Thursday, August 26, 2010

Link to Botany in Guatemala; Engaging students and building science literacy.

Many urban schools in the United States and Canada have students of Mayan descent. Some of these students are from Guatemala. When choosing science fair projects, they might like to use knowledge from their own backgrounds, or learn of plants their ancesters use(d). The link above provides some information. For example,

The Petén floristic associations are continuous with associations in the Mexican Lacandon region (CPD Site MA1). Since much of the Petén is not well known botanically, it is difficult to estimate the number of vascular plants or endemics. The floristic diversity of the Maya BR is considered exceptional, with over 3000 plant species (CONAP 1992). The overall region's flora is considered distinctive; e.g. many of the Petén's regionally endemic taxa are shared to varying extents with northern Belize and Mexico's majority of the Yucatán Peninsula to eastern Tabasco and the eastern highlands of Chiapas (Breedlove 1981; Wendt 1993). Most local Petén endemics have been found in areas that allow little human intervention, such as steep hills and swamps (Lundell 1937).

Information on the distribution of plants in the Petén, for example to determine which are the rare species, is still very limited and incomplete. Subtropical forests contain relatively low tree-species diversity and a higher number of individuals per species (Salafsky, Dugelby and Terborgh 1993). The high densities of species such as Manilkara zapota, Chamaedorea spp. and Pimenta dioica facilitate extractive industry.

Here in these quoted paragraphs, a student can find genus and species names of some of the plants from Guatemala. These names can spark a literature/internet search on uses of the plants. A child might be able to find some of them in North American supermarkets. Children can talk to their parents, grandparents and other relatives about the plants. They can also visit a virtual herbarium or a nearby botanic garden. Science experiments can build from that research. A lifelong science interest may develop.

Engaging students is a great way to build science literacy.

Using the plant,
Manilkara_zapota , found on the first link we discussed,, students might go to ," Wiki," for more information:

Notice that Guatemala isn't mentioned there, yet, the tree does grow in Guatemala. Knowing this from the Guatemalan link (above), a student can still gather information.

A student might do an image search:

Another student might find something from the University of Florida:

Still another student finds medicinal uses of the plant, including its use as a tooth filling:
Students are starting to get more and more interested. One student asks if we are sure it is the same plant because the Latin name wasn't used on that post. Hmm! That is a good point. Students do further research. "I found it. '
Scientific name: Manikara zapota ' It is the same plant."

Another student finds this important point, further down on the page:

The bark of sapodilla tree is rich in white, gummy latex called chicle (contains 15% rubber and 38% resin). This milky sap is the main ingredient in the manufacture of chewing gum which gives the tree its main importance there.

"Maybe we could try different formulas for chewing gum," suggests one student. Other students are also suggesting ideas to test. "Oh, there's more information here: http%3a//"

Another class member finds this inquiry on the web:

ros 11 months ago

tnx a lot

this info you have given us had been a great help for investigatory project.....

could i leave a request??

how could we extract the chicle from the tree???

Rowena 8 months ago

thank you so


Source:; Accessed August 25, 2010. response was posted. The class decides to look for an answer.

"Here's a patent related to extraction of chicle:"

"Here's a journal article:"

"I found a chapter in a book (
Timber, tourists, and temples: conservation and development in the Maya ... By Richard B. Primack): Look: 'Governmental and Customary Arrangements Guiding Chicle Latex Extraction in Petan Guatemala.' The article is by Barbara L. Dugelby."


There's no stopping the students now. They are off and running! One even found that chewing gum reduces stress and improves test scores. You still have to study though...

(c)2010 J S Shipman.

Botany in Namibia...

Source:, Accessed August 25, 2010.

A Review/Ad on Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading

Please encourage people from missing countries to join in the activity at Read about it: International Science Literacy and Science Education.

Countries with people recently visiting
this web pageinclude, in order of usage:

United StatesUnited States

United KingdomUnited Kingdom









New ZealandNew Zealand




Russian FederationRussian Federation



Science Literacy: Non-fiction science books in the classroom.

