Attendance is Mandatory

I have taught this class. It was called “Introduction to Biology for Non-Majors”.

Incidentally, I got pretty good student evaluations and none of my South Carolinian students argued with me about evolution.

The African Science Truck Experience

The African Science Truck Experience (TASTE) is an amazing charity I first found our about when founder Amy Buchanan-Hughes spoke at a science unconference I co-organised a few years ago.

TASTE is a project to provide school kids in Uganda with appropriate science lab tools that they need to study science in middle and high school. It’s difficult and expensive to set up science labs in individual schools in Uganda, but TASTE solves the problem with wheels: They have a mobile lab (the “science truck”) which can travel from school to school. Kids use the equipment when the truck is in town, and then it leaves after their labs are done, onto the next location!


In 2013, they reached 1400 students this way, and now TASTE are planning their next trip to Uganda. They are raising money throughout 2015 to be able to return in 2016 with the mobile lab and teacher training.

They’ve just started their fundraising, which involves a weekly focus on a specific item that they need sponsors for. This week’s item is…. a box of cockroaches, to help students learn anatomical drawing, which is a part of their curriculum.


You can follow TASTE on Facebook and Twitter to keep track of the weekly items, or their fundraising page to donate. (Note that the donation amounts listed are in British pounds. £10 is approximately $15 US)

Images from TASTE site and Facebook page.

AP Sex Ed

Sex education should address the intersection of biology, interpersonal relationships, and society with a backing of solid science. It should and can be sex positive without promoting irresponsible behavior – indeed quality sex education leads to more responsible behavior. Quality sex education can also be aesthetically pleasing, as Carlin Soos demonstrates with “AP Sex Ed”.

AP Sex Ed (Page 5) by Carlin Soos

Breaking News: Kids Distract Easily

Art, by a kid (mine) that was hung on a wall (mine)
Art, by a kid (mine) that was hung on a wall (mine)

Those of us in online environments are familiar with the concept of attention allocation or attention as currency. A new research paper in Psychological Science argues that off-topic wall decorations in the classrooms of young students distract from the learning.

I’m not a psychology researcher. So, I can’t and won’t comment on the merits of the work as it relates to the body of related research. From reports, the study does use a small sample size (24 students in one class) and the same students in both conditions. So, don’t start yelling at your kid’s kindergarten teacher based on this study alone.

As the parent of a kindergartener and a recently graduated kindergartener, I was a bit surprised to discover that there was debate about the decoration of classroom grounds on its educational merit. Here, competition for kindergarten students is pretty fierce. At the same time, we parents are pretty irrational consumers of education as a product.

Walls covered in bright colors and cute art by little kids? That makes a classroom look fun, inviting, and warm. It distracts us too; and, before you know it, we are signing applications and deposit checks.


Donate to CosmoQuest

The lovely and talented folks at CosmoQuest are raising funds to keep their programs and staff going. Those programs include a variety of outreach and citizen science projects. Changes due to sequestration and the way that science education is being funded by the US government has left valuable programs like CosmoQuest with uncertain futures.

On March 22, 2013 we found out that many NASA EPO programs will be suspended as a direct result of US budgetary sequestration. The full ramifications are still being learned, but we are proactively working to raise money to make sure that CosmoQuest can continue to support its staff and its programs. As we are able, we will also use any monies we raise to contract amazing people whose jobs are negatively impacted by budgetary cuts.

Donate now to help keep CosmoQuest going, any amount helps.

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