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.

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

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.

How to Incorporate Music in Your Subject

ArtsEveryClass_kidsviolins

March is Music in Our Schools Month and educators are urged to make a case for including music education in the K-12 curriculum. It would seem to be an easy argument. According to Christopher Viereck, Ph.d., Developmental Neurobiologist in Residence for The Music Empowers Foundation, ongoing music education creates “new connections (‘wiring’) between brain cells.” Music education “also benefits students in other academic domains,” writes Viereck in Music Education and Brain Development 101, the first of many articles in the Your Brain on Music Education series.

Still, despite the substantial amount of evidence that supports the claim that music enhances learning, music programs in budget-strapped schools are often considered niceties, not necessities. There are ways to incorporate music into lessons, should formal music programs face the axe, however.

Let’s take a look at some examples of resources and classroom activities:

Mathematics

High school and college students can study how the Greeks applied mathematical thought to the study of music in the video and online text for Mathematics Illuminated, unit 10, “Harmonious Math,” section 2, The Math of Time.

Learn how sound waves move through the air in section 3, Sound and Waves.

Section 6, Can You Hear the Shape of a Drum?, asks if it’s possible to deduce what object makes a sound based on the frequency content of the sound.

World Languages

The Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 video library provides two examples of how to incorporate music into language lessons. Watch “French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco.” At about 20 minutes into the video, students are introduced to Cajun music. See how the teacher builds excitement for what students will be learning and how music helps students better understand cultural traditions of the people who live in that particular region of Louisiana.

Music can take students from the Bayou to Ancient Rome. In this mixed-level Latin class at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., teacher Lauri Dabbieri uses music to help students understand the difference between translation and interpretation, as well as to make historical connections to Roman culture.

Social Studies and Language Arts

The Middle Ages: Early music provides an echo of the past, allowing students to connect to people, cultures, and arts from long ago. Using The Middle Ages interactive, students test their ears by determining which of the instruments used by medieval musicians match the sounds they hear.

The Renaissance: Elementary music specialist Sylvia Bookhardt teaches students about Renaissance society in The Arts in Every Classroom,Teaching Music.”

The Holocaust: The series TeachingThe Children of Willesden Lane’ offers resources to help middle and high school students better comprehend survivor Lisa Jura’s story of loss, resilience, and ultimate triumph. Mona Golabek, Jura’s daughter, wrote The Children of Willesden Lane to honor her mother, who was spared the cruelty of the death camps thanks to the Kindertransport (children’s transport). In all, the operation saved nearly 10,000 children. Music played a central role in Lisa Jura’s life and is integrated into this memoir. Find the music downloads here.

The Fifties: Explore an emerging American teenage culture, including the influence of the transistor radio and a young man named Elvis Presley, in A Biography of America, unit 23, “The Fifties.”

Read “A Jazz Festival in Your Classroom” to find resources for incorporating music into social studies and language arts classes. Teach your students about the Jazz age as historical context for reading works by Langston Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and more.

The Arts

And if you do have room in your elementary school’s schedule and budget for incorporating a music program of any scale, explore The Power of Music: P-5 Teaching Inspired by El Sistema to see how educators use music programs to build students’ confidence and sense of community.

Share ways you are incorporating music into your classrooms in March or any time below the post.

News From Space: Liquid Water on Mars

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#6003 Mars Crater Ice ESA/DLR/Freie Universitat Berlin/G. Neukum

Late last month NASA scientists confirmed that Mars has liquid water flowing on its surface, a finding that the agency’s planetary science division director called “tremendously exciting” because it supports speculation that the Red Planet might be able to support life.

Mars is extremely cold: the average surface temperature is about -60 degrees Celsius (-80 degrees Fahrenheit), far below the freezing point of water. Until now it was generally thought that all available water on Mars was contained in frozen ice caps at its poles. But by analyzing photographs that showed dark streaks running down slopes on the planet’s surface, scientists discerned that the streaks contained hydrated salts. That indicated that liquid water, either from Mars’ atmosphere or from underground, was dampening those areas.

Annenberg Learner’s Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum course for middle and high school teachers uses photographs to demonstrate how scientists and engineers think about problems. It includes a case study that examines investigations of water on Mars to teach students about processes of science: posing questions, interpreting data, constructing explanations, and arguing from evidence. Students can compare geological features on Mars and Earth, form hypotheses about their functions, and look for evidence of water on Mars. Complement these with images and animations from NASA that were released to support the September 28 announcement.

