Recess: Outdoors and sometimes indoors

IMG_9697When the children and I leave the school building for playground time or recess, I feel a sense of relaxation and heightened awareness. We can see farther and the input from the surrounding environment to our senses changes every minute as the wind blows, the sun moves across the sky, and we cross paths with animals such as a tiny ant or flying bird. We all look forward to the change of scene.

The length of outdoor learning time varies between early childhood educational settings. In “forest” early childhood programs children spend the entire school day outdoors. In some states, public schools mandate a minimum of 20 minutes a day for recess. This wide range of time spent outdoor raises the question, How much time outdoor is optimum for children’s learning in general, and for learning what skills, concepts and information?

Some of the reports compiled by the Children & Nature Network attempt to answer these questions. The Children & Nature Network seeks to connect all children, their families and communities to nature. Chapter 23, “Health Values from Ecosystems,” of the 2011 UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Understanding nature’s value to society describes the level of scientific certainty of the Key Findings related to how “observing natural ecosystems and participating in physical activity in greenspaces play an important role in positively influencing human health and well-being.”

I hope that all children and their teachers get to spend at least part of every school day outdoor, taking safety precautions as needed to avoid hazards.

Teachers wearing sun hats and sun glassesToo much sunshine

Educators can sign up for The SunWise program, a free environmental and health education program to teach K–8 children about sun safety, UV radiation, and stratospheric ozone, at https://www.neefusa.org/sunwise

See additional tips for sun safety from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), an independent non-profit organization complementary to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), extending its ability to foster environmental education for all ages and in all segments of the American public.

Flying mosquitoes

From the CDC, https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/general-information-about-mosquitoes

In the time of Zika

Ticks, stinging insects, and mosquitoes might only be common annoyances to watch out for, but they have the possibility of being a serious health hazard if carrying a harmful bacteria or virus, or if the person bitten has an allergic reaction to the insect venom or saliva.

In Miami, Florida where mosquitoes with the Zika virus have been found, school officials are providing cans of mosquito repellent and links to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information and advisories about Zika to families and school staff. The application of mosquito repellent is not currently allowed in schools so families should apply it before children leave for school. In an interview on National Public Radio, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says recess and sports will go on as usual. The Miami-Dade County Public Schools district provides pages with links to their own information to prepare employees for the recent school opening and to CDC and the Florida Department of Health resources. Children and teachers are advised to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, socks to cover the ankles, and safely apply mosquito repellent.

The US Administration for Children & Families’ “Fact Sheet: What Head Start or Child Care Programs Need to Know About Zika Virus” (July 6, 2016) provides guidance on applying insect repellent on children. Readers are referred to the EPA page, Using Insect Repellents Safely and Effectively, which lists important points to use repellents safely, including, “Do not apply near eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.”

Seasonal allergies and asthma

Ken Roy provides guidance in “Safety First: Safer Science Explorations for Young Children” in the March 2015 issue and, in “Safety First: Preventing Allergic Reactions” in the December 2015 issue, of Science and Children. He urges teachers to take simple precautions every day such as to be educated on allergy symptoms and emergency responses.

Adverse weather

Footwear: shoes and bootsAn old (Scandinavian?) saying says, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.” Yes, but…when we’re at school with a class of students and a few are not prepared for the rain or the cold temperatures we may have to keep the entire class indoors, at least one time until appropriate gear is available for all children. Summer heat advisories, warnings, and watches issued by the National Weather Service’s Forecast Office give us time to prepare for indoor recess or water activities to keep cool.

Bumblebee on an orange flowerEach day, being outside is like being in a new classroom, one that needs to be checked for safety. The newly blooming flowers may be attracting bees, someone may have left hazardous trash overnight, and a squirrel or other rodent may have died where your children are going to play. (No need to remove the bees but we can alert children so they can safely observe.) Preparing yourself and your children to safely explore and play outdoors makes it a comfortable everyday experience, where everyone can get the exercise, exposure to larger vistas, and opportunities to observe nature that we need.

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folder icon  Safety

Preventing Overcrowding in K–12 Science Labs

Of all the safety concerns expressed by science teachers, class size is high on the list. Thus, occupancy loads in science laboratories should be restricted to create and maintain a safer learning environment.

