Florida Citizens for Science

April 27, 2006

Hernando County update

by @ 8:37 pm. Filed under Analysis/Commentary

 

We’re continuing to try and make sense out of the noises in Hernando County. The latest meeting minutes won’t be posted on their website until they’re approved at the next meeting May 2.

An action item on the next agenda might be a key element of what’s going on, but we’re not too sure to be honest:

F. Approval Of The Adoption Of ScottForesman As The Core Instructional Material For Elementary Science The Elementary Science Focus Team has reviewed the Hernando County elementary Science Curriculum and designed a plan for instruction that includes the purchase of a new textbook series from Pearson ScottForesman. In compliance with FS 1003.02 we request Board approval to use funds from the 2006-2007 instructional materials budget to purchase textbooks and science instructional supplies for our schools. The Instructional Materials budget in the General Fund has been increased by $1,023,408.00 as a budget amendment to allow schools to place purchase orders to expedite the delivery of instructional materials to be paid for from the 2006-2007 Instructional Materials allocation. Board approval is recommended.

Is this something that got Mr. Wiggins excited? Anyone in the know, please tell us what’s up.

They’re wired all right!

by @ 8:22 pm. Filed under Education, Science in Action

 

I love this short student profile of a woman biology major.

Emily Lagergren is the antithesis of outgoing Harvard University President Larry Summers’ conjecture that women aren’t as wired as men for the sciences.

Unintimidated by organic chemistry and molecular biology. Uneasy with English and history.

That’s Lagergren, who will graduate from Florida State University on Friday night with a biology degree and a 3.8 grade-point average.

“Oh yeah, that’s all I’m good at,” said the 22-year-old student from Gulf Breeze, who loves the search for specific answers offered by science.

And then there is this story about a high school student conducting research like a pro, and winning a scholarship competition. The research was in the field of “epidemiology - the science of studying the causes, distribution, and control of disease among populations.”

Badal, a 16-year-old junior at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton ranked among the top 12 finalists with a study on “Weight Goals in a High School-age Population.”

“Weight is a big issue everywhere and especially with adolescents,” Badal said. “This study shows that there are inappropriate weight goals and hopefully it will re-educate kids in terms of weight.”

“To solve health problems, epidemiologists have to identify problems, gather evidence and reach conclusions based on that evidence,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. “Problem-solving and critical thinking skills will serve these students well not only in the pursuit of any college major, but throughout their lives.”

April 26, 2006

Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil After Dover

by @ 7:42 pm. Filed under Science in Action

 

Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil After Dover

The first high-level public discussion of how science is taught in public schools—in light of the recent federal court ruling on the intelligent-design challenge in Dover, Pa.—will be conducted next month by a nationally known panel of scholars at Florida State University.

“Keeping Science and Religion Separate in Schools: The Vigil After Dover,” is scheduled for 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 17, at the FSU College of Medicine Auditorium.

If anyone can attend, I would love to post your summary of what happened here. Please keep me in mind! Thanks.

And speaking of Dover, Judge John E. Jones III gave a talk that related to his experiences with this case.

He called on those attending to work against what he called the dumbing down that is occurring in America.

After the talk, he said he had known that public opinion was leaning toward the belief that politics rule on the bench, but he didn’t realize the magnitude until the high-profile Dover case landed on his docket.

It was after he gave his 139-page opinion against Dover Area School District that some comments - including those made on a Bill O’Reilly show and in a Phyllis Schlafly column - crossed the line.

More letters about Hernando

by @ 7:37 pm. Filed under Education

 

There are some more letters about the Hernando County problem:

Fire those teaching Creationism

Creationism, Intelligent Design is not science

Open discussion good for schools

However, we still have no details on what actually happened there. The board meeting minutes are still not up on their site. Anyone have some insight? Please share.

April 24, 2006

Alert: Textbook controversy in Hernando?

by @ 9:27 pm. Filed under Education

 

Apparently, there has been some biology textbook struggles in Hernando County. This off-base opinion piece is the first I’ve heard of it. Can anyone out there enlighten me on what is going on?

But Robert Wiggins has character and integrity and he stands up for what he believes. And on this issue, I am standing with him.

The school district should provide objective textbooks that are not afraid to discuss all ideas as to how Earth was created. A good textbook should include information not on just the theory of evolution but also creationism and intelligent design.

And then there is a followup letter to the editor that could stand a rebuttal if anyone is in the area and has some time to fire off a reply.

It is ridiculous that our school board gets to decide what our children believe in when it comes to faith and religion.

I do not believe that we are here because of evolution.

Edited to add …
Apparently, the article and letter refer to a school board meeting held April 18. Minutes of the school board meetings are posted to the website; however this recent one is not up there yet. Help me keep any eye out for it, will ya?

To get to the minutes, click on the “Supt/Board Members” tab and scroll down to just below the pictures. You’ll find text links there.

