Thursday, December 31, 2009

Born in Beauty: Proplyds in the Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is my favorite place to look when using my telescope. This article shows 30 new planets forming in the Orion Nebula that have never been published before courtesy of the Hubble Telescope. Proplyds or protoplanetary discs currently blobs surrounding baby stars. The Orion Nebula is 1500 light years away and is known as the closest star forming region to earth. With all of the dust clouds and surrounding gases, the area is outstanding with beautiful colors and formations. There are also emerging jets of matter and shock waves, which are formed "when the stellar wind from the nearby massive star collides with the gas in the nebula." These shapes are fantastic including boomerangs and space jellyfish. It is well worth a visit to this site to see the Hubble photographs of these discs.

Discovering a New Earth 430 Light Years Away

Don't get too excited about this discovery, but it is amazing that scientists can actually find this newly forming planet and infer that it might become earth-like enough to support life. (Oh, that's in 100 million years from now.) This planet appears to be forming inside a huge dust belt that is larger than our own asteroid belt. The Spitzer Space Telescope shows images that confirm that rocky material much like our own crust and core are being formed on this planet. The planet is also about the same distance from its star as we are from our Sun.
The video that accompanies this article is also interesting to watch.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tidal forces parellel to a segment of the San Andreas Fault in central California may be causing tremors that could help predict earthquakes

Summary: According to a study by researchers at Washington (Reuters), tidal forces on the San Andreas fault in central California causes non-volcanic tremors well below the level where earthquakes occur. The research says studying tremors could help seismologists better understand and, perhaps, predict earthquake activity.

Classroom Strategy: Ask students to brainstorm ideas how the earthquakes can be predicted. Then let them research in small groups to find the solution to the problem. Students may use library books, encyclopedia or Internet. Have them present their findings. Students may/may not be able to find the information about the latest research about the prediction of earthquakes. If not news can be introduced and discussed in the class.

Real-World Issues Motivate Students

Read-World Issues Motivate Students -

This article was about the effectiveness of teaching via project-based learning. Examples were cited at high school and elementary school levels. The projects are all conducted for six weeks or more and are not isolated to one subject area. Students first discuss their own knowledge base related to the project. Next, students gather data by conducting their own fieldwork, reading and interviewing or conferring with experts in related fields. They represent their findings in multiple forms, writing, drawing, and computing. Finally, their findings are presented to an authentic audience for review and / or comment.

One roadblock to the implementation of this type of lesson that was cited was that it is different from the way that parents were taught. Feedback from parents whose children were involved in these type of lessons was very positive. Their observations of conversations at home parallelled what teachers find in class. Students are excited and enthusiastic because they are wholly engaged in the lesson. These three "E"'s result in students being able to remember what they learned past the day of any subsequent testing and an increased transference of problem solving skills in other settings.

Adding Technology to Geometry Class Improves Opportunities to Learn

Science News ScienceDaily (Dec. 15, 2009)
Summary: This study by two professors, Gloriana Gonzales from the University of Illinois and Patricio Herbst of the University of Michigan, suggests that the use of technology in high school level geometry classes increases student success. Reasons for the increase success were greater motivation and "thinking about mathematical ideas in a new light" compared to lessons taught with just paper based diagrams. This coupled with hands on lessons (using protractors and compasses) helped students understand what happens during the computer generated diagrams. They found there was "some transerence between the two." The benefit for teachers was that they were freed from duplicating hand drawn diagrams during lessons.

Classroom Strategy: The use of software to simplify geometry lessons delivery makes sense to me. Diagraming figures or transformation of figures is time consuming and students tend to lose interest or get lost in the process. Increasing student engagement and time on task with use of computers in a geometry lesson would have to be coupled with good questioning techniques and dialogue of findings so that students ultimately understand the math in the lesson and not finish with just being wowed by visuals of the software.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sun, moon trigger San Andreas tremors: study

Tremors associated with volcanoes, often warn of impending eruptions. A study in the journal, Nature, says that the tremors under the San Andreas Fault where rock is lubricated by pressurized water slips easily and weakens the fault. Researchers looked at micro-earthquakes in the area and calculated the stresses produced by the Earth and ocean tides. They found a correlation between the tremors and the stresses produced by the Earth and ocean tides. Studying these tremors can help them predict when the next large earthquake will occur.
Students in class can keep the past and up-to-date data to track tremor information to predict eathquakes. One website they may use is:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scientists explain mystery of the triangular snowflakes

Summary: Scientists in southern California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have been able to figure out one way triangle-shaped snowflakes are formed in nature. Their research has helped them learn about aerodynamics.

Classroom connections: Read the biography Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
Wilson A Bentley was the first to photograph snowflakes. Research the type of photography Bentley used and how photography has developed.

Research aerodynamics and its connection to snowflake formation. Create snowflakes and examine their symmetry.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adding Technology to Geometry Class Improves Opportunities to Learn

Technology in Geometry Class from Science Daily reveals a research study from the University of Illinois that explains how manipulation with dynamic geometry software can make connections for students that doing things by hand does not. Beyond the compasses and protractors the software helps the students make connections with the proofs. The tools are needed but the thinking is extended for the student and a transference takes place.

Connection to the classroom: When I used the geometry lessons from Adaptive Curriculum, I saw the connections when the figures rotated in three dimensions. It made it easier for me to see what was happpening with the lines and planes. I understood geometry better with the software demonstrating with animated visualizations. As I observed students with the activity, they were seeing the connections as well. Creating tagboard 3-D replicas with labels would give an added activity to the lesson.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pupils given iPhones to help them learn

Summary: A school in West London is giving students free iPhones credited with £15 ($21.92USD) to spend on "apps" to help them learn. Students are downloading study applications such as Shakespeare, the periodic table, and Bible studies to help them learn on-the-go. To ensure students remain on task with their phones, teachers occasionally monitor what they are downloading and restrict social networking sites in class. Students who give the most constructive feedback are given iTunes credits to spend however they want.

Not everyone is convinced of the program's usefulness. A member of the Campaign for Real Learning feels phones in the classroom are a distraction with computers having unproven usefulness. The study will be closely monitored to see how well students are learning with the phones.

Classroom connection: While schools in the US may be unable to provide students with free iPhones and iTunes credits, many students have their own cell phones. Most current cell phones have cameras and even video that would allow students to take shots for educational purposes. This lesson plan from Kodak takes students on an architectural scavenger hunt. Instead of needing a camera and film, all students will need is a cell phone and USB cable. Photos can be uploaded in a variety of electronic media for sharing.

