 

I boldly turned around again with my brightest smile, proclaiming, “I’m a science teacher!” 

The boy, not impressed, asked, “Are you a scientist or a science teacher?”  (At this point I’m sure someone with acute vision could see my ego deflate just a bit.)

“I’m a science teacher.  Is that ok?”

“Well, I guess.  My science teacher really loves science.  She has all sorts of weird stuff in her room.  Like, she loves science.”

“Oh, that’s cool.  How old are you?”

“Nine.”

“Go ahead,” said Mom.  “Ask her your question.”

At this point I was prepared to explain that our bodies are made of lots of teeny tiny cells, and inside each one is a chemical called DNA that tells the cell what to do.  Instead, the question I got was much more specific. “Ok, how does the DNA say if you’re a boy or a girl?  I don’t get it!”

Instantly, since I teach high schoolers, images of sperm cells, egg cells, chromosomes, and so on go tumbling through my mind, and all I can think of is sexual reproduction.  My jaw drops a little bit. 

“Um,” I stutter to Mom, “I’m not sure how to explain that to a 9 year old.”

Creationists in Texas attack the Earth and Space Science standards

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2009 by airtightnoodle

As if the foolishness surrounding the biology TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) wasn’t enough, the proposed standards for the Earth and Space Science course are under attack as well. 

Steven Schafersman has reported on this issue at his blog on the Houston Chronicle’s website here.

Victory in Texas for Science? Not quite…

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2009 by airtightnoodle

Earlier this week the Texas state board of education agreed to strike the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” from the current science standards.  This move was cheered and celebrated by many scientists and teachers all over the state. 

However, on Friday, January 23, the state board looked at the issue again and decided that students should have to evaluate a variety of fossil types and assess the arguments against universal common descent.

On one hand, I feel like saying…ok!  Send me some fossils so I can teach that (hey, I’d love to have more fossils for free in my class).  But of course, it wouldn’t work like that if this proposal gets passed. 

This proposal is completely unscientific and is in the same spirit as the “strengths and weaknesses” clause that was struck down.  What is even more amazing to me, personally, is that at least before this creationists/intelligent designer proponents could make the argument that they weren’t singling out evolution–they wanted to teach the strengths and weaknesses of ALL theories (which of course for the most part wasn’t true, but they could still make that argument).  This new proposal is blatantly singling out evolution. 

Not surprisingly, chairman Don McLeroy, a self-proclaimed creationist, also added the following:

Also added to the proposed standards by board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, is an amendment that directs science teachers and students to “describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.”

Board member Barbara Cargill had a lot to say as well.  Recall that I recently contacted Ms. Cargill asking her to explain some of her recent comments in an editorial from a Texas newspaper.  She has never responded.

One board member who pushed for the change said that fossil records create scientific evidence against universal common descent — and students should be allowed to study the possibility.

“There are many, many gaps that don’t link species changing and evolving into another species, so we want our students to get all of the science, and we want them to have great, open discussions and learning to respect each other’s opinions,” said Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, a former science teacher.

She scoffed at claims that social conservatives on the 15-member board were just trying to find another way to expose students to creationism — the belief that life, Earth and the universe were created by a supreme being.

“This isn’t about religion. I don’t know how many times we have to say it before people accept it,” she said. “It’s about science. We want to stick to the science.”

As usual, Ms. Cargill seems to assume that teachers who WANT  to teach evolution properly are trying to censor their students’ thoughts and opinions.  Of course a good teacher wants students to be able to ask questions and respect others’ opinions.  However, this move is certainly about religion.  It’s not about science, because what these board members are proposing to teach students isn’t backed by the scientific community.

There is still hope, however.  The board will not take a final vote on these newly proposed science standards until March. 

You can read more about the issue here.

Take action to support science in Texas!

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2009 by airtightnoodle

From the Texas Freedom Network:

This Wednesday the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on proposed science curriculum standards. The new draft standards reject efforts by creationists to undermine instruction on evolution. They also make it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism/”intelligent design” have no place in public school science classes. But creationists who control the state board are insisting that the standards require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. They want to force publishers to include those bogus arguments in new biology textbooks.

