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Tiny transparent zebrafish are changing lives through the BioEYES program. A former BioEYES student in Baltimore, Sih Oka Zeh, shared that BioEYES was the catalyst for following a career path in the sciences:

“I had BioEYES in 7th grade. Before they came I was told we were going to do an experiment with fish and microscopes. I wasn’t interested. But then they showed up with all this equipment I’d never seen before. We got to work with the fish and I was so excited. I was mad at the end of the week when they left. I wanted to do more. I wasn’t interested in science or research until I had BioEYES. They are the reason I went to a magnet science high school, and why I am majoring in biology and public health at Washington University in St. Louis . Thank you BioEYES.”

Sih is one of the 100,000 students that have experienced the excitement of BioEYES since the program was founded in 2002. Over the weeklong program, students and teachers alike watch transparent zebrafish miraculously develop, and learn about cells, DNA, and genetics. By day four, they marvel at the fish’s beating heart and blood flow.

Steven Farber, biologist at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Embryology, started BioEYES with educator Jamie Shuda at the University of Pennsylvania. Farber brought the BioEYES program to Carnegie in 2007. The pair saw that K-12 public schools weren’t keeping up with teaching the rapid advances that were happening in the sciences, and they saw the need to not only educate students, but teachers as well.

“Jamie and I wanted to foster an interest in and a love for science in elementary, middle, and high school students. It is incredibly gratifying to watch our work over the past 14 years bring the excitement of science to so many,” remarked Farber. ”Like Sih, we’ve seen students go from having zero interest in science, to attending international science fairs to deciding to major in a science-related field in college. They tell us that BioEYES was a major influence in their subsequent academic choices.”

The program has also engaged 1,400 teachers in six states, and two countries (the U.S. and Australia). “It turns out that our work in training teachers has made a huge impact,” Farber said. “When a teacher’s understanding of science increases, then their confidence to create innovative and engaging science lessons takes off. This affects even more students beyond our program. I am hoping that since we have now served 100,000 students there will be many more in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) pipeline. My dream for the future is that I’ll see some of our students who maybe didn’t have a fair chance in other areas of their lives—the so-called ‘achievement gap’ kids—be able to one day preform research at science institutions like Carnegie. It’s a big dream, yes. But an important one.”

BioEYES is a joint effort between the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Additional centers are located at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Utah, and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The program is funded by grants and gifts with help from the Carnegie Institution’s endowment. A complete list of sponsors can be found at the project’s website

Raising an Adventurous Eater

Navigating a culinary landscape is an adventure for the senses—and mothers who enjoy a diverse diet play a key role in raising adventurous eaters.

On a quest to discover what makes our children curious or cautious of different foods we consulted Pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando and feeding specialist Melanie Potock, two moms behind the award winning book Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating. Learning to eat a variety of foods is tied directly to a child’s motor and cognitive development from birth to age 6 and influenced by parenting, child temperament, family dynamics and overall health. Dr. Fernando (Doctor Yum) and Melanie (Coach Mel) teach parents how to keep their children from falling into picky eating habits plus provide insight should trouble arise during these crucial years for sound nutrition.

The cognitive and chemical connections which influence taste

Raising an adventurous eater can start well before a baby takes her first bites of food. To get some insight into just how early let’s look at how taste develops from the prenatal period to infancy.

Before Birth

Taste buds (called papillae) develop at around ten weeks gestation and early in the second trimester will begin to function. The pattern of the papillae on the tongue in late gestation is similar to that of an adult. In fact, studies suggest that tastes transmitted from a mother’s diet into the amniotic fluid can affect taste preferences in a baby’s first months of life. 

But taste isn’t just about the tongue. Taste and smell are intimately connected. Taste allows us to perceive basic sensations like bitter, salty, sweet and sour. When we eat, odor molecules from food travel into the nasal passages to create the sensation of smell. The combination of the taste and the smell create the complexity of flavor that we perceive when we eat. 

Chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell begin to develop in the first trimester. In the second trimester the olfactory nerves that transmit smell to the brain begin to develop. Finally, in the third trimester amniotic fluid can flow freely into the nasal passages and a fetus can actually distinguished flavors using smell and taste. 

