Disaster in Japan

I’ve had lots of non-science friends ask me clarifying questions about what they have been hearing and seeing through the media – too bad for them I wasn’t an earth science teacher! I thought I would share some blog posts that have been helpful for me in trying to understand the what, why, and repercussions of the earthquake as well as a couple of posts from the New York Times that include lessons and activities.

You can also do a search in the Middle School Portal 2 Digital Library – you’ll get back resources that right on track for middle school science students.

Please share additional information and resources that have been helpful to you and your students in the comment section.


Japan Struggles to Control Quake-Damaged Nuke Plant – from Wired Science

Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Explained – video from CNN

Japan Quake May Have Shortened Earth Days, Moved Axis – from NASA

Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments: Animations from IRIS – includes video

The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami – from NSTA – includes lessons and activities

Teaching Ideas: The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan – from New York Times Learning Network

20 Ways to Teach About the Disaster Across the Curriculum – from New York Times Learning Network

Building Quake-Resistant Structures in the Classroom –  from Middle School Portal 2 blog

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: A Middle School Perspective

Current events provide us with unique learning opportunities – ones that we need to take advantage of even if the consequences of that event are tragic. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is one such event. Not that it is the first oil spill that has had an impact on U.S. shores but it is by far the worst.

The last oil spill that most people can remember is the Exxon Valdez spill. It’s hard to believe that the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened in 1989 – 21 years ago. At the time, it seemed like we couldn’t ever have a worse spill. It was a watershed moment in U.S. environmental history and changed the way we consider and deal with oil and chemical spills in this country. On the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill a movie, Hindsight and Foresight: 20 Years After the Exxon Valdez Spill, was released. The movie reviews the initial stages of the oil spill, shows how it changed U.S. laws and regulations, and identifies challenges for the future as it asks the questions: What does the twentieth anniversary of the spill mean, and what have we learned? Maybe not a lot, unfortunately.

The following resources provide amazing and tragic images of the spill, a chemistry perspective, a visual perspective (just how big is the spill compared to your town), and a podcast and lessons and resources collected by the Ohio Resource Center.

Gulf Oil Spill Could Eclipse Exxon Valdez Disaster
Slide show from NPR. An oil spill that threatened to eclipse even the Exxon Valdez disaster spread out of control and drifted inexorably toward the Gulf Coast as fishermen rushed to scoop up shrimp and crews spread floating barriers around marshes.

C&EN Special Issue: Disaster in the Gulf
Chemical & Engineering News, the magazine that goes to all members of the American Chemical Society, has devoted a special issue to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The articles are mostly available to anyone, but a few of them are only available to ACS members. They provide important scientific background for the oil spill, much of it useful for classroom discussions.

How Big Is the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?
See exactly where the oil spill is located in the Gulf of Mexico, and compare the size of the spill to the size of a city you are familiar with.

Oil Spills
The page has a number of visualizations and videos of the Deep Water Horizon incident as well as the Exxon Valdez along with general models of oil spills and software for modeling them. There are also teaching activities and materials for talking about these events in the classroom as well as a list of references that may be of use in the classroom. The content is targeted at undergraduate geoscience classrooms but if you are looking for a deeper understanding of what is happening this is a great place to go.

The Science of Oil Spills – Grades 6-8
The Ohio Resource Center has pulled together resources that support teaching and learning of multiple aspects of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast oil spill. You’ll find a 10 minute podcast where Terry Shiverdecker and Jessica Fries-Gaither discuss how middle school teachers can use an Earth science systems approach to incorporate oil spill activities into their instruction as well as lessons, activities, and information that focus on everything from environmental aspects to the dispersants that are being used. Resources for K-2, 3-5, and 9-12 are also provided.

Connect with colleagues and talk about what you are doing in your middle school science classroom at the Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways (MSP2) social network – http://msteacher2.org.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 12/09/2011.

Keeping Current With Science Research

Keeping up with the latest research in science is getting easier – wonderful science blogs and news services can inform and engage both you and your students. Depending on the blog or service, you can have the content delivered to your inbox or show up on your browser homepage. Look for the RSS symbol on the page for directions on how to add the content to your web site or favorite RSS Reader. You can follow many of these on Twitter. Here are some of our favorites – please use the comment box and let us know where you go on the web to stay current with what is happening in science.

Science 360 News Service
Science 360 gathers news from scientists, college and university press offices, popular and peer-reviewed journals, dozens of National Science Foundation science and engineering centers, and funding sources that include government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and private industry. This portal provides links to audio, video, picture of the day, and selected blog posts (What the blogs are saying today). So if you only have time to look at one resource, this is probably the one you want to look at. One news blast each day.

Wired Science
This blog follows in the footsteps of the parent magazine – an eclectic mix of really interesting stories that cover all science disciplines. Lots of cool images and embedded videos. Not a lot of opinion – mostly summaries of the science that is happening now. Usually one post a day – sometimes two. Also covers some mathematics topics – here is a good one: Mathematical Modeling for Surviving a Zombie Attack!

