April 2nd, 2014
Introducing the New Life Science Teaching Resource Community

lifesci-box-highresNew Com­mu­nity

We are pleased to wel­come you to the new Life Sci­ence Teach­ing Resource Com­mu­nity, pre­vi­ously the Archive of Teac­ing Resources. Our goal is to pro­vide you with a free online envi­ron­ment where you can share ideas and exper­tise with fel­low edu­ca­tors to trans­form sci­ence edu­ca­tion for your stu­dents. We will con­tinue to offer our online library of free, peer-reviewed teach­ing resources, but will now pro­vide you with more.

New Tools

The Life Sci­ence Teach­ing Resource Com­mu­nity (LifeSc­iTRC) offers a num­ber of tools that allow edu­ca­tors to share their ideas and teach­ing exper­tise including:

  • Com­mu­nity Pages with news and rec­om­mended teach­ing resources
  • Blogs focus­ing on class­room and sci­ence top­ics rel­e­vant to educators
  • Forums for educator-led discussions
  • Resource Rat­ing and Com­ment­ing areas that allow edu­ca­tors to share their expe­ri­ences of using resources
  • Monthly Newslet­ters high­light­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers, news, and resources

 

New Part­ners

In addi­tion to the new name, the LifeSc­iTRC will fea­ture three new sci­en­tific soci­ety part­ners: The Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety, Genet­ics Soci­ety of Amer­ica, and Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Plant Biol­o­gists. These soci­eties will join the cur­rent part­ners: Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety, Human Anatomy and Phys­i­ol­ogy Soci­ety, Soci­ety for Devel­op­men­tal Biol­ogy, Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Anatomists, Mass­a­chu­setts Soci­ety for Med­ical Research, and North­west Asso­ci­a­tion for Bio­med­ical Research in offer­ing over 6,000 free, sci­en­tif­i­cally accu­rate teach­ing resources to the community.

Our new part­ners will be adding their resources to the LifeSc­iTRC over the com­ing months, so keep an eye out for their mate­ri­als on the LifeSc­iTRC home page and in upcom­ing newsletters.

Visit Us Today and Enter Our Drawing!

To cel­e­brate the launch of our new com­mu­nity, we will be hold­ing a draw­ing for free prizes dur­ing the month of April. All you need to do by April 30 is:

  • Visit the Com­mu­nity Forums
  • Select the Forum most appro­pri­ate to the grade level you teach
  • Post a brief intro­duc­tion to the com­mu­nity and share what you hope to gain by participating

Once you have done so, you will auto­mat­i­cally be entered in our draw­ing. We hope that you will visit the LifeSc­iTRC soon and dis­cover all that we have to offer!

March 10th, 2014
Women’s History Month
Photo by George Joch / courtesy Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr.

Photo by George Joch / cour­tesy Argonne National Lab­o­ra­tory via Flickr.

March is Women’s His­tory Month and what bet­ter time to intro­duce your stu­dents to some excep­tional female sci­en­tists? Here are some short, infor­mal video inter­views of female scientists:

  • TanYa Gwath­mey – TanYa is a Post­doc­toral Fel­low at Wake For­est Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine. Find out what inspired her to study phys­i­ol­ogy and what some of her other inter­ests are.
  • Car­men Tron­coso Brindeiro – Car­men is a Postodoc­toral Fel­low at Dart­mouth Med­ical School. Orig­i­nally, she didn’t like sci­ence but now she stud­ies cys­tic fibrosis.
  • Johana Vallejo – Johana is an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Mid­west­ern Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of Osteo­pathic Med­i­cine who stud­ies insulin resis­tance. She pro­vides infor­ma­tion on her research and career in both Eng­lish and Spanish.

If your stu­dents get inspired and want to read about more female sci­en­tists, point them to these two Archive col­lec­tions:  Biogra­phies of Female Biol­o­gists I & Biogra­phies of Female Biol­o­gists II.

