Fall 2009 Tuesday Seminars

September 15

Catherine Helgoe

Senior Project Manager, Creative Research and Development, LEGO Education

“Inviting Everyone In: LEGO WeDo as a friendly STEM Environment for Early Elementary School Teachers and Students”

WeDo is designed for 7-11 years with an initial focus on activities for 7-9 years. This seminar will describe and explore LEGO building and programming activities organized around the four WeDo themes: Amazing Mechanisms (curriculum emphasis on physical science), Wild Animals (curriculum emphasis on technology), Play Soccer (curriculum emphasis on mathematics) and Adventure Stories (curriculum emphasis on language).

October 6

Barry Werth

Northampton writer

“Evolution in America: A Short History of the First 150 Years”

The U.S. is the world’s most confused and divided nation regarding Darwin’s theory of evolution. Approximately one in two Americans denies evolution and doesn't want it taught in school. Yet these same individuals draw much of their political and social thinking from “survival of the fittest.” The other half accepts evolution as true, wants it taught, but rejects it as an explanation for social behavior. This national schizophrenia derives from the fact that while Darwin thought evolution was neutral, Herbert Spencer, evolution’s great popularizer, believed it was directional – the law of all progress. I’ll show how this situation has developed in three broad historical phases -- early acceptance followed by swift rejection (1859-World War I); eclipse (1920-mid-1970s); and revival (up to the present) – exploring the major struggles within science, religion, society, and politics, race in particular.

October 27

Eric Martz

Professor Emeritus, Microbiology, University of Massachusetts

"DNA & Protein 3D Structure for High School Teachers"

Ready-to-use software, tutorials, and lesson plans offer interactive, rotating, zooming 3D models of high-impact macromolecules such as influenza neuraminidase and Tamiflu, DNA, antibody, hemoglobin, HIV-protease and inhibitor drug, lipid bilayers and channels. BioMolecular Explorer 3D features molecules that dovetail into high school curricula. Proteopedia.Org, a new wiki with Jmol, makes it easy to author new 3D structure tutorials which are immediately online. SMART Teams engage students in the design of physical

molecular models with researchers. Transmissionist tutorials vs. discovery-based learning will be contrasted. Molecular Workbench from the Concord Consortium exemplifies the latter, and has built-in report-generation and assessment tools. All software is free, works in web browsers on Windows or Macs without installing anything except java, and is available from http://HighSchool.MolviZ.Org

November 3

Steve Brewer

Dept. of Biology, University of Massachusetts

November 17

Don Wise

Dept. of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts

Geology, Evolution, and /Incompetent/ Design

This talk first takes the creationists/ anti-evolutionists / intelligent (?) designers at their word and tests their arguments and claims against the geologic record's evidence of superposition of innumerable changing environments associated with progressively more complex life forms with time. It concludes that despite such overwhelming evidence this approach will probably be a losing argument with the bulk of the American public. Instead it suggests applying arguments of intelligent (?) design to obvious defects in human anatomy with the humorous tone of a political campaign as a possibly more effective strategy.

December 1

Salman Hameed

Integrated Science and Humanities, Hampshire College

“Science Education and the Challenge of Islamic Creationism”

While the spread of creationism (and its Intelligent Design incarnation) remain a concern in the West, it is a far more serious issue in the Islamic world. Whereas, Christian creationist movements have failed repeatedly to bring a change in the educational system of the US, Islamic creationists have a serious opportunity to succeed. At first glance, the Islamic debate over evolution may appear to be a replay of the western reaction to Darwinism. However, there are some key differences. For example, young earth creationism - the idea that the world was created some time within the last ten thousand years - is completely absent in the Muslim world. I will highlight some of the key features of contemporary Islamic creationism and compare it with creationism in the US. I will also address how biological evolution is being taught in schools and colleges in various Muslim countries.