Carl & Gerty Cori Change the Face of Medicine

In brilliant collaboration, Carl and Gerty Cori studied how the body metabolizes glucose and advanced the understanding of how the body produces and stores energy. Their findings were particularly useful in the development of treatments for diabetes. They were awarded the Noble Prize for their discovery of how glycogen (animal starch) – a derivative of glucose – is broken down and resynthesized in the body, for use as a store and source of energy.

cori cycleThe pair were interested in how the body utilizes energy. The couple spent more than three decades exploring how the human body metabolizes glucose. It was known in the 1920s that faulty sugar metabolism could lead to diabetes, and it was also known that insulin kept the disease in check.

The effect of insulin on blood sugar levels had been observed, but scientists did not understand the biochemical mechanism behind insulin’s effect or how carbohydrates were metabolized. In 1929, the couple described what is now known as the Cori cycle; an important part of metabolism. To put it simply, lactic acid forms when we use our muscles, which is then converted into glycogen in the liver. Glycogen, in turn, is converted into glucose, which is absorbed by muscle cells.

The Cori Cycle

cori cycleThe Cori Cycle refers to the metabolic pathway in which lactate produced by anaerobic glycolysis in the muscles moves via the blood stream to the liver where it it is converted to blood glucose and glycogen. High intensity exercise will mostly get it’s energy or ATP from the pathway of the glycolitic system.  Less intense activity will receive its energy or ATP from the aerobic pathway utilizing the Krebs cycle.

When utilizing the glycolitic system, cycle after cycle, lactate will start to build up.  Lactate from the glycolitic system will diffuse from the muscles into the bloodstream.  It will then be transported into the liver.  In the liver it is converted from lactate back to pyruvate back to glucose, which is then available to the muscles again for energy, this is called gluconeogenesis.  The whole process is called the Cori Cycle.

The more you train with high intensity exercise, the more capable the enzymes and transporters become that are needed for the Cori Cycle.  Your liver gets better at using the lactate, not more efficient (it still needs the same amount of ATP to run the Cori Cycle) but it will do the cycle faster.

Gerty Cori Biography

carl & gerty cori Gerty Radnitz was born in Prague in what was then Austria-Hungary. She received her PhD in medicine from the German University of Prague’s Medical School in 1920. It was here that she met fellow classmate, Carl Ferdinand Cori, whom she married later that same year.

The couple moved to Buffalo, New York in 1922 and began researching metabolic mechanisms. As a woman, Gerty Cori was employed on much less favorable terms than her husband and encountered other forms of gender discrimination throughout her career.

The couple moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 1931 after both were offered positions there. When the Coris were hired at Washington University, she received one-tenth Carl’s salary, even though they were equal partners in the laboratory.

Gerty and her husband continued to investigate how glycogen is broken down into glucose and in 1939 were able to both identify the enzyme that initiates the decomposition and also to use the process to create glycogen in a test tube.

She became full professor in 1947, the same year that she and Carl were awarded the Nobel Prize “for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen.” She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Science.

Around this time Gerty was diagnosed with myelosclerosis, a disease of the bone marrow. She died in 1957 at the age of 61.

Bring it Home

Try this hands-on lab from Amy Brown Science to discover The Use of Glucose in Cellular Respiration

Enjoy the Carl and Gerty Cori and Carbohydrate Metabolism commemorative booklet produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2004.

Read about the dip-and-read test strips developed by Helen Free and her husband, Al. Originally designed to test for glucose in urine, the test strips were such an advance that researchers have since combined 10 urine tests to check for ailments like liver failure, urinary tract infections, and others—onto one plastic stick.

Learn more about our digestive system with these hands-on enzyme labs.

Investigate What Types of Food Contain Starch and Protein?

Building Macromolecule is a paper-scissors-tape activity used to help students envision the process of synthesis, building macromolecules out of smaller subunits.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of August? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in August to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

 

A Look at the Industrious Beaver: Nature’s Engineers {Middle School Unit Study}

North American Beaver (Castor Canadensis) play a critical role in the ecology of our streams. Their dams create pooling of water upstream, which creates wildlife habitat for many dozens of wetland and slow-moving water species that wouldn’t otherwise be in such riparian habitats.

These industrious mammals provide a fascinating topic for middle school science investigations. Here you will find a variety of resources and materials to engage middle schoolers in real science related to nature’s engineers, Castor canadensis.

