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.