Share with the Com­mu­nity: Who are some of your favorite female sci­en­tists? Are you doing any fun activ­i­ties with your class to intro­duce them to women in STEM careers? Leave a Comment!

February 3rd, 2014
5 Pieces of Career Advice for High School Students

83893360High school is a unique time in life.  I vividly recall my high school days as a period of immense per­sonal growth, tinged with a bit of fear and uncer­tainty about the future.  Many deci­sions in life are made not because we feel we are ade­quately pre­pared to make them, but because it is time to do so.  But that is life.  If you are a junior or senior, you’ve likely started get­ting ques­tions from friends, fam­ily, and teach­ers about your future.

As a high schooler, you are at a stage in which you are gain­ing increas­ing amounts of inde­pen­dence, and you are begin­ning to think seri­ously about what you want to do with your life.  Of course, that includes pon­der­ing where you will go to col­lege, what you plan to major in, and what career you hope to pursue.

If you love sci­ence, you are for­tu­nate.  Oppor­tu­ni­ties for a career in sci­ence are numer­ous and var­ied.  From teach­ing, to research, to engi­neer­ing, to med­i­cine, to admin­is­tra­tion, to count­less other voca­tions, the options are many.  These fields all have merit, and each is unique and spe­cial in its own way.

I wouldn’t be sur­prised if you’ve had peo­ple tell you what career you should go into based upon your abil­i­ties.  That’s not what I plan to do here.

Below are five sim­ple, gen­eral words of advice that should apply to you no mat­ter what field you’d like to go into:

  1. Get involved early — If you’re inter­ested in research, find a lab­o­ra­tory at your local med­ical cen­ter and ask if you can observe or par­tic­i­pate in the work.  If you’re inter­ested in teach­ing, find an ele­men­tary or mid­dle school and ask teach­ers if they would be will­ing to let you be a guest speaker once in a while.  If you’re inter­ested in med­i­cine, find a doc­tor to shadow or a hos­pi­tal to vol­un­teer at.  These are just a few exam­ples of things you can do.  Be cre­ative.  Even if you don’t end up going into those fields, col­lege admis­sions com­mit­tees and future employ­ers will be impressed that you took the ini­tia­tive to get involved.
  2. Keep your options open – As stated above, there are many career options for those who enjoy sci­ence.  Cer­tainly it is good to have a clear goal, but know that just because you have your heart set on one career now does not mean you can­not or will not change your mind later.  Be open minded, espe­cially at your cur­rent stage, and be will­ing to explore new areas.
  3. Develop a strong work ethic – Hav­ing the desire and abil­ity to work hard will serve you well no mat­ter what you do in life.  Peo­ple take note of hard work­ers, espe­cially those who are young.  Strive to be one.
  4. Make an impact – You don’t have to be famous or old or wealthy to make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of oth­ers.  Go visit elderly folks at a nurs­ing home.  Vol­un­teer at your local Sal­va­tion Army on the week­ends.  Join (or cre­ate) a school com­mit­tee that orga­nizes com­mu­nity out­reach events.  Again, be cre­ative.  Find ser­vice activ­i­ties that you enjoy tak­ing part in, and get a group together of those who share your interests.
  5. Love what you do!  It will show – Whether you are study­ing, work­ing, play­ing sports or doing some other extracur­ric­u­lar activ­ity, be pas­sion­ate about it and have a pos­i­tive atti­tude.  Peo­ple enjoy being around those who are hav­ing fun, and a pos­i­tive atti­tude is contagious.

If you’re a high schooler inter­ested in a career in phys­i­ol­ogy, which I hope you are, make sure you check out the Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Society’s Careers in Phys­i­ol­ogy web­page at http://www.the-aps.org/mm/Careers/Midhigh.  Also check out the Archive’s Col­lec­tion on Biol­ogy Careers (includ­ing phys­i­ol­ogy): http://www.lifescitrc.org/collection.cfm?collectionID=2203.

Do you have any other tips from what you have learned?  Please share them in the com­ments sec­tion below.

January 15th, 2014
A New Year and New Science Education?

