Beyond Penguins Wins SPORE Award

Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears has been awarded the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) by Science Magazine. The magazine, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, developed the prize to spotlight the best online materials in science education.

Science editors and a panel of teachers and researchers in the fields select the prize winners. Kimberly Lightle and Jessica Fries-Gaither of the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears staff were invited to write an essay about the project’s history and goals. The essay, Penguins and Polar Bears Integrates Science and Literacy, appears in the January 28 issue of Science.

Even though the magazine is directed at K-5 teachers, much of the content is applicable to the middle grades. Each of the 20 issues covers science concepts such as rocks and minerals, the water cycle, seasons, states and changes of matter, and plants, all in the context of the Arctic and Antarctica. Each issue highlights a literacy strategy, misconceptions, ideas on integrating technology, the research that is going on at the polar regions, and much more! Project staff have also written informational texts that have been differentiated in terms of reading level. The books are available in three versions – including an electronic version with an audio track. The Stories for Students link in the header of the site will take you to all versions of the books.

Spiders Have Been Around For A Long Time

I get the Wired Science RSS feed everyday and was incredibly grossed out and amazed by a posting on a 165-million year old spider fossil that had been found in China. The fossils were found at a site called Daohugou in Northern China that is filled with fossilized salamanders, small primitive mammals, insects and water crustaceans. During the Jurassic era, the fossil bed was part of a lake in a volcanic region. The images included in the post and the ones found in the related stories will really capture your student’s interest!

Giant Spider Species Discovered in Middle Eastern Sand Dunes
1 Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth
The Spider Awards:’s Arachnid Hall of Fame
Even-More-Gigantic Giant Orb Spider Discovered

Fossil Formation

The National Science Education Standards Life Science Content Standard mentions that fossils indicate extinct species and contribute to an understanding of evolution and diversity. The Earth and Space Sciences Content Standard tells us they provide clues about past environments. But what is a fossil? How does it form? The processes can be complex. An understanding of fossil formation will enable accurate student conceptions of related science concepts including methods of science in geology, paleontology, and evolution.

Becoming a Fossil
This short video clip from NOVA is accompanied by an essay and discussion questions all describing the rare conditions under which fossils form and are found. Free registration is required.

What is a Fossil? How Do They Form?
This page provides a concise explanation and illustrations of Ammonites fossil formation via permineralization – when the pores of the plant or animal remains are impregnated by minerals. When this happens, the original shape of the object is not changed.

The information on this page is good, if you can bear the bright green background! It includes some vocabulary and how environmental conditions determine the fossil category. There are useful links at the bottom as well to teacher resources.

Fossils, Rocks, and Time
This online book, published by the U. S. Geological Survey, discusses the use of fossils in determining the age of rocks. The book covers how to place events in correct temporal order, a description of the geologic time scale, the use of fossils to indicate rock ages, the law of fossil succession, index fossils, and radioactive dating.

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