Tools for Using the Videos

Tools for using the videos

Science Senses


Description: This video introduces the common thread that runs through the Science Forward course: Sciences Sense. Science Sense is a set of skills that scientists and scientific thinkers possess that allows them to question and evaluate information presented as scientific. These skills include interpreting graphs, making evidence based arguments, designing experiments, and more. The skills fall under three categories: Number Sense, Data Sense, and Knowledge Sense.

Science Senses: The three main categories are mentioned and examples of each are given. This is not a complete listing of all of the Science Sense Skills.

Number Sense

  • Having a sense of scale
  • Making a back of the envelope estimate

Data Sense

  • Collecting data and recognizing patterns

Knowledge Sense

  • Asking scientific questions
  • Applying scientific knowledge
  • Having an open mind

Classroom Ideas:

  • Have students work in groups to try to list as many skills in each of the categories as they can before showing them the list or the syllabus. What skills do they already know scientists possess? Which don’t they think of? Are these skills useful anywhere else?

Possible Readings:

  • Chapter 3: The Nature of Science from White and Dennin. 2008. Science Appreciation: Introduction to Science Literacy. OER

Link to the video page

What is Science


Description: This video has a philosophical focus and explores the nature of science. We’ll hear about how science is both a body of knowledge and a process. Peer review and confirmation bias will also be covered.

Science Senses:

Knowledge Sense

  • The nature of science
  • Making progress in science
  • Recognizing bias
  • Being reasonably skeptical
  • Reporting scientific findings through peer review

Classroom Ideas:

  • Have students define science: first alone, then paired, then groups. Start with one group definition on the board, then have other groups taking turns editing it. (KS – the nature of science)
  • Assign students the task of finding things that claim to be scientific from the internet (or bring in some yourself). These can be news reports, blogs, advertisements, etc. Have them decide what makes these items suspect. This activity can go in many directions. You can discuss what it means to be reasonably skeptical, what pseudoscience is, what good scientific reporting looks like, the difference between communicating science to scientists versus the public, or how to look for the actual scientific basis for the claims in online databases of peer reviewed literature. (KS – Distinguishing between science and pseudoscience, being reasonably skeptical, communicating science, making progress in science)

Possible Readings:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Scientific Literacy from White and Dennin. 2008. Science Appreciation: Introduction to Science Literacy. OER

Link to the Video page

Urban Ecology

Description: This video describes the field of urban ecology and features scientists who use the city as their field site. We’ll hear about studying both the wildlife and the human life of our urban green spaces and we’ll focus on how humans are an influential part of the urban ecosystem.

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  • Collecting data
  • Choosing a representative sample

Knowledge Sense

  • Asking scientific questions based on observations
  • Applying scientific knowledge

Classroom Ideas:

  • Grant writing competition – Assign students a short journal article that describes an ecological experiment. In class, have students work in groups to propose a follow up experiment or a different experiment on a related question. Students must propose methods and generate hypotheses. They then present their proposal to the class and the class votes on which study to fund. (KS – asking questions, designing experiments, communicating science, DS – collecting data, choosing a representative sample )
  • Ecosystem Services Estimates – How much would you (or a government) pay for some service that you (or the city) get for free from an intact ecosystem? (NS – making a back of the envelope estimate)
  • Ecosystem Services vs. Hot Spots Debate – Have students discuss the merits of each conservation strategy (or other conservation strategies). Which is more likely to garner public support and why? (KS – communicating science, applying scientific knowledge)

Possible Readings:

  • OpenStax. 2016. Chapter 44: Ecology and the Biosphere from OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax. OER
  • Helden and Leather. 2004. Biodiversity on urban roundabouts—Hemiptera, management and the species–area relationship. Basic and Applied Ecology. 5:367-377.
  • Costanza et al. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature. 387:253-260.

Link to the Video page

Evolution


Description: This video explores the way evolution happens via natural selection in the context of the microbial world. Viruses and bacteria are discussed. We will see how evolution can be simulated in a laboratory setting.