Original article

Monday, December 7, 2009

SCIENCE NEWS FOR KIDS: Giving sharks safe homes

Scientists help to understand and protect sharks and coral reefs
Web edition : Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Being surrounded by sharks may not sound like great fun to most humans, but scientists say sharks are a good sign of ocean health. Enric Sala, a marine ecologist and National Geographic contributor recently went scuba diving at Kingman Reef, a newly protected area south of Hawaii now called the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. He found an extremely healthy section of coral reef that is being protected by the U.S. Government. Think of it as a safe-haven for sea life. He was immediately surrounded by a large population of sharks, as hunting anything in this protected are is strictly forbidden. Sala, and many other marine biologists from around the world are working to set up other huge protected ocean areas in hopes of saving some of the planet's most incredible and important spots. Researchers estimate that about 90 percent of the ocean's top predators have been lost in recent decades because of fishing, and many shark species are so over fished they are in danger of extinction.

Classroom Connection: Research animals on the brink of extinction and create a plan to ensure the species survival. Endangered Species ThinkQuest: Let your kids take a virtual tour of the San Diego Zoo !!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hawaiian Hot Spot Has Deep Roots

Volcanoes have been one of the most destructive elements on this earth. They have also been one of the elements that have had the greatest effect on transforming the face of this earth. Scientists are constantly looking to study them and figure out how they work. A group of scientists have now found evidence that lends a lot evidence and credibility to a theory that has been circulating for a very long time. The majority of the world's volcanoes exist on or near the edges of the tectonic plates that cover our earth. Here the magma can seep out and create the pressure and explosive force that volcanoes have. However, there is another type of volcano that scientists have been baffled by. This is the type of volcano that created the Hawaiian Islands. This volcano is called a mantle plume volcano and it occurs when the magma plumes up beneath the plate, in the middle of the plate. It then seeps out and creates the island as the magma seeps out and cools over previous seeps. The scientists on this team used seismic sensors to image a large plume that exists under the large island known as Hawaii. The plume took 2 years to image as the seismic activity was not as strong as it is at the plates edges.

This article provides up-to-date information for a unit we typically teach towards the end of the third quarter. We study volcanic activity and how it changes the face of the earth. This article provides strong evidence for a theory we teach about how this type of volcano created the Hawaiian Islands.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rhino Poaching Surges in Asia, Africa

The sad news is that rhinos all over the world are being poached at an alarming rate. Asian demand for horns and sophisticated new ways to poach are taking a toll on the rhino populations. Zimbabwe has the most serious problem as the rhino numbers decrease and the conviction rate for these crimes is only 3 percent. Even new measures to stop the poaching in South Africa have been instituted, the poaching there is still on the rise. The director of the Species Programme at WWF International has called on all the countries of concern to outline specific actions they are going to take to protect rhinos in the wild. Not only is this a problem with African rhinos, but the Sumatran and Javan rhino range countries need to increase their enforcement efforts and improve the management of the remaining rhinos.

Most of the rhino horns that leave South Africa go directly to southeast and east Asia, especially Vietnam and China. The medicinal markets highly prize rhino horns. Vietnamese nationals in South Africa have been identified in rhino crime investigations. When there is political will, conservation groups will ensure better law enforcement and conservation programs for these animals. There has been some success in areas and the rhino population has shown some increase.

Having been to Zimbabwe and seen these impressive animals up close, I will increase my efforts in the classroom to teach students about the importance of conserving all of the living things on our planet (well maybe leave out the cockroaches). I have video of (believe it or not) a "tame" wild rhino I was allowed to feed and pet while on safari in Kenya. I would share this with the students to generate interest, place them into small groups to brainstorm ideas to save the rhinos, and challenge them to do something to help. (write letters, make posters, make a "Save the Rhino" website, etc.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving Sharks Safe Homes

Summary: The article discussions the research being done in the coral reefs in the Pacific and the top predators that have been found there. Scientists are trying to find out why these coral reefs contain so many top predators with half being sharks. Additionally, the sharks' behavior in these coral reefs is very different then how they behave in open waters.

Classroom applications:
Research key vocabulary specific to the scientific study of oceanography. This vocabulary are found in the article.
Use science activity objects in Adaptive Curriculum under organisms and their environment.
Research coral reefs.
Visit the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument website and debate President Bush's decision to set up this marine reserve.
Create a scale drawing of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument using the facts in the article.
Visit the Endangered Species website and research how an animal is placed on the list and how they get off the list.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Video Games for the Visually Impaired

Video Games For The Visually ImpairedElectrical And Computer Engineers Develop Computer Game For Visually Impaired And Sighted Players
November 1, 2008 - Science Video - Computer engineers have been developing games for Nintendo Wii for persons who are visually impaired. The users move the Wii remote to create layers of sounds. There are audio instructions for the user to follow. AudiOdyssey allows the user to be a DJ who gets people out on the dance floor dancing to the music just created.

Our district's Special Education service model is a continuum of services that range from self contained to full inclusion with an emphasis on the latter. Most of our students with disablilities are in co-taught general education classes. This article and accompanying video shows an excellent venue for inclusivity in and out of the classroom.


Video Games For the Visually Impaired

Research Uncovers Children's Creative Mathematical Thinking

This article was published in: Primary Mathematics (Mathematics Association). NOvember 2003. Vol. 7. Issue 3. pp. 21-25

Summary: The opening of the article addressed young children's fluidity or aptitude to learn at a very early age. This includes the ability to learn their native language, and additional languages used in their households. This extends to developing an understanding of using "graphical and symbolic languages such as drawing, writing and written mathematics." Though the use of formal abstract symbols generally is meaningless to young children, they are often able to use and develop their own parallel informal symbols that they can use to represent and describe their understanding of problem solving scenarios involving numbers. Several examples of young students, ages 4 to 5 years, were used to show the development of the foundations for representing numbers. The closing paragraphs addressed the notion of creativity in mathematics and the importance of fostering a classroom climate that encourages students to "innovate, to take risks and tackle problem in their own ways."

