Sunday, December 31, 2017

Pale Dot 2017

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Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler

Here is a short reading by actor Robert Picardo from Carl Sagan's The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994).

Carl Sagan made a suggestion that an image of Earth from deep space should be made. On February 14, 1990 Voyager 1 was commanded to turn around, look back and take a photograph just as it was leaving our neighborhood...this "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

Ring out wild bells.

Pancake Ice

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Water and Watersheds
Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler

Pancake Ice.

The cold and icy facts here.

Stay warm on this cold Sunday!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Ten from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

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Environmental and Science Education
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

This time of year we start seeing lists, lists of top tens.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, just released their annual list of the ten most downloaded publications plus the next ten.

There were 323 releases in 2017. Each entry includes an image of the cover and a short description.

The topics are wide ranging and represent familiar and important scientific and educational issues.

They can be read and also printed for free!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Photos, Stories and Breakthroughs of the Year by the Editors of AAAS

Art and Environment
Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler
Image result for orangutan

Three from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest scientific organization in the world.

Science Photos of the Year.

Top stories of 2017, each summarized for convenience and easy reading.

The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2017.

There is a claim that some evolutionary biologists are dubious about, namely a new ape. Jerry Coyne is emeritus professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago and doubts this claim.

He wrote (see Coyne's full entry here and here,the latter on the Beeb (BBC)),
But is (this organutan) a new species?
I say no: it’s just an isolated population that’s somewhat different, with individuals being diagnosable. If you use the Biological Species Concept of evolutionists, which deems populations to be different species if they could not produce fertile hybrids when encountering each other in the wild, I’d say that the evidence of interbreeding until physical separation was complete only 20,000 years ago suggests that the Tapnuli and Sumatran orangs are a single species, which also means that the Sumatran and Bornean orangs are a single species as well. My guess would be that the new species would produce fertile hybrids with both of the other “species” in captivity.
I'm not an expert, something I didn't need to say since it is well known but I stand with Professor Coyne's assessment for many reasons.
Coyne is the author of one of the better books on evolution, Why Evolution is True. It is for readers of all stripes, interested reader to expert reader.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Special Moment on the Mackenzie River Delta

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Science and Environmental Education

In a minute and twenty-five seconds videographer Randall MacKenzie recalls a special moment on the MacKenzie River Delta.

Who wouldn't like to be there to see the people and the critters!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

NASA Studies the Earth? Why NASA?

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Earth Systems
Environmental and Science Education
Water and Watersheds
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

You may have wondered, then again maybe not, about why NASA studies the Earth.

On first blush their task seems to be pointed in another direction. Out. Farther out. Very early on NASA was the first agency to launch a weather satellite, a launch that revolutionized weather forecasting. It turns out that space provides a grand perch from which to view the planet and to learn how this very dynamic planet works.

NASA, in one of its Earth's Minutes,  answers the question about why study Earth.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Wisdom's Back

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Edward Hessler

The approximately 67-year-old Laysan albatross, Wisdom, has returned to Midway.  She has even laid an egg and is incubating it.

USFWS story and photographs here.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nature and Children One Minute at a Time

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Environmental & Science Education
Earth Science
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

How children see and experience nature is the aim of 1Minute Nature films, one that they meet again and again.

The team begins developing content for these films "by interviewing children with the aim of creating (short) real life stories with a fairytale feeling, and then bringing the audio to life with animation." They are powerful as well as beautifully done. In Dutch with translations.

Here is one, a film about the death of a cat and how after death its parts gets scattered and may return, as tiny particles, maybe to become part of its former owner (actually with cats it seems the other way round but...). A sweet thought if ever there was one.

This is territory that Aldo Leopold explored in Odyssey, a short essay in A Sand County Almanac. Leopold begins with an atom, X, locked in a limestone rock laid down in a Paleozoic sea and traces its history from then to the present as it passes through one living thing to another back ultimately to the sea, its former prison.  This is a lesson on how we live fast and die often. The cosmic bargain life makes.

There are many books on the death of the animals we choose to live with us, those critters which have a way of insinuating themselves into our lives.

One is the familiar and lovely The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Erik Blegvad.  Cat Barney dies and the mother of the boy says they can have a funeral and that he should think of 10 things about Barney that he can talk about at the funeral. He can think of nine but gradually discovers the tenth.  There is an eleventh which this 1Minute Nature film points out.

I'm more than likely to post other 1Minute Nature films.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

3 x 5, 4 x 6

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History of Science
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

A wonderful essay in The Atlantic by Daniela Blei reminded me of a couple of experiences I had as a graduate student..

Blei describes being in graduate school, holed up in the library, cramming for her exams where she rehearsed her talking points. She had been given a long reading list of books which would serve as the basis for her oral exam, one that was to show mastery of the field the books represented. Blei purchased "a lifetime supply of index cards" (4 x 6) on which she wrote major points. "My index cards," she writes,"--portable, visual, tactile, easily rearranged and reshuffled--got me through the exam."

I never did this but in my prelims I knew I'd face a professor (feared but fair) who came with a large stack of index cards (3 x 5) on which were written questions about general biology. These were part of a large collection of several hundred well-shuffled cards. To prepare I read two or three basic biology texts a few times. I still have one of those texts because I liked it so much and because it is so well written. I passed, in fact did well but then I was fond of general biology.

My written pre-lims took a much different turn. In consultation with a new professor-an up-and-comer--we settled on a large area related to my work, including some recommendations on readings but this list was not complete.  The general topic was grasslands. We met once or twice while I was reading to talk about that literature and to see where I was going with it.

The day arrived and I sat down to write for several hours. I was stunned when I opened the envelope. None of the questions had much, if anything to do with the ecology and evolution of grasslands. I did as well as I could and to my great surprise, I passed. However, I was both angry and disappointed with the professor.

I got "even" later when he wasn't granted tenure. Ah, what schadenfreude! Thinking about it now still makes me smile. I have no idea of where he went or how he turned out as researcher and professor. I hope he became a fairer professor but have doubts.

I don't know whether people still know what index cards are. I know that they are still sold. I found many uses for them over the years. Quick reference notes. Notes/summaries of seminars. Aids in classification. And so on.

Blei notes that "the index card was a product of the Enlightenment, conceived by one of its towering figures: Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, physician, and the father of modern taxonomy." In 1767, as his career was ending, Linnaeus, began using "'little paper slips of a standard size' to record information about plants and animals. According to the historians Isabelle Charmantier and Staffan Muller-Wille, these paper slips offered 'an expedient solution to an information-overload crisis' for the Swedish scientist. More than 1000 of them, measuring five by three inches, are housed at London's Linnean Society."

I hope you can find time to read Blei's essay about managing information, a possible inspiration for Linneaus's use of paper slips and the "checkered history" of this information storage and retrieval system.

The text described above was Life: An Introduction to Biology: Second Edition. It is now so dated that it is not a reliable guide to general biology. It was written by the distinguished paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson and William S. Beck. It was a "principles based" approach. Simpson was a English major as an undergraduate, a good one and it shows. What a pleasure to read.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Poem

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Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

An astronomical event that is an important marker of time and change occurred yesterday at 10:28 am in our part of the world. It is one way of saying that winter has started.

Two poems to note this occasion.

A poem by Mark Strand.

And a poem by Annie Finch.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sol sistere

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Environmental and Science Education
Edward Hessler

Yesterday daylength was 8h 46m 04s.
Today daylength is 8h 46m 02s.
Tomorrow daylength is 8h 46m 05s.

In general, today is 6h 51 shorter than is the June Solstice, marking summer. It will be a while though before we notice the light and longer before we feel the heat.

The winter solstice is upon us when the "sun stands still," appears to pause. Sol sistere.

Writer Justin Grieser of The Washington Post has a column on five things that are nice/interesting to know about this event with useful diagrams. They are,

What happens on the solstice.
About the number of hours on the solstice.
About sunrise and sunset.
Wait a minute, the earliest sunset and latest sunrise don’t occur on the solstice? (This can be a source of great confusion.)
So why does it get colder after the solstice? (Interesting notes on systems, in which there are often lags.)

