Filed Under (science) by Lee Kolbert on 28-03-2010

Molly’s baby just hatched!

This is a live feed of a wild female barn owl named Molly. The owl box is located 15 feet off the ground. The male (McGee) has a white chest and face. He usually shows up after dark but has spent an entire day with the female. For more information about the owls, click here.


A few weeks ago, I blogged about my plans to bring in special guest, bio-chemist Erika Ebbel, to our class. Well, today all three of my classes had the unique experience of having this video conversation with Erika. Erika was profiled on The Secret Life of Scientists which is a wonderful site where students can learn about many different types of science and the real people who live it daily. Additionally, Secret Life of Scientists provides video snippets into the “secret lives” of these brilliant folks allowing students to get a glimpse of the diverse interests and hobbies that even “really smart” people enjoy!

Leading up to our conversation today, I prepared my students by watching Erika’s videos (each one is no more than a few minutes) and having some conversations in class about the context. It was very good for the students to see Erika speak to the fact that she studied very hard and did well in school, continues to study science (and loves it) and entered and won beauty pageants. Perhaps the most interesting to the students was the video, Whiz Kids, where Erika explains how, when she was in 11 years old, she got her idea for a project to see if cells commit suicide when diseased. She got her idea from visiting a crocodile farm where she learned that when crocodiles become fatally wounded, they roll over in the water and commit suicide. She goes on to describe how she set and achieved her goal to conduct this experiment. The challenges she faced with her experiment were not much unlike some of the challenges my students are facing with their own Science Fair experiments. Some of my students are also finding their results to be inconclusive or that the resources they need are not readily available and so they need to change their plans.

This was a great opportunity for my students to ask Erika questions about their projects, science, the beauty pageant or anything really. The students prepared questions and we were ready to go.

Erika graciously agreed to do this video conference with me three times (so that each of my classes could benefit). I didn’t want to consume too much of Erika’s time, so I vetted the questions in advance and only a few students in each class asked their questions.

A couple of highlights:

  • Hearing Erika talk about her successes was fascinating, but listening to her talk about the many times she failed was pretty important too. It’s easy to set a goal and get started. It’s also easy to turn away and give up at the first sight of resistance. It is good for my students to see that being successful doesn’t usually come easily.
  • Jack speaking about his project on growing crystals and how the paper clips used for weights kept rusting causing the crystals not to grow. He and Erika discussed running more trials and some possible solutions.
  • Jordana asking Erika about the diseases she is working on curing.
  • Santiago asking Erika about how to measure centipedes without getting bit.
  • Eriel wondering what people want to talk to Erika about more; science or the beauty pageants.
  • Noah, whose experiment requires exerting the same force on a hovercraft to measure on which surface it will travel the farthest, wanted to know how to make sure he was exerting the same amount of force each time he ran his trials.
  • Erika responding to a question about her daily routine. She described how she is in a PhD program and only recently stopped attending classes and taking tests, but now goes to a lab every day. She also described her routine when she has days off and the activities she enjoys doing such as SCUBA diving.

Erika is incredibly engaging and developed a lovely rapport with the students right away. She obliged us with talk of her awards and achievements, but you could tell she was much more comfortable talking about where she/we still needs to go. It’s clear how passionate she is about her work and how much she wants young students to develop the same love for science and math that she’s embraced.

There were many messages to be gleaned from the conversations and I’ll be spending some time next week debriefing with the students and having them work on their own “Secret Life of Students” profiles where they will identify their own areas of expertise to share with others.

I want to thank Erika for spending so much time with me and my students. Additionally, I’d like to thank Tom Miller and Karen Laverty (some behind-the-scenes folks from The Secret Life of Scientists) who helped facilitate this wonderful instructional experience that my students will surely remember always.

Special thanks to Ms. New, university student from FAU, for all her EXTRA help that day!

Update: Secret Life invited me to be a post a guest blogpost. Check it out here!

Filed Under (blogging, carnival, PalmBreezeCAFE) by Lee Kolbert on 02-03-2010

Have you ever wanted to be on TV? Well, this wish came true for one of my students last week!

Katie G. won a guest appearance on PalmBreezeCAFE as part of our school carnival fund-raiser. It was a great pleasure having Katie on the set with me as my co-host for the segment below. She was the perfect on-air “talent.” She arrived on time to have her make-up done (Thank you, Kay!) and was then whisked away for her personal tour of the studio (Thank you, Greg!). Not only did she get to host the segment with me, but also watch the other segments from inside the studio as well as, (and perhaps even more fun) from the control room where all the magic really happens.

So, what did we talk about on-air?

As our readers know, our class has been blogging, not only here at our class blog, but also over here at our kidblog site. The students are doing such a great job with their blogs. You can read their poems, essays, ideas and even some original plays they’ve written. They are also doing a wonderful job commenting on each other’s posts.

For this reason, I was very excited to finally be able to share our kidblog site on PalmBreezeCAFE and who else to tell you about it, then one of my students herself?

Here Katie and I tell you all about it. Please leave a comment to let Katie know what you think of her debut. Also, if you are a teacher who is using Kidblog with your class, we’d love to read what your kids are writing, so please leave a comment with your URL.

You can see all PalmBreezeCAFE educational tech segments here on YouTube.

Thank you to everyone at TEN and PalmBreezeCAFE for making Katie and her mom feel so welcome. You guys totally ROCK!