Teaching Science

May 2019

In Our Time: The Evolution of Teeth

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss theories about the origins of teeth in vertebrates, and what we can learn from sharks in particular and their ancestors. Great white sharks can produce up to 100,000 teeth in their lifetimes. For humans, it is closer to a mere 50 and most of those have to last from childhood. Looking back half a billion years, though, the ancestors of sharks and humans had no teeth in their mouths at all, nor jaws. They were armoured fish, sucking in their food. The theory is that either their tooth-like scales began to appear in mouths as teeth, or some of their taste buds became harder. If we knew more about that, and why sharks can regenerate their teeth, then we might learn how humans could grow new teeth in later lives.

Linked in the grade 11 biology page.

In Our Time: Kinetic Theory

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how scientists sought to understand the properties of gases and the relationship between pressure and volume, and what that search unlocked. Newton theorised that there were static particles in gases that pushed against each other all the harder when volume decreased, hence the increase in pressure. Those who argued that molecules moved, and hit each other, were discredited until James Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann used statistics to support this kinetic theory. Ideas about atoms developed in tandem with this, and it came as a surprise to scientists in C20th that the molecules underpinning the theory actually existed and were not simply thought experiments.

Linked in the grade 11 chemistry page.

The Game of Floods

The "Game of Floods" was developed by the County of Marin as a public education activity on sea level rise adaptation, including traditional flood protection measures such as levees and seawalls; green infrastructure approaches including horizontal levees, wetland restorations, and beach nourishment; and policy/zoning changes. The Game of Floods is a small group activity, with 4-6 participants tasked with developing a vision for ‘Marin Island 2050,’ a hypothetical landscape that highlights the conditions that will be experienced in Marin in coming years with sea level rise and increased storm impacts causing the loss or deterioration of homes, community facilities, roads, agricultural land, beaches, wetlands, lagoons, and other resources.

To start the game, participants are given a lesson with an adaptation strategy reference sheet, including the effectiveness, environmental impacts/benefits, and cost estimates. Integral to the activity is the introduction and consideration of green infrastructure as an alternative to traditional levees and sea walls, with habitat and water quality benefits of such concepts articulated. Seated around the game board, participants take turns championing assets they value and proposing strategies to protect these sites from sea level rise and storm impacts. The game creates a lively interaction between participants, heightening awareness of the challenges of planning for sea level rise. The game concludes with group discussion to obtain consensus for a vision which protects critical assets, while maximizing ecosystems benefits through wetland restoration and other living shoreline approaches.

I haven't had a chance to try this yet, so I'm not certain how well it would work in the classroom. The website mentions it has been used in high schools, so I imagine it won’t need many tweaks to fit it into a lesson on adaptation.