First day and examining our fingerprints!

Allow us to introduce ourselves…

Today your child began an exciting science program in their classroom offered by Science from Scientists. SfS is a Boston-based, non-profit organization that strives to improve science and technology attitudes and aptitudes. We send real scientists into the classroom during school every other week to teach exciting, fun, and curriculum-relevant science lessons. We will be visiting your child’s classroom every other week throughout the school year. We will bring engaging, informative, and stimulating hands-on lessons with us to supplement the school’s science curriculum.

My name is Steffany Loeb, I will be a instructor working with the older students at Khan Academy. I graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor’s degree in Geology, and currently am a graduate student at San Jose State University with an emphasis in geomorphology. I have worked for the Forest Service and the California State University system conducting research on California’s geology. I am very excited to be working with all the students at Khan and hope to inspire young future scientists. 

My name is Rachel Walsh and I will be the instructor for the intermediate age group of students.  I completed my bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at Cornell University and my PhD in Integrative Biology from University of California, Berkeley.  My main areas of interest are animal behavior and ecology, and I work in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley.  For my dissertation, I studied habitat use by two different chipmunk species, in the context of understanding responses to climate change.  It was great to have the opportunity to share the story of my research with Khan students, and I look forward to many more exciting science activities!

Please check the Classroom Post on our website regularly to read about the science activities that your child is participating in and to view photos from your child’s classroom.

Keep in Touch with Science From Scientists!
How to view your child’s Classroom Post:
1. Visit our website at:
2. Click on the link for See inside the classroom.
3. Select your school/grade from the list.
4. Enter the password: SFS2016
. Submit the form then save a bookmark to skip these steps next time!

After a discussion about how to stay safe while doing science, we got going with a hands-on activity.  To mimic how scientists fit together different pieces of information, students were charged with fitting together four oddly-shaped puzzle pieces to make a square.  Following loud proclamations about how easy this task was, instructors then revealed a new piece of information (a fifth puzzle piece), causing students to re-evaluate their approach for making a square.  Although some students initially suspected that this new task was impossible, with some creative rearranging (and perhaps a few hints), they succeeded in fitting together all five pieces.


Fingerprints:  Why do we have fingerprints?

The usual answer from the students (and most adults!) is “So we can be uniquely identified.” This is the right answer to the wrong question! The uniqueness of fingerprints does make them useful in identification, but is not why our primate ancestors needed them. So we discussed why fingerprints might have evolved (to increase grip), and how they develop uniquely in each individual. Students learned how the uniqueness and permanence of friction ridges on people’s fingertips make fingerprints an excellent way of identifying individuals. They classified the different patterns that friction ridges can form on the fingertips, which include arches, loops, and whorls.  Playing forensic scientists for a day, they practiced dusting for prints, classifying fingerprints, and identifying their own fingerprint patterns using putty or ink.


Huellas Dactilares, ¿por qué las tenemos?

La respuesta más común entre los estudiantes (y de la mayoría de los adultos) es “para que podamos ser identificados”. Esa es una respuesta correcta pero para una pregunta equivocada.  La singularidad de las huellas digitales hace que sean útiles para la identificación de las personas; pero esa no es la razón por la cual, por ejemplo, nuestros ancestros primates las necesitan. En la clase de hoy discutimos porqué las huellas digitales podrían haber evolucionado (para facilitar el “agarre”), y cómo es que se desarrollan de manera particular en cada individuo. Los estudiantes aprendieron cómo la singularidad y estabilidad de las crestas papilares en la punta de los dedos de las personas, hacen que las huellas dactilares sean una excelente herramienta para identificar a individuos.

Los alumnos lograron clasificar los diferentes patrones que forman las crestas papilares: arcos, bucles y espirales. Jugaron a ser científicos forenses por un día y practicaron cómo quitar el polvo para encontrar impresiones dactilares, cómo clasificar las huellas digitales y finalmente identificaron sus propias huellas usando masilla.

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