Saturday, January 19, 2013

Looking at a Review Article to Engage Students in Science

Not every student puts science on the top of his or her list when it comes to captivating interests.  Yet, sustainability requires global citizens to be literate and educated in the sciences.  So, how can we capture student interest?

Perhaps you have pondered that question.  I will provide one answer (of the many available) and give an example here.  For this example, I will use a high school class level (ages 14-18), however, the technique may be modified for K (age 5) through U (age 18+-120+).

The article I have selected is one of many.  You can repeat such exercises a number of times.  I have chosen a review article as it is broader than a typical laboratory report-type article and it will therefore attract more students.  The review article selected for today:

Herbal medicine in ancient Egypt
N. H. Aboelsoud
Department of Complementary Medicine Researches and Applications National Research Center- Cairo, Egypt.
           E  -   mail: neveenster   at   gmail   dot   com [modified to prevent spam]
 Accepted 8 December, 2009 

How will this article capture student interest?  Well, for one thing, Egypt has been in the news during their lifetimes, so, it is at least something familiar.  Most of them know about pyramids, for example.  If you ask them about Egypt, they will successfully have something to say.

Second-of-all, the scientist is approachable.  Aboelsoud has provided an e-mail address.  Even if students don't use it, they feel a connection with the researcher.  He uses electronic media like they do.

Wait, we haven't gotten to much science yet...  We will.  Look, we are already talking about reading a technical journal article.

But some of the students are putting on make-up (What, your students forgot lab safety rules? No.  Oh, I see, they've slipped out of the room and down the hall to the "lav" ... What better time than science to apply make-up?  At least they took hall passes and will be back soon...).

Oh, and let's get back to the article.  The citation information at the top of the page also informs us that the article is available on-line:

  • Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 4(2), pp. 082-086, 18 January, 2010
  • Available online at: 
  • ISSN 1996-0875© 2010 Academic Journals 

Good.  The students will likely enjoy accessing the article on-line, on their cell phones and newer technologies, or at the library computer.

A student that grows houseplants or gardens (or both) might find the section discussing,"Some of the medicines were made from plant materials imported from abroad," will suggest a new direction for science study: botany, economic botany, horticulture, or, even, border patrol.

Someone wishing to be a doctor might be captivated by this, "Thanks to the medical papyri, we know of many of the Ancient Egyptian treatments and prescriptions for diseases," or, " Medical prescriptions were written with high skill. A prescription usually began with a description of the medicine," or many other points in the article.  Students could compare and contrast the ancient prescriptions with modern ones, or, research new methods of treating the diseases mentioned with the Ancient Egyptians' treatments.

A history buff or someone who makes paper as a hobby might like all the descriptions of papyri.  Or, what about a map to where the plants were found and are found today, might that interest some?

Similarly, a student of ancient languages (Greek, Latin...) might also be interested in the ancient documents written on papyri and can go on to look up the science of preservation of old documents. Or, perhaps be interested in the scientific use of Latin as found in these examples:

- Acacia (acacia nilotica) - vermifuge eases diarrhea and internal bleeding, also used to treat skin diseases.
- Aloe vera - worms, relieves headaches, soothes chest pains, burns, ulcers and for skin disease and allergies.
- Basil (ocimum basilicum) - excellent for heart.
- Balsam Apple (malus sylvestris) or Apple of Jerusalem -
laxative, skin allergies, soothes headaches, gums and teeth, for asthma, liver stimulant, weak digestion.
- Bayberry  (Myrica  cerifera)  -  ...  [Many more examples are found in the article.]. 
The artist among the students may rather wish to draw the plants mentioned than study their Latin names.

The article does talk about adult topics (but many high school students do, too) so you might have to get permission from parents, guardians, schools (and caution is advised) because the article says, "The Kahun Papyrus (Ghalioungui, 1975) is a gynecological text  that  deals  with  topics  such  as  the  reproductive organs, conception, testing for pregnancy, birth, and contraception.   Among   those   materials   prescribed   for contraception are crocodile dung, honey, and sour milk (Rosalie and Patricia, 2008)."  Of course, some students' interests will be captured by these topics.  They might not have known science was so interesting.  And, the article could be a good segway to the school nurse's discussion with the students on similar topics.  Remember in high school, there are typically some students who become parents so some of their parents might like them to talk more about such topics.  Some students will laugh about the crocodile dung and some will need to be directed to their doctors for learning about safe practices, but, they will want to read more of the article.  I often worked with high school students who were between the ages of 18 to 21, so, this was less of a problem in terms of topic, but, even 80-year old students had to be guided to health care professionals for education in safe practices.

Let's get back to the students interested in make-up.  They might be interested that, "Malachite used as an eye-liner also had therapeutic value. In a country where eye infections were endemic, the effects of its germicidal qualities were appreciated (Andreas et al., 1995).  They could start a whole new interest on germs in make-up, or germicidal additions to make-up, or, what germs are, or MERSA, or...   Well, you get the idea.  Their imaginations can take-off.

Students very interested in religion might find interesting that, "Along with their strong faith in their gods, the Ancient Egyptians used their knowledge of the human anatomy and the natural world around them to treat a number of ailments and disorders effectively. Their knowledge and research is impressive still today, and their work paved the way for the study of modern medicine. The remedies used by Ancient Egyptian physicians came mostly from nature especially medicinal herbs."

A business-oriented student might see this,"A kind of what is called today Quality Control Test was  done after preparing a drug; a chemist had to test its quality," and be fascinated that there was an interest in quality control that long ago.  S/he might come up with a business idea using herbs.

Math whizzes may wish to calculate the proportion of herbs used in Ancient Egypt that are still used today, or, do further research and calculate ratios of herbs used in different formulas.

Your students will have more ideas about what interests them from this article.  Watch them come up with ideas.
Are you ready to read the article yet?  Get the point.  There are so many ways, in just this one review article to capture the imagination and stimulate greater science learning.  Your students will capture your passion, too.  Enjoy!  By the way, students might want to go on and read the articles this author cited, or, read other articles citing the review article or the articles it reviewed.  Students will also what may be a new, "genre," for them, a review article.  Soon, the whole school will be talking science.

(c)2013 J S Shipman.  Please cite any ideas borrowed from the posts here, including this one and write to the author to get written permission first for uses in text book or money making ventures.   Thanks.


For questions on reading in and for science or any STEM (science technology engineering or math) topic, or for a science literacy workshop for faculty or students, contact Dr. Shipman.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Gone Forest: Art and Sustainability

Mrs. Dodd, wife of the famous algologist, Dr. John Dodd, quietly went over to the trash can at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory and retrieved some watercolor paintings I had tossed in the clean can.  She turned to me and said, "In all the years I've been at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, I've never seen anyone paint the lab."  She took the paintings, had them framed and put them up to decorate the mess hall at the lab.  When I went to the laboratory last, they were still on the wall.  I feel much more a scientist than an artist, but, it is very nice to be appreciated.   Now, I am using my artwork to support science education and science literacy.  I found that the products can now be available in different countries.

Using an expression I learned in Iowa, I named this acrylic painting, "The Gone Forest."  After the tragic events of 911, many people moved out of New York City into these woods...Now there are human homes here and the deer (as well as bear and other wildlife) are missing the woodlands, thus, the gone forest.

Here are the links and descriptions for the art posted in the Netherlands, for example.  There may be some errors in the Dutch.  If you see any, please correct them. _door_j_s_shipman-115452896327967650

The Gone Forest
Artist/Artiest: J S Shipman (Bewerken)

Sustainability is key. The artist's passion is science literacy and science education leading to global sustainability. For the deer to be there, we need the forest. We cannot be plant-blind. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this product will support such education. (Read more: The Gone Forest. (Photo of acrylic original). Artist/Artiest: J S Shipman (c)2008 J S Shipman. Used with permission.

In other words:
Houdbaarheid is hoofd. De passie van de artiest is wetenschapalfabetisme en wetenschapopvoeding die tot globale houdbaarheid leidt. Voor het hert om daar te zijn, hebben nodig wij het bos. Wij kunnen plant-blinde niet zijn. Een gedeelte van het gaat door van de verkoop van dit product zal zulke opvoeding steunen. (Lezing meer: Het Gegane Bos. (Foto van acryl origineel). Artiest/artistiekerigst: J S Shipman (c)2008 J S Shipman. Gebruikt met toestemming.  Netherlands Store:
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