The Day The World Exploded…

This week I would like to share a great book that I have recently finished.  Personally, I really enjoy learning about connections between two or more things that are seemingly different.  This book is filled with these connections:



On February 18th, 2015, I closed the covers of a book that brought to life one of the most cataclysmic natural events recorded and witnessed by humans. Simon Winchester sets the scene of one of the most paramount volcanic eruptions in his book Krakatoa The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883. By engaging readers in the rich history of the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, Winchester intertwines significant events ranging from the spice trade to scientific discoveries to the rise and fall of religious powers both pre and post the momentous explosion. He does this all while painting a picture of sheer beauty masking ultimate powers of destruction found in and near this tropical archipelago.

Throughout the book, Winchester unlocks answers to the once mystery of why the seemingly peaceful island Krakatoa erupted so violently, causing the majority of the island to disappear from existence. To provide reason to the “why” of the 1883 explosion of Krakatoa, and those that may have occurred prior, the book tells the story of a man with evidence but no explanation. Alfred Wegener was intrigued with how the present day continents looked as though they were puzzle pieces that could fit together to make one supercontinent. To see if this was a possibility, Wegener drew the supercontinent by joining all the continents together in the best fit locations. On this theoretical supercontinent, Wegener traced known fossil trails from across the world to find that these, which were once thought to have no connection, lined up. However, despite his attempts to share the evidence he had, his ideas were not accepted by the scientific community. Wegener lacked a process that his evidence supported to introduce such a revolutionary idea. It was not until the 1960’s when Harry Hess brought forth sea floor spreading backed by evidence of paleomagnetism, that the Theory of Continental Drift had a mechanism. This mechanism was given the name plate tectonics, in which rigid lithospheric plates move across a liquid mantle powered by convection currents.

While the history of plate tectonics unfolded and the struggles/ridicule scientists faced while finding answers to natural phenomena were revealed, not only is the reader’s understanding of what causes a volcano to occur deepened, but another comprehension begins to build. The nature of science shows its characteristics throughout Winchester’s book. This is especially seen when the science community refuses to accept Wegener’s Theory of Continental Drift. Empirical data supporting an argument is key when it comes to the practices of science. Wegener had empirical data but lacked a strong argument since an explanation was not present. The history of plate tectonics also shows the tentative nature of science. These examples of the nature of science can be brought up in a classroom when implementing a unit on Plate Tectonics.

Krakatoa The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 provides a great wealth of insight to the environmental, economical, and societal impacts of a volcano. The explosion of Krakatoa had lingering effects across the world. There was one part of the book that mentioned a meteorologist writing a letter to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in regards to actions taken by Poughkeepsie firemen who were confused by an intense sunset caused by the particles placed in the atmosphere by the volcanic eruption. The different angles on the influences of the volcano can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom. They can be used to get students thinking about “why do I care, why should I know about this”.

Winchester’s book is definitely worth the read. He has an interesting way linking many different aspects of history to Krakatoa, while engaging the reader in the “why” of the event, writing in such a way that the understanding of the science is attainable. I would put this book at a high school reading level and recommend it everyone to better understand the impacts of natural phenomena on the world as a whole.


Winchester, S. (2005). Krakatoa The Day The World Exploded: August 27, 1883. New York: HarperCollins

Bringing N.O.S to the class

As a future science educator there are key tenets that define the Nature of Science, which should be incorporated into the classroom. By making students aware of the Nature of Science and engaging them in these main features, they are able to build upon both their knowledge and understanding of science. Our most recent Methods class focused on bringing the Nature of Science to the classroom. We were asked if in the past week we brought to the students’ attention a moment that reflected the Nature of Science. We were then asked if it was planned. Since we didn’t get to share out to the whole group, I would like to hear some of your experiences and I will share mine.

In my placement last week, I built upon an original lab that would be implemented to the students. I added my own twist to the Post- Lab Questions by having students provide evidence from their lab that supported their answers. In a particular class a couple of students were hesitant about having to provide evidence. They wondered why I had added “extra work” to their lab. I saw the opportunity and embraced it. I gave the class a scenario. I asked them this: If you were really sick with the flu and had two options on medicine to buy, which one would you choose? Would you buy something that simply says “this will make you feel better?” Or, would you buy something that states, “in a study of 100 people, 80 people were relieved from flu symptoms within 24 hours, and all showed improvement within 48 hours?” When nods started occurring and understanding swept across the students’ faces, I told the class “Statements are more powerful with evidence.” They all agreed. I then brought in the Nature of Science and discussed how explanations in science need to be supported by evidence to be accepted. After that unexpected side lesson on a component of the Nature of Science, the students didn’t bring up having to do the “extra work” again.

I need your expertise…

Throughout my student teaching I found that some of the best lessons I implemented were ones that I shared and requested feedback on from other science teachers. Involving other science teachers allowed me to gain insight from what they have done. It allowed us to share ideas and material, as well as refine instructional strategies. By the end, the finished lesson proved to be much better than the original.

So I thought, why not try this out with my cohort. I don’t have an exact lesson planned, but I have an idea that I would love some feedback on.

During my 8 weeks, the students will be uncovering ideas about the water cycle and minerals. To tie the units together, I wanted to develop a lesson around the key idea that “The use and distribution of mineral resources and fossil fuels have important economic and environmental impacts. As limited resources, they must be used wisely (NYSED, n.d.).” So here is my idea:

I wanted to get articles (newspaper, some scholarly, etc.) on mineral resources in New York State. I then want to pose a scenario depending on the resource. The following is an example

Scenario: For the past 50 years a mining company has been mining Wollastonite in your neighborhood. The land that they mine is right next to a Forest Preserve. The mining company is running out of land and are looking to start mining the Forest Preserve. There is a law that protects the Forest Preserve from industrialization. The only way the mining company can move in on the property is if voters allow it. As a voter what would you vote for, or against, the company expansion onto the Forest Preserve?

To make a well informed decision you will need to:
Explain how you would identify Wollastonite.
Identify human uses for Wollastonite
Identify important economic and environmental impacts?

Some example information I would provide are found below (I would print these out):

Another idea:
I provide them with different mineral resources of New York State, and they:
Explain how to identify the mineral.
Identify human uses for the mineral
Discuss recent issues/concerns involving mineral resource

Some example information I would provide are found below ( I would print these out):


Some other things I was considering was discussing the project and having the students design the rubric with me on how they should be graded. This will help them know what is expected, as well as let them take ownership for their work.

These are just ideas I’m developing. I am open to any suggestions, tips, resources, and/or concerns.


New York State Education Department. (n.d.) Physical Setting/Earth

Science Core Curriculum.  Retrieved by


Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore… or are we?

Getting use to the high school life has been my goal this week. I talked to a high school science teacher, whom I met at the beginning of my first placement, and she told me “They need the same things as the middle schoolers, they just show it differently.” This statement really made me reflect on my experiences so far.

So this is what I took away from this week: there is going to be challenges and rewards, much like before, they just may take different forms. When it comes to some of the challenges I still might be able to use the same tactics. For example, it used to be a struggle to make sure every student had their uniform on in class. I decided to address this issue before the students entered the classroom. I would stand by the door and as I greeted them I reminded them they needed the appropriate attire on before coming into class. The new issue is headphones and cellphones that students have as they walk into class, and seem to not want to put away during class. So how I might extinguish the spark before it takes away from class time is stand outside the door to greet them as usual, and have the students put the electronics away before they come into class.

One thing I need suggestions/help on: Every other day the classes have 90 minute periods with me. On the other days, it is 45 minutes. I went from teaching every class I had the same thing and they all progressed, for the most part, together. Are there any suggestions on how to keep the classes on the same track and balance/keep organized the different classes?

Until next time: