Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mitochondria: The Powerhouses of the Cell

File:Flickr cc runner wisconsin u.jpgAre you looking for a quick science lesson for 9-12 graders? Something that will engage them and interest them...? Take a look at PBS' "The Powerhouse of the Cell." This short five minute video introduces students to something that takes place right inside their bodies thanks to mitochondria. 

Cellular respiration is the process most cells use to convert food molecules to energy. In multicellular organisms like humans and trees, cellular respiration takes place in the mitochondria. These important organelles and the high-energy molecules of ATP they produce power virtually every biochemical reaction that takes place - both in your body and in the plants and animals around you!

Mitochondria play host to one of the most important processes in your body: cellular respiration. Taking in glucose and oxygen, mitochondria produce energy, which they capture and package as energy-rich molecules of ATP. In PBS' video, the structure and functions that give mitochondria their nickname - "the powerhouses of the cell" - are described.

After students view the video, use follow up discussion questions to keep the conversation about mitochondria going. 

  • What are the differences in the muscles of a sprinter and a marathon runner?
  • How would you explain that skin cells have a lot fewer mitochondria than muscle cells?
  • If you looked at heart cells, would you expect to see a lot of mitochondria or only a few? Why?
This curriculum was produced by the WGBH Educational Foundation and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Virginia Sixth Graders Inspire Stormwater Management Program
Through the Caring for Our Watersheds program, sixth graders from Kenmore Middle School were surprised to discover that the water at Four Mile Run at Bluemont Park in Arlington, VA was low in dissolved oxygen. Putting them STEM skills to work, the students helped address some of the causes, like elevated temperatures in runoff and stormwater-borne nutrients and organic materials, they decided to promote the use of rain barrels as a citizen-based approach to stormwater management.

The students got to work and organized an interactive rain barrel workshop for the community, educating residents of the area about Four Mile Run and how rain barrels can prevent water pollution.

Their great idea received an even greater response! The workshop was such a success that national agricultural company, and sponsor of the Caring for Our Watersheds program, Agrium, took notice - a lot of notice. Using the concept that Kenmore students created, now every organization that participates in the Caring for Our Watershed program will receive 25 rain barrels for a similar workshop and are contest for local community members.

Earth Force released a statement from Lindsey Metheral, Program Advisor at Agrium, that read: "Agrium is proud to work with Earth Force to help young people understand their local watershed and the role they play in protecting it. The goal of Caring for Our Watershed is to work with youth as they create change around the environment, which is exactly what we are doing by helping Kenmore Middle School implement their rain barrel idea internationally. Hopefully this realistic solution will inspire other students around the world to make a difference in their local watersheds."

Get more information about the Caring for Our Watersheds program here!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boost Your STEM Knowledge Online

Are you looking to beef up your STEM knowledge, but aren't interested in entertaining the idea of going back to school because you can't afford it or just simply don't want to? Well, good news: the Internet is a flourishing education landscape and is at your fingertips! Whether you're an expert or a beginner, are interested in free programs or paid sessions, there are options out there for every type of learner looking for a variety of STEM skills.

Mashable recently scoured the web in search for top STEM curricula and the best part: you can take all of these courses from the comfort of your own home at your own pace. Check out the 10 courses Mashable references as some of the best online resources.

  1. Artificial Intelligence for Robots - This advanced Udacity class will teach you how to program a robotic car under the expert instruction of Sebastian Thrun, who ran Google and Stanford's driving teams. Even better, it's free!
  2. Building a Mobile Strategy - This General Assembly class looks at approaches to mobile strategy ranging from responsive design to mobile first to native apps. It will be offered this Thursday (March 21) from 2-3 pm ET and is $20.
  3. Coding the Matrix Linear Algebra through Computer Science Applications - Um...what? Well, if you're looking to master the methods of linear algebra and apply them to computer science, try this eight-week course. It kicks off this June.
  4. Elements of Software Construction - If you're interested in learning the basics of software development, this semester-long course offered on MIT OpenCourseWare might be just what you need. You'll learn to write software that's free from bugs, easy to understand and ready for change.
  5. Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science - Another MIT OpenCourseWare track, this challenging intro to computer science explains how you can use computer science to understand topics ranging from universes and minds.
  6. Introduction to Programs Data Types and Variables - This Khan Academy video series teaches you the basics of data types, variables and conditional statements. Learn to code by watching free videos...? Sounds like a sweet deal to us!
  7. Intro to Google Analytics - Want to gain a comprehensive understanding of how Google Analytics works? This General Assembly course offered Wednesday (March 20) from 2-3 pm ET will give you a comprehensive understanding of what GA can do for your business. This course costs 20 bucks.
  8. Life on Earth and in the Universe - If you've always been curious about when life on earth developed, this Khan Academy class is for you! You'll learn the history of life on earth, how human evolved as a species and whether there could be intelligent life on other planets.
  9. Statistics: Making Science of Data - You see stats in headline news everyday, but do you really understand what you're looking at? If not, you should try this eight-week Coursera course that promises to bring you up to speed on collection, display and analysis.
  10. Web Development - This Udacity course will explain how to build your own blog application and scale it for many users, increasing your business' web presence.
For links to all of the courses and websites mentioned above, visit Mashable's site.

Friday, March 15, 2013

HHMI Searching for Top Scientists to Put in the Classroom

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is searching for up to 15 leading scientists-educators with great ideas for transforming science education. As new HHMI professors, each of the scientists will receive $1 million over five years to create activities that integrate their own research with student learning in ways that enhance undergraduate students' understanding of science.

