Monthly Archives: July 2013

Why You Should Teach Developmental Biology (and How to Do It!)
origami chicken

Image by RangerRick via Flickr

Developmental Biology is the study of how a single cell changes into a complex plant or animal.  Although many K-12 students will observe plants growing from seeds or have an animal in their classroom that goes through its life cycle under supervision of the students, developmental biology isn’t typically a subject that K-12 classrooms realize they are studying. Yet the study of development can address many of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) for science content, such as:

  • Science as Inquiry:
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (K-12)
    • Understandings about scientific inquiry (K-12)
    • Unifying Concepts and Processes:
      • Evidence, models, and explanation (K-12)
      • Form and function (K-12)
      • Systems, order, and organization (K-12)
  • Life Science:
    •  Reproduction and heredity (5-8)
    • Structure and function in living systems (5-8)
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives:
    • Science and technology in local, national and global challenges (9-12)

Developmental biology is full of beautiful images of embryos, and is of interest to most students because it relates to their wonder about plants and animals, new brothers and sisters, and their own bodies.

One of the Archive resources that could be used with middle and high-school students who are incubating chick eggs in their biology classroom is the Origami Embryo Demo Movie. This resource shows how to fold paper to change a flat and simple embryonic disc into a complex, 3D body structure that humans, chickens, and all vertebrates share. It models morphogenesis, the process by which body structure arises during egg incubation for their chicks, and during the first few months of pregnancy for a human fetus. The folding exercise, which students can do themselves, is paired with photos and diagrams of body tissues showing the relationship between their paper folding and real chick embryos.  The exercise takes red, pink and yellow colored printer paper, a stapler, tape and a pencil or other rod, and so it pretty low budget. It wasn’t made with K-12 students specifically in mind, so some of the terms may be beyond what those students are learning.  The general principles are sound even without those terms. Are you ready to get started? Here are some resources to help you:

Origami Embryo Resources:

So, what do you think? Are you ready to give Origami Embryo and Developmental Biology a try in your classroom?

Quality Control can be a Killer!

scared bacteriaResearch by a team of Penn State scientists has found an important extra step in protein synthesis that bacteria use to assure quality control. The extra step, called “trans-translation” keeps the protein manufacturing process in bacteria moving along smoothly. However, since the trans-translational step is NOT found in plant or animal cells, this step opens the door to a whole new type of antibiotic. The research team, led by Kenneth Keiler, tested more than 600,000 small molecules and found 46 that disrupt the trans-translation process. One promising candidate, called KKL-35, has proven especially effective. Initial testing against bacteria that cause food poisoning, anthrax, and tuberculosis were very promising.  What about antibiotic resistance? The team found no mutant strains of the bacteria they tested that were resistant to KKL-35. Promising indeed! Perhaps a new generation of antibiotics is on the way!

That would be good news. The increasing prominence of “superbugs” that are resistant to many antibiotics has health care workers worried. John Rex of the pharmaceutical company AstraZenica pointed out that, while we let research on new antibiotics lag, bacteria were mutating to develop resistance to existing drugs. He noted new antibiotics are hard to discover and develop, and that users expect them to be low-cost. However, this wouldn’t allow companies to cover the development cost of the drug, much less fund research for the next generation of antibiotics.

A 2009 Time magazine article cited the lack of research monies available for drug development: “New antibiotics are desperately needed, but the amount of money being spent on the research and development of these drugs is woefully inadequate.” With tight federal budgets and sequestration cutting the work of federally-funded researchers, new antibiotic development is caught between a time-crunch and a budget crisis. To speed up the development, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services awarded $40 million to pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to develop “medications to combat antibiotic resistance and biological agents that terrorists might use” with a promise of more money to come. Legislators and policy makers also are reviewing procedures for drug review and testing to find ways to speed up the process while assuring product safety.

Hopefully, with additional grants and funding, the work of researchers like the Keiler team at Penn State will be supported, and their findings will move forward through a streamlined development process. Watch out bacteria…we are on the lookout for your weaknesses and are ready to exploit them!

Learn more about protein synthesis, bacteria, and Immunity from the Archive:

Get Your Science Delivered to Your Doorstep
man holding boxes

Image courtesy of stockimages at

When I was a child, we had milk delivered to our door each day. Bottles of milk (yes, glass bottles!) appeared each morning in the insulated metal box on our porch, and any empties we’d left the day before disappeared. If you’ve ever waffled between going out in the cold rain to get milk or just drinking your coffee black or eating your cereal dry, you can appreciate how nice home delivery can be.

 Whether you want your science deliveries to your email, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other social media, you can get your order served up right to your computer. Whether you like to read original research articles or prefer a summary news release, you can get info on life sciences, chemistry, astronomy, agriculture, engineering…well, you get the idea! Here is a list of 6 places where you can get updates on current science research. And don’t forget that the Archive includes press releases and related resources (podcasts, lessons, etc.) on research in physiology, medicine, developmental biology, anatomy, and other fields.

6 Places to Find Science Updates

  1. ScienceNews – Want to keep up with what’s hot in science? Receive daily e-mail alerts on a variety of science topics from the magazine.
  2. Biomedical Beat – Do you like great science images? NIGMS offers a monthly digest of research news and pictures.
  3. NASA Science – Interested in Space Science? Get the latest news in English or Spanish delivered to your inbox from
  4. Inside Science News Service – Like to keep up with research in all of the STEM discipline? Get the latest in science, engineering, and mathematics research news via e-mail.
  5. Science Is Awesome – Are you a fan of science? Check out this Facebook page dedicated to “bringing the amazing world of science straight to your newsfeed.”
  6. ScienceChannel  – Are you on twitter? Receive up-to-the minute science news updates.

Where do you get your science content? Share your favorites below.


Welcome to the Archive K-12 Confab!

Welcome to the blog! So you may be asking, what exactly is a confab? According to Merriam-Webster, confab is a “chat or discussion” and that is exactly what we want to happen here – a dialogue between classroom teachers, research scientists, and everyone interested in K-12 science education.

How are we going to get the chatter started? We are going to provide interesting content for you to discuss! Every week we will have a new blog post from a guest teacher, research scientist, or Archive Partner. Below are some of the topics we will confab about:

Confab Topics

  • Current science content (Who here doesn’t love science?)
  • Science education issues and policies (Think NGSS implementation and Six Star Science)
  • Effective science education teaching resources (That is our specialty after all!)
  • Programs for teachers and students (We’re talking professional development, bringing a physiologist into your classroom, etc.)
  • Insert your topic here (Yes, we want input from you…that’s why we have a comments section)

So read the blog posts, leave a comment, and then jump over to our High School Educator Forum or Middle School Educator Forum to keep the confab going! (Don’t worry, an Elementary Educator Forum is coming soon!)