A Look at the Industrious Beaver: Nature's Engineers (A Middle School Unit Study) @EvaVarga.net

Beaver Anatomy & Physiology

Beavers are the largest rodents in North America, and they spend most of their time in the water. To protect themselves from the cold and wetness they have waterproof reddish brown or blackish brown hair. They have small, round, brown ears, and powerful back legs for swimming. A beaver’s front legs are not as large or as strong as its back legs.

Beaver skulls and teeth are very big. The two front teeth are orange colored, and they can be up to 5 mm wide and between 20 and 25 mm long. These teeth grow throughout the animal’s life, and they are used for cutting wood. Without these teeth beavers could not cut down or eat trees and wood. Beavers also have see-through eye lids, and closable nostrils and ears for swimming underwater.

Beavers also have anal and castor glands, which they use to mark their territory. These glands are located beneath the tail. The beaver utilizes the oily secretion (castoreum) from these scent glands to also waterproof its thick fur.

The beaver has a thick layer of fat under its skin that helps keep it warm underwater. Beavers have long sharp upper and lower incisor teeth that they use to cut into trees and woody vegetation. These teeth grow throughout the beaver’s life. A beaver’s tail is broad, flat, and covered with large black scales.

A Look at the Industrious Beaver: Nature's Engineers (A Middle School Unit Study) @EvaVarga.net

Beaver Ecology & Natural History

Important natural processes, such as energy flows and chemical cycles, result from the interaction of species within a community. Food webs of trophic (trophic – pertaining to nutrition) interactions among species are one example of how multiple soil-plant, plant-plant, plant-animal, and animal-plant relationships link together within a functioning community. Some species can be highly influential in their communities, even if they occur at relatively low population densities. When the presence and actions of this species tend to form the foundation of how other species relate to each other in the community, we often call the influential plant or animal a keystone species.

“Keystone” is a metaphor equated to the stone in the middle of an arch in a building. Removal of the keystone leads to destabilization if not outright collapse of the other elements that “lean on” or depend upon that keystone.

A Look at the Industrious Beaver: Nature's Engineers (A Middle School Unit Study) @EvaVarga.netThe beaver is often cited as an example of a keystone species because through its dam-building behaviors it has major influences on both the vegetation of an area and the water table. In turn, these factors have strong influences on the abundance and quality of habitat for many other plant and animal species within the community. They engineer, or create, habitat that supports greater biodiversity that would otherwise not exist.

No other animal with the exception of man can significantly alter its habitat to suit its own needs and desires. Native Americans revered the beaver and referred to them as “Little People” for this reason.

In one of the first images of its kind, night-vision cameras recently captured photos of native beavers and invasive nutria working together to build a dam across a channel at Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area in Portland, Oregon.

Beaver Unit Study Resources

Act out a short skit to teach others about the natural history of the beaver – its adaptations for its environment as well as the impact humans have had on it throughout history.

Dress up a volunteer as you learn about the structural and behavioral adaptations of beavers.

Explore the website Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife to learn more about beavers and their impact on the ecology.

Learn about the history of the Fur Trade and Beaver Ecology including numerous Historical Source Documents.

Learn about Beavers and Climate Change Adaptation Strategies – A Report from Wild Earth Guardians.

Download the Beaver Monitoring App and help scientists study how beavers could be used as a tool for stream restoration and mitigating impacts of climate change.

Reach out to your local watershed associations to learn about watershed monitoring and restoration projects that impact beavers. How can you get involved?

Visit and observe an ecosystem created by beavers in your local area (contact Fish & Wildlife for assistance in locating a dam if you are unfamiliar). Keep a journal of your observations.

zoology

You might also be interested in my 10-week inquiry based science unit introducing middle level students to the study of animals: Zoology: Amazing Animals. Lessons include scientific classification, identifying animal tracks, ecology, and animal behavior.

 

Groovy Lanterns: A Review of a Groovy Lab Subscription Box

In June Groovy Lab in a Box teamed up with Popular Mechanics for Kids and created the popular Groovy Lab subscription box What’s the Matter? The kids and I recently had the opportunity to review this box and just love everything about it.

Groovy Lab Subscription BoxDisclosure: The links in this blog post are affiliate links. 

What’s Inside June’s Groovy Lab Subscription Box – What’s the Matter?

The first of three Popular Mechanics boxes to launch, What’s the Matter? centers around the scientific properties of ice. It is featured in the June issue of Popular Mechanics for Kids.

My son loves unpacking videos and was eager to humor me for an Instagram sneak peak. Here’s a quick look at everything that was inside the Groovy Lab subscription box

The Groovy Lab subscription box is packed with all the materials you’ll need to do the lab activities. The What’s the Matter kit guides kids through an investigation of the states of matter (gas, liquid and solid) and teaches them about the properties of ice. Each monthly kit comes with an engineering challenge and all the materials needed to complete the project, including a groovy lab notebook that outlines all the activity procedures, asks leading questions, and provides a space for your young STEMist to record their observations.Groovy Lab Subscription Box "What's the Matter?"

Groovy Lab in a Box was named a winner of the Popular Mechanics 2014 Toy Awards, which recognizes the best new toys of the year with a heavy emphasis on STEM-related skills and outdoor or imaginative play. Recipients of the Toy Awards encourage problem solving, inspire creativity, spark imagination, and spur mischief. And they’re fun!

Our Favorite What’s the Matter Activity

There are several well designed activities in the Groovy Lab subscription box. Each activity is purposeful a it develops student understanding of the material to ensure success in the culminating activity. This was our favorite activity, the design challenge whereby students were asked to design the lighting of a “groovy” ice hotel and build a portable lantern out of ice.

This was a fun challenge to undertake and my daughter delighted in brainstorming ideas and then following through with her vision. She chose an aluminum tea tin for the structure as it was rectangular and inside placed a small measuring cup (a little larger than a shot glass) for the interior space for the light. She used botanicals and colored layers for appeal.groovylanterns

There were a couple of small challenges along the way, the biggest of which was getting the lantern out of the tin once it had frozen. The rim of the tin was indented a little to accommodate a lid and it was thereby necessary to melt more of the external side of the lantern than she had desired. Not deterred, “I want to do this again!”

July’s Groovy Lab Subscription Box – Out To Launch!

Do your STEMists love catapults? The second of three Popular Mechanics boxes, July’s Out to Launch is the perfect fit for them! In the Out To Launch box, your children will learn about the forces of catapults and things that are elastic.

The Engineering Design Challenge will test their engineering skills as they build several types of catapults, using only supplies from their Groovy Lab in a Box. As always, the Out To Launch box will have a groovy lab notebook where your kids can read about the investigations and design challenge. Plus, all subscribers get access to the Beyond…in a Box web portal for additional learning and fun.

Be sure to start your subscription today with FREE SHIPPING so you can receive “Out To Launch” before it ships on July 28th. Save $10 on a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription to Groovy Lab in a Box. 

Science Milestones: The Art and Science of Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg was a famous cartoonist who took simple and compound machines which are meant to make tasks easier, and made them overly complex. His cartoons depicted complex machines that worked in an indirect and convoluted way, such as the “Self-Operating Napkin”.

Art and Science of Rube Goldberg @EvaVarga.net

As you raise spoon of soup (A) to your mouth it pulls string (B), thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I) which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off sky-rocket (K), which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth thereby wiping off your chin.

Rube Goldberg Physics

When Goldberg showed his “Self-Operating Napkin” machine to his friend, his friend said it would not work. Using what you know about mechanical advantage and work, prove to Goldberg’s friend that the invention will actually work.

Work (in Joules, J) = Force (Newtons, J) x Distance (m)

Mechanical Advantage of a Lever = Distance from fulcrum to the applied force / Distance from fulcrum to weight lifted

You raise your spoon of soup 0.15 meters with 2 Newtons of force. How much work did you do?

The spoon pulls a string as you move it. How much work is transferred?

The string jerks the ladle, which is a lever. The string is attached 10 cm from the fulcrum and the force is applied 0.5 m from the fulcrum. What is the mechanical advantage?

The spoon throws a cracker past a parrot. The parrot jumps after the cracker, applying force to the perch he is sitting on. The perch spins around throwing the seeds into a pail. The perch is another lever. It has a mechanical advantage of 2. If it would take 0.5 J of work to move the seeds 0.1m without the lever, how much force will be needed with the lever?

The extra weight in the pail pulls a cord, which goes around a pulley and opens and lights an automatic cigar lighter. If the pail can apply 3 N of force to the cord, and the pulley system has a mechanical advantage of 2, how much total force can be applied to the match?

The match sets off the rocket, which causes a sickle to cut the string, allowing a pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth thereby wiping off your chin. If 3 N of force is needed to strike the match, will the system work?

Discover the amazing resources and contests at Rube Goldberg.