HHMI's director for precollege and undergraduate science education Davis Asai says that students benefit most when scientists draw on their own interests and expertise in their educational activities. That being said, HHMI professors are accomplished research scientists who are deeply committed to making science more engaging for undergrads. By providing scientists with funds, HHMI hopes to empower these individuals to create new models for teaching science at research universities. Score!

Along with the five year grant, each professor becomes a permanent member of the community of current and former HHMI professors known as the Society of HHMI Professors, a community of scholars who share ideas and collaborate to improve science education.

40 scientists have been name HHMI professors since the program began in 2002. Those scientists have introduced innovative approaches for teaching science in the classroom, expanded and enhanced student research opportunities, developed new educational resources and implemented novel mentoring programs for student support. 

The competition, which opened yesterday, is looking for scientists who are thinking broadly and creatively about important challenges in science education. HHMI notes that natural science professors at the approximately 100 research universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as having "very high research activity" are invited to apply.

Applicants can apply online at Prospective applicants must establish their eligibility by June 4, 2013, and applications must be completed by July 16, 2013. A panel of distinguished scientists and educators will review the proposals, and finalists will be invited to present their proposed activities at a symposium in May 204. HHMI will announce the awardees in the summer of 2014.

For more information about HHMI professors, this opportunity and to see what else David Asai has to say, click here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Career Highlight: Nutritional Biochemist

As a nutritional biochemist, Bruce Daggy studies how food duels the body and affects health and disease. This month's issue of The Science Teacher wanted to highlight him, and so do we! Daggy is driven to see improved nutrition and better lifestyle habits incorporated into health care. He's previously done work with pharmaceuticals, sports nutrition and Third World nutrition, but his current work focuses on obesity's role in disease and heads the research and development division of Nutrisystem.

Daggy, who earned a BA in biology from the University of Virginia and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from Cornell, says that while he has a passion for helping people get healthy, his favorite part of his job is hearing from customers and knowing that his work is making a difference in people's lives.

Daggy also explains that he was always interested in science, but didn't plan on a science career until his freshman year of college when he became interested in biology. Then, after college he was working with an anesthesiology researcher at a university hospital when he found a fascination with nutrition.

So what kind of skills are required to become a nutritional biochemist? Daggy insists that he wouldn't be able to do what he does without a PhD. He also notes that math skills and good record keeping skills come in handy when dealing with statistics and submitting studies to the FDA.

Daggy's advice for students is to work with people of different disciplines. While science sometimes promotes working in isolation, he explains that you can solve problems you couldn't solve on your own when you collaborate with others. Look for people whose knowledge compliments yours and adsorb as much math as you can. And, Daggy's last tip: internships. He states that they are a great way to explore different work environments and figure out which ones you like and don't like before you graduate.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Recap: Women in STEM Town Hall

Did you miss the Women in STEM Town Hall meeting last week? Good news: you can catch up on all the presentations via STEMblog. At the Women's History Month National Town Hall, several 100 Women Leaders in STEM honorees shared their stories, their challenges and what their organizations are doing to promote more women and girls in STEM career. You can download all of the presentation slides and audio from the Town Hall on STEMblog's website, but here's a video of the historical conference call.

Download the presentation slides here.

Some of the presenters included, STEMconnector CEO Edie Frasier; AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman; Teach for America Managing Director Melissa Moritz; Girls Inc. President and CEO Judy Vredenburgh; and National Girls Collaborative Project Principal Investigator Karen Peterson!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Adjust Your Image Using Motic Images Live

Are you using a microscope camera to view your specimen, but can't quite seem to get it to look like it's supposed to? Don't worry, it's not you! A few quick fixes using Motic software and the Motic Images Live interface will have your image looking just like it does when you look down the eyepiece at it.

This short video will take you through how to adjust your image using Motic Images Live. The tips provided will come in handy as you use your microscope camera in class, at home or just on your own to take pictures and prepare a lesson plan.

For more helpful videos and other great ideas for microscopy in the classroom, visit Swift's YouTube channel

Monday, March 4, 2013

Start a School Garden!

The National Farm to School Network is broadly defined as a program that connects K-12 schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farms. Now, the organization is teaming up with to bring educators, students and parents the school garden community.

School gardens are a growing initiative to help children understand where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment and their communities at large.

Pioneered by Dorothy Mullen, who started a school garden for Riverside Elementary School in Princeton, NJ after 9/11, school gardens can have an impact on the entire life and educational program of school and the surrounding community. Even better, gardening activities can be incirporated unto nearly every curriculum subject to enhance the appreciation of the natural world, and can provide hands-on learning activities for students. and the National Farm to School Network are co-hosting an online learning community where educators, gardeners, parents and community volunteers can come together to share information and resources on how to start and maintain a school garden, and integrate it into the curriculum and the life of a school. 

The online community also hosts free monthly webinars and live chats with leaders in the field! If you're interested in joining the community or learning more, click here.

Tomorrow, Jessica Cuevas, teacher and coordinator of the Margate Schools Garden and winner of the inaugural New Jersey School Garden of the Year Award, will present "Garden to Plate" at 4 p.m. ET. The connection between the plants we grow and ideas for how to serve bounty to students and children will be explored throughout the webinar and Cuevas will talk about the Garden Gourmet tasting program, which allows hundreds of students to taste a variety of dishes prepared with the very produce they have grown. Register here.