The Wow Factor

What are some activities that I can plan for the next school-year of science with that will excite my students for the lessons to come?
— C., Arkansas

 

There are a host of demonstrations and hands-on activities that can impress a class and start off the year with a real rush! Try conducting quick science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) challenges using drinking straws and tape that get students moving the first day and teach teamwork. Break the class into small teams to build something. For instance, each team can be responsible for one part of a tower that will be built in half an hour. In 30 minutes stop and assemble all the pieces into a monstrous structure!

Discrepant events are also exciting and thought-provoking. Find ones that match your curriculum but be sure to test them out before demonstrating them. Alternatively, provide groups of students with simple discrepant activities and have them try to explain them to the class. The Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events series by Thomas O’Brien (published by NSTA Press) features a multitude of discrepant events.

Give teams several science brain-teasers and demonstrations and tell them that if they can adequately explain them all you will give their team an A for the entire course on the first day! Obviously make these too hard, but the students will be excited and they will argue with you about what the correct explanation is!

Hope this helps!

Posted in Ask a Mentor | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
folder icon  Equity

Equity & Access — Policies and Best Practices for Science Educators

The Multicultural and Equity Committee is rolling out a new NSTA blog on topics of equity. The intent is for the blog to allow readers to discuss and highlight policies and best practices that promote and sustain educational equity for all students.  We also hope the blog will provide a place where readers can share ideas, and stay connected with topics, resources and events related to equity.

We will use the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education to help contributors to the blog showcase resources and strategies that focus on diversity of the stakeholders in science education. We hope the blog will provide a platform to discuss the challenges and meaningful solutions related to the allocation of time, resources and expertise needed to create space for educators to authentically engage all students.  Ultimately, we hope that our blog posts will work to foster environments that address systemic inequities, eliminate educational barriers, and will afford access and equity for all students.

Let us hear from you! Do you have an equity-related question or a challenge you would like to see addressed in this blog? What resources, policies, and strategies do you find effective? Are you interested in writing for this blog?  Email us at meg.delgato@gmail.com or natacia.campbell@gmail.com.

Natacia Campbell is Chair of the NSTA Committee on Multiculturalism and Equity in Science Education.  She is with Joliet Public Schools District 86. Meg Delgato is Academic Chair, College of Education for St. Petersburg College in Florida, and a member of the NSTA Equity Committee.


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

Future NSTA Conferences

Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon
Posted in Equity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ideas and inspiration from NSTA’s April 2018 K-12 journals

Regardless of what grade level or subject are you teach, as you skim through the article titles, you may find ideas for lessons that would be interesting for your students or the inspiration to adapt/create your own.

For example, there are definite overlaps between the lesson ideas in Citizen Science and Real-World Connections. Many citizen science projects are appropriate for both elementary and secondary classrooms.

And take a look at NSTA’s online journal Connected Science Learning for more real-world and citizen science projects.

Science & Children – Citizen Science

Editor’s Note: Citizen Science “Citizen science opportunities provide real-life experiences that link what students are doing in school to what is happening in the world. They can feel a part of the effort to increase our knowledge about topics that impact their lives. This can be rigorous science reflecting what scientists do while also building solid disciplinary core ideas in the sciences…Students feel empowered with the ability to make a difference through citizen science projects and as a teacher you will likely to feel empowered as well.”

The lessons described in the articles have a chart showing connections with the NGSS and many include classroom materials, illustrations of student work, and photographs of students at work. They also include contact information on the Citizen Science projects used in the lessons.