Science Senses:

Number Sense

  • Having a sense of scale

Data Sense

  • Visualizing data

Knowledge Sense

  • Developing hypotheses and designing experiments
  • Using models
  • Communicating science
  • Applying scientific knowledge

Classroom Ideas:

  • Statistics and Graphical Interpretation – Datasets for bacterial survival under different treatment conditions can be generated to allow students the opportunity to use basic statistics and create figures. Tables and figures from the scientists featured in this video can also be used to discuss how results can be summarized and presented. (DS – doing statistical analysis, visualizing data; KS – communicating science)
  • Evolution and Public Health Discussion – Students can discuss why knowing how evolution works is important from a public health perspective. (KS – applying scientific knowledge, communicating science)
  • Evolution in the Classroom Discussion – Students can analyze Judge Jones’ Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District decision that succeeded in keeping Intelligent Design out of the science classroom. The 2005 ruling lays out some things that make science distinct. (KS – nature of science, communicating science)

Possible Readings:

  • Kitzmiller v. Dover Decision (linked above)
  • Selections from Darwin 1859 On the Origin of Species (particularly the first four chapters).
  • Palumbi, SR. 2001. Humans as the world’s greatest evolutionary force. Science. 293(5536):1786-1790.
  • Pigliucci M. 2010. Chapter 7: Science in the Courtroom. From Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Link to the Video page

Climate Change


Description: This video describes the basic science of climate change. How do we know about climate in the past? What are humans interfering with? How can we make predictions about what will happen in the future?

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  • Using proxies
  • Using models
  • Finding relationships and trends

Knowledge Sense

  • Understanding how science makes progress: replication of results
  • Applying scientific knowledge

Classroom Ideas:

  • Climate Modeling – NASA Goddard has developed an educational version of their climate models that students can use to explore climate variables. See: http://edgcm.columbia.edu (DS – using models)
  • Data Interpretation – Put together a portfolio of climate figures (IPCC forcings, sea level, global temperature, ice record, fire frequency, etc.). Have students work in groups to understand the data being described and then present that data to the class. If there’s time, discuss how some of these graphs can be misinterpreted to support a climate denier’s viewpoint. (DS – using proxies, using models, doing statistical analysis, interpreting graphs; KS – communicating science)

Possible Readings:

  • Hansen J. 2004. Defusing the global warming time bomb. Scientific American. Pages 69-77.
  • Hansen et al. 2012. Perception of climate change. PNAS. E2415-E2423.
  • Earle. 2015. Chapter 19: Climate Change from Earle. Physical Geology.OER

Link to the Video Page

Artificial Intelligence


Description: This video explores what artificial intelligence is and features people who work on different aspects of intelligence. How do we make machines that think like humans? How can we tell when we’ve accomplished this feat?

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  •      Separating signal from noise
  •      Collecting data
  •      Doing statistical analysis

Knowledge Sense

  •      Applying scientific knowledge

Classroom Ideas:

  • Intelligence Discussion – Have students work in groups to come up with qualities that are part of intelligence. Talk about how we measure these in humans. Discuss how we can tell if an AI agent has these traits. (KS – Applying scientific knowledge; DS – Making measurements, using proxies)
  • How big is big data? – AI is often used to handle extremely large data sets. Students can estimate the size of all of this data using back of the envelope calculations. (NS – Making back of the envelope estimates)

Possible Readings:

  • OpenStax. 2014. Chapter 7: Thinking and Intelligence from OpenStax, Psychology. OpenStax. OER
  • Pavlus. 2012. Machines of the Infinite. Scientific American. Sept

Link to the Video page
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The Challenge of Food

Description: How will we feed the estimated 9 billion people that will be on the planet by 2050? How can food be distributed equally? We’ll hear about making more nutritious food via genetic engineering and we’ll also hear about how science can inform food policy.

Science Senses:

Number Sense

  •      Having a sense of scale
  •      Making back of the envelope estimates

Data Sense

  •      Recognizing bias
  •      Using appropriate sample size

Knowledge Sense

  •      Applying scientific knowledge
  •      Understanding when science can inform ethical decisions
  •      Being reasonably skeptical

Classroom Ideas:

  • Food estimates – Create back of the envelope questions for students to do based on food consumption (as seen in the video) or better yet, have students come up with these themselves and pass them to their neighbors. (NS – Having a sense of scale, making back of the envelope estimates)
  • GMO Evidence – Have students find the scientific studies that address safety issues with GMO. What does the scientific evidence have to say about GMO in our food supply? (KS – Making evidence-based arguments, communicating science)
  • Science and Policy Discussion – How can science inform the food distribution policies and GMO-related questions that are in the news today? Which questions can be answered by science and which questions can be informed by scientific findings? (KS – Understanding when science can inform ethical decisions, applying scientific knowledge, asking scientific questions)
  • GMO Debate – Have students prepare arguments for and against the use of GMO in our food supply and assign them one position or the other in class. (KS – Understanding when science can inform ethical decisions, applying scientific knowledge, asking scientific questions)

Possible Readings:

  • Freedman, DH. 2013. Are engineered foods evil? Scientific American. Pgs. 80-85
  • Godfray et al. 2010. The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science. 327(5967):812-818.

Link to the Video page

Astronomy

Description: In this video, we talk to astronomers and astrophysicists that use data collected by telescopes to learn about our universe. We discuss how different types of light can tell us different things and about how we search for exoplanets.

Science Senses:

Number Sense

  • Having a sense of scale

Data Sense

  • Using proxies

Knowledge Sense

  • Using multiple lines of evidence to support conclusions
  • Repeating experiments

Classroom Ideas:

  • Using spectra – One way astronomers get important information about the chemical composition of distant objects is through their emissions spectra. Activities can be built around observing different spectra (if you have access to optical spectroscopes) or print outs of spectra from objects in our universe. Students can determine what elements are being detected and what conclusions can be drawn from this information.
  • Detecting exoplanets – NASA is a great resource for activity ideas related to detecting exoplanets. They have activities appropriate for every student level here: http://kepler.nasa.gov/education/activities/
  • Proxies – Since we can’t get to the places that astronomers want to investigate, we have to learn as much as we can from the light that reaches Earth. Have a discussion in class about what proxies are, what assumptions are behind them, and how we know they are reliable.

Possible Readings:

  • Billings. 2014. Astronomers Search for Moons Circling Distant Exoplanets. Scientific American. 310(1).
  • OpenStax. 2016. Chapter 1: Science and the Universe: A Brief Tour from OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax. OER
  • OpenStax. 2016. Chapter 17: Analyzing Starlight from OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax.OER

Link to the Video page

Tools of Seeing

Description: This video really focuses on having a sense of scale, a Number Sense skill. We talk to astronomers, biologists, and geologists about how they use tools to enhance their sight and how this allows them to make meaningful observations in their fields.

Science Senses:

Number Sense

  • Having a sense of scale
  • Converting to different units
  • Using different orders of magnitude

Knowledge Sense

  • Using multiple lines of evidence to support conclusions

Classroom Ideas:

  • This video pairs nicely with the Astronomy and Geology videos. It also goes well with any activities you are already doing that involve microscopes.
  • If you have access to microscopes or telescopes, use them in class to collect data. If you don’t have access, images from either make good substitutes. You could have students estimate the number of galaxies in the Universe from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image, for example.
  • If you have access to hand lenses, you can do an activity where you have students make observations just with their naked eyes and then have them document what different things they can see with only a 10x magnification.
  • Since this video is heavy on the Number Sense, you could construct a problem set where students have to calculate across many orders of magnitude, with multiple units.

Possible Readings:

  • OpenStax. 2016. Chapter 17: Analyzing Starlight from OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax.OER
  • White and Dennin. 2008. Chapter 2: Numbers and Physical Reality from Science Appreciation: Introduction to Science Literacy. OER
  • Link to the Video page

Geology

Description: In this video, we discuss how studying the rocks and minerals around us can tell us about the history of the planet. We also discuss what makes a scientific law and how those laws are applied in geological studies.

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  • Using proxies
  • Getting a representative sample

Knowledge Sense

  • Drawing conclusions from observations
  • Nature of Science (scientific laws)

Classroom Ideas:

  • Geology field trip – Find out information about your local geology and lead students to a rock outcrop where they can make observations. If you are in NYC, visit Central Park to examine the effects of glaciation (grooves, erratics, etc.).
  • Structure of Science discussion – The video presents an opportunity to have students think about the structure of science because of its focus on laws in geology. Have students work in groups to create a concept map that describes the structure of science. You can brainstorm the terms that should be in the map together (theory, observation, model, law, etc.) or provide those terms to them ahead of time depending on your particular student audience. Compare the maps that the students come up with. Are there any commonalities? Try to build a structure together as a class.
  • Proxies – Like the astronomy video, the geology video brings the opportunity to discuss proxies. We don’t have a time machine to visit the past and watch our planet form, so we need to be able to draw conclusions about the past from what we see in the present. Have a discussion in class about what proxies are, what assumptions are behind them, and how we know they are reliable.

Possible Readings:

  • Selected chapters from Earle S. 2015. Physical Geology. OER
  • Valley JW. 2005. A Cool Early Earth? Scientific American
  • Link to the Video page

Scientific Uncertainty

Description: This video explores what scientists mean when they talk about uncertainty and how that is different from the way this uncertainty is often perceived by the public. We start with 2014’s record heat and end up with a discussion how scientists quantify uncertainty and the value of expertise.

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  • Understanding sample size effects
  • Quantifying variability and uncertainty
  • Repeating measurements
  • Understanding accuracy and precision
  • Thinking probabilistically

Knowledge Sense

  • Drawing conclusions from data
  • Communicating science
  • Employing reasonable skepticism
  • Making progress in science
  • Understanding the value of scientific expertise/consensus

Classroom Ideas:

  • This video pairs nicely with the Climate Change video and the two can be assigned together.
  • Good headline/bad headline – There is an opportunity here to discuss how scientific findings are translated (and mistranslated) in the popular press. Choose a recent science news item and have students find articles that report on that finding. Have them compare those articles with the original peer-reviewed presentation of those data. Which news articles most accurately represent the scientific finding? Which are misleading? Why?
  • Skepticism discussion – Dr. Block says that “a good scientist is a good skeptic for their own data set.” What does this mean? Does this mean we should be skeptical of everything? Why/why not? There is a push from some scientists to stop calling people who don’t think the climate is changing “climate skeptics” and to start calling them “climate deniers.” Why do you think this is?
  • Statistical analysis – This video is a good time to have students think about quantifying variability and error. Give students a set of data from any field and have them analyze it using basic descriptive statistics. Calculating means, standard deviations, variances, standard errors, and confidence intervals is a great way to have students being to think about how we can go from a table of numbers to conclusions. You can also have students visualize these statistics.

Possible Readings:

  • Hansen et al. 2012. Perception of climate change. PNAS. E2415-E2423.
  • Pigliucci M. Chapter 6: Science and Politics from Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Link to the Video page

Water

Description: NYC consumes huge amounts of water everyday and is dependent on natural processes to provide clean drinking water to its residents. This video discusses how water comes from reservoirs north of the city, is used by NYC, and then is put back into the environment. How do scientists and regulatory bodies study all of this water?

