BC-PA--Member Exchange,Advisory, PA

News,Science and Technology

Here are the stories for this week's Pennsylvania Member Exchange package. If you have stories to submit, please email them to Matt Moore at mmoore(at)ap.org. If you have any questions, contact the Philadelphia bureau at 215-561-1133.

For use anytime:


Editorials from around Pennsylvania.

For Saturday, May 4, 2013, and thereafter:



PITTSBURGH — During an Advanced Placement biology course in Easton Area High School, Jennifer Estevez's teacher sped through the large chapter on evolution, focusing on one formula for the AP exam and the basics: survival of the fittest and natural selection. In those high school years in Northampton County, she also would attend a Baptist leadership retreat where a speaker denounced evolution as false, unproven science. Seemingly unimportant and even discredited, evolution fell off her radar. So the Easton student arrived at Duquesne University last fall considering herself a creationist, but a college biology course convinced her that evolution was valid science with overwhelming evidence. Her experience represents the ill-kept secret about public school biology classrooms nationwide — that evolution often isn't taught robustly, if at all. Faith-based belief in creationism and intelligent design continues to be discussed and even openly taught in public school classrooms, despite state curriculum standards. A Post-Gazette questionnaire this spring that drew 106 responses from science teachers asked them to choose one or more answers to a question of what they believe in: evolution, creationism, intelligent design or not sure/other. Ninety percent chose evolution; 19 percent said they believe in creationism, and 13 percent said they believe in intelligent design. By David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


WYNNEWOOD — Bernie Mason spent World War II moving Army tanks, sometimes picking them up and setting them down with his bare hands. He's not superhuman. And the tanks weren't some ultralight secret weapon. It was combat trickery. As a 21-year-old lieutenant, Mason helped lead a handpicked unit of artists and creative thinkers who deployed and arranged highly detailed, inflatable rubber tanks - and trucks, jeeps, and artillery - to fool the Germans into thinking the Americans had more firepower than they actually did or that the equipment was somewhere other than where it really was. Officially, the unit was the 23d Headquarters Special Troops. Unofficially, it was the Ghost Army. "It was like putting on a show," said Mason, of Wynnewood, who turns 93 in May. A show, at least, until the Germans bought the deception. Mason had barely set foot in Europe in June 1944 when he found himself hugging the bottom of a foxhole as shells exploded all around, the enemy determined to destroy what it thought was a U.S. artillery emplacement. Next month, Mason will be featured in a new PBS documentary that extols the unit's unique mission. By Jeff Gammage, The Philadelphia Inquirer.


KINTNERSVILLE — Forty-four-year-old Cyndi Lane wiped the inside of her cheek with a cotton swab in her Kintnersville home last month, hurriedly packed it into a UPS box and shipped it to a DNA laboratory in Fort Worth, Texas. More than 300 miles away, 82-year-old Audrey Gilligan of Bradford was doing the same. The women then went about doing what they've been doing for years: They waited. In the interim, Lane, a married mother of one, and Gilligan, a widowed mother of five, continued doing by phone what they'd been doing for only a few days since finding each other last month with the help of social media: connecting their lives that were literally separated at birth 44 years ago in a maternity delivery room in upstate New York when Gilligan gave up Lane for adoption. "When I told her the results, she said, 'Honey, I didn't need a DNA test to prove you were my daughter. I could hear it in your voice,'" Lane said. By Phil Gianficaro, Bucks County Courier Times.


LANCASTER — If you order a turkey wrap at the Lemon Street Market this summer, or drink a mojito at Lancaster Brewing Co., the tomato on your sandwich and the mint in your drink might have been grown right outside the restaurants. Six city restaurants are planting tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, herbs and other fresh produce in containers, hanging baskets and small beds. They plan to harvest the fresh items and serve them to their customers, to promote healthy eating and local products, in a project sponsored by Lancaster city and a local health organization. By Cindy Stauffer, (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.


ALLENTOWN — Mansour Farhat's accounting students at Northampton Community College won't find him standing up and lecturing for the entire class. In fact, in some sections of Farhat's classes students will rarely sit through a 50-minute lecture on campus. Farhat is one of many Lehigh Valley higher educators testing the concept of a flipped classroom that inverts the traditional college teaching model of in-class lectures and homework outside of class. Farhat's students watch lectures online before class and read the textbook. They fill out practice quizzes and post discussion questions on the online class forum. In class, students tackle discussion questions and work on problems. "My goal is to be available to my students, like an ATM machine, 24/7," Farhat said. Teachers using the concept say it allows them to spend class time digging deeper into concepts with students, who then retain information better. By Sara K. Satullo, The (Easton) Express-Times.

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