  • In addition to describing their community water quality project, the authors of Water Warriors note that “place-based environmental education and citizen science clearly work in conjunction to strengthen each other. The mix of student engagement and content mastery, while working with community partners, produces experiences that impact students’ lives for years to come.”
  • Formative Assessment Probes: Uncovering Students’ Ideas About Watersheds would be a way to assess students’ prior knowledge before starting a water-quality project.
  • Real Science in the Palm of Your Hand provides a framework to help teachers use citizen science resources for meaningful science learning in the three NGSS dimensions. (Take a look at a student project, too)
  • Fourth graders mentor first graders through a project in Tracking Nature With Technology. The students participated in a bioblitz to study the diversity of the schoolyard using technology to record and send observations and photographs.
  • Nurturing Local-to-Global Thinking demonstrates a multi-disciplinary activity in which third-graders combined environmental science, geography, reading, technology, and data analysis in comparing local and faraway places.
  • Given A Global Perspective, students collect local soil samples as they share their own data, ask questions, and analyze data from different parts of the world.
  • The Early Years: Introducing Children to Phenology has suggestions for experiences in which younger students make observations and collect data about their environment using cameras, drawings, and simple arithmetic. (Phenology–the scientific practice of observing and collecting information on the timing of life cycle changes in plants and animals)
  • In addition to recommending trade books, Teaching Through Trade Books: Beneath Our Feet has two lessons (Engineering a City K-2) and Sketching the Sea Floor (3-5) that help students understand how changes on Earth occur over time and how humans have an impact on Earth systems.

These monthly columns continue to provide background knowledge and classroom ideas:

For more on the content that provides a context for projects and strategies described in this issue, see the SciLinks topics Biodiversity, Buoyancy, Conduction Convection and Radiation, Dynamic Earth, Heat and Temperature, Insects, Ocean Floor, Polar Climates, Soil, Soil and Climate, Water Erosion, Water Quality, Watersheds

Continue reading for Science Scope and The Science Teacher

Continue reading …

Posted in SciLinks | Tagged , | Leave a comment

From Vision to Reality: Making the NGSS Come Alive in Every Classroom

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are ushering in an exciting new era of science education where three-dimensional learning integrates core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts to deliver an education that prepares today’s students to become “effective, rational thinkers able to contribute to (and cope with) our complex and constantly changing societies,” writes Bruce Alberts in the foreword to NSTA’s new book, Preparing Teachers for Three-Dimensional Instruction.

Alberts, who serves as the Chancellor’s Leadership Chair for Science and Education at the University of California, San Francisco and is the President Emeritus of the National Academy of Sciences, acknowledges that the NGSS require substantial shifts in the way preservice science teachers are trained as well as to the professional development practicing science educators receive so that science educators can empower their students to become effective problem solvers who make wise decisions for ‘themselves, their families, and their nation.”

While the book’s primary audience is preservice education teachers, science education faculty and practicing K-12 science educators will also benefit from reading it. The instructional practices that K-12 science educators are using to unlock the vision behind the NGSS as well as the shifts being made to the entire field of science education—by higher education science faculty, science teachers, teacher education faculty, and others—are showcased in this book.

Five major sections organize the book’s 18 chapters which are written by outstanding classroom teachers and science educators at all levels:  

Section 1

Shifts in Teacher Knowledge and Practice: Models of Teaching to Meet the Intent of the NGSS

Some of the nation’s most outstanding science teachers share how they are using three-dimensional strategies in their classrooms as they transition their teaching of science from inquiry to science as practice. NGSS-aligned curriculum planning and methods of assessment are also addressed in this section.

Section 2

Professional Development Strategies That Support the Implementation of the Framework and the NGSS

Examples of professional development strategies to help K-12 science teachers address specific subject matter as well as proven instructional activities that promote critical thinking and depth of understanding are covered in this section.

Section 3

Teacher Preparation Courses for Preservice Teachers

The nation’s future science teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to design lessons, assessing students, implement strategies, and evaluate outcomes. This section discusses ways higher education faculty are supporting future teachers’ understanding of three-dimensional learning by giving them opportunities to build capacities and demonstrate their knowledge as they construct explanations, analyze and interpret data, develop models, and engage in argumentation from evidence.

Section 4

Undergraduate Science Course for Preservice Science Teachers

Future science teachers cannot embrace the paradigm shift called for by the NGSS if they have never seen models of context and content in their undergraduate science courses as well as in their teacher education preparation programs. Higher education instructors, in this section, describe some of the changes they made as well as the challenges they have encountered in revamping their teaching techniques.

Section 5

Epilogue: Three-Dimensional Instruction Beyond the Classroom

Teachers know that it takes business-education partnerships to ensure that K-12 students are obtaining the skills and knowledge they need for success in higher education and the workplace. This section explores the work of East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education as well as ETSU Northeast Tennessee STEM Hub. Guidance is also provided in this section for leaders to use in forming new partnerships, establishing shared goals, and encouraging ongoing contributions to meet those shared goals.

