Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Teaching Science with Theories

Why do we science teachers teach theories in science?

"Facts and evidence" are important for one to know so that students have some practical knowledge about the world. But the meaning of "facts and evidence" is what allows students to predict "what will happen if...?" and how to make and use technology to get the job done. Theories are the framework that give the "facts and evidence" meaning so that predictions can be made more accurately and so that technology that works can be produced.

In modern science, students are expected to learn both facts and theories for a more complete understanding of what we currently know about the universe--especially our world; and to more effectively predict what will happen in our world and be caused by our interactions with it.

Man has come a long way since nature's response to man's activities was considered magic or curse or blessing. It is the theories of science, even the ones that have been replaced with better theories, that have brought us to our current state of understanding of "cause and effect" in all realms of science and human endeavor and to our current state of technological achievement.

Think about the power of the Germ Theory in curing disease. Think about the Theory of Relativity in space travel and faster cars; the Electromagnetic Theory of light in developing lasers; the Atomic Theory is making plastics and MEMS and computers; and, yes, the "Theory of Evolution" in establishing principles of ecology and sustainability and in designing programs that will allow man to maintain society/civilization in response to the changes in the biosphere that are coming as the result of global warming.

I say teaching theories is a good thing.


I just read a blog post and its comments. That inspired me to comment back. The above is what I had to say about presenting scientific theories in the science classroom (k-12). Another reader had commented that today "facts and evidence" were being replaced by theories in the science classroom, or something to that effect. So here I am on my soapbox again.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

New SpringWidget: UCTV Teacher's PET

Visit the Widget Gallery

I'll be writing about these programs from time to time. Meanwhile, enjoy the shows. The webpages have podcast links &/or ways to watch the streaming videos. These videos are geared towards teachers and faculty as professional development. They are entertaining and perfectly suitable for homeschool parents to stay up to date on educational practice.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vote 2008

This is from Simply Audiobooks. It may be purchased at a 24% discount.

Joe Biden: Promises to Keep

I will be voting for Obama and Biden (in case you haven't figured that out from my previous postings!).

I am extremely concerned about dishonest election strategies. Please encourage your local press to keep a sharp eye out for local shenanigans. Report anything you know of to network news and CNN blog sites. DO LET THE VOTE BE STOLEN EVER AGAIN.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Redefining the Constitution

I found it interesting that Governor Palin was willing to continue the practice of expanding the powers of the vice-president beyond those defined in the United States Constitution.

I was under the impression that a belief in the strict interpretation of The Constitution was a criteria of the Republicans for choosing justices to serve on the Supreme Court. Yet Cheney has managed to redefine the role of the Office of Vice-President without recourse to the intentions of the Founding Fathers, the authors of the Constitution of the United States.

Another surprise is the unquestioning acceptance of The Press for this expansion of VP-Power. Now that the new, expanded role of the Vice President is not subject to question and that now that the office is more powerful than was defined by the Founding Fathers, no one will say nay to such expansion of power--so says CNN when reporting on Palin and Biden's responses to the role of the Vice-President during their debate this past week.

Seems like expanding those powers, as would be the case if she is given the agenda of issues to work on as VP which she described during the vice-presidential candidates' debate this past week, would be a progressive interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. I find it interesting that such a progressive interpretation is anathema to the pro-life movement. A strict interpretation of the Constitution is required to support the pro-life claim that the Roe vs Wade decision is actually unconstitutional and should be repealed as such.

Why is no one suprised that this lady who is now the key role model of feminist accomplishment is not pro-choice?

For that matter, why is no one objecting to the politics that will force a seventeen-year-old into a marriage for which neither bride nor groom is mature enough?

Maybe she is not the Conservative that I thought she was.

I will be voting for Obama and Biden.
I am not an Originalist in terms of Constitutional Interpretation.

I believe that our Constitution is a flexible document with meaning that is to be interpreted against the needs of current society. I believe that the strength of our country lies in the value of our heritage that guides us in making ethical, democratic decisions that are held in check by the principles of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, yet allowing us to evolve into a an advanced society of the modern world.

Watch The Supreme Court on Trial on Link TV.
Here are some videos from Link TV on American Politics.