Take Action!

Help us turn back efforts to sabotage the education of Texas schoolchildren by standing up for science this week!SUFS

  • Click here to sign up to testify before the State Board of Education IN SUPPORT OF THE DRAFT STANDARDS at the public hearing on Wednesday. The board will hear only four hours of testimony. But even if you don’t get a chance to speak, adding your name in support of the draft standards is very important. Also, supporters of the draft standards will WEAR GREEN at the hearing to show their support for a sound science education.
  • Tell your state board member that you SUPPORT the draft science standards and OPPOSE efforts to water down the curriculum by opening the door to phony attacks against evolution. Click here to find the name and contact information for your State Board of Education member. Once you have the name of your board member, you can also click here to send an e-mail to him or her in care of the Texas Education Agency.
  • Donate to the Texas Freedom Networks’ Stand Up for Science campaign. Your contribution will help ensure that the next generation of Texas schoolchildren gets a 21st-century science education that helps them succeed in college and the jobs of the future.

 

Texas science education update

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , on November 16, 2008 by airtightnoodle

The National Center for Science Education has given us an update on what is going on in Texas here.  On November 19, the board of education will hear testimony on the state’s science standards.  The article also gives details on how you can register to testify.

Share your comments on the Texas science standards

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by airtightnoodle

As mentioned on my blog already, the first draft of science TEKS has been posted online.  Now you can share your comments on the TEKS. 

The comment forms for the first draft of the proposed Science TEKS have been posted at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/scienceTEKS.html.

The Science TEKS Review Committees will meet at the end of October and begin reviewing comments.

The end of October is here.  So go read the TEKS and post your comments NOW!

Don McLeroy defends Texas creationists

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Today’s issue of the Waco Tribune-Herald features a guest column from Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education.  McLeroy, as mentioned previously on this blog, is a creationist.

Texas is adopting new science standards. Scientists representing evolutionists and calling themselves the 21st Century Science Coalition say that creationists on the State Board of Education will inject religion into the science classroom. Should they be concerned? No. This will not happen.

They also say that the board will require supernatural explanations to be placed in the curriculum. This will not happen.

First of all, this is the first I’ve ever heard of the 21st Century Science Coalition.  Googling reveals their website, located here.  In any case, I find it interesting that McLeroy singles this one organization out.  This seems to give the appearance that this is one of the only groups out there concerned about this issue, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.  But let’s be fair.  Perhaps they had an editorial in the same paper recently that I missed and McLeroy is simply responding to it.  In any case, let’s be clear: these are not the only people making a fuss.

Regardless, how can McLeroy repeat that “this will not happen”?  What other reasons would creationists have for wanting to have a say in the science TEKS?  And how can he definitively dictate what may or may not happen? 

McLeroy then makes a statement to stun all Biology teachers and evolution supporters across the world:

First, is understanding of evolution “vital” to the understanding of biology? No.

I guess McLeroy isn’t familiar with the famous Dobzhansky article that really sums it all up: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”.

Next, has evolution been demonstrated to be true beyond any reasonable doubt? No.

Is evolution’s support from the peer-reviewed literature unassailable? No.

If these are the criteria by which evolution has come under assault, then much of science should be suffering under the same scrutiny.  No scientific theory is ever going to be proven to be 100% true.  No theory is safe from criticism and peer review.  That’s the beauty of the scientific method–which, many scientists will agree, HAS shown evolution to be true beyond “reasonable doubt”.

Does evolution have scientific “weaknesses”?

The 21st Century Coalition not only says no but insists that we must strike the weaknesses language from our standards because leaving it in threatens our children’s scientific reasoning.

If we’re not going to apply the same “weaknesses” technique to all other scientific theories, then yes, it certainly does threaten our children’s scientific reasoning.  Our students deserve a 21st century science education, not watered-down science, whether it is biology, astronomy, chemistry, etc.

Discovery Institute jumps into the Texas science fray

Posted in Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Thanks to Jeremy over at An Evolving Creation for alerting us to the latest in the debate over the Texas science standards.

Texas

Texas

As mentioned recently on this blog, a review panel has been appointed by the State Board of Education to review the changes proposed for the science (and especially biology) TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  In that blog entry, I mentioned the potential conflict of interest with two of the members of the review panel, Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke, who are authors of a high school biology textbook called “Explore Evolution”, known for being critical of evolutionary theory.

The Discovery Institute attempted to turn the tables on the Texas Freedom Network, who first reported this conflict of interest on the panel: 

What the TFN doesn’t reveal is that another of the expert reviewers co-authored a one-sided, Darwin-only textbook! David Hillis, a biology professor at UT Austin co-authored the 2008 edition of Life: The Science of Biology, a textbook whose previous editions have been approved for use in Texas high schools.

We’ll let the ignorant “one-sided, Darwin only” statement go. 

To the uninformed, the above quote might sound pretty damning.  Combined with the next statements, one might reasonably question the Texas Freedom Network and their cries of outrage.

Hillis also serves as a spokesman for a pro-evolution lobbying group that is trying to remove language in the Texas science standards requiring students to study the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Gerald Skoog, another expert reviewer, has signed a statement issued by the same pro-evolution group, and he too has been a science textbook author and has a long history as a pro-Darwin activist.

Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute

Casey Luskin

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute certainly thinks the TFN is being hypocritical.

“If being a textbook author really is a ‘conflict of interest,’ then why isn’t TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog?” asked Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Well, Casey, let’s tackle that question.  Why ISN’T the TFN attacking Hillis and Skoog? 

It’s pretty simple, really.  Hillis’ book, Life: The Science of Biology, is a college-level book.  It is not one of the books widely used in the state of Texas for teaching high school biology (that honor goes to Kenneth Miller’s and Joseph Levine’s Biology book).  Hillis’ book is one book of several that can be used in a college-level high school biology class–in other words, an Advanced Placement class.  The curriculum and standards for such classes are NOT  set by the state of Texas.  AP class standards are governed by the College Board.  Thus, there is no conflict of interest where Hillis is concerned.

Furthermore, a brief search for textbooks written by Gerald Skoog reveals that the last one he co-authored appears to have been published in 1999.  This book was titled, “Science Insights: Exploring Earth & Space“, and was a middle-school level textbook.  Naturally, this would not be appropriate at the high school level.  Again, there is no conflict of interest here.

Interestingly, the article from the Discovery Institute actually reveals another conflict of interest on their part:

Dr. Meyer is director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute…

Aha!  Well of course the DI feels the need to defend Meyer against the allegations of the TFN!  He’s one of theirs!  Naturally, they must come to the rescue of Seelke as well, since he was involved in the Kansas evolution hearings which resulted in Kansas including anti-evolution standards in science curriculum–which we thankfully remind readers were overturned in 2007. 

Creationists strike back against newly proposed TEKS

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2008 by airtightnoodle

As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, the Texas science standards are currently under revision.  The proposed revisions came out a few weeks ago, and the majority of science experts in the state are pleased with these new TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  Yet according to this post from the Texas Freedom Network:

The Texas Freedom Network has learned that evolution opponents on the state board are trying to pack a formal curriculum review panel with supporters of teaching “intelligent design”/creationism. The panel was supposed to include science experts, yet three of the six appointed by the state board are strident evolution critics.

This is not surprising as we already know that there are several “creationism sympathizers”, to say the least, on the State Board of Education, including chairman Don McLeroy.  What is disturbing, however, is the apparent conflict of interest that exists with two of the members on this newly appointed review panel.

Two of the members on this review panel are Stephen Meyer and Ralph Seelke–authors of the textbook “Explore Evolution”, an anti-evolution textbook published by the Discovery Institute. 

Will Texas students get a quality science education?  Let’s hope so.  Stay tuned, folks!

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