Classroom Strategies: Reading this reiterated the importance of having my 7th grade students represent their problem solving processes and findings multiple ways. Students should be able to transition between using words, diagrams, physical models, tables, equations, and graphs when appropriate. Most students seem to gravitate to one or two different ways of representation. Working collaboratively in pairs and small groups exposes each student to another's problem solving approach. Sharing out with the entire class validates and honors the notion that there is not just one way to problem solve. Taking the time to examine the work of others provides the opportunity for students to tweak and strenghen their own understanding of how to refine their own representation skills.

Classroom Strategy:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chemistry and Thanksgiving: Making lessons relevant

Summary: Professor Diane Bunce, a physics professor at Catholic University, challenged her students to learn chemistry via Thanksgiving dinner. They explored the following questions: Why does a turkey pop-up timer work? Why do muffins rise? Why do you feel so bloated after Thanksgiving dinner? The demonstration can be viewed here.

The remainder of the article discussed finding ways to make science relevant to students. It gave a few examples of teachers using unconventional ways to engage students. For example, in the science course, Science: Super Heroes to Global Warming, students find answers to questions such as, "Could Superman really fly?"

Classroom connection: There are several lesson resources available online to help teachers make science connections to students' everyday lives. Ever wonder how a lava lamp works? This easy experiment can be done with students. Find it in the article, The Science of Everyday Life. Another interesting site to explore with students is HowStuffWorks.

Original article

Friday, November 27, 2009

Satellites Unlock Secret to Northern India's vanishing Water

Scientists have discovered that ground water levels in Northern India have been declining at the rate of approximately 33 centimeters (1 foot) per year over the past decade. The water disappeared between 2002 and 2008 is enough to fill lake Mead, the largest man made reservoir in the USA, three times. The researchers concluded the loss is almost entirely due to human activity. The water is being pumped and consumed to irrigate cropland.

The finding is based on data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) satellites. These two satellites orbit 483 kilometers above the earth's surface and change their relative positions in response to variations in the pull of gravity. Changes in underground water masses affect gravity enough to provide a signal that can be measured by the Grace spacecraft.

Using Grace Satellite observations, scientists can observe and monitor water storage changes in critical areas of the world from one month to the next, without leaving their desks. In developing countries, where hydrological data are both sparse and hard to access, space based methods provide perhaps the only opportunity to assess changes in fresh water availability across large regions.

Classroom Strategy:

Students in groups of four can do a project on the following research questions:

1. Satellites are serving mankind not only in predicting geological, and climatic conditions but also in searching more about space. Find at least ten more inventions of science and technology which serve mankind and how?

2. What other human activities have resulted in the depletion of natural resources?

Students can make power points, type a research paper or create posters on their research questions.


I'm certain that students would be fascinated and amazed to learn of the possibility that the mighty dinosaurs could fall victim to a parasite. Scientist believe that Sue, a famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, skeleton reveals that the holes discovered on her jaw are not combat wounds made at the hands of another dinosaur. It is believed that the holes may have come from infection by a tiny parasite and that infection may have killed the mighty dinosaur. In Sue's case, the guilty parasite is called Trichomonas. Different kinds of Trichomonas still live on the Earth today but the type that killed Sue is no longer in existence. A Trichomonas infection inside a dinosaur is not a good thing. The infection can cause tissues to swell and block the throat. It can also cause the jaw to rot - and leave holes in the bones. These symptoms would be bad news for a T. Rex with a nasty Trichomonas infection. Unable to swallow food, the dinosaur would eventually die of thirst or starve. Scientists aren't sure how the T. Rex caught the parasite. Perhaps it ate an infected animal.

Lesson Uses: Students could research some parasite-borne diseases and report on how parasites infect their hosts and how people are trying to reduce infection rates. Students could use the National Geographic Parasites Web site to locate information. Assign groups to research one of the parasite-transmitted diseases. Give them a set of pre-determined questions to answer in relation to their parasite/disease. For example: Where does this disease occur? Which parasite spreads this disease? How is the disease transmitted? What actions are being taken to eradicate this disease?

FOR KIDS: The Taste of Bubbles

I imagine that many of us have pondered the age old question: What does fizz taste like? Well, scientists have long wondered how we taste bubbles. It was previously believed thought that the taste of bubbles came from the bubbles bursting on the tongue. Charles Zuker, a neurologist, at Columbia University in New York conducted an experiment with 5 different mice to determine exactly if the previous theory was true. The mice were genetically engineered to be missing one taste sensation. When the carbon dioxide gas was given to the mice, the nervous system of the rodents in 4 mice responded to carbon dioxide. But for the mice that could not taste sour, their systems did not show any sign of tasting carbon dioxide. It was discovered that when the sour taste was turned off, the ability to taste carbon dioxide was also turned off. Bottom line - So when a mouse or person drinks a fizzy drink, there's a one-two punch. First, the protein knocks off protons. Second, the protons stimulate the sour-sensing cells - and the brain says, "Hey! That's a taste!"

Lesson Uses: Introduce the lesson by having students dip one end of a Q-Tip in solutions of salt, sugar, lemon, and baking soda, one substance after another, and having students taste each. After each students has tasted the liquid, the students describe the flavors. Ask the students to explain what helps them taste the different tastes that were in the solutions. The students relate each taste to foods that have similar tastes making a list to be used later.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Math In The Movies: Mathematicians To Thank For Great Graphics

Students can see real-life application of trigonometry, algebra, and geometry with computer animation within movies. The article mentioned that: “Trigonometry helps rotate and move characters, algebra creates the special effects that make images shine and sparkle and calculus helps light up a scene.”

New animation development by Pixar includes geometry. Geometry animation is the most complex and requires changing the geometric elements of the scene dramatically. Pixar also uses software based on the way things move using physics. Their 100 supercomputers work 24/7 to develop the animation. For every second of film, it takes the computers six days.

I share real-life applications of math with my students, but it seems that the job areas are similar. It’s nice to show them this application involving technology, where many students’ interests lie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hurricane and Earthquake Resistant Nails

Engineers Design Nails To Better Resist Natural Disasters
Engineering designers used geometry with mathematical calculations in trial and error experiments to manufacture HurriQuake Disaster Resistant Fasteners (nails) that exceed home building codes by being twice as resistant to high winds and nearly 50 % more resistant to earthquake forces. Stanley Bostitch's engineering manager of fastening technology reports that engineers focused on making the nail head larger and circled flat screw shanks low on the shank. Home owners still need to understand that this is only one part of the equation for protecting the home. The wood and other materials making up the construction will affect the home's stability.
Teaching strategy:
Viewing the video and displaying all types of fasteners may motivate students in an activity to sketch various types of screws, nails, and fasteners of all sorts. Give students a chance to identify and use tools (screwdrivers, hammers, etc.) to insert the different types of fasteners into wood because this is a work activity that many students have not experienced. Use of household tools and examination of engineering that is part of our everyday living (outside of the computer world) will help students think about engineering design and its practical applications.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Live Chat: Gender Gaps at the Top in Math and Science

Summary: In a recent chat on, psychologists Stephen J. Ceci and Wendy M. Williams, authors of The Mathematics of Sex, chimed in on why men continue to take the lead in math and science oriented professions. Read the transcript here.