Ever since the 1996 National Science Education Standards were put in place, science teachers have been encouraged or required to do more laboratory activities with their students. If such hazards as gas, electricity, and hazardous chemicals are present in K–12 science instructional spaces, they are classified as laboratories. The class size refers to the number of students in the lab, whereas occupancy load is the total number of individuals occupying the lab, including the teacher, students, and paraprofessionals.

Better professional practices for occupancy loads have been established by the National Science Teachers Association (see Resource). Generally, K–12 science laboratories require 50 square feet of space per occupant. To maintain a safer learning environment and to determine a safe exiting capacity, science laboratories must be analyzed, either by reading the school’s building plans or with help from the local or state fire marshal. Factors such as type of laboratory furniture, utilities, hazardous chemicals, sprinkler systems, and number of exits are considered in determining the occupancy load. This information usually can be found on the originally approved architectural plans for the science laboratory. If the plans are not available, science teachers must work with administrators and the local or state fire marshal to establish the appropriate occupancy load and to correct any code violation resulting from overcrowding.

Final thoughts

Occupancy loads for labs are both legal standards and a better professional practice, not recommended or suggested as some might believe. As licensed professionals, science teachers are held to a higher expectation by the legal system, as far as adhering to safety in the laboratory and classroom. Science teachers need to work with administrators to improve laboratory safety by having the appropriate occupancy load in place. Negligence and liability are legal issues that could arise from a laboratory accident that occurred while exceeding the occupancy load.

Be proactive by bringing your safety concerns to the attention of administrators in writing, and be supportive by working with them to create a safer working environment.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net,  or leave him a comment below. Follow him on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

Resource

NSTA: Overcrowding in the Instructional Space— www.nsta.org/docs/OvercrowdingInTheInstructionalSpace.pdf

NSTA resources and safety issue papers

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NSTA Back-to-School Science Resources For Parents

crazy mom

Keshia Gardner via Today.com

One of my favorite things about back-to-school time is to see my social media accounts blow up with pictures of kids’ first day back at school.  Even more entertaining is when the camera is turned on the parents. My recent favorite was featured on Today.com.

It’s also nice to see the explosion of news articles and blogs talk about the changes coming to schools and districts this fall.  In many schools, these changes include science. For example, check out this article from LaJolla, California.

It’s important for parents to understand the changes taking place in science education and to learn how they can support children’s science learning at home and at school. NSTA is offering a number of free resources to help them.

Prepare Children for The Next Generation of Science Learning

Many schools and districts around the country are using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to transform science teaching and learning. Parents can get a snapshot of why our country needs these new science education standards with NSTA’s infographic. A Parent Q&A and a video interview with NSTA Executive Director, David Evans, also provides a quick overview of standards and helps parents understand the exciting new way students will be learning science this fall.

Get Recommendations and Tips on Parent Involvement

Parents can and should talk with teachers to learn more about the schools’ science program. 10 Questions Your Kid’s Science Teacher Wishes You Would Ask will foster a better understanding of science learning at school and how it can be supported at home. The resource is perfect for back-to-school night, teacher conferences, or at any point during the school year.

Empower Young Inventors, Scientists, and Leaders

Fall is the perfect time to plan STEM learning opportunities that go beyond the school curriculum, such as after-school science competitions and clubs. NSTA offers a number of science competitions and awards programs that give students opportunities to explore their own science ideas…and be rewarded for their efforts.

Encourage Children to Curl Up with a Good Science Book

NSTA’s popular line of children’s picture books—NSTAKids—nurture the wonder and curiosity inherent in young minds. Need recommendations on great science trade books? Parents can find them in the Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 selected by NSTA in conjunction with the Children’s Book Council.


The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. Learn more about the Next Generation Science Standards at the NGSS@NSTA Hub.

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Engineering activities for students

24455707_9afa116566_mIf you’re concerned about how to teach engineering concepts in a K-12 environment, here are two resources that may be helpful.

The TeachEngineering project is designed “to make applied science and math come alive through engineering design in K-12 settings.” Concepts in life, earth and physical science are taught, connected, and reinforced through real-life problems or scenarios in student- and teacher-friendly formats. The site is searchable by grade level and topic with an option to search by NGSS standards. The lessons have been designed by university engineering faculty and teachers and build on what students learn in science. The lessons include objectives, background information, suggested activities, discussion questions, vocabulary, handouts, and suggested assessments and extensions. For example, here are some problem-solving lessons that could relate to a study of anatomy or the skeletal system:

Another source is IEEE’s TryEngineering. This is a portal of engineering activities and career information with lesson plans and engineering-related “games.” These can be searched by age level or topic. The lessons are PDF documents and also show alignment with curriculum frameworks (such as NGSS and Common Core).