After Birth

Newborns are flooded with sensory experiences from the moment they are placed on mother’s belly and experience skin to skin contact outside the womb. The first time baby latches to the breast, a multitude of flavors and smells wash over the taste buds while the air circulating in the oral and nasal cavities carry the aromas via receptor cells to the olfactory nerve to the brain. For a breastfeeding baby the flavors of the milk can vary day to day depending on the mother’s diet. Those experiences continue as babies develop the skills to eat solid foods with a variety of tastes, textures and temperatures.

5 tips for developing a more diverse palate

Mom’s Diet Matters: In utero experience of taste can be the first steps on the road to adventurous eating. While pregnant, be mindful of nutrition during mealtimes, but also offer the unborn baby a variety of flavors to experience while still in the womb. Your baby will be born with a desire for the flavors.

Tastes Pass through Breastmilk: If breastfeeding, continue to eat a variety of healthy options so that baby experiences the taste and smell of those foods via breastmilk. Whether breast feeding or formula feeding, keeping baby nearby while you’re enjoying your meals establishes early on that mealtimes are a time to connect and experience the aromatic pleasures of healthy foods.

Make First Bites Flavorful: Exposing babies to a variety of tastes can give babies a strong base of experience in tasting. In many cultures, babies are quickly advanced from simple foods to foods with a variety of flavors from herbs, spices and other seasonings. This can develop a much wider acceptance of foods. By exposing babies early to new tastes, parents are giving kids a head start in practicing and experiencing an array of flavors found in a healthy diet. 

“Taste” with the Hands: Typically developing babies are able to sit upright in a high chair, reach out and grasp soft foods for mouthing and accept a spoon presented with purees. In the upcoming book, Baby Self Feeding: Solid Food Solutions to Create Lifelong Healthy Habits (July 2016) co-author and feeding specialist Melanie Potock notes that purees provide the bridge from breast or bottle feeding to quickly becoming confident self-feeders. Offering both purees and soft, safe finger foods in a mindful way allows a child to experience a variety of tastes, textures and even temperatures. The key is frequent exposure to different aromas, flavors, tactile experiences (purees vs soft, steamed broccoli held in tiny baby’s fist and mouthed) while building confidence in trying new foods.

“Taste” with the Heart: Raising a healthy happy eater is not just about tasting food, but also experiencing food. The olfactory nerve is near both the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain and the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center. These connections can begin before solid food is introduced. Once baby begins to eat solids, make time to find JOY in eating together, connecting positive emotions with the tastes that you offer.

Learn more at

Festive Foraging

As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts. Sharing a skill, a gem of wisdom or a cultural tradition, embraces this sentiment in a unique and creative way!

Festive foraging resonates all these virtues, gathering natures gifts away from the hustle of Harrods. A resourceful ramble in nature not only lifts the spirits but makes a great family outing and educational experience for the kids.

From forest ornaments to flower cordials, natures store-cupboard is brimming with ingredients for wild crafted creations.

I’d like to share a few of my favourites, wishing all our readers a very merry christmas.

Go Hive Hunting

Bee’s provide a cornucopia of christmas goodies, wax for homemade candles, native honey and honeycomb are natural sweets which make wonderful alternatives to store bought candies or used to create cookies, cakes, honey wines and meads. You could also make personalised skincare, everything from face masks and body scrubs to first aid for the survival kit (honey makes a wonderful remedy added to hot lemon water for sore throats, or when applied topically to help heal open wounds and sunburn). Simply bottle and label your gift as intended or bundled in a basket with fresh lemons and other ingredients as a DIY gift to encourage your friends and family to try their hand at baking and making their own bespoke recipes. You are not only sharing a skill but nurturing a new appreciation for natures versatility.

Make the most of Honey:

Find a local beekeeper:

Bee’s Downunder:

Forage for Flowers

Floral art can manifest as a botanical sketch, a photograph, or pressed and framed original. You could also use the pigments to pattern and color linen. Native flowers reflect biodiversity beautifully, something distinctive and special to share with friends overseas. Besides art, flowers like honey can be used to craft bespoke skincare, haircare, and scents or used as ingredients to add natures flavour to foods and beverages. I recommend borrowing a guide book from the library or googling flower identification and uses, to ensure your harvest is edible. Do check for picking penalties, not every neighbourhood garden or local park offers free flowers.

