14 October 2014

What is science?

One of the biggest things that I have been thinking about lately is the answer to the question "what is science?"

The problem that I am having is that for me, it is actually quite complicated.  Is science a class, a subject, a process, a body of knowledge, or what?  Science means so much to so many different people.  For some it's a job, for others, it was that thing that stood in the way between them and their high school diploma.

That last one bothers me.  Science shouldn't be an obstacle to be overtaken, but for so many it is.  Is it because of bad experiences early on -- bad teachers, bad projects, dreaded tests?

So the question that I am asking you is this -- "what is science?"

25 June 2014

Looking for something to do over the summer?

So most of the people I know have children on summer vacation, or are on summer vacation themselves.

For a lot of people this is great, summer time, time for swimming, hitting the beach, going on vacation, visiting family, or even catching up on reading.

If you are not sure of things to do, here are a few low cost or even free suggestions:

1.  Netflix.  Netflix has a great set of movies and shows available, including many documentaries.  For the younger set or anyone feelng nostalgic for the 90s, The Magic School Bus and Beakman's World are available online!

2.  Summer reading.  Many local libraries have summer reading programs for kids.  The theme for the local summer reading program where I live (Chester County, PA) this summer is science!  If you are in the area you can check out the schedule of events for your local branch by going to www.ccls.org and clicking on your local branch.

3.  Go on a nature walk.  Nature is all around us and you don't need to go to the wilderness in order to experience it.  The city and suburbs are full of nature if you just look for it -- birds, squirrels,chipmunks, and even deer -- just make sure that you don't get too close to any critters, and make sure to avoid any poisonous plants (check out this post from the CDC for reference).

4.  Look at the stars.  Summer is a great time to go look at the stars since it's not too cold outside.  If you need help identifying constellations, check out the apps page for suggestions.

This is just the beginning, since summer only started last week =)  But if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

20 June 2014


Hey everyone, I just updated the blog, adding a page of apps that I have found to be useful.  The reviews are my opinions, and mine alone.

If you have any suggestions of apps that should be included on this list, please, let me know!

04 April 2014

My top 10 (so far at the NSTA conference)

10.  Getting exercise by going between sessions and walking the exhibit floor, meaning I don't have to go to the gym!
9.  Seeing the cool stuff that came out of the 3D printer in the exhibit hall (complete with moving parts!
8.  Meeting new people from all over
7.  Being back in BOSTON!
6.  Going to sessions to find new ways to help my kids learn
5.  Hearing Mayim Bialik talk about her path to science
4.  SeaWorld!
3.  Having a place to we my awesome Mrs. Frizzle inspired dress
2.  Having people comment on my bunny ears #findthebunny

19 March 2014

March Maddness... Mammal style! (plus my love of Walter)

If you have been following my exploits on Twitter lately, you will have seen a lot with the hashag of #2014MMM.  What is this you might ask?  Well it is nothing more than the epic battle royale of the mammals of the world tournament style.

(image from http://bit.ly/1g1zpeD)

Tonight was the Sweet Sixteen round and it got intense, polar bear fighting the dwarf sperm whale (and losing because of climate change) and our plucky "little" Paraceratherium named Walter (because do you want to keep trying to spell that quickly while tweeting?)  Walter was a tiny 16 feet tall weighing in at a measly 18 tons.  Although he lived during the Oligocene epoch (23 million years ago) he has captured our hearts, because, well look at that mug, he's adorable!!!

(image from  http://www.arcadiastreet.com/cgvistas/earth/04_cenozoic/earth_04_cenozoic_2000.htm)

For more information, or to relive the events you can read about it here http://bit.ly/1g1zpeD.  Elite eight starts at 8:00 pm tomorrow night and you can follow along with the hashtag #2014MMM or follow the color commentary from @Mammals_Suck@labroides, or @KristiLewton.

Tomorrow's bouts include:
Hyena vs. Musk Oxen
Binturong vs. Babirusa
Mastadon vs. Paraceratherium (Walter)
Orca vs. Oceanic White Tip Shark

Trust me you'll love it.  The coverage is great, and you'll learn some stuff too!  And don't worry, we are all looking forward to 2015's March Madness Tournament (at least the mammalian one, not the basketball one).

11 March 2014

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be."

I was thinking about that quote on Sunday while I was watching Cosmos and participating in a live tweet session during the show.

The quote is from Douglas Adams, in his book The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul.  In the book, one of the main characters, Dirk Gently is explaining his rather unique way of navigating -- namely following someone who looks as if they know where they are going.

I always knew I wanted to do something in science.  In elementary school I wanted to be a marine biologist because I loved dolphins and whales.  Then I decided that I wanted to go into aerospace engineering -- I loved building rockets and I loved everything having to do with flight.

The thing that I remember most though was that during middle school, I didn't have teachers that helped me to foster this love in science and flight.  I was laughed off rather than supported, and slowly, I changed my mind about what I wanted to be.

I think that this always stuck in the back of my mind and maybe this is one of the reasons that I became a teacher, to make sure that no one else was made to feel the way that I was.

Getting back to Cosmos.  The thing that I loved reading during the show and afterwards, was how many kids were excited and inspired by the show.  Especially young girls.  Twitter was full of parents sharing their stories, and even, one adorable video of a two and a half year old going CRAZY over the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter, and anything else that she saw.  I also have an amazing friend, Steph, who recorded the show so that she could watch it with her daughters since it was on too late for them.

In closing, all I can say is "go get them girls, and boys, and kids at heart."  Follow your dreams, no matter how big and lofty they are.

26 January 2014

Science Olympiad, Music, and Memories

On Saturday I had the pleasure of being able to help judge a middle school invitational Science Olympiad event, which brings me back to my days of competing during middle and high school.

While I was in school I mainly did the biology events as well as worked in the bottle rockets.  Below are images from my t-shirt, which I still have and love.  (I mean come on, it has a pocket protector on it.)  If you can't tell, our school mascot was a warrior, we just nerded him up a little.  I made some of my best friends during Science Olympiad (which makes sense since we spent so much time together at practices).  We were nerds, but in our mind, the cool nerds.

The event that I got to judge was called the Sounds of Music, which covered the science behind music.

For the event, students, working in teams of two, made two instruments from scratch -- percussion, wind, or string.  These instruments had to pass several standards such as, being durable, accurate, as well as playing a certain range of notes (one instrument was responsible for the bass clef, while the other was responsible for the treble clef).  The students could use any materials, but they could not use preexisting instrument pieces (except for strings) meaning, they had to make their mallets, mouthpieces, soundboxes, whatever.  In addition, the students had to write a melody to go with the assigned piece, which must be written properly.  The students then had to perform the assigned piece and another piece as a duet.  Finally, the students had to take a short quiz about the science behind musical instruments.

Honestly, it was a very difficult event because of the many components.  It was also a little difficult to judge because I had to go back several years (more than I'd like to admit) to my music education.  However, the students showed great potential with their creativity.  There were many flutes, several guitars, a banjo, several xylophones, and even a set of chimes and a marimba.

The thing that I loved the most about this event was that it combines two subjects that for the most part, live in different parts of our lives.  People are either into science or music,  you are either cast as creative or scholarly.  The idea that you can be interested in both, or even need to understand science to better understand music is seen as crazy.