Thursday, October 25, 2012

Art and Science: What you can do with Crayons

Some students learn best by drawing.  It is amazing what can be done with crayons.  Try letting students draw what they see.  Many students will do better than I have done.  Here are my examples.


Thank you Rachel Carson

Bluebird in Apple Tree

Mallard Pair

All drawings (c) 1992-2012 J S Shipman

Writing Ideas- Women in Chemistry: Kudos to Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

 Eight exclusive web videos 
celebrating the contributions of 
extraordinary chemists:
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
supports the Chemical Heritage Foundation's
Women in Chemistry series.

Source:  Accessed 25 Oct 2012

Here's the link:

Thank you to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for supporting this educational chemistry series.

Have students write what they think chemists do, what kinds of careers they have, and have them name a chemist or two, or, tell who (what kind of person) is likely to become a chemist.  Then, watch the videos. Not all at once, but, over time.  After the videos, ask the students to write about the same points that they did before seeing the videos.  Bring out the first essays.  Have the students compare and contrast their before and after essays.  Feel free to post the essays here or to have the students write to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation or the Chemical Heritage Foundation or both.

(c) 2012 J S Shipman

Monday, October 22, 2012

Colors: Art, Science, Geometry, Technology

Under development...More coming soon...  Your patience is appreciated....  Have a great day!  Dr. J

Color can be used to engage students in science.  Here are some videos and ideas to get you started. or accessed on 22 October 2012 bring you to a video on mixing color with light.  Here it is:

A the idea of a color wheel was also presented in the above video.  Let's look at another view of that concept:
 Source:, Accessed 22 October 2012.

See how geometry comes into play here?

Another video links the traditional color wheel to a scientist.  Do you know which scientist?  Watch and find out.


Do you see ideas here that you can use to develop a lesson or group of lessons or provide tools for students to do their own exploration of science and color?  You can bridge from these ideas to animation or electronics or painting or chemistry or interior decorating and you can engage students in science.

(c) 2012 J S Shipman

Friday, October 19, 2012

Great news from Italy: Major steps toward growing replacement kidneys. How exciting!!!

Here are some quotes and their translations on an exciting discovery.  There's also a related video.  Read them, watch the video, and think about these things:

1.  Do you think that the body will reject kidneys grown from techniques like these?  Why or why not?  Can you support your answer?  Give some references for the items you choose for support.

2.  Is there a similarity among the work of scientists globally?

3.  Dr. J thinks this news is exciting.  Do you?  Why or why not?

4.  Was it interesting to hear a woman scientist speaking in her own language?  Could you pick up some words?  
5.  Do you know someone with a kidney disease?

6.  What are some ways you can protect your kidneys?

Please feel free to add comments below.

The technique in fact opens the way for technologies that make it possible to produce human nephrons from patient's own cells and to mimic human renal diseases by means of genetic manipulation in order to study the complex mechanisms and a preliminary assessment of the activity of the drugs, thereby reducing the experimentation animals. "The generation of nephrons from single cells - adds Ariela Benigni, head of the Department of Molecular Medicine Center Astori - had never been described

Original text

La tecnica infatti apre la strada a tecnologie che consentiranno di produrre nefroni umani da cellule del paziente stesso e di mimare mediante manipolazione genetica malattie renali umane per studiarne i complessi meccanismi e valutare in via preliminare l'attività dei farmaci, riducendo in questo modo la sperimentazione sugli animali.  “La generazione di nefroni a partire da singole cellule – aggiunge Ariela Benigni, capo del dipartimento di Medicina Molecolare del Centro Astori – non era mai stata descritta

Source:  Accessed 19 Oct 2012  (Translation—Google Translate)

The importance of the discovery is confirmed by the fact that the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, a magazine that publishes the work of Xinaris in its issue of October 18, 2012 

Original text

L'importanza della scoperta è testimoniata dal fatto che il Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, rivista che pubblica il lavoro di Xinaris nel suo numero del 18 ottobre 2012*, ha voluto dedicarle l'editoriale.
Source:  Accessed 19 Oct 2012  (Translation—Google Translate)

Can you find the original journal article? .  Reading journal articles can be a slow process and the more you read them in a certain area, the faster the process is.  I encourage you to follow new developments, like this one, as they happen, in the technical journals.  You might not know all the words, but as Joan Beinetti says (personal communication, 1989), "No one knows all the words."  You develop a bigger vocabulary by reading more and using the new words you find.  Enjoy!

(c) 2012 J S Shipman

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Paul Kim on You-tube...Your Invitation to Envision , Imagine, Design a New Learning Environment



Portals to Free College Courses is a link to Free college courses at top universities.  In a poor economy, many people have time but no money.  Here is a perfect solution...Invest in your brain.  Investing in yourself builds you up and can lead to stronger economies, more friends, and, intellectual stimulation.  Enjoy!

Here are some examples:

Here's a video from Yale about some of their courses:

Please enjoy learning.  Share your experiences in the comments here at this post.  Thanks.

Dr. J

(c) 2012 J S Shipman

Don't miss this Algebra link sent in by a reader:

(To Dr. J, and, to readers)
Hi there!
Don't worry, this isn't really homework. I was checking out and I saw your page titled "Lab Exercise Link from Morrison Labs - Read about it." Here's the link in case you don't remember it: lot of teachers and students aren't aware of the free teaching resource videos and homework help tutorials that are available online. There is an awesome site called that covers all the subjects--and it's supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Check out some of our videos on algebra:
Here's the link. I was hoping that if you liked it, you wouldn't mind sharing it with your readers by mentioning it on your site. If math isn't your subject, also offers free help for science, history, government and more so maybe you would just like to recommend
Beth Pickett

Thanks so much, Beth.  I am sure our readers will enjoy improving their algebra skills here.  Math is critical to science literacy.

I found some things of interest.  Here is a sample of an open text book from the site (Note that I capitalized the S-es in the word Spanish, other than that, the links are quoted here and are just a sample of what is available.  Go to the original link for more details.  Report back here how ( Click  works for you.:

Unit 1 - Algebra—A New Angle

Lesson 1 - Algebra—What’s it all about?