When asked why women lag behind men, Williams was of the mind that parental influence plays a major role in whether or not girls will enter STEM professions. She says girls, whose families push a more traditional role, are at a disadvantage. While it is easy to blame it on gender roles in the US, as pointed out during the exchange, there are more women in STEM professions in traditional countries like Russia and Turkey.

The question was asked whether or not same sex classrooms would help girls and the response was a reminder that girls get better grades than boys in math and science classes. Also noted, girls and boys take the same number of math courses in middle and high school, so being in homogeneous classrooms is not a deterrent.

Still, why are there fewer women operating at higher level STEM professions?As older males are retiring, new hires are largely female but they leave in order to have families and are the main caregivers of their children. In summation, it's about personal lifestyle choices versus lack of ability, not having positive role models, or receiving negative messages from society.

Classroom connection: Below are a few suggestions to motivate girls in math and science in the classroom.

  1. Teachers should take deliberate steps to involve female students.
  2. Girls should be shown images of women scientists and given a greater sense of possibility about the person they could become.
  3. All students should be encouraged to consider science and science-related careers by exposing them to a range of school and community activities.
  4. Effective mentoring and "bridge programs" can prepare girls for challenging coursework in math and science.
Photo courtesy of

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time for Kids Feeling the Heat By: Vickie An,27972,1939368,00.html

This article covers the meeting of World Leaders in Denmark, Copenhagen next month. Their goal is to agree on a plan that will limit pollution and slow global warming. This a wonderful article about climate change for your kids to read to begin making global connections and to make decisions that will affect their earth. The kids will read about the difference between weather and climate, how scientists study climate and how climate change may affect weather.
Classroom Connections

Group Discussion Questions:
According to the article, the Indian government thinks it is unfair for richer countries to ask
poorer countries to cut down on carbon emissions. Ask: What’s your opinion? Do you agree or
disagree with the Indian government? Explain. Will the Copenhagen meeting be a turning point in the fight against global warming? Why? What can you do to help the planet?

Make A Poster:
Have students make posters to show things kids can do to be green. To inspire creativity,
Brainstorm as a class first.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


World-renowned ice caps may disappear by the 2020s
The warming climate has cause high-altitude glaciers worldwide to shrink substantially. More than a quarter of the ice that covered Mount Kilimanjaro in the year 2000 has disappeared. From 1989 to 2007, the ice-coverage dropped, on average, 2.4 percent per year. At current rates of melting, permanent ice fields will disappear from Kilimanjaro by 2022, the researchers estimate.

Students can watch “Inconvenient Truth” finding ways Al Gore presented research. They can then conduct research about the causes of glacial melting and potential effects. They can present persuasive arguments for or against potential causes, i.e. global warming. They could use images, videos, and data displays to enhance their position. Students can then come together as a team of experts to try to problem solve the case, case-study style. They can then write letters of action to appropriate groups or leaders presenting their ideas, opinions, and data.

Chemistry Of Cooking

A nationally recognized scientist and chef says knowing a little chemistry could help you to be a good chef. Even the best recipes sometimes do not produce good results. Cooking is all about chemistry and knowing some facts can help chefs understand why recipes go wrong.

Heating chopped red cabbage breaks down anthocyanine pigment of the cabbage changing it from an acid to alkaline and causing the color change. If you add some vinegar to increase the acidity, the cabbage will turn red again. Baking soda will change it back to blue.

If we plunge asparagus into boiling water, tiny cells on its surface pop and asparagus become much brighter green. Longer cooking however causes the plant's cell walls to shrink and releases an acid turning asparagus into an unappetizing shade of grey.

Apples and bananas give off ethylene gas. This gas can convert a nice banana into an overripe banana overnight. If you put an apple in a paper bag with an unripe avocado ethylene gas will work for you overnight. The article also explains that processing and improper practices can spoil food, as such practices expose food items to heat or oxygen.

The article can be introduced when students learn how pH scale is used to identify acids and bases. Students can bring some food samples from their kitchens (like vinegar, baking soda, milk, orange juice, oil etc.) to check how acidic or basic they are. Students can mix different amounts of baking soda to a fix amount of vinegar and check how its acidic nature changes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Planetary Boundaries"

Nature has recently published a study describing the limits on a healthy planet. Exceeding any of these limits, such as using too much fresh water, changing too much land to farm, and too much air pollution could cause Earth to be unable to support her inhabitants. Human activities can simply cause the collapse of civilizations, as has happened in the past. Once we have "crossed a boundary," we may never be able to turn back. We may have "broken the camel's back." We may have literally "driven off a cliff."

The climate is now changing much more rapidly than in the past. New extinctions are being reported. The climate is changing into and out of ice ages more quickly. Recently a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer was the 10th largest found since satellite measurement began in 1979. The hole was the slightly smaller than all of North America.

Strategy: In this day and age, it is difficult for young people to really understand what is happening to our environment. I remember camping with some 8th graders and getting after one girl for not picking up her trash. A year later as a freshman, she accompanied a new group of 8th grade campers. She was after all of them to pick up their trash. She told me she was much more aware of the problem and the impact each of us can make to help take care of our environment. Presenting students with opportunities to become aware of our environmental issues, should be a priority in all classes. I would have students discuss this article, brainstorm ideas about what individuals can do, and create posters to make others aware of these issues.
I would also take the time to discuss the adages, "the straw that broke the camel's back," and "we are driving off the cliff." Student could diagram the literal and figurative meanings of these sayings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Water on the Moon! by Michio Kaku
I have to admit, this article jumped out at me. Not because I am a space nut, but because my students and I read an initial article a few weeks ago in Time for Kids. Many of my students had questions after reading the article, such as did they find water?

