ENSIWEB ANNUAL REPORT for 2015 - 18th Year of ENSIweb
What Did We Do in 2015?
2015 Was a very busy year


 The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are being adopted by more and more states (15 as of 4 Nov. 2015), and teachers in many other states are adapting their courses to meet those new standards. An important part of the NGSS is the mandate to explicitly teach the nature of science (NOS). This is an often overlooked topic in science classes. Most science textbooks do little to make NOS explicit and engaging, and where they do, the information is often inaccurate or misleading. As a result, many teachers (and/or their students) hold many misconceptions about NOS.

The several NOS lessons on the ENSI site do much to correct this problem, but there has been little structured material to guide students (and teachers) in the coherent use of those lessons. Therefore, a student text was written in concert with selected lessons to help students in their efforts to learn about NOS. That student book: Science Surprises: Exploring the Nature of Science, was published in January, 2014, along with a teaching guide called Teach. They are both available as e-texts. The e-text is written for 8th grade reading level, but with scaffolding as needed, the material can be used to introduce NOS in any secondary science class, replacing or supplementing the usual Chapter 1. The primary focus is on repairing many of the common misconceptions about NOS by providing engaging and interactive experiences for the students. If the entire text (and selected ENSI lessons) are used, students will satisfy all of the many (26-32) NOS elements listed in the NGSS.

During 2015, there was growing interest in these materials. Requests from 126 teachers across the country (and other countries) requested the e-text and e-teaching guide to use with their students. For August and September alone, there were 73 requests! If you haven't reviewed the material yet, you should take a look. Click here for more details and access information.

Look them over, might be something you missed, or forgot about.
All links have been checked and updated as necessary.

21 January: Greatly updated version of Science Surprises is now available online.
ENSI Annual Report for 2014 is also available. Take a look at ENSI Progress over the past year.

15 February:
 Chromosome Comparison Lesson (by Beth Kramer, ENSI 1992). This lesson has been completely updated. Chromosome diagrams from Principle Investigator Yunis's 1980 paper have been replaced with diagrams from his 1982 paper. These are sharper, with more details, and similarities of human and great ape chromosome banding patterns are even more striking. Instructions, questions and answers (Key) have all been changed appropriately. Old html figures have been replaced with much sharper pdf figures. Family name of "hominoids" for humans and apes has been replaced with "hominids" to reflect current taxonomy (although orangutans are actually pongids). The Chromosome Comparison PowerPoint (and its script) have also been revised to show that change. Be sure to NOTE SPECIAL PRINTING DIRECTIONS near the top of the
Index to Graphics

30 May: WINDING DOWN - MAKING PLANS: It's that time of year again, when teachers are wrapping up the teaching year... and good teachers are looking ahead to next year. It's one of the most rewarding parts of teaching: Being able to make a fresh start each year. Time to reinforce what worked best, and replace or improve what didn't go so well. Or try something completely different.
All the new standards emphasize the importance for explicitly teaching the nature of science (NOS). Are you planning to do a better job on that next year? It's not too early to get started. Many teachers have already requested copies of the Science Surprises student e-text and the teaching guide, so they can prepare this Summer for teaching this unit in the Fall. Click here for more information, and to preview these materials.

16 August:
Found and posted article by Jean Beard: Using Historical Explanations to Teach How Science Works (referenced in the Flat Earth lesson). 
Added Teacher Planning materials (year, unit, and lesson plans: (accessible via Teaching Units page).
Uploaded Chaos & Order with major revisions, including Jeff Sprague's Chaos Plotter.
Active Learning page: added Plickers link, and clearer access to video clip.
Science Surprises distribution: past 90 days: 93 copies (up 305%); TEACH: 60 copies.

30 August:
Teaching Evolution through Human Examples: For AP Biology. The Smithsonian has developed four excellent teaching units for free download. Other topics for high school biology.
"What Science is NOT" (several items): Changes in several items in the List have been made, for clarification and better accuracy. Two items appeared contradictory to some, so made them less ambiguous, and clarified others. Changes also made on second list of What Science is Not.
Science Knowledge Survey (Science Misconceptions Pre/Post-Test): Clarification changes in several items, including one change in the key: item 7 should be B, not A (due to change in wording).
Crime Against Plants: Case Report for Students (pdf): posted sharper copy, with revised links at bottom

6 September:
NEW ALTERNATIVE to The Checks Lab: September 2015: NEW: The E-Mail Lab: Article by Judith Lederman, et al in The Science Teacher for September 2015, 82(6):57-61. Built on the ENSI Checks Lab (by ENSI teachers Steve Randak and Judy Loundagin), the authors developed a collection of 16 emails (available for free download) from which students attempt to infer past events based on a few samplings of those emails. See the Extensions and Variations section of The Checks Lab.
New Reviews for Science Surprises, including positive review by NSTA.
Laetoli Trackways: Article on capturing 3D photogrammetric images of ancient human footprints: "First Impressions" by Jeff Wheelwright in Discover magazine for October, 2015, pp. 79-81. See Resources in the Laetoli Trackway lesson.
NEW: Evolution Lab Guide by NOVA LABS: Everywhere you go on this planet—on land, underground, in the air, and in the water—you’ll find life that has been shaped by evolution. In NOVA’s Evolution Lab, students will explore the evidence of evolution through the lens of phylogeny.

2 October:
Chromosome Fusion: Major adjustments (mostly due to changes in the DNA online tools and data. No more part C, but still an excellent lesson for students to get a real sense of amount of DNA in a chromosome, and recognizing a particular series of tandem repeats. Also, any one or more of three ways to do this, depending on time and computer access. This is a good inquiry lesson, seeking to test a particular hypothesis.
Added to the website:
Common Misconceptions to Avoid about Evolution. Link added to Intro to Evolution page under "Adaptations."
Science Preparation for Elementary Students(last page from Science Surprises teacher's guide). Link for this can also be found at bottom of Teaching Units page.
The Great Fossil Find: Added new handouts and 4 new sets of fossils, adapted by ENSI user Rodger Moore from those in Craig Munsart's book Investigating Science With Dinosaurs: 9/8/2015. See under Extensions & Variations item #9. Also added a REVIEW of this lesson (under Synopsis) and a couple more worksheet variations.
Share recent discovery of early human fossils by Dr. Lee Berger, and witnessed by Dallas middle school teacher John Mead. Great time for your students to do the ENSI Skulls Lab.

14 November:
Becoming Whales lesson UPDATE: It was discovered that the Whales in the Making page with 6 pre-whale strips was somewhat out of date. The original Pakicetus head has been replaced with the subsequently found body skeleton, and the appropriately revised reconstruction. The original Rodhocetus kasrani trunk skeleton and skull was replaced with the more complete skeleton based on legs and tail finds of R. balochistanensis reported by Gingerich in 2001. The more accurate reconstruction (without tail flukes) also replaces the former version. NOTE: There have been several copies of an interview with Gingerich posted on anti-evolution websites, where the scientific conclusions about Rodhocetus have been ridiculed, making science look weak. Actually, this is an excellent example showing how scientific understanding can and does change in light of new evidence (new fossils) that you might want to share with your students.
Using the NGSS to Teach the Nature of Science. Article in California Classroom Science: October 2015, 28(2); http://www.classroomscience.org/using-the-ngss-to-teach-the-nature-of-science
Developed new lesson: Natural Selection of the Galapagos Origami Bird and the DNA Connection. This was based on the modification of ENSI teacher Karin Westerling's Egyptian Origami Bird by Japanese professor Takahiro Yamanoi.
--- Karin Westerling deserves congratulations on her Egyptian Origami Bird lesson that has inspired extension and elaboration, cited in two publications in Evolution and Education Outreach journal:
--- Yamanoi, Takahiro and Watal M. Iwasaki. 2015. Origami Bird Simulator: A Teaching Resource Linking Natural Selection and Speciation. Evolution Education and Outreach, August 2015.
Electronic Version: http://www.evolution-outreach.com/content/8/1/14
PDF Version: http://www.evolution-outreach.com/content/pdf/s12052-015-0043-6.pdf
--- Yamanoi, Takahiro, et al. 2012. Improved "Origami Bird" Protocol Enhances Japanese Students' Understanding of Evolution by Natural Selection: a Novel Approach Linking DNA Alteration to Phenotype Change. Evolution Education and Outreach, 5(2): 292-300. June 2012.

31 December
HHMI-BioInteractive has just announced a new NGSS-aligned activity: "Human Feet Are Strange." It's based partly on the Laetoli trackway used in the ENSI lesson: Footsteps in Time. It includes a segment in which a few students get paint on their feet and walk along a 10' strip of butcher paper. Students are asked what they observe, and what they can infer from those tracks. Then, in a similar way, they analyze the "topographic" trackway from the Laetoli site, and discuss the role and timing of bipedalism in human origins. The lesson links to a 20' video which includes a short segment showing the actual Laetoli trackway in East Africa, and how it was dated. There is also a teaching guide, and student handout you can use. This makes a nice alternative (or extension) of the ENSI lesson.

The Smithsonian's Exploring Human Origins is currently touring the country as a travelling exhibit. I was able to visit the exhibit and attend the teacher workshop when it was at the County Library in Milpitas, CA. It offers materials that can be used with a set hominin fossil skull replicas (similar to the ENSI Skulls Lab). This is part of the Smithsonian outreach program: Teaching Evolution Through Human Examples, that was announced here in August. I might add that human evolution does, indeed, provide one of the best examples of macroevolution - and certainly one of the most engaging examples. Whenever teachers have used the ENSI Skulls Lab, they are very impressed with how excited their students get by actually handling the fossil replicas, describing and comparing their features, then arranging them in the chronological order of when and where those different hominins lived. There are also several interactive lessons exploring the different lines of evidence for human evolution, all pointing to the same conclusion. If possible, try to attend at least the teacher workshop if the travelling exhibit comes to an area close to you. Click on "travelling exhibit" for dates and places. They are leaving a set of 5 hominin skull replicas at each site where this is offered.

VISITS TO THE ENSI WEBSITE in 2015: Up over 2014's hits:
We saw about the same pattern of hits as we saw last year (2014), but with a much higher high in the spring (4288, compared to 2976 in 2014), and a higher high in the fall, as well (3923, compared to 3599 in 2014). The Average Hits per Day was a little higher (80 hits per day for 2015 vs 76 hits for 2014). These are hits just to our Home page; they do not include hits to other pages, by internet searches and teachers using direct links. Looks like we're on a rise.



























Total hits








Avg Hits/day



Hits to Home Page for 2015


This test is most often used as a pre/post test (for introduction to evolution) to reveal the extent of common misconceptions in the classes, to which the teacher can focus on repairing.



Our lesson “When Milk Makes You Sick” still needs revision (lots of new information to be integrated).
We are still looking for someone who would like to update Pseudogenes Suite: Vitamin C & Common Ancestry (part C) for doing online DNA searches.

As time allows, I am re-formatting ENSI lessons to be placed on the Understanding Science and Understanding Evolution (two excellent Berkeley sites). That will assure a long-term accessibility on two well-maintained websites. Several other projects are also waiting in the wings to be finished.

We are still looking for a retiring (or retired) science teacher familiar with the ENSI site and the ENSI mission. If you have enjoyed using many (or at least some) of the ENSI lessons, are fairly comfortable with computers, please contact webmaster Larry Flammer.

See the many ENSI lessons that already meet the standards of NGSS, Common Core, and STEM:

Larry Flammer ENSI Webmaster: flammer4@gmail.com

CLICK HERE For PDF Version of This Report