Monday, March 21, 2011

Science "In the News" on Plant-based Plastics and Science Literacy

Here is a quote from, "In the News," which I have quoted here because otherwise it changes on a different day. It is provided by The Free Dictionary and on todays date is found in the left hand column.

Using current events is helpful in science classes. I was going to address plant-based plastics because at the canteen in the Everglades, they used cups made from plants and that was exciting. Then, here the plant based plastics are being used for the soft-drink industry.

I am not pushing soda (You must use your own science knowledge and skills to make a decision about soda in your diet, but I am commending the company for moving toward a renewable resource-based bottle. That is a good thing.

Quoted material and photograph follow:

"Pepsi Unveils Fully Plant-Based BottlePepsiCo has unveiled what it claims is the first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, renewable sources. It is not biodegradable or compostable, but it is fully recyclable. Traditional PET plastic is made using fossil fuels, but the new "green bottle" is made from materials like switch grass, pine bark, and corn husks. In the future, it may incorporate orange and potato peels, oat hulls, and other byproducts from the company's food production lines. By drawing on existing plant waste rather than growing plants specifically for this purpose, Pepsico will be making use of some of the estimated 2 billion tons of agricultural waste produced each year. More ... Discuss"

How can you use an article like this to engage students in science classes?

How can such an article enhance science literacy?

Could you use it to encourage students to design experiments based on the ideas they get from reading it?

Can students find related information to help them make judgements based on facts they find out about these bottles? Or, about sodas (pop)?

Could they speculate on making plastics from different plants?

Note that such an article could also give students career ideas:

"The new bottle looks, feels and protects the drink inside exactly the same as its current bottles, said Rocco Papalia, senior vice president of advanced research at PepsiCo."

Did you ever think of doing research at Pepsi or a company like Pepsi? What kind of company would you like to do research at?

Such open ended questions can start students thinking about the role of science in their lives. It can get them excited about learning more science.


Here are Links to Images and Information on Some of the Sights I was able to see at the Winter Star Party Astronomy Conference 2011

I cannot convey the excitement of seeing the stars the way they appear from the WSP. I linked to images and information found on the web because these links can give you more of a feel for what I was able to see first-hand. (Sombrero Galaxy) (Omega Centauri)
Watching this large, luminous star cluster together with Al and Judi Nagler was an extra special treat. You capture their enthusiasm. (Pleides) (Eskimo Nebula)
Compare my avatar to the Eskimo Nebula.
J S Shipman

Create Your Badge
Did the comparison make you smile? (Southern Cross)
This was only the third and fourth times in my life I was able to see the Southern Cross. (Orion nebula) (The Ghost of Jupiter) (Hubble's Variable Nebula)

M82, M83

...among others.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Wishing You Clear Skies and Sunny Days" -WSP 2011

Under development...more coming...

Under development...more coming...

The Winter Star Party
, long anticipated and suddenly gone, puts us back in the mood of waiting for next year's event. Still, while looking forward to next year, we have plenty of time to reflect on the night sky observations and the talks. We've had our, "Omega Centauri Fix," (Thanks, Al and Judi) , the, Best Brownies in the Universe," (Thanks, Micki), and can go back home satisfied that we had such wonderful nights, despite the wind. And as Jack Horkheimer (1938-2010)always reminded us, we can "Keep looking up."

Tippy D'Auria delighted us with, "Amateur Astronomy- Frustrations and Rewards," ...The tales of different astronomers and their observations and tools, told in a way that still makes us feel part of each spell-binding saga.

Sheldon Faworski gave us an insightful historical perspective with. 'Amateur Astronomy - through the Prism of "Sky and Telescope."' Sheldon pointed out that "Sky and Telescope" archives are available at a very reasonable price ...He showed how they would make a great addition to any school or home library.

