21 May 2014

A challenge and offer

The challenge is for a science teacher to incorporate Science and/or Nature in to their teaching.  The offer is that I'll pay for the subscription(s) for at least the first year.  US High School teachers only (sorry others, but I'll exercise provincialism here).  First come first served.

The prompting here is that I've been reading some of my backlogged Science and Nature issues.  Some articles are past almost all K-12 students (though not some I was talking to at Eleanor Roosevelt High School's Research Practicum celebration, so even the most rarefied will be useful in some institutions).  But there are research article summaries which don't require such a high level of background.  And I think a talented enough teacher can make good use of the wealth of material in each issue of Science and Nature.

The third leg of the tripod, so to speak, is that I'll invite some discussion as to exactly how a (US) grade 9-12 teacher can make use of professional journals like Science and Nature.  I know I have a teacher or two in the readership, and look forward to their ideas.

Update 5/27/2014: I've now got a taker, @ragbag01 on twitter.  But discussion of how to make use of the subscription is still very welcome (per anonymous1). 

Anonymous2 notes http://scienceintheclassroom.org/ has some free materials for the classroom on selected papers.

An article of mine on language and reading science may also be useful -- Science Jabberwocky

20 May 2014

Agriculture in changing climate

If you're one of the people who thinks that food grows in grocery stores, all the talk about climate change affecting agriculture is passing you by.  You'd be wrong to think so, but most modern industrial country people are not involved in agriculture.  Having grown up in the corn belt I'm perhaps a little sensitized to the fact that farming is hard work.  And that farming is extremely sensitive to details of the weather.  Anything sensitive to weather is sensitive to climate.

Many foods depend on extremely specific climates.  Not just current climates, but the history of climate for thousands of years -- soils to grow a good crop in develop over that time span.  The corn belt is where it is not just because of current (well, 1950-1980) climate but because in the thousands of years before that, the soil improved and developed to the point of being able to support such farming.  For something like corn, which is grown across a huge area, climate change can be an issue.  But someone, somewhere, will probably be able to grow corn 30 years from now.

But many items grow in relatively small areas, subject to the whims of local change.  Some of these are:
Such specialized crops are sensitive, to the point of perhaps being eliminated, to climate changes.

I invite readers to check the sources linked to above.  And to contribute their own crop types that are either sensitive to climate change, those which are insensitive, and those which would even benefit from expected changes.  Please do include links to your examples.

02 May 2014


"Kids are born learners.  Job of parents and teachers is to avoid killing that drive." @rgrumbine

That tweet from yesterday has gotten picked up more, and by wider group, than usual.  No doubt this was aided by the fact that it was in midst of tweets between @louisck (I'm a fan) and @alexnazaryan.  The twitter-storm is driven by 'common core', whatever that is these days, Alex making some surprising-to-me defenses, and Louis being peeved about the cc (by way of his daughters).  I have some biases I'll discuss at the bottom

Alex replied to my tweet: "Yes.  But learning is a hungry beast.  You have to supply it with good material daily."  I agree with that, too, though we may not agree about what constitutes good material.

I'm going to start very much smaller than writing my own comprehensive national program for education.  Start with a tweet I made earlier today, answering @dougmcneal about how I got in to science -- "Permanent interest in learning, and being better at that than applying it practically (i.e. engineering)."

As a permanent learner, what do I do? Well, let's start with one end result: it means I know a lot of stuff*.  That's probably not the end to emphasize in design and testing of schooling, though.  Two of the things I know, for instance, are that the atomic mass of hydrogen is right about 1, and the atomic mass of helium is a bit less than 4 times hydrogen's.  It would be easy to write a test that asked students for the name and atomic mass of every element (#117 was recently confirmed).  This would be worse than useless, though this approach is common.  Also common to be asking whether the atomic mass of Helium is 4.00, or 3.98, or 3.998, etc.