And since a good movie hook is always handy in the classroom, note that NASA provided technical advice to director Ridley Scott for his just-released movie The Martian, which stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who is stranded on Mars in 2035 and has to figure out how to survive for four years until the next mission from Earth arrives. Planetary scientists have praised the movie as a well-told story rooted in sound science, with one exception: To generate a storm as strong as the gale that strands Damon’s character in Mars’ extremely thin atmosphere, winds would have to blow at over 10,000 miles per hour. But that’s a small issue to overlook in a movie where science is the star.

Vacation in Yellowstone: A lot to see, a lot to learn.

familyselfie

This summer my husband, teenage daughter, and I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. The park itself is a natural wonder with majestic landscapes, and strange and smelly features, and the round trip from Salt Lake City airport included stops to learn about our social, religious, and geographic history, and view works of art as well. To better understand some of the background on the places we visited, I am looking at learner.org for more information.

Golden Spike National Historic Site/Spiral Jetty yellowstonetrain

I learned that the Golden Spike was for ceremonial purposes. Anyone with an understanding of chemistry knows that gold is too soft a medal to use as a railroad spike. Besides, they would have to guard it! The history of the joining of the Transcontinental Railroad is a fascinating one.

spiraljettyThe immense earth artwork Spiral Jetty, set in the Great Salt Lake in 1970, was only 12 miles away from the Golden Spike site on a dusty, dirt road. The lake water had receded since it was installed, but it occasionally comes back to the north end of the lake.

Yellowstone National Park

yellowstone geysersYellowstone was the nation’s first national park and it attracts millions of American and foreign visitors. We stopped by the Norris Geyser area to view Porcelain Basin, oozing with lava composed of silica.

MorningGloryPoolIn the Old Faithful Geyser area, there were smoking and erupting geysers as far as you could see. We saw Old Faithful erupt about a dozen times, also enticing thermal pools bathed in beautiful gem colors. Stepping into one would severely scald a human but thermophile microbes find the high temps quite agreeable.

MMCpettingmooseWe did see wildlife in the park. A coyote approached our group on a horseback ride and our car drive was held up by road-crossing bison. More majestic and idyllic views of wildlife and nature were on view at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, WY. Here we learned about the connection between art and conservation of the wild.

We have wonderful memories of the trip and I am glad I have learner.org as a resource.

All photos on this page by Michele McLeod

Caught Reading: The Soul of an Octopus

Jenny Get Caught photoThree years ago on a family car trip I started reading a magazine article about octopuses out loud to my husband and daughters, who then were 14 and 10 years old. It held everyone’s attention for more than 20 miles. In the article Sy Montgomery, an award-winning science and nature writer, described meeting a sweet-tempered octopus named Athena at the New England Aquarium and learning about how amazingly intelligent these creatures are. My girls shrieked with laughter as Montgomery described octopuses escaping from laboratory tanks and evading college students who tried to catch them.

Now Montgomery has expanded her encounter with octopuses into a book that’s packed with amazing facts about these alien but engaging creatures. Did you know that octopuses can taste with their skin? That they’re deft and curious enough to take apart a Mr. Potato Head toy for fun? That they’re extremely social with people, and will hold onto a trusted person’s hands and arms for hours? Or that these shape-shifters can squeeze through tiny holes and transform their bodies, changing their skin’s color, pattern, and texture in less than a second?

The Soul of an Octopus is also full of behind-the-scenes stories about the New England Aquarium, where Montgomery spent many hours getting to know cephalopods (the class of marine mollusks that includes octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish). She recounts how keepers tackle challenges like luring reclusive electric eels out from hiding so visitors can see them, and describes the many practical roles that slime plays in the ocean. Her writing is deceptively clear and simple. Here’s how she explains that octopuses clearly have “theory of mind” – the ability to perceive what another creature is thinking:

“An octopus must convince many species of predators and prey that it is really something else. Look! I’m a blob of ink. No, I’m a coral. No, I’m a rock! The octopus must assess whether the other animal believes its ruse or not, and if not, try something different.”

May 2015 is Get Caught Reading Month. If you want to engage middle or high school science students, pick this book up, crack it open to any chapter, and start reading aloud.