Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ecology resources for students: Part 1

Good afternoon!

I’m back with another set of bookmarks for students and teachers. Because I’ve taught the IB Environmental systems and societies course for several years, this set of online resources is closest to my heart. Some of these links are here simply because I think they’re cool or fun. Many may also be applicable for studying biology and chemistry as well. Let’s get to it:

Happy learning!

Cheers,

Mr K

Chemistry resources for students: Part 1

Hello again!

As with my last post, this one is dedicated to sharing the random assortment of helpful bookmarks I’ve collected over the years. Like the first part of my bio resources, these are in no particular order, unless you consider where they fall in my browser’s drop-down menu some kind of order. Without further ado, some resources for your chemistry studies:

  • PTable.com. Hands down the best periodic table on the internet. Period.
  • Chemistry.about.com. A good, all-around general chemistry resource. They’ve updated the site format to include news and events, which may tie in nicely with MYP Criterion D: Reflecting on the impacts of science.
  • LibreTexts virtual chemistry textbooks. These are some fairly advanced materials which may be more appropriate for students in Diploma Program or AP chemistry classes. Organized around broad topics such as analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry, organic chem, and physical and theoretical chemistry.
  • IB Chemistry Web. This site appears to be meticulously maintained, and it’s closely aligned with the new IB Chemistry syllabus. Heavy on text, but a tremendous amount of resources for every part of the course.
  • PCCL Flash animations for learning chemistry. These aren’t fancy animations, but they clearly and simply demonstrate a bunch of key topics in general chemistry.
  • Molecular Workbench. Hundreds of engaging, interactive simulations in chemistry (and other subjects). Many include embedded assessments, and you can build your own simulation if you really get into it. You can spend hours with the MW.
  • Cavalcade o’ Chemistry (a.k.a. ChemFiesta). Mr Guch’s incredible chemistry page. He’s been maintaining this page since the late 1990s, and it gets better and better each year. Supremely helpful for middle school and early high school students. He also has a special section just for teachers.
  • Practical chemistry activities from the Nuffield Foundation. Over 200 activities you can do to teach or learn about chemistry. Some are virtual, but many require a science lab.
  • Behind the Scenes at MIT. As the website tagline says, “A series of two-minute videos relating concepts from textbook chemistry to current MIT research and applications in medicine, the environment, and energy.” A nice way for students to see the real-world applications of what’s happening in the lab and the classroom.
  • Off the Shelf Chemistry. A series of 18 chemistry labs for middle school and high school. Download PDF or Word versions to use in your own class/lab.
  • Chemlab.com from Truman State University. This website hosts the course materials for several university-level chemistry courses, but many of them are appropriate and applicable for high school.
  • Periodic Videos from TED-Ed. “A lesson about every single element on the periodic table.” Enough said.

Those are my Chrome chemistry bookmarks. After I’ve run through my resources for earth science, ecology, and physics, I’ll revisit all these subjects and add a second round of resources from my Firefox browser.

A new direction…

Today is the second day of the 2016-2017 school year, and for the first time since early in George W. Bush’s administration, I’m not in a classroom. I have self-identified as a teacher for so long that I’m not entirely sure what to think of this situation. Part of me feels like I’m still on my summer holiday, and part of me feels relief that I won’t be grading papers and sitting through meetings after a long day of lessons, duties, and after-school activities.

There’s a new baby in my family, and my partner works long hours at her job. With two other children on two different campuses, our daily lives were already hectic enough, so we decided that I would take some time off to be with our wonderful son Aaron. After all, he’ll only be a baby once! When he’s old enough for preschool, I intend to go back to teaching full time. I love what I do professionally, but my family is my highest priority. Besides, who could resist this cute guy? Aaron collage

I’m still fascinated by all things scientific, and I can’t help but follow the latest developments in biology, astronomy, and environmental science. With that in mind, I plan to spend a portion of my time away from school enhancing my professional ‘bag of tricks’ and honing my social media skills in order to be a better teacher when I do return to the classroom. My focus for this academic year will be tweeting relevant science news articles, developing more student-centered activities and units of study, and, hopefully, earning a certification in Google Apps for Education. I’ll continue to write about science and teaching resources in this blog, but you’re more likely to see me active on Twitter (@bradleymkremer).

Good luck this year!

Climate change or El Niño?

I’ve been in Tanzania for 8 years, long enough to get a feel for the seasons here juse south of the equator. In most years I expect a few weeks of rain in October or November, wit’s a more substantial rainy season from February through late May or early June.

2016 has been a little different. The short rains of October/November 2015 didn’t seem to fully materialize in Dar es Salaam, with only a few showers scattered here and there. The “long rains” didn’t hit Dar until April, a month later than normal, and when they did arrive, they were intense but short-lived.

Why do I bring this up? This year’s rains exemplify a few important points to understand about science.

First, the intersection of a wildly complex system such as the global climate, with literally thousands of inputs (variables), and a separate-but-related phenomenon such as El Niño produces patterns which we don’t yet fully understand. These patterns require further study, which brings me to my second point.

The tendency of some people to attribute an odd rainy season, intense storm, or other singular event to one overlying cause is a profound misunderstanding of how science works. Repetition is critically important to understanding the underlying interactions between variables, whether in a controlled lab experiment or an open ecosystem. That’s why climate-change-deniers are wrong to seize upon a big snowfall as evidence of no glocal warming. It’s also why those who point to one particular heat wave or drought as proof of climate change are equally wrong.

Let me be clear: there is an overwhelming consensus based on reliable evidence from thousands of repeated observations that our planet is warming as a result of human activities. I’m not denying that scientific consensus. I’m simply describing the danger of basking conclusions on non-scientific thinking.

Enjoy your summer holiday!

Wonderful Amani

tree frog

Hyperolius sp. in Amani Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Brad Kremer)

I’m back in Dar after another incredible week at the Emau Hill camp in Amani Nature Reserve, where I got to spend several days hiking in tropical forests, chasing chameleons and tree frogs at night, and exploring the tea estates surrounding the forest reserve.

I owe a big thanks to Roy Hinde and his staff at Wild Things Safaris for their support, extensive knowledge of the local ecosystem, and fine cooking.

This ESP trip is one of my favorites because of its location. The Usambara Mountains are still my favorite part of Tanzania, even after 7 years in this country. I’ve traveled there six different times, and I look forward to going back again because there’s always more to explore and something new to do.

Amani is one of the best places for birding in East Africa. Over 400 species have been recorded within the reserve, owing to its habitat diversity: tropical montane forest, miombo woodland, river valleys, and agricultural fields. During this trip, I spotted 14 bird species new to me, bringing the total number of bird species I have encountered in Tanzania to over 150. Unfortunately, I don’t have a fancy camera with a telephoto lens, which means I don’t have any photos of these new species, but here are my latest observations:

chameleon 1

Three-horned chameleon, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. (Photo credit: Brad Kremer)

  • Uluguru violet-backed sunbird, Anthreptes neglectus
  • Trumpeter hornbill, Bycanistes bucinator
  • White-tailed crested-flycatcher, Trochocercus albonotatus
  • Augur buzzard, Buteo augur
  • African palm swift, Cypsiurus parvus
  • Lanner falcon, Falco biarmicus
  • Waller’s startling, Onychognathus walleri
  • Yellow-bellied waxbill, Estrilda quartinia
  • Pin-tailed whydah, Vidua macroura
  • Striped kingfisher, Halcyon chelicuti
  • Yellow wagtail, Motacilla flava ‘superciliaris’
  • Mountain buzzard, Buteo oreophilus
  • Red-rumped swallow, Hirundo daurica
  • Martial eagle, Polemaetus bellicosus

All in all, despite averaging over 15 km a day of strenuous walking and hiking, I came back from the trip refreshed and energized because of the chance to get out of the city for a week.   If you have the chance to visit the East Usambara Mountains, please do – you won’t regret it.

 

Enjoy your break!

Since I’m on paternity leave in Madrid and not sleeping for more than 90 minutes at a time, I’m going to take a break from the blog for a few weeks. I’ll return to MrKremerScience.com once my family is resettled in Dar and the second semester is underway.

Take a genuine break from school: don’t study or write papers. Just enjoy the time you have off to concentrate on your friends and family. You’ll come back to school more refreshed and more ready to learn if you haven’t been slogging away at an assignment hanging over your head while you’re on holiday.

Have fun and stay safe everybody. I’ll see you next year!

cheers

Mr K

Chemistry Genius Hour – part 1

Good morning!

