Nov
06
2010

Richard Dawkins @ #NABT10

Richard Dawkins at the NABT

Richard Dawkins was the dinner speaker at this year’s National Association of Biology Teachers Conference. I didn’t attend the dinner (it was $85 – gulp) but I did attend his follow-up Q/A session the next day.

He started his talk with a few of vignette movies from his website, www.richarddawkins.net. These are short (2-3 minute) videos of Dawkins speaking – some of them are from his infamous Christmas Lectures and some are more travelogue vignettes (shot in the Galapagos, for instance). The video vignette on Boobies and Gannets was one of my favorites – describing the “two egg” insurance policy of these birds. Another was a video of a younger Dawkins doing a demonstration with a cannonball pendulum that he holds right up to his face – and then lets go, allowing it to swing in it arc, right back to him, stopping just short of smashing him in the face. A beautiful, living illustration of his faith in science. “Yes you can have faith”, Dawkins says, “but have faith with reason.”

He went on to entertain questions from the audience. Most of the questions were about teaching evolution. Here are a few of them…

Q: What do you say to a student who says of evolution, “I just don’t believe it”?
A: Well, I think you need to explore why they don’t believe it. If their answer is something along the lines of “organisms are just too complex to come from random chance”, then you know that they just have the wrong end of the stick and help them with their misconception. But if the reason is a religious one (as in “my parents or my rabbi tells me it’s wrong”) then you could point out that it’s just random chance that they were born to this family, and have these particular religious beliefs. Another idea that Dawkins said came from last night’s dinner companions is to teach the concepts of evolution without calling it evolution and just “smuggle it in”.

Q: I teach in an inner city LA high school that is 95% Latino Catholic. When I teach evolution, I advise them to keep their faith outside of the classroom. Why do so few people in the United States refuse to accept the principles of evolution, as compared to other countries on the globe. “I see this as an attack on science.”
A: Is it possibly not only an attack on science but an attack on intellectualism itself? There seems to be a political movement in this country that resents intellectual ideas and anyone that might be more intellectual than you? (at which point the entire room broke out in laughter).

Q: How do we address the problem that there is really only one race?
A: Good question. We are a very genetically uniform species. The variation among humans is very, very low. The other misconception here is the Victorian idea of an evolutionary ladder – progression – from ancestral apes to chimpanzees, to black people, to white people. When, really, all humans are exactly equally related to chimpanzees and all mammals are equally related to frogs. The categorization that we all have to deal with on many government forms is total nonsense. “Hispanic?! What does that mean? I encourage everyone to refuse to fill out that portion of the form.”

Q: Sometimes I get students who accept microevolution, but have problems with macroevolution. What do you suggest to combat that?
A: Yes, that’s something that they’ve been taught to say. And, of course, what you say is that macroevolution is what you get when you add up lots of instances of microevolution together. The misconception here is that they think it’s happens over night and have no concept of the vast amounts of time involved. There are various metaphors that you can use to address this – his favorite is to stretch out your arm to the side and, moving from you neck to the tip of your fingers, explain that…. The origin of life is at your neck. The dinosaurs are in the palm of your hand. The first mammal is at your fingernail. The whole of recorded human history falls in the dust of a single stroke of a nail file.

Written by rheyden in: Conference Info,NABT News | Tags:
Nov
15
2009

NABT Town Hall

One of the unique features of NABT is the ability of members to have a face-to-face meeting with the Board of Directors and “talk back” as it were.  I’ve attended several of these meetings and quite frankly, some have been rather contentious.  This year, however, was not one of “those” meetings. John Moore, this year’s President made a presentation bringing folks up to date about the state of the organization and generally explained the situations and decisions made this past year. Needless to say, 2009 has been a monumental year for NABT.  The economy has hit all non-profits hard and NABT is no different.  But when given lemons, you best make lemonade and the year has been full of tough decisions and hard work to re-structure for the future.  One bit of especially good news: we planned the conference based on a projected attendance of 850 and as of Saturday morning had over 1100 registered attendees.  Special kudos to the Colorado Biology Teachers Association for their volunteer efforts.  Some 70 CBTA members worked registration and handled AV needs for the conferenceIMG_5016

But the dialog is not one-way at the Town Hall.  Members can ask any question, challenge any decision, and offer suggestions as they see fit.  This year offered some good suggestions about potential future convention sites, member recruitment, NABT merchandise sales, and the annual banquet, which were dutifully recorded by yours truly to be posted to the Board of Directors and added to the ongoing discussion.

The Town Hall ended with Past President Todd Carter presenting outgoing President John Moore with a plaque to commemorate his year of service to NABT.

Written by bobmelton in: Conference Info,NABT News | Tags:
Oct
03
2009

Nano Technology in Education

Opportunity for teachers to participate in a project and get summer pay!  Whoo hoo!

Read the following post:

Dear Teacher:

Please join us in supporting the National Science Foundation in facilitating the integration of nanoscience and technology into education!

NanoTeach is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded professional development project that utilizes the Designing Effective Science Instruction (DESI) framework to integrate nanoscience and technology content into existing science curricula. It is a collaboration between Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility (SNF), the Georgia Institute of Technology, the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), and ASPEN Associates.

We are seeking 30 public high school science teachers to participate in our year-long, nationwide pilot test of NanoTeach beginning summer 2010. Teachers who complete all requirements will receive a stipend of $3,000 (15 days at $200/day) for the out-of-classroom time required for participation.

The application deadline is January 8, 2010. A special NanoTeach Question-and-Answer webinar is scheduled for November 17 at 5 p.m. EST. For more information, go to:  http://www.mcrel.org/NanoTeach/Recruiting <http://www.mcrel.org/NanoTeach/Recruiting>

Sincerely,

Elisabeth Palmer, Ph.D.

Director of Research

ASPEN Associates, Inc.

John Ristvey

Principal Investigator

NanoTeach Project

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)

Oct
03
2009

Survey on Stem-cell Education

Are you a 7th though H.S. Science teacher? Do you know any 7th though H.S Science teachers?  We are getting a request from the Director of Life  Science Outreach and Project BioEYES, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine  & The Netter Center for Community Partnerships to participate in a survey.  Please help this organization gather data.  After taking the survey, please reply to this post?  Was this beneficial?  Did it help me to participate and make me more aware?  Don’t forget that at NABT conference next month there will be a summit on stem-cell education.  Come and have your questions asked, understood and answered.

HelloTeachers,

Together with the Genetics Policy Institute, the University of Pennsylvania is seeking funding to develop a new and innovative Stem Cell education website and live classroom demonstration that will expand on Project BioEYES. For those teachers who are not yet involved with BioEYES, it is a live classroom experiment that uses zebrafish to teach students about cell biology, development, and genetics. It has reached over 18,000 students since 2002 and we hope to continue to offer new and exciting classroom opportunities.

This survey will help us gain insight into your interest and knowledge about how
to best develop online and classroom-based stem cells resources for teachers.

Please complete this survey so that you can have a voice in the project’s
development. We truly appreciate you taking the time to complete this! It will
only take a few minutes.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=zf9lwefON6Im4_2bkWSs1jwQ_3d_3d

Sincerely,
The Project BioEYES team