Monday, February 27, 2012

Cultivate a Professional Tutor State of Mind

Teachers, have you run into problematic children who just refuse to learn in your class? Sometimes even after expending ginormous effort into preparing lesson plans and elaborately engaging activities, some children will still stubbornly resist to learn (or perform). Fortunately, this scenario tends to diminish as kids grow older. Some kids simply grow out of it. Others settled for the fact that they must learn to earn a future. And still others stumble to get by. Is this really it? Must these students submit to the dismal "reality" and be "forced" to learn?

Fortunately, education is the combined efforts of both teachers and parents. And the exciting news is, last we checked, anyone can adopt the mindset of a professional tutor! Whether you are a beginner educator,  a veteran teacher, or a concerned parent, you are able to tackle universal problems that children struggle in their process of learning. 

Marian Ruben, who recently published How to Tutor Your Own Child, offers some tried-and-tested, distilled advice for the parents who are dealing with kids who find learning boring. In one of her chapter's, the ingenuity of Marina's approach lies in her emphasis of basics, which concerns 

  1. the parents to show that they care about learning to their child, and 
  2. the parents to acquire the mindset of a professional tutor
(If you don't love learning, for the sake of your child, pretend you do.)

In case you find the talk above too fluffy for your pragmatic-liking, there are some practical pointers she provides to tackle everyday problems you encounter. For instance, how you may take opportunities to show your enthusiasm in learning in various contexts:
Here are other ways to show that you love learning:
  • Value learners. Whether it means making positive comments about the "nerd" character in a television show or praising the efforts of a neighbor who has decided to study gardening, send your child the message that you admire people who make the choice to investigate and acquire knowledge.
  • Ask follow-up questions. Let's say uncle Frank visits and talks about his interest in phrenology. Don't just go "uh huh." Find out what phrenology is, why he started studying it, and whether anyone still really thinks that you can measure architectural talent by skull shape.
Even if you don't really believe any of the above, the book is full of little gems worthy of a hearty chuckle: (And let's be honest, in the profession of teaching, who doesn't need a good chuckle?) 

STUDENT: Why do I have to study Portuguese? That's not fair.
BAD PARENT-TUTOR: Life's not fair.
GOOD PARENT-TUTOR: What if Brazil invades America? You'll be able to translate!

Lastly, we leave you with a quote to ruminate to start off the week:
taking action and taking the right action can be two very different things. - Cal Newport (Study Hacks)

(excerpt via How To Tutor Your Own Child, Study Hack Blog)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Onion Skin Cells & Osmosis!

Mold Mania

Texas' warm, humid and often not too pleasant climate is a huge reason mold outbreaks occur so often.  So why not a closer look at mold yourself? If you want to make it really interesting - and a little competitive - have a contest to see who can grow the MOST mold!

Start out by grabbing a sandwich bag, a piece of bread, a paper towel and a little bit of soil.  You're soil can be obtained from outside or a potted plant.  After you have everything you need, dampen the paper towel and put it in the bag along with the piece of bread and a pinch of soil.  Keep some air in the bag and then seal it, labeling the outside with the date.  Store your bag in a a warm, dark place for three or four days and then pull it out to see what you've created.  If nothing has happened, put the bag back in a warm, dark place for three more days. Before you know it, you'll have a mold garden on your hands! 

To check the mold out, look it at with a magnifying glass.  Whatever you do, do NOT open the bags.  When you are finished with your experiment, throw the UNOPENED bags away.  Breathing in too much mold can make you sick.

For more information on mold and what's happening when mold forms, visit Bill Nye's website.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Education Revolution...

Is an online education revolution coming? Or is it happening already? We have compiled a list of existing online tools designed to make the life of the teaching community a lot easier.

Teacher Tube

Instead of clicking around hopelessly on YouTube where you are guaranteed distraction, teachers can now upload their teaching videos in one place to share with like-minded educators and students.

Be data driven, Not data drowning.

Kickboard keeps classrooms afloat. Integrated student academic and behavior records highlight trends. Automated classroom management systems save teachers time. Customizable settings mean Kickboard fits your school's existing systems from the start.

Kickboard for Teachers

The command: Be Data Driven. Manage your class efficiently by having an automated management system in place where you can sync class data (grades) into meaningful trends (the correlation between student grades and behavioural problems). Bless your data analysis junkie heart.