Topic 1 - Algebra—Everyday and Extraordinary
Topic 1 - Algebra—Everyday and Extraordinary (Spanish)
Topic 2 - Algebra—Why and When
Topic 2 - Algebra—Why and When (Spanish)
Topic 3 - Algebra—Approaching Problems
Topic 3 - Algebra—Approaching Problems (Spanish)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Active Engagement in Science and Mathematics through Music- Pattern Recognition leading to Higher Mathematics needed for Deeper Study in the Sciences

Here is a peaceful video to watch on the interconnections of mathematics and music.  Watch it and see what ideas come to your mind for connections of math and music to science.  Think about what questions come to your mind, if any, when you watch the video?  Jot them down.  

Since in this blog, the focus is on science literacy and science education, how can the video enhance them?  For example, did you hear new vocabulary?  A video can bring new vocabulary to life because we hear the words pronounced and also see the usage of the word, the context.  Mathematics is important to science literacy.  That is why the STEM- science, technology, engineering and math- education focus prominent today includes the, "M."Another valuable M, however, is music.  Music can engage students in science (That is why I once submitted a grant proposal to FIPSE called, Humanities at the Heart of Science.  Music is one of the humanities that engages students).  Vocabulary development is one way.  Another is the ability of music in the video to engage students in science and mathematical studies.

Many skill sets of musicians and scientists overlap.  Can you think of some?  List as many as you can.  Now circle on the list skills you think you have or could develop.  Write a reflection on what you discover by this exercise.

How can you use the video to further enhance science reading?  Do you know Harlan Brothers?  Have you seen his journal articles?  Do you know how to find them?  Remember that in journal articles, you might find new and difficult vocabulary.  Remember as Joan Beinetti says, "No one knows all the words," (personal communication, 1989).  After you have slowly read one or two articles on a topic, you will start to develop more vocabulary in the field of the article.  The more vocabulary you develop, the easier other articles on the same topic are to read.  By the time you have read 5 or 6 articles, you are likely to be looked at by others as an expert...or, at least, quite knowledgeable, in that area.

Let's go about finding some articles.  Just searching using his name, we find a number of links.  Let's look at one:

H. J. Brothers, "The Nature of Fractal Music," in Benoit Mandelbrot - A Life in Many Dimensions, edited by Michael Frame, World Scientific Publishing (Fall, 2012).
H. J. Brothers, "Pascal's triangle: The hidden stor-e ." The Mathematical Gazette, Vol. 96, No. 535, 2012; pages 145-148.  [Try this, too:]
H. J. Brothers, "Pascal's prism." The Mathematical Gazette, Accepted for publication, July 2012.  (See here also.[and here:]

Pick one of the articles or books above as a starting point, or, try to find an article on your own to start with.  

You might be interested in the following biographical information quoted from Wikipedia:

In 1997, while examining the sequence of counting numbers raised to their own power ( {an}=nn ), Brothers discovered some simple algebraic formulas [1] that yielded the number 2.71828..., the universal constant e, also known as the base of the natural logarithm. Like its more famous cousin πe is a transcendental number that appears in a wide range of formulas in mathematics and physics.

Having no formal college-level mathematics education, he sent brief descriptions of his findings to the host of the National Public Radio show “Science Friday” and also to a well-known mathematician at Scientific American.

His communication with “Science Friday” led to a fruitful collaboration with meteorologist John Knox. Together they discovered over two dozen new formulas and published two papers on their methods. These methods subsequently found their way into the standard college calculus curriculum by way of a popular textbooks on the subject.[2] [3]
Brothers went back to school to study calculus and differential equations. He went on to publish methods for deriving infinite series that include the fastest known formulas for approximating e.[4]  (Source:  Accessed 11 October 2012.    See also:
So, there is a fine example of a student communicating on an interest leading to a fascinating career in an subject that blends his love of math and music.  Before digressing too much, let's return to fractals and music, remembering that reading slowly and carefully, you will develop the needed vocabulary to understand even very difficult topics. And, you can contact people, as did, Harlan Brothers, and meet the people you need to grow your knowledge.

Let's look at the abstract of another article on fractals and music (, accessed 11 Oct 2012):

ABSTRACT The objective of this paper is to identify  some distinctive features of fractal music – offering a possible answer to the question: “What does fractal music mean?”.  Following an introduction to the general concept of fractals, it discusses their fundamental characteristics, that is the scale invariance and self-similarity derived from a power law. The understanding of the fractal nature of music requires a clear grasp of the fundamental physical characteristics of sound, such as pitch, duration and timbre. The perception of music, however, is  a psychological experience, so the paper briefly explores some amazing but widely known examples of aural illusions, deriving from our logarithmic sensitivity. Following a brief  outline of the main areas of current research in this sector, the paper proposes a formal definition of fractal music, based on its physical, mathematical and psychological characteristics.  Finally  a musical composition is analyzed, showing that it is indeed real fractal music according to the proposed definition. The paper concludes by suggesting possible areas for further exploration."
It looks like this article might be readable, but, even here, students will have to develop some vocabulary as the authors definition may be difficult for many people (children and adults, alike).  Also, the author is new to this research area and the understanding is limited as a result.  Check out the definition of fractals in the article here:
 and compare it to what you find here:

or here:

Have students note that not every article presents the rigorous academic nature needed for serious study fractal music.  Have the students check for these concepts and other possible errors:

Let students have fun finding articles and slowly reading them, using the dictionary at hand or an on-line dictionary as needed.  For example, fractals are defined here:

A deeper study of fractals and related material can be found here,  "a collection ... meant to support a first course in fractal geometry for students without ... strong mathematical preparation, or any particular interest in science:"

Have students do their own searches for definitions and journal. (Be sure your virus protection is on.) Have them check the academic rigor of any definitions they find.  Similarly, are the journal articles they look at refereed (peer-reviewed by those knowledgeable and recognized in the field of study)?  Have the students each find an article abstract by a leading researcher in this field.

After the students read the article abstract(s), they might wish to get the article(s) by inter-library loan from the local library and then read the full article and even e-mail the author with a question.  They might even pick up a musical instrument and try to make some musical fractals.  Enjoy!