Reading this article provides this answer, and so much more. It would have been worth it had the author just mentioned that they found 24 gallons of water. That would have been worth the read to satisfy our curiosity. What made it more facinating was that the author goes on to explain exactly why this find is so significant and ties in the economic savings of finding ice on the Moon. There is a high cost to send missions to the moon; every ounce of cargo counts. Not having to bring excess water or fuel is a huge savings. Fuel? Apparently the hydrogen in the ice can be used to create rocket fuel to get back to Earth. Brings to mind images of the end of Back to the Future, when the professor puts the banana peel in the new Mr. Whatever attachment on the car that converts the energy to fuel to power the time machine/sports car.

I certainly plan to use this article to not only answer my students curiosities from a few weeks ago, but to also spur some discussion about where science is going, and what might be possible for them in the not so distant future! This could be the springboard for a nice problem solving activity in which groups design future space travel and what communities on the moon might look like? We used to do fun things like this in school. We need to get back to it :-)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do The Math Dance

Dr. Karl Schaffer and Mr. Erik Stern believe that combining math and dance concepts allows people to experience a physical sensation of the often abstract concepts of math. Mathematical problem-solving is incorporated when creating new dances, which can even inspire new mathematics. Concepts can be taught in the ballroom and applied in the classroom, bring together movement, rhythm, geometry, and more. Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern are instructing teachers on how to teach math through dance. Many math-phobic adults, young people and children are put off by math because they are given symbols before they have a real solid experience on which to base it.

Today's students are products of the music video, rap and rhyme generation, thus math dance makes perfect sense to me. They are constantly walking around, with heads bobbing up and down, wired to I-pods, sometimes breaking out in spontaneous dance. Research shows that students understand and retain concepts better when actively engaged and involved. Students naturally enjoy music and dance and many educational companies have developed curriculum that compliments all learning modalities. Most primary classrooms (particularly kindergarten) provide the majority of instruction through rhyme, rhythm and movement. As the students progress into the upper grades the rhythm and movement activities tend to diminish. Scaffer and Stern have created classroom activities for teaching math and performing arts through whole body movement.

Lesson Uses: (By Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern)
(1) Clap Your Name: Patterns are everywhere, even in our names. Working in groups of two or three, convert the vowels and consonants in your names into clapping patterns, the turn them into movements.
(2) Counting Handshakes: Combinations are the basis of many type of mathematics and dance. Working in groups of 2 or 3, find how many ways there are to shake hands, then learn to perform them in sequence.

How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class

This article was a collection of ideas to keep students engaged for the duration of a lesson. Since 7th graders have about a 12 minute attention span, I have found that it is indeed imperative to change activities in the task / lesson to keep students motivated. The author cited four levels of student motivation. From low to high they are, "the work avoiders", "the halfhearted workers", "responsible students" and lastly, "fully active learners". By including a variety of general pupose and content specific activites teachers can increase the likelihood of accommodating more learning styles in their lessons.

The two ideas that appealed to me the most were, start class with a Mind Warm-Up and How to Collaborate Before Expecting Success. I think the first, Mind Warm-Up, could be used for bellwork, or for a closure activity to check for understanding or even as a test review. Small groups of students work together to find errors in work posted or projected on the board. Groups raise their hands when they think they have found all the mistakes. When the first group signals they are done, give a little more time, then on the count of three all teams indicate the number of errors they found in the work. I would have them write this on a small white board. The group that finds the most, describes its answers until another group politely disagrees or until they are finished.

The second idea, How to Collaborate Before Expecting Success, reminded me of the energy efficient structure activity we did at our first session. I plan to use this as an opening activity during the first week of my exploratory third and fourth quarter. Each team of students get the following supplies to build the tallest free standing tower in 20 minutes: a pair of scissors, two sheets of paper, ten paper clips, and a 10 inch piece of tape. Time is taken to debrief and to allow teams to observe and make constructive comments on the resulting structures.

Record High Temperatures Far Outpace Lows

Summary: This was article from posted on November 13, 2009, in Science Daily. Data for record daily temperatures across the U.S. were kept by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) from the 1950's until 2009. Despite a downward blip in the 1960's and 1970's the overall trend in that entire time span shows that the ratio of record high temperatures : record low temperatures is rising. In short, daily temperatures have been surpassing record highs more than record lows. "If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even. " The trend has been more pronounced in the western U.S. Data was collected at 1.800 weather stations across the country.

Teaching Strategy: Each student could gather and record daily weather data for a state capital city for a month and compare any record temperatures with the average daily temperature. For the culminating activity students' data could then be combined by region of the U.S. The daily temperatures for the state capitols in each region could be averaged and displayed on one graph. The data could be collected and recorded on either a stacked bar graph as depicted in the article or on a combination bar / line grap to compare the averge high and lows and the daily range. Students could then use their graphs to interpret any trends for each region and to compare their findings with the overall findings in the article.

Teaching Girls to Tinker By Lisa Damour

Encourage girls to tinker so that they can participate in greater numbers and at a faster pace in earning computer science and engineering degrees. Males are ahead by more than 75%. One explanation is that girls are not encouraged enough to tinker. Teachers allow the boys to struggle with mathematical problems and machines in the classroom. Adults need to give girls more opportunities to investigate and experiment when the successful outcome is questionable. After school Lego Leagues, videography, and tech clubs just for girls should be encouraged. Parents should ask daughters to join in for repairing items around the house, even it is only to see what is inside and the item is unrepairable. Designing sustainable models for animal (chicken coops) or human habitats have been successful in high school engineering classes for tapping into girls' collaborative and helpful natures.

Teaching strategy: My daughter was encouraged to tinker by her father and stepfather both mechanically inclined. She worked on car engines, yard irrigation systems, dishwashers, etc. Twenty years ago she graduated from ASU with a mechanical engineering degree, but was one of only 5% of the women graduating engineers. Today that is improving, but too slowly. She taught at the high school level for a couple of years when engineering jobs were scarce and mentored girls who were needing encouragement in math. More girls today need mentors at a younger age in elementary school so that they know all the possibilities for STEM occupations. In my classes, I have found the girls enjoy setting up the science experiments and want to take part in tinkering. They are adapt at technology, but need more encouragement and opportunities to use the tools in the classroom.
Plumbers could be asked to come and talk to the class giving them simple tips on how toilets work. At $60 to $80 per hour fee for plumbers, the economic need for students to know simple plumbing repairs is paramount. Setting up stations with simple tinkering opportunities and enlisting parents' help could be an interesting strategy that I plan to implement.
Taken from but I couldn't get back to the original free print so use the link below:


Friday, November 13, 2009

Junk Food Junkies

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute conducted an experiment whereby they fed junk food to rats in order to gain an understanding of the role the brain plays in obesity. They found that the more the rats were fed junk food, the more they ate in comparison to rats fed a healthy diet. The junk food rats were eating twice as much! This is due to the “pleasure center” of the brain. When the rats ate junk food, the pleasure center triggered chemicals to make the rat feel good. Over time, the pleasure center required more stimulation in order to make the rats feel good. That meant eating more junk food. When they tried to place the rats on a healthier diet, they refused to eat. The study has serious implications for humans. Obesity is a dangerous state as it can cause serious health problems.

