Extreme Biology on Science Friday!

Friday, September 25, 2009
By Ms Baker


I was on NPR’s Science Friday this week discussing science education.  My segment was aired live between 2:20-3pm.  You can listen to a podcast of the segment by going to their website.

If you’ve discovered this website because of the radio show, please leave a comment for my students.  We’d love to hear from you!

34 Responses to “Extreme Biology on Science Friday!”

  1. Alan Siegel

    To Ms. Baker and all of her students – Greetings! I am at Temple University preparing to become a middle or secondary school earth science teacher and was really inspired by hearing you about this site today on NPR. I think this would be a really great thing to set up for my own class one day. I’m not sure how to do it but will try to find out. I plan to follow your blog to get ideas about how to set up my own. Thanks for the inspiration! Yours, Alan Siegel – Philadelphia, PA

  2. Brian in Chicago

    I really enjoyed listening to that Science Friday segment. Your class sounds like it’s a lot of fun.

    Ira really seemed interested in why students lose interest in science. My own thoughts are that often teachers, wanting to cover all the material, put students in the position of just accepting and memorizing all the things that the teacher presents as known. Also, many times students find concepts are difficult to grasp and get frustrated. I think that your cooperative learning helps in this regard. As for the rote learning method, it omits the whole discovery aspect, the questioning. After all, questions are the substance of curiosity, and if you can’t form the question, it’s more difficult to reach the solution.

    Sometimes the question or point of view is wrong. I took a lot of math and science in school. One of my professors once said if you find it difficult you’re not thinking about it the right way; the subject was vector calculus which I think almost always gets treated as more difficult than it is.

    Lastly, I’ll say that the reason for the effort is often on the students mind. To this, I’d point out that science is great in this way. Everything is connected to everything else, and science helps us to connect the dots, to understand all sort of things. Prof. Paul Krugman who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2008 made the observation, “Now you can understand why I say that a textbook in evolution reads so much like a textbook in microeconomics. At a deep level, they share the same method: explain behavior in terms of an equilibrium among maximizing individuals.” We can build skills for one purpose that are useful for another even if that other purpose is just to refute the false claims other individuals as Prof. Krugman does constantly.

    I’m glad that it sounds like you’re doing a great job at overcoming the obstacles to understanding and having fun along the way.

    Let me part with a big picture that I think everyone should have in this world:
    Mathematics>Physics>Chemisty>Biology where > = underlies.
    and built on these are medicine, psychology, sociology, economics, engineering and other areas of study.

  3. Want to say that I heard you on SF today! Way to go Bio teach & Bio students! Listening to all of you made me long for my teaching days….

    I stumbled on your blog late last year (2008-2009 school year) and I’m glad school is back in session!

    Thanks for the inspiring lessons and all the hard work your students are putting in. They are inspiring!! Way to go Extreme Biology!!!

  4. Keep up the good work! My 2 sons are in high school now, one’s taking biology and one is taking physics! I’m gonna show them this website and forward it to their teachers.


  5. Wendy

    Driving home Friday night I heard SF and I need to say that I am 65 and this is the first time I have ever been on a blog and certainly the first time I have ever responded. I was so interested in what you all are doing. I see great creativity. Thank you Ms Baker and your wonderful students. You have opened my eyes!!! Wendy

  6. Listening to the program on NPR today was fantastic. I am long gone from high school and I STILL wish I’d had a class that let us be so creative with our own learning. I hope my younger brothers’ teachers learn a thing or two from Miss Baker – because my brothers and I are definitely learning all kinds of fun stuff from her students’ work!

  7. Josh

    Wow, I wish I could go back to school so I could be in this class -it sounds like so much fun!

  8. Rebecca

    I’m a virologist (a scientist who studies viruses) at the National Institutes of Health, working on flu viruses. I heard about your blog on NPR and came to check it out – this is such a great idea. Science is fascinating, and I feel like many students feel intimidated by their science classes. This blog is a great way to make science accessible and hopefully inspires some of you to become the next generation of scientists, doctors, and engineers. Keep up the great work!

  9. Ben

    BRAVO! As one who work in a science-related field (pharma and clinical trials), I am thrilled to see young adults in America rediscover the endless wonders of science. Once upon a time, America was the undisputed world leader in technology and science. Now, high-tech employers are begging the federal government for more H1B visas, because our universities provide scientists and engineers at a rate far too low to meet the demand of industry. IMHO, the future looks exceedingly bright for those science graduates who can fill that demand from right here at home.

  10. Hello Ms. Baker’s class! I’m a k-5 special education teacher in Edina, MN, and I heard your teacher’s interview on NPR’s Science Friday yesterday. I love all the ways you are integrating technology into your regular classroom life, and I’m excited to share your work with other teachers in my district. I’m in a cohort studying digital literacy in my district, and you can bet that I’ll be talking about this blog and your work with all my colleagues. You are lucky to have such a fantastic teacher who realizes that education does not happen in a vacuum within the school walls but instead reaches out with authentic experiences to real audiences. Have a fantastic year in biology! I’ll be checking in over the course of the school year and learning from you :)

  11. Wendy

    I heard your broadcast on SF while waiting in the carpool line for my elementary school age kids. As soon as you provided the blog site name I was grabbing for a pencil and piece of paper. I cannot wait to read your class blog and see what today’s students are learning!

    To the students: Your awesome and very innovative sounding teacher has truly piqued my curosity. I will be sharing what I learn from you and your site with my three elementary school age children and their teachers! I cannot wait to see what YOU can teach me!

    You have an amazing sounding teacher. Make the most of the great opportunity you have. Not every student is blessed to have such a good teacher.

  12. Martin

    This radio program topic is certainly much needed. I very much lament the untimely passing of the magazine “The Sciences” out of New York- please bring it back. This HS teacher is really on top of her subject. My thanks to Ira and his team for introducing her and her class to me!

  13. Mark

    Excellent and inspiring segment, Ms. Baker. My three children attend an excellent HS with a challenging curriculum. However, I believe that several of their classes could easily integrate available technology to improve inter-student communication and to increase overall participation and excitement for the subject. Your enthusiasm is palpable and infectious. Thank you, good luck, and continue having fun in class.

  14. Grant

    As a scientist I loved this show. Kids you have a great teacher. I hope this will inspire more of you to consider science as a career or at least think about it for the rest of your lives. As our country and the world become more polarized we must help fight the national/international trend toward the belief that science and religion are mutually exclusive. There are so many branches of science for you to explore. Find your favorite and have a wonderful and productive time making the world a better place!

  15. Jerry Smith

    I love Science Friday and heard about this blog there. I am 73 and my son is returning to teaching middle school science and my daughter has a business called Environmental Studies, doing biological field work and restoration.

  16. Not sure if my previous reply went through, so to recap, Ms. Baker was great on Science Friday, did a great job, and I think the class is lucky to have her. I have something that might help, which is a glossary of biology terms developed by a Biology student (not an author) using multiple definitions from experts in the field. Not your typical glossary. Check it out at http://ReEntryBiology.com and keep up the great science discussions!

  17. Susan Todd

    Greetings and thanks for the inspiring ideas!

    I hope to use some of these techniques in my resource conservation course here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    If any of your students would be interested in helping me set up a blog and wiki site, I would really appreciate their advice and expertise!

    Susan Todd

  18. Ms. Baker and students,
    I teach biology in NH. What a great podcast and discussion about the state and future of science education. Thanks for the inspirational thoughts and great ideas. I’m always looking for ideas to motivate students to encourage their inner scientist! I loved looking at pics from the cockroach lab – nice work. Also, thanks Ira for a great program – support your local public radio station and NPR.

  19. Carrie Grubb

    I only caught the tail end of the SciFri but I was so grateful! I will be checking out the recording right away. I am immediately devoted to anyone who makes an effort to inspire life long learners and is so willing to share. As School House Rock says “knowledge is power” and I want our Youth to be strong – they are our future! Thank you for the inspiration!

  20. I teach Anatomy & Physiology at a school in West Texas and the Host of Virtual Science University with Professor Paul. I was very impressed with the podcast involving the present and future of Science Education. What this program did is affirmed what I have been doing for the last 17 years. I have written songs on almost all of the majority of the Texas Science TEKS and most of the time I’ve been told that I am entertaining students. Most of the administrators I’ve been around know little about the Multiple Intelligence Model. At schools where I have taught and here in West Texas, I have students that are writing different versions of my Science Songs with different styles. I applaud what you are doing. It inspires me to see that there are others who are pushing the envelope. Here in Texas, when we try to push the envelope, we get hit with obstacles coming from the established status quo. Evolution is a Hot Topic right now in our educational school districts across this great state. Do you have any ideas on how we can approach this volatile topic?
    Thank You for the Great Work You are doing!

  21. Kris

    I was just listening to your segment on the Science Friday podcast. You guys are lucky to have Ms. Baker as your teacher. I’m a recent college grad whose serious interest in biology was neutered by a bad high school bio teacher. Maybe I would have gone into something involving biology if I’d had a better high school experience.

  22. Erik Martin

    Hey Miss. Baker! congrats on getting on NPR Twice now! To all the students there Mrs. Baker is a good teacher and the blog was one of the best parts of my school year last year. Its a tool you should really take advantage of, because of Miss Baker and the blog I got to meet famous scientists and still keep in touch with many of them. I definitely learned a lot of science in that class, and the blog really let me learn about my interests which made it feel a whole lot less “schooly” and a whole lot more fun.

  23. Amanda Harris

    I just heard the Science Friday podcast. I have returned back to school to finish my degree and have plans to teach science after that. I’m looking forward to teaching this subject. I can’t wait to show this blog to my future students and have them make one of their own. I have been trying to think of ways to make science cool for teenagers. This is a good one.

    I have a question regarding standardized testing. Texas and maybe every state has a standard test that must be passed in order to receive a high school diploma. How do you teach what students are interested while also training them to pass this test?

    Also would longer school years benefit science education?

  24. I heard you on the webcast of the SciFri show. Great to hear about classrooms using web 2.0. I actually got the link through the NSTA website. Great that you guys are getting publicity and broadening your audience of readers.

    I am starting my wiki project tomorrow in my classroom where my students write a wiki page about a scientist instead of writing a research paper. I will be following you guys through your blog. Thanks for doing good things!

  25. I just listened to the Science Friday podcast, and this sounds great! I always loved science growing up, and I was fortunate enough to have at least a couple of teachers who knew how to keep it interesting. (We got to dissect owl pellets!) Way to use those brains, guys! I can’t wait to poke around the site. :]

  26. Kevin

    I was driving home on Friday and heard your story on Science Friday. What you are doing in the classroom is fantastic! I am currently serving in the US Army as a Nuclear Medical Science Officer and upon retirement (4 years, 19 days, but whose counting) I wish to teach biology at the high school level. What you are doing with your students is a great inspiration to me. Thanks, K.

  27. Jane

    I was out from school on a sick day and was lucky enough to catch you on NPR. In my science dept, we have one biology teacher using a wiki and I have recently made a commitment to learn more and to try to use more web-based technologies in my class as well. I hope to learn a lot by checking out what you all are doing! So the story was well-timed for me and the stories about students pursuing their own interests was inspiring!

  28. Mr. Skidmore

    Hello Ms. Baker. I teach Astronomy, Geology, Earth and Physical Science at Grafton High School in Grafton, WV. I just heard your program on Science Friday and am inspired! I am going to start a web log of my own and involve my students. Maybe this will help fire them up; not that long ago, we talked about peer review in class.

    Here’s a comment to Alan at Temple U. Hang in there! We’ve all been there and know what you’re going through. You’ll have some tough times ahead yet, but it’s definitely worth it. Beoming a science teacher is awesome!

  29. Ms Baker

    Thank you everyone for the great comments! My students haven’t started blogging, yet. We’ll be starting next week. A great resource for teachers thinking about getting into blogging or just trying to find fun activities in the classroom is The Synapse. The website is http://thesynapse.ning.com

    Hi Erik!!! So great to hear from you! Keep in touch!

  30. I heard Ms. Baker on the Science Friday podcast today and think what you’re doing to enrich science education is awesome. I wish my daughter and son could take your class. The content on the web site is great and an inspiration to other teachers and classes. Wishing you a good year exploring biology.

  31. Jay

    My 9th grade son and I had a great time listening to the podcast in the car (we subscribe to the NPR Science Friday podcast). He’s taking Biology this year — so I forwarded the segment and website to his teacher. His teacher probably already knows about you though… their first experiment this year was with Madagascar hissing cockroaches too!

    Keep up the good work. Haven’t had time to look through all the stuff on the blog, but we had fun watching the mockingbird video together :-)

  32. Deborah

    I download old Science Friday productions to my ipod and listen when time permits. I learned today about your classroom blogs. I am a biology/chemistry teacher in west Tennessee. I love this media and intend to give it a try with my students. Thanks for the idea. MsG.

  33. Tim in Minnesota

    Hey Ms. Baker’s Students:
    I am very impressed by the blogs that I see. Excellent work. I started this year with a goal of having my students do more writing than traditional test taking. My questions for you as students are:
    Do these blogs replace more traditional tests and assignments?
    If so, do you like that?
    Are you required to blog, or is this something you do simply because you want to?
    If you are required to blog, are you doing so willingly?
    I’d appreciate any advice in my own efforts to start a similar site.

  34. Clint

    Great website!!! Heard about it on Science Friday and this is a really cool idea. Keep up the good work!


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