The Facebook of eClassroom. A "secure social learning network" that solves the problem of schools banning Facebook. It encourages interaction and collaboration among students and teachers because it puts you in the mindset of socializing, with teachers, and students.

Edutopia - "K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work" Cleanly packaged website with a  clear goal. How-to videos are posted based on real life case examples, such as, online learning in Idaho. Any forward-thinking educator can now share their teaching experience with online and digital tools.

With start ups launching at a heady pace, and iPads being hand out to students to promote a digital learning environment, there is bound to be a learning curve for educators as they embrace this new technology and fancy management systems.  Are teachers ready for this revolution? Can we find the right way to use these new tools for the same purpose - to teach effectively? How are teaching methods different because of the different tools used? We welcome the input of all teachers who are curious enough to test this technique and those who are ahead of the curve and using these digital tools.


Friday, February 17, 2012

When Viruses Attack

It's that time of year again.  The time of year that tissues fly off the shelves, chicken noodle soup is in high demand and more people are using their sick days.  Various viruses are circulating through classrooms, offices and university campuses and they can't be stopped.

In this segment of The Secret of Life, you'll watch a virus attack a healthy cell through a microscope.  Viruses are known to continue to replicate until they completely break apart the host cell and are able to start spreading throughout the body, destroying other healthy cells along the way.  The clip also shows how white blood cells in the immune system overpower a virus and create antibodies that fight and kill the same type of virus shall it ever return.

Watch the clip from The Secret of Life here.

The Science of Animal Cloning

Are you interested in how an animal is cloned?  What about identical twins, are they clones of one another? The Dolan DNA Learning center has developed an interactive activity to show you what clones are, the techniques that make cloning and animal possible and some of the animals scientists have successfully cloned over the years.  You'll not only discover how scientists first cloned sheep and mice, but you'll find that identical twins do fit the definition of clones.  You'll even explore why animal clones may one day be the answer for human health issues! To load or view the activity, visit the Teachers' Domain.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hair, Hair, Hair!

Just like people, not every hair is the same.  Put this notion to the test in an at him experiment!  All you need is your microscope, a couple of slides and hair, of course.  Try collecting hair from people with different hair colors - dyed or natural, from pets like dogs, cats and rabbits, a man's mustache or beard, scissors and tweezers, and wherever else you can find it.  You can obtain hair by taking it from a hair brush, cutting it out or completely pulling it out.  

If you collect hair from another person, some interesting things to ask that person are: is your hair dyed? Do you use conditioner? Do you use a hair dryer, a curling iron or a hair straightener?  

After labeling the various hairs you have, place 1/4" to 1/2" pieces of hair in a drop of water on a slide, cover it with a cover slip and label it.  Check out the piece of hair and not your observations on a piece of paper.  Do this with all of the hair samples you have.  Once you're finished look at all the differences you noted!  

Here are some questions to keep in mind: Do you notice a difference in hair that had been dyed and hair that was a natural color? Was there a difference in hairs of different natural colors?  What did hair that came from the head look like compared to hair that came from the face?  What about differences in human hair and pet hair?  

For more information on this experiment and more activities you can do at home, visit the Great Scopes activity page.

2011 Recap, The Year of Marie Curie

Although 2011 is behind us now, it's never late to reminisce the significance of the past, and especially of the first woman who won the Nobel Prize and who went on to win another, in chemistry and physics. Look, for the sentimental ones out there, we aren't really 

Lauren Redniss, an artist, has taken Marie Curie's story much further. Blending part history, art, love narrative, and a generous dose of creativity in a collage format, the result is a pure inspirational cocktail of a coffee table book any curious mind will appreciate. For the more scientifically inclined, Redniss thoughtfully chose the following printing technique and thus expressed the well-coined phrase "the medium is the message" only too well.

"To stay true to Curie’s spirit and legacy, Redniss rendered her poetic artwork in an early-20th-century image printing process called cyanotype, critical to the discovery of both X-rays and radioactivity itself — a cameraless photographic technique in which paper is coated with light-sensitive chemicals. Once exposed to the sun’s UV rays, this chemically-treated paper turns a deep blue color."

Suitable for: Budding scientists, working scientists who have an appreciation for art, any curious mind with an affinity for a biography celebrating this incredible woman, or anyone who want to see that paper glow under the sun! 