Classroom Connection
Comprehensive Health Education Standard – Standard 1, 1CH-R8
Identify safe and healthy eating habits
PO 1. Select foods that contribute to good health

Teachers can use this lesson plan on healthy eating habits to teach students the important of choosing a healthy diet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For Kids: Shuffling Shenanigans

Summary: Stanford University mathematician Persi Diaconis was just a thirteen-year-old teenager hanging out at at magic store. Hoping to learn some magic secrets, he meets the great magician, Dai Vernon and soon becomes his apprentice. Diaconis was a questioner and as he learned his magic tricks he began to wonder how many ways you can arrange a deck of cards. Diaconis realized he needed math and went back to school. The article explains his use of the computer to help him find all the combinations and includes questions for teachers to use with their students.

Classroom activities: research other famous mathematicians or magicians. Compare and contrast the two. Research other types of card games. Have students categorize the math found and create a class list of student generated strategies they used for each game. Embed the study of card games or ancient board games into a unit on probability.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Earthlike Planet ; Astronomers Have Discovered A Planet that Could Have Water 116 Million Miles from Earth!!!!

Science News For Kids

This drawing shows the new found planet, which orbits the red dwarf star Gilese 581. On the planets surface, water would probably be liquid. European Southern Observatory.
Does this raise the possibility of extra-terrestrial life? Astronomers led by Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland believe that this extrasolar planet has all of the characteristics it would need to sustain life. They believe that, like earth, this small planet has a solid surface and is neither too hot, nor too cold, for water to exist as a liquid. Using a spectrograph the "wobble" of Gilese was recorded and through the pattern of changes in its light. They also found that it is five times as heavy as Earth and orbits its' star every thirteen days. This group of astronomers believe that this planet has a temperature that is probably about the same as those on planet Earth.

Students could create a model for a lander to travel to this new planet and investigate the properties to determine the sustainability of life there. They could work in teams to compare and contrast this planet to the planet Earth.

Math in the Movies - Mathematicians To Thank For Great Graphics

Imagine creating many of the most beloved animated digital characters in the world using algebra that you learned in your math class! Well it's true! The animation industry is becoming the math teacher's new best friend. It is high school math that can actually help bring animated movies to life. Trignometry helps rotate and move characters, algebra creates the special effects that make images shine and sparkle and calculus helps light up a scene. Pixar Animation Studios is undergoing a digital revolution thanks to advances in areas such as math, computer technology, computational physics, and approximation theory. These advances help make more human like characters and special effects. Now when students wonder or question why we need to "learn this stuff" and "how will I ever use this in real life" refer to the many animated blockbusters that they eagerly flock to the movie theaters to see.

Lesson Uses: The website reference below has some wonderful ideas that help students learn about animation. The activities capitalize on students' natural interest in current films and the excitement generated by the Academic Awards. The activities are designed to teach valuable lessons in critical thinking.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mathematicians Solve “Trillion Triangle” Problem

Through the extensive use of a modern computer hard drive, mathematicians gathered from four continents to perform calculations on a thousand-year old triangle problem. The problem involved numbers so large that if the digits were written by hand, they would stretch to the moon and back. The problem posed, dealt with areas of right-angled triangles. It involved determining which whole numbers could be the area of a right-angled triangle whose sides are whole numbers or fractions. The area of such a triangle is called a “congruent number.” The calculation found congruent number sequences up to a trillion. Team members involved in performing these calculations, developed a fast, general library of computer code to do the calculations. Once they did that, it didn’t take them long to write the specific program needed to for this particular calculation. The software is freely available, and anyone with a larger computer can use it to break this team’s record. They also found that previous predictions on how congruent numbers behave statistically were quite accurate.
Activities for the classroom: In math, we are always asking students to look for and extend patterns. They sometimes see how tedious this could be when written by hand. This article shows how modern-day technology can make these calculations much easier. We are also having students make generalizations about procedures in math to develop formulas and algorithms, and this article shows how the same process was successful for other mathematicians. We can also show them how to apply and write simple formulas that can be used to deal with large data sets/tedious computational tasks within Microsoft Excel.

Chemists Describe Solar Energy Progress and Challenges, Including the 'Artificial Leaf'

Thirty chemists from four countries met at the 1st Annual Chemical Sciences and Society Symposium to focus on the following topics: mimicking a real leaf’s chemical photosynthesis to create a liquid fuel such as methanol for cars and trucks, developing more efficient solar cells, and the storing and distribution of solar energy. A key point made in harnessing the sun’s power, is that it is the most promising alternatives to fossil fuels. The sun provides the Earth more energy in an hour than the world consumes in a year. Comparing that to the one million years it took for the Earth to build the same amount of energy in fossil fuels. The symposium offered participants hope for dealing with the global challenges of the 21st century and the indispensible role that chemical sciences play in dealing with them.
An activity in the classroom could be researching, and then comparing and contrasting different fuels. Students could evaluate which would be efficient, economical to make, and have the least impact on our environment. They can include their research in a persuasive speech to a legislative board to receive funds toward their future development and implementation within our communities. Another activity could be creating a creative writing piece about what life would look like using some or all of the new fuels. They could also write about how things could be if we don’t make a change.

Batteries Built by Viruses

Scientists at MIT are using the M13 virus to build microbatteries. They’ve altered the genetic make-up of the virus by programming it to collect tiny bits of metal on its shell. This “shell” provides the structure for the inside of microscopic-sized batteries!

Using the viruses to construct batteries too small for human hands is fast and cheap. Batteries produced by the M13 bacteria perform as well as batteries built by traditional methods, without toxic chemicals. The minuscule batteries can provide power to tiny electronic devices.