The resources from both of these project are complete enough that even if you never studied engineering, you and your students can be involved in interesting problem-solving activities.

 

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lalunablanca/24455707/

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Connecting with your students

I meet with more than 100 students per day in my Earth science classes. As a relatively new teacher, I need suggestions on how to get to know them better including learning their names and interests in a timely manner. – L., Connecticut

Students like to know teachers care about and respect them. Knowing their names is important from the start. When I would dutifully call out names on the first day, I predictably mispronounced a few or used a full name rather than a preferred nickname. Although some students found this hilarious, it embarrassed me and other students. So I started asking the students to introduce themselves, allowing me to annotate my list with phonetic spellings and nicknames. Regardless of how you feel about seating charts, I found them helpful at the beginning of the year to connect names and faces.

Identifying their interests can help personalize the science class. During the first week of school, ask students to write down information about themselves on index cards: name, birthday, nickname, interests/hobbies, school-related activities, out-of-school activities, (e.g., community organizations, sports teams, jobs), and other favorites and conversation-starters. I used a different color for each class, and each day I pulled a card and made a point to talk to that student informally. Other ideas from our colleagues:

  • Steve Olenchek created a “Sciencebook” page for students to share more information about themselves (the page is similar to a Facebook page). 
  • Darci Sosa collects similar information in an online Google Docs survey. The results can be viewed in a spreadsheet. She sorts by any of the columns and uses information to group students with similar responses.

Your initial connections with students can promote participation and create a positive climate for learning.

 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rongyos/2686415336/

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Book Beat: August 2016

Book Beat: August 2016 header

Tips for the First Days of School

From engaging first-day activities to tips for setting a positive and supportive tone in science class, teacher-to-teacher advice is like Olympic gold at this time of year. NSTA Press authors offer lots of strategies and ideas to help you start the school year off right. Download these chapters and add them to your classroom tool kit this fall. Best wishes for the new school year from all of us at NSTA Press!

Start the Year Off Right

Rise and Shine book coverAuthors Linda Froschauer and Mary L. Bigelow offer excellent guidance for novice and experienced science teachers in their book Rise and Shine: A Practical Guide for the Beginning Science Teacher. From classroom management ideas to suggestions on best ways to support all learners, the chapter “Creating an Environment for Learning” offers practical advice to help you set the stage for learning and exploration right from the start.

New Science Teacher's Handbook book coverIn The New Science Teacher’s Handbook: What You Didn’t Learn From Student Teaching, Sarah Reeves Young and Mike Roberts pack in a wealth of teaching tips and strategies on topics ranging from lab safety to classroom setup and supplies. Download the chapter “Starting Class the Right Way: Starter Activities” for four great ways to begin class. Your students will be energized and engaged from the first moments of class.

Help! I'm Teaching Middle School Science book coverAlso check out “The First Day,” a chapter from C. Jill Swango and Sally Boles Steward’s book Help! I’m Teaching Middle School Science that provides 10 opening-day icebreaker activities sure to capture the attention and imagination of your newest student scientists.

We Are All Scientists Here

Book cover of "Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers"For elementary students, valuable activities for the first days of school include exploring what scientists do and observing and recording observations, skills that come into play throughout the year in science class. “Scientists Like Me” from Inquiring Scientists, Inquiring Readers: Using Nonfiction to Promote Science Literacy, Grades 3–5, by Jessica Fries-Gaither and Terry Shiverdecker, will open your elementary students’ eyes to who can become a scientist (they can!) and several key science practices.

Becoming a Responsive Science TeacherFor secondary students, check out “The Owls and the Snakes (1)” in Daniel Levin and coauthors’ Becoming a Responsive Science Teacher: Focusing on Student Thinking in Secondary Science. This chapter introduces a real-life mystery about blind snakes and screech owls that will launch your students on a quest for answers while boosting their scientific argumentation skills.