Biography

The Art and Science of Rube Goldberg @EvaVarga.netReuben Lucius “Rube” Goldberg was born on July 4, 1883, in San Francisco, California. He loved to draw and received some basic art instruction when he worked with a sign painter as a young teen. Rather than pursue a career in art, though, he followed his father’s advice and attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned his degree in engineering.

Mapping out sewer pipes and water mains in San Francisco didn’t hold Rube’s interest for long, though. He began creating cartoons for local San Francisco papers. He eventually moved to New York where he landed a job as a cartoonist for the Evening Mail.

He used his engineering background to create funny cartoons featuring complicated machines that were described as new inventions to accomplish easy, straightforward tasks through a series of convoluted steps involving chain reactions. The public quickly fell in love with Rube’s inventions.

His work became popular nationwide, as his cartoons were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers across the country. The art world also loved his works, some of which were displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Rube even made it to Hollywood, where his move script “Soup to Nuts” introduced a trio who would soon become famous as the Three Stooges.

Bring It Home

Check out the following activities to learn more about Rube Goldberg and his work:

Dive a little deeper into the history by watching this video that explores the man behind the machines.

If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you can purchase and download Rube Works, a fun game that challenges you to build a virtual Rube Goldberg machine.

Make your own homemade Rube Goldberg machine! Check out Make a Rube Goldberg Machine for ideas to help you get started.

A Rube Goldberg culminating project will be included in the Physics Logic: Simple Machines & Laws of Motion curriculum to be released soon.

Science MilestonesYou may also be interested in learning about other inventors and scientists who have made an impact in our lives.

5 Benefits of Local Science Museums & Nature Centers { BONUS :: Win a Family Pass }

When we travel as a family, one of the things that is always high on our itinerary are local science museums and nature centers. These local venues provide an intimate look at the natural world and ecosystems of the region. The perfect way to familiarize ourselves with the natural history and wildlife of the local area.

Science Museums & Nature Centers

First to mind are typically our National Parks and large-scale science museums like the Smithsonian, OMSI (in Portland, Oregon), or the Exploratorium (San Fransisco). The smaller museums are often overlooked for the educational opportunities they provide because they don’t have the advertising budget of larger venues. I want to encourage you to seek out these small, local museums and science centers.

Today, I highlight five benefits of local science museums. Best of all – I’m giving away one free family pass to The Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California.

science museums exhibitsHands-on Exhibits

You are likely already familiar with the hands-on exhibits, IMAX and planetarium shows that explore the wonders of science and the universe that are provided by science museums around the country. However, science museums provide so much more!

The mission of museums today is to stimulate curiosity, creativity and learning through fun, interactive exhibits and programs for children, families and school groups. Whether your visit is a family outing or a part of a school experience, the hands-on exhibits are the keystone of the museum.

Field Trips

The learning opportunities at science museums include field trips and school programs. Often, entrance fees are significantly reduced if visiting the museum in a large group. Consider coordinating an outing for your local homeschool community.

Perhaps your local science museum offers in-house classes or educational experiences with a trained volunteer or staff member? Reach out to your local museum education staff and inquire about their field trip programs. If they do not have programs in place, they may be happy to customize options to fit the needs of your class or school.

Adventure Tours :: Museum instructors and volunteers guide students through activities at the museum using the exhibits, grounds and classrooms.

Festivals :: Multiple stations are set up in and around the museum featuring hands-on activities and opportunities for learning. Students and chaperones explore in small groups.

Self-Guided Field Trips :: Some museums offer a self-guided field trip whereupon school groups pay a reduced admission rate and teachers and chaperones are admitted free.

Self-Guided Learning Expeditions :: Many museums offer materials which provide a focused course of exploration during your museum field trip. Developed with local teachers, each includes pre-visit activities which are built upon during the field trip and completed through post-visit activities in the classroom.

At larger museums often the education programs meet the Next Generation Science Standards as well as the Common Core Standards for Literacy and Math.

science museums festivalsCurriculum

Staff and volunteers of science museums often collaborate to develop education materials and public outreach for their visitors. These materials are often available online with the goal of increasing science literacy across the full spectrum of education, both in the classroom and in daily life, for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Discovery Classes :: Some museums offer classroom based programs that can either be held at the museum or at your school.

Traveling Trunks :: Traveling trunks are a great way to extend the learning experience and bring it back to the classroom. These curriculum-based learning units are designed to enliven classroom learning through authentic materials and hands-on lessons.

Look for ways you can expand upon what was learned at the museum by visiting local historic sites as I shared in my earlier post, Bonanza! Gold Rush Experiences.

