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Melissa McDonald LBSC 645 - Science Questions & Answers April 23, 2012

Life Science: Q: What is in venom, and for what purpose does a creature or critter use venom? A: Venom is made up of toxins, specifically, biotoxins, which are ‘substances that are created by living cells or organisms to harm or kill prey or enemies. They are mostly made up of proteins.” Creatures use venom for three purposes: catch prey, protect themselves, or protect their family or community. To research this question, I first consulted the book Venom by Marilyn Singer. The cover of the book is quite “striking” with a close-up picture of a coiled snake with its tongue protruding. The cover alone would entice a student to choose it! The author adds humor to this potentially morbid subject when she ‘plays on words’ (i.e.: Home is Where the Venom is …) to keep the reader’s attention. The book is divided by habitat, and each chapter discusses the critters in that particular habitat (i.e.: garden, grass, pond, woods, jungle, sea, coral reef, etc). She includes many color photographs (and a complete list of photo credits, a bibliography, a lengthy ‘webliography’, and comprehensive glossary and index. This book is also a Junior Library Guild Selection. The answer to my question can be found in the introduction of book, but if the reader is searching for information specific to a type of creature, they can venture further into the book to find more information about the topic. For online research, I chose to use the subscription database Compton's by Britannica offered by Montgomery County Public Schools. I had a more difficult time finding the same information, primarily because it did not like the key words I used. I tried typing in key words as I have seen students do: “what is in venom” and variations of this, and for the most part found articles on snakes and snakebites, versus other creatures that use venom. The answers could be found, however, with a bit more time reading through the various articles. When I tried to “Google” key search terms “venom composition”, I found a website created by a student of Davidson College; “venom and poison difference” found Yahoo Answers-India and Yahoo-Answers (and the third best match was Wikipedia). These would certainly be good examples to lead students into discussion of evaluating websites. To guide my students in evaluation of websites, I would explain the guidelines for evaluating websites, using a website such as Using the Web: Finding and Evaluating Websites by Houghton Mifflin Company ( as one form of presentation. A poster-sized checklist in the media center would also be a good back up for promoting students’ independence. This is an information literacy skill that will need to be reviewed regularly with the students.

Earth Science: Q: What happens when trash is thrown in the ocean? What are flotsam and jetsam, and what do they have to do with ocean motion? A: “We can see the movement of trash by the great ocean currents and we can see the disintegration of the trash over time … and we can learn from it.” “Objects floating in or on the sea will move with the surface currents.” Flotsam and jetsam are “floating trash that falls or is thrown from ships at sea.” Studying the movement of flotsam and jetsam is studying the movement of the ocean. I consulted Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns, to find the answer to these questions. The answers could be found in the book, but the reader has to read carefully to find them (the key words are not bolded as they are in text books, and the book contains a lot of information). Tracking Trash includes photographs, maps, charts, and even bits of history (it always amazes me the things I learn about Benjamin Franklin). This book also includes a glossary, a list of books to enjoy, a list of websites to explore, acknowledgements, bibliographic notes, and an index. Even though the book was published in 2007, I believe the information is still relevant, and since the author has included four good websites to explore, the student could find more up to date information on experiments and statistics. Again, using Compton’s by Britannica subscription database, I used keywords “flotsam and jetsam” can found an article describing them. Keywords “flotsam and jetsam and currents” found lots of articles, but none specifically related to the topic I was researching. Keywords “ocean currents and trash” brought up articles about the tides, but not about how trash is related. Keywords “Curt Ebbesmeyer or Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer” brought up everyone but him. This particular topic was not one to be researched easily on Compton’s by Britannica. Googling “flotsam and jetsom” brings be directly to a very short Wikipedia article. However, it does refer the reader to a book entitled Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man's Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science. The man in this book is the same in the book I reviewed - Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer is known world-wide for his research on flotsam and jetsam and how it moves through the currents. Googling “flotsam jetsam and ocean current” brought me directly to Flotsametrics and the Floating World – the website for Ebbesmeyer’s book. Googling “trash and ocean currents’ brought me to another Wikipedia article. Again, students would need to evaluate the websites, and in this case, the internet keeps referring back to print resources for information. Overall, I felt that the print resources were the best choice for students to use. Although both books contained a wealth of information on their respective topics, each book was focused on the topic, unlike the online subscription data bases which contain lots of knowledge on a variety of subjects. Use of the World Wide Web was least reliable, but found many good examples to use in an ‘evaluation of website’ lesson.

Science Q&A Resources Life Science Resources: Eskew, Evan. Physiology of Snake Venom. Hot Topics in Animal Physiology by Davidson College students. Website. Singer, Marilyn. (2007). Venom. Plain City: Darby Creek Publishing Singer, Marilyn. Venom - A Junior Library Guild Selection. Singer, Marilyn. Venom – A 2008NCTE Obris Pictus Honor Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. . Snake. (2012). In Compton's by Britannica. Retrieved from Snakebite. (2012). In Compton's by Britannica. Retrieved from Spider. (2012). In Compton's by Britannica. Retrieved from Using the Web: Finding and Evaluating Websites. Venom. Wikipedia. Accessed April 22, 2012. Yahoo Answers-India Yahoo Answers

Earth Science Resources: Burns, Loree Griffin. (2007) Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company Flotsam and Jetsam. Wikipedia Flotsam, jetsam, and lagan. (2012). In Compton's by Britannica. Retrieved from Ocean waves and tides. (2012). In Compton's by Britannica. Retrieved from Flotsametrics and the Floating World. Website. Great Pacific Garden Patch. Wikipedia.

Science Q&A  

annotation on science non-fiction children's books.

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