DKSH: Jeri and Joanne Talk Science

April 15th, 2011

I feel so honored to have had Jeri Ellsworth host the Science Hour with her guest, the Science Goddess, Joanne Manaster, while I was on maternity leave. They put together a fabulous discussion of science and education that is entirely worth your time. Thank you, ladies, for a great episode.

Check it out:

Climate Change and Coral Reefs

January 31st, 2011

For the past several years, news of the decline of coral species and coral reef ecosystems has increased dramatically. Ostensibly, we are hearing more about corals as a direct result of the work scientists are doing to help us learn more and more about the tight inter-relationship between the Earth’s climate and the oceans.

Last year, I was involved in a project with The Video Project, Plankton Productions, Curriculum Corporation, The Learning Federation, and Specialty Studios to create a video series for students on the subject of climate change and coral reefs. The project was based on a presentation given by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a globally recognized marine biologist, at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. I worked as the host of the videos, and as Creative Adviser, working closely with the Instructional Design consultant, Nancy Wolfberg, on the writing, editing, and animations.

The primary goal of the project was to create a series of short videos that science teachers could use as supplements to help familiarize students with the basic science of both coral reefs and climate change. Secondarily, but even more importantly, we wanted our videos to instill an understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry that students would take with them from the classroom to the real world. In doing so, we hoped to counteract the very depressing scientific statistics presented across the videos with a feeling of empowerment… we wanted to leave the students with the impression that they are capable and don’t have to wait for adults in order to substantially affect their environments.

Here is a little taste of our introductory video:

I’m proud to say that I think we achieved our goals. The DVD that is currently available through The Video Project is a valuable teaching tool:

“The DVD includes:

Four 8-minute video modules hosted by Dr. Kiki Sanford.
The modules feature Dr. Sanford and excerpts from a presentation by Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg:

  • Introduction to Climate Change and Coral Reefs
  • Coral Bleaching
  • Ocean Acidification
  • The Future of Coral Reefs.

The full 28-minute presentation by Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg.
Details his scientific findings about the impact of climate change on coral reefs, with charts, graphs and other visuals.

A Detailed Teacher’s Guide.
Featuring an innovative group discussion format (Climate Café), templates for team-based
investigations and presentations, a glossary, Science magazine reprints, and a comprehensive
list of other resources and links (on the DVD-ROM section).

Visual Resources for Student Presentations.
Video clips, animations and other resources (on the DVD-ROM section).

All video segments are illustrated with footage from renowned underwater filmmaker David Hannan.”

I think the Teacher’s Guide is brilliant. It takes engagement with the material to a whole new level in and outside of the classroom. Additionally, source materials and all of the animations are available for the students to use in their own research and presentations, giving them the opportunity to put their own spin on what they learn.

So, if you are a science teacher (or home school your kids!), or know someone who might be interested in this teaching resource to supplement their teaching of climate change and coral reefs, please pass this information along!

If you are a teacher or student in Australia or New Zealand, where I believe these videos are available through the Curriculum Corporation, please let me know what you think of the video project. I’d love your feedback.

Also, Specialty Studios and The Video Project will have a booth at the 2011 National Conference of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in San Francisco. I hope to be able to make an appearance at the event, and be able to talk with teachers in person about our labor of love. However, it’s rather close to the due date of my first child, so I will be sure to keep people apprised of developments.

I hope people enjoy and get much use out of our creation. It took the devotion and hard work of many talented individuals to see it to completion.

Teach Your Children Well

September 27th, 2010

A line from a song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash that speaks volumes to the report that is out this week on the worsening state of science education in America.

Why is it that we can argue about immigration, health care, the Tea Partiers and whether or not President Obama is a citizen, but stand by idly while the public school system deteriorates?

Is that where the voting public really wants this country to go? Is ‘Idiocracy‘ the future of our country?

I hate to even entertain such thoughts. Thankfully, I know many, many hard working people who care deeply about the education of our country’s children, and who will keep working to see that improvements to the educational system are made, with or without such a report.

Is the situation really as dire as the report makes it out to be? Maybe, maybe not.

In a USA Today article discussing responses to the report, there is a quote from one B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown:

“It’s easy to understand with the America COMPETES Act up for renewal why advocates would frame the situation this way. But it seems less helpful to frame things in a voice of crisis rather than a more reasoned response. Things aren’t as bad as this report paints them.”

Mr. Lowell issued a study in 2007 that concluded there were more than enough science and engineering graduates for the jobs that were available. So, ok, there are lots of graduates, but are they qualified, Mr. Lowell? That could be part of the problem. Just because people are graduating does not automatically make them able to perform a job.

Also, why are there fewer jobs than graduates? Why isn’t our country exploding with technological industry? Wouldn’t funding R&D through the America COMPETES Act lead to more jobs in that sector?

In this issue, as in all others, it does help to try to see as many sides of the issue as possible. But, the side I keep coming back to is the side with the children who are going to be our future. If the children are not educated well, there is not much hope for the future of this country. Shouldn’t protecting the future be something of a priority?

So, Mr. Lowell, I do think that framing this issue as a crisis is necessary. How else will it get the attention it deserves when there are so many loud mouths clogging up the media?

Since when has a reasoned political debate worked to fire up the public (and thus the politicians) in recent history?

Where is Whitney Houston when we need her most!?! (And, I mean pre-crackhead Whitney who sang with such conviction, I almost believed she believed what she was singing)

High School Has An Impact

May 2nd, 2009

According to a study by University of Minnesota researchers, what is taught by high school biology teachers affects the views of their students.

“Co-authors Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner, professors in the College of Biological Sciences, surveyed 1,000 students taking introductory biology classes at the University of Minnesota to learn how biology majors view evolution compared to non-majors. Results showed that the two groups’ views were similar and revealed that high school biology teachers influence whether majors and non-majors college students accept evolution or question it based on creationism.”

According to the article one-fourth of high school biology teachers believe that creationism can be scientifically validated. I haven’t found access to the original article to validate the reference. But, such a statement is concerning when considered alongside this new paper.