Book editor Jack Rhoton, in the preface, acknowledges the “daunting, complex, and time-consuming task” of fully implementing the vision of the NGSS.

“There is no magic wand for achieving the vision. Instead, educators will need to apply a variety of approaches and efforts over an extended period of time. We believe that the contents of this volume will serve as a motivating resource for the science education community that helps them to harness skills, expertise, and passion as they look to revitalize science instruction.”

Read the free sample chapter to learn how the authors engaged preservice teachers in evidence-based augmentation and helped them assess their own science content knowledge, augmentation skills, and ability to plan instructional activities centered on augmentation.

Making the vision of the NGSS come alive in every K-12 science education classroom will take more than teachers just reading the new standards and aligning their content to the curriculum. This book supports students in becoming true practitioners of science by supporting the transition away from formulaic classroom instruction that far too many students continue to experience.

This book is also available as an e-book.

Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon
Posted in NSTA Press Books | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response

Homework Conundrum

A colleague and I were wondering what type of homework works best for our students? How do we hold them accountable?
— N., California

 

In general, you have to be flexible and adapt to your classes. Different courses, units, and students will create different conditions for homework to be useful. Topics like balancing equations, math/physics word problems, genetics crosses, and others that follow an algorithm require practice and repetition. Projects that require more time than you can afford in class also can be done at home. Give students time in class to get their feet wet in a topic while you are there to provide support. This time is critical to ensure that the students understand what they are taking home and that you know where they are in their understanding.

Varying your approach will keep students on their toes. You can sometimes just do a check, other times collect homework papers and grade them. I often asked students to pull out their homework and I just walked around, giving them a small mark for completion. I might even give them partial credit for partially completing homework!

There are some concerns with work completed outside of class: students may copy from others; parents or siblings may ‘unteach’ your lessons; and students may have little free time outside of school. To mitigate these concerns, I rarely gave daily homework and almost never asked for work to be done in one night. This reduced pressure to copy, allowed students to plan around activities and time to ask me questions.

Hope this helps! 

 

Photo Credit: Tony Alter from Newport News, USA

Posted in Ask a Mentor | Tagged , , , | 1 Response

April brings “real science,” Citizen Science Day, and Earth Day

Citizen Science Day is April 14, and these projects are a wonderful way for young children to continue their science learning by being part of a larger science effort doing “real science.”  (For the record, I think the observations and thinking young children do is real science, the beginning of making sense of natural phenomena.) One citizen science project is the Pieris Project, named after the Latin name of the Cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae.

Cabbage white butterflyThe Cabbage white butterfly is the earliest butterfly I see, cherished by preschool teachers because it is relatively easy for children to observe its lifecycle. The green larva hatch out of eggs laid by the mother butterfly on plants you may be familiar with, broccoli, cabbage, collards, and kale, all in mustard family. Collard seedlings can be planted now to attract the mother Cabbage white butterfly to lay her eggs where children can see them. You will notice when the babies hatch because they eat holes in the leaves, the reason why this species is an agricultural pest. 

Two Cabbage white eggs on collards leaf. Plant the collard seedlings and check them daily for the tiny eggs. If you find an egg, the entire leaf can be cut from the plant and put in a vase for close observation indoors so all children can see it and the tiny, tiny caterpillar when it hatches and begins to eat. Additional collard leaves purchased at a grocery must be washed thoroughly to wash away any pesticides before being added to the vase as an additional food source. See more details in the April 2007 Early Years column or in chapter 23 of Science Learning in the Early Years. (NSTA Press 2016).

The SciStarter listing of this citizen science project says, “Please consider helping this important effort, because through your collections of this butterfly we can learn a great deal about the ecology and evolution of butterflies more broadly as well as how human activities (climate change, pollution, etc.) are having an effect on biodiversity.”

