A couple of months ago, I discovered a fantastic educational website for children. And since I am a music teacher, I knew right away that I wanted to review this website. It sounded exactly what I wished I could have had when I was an elementary music teacher.
The site is Rockford's Rock Opera. It is subtitled "The Creatures Have a Secret." I am enthralled by it! It has an interactive portion of the site where students age 11 and under (and possibly even older--it depends on the child) can play the story, read along, read the songs/lyrics, and so much more. I think what intrigues me even more is that it has an ecological message. "Being Green" is all the rage now, and I am thrilled that the site uses music and so much more to get the idea of responsible living across.
As a music teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed the educational area. There are lesson plans that cover each area of the story and opera. They are perfect for cross-curricular teaching. There are lessons for music, reading, art, science, and so much more. I only wish I had a class right now so I could teach these fantastic lessons!
This site is free to a certain point, and after that, one has to become a member. If I were a full-time teacher, i think I would investigate more of the paid areas. I love pre-made lesson plans and interactive sites like this. Not only does it inspire the students when a teacher brings technology like this into the classroom, but it is ideal for "filler" time. There are always those students who finish early, and this is the ideal thing to keep those students on task and under control. And for making up absences? Fantastically easy!
What I am most happy about is that it uses the term "opera," and makes this genre of music less scary for children. If you ask just about any school-age child (my daughter included) to tell their thoughts about opera, you will hear all sorts of things. Some students confuse "opera" and "Oprah." Others have the concept of opera where "the fat lady" sings a song at the top of her voice. It was my perception as I grew up as well.
I cannot recommend this fantastic website enough. In fact, I would say this would be ideal for homeschool as well as public/private schools. It is appropriate for almost any subject, and I would highly recommend the full area of the site--you will not regret it!
Rockford's Rock Opera
Elaine and Matthew Sweetapple live in the UK and are adoptive parents of Elaine the manatee. They are also creators of Rockford's Rock Opera, a musical story that teaches children about ecology and extinction. Rockford's Rock Opera is currently used in 15,000 schools worldwide and is a hit with children and adults alike with well over a million downloads to date. Recently, the Sweetapples created a new character for the story called the "Interstellar Sea Cow" together with a captivating song that's now available on Amazon (UK residents click here) or at iTunes, with all proceeds going to manatee conservation efforts.
Rockford's Rock Opera tells the story of a boy named Moog and his dog, Rockford, who arrive on the mystical Island of Infinity, which is home to the last one of every extinct animal species. The rock opera has been featured on the BBC and has received rave reviews, including a description by The Times as "an amazing mix of story, songs and sound effects." Matthew writes, produces and performs all the music for the rock opera, Elaine creates the designs and illustrations, and writer Steve Punt - a well-known comedian in the UK - provides the script and many of the voices.
The Sweetapples are currently hard at work on Rockford's next adventure, due out in 2012, and which features the Interstellar Sea Cow, an animal character based on the Steller's sea cow, a relative of modern day manatees and dugongs that was hunted to extinction in 1768. In Rockford's Rock Opera, the Interstellar Sea Cows are the last of an imagined herd of creatures that wander the universe spreading peace and love with their siren's songs. "We thought that the tale of the Steller's sea cow, and its fate at the hands of man, could be told to make the world aware of the plight of its modern day relatives," said Matthew. "The character was also inspired by the fact that the collective scientific name for all sea cows is 'Sirenia' - which both suggested the idea of music and sirens, and sounded to us very 'alien'!"
The Sweetapples believe it is important to use the success ofRockford's Rock Opera to support organizations that are helping to protect endangered species, especially when they have relevance to their animal characters. So as a gift for Matthew's birthday last year, Elaine adopted her namesake, Elaine the manatee, from Save the Manatee Club, and the couple later contacted the Club to offer the proceeds from the Interstellar Sea Cow Song. "Over the past year - although we're in the UK - we were really impressed with the charity and its work, so when we wrote our sea cow song, it was obvious that Save the Manatee Club would be the charity we'd most like to support," said Elaine. "From our point of view, since our Interstellar Sea Cow character was inspired by manatees and sea cows, it's only right that the song should help support these amazing, gentle creatures."
Matthew and Elaine have added Save the Manatee Club's web address to their Rockford web site and Facebook pages, so their visitors can learn more about manatees and what they can do to help protect them. The Rockford's Rock Opera web site also contains information about the threats currently faced by plants and animals around the world, along with lesson plans for educators and other resources.
"In creating Rockford's Rock Opera, we've been amazed how the true stories of extinct creatures, mixed with a little imagination, truly inspire children, prompting them to ask questions and to learn more about the natural world," said Matthew. "It also, we're glad to say, inspires them to make a difference and to realise the importance of every life and every species, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant."