Classroom Connection
State Science Standard – Strand 5: Physical Science
Physical Science affords students the opportunity to increase their understanding of the characteristics of objects and materials they encounter daily. Students gain an understanding of the nature of matter and energy, including their forms, the changes they undergo, and their interactions. By studying objects and the forces that act upon them, students develop an understanding of the fundamental laws of motion, knowledge of the various ways energy is stored in a system, and the processes by which energy is transferred between systems and surroundings.

Students will conduct an experiment to demonstrate how electricity from a battery is used to light a light bulb.
See the activity here.
Read the story here.

Marine Lab Team Seeks to Understand Coral Bleaching

Article taken from Science Daily

Coral bleaching is when coral whitens due to a disruption in symbiosis specifically, between zooxanthellae & algae. Both of these organisms live in the coral and provide an energy source. The chemicals in the algae are what give them there color. An ocean living bacteria is unfortunately attacking the coral which causes the zoox... to come loose and then loose its color. The attacking bacteria lives on the basis of temperature above 24 deg. Therefore, scientists are concerned that as ocean temperatures rise this may have an extremely negative effect on coral.

Scientists are now using magnetic resonance to study metabolic changes in the bacteria to measure the effects. In this investigation, the scientists are looking at the varied results at 24 degrees and then again at 27 degrees Celsius. From the data, they are gathering clues and learning why a small temperature change a non virulent bacteria to a "coral bleaching menace." More studies are planned for the future and scientists hope that these findings will lead to a better understanding of symbiotic relationships that exist in healthy coral and the impacts on those relationships under changing ecological conditions.

Classroom: This article may work when studying climate or possible when discussing the effects of global warming.

Smaller Earthquakes May Not Predict Larger Ones

Scientists have always banked on utilizing small to moderate earthquakes to possibly estimate where and when the "The Big One" will occur. Most large earthquakes take place where two plates meet together, specifically transverse plates. However, scientists have been studying four large earthquakes that have occured and have realized that depending on how far the plates scrape each year after shocks can last anywhere from 10 to 100 years after the actual event. Because of this, smaller earthquakes may not be the best resource and that GPS equipment will most likely be the better pick.

Classroom Implementation

This article fits perfectly into the seventh grade geology curriculum. Students learn how earthquakes are measured and get the opportunity to study seismograms that come from seismographs. This would be a great reading opportunity to gather information that is recent to the subject.

Three Strikes Wiped out Woolly Mammoths

This article particularly caught my attention because students are so fascinated by any prehistoric animal, but specifically of late, the woolly mammoth. A great deal of this animals popularity can be contributed to movies such as ICE AGE and ICE AGE 2. These blockbusters have once again spawned the imaginations of both students and scientists. Scientists are still wondering why the mammoths disappeared. It is believed that these giant mammals went extinct thanks to combination of factors: people, climate and comet.

Archaeologists have discovered that people used mammoth bones to makes tools, their ribs to build houses, wore mammoth skins and ate mammoth meat. As humans numbers began to increase and spread across Europe and Asia and hunting skills were honed the mammoth population began to decline.

Scientist also believe that significant climates changes contributed to the extinct of the woolly mammoth. By researching minerals, gases, pollen and plants, they can tell what the climate was like in the past. The steppe-tundra favored by the mammoths doens't exist today. As the weather patterns changes the mammoths began to die.

Richard Firestone, a scientist and chemist, hypothesizes that a comet could have killed the mammals. A possible scenario includes a comet exploding in the air over the Great Lakes. This explosion generate a great wind of dust and debris that choked the animals. Firestone and his team looked for evidence of a comet and believe they found nanodiamonds that could be credited to such an inpact.

Lesson Uses: At the end of last school year I found several activities related to the woolly mammoth that my 4th grade students enjoyed.

Activity #1 Ice Age – The Hook
If available, show Scenes 3 and 4 from the original “ICE AGE” animated movie.
In those two scenes we find Sid the Sloth running for his life from two very perturbed rhinos. Sid is rescued by Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond) who hoists up and heaves the two Rhinos over the edge of the cliff with his trunk and his tusks. This is an entertaining way to show students the size of the tusks and how they may have
been put to good use. In the Bonus features on Disc 2, Ray is the subject of the special feature, “Behind the Scenes” and the students can learn even more about the animated creature
Manny in the Ice Age Movie.

Activity #2 Land of the Mammoth Interactive
• A mere 11,000 years ago, Earth still supported many mammoth sized mammals
that thrived for millions of years. Then, most of them quickly died away. What
happened? This online interactive allows students to click on the icons to meet
the ice age giants that made it the doorstep of modern times.
• Go to the Discovery Channel’s online site to experience it excellent interactive
titled “The Land of the Mammoth: Ice Age Giants”
• Students can also discover information about the Saber Toothed Tiger and the
Sloth who were two of the Main Characters in Ice Age Part 1.

Activity #3 Seven Steppes to a Woollier Mammoth
• Your mission: To help woolly mammoth evolve from the small, pig-like animal of
the Eocene epoch into the furry elephant that roamed the Asian steppes during
the Pleistocene epoch! Play a game to help the woolly mammoth evolve through
the steps of evolution.
• Also while at that site you can see a Woolly migration map as well as access
additional Woolly Web links. You can also learn about their migration patterns or
join the expedition as they unearth the woolly mammoth in Siberia.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Buying Green: 9 Products for Sustainable Living

I good visual slideshow with explanations from Scientific American provides great examples of products thought up that are made from renewable sources or can help a person reuse products. Motivations for such products can range from an earth minded personality to a frugal living mission. The products listed are:
  • Clean Soaps
  • Bag Dryer
  • Water Saver Faucet
  • Fuel Economy Screen
  • Recycled Material Dog Toys
  • Milk Paint
  • Small Scale Composting
  • Recycled Materials Carpet
  • Solar Panel Bags
Some of the potential ideas I saw from this article for use in our classrooms were science related.
1. Use this as a starting point for an activity during an energy unit. Students can work together to develop a product that is made of renewable materials, uses renewable energy or is organic in some way. A proposal can be made by them with designs, materials and a possible business proposal if this activity is worked in conjunction with a language arts teacher.
2. Students can make their own renewable product through a scientific investigation involving the creation of a hypothesis, testing, gathering of data and development of a conclusion. One example could be the building of a water bottle vessel.

