Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rosalind Franklin

She's the woman behind the x-ray crystallography images that led James Watson and Francis Crick to decipher the structure of DNA.

I had a little rant for my students about inequality in the sciences; women weren't always welcome in the research world and I may have made a few of my students feel uncomfortable when I said that for a long time science in the United States has been dominated by the white man. True, isn't it? Watch this movie: Something the Lord Made.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lil' Wayne

Today my Biology students started presentations of their Cell Analogy Projects. Most students did decent posters on which they drew diagrams of a typical cell and something they considered to be analogous: the classroom (complete with a drawing of me as the 'nucleus', with rather broad shoulders but a nice small waist and funky shoes); a stadium; a car (and they did a darn good job of matching the parts of a car to similar parts in a cell); a house and so on. We set up classroom norms for doing presentations and everyone was polite and well-mannered so kids had little problem getting up in front of the class - nice!
The piece de resistance (French, please) happened 5th period when the most unsuspecting of the lot got up in front of the room, put on a CD of Lil' Wayne (A Milli) and performed a rap about how a cell is like a football stadium complete with details about stadium gates and security guards, trash disposal, and the aisles between the seats likened to the Endoplasmic Reticulum. This was not the thrown-down phat pharm or crunk hyphie kid who is always beat boxing - just the short, skinny kid in braces who decided he could rap about cells.

Needless to say I was so proud of him and of the class. They gave him the best round of applause and were genuinely impressed.
So, for all those nay-sayers of sex-drug-gang-laden rap it's given this "F" student a huge boost to his confidence and his grade! Thanks, Lil' Wayne!

Today's Homework: Find a new song to re-write to the theme of human genetics

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I need another fish

Last spring David and I ventured out to a hidden warehouse at SFO on a typical foggy morning. We took a few wrong turns into empty parking lots and when we finally entered the appropriate building I presented my badge. We were allowed into a cool, dusty room with scavengers trolling about. We were in an exclusive garage sale for science teachers - and everything was free!

Biotech companies from the Bay Area donate their excess stuff and it makes for a veritable scene of Science Teachers Gone Wild!

I got an incubator, hundreds of micropipette tips, petri dishes, tubing, and a giant Erlenmeyer flask. When we got home David set about to make a fish tank out of the flask. He bought 3 fish and 2 of them promptly died. He fashioned a dead-fish-removal device out of a plastic knife, plastic fork and some masking tape. The lone fish lived with the fish tank rocks and circled about mindlessly. It lived in our kitchen, and during our honeymoon it lived in Katie and Tim's kitchen. Now it lives in Room 37 at RCHS. Marco feeds the fish everyday during 6th period and Luiza looks at it with disdain because she can't imagine a fish surviving with no friends. She has even offered to give me $5 to go buy another fish (specifically a plecostomus so that it will eat the algae - I think Luiza may be grossed out by the algae too since she sits right next to the increasingly green "tank"). I told her to write me a message on the board to remind me to get a new fish.

I was out of class for two days for a training seminar this week. When I returned to my classroom on Friday there was a sizeable note on the board that read, "Please buy a new fish. Love you."

Today's homework: go to PetCo and get a proper fish tank and a few proper fish for Luiza to see and Marco to feed