Happy New Year from the Archive of Teach­ing Resources!students desk

As a new cal­en­dar year starts, I like to sit and reflect on the hap­pen­ings over the past year and begin plan­ning for the future. One ben­e­fit of serv­ing as the Archive Man­ager is that I have the oppor­tu­nity to think about and see exam­ples of sci­ence edu­ca­tion from the kinder­garten to grad­u­ate level. This year has brought some BIG SHIFTS in sci­ence edu­ca­tion and the stan­dards that are rec­om­mended to be used in education.

This year, the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards were released for K-12 edu­ca­tion and Vision and Change in Sci­ence Edu­ca­tion con­tin­ues to spread through­out under­grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion. What makes me happy to see is that both of these doc­u­ments focus on mak­ing sci­ence student-centered, inte­gra­tive, and concept-centered. As a sci­en­tist myself, I am pleased to know that there is such a large push for the next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents to expe­ri­ence all aspects of sci­ence and learn how it applies to their lives. How­ever, what makes me even more happy is to look back over the resources that have been sub­mit­ted by YOU, the Archive Users, and to see that you are already mak­ing sci­ence inter­ac­tive, inte­gra­tive, and applic­a­ble for the next gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents.

I tip my hat to each and every one of you for your fore­sight and vision for sci­ence edu­ca­tion. I believe the next step is to share your expe­ri­ence and wis­dom with other edu­ca­tors so we can con­tinue to improve sci­ence edu­ca­tion for all stu­dents. I hope that over the com­ing year we can work together to spread the “new” wave of sci­ence edu­ca­tion. Please con­tinue to share your resources, thoughts, and exper­tise with the Archive com­mu­nity and con­sider shar­ing this com­mu­nity with oth­ers. My New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion is to con­tinue reach­ing out to and sup­port­ing teach­ers like you.

What is your New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion? Com­ment Below.

December 5th, 2013
PhUn Times Make Great Science Outreach!

phun-color-smallPhUn Week is an annual week-long event spon­sored and encour­aged by The Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety to pro­mote sci­ence out­reach in K-12 edu­ca­tion. The event stands for Phys­i­ol­ogy Under­stand­ing, and encour­ages K-12 teach­ers to team up with higher edu­ca­tors for the pur­pose of devel­op­ing expe­ri­ences for young stu­dents to learn and explore the world of phys­i­ol­ogy. The ben­e­fit of the rela­tion­ship is the prac­ti­cal knowl­edge of design­ing and imple­ment­ing age-appropriate lessons, pro­vided by K-12 teach­ers, paired with the vast exper­tise of the sub­ject mat­ter, pro­vided by the phys­i­ol­o­gist. Together, great things can be established.

If you’re a K-12 teacher like me, the thought of attempt­ing PhUn Week for the first time is exhil­a­rat­ing, over­whelm­ing, and a lit­tle bit scary. The con­cept sounds like an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence for stu­dents, and a per­fect oppor­tu­nity to make sci­ence come alive, but where do you start? How do you design (or some­times bor­row) activ­i­ties that will work? How do you struc­ture the event? With so much free­dom to design an event that works for you, the task can quickly turn grandiose. The best advice APS gave to me was to start small. After com­plet­ing two years of PhUn Week, I can state with con­fi­dence that it does become eas­ier to plan and to build in more lay­ers over time.

Are you con­sid­er­ing join­ing the club? This link will pro­vide all of the details from APS on how to get started and what to do:

http://the-aps.org/mm/Education/K-12/EducationProjects/PhUn-Week

In the mean­time, below is some advice I’ve gath­ered from my own expe­ri­ences of plan­ning and imple­ment­ing PhUn Week on a high school campus:

1) Know your tar­get audience

–I taught my stu­dents, then they taught ele­men­tary stu­dents, then my stu­dents had an oppor­tu­nity to learn directly from our vis­it­ing phys­i­ol­o­gist. Who do you want to involve in the event?

2) Decide on your time frame and start plan­ning early

–My cul­mi­nat­ing event was on Fri­day of PhUn Week, where 6th grade stu­dents were bussed to our cam­pus to inter­act with my high school kids, and when the vis­it­ing phys­i­ol­o­gist was avail­able to come. If you want to involve more than your own stu­dents, plan­ning early is cru­cial in order to com­plete all nec­es­sary paper­work and approval processes.

3) Don’t rein­vent the wheel

–A famil­iar phrase to teach­ers, but don’t for­get to apply it dur­ing your plan­ning. The APS site has some great resources shared by pre­vi­ous teach­ers that can be used or mod­i­fied to fit your needs. Does your phys­i­ol­o­gist have access to lab sup­plies to bor­row, or pre­vi­ous lab activ­i­ties that you can mod­ify to your tar­get audi­ence? With so many details to plan, it isn’t nec­es­sary to write all of the lessons from scratch.

 4) Iden­tify your resources, and use them

–What resources do you have avail­able that can enhance your event while reduc­ing some of the teach­ing from your plate? If your phys­i­ol­o­gist isn’t avail­able for the entire week, per­haps some grad­u­ate stu­dents can attend, or per­haps some of your room par­ents are experts in the field. Inquiry-based lessons that involve stu­dent dis­cov­ery are pow­er­ful. You shouldn’t do all of the teaching.

 5) Remem­ber that it’s about the expe­ri­ence for students

–Regard­less of the actual time you allo­cate to PhUn Week, the fact is that stu­dents are gain­ing a new expe­ri­ence to inter­act with sci­ence in a fun and mem­o­rable way. Keep it sim­ple, keep the focus on them.

Are you ready to get started? I’d love to hear your ideas! Have you par­tic­i­pated in PhUn Week before? What type of event did you estab­lish? What are some words of wis­dom you can share from your own experiences?

November 6th, 2013
Teacher Evaluation

Java PrintingEdu­ca­tion as a whole is con­tin­u­ously chang­ing and ever evolv­ing. We have progress from No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top and many oth­ers. The newest push has been the adop­tion and imple­men­ta­tion of the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards.  These stan­dards pri­mar­ily focus on Eng­lish Lan­guage Arts and Math­e­mat­ics. Included are the read­ing and writ­ing in Sci­ence and Social Studies.

As the stan­dards of edu­ca­tion are chang­ing so are the stan­dards for teach­ing. For years our stu­dents have been eval­u­ated with a high stakes test to deter­mine their abil­ity. As the rigor of the stan­dards has increased so has the need to assess teacher effec­tive­ness. In some instances the stu­dent high stakes results are used to deter­mine teacher effectiveness.

Teacher eval­u­a­tions based on instruc­tion in the class­room has become a focus for many edu­ca­tional stake­hold­ers.  The best indi­ca­tor of stu­dent achieve­ment is based on the teacher effec­tive­ness in the class­room. How­ever, the method for deter­min­ing teacher effec­tive­ness is not uni­ver­sally used. Some states have imple­mented state based teacher effec­tive­ness mea­sure­ment rubrics. The learn­ing process is an active process and meth­ods such as inter­ac­tive lec­tures are con­sid­ered as edu­ca­tional best prac­tice when teach­ing stu­dents with diverse sci­ence back­grounds. Does this edu­ca­tional prac­tice span across con­tent areas? I find myself agree­ing that an active learn­ing expe­ri­ence is a good prac­tice and more mean­ing­ful to students.

Cur­rently my role in edu­ca­tion is that I serve as a TAP Mas­ter Teacher for one cam­pus. One of my respon­si­bil­i­ties is to con­duct class­room observations/evaluations using a rubric. Based on each teacher eval­u­a­tion con­ducted, I hold an indi­vid­ual con­fer­ence to pro­vide feed­back and pro­vide sug­ges­tions to improve stu­dent achieve­ment. I am also eval­u­ated in the same man­ner as the teach­ers using the same mea­sure­ment rubric.

When I look at teacher eval­u­a­tions as a whole I look at the process from both the view of the admin­is­tra­tor as well as the teacher. From the view­point of an admin­is­tra­tor, I can see how teacher eval­u­a­tions based on actual teach­ing of stu­dents is ben­e­fi­cial, espe­cially if stu­dents are being assessed on con­tent that is to have been taught by the teacher. How­ever, some high stakes exams are not built to assess con­tent that was taught in one year and require stu­dents to think back to pre­vi­ous “taught” con­tent. Some states have revised their high stakes assess­ments to now reflect what was to be taught in that aca­d­e­mic year hence being called end of course exam/test.  From the view­point of a teacher, I can see how teacher eval­u­a­tions can also be ben­e­fi­cial if the mea­sure­ment is based upon teach­ing and remove the focus from pro­ce­dural actions that a teacher is to com­plete. The teacher eval­u­a­tions them­selves can be a tool to help to improve the qual­ity of instruc­tion being pro­vided to the students.

There are so many ques­tions to think about:

How can we have teacher eval­u­a­tions that are ben­e­fi­cial to the teach­ers while impact­ing stu­dent achieve­ment? In my expe­ri­ence, teach­ers that truly care about their stu­dents and their per­for­mance want to hear con­struc­tive crit­i­cism with sug­ges­tions for improve­ment. Many teach­ers have expressed the dis­like for “busy work” that does not impact stu­dent achievement.

What type of actions can we take to pre­pare teach­ers for the shifts we see in edu­ca­tion? I have come across this infor­ma­tion while work­ing to help pre­pare my teach­ers for the shift to the rigor of the CCSS. The Stu­dent Achieve­ment Part­ners are a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that is work­ing to sup­port teach­ers as they are imple­ment­ing the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards. They have pro­vided free resources that were designed to help teach­ers and stu­dent achieve suc­cess with the CCSS. They have also devel­oped and pro­vided rubrics that help to deter­mine if a teacher’s les­son is com­mon core aligned.

What about if the adop­tion of the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards comes to your state? NGSS have been rec­om­mended to be adopted in whole with­out alter­ations. If they are adopted this could pos­si­bly impact the man­ner in which teach­ers are trained. What does that do to the account­abil­ity factor?

How will all these changes impact teacher eval­u­a­tions? Do you think that as the stan­dards have begun shift­ing so should the expec­ta­tions for teacher evaluations?

October 8th, 2013
Are you Virtual or Not? That is the Question!
Student at computer

Photo by Tom Wood­ward via Flickr.

With the pop­u­lar­ity of dig­i­tal devices, there has also been a great inter­est in online course­work. Dis­cus­sions and research are just now being done in rela­tion to their effec­tive­ness. Todays’ dig­i­tal natives are nat­u­rally attracted to the oppor­tu­nity to take courses dig­i­tally. The ques­tion is, “Is this the best way for stu­dents to learn?” espe­cially in the area of sci­ence, which by its very nature lends itself to “hands-on” activities.

As a long­time edu­ca­tor in Texas, I have seen a push for schools to con­sider more dig­i­tal text­books and online learn­ing resources. As a reviewer of some of these resources, I was some­what dis­ap­pointed in that some were noth­ing more than PDF’s of text­books with very lit­tle inter­ac­tiv­ity for the stu­dent. Most will agree that just putting the pages of a text­book online is not the answer to engag­ing stu­dents. How­ever, what about highly inter­ac­tive open-ended elec­tronic resources?

In the July 17 Jour­nal of “NATURE”, M. Mitchell Wal­drop dis­cusses the explo­sive pop­u­lar­ity of online learn­ing in Edu­ca­tion online: The vir­tual lab.  Wal­drop men­tions that this approach might be fine for lec­tures and the like but what about the hands on expe­ri­ence? Can that be taught online?

