Posts Tagged ‘science’

It’s always good to get outside. And having the Long Island Sound 15 minutes away makes partnering with the Maritime Aquarium a great fit. Their new research vessel RV Spirit of the Sound is gorgeous. A plankton survey, benthic bio dredge, and otter trawl gave us plenty to measure and discuss. Students and teachers alike were happy to be out and getting their hands dirty!



Read Full Post »

Just how important is inspiration, the educational value of play, and the time to tinker?

According to brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, it began for them with a toy from France, a small helicopter brought home by their father, Bishop Milton Wright, a great believer in the educational value of toys. The creation of a French experimenter of the nineteenth century, Alphonse Pénaud, it was little more than a stick with twin propellers and twisted rubber bands, and probably cost 50 cents. “Look here, boys,” said the Bishop, something concealed in his hands. When he let go it flew to the ceiling. They called it the “bat.” 

Orville’s first teacher in grade school, Ida Palmer, would remember him at his desk tinkering with bits of wood. Asked what he was up to, he told her he was making a machine of a kind that he and his brother were going to fly someday.

        David McCullough, The Wright Brothers

Rather important, I think.

Read Full Post »

I’m very excited to be starting a class this week called Web Tools for Science Teachers through Montana State’s MSSE program (Masters of Science in Science Education), and I will be using this blog to post assignments, reflections, and examples of web tools that will be useful in the classroom.

While this blog has been up and running for about two years (started just after school let out in 2009), it always seems to mirror the ebb and flow of the school year. Rather, it complements it (to borrow the molecular lock-and-key or coding/non-coding DNA metaphor) in that there’s certainly less blog activity during the more busy times of the school year, and more blog activity during school breaks and holidays. There are only so many hours in the day, as I’m sure you know. It was the onset of summer vacation in ’09 that led to the creation of the blog in the first place.

The story behind the phrase “Once There Were Lions” as a title comes from David Quammen’s terrific book, “Monster of God,” and it references a time in the future when children might be “startled and excited to learn, if anyone tells them, that once there were lions at large in the very world.” It’s a reminder to take care of what we have, and preserve what we can from an ecological perspective. I teach environmental science and biology, so Quammen’s quote resonates with me (and I hope also for my students). You can find a bit more background on the blog in the About tab above.

I’m looking forward to this class, to making connections with new teachers, and sharing information, tools, and best practices. I’m sure we all will benefit.

-Scott Lilley 6/16/11

Read Full Post »

Science and Food

Sorry for the lack of posts.  Busy at home and at school, and to add to the craziness, I decided to start a food blog a little while ago, you know, in my spare time.  That’s not a solo project, though, so with a few friends collaborating there should be more frequent posts and less pressure (on me) to write every day or every week.  I mention it here because I’ve given it more of my attention in the past month, and because it occupies a space in my brain (and life) where science and food overlap.  My goal is for it to to deal with food and the transformative power of salt, bacteria, smoke, and time.  I guess you could throw yeast and heat in there too.

belly and cure

There will probably be a few cross-posts, like when we make pickles, sourdough bread, and bacon in class.  (Yes, I would love to teach a food science elective, especially if we got to make charcuterie.  Imagine a dry-cured sausage lab to demonstrate the role of bacteria in lactic acid fermentation, effect of pH and drying on changes in protein structure, a study of benefical vs harmful mold growth, etc.  How cool would that be?)   So feel free to check it out.  It’s called Smoke Cure Pickle Brew, and we’re pretty excited about it.

Read Full Post »

Low Tech

Fresh pork belly for seventh grade Bacon Unit

So, last month, in the course of discussing bacterial growth with my seventh graders, we got around to talking about salt and food preservation.  (It was only a matter of time.)  We had been talking about the conditions where bacteria thrive, and I had them suggest some ways that we keep things from spoiling nowadays.  They brought up the refrigerator, freezer, heat, plastic wrap, preservatives, antibiotics!, and salt.  So we talk about the book Salt, by Mark Kurlansky, which I loved (and here they think I’m crazy for reading a whole book about salt in the first place, but also for liking it).  They studied explorers in sixth grade social studies, so they’ve heard about salting meat for long voyages (proving that they remember some things from year-to-year, for the record).  And some of them know that shaking salt on slugs causes them to shrivel up, because apparently a few of them still play outside from time to time (and are devious enough to torture slugs with science).  And now they know what the salt does to bacteria.  I even mentioned osmosis, which they’ve all heard of — even if they don’t know what it means yet — because of Osmosis Jones (which I’ve heard of, but have yet to see).  It was a good lesson.  (Next year I’m planning to throw in a clip of Alton Brown’s “Urban Preservation II” episode, where he dehydrates the pool at the bacterial spa, around 4:55 in…).  I mention that they can make their own bacon in the same way; cure it, smoke it, slice thick, fry it up.  And if they weren’t paying attention before, they were now.

So I thought it was time that the class learned where bacon came from…

A few weeks before I had ordered a whole pork belly from Greyledge Farm in Roxbury, CT.  It came in at 11 lbs, one of the thickest and meatiest slabs of belly that I’ve gotten so far, and I was really happy with it.  The timing worked out well.  I had it at home in my fridge, and decided that this was the time to introduce pork belly to the seventh graders.  We discussed the basics of good meat sourcing, about finding a local farmer, if possible, one that can tell you about the provenance, breed, and diet of your pig.  I mentioned the farmer’s market here in New Canaan, where I got mine, and explained that any pig farmer would be happy to get you a slab of fresh belly.  It’s occasionally available at Whole Foods.  I’ve also gotten good pork belly from John Boy’s Mountain View Farm in Washington County, NY.  Walter Stewart’s Market carries Mountain View’s Berkshire pork.  Talk to Pete at the meat counter.

Yes, kids, this is where bacon comes from

I introduced Michael Ruhlman’s Basic Dry Cure from Charcuterie, and referenced this post of his for making pancetta, with the plan to smoke over hickory chips instead of drying it.  We scaled the recipe down for a 3 lb slab of fresh pork belly (using ratios; math teachers and Ruhlman would be so proud!), and we added brown sugar, black pepper, and crushed juniper berries to the cure in the zip-top bag.  After curing, I brought the pieces home to smoke over the weekend (the timing on this didn’t work out to do a smoke-roasting lesson at school, which wouldn’t be too interesting anyway; the interesting part isn’t watching the smoked meat, but eating it).

The following week we had class downstairs in the kitchen, and students worked on a review sheet on viruses and bacteria while I fried up our thick slices of bacon.  I slow cooked it that morning, wrapped in foil in a 225 degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours, then crisped it up in a pan.  There wasn’t enough for a whole BLT per kid or anything, but they did get a good taste, and several of them asked after class, “Where can I get that recipe again?”

Read Full Post »