"So now, if a catchy, Interstellar Sea Cow dance anthem inspires more people to support the Stellar sea cow's modern day relatives and Save the Manatee Club," said Elaine, "that's a brilliant result!"
Check out the Interstellar Sea Cow Song
and Rockford's Rock Opera
- Listen to the Interstellar Sea Cow Song on Facebook.
- Download the Interstellar Sea Cow song on iTunes or at Amazon and help support manatee conservation efforts. (Note: UK residents can download the song by clicking on this link for Amazon UK ).
- Discover Rockford's Rock Opera! Part One is available free to download or stream from the Rockford web site. It is also available as a podcast or free App on iPhone. Parts 2, 3 and 4 are available as a downloads, Apps or on CD.
We're glad to report that a bathtub-sized marine sponge rediscovered after a century of extinction.
Not found alive for over a century the evocatively named Neptune's cup sponge (Cliona patera) has been rediscovered off the shores of Singapore. Researchers with the environmental consulting DHI Group found the species during a routine dive. Although the specimen they found was small, the goblet-shaped sponge can reach nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) high and the same in diameter.
"When we came across the sponge, we knew immediately that this was something very different," marine biologist Karenne Tun from DHI said in a press release.
First described in 1822, full-grown Neptune cups were used as bathtubs for children. Overharvesting for the magnificent organism, however, led to its near extinction. The sponge was last sighted in 1908 in Indonesian waters and believed to be extinct since then. However, dead Neptune's cups were found in dredge samples from northern Australia in the 1990s, providing hope that the species was still around.
"Basically, little is known about the Neptune's Cup, as it was never found alive," adds Tun. "Now we have the opportunity to study the biology and ecology of this impressive sponge and learn about its life cycle. [...] We've already had the first surprise: The Neptune's cup was thought to be a very slow growing species. However, between our last visits in April and August, respectively, it had grown several centimeters."
Evolving over 150 million years ago, sponges anchor themselves to the marine floor, feeding on plankton and other small marine animals as water passes through their filtering bodies.
This story originally appeared in mongabay.com
Anyone who's listened to Rockford's Rock Opera audio book and apps will know that 'Creatures Secrets' are fundamental to our story; how losing creatures to extinction is ridding the world of potentially world changing discoveries. Perhaps now, at last, we'll begin to see sharks not a killers, but life savers?
More about sharks' secrets.
The compound, found in the liver of sharks, could be used as a new type of drug to treat a broad spectrum of diseases from dengue and yellow fever to hepatitis B, C and D.
The antibiotic, squalamine, is already known to be safe for use in humans as an antiviral agent.
Breakthrough: A compound found in sharks could protect humans from a range of diseases
Dr Michael Zasloff, from Georgetown University who led the study, said: 'To realise that squalamine potentially has broad antiviral properties is immensely exciting, especially since we already know so much from ongoing studies about its behaviour in people.'
They found that in both lab and animal experiments squalamine produced antiviral activity against the human pathogens found in the diseases such as some forms of hepatitis which cannot currently be treated.
Along with offering medical advances this discovery may solve the mystery of how sharks with primitive immune systems can so effectively fight viruses that plague all living creatures.
Dr Zasloff said: 'I believe squalamine is one of a family of related compounds that protects sharks and some other "primitive" ocean vertebrates, such as the sea lamprey, from viruses.
'Squalamine appears to protect against viruses that attack the liver and blood tissues, and other similar compounds that we know exist in the shark likely protect against respiratory viral infections, and so on.
'We may be able to harness the shark's novel immune system to turn all of these antiviral compounds into agents that protect humans against a wide variety of viruses.
'That would be revolutionary. While many antibacterial agents exist, doctors have few antiviral drugs to help their patients, and few of those are broadly active.'
Dr Zasloff discovered squalamine in 1993 and it has already been used in clinical trials to treat cancer and several eye disorders.
'I was interested in sharks because of their seemingly primitive but effective immune system. No one could explain why the shark was so hardy,' he said.
Water interesting discovery: The study may solve the mystery of how sharks with primitive immune systems can so effectively fight viruses that plague all living creatures
When he started to 'play' with the compound he found that it inhibited the growth of rapidly growing blood vessels, such as those found in tumour growth and certain retinal diseases.
Since 1995 it has been synthesised in the laboratory rather than taking any natural shark tissue.
Dr Zasloff remained interested in how the natural cholesterol type molecule, which has a net positive electrical charge, acted as an immune agent in sharks.
When it enters cells, and it can only access certain cells including those in blood vessels, capillaries and the liver, squalamine 'kicks off' positively-charged proteins that are bound to the negatively charged surface of the cells inner membrane.
Some of these displaced proteins are used by viruses to replicate and without the protein a virus's life cycle is disrupted, the microbe is rendered inert and the cell containing it is destroyed.
This means that squalamine seems to be designed to fight certain viral infections, Dr Zasloff claimed.