Your children will learn that people all over the world are working to help scientists learn. They may be too young to understand the details of this project that seeks to answer: 1) How has the cabbage white butterfly adapted (evolved) to the new environments it invaded? 2) Where did these butterflies (those found in the US) come from? and 3) How has the “phenotype” (color, shape, size) of the cabbage white butterfly changed as it has moved into new environments? But even two-year-olds aren’t too young to be interested in small animals such as butterflies.

 And they will learn about the animal-plant relationship, part of the Next Generation Science Standards, K-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, 1-LS1-2 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, and K-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity.  

Earth as seen from space by the crew of Apollo 17

“Apollo 17: Blue Marble” taken by the crew of the final Apollo mission as the crew made its way to the Moon.

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 and every day as we connect young children to the natural environment. Weekly walks over the same ground or city block will help children see the changes in nature and the human built environment as the seasons change. Where does the sunshine fall this week compared to where it could be seen last month? The shadows of buildings that blocked the sunlight in winter months may have shifted! Trees leafing out and bees and ants appearing are other examples of seasonal changes children may notice. Feeling like a part of nature, rather than apart from it, helps children begin to notice connections between their actions and what happens in the environment. 

One way we can make a small change in our practices to make the environment a healthier place is to begin using paper straws instead of plastic straws for children’s engineering and art projects. Plastic takes a long time to break down so the straws we use today will be around for years, in landfills or dispersed in nature where animals are endangered. Researchers at the University of California, Davis are investigating whether microplastic debris is toxic to marine organisms and if toxic impacts can transfer up the food chain.Poster showing sources of plastic and its presence in the environment, land and sea

 

Paper straws fall apart faster than plastic ones and that’s a good thing!

Posted in Early Years | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ed News: ESSA Pressures States To Assure All Students Have Good Teachers

News Roundup banner

This week in education news, Wyoming and Idaho pass laws mandating schools to offer computer science classes; March for Science taking place April 14; NAEP scores in math and reading remain relatively flat; blind and visually impaired students can now conduct their own science experiments that might have been exceedingly difficult before; Joan Ferrini-Mundy named President of the University of Maine; and Utah State Board of Education approves plans to begin drafting new school science standards.

Wyoming, Idaho Laws Expand K-12 Computer Science Education

Two states, Wyoming and Idaho, passed laws mandating schools offer computer science instruction, with the goal of preparing students for the future workforce. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Ky. Can’t Push STEM Jobs While Cutting Education, Raising Tuition

Gov. Matt Bevin has stated that one of the goals of his Kentucky education reform is to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). As a Kentucky-educated computer scientist and team member of a group whose work was inducted into the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, I feel obligated to comment on Bevin’s plan, and why it’s an abject failure. Read the opinion piece by Mark Alsip featured in the Lexington Herald Leader.

March for Science: Scientists Are Back — And Ready To March

Supporters of science around the world will take to the streets on April 14 to send public officials a message that evidence-based policy decisions are important — and science cannot be ignored. Read the article featured in USA Today.

2017 NAEP Sees Almost No Growth In US Atudents’ Math, Reading Scores

The performance of U.S. students in reading and mathematics has remained relatively flat since 2015, according to the results of the National Assessment of Education Progress, released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics. Read the article featured in Education DIVE.

ESSA Pressures States To Assure All Students Have Good Teachers

Every student, no matter their race or family income level, should be taught by an effective teacher, the Every Student Succeeds Act declares. Exactly how to define what makes an effective teacher and how to implement this ambitious goal has been left up to the states—and their track records on getting started have been mixed. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Study Reveals Teachers Don’t Have Enough Time For Peer Collaboration

Teachers in high-poverty schools collaborate just as much as teachers in low-poverty schools, researchers at the RAND Corporation recently found. However, teachers in both low- and high-poverty schools reported they didn’t have enough time to devote to collaboration. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Illuminating Science For Blind Students, With Help From Latest Tech Devices

As high school student in Los Angeles, Ann Wai-Yee Kwong, who is visually impaired, remembers what it was like when her classmates did a science project. They mixed chemicals and watched them change color, checked liquid temperatures using a thermometer and measured speed and velocity by racing toy cars down a ramp. Kwong couldn’t do much besides sit quietly and “robotically copy data from my non-disabled peers. … I definitely did not feel included. I felt like a second-class citizen.” Using digital Braille readers, “smart” pens affixed with thermometers, 3-D printers, audio textbooks and other innovations, Kwong and other blind and visually impaired students can now conduct their own science experiments and even pursue scientific careers that might have been exceedingly difficult before. Read the article featured in EdSource.

Teachers Still Haven’t Recovered Financially From The Recession

In recent weeks, teachers have been protesting, staging walkouts and marches in Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona. Teachers are upset about working conditions, pay and benefits, which in some cases have been stagnant or worsening for years. One major contributing factor is recession recovery — states have less funding per student now than they did in 2008. Read the article featured in the Kera News.

National Science Foundation Executive Named New President Of UMaine

A top executive at the National Science Foundation and leading science, technology, engineering and math expert has been named president of the University of Maine. Joan Ferrini-Mundy was selected after a national search, and succeeds Susan Hunter, who is retiring. Read the article featured in the Portland Press Herald.

The U.S. Doesn’t Have Enough STEM Teachers To Prepare Students For Our High-Tech Economy. 4 Steps Toward Addressing That Shortage

Now more than ever, a high-quality STEM education matters. The STEM fields cultivate curiosity and creativity while preparing students to reach their highest potential in work and life. They are also critical for personal and national prosperity: In the next decade, almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations will require intermediate or advanced knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics. Unfortunately, access to a high-quality STEM education is deeply inequitable, limiting opportunities for students while they are still in high school. Read the article featured in The 74.

Here’s The Best Way To Create Jobs And Growth In The US

Today, the biggest need of any startup is talent — creative, highly-skilled workers who can turn ideas into the next big technological revolution. To maintain America’s innovative edge, we need a two-prong policy approach of boosting STEM education and training for Americans to fill the jobs of the future, while fixing our high-skilled immigration system so that businesses can recruit the best people for these jobs today without harming U.S. workers. Read the article featured on CNBC.com.

After Past Sparring Over Hot-Button Topics Like Evolution And Climate Change, Utah Board Of Education Gives Go-Ahead To Draft New Science Standards

The Utah State Board of Education approves plans yesterday to begin drafting new school science standards, a process likely to touch on divisive issues like climate change and evolution. Read the article featured in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Stay tuned for next week’s top education news stories.

The Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs (CLPA) team strives to keep NSTA members, teachers, science education leaders, and the general public informed about NSTA programs, products, and services and key science education issues and legislation. In the association’s role as the national voice for science education, its CLPA team actively promotes NSTA’s positions on science education issues and communicates key NSTA messages to essential audiences.

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


Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon
Posted in Education News Roundup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
folder icon  Safety

Mercury: The Shining Health Hazard

 

At room temperature, elemental (metallic) mercury can evaporate to become an invisible, odorless toxic vapor. The warmer the air, the more quickly mercury vaporizes. Exposure to even a small amount can affect your health. Symptoms can surface within hours of exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to mercury can result in short-term symptoms (e.g., coughing, vomiting) and long-term symptoms (e.g., loss of appetite, memory loss).

The problem with mercury is that it keeps on recycling itself. It vaporizes, is absorbed by materials in the environment (e.g., carpet, cloth, wood, window fixings), and again vaporizes into the air. This means that mercury drops can continue to turn into vapors that are breathed in by students and teachers years after a spill. It keeps recycling unless there is an intervention.

To determine if there is mercury in the lab, either secure a mercury detection kit or have a commercial lab test the science lab for mercury. If the results come back positive, the school district will need to hire a mercury spill clean-up contractor. If there is a small spill from, say, a broken mercury thermometer, see “How to handle a mercury spill” below.

Where can mercury be found in schools?

For decades, science teachers have used mercury in demonstrations and lab experiments involving oxygen production, exceptionally strong cohesive forces, and more. Before the health concerns about elemental mercury were evident, it could be found in a number of sites at schools, especially in science labs (e.g., glass thermometers, pressure gauges, batteries). Beyond the science lab, mercury can be found in fluorescent lamps and light bulbs, thermostats, switches, latex paint (produced prior to 1992), old microwave ovens, high-intensity discharge lamps, and silent, mercury-tiltwall switches.