Craft with Compost

Handcrafted gifts which repurpose, and reimagine organic materials also reflect our ancient relationship with nature. Man has been crafting from wood, stone and various other natural materials for thousands of years, celebrating nature in creations imbued with the wonder and wisdom of the wild. Let your inner artist be inspired by what you find outside, ornaments, decorations, jewellery, garlands, party favours, nature napkins these are just some of the ideas out there.

Quick Crafts:

Kid Crafts:

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This educational video was created to be part of the presentation of the”Saving Endangered Species” school assembly program. While this video is not intended for general distribution at this time, you are welcome to share it with others you think will be interested. A big “Thank You!” to our amazing International A-Team members and our Advisory Council members for helping to make this important film possible.

Learn more about our friends the A-Team at:

Disney Story Artist David G. Derrick Jr. leverages his craft to relate the needs and virtues of nature to children.

Like Beatrix Potter and other fable-weaving artists of old, this form of storytelling through art has proved a magical medium for captivating young minds and imparting valuable lessons for centuries. Since Potter penned her first tale, the tradition has evolved somewhat. Digital tools help animate the artists drawings, yet illustration remains the foundation for educating children about nature and science.

I’ve asked Dave to describe how he uses art to teach children about nature…

If conservation, natural history education and science are to touch and influence future generations of naturalist they must continue to evolve. Learning about nature needs to be fun and natural. If learning about nature is didactic and boring then kids will gravitate toward other activities. Picasso said every child is an artist, and I firmly believe that every child is also a naturalist.

Schools separate art and science. Though they use opposing sides of the brain art and science complement each other. You can only draw what you know. If you want to draw an elephant you need to know their anatomy, you need to know about their behavior and how their environment shapes their lives. If you draw an elephant’s anatomy and behavior it will be more firmly rooted in the child’s brain.

Bitnoora Adonia a conservation manager at the Uganda Wildlife Authority echoes these sentiments and used them to foster understanding and conservation for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: “Art is a good tool that has been used in many countries to help children and adults who can not read and write to understand modern concepts and theories. In 1990s we used it alot in Uganda to make rural communities around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to understand and appreciate conservation values of the protected area”

I drag my children through beaches, forests and grasslands to learn about animals through observation and art. By expressing what they know and feel through art children can make a lasting and personal relationship with nature.

Learning about nature should be fun. In my picture books I use my art and storytelling to teach and entertain kids about nature. In Animals Don’t So I Won’t I veil animal education with entertainment as Ben the main character tries to get out of cleaning his room by being a beetle, only to learn that if he really wants to be a beetle he has to clean someone else’s mess…an elephant’s. This fun pattern repeats itself as Ben tries to be a penguin, leopard, hippo, crocodile, bear, slug and chimp. With each scenario the reader learns a fun entertaining fact about the featured animal.

My newest book I’m the Scariest Thing in the Jungle I pit two alpha predators against each other. Both the tiger cub and the young crocodile brag and boast that each is the scariest and set out to prove it by vanishing in the grass, stalking in the water and climbing trees. In the end they actual find something even scarier than they are.

© Dave Derrrick

With a sketchbook in hand I love to take my kids to wild places. Together we watch and observe wildlife. I have found this is the best way to learn about an animal or ecosystem. We call it Wild Art! We recently finished two videos which document our artistic and animal education. In Cambria California within view of the famous Hearst Castle elephant seals congregate every year to breed and mate. It is a spectacular and safe way to watch the world’s largest pinniped. We watched we sketched and I even decided to animate to help teach about elephant seals.

In world’s first national park (Yellowstone) my kids and I documented many different animals including grizzly bear, black bear, pronghorn, elk and bison. We recently finished making another Wild Art documentary on Bison. Through sketching, sculpting and painting we teach about North America’s largest animal.

© Dave Derrick.

Not every excursion needs to be wild and exotic. Nature is all around us, it’s even in our own backyards. During the summertime we love to catch and document the insects that call our backyards home. Our undisputed favorite is the jumping spider.

Art and Science don’t need to be separate they can work together to help us and our children appreciate the wonders of the natural world.

Dave blogs about his art and adventures at: