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09 June 2010

Programming, Scratch (and Pawns)

ISOCS Seniors have been playing Pawns, (a free problem-solving game from Mind The Cube Software) in which the player has to understand a problem, and experiment with finding solutions.
Having played Pawns, students have had practice with thinking "if...then..." - a key mode for problem solving, and computer programming.

This week the class was introduced to  Scratch. a visual programming language developed by MIT.

"Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design."

Scratch is free of charge, go to this page. It is available for Mac OSX and Windows.  Find out what you can do with Scratch on this page, and use this Reference Guide for help.

Screen shot of a Scratch window

You can share your creations in an on-line community.

Where we are in place and time/Sharing the planet

The Seniors are about to launch into their last Unit of Inquiry for this school year: Where we are in place and time.

Here are two videos to start thinking about, from our play list for that theme.

The first is "NASA | Satellites View Growing Gulf Oil Spill" from NASAexplorer — May 27, 2010 — Two NASA satellites are capturing images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began April 20, 2010 with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. This short video reveals a space-based view of the burning oil rig and, later, the ensuing oil spill through May 24. The timelapse uses imagery from the MODIS instrument, on board NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The oil slick appears grayish-beige in the image and changes due to changing weather, currents, and use of oil dispersing chemicals.

Imagery and information about the oil spill is also available on NASA's Earth Observatory page about the oil spill.

The second video is "Oil Spill Impacts on Coastal Wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta", produced by the Wetland Foundation — June 03, 2010 — LSU professor and wetland ecologist, Dr. Irving Mendelssohn, answers questions about possible oil spill effects on wetlands, mechanisms of damage to plants, and pros and cons of clean-up procedures. Mendelssohn has studied the coastal habitats along the Louisiana coast for over 30 years and has published more than 100 scientific articles on wetlands, 25 on oil spill impacts.

UPDATE 14 June 2010 - The Oil Spill by the Numbers
A different view

Thanks to R. Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers

UPDATE 2 (15 June 2010) - A Gulf Thick with Life -- and Oil

"Dr. Lisa Suatoni, a marine expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, answers some basic questions: “Where is the oil? What is it harming? What unique habitats and biological diversity are at risk?”

Thanks to Dan Colman at Open Culture.

UPDATE 17 July 2010 - The Oil Spill's Other Victims (Science Bulletins) from the American Museum of Natural History