Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Fahrenheit Follows His Interests: Measuring Temperature

farenheit_celsius_thermometerGerman physicist and engineer Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was born May 24, 1686 in Danzig. After his parents died in 1701, he moved to Amsterdam where he developed an interest in making scientific instruments. This interest lead to the development of reliable thermometers, the creation of the Fahrenheit temperature scale, and the discovery that water’s boiling point can vary depending on atmospheric pressure.

Learn how Fahrenheit developed the temperature scale that bears his name and compare his scale with others that measure temperature in Chemistry: Challenges and Solutions, unit 2, “The Behavior of Atoms-Phases of Matter and the Properties of Gases,” section 3, Measuring Temperature.

Students can practice temperature conversions based on the Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin scales and more using the British and Metric Conversions interactive.

Physical Science, session 7, “Heat and Temperature,” answers the question, “Why do we need three sets of temperature scales?” Remember to examine common ideas children have about heat and temperature as a prelude to planning your lessons on the topic.

Share your ideas for teaching about Fahrenheit and measuring temperature in the comments.

Food: Cooking Up a Tasty Lesson

Chem_10_cakeWhen you think of bringing food into your classroom, go beyond birthday cupcakes and end-of-year pizza parties by using the fascinating science and history behind our food and drink on Learner.org.

Brewing an aromatic cup of coffee requires the right amount of solutes in your solution, without releasing evil bitter flavors at the same time. Learn from baristas and coffee roasters the trick for making an excellent cup in “When Chemicals Meet Water: The Properties of Solutions” from Chemistry: Challenges and Solutions.

A proper balance of acids and bases is essential for baking a light and airy cake, making cheese, or avoiding poisoning by an overdose of lemonade. Find out how the pH scale works as we create and consume our favorite foods in “Acids and Bases: The Voyage of the Proton.”

The quest for exotic spices and foods spurred exploration and mixing of cultures. Food historian Jessica Harris explains that what we eat reveals our history and the culinary trends that were intertwined with major economic shifts. See the Hands on History segment in “Mapping Initial Encounters” from America’s History in the Making.

What is Huntington’s Disease?

Brain_12_Huntingtons

Dr. Nancy Wexler of the Hereditary Disease Foundation and Columbia University recounts her research on the demographics, symptoms, and genetic cause of Huntington’s Disease in The Brain, module 12.

According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, Huntington’s Disease is an inherited brain disorder that results in the progressive loss of both mental facilities and physical control. The disease usually emerges when a person is between 30 and 50 years old and can gradually lead to death. There is no effective cure for the disease, but there are ways to relieve the symptoms.

In The Brain: Teaching Modules, program 12, “Huntington’s Disease,” watch as Dr. Nancy Wexler discusses her research on the demographics and causes of the disease. Look at the moral issues surrounding DNA testing to determine an individual’s risk of developing the disease.

Gene therapy, replacing defective genes with normal genes, is a technique researchers have investigated to treat diseases like Huntington’s. Consider the implications of gene therapy along with other types of genetic engineering using the DNA interactive.  Discussion questions can be found here.

Diet, exercise, and weight: Why we are what we eat

AAO_27

Researchers lead by anthropologist Herman Pontzer used GPS units and heart rate monitors to track the physical activity of the Hadza in Tanzania. Photo from Against All Odds, unit 27.

Anyone who has struggled to lose weight knows that it can be a long, difficult process. But a study published this month in the journal Obesity offered new insights into just how hard it is, and why: Dieters’ own bodies resist their efforts to shed pounds.

In the study, federal health researchers followed 16 contestants from the television show The Biggest Loser for six years after they competed in 2009. They found that most of the subjects regained all or nearly all of the weight they had lost – sometimes over 100 pounds. A few contestants were even heavier at the end of the study than before they entered the competition.

“It is frightening and amazing,” Dr. Kevin Hall, a coauthor of the study, told the New York Times. “I am just blown away.”

It’s the latest addition to a growing body of evidence challenging the idea that as long as people burn enough calories, they can eat as much as they want without gaining weight. In fact, experts say, it’s very hard to change how much energy our bodies use every day. We can’t control our basal metabolic rate – the energy we use for basic functions like breathing – which accounts for roughly three-quarters of our daily energy use. We can control how much we exercise, but that’s only a fraction of our total energy use. And when we dial that portion up, our bodies dial down our basal metabolism to compensate.

Unit 27 of Annenberg Learner’s statistics program Against All Odds describes a study by Hunter College anthropologist Herman Pontzer that illustrated this process. Pontzer measured daily energy use by members of the Hadza, nomadic hunter-gatherers who live on the open savannah in Tanzania. He found that although the Hadza were much more physically active than white-collar American or European office workers, they burned about the same amount of calories. Pontzer concluded that Hadza used more energy for physical activity than Westerners, but less when their bodies were resting.

Other factors also limit what we can accomplish through exercise. Use the running interactive in Chemistry: Challenges and Solutions to see how running affects body conditions such as fluid and electrolyte balances. These parameters limit how far we can push ourselves during strenuous exercise although elite athletes learn to manage them and push farther. Note also that the elite runners in this interactive burn 5 to 9 calories per minute, so even if they run for a full hour, they would consume fewer than 600 calories. That workout could be more than offset by eating a hefty sandwich.

These studies send a clear message for managing weight: what we eat matters much more than how much energy we burn, and is also more within our control. While exercise provides many benefits and can help us regulate our weight, physical activity alone is not an effective strategy for losing weight.

Celebrate National Dance Week (April 22-May 1)

ConnectwArts_frogThis National Dance Week, get your students dancing to the rhythm of learning with the following ideas:

Teacher Kathy DeJean’s students use dance to brainstorm where they will travel, and Scott Pivnik’s young students learn a West African dance as part of a school-wide study of Africa in The Arts in Every Classroom, “Teaching Dance.”

Middle school students use dance to explore the laws of motion, and math students interpret the idea of circles using dance movements in program 3, “Two Dance Collaborations,” of Connecting with the Arts: A Teaching Practices Library, 6-8. Watch a science teacher and a dance teacher engage students in a lesson on anatomy as they attempt to answer the question, “Can Frogs Dance?” in program 11.

Share how you will keep your students moving in the comments below!

Tornado Season: The Science of Storms


weatherinteractiveWhile we welcome warmer temperatures, the spring’s surly weather has us watching the skies. This year, despite a slower than normal start, the storms are starting to ramp up. See the NOAA site to compare monthly and yearly tornado counts. Understand the science behind this fascinating, if not frightening, weather phenomenon.

High school students identify the conditions that lead to dangerous tornadoes on the Powerful Storms page of the Weather Interactive. The virtual Storm Chaser activity allows students to track storms through Tornado Alley.

Watch elementary classrooms explore how light affects weather patterns, including wind and storms, in Science in Focus: Shedding Lightworkshop 8

Resources for National Autism Awareness Month

autism awarenessreport issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2014 concluded that autism now occurs in 1 in 68 births in the U.S. Take time during Autism Awareness Month to learn about the strengths and challenges associated with this brain disorder.

The World of Abnormal Psychology
, program 11, “Behavior Disorders of Childhood,” looks at challenges and solutions for families who have children with behavior disorders. Autism is discussed specifically at 42:06.

Gain a historical perspective of autism and learn current beliefs about why autism occurs by watching The Brain: Teaching Modules, module 29, “Autism.” Also, hear Dr. Temple Grandin talk about overcoming the challenges of her autism by focusing on her strengths.

Students with autism often have trouble paying attention. Learn how to minimize distractions in the classroom environment that demand students’ attention so that they can focus more on learning in Neuroscience & the Classroom, unit 4, “Different Learners, Different Minds,” section 5, What teachers can do.

Share success stories with your students. The video page for unit 4, “Different Learners, Different Minds,” includes video and audio clips of Dr. Stephen Shore and Dr. Temple Grandin talking about their abilities as individuals with autism. Temple Grandin was the opening keynote speaker for #SXSWedu16. You can watch her speech “Helping Different Kinds of Minds Solve Problems” here. Also read our blog post “Think Like an Animal” on Dr. Grandin’s accomplishments.

Image Copyright: vectorfusionart / 123RF Stock Photo

Frederick Law Olmsted: Urban Planning as Art

Frederick Law Olmsted / engraved by T. Johnson ; from a photograph by James Notman. LC-USZ62-36895

Frederick Law Olmsted / engraved by T. Johnson ; from a photograph by James Notman. LC-USZ62-36895

In 1857, Frederick Law Olmsted (b.4.26.1822) and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in New York City as a work of art, a space distinct from the urban life. Learn how this park was deliberately designed and constructed with a sensitivity to nature in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

See the “Lagoon Bird’s-Eye View” photo of Olmsted’s design of the Chicago World’s Fair site in Activity 2: Campaign for World’s Fair 2010 of Primary Sources, workshop 5, “Cans, Coal, and Corporations.” Consider how this city design and the design of Central Park have inspired future urban landscape plans.

Frederick Law Olmsted was also a writer. He wrote about the differences between Northern and Southern societies during the 1850s, and critiqued the slave labor practices of the South vs. the paid labor of the North. Watch the video for A Biography of America, program 9, “Slavery.”

Eadweard Muybridge: Photography Pioneer

Eadweard Muybridge portrait, by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, LC-USZ62-33083 (b&w film copy neg.)

Eadweard Muybridge portrait, by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, LC-USZ62-33083 (b&w film copy neg.)

English expatriate Eadweard Muybridge, born on April 9, 1830, took daring steps, cutting down trees and venturing into dangerous places, to get landscape photographs that would distinguish him from his contemporaries. See the story of his shot, Falls of the Yosemite, taken in 1872 while on a six-month trip West in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

Read how Muybridge developed photography techniques that captured human and animal movements in new ways in American Passages, unit 8, “Regional Realism.” Muybridge also invented the zoopraxiscope (image #8245 in the archives), a device that projected a moving image from still sequences.

In the video for workshop 6, “Possibilities of Real Life Problems,” of Private Universe Project in Mathematics, ninth graders are asked to solve how fast a cat, captured in a series of photos by Muybridge more than 100 years ago, was moving in frames 10 and 20.

Find a slideshow of 17 of Muybridge’s images of Guatemala in Teaching Geography, workshop 2, “Latin America.” Below each slide is information about the content of each photo and questions to compare the past with the present.

Where is the Water: California and Beyond

HP_water_produce

The expansion of agriculture contributes to the threat against irreplaceable resources like water in many parts of the globe. Learn more in The Habitable Planet.

California has been facing a major water shortage, but that shortage is not just a problem for the state alone. Much of our produce in grocery stores across the country comes from California farms and orchards that depend on this much-needed resource. While officials debate ways to regulate water use, everyone hopes for rain. (If you’re wondering about how much of a drought your own state is in, click on the Drought Monitor.)

Understand California’s current drought by viewing three side-by-side photos, taken by NASA February 2011, 2013, and 2014, showing the decreasing water table around Lake Tahoe in Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum. This compiled image is part of a larger unit, “Earth, Climate, and Change: Observing Human Impact,” for middle and high school classrooms. View all unit materials here.

This isn’t California’s first time feeling thirsty. One of the worst droughts occurred in 1975. In Economics U$A: 21st Century Edition, unit 3, “Supply and Demand,” economics analyst Richard Gill explains what the experience of water shortages teaches us about the nature of consumer demand.

Oregon: A Fight for Water, the first case study in The Power of Place, unit 10, “Regions and Economies,” examines the environmental costs of technology developed to harness scarce water resources to support agricultural production.

Consider the issue globally. The Habitable Planet, unit 8, “Water Resources,” discusses what drives the world’s demand for water and what happens when groundwater is depleted. Also see informative animations from the video on this topic.