Archive for June, 2010

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.

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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.”

Human evolution ON FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRE!

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

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

Ok, maybe not the roof, but the Turkana Basin in Kenya is certainly pretty toasty, and has evidently been that way for quite some time. 

Turkana Basin, you say?  Huh?  Where is that?  Why, northeastern Kenya, of course!  These maps help illustrate its location:

Kenya Basins

Map of Kenya

Map of Kenya

 So now you know where it is.  Why is this important, is probably your next question.

Earth scientist Benjamin Passey, as part of a team from the California Institute of Technology, developed a way to measure ancient temperatures and climates by examining isotopes found in carbonates in the soil.  Upon examination of the Turkana Basin soil isotopes, scientists concluded that it was very hot in northeastern Kenya “back in the day”. 

This provides some interesting chex mix to munch on for evolutionists.  The Turkana Basin is home to some of the fossils that have been discovered which document human evolution.  The hot temperatures of the area may help explain why human ancestors lost the fur that mammals are known for. 

More reading:

Some Like It Hot

East African Human Ancestors Lived in Hot Environments

Archaeopteryx–icon of evolution

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by airtightnoodle
Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx

If you are in the Houston area, come on down to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to check out the archaeopteryx exhibit.  Running until September 6, 2010, this exhibit will “present some of the finest known fossils from the late Jurassic period showing life at the time of these first birds. Fossils from the world renowned quarries of Solenhofen, Germany, will be featured.”

Click here for more info including ticket prices.