Alan Friedman's talk, "Catching Sunlight - The Art and Science of High Resolution Solar Photography," brought us the expertise of an amateur whose photographs are featured on NASA websites and in their exhibitions. More details are found at

Warren Keller

Mark "Indy" Kochte

Al Nagler

Donald C. Parker spoke tales of the Gas Giants in, "The Gas Giants put on a Show."

Mike Reynolds' talk, "Are [You] Sure This Isn't Astrology? Crazy Astronomy Adventures from Around the World," culled adventures from over 30 years experience in astronomy...academics (teaching and research), museum work, NASA, writing... Plenty of exciting experiences were shared.

Russell Romanella gave a talk that should call us to action: "NASA - Exploration at a Crossroad." While he spoke from his experience at NASA of all the accomplishments, he also spoke of the shuttle's last missions. Having grown up in the Space Age, Russell Romanella's talk had me glued to my seat.

I will add the following comment outside the scope of what was presented in the talk: Since we live in a Democracy, we have the power and ability to contact our elected representatives in the White House, Senate, and Congress. Space has created innovations, excitement, industries, jobs, and a national focus, a striving to be top in math and science, and many other great things. These are things we need today as much as when NASA started. Let your voice be heard on this matter: Continue our Space Exploration. You can now even, "tweet," the government, so, there's no excuse. From snail mail, to e-mail, to tweeting, and beyond, let your voice be heard.

Bob Summerfield

Keith Venables spoke on, "Preserving Dark Adaptation," and let us experiment, too. He gave us a better understanding of bright lights at night. Take a look at lights all over the World. See if you can put any lights out at night. He spoke to us of a movement to darken the night skies that began in the Netherlands and moved to the UK. He is encouraging everyone the World over to join the Dark Skies movement.

Dan Joyce is greatly appreciated for teaching the skills of mirror grinding needed for reflecting-telescope-making.

In addition, we were able to have informal discussions with ...
Matt Baum
and Al Nagler who both worked on the flight simulators NASA used to train the Apollo astronauts for their safe flight to the moon and back, that is, their safe flight, descent, ascent, rendez-vous, and, what we all waited for on the edge of our seats, the return home. Matt worked on the electronics, especially the cameras and displays, while Al worked on the necessary optics.

Special thanks go to the vendors and manufacturer's representatives that provided wonderful door prizes and who participate in the WSP in many other ways. I invite them to submit their links either to me (Dr. J ) or in the comment lines below for readers to "click: at will.

  • Astro Gizmos
  • Astronomic's
  • Astronomy-toGo
  • APM Telescopes
  • ATIK Cameras
  • IP4AP
  • Bootleg Astronomy
  • Apparel
  • Camera Concepts
  • DiscMounts, Inc. &
  • Explore Scientific, LLC
  • Galileo Visions, Inc
  • Hamilton's Name Game
  • Howie Glatter's Laser Collimators
  • Infinitees
  • Meade Instruments
  • Micki's Kitchen
  • Model Optics, Inc.
  • Normand Fullum Telescopes
  • Software Bisque
  • Spirit of the Mountains
  • TeleVue Optics, Inc.
  • Vernon Scope/Yeier Optics

more coming, so come back

Winter Star Party Teaching Ideas

Post under development
Come back later

Here is a review of the posts on the 2010 trip to the Florida Keys to see the stars and get some teaching ideas. I want to link them here and review them before posting new ideas from the WSP 2011.

A reader left this comment. It is listed below, but I thought more people might see it here.

Blogger Mr said...

For younger kids, especially when outdoors, the 'toilet paper' universe is fun activity that is designed to show just how distant the planets and nearest star are. I have used this a number of times with younger scout troops, and it works well.

Check it out at:

Monday, March 28, 2011 2:34:00 PM PDT

Botany Meetings coming Soon; Register Now!

Botanists from around the globe will meet at the 2011 BSA meetings in St. Louis. School teachers are especially encouraged to attend. Scientists get together and provide exciting opportunities for teachers to keep current in science and for them to understand research better by talking directly with the researchers.