Note that Michael Frame and Harlan J Brothers have worked hard to establish a rigorous framework for the study and discussion of fractal music. Comments or questions can be posted below in the comment section and also submitted to:

"Dr." J.  and to Harlan Brothers

(c)2012 J S Shipman

Monday, October 1, 2012

Valley Central School District Posts Educational Videos to assist Parents and Students

Here is the link to educational videos posted by Valley Central School District... 
(Valley Central is a great school district, especially when parents and other care-givers participate in conferences and volunteer, mentors from the community help guide students, teachers teach with a lot of methods so they can reach all students, and, students read a lot and study!  (Are you doing your part to make your school great?)):

Friday, September 14, 2012

Students Writing for Science...

Students Writing for Science...
need to cite sources and follow style manuals.  Sometimes, they complain about this.  These are basic writing skills, however and need to be applied in science as in other fields.

Look at the previous post and you can see a link to instructions for authors  of the new journal.  Every journal has a section guiding authors to the style needed to be followed for that journal.  Students can gather from this professional use of style that the exercise in the classroom does have merit in the real world... and even in the virtual one (since that journal is on-line only.)

Another indication of relevance to citation is any scandal on plagiarism. Schools, colleges, and universities have rules against plagiarism.  It is against the law in many countries if not all.  The recent scandal at Harvard shows none are exempt from having people break the rules: harvard-cheating-ring-uni_n_1844104.html, however, students are often not aware of what plagiarism is.

Pointing out what needs to be cited, and, identifying both quotations and paraphrases, is helpful.  Students may cite quotes but forget to cite paraphrases.  They need to be reminded to cite both quotes and paraphrases/.  Book publishers have been known to copy, even from this blog, without citing.  Imagine! (I am giving them a chance here to "fess up," and make right.)   But, we all need to be vigilant and give credit to authors for their ideas.  Style manuals and instructions for authors give us the correct ways to cite for a particular publication. Even young students can learn to cite correctly:  I have seen kindergarteners do it well (age 5).

Often students who did cite didn't know of style manuals.  They did it according to their grade school or high school teacher's assignment sheets (which may have used APA, MLA,  or other style manual as a base (Were these cited?)

Where can you get style manuals?  Ask the reference librarian at your local library.  For your information,. there are some style manuals at the bottom of the blog post.  Feel free to add others in the comments.  Thanks.

Note:  Special Thanks to the Librarians at Thrall Library (and likely librarians at many other libraries)  for making every effort to educate students on the library skills they need to stay current throughout their lives..

Applications in Plant Sciences (APPS): A New Journal on Novel Protocols and Technological Advancements

In the Botanical Society of America's June 2012 newsletter that, "the American Journal of Botany's online-only, open access section, AJB Primer Notes & Protocols in the Plant Sciences, will be launching as an independent journal in January 2013."  Source:, Accessed 14 Sept 2012.

The APPS Editorial Board consists of  Theresa Culley (Editor-in-Chief)Richard Cronn, Mitch Cruzan, Kent Holsinger, Jeff Maughan, Mike Moore, Pam Soltis, and Lisa Wallace.  Source:, Accessed 14 Sept 2012.

Submission guidelines, article types, and other pointers may be found in the Primer Notes Instructions for AuthorsSource:, Accessed 14 Sept 2012.

Manufacturers in the United States who pay attention here may have some new products to develop.

(c) 2012 J S Shipman

Canadian Sustainability Group Provides a Role Model

Here's a link to a Canadian sustainability group:

The Biorenewables Cafe meets informally and provides a networking forum for people interested in sustainability.   The September meeting featured a speaker, Dr. Richard Chandra, from the UBC Faculty of Forestry.  Dr. Chandra is a research associate in the Forest Products Biotechnology/ Bioenergy Research Group. His talk, "Bio-fuels and Bio-products from Biomass:  Breaking apart something that's meant to stay together," will springboard the networking session.  Here is a quote of the abstract from his presentation:

Bio-fuels and Bio-products from Biomass: Breaking apart something that’s meant to stay together! 
The major hurdle to overcome when trying to unlock the energy in leftover agricultural biomass and woody waste to supply our needs for renewable fuels and products is the inherent recalcitrance of the biomass itself. Nature has interwoven the chemical components of biomass into a structure that resists breakdown by biochemical means, thus necessitating various processes called pretreatments. Pretreatments aim to cleanly separate these chemical components in a usable form and, in many cases are analogous to processes used in the pulp and paper industry. This presentation will examine the biology, chemistry and physics responsible for the resistance of biomass to breakdown, while detailing the various pretreatment processes that are currently being examined at UBC which aim to maximize the value obtainable from biomass.
This Canadian sustainability group serves as a model because many of us could form such groups in our own communities where we can learn from one another, listen to experts, read, discuss, and improve science literacy on sustainability.  In fact, global sustainability will increase as more and more of us educate ourselves and each other about how we can sustain the Earth. 

In school communities, each student could spend time becoming a mini-expert by reading up on a particular aspect of sustainability, or, even by "slogging" through a journal article and slowly learning its vocabulary, and content.  Then, students could come together after 2 weeks or three of their independent or small group work and could then learn in a cooperative manner, but also have fun, by having their own Sustainability Cafe...healthy snacks included (by assisting parents and school volunteers).  Please feel free to report back here on your experiences either by adding a comment or by submitting a post. (Please put BLOG POST in the re: line.  Thanks.)

Forest Products Biotechnology/Bioenergy Research Group:
Biorenewables Cafe on Linked-in:

(c)2012 J S Shipman.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In the news...sugar molecule

"Molecule Spotted Near Sun-Like Star

"For the first time, astronomers have discovered sugar—one of the building blocks of life—in a gas cloud near a star. The simple molecule, calledglycolaldehyde, is essential to the formation ofribonucleic acid(RNA), which is present in all living cells. The 10,000-year-old star, known as IRAS 16293-2422, is similar to the Sun and is approximately 400 light-years from Earth. Scientists believe the glycolaldehyde may have been formed as a result of the star's radiation hitting even simpler molecules.More ... Discuss"  Source:  Left hand column for today.  Source:  In the News provided byThe Free Dictionary, accessed 30 Aug 2012

So, what can you say about today's news?  
Can you find journal articles about this topic?  Try to find some.  Here's one:

Deuterated glycoaldehyde: laboratory measurements, analysis and proposed astrophysical research

Find Similar Articles   

Source:, accessed 14 Sept 2012.

