January: The Process and Nature of Science February: Evolution March: Physics and Technology April: Energy Resources May: Sustainability and the Environment June: Ocean and Water July: Astronomy August: Weather and Climate September: Biodiversity and Conservation October: Geosciences and Planet Earth November: Chemistry December: Science and Health Year of Science 2009 home page
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RAFT Activities

The Time of Your Life


Timelines are used extensively in many topics to provide a visual aid for relative positions of events in time. Examples include timelines of the appearance of fish, dinosaurs, and mammals on Earth; or, major events of World War II. In this activity, students create timelines to illustrate events in their own lives to better understand the concept of timelines.

Click here to download the pdf instructions.

Photo by ToniVC, Creative Commons.

Tips for Talking Science

Natural selection works on traits that can be passed on to offspring. Talk about what kinds of traits we're born with (and why things that we learn aren't automatically passed on).

Recommended resources on Evolution
Get Involved in Evolution!

Do you think evolutionarily?


Each month, we'll be asking you to collect a single piece of data that we can use to learn something new about the natural world--and about science. We'll reveal all of the data at the end of the month. Anyone from 4 to 104 can participate--so gather your measuring tools and start measuring!

Your challenge:

Figure out the width of your wrist. Measure the maximum distance between the two hard bumps at the ends of your forearm bones (radius and ulna) in millimeters. (You can use either wrist or take an average of both your wrists if you like.)

Image credit: Grace H. at The Northwest School, Seattle, WA.


Talking about Science

Talking about the process and nature of science -- be it evolution, physics, or biodiversity -- is not always second nature, so we have enlisted scientist and mom Janet Stemwedel to share her fun and engaging blog with us at Year of Science. In this blog, she masterfully navigates through science conversations with her children, explaining cool science concepts in plain, light and fun ways that readers of all ages will enjoy!

Talking About Science

Friday Sprog Blogging: co-evolution

Have you ever tried to have a conversation about one thing and found that, almost immediately, the conversation veered someplace else entirely? This is one of those.

I had heard the horrifying news that there are high school teachers -- in our pretty good school district -- who actually tell their students that it's OK to cut and paste stuff from the internet into their papers without quotation marks or citation, and that Wikipedia is a great source of authoritative information (which, again, one need not cite, seeing as how the internet is like our shared brain).
My response was to launch a preemptive strike on the sprogs' understanding of proper credit and critical evaluation of sources. It was during our discussion of the latter issue that the Free-Ride offspring seized control and took the conversation in a more interesting direction.

Dr. Free-Ride: You guys already know that there are some books that are good sources of information and some that aren't. If you had to write a report on undersea life, you could probably get information from --

Elder offspring: One of our science books or guidebooks.

Dr. Free-Ride: Or maybe even an online source like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Online Field Guide, since the aquarium is pretty serious about accurate information. But would you want to use the giant squid book?

Younger offspring: No, because they say it's dark at the bottom of the ocean because of curtains, and that's not why it's dark there. Sea plants and stuff block the sun.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Well, it's also really deep.

Dr. Free-Ride: It's a long way for the light to travel.

Elder offspring: But there are creatures like lantern fish that can make their own light so they can see down there. I think it's called an adaption.

Dr. Free-Ride: An "adaptation", actually. And I'm pretty sure there are other fish that don't even use vision to get along. That's another adaptation to an environment where there's not much light.

Elder offspring: Like cave fish?

Dr. Free-Ride: Yep, they're blind, but not because the Stonecutters robbed them of their sight.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: In fact, cave fish don't even have eyes.

Dr. Free-Ride: That's efficiency for you. Don't need to see, don't bother developing eyes!

Elder offspring: I think another adaption --

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Adaptation.

Elder offspring: --adaptation is that some creatures that might seem like good creatures to eat don't get eaten because they clean other creatures. For example, a cleaner shrimp.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: You know, an adaptation like that is kind of complicated because it's not just the cleaner shrimp that's adapting, but also the animals that are letting themselves be cleaned rather than eating the shrimp. That's an example of co-evolution.

Elder offspring: Oh?

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: So imagine you have a crocodile hanging out in its river and yawning, and there's a monkey that scampers near its open jaws. The crocodile could eat the monkey, but the monkey cleans the crocodile's teeth a little.

Younger offspring: Cool.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: But it's probably not going to become a regular thing unless the crocodiles that let the monkeys clean their teeth do better than the crocodiles that just eat the monkeys.

Younger offspring: Maybe they do better because their teeth aren't rotten.

Dr. Free-Ride: Don't forget, "doing better" here also means living long enough to have babies. And also, there'd have to be some reproductive advantage for the monkeys who cleaned the crocodile's teeth rather than just staying away from crocodiles altogether.

Elder offspring: Maybe the crocodiles would scare away other creatures that would want to eat the monkeys.

Younger offspring: I'd be scared.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Co-evolution means that both kinds of creatures adapt to each other as a way to adapt to their environment.

Elder offspring: Actually, plovers clean crocodile teeth, I think.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, there aren't actually monkeys who have adapted to clean crocodile teeth, are there?

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: No.

Dr. Free-Ride: How cool would that be if there were? Somebody ought to get to work and figure out what kind of selection pressure could make that happen.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Why not.

Dr. Free-Ride: Of course, I'm uncertain just how heritable crocodile teeth cleaning is as a behavior. It seems like the opposite of instinctive behavior.

Younger offspring: Monkeys could learn to clean crocodile teeth.

Elder offspring: But could crocodiles lose the instinct to eat monkeys?

The following organizations contributed content to this theme:

American Institute of Biological SciencesScience ComedianDarwin Day Celebration The Clergy Letter Project

Flat Stanley ProjectNational Center for Science EducationNESCent: National Evolutionary Synthesis CenterThe Northwest School
RAFTUniversity of California Museum of PaleontologyThe Sloan Career Cornerstone CenterUnderstanding Evolution
Scientific American American Society of Human Genetics

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