Participants in the NSTA Learning Center’s discussion boards this month are having a lively exchange of ideas for icebreaker activities in the classroom, including a group assignment to design a vehicle with limited materials and a first-day activity to draw a scientist and explore what scientists do. Why not add your own ideas for your favorite activities to help keep the teacher-to-teacher conversation going?

And the Medals Go to …

NSTA Press authors and staff have been honored with numerous awards for teacher and student books on topics ranging from environmental science to solar science and lab activities in life science. Visit the NSTA teachers awards page to learn more about the books receiving all the buzz. You might find your next “gold medal” classroom resource for a successful new school year.


NSTA’s Book Beat is also emailed as a monthly e-newsletter designed to keep NSTA Press® readers, and the wider audience of science teachers, informed about books and teacher resources available through the National Science Teachers Association. Each month’s issue highlights selected topics in science education and new content in NSTA Press books with links to free sample chapters and lessons. NSTA’s Book Beat also informs readers of special offers and discounts available through the NSTA Science Store. Click here to view past issues or to sign up to receive future issues.

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Taking a nature walk

Upon reflection on last year’s practice of taking children on “nature walks” outside, I see how much they enjoyed nature, made gains in vocabulary and became familiar with diversity in plants. In June, at the end of the school year, I had the occasion to write to the school families about their children’s nature learning from experiences in the tended garden around the building.

Child gently touches leaves of Paw Paw treeDear families,

Children who had never heard of a Paw paw tree now know where one is located in the Garden and may even recognize the shape of its leaves. This is significant because it represents the many times we’ve run to it, stopped to feel the leaves and notice how they have gotten bigger since last time, and the times we’ve picked leaves up some from the ground and felt the bare twigs and flower buds. The children have become familiar with several other trees (at least with what they can touch at ground level) and other plants by touch and smell. They understand that birds, deer, squirrels, and smaller animals, such as insects, live in the garden. They have learned to touch plants gently so the parts of the plants that are still being used do not get damaged.

Children stand around a still garden fountainThe sometimes-on and sometimes-off flow of water from the upper pool source to the “pond” (garden fountain) has challenged them to think about where the water might come from, why it stopped flowing, and what they can do about it. Some children speculated that the rocks in the upper pool are blocking the flow, or maybe too many leaves fell into the water and were excited to share their plans for reestablishing the flow. I wish I could let them try out their ideas for restoring the flow!

There are many ideas we can let them try out. These are questions children asked aloud or through their actions: “Are the peas ready to pick?” “Should I bury the beetle back in the sand where I found it?” What made the holes in the Paw paw leaf?” “How do birds get food from the bird feeder?” “Is that smell coming from the bush?” “What can I hear when I put the shell up to my ear?” “What does clay stick to besides my hands?” “How far will this leaf go when I throw it?” “Which is bigger, this leaf or my shoe?” “What lives under a log?” “How can I pour water into this tube?”

Through their investigations they are building a beginning understanding about plant life cycles, seasonal changes in plant life, the needs of small animals, diversity in plants, the properties of earth materials, and the physics of sound and water flow.

Sharing children’s work with their families strengthens their learning because they have additional opportunities to talk about their ideas and use new vocabulary words. Family members learn how deeply children think about science topics and may more often provide ways for children to try out ideas.

Clouds in sky above buildingsDuring a nature walk children may learn many new words: cloud cover, leaf, underside, stem, bark, insect, community. Repeating the walk each week gives them opportunities to use that vocabulary again and again, and to see changes in the area of the walk as weather and seasons change. Every early childhood program has some aspect of nature available to observe, talk about, and record. Can you see the sky from your front stoop? Whether you have a patch of grass or a huge field of prairie, your children can use their senses to experience it, describe it and notice weekly changes.

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What Can NSTA Do for You This New School Year?

text-based header

Turning the calendar to the month of August signifies the excitement of another school year. Early on in my teaching career, a colleague jokingly stated when the date stamped on the breakfast orange juice container read August 15 it was a reminder that a new class of students was on the horizon.

Over this summer, many of us have turned to NSTA to elevate our teaching practice. Some have participated in Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) chats reflecting on the reasoning and thinking children need to exhibit in our classroom, whittled down our “books to read” list by finishing an insightful NSTA Press publication, or attended the STEM Forum & Expo seeking to develop a coherent STEM education strategy for our school or district.

As you embark on a new school year, continue to make the most of your NSTA membership experience by accessing the many quality resources our association offers.  Please also consider enhancing the membership experience for your colleagues by contributing to a favorite resource and sharing your ideas. Your ideas are valued and welcomed.   

I recall many August’s ago sitting in a backyard chair reading NSTA Reports for the first time.  I especially remember the pull-out section and the plethora of opportunities provided in the Freebies for Science Teachers, and In Your Pocket areas.  The grants, awards, fellowships, and competition page also provided me with timely resources to consider.  I encourage you to access and take advantage of these same resources.

Since that particular summer, NSTA has been a trusted source and the first place I turn for opportunities to improve my teaching practice.  My membership experience has enabled me to contribute to our association and brought many new friends for which I am most grateful.  My learning through NSTA via conferences, webinars, books, journals, blogs, and personal conversations with colleagues has been most rewarding.  During the writing of the NGSS, these NSTA learning experiences were invaluable. 

Earlier this summer, I overheard a lively conversation between two beginning teachers having lunch together during the STEM Forum & Expo. Despite them sitting the next table over, their excitement was evident as they shared resources and new learnings with great animation. Each teacher spoke about ideas they planned to implement in their classroom and described new strategies of how they would be engaging students in three dimensional science learning.  Their passion was contagious.

As your professional association, NSTA is uniquely poised to support innovations of the new vision for science education brought forth by the Framework and the NGSS. Continue to engage in the science reform movement as you use and contribute to the resources available through our association. Please consider your commitment to NSTA, and best wishes for professionally rewarding new school year.

Kenneth L. Huff is the NSTA Division Director, Middle Level Science Teaching


Cover of the September 2016 issue of Science ScopeGet more involved with NSTA!

Join NSTA today and receive Science Scope, the peer-reviewed journal just for middle school teachers; connect on the middle level science teaching list (members can sign up on the list server); or consider joining your peers for Meet Me in the Middle Day (MMITM) at the National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles in the spring of 2017.


The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Career of the Month: Paleoseismologist

Based on Interviews With Professionals Using Science in the Workplace

Paleoseismologists study geologic records to learn about earthquakes that happened thousands of years ago and then use that data to create models to forecast the probability of future earthquakes. 

Paleoseismologist Chris Goldfinger.

Paleoseismologist Chris Goldfinger.

“It is a wide-open field,” says Chris Goldfinger, a paleoseismologist at Oregon State

University in Corvallis, “because a lot of cities around the world are sitting on time bombs [active fault lines].”

Work overview.

My job is to assess hazards in fault areas in cities. Cascadia [the Pacific Northwest] is a prime example—no one had any idea there was a gigantic fault below Portland and Seattle, and now no one is sure what to do, because the cost of doing anything is in the billions or trillions of dollars. I look at geologic evidence such as offsets in the ground, landslides, or submarine landslide deposits. I take core samples from such active fault areas as Cascadia or San Andreas in the United States or others in Japan or Sumatra. This “ring of fire” around the Pacific Ocean has the easiest-to-find earthquake signals, which help us understand other fault areas.

I spend a month in the field at a time and collect about 100 core samples. For those deposits triggered by earthquakes, I try to figure out the timing, magnitude, and origin of the quakes. I use that data to build a time-and-space framework showing how a big fault behaved over long periods. The resulting map looks like a flipbook of a region with each frame showing a different earthquake.

To understand the nature of an earthquake threat, we provide a long history so people can know the probabilities and we can better determine our course of action. I use modeling software to estimate dates and to create earthquake-type movement in a representation of the seafloor. Other software simulates the effects of a tsunami moving to land. I model turbidity currents to see where sand will get deposited.

Goldfinger pulls a seafloor core sample from a storage rack in his lab. Photos by Oregon State University.

Training and helping graduate students is a big part of my job. My favorite part of the work is discovering something new and cool. It still amazes me how much you can learn about the big-picture things that happened to the Earth by poking around in dirt. The part I like least is politics. If I discover that a hazard affects people, it instantly becomes political, because developers are now saddled with an earthquake problem.

Career path.

