Category Archives: > Science, History, Topical Trivia?

Interesting items about the world around us

+ New: Free MA in Education at American Museum of Natural History

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An article in the NY Times explains that the American Museum of Natural History will introduce its first Master of Arts in teaching program. 

According to Douglas Quenqua, they are looking for a small group of science majors, no teaching experience needed, to spend 15 months learning to become science teachers.

Tuition is free, thanks to the New York State Board of Regents.  Students will receive $30,000 stipends and health benefits.

President of the museum Ellen V. Futter says “We’re looking for people who want to make a career of teaching and stay in the business, whether they be just out of college or former participants in a volunteer corps or career changers or veterans.”

The program aims to produce 50 new science teachers over two years for the state’s middle and high schools, which are coping with a critical shortage of math and science instructors.

The catch is that graduates must commit to spending four years teaching in a high-needs public school; they may be assigned anywhere in New York State.

At an open house which drew about 90 people, the museum had an opportunity to pitch the program.  They also had to sell the concept of museum-as-classroom.

Question and answer sessions were held in the Astor Turret, a cylindrical, high-ceiling room that overlooks Central Park West.  Then Rosamund Kinzler, director of science education at the museum, led participants through the gem and minerals collection.

“The courses will be graduate-level science courses,” said Kinzler, “but they’ll be taught specifically with an eye toward preparing individuals to teach science in the classroom.”

Students will study and eventually teach planets and their orbits, water and weather, and basic geology.  The physical environment of New York — including Central Park across the street — will also play an important role in the courses.

Andrea Lewis, principal of Murry Bergstraum High School for Business and Careers in Manhattan, is happy about the program. 

She says “I’m looking to find teachers who can bring the exterior world into the classroom, take their kids outside the building, to really learn how to analyze, and hopefully get involved wtih science because of the experience they’ve had.”

For the entire article, visit

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards, 614-579-6021 or email


+ Send a Gift to a Soldier Via USO Wishbook

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How to Buy a Gift

The USO Wishbook is an alternative giving catalog. 

The gifts you purchase from the USO Wishbook allow you to recognize holidays and special occasions — in addition to directly benefiting troops and their families.

  1. Choose your gift.  Pick a gift for any occasion — birthdays, weddings or holidays.  
  2. Purchase your gift.  Once you have purchased your gift, the USO will ensure that your gift goes to help lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families.
  3. Send an eCard.  After you make your purchase, you can send an eCard to gift recipients with a personalized message.  
  4. Visit

About the USO:

Throughout our country’s history Americans have felt profound appreciation and gratitude for the dedication and sacrifice of our troops and their families.  The USO provides a tangible way for all of us to say thank you, as it has for 70 years.

Thanks to the generosity of ordinary — and extraordinary — Americans the USO fulfills its mission of lifting the spirits of America’s troops and their families.  Through the USO you touch their lives through an extensive range of programs at more than 160 locations in 27 states and 14 countries, and at hundreds of entertainment events each year.

Thousands of USO volunteers do everything possible to provide a home away from home for our troops and to keep them connected to the families they left behind.

The USO makes sure your help goes to those who need it most:

  • troops serving in combat
  • their families
  • our wounded warriors and their families
  • families of the fallen

As a nonprofit, non-political organization, the USO is now, and always will be, about our troops.  Wherever and whenever they go, the USO will be there, until every one comes home.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ Science Link: Stephen Colbert & Neil DeGrasse Tyson

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Stephen Colbert interviews Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Watch this for a great experience, as funny Stephen Colbert interviews the hugely entertaining astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson in a one on one presentation.
Do note — it’s an hour and a half long (1.24.42).  
If you begin at the 5 minute mark you’ll avoid the headmaster’s intro.  Learn
  • Why science matters. 
  • Astrophysics.
  • Quantum mechanics. 
  • The brown planet heading toward earth (that doesn’t exist).
  • How scientists think.
  • How to foster Scientific Literacy in kids, in schools, as policy.
 Michael Farraday tried to explain the value of his discovery: that running a wire through a magnetic field makes “something happen.” That something became electricty.
Parliament asked him “Why should we fund this toy?  How does it matter to the King, or to the British Empire?”
He responded (we are told), “I don’t know… but someday you’ll be taxing it.”
Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email

+ Diamonds’ Flaws Give Clues to Earth’s Carbon Cycle

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During their formation, diamonds have been shown to capture evidence that slabs of the ocean floors, descending deep beneath the earth’s surface, recycled carbon between  earth’s mantle and the ocean.

According to a New York Times article by Nicholas Wade, understanding those slabs’ fate will help scientists understand the earth’s carbon cycle and all the processes that depend on it.

Some of the processes that depend on the carbon cycle: the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, all the carbon compounds that live in organisms, and the formation of hydrocarbons in oil and gas.

Since objects that resemble ocean slabs lie far too deep for any drill to sample, diamonds provide a good alternative for study. 

