osprey with dry grass flying in blue sky above nest
3-12, Books, Science

Swoop and Soar

Two of my favorite picture book authors have teamed up again to produce another non-fiction masterpiece, Swoop and Soar. You may recall the fantastic book by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, Beauty and the Beak, which I reviewed back in 2016. That story related the uplifting journey of an eagle who was given a 3d printed prosthetic after her beak was shot off by poachers. Jane Veltkamp, the raptor biologist who led the team that engineered the new beak (and who has lifetime care of Beauty), returns in Swoop and Soar when a pair of osprey chicks are orphaned by a storm.

Cover photo credit: (c) Ann Kamzelski from Swoop and Soar, used by permission

Reading about the plight of the chicks and Veltkamp’s clever and science-based plan to find them new parents in the wild is fascinating and suspenseful. Once again, Rose and Veltkamp distinguish their book from other non-fiction by crafting a personal story around the scientific facts, and highlighting it with amazing photography on every page.

(c) Scalder Photography from Swoop and Soar, used by permission

Swoop and Soar is an excellent companion to Beauty and the Beak. Both books are perfect for teaching STEM, with compelling narratives and intriguing information about raptors, conservation, and careers in science.

You can learn more and see Rose’s other books (including Astronauts Zoom, which I’ve also reviewed) here. Veltkamp’s site is Birds of Prey Northwest. Swoop and Soar is available for pre-order for its September, 2022, publication date at Bookshop.org, Amazon, and B&N.

Mary Gertsema, (c) Jane Veltkamp from Swoop and Soar, used by permission
earth blue banner sign
3-12, Science, Videos

Box and Escalade

I know that it’s a bit too late for the actual Earth Day observance on April 22, 2022, but I just came across these short animations that are perfect for showing students, and thinking about the consequences of our actions on the world around us. They are both by a studio in Brazil, Birdo Studio.

Box is a little over a minute long, while Escalade is about 90 seconds. (I’m linking to the article about Escalade on the Kuriositas blog, as that is where I originally found it.) There is no dialogue in either video, so you don’t need to worry about translating.

Escalade reminds me of a simplistic version of The Butter Battle by Dr. Seuss, which I used to use with my 5th graders when we discussed systems thinking and escalation behavior. There are lots of applications where you could find use for the video, such as how consumerism and our quest to appear “bigger and better” to those around us is making our world less stable.

Box could be used for basically the same theme, but it has many more details and clever animation that may make you want to watch it more than once.

Caixa from Birdo Studio on Vimeo.

I’ll be adding this post to my Earth Day Wakelet, though of course we shouldn’t be thinking about the potential effects of our greed on the planet just one day a year. I’ll also add this to my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board, where you can find over 200 other videos that might be useful in class.

women sitting on the couch
3-12, Art, history, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies

Women in Culture

International Women’s Day will be celebrated on March 8, 2022 this year. I have some links to activities and lessons on my March Holidays Wakelet, but I ran across the “Women in Culture” page on Google Arts and Culture the other day and wanted to make it more widely known. I could spend days exploring this site! I know you don’t have days, hours, or even more than a couple of minutes, so I’ll point out some highlights that will make it worth your while.

Let’s start by passing all of the great images and scrolling to close to the bottom of the page, where you will see this section:

If you have no other time to bathe yourself in the beauty of this site, definitely download some of the free lesson plans, which will give you guided tours through some of the amazing images and information available to you about inspiring women in all types of careers.

Still have a little time? Maybe you can browse through this exhibit of “11 Women Who Changed the World,” and try to learn more about the incredibly gifted females (Still have a little time? Maybe you can browse through this exhibit of “11 Women Who Changed the World,” and try to learn more about the incredibly gifted females who have made universally positive contributions (many of whom rarely appear in school textbooks) who have made universally positive contributions in field ranging from art to science.

Speaking of science, women in STEM are all over this page. For a small taste of what you can find, take 2 minutes to watch this superhero video about one of those women, who is using biomimicry to discover new materials to monitor our health. A few more videos from the series can be found by scrolling about 1/4 way down the page to the section, “The science of tomorrow.”

If you’ve got upper elementary or secondary students beginning Genius Hour/Passion Projects, this would be a great page for them to browse for topic inspiration. Help them find unique subjects like the “Sea Women of South Korea” or the evolution of “Women in Sports.”

Discover the women who made a difference while increasing your motivation to help more young people learn of these achievements so they, too, can see what is possible.

laboratory test tubes
3-12, Anti-Racism, Science

What is Medical Racism, and How Can We Educate Our students About It?

I was listening to a show on NPR the other day that made my mouth drop. The program claimed that many Black Americans are automatically placed lower on kidney transplant waiting lists due to their race. Today. In the year 2021. It turns out that there is a formula used to calculate how well your kidney is functioning, and this GFR tool includes an adjustment for Black people based on an assumption made years ago that their genetic makeup enabled their kidneys to filter better than White people who had the same filtration rate. You can read more about this, and the faulty reasoning that that led to this biased math here. It seems that a task force has recently mandated that this variable should be removed from the calculation, and it has already been removed from some health care systembs, but how many people have died waiting for a transplant as a result of this widely applied algorithm?

I had, of course, heard about racism in healthcare before. For example, there are reports that Black patients are prescribed pain medication at much lower rates than White ones because of the stereotype that they are “faking it so they can get drugs.” And this is not isolated to Black Americans; other people of color are also victims of biased treatment. I think what surprised me about the kidney story was that there was an actual formula, embedded deeply in the medical field, overtly designed to ignore other symptoms in favor of a person’s race.

In other words, systemic racism.

There are movements to address these problems in medicine such as changes in medical school curriculums. But I wanted to find out if there are things we can do before students attend post-graduate school, as not all children will become doctors. Some of them may end up in fields like pharmaceutical research, marketing, or policy making that could also impact health care.

Parents Magazine has a good article by Danielle Broadway, “How to Teach the History of Racism in Science Class,” that gives some solid recommendations for teachers. Beginning with the “Teaching Hard History Framework” from Learning for Justice for K-5 to examining the cases of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in high school, students can learn lessons from past mistakes and analyze current ones. Another resource I would add is this TED Talk from Dorothy Roberts.

As with my other Anti-Racist posts, I will add this to my Wakelet. I hope that it is a helpful resource for teachers who want to make the world more just.

photo of woman looking through camera
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

photo of young girls looking through microscope
Art, Math, Science

Microbe Art

I have long been fascinated with the intersection of math, nature, and art. From Fibonacci to fractals, I find it intriguing to recognize patterns and similarities in natural objects and animals that also appear in those created by humans, and that we can imagine wildly creative innovations from very logical, patterned, or symmetrical visions. When I came across this video of the “Art of the Microcosmos” by Emily Graslie, I had a feeling that it would lead me down a rabbit hole of Fibonaccian proportions, and I was correct. Her interview with James Weiss made me wish I had him as a Biology teacher in high school, or that I had even once gotten the chance to observe the incredible microscopic animals shown in the video. Of course, I’ve known about the tardigrade (also known affectionately as “water bear”) for a few years, so I definitely have no problem imagining it or any other of the strangely beautiful creatures in this video as artistic inspiration.

Following Emily’s film, I had to look up Klaus Kemp, who creates diatomic art, and then I made the mistake of Googling “art made with microbes” and found an entirely different branch of scientific art grown in petri dishes.

After a couple of hours of being transfixed by so many things I had never seen or even known about before watching Graslie’s video, I finally had the wherewithal to drag myself away and try to do something somewhat productive (though not even minutely creative). I started a new Wakelet of “Math, Art, and Nature,” and I even used Wakelet’s new layout option of columns to attempt to organize it a bit. (You may need to scroll horizontally to see all of the columns, and scroll vertically within a column to see all of the links.) This is, of course, separate from my “Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep,” collection, but I went ahead and added a link to it in that one, too.

Just a reminder that, even though fancy microscopes might be nice, you can always get your students started with observations of that microscopic world with an inexpensive Foldscope. You might be surprised at the incredible images you can view with this simple tool.

microscopic shot of a virus
Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

Child cutting play dough with plastic knife
K-5, Science

Playdough Surgery

I couldn’t believe the brilliance of the Twitter account of @TheBreakfasteur when I came across it during a late night of doom scrolling. According to the bio, the author is a “doctor mom feeding little bodies and brains.” This physician creates elaborate playdough models so that her child can practice surgery. When you listen to the little voice during the videos, you can hear the curiosity and interest as well as the precise vocabulary that rolls off the child’s tongue. It makes me wonder if I had experiences like that as a child if my path in life would have been completely different (doubtful – the “Force” was always strong in me to be a teacher). Watching the child use two spoons as a defibrillator to get the heart pumping after a coronary bypass was almost as inspiring as watching an episode of The Good Doctor — and far less traumatic.

You can see everything from a tonsillectomy to a kidney transplant by visiting The Breakfasteur’s YouTube channel. The videos are short (about 2 minutes or less), and include text showing the proper names of the anatomical parts. The notes in the description often give you references to real surgery videos you can watch, as well as some ideas for recreating the surgical tools with household items. If you have a child intrigued by science, or want to arouse a child’s interest in science, these videos are a fabulous way to do so.