Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Improving Science Literacy through the Science News and Reach Reading (TM)

Today's news on bird size caught my attention because of an exhibit I had seen once at the Museum of Science in Boston. The exhibit there was on comparing sizes of male and female animals (across genders). As I recall, though the exhibit covered all animals, the ones exhibited were birds. There was a reason for females to be larger, the exhibit suggested. Since I know many women in the USA feel badly when they are larger after having children (and some men help foster that by leaving, "mothers who have born their children," for thinner women), the exhibit stayed in my mind...biologically childbearing needed bigger bodies...Hmm! That was a thought. I didn't look into the research behind the exhibit at that time, however, when I saw today's, "In the News," I remembered the exhibit and thought we could use the concept of bird size as another example of using Reach Reading TM to improve science literacy. Here is a quote from the article and a link to the related post.

Birds Getting Smaller as Temperature Warms

A study of over 100 species of birds has shown that many are getting smaller and lighter, and climate change is believed to be behind the shift.
Source: In the News, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lookup.htm; Accessed 3-16-2010.
Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8560000/8560694.stm

1. The first step is to look over the, "In the News," article, reading what you can without struggling.

2. Highlight or circle or underline or list on separate paper (or computer file) the words you do not know, or, do not know in this context, or just happen to like. Let's just pick some for example, though you may be familiar with all these words:

Birds Getting Smaller as Temperature Warms

A study of over 100 species of birds has shown that many are getting smaller and lighter, and climate change is believed to be behind the shift. According to Bergmann's rule, a biological principle formulated in the mid-19th century, animals tend to become smaller in warmer climates. Data collected in Pennsylvania between 1961 and 2007 indicate that many species of North American birds, mostly songbirds, are obeying this rule and gradually becoming smaller. Though the birds themselves are getting smaller, their populations appear to be unharmed. More ... Discuss


3. Define the words. Note: At the bottom of the blog, there are links to several dictionaries. You can also search for definitions of words in a search engine (For example, Google). Of course, you can also use dictionaries (as books). Remember to note down all the information you need to reference the definition's source.

  • species
    • In biology, a species is: a taxonomic rank (the basic rank of biological classification) or a unit at that rank (in which case the plural is "species". This is sometimes abbreviated: "spec." or "sp." singular, or "spp." plural). [A] common definition is that of a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing [...] fertile offspring of both genders, and separated from other such groups with which interbreeding does not (normally) happen. Other definitions may focus on similarity of DNA or morphology. [S]pecies [may be] subdivided into subspecies[.]

  • (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species. Accessed 3-16-2010.)
  • climate change
  • Bergmann's Rule
    • It's [...] a matter of basic physics that the larger a sphere, the less is its surface area relative to its total volume. Therefore, large balls lose heat more slowly, relative to their size, than small ones. You might guess, then, that animals tend to be larger in cold areas than in tropical ones. In fact, Bergmann's Rule asserts that geographic races of a species possessing smaller body size are found in the warmer parts of the range, and races of larger body size in cooler parts
4. Check for understanding. See if you can paraphrase the meaning of the word, that is, define the word using your own words, rather than exactly repeating the quote. Can you explain the word?

5. Re-read the passage again once the words you've selected are defined.

6. Next, read a few more general publications like tests, newspaper articles, and magazines that are not, "original source."

7. Then, search in the technical literature (where you will find original source laboratory reports). You might start by searching for birds and Bergmann's Rule.

  • We find, http://www.pnas.org/content/105/36/13492, an editorial, more key words, and a scientist contact. At PNAS September 9, 2008 vol. 105 no. 36 13492-13496, "Ecological responses to on-going climate change are numerous, diverse, and taxonomically widespread. However, with one exception, the relative roles of phenotypic plasticity and microevolution as mechanisms in explaining these responses are largely unknown. Several recent studies have uncovered evidence for temporal declines in mean body sizes of birds and mammals, and these responses have been interpreted as evidence for microevolution in the context of Bergmann's rule—an ecogeographic rule predicting an inverse correlation between temperature and mean body size in endothermic animals." That's a great start, but, we haven't found, "lab reports," yet.
  • Let's keep looking. But there are more tasks to do: Oh, yes, there are more vocabulary words to check on... I've gone ahead and indicated them in orange-red. As we Reach Read TM, we will discover more and more words. Like finding treasure in a computer game, these words hold the secrets to great discovery and winning! Now, back to our search.
  • Gardner, J. L., R. Heinsohn, and L. Joseph. Shifting latitudinal clines in avian body size correlate with global warming in Australian passerinesProc R Soc B 2009 276:3845- lpage">3852, is one we can check.
  • Try this one: Science 4 September 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5945, pp. 1212 - 1213 DOI: 10.1126/science. 1179326
Is it a, "story about science," a review article covering several laboratory reports, or, is it a laboratory report itself? Is the journal refereed?

patent pending

--Post Under development--

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