Value Systems and Science: Khan Academy and Your Essay

Evolution, natural selection...Do these ideas fit your values?  Have you researched them or blindly repeated what you've heard said?  Data are truth.  Many religions seek truth.  Have you thought about truth?  Science and religion share that they are about truth-seeking.  Some students get excited about science when they study it from the point of their own value systems.

First have students jot down ideas for an essay on evolution from any perspective that they would like.  They can make a map of their ideas, or, use an outline, chart, picture, or list.  Let them use any way they would like to form a presentation of their ideas.

Next, have them put an opinion or feeling they would like to share.  They can circle this or put a box around it...Use some way to keep their sentiment or point in focus.

Set these items aside.

Now, here is a video to watch:

Have the students watch the video.  They may take notes.  They don't have to take notes.  They may use any format for the note-taking they desire if they do take notes.

Have them jot down the major points of the film and then box their feeling or opinion about the film they would like to share.

Have students then take some time even a week or two to write a comparison and contrast essay between their initial ideas and the ideas presented in the video.  Have them add information from 5 other sources of their choosing, religious books, newspaper articles, texts or story books, or, even and hopefully at least one journal article...  Be sure to have them cite the sources.  (They can use a style manual for that.  The librarian can help you find one or you can find some on line.  I suggest using a science one or one for publishing articles in a magazine.)

The purpose of this essay will be for the students to examine science from their own value systems as they are.  The work should not be steered by any adult or voice.  Let the student think deeply.  Let them know that this is where they are now in their thinking and their is no "wrong-ness" in thinking their own thoughts.  Explain that throughout life we use our value systems whether cultural, religious or other, to influence how we think and what we think about topics.  If they were writing this essay in 5 years, their views might be different because of their life experiences, their learning, and their deepening of personal views.  Let them know that periodically re-examining where they stand on issues is a good thing.  Stagnation is not a good thing, on the other hand.
Let the students have fun exploring their values and how they relate to science and how they relate to growth in life.
(c) 2012 J S Shipman

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Using On-line Instruction in Science Classes

If you are using on-line instruction in science classes, you might find the following links useful:
Instructional design of interactive multimedia: A cultural … - Henderson Teaching via ITV: Taking Instructional Design to the ...

Teaching via ITV: Taking instructional design to the next level - Tags ...

Instructional Design at Instructional Communications Systems

Instructional design - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Source:;  Accessed August 21, 2012. and Google:teaching via interactive instructional design

And for additional guidance, you might contact:

The following Journal might be of use, too:

Research areas of interest community wide have been identified as:
  • "Three areas he recommended that should be studied included the following:
• Students’ competence in and attitudes toward                                         technological studies and attitudes about themselves.
• Determining how political decisions are made.
• Outcomes of technology teacher education."
  •  "There is evidence that the challenge has been taken seriously by members of this teaching community. In 2004, faculty from nine universities established the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE), with funding from the National Science Foundation. In July 2006, researchers working with NCETE proposed a research agenda for this teaching field. Major areas that NCETE proposed for continued research included:
• Questions Involving Learning
• Questions Involving Teaching
• Questions Involving Assessment (D. Householder, personal communication, December 8, 2011 as cited by Martin and Ritz)"
  • The authors selected the Delphi method to develop a rank-ordered list of topics that would be of substance and which researchers might wish to further explore individually ... In the end, six issues were identified and rank-ordered for Research Question 1 and one issue for Research Question 2. Obviously, it is unknown whether a different set of panelists would have generated a different list of issues. The final rank-ordered list, however, does provide a foundation of information to build upon for future researchers and ...[advisers]... of aspiring graduate research students who have as one of their goals to establish a better knowledge base for the technology education school subject.

 Source:  Research Needs for Technology Education: A U.S. Perspective. Gene Martin and John Ritz PDF [281 KB] HTML [59 KB]; Accessed August 21, 2012.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A link from Fairchild Gardens on Plant Extracts...Let Students design Experiments getting Ideas from this Ethnobotany Teaching Module

Here is a link from Fairchild Gardens on Plant Extracts...Let Students design Experiments getting Ideas from Fairchild Gardens' Ethnobotany Teaching Module.
A quote from the module suggests that plants might have antibacterial properties:

"Pl[ant]- Antibiotics:                        
Does your Plant [h]ave                    
Anti-[b]acterial Properties?          

"In this experiment we will find out if your plant extract has the ability to kill the bacteria that turns milk into yogurt (like Lactobacillus acidophilus and/or L. bifidus).  These helpful bacteria enhance digestion and are good for you.  If your plant is able to kill or inhibit the growth of these bacteria, there is a possibility that it may also be effective in controlling harmful pathogenic bacteria.  If so, your plant might be a candidate for further research as a potential antibiotic drug for the future. "
Rather than just going ahead with the module,which is adapted from Paye, Gabriell DeBear, 2000. Cultural Uses of Plants: a guide to learning about ethnobotany. New York Botanical Garden Press, New York, first let students brainstorm.  Let them exercise their brains.

·  Students might reflect on what bacteria cause milk to turn to yogurt
   or other cheeses.

·  What bacteria are in their yogurts?  Does yours have Lactobacillus rhamnosis?

·  Would different bacteria react differently?

·  And so on...  

·  Put down all ideas, even if they seem impossible or tangential.

You might then continue with the module, or, let them design experiments.  Review important parts of experimental design.  Remind them of controls, replication, repeatability.  Ask, "What are the parts of an experimental design?"  Ask, "What type of data will you collect?"

Let students create blank data tables for collecting data.  Let them write out their designs, share them.  Let each student select what he or she feels is the best experimental design.  Remind them of the difference between a laboratory activity and a laboratory experiment.

Decide then if they are going to continue with the module.  You may decide to do that, or, you may prefer to do one or more of the student designs, or, you may wish to do the module and the student-designed experiments, of course paying attention to safety and budget, just like in real-world science.  Remind students of government funding for science.  Ask what kinds of research government should fund. 

· Additional reading:
 The United States, under John Kennedy and Japan, under Emperor Hirohito
"[H]is interest in science and in modernizing his country,", Accessed July 7, 2012.)

(c)2012 J S Shipman

Retrieved from Cache

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What flower is this? The difference between Field Guides, Keys, Cladistics and Asking Experts

Post under development.

Post under development.

Have you seen a flower like this red sub-tropical one? Do you know what it is? How could you find out?