In high school, I saw geology students packing shovels in a station wagon, heading to Death Valley. It looked like fun, and it was stunning to me that you could gain an understanding of what you’re standing on and where mountains came from, just by looking around and observing things. In college, I got a dual degree in geology and oceanography in the mid-1970s. Plate tectonics had just been discovered 10 years earlier, and all the big-picture concepts about the Earth had just come into focus.

After I graduated, I started building a sailboat with the aim of sailing around the world. Then I talked to a neighbor who was doing interesting work in geology, and I decided to go back to geology and combine that with my interests in boats and the sea. When I graduated with my PhD in geology from Oregon State University, the university hired me to work in the school of oceanography, which recently merged with the geology department.

I got interested in studying the past. But I realized that it’s also important to understand what is going on today. That’s why I began studying subduction zone earthquakes and tsunamis.

Knowledge, skills, and training needed.

Paleoseismology is multi-disciplinary and requires a good background in geology and marine geology. The latter is not a subset of regular geology; the principles are very different. For the marine work, it’s good to know about remote sensing, weather, and seamanship, and it’s handy to know how to build instruments and repair things. Because you go out on a big expensive ship with 50 to 70 people at a time, it requires a lot of teamwork and logistics.

Advice for students.

Get a broad grounding in all the necessary subjects. Gain some computer skills also.

Bonus Points
Goldfinger’s education:
BS in geology and oceanography from Humboldt State University; PhD in geology from Oregon State University

On the web:
http://activetectonics.coas.oregonstate.edu/
Related occupations:
Seismologist, structural geologist, paleoclimatologist

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of The Science Teacher journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

Get Involved With NSTA!

Join NSTA today and receive The Science Teacher, the peer-reviewed journal just for high school teachers; to write for the journal, see our Author Guidelines and Call for Papers; connect on the high school level science teaching list (members can sign up on the list server); or consider joining your peers at future NSTA conferences.


The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Right to the Source: Sketching the Double Helix

Exploring Science and History With the Library of Congress.

In 1869, 25-year-old Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher first identified and isolated deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), calling it nuclein. Decades later, scientists identified the DNA molecule’s role in determining genetic inheritance. But not until 1953 was DNA’s distinctive double-helix structure discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick. Working at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, they used tools as simple as pencil sketches and handmade physical models to form their ideas.

In his 1988 book, What Mad Pursuit, Crick explained: “Our first attempt at a model was a fiasco.” But later models and sketches,

The double-helix sketch.

The double-helix sketch.

including the one shown here, helped them visualize possibilities and test solutions, which led to demonstrations, illustrations, and diagrams through which they shared their findings with others.

One such diagram appeared in a 1953 article in Nature in which the two young scientists (Watson, 23, and Crick, 35) announced: “We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of [DNA]. This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.”

Stating that their model was “radically different” from those proposed by other scientists, Watson and Crick described DNA’s structure as a double helix with the bases pointing in and forming pairs of adenine (A) with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) with guanine (G). The small, “purely diagrammatic” figure that they included (drawn by Crick’s wife, Odile, and similar to the pencil sketch), showed how the components of DNA fit together.

They acknowledged the need for more experimental data and asserted, “It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material.”

They were right. Knowing the structure of DNA is, in fact, the key to understanding how genetic information is copied and passed along to future generations.

About the Source
The double-helix sketch shown above is available online at the World Digital Library (WDL), a project of the U.S. Library of Congress with support from the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations around the world. The WDL makes available online significant primary materials from all countries and cultures. The original sketch is part of the Francis Crick papers housed at the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine in London. The library’s online research resource entitled “Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics” features the digitized papers of 22 scientists and organizations. Most of Crick’s personal papers are housed at the University of California–San Diego. The complete James Watson Papers are housed at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives in New York.

Related Student Explorations

  • Scientific models
  • Peer-reviewed scientific journals
  • X-ray crystallography
  • Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling, Maurice Wilkins, Jerry Donohue (other scientists involved with DNA research)

Lee Ann Potter is the director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of The Science Teacher journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

Get Involved With NSTA!

Join NSTA today and receive The Science Teacher, the peer-reviewed journal just for high school teachers; to write for the journal, see our Author Guidelines and Call for Papers; connect on the high school level science teaching list (members can sign up on the list server); or consider joining your peers at future NSTA conferences.


The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Future NSTA Conferences

2016 Area Conferences

2017 National Conference

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