Here's a video invitation. There's a fair amount of, "hype," in the video, but, the meetings are a great place to be.

Here's a link to the Botanical Society of America's website so you can register:

And, another link for some teaching ideas:
Education & Learning

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Astronomy from the Keys...

Here are a few pictures taken at the, "WSP." More posts following the astronomy Winter Star Party coming soon!!!! Interesting talks were presented and I will discuss some ideas I got that can be applied to activities for students.

Note, that the 'scopes I looked through the most, are those of which I didn't take photographs. Maybe that was because the night sky images I was seeing were so exciting. Or, maybe I didn't see palm trees and ocean in the background (We had these nestled in a relatively wind-free area between a row of cedar trees and two or three camper trailers and trucks... to give fantastic viewing of the night skies...More on these telescopes later!)

I did take these pictures on the way to Micki's Kitchen, the canteen at the Winter Star Party, and the source of the best brownies in the Universe. Lucky for me I am not a chocolate fanatic since these brownies are hard to pass up even if you only like chocolate a little... But, if you crave chocolate...You are in the right place. (I'll look for Micki's Kitchen's contact information in case you need to send anyone a care package and I'll add it here.)

cay /key/quai/quay/cayo... See:
" a small low island or bank composed of sand and coral fragments,...[ especially]... in the Caribbean area Also called key"

Tribal Colleges and Science...Link in here:

"...America's tribal colleges are
rapidly expanding
their own research."



Monday, February 21, 2011

Portals to birds...And what do the birds eat? Where do they live? Are the trees and fields by you still there or are they gone?

Here are some portals to birds on different continents:

Links from

North America
Middle and South America
Europe, Africa
List Archives Index
Rare Bird Alerts

Protein Science: Research is fun!

Proteins are present in all living things, [...] plants, bacteria, and viruses[, fungi, and animals].

Here is the portal to a game about protein folding.
What is protein folding?
Why is this game important?
News Articles about Foldit
Proteins are a part of science standards on many states. Can you guess why? Write down your guess, then, do some reading or play the game and see if you can back-up your prediction.

You can link to other information on specific proteins from the game website. For example,, is a link to proteins related to Alzheimer's.

What do you know about proteins already? How do you know that? Have you done any laboratory activities or experiments on or with proteins?

for competitions on proteins.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More on Birds, Birds and Science Literacy; Birds and Winter Classroom Projects, Birds across the Curriculum

A number of people visiting this blog like birds and have asked for more on birds. I came across this link to Bent's Birds and thought you would like it:

Remember that birds live in habitats and rely on plants for food directly or indirectly. How can you use a link like this one to:

* Increase reading in the sciences?
* Bridge to journal articles?
* Link to botany from ornithology?
* Engage students in science?
* Have the birds outside spark interest in science?

During the Winter months, as snow whitewashes the fields and trees, birds provide reds and blues, yellows and browns, blacks and greys, a myriad of colors against the white snow.

Increase Reading in the Sciences
Look for other sites with reading levels or languages more appropriate to your students' levels and languages, or, with bird pictures and sounds. For example, the Cornell website for more ideas on what birds look like, their habitats, and on data for research that you can help gather. Cornell (Lab of Ornithology)

The Chipper Woods Bird Observatory is another link which offers information and bird education in both English and Spanish. You can find information at this site on various current topics on birds, There are videos and photos. Try this section: as an example. Also visit the educational resources such as the, "Kid's Page," You can also learn about their banded birds and publications:

Find banded birds Information and Publications at: and

The Smithsonian has many areas of interest but some related to the current blog post include: for science education resources, for botany collections, research and information, for pictures of plants, and... specifically for grass family (Poaceae) pictures, and, of course, a link on, "birds:"

Bridge to Journal Articles

In Bent's Birds, mention of various ornithologist can be found. How can these be used to link to today's technical literature? Has anyone cited these researchers? Let students use old sources and teach them how to bridge up to current sources and to refereed journal articles.
(This is my Reach Reading TM Technique.)