Adapted from original image at http://news.ubc.ca/2013/09/25/the-chemistry-must-be-respected/

Adapted from original image at news.ubc.ca

Today I am super excited to share the first of the Genius Hour projects from students in my grade 10 integrated science class. Traditional research papers, Prezi presentations, new lyrics for old songs, PowToons and other animations, TED-style talks, Tumblr and WordPress blogs, interactive board games – these kids have made some pretty cool products that show their growth and knowledge of topics that are real and relevant to them. Here’s Urwa Veerji’s project on the use of triclosan in personal hygiene products and its social and environmental impacts. Big thanks to Urwa for volunteering to go first!

Reasons #493 – #514 I love living in Tanzania

Good morning. I’m back at school today after a fantastic break from classes, planning, and grading student work. It’s a bit tough to be here after the week I’ve had, which exemplifies exactly what’s kept me in Tanzania for six and a half years and counting.

My secret beach!

My secret beach!

The first 5 days of the break I spent with my family at what is unquestionably my favorite beach in the world, and in order to maintain its status, its location shall remain secret. Suffice it to say that it’s an amazing and deserted beach with good surf and spectacularly dark skies for observing the stars.  I followed up the beach trip with 3 days of camping in Mikumi National Park, where my daughter and I were able to observe over a dozen species of large mammals, including a pride of lions stalking and ultimately killing a cape buffalo, as well as a lengthy list of birds. Check out all the cool birds we saw:

  • palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis)
  • black-headed heron (Ardea melanocephala)
  • hadeda ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)
  • blacksmith lapwing or blacksmith plover (Vanellus armatus)
  • Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
  • red-cheeked cordon bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus)
  • southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)
  • pied crow (Corvus albus)
  • white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus)
  • yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis)
  • African openbill stork (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  • Jackson’s hornbill (Tockus jacksoni)
  • helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris)
  • wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  • red-necked spurfowl or red-necked francolin (Pternistis afer)
  • lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus)
  • greater blue-eared glossy-starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus)
  • squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  • African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
  • malachite kingfisher (Alcedo cristata)
  • pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend coming to Tanzania. The people here are warm, friendly, helpful, and welcoming. The landscapes are quintessentially African, the beaches and diving are world-class, and in my opinion, birding and safari opportunities are unrivaled on the continent.

Science: The History of the Future

Good morning.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S13651 / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S13651 / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org /licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

My friend and colleague Steve Loschi passed along the following Radiolab podcast last night. In our current grade 10 chemistry unit, we’re challenging students to reflect on ways that chemistry has changed our world. The story of Fritz Haber’s work is not only a great example of how scientific inquiry has had a massive impact on human society – some would argue that Haber’s discovery is the greatest discovery in human history – it’s also an intriguing tale of humanity and unintended consequences. Have a listen.

Mitochondrial eve discovered! (Well, a close relative of hers, at least.) ‘Mitochondrial eve’ is the name given to the theoretical common ancestor of all humanity. The DNA in mitochondria don’t replicate or mutate the same way as ‘normal’ DNA in cellular nuclei, and it’s also inherited solely from the mother. This inheritance pattern means that it’s the most reliable way to trace genealogical relationships in people. Awesome.

And while I’m on the topic of historic science, I have to bring up Nikola Tesla, who I think is one of the coolest and quirkiest scientists ever. According to this post, here are 10 of Tesla’s inventions that have changed our lives:

Nikola Tesla portrait via The Oatmeal.

Nikola Tesla portrait via The Oatmeal.

  1. Alternating current
  2. Indoor lighting
  3. X-rays
  4. Radio
  5. Remote control
  6. The electric motor
  7. Robotics
  8. Lasers
  9. Wireless communication
  10. Limitless free energy!

Here’s another link to Tesla’s story, but be warned: it’s distinctly NSFW and gets consistently blocked by my school’s web filter. Regardless, it’s a great and entertaining tale by the creative genius behind The Oatmeal comic.

Tanzania in the science headlines?!?

I can’t remember the last time Tanzania made the science news. Maybe during the Leakeys’ days working at Olduvai Gorge, unearthing the history of early hominids? In any case, it’s a rare event, but some archaeological work in southwestern Tanzania just made the science news in one of America’s biggest papers: the Los Angeles Times

Tanzania dinosaur

Image from screen capture: LA Times Science Now, 10 September 2014.

It turns out that gigantic herbivorous terrestrial dinosaurs roamed this part of Africa about 100 million years ago, when Africa and South America were part of a large supercontinent called Gondwana. The article also nicely summarizes how the fossil record continues to boost our understanding of the process of evolution by natural selection. Give it a read.

Happy learning!