And more than likely I'm driving you crazy with this 2nd or 3rd reference to one of the tapes in The Private Universe.  You will recall that these tapes were made at graduation events at Harvard University. In this one graduates are asked what causes the seasons (and also the phases of the moon). You might expect these graduates to know, after all, this is Harvard but on the other hand you might expect a high school graduate to know.  Most of us have similar confusions even after courses and effort (on both the part of teachers and us).

These tapes always remind me to think about how I know what I'm so convinced that I know (but may not). What is the evidence or in some cases an evidence chain. How good is that evidence? Are other interpretations possible? And so on. 

Happy Solsticing! 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Talking About Climate Change

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Climate Change
Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Are there better ways to talk about climate change than others?

Yale Climate Connections: Listen. Watch. Read. Act. thinks so.

In this column and video you can read and hear arguments by a variety of communicators. Regular contributor Professor Katherine Hayhoe a climate scientist at Texas Tech begins provocatively. "The 'greatest advances' in understanding of climate change over the past decade," she says "have come not from the physical sciences but from the social sciences."

Others who join in are George Lakoff (linguist, UCal-Berkeley), John Cook (founder of Skeptical Science *, George Mason University), Sarah Myre (climate scientist, University of Washington), and Amber Sullivan (ABC 15 meteorologist, Phoenix).

The video, about 5 minutes long, was shot by videographer, Peter Sullivan.

*Skeptical Science examines the science and arguments of global warming skeptics.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sharon Jones Remembered in Pictures

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Edward Hessler

I loved the late Sharon Jones and her band the Dap Kings--great soul and funk.  She died of pancreatic cancer in 2016 at age 60.

Chemotherapy made Jones bald so she performed bald for that period of time. Her success was far from overnight. She worked as a corrections officer at Riker's Island and also as a security guard for Wells Fargo on the very long way up and wasn't well known until she was about forty.  She owned every stage she put foot on. And shared it as well with her band and her audience.

Jones lived her values. According to the Wiki entry, Jones "was committed to the Daptone Label, an independent. She cited artistic freedom and (her) commitment to the band."

NPR published some photographs of her in a variety of settings. Here they are and here is one of her most well known recordings. And one more.

Monday, December 18, 2017

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Water and Watersheds
Edward Hessler

On December 16, 2017 I posted a piece on preliminary findings of an investigation of extreme poverty in the United States. The tour was led by Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Alston has held the position since 2014.

I had seen a report from Newsweek on the "level of environmental degradation in some areas or rural Alabama," before I posted Alston's initial findings. He was quoted as saying "I think it's--the level of environmental degradation he found in Alabama--very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I'd have to say that I haven't seen this."

However, after I posted some of the findings from that report, I found an essay in HuffPo by Catherine Smith that left me reeling. The headline reads, "Meet the Americans Who Live With Open Sewers in Their Yard." These Americans live in Alabama. Smith's longish essay which includes some photographs of American citizens who live in these conditions does not mention the UN study.

Smith writes, The land Eric's trailer sits on is part of the Black Belt, a swath of dark, clay-rich soil, stretching 300 miles through central Alabama and northern Mississippi. The dirt here doesn't absorb water, making it ideal for creating ponds or growing cotton--the area was a key part of America's slave plantation economy--but terrible for wastewater disposal. The land swells when it's wet and contracts as it dries, forming cracks and damaging pipes, foundations of buildings and anything else buried close to the surface. 

Municipal sewage networks can't reach everyone in the Black Belt counties, where town populations are small and residents are spread over large areas. Instead, far-flung homes have their own septic systems--or they're supposed to. Relatively affordable conventional systems don't function properly inthis soil. Finding something that works can come with a shocking price tag.

Depending on the type of soil where a house is built, people in this region can expect to pay $3,000 and $30,000 to install an onsite septic system, a huge sum considereing the Black Belt has some of the poorest counties in the nation. 

Alston has a long history of "speaking truth to power." Upon reading Smith's essay I was reminded of his view that systemic poverty is the result of political decisions. He is quoted in an article about the investigation by Ed Pilkington who writes for The Guardian that "The idea of human rights is that people have basic dignity and that it's the role of the government--yes, the government!--to ensure that no one falls below the decent level. Civilized society doesn't say for people to go and make it on your own and if you can't, bad luck."

I chose not to mention the Newsweek article, deciding that Alston's preliminary report could speak to the issue of extreme poverty in the United States. The coincidence of the Newsweek article and the photoessay in HuffPost were a prod. Consider Smith's opening line. I could almost smell the stink of raw sewage and feel the desperate poverty. "A breeze wafts the stench of raw sewage into Eric’s face as he stands outside his ramshackle movile home. If he notices the smell, he doesn't react." This is what official reports too often hide from our view.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Forbidden Words

Edward Hessler
Image result for censorship

This can't be true, can it?  Given the current administration it passes the smell (stink) test. It is likely true.

I've heard conflicting responses from what passes for the administration but didn't bother to write them or the source down (NBC news????)

On December 15, 2017 Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reported that the "Trump administration is prohibiting officals at the...Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta...from using a list of seven words or official documents being prepared for next year's budget."

I hope you are ready to read those words or phrases. Some of them are familiar and well-established science words/phrases.  Others are good words in the context say of a budget request.good science words.  Here they are--a sit-down might be a good move.


Were substitutes provided? In some cases but not all.  Here is one and this one may require a lie-down. For science- or evidence-based, the "suggested phrase is 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.'"

Sun's and Eiperin's essay includes more information, some history and reaction from CDC employees present at the meeting.. "‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

CGEE Student Voice: Planton Movil

Student Voice
Planton Movil
I honestly don’t remember much from class time on Friday.  The sun shining among the leaves that remained on the trees while we crunched the ones that didn’t, eating raspberries while figuring out camera settings, and feeling that the project was actually going to turn out fine is about it.  At less than twenty-four hours before the event there wasn’t much anyone could do to make it amazingly better or worse, so I was finally able to relax and just enjoy the process.  The next morning, I arrived at the studio at nine expecting to find people busy grabbing materials to set up.  However, the mood seemed subdued and confused by the rain.  I knew I was supposed to be setting up tents and filming, yet I couldn’t find the other people I needed to do those tasks.  So eventually I found something else to do, found the camera, and one person at a time the rain plan began to come together.  Once everything really got rolling, it was fun.  I loved being able to spend a morning just doing something weird, and I think a lot of others did as well.  Being in a different state of mind, that of the plant buddy, was a refreshing experience.  It was also great to see how quickly all the plants were able to get into the ground with such a large group working on it.  When all the work was done, everyone who had come had accomplished something together, plants and people. 

Collage credit of Forrest Stowe

United Nations Investigation of Extreme Poverty in the United States

Image result for united states poverty

Edward Hessler

The United States is a nation of both great wealth and great poverty/inequality. In too many places across this great nation, the two extremes exist, sometimes cheek to jowl, other times in pockets that escape notice. There are approximately 40 million Americans living in poverty out of a total of ~ 325 million people.

On November 29, 2017 the United Nations announced that "Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, will visit the United States from 1 to 15 December 2017 to examine government efforts to eradicate poverty in the country, and how they relate to US obligations under international human rights law."

I welcome this examination and in the end hope it helps us be more conscious about our values and how we live.

Alston's tour made stops in four states, one in Washington, DC and another in the U. S. territory of Puerto Rico.  Alston made a preliminary statement, December 15, 2017 which may be read here.

Below you will find the bullet points from his statement showing the contrast between the wealth, innovative capacity, and work ethic of the US, and the attainment of the social and other outcomes. This is only a sample of the findings and observations.  
  • By most indicators, the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries.  It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined.
  • US health care expenditures per capita are double the OECD average and much higher than in all other countries. But there are many fewer doctors and hospital beds per person than the OECD average.
  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the U.S. and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • U.S. inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • Neglected tropical diseases, including Zika, are increasingly common in the USA.  It has been estimated that 12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection. A 2017 report documents the prevalence of hookworm in Lowndes County, Alabama.
  • The US has the highest prevalence of obesity in the developed world.
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, ahead of Turkmenistan, El Salvador, Cuba, Thailand and the Russian Federation. Its rate is nearly 5 times the OECD average.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.
  • The Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks the most well-off countries in terms of labor markets, poverty, safety net, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. The US comes in last of the top 10 most well-off countries, and 18th amongst the top 21.
  • In the OECD the US ranks 35th out of 37 in terms of poverty and inequality.
  • According to the World Income Inequality Database, the US has the highest Gini rate (measuring inequality) of all Western Countries
  • The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality characterizes the US as “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.” US child poverty rates are the highest amongst the six richest countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.
  • About 55.7% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In the OECD, the U.S. placed 28th in voter turnout, compared with an OECD average of 75%.  Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2016), 96% in Sweden (2014), and nearly 99% in Japan (2014). 
Mr. Alston’s final report on his US visit will be available in Spring 2018 and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Acknowledgement and Thanks

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Edward Hessler

My Mama used to say to me "Better Late than Never."

I hope that sentiment is true for what follows is L-A-T-E! VERY LATE.

My posts if left to me would be Auf Schwarz--in black and white.

I know that they get dressed-up, made more appealing so that they are more likely to catch an eye.

I owe this to Jenni Abere, a student-worker at CGEE.  She is both, a student AND a worker. She arrives here ready to go and then goes until she leaves.

I'm grateful for this but have never said it out loud.

Jenni is also the author of many posts of her own and her "Student Voice" comments on the Sustainable Commons blog about sustainable practices and sustainability are important. She recently made CGEE a better environmental citizen by making it possible and convenient (We or speaking perhaps only for me, are as lazy as the next person.) for us to recylcle some of our "garbage," much of it food wastes, coffee grounds, etc. Our proof of concept is sorting what can and can't be recycled. So far, so good (I think).

I feel a bit better.


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Biological Evolution
Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

You probably have played the game "rock-paper-scissors." The small (~2.5" or ~6 cm) Side-blotched lizards (Uta stansburiana)  have "played" this game over a long period of time.

These lizards are what evolutionary biologists refer to polymorphic, i.e., they occur in different forms or morphs.  The three color morphs of male side-blotched lizards differ in throat-and-side color: yellow, orange and blue.

In the rock-paper-scissors game, rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beats rock.  In the side-blotched lizard game the orange-throated males beat blue-throated males; the orange-throated males are beaten by yellow-throated males; and the yellow-throated males are beaten by the blue-throated males. 

These involve strategies that keep the cycle going.  This short film shows each of them and how they work. The orange-throated males are very-dominant, the yellow-throated males use a "sneaker" strategy, and the blue-throated males a mate-guarding strategy. Blue-throated males cooperate with each other in defense of their territories and closely-guard the females.

As the interactions occur over time the morph frequencies vary.  First there is a dominance hierarchy. Orange, blue and yellow in that order (a testosterone driven community of lizards). Orange-throated males have the largest territories and harems. Orange-throated males have large territories and female harems. Blue-throated males have smaller territories and harems but cooperate with eachother in defense of their respective territories and closely-guard their harems. Yellow-throated males do not have territories or harems.

When orange-throated males are common their breeding success begins to drop (there are very few harems of blue-throated females with which to mate). The yellow-throated males take advantage by sneaking into the orange-throated territories and their numbers increase. However, they are not successful in mating with females in blue-throated territories and the blue-throated population grows.

This mating pattern and population highs and lows are shown in this short--3 minutes--film.

Keep in mind that the rock-paper-scissors game is an analogy and like many analogies breaks down or requires a deeper explanation when it is studied in the natural world or in different areas over the range of the lizards. There are some populations where only one morph survives. The evolutionary biology of side-blotched lizards has captured the research interest of Dr. Barry Sinervo, a professor at the University of Santa Cruz, his graduate students and post-doctoral students for some 25 years.  There you can learn more about the research and how it is performed.

These variations and details about the evolution of these morphs are described in a University of Santa Cruz news release which describes the work of one of Sinero's post-doctoral students. There is also more information on the mating strategies of these lizards from a course blog, Cornell University.

A Paleontologist's Dream Find

Nature of Science
Edward Hessler
Image result for amber dinosaur

The ca. 99-million-year-old Myanmar amber deposit has yielded another impressive find. 