Researchers find that the impurities found in them contain chemical signatures of the extinct ocean floor.  Those impurities  provide evidence that the slabs have been cycled deep into the earth’s mantle.

These microscopic impurities, derived from rock and from organic material in creatures that once lived on an ancient ocean floor, have undergone an amazing journey.  The ocean floor rock, basalt,  along with the sediment that built up on top of it, was drawn down at the edge of an ocean as part of the conveyor-belt mechanism that moves the continents.

After the slab of ocean floor plunged 435 miles beneath the surface, minerals from the basalt were encapsulated inside the diamonds formed at those depths.

Diamonds then continued to descend with the slab until they experienced two elevator rides back to the surface. 

By means of a rising mass of solid rock known as a “mantle plume,” they were carried slowly back toward the upper mantle.  The heat of the plume then propelled an explosive jet of molten “kimberlite” (a volcanic rock that preserves diamonds) to the surface. 

The research team was let by Michael J. Walter of the University of Bristol in England.  The diamonds tested were those mined eons later by the Rio Tinto Group from Juina, in Brazil. 

The company allowed researchers to sift through stones not deemed to be of “gem quality.”  After examining thousands of diamonds, the researchers found only six that seemed to be of superdeep origin. 

Those impurities that make superdeep diamonds useless to jewelers make them invaluable to the scientist. 

Dr. Walters’s team was able to infer the existence of two minerals from these inclusions — two minerals that form only in conditions that exist 435 miles or deeper below the earth’s surface.

The composition of the two minerals match the basalt of the ocean floor.  This shows that slabs of the ocean floor had reached this depth. 

The report was published in the September 15th issue of the journal Science.

Researchers also showed that the carbon in the impurities contained less than usual of the isotope known as carbon-13, which is a signature of organic carbon at the surface of the earth which was processed by living organisms.

Researchers were also delighted that so much information about great geological processes can be gleaned from the microscopic impurities. 

According to a member of Dr. Walters’s team, Steven B. Shirey of the Carnegie Institution, “The superdeeps will probably emerge in the next 10 years as some of the strongest evidence for deep movements and pathways in the earth’s mantle.” 

And Thomas Stachel, diamond geochemistry expert at the University of Alberta, says

Here you have a beautiful demonstration that the oceanic plate cycle is not relatively shallow, as many people assume, but that the subducted plate makes it down to the deep mantle and is brought back to the surface by a mantle plume.”

This discovery raises the question of how much of the ocean’s floor and sediments are carried to the deep mantle.  Since carbon is so important to life, scientists want to understand the major reservoirs of carbon in the earth, and the exchanges between them, both in space and in time.

Dr. Walter:

The mantle is the biggest reservoir of carbon, and we know very little about it.  This won’t affect climate tomorrow, but what our results tell you is that carbon from the surface can go all the way into the lower mantle, which may be a long-term sink for carbon.

sole source: Nicholas Wade’s NY Times article on September 16, 2011.  Visit

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email

+ Teachers: Primary Resources at the Library of Congress

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Teachers can subscribe to a free quarterly newsletter, “Teaching with Primary Resources (TPS) Quarterly,”  offered by the Library of Congress.  Visit

In the most recent online issue, Danna Bell-Russel writes “Beyond Typescript and Photographs: Using Primary Resources in Different Formats.”

Bell-Russel is a reference librarian and archivist working in the Educational Outreach Division of the Library of Congress.  She answers questions from teachers who want to help their students engage in real inquiry, construct knowledge  and develop critical thinking skills.

She hopes to encourage teachers to use a wider range of formats than the standard photographs and photocopied documents so widely available.

Among the Library of Congress’s digitized collections are materials that students can use to explore multiple points of view and the varying documentary methods people have implemented throughout history.

Handwritten Manuscripts 

Before email and tweeting existed — people relied on pen and paper to document their experiences. 

Handwritten manuscripts offer unique and intimate perspective on historical events.  While some of the Library’s manuscripts have been transcribed, there is excitement and insight available when viewing a person’s original writing.

Bell-Russel suggests that students might value letters from Civil War participants and their families.  One of the collections is called “A Civil War Soldier in the Wild Cat Regiment.”  This collection includes letters to and from Tilton C. Reynolds, who was a member of the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.  His correspondence documents the difficulties faced by the soldiers, and even covers his prisoner-of-war experiences among his Confederate captors.

Also available  is Orlando Gray’s letter describing the Battle of Williamsburg.  

“A Teacher’s Guide to Analyzing Manuscripts” is also available.  And students can complete the “Primary Source Analysis Tool,” in order to document and organize their thinking.   Bell-Russel suggests that the question, “How did Confederates view the Battle of Williamsburg,” could lead to analyzing manuscripts written by soldiers on the opposing side.

Posters, Prints and Drawings

Search the Library’s “Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.” This collection includes architectural drawings, baseball cards and cartoon drawings.