DotEarth: Nine Billion People, One Planet
In this New York Times blog, Andy Revkin explores the climate, sustainability, and other environmental issues facing us as the global population continues to grow. Frequent thoughtful, well-researched posts, interviews, and interactives will keep you up-to-date with the issues facing our planet.

Bad Astronomy
The guy that writes this blog, Phil Plait, the webmaster of Bad Astronomy, worked on Hubble Space Telescope. He is famous for debunking quite a few science myths (he doesn’t believe in alien encounters). This is a personal blog – he fights the misuses of science and praises the wonder of real science. Usually one post a day.

Science Buzz
Science Buzz, a blog from the Science Museum of Minnesota, is a way to dig deeper into science headlines and share questions and concerns with scientists, museum staff, and other visitors. Bloggers focus on science in the news, emerging research, and seasonal science. They encourage readers to be part of the buzzzzz. Two or more posts most days.

Science News – The New York Times
The science page of the NYT brings together all of the science content from the media outlet – articles, video, science blog posts (including DotEarth), letters to the editor and much more. The page is updated each day.

NPR Health Blog
This blog covers news about health and medicine. It is written and reported by NPR’s Science Desk. Two or more posts each day.

Tween Tribune
Many middle school science teachers expect their students to keep up with science news and trends. If you’re looking for a news source aimed at early adolescents, check out TweenTribune, which uses a blog tool to share fresh science news each week. TweenTribune also provides national and world news, entertainment, and a growing list of book reviews written for tweens.

ScienceDaily summarizes the top science news stories from the world’s leading universities and research organizations. These stories are selected from among dozens of press releases and other materials submitted to ScienceDaily every day, and then edited to ensure high quality and relevance. Updated several times a day with breaking news and feature articles, seven days a week, the site covers discoveries in all fields of science. A good search tool and readable content make this site very user-friendly.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 10/14/2011.

Middle School Portal at NMSA Essentials Conference

The National Middle School Association is holding its Middle Level Essentials Conference this week, April 3-5, 2008 in Minneapolis. The Middle School Portal will be presenting Friday, April 4, from 10:30-11:45 AM in ballroom C. The title of the presentation is Science Standards, Curricula, and Assessment: What, When, and How. The goals are to discuss issues related to science curricula and instruction; become familiar with a new conception of science teaching and learning including core concepts, learning progressions, and four strands of science proficiency; provide ideas and resources for formative assessments; and to gain access to resources that support this new conception of teaching and learning.

Attendees will have opportunity to discuss issues and to learn how others are dealing with these issues in science education. There will be opportunity to brainstorm and propose changes in the what, when, and how of curricula and assessment based on a new conception of science education. Attendees will receive a handout containing links to 10 on-line resources that support district personnel as they re-conceptualize science teaching, learning, assessment, and professional development. Also included is a sample rubric to assess the four strands of science proficiency. In addition, each week for nine weeks after the conference, attendees will receive an e-mail “take-home” designed to help them put to use what they learned at the presentation.

We hope to see you there, but if you cannot attend, you can still access the PowerPoint presentation here as well as the handout.

If you do attend and have feedback to offer, please add it here in the comment box below.

Science in the News

Teaching science can feel like a never-ending-catch-up game. The pace of science-related findings makes it impossible for a person to stay fully informed. Don’t despair, help is here! We’ve listed five web sites whose purpose is to bring recent science findings to the public’s attention. One click and you’re sure to find attention-grabbing, amazing news that will connect your science content to real-world science and society, ensuring student interest. In addition, most of the sites allow users to sign up for RSS feeds so the news comes to you and you don’t need to spend time looking for it.

News in Science
This site lists two to three articles per day for the last 10 days. The title, a short teaser, and date of display are shown. Users click on the title for the whole story.

Science News OnlineNSDL Annotation
This popular weekly newsmagazine’s web version features four to five articles from the current issue, four to five web-only articles, and links to last week’s articles. Click on Archives at the top of the page to browse articles from as early as 1996, and in some cases, 1994. And don’t forget the companion site for kidsNSDL Annotation.

EurekAlert!NSDL Annotation
Articles at this global news service from AAAS are organized by subject, such as biology, education, or earth science. Breaking news stories are found in the right navigation bar.

Science Friday NewsNSDL Annotation
Science Friday is a two-hour show on National Public Radio every Friday afternoon. Usually two topics are covered. Details are given on the web site regarding the upcoming topics. This page documents the show’s content in reverse chronological order, and provides text and audio clips from the show.

NASA News and Highlights
Stay on top of NASA events here. This page provides links to recently completed missions, current missions, and future missions. The two main sections of the page are called News and Events Features and Breaking News. The left navigation bar allows for further investigation into other NASA news sites.

ScienceDailyNSDL Annotation
This site is dense with concise articles accompanied by photos and related links. It is updated approximately every 3 hours. Most articles are written on a level that most middle school students can comprehend with little or no guidance. It could be your “go-to” site in a pinch.

We Need Your Help
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School PortalNSDL Annotation publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.