Developing Science Knowledge and Conceptual Understanding,
Engaging Students, and
Teaching Science Literacy Skills with
Quality Nonfiction Science Books

This science literacy workshop is WS1019 at, "the best science education that Texas has to offer ... the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) 2010." CAST will, "bring science to the city in Houston, Texas November 11-13[, 2010]."
Source (Accessed 8-25-2010) and link to more information follow:

More on Donna Knoell, presenter of the above workshop:

are all invited!

Note that Sponsorship, Advertising, and Exhibitor opportunities are still available for CAST.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cutting-Edge Botany...Link to new research

botanyconference uploaded a new video (1 week ago)
Evolution and phylogeography of the Western Mediterranean Lavatera triloba aggregate (Malvaceae).

Despite being one of the world's biodiversity hots... more
botanyconference uploaded a new video (1 week ago)
Tracing the fossil pollen record of Hedyosmum (Chloranthaceae), a basal angiosperm.

The Chloranthaceae represent one of the oldest lineages within t... more
botanyconference uploaded a new video (1 week ago)
Genetic diversity in two congeneric wildflowers, Gentianopsis simplex and G. holopetala (Gentianaceae), from the mountains of Western North America... more
botanyconference uploaded a new video (1 week ago)
A phylogenetic analysis of Pelargonium based on three plastid genes. Co-authors: Mary Gibby and Robert K. Jansen

Pelargonium, the second largest ge... more
botanyconference uploaded a new video (1 week ago)
Building the US National Virtual Herbarium (USVH).Co-author: Zack E. Murrell

This workshop, which will also be the annual meeting of the USVH proje... more

Source: Accessed August 24, 2010.


This link may be of interest to some readers. Please comment and let me know.

Signatura: 15649.
Título: Fitografía del ecosistema de CENICAFE,
P. imprenta: Chinchiná (Colombia), CENICAFE - Universidad de Caldas, 1994. 1994. 338 p.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Palms, Fungi and Insects...Have you thought about how the food supply is affected by fungi and insects? What about laboratory reports...Are they rela

"Date palms were propagated in large numbers clonally through tissue culture technology. Tissue culture derived date palm cultivars planted in the KISR tissue culture orchard showed crown bending at the fruiting stage." Source:; Accessed August 19, 2010.

Do you eat dates? If so, perhaps you will find the linked article informative. Have you thought about how the food supply is affected by fungi and insects? Science study becomes, "relevant," to students when they can connect to ideas with which they are already familiar. They likely have heard of date nut bread, or, eat dates and milk to break a fast, or just pack some dates for hiking trips. So, research on dates can assist students in assimilating some broader concepts on food production, such as, how pests and diseases can affect the food supply.

Here the work of C. Sudhersan, Yousef Al-Shayji, and S. Jibi Manuel of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research is used as a way to interest students in science.

In the USA, some people celebrate Ramadan and now it is the time for Ramadan. Since most students do not celebrate this holiday, it might be confusing why some students are using dates and milk to break their fast, so tying in dates in science class might give all students something to share and provide a cultural link to the science class, too. But, lets get back to the science class and think about food.

Plants are what types of organisms when it comes to thinking aboutfood?

Did you say producers? Yes, the date palm uses sunlight to produce the sugar found in the date. We, people, on the other hand, are consumers, we eat dates. Do you have educational standards in your area related to producers and consumers? It is easy to find lessons on this topic, for example, shows a lesson and also has a tab to show the standards related to the lesson. The national standard have often included this topic among the science standards:

"For ecosystems, the major source of energy is sunlight. Energy entering
ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis. That energy then passes from organism to organism in food webs."

In reading about the date palms, students can relate the date palm as the producer and we, who ingest dates, as the consumers. Where do the fungi cme in?

Fungi are opportunists and can cause plant disease. The journal article referenced indicates the role of an insect vector and a fungus in causing a disease in the date palm.

Is the fungi decomposing the date palm, just making it sick, or is it a decomposer/ What do you think? Getting students to think about questions like this can help them appreciate food. Rather than just thinking about food as something available at meal times, students can see that science is involved in getting food to the plate. Of course, there are farmers, and the people that have shipped the food, and the stores or markets that have carried the food, and the person that prepared the food...but, science is also involved. And students will also have their own religions and cultures ideas about food, which are important to them when they are integrating new science knowledge into their thoughts and memory for later use. So what is the science? Let's look further at the article.