Another depressing poll

by @ 9:14 pm. Filed under Analysis/Commentary, News

 

According to this poll, things aren’t dramatically worse for evolution than in the past. Evolution has historically done poorly in opinion polls. This is just more of the same. Sigh …

God created humans in present form
Apr. 2006 — 53%
Oct. 2005 — 51%
Nov. 2004 — 55%

Humans evolved, God guided the process
Apr. 2006 –23%
Oct. 2005 — 30%
Nov. 2004 — 27%

Humans evolved, God did not guide process
Apr. 2006 — 17%
Oct. 2005 — 15%
Nov. 2004 — 13%

Learning Something New #3

by @ 9:04 pm. Filed under Analysis/Commentary

 

All the corny headlines were taken.
The headlines that pop up during a Google search show that editors had a field day with this story. The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition wants to create the ultimate combat warrior by shipping all sorts of cool information to the brain via the tongue.

Teacher’s hard work outside the classroom.
This story is about teaching kids about their environment and intilling in them a desire to protect it. But at the end of the story is the real heartwarming part. The teacher sweated through tons of hard work and disappointments to secure grant money to make the field trips possible. That dedication certainly deserves serious praise!

Happy sweet 16!
The Hubble Space Telescope is now 16 years old. Have a cigar!

Red Alert Time!

by @ 7:03 am. Filed under Education

 

So, Florida is in the biosciences game, playing host to the Scripps Research Institute. But there is a problem. Homegrown scientists are getting to be a rare species nowadays. This short Q&A with a Scripps scientist points out some of the problems we’re having here in the good ol’ USA.

Q: If bioscience is the future, how are American kids doing in the field?

A: Not well. Compared with the rest of the world, American kids start out in the top 10 percent in fourth-grade science, but fall to the bottom 10 percent by the time they graduate from high school, Orf says.

Q: What are we doing wrong?

A: Not enough focus on the core sciences: math, biology, physics and chemistry. “We tell them about Earth science, astronomy, plant science and marine science,” Orf says. “But what we don’t do is explain what the four basic sciences are and what the building blocks are. We go too broad too early. We don’t go in depth enough…. You’ve got to understand the big picture of what science is and how all the sciences relate to one another. If you don’t do that, you’ll never get it and you’ll never get a real interest in science.”

Q: How crucial is this emphasis on science?

A: The United States led all innovation in the last century. “That is not going to happen this century unless we get more kids interested in science,” Orf says. “We have 39 of the 50 best scientific institutions in the world. But U.S. enrollment is down and foreign enrollment is up. We have to change that if we want to be the innovators of the future.”

But rather than just scream that the sky is falling, Scripps scientists are getting into the classrooms in an attempt to promote science to a new generation. The article says that this is Bioscience week, but I can’t find any other websites mentioning this on the Internet. Let me know if you find anything.

April 20, 2006

Learning Someting New Every Day #2

by @ 8:03 pm. Filed under News

 

A different kind of weighlifting.
So, how many pounds can an 18-gram balsa wood tower support? A whopping 1,535 pounds! It’s all about using the ol’ noggin’ at Odyssey of the Mind, or at least bribing the right people. ;) In what other event can senior citizens kick some whipper-snapper butt?

Watch where you put that tail, buster!
PZ Myers tweaks the human form a bit–a little fluffing, a little bit moved from here to there, a little bit off the top–and creates a whole new you! Take the poll there while you’re at it. It looks like a smarter brain tops most people’s wish list, but protecting the family jewels has quite a few takers, too. Interesting how no one thinks humans are perfect yet.

Don’t worry parents, it’s not as bad as you heard.
There is a science to conducting proper surveys and producing meaningful statistical results. Unfortunately, when some eye-catching numbers are tossed around that make for good, scary newspaper headlines, even the most responsible of people can wind up ignoring sloppy number crunching. Apparently, young ladies on spring break aren’t quite as drunken and slutty as reported. The folks who published the survey, though, are known to get wild and crazy like you wouldn’t believe when their favorite TV show is on. Survey says … !

Let’s see Shaq slam dunk this!
They don’t get to be on television or capture any sweet endorsement deals, but these Science Olympiad competitors are well on their way to making their first million off their future inventions. Goggles optional. I wonder how much a person is paid to concoct the next great breakthrough in dandruff shampoo? No, really, I’m serious.

Your kid can be the first on Mars.
Imagine that. Your child could be among the first to take a stroll on the Martian landscape. But first the kids need to be motivated enough in science in school to even pursue such a path. NASA is eager to show kids that science can, in fact, be fun and interesting. “The demand for technicians is growing three times faster than all other occupations while enrollment in science, mathematics and engineering courses continues to decline …”

He’s got more important things to deal with

by @ 8:03 pm. Filed under Education

 

My daughter is in middle school and my son is heading there next year. The place is a bubbling volcano spitting out sizzling lava flecks at random. Stick around middle school students for any length of time and you’re bound to get burned. Being a teacher is hard enough, but being a middle school teacher is only for the toughest of the tough. You don’t need thick skin; you need Kevlar.

On Tuesday at Stuckey Middle School, science teacher Randy Mousley chewed out a dozen kids, handed out half a dozen disciplinary conduct slips, kicked two disobedient boys out of his class, and suspended a student for disobeying his order to sit in detention. Along the way, Mousley taught science.

So, one Kansas middle school science teacher finds himself in the middle of a controversy involving a certain Flying Spaghetti Monster and a conservative school board member. It’s no surprise that he handles it like a combat hardened veteran. Go read the story. The ending made me want to stand up and cheer.

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