A tick, clinging to a dinosaur feather, is the subject of a short report in Science by Gretchen Vogel. The dinosaur is a theropod, a small, non-flying member of the group which gave rise to birds.  It has been named Deinocroton draculi.

It is a great story of how the scientists involved reasoned and used direct and indirect evidence. This story describes the reasoning involved as well as the evidence. As paleontologist Ryan McKellar commentator noted that the authors have done a fantastic job of extracting every possible clue from these ancient snapshots. I agree.

There is also a link to the scientific paper in Vogel's essay which includes many more photographs and detailed description of the work.  It is a technical paper. The authors close their abstract by stating that these findings provide insight into early tick evolution and ecology, and shed light on poorly known arthropod–vertebrate interactions and potential disease transmission during the Mesozoic.

An International Assessment of Young Children

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Early Childhood
Edward Hessler

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international education assessment of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. PISA results are a driver of educational policy.

Helge Wasmuth, an early childhood professor at Mercy College wrote an essay for ECE PolicyMatters in which he asks, "Have you heard of baby PISA?" No, I hadn't. I'm apparently not alone.

The Wasmuth essay describes a new OECD venture known as the "International Early Learning and Well-Being Study (IELS)." Student data will be collected on tablets in four learning domains: emerging literacy skills, emerging numeracy skills, self-regulation and social and emotional skills. Each of these assessments will  take about 15 minutes over a period of two days. In addition indirect observational assessments will be made by parents, staff and administrators.

Wasmuth describes the study "as a Pisa for five-years olds," which expresses his deep concerns and frustrations as well as those of other early childhood educators, critical of the study--the ultimate reduction of learning "to what can be measured: numeracy and literacy."  Children age 4.5 yo to 5.5 yo will be included in the sample.

Wasmuth notes that there has been protest from early childhood communities urging their governments to abstain. (includes Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and Denmark. The U. S. and England intend to participate but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not taking part." It appears to have been a shrouded, even hurried process. The study is now underway and will be conducted 2017 through 2019.

"Don't even get me started," Wasmuth writes, "on the collection of child-based data on a global scale without the consent of children, parents, or practitioners. Or with assessing 5-year-olds on a tablet."

Wasmuth's crit is relatively short and worth reading. It provides a sense of the tsuanmi of global educational reform,  fascination with standardization. There is a powerful sense of its inevitability. 

The OECD describes the major features of the IELS study here.

Childhood is too important to be shaped in the way IELS is likely to lead, a monoculture rather than a polyculture that protects kids and its "wondrous nature."

In Finland formal schooling does not start until children are 7 yo. Before then, children attend high-quality pre-schools and day care. In 2014, Krista Kiuru, Finland's Minister of Education and Science was asked what lesson Finland has to offer. "If you invest in early childhood education, in preschool and daycare, that will lead [to] better results" It is known as the "Finnish Way."

Friday Poem

Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

The New Yorker for December 4, 2017 has an essay about A. R. Ammons by critic Dan Chiasson, that includes a fun fact about Ammons.

After purchasing a roll of adding-machine tape Ammons went home and threaded it into his Underwood typewriter. He'd decided to write a poem of daily impressions. No revisions. When finished, Ammons titled the project "Tape for the Turn of the Century." It was about forty feet long and narrow, two inches wide.

Chiasson's essay includes a passage from this project about picking a Christmas tree which has in its middle a poem about snow.

Here is a poem by Ammons.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An Eclipse Appetizer

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Edward Hessler

In today's Speaking of Science (Sarah Kaplan and Ben Guarino, Washington Post), Sarah Kaplan, reporting from the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting (New Orleans) closes the introduction with this teaser:

Also, the word here is that some of the first results from experiments conducted during the August total solar eclipse should be coming out next year. To whet your appetite, watch this stunning video taken from balloons 80,000 feet above the ground as the moon cast its shadow on the Earth.

Here is the video in which there is a short segment (~3 minutes) shot by the University of Minnesota's eclipse balloon team.  

Your choice: music or not. I took mine without the music.