I have had the oppor­tu­nity to try some vir­tual labs with mixed reviews. My expe­ri­ence as a high school sci­ence teacher allowed me to see both sides of this issue. As a Biol­ogy teacher, I did many hands-on labs includ­ing dis­sec­tions. Over the years con­cerns about dis­sec­tions have been expressed for a vari­ety of rea­sons, the pur­pose of some of these dis­sec­tions, cost, effects on the envi­ron­ment, and just per­sonal pref­er­ences to not touch dead things. As a result of that I began to explore some of the vir­tual alter­na­tives. As I tried some of these vir­tual dis­sec­tions, some­thing was always lack­ing. How can a stu­dent feel the tex­ture or the depth required to cut? How can a stu­dent prob­lem solve if another tis­sue is in the way? (While some­thing like radioac­tiv­ity and half life would not be appro­pri­ate to work with in a high school lab and would lend itself to a vir­tual envi­ron­ment for safety issues, I feel like there are just some things that are bet­ter suited to the real thing. If I am going to be oper­ated on I want some­one who has expe­ri­enced work­ing on human tis­sue, knows how deep to cut, knows what to do if there is a prob­lem, and has not just worked on a “vir­tual” cadaver.

Is “hands on” the only way to learn a con­cept? Is there any value in “vir­tual labs”?

If you do a search online you will find sev­eral providers of vir­tual labs. Here are a few I found in rela­tion to Frog dis­sec­tion. Try some of these Vir­tual Frog dis­sec­tions and let me know what you think in the com­ments below.

http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/virtual_labs/BL_16/BL_16.html

http://frog.edschool.virginia.edu

http://froggy.lbl.gov/virtual/

 You can also find vir­tual labs in the Archive in this Vir­tual Lab Collection

Do you have any vir­tual labs that you like to use? Share below.

September 18th, 2013
Archive Time Saver Series Part 3: Saving Searches

45376198You’ve searched through the Archive and found a great resource, or two, or maybe twenty? There’s no rea­son to put your valu­able time to waste by not sav­ing these resources! You could book­mark what you found using your inter­net browser’s tools, but if you’re like me, you prob­a­bly have a very long list of web pages listed under your favorites. Don’t let your resources get lost in that! Try these two Archive Tools instead: (Don’t for­get, you need to be a reg­is­tered mem­ber to access these tools and reg­is­tra­tion is free!)

My Fold­ers

This is the tool to use when you want to save an indi­vid­ual resource. On the resource page, look for the “Save It!” sec­tion right above the resource descrip­tion.  Sim­ply click on the menu/down arrow next to “Save It!” and select “New Folder.” Then, click on the red “Save” but­ton and you’re done! You now have a folder with a resource in it.

To change the name of your folder or to add a new folder to save resources in, click on the blue “Edit Fold­ers” but­ton. You can also access your fold­ers under “My Archive” near the top of the Archive page.

If you’d like to view a video of how the process works, view this help page.

My Saved Searches

Want to save an entire search instead of just one resource? Try the My Saved Searches tool! On a search results page, look for the “Save It!” sec­tion right above your results. Type in a name for your search, click on the red “Save This Search But­ton,” and your search is saved. To access all of your searches hover over “My Archive” near the top of the Archive page and click on “My Saved Searches.”

We hope that you find these two tools to be a use­ful addi­tion to your time-saving arse­nal. Want more help sav­ing time in the Archive? Post your ques­tion below or con­tact us.

Happy Search­ing!

September 4th, 2013
Are we having PhUn yet? The value of outreach in science and education

The bad news first….

ednext_20124_HanushekPeterson_fig1

Fig­ure of esti­mated annual test score gains around the world. The US is in black. Fig­ure from Edu­ca­tion­Next.

The United States lags behind other coun­tries in K-12 STEM (sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math) edu­ca­tion.   Even the U.S. rate of progress to improve sci­ence and math achieve­ment is bested by 24 coun­tries includ­ing Latvia, Chile and Brazil, who have the high­est growth rates.

The pub­lic per­cep­tion of sci­ence is declin­ing.  From 1999 to 2009 the pub­lic per­cep­tion that sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy are the great­est achieve­ments of the U.S. fell from 47% to 27%.  In addi­tion, only 17% of those sur­veyed thought U.S. sci­en­tific achieve­ment is the best in the world.  When sci­en­tists were polled, 85% felt that the public’s lack of under­stand­ing of sci­ence was a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem, and 49% believed that the pub­lic has an unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tion about the speed at which sci­en­tific advance­ments are made.

Fed­eral sup­port for research and devel­op­ment is decreas­ing.  U.S. fed­eral expen­di­tures on research and devel­op­ment is expected to decrease by 6.5% in fis­cal year 2013, and fed­eral spend­ing on research as a per­cent of GDP will fall to 0.8%, a 40 year low. This is omi­nous data given that sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy are required to solve many of the prob­lems fac­ing our coun­try now and in the future. Not to men­tion the over­whelm­ing evi­dence that invest­ment in sci­en­tific research is a proven eco­nomic engine.

Now the good news…it’s time to have some PhUn!

The state­ments above paint a gloomy pic­ture about the direc­tion of sci­ence edu­ca­tion and fund­ing. They also raise the ques­tion (at least in my mind) of what we, as sci­en­tists and teach­ers, can do to reverse these trends. Is it suf­fi­cient for sci­en­tists to sim­ply hun­ker down, spend more time in the lab, sub­mit more grants, and be sat­is­fied with the notion that the pub­lic just doesn’t get it, or that it is the prob­lem of teach­ers to fix STEM edu­ca­tion? Are K-12 edu­ca­tors to just sit back and hope that updated con­tent and inno­v­a­tive les­son plans mate­ri­al­ize out of thin air?  If these options are not suf­fi­cient (they aren’t), then what other choices do we have?  Sci­en­tific out­reach may be the key, or at least an impor­tant part of the solution.

The pur­pose of sci­en­tific out­reach is to enhance pub­lic aware­ness and under­stand­ing of sci­ence.  Out­reach does not have to be a daunt­ing, all-consuming task.
From the per­spec­tive of a sci­en­tist, it can be achieved by mak­ing a visit to a class­room, talk­ing with your institute’s pub­lic affairs office about an impor­tant research find­ing, or writ­ing a let­ter to your local rep­re­sen­ta­tives. K-12 edu­ca­tors can facil­i­tate this process by being famil­iar with the ongo­ing work of local col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, invit­ing sci­en­tists to the class­room, or even get­ting involved in sum­mer research projects.  What if you’ve never par­tic­i­pated in sci­ence out­reach before?  It is con­ceiv­able, maybe even likely, that this is not in the com­fort zone of many sci­en­tists. In addi­tion, teach­ers may not know where to find research oppor­tu­ni­ties that could ben­e­fit their class­rooms, or feel com­fort­able con­tact­ing local sci­en­tists.  Thank­fully, pro­fes­sional orga­ni­za­tions like the Amer­i­can Phys­i­o­log­i­cal Soci­ety (APS) can help.  APS has great resources for phys­i­ol­o­gists on how to con­duct advo­cacy and K-12 edu­ca­tion out­reach.

F-PhUnWeek2008-UofAz

Stu­dents learn­ing about the PhUn of heart-healthy exer­cise. Image from www.phunweek.org.

Among the K-12 out­reach activ­i­ties offered by APS, Phys­i­ol­ogy Under­stand­ing (PhUn) Week is the widest reach­ing event hav­ing taken place annu­ally in the first week of Novem­ber since 2005. The goal of PhUn Week is to fos­ter inter­ac­tion between sci­en­tists and local schools and now reaches 12000 stu­dents annu­ally.  I have been for­tu­nate to be involved with PhUn Week over the last sev­eral years and have orga­nized small and large PhUn Week events.  Typ­i­cally, I bring a team of sci­en­tists to a local ele­men­tary or mid­dle school where we set up inter­ac­tive, hands-on sta­tions for the kids.  An exam­ple of a sta­tion that we might include is to build your own glomeru­lus (the fil­ter­ing unit of the kid­ney).  We spend a few min­utes talk­ing about the pur­pose of the glomeru­lus and its basic anatomy.  Then, stu­dents are pre­sented with a series of dif­fer­ent mate­ri­als from which they can use their knowl­edge of glomeru­lar func­tion and anatomy to build their own model.  When stu­dents are fin­ished build­ing their mod­els, we test them to see how good they fil­ter the “blood”.  You can view this and other activ­i­ties in this Archive Col­lec­tion.

