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 Larry Flammer
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Larry's Tips for Teachers...


-I retired in1997 from Del Mar High School, in the Campbell Union High School District, San Jose, California, where I taught mostly college prep biology to juniors and seniors for 38 years. Shortly after my "retirement", I built the ENSI website, a collection of lessons that were collected, developed, and classroom tested by ENSI teachers. I offered to do this, so that this excellent collection, and the philosophy behind it, would not be lost to future teachers, and I could apply much of my now-available time to the topics I consider most important in biology teaching: evolution and the nature of science. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Jean Beard of San Jose State University, the NSF grant for the ENSI program was extended to include some compensation to me for my time on this project.

- I was born in Los Angeles, California in 1934, and moved to Humboldt County in northern California at age 11. I finished high school in Eureka, California, spent a year in Los Angeles, starting a major in chemical engineering at the University of Southern California, but decided to switch to biology, so I returned to northern California, and continued my college work at Humboldt State University. While there, I headed an amazing committee which created Humboldt's first Frosh Camp, and I was later elected Student Body President. I received my B.A. in zoology in 1956, then went to the University of Washington in Seattle, where I received my M.S. in zoology, with original work on brachiopod embryology and evolution, working at Friday Harbor, with Professors Dixie Lee Ray and Robert L. Fernald.

- Returning to Humboldt State, I earned my teaching credential, then began work in the Campbell Union High School District 1n 1959. In addition to biology, I also taught physical anthropology in adult education for ten years, (1967-77), computer programming, life science, physical science, and earth science. While teaching at Del Mar HS, I led many goups of students on educational trips to the local tidepools, Death Valley, Yosemite Institute, and Hawaii. During most of those years, I was Science Department Chair, and also served as District Science Supervisor for a few years, until supervisors were phased out by the district. I have been honored with two mentor teacher awards, and two Excellence in Teaching awards (from the Campbell High School District, and the Metropolitan Adult Education district).

- Early in muy career, I received additional training in the AEC Radiation Biology Institute at the University of Washingtonin (1962), Harry Wong's Teacher Institute (Stanford, 1965), the local geology of Californi, and the Human Reproduction Institute at Stanfor Medical School (1967). Later, I participated in the Recombinant DNA Training program with David Micklos, offered jointly by UC Davis and Cold Spring Harbor (1986), took classes in computer programming, Fast-Plants / Bottle-Biology training, and the ENSI program at San Jose State University (1992). I also participated in the Bio-Ethics Symposium at UC Santa Cruz, and the series of Bio-Forums offered over several years by the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The ENSI program ran from 1989 to 1992 at Indiana University, then moved to San Jose State Univ. from 1992-1995. I joined the program in 1992. After special "Lead Teacher" training in the ENSI program, I team-taught with Tim Patterson of Redwood City in the SENSI program for three years (95-97).

- I helped establish the Santa Clara County Biotechnology - Education Partnership (SCCBEP), providing teacher training and rotating sets of professional lab equipment so high school students could carry out various biotechnology protocols. I also worked with Queue/HRM Software in the 1980s as one of their education consultants, demonstrating computer-based labware at conventions and workshops.

- As an IISME fellow (Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Educators), I wrote computer guidelines for the former Syntex Corporation, and worked with data base and library materials for the Space Station project with Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. During the early 90s, I did freelance writing for a biology text teachers' guide for Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. I was also an early reviewer for Prentice-Hall's newBiology text by Miller & Levine, and for a general science text.

- In addition to sharing my love of learning and discovery with my students, I also enjoy the challenging opportunities in teaching to create new and effective ways of clarifying difficult concepts. For example, in the 1960s I created an intgrated series of lessons to help students visualize and understand DNA structure and function, which I have used ever since (see my "Do It Yourself DNA Kit."). Also, in the 1970s, I gathered and developed materials for a text supplement booklet on The Limits of Science, in which students examined the many misconceptions about science, including what science is NOT, as well what it IS, primarily to establish the proper scientific context in which evolution could be effectively taught, and where "creation science" would have no proper place. This turned out to anticipate much of the philosophy and content of the ENSI program, so my involvement in ENSI is a very natural one. This Limit of Science booklet formed the basis of my new text supplement booklet Science Surprises on the nature of science (see below).

- In 2000-2001, I was asked to develop interactive lessons for the new website being built professionaly for Don Johanson's Institute of Human Origins,. The lessons submitted (along with lessons developed by ENSI colleague John Banister-Marx) are now available on the Becoming Human site. Click on "Learning Center" then on my "Chromosome Connection" (or one of the other activities, by John). "Lesson Plans" contains downloadable pages for clasroom use. See the ENSI lesson "Chromosome Connection 2" for an updated version, or a more structured version that uses a forensic science approach to this most compelling evidence for human-ape common ancestry, with multiple lines of evidence: Mystery of the Matching Marks.

- In the Summer of 2001, I wrote some lessons, adapted other lessons, and reviewed other materials for the WGBH/PBS-Evolution project, mostly for their Teacher's Guide and the Online Course for Teachers. Their 7-part TV series on Evolution aired September, 2001. Many of the activities and lessons in their program came from the teachers of the ENSI project.

- In 2003, I joined a team of veteran and retired science teachers in a new NSF-funded program designed to mentor new science teachers online. This eMSS program involves the collaboration of NSTA, UC-Santa Cruz, and Montana State University. The mentors are still receiving online training in the Summer, and as of 2008-09, they mentor new teachers in 8 states during the school year. I also received special mentor training and accepted a job mentoring 5 novice science teachers face-to-face in their first year at a new local high school, gaining excellent experience.

- In March, 2006, my "Evolution Solution" article was published in The American Biology Teacher (online), presenting a novel but very effective approach for embedding evolution and the nature of science in a biology course - an approach I used sussceesfully for many years.

- In 2007, I was asked to write a lesson for WGBH to be offered to teachers with the airing of a new NOVA program: Judgment Day - Intelligent Design On Trial. I adapted my "Chromosome Fusion" lesson to create that Judgment Day activity, then developed a PowerPoint version, with a CSI approach, called Mystery of the Matching Marks. I also helped Science Kit / Boreal Labs devlop a commercial kit version ("Evolution of Whales") of my "Becoming Whales" and "Whale Ankles and DNA" lessons. 2007 was also the year that my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Our sons and grandkids outdid themselves in their warm hosting of the celebration.

- In 2008, I added a lesson intended primarily for middle school classes: Patterns in Time. It provides a novel scale for geologic time that relates directly to the ages of the students, giving them a more realistic sense of deep time than most scales do. It also makes them vividly aware of the fact that the different major classes of vertebrates emerged independently in step-wise fashion over many tens of millions of years, with each successive group showing features modified from preious groups, thus helping to dispell the popular misconception that the major forms of life all emerged at once, in the mythical "Cambrian Explosion."

- 2009: Big year: the Bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth. My family took me to England, where we visited many sites associated with Darwin. In London, we visited the British Museum of Natural History, where the statue of Sir Richard Owen, original promotor to establish the BMNH, was replaced by a magnificent statue of Charles Darwin, where it still stands today. The museum had a very special exhibit about the life of Darwin. We also visited Darwin's burial site in Westminster Abbey. And, of course, we traveled to Downe and spent a marvelous day at Darwin's home. I still get a lump in my throat when I remember walking quietly in the steps of this great biologist, along his well-known sandwalk. If at all possible, every biology teacher should visit this place as early in their teaching career as they can, so they can share with their students that special personal experience with "The Man." If you are interested in reading more details of that week with Darwin, please contact the webmaster.

-2010-2012: I am starting to adapt my Limits of Science text supplement as a booklet for secondary students in any science class. New title: Science Surprises: Exploring the Nature of Science. The surprises are the corrections to the many misconceptions people have about science. Students will encounter these little gems as they read the booklet. The booklet will provide a context and resource for students as their teacher leads them through a series of Nature of Science lessons available on the ENSI site, giving them experiences with the many important aspects of science that are typically omitted from most science textbooks. Field testing of the unit (by 8 middle school and high school teachers) was largely completed (as of November, 2012). Their feedback and pre/post test results have informed a rewrite of the booklet (at 8th grade reading level) and the Teacher's Guide.

- 2013-2014: The new Science Surprises is now available as an eBook, and the printed version will be ready to "go to press" early in 2014. If you are interested, contact the author. The teacher's guidebook TEACH became available free to science teachers upon request until (after several revisions) it was also e-published in late summer of 2014.

As time allows, I manage to do workshops on ENSI lessons at science teacher conventions when they are held nearby (San Francisco Bay Area), and work with local science teachers to present selected lessons to get student and teacher feedback.

- I do manage to keep busy!


E-mail to flammer4@gmail.com