Maybe you have a friend or relative that can tell you what it is. Maybe you can look in a field guide. Maybe you can use a taxonomic key. Maybe you can use genetic testing or biotechnology.

Scientists today use biotechnological methods to show "pictures of relationships" among organisms. This way of studying organisms genetically and grouping them is a field called cladistics. That may be a new word for many people, because the word itself is relatively new. So using a dictionary to find the meaning can help improve our understanding. It is important to teach students that they do not have to know all the words. Do you know all words? Do doctors and professors?

No one actually knows all words, so, it is important students recognize that and that they realize it is good to learn words that are new to them by using processes like context clues (In this case, we can guess from the context that, "cladistics," has something to do with relationships of organisms) or by looking up words in dictionaries and encyclopedias (and that there are specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias for different fields). It is Joan Beinetti's quote that I like to emphasize to students so they can feel good about themselves, even though they do not know all the words, "No one knows all the words." (Personal communication, 1989).

Being comfortable not knowing is very important to good science. It allows scientists to enjoy finding new information out through experimentation. It is also important to read about what other scientists have done and learn about new words through their work and through tools like dictionaries, whether on-line, electronic, or book formats. So, what is, "cladistics?" Let's have a look.

In Wikipedia (where many students start to look, we find "Cladistics (Ancient Greek: κλάδος, klados, "branch") is a method of classifying species of organisms into groups called clades, which consist of an ancestor organism and all its descendants (and nothing else). ... In the terms of biological systematics, a clade is a single "branch" on the "tree of life", a monophyletic group," (Source:, Accessed March 31, 2011). Did that help? It may have helped some but not others. There are more words that may be unfamiliar. There is no need to be nervous, however.

Let's read more. I found the following historical point interesting because the words the originator chose appear to me much easier to understand (and usually we use the originators words), "Cladistics originated in the work of the German entomologist Willi Hennig, who referred to it as 'phylogenetic systematics' (also the name of his 1966 book); the use of the terms "cladistics" and "clade" was popularized by other researchers. The technique and sometimes the name have been successfully applied in other disciplines: for example, to determine the relationships between the surviving manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales [3, as cited in Wikipedia]," (Source:, Accessed March 31, 2011). Let's get back to the flower and other methods for identifying it.

We've been discussing cladistics, now, we'll look at more traditional Linnaean nomenclature. Wait, look at those two words:
  • nomenclature
  • cladistics
Do you see what I see? I emphasized parts of each word in red. When learning new vocabulary, it is helpful to look at word parts. Earlier we looked at the Greek background of the word, "cladistics." Remember? κλάδος, klados, "branch." Hmmm! Students can think about the word parts as they learn new words. (Scientific literacy involves learning new vocabulary and the related techniques.)

"Most taxonomists have used the traditional approaches of Linnaean taxonomy and later Evolutionary taxonomy to organize life forms. These approaches use several fixed levels of a hierarchy, such as kingdom, phylum, class, order, and family. Phylogenetic nomenclature does not feature those terms, because the evolutionary tree is so deep and so complex that it is inadvisable to set a fixed number of levels," (Source:; Accessed March 31,2011).

Linnaeus was famous for, among other things, binomial nomenclature... a two-name naming system. You know it...genus and specific epithet...genus and species names. These days, people recognize them with organisms familiar to most:

  • Escherichia coli or E. coli
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosis
  • Clostridium difficile
These names are in Latin and follow the grammatical rule for words in foreign languages, that is they are underlined or italicized. There are two words to each name: The genus and the species names.

Taxonomic keys can be used to identify organisms to genus and species based on visible characteristics or other features of the organisms.

The technical literature discusses the difference between cladistics and Linneaen taxonomy. Here are a few examples. (Literacy notes: Remember that some students in any class will have lower, or higher reading levels than others. Some students like a challenge. College students should be capable of reading the journal articles, but, depending on the quality of the library education at their high schools, they may not yet have been exposed to journal articles. Thus, especially in undergraduate classes, it is a good idea to bridge the students up to "college level reading" of the refereed journal articles.)

  • [PDF] Cladistic analysis or cladistic classification [PDF] from E Mayr - Z. zool. Syst. Evol.-forsch, 1974 - In contrast to the flood of defenses of cladistics published in recent years (by Bigelow, Brundin ...proposes “that the phylogenetic system should be expressed by revision of the traditionalLinnaean system rather than by proposal of a separate classification.”
" >Under development
(c)2011 J.S. Shipman

Flowers from "Botanical Gardens, Arboretum and Special gardens." Portal to Tay Ninh's World; Also, Pictures contribute to Science Literacy

I will add to this post a few of Tay Ninh's images from Saint Louis and remind botanists and teachers to join the Botanical Meetings there in July. You can take some of your own pictures! ( for details; Click on, "Meetings.")

Link to
Tay Ninh's Flower Pictures:

Tay Ninh's flower pictures were used with the following permission: "All pictures are free for personal use only. If you use my pictures for your web page, please make a link to this page: ."

A1_climatron A2_children_garden A3_chinese_garden-1 A4_chinese_garden-2 A5_camellia_garden A6_flowering_cherry-1
Climatron Children Garden Chinese Garden Chinese Garden Camellia Garden Flowering cherry
A7_flowering_cherry-2 A8_japan_garden-1 A9_japan_garden-2 B1_japan_garden-3 B2_japan_garden-4 B3_japan_garden-5
Flowering cherry Japanese garden Japanese garden Japanese garden Japanese garden Japanese garden
B4_bulb_garden-1 B5_tulips B6_tulips-1 B7_tulips-2 B8_tulips-3 B9_star_magnolia_garden
Bulb garden Tulips Tulips Tulips Tulips Star Magnolia
C1_magnolia_garden C2_redbud C3_japan_garden-9 C4_japan_maple C5_bulb_garden-2 C6_crapapple
Sauce magnolia Mausoleum Japanese garden Japanese maple Bulb garden Crabapple
C7_crabapple-1 C8_spring-1 C9_azalea-3 D1_azalea-2 D2_azalea-1 D4_panse_garden
Crabapple Crabapple Azalea Azalea Azalea Pansy garden

and; Accessed 3-31-2010

Link to
Tay Ninh's Flower Pictures:

Remember that pictures can enhance science literacy. In addition, pictures are enjoyable. Spring has come, but, in the North, we are still having snow. The spring flowers are starting to come out. Anticipating the meetings of the Botanical Society of America is enhanced by taking a preview of the Missouri Botanical Garden. In reading, anticipation is also important, contributing both to total comprehension and enjoyment.
Happy Birthday, Mom
(c)2011 J S Shipman

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

STEM Quotes and Commentary

Post under development. Check back later.

