Monthly Archives: September 2003

Science in the News

Here are some web sites where you can find info on current events and hot topics in science research:

Science Daily News is an on-line magazine dedicated to bringing you “breaking news about the latest discoveries and hottest research projects in everything from astrophysics to zoology.” The sites is updated three times daily and has searchable archives.

The Gene Media Forum maintains a website full of information on the current hot topics in genome research (including related ethical and legal issues) for members of the media and the general public. They also have information posted specifically for teachers.

The Current Science & Technology Center at Museum of Science in Boston posts health related news bytes on their web site (updated monthly).

If you would recommend any other sites as sources of “science news”, please let me know.

A Request for Feedback

This weblog is meant to be, as my subtitle says, a clearinghouse of ideas for bringing science into the classroom. I’m not sure this format will prove successful at reaching teachers, parents, scientists, science educators (or whomever else may be involved in science education and/or science outreach). Therefore, I would very much appreciate it if you would e-mail me any general comments/suggestions. Alternatively, you can leave a comment related to any individual posting on the blog by clicking on the “Comments” link beneath each posting.

Thank you!!

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

I wanted to bring HHMI’s Biointeractive web site to your attention. I have been having a lot of fun with it. There are so many things to try out and explore. You can:

  • watch lectures given by scientists who are leaders in their fields.
  • try out their virtual labs (given top honors in the 2002 Pirelli INTERNETional Award competition).
  • click and learn about various biological topics.
  • and more…

But wait, there’s even more to be found at…

On their main site, they have a section devoted to “cool science for cool kids.”

Forensic Science

There are many different forensic science activities that can be found on the web. Here are just a few examples:

  • Using the same method I mentioned yesterday (paper chromatography), students attempt to identify the pen that was used to write a “ransom note” left at the scene of a crime (Auburn University Science in Motion).
  • This description of the ransom note chromatography “Crime Lab” activity from the University of Arizona has a nice set of teacher notes accompanying the experimental procedure.
  • Classroom capers” describes the following analyses of evidence collected from the “crime scene”: hair matching, footprint matching, handwriting analysis, ransom note chromatography, fingerprint recording and analysis and fibre analysis.
  • There are even methods of lifting fingerprints from a ransom note, as described here from Queen’s University (suggested for 9th grade and up).

Candy Chromatography

This is a fun project that can be altered to suit all different age groups. I have done this in a 3rd grade classroom. Each student got to prepare their own samples. It was a big hit!

This activity involves the use paper chromatography to separate the colors/dyes use in candy coatings of a Reese’s piece or an M&M. We choose to use the “dark brown” varieties of each candy and had the students compare the components by chromatography. It was a great way to introduce “mixtures.” Before doing the chromatography with the candy coatings, we introduced students to the concepts of chromatography using food coloring (both individual colors and mixtures of the food dyes).

Here are some references for related activities that I found on the web:

– from Science Discovery
– from Auburn University Science in Motion

…and there are even methods of dye extraction and separation for more advanced students (high school or college).

Mission to Mars

The “Mars Exploration Rover” missions will land on Mars in January 2004. NASA has given 13 teams of high school students the chance to help out on various research projects related to the mission. Once the rovers have landed on Mars, these teams (composed of teachers and students) will spend a week at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab learning about Mars and the rovers.

Each of the two rovers that will be landing on Mars carry the “Athena Science Payload.” This set of scientific instruments will help scientists search for evidence of liquid on the planet’s surface. You can learn more about the Athena Project on their web site. The research team posts mission updates which allow you to follow along with their progress. The Athena team has collected a number of different Mars-related classroom activies and made them available on their web site, along with educational resources for teachers.


Discover Magazine runs a monthly column called “NeuroQuest: explore your brains inner workings.” Each month the magazine publishes a different set of activities and/or experiments to demonstrate that your brain can be tricked into seeing something that isn’t actually there. Activites from the current issue, as well as past issues, are available on-line. Also available on-line are activities with “enhanced content” (e.g., interactive animation) that are supplementary to each month’s column.

The 5-Second Rule

Do you remember the “5-second rule”? Any food item dropped on the floor is “safe” to eat as long as it doesn’t remain on the floor for longer than five seconds before being picked up.

But is this actually a good rule to live by? A high school senior recently carried out a scientific study to find out whether or not the “5-second rule” was a good measure of food safety. The work was done during a seven-week internship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (check out the UIUC press release here).

What a great example of making science fun and accessible to everyone!