Science Senses:

Number Sense

  •      Using different orders of magnitude

Data Sense

  • Repeating measurements
  • Using proxies

Knowledge Sense

  • Using mathematical models
  • Using multiple lines of evidence to support conclusions
  • Applying scientific knowledge

Classroom Ideas:

  • Water field trips – If possible, schedule a trip to a local reservoir, aqueduct, or water treatment plant. If you’re in NYC, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offers tours of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and some other facilities. Check here for more information: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/environmental_education/digester_egg_tours.shtml
  • Statistical analysis – Many municipal regulatory bodies provide the data that they collect about local waters. The New York DEP provides harbor water quality raw data that you can have students download (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/harborwater/harbor_water_sampling_results.shtml)
  • Order of magnitude estimates – Have students estimate their own personal water consumption and then the water consumption of the whole class. Have them do this with only drinking water and with water using in making their food (you may need to look up some agricultural figures for this). What assumptions do you have to make? Are your estimates similar? Why/why not?

Possible Readings:

  • NYC DEP. 2015. New York City 2015 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report.
  • Doršner. 2015. Chapter 13: Water Availability and Use. Essentials of Environmental Science. OER
  • Pimentel et al. 1997. Water Resources: agriculture, the environment, and society. BioScience. 47(2):97-106
  • Link to the Video page

Drug Development and Discovery

Description: In this video, we talk to chemists and biologists that study molecules that might become potential drugs. How do they begin their search? Why is it important to know what these molecules look like?

Science Senses:

Knowledge Sense

  • Using models
  • Using multiple lines of evidence to support conclusions
  • Understanding the difference between hypothesis-driven work and question-driven work
  • Testing hypotheses

Classroom Ideas:

  • Clinical trials and experimental design – Discussing or having students evaluate clinical trials is a great opportunity to get into details about experimental design. Why are controls necessary? What is blinding and why is it needed? How do ethical decisions play a role? Students could also propose experiments for hypothetical drugs.
  • Modeling – Both physical and mathematical models play an important role in drug discovery and development. The Foldit computer game (https://fold.it/portal/) allows students to explore some basic chemical rules and how they can be combined with human puzzle solving skills to model proteins.
  • Statistics and drugs – Statistical analysis of drug experiments lends itself to discussions and activities about how to calculate effect size and risk and how to statistically control for possible confounding factors.

Possible Readings:

  • Holford et al. 2009. Pruning nature: Biodiversity-derived discovery of novel sodium channel blocking conotoxins from Conus bullatus. Toxicon. 53:90-98.
  • Mullard. 2012. Drug repurposing progammes get lift off. Nature. 11:1-2.
  • Link to the Video page

Animal Communication

Description: Humans are not the only organisms that can communicate complex information. In this video, we’ll explore communication in ants, dolphins, and zebra finches and discuss the ways in which we can learn more about how these organisms interact with their worlds.

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  • Defining variables

Knowledge Sense

  • Using models
  • Asking scientific questions
  • Using multiple lines of evidence to support conclusions
  • Applying scientific knowledge to ethical questions

Classroom Ideas:

  • Behavior observations – Assign students an animal to observe for a set period of time (for example, note behaviors every 20 seconds for 10 minutes). This can also be done at a zoo. Have the students try to classify these behaviors into types (mating, feeding, vocalizing, etc.). Create a visualization of results.
  • Animal models – Have a discussion about animal models. Why do scientists use animal models? What assumptions do they have to make when applying the knowledge they gain to humans? Can we do the same types of experiments with humans? Why/why not?
  • Sociality and communication – Have a discussion about how communication allows for complex social behavior. What is a complex social behavior? What organisms have it? Why might it be evolutionarily advantageous?

Possible Readings:

  • OpenStax. 2016. Chapter 35: The Nervous System from OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax. 21 October 2016 OER
  • Link to the Video page

1 Comment

  1. Kelly L. O'Donnell

    A good reading to pair with the Evolution video, if you are looking to take a more flu-related focus, is Chapter 3: Influenza in Wayne and Bolker’s 2015 Infectious Disease: A Very Short Introduction. It discusses vaccines, natural selection, variation, and genetic drift.

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