Posts Tagged ‘Science’


Friday, July 1st, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, my husband called me down to the basement to see a cecropia moth that had just emerged from its cocoon. It could compete with any of the much admired butterflies out there for drama and beauty, not to mention size – its wingspan was 5 to 6 inches! It is in fact the largest moth in North America.

It was no coincidence that the cecropia cocoon was in our basement. My husband had brought the worm home and we had watched it eat for awhile and make its cocoon and then we waited all winter and spring to see the moth come out. When nothing happened in May or early June, we were sure it was one of the many moths that didn’t survive the winter and put the cocoon in our basement as a curiosity. Obviously, we were pleasantly surprised to find we were mistaken. We took him or her outside then watched the moth warm up its wings, and fly away like it had been doing it for years. We were very fortunate to see this lovely creature in person, since they live such a short life, move mostly at night, and don’t eat.

While this wasn’t exactly a life changing experience, I have always thought that observing nature teaches us things that we really can’t learn anywhere else. Through observing this metamorphosis, I learned more about the cycle of life that is happening all around me and was reminded of the fleeting nature of both beauty and life. I was reminded about the complex and intricate patterns of life found even in the darkest corners of the natural world, which restored a proper sense of awe and respect for the world around me. Finally, I was reminded of the importance of patience and of letting go.

All of this is to say that it is important to occasionally shake off the shackles of the modern world, step into the natural world, and take a look around. The more we do, and the more our children do, the more we will understand it and absorb the lessons it has to offer.

Here are some great resources from Discovery on metamorphosis.  You will have to log in to see them.  If you have any issues with your login, be sure to let me or another education consultant know!

Insect Life Cycles: Metamorphosis. Students learn about simple metamorphosis, complete metamorphosis, and the entire insect life cycle. This video includes live close-up footage of a painted lady butterfly, waxworm moth, silkworm, milkweed bug, and more. Detailed animations give students a unique perspective of the world’s largest animal group.

Insect Metamorphosis. Some organisms undergo a process during which they experience dramatic changes in form as they grow. This process is called metamorphosis, and nowhere is it more dramatic than in the world of insects. This video will introduce students to the two major types of insect metamorphosis: Incomplete and complete. Plenty of examples are given for both types. The praying mantis goes through the three stages of incomplete metamorphosis: Egg, nymph, and adult. The monarch butterfly goes through the four stages of complete metamorphosis: Egg, larva, pupa, and adult

The lives of Butterflies and Moths. Young caterpillars go through a lot to become an adult butterfly. Like many insects, butterflies and moths have a four stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Butterflies and moths belong to a group of insects called lepidopteran.

The lives of Butterflies. This video describes the characteristics of insects and documents the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.

STEM: Reflections and Resources

Thursday, May 12th, 2011


Recently, I was asked to participate in a professional development day that focused on STEM related topics. Knowing that KET has an abundance of STEM related resources, I was happy to comply. However, I began to wonder how much I really understood about the various STEM initiatives in the state and around the nation. I knew STEM stood for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and that the acronym was being used everywhere in all realms of education.  I knew fabulous new STEM related programs and facilities were popping up everywhere, so I also knew there were some major funding initiatives out there. Really, that is about where it stopped, so I decided to do a little light research and share what I learned.  I have also gathered together many KET STEM related resources that you can explore here.

Efforts to improve education in science and math are not new. They have waxed and waned throughout the history of public education in the U.S. However, this new initiative uses a new term, which refers to technology and engineering as well. The history of the term STEM turned out to be fairly easy to ferret out. According to a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dr. Judith Ramaley, created the term when she worked at the National Science Foundation from 2001- 2004. According to Dr. Ramaley, the NSF was using the term “SMET,” and she felt that STEM sounded nicer and “suggests a meaningful connection” between the disciplines instead of implying Science and Math were most important. She must have been right because the term is now widely used, and I have never heard SMET before.


The term “STEM” probably spread in part because it was used in the congressionally mandated report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, which was released by the National Academy of Sciences in May of 2005. Rising Above the Gathering Storm is a comprehensive report that addresses what needs to be done in K-12 education, in research, in higher education, and in public policy to make the U.S. competitive in the global market and advance our country in general. The report addresses the consequences of doing nothing and makes a number of recommendations for action. There is a sense of urgency in this report (which I only skimmed – it is 509 pages) because of the rapidly changing

world economy. The main point is that other countries, with lower wage earners, are currently doing a better job of educating their citizenry in STEM disciplines than the U.S.  As a result, a large percent of STEM jobs will go to these countries if the U.S. doesn’t make drastic changes soon.  Loss of these jobs would be devastating to our economy and recovery would be very difficult. The report also addresses the importance of STEM disciplines to public health and the environment.

After the release of this report, many states moved forward with their own studies, including Kentucky. Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s report was called Kentucky’s STEM Imperative: Competing in the Global Economy and was released by the STEM Task Force in March of 2007. If the STEM state of the nation was bad, Kentucky’s was even worse. According to the report, Kentucky was ranked as follows:

From the United States Education Dashboard

  • 40th in fourth grade mathematics performance
  • 16th in fourth grade science
  • 35th in eighth grade mathematics performance
  • 18th in eighth grade science
  • 29th in the number of students taking AP exams
  • and the list goes on . .

The report also included this alarming statement, “According to the Council’s recent Developmental Education Task Force Report, ‘the proportion of undergraduates underprepared in mathematics who received developmental education services ranged by institution from 64 percent to 96 percent.’(A Plan for Improving College Readiness and Success, page 10)”

The STEM Task Force made recommendations in the report as well (these are straight from the document):

  1. “Energize and fund a statewide public awareness campaign to help Kentuckians understand the critical importance of STEM to their own economic competitiveness and to that of the Commonwealth.
  2. Create incentives and a supportive environment for students, teachers, and institutions that pursue, succeed, and excel in STEM disciplines throughout the P-20 pipeline.
  3. Implement international best practices in professional development programs for P-16 STEM teachers to increase the intensity, duration, and rigor of professional development.
  4. Improve teacher preparation programs and encourage people with undergraduate and graduate STEM degrees to enter the teaching profession.
  5. Revolutionize how STEM subjects are taught, learned, and assessed and implement a statewide research-based STEM curriculum that is aligned with global workforce and academic standards.
  6. Engage business, industry, and civic leaders to improve STEM education and skills in the Commonwealth and create incentives for Kentucky businesses that employ and invest in STEM educated students.
  7. Develop an ongoing, coordinated, statewide STEM initiative that maximizes the impact of resources among state agencies, schools, colleges and universities, and businesses and is focused on developing and attracting STEM-related jobs to Kentucky.
  8. Target energy sustainability problems and opportunities in Kentucky and the nation as a primary objective of statewide STEM enhancements.”

Photo by H. Morrison

So there it is.  STEM is everywhere in education and that is a good thing. We definitely need the next generation to be more innovative, knowledgeable, and tech savvy and, as annoying as acronyms can be, I don’t mind this one too much. It pulls these disciplines into one entity. They exist not as stand alone, theoretical disciplines, but as interrelated disciplines that lead to real world innovation and quality of life improvements. Not by coincidence, the STEM disciplines are integral to other initiatives and reforms such as Senate Bill One and the Common Core Standards, which focus on college and career readiness, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 (our state received 20 million as a result of its passing), and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning.

See some of KET’s great STEM resources here!


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