Tiny Laser-scanning Microscope Images Brain Cells in Freely Moving Animals

Scientists in Germany have been able to place a new technology into the brains of rats. This laser-scanning microscope is small enough to study the complex working of how brain cells operate while the rats are still able to move around freely. Scientists are hoping to answer such questions as what our brains are doing while we are moving around using all of our senses. This new technology uses high-powered pulsing laser and fiber optics to scan the brain cells beneath the surface of the brain. This eliminates the need to use electrodes, thus being non-invasive to the brain. The microscope is showing scientists how many brain cells work together to do some normal activity. The hope is to understand how perception and attention work.

Strategy for Classroom
I love this article for Junior High School Students. I would present this as an opportunity for any of them to volunteer to try out some new technology. Then I would give them an overview of the experiment on rats and mention that researchers are ready for "HUMAN VOLUNTEERS." This age group is lots of fun to present things like this. My assignment would be for them to write a paragraph detailing what they think this microscope would pick up about their brain cells. (Hints: what is their learning style, perception of science, attention or focus on lessons, etc.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Aspirin Research Keeps Giving New Life to an Ancient Medicine

Summary: This short, concise history of aspirin gives the reader a fascinating look at an old standby. Aspirin in its natural form is found in the willow tree. Researchers learned how to mimic the willow tree's chemical salicin and make salicylic acid. Then a chemist at the Fredrich Bayer company in Germany create aetyl salcylic acid. The etymology of aspirin is examined and how that is tied to how medicine is named. How aspirin works in the body is presented in a very non medical way and the possible side effects are presented. The most promising piece of the article is the current research in using aspirin to help prevent heart attacks and how aspirin blocks the formation of blood vessels that feed cancer growth.

Classroom Strategies: Depending on grade level looking at ancient civilization's use of plants for health. The etymology of names and/or how medicines are named. Medicine names will contain many Latin and Greek roots. Mini research on the Greek doctor Hippocrates and his oath that every doctor takes. This can be expanded to veterinarians and their oath.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch: Where World's Trash Collects


Ever wondered where those plastic bottles end up that are thrown off of boats? Apparently they are ending up in a giant, floating garbage dump in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The dump is said to be double the size of the state of Texas. The dump is mostly made up of various size plastic pieces that are floating at or near the surface of the water. Several teams of scientists have conducted studies of the floating waste dump to determine the effects on the environment; specifically the fish and other see animals living in or near this phenomenon. The dump has been created by a combination of low winds and low ocean currents that have allowed the collection to take place at this spot.

I think it would be fascinating to study this more as a part of a combination of units in the classroom. The teacher could bring in standards from math, science, and social studies. The math would involve the sheer measurement of such a large mass floating in the ocean. Lessons about volume, distance , and mass could be discussed. In conjunction, more research could be conducted to look for other perspectives on this floating dump. It also ties in nicely with standards dealing with longitude and latitude as well as studying the historical perspectives of the shipping lanes and how boats were set adrift for weeks due to lack of wind and current. This could certainly spark some interest!

Digital Ants Take on Computer Worms

This article is sooooo cool. It is about a new antivirus composed of digial ants. These digital ants scatter in your hard drive searching for irregularities. When a digital ant finds something suspiciouse is produces a digital pheromone that attracks other digital ants to help attach the virus or worm.

This is a really neat concept. No species works harder than ants. I would like to get my hands on some digital ants and feed them a digital sugarcube.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Testicular Tumors May Explain Why Some Diseases Are More Common In Children Of Older Fathers

Summary: Recent research has shown that there is a surprising link between certain severe childhood diseases and testicular tumors occurring in older men. The research says that although the original mutations occur rarely in sperm producing cells, they encourage the mutant cells to divide and multiply. When the cell divides, it copies the mutation to each daughter cell, and the clump of mutant sperm producing cells expands over time. Hence, the number of sperm carrying this mutation also increases as men get older. This raises the risk to older fathers of having affected children.
These mutations might contribute to diseases like breast cancer, autism and Schizophrenia etc.

Classroom Strategy: The research can be introduced in the class when students learn the steps of meiosis. Students can do research and gather information. The research project can be given to a group of four students. They may share their information on a wiki page and present it to the whole class.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Math in the Movies / Science Daily:Mathematics

Summary: "When will we ever use this?" is a question pondered or posed by many math students. This article is about higher level math used in computer animation. "Trig for rotation and movement of characters, algebra for special efffects that shine and sparkle, calculus for lights" and geometry for most complex changes in elements of the scenery. It is necessary to run supercompters 24/7 to create animation. One second of film requires 6 days of computer time.

Classroom strategy: The math / computer science aspect required for animation could be a hook for some students to sustain their interest in math through high school and possbily for them to pursue mathematics on into college. Students could do research on the history of animation and careers in the field of animation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

General Mills to drop sullied Smart choices product label

Summary: On Tuesday Oct 27, 2009, General Mills decided to drop the "Smart Choices" label. The "Smart Choices" food label was designed by food companies to help consumers understand the nutrition labels. The Food and Drug Administration and other watch dog groups said the label misled consumers. The label took two years to develop and major food companies had pledged to use the label. However, when food companies began putting the "Smart Choices" label on Froot Loops, watch dog groups were upset and the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to the food companies about labeling regulations.

Classroom strategies: Have students compare and contrast a "Smart Choice" food and another comparable food. Using the food pyramid, discuss what would make the food a "Smart Choice" food. If possible, have a nutritionist come and talk with students about smart food choices. Have students research and list General Mills cereals, then categorize them and use Excel to show their results. Use the food pyramid and have students measure out actual serving sizes for a balanced meal and the nutrition value. Use Chew on This, to research and discuss the chemistry of food.

Vitamin D and Kids: How Much Sun Should They Get to Stay Healthy?

Federal data shows that more American children are lacking in vitamin D because of more time spent indoors on video games and computers; less milk; and sunscreen. A senior author of the study recommends 10 to 15 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen for children who can handle it. Drinking more milk and orange juice fortified with vitamin D and possibly vitamin supplements might be in order. The National Academy of Sciences is discussing the value of vitamin D. This article has links to other studies and value of sunscreens.

Lesson: Students at schools where recesses have been take away due to concerns over low testing scores should research more about the lack of vitamin D in kids. After investigating daily habits of kids diet, exercise, and sun time, students could create an ideal routine for diet, exercise, and sun exposure. Next they would write letters to the school administration and the local news media giving the reasons for the value of recess for exercise and sun exposure.