The exam­ple of PhUn Week illus­trates how out­reach can fos­ter col­lab­o­ra­tion between sci­en­tists and K-12 edu­ca­tors pro­mote edu­ca­tional resource devel­op­ment to enhance sci­en­tific achieve­ment, and improve the pub­lic per­cep­tion of sci­ence.  Ulti­mately, these out­reach oppor­tu­ni­ties will help rein­force the pipeline of the future sci­en­tists who will be solv­ing the med­ical and tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems of the future. For sci­en­tists who are hes­i­tant to inter­act with the pub­lic, don’t under­es­ti­mate the power that improved pub­lic per­cep­tion of sci­ence and sci­en­tific lit­er­acy has to influ­ence the bud­get pri­or­i­ties of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.   So let’s get out there and have some PhUn!

August 28th, 2013
Archive Time Saver Series Part 2: Sorting Through Results

19103826You have done your search in the Archive and you now have a list of results. If you have per­formed a key­word search or drill down list­ing you prob­a­bly have a rather lengthy list of resources to sift through. Who has time for that?!? We know that a teacher’s time is pre­cious so here are 5 Ways to Refine Your Search in the Archive:

1. Fil­ter by grade level

A great thing about the Archive is that every­thing is tagged by grade level! If you want to only look at resources for your K-12 class­room, go to the top of the search results page and look for these boxes with check marks next to them: K      I . Make sure only the check box to the left of K is selected and you will only see resources that are tagged for K-12 class­room use.

2. Check ratings

One of the many ben­e­fits of being in an online com­mu­nity like the Archive is that you can find out which resources other teach­ers find use­ful. Just look for the star rat­ing to the right of the title of each resource. 5-stars means an item is highly rec­om­mended by a fel­low teacher. Often, rated resources will also include com­ments; make sure to check those out! If you see an item with­out a star rat­ing that just means that a fel­low teacher hasn’t rated it yet. Maybe you could be the first?

3. Sort your results

For peo­ple like me who enjoy an extra bit of orga­ni­za­tion in their search results, there is the sort­ing fea­ture. All you have to do is click on the title of a col­umn to sort by that col­umn. For exam­ple, you can click on “Part­ner” to sort your results by Archive Part­ner, or you can click on “Title/Author/Resource Type/Format” to orga­nize results by title. Note that the Archive will auto­mat­i­cally sort your search by “Rating.”

4. Do a search within a search

This tool is great if you have a lot of results, want to refine your search, but don’t want to start your search from scratch. It can be found two lines down from the top of the Search Results Page next to “Too much?” Just type in a word of your choos­ing and click on “Search within Results.” If you don’t like what you see, click on the blue “Go Back” but­ton. To give you an exam­ple of how I use this tool, I will often start with a very basic key­word search, such as “dia­betes” and then refine my search with some­thing more spe­cific, like “activ­ity” or “game.” This gives me a lot of flex­i­bil­ity if I’m search­ing for a vari­ety of mate­ri­als around one topic.

5. Check out collections

Teacher-Recommended Col­lec­tions are an amaz­ing time saver if you’re look­ing for a les­son plan or activ­ity to use in your class­room. The great thing about col­lec­tions is that another teacher has already gone through the Archive, found mate­ri­als, used them with their stu­dents, and has left notes for you! Talk about a time saver! To find these col­lec­tions, click on one of the grey tabs to the right of the red “Resources” tab. To learn more about col­lec­tions, go here: http://www.lifescitrc.org/help-submit.cfm#collections

As always, Happy Searching!