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, Lauren Redniss

Fisher also gives us some lesson plan ideas. (via Fisher Science Ed)
"Classroom Discussion

1. Discuss ways in which the discovery of radiation had an impact on the world, both positive 
and negative
2. Marie Curie achieved a great number of things during her lifetime. Research and list 10 of 
her accomplishments"
(via BrainPickings)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

filed for later
In this group blog from Learning First Alliance, national education leaders explore how to transform public education to support student achievement and lifelong success in the global community.

Nomination Time for Outstanding Math and Science Teachers

Do you know an outstanding K through 6th grade math and science teacher? Each year, the President of the United States recognizes outstanding mathematics and science teachers for their work in the classroom with Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Nominations for this year’s awardees are currently bei...See More
Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite, introduces us to the Carbon War Room Campaign.

Use Valentine’s Day as a reason to send cards to special people in the community or to the troops in Afghanistan.
Use Valentine’s Day as a reason to send cards to special people in the community or to the troops in Afghanistan.

Do you have a crush on a scientist?

What do you think is the best popular science song of all time? If you don't have one in mind, make one up. If we're overwhelmed with responses, who knows--we might just start handing out worthless prizes.
Yesterday we ran a story about calculations that confirmed earlier news that physicists may be on the verge of discovering the existence of the Higgs boson, ...


A microgripper is a microscopic tool that can grasp and manipulate microscale objects safely. This is a fluorescent micrograph of a microgripper that was biochemically-triggered by cell media to close around L929 fibroblast cells. The cells were stained with a LIVE/DEAD assay and glow green under UV fluorescence, indicating that they are alive. The polymer used in the microgripper joints is also UV reactive and appears reddish-orange. The microgripper features phalanges made from gold-plated nickel which enables remote magnetic manipulation and can also be triggered by mild heating to ~40ÂșC.

 ·  · 8 hours ago · 

Grant Alert Part 1: Discover the Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie in your class now

Science Teachers, did you think we were going to rub it into your faces the charm and glory of the superb Marshmallow Cannon creation and then leave you stunned and helpless? Let us assure you that you thought only partially correctly. We compiled the following list of Grant Funding so now your class can invent the best Oreo Shotguns. And beyond. 

K-12 Teachers, Earn up to $200 for your Science and Math Programs, brought to you by AIAAThe American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

If food is too much of a carnal motivator for your students, and your class wants something more intellectually stimulating, well: does RoboRescue fit the bill? You get to make robots and your robots get to help deliver medical supplies in dire life-and-death situations.

Aerospace Grants by the Air Force Association. Nuff' said. Since we believe in the proverb "hard work and preparation meets opportunity", we encourage you to start writing your applications for this undeniably cool grant offer. 

Are you passionate about Entomology? Say, studying insects under a microscope? Look no further and take the chance to expand your current curriculum! Entomological Foundation beckons. 

Extras! Because in case none of the above interest you and you want to strike your own pot of gold, a well-written grant proposal will always be appreciated. Here's some Grant Writing Tips from BP. 

With the above funding and resources, your kids can make rocket science happen, literally! Stay tuned for Part 2.

On Celebrations of The Marshmallow Cannon and The Best Awestruck Expression

So we have seen this and we rightfully celebrate: 

In case you are feeling a little overwhelmed and underachieved after watching the video above, and that nagging feeling is compelling your inner scientist to DO something with science right! now! We have the perfect recipe for you.  

Recipe for Five Minute Ice Cream (with a generous dollop of enthusiasm for Chemistry)

Just like the Extreme Marshmallow Cannon, it combines a tasteful sweetness and a wow-inducing science factor. And now it's up to you to think of an edgy name for it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Scanning Electron Microscopes and YOU!

First created in 1935 of silicone steel by Max Knoll, scanning electron microscopes (SEM's) have been evolving and creating unimaginable pictures ever since.  A SEM is a type of electron microscope that uses a beam of high-energy electrons to scan the surface of images.  Consequently, the electron beam produced by the SEM near or at the surface of the sample being viewed and creates a high-resolution, 3D image.  Magnification levels can be as large as 250,00 times!

Environmental Graffiti created a self-discovering journey through the human body that starts at the head and ends in lower abdomen.  During your adventure, you'll see what's normal, what cells that are tainted by cancer look like and what happens when an egg meets a sperm.  I'm certain that you'll never look at yourself - or think of the inside of yourself - the same way again.

Check out "15 Beautiful Microscopic Images from Inside the Human Body."