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2011 February 27

Journals for high school researchers

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:10

Got a high-school student doing publishable research and want to help them get published?  Anyone can submit to the academic journals, but it is often difficult for a high-schooler to break into them, as the barriers are pretty high for anyone outside mainstream acadème. Luckily, there are a few journals that offer more hope for high schoolers.

For anything dealing with history, The Concord Review seems like a good choice.  The claim that The Concord Review is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic research papers of secondary students.” I think that this claim is a little too strongly worded, as other journals have published such papers.  Perhaps it is more correct to say that The Concord Review is the only journal devoted to the academic research papers of secondary students. I know one high school student who published there (actually, he was in 8th grade and taking community college classes, so he missed high school in both directions, but they published his paper).  And no, it was not a relative of mine.

An AP bio teacher on the ap-bio mailing list suggested the Journal for Young Investigators, which is an online journal for undergraduate science researchers that is refereed by undergraduates.  I know a high school student who has published there also with a project that he had done for science fair in his sophomore year (again, not a relative).

Another teacher suggested trying the Biotechnology Institute.  They have a contest for student research called the International BioGENEius Challenge, and they publish a magazine for students.  I suspect that they don’t have much student writing in the magazine, but I’ve not checked.  There are a number of contests for high-school science students, some with good prizes (like ISEF), but this is not quite the same thing as academic publication.

For younger kids, there are even fewer venues, though Stone Soup Magazine provides a nice outlet for creative work (poems, stories, and art) by 8- to 13-year-olds. Muse magazine for ages 10 and up has their Muserology column written by Muse readers, but the style of writing is more chatty than academic.

If anyone has other journal publication options for high schoolers, add them to the comments.

2011 February 25

statpics: Galton’s Bayesian Machine

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 08:24
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Robert W. Jernigan of statpics has a great picture and explanation today of Galton’s Bayesian Machine.


This is a really cool demonstration of Bayesian stats, with prior distribution at the top, the likelihood function in the middle and the posterior distribution at the bottom. (Image touched up from

This machine starts with balls distributed according to a prior distribution at the top, then splits them front and back according to a likelihood function in the middle, then puts them back into uniform size bins to show the posterior distribution.

Summer Programs for Gifted Kids

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 08:00
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Carol Fertig of Prufrock Press (which bills itself as “The Nation’s Leading Resource for Gifted and Advanced Learners”) has just posted on her blog a list of lists of  Summer Programs for Gifted Kids.  I quote her list of lists:

I’ve posted before on summer programs: Summer Programs: Listed by Topics of Interest, Summer research program for top high-school juniors, Summer Theater Camps, COSMOS talk on assembling genomes, Awesome Math Camp, Do talent searches identify future successful adults?.

We have no plans yet for this summer.  Most likely, my son will do a couple of teen theater camps.  He’s been doing theater every summer for many years, and he is enjoying having moved up to the teen group at West End Studio Theater, where he is currently rehearsing the part of Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles.  We expect that WEST will manage a teen conservatory program again this summer with professionals from Shakespeare Santa Cruz.  He enjoyed that a lot last year.  The timing of that nearly always knocks out most summer math camps.

In the past, he has taken Lego robotics classes (fun, but too low-level), iDTech game programming classes (sort of fun, but too low-level and tools ran only on Windows, so were of no continuing value in this Mac household), and lots and lots of theater.

While I might like for him to take a language camp, a higher-level math camp, or one of the gifted-kids summer schools, I’m quite happy with his interest in theater.  It gives him a much better understanding of working in a group to accomplish a common goal than the artificial “group work” that schools sometimes force kids into.  He has taken on both lead parts and minor roles, enjoying both, and knows the value of the behind-the-scenes tech work (which he has done occasionally).  He’s seen how talent and work can make a superior production, and how even apparently untalented people can make valuable contributions.  He’s seen the difference between productions where everyone put in the work to make things shine and ones where a bunch of slackers ruined the production (that was a school production).  The acting skills themselves (memorizing lines, developing characters, projection, being confident in front of an audience, … ) are also valuable life skills.  I don’t think he has a career as a professional actor (though who knows what may happen in the future), but I think that theater will be a valued hobby for him as an adult, and that he’ll be an asset to amateur theater companies.

I do feel a bit remiss in not sending him to the sort of summer camps I went to as a kid (Boy Scout camps) and not taking him hiking, camping, or bike touring.  Camping was something I enjoyed as a college student, and he has only experienced it once or twice as part of school groups. I keep planning to do a short bike tour or camping in the local state parks with him, but it hasn’t happened in the last 10 years, so I’m not really expecting it to happen this summer.


2011 February 23

Simple cat genetics

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 19:09
Tags: , , ,

John MacDonald of the University of Delaware has an excellent site on the Myths of Human Genetics.He points out that many of the examples traditionally used in high-school biology classes are not as simple as they are made out to be:

There are no common, visible human traits that have a simple one-locus, two-allele, dominant vs. recessive method of inheritance. Rolling your tongue is not dominant to non-rolling, unattached earlobes are not dominant to attached, straight thumbs are not dominant to hitchhiker’s thumb, etc.  In some cases, the trait doesn’t even fall into the two distinct categories described by the myth. For example, students are told that they either have a hitchhiker’s thumb, which bends backwards at a sharp angle, or a straight thumb. In fact, the angle of the thumb ranges continuously, with most thumbs somewhere in the middle.

He gives nice explanations of what is really going on in separate posts for twelve of the myths, but he also offers hope for simple one-locus, two-allele examples that can be used in classes:

I prefer to use cat coat genetics to teach basic genetic concepts, because there are several easily visible traits whose genetics is well-established by cat breeders.

He describes several simple traits that can be used, and suggests some web-based experiments (using cat adoption pictures to sample different geographical areas).  I think that the Myths of Human Genetics site is a must-read for biology teachers, and highly recommended for their students as well.

2011 February 22

Losing the lottery

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:05
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Our son entered the lottery to get into PCS, the highly rated charter school in our town.  This is the 4th year that he has entered the lottery and the results are the best so far: he was 20th on a waiting list of 28 for 0 slots in the 10th grade.  It is likely that one or two slots will open up because of students transferring to other schools, but not 20.  So it looks like we will continue in the default public high school next year.  Here is the summary of results:

7th Grade Pilot For 1st Generation to College (6 seats, 18 more wait listed)  25%
7th Grade (50 seats, 216 more wait listed) 18.8%
8th Grade (no seats, 91 wait listed) 0%
9th Grade (no seats, 125 wait listed) 0%
10th Grade (no seats, 28 wait listed) 0%
11th Grade (no seats, 16 wait listed) 0%
No draw for 12th Grade was conducted.

With 56 entering 7th grade out of 290 in the lottery, the odds were almost 1 in 5, better than they’ve been in years.   Of course, if you look at it as 56 getting in out of 550 applicants, there was only a 10.2% chance of success overall.

There is clearly a much larger demand than supply locally for AP-intensive education.  It is a shame that the school district doesn’t start a me-too charter and copy the success.

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