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Science and a Sense of Place Institute Summary 2007

Ashley Dawkins's picture
Monday July 23, 2007 Welcome

Today Anne and Wil welcomed all the participants to “Science and a Sense of Place”. Anne began asking if we knew what a close-up of a picture was and if we knew its significance. She showed us a series of pictures that progressively pulled farther and farther away showing us that our view of something changes depending on the context and the location you are coming from. We then had to draw a map and locate ourselves in it. You could draw it anyway that you want. After we drew our maps we went around the room and explained them with a short introduction of ourselves. The next activity required that we find someone with a map that was more different than the same compared to your own and combine the two.

The weather prevented us to go outside for their original afternoon activity. Therefore Wil did a presentation on biomes and understanding ecosystems relating to their structure and function. And then we answered the question: where do humans congregate?. In order to explore these areas he had websites for them to look through and they used applications such as, Google Earth.

Tuesday July 24, 2007 Kim Cassidy: The Place That is the Self

Today Kim came to discuss different stages of adolescent growth. But, before we dared to try to understand adolescence, we were asked to fill out a diamond where we were required to write five adjectives in each category (describe ourselves) in the company of others; more specifically with students, school administration, a group of friends, and a romantic interest. Then we were to look through our lists and draw lines connecting any words that were opposite one another. If this opposition was bothersome we were to put arrows at the ends of the line. Then we were supposed to assess whether or not the descriptions of themselves was our true self or false self. After this was accomplished, we discussed with a partner the results of the exercise. We did this to see how we are as adults and then after learning about adolescence we would be able to compare the two.

Kim then went through her powerpoint presentation entitled “The Place That is the Self”. If you look through this powerpoint you can see theories from Elkind and Harter, within which Kim describes their implications of cognition. These were helpful for the comparison of an adult versus an adolescent.

July 25, 2007 Jeff Cohen : The Histories of Our Locations

Jeff is in the Bryn Mawr College Cities program and is informed in city planning. He has asked the teachers to consider the areas that their schools are in and where they live. In their consideration they should ask themselves questions like; how has the neighborhood changed and who built the houses around your school.

The teachers seem to be very interested in Philadelphia’s history. They learned that there are useful resources in the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Web, and even a place where they can access deeds to land. He really pushes the use of maps and claims, “they are our friends”. He gave us some interesting sites to explore.,, .

He believes that we should think of places as a “palimpsest”, having layers of meaning. I would argue that he believes that humans have helped in creating these layers and history. One of the first exercises he did was have the class imagine they were moles that would pop their heads up every so many years and note their observations. For example, what you saw around you in 1885, 1930, and 2000 all would be very different. He then suggested that a mole that was very observant would not only notice that the world around them has changed, but the patterns of people change over time as well. There are people who lived on farm land, people who started moving to cities, people who moved out, and now we are seeing people moving back to cities.

We learned the William Penn’s original plan for the city, to prevent fires, was to have 400ft x 400ft plots of land with only eight houses on each plot. We can see very easily through maps that this was not the case. There are some larger houses, but then there are smaller ones that are only 13ft x 13ft. We can see on the plans that smaller houses and larger ones could be found on the same block, it depended on how developers divided up the land.

For the after noon, Jeff went over how to take pictures off the web. The teachers are then going to take there newfound knowledge from the day and create a story about themselves. The story will reflect a story of the place of their choosing using powerpoint (if it’s published before 1924 is not copyright protected).

Thursday July 26, 2007 Liz McCormack: The Cosmology of Space

Liz will be addressing the Cosmos. She handed out a five page summary of what she’ll be doing for the day. She plans on addressing the cosmos on a grand scale and then showing them how they can localize what they learn and use things like microwaves in the classroom.

We are going through something called “The Cosmic Distance Scale”. Defining a parsec you can look at your thumb against a background close your left eye and then your right eye. The distance across the galaxy is about 100 light years. The Colbi Satellite is actually far enough out and took pictures of the Milky Way Galaxy. From collecting light we can map out how the Universe looks, but it’s not a snap shot, it’s older because we have to consider distance and time. The dimmest light is coming from ~14 billion years old (the age of the Universe).

Next we are looking at why Logs are important. She is trying to inform us about certain things in the Universe, so we are learning things such as, we can see quasars because they are incredibly luminous and in order to see them then they would have had shined 14 billion years ago. It’s not that there isn’t anything past the quasars; it’s just the edge of our visible universe. As time passes maybe we can see beyond the quasars. Rosemary thinks that we can hook the kids on satellites and how they are apart of our world more than they think, ie. Cell phones, GPS…

Liz describes graphing by explaining 3-D (x, y, z). And now she explains Galactic Coordinates. The teachers will use Where is M13? to explore Galactic Coordinates. But first she gives them an overview of the program. For example, what the different kinds of things they are looking for are. (globular clusters, open clusters, diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae, galaxies, and bright stars). They then split off into groups (or not) and answered questions in the five page packet Liz gave them.

In the afternoon I left to learn about stuff from the CDO. But while I was away Liz did experiments with microwaves and then had them create concept maps. When I came back in the teachers were presenting their concept maps. Doing the concept maps allowed them to see where there were holes in their knowledge. Also, questions arose from doing the maps. (side note: microwaves use magnetrons, they are shielded so it’s not that bad to stand in front of it). She then gave out papers that would further explain using concept maps.

July 30, 2007- Catherine Riihimaki and Jessica Scheick: Watershed Education

Today Catherine came from Bryn Mawr College Geology Department to teach us about watershed education. In order to do this, we went out side and explored watersheds (Rhoads Pond and runoff on towards the end of Senior Row). The term of the day is geomorphology- as literal as sense of place as we’re going to get.

Why are we going to talk about watershed education?
- it’s applicable in a wide range of settings
- interdisciplinary
- demonstrates interconnectedness of natural processes
- spans age levels
- hands on
- provides practical knowledge

While we were outside we took the temperature of the pond and compared them to other parts in the pond. In addition, we measured the flow in and out of the pond. But before all of that we did the raindrop role play on the Green to discover different properties of rain, run off, watersheds, and more.

Afternoon issues
- how do you teach large-scale watershed
- how can students understand the connection between distant places in a watershed
- what is the weather based
- what about children with disabilities

To address these issues we are going to use maps in the afternoon. Older maps can be compared to newer ones. The maps provide something tangible to use. Also technology, such as, Google Earth can be used to explore. The teachers were then free to explore different interests they had about watersheds using maps.

July 31, 2007 Wendy Sternberg and Alex Tuttle: Neuroscience and a Sense of Place

Today Wendy came from Haverford College to explore neuroscience. Her first goal was to explain how we make sense of the bodies that we live in and she the questions
• How does the brain produce conscious experience?
• Is your consciousness the same as mine?
• How do we know the brain gives rise to mind?
• What does this mean for my outlook on life?

Then she provided us with some useful internet resources

After her presentation we spent most of the remaining time dissecting sheep brains . Working in partners we had a worksheet to follow as we explored the different parts if the sheep brain. This was a very hands on activity that allowed us to see the different parts if the brain she was talking about.

August 1, 2007- Wilfred Frankel: Change Over Time: Making Sense of the Diversity of Life

Wil plans to explores the question: What does it mean to have guided inquiry?.
We started out with a kingdom packet. In the envelop there are organisms and we are to order them in any way that we want. We then went around the room and explained our reasoning for our organization. Despite the fact there seemed to be a lack of consistencies and Wil could not look at our categories and determine how we separated them, we based our categorizing on the idea of similarities one way or another. He then pointed out that there really isn’t a “best” way to do something. It has to do with what you want to achieve; for example, usefulness.

We then explored perceived similarities, just because something looks similar doesn’t mean that it really is when you consider other factors. We want to consider many things before we categorize, such as, common ancestry. You can be similar because you share a common ancestry or because of other reasons, like environment. He suggested that what we see today is just a snap shot, so there are techniques used to try and figure out what existed in the past.

We went to the lab and explored Homology, which has to do with similarities related to common ancestry. To do this we examined bones and answered different questions on a worksheet. We worked in groups and explored that helped us to learn more while we were working. This lab required Wil to deal with Evolution “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny”, which is a always a challenge.
We then discussed how we could take this activities to different classrooms.

August 2, 2007- Anne Dalke: The Evolution of Our Stories About Places

Before Anne talked today, Wil recapped the previous day. Rosemary suggested that the uncomfortable feeling we may get through experiences like this Institute is good because then we can better relate to our students.

Anne will discuss the importance of boundaries. She also brought up the alienation of our students and us. She then went into how she was drawn to science later in her life and touched on some bad experiences she had when she was younger. We then went through Paul’s ideas about Science as Storytelling as relating to the college seminar course her and Paul co-teach.

“The problem with storytelling as inquiry is we get attached to it”, “but we tell a story in order to re write it” – Anne Dalke

We did an activity where we had to look at our partner and observe how they looked and what they were wearing. When then had three rounds first five changes, then ten, and then ten more. We then had to note the changes of the other person. In the debriefing we discussed why we only made changes with the stuff we already had, it took until round two and three until we took things around the room to “add” them to us. This can be used to stress the importance of observations. (/local/suminst/ssp07/galileo/)

Wil and Anne put on a “play” from the “Little Monk’s” dilemma, Scene 8 from Bertold Brecht’s play, Life of Galileo (1952). It was about someone discovering something that disrupted his family. The next assignment was to break up in three groups and put on their own little play of one of their students going home to tell their mom something that they learned at school that disrupts their family’s beliefs. Anne’s reason for doing this is because if we change our classes to be inquiry classrooms it may produce issues on the home front. For example, they may go home and tell their parents that their teacher doesn’t care about what they learn and they only care that they learn how to think.

We performed it with “stop action”, meaning they could stop the performance at anytime to insert a person’s thought. One issues was with the administration, the other was about a teacher who swore in the class and used it at home, and the final skit was about a college student who learned about fossil fuels and her parents (read Lies my Teacher Told Me, Teacher Man) work for an oil company – they lived off of it.

If we want inquiry to change things, we can’t think that things won’t stir up

August 3, 2007 Final Presentations

Today all the teachers are presenting what they have been doing and exploring with in their blogs. They have ten minutes to present.

Jenifer: learning about Overbrook Farms, past and present- looking at the past to affect the future

Mary Ellen: Learning about Baldwin

RoseMary: Whale camp

Jack: learning about his school and where it came from (insane asylum)

Diane: bullying

Joyce: webquest- what can be done to engage students in science?

Judith: trying to have kids understand that their world goes beyond what they know- cloud coverage

Ben: environmental issues and tolerance issues

Rita: “I want to learn to read”

Victoria: quality is more important than quantity-using storytelling

Patricia: special education: Indigo Children

Angela: Teen students and middle adolescent behavior. She wants to take the worst students to the prisons and “reach” at least one or two. She then research domestic violence.

And then we had graduation.