"Anyone who’s done work in STEM education has a special spot on their bookshelf for copies of the Holy Grails of science ed standards: the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. But as valuable as these documents are, they are getting a little dogeared and in need of being spruced up."
Source:, Accessed 4-30-2011.
When teaching with research in the classroom, the year Science for All Americans was first published, students were saying, You're not teaching us. Why do we have to do this? Why don't you lecture more?" When I gave them assignments to read in Science for All Americans, the students did a complete turn-around. You are exactly like this book. They then loved the class. They started designing and doing experiments. The book helped them with a necessary attitude change. Unfortunately, at that time, not every college was ready for the research-supported teaching methods. Even today, teachers are being told, "Why don't you lecture more? Why are the students out of their seats? (Getting lab supplies), Why don't you just have them copy things from the book?" Can you believe it? The lesson here is that teachers who adapt research-supported new science education techniques should be supported so that their careers don't get off-track by administrators and parents who are not yet current with the successful new pedagogies. Good teachers were lost by their not getting support as they taught science well.

"Exploring the NAS Framework for New Science Education Standards
"On July 12th, the National Academies of Science released a draft of the Framework for New Science Education Standards. The framework consists of seven chapters and almost 200 pages. It clearly identifies three “dimensions” of science education that must be woven together into standards, instruction and assessment: 1) Disciplinary core ideas in life science, earth and space sciences, physical sciences, and engineering; 2) Cross Cutting Elements including cross-cutting scientific concepts and topics in science, engineering, technology, and society; and 3) scientific and engineering practices.
"Learning progressions are central to the framework. Learning progressions provide a coherent description of how core ideas in science and engineering build throughout K-12.
The framework embraces the mantra, less is more, and states, 'Reduction of the sheer sum of details to be mastered give time for students to engage in scientific investigations and argumentation and to achieve depth of understanding of the material that is included.'"
Source: Eric Brunsell,
Learning progressions are important. Let's first explain what they are so that everyone reading starts with the same concept in mind:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Telescope Types and Telescopes at the Winter Star Party

By Bob Nonnemann
A note on the different telescope types --
There are variations on all these designs, but for the most part, telescopes fall under 3 categories:

1. Refractors
-- these telescopes bend light to a focus using lenses:

2. Reflectors -- these telescopes bend light to a focus by bouncing the light off a curved mirror:

3. Catadioptric -- use a combination of lenses and mirrors:

At the WSP, many of the telescopes taking pictures were refractors or catadioptric systems --
The link below illustrates a number of telescopes and their attached CCD (charge coupled device) cameras:

The cameras on these telescopes are quite expensive -- since the light is extremely faint, the camera must have very low internal 'electrical noise' or else the images would look kind of like 'snow' analog TV pictures. The easiest way to avoid noise is to cool the sensor -- many of the cameras operate at -20 or -30 C when they are taking photos.

The 'other' camp is the visual observer -- many people who observe deep sky objects (nebula, start clusters and galaxies, as we were doing) use large reflecting telescopes -- the bigger the diameter, the more light that is gathered, which allows our eyes to see these objects well despite them being faint. All the telescopes from our group were reflecting telescopes. The ones most commonly used were a 20" diameter (the short one that Al liked to use where you could often sit down and use it), a 25" (the one with the medium ladder), and the 32" -- the biggest one. These telescope were mounted on simple wood, teflon, and metal setups known as Dobsonian telescopes -- a short writeup on this type of telescope can be found at: An ad for the 32" scope can be found at:

In general, the larger scopes are always reflectors -- the mirrors have their coating on their first surface, so light never travels through the glass, so the glass does not to be of particularly high quality for a mirror blank. Plus there is only one surface that must be figured to a high degree of precision. Refracting telescopes have other advantages (for photography in particular) and they don't require optical alignment before using. They are typically restricted in the amateur arena to be under 7" diameter or so. It typically takes 2 or 3 main lenses to form the image, meaning that 4 or 6 surfaces that must be accurately polished. Plus the glass must be very high quality, as the light traverse through the glass (unlike with the reflector). These factors mean the cost of the refracting telescope escalates extremely quickly, much more so than a reflecting telescopes.
(c)B. N. 2011 Used with permission.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Poetry and Science: Mangrove Reclamation, Geography and Science, ELA and Science

Poetry and science seem separate fields but, together, used in science education to broaden the science knowledge base and improve science literacy, they can help engage students in deeper pursuit of science.

  • Students can write poems about a science topic.
  • Students can interpret their own poems and poems others have written.
  • Student can use the poems to bridge to research articles.
  • Students can get interested in a particular organism based on its use in a poem.
In the poem below, "Calling on You", mangroves are mentioned in a few lines about Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Let's use the mangrove as an example of how an idea in a poem can lead to expanding a student's science knowledge base while concurrently improving science literacy.

A trip to MiaSci, the Miami Science Museum, there is a display on mangrove restoration. I have included two pictures that I took of the exhibit. Students in temperate regions might not have seen mangroves. Some students, though, might have moved to your school from Haiti or other areas where mangroves grow and might be very interested in reclamation projects. Some students may be interested in the role mangroves play in fishing. Students may know of mangroves but not know of their role in ecology, their role in saving lives. Thus with so many links to student interests, such a, "discovery," of mangroves may engage your students in new learning. Let's look at a poem first. Do you see links to science, geography and ELA?

Calling on You

by J. S. Shipman

Earth is calling loudly with great waves crashing into Florida.
Earth is sweating salty with Chesapeake crabs moving to New York.
Earth is crying sadly with western desertification.
Trees falling.
Earth is bulging cruelly through weak places;
Haitian mangroves down,
Haiti swept into the sea; Dominican's still standing.
Earth is toasting darkly with wars burned/burning
Here and there.
Liberia rebuilding war torn children.
That war's over, others are still on.
Earth, is calling, crying, bulging, toasting.
You hear all that noise, heat,
Flames and darkness, don't you?
So, change a light bulb, take a walk, don a sweater,
Use less oil, more sunshine and vote wisely.
Earth will smile with medicine, food, clean water,
Health and peace,
All thank you's for your gifts of thought and time.