Change: the Byword of the 2008 Presidential Election

Ever since the motto of "Change" was stated by Obama, McCain has termed himself a maverick and has seemingly co-opted the slogan "Change" for his campaign byword. Which candidate used the word first? What is the meaning of this Word for each candidate? What spin is being spun?

Get this transforming image on items at Picket Fence Friends, a store. Name of image is Transforming and is a collage of Apophysis fractal flames.

My Take on the Debate : Palin puts down Biden

Palin displayed charm and grace during the VP debate this past week. Using her best beauty-queen persona and sorority-sister method of disagreeing with another, she charmingly denigrated Biden's comments on the Bush influence on Republican policies, past and future, and proceeded to graciously avoid answering the moderator's question. In the manner described by her spokesperson to CNN who explained Palin's non-responsive answers to many of Couric's question as her method of choosing which questions she will not answer so that--I interpreted her as saying--the discussion doesn't get bogged down in the complexity of answers and possible questions that such complexities would bring to the fore.

Through the entire debate, Palin's beautiful smile almost blinded me to the fact that she did not offer any viable solutions to our nation's problems, nor did she effectively describe McCain's solutions to said problems. She quoted Obama in stating, "Change," but did not describe what the changes would be--nor even what needed to be changed. Her use of sound-bites throughout her responses resonated with the public, who, being familiar with the meaning of each Word, knew exactly what that Word implied.

In closing, I say to you, "Word!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Democrat Competition

For some reason the Democratic Party arranged their state primaries to continue choosing between candidates until a date close to the national elections. Somehow this party arrangement is being touted as the fault of candidates that are campaigning according to the Democratic Party's plan set in place well before the campaigning began.

How is it the fault of any Democratic candidate that campaigning to be nominee will continue until just before the national election? How can it be destructive to the Democratic Party to have the arrangements made by the party be followed to the letter?

I think it wonderful that finally the Democrats have 2, count them -- 2, strong candidates that the populace obviously care about deeply. The voter turn-out is high, a fact that should be celebrated. As for party divisiveness, well, maybe the party should have planned a wiser campaign logistic.

I ask you, would you want a namby-pamby presidential nominee who couldn't go the campaign distance?

Even more disturbing, why is the press trying to convince the public that the Democratic Party is in trouble when the candidates are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing? Why is the press trying to influence the election? Why is the press busy trying to tell the people what to think when they should only be reporting the news? Too often their comments sound like an attempt to make the news. That is sad. That is the product of a conglomerate-owned press. Reporters are now entertainers and manipulators of the audience rather than perveyers of facts concerning real events.

Democrats now have 2 strong candidates. One will take the nomination. One will, because these are two politicians of fine character, support the other that does get the nomination. It would be a shame for the followers of the non-nominee to, after setting the rules for the party primaries to begin with, play sour-grapes and not fully support the actual nominee.

The Democratic Party campaigns have been run the way these campaigns should be run: honestly and without undue influence. The press, after witnessing the coercions of the Republican leaders to force all to toe the party line, should appreciate the openness and persistence of these candidates. Both have shown the strength of character that will be needed in a president. It is a shame that the campaigns cost so much, but that is the American way.

My opinion? The 2nd place winner should become either Vice President or Sec. of State. The 2nd place winner should be further groomed for running for president again, say, in 8 years. And John Edwards should be given a strong cabinet position. Maybe he, too, will run again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Make an Origami Jumping Frog from an Index Card - wikiHow

Make an Origami Jumping Frog from an Index Card - wikiHow

I have often thought that a fun physical science lesson would involve this type of origami creature. The lesson objectives would involve following directions and motion principles such as calculating speed or velocity. Ballistic principles can be used, too. The lesson would involve students racing the frogs across a table top or the floor, measuring the frog's journey, and making calculations. Charts and graphs of the motion can be used. Using different materials in the frog's construction would make the basis of an experiment.

If you need a template for an experiment activity worksheet, try the science experiment one on this page of my website. You can download it for free.

Visit the How to Wiki site to see the actual instructions for making the origami frog:
Make an Origami Jumping Frog from an Index Card - wikiHow

Have fun!

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Dark Journey an American Future History

---Yes, I know. This is also posted in my other blog: different title; same emotions.---

Last week I had fun. I laughed with John Stewart as he showed us the sound bites repeated on each of the major networks. Almost, but not quite verbatim, each broadcaster used the same memes to analyze the statements and activities of the presidential candidates. Leave it to the mockery of Stewart to find comedy in the everyday. When my new dog barked at the eagle's birdsong that introduces the Colbert Report, I giggled and took myself off to bed. I am growing really fond of that dog.

Then I watched Link TV over the weekend. Now I am roiling in stomach acid. I spent the whole weekend in emotional turmoil. Shock at the shenanigans of American politics. Awe at the brazen usurption of American civil rights. I was slain by how I had been manipulated time and again by those I should have been able to trust. I now fear for the future of my children. The democracy of the country of my birth is being threatened from within, and patriotism will not save it.

If you want to know the source of the threat, I invite you to watch the Orwell Rolls in his Grave and Propanganda and Politics. These shows resonate with the pain of a betrayed people-US. And the sorry thing is, we actively tolled the death knell ourselves when we allowed voter fraud to occur right under our noses, and we did nothing to stop it.

I love this country. I have always believed that our diversity and system of checks and balances would guarantee our way of life for centuries to come. I believed that, flaws and all, our democracy was the best solution for governing people. I felt such pride in our goodness, or at least our striving to be good. And I am proud of our military and support the public servants-military, police, fire fighters, teachers, civil service workers--that work faithfully to keep us safe and our government operational.

I never believed that in the name of God, and freedom, a Christian president would use his power to undermine our US Constitution. I did not really believe that the mainstream public would rather pay lipservice to a politically correct notion of morality at the expense of modern technology and science. It is OK to use psychology and marketing technologies to win legal battles, no matter what the truth or who is actually guilty. But to accept scientific principles is anathema to one's faith.

Since when is the competition to win cases the measure of justice rather than the identification of guilt or innocence?

Since when is the freedom of speech less important than political correctness? Since when is the American Way subject to conforming to the neighbor in power? Since when does anyone have the right to tell me how to think? Since when can I no longer use my own sense of right and wrong to decide what choices to make?

I always thought that our Constitution protected us from government control over every aspect of our lives and thoughts. Our Bill of Rights and our US Constitution are being reinterpreted to remove the individual civil rights. What will replace them?

We live in frightening times. We live in a country on the verge of self-destruction. Slow, subtle erosions of the traditional American ideals, the vision of the founding fathers, and my civil rights are crumbling. I am white. I am Anglo-Saxon. Yet my voice, just like Peter Jenning's and Trent Lott's, is a weak whisper against the cacophany of sound bites manipulating and spinning the censored tidbits of information about current events and the axis of power in control.

If I count to 10 and breath deeply, can I will it all to go away. "Don't worry; be happy." A mantra should calm me down and make it better.

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Read more of my comments about Link TV.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Get these Resources on Global Warming!

The Planet 1-4 are important documentaries showcasing evidence for Global Warming and some of the cultural change that this phenomenon has already wrought. They are useful for high school and homeschool. They do have a political message, but it is one shared by many in the field of ecology and biology today: Global Warming is here.

Link TV is currently showing the 4-part series The Planet, which look for evidence for Global Warming. It airs several times this week including at 12:00 noon EST beginning Tuesday, 3/3/08, with Part 1 and ending Friday, 3/6/08, with Part 4. It is also shown in the middle of the night for those of you who, like me, record things during the sleeping hours; and at other times during the week. Get the schedule.

I watched The Planet 1 this past Sunday. The presentation this week runs 90 minutes because it is interspersed with interviews and Link TV fund-raising announcements.

And such interviews! Peter Coyote interviewed several scientists and authors this past Sunday, including Kim Stanley Robinson and William Steffen. Each have books and talks about the politics and science of Global Warming. The interviews are as interesting and informative as the documentary. I highly recommend that you catch the showing of The Planet this week to be sure to see the interviews.

I tried to locate The Planet documentaries for purchase, but could not find it at Amazon. Maybe later. I did find the books by Steffen and Robinson that are part of the gift package that Link TV was giving for a $300.00 donation. If you want to give less, as I did, but still want the books, they are available at Amazon. I offer them here.

The non-fiction books I recommend as references for student reports. These are the books by Steffen.

Concerning the books by Kim Stanley Robinson, these are fictional accounts of what could happen in the very near future. Robinson offers knowledgeable scenarios of the the individual and governmental responses to this looming crisis. Critiques of the books are on the Amazon pages. I offer links to the more informative ones that I deem useful for teachers and homeschool parents. These critiques mention the concepts covered in the book and will prove helpful in lesson planning.

Furthermore, the book review of one of the books in the trilogy by a school librarian publication, Library Journal Reveiw, indicates that these books are appropriate for use with youth. I haven't yet read them, but I think they will be safe. I believe the ones I have read--Red Mars and Green Mars, both on the terraforming and colonization of Mars by Robinson--are safe enough.

Read these informative critiques on the book that let teachers know what topics are covered so these books can be used in the classroom. The Library Journal review on the book page of Forty Days of Rain implies that the book is suitable for a high school library.



Read more about Link TV and some of its offerings at Valerie's Memos later this week and, of course, at the Link TV website itself.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Getting Kids to Read

One of my passions is encouraging kids to read my favorite books: great science fiction.
In fact I even joined a group that facilitates just that. You can visit their website at Reading for the Future, which links to other sites with the same mission.

In the back of my mind for years has been this idea. I present it you today.

Yes, I know that authors do not having their works butchered or censored. However, kids are kids; and there are a few things about adult literature and kids that either are incompatible or intimidating.

I have not checked to see if this is already being done. Is it?

What if we did this to some of the exciting adult science fiction:

  1. Make a reading list of the best pages in a long, complex "future history" with many interlacing threads.  What if that list dealt with only one thread and were placed in a mini-story for kids?
  2.  What if the stories were illustrated in the same manner as the old Treasure Island and Star Wars books (art rather than photos)?
  3.  What if a list of the pages of only one subset of readings were in a reading list or lesson?
  4. What if new anthologies were published with certain words removed and story subsets were included--like the old literature books we grew up with but with book passages as well as short stories?

These could be short, 100 pages or so. They could be ebooks. They could be illustrated. They could be packaged as youth books. They could be paperback and library-bound hardbacks. They could have links to author bios, information about the "rest of the story" and lessons online--all those things that would make the book more like a textbook removed from the book itself but made easily accessible.

Teachers and Librarians, would this work?

I have a long list of books--the ones in my bookstore online--that I would love included in such a project. I have another set that I have recently read that I would want included, too.

Yes, I would love to be tagged as an editor for such a project.

The picture at the top is of a slide that is a PowerPoint Template Design. To me this design is a bit other-worldly. I thought it would add ambiance to this post.

Postscript: I reread this page today, 10/8/10, and -- oops! -- found typos.  I corrected several. Hope I got them all! Sorry. --Valerie

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Yet Another Reason to Read Science Fiction

"...creative perception often anticipates scientific findings..."

so says Science News this week (2/2/08, v 173, p. 79)when it lists a book called Proust was a Neurologist. The book summary states," Lehrer analyzes artistic discoveries such as (these)...(that) add up to a plea for scientists to pay attention to the arts. The summary lists examples where Lehrer posits a novelist that described in the story a sensation, a cause and effect, or a phenomenological description of a human response or activity that was later studied by scientists.

(Whew. The summary in SN says it sooo much better!! And they use the number of words needed to say it right, too.Me? I once summarized 1000+ years of history into one 4 paragraph answer on an essay test. Think I'm kidding?)

The summary states that "(t)he poet Walt Whitman made consciousness biological before scientists did. He wrote, 'Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern, and includes and is the soul.' "

Personally I found the book summary to be another argument for reading science fiction. I also found the summary to be another reason for encouraging today's students to read science fiction since they are the scientists of tomorrow.

