Category Archives: Areas of Interaction

Hanging Out with Andy Revkin

“How do we head through nine billion people by around 2050 without really screwing up too much?”

Andy Revkin writes the DotEarth blog for the New York Times, and has been writing about the environment for almost thirty years. His topics are diverse (and his Twitter stream rich with links) and connected to much of what our students have chosen to explore in our current Environmental Sciences unit in Grade 10 (MYP5).*

He very kindly agreed to G+ Hangout with some students before school, to discuss science writing in general and how he masters his craft on the environment beat. We learned a lot from Andy, and loved his assertion that he is not a ‘doom and gloom’ writer, but that the environment is different, and more complex than we first thought.


Here are links to some of the ideas & issues he mentioned in the chat:


Andy chatting with the early arrivals on G+ Hangouts.

*As part of our current Grade 10 Environmental Science unit, students have broken into groups depending on their interests and IBDP Sciences choices. They have designed their own unit content, though assessment types are common – a lab they design, a test we’ll write based on their chosen assessment statements and a piece of science writing. I’ll dedicate a whole post to how the unit worked once we’re done.

For the science writing task, students are asked to find real-life articles, case-studies or stimulus materials that will provide a context for some of their content. We showed them some models, of great science writing, but I realised my Twitter lists were light on environment writers.

A quick tweet (and some follow-up emails) fixed all that:

Thanks again to Andy for chatting to us – it was a great opportunity to talk to a real pro.

It is also evidence, once again, that Twitter can be an amazing tool for classes and professional development.

Forces & Motion

As our G10 class get working on the Forces and Change in Motion unit, I thought it was time to update the resources to take advantage of the Stratos jump and try out GoogleDocs* and presentations embedded into WordPress.

This task was designed based on student feedback from the last unit test. Some students wanted more (!) test-like situations and practice with the criterion, so I put this together. Prior to this lesson we had some short discussion on prior knowledge on forces (based on sports day situations) and free body diagrams. The rest they were learning as they went along. It was more engaging than I expected – lots of reaching for whiteboards, cooperative arguments and research.

The presentation for the unit is first, with the stimulus video next and the task below.

Note: interestingly the GPresentation embedded fine, but the embedded GDoc lost its formatting. 

Birds of Paradise Project [Cornell Ornithology Lab]

Thanks to Celia, our librarian (@CeliaSchatzky) for sending me this!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (@CornellBirds) and National Geographic have been working on this documentary on the Birds of Paradise. A great connection to E6 Further Studies of Behaviour and the importance of protecting habitats.

Check it out (and then spend the rest of your day on their YouTube channel)

While we’re at it, here are the Lyre birds again, from BBC Worldwide.

Red Bull Stratos – Jumping from the Edge of Space

Felix Baumgartner is ready to jump! Follow the live feed below, or on the Red Bull Stratos website. His aim is to jump from the edge of space, breaking the sound barrier in freefall. Whoo!

Here’s a CGI simulation of what’s expected:

Three World-Changing Biology Experiments

A quick overview of three experiments that helped advance Biology:

15 year-old develops effective, cheap test for pancreatic cancer [TED Audition]

Wow. Here’s Jack Andraka’s TED Audition for a talk on his work developing a carbon nanotube and antibody-based test for pancreatic cancer.

Jack won the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award ($75,000) at the Intel International* Science and Engineering Fair for the same work:

Read more about him, his work and the work he built it on here on

*Yup – you can have a go too.

Atmosphere & Pollution Resources

These are for the Grade 10 Environmental Science students. More are on the topic page, here.

Habitable Planet chapters

One World: Formative Assessment Video Discussion Task

In this one or two-lesson task, students watch one of the videos below as an introduction to science as a solution to a problem in a global context. They then work together to produce a mind-map poster of the issue and its solution, covering the main ideas of the One World criterion.

Here are the videos:

United Nations University Our World 2.0: Plastic to Oil Fantastic

TED Talk: Michael Pritchard’s Lifesaver Bottle

Save the Panda? Group research, database and discussion task.

This task is based on Chris Packham’s comments on Panda conservation and is intended to give students an insight into conservation issues and use of the IUCN Red List database. Here is a quick news clip with him defending his comments, and the activity is embedded below.

By the end of this session, students should be able to:

  • Distinguish between keystone and flagship species, with examples of each
  • Access and use the IUCN Red List database
  • Appreciate that threats to one species often threaten other species in the same area
  • Discuss the benefits of whole-ecosystem conservation

Once this is complete, watch one of these TED Talks on active conservation management techniques and their successes. Conservation really is inspiration!

Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

John Kasaona: How rhino poachers became caretakers

Willie Smits: How we regrew a rainforest


The Missing Link to Renewable Energy? Donald Sadoway at TED2012

“We need to think big, we need to think cheap… Let’s invent to the price point of the electricity market. If you want to make something dirt cheap – make it out of dirt. Preferably dirt which is locally sourced!”

This is an entertaining and erudite TED Talk from MIT’s Materials Engineer Donald Sadoway which outlines our current problem of grid-level electricity storage, describes how batteries work and goes on to explain where we could go with molten metal batteries. He describes his passion as science and service to society, which is a great sentiment.

This is a good link to our units on Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science and would make a fine starting point for a One World project. How can science positively impact the world?


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