All mercury instrumentation and mercury compounds need to be removed from labs appropriately. There are mercury thermometer exchange programs at the local and state levels, commercial hazardous waste vendors, and science laboratory equipment/supply houses.

Alternatives to mercury

Alcohol or electronic thermometers should replace all mercury-filled thermometers. There are also accurate alternatives to mercury barometers, vacuum gauges, manometers, and sphygmomanometers (blood pressure gauges) that rely on electronic or digital gauges and aneroid gauges. Other less hazardous chemicals such as a copper catalyst or zinc formalin can be in place of mercury for science demonstrations and experiments.

How to handle a mercury spill

Should there be a mercury spill, its size will dictate the response. Prepare for a spill by determining the mercury cleanup protocol from your school’s administration or board of education. In addition, general mercury spill guidelines are available from numerous sources, including most state departments of environmental protection and the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s guidelines provide information on cleaning up mercury spills, including what never to do after a spill, preparation for cleaning up a broken mercury thermometer, materials for cleaning up the spill, and specific instructions for cleaning up a spill.

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

NSTA resources and safety issue papers
Join NSTA
Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon
Posted in Safety | Leave a comment

Getting the Ball Rolling

What are some of the best ways to start and facilitate a class discussion about science topics?

– B., Arkansas

I have used many different ways to get science discussions going. I think the key is to either “wow” them or provide them with some structure to get the ball rolling.

If you have a really good demonstration or discrepant event (such as a skewer through a balloon or an ammonia fountain) the students will perk up and take notice. Have them work in groups to figure out how it worked and then have a full class discussion of the answers.

Start a new topic with a What I Know–Want to find out–Learned (KWL) chart. Have students fill in the K column and at least two items in the W column, then share their work with a partner. They can challenge their partners’ knowledge or agree with them. They may even be able to answer their partners’ questions. Anything they learn goes in the L column. You can have students share their questions with the whole class. This launches the next phase of learning where they get their answers.

Graphic organizers can lead discussions—there is a variety online. Students start on their own and then share. I found a few online and have them in a collection in the NSTA Learning Center. (https://goo.gl/yZNHNB)

Hope this helps!

SeedDiscussion

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Posted in Ask a Mentor | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pasco Wireless Weather Station: Like having your own weather satellite

For almost 2000 years, Aristotle’s ideas about weather were the industry standard. Although our hindsight confirmed that many of the theories Aristotle put forth in his work Meteorologica were in error, the depth and breath of his observations and inferences were truly impressive especially given his lack of instrumentation and the non-non-existant units that an instrument could produce.

While inferences are conclusions about the cause of an observation, when it comes to weather, we want to know the future, not just the present. Predicting weather, although wrought with more than it’s fair share of failures and punchlines, it is a staple of our daily routine.

Time and temperature are two foundations of our universe, with time being a measurement of change and temperature being a relative quantity of atomic motion. Pretty much everything else is wrapped up in those two concepts. But what about the details? The small stuff. The other stuff.

A foundational concept of geology, uniformitarianism, is to discern the past by observing the present. Water erodes land. Wind blows sand around. Ice cracks rock. And gravity tries to flatten everything out. Weather, on the other hand, is predicted by inferring what we think caused what we are experiencing now. This double-inference is especially tricky. Ideally though, with enough data points, we can know the future. Well, at least the short-term weather.

Three hundred years before Aristotle, the Babylonians tried to predict short term weather changes based on the look of cloud and other visible changes. And shortly after Aristotle penned his four tomes on weather theory, the Chinese constructed a 24-part annual calendar based on different weather types.

What was missing, and what kept archaic ideas alive for millennia was primarily the absence of instrumentation and quantitive measurements. Qualitative observations lacked both precision and comparative metrics, and without those it was difficult to generalize descriptions across geography and time.

Breakthroughs were made with the creation of instruments used to measure humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure allowing both discrete measurements and inferred measurements by combining types of data. And as electronic communications increased, so did the ability to compile distant observations and measurements, and to make forecasts with the ability to check one’s work.

Continue reading …

Posted in NSTA Recommends: Technology, Science 2.0, The STEM Classroom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment