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Dispersants – a Help or a Hazard?

Oil Slick Off of Louisiana CoastBritish Petroleum is using a series of dispersants to combat the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — chemicals intended to break up the surface tension of an oil slick and make oil more water-soluble. But the contents of some of these chemicals may be toxic to humans and wildlife, according to information newly released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Feature: Where an Interest in Snakes Can Lead

CobraThere aren’t too many high schoolers who carry out a chemistry experiment that might save lives. Samantha Piszkiewicz and Nicolai Doreng-Stearns, however, did just that. Leading a five-student team at Laguna Beach High School in California, they developed a synthetic antivenom for the treatment of poisonous snakebites.

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Truncated School Week Saves Money

School BusesA growing number of cash-strapped U.S. school districts are opting for 4-day weeks to cope with tight budgets. Some districts say it’s that or laying off teachers. For some districts, the shorter week has proved a boon: test scores went up, as did student and teacher attendance.

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Resource: Green Chemistry from the American Chemical Society

ACS Green ChemistryThe American Chemical Society offers a number of resources for teachers interested in teaching environmentally friendly chemistry. Their website features books, online tools and networks, activities and experiments ranked by study level, and an index of colleges with green chemistry programs.

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Back to (Blackboard) Basics?

ChalkboardNext year, American school districts will spend $16 billion on high-tech classroom devices, with one in three classrooms sporting an interactive whiteboard. But critics charge that whiteboards lock instructors into the classroom lecture, which despite the newfangled technology, remains an inefficient, non-interactive method of instruction.

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National Standards: Wide Adoption Likely

Student in ClassThe long-awaited set of national academic standards — The Common Core State Standards — was released this month, indicating which math and English skills students should master during their K-12 years. Written by the National Governors Association and the country’s state school chiefs, the voluntary standards are expected to be adopted by 40 states by year’s end. Yet some lawmakers protest that the standards are an unneeded federal intrusion into local schools.

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Lesson: Sand and Water

Sand CastleIf you’re fortunate enough to live near a beach or sandy banks or dunes, this sand-castle construction lesson from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will both instruct and entertain, helping your students understand the cohesive force of water tension and the adhesive force of capillary action.

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Outreach: University of California-Irvine Chemistry

UCI ClassroomThe UCI Chemistry Outreach Program was developed to address the issue of declining opportunities to learn chemistry. In the program, a graduate student or postdoctoral coordinator sends teams of graduate and undergraduate student volunteers to Orange County schools to perform demonstrations and talk about chemistry. The coordinator contacts the high schools, develops the demonstrations, recruits and trains the volunteers, and supplies the volunteers with materials needed for the demonstrations.

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Exhibit: Da Vinci at National Geographic, Washington, DC


Da Vinci – The Genius is a traveling exhibition on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., from June 18 to Sept. 12, that demonstrates the full scope of Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable innovations as an inventor, artist, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, musician, and architect. The exhibition includes Da Vinci’s visions for the glider, parachute, precursor to the modern helicopter, forerunner of the modern military tank, automobile, submarine, ball bearing and gear systems, and other inventions that were far ahead of their time.

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