Smithsonian Science for Global Goals – Panama City, Panama
Imagine you are asked to design a zoo exhibit for your local zoo. I know, this is a stretch but "bear" with me! Let’s break it down into the steps you might take if this were an engineering project. As with any engineering problem, the first thing you need to know are the requirements. Requirements are made up of criteria and constraints.
Step 1: Understand the criteria and constraints
You need to decide how you are going to measure the success of your zoo exhibit design: the criteria. Will it be the number of visitors that stop at your exhibit or how long they stop? Do you want criteria that show visitors have learned something? Do you want to know if you motivated people to do something about conservation? Do you want a way of measuring how satisfied visitors are with their experience? No one wants to see an empty exhibit space at a zoo, so you may want to decide on a percentage of time that animals are visible as a measure of visitor satisfaction.
You will want your exhibit to give visitors a positive impression of the zoo. How will you measure this? Mark Van Bergh, Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Federal Coordination - STEM Committee Meeting
Smithsonian Science Education Center Director, Carol O’Donnell, attended the Federal Coordination (FC)-STEM Committee Meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Tuesday, May 8th. The goals of the meeting were: a) equip the FC-STEM Committee to guide Federal STEM planning by providing essential background and context, and b) guide the development of the future 5-Year Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan and its ancillary working groups.
2018 STEMconnector All-Member Summit
Why Are Amphibians So Important?
Amphibians are the oldest tetrapods, or four-legged animals, on Earth. They appeared on land for the first time over 350 million years ago. There are around 6,000 species of amphibian, most of which are frogs.
You have big news that you want to share with family in Mexico, India, or the UK. Maybe you will send an email or an instant message. Perhaps you are so excited that you will call them on the phone or make a video call through the computer. The only delay to the person receiving the news is how quickly they read the message or accept the call. However, this wasn’t always the case. At one point, the electric telegraph was the very latest thing in sending a message. The electric telegraph revolutionized how quickly messages could be received.
The Honey Hollow Watershed Conservation Area was created in 1939 in eastern Pennsylvania. It was formed by five families who owned farmland along the Honey Creek. They were concerned because their fields were washing away. The erosion of their fields was caused by farming methods, especially cultivation by machinery. With support from the regional Soil Conservation Service, the Honey Hollow Project became a model of cooperative efforts to conserve soil, water, wildlife, and, ultimately, farmland. Honey Hollow Watershed was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1969.
Crooks farmhouse. Image: Crook’s House- NPS, National Register collection
Editors note: Citizen Science Day on April 14, 2018. is an electronic field guide developed by Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. The app includes images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark from different tree species, and features visual recognition software that helps users identify a species of tree by uploading images of a leaf. It shares data uploaded by users, including the location and species, with scientists mapping the distribution of flora across the country and lets users view species documented in their area. Leafsnap is a great tool to use for
For years I’ve been fascinated by Leafsnap, a free app produced by the Smithsonian that lets users in the US and Canadian northeast identify trees by snapping pictures of their leaves. I live and teach in a downtown neighborhood and pass hundreds of trees every day on my walk to school. Sadly, other than the distinctive maple and some oaks, I could never tell one from another: they were just filed under the broad domain of “trees”. I’ve always admired environmentally literate folks who can distinguish between different species and better articulate their surroundings. Fortunately, since I discovered Leafsnap, I now make the occasional stop to identify a tree that catches my eye and educate myself, a lifelong city dweller, on what Frank Loyd Wright called “our best friend on earth.”
Mountains in the mist
The Isle of Skye is a 50-mile-long island in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the west coast of Scotland. It is famous for its dramatic scenery and wet weather. Its mountain ranges have names that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tolkein novel: Red Cuillin, Black Cuillin, Trotternish. It is a place where office workers come to de-stress and adventure seekers come to climb some of the most challenging mountains in Europe. Car manufacturers film new models of cars being expertly handled on Skye’s near empty winding roads. It is also an island where dinosaurs used to roam. Recently, there have been several discoveries of fossils in Skye from the Middle Jurassic period (174–164 millions of years ago). The Middle Jurassic period was an important time in the evolution of dinosaurs. It was when the first birds started to fly, meat eaters started to diversify, and long-necked sauropods (herbivores such as Brachiosaurus) started to get really big. Fossils from this period are rare, so now Skye has a new type of visitor: scientists.
Skye has a lot of rain, even by British standards. Image: longtaildog/istock/Thinkstock
Editor's Note: This article first appeared on EducationNC.
When you were a student, did you see a teacher that looked like you standing in front of your class? Chances are if you are a person of color the answer is no. In North Carolina, over 80 percent of the teachers are white, while under 50 percent of the student population is white, according to data from the Department of Public Instruction.
What words do you think of when you think of the name Dr. Jane Goodall? Chimpanzee researcher. Visionary scientist. United Nations Messenger for Peace. Expert. Leader.
How about failure? Maybe not.
But like every scientist before her and every scientist who will follow, Goodall encountered failure in the pursuit of science. All scientists fail. Einstein did. Marie Curie did. Your science teacher did. I definitely did.
Can you imagine turning on your kitchen faucet and no water coming out? That may happen to the 3.7 million people living in Cape Town, South Africa. The major water reservoirs supplying water to Cape Town are dangerously low. Once the reservoirs reach a certain level, drinking water will be shut off and people will need to pick up water at a distribution point.
I find starting new projects to be very difficult. Most times I end up with several false starts before making any progress. Chances are this blog would have gone through at least three false starts before ending up in Andre’s inbox (Andre is one of the Smithsonian’s Science Education Center Curriculum Developer and my supervisor). This used to annoy me. Somedays it still does, especially when I have deadlines to make. But, I have learned that false starts are all a part of the process. Thankfully I have found a very useful technique to help minimize false starts–brainstorming.
In the 2010 Olympics, both the men’s and women’s two-man bobsled gold medals were decided by less than two-tenths of a second. Each team had taken four runs down a 1,450 meter (almost 1 mile) track, and the combined times were separated by less time than it takes to blink. So in a sport won by speed, what does it take to have the perfect slide on a bobsled run?
One of the best parts of my joint internship with J. Craig Venter (JCVI) and the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) is the hands-on learning experience I’m getting at JCVI. So far, I’ve learned several basic laboratory skills like volumetric measurements, proper use of balances including selecting the correct balance, record keeping using a lab notebook, and the ever-important laboratory safety and aseptic techniques.
In the movie Toy Story, Woody tells Buzz Lightyear, “That wasn’t flying. That was falling with style,” after he gracefully glides around a room. This idea that a person could fly through the air has intrigued civilizations since ancient times. Stories from the Ancient Greeks through 18th century Europe tell similar tales of men fashioning wings from wood, feathers, and cloth imitating birds before leaping from towers, hills, or cliffs.
Greetings to all!
My name is Francine Baker. I am a recent Public Health Science graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health. Currently, I am a joint intern at the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) and J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). SSEC is part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., which focuses on reforming science education for preK-12 throughout the nation and the world. JCVI is a genomics-focused biological science research facility with laboratories in Rockville, MD and LaJolla, CA. This unique joint internship is a collaboration between both facilities to build upon the SSEC’s upcoming “Mosquito!” Curriculum module, free for all educators and youth ages 7-18, using real time data collection and feedback from scientists conducting mosquito related research at JCVI.
I recently attended an event sponsored by the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institute called the Girls Education Research and Policy Symposium: Reaching the Most Marginalized. Earlier in 2017, I had researched strategies to engage girls in STEM learning. So it was a natural fit that I was the person from SSEC to attend this event focused on girls’ education. To say that the day was eye opening would be an understatement.
If you were lost in the middle of the woods and could not see the Sun, you might use a compass to try to decide which direction to take. A magnetic compass needle lines itself up with Earth’s magnetic field and points roughly north and south: from that, you can figure out east and west, too. Because this works fairly well, people have been using magnetic compasses to find their way for about 1,000 years.
If you have ever gone swimming in summer or had a snowball fight in winter, then you know something about seasons. Seasons are times on Earth that have very specific weather patterns and hours of daylight. Earth’s four seasons are spring, summer, fall, and winter. Seasons are caused by Earth’s changing position as it revolves around the Sun. Some people think that the seasons occur because of Earth’s distance from the Sun.
Joseph Henry Image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-BH824-4499
Your team has a soccer game Saturday, so you check a local news station’s website to see the weekend forecast. Radar images on multicolored maps show rain moving east, away from your town, and bands of clouds a few hundred miles west. It could mean rain, but the forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy with a high of 75 degrees. To get a better idea of the weather at the time of your game, you check the hour-by- hour forecast. Saturday, 10 a.m.: partly sunny and 68 degrees. Perfect.
In this age of 10-day weather forecasts and colorful digital displays of the entire country’s weather, it is hard to imagine not being able to find out tomorrow’s forecast. But before the mid-1800s, farmers and ship captains, whose lives and jobs depended on the weather, had little information to go on. They relied on clouds, winds, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, past experience in how the seasons flow, animal behavior signs, and their own arthritic bones to make predictions about the weather. But a scientist named Joseph Henry changed all of that.
Smithsonian Science Education Center National Advisory Board Dinner & Meeting
The Smithsonian Science Education Center held its Fall National advisory board events, which included a private tour of the National Museum of American History’s (NMAH) Spark Lab and presentations in their boardroom, a dinner at the National Academy of Science (NAS), and the semi-annual board meeting at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES).
What is your favorite thing to do in autumn? Go on a hayride? Walk through a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard? Watch leaves dance around you?
Autumn is a beautiful and fun season for all ages. We can observe a lot of changes in autumn—the air becomes crisp, the evenings grow longer, and leaves’ dazzling colors emerge. We know autumn is here when the bright green summer landscape changes to reveal brilliant reds, oranges, yellows, and golds. But leaves are not on trees just to make them pretty. Trees need leaves to keep them alive!
Leaf or Needle?
In September, an enthusiastic group of teachers and Johnson & Johnson volunteers participated in the first stage of a collaboration that is bringing hands-on STEM2D learning to 240 students throughout Panama. Teachers and volunteers gathered at the Johnson & Johnson offices in Panama City for two days of professional development (PD) that focused on integrating this learning using the STC Rocks and Minerals unit.