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  1. High-quality science education is essential for students to become scientifically literate. Model-Evidence Link (MEL) diagrams and build-a-MEL (baMEL) diagrams are instructional scaffolds that create an opportunity for students to build scientific understanding through the evaluation of the connections between evidence and alternative explanations of a scientific phenomenon. The MELs and baMELs allow for a natural incorporation of three-dimensional learning that has been recommended by the Next Generation Science Standards to enhance students’ comprehension. Through this science teaching methodology, students are able to see that by diagramming and then writing about one’s thoughts about the connections between evidence and explanations, onemore »can deepen their understanding of scientific concepts.« less
  2. Abstract We measured hardness, modulus of elasticity, and, for the first time, loss tangent, energy of fracture, abrasion resistance, and impact resistance of zinc- and manganese-enriched materials from fangs, stings and other “tools” of an ant, spider, scorpion and nereid worm. The mechanical properties of the Zn- and Mn-materials tended to cluster together between plain and biomineralized “tool” materials, with the hardness reaching, and most abrasion resistance values exceeding, those of calcified salmon teeth and crab claws. Atom probe tomography indicated that Zn was distributed homogeneously on a nanometer scale and likely bound as individual atoms to more than ¼more »of the protein residues in ant mandibular teeth. This homogeneity appears to enable sharper, more precisely sculpted “tools” than materials with biomineral inclusions do, and also eliminates interfaces with the inclusions that could be susceptible to fracture. Based on contact mechanics and simplified models, we hypothesize that, relative to plain materials, the higher elastic modulus, hardness and abrasion resistance minimize temporary or permanent tool blunting, resulting in a roughly 2/3 reduction in the force, energy, and muscle mass required to initiate puncture of stiff materials, and even greater force reductions when the cumulative effects of abrasion are considered. We suggest that the sharpness-related force reductions lead to significant energy savings, and can also enable organisms, especially smaller ones, to puncture, cut, and grasp objects that would not be accessible with plain or biomineralized “tools”.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. It is a pleasure to present the second special issue of The Earth Scientist sponsored by the MEL Project team (https://serc.carleton.edu/mel/index.html)! The Model-Evidence Link (MEL) and MEL2 projects have been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. 1316057, 1721041, and 2027376) to Temple University and the University of Maryland, in partnership with the University of North Georgia, TERC, and the Planetary Science Institute. In 2016 we shared with you the four MEL diagram activities, covering the topics of climate change, the formation of the Moon, fracking and earthquakes, and wetlands use, as well as a rubric for assessment. Thismore »issue brings to you our four new build-a-MEL activities on the origins of the Universe, fossils and Earth’s past, freshwater resources, and extreme weather. Additionally, there are articles about a new NGSS-aligned rubric and transfer task to help students apply their new skills in other situations and about teaching with MEL and build-a-MEL activities. Our goals with all of these activities are to help students learn Earth science content by engaging in scientific practices, notably the evaluation of alternative explanatory models (by looking at the connections between lines of evidence and the competing models) and argumentation. The team has tested these activities in multiple middle and high school classrooms. Our research has shown the activities to be effective in learning both content and skills, and our partner teachers report that students enjoy the activities. These activities are freely available for teachers to use. We hope that you and your students will also find them to be effective and enjoyable approaches to learning about complex and sometimes controversial socioscientific issues within Earth Science.« less
  4. The Model-Evidence-Link (MEL) and build-a MEL (baMEL) tasks are designed to engage students in scientific practices, including argumentation and critical thinking. We designed a rubric for teachers to assess the various practices and skills students use while completing a MEL or baMEL, based on several NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) and Cross Cutting Concepts (CCCs). When applying this rubric, we suggest that teachers only focus on student performance with respect to one SEP or CCC each time they implement a MEL or baMEL. We also developed a transfer task to ascertain how well students are able to perform MEL-relatedmore »thinking skills, such as identifying a scientific model and alternative (but non-scientific) models, lines of evidence, and plausibility of knowledge claims, in a grade appropriate scientific journal article. The near-transfer activity can help teachers gauge how well students apply their MEL/baMEL skills and can improve students’ scientific literacy.« less
  5. Freshwater resources are limited due to issues related to water quality and/or quantity. This article introduces a build-a-MEL that challenges students to address this socioscientific issue by considering the plausibility of three models: A) Earth has a shortage of freshwater, which will worsen as our world’s population increases; B) Earth has a shortage of freshwater that can be met by engineering solutions; and C) Earth’s freshwater is abundant and will remain so even in the face of global climate change. The eight lines of evidence in this build-a-MEL are data-rich and challenge students to think critically as they connect themore »evidence to the models. As a result of this activity, students develop an understanding of the spatial complexity of access to freshwater resources.« less
  6. Our Earth’s climate is dynamic and ever changing. The fossil record provides evidence of early organisms and information about climate changes of the past. By exploring evidence of variations in the fossil record, students can better understand the issues related to climate change today. In the build-a-MEL activity described here, students are asked to evaluate different lines of evidence and make a judgement about how they connect to alternative explanatory models. Critical thinking skills are enhanced while students engage in a process of negotiation about the evidence, and students are hopefully better prepared to address the complexity of issues relatedmore »to our current climate change situation from studying fossil evidence.« less
  7. Our Earth’s climate is dynamic and ever changing. The fossil record provides evidence of early organisms and information about climate changes of the past. By exploring evidence of variations in the fossil record, students can better understand the issues related to climate change today. In the build-a-MEL activity described here, students are asked to evaluate different lines of evidence and make a judgement about how they connect to alternative explanatory models. Critical thinking skills are enhanced while students engage in a process of negotiation about the evidence, and students are hopefully better prepared to address the complexity of issues relatedmore »to our current climate change situation from studying fossil evidence.« less
  8. High-quality science education is essential for students to become scientifically literate. Model-Evidence Link (MEL) diagrams and build-a-MEL (baMEL) diagrams are instructional scaffolds that create an opportunity for students to build scientific understanding through the evaluation of the connections between evidence and alternative explanations of a scientific phenomenon. The MELs and baMELs allow for a natural incorporation of three-dimensional learning that has been recommended by the Next Generation Science Standards to enhance students’ comprehension. Through this science teaching methodology, students are able to see that by diagramming and then writing about one’s thoughts about the connections between evidence and explanations, onemore »can deepen their understanding of scientific concepts.« less
  9. The origin of the Universe is something that people have pondered for thousands of years. As evidence has mounted, the Big Bang theory has become the consensus scientific model. Much of this same evidence refutes opposing theories such as the earlier Steady State model. The NGSS for high school includes the nature of and evidence for the Big Bang, providing a rich opportunity to explore—with the help of a scaffold—the connections between evidence and competing models about the origins of the Universe.