4th Kansas City Area Brain Bee

Saturday, February 12, 2011, 9 am – 12 pm
University of Kansas Medical Center, Beller Auditorium

 The International Brain Bee (IBB) is a live Q&A competition that tests the neuroscience knowledge of high school students. Local competitions are held throughout North America and the winners are invited to the championship at the University of Maryland during Brain Awareness Week – March 14 – 20th, 2011.  Sponsored by the Kansas City Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.

Local Brain Bee included questions based on Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous, the publication of the Society for Neuroscience.

Apply by February 1 by sending 1) your name, 2) grade, 3) school name, and 4) teachers name to sfnkc@kumc.edu.

Learn more about the rules…

Continue reading

NPR Science – January 24

Week of January 24, 2011

Click on the logo above to go the the NPR Science site, or use the links below to navigate one of the stories that I thought may interest you.

and here is a new YouTube video of a song…


Wichita Science Cafe

Tuesday, February 15 · 7:30pm – 10:30pm
Location The Donut Whole
1720 E Douglas
Wichita, KS

Dr. Karen Brown will be speaking over “Sexual Selection and its Role in Evolution.”
Dr. Brown earned her Doctorate from the University of Georgia. She is an Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator in Biology at Wichita State University. She teaches evolutionary ecology, animal behavior, and evolution. Her research focuses on the genetic and behavioral impacts of environmental pollutants on the amphibian population.


2011 Smooth Earth Snake and Redbelly Snake Population Survey—Help out the Kansas BioSurvey

From the Ks Biological Survey:

Kansas Biological Survey (KBS) still is conducting a survey of these two Kansas snakes recognized as Threatened in the State. We are looking for new populations and ask that students and teachers in the eastern counties of Kansas be on the lookout for these species in your area, and report sightings to us using the report form available at http://people.ku.edu/~gpisani/SWGform.html. Sightings must be confirmed by us, either by a live specimen (which may be released at capture point after we confirm identification) and/or high-quality photograph. We also need detailed documentation of habitat in which you may find them! If you find either species, note the area well and contact us ASAP! We especially need people to help us in Linn and Anderson counties; email us as soon as possible if you can help.

Both species are cool-weather snakes, and are among the very earliest to emerge from hibernation. Look for them under cover objects (tin, rocks, wood) from early March on (depending upon temperature). A great way to locate these snakes is to distribute 2ftx4ft pieces of salvaged barn tin (the corrugated kind) in likely habitat, especially edge zones between woods and unmowed grass areas. Part of this effort is to determine just what sorts of habitat both species prefer, so don’t overlook pastures, woods , or whatever habitat is in your area.. Spread some tin [with landowner permission]; see what comes in! And don’t forget to remove the tin when done sampling an area..
For an overview of current Kansas records of these species, visit the Kansas Herpetofaunal Atlas pages from links on our web site (above).
To add incentive, we will award publications to people with the most confirmed sightings in new localities during 2011 as follows:

  • Most new localities reported: A copy of 2nd printing (1980) Autecology of the Copperhead 1960 by Henry S. Fitch and also a copy of 2nd printing (1991) Reproductive Cycles in Lizards and Snakes 1970 by Henry S. Fitch.
  • Second place, most new localities reported: CHOICE OF ONE OF THE FOLLOWING- a copy of 2nd printing (1980) Autecology of the Copperhead 1960 by Henry S. Fitch and also a copy of 2nd printing (1991) Reproductive Cycles in Lizards and Snakes 1970 by Henry S. Fitch.
  • Third place, most new localities reported: A copy of Biology, status and management of the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus): A guide for conservation (1993), by William S. Brown.

George Pisani

Bill Busby

Congratulations, Brenda Bott, 2010 OBTA for Kansas

Brenda Bott, Shawnee Mission West High School, Overland Park, KS

Brenda received her Master of Science degree in Biology from Emporia State University. She currently teaches at Shawnee Mission West High School and is an Adjunct Professor at Johnson County Community College. She enjoys sharing her passion for science with everyone, especially her students. She is completing her 32nd year teaching science. Her teaching career includes teaching Earth Science; Physical Science; Anatomy and Physiology; Physics; and all levels of Biology and Chemistry. She is now “putting it all together” in the Biotechnology courses she specifically designed to integrate all sciences. “My career has taken many twists and turns in the science department, which at the time seemed overwhelming. Overcoming the challenges presented by ever-changing teaching roles provided the knowledge base necessary to take my students to the next level,” said Bott.

In addition to teaching, Brenda strives to provide learning opportunities for her students outside the classroom. She has taken her students to the top of Loveland Pass in Colorado to experience high-altitude ecology and physiology; and, to the Gulf of Mexico to give her “land-locked” students a taste of marine biology. She coached Science Olympiad for many years and continues to be active in student research opportunities. Her students win state, regional and national awards for their science research. If you ask Brenda about her philosophy of education she is quick to describe teaching science to students like teaching a baby to walk. “After several attempts, students succeed. I continue to be there for support/advise but; truly, the students are more than capable of learning the most abstract concepts in science. Before you know it they are off and running. Students need to opportunity to learn from their mistakes – truly learn what went wrong. Most importantly, students need the opportunity to try again. The ability to analyze data (grades, study time, research techniques) and make effective changes is critical to their success. Just like a baby learning to walk.” Brenda’s new favorite line to use when her students say they can’t do it comes from the movie Blind Side: “You can’t do it YET.”

Collaborative Learning with Plantingscience.org

As teachers we are always trying to provide “real” research opportunities for our students.  I have utilized a unique opportunity involving the study of plants in conjunction with providing students an actual on-line scientist to provide assistance and feedback concerning their own projects.  This website (http://www.plantingscience.org) provides teachers the opportunity to get their students matched up with a plant scientist to help guide them perform some project that the students design themselves.  Currently there are three major themes used: Germination and Seedling Growth Investigation, Photosynthesis and Respiration Investigation, and Traits, Variation, and Environment in Rapid Cycling Brassica.  If these topics fit into your biology curriculum I would strongly suggest that you check out the planting science website.  Your students design their own experiments, they upload their results and discussions to the plantingscience website.  The novel aspect of this website is that they provide ALL the pertinent background information that a student would need to design and carry out a real scientific experiment.  The students usually get an immense amount of collaborative feedback by working on-line with real scientists around the country.  I personally have used the Traits and Variation in Rapid Cycling Brassica with 40 students and they all “experienced” the real aspects of scientific research – which is sometimes hard to provide.  I have had students also perform experiments using the Germination unit and the Celery Challenge.  The website provides a window of about 6-8 weeks for the students to complete their research projects.  All of these units provide everything needed to enable your students to perform “real” research.  The website provides a real location for presenting student research results.  The plantingscience website is definitely a website that can provide your students with real research involving real researchers.  Below is the on-line help that the students get – all of this can be used even if you are not using the plantingscience.org website.

Investigating Plants Safely:

Thinking Like a Scientist / Working like a Scientist

Designing Experiments:

Collecting Data:

Guide to using Spreadsheets:


Some research projects that students have completed.

Keep in mind that even though a few of these projects seem to be very low-level, the actual pre- and post test results taken from these projects indicate that the students learned quite a bit about designing experiments and carrying them out.  Just as in real science we sometimes learn much more from bad experimental designs.

How Evolution Gave Us The Human Edge

Click on the image above to access this unique NPR Resources containing

  • 4 Interactives on Brewing a Human, An Upright Primer, Lost Cousins and Fossil Forensics (the last two are a small portion of the Smithsonian Human Origins Initiative)
  • A collection of 20 NPR audio stories previously broadcast on Morning Edition or All Things Considered that provide an eclectic and pretty comprehensive prespective on human evolution.  Topics include, skin color, walking and running, tools and weapons, diet, brain development, talking and language, culuture and belief systems.

I have not used this resource in class having just noticed it while preparing my previous post on the NPR Science site.  If you have used it before and have particular suggestions on its integration please share your experiences with a comment.

NPR Science

Week of January 17, 2011

Click on the logo above to go the the NPR Science site, or use the links below to navigate one of the stories that may interest you.

I imagine that Brad could set up a permenant link for the NPR Science link on the KABT Blog Site but I wonder if it would just sit there unclicked.  He could likely add the apppropriate RSS feed as well which may inspire more use of their programing.  In the mean time, I figured that I might try to get in a weekly habit of posting NPR Science links that may appeal to KABT listeners.  If you would use this weekly feature, let me know via a comment.  Otherwise, I have no idea if this would be of use.

Although I occasionally share such stories in class, I am going to challenge myself to share each of audio stories above with my classes next week and see how they respond as well.  I’ll let you know how it goes with a comment next week.  These stories are good models for culminating work students could do to help them demonstrate understanding of particular topics of study while helping to popularize science as well.   If you already do such things in your classroom please share any thoughts, suggestions, etc… with a comment to this post.

Otherwise, if you have an iPhone, iPad, Android, etc… you should consider getting the NPR app.  I especially enjoy the NPR Science experience on the iPad.

New Language Discovered: Prairiedogese

Reposted from NPR’s Morning Edition by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich

If you learn a second language, there’s usually a moment where things click — you overhear some snippet of conversation and suddenly, you just get it, effortlessly.  Professor Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University has spent the past 30 years studying a foreign tongue. But there are no instructional podcasts or evening classes to help him: Slobodchikoff is trying to learn prairie dog.

View interactive media demonstrating some of the discoveries Dr. Slobodchikoff has made and listen to the 7 minute NPR Story at the following link.


for those of you with access to prairie dogs colonies, it could be quite interesting to attempt to replicate Dr. Slobodchikoff’s.

Additional Links of Potential Interest

  • Video Clip on Dr. Slobodchikoff’s work from the BCC Program Prairie Dogs Talk of the Town

  • BBC Video Clip on Coyote Predation  Prairie Dogs

Yet another study on the efficacy of small writing assignments to improve student performance

These studies keep coming out but I don’t hear of anyone trying them in the classroom. Frankly, the results are spectacular given the very small investment of energy and attention by students or teachers–these exercises beg to be tested in the real classroom. Who is going to step up for their students?

From Ed Yong’s blog: Writing about exam worries for 10 minutes improves student results