Here is a quote from Bent's Birds, "Out of 602 nests studied by Stoddard (1931) and his associates, 97 were in woodland, 336 in broom-sedge fields, 88 in fallow fields, and "about 4 percent in cultivated fields, but occasionally under trash cast aside by plows or cultivators." In the few cases where nest construction was under observation the work was done entirely by the male under the supervision of his mate." See how Stoddard is referenced? Let's see if we can find anything else by Stoddard. Search electronically. Initially we find:

This reference cites:
Leon Neel, with Paul S. Sutter and Albert G. Way, The Art of Managing Longleaf: A Personal History of the Stoddard-Neel Approach (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010).
Which has many recent applications of Stoddards work on Bobwhite quail as relates to fire in forests. See this paragraph as an example:

Nest Success and Post-Burn Vegetation

Although bobwhite nests are consumed during prescribed fire, several studies have evaluated nesting success in post-fire vegetative conditions.Carter et al. (2002) reports on nesting success in the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas in areas that were either burned (148 to 702 acres) or unburned (areas surrounding burned treatments). Areas were burned in January and February of two years, and nest success was monitored in the following breeding season. Carter et al. (2002) reported no significant differences in nest success between burned and unburned areas. Hernández et al. (2003) came to similar conclusions for bobwhites in the Rolling Plains and Cross Timbers regions of western Texas. Folk and Grand (in preparation) investigated variation in nest survival with respect to whether areas were burned during the growing or dormant season and time since last burn. This study was conducted in longleaf pine forests in southern Alabama and failed to demonstrate a relationship between nest survival and temporal aspects of prescribed fire. Dimmick (1972) also failed to find a difference in nest success between burned and unburned areas in old-field habitats of Tennessee. While some of the studies mentioned had small sample sizes, all are consistent in failing to demonstrate a reduction in nest success due to an attribute of prescribed fire.

(Source: Accessed 02-10-11)

So, we are getting into a little bit more recent literature citing Stoddard. Let's try some more.
Here's one that you can find on JStor:

The article starts, "Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) populations have declined throughout most of their distribution, and these declines have become more dramatic in recent years. In this review, we examine the role of predation in quail management."

Source: Impacts of Predation on Northern Bobwhite and Scaled Quail byDale Rollins and John P. Carroll, written in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 39-51 and published by the Allen Press Stable URL: Society Bulletin © 2001 Allen Press.

---Under development---

More links on birds of interest can be found at the following link:

Bridge to Journal Articles

Link to Botany from Ornithology
Here is a quote, "Henslow's Sparrows provide an economic benefit by consuming large numbers of crickets, beetles, caterpillars, ants and other insect pests. They also consume seeds of weeds, grasses, and sedges," on Henslow's sparrows (Source:, Accessed February 10, 2011). Note that the quote mentions weeds, grasses and sedges, among other organisms. This is a way to link botany to the interest a student is developing in birds. A Google Chrome search can provide a pageful of links joining Henslow's+sparrows+sedge+and +weeds+and+grassess+food. This one, wild/ gnb.pdf, discusses the Prairie habitat and birds and identifies plants in that habitat:

little bluestem,
eastern gama, and
Indiangrass,and native cool season grassses such as
green needlegrass,
wheatgrass, and
side-oats gram.

Engage Students in Science
Students get engaged in science when something piques their interest. For example, when you have just called everything that got mowed down, "grass," it can be quite stimulating to study grasses further. It is enlightening for some students to learn that there is more than one type of grass. Here is a list of many kinds of grasses with the Latin and common names given:

  • Students could create posters of grasses that a particular bird needs for habitat and food.

  • Students could design a prairie restoration.

  • Students could evaluate fields to see what grasses are there.

  • Students could write a song about all the prairie grasses, or, "Gone prairie grasses."

Have the Birds Outside spark an Interest in Science

(c) 2011 J S Shipman
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