Would you like to visit Mars?

Would you like to visit Mars? At one time this would have been a question to engage in hypothetical thinking, but now, it could be a real possibility. According to the Washington Post, NASA expects that trips to Mars may be possible in the next 20 to 25 years. In fact, they have launched an exciting competition calling companies, universities and anybody to build models of habitats for Mars.

And if you were to go, what would you bring? Some baggies to collect Mars sand? A good pair of shoes? Camera (of course)? It is an interesting thought to play with. Thus in this post I am referencing the Washington Post article Where to stay on Mars? Robots could create living quarters before humans arrive. The article is featured in the Kids Post, so the vocabulary is relatively simple. And the subject matter may spark some interesting discussion about basic needs, isolation, and exploration.

Pre discussion

  • Would you like to go to Mars? Why?
  • What do you think it will be like? Dry, hot, cold, lonely, weird, exciting?

The article: Washington Post Where to stay on Mars?

Questions

  • To get the gist of the article, do a series of Tell Backs for each section
  • What are some of the things that have to be planned in order to make this possible (food, habitat, etc…)?
  •  What is the habitat competition all about?
  • What kind of entertainment would you bring if you were to stay a year?
  • What would you put in your suitcase?
  • How do you think visiting Mars will change life on Earth?

Bitmoji Image

Have a good trip!

 

What bad habit would you like to break?

Why are bad habits so hard to break?

First, what are bad habits? A bad habit is a negative behaviour pattern–perhaps one that causes bodily harm. What about your daily glass of wine, you ask? If it is not causing any pain or putting your health at risk, I would not consider it a bad habit. If you drink a whole bottle, get sick and have trouble waking up in the morning, that may be a different story.

Without being too hard on ourselves, I’m sure we can think of at least one bad habit. Mine…I stress eat. When I get stressed, I feel hungry, crave sweets (I don’t even like sweets) and I’m always looking forward to my next meal.

But why?

The creators of ASAP Science YouTube channel look at bad habits from the scientific perspective. They explain why we feel the need to repeat behaviours.

Pre discussion

  • Mind Map a list of bad habits.
  • What are your bad habits?

The Video: How to Break Your Bad Habit

  • What are some of the bad habits mentioned in the video?
  • How much of our behaviour is done out of habit?
  • Can you explain “chunking”? What does it do for us?
  • Can you name the elements in the 3 step loop?
  • How can you change a habit?
  • Now think of your own bad habit…what do you think it provides for you? (e.g. a rest, socialization, a break from boredom, a break from stress, etc…)

Let me know how the discussions turn out. I love to hear from you.

How do we test new medicines?

Clinical testing of new medicines and therapies is quite a layered and rigorous process. And still, when a drug reaches the general public, there can be unexpected outcomes. This TED talk features Nina Tandon introducing a new biotechnology process that may prevent some of these outcomes.

For your science students…and perhaps your science aficionados, watch Tandon’s presentation and see if your participants can pull out the main points and features this new technology offers.

Pre discussion 

  • What do you know about the process of drug testing?
  • Do you think the process is solid enough to protect against unpredictable outcomes?
  • What could be improved?

The Video: TED-Could tissue engineering mean personalized medicine?

  • Cut the video into as many parts as you need depending on the level of your participants.
  • Do a Tell Back and Mind Map of the main points
  • What are the features of this technology that improve on what was done in the past?
  • How would it change the current practices in drug testing?

Why do we believe weird things?

Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, these concepts are all over the media. What’s frustrating about that, is it is becoming more and more difficult to know the truth. Skeptic.com’s Michael Shermer and famous debunker, gives us a bit of cognitive insight into why we believe weird things.  He explains and demonstrates how things like priming and cognitive bias are natural neurological predispositions that leads us to faulty conclusions. This discussion utilizes vocabulary in both pure science and psychology to demonstrate, in very cool ways, how media can create what I will term “information blind spots.”

***Caution! I did this lesson with a high intermediate student and she was overwhelmed with Shermer’s speed. I would recommend scaffolding the video with the pre discussion.