In the, "Introduction," students can read that dates are a major food crop of the Arabian peninsula, and link the science study to geography they know. Students can learn there about propagation by seeds (sexual repproduction) or by succkers or offshoots (asexual reproduction). [Note: These ideas cover other educational standards.] Then the introduction may have words that the students don't yet know. They can use this opportunity to build vocabulary or can just go for the gist of the introduction, depending on the student interest and/or grade level. Since this article is a laboratory report on an important food crop, some students may wish to go for the most detail. The, "Introduction," goes on to point out that observations made during a field survey led to the current experiment being reported.

The, "Materials and Methods," section comes next. What did the scientists do? Can you find out? Math can be linked to the science study here:

"Sixty (60) young palms of 12 different cultivars were used for the study.
Among the 60 palms, the trees showing the disorder were identified and 2 trees per cultivar were selected for the study. Later on, one of the selected trees from each cultivar was uprooted completely and the other was dissected out on site without uprooting."

Twelve into sixty is _____. So, How many palms of each cultivar were there? Did you say, "5?"

Try to make a flow chart for the materials and methods that the researchers used. Create the flow chart to simplify reading what steps you would do if you were going to repeat this experiment. If you prefer, you can just number and list the steps in order.

Look over the, "Results," "Discussion," and "References [Literature Cited]" Sections of the article. Do you see that scientists use laboratory report formats that are universal. Scientists around the world use the same type of format. When students write laboratory reports, they are learning what scientists do and how to understand research. Have students go through each part of the article and see what they make out of it. Have them reflect on how the exercise has changed what they think about the food supply and the role of science in it. Ask if they think other crops may have diseases. See where the students go with it. Review experimental design and laboratory report format again. Ask students if they have ideas for experiments related to the food supply.

Enjoy your food. Younger classes may want to recall the story of, "The Little Red Hen []," and discuss where food comes from. The teacher can talk about the role of science, whereas, young children will likely think of parents, stores, and farmers. Religious classes may want to cover the relationship of food to the gifts and blessings they have received. In science, look at the role of science in food production, cover laboratory report format and experimental design. Remember that using prior knowledge and other subject areas can help keep information in your mind in a usable format. Try some dates and milk. Have fun.

(c) J S Shipman 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Today's, "In the News," and Experimental Design

Fungus Wiping Out North America's Little Brown Bat

One of North America's most common bats may be driven to extinction in the northeastern US in as little as 16 years. A disease known as white-nosesyndrome, caused by a fungus that grows on the nose, wing membranes, and ears of bats while they hibernate in caves and mines during the winter, is believed to have caused the deaths of 1 millionlittle brown bats in North America already. Bats play a vital role in the control of insect populations, and this bat in particular has been known to eat its weight in insects in a night. The loss of these bats could result in increased insect populations that damage crops and spread disease.More ... Discuss
Fungi are one of the groups of organisms, like plants and animals. They are their own group, however. At one time, they were grouped with plants. New research shows that they are separate. Well, here, we are looking at news on extinction of bats.

...[R]esearchers led by biology professor Thomas H. Kunz of Boston University report in Friday's edition of the journal Science that white-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus, could all but wipe out the little brown bat in the Northeast in 20 years.

The syndrome was first discovered near Albany, N.Y., in 2006, and since then bats have declined from 30 percent to 99 percent in various areas. The illness has been confirmed in 115 bat hibernating locations in Canada and the U.S., ranging as far south as Tennessee and west to Oklahoma, the researchers reported.

.Source: Accessed: August 16, 2010.

You might not like bats, but, did you notice the mosquitoes carrying Eastern equine encephalitis are up? Do you think that the decline in bats might be related? If you were a scientist, how could you design an experiment to find out?

Here's another link that might give you some background information as you write the background information for your experimental design:

Don't forget to go from the popular press and reach into the refereed journal articles.

Fungi are opportunists. They take advantage of a situation. If your immune system is down, you are more likely to get fungal infections, for example. Plants, on the other hand, have fungal diseases more routinely.
Can you design an experiment to see if good nutrition plays a role in preventing fungal disease?

Why do you think the bats are getting more fungal disease now? Are people also getting more fungal disease now?

What makes up good experimental design?

Think about that. We'll come back to it in future posts. First, come up with your ideas.

(c) 2010 J S Shipan