(c) Shipman, J. S. 2004-2011 Used with permission of the author.
Source: Shipman, J. S. 2005. "Calling on You"
A Surrender to the Moon.
International Library of Poetry.
Watermark Press. Owings Mills, MD . P 3.

The poem, "Calling on You" motivates us to action, to do something. The following pictures and videos and journal articles show people working in different ways to solve a global environmental problem. I hope you enjoy them and select some to share with your students.

The slide above is one aspect or the Recovery Project display. It mentions the partners involved in the project. One of those is Miami Dade County Extension. I did a search on them and, "mangrove," and found the following:

The link sends you to a slide set which shows mangrove swamps and characteristics needed for identification of different mangroves and their propagules.

More mangrove publications from the Miami Dade County Extension can be found here:

Further searching led to the following link:

A Haitian Mangrove Reclamation project is discussed in a film at the following link:

The Dominican Republic is also working to preserve mangroves. Here is a You-tube video about that:

Here is a Japanese music video with pictures of mangroves. (I am not sure what the song says. I did learn that, "マングローブ," means, "mangroves." Any readers might help with further translation and post to the comments or e-mail me.)

Perhaps the Japanese video might be good to enhance a class where students work on Haiku. Then, you can lead the class into further studies on the environment, or, more about mangroves.

And, here, from Treasure Cay, Bahamas, another video:

Students wanting to know more often start with textbooks, random web pages, and online encyclopedias, For example:

Bridging students up from textbook, random web pages and encyclopedia levels to original source laboratory reports and review articles in the refereed (peer-reviewed) journals, improves student science literacy. (I use the Reach Reading TM technique I developed. Workshop available.) Even if students only get the gist of the article, they are exposed to a higher level of writing and their science literacy increases. Remind them that they do not need to get everything in the article. As Joan Beinetti says, "No one knows all the words." In fact, in journal article reading, outside ones own field may require even PhDs and MDs to learn lot of new words, so, students should not be upset if every other word looks unfamiliar or even impossible to them. If they know that at the outset, they don't get discouraged. If they manage to wade through 5 journal articles on the same topic, they will become quite knowledgeable on that topic. (I am aware of L+1 but realize that we will not be leaders in science if we don't have people that can read science at a high level. I have data from my own classes that reading journal articles with my Reach Reading TM technique does not discourage students. Their science literacy improves.)

So, lets look for journal articles on mangroves. Here are some to get you started. Check with your librarian or e-mail me if you need help finding more.
Sherman, R. E., Fahey, T. J. and Battles, J. J. (2000), Small-scale disturbance and regeneration dynamics in a neotropical mangrove forest. Journal of Ecology, 88: 165–178. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2745.2000.00439.x
Here is a quote from the summary of the article cited above:
Mangrove forests are affected by a variety of natural disturbances that differ in scale, intensity and frequency. Small canopy gaps, although common, have not been well studied. We examined the role of lightning-created canopy gaps in the dynamics of a 47-km2 intertidal mangrove community in the Dominican Republic, by quantifying the spatial patterns of overstorey tree distributions, spatial and temporal patterns of gap formation, and tree regeneration in gaps and beneath the closed forest. We hypothesized that regeneration in these gaps would maintain and reinforce species’ distribution patterns across the intertidal gradient in this mangrove ecosystem.
There are perhaps words you and your students won't know. Good! Success! This look at a part of a journal article means you/they have successfully lept (leaped) to a higher level of reading.
Sherman, R. E., Fahey, T. J. and Martinez, P. (2001), Hurricane Impacts on a Mangrove Forest in the Dominican Republic: Damage Patterns and Early Recovery. Biotropica, 33: 393–408. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2001.tb00194.x

Feller, I.C. , C.E. Lovelock, U. Berger, K.L. McKee, S.B. Joye and M.C. Ball. Biocomplexity in Mangrove Ecosystems. Annual Review of Marine Science, Vol. 2: 395 -417 (Volume publication date January 2010). First published online as a Review in Advance on October9, 2009. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163809

Rather than feeling lost or overwhelmed by journal articles, encourage new journal article readers to enjoy the challenge, much as one enjoys new levels in a new video game. The unknown is part of the fun. Students can often relate to the video game analogy, but, the thrill of any challenge can be related to the experience of bridging into journal articles. Even though an article may have a lot of words the new journal readers don't know, they can get the gist of this paragraph, or, at a minimum, learn that research articles exist, depending on grade level.

Elementary students have enjoyed seeing the pictures and graphs in journal articles, and, also, knowing that scientists write papers. Undergraduates and graduate students should already be familiar with the existence of journal articles, and already have read at least some. Graduate students should develop the ability to read and digest these articles at a steady, productive pace. College and university students that haven't been at least exposed to refereed journal articles when in elementary and high school, start college at a disadvantage. I hope therefore, that this post has encouraged you to look at journal articles, even if they are hard for you, even if you only get a word or two of their meaning.

Comprehension comes with increasing exposure and time. Having at least seen a copy of a journal article in elementary school, and attempted to read the few words a student can in elementary and middle and high school gets students ready for deeper reading in the sciences. Students in early primary grades need to feel successful just for looking at a journal article, almost as though it were a show-and-tell item.

Some graduate students are seeing them for the first time on entering graduate school. They end up feeling so pressured and overwhelmed when they start to search the literature. Earlier exposure prevents or lessens such anxiety. In the lower grades, you have to make it fun to prevent that same anxiety feeling. The success at the K-12 levels should be just in looking at a tough article and knowing that with work, someday, one could read it. A kindergartener can be amazed that scientists write about the experiments done, for example.

Of course a student with great interest in a science topic will work at reading the article at an early age, even if he or she takes hours on a paragraph of reading, as Einstein reportedly did with his schoolbooks at a young age. Taking your time to read difficult material, even days, has great intellectual company, and can be more recreational than one might think at first. Reading above level in this way can be enjoyable, so, have fun with it.