The WPA Poster Collection collects the posters commissioned to tell communities about upcoming events, healthcare messages and other information during the Depression.    Of course, teachers can use the Teacher’s Guide to Analyzing Photographs and Prints.  Students might create their own posters to highlight current issues.

History and the Movies

Before YouTube and Hulu, films were black and white, and some were silent.  Films provide a visual moving reminder of the ways people lived and thought at that time.

Check out The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures, or Raising Old Glory Over Morro Castle.  Of course, there is a Teacher’s Guide.

Oral Histories

The Library of Congress has a number of oral history collections such as American Life Histories, Born in Slavery, and Voices From the Days of Slavery which provide stories of life during the Civil War, Reconstruction and the early 20th century.

The Veteran’s History Project collects stories of American war veterans — from World War I to current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Students can read transcripts when available as they listen to interviews.

Historic Sheet Music and Sound Recordings

Check out the selections from the Historic Sheet Music Collection, 1800-1922.  Collections also include musical and spoken word sound recordings.  The Library also has several “folklife” collections that feature sound recordings of people’s songs, stories and history.  One example is Voices from the Dust Bowl.


 Maps are portable and provide images that document places at certain times in history.  They give visual documentation of terrain and claimed territory, environmental characteristics and more.  They can offer clues to a particular mapmaker’s point of view. 

Student might choose “A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye hills.”    There are Railroad maps, “Broadside and Printed Ephemera.”

“Endless Instructional Possibilities”

Bell-Russel suggests that teachers will find millions of digitized items to be used by students across all grade levels and subjects.

For assistance, she suggests that teachers check out the self-guided professional development modules, Themed Resources for Teachers, web guides developed by the Library’s Digital Reference Section, or Ask a Librarian.

sole source: Danna Bell-Russel’s article in the current TPS Quarterly from the Library of Congress.  Bell-Russel is an Educational Resources Specialist at the Library of Congress. 

She previously served as a member of the Library’s Digital Reference Section, the first reference division created to specifically answer questions about the online resources found on

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email


+ Proposed New Approach for Science Curriculums

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An article by Kenneth Chang tells about a new framework for improving American science education.

The new approach suggests paring the curriculum to focus on core ideas.  It would teach students more about how to approach and solve problems — rather than just memorizing facts.

An 18-member committee spent more than a year devising the framework and was led by Helen Quinn, retired physicist from SLAC National Accelerator laboratory in Menlo Park, CA.

According to Quinn, “That is the failing of US education today, that kids are expected to learn a lot of things but not expected to be able to use them.”


The 282-page report says that one of the big goals  is “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science.”

An additional goal is to incorporate engineering into what is taught to students from elementary grades through the final year of high school.

The National Research Council released the report on July 19th.

 American students have typically  ranked in the middle on international comparison tests.  This report offers just the latest of several decades worth of efforts.

Now that the National Research Council has established a framework, Achieve Inc., a nonprofit education group, will expand it into a set of standards.  Similar standards for math and language arts have already been adopted by 44 states.

As Achieve works with states to develop standards, the core science — including evolution — is not up for debate.  Says Michael Cohen, “What we’re not going to do is compromise the science just to get states comfortable.” 

Every state will have the final say on whether to adopt the new approach.

The $2.26 million effort was financed largely by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Also participating was the National Science Teachers Association for the Advancement of Science.

sole source: Kenneth Chang’s article in the New York Times.

tutoring in columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ Three Girls Win Google’s Science Prize

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 Information posted by Andrew Howley,  at National Geographic News:

On the night of July 11, 2011, at Google headquarters, some of the world’s smartest people gathered and most of them aren’t even old enough to drive.

It was the grand finale of the inaugural Google Science Fair.

The 15 teenage finalists impressed and inspired even the highly esteemed panel of judges, which included Google leaders, a Nobel Laureate, and three National Geographic Explorers: T.H. CulhaneTierney Thys, and Spencer Wells.

Young scientists from around the world had been asked to submit projects online that were creative, innovative, and relevant to the world today.

Out of  more than 7500 entries, from more than 10,000 young scientists, in more than 90 countries, these 15 had risen to the top. As impressive as all the entries were, there still had to be winners. And these winners, as announced on the official Google Blog are:

Shree Bose’s  work is groundbreaking and potentially lifesaving .  It won the Grand Prize, consisting of a $50,000 scholarship, a National Geographic Expeditions trip to the Galápagos Islands and an internship at CERN.

Lauren Hodge and Naomi Shah both received $25,000 scholarships and internships at Google and LEGO.

This awards ceremony followed months of research, experiments, preliminary fairs, and a day of the young scientists presenting their projects for the judges, friends, family, and others who simply came to see the show.

Now that it’s over — all you young scientists between the ages of 13 and 18, start planning your project for next year!

(See T.H. Culhane’s own recent science experiment, using a can of soda to light an LED lightbulb.)

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email