Pre discussion

  • What makes you trust/distrust information?
  • What elements of a message leads you to conclude it’s true?
  • Do you anything about visual illusion?
  • Do you know anything about auditory illusion?

The Video: Why People Believe Weird Things

Discussion

  • Cut the video up into at least two segments and do a Tell Back
  • What makes us believe weird things…make a Mind Map of all the elements you hear?
  • What do the skeptics do that help them debunk fake news?

Enjoy!

Mel

 

What can governments do to stop climate change?

When we look at the ludicrous speed the planet is changing because of the human footprint, it can leave us feeling powerless. Thus all eyes are on our governments to fix the problem–to be the climate police. But is that fair? Can we trust them?

In this Frontline report, we are confronted by some of the barriers to climate change measures.

Pre discussion

  • What do you know about climate change?
  • What are some of the elements that contribute to fossil fuel emission?
  • What habits have you changed to reverse the trend?

The Video: Frontline: Leadership on Climate Change: Can America Summon the Political Will?

  • Why is there a disconnect between science and policy in America?
  • Why are some reluctant to support policy that puts constraints on manufacturers?
  • Should the government be financing innovation?
  •  Who wins by blocking climate friendly legislation? Who loses?
  • What are other countries doing that has helped the climate change movement?

What is in your food?

We live in a fast paced world with all kinds of conveniences. Food taking a huge chunk of the convenience market, many foods are processed and packaged to serve. If food and nutrition are a topic of interest to you and your students, you might find this National Geographic article about Henry Heinz rather interesting.

Pre discussion

  • What concerns do you have about food?
  • What do you look for when you read the labels on packaged foods?
  • What are your ‘rules of thumb’ when food shopping?

The article: How Henry Heinz used ketchup to improve food safety

  • Mind Map the main points of the article
  • What were some of Heinz’s values?
  • How did that affect his products?
  • Do you think today’s food producers are concerned about the same things as Heinz?
  • What can food producers learn from this story?

 

 

How exactly does gender work?

It is an age old discussion. What are the differences between men and women? Biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu presents some of the new discoveries from epigenetics and research in DNA that explain the differences between men and women from a biological perspective. This is a science based lesson plan with tons of scientific vocabulary to describe how DNA works to create gender differences.

Sanbonmatsu, a transgender scientist, also talks about the challenges she faced in her scientific community given her struggle with her own identity. This content is layered and complex. On one hand the objective is to help science-based students become more verbal with DNA related vocabulary–an important corner stone topic for biologists. But beyond that, the speaker pulls in the social challenges of the “old boys club” that exists in the scientific community.

Pre discussion

  • What are some of the theories you have heard about the differences between men and women?
  • Do you think there are differences?

The Video: The Biology of Gender

There are really two aspects in this video mashed up together. 1) Sanbonmatsu shares the science of gender. 2) Sanbonmatsu talks about the reactions of her scientific community, thus the social issues surrounding transgenderism in various communities.

I would first untangle each aspect.

  • What does the latest research tell us about gender?
  • What is the behaviour of our DNA?
  • How is Sanbonmatsu contributing to a society of tolerance inclusion?
  • Why does Sanbonmatsu expose the scientific community as being especially hard on her choices?
  • Do you think there are other social circles where transgenderism is more difficult?
  • What about less difficult?

I leave you with that for the weekend…have a good one.

Mel

 

What’s the weather today?

I love talking about the weather. It is the single most easy way to initiate a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance if you need to break the silence. Great for elevator rides, spontaneous waiting time and warm repartee.

This particular discussion lesson plan on the weather goes from general to scientific. The objective is to elicit some scientific vocabulary around a familiar topic. If you have no scientists among your students, you can always focus on the important of predicting the weather. And also the importance of being able to talk about the weather as a conversation starter.

Pre discussion

  • What are the different types of weather or climate you can name?
  • What affects the weather?
  • Do you use the weather forecast to plan activities?

The Video: The Science of Weather

  • Divide the video into 2 or 3 segments and do a Tell Back  of the main themes and words
  • How do meteorologists sort through information, identify trends, and make predictions.
  • Why do they often get it wrong?
  • What is it important to predict the weather