Don't let anyone feel stressed by looking at these articles. Take a week or two to do a paragraph if needed. Develop vocabulary first. Go slowly. No one should feel bad about this activity. It is a success just to know these articles exist and that they represent the kind of reading scientists do to find answers and suggest solutions. To know that such articles are original source laboratory reports is a major step in improving science literacy. At higher levels, students can , of course, do more. Yet, the reading should be stress free. Have fun. Now, back to mangroves...

How do you fit mangroves into your science class and still cover the curriculum? There are many standards that can absorb a mangrove study. The poetry is used to engage students. Now what? Let's look at a few science learning standards where mangroves might fit. These are selected as examples.

From a K-4 (ages roughly 5-9) In Standard 1, Key Ideas 2 and 3, students study scientific inquiry and write experimental design plans, share their results and use suggestions from others. Journal articles, such as those on mangroves, can be passed around to show that they will be doing the same kind of thing professional scientists do, of course they will do it on their own grade level, nut they will see they are learning the skills used by scientists and that the results of experiments are shared, just as they are doing.

In Standard 2, Key Ideas 1, , and 3 have to do with information systems. Having students learn to access information on line, in print and through conversations to share scientific information. Do you see how you could fit in something on mangroves here? This part of the standards also has to do with separating fact from fiction. You could use it to separate opinions from data and where they are located in laboratory reports on mangroves. For example, the data about mangrove restoration experiments is data...these are facts. Deciding what to do and suggesting public policy is opinion. Now, compare these to a pretend story that the children write about mangroves and fairies, for example, they will readily sort out, fact, opinion, and fiction.

Standard 6, Key Idea 2 is about using models. Students could build a model of a mangrove or mangrove swamp, just as they build a model of the classroom, or, the solar system, or a cell.

Standard 7 is about problem solving. A study of mangroves fits in here. Students can discuss mangroves after watching a video or reading about them and glossing over a journal article or two. Then, students can brainstorm ways to solve decreasing fish populations, or, reducing future storm damage. This problem solving could empower students after natural disasters, too.

At intermediate levels (5-8, approximately ages 10-13 ), Performance Indicator 7.1 encourages students to learn about populations, communities and ecosystems. A study of mangroves can fit in here, for example. They include people along with other organisms, so, how do mangroves affect people? Students will love to answer that.

National Science Standards, on which many state standards are based, encourage inquiry based learning. You can use the journal articles on mangroves to serve as a starting point for designing experiments. Do the journal article discussions suggest any future research? Or, watch a video on mangroves, or a news clip on a tropical storm or on fish populations. You might want to look at environmental issues in your own area, too, linking to them from the mangrove study. For example, the students might look at a video on invasive plants that have come into your area and are threatening native plant populations. You might even to be able to bring in a speaker on invasive species. Then teach about planning experiments. Let students design experiments. then, you bring one, or approve what they have designed. This would be appropriate for 4th-12th grades (approximately ages 9-18), modified by the teacher for his or her students' levels and experience.

College biology, chemistry, Earth science, ecology and other classes can also use mangroves in different studies. The professor and/or students just need to think about it and see how mangroves fit into the particular course. Again, poetry can be used as a point of entry to the topic. (Interested in the poem above, e-mail me telling me what you plan to do with it and I can send you the necessary permission.)

Mangroves are found in coastal areas of tropical and sub-tropical regions around the World. They are of international interest because of their botany, their effect on fish populations, , their ability to lessen damage of tropical storms, among other reasons. Because of the international interest, I have decided to add, "mangroves," in several languages (Thanks to If your language isn't here, please add the word, "mangroves" in your language to the comments below. Thanks.

Chinese: 红树林 (simplified), 紅樹林 (traditional)

German: Mangrovenbäume

Italian: Mangrovie

Japanese: マングローブ

Russian: Мангровые деревья

Spanish: Manglares (European, Latin American, Mexican)

Speaking the science of mangroves is international: Have fun. Learn a lot. Prevent or solve problems. The poetry just adds to the fun.

Photos (c) 2011 J S Shipman
(c) 2011 J S Shipman. All rights reserved.

Post under development. Check back later.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Circadian Rhythms, Monthly Cycles... Science Literacy and science "In the News"

Students who have been in class with me may remember doing a circadian rhythms lab... and another lab on lunar cycles...
I hope some of them read this and I hope others of you find it interesting, too. We did it around this time of year. Students who did the lab before the clocks changed for daylight savings time got sinusoidal graphs of their data. Students who did the lab after the clocks changed would have erratic data. Hmm! "Why do you think that happened?" I would say.

Men were surprised to find that they were also influenced, "by the moon." Everyone knew women had monthly cycles. Data showed them more things about themselves. Data helped them make decisions in their personal lives.

We discussed, then, how when they reached the time in their lives where they or their siblings or friends were having toddlers, how the time change could affect them. Those that had been using the toilet might suddenly go back to wetting the bed. They were sleeping when they would have been up. It took the toddlers, and for that matter, it takes us, about 5 weeks to re-adjust to the time change.

We also discussed shift work. Business decisions based on numbers of customers in the store at any given time may not account for the biological effect of shift work. Students can look up data on accidents related to shift work.

In the post, "In the News," today discussed technology items ruined sleep. Think about the following in light of the results from the laboratory.

Do you see that something in the news, like this topic, can stimulate students to read more science (increasing science literacy), to think about experimental design, to think about applying data to life. Would looking at data help the teen agers make better decisions? Perhaps if they did a circadian rhythms lab before looking at data on how electronic gadgets adversely affect sleep, the students would make better choices about sleep. Perhaps we would, too.

"Gadgets Interfering with a Good Night's Sleep

"Despite the fact that exposure to artificial light before bed can increase alertness and suppress the release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone, nearly 95% of respondents in a recent US study said they used some type of electronic device in the hour before going to bed. In addition, because people are not turning off their mobile devices when they go to sleep, many are... [awakened]... during the night by cellphone calls, texts, and emails. One in 10 kids report being ...[awakened]... by texts, and researchers believe this is taking a toll, as teens were also found to be the most sleep-deprived age group surveyed. More ... Discuss"

The above quote is from today's, "In the News," posted in the left-hand column (but it will change when the day changes. That is why it is quoted here. It is provided by, "The Free Dictionary."

(c)2011 J S Shipman

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"