Professional Development

Many science museums offer a range of professional development courses and workshops designed to strengthen teacher expertise and integrate hands-on science activities into the classroom. Many also offer formal classes and labs for students of all ages, professional development support for science teachers, and a broad range of formal and informal learning opportunities for visitors.

Teacher Training :: A variety of training programs are offered throughout the year for educators of grades kindergarten through 12. The sessions are designed to help teachers gain a deeper understanding of the region’s arts, culture, history and natural sciences.

science museums summer campSummer Camps

If you’ve been to camp, I’m sure you can list off numerous benefits of summer camp. But if you didn’t go to camp as a child, you may not realize just how good the experience is for children. Unplugging from devices, spending their day outdoors being physically active, making new friends, developing life skills, and growing more independent are just a few of the positives.

There are a multitude of summer camps sure to captivate kids of every interest—and your secret desire to enhance their education—from digging for fossils to programming robots, learning how to sail a boat or navigate across varied terrain with only a compass and a topographical map.

Here are just a few examples of camps available at science museums in California and Oregon:

Lawrence Hall of Science :: Lawrence Hall of Science camps are a great place to spend the summer. Where else can you build a wobbling robot, see how a chinchilla takes a bath, and visit the stars? Campers get inspired to explore, build, and create with new friends and cool tools!

OMSI :: Did you know Olympian swim suits were modeled after a shark’s skin? Look at nature differently as you build bio-mimicry challenges around a coastal campfire.  OR …Try your hand at everything from archaeology to web design this summer with brand new tech-based classes and junior overnight adventures.

High Desert Museum :: Offering a wide range of summer camps exploring animal science, astronomy, geology, and photography through fun and interactive activities and hands-on experiments.

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Science Task Cards: Engage, Excite, & Enrich Student Learning

As teachers and parents, aren’t we always looking for methods to get students to be critical thinkers and inquirers? As home educators, many of us also strive to develop traits of independent learners. Students who are capable of seeking out knowledge on their own. Students eager to learn the skills they need to be successful in their chosen career path.

Science Task Cards

Science Task Cards

Tasks cards are a wonderful stepping stone for middle school students to develop their independent learning skills – providing them with a framework to focus their search and just enough guidance to ensure success. Task cards are also a fantastic way to reinforce lessons, review difficult concepts, or provide extra practice for the struggling student.

Task cards are a great tool that any teacher can implement into their home or classroom. They are a full-proof method for getting every student involved in learning regardless of their ability level.

Task cards are generally open-ended and inquiry based questions that make for a great learning tool and help to create an engaging learning environment. The student reads each card, performs the task, and records his/her answer on an answer sheet, on notebook paper, or in their lab notebook. Students may be asked to create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast, draw an illustration and label important parts, write a letter to a famous person, research a current event, or even take a stance on a controversial topic.

How & When Should I Use Task Cards?

1.  Stations or Centers – Use task cards as station or center activities through with students rotate. I have found it works best to allow students to move at their own pace and visit as many or as few stations as possible. They can even move through the centers with a partner if assistance is needed. This is a great way to engage students because they can move around, work at their own pace, and feel successful!

What is Science Notebooking @EvaVarga.net2. Homework Assignments –  Whether you offer each student the same task card or mix it up and provide them with different task cards of their choosing, task cards work well for  homework. It’s a great way to build excitement for a new unit. Whether you ask students to complete the assignment in their interactive science notebook or on a separate piece of paper to turn in the following day, task cards are fun. Here’s an example of a life science task card:

Life Science: Animals
Scientific Classification

  • Research & Define: vertebrates and invertebrates
  • List three vertebrates and three invertebrates
  • Make a poster of the following: mammal, reptile, amphibian, birds, fish
  • Include a caption for each and summarize each class

3. Assessments – Task cards can be used as a quick assessment of student understanding in the midst of a lesson. Many task card questions can be also used as a more in-depth research paper or project. Alternatively, task cards can be used as a way to review for a test – either individually, in small groups, or as a whole class review game.

4. Engaging Warm-up Activities – I love to use task cards in our STEM Club as an activity to get focused and settled as we wait for the other students to arrive. They may find the assignment on the white board or taped down to the table. They work alone or in pairs to answer the question and we discuss their answers when I’m ready to begin.

typesrocks5. Enrichment Activities – Task cards can be kept handy (perhaps in a basket) for early finishers. After students have completed a project, test, or independent assignment, they can enrich their understanding of the material by selecting a task card of their own choice.

Where Can I Buy Task Cards?