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.
When was the last time you truly thought about water? Not just the thought of thirst leading you to drink water but some real, contemplative consideration of water? It’s something that every person consumes (ideally) 1.9 liters of each day, it covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, and it sustains the existence of all living things. Clearly, it’s important. But chances are you haven’t been acutely aware of it. So we thought it would be a good idea to give water a little more thought.
There are lots of great things to love about fall. There’s cooler weather, apple picking, Halloween… but arguably one of the best things is the natural art show that deciduous forests put on. Every fall these forests turn from their typical green to vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. It’s a spectacular site to see and one that people travel miles to visit (in Vermont we call them leaf peepers). But what’s the story behind this beautiful show of color, and why don’t all trees do it? As always, there’s some pretty cool science happening behind the scenes.
What’s the weather like right now? Let me guess, you just glanced out a window? Or maybe you consulted the meteorologist in your pocket. Either way, odds are most people reading this won’t be outside. After all, Americans spend 87% of their time indoors. As a result, the weather is much less a constant concern of ours than a welcome reminder that nature still exists beyond our buildings.
Humans are great at creatively conspiring against Earth’s elements, and the temperature is no exception. In addition to buildings, we’ve invented clothes to cover ourselves, thermostats to tinker with the temperature, and numerous other nature-numbing devices that solve the challenge of changing climates.
June brought educators from around the country to Washington, DC, to experience Smithsonian research facilities, interact with scientists, and engage in activities to bring back to their classroom. These educators were participants in the Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers (SSEATs), a weeklong event that focuses on the professional development of science educators.
From June 18th through the 23rd, 18 teachers from across the country gathered in Washington, DC, to learn about biodiversity at this year’s Biodiversity Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers, or SSEAT. The participants went behind the scenes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, spent time in the museum’s Q?rius Lab, and traveled to Edgewater, Maryland, to visit the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Throughout the week, teachers were able to explore fields such an entomology, paleobiology, ecology, scientific illustration, and ornithology with Smithsonian scientists and researchers as well as experts from the U.S. Department of Energy, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
An important theme throughout the Biodiversity SSEAT was how numerous fields of study are interrelated with the sciences. In particular, there was a focus on the integration of the arts with STEM (the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), which creates the concept of STEAM. Although the concept of STEAM was present throughout the week, it was most prevalent during Sally Bensusen’s session called “Integrating STEM and the Arts.” Working as a scientific illustrator for over 30 years, Ms. Bensusen had a variety of techniques and activities to share with the teachers.
Sally Bensusen instructs a participant on how to use a microscope for scientific illustration.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” During the week of July 24-28th at the 2017 K–12 Science Education Institute for Leadership Development and Strategic Planning, seven teams consisting of district and school administrators, teachers, and community members became the pilots of change. Committed to implementing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) into their school communities, each team had the task of devising a 5-year strategic plan using the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model. With sessions led by both Smithsonian Science Education Center staff and experienced faculty from around the country and beyond, these schools and districts became equipped to change the lives of their students.
NASA/ The Exploratorium
On August 21, 2017, day will appear as night, temperatures will drop, and birds will fly home to roost. This may sound like something out of fiction, but it’s all very real. For the first time in decades, North America will experience a total solar eclipse stretching from coast to coast and even including Hawaii and Alaska. More than likely, if you’ve had access to TV, radio, Internet, or really exposure to any type of media in the past year, the total solar eclipse is not new news. This is something both amateur and professional eclipse chasers have been looking forward to and talking about for years. You may be wondering, is the hype worth it? Does the lining up of three celestial bodies all traveling on different orbital planes actually deserve this much attention? The simples answer, YES!
What an experience! I recently participated in the Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers on Biodiversity, a week-long professional development program, and all I can say is “WOW!” Once I arrived in Washington, D.C. I realized that I was in for an unbelievable educational and personal experience.
Digital technology is quickly becoming a central part of our lives. But in our digital world, we cannot lose sight of the importance of tactile experiences in a science classroom. Dr. Carol O’Donnell argues that it’s not about resisting the shift to digital, instead, it is about finding ways for object-driven learning and digital learning to complement one another.
Yes, you read that right. As 21st century humans, we get to enjoy all the perks of modern technology. That includes digital money, music in your pocket, intercontinental travel, and now, possibly, de-extinct species. Last month, a team from Germany considered the legal implications that such species-level innovation might have in a perspective from the journal Science. The discussion comes at an important time, as recent advances in the field have made the idea of de-extinction increasingly feasible.
Summer vacation is often filled with fun activities but did you know that, on average, students lose two months worth of academic progress over the break? This is referred to as the “Summer Slide,” or the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. In order to combat this, we have provided a list of free educational games to keep your student engaged and excited about learning all summer long!
Have you had a chance to check out Showbiz Safari in the SSEC Game Center? In this life science game, students take on the role of assistant casting director for Walrus! He has three kinds of movies to cast – but different roles require different kinds of organisms! Using their knowledge of diverse plant and animal life, students must make sure that Walrus casts the prefect character for each of his movies. Keep reading to learn more about some of the super cool organisms from the game!
When I ask someone, “How was your day?”, they often respond that “It felt long.” Sometimes, if it was a really tough day, they will go as far as claiming that it felt like “the longest day of the year.” On most days, 364 to be precise, that claim is factually false. Today, however, anyone in the northern hemisphere can correctly state that this feels like the longest day of the year.