Visit to read the book summary. Buy the book. If you would rather that your money went to Science News than to me, then go to Science News bookstore page to order the book. Both sources, them and me, will take you to

Now if I could find the time to actually read the book itself!!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Living Green: Working with Green Power

There are dozens of websites that foster green living; that offer information on practical solutions to living in a world facing global warming and an energy crisis; and that sponsor charitable works to assist the third world in sustainable living.

Earth in Greenhouse
© James Steidl
{Get this picture: greenhouse effect © James Steidl
fotolia_1248622earth in greenhouse.jpg}

© James Steidl - FOTOLIA

Sierra Club and Trees for the Future are concerned with reforestation and using plants to clean the air of pollutants and counteract the Greenhouse Effect. Heifer International, World Hunger, ECLA, and Bread are programs for solving the issue of world hunger and human carrying capacity. Some, like UNICEF and Sierra Club, sell products that educate and raise money for their programs: UNICEF cards and gifts.ORDER today and help UNICEF help children. {This picture is from Heifer International.}

What I find interesting is that businesses are wearing the mantra of green living as an advertising strategy. For every customer who buys this product, the business will give so much to this organization. That works for me. They put forth the effort, get the tax breaks, while I get the product and the easy conscience and great feeling of knowing that I have contributed to the cause.

One might say it's consumerism, capitalism, whatever, at its best. At least the giving gets done--and with minimal pain to me, the customer.

Remember the plan presented to the UN of trading energy credits among nations? Well, the US now has such an energy credit trade for businesses. It's called a green energy credit.
Green energy certificates
are purchased through a program called Green Power. Green Power, our government's experiment with energy certificates on the local level, also posts the announcements of local power companies that are seeking power to purchase.

One part of the system works like this. Say a business is established within a regular energy grid, one that rents an office in a bank-owned building, for example. The business gets electricity from the same electrical utility company as the building, namely the local electric power company. Now, the power company works on fossil fuel technology. NOT GREEN. But, the business can calculate the cost of the power it will use and buy green credits for that amount. The green credits should then be used to invest in solar and wind powered electrical generation. The business has contributed to, or participated in, GREEN LIVING.

Such businesses can advertise the fact that they have purchased a green certificate. There is even a button that can be posted on their websites.

But businesses do not stop there. They also join charities that feed the poor or plant trees to clean the air. The plan is to give so many dollars to each charity it supports for each customer that joins its program or buys its product. How many red phones do you see today?

Personally, as an affiliate marketer, my list of charities is interspersed with a few for which I advertise. I have chosen to exchange links with a couple more. Some banners I publish as my part as a volunteer to spread the message. I guess you could say that I, too, am on the bandwagon. Let that not stop you from clicking the links, however. These sites are well worth visiting for information alone, even if you do not donate or volunteer.

Education for both philanthropists and recipients are part of the charities websites as well. I have found K-12 and adult lessons, articles with statistics, articles on sustainability, agriculture, forestry, diet, horticulture, and economics at these sites. These sites are gold mines of information.

For many, the philosophy of giving now carries the principles of sustainability and economic development. It is not enough to give food. Charities strive to educate recipients to grow their own food, to develop communities and markets, and to determine the best resources for continued growth. It is the "Teach a man to fish" practice.

Two organizations that serve as watchdogs on the reputations of charities are American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator. Each provides their top 10 list of favorable charities, unique lists for how to distinguish good charities from scams, articles on charities and the need for such, and archives of past press releases.

Before you get really confident in choosing a charity based on the rating systems of charity watchdogs, read about a few additional criteria in this critique of simplistic rating systems based primarily on the distribution of funds.

Memes are wonderful things. They convey ideas in multiple layers that branch into other ideas with just a word or phrase. The Living Green phrase is a meme that is rapidly growing branches. It reflects a global concern with the risks of climate change, human carrying capacity, energy crisis, and sustainability. It conveys a national concern with local problems and solutions. It conveys the personal concern of stewardship towards our earth and its peoples. And it has become a mantra for doing business with, at least some, ethical practices.

This article is a copy of one that I just posted on my new blog Valerie's Memos. Already I see that having 2 blogs can be a problem. Which article goes where? Well, if people can use articles from ISnare and such to make a blog post, then I suppose I can get away with a dupe post of my own. What say?