He said: 'To me, the key to squalamine is that once in the body it times its action to match the life cycle of most viruses.
'Most viruses take hours to complete their life cycle, the same time period that squalamine renders tissues and organs viral resistant after administration.
'In addition, it acts fast to stop viral replication, clearing the body of these predators within hours.
'Furthermore, because squalamine acts by making the host's tissues less receptive for infection, rather than by targeting a specific viral protein, the emergence of viral resistance would not be anticipated.'
In tissue culture studies squalamine was shown to inhibit the infection of human blood vessel cells by the dengue virus and human liver cells infected with hepatitis B and D, which can cause liver failure and cancer.
In animal studies, scientists from across the USA discovered that squalamine controlled infections of yellow fever, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, and murine cytomegalovirus, and in some cases cured the animals.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online.
Original Story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2039323/An-antibiotic-liver-sharks-revolutionise-human-medicine.html#ixzz1YVV2cXMa
Here's the story.
The natural world contains about 8.7 million species, according to a new estimate described by scientists as the most accurate ever.
But the vast majority have not been identified - and cataloguing them all could take more than 1,000 years.
The number comes from studying relationships between the branches and leaves of the "family tree of life".
The team warns in the journal PLoS Biology that many species will become extinct before they can be studied.
Although the number of species on the planet might seem an obvious figure to know, a way to calculate it with confidence has been elusive.
In a commentary also carried in PLoS Biology, former Royal Society president Lord (Robert) May observes: "It is a remarkable testament to humanity's narcissism that we know the number of books in the US Library of Congress on 1 February 2011 was 22,194,656, but cannot tell you - to within an order of magnitude - how many distinct species of plants and animals we share our world with."
Now, it appears, we can.
"We've been thinking about this for several years now - we've had a look at a number of different approaches, and didn't have any success," one of the research team, Derek Tittensor, told BBC News.
"So this was basically our last chance, the last thing we tried, and it seems to work."
Dr Tittensor, who is based at the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (Unep-WCMC) and Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, worked on the project alongside peers from Dalhousie University in Canada and the University of Hawaii.
The vast majority of the 8.7 million are animals, with progressively smaller numbers of fungi, plants, protozoa (a group of single-celled organisms) and chromists (algae and other micro-organisms).
The figure excludes bacteria and some other types of micro-organism.
About 1.2 million species have been formally described, the vast majority from the land rather than the oceans.
Continue reading the main story
The natural world in numbers
Animals: 7.77 million (12% described)
Fungi: 0.61 million (7% described)
Plants: 0.30 million (70% described)
Protozoa: 0.04 million (22% described)
Chromists: 0.03 million (50% described)
The trick this team used was to look at the relationship between species and the broader groupings to which they belong.
In 1758, Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus developed a comprehensive system of taxonomy, as the field is known, which is still - with modifications - in use today.
Groups of closely related species belong to the same genus, which in turn are clustered into families, then orders, then classes, then phyla, and finally into kingdoms (such as the animal kingdom).
The higher up this hierarchical tree of life you look, the rarer new discoveries become - hardly surprising, as a discovery of a new species will be much more common than the discovery of a totally new phylum or class.
The researchers quantified the relationship between the discovery of new species and the discovery of new higher groups such as phyla and orders, and then used it to predict how many species there are likely to be.
"We discovered that, using numbers from the higher taxonomic groups, we can predict the number of species," said Dalhousie researcher Sina Adl.
"The approach accurately predicted the number of species in several well-studied groups such as mammals, fishes and birds, providing confidence in the method."
And the number came out as 8.7 million - plus or minus about a million.
If this is correct, then only 14% of the world's species have yet been identified - and only 9% of those in the oceans.
The rate of species discovery has remained about even ever since Haeckel compiled his Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature) a century ago
"The rest are primarily going to be smaller organisms, and a large proportion of them will be dwelling in places that are hard to reach or hard to sample, like the deep oceans," said Dr Tittensor.
"When we think of species we tend to think of mammals or birds, which are pretty well known.
"But when you go to a tropical rainforest, it's easy to find new insects, and when you go to the deep sea and pull up a trawl, 90% of what you get can be undiscovered species."
At current rates of discovery, completing the catalogue would take over 1,000 years - but new techniques such as DNA bar-coding could speed things up.
The scientists say they do not expect their calculations to mark the end of this line of inquiry, and are looking to peers to refine methods and conclusions.
One who has already looked through the paper is Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
"I think it's definitely a creative and innovative approach, but like every other method there are potential biases and I think it's probably a conservative figure," he told BBC News.
"But it's such a high figure that it wouldn't really matter if it's out by one or two million either way.
"It is really picking up this point that we know very little about the species with which we share the planet; and we are converting the Earth's natural landscapes so quickly, with total ignorance of our impact on the life in them."