Media Guide- December 2, 2016

Media Guide- December 2, 2016

Grade Level



15 min - 1 hr


Media Guide

Each week we provide a rundown of the latest Science Friday stories, ready for classroom use. Last week Science Friday took a closer look at a cat’s tongue, learned about the ice gripping ability of winter boots, and discussed the internal clocks of the microbes in our gut.

Also, we are looking for inspiring educators to become Science Friday Educator Collaborators! Check out the resources created by our 2016 Educator Collaborators here. You can read more information about the program and access the application here. Applications are due January 8, 2017.

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.

Not All Soles Are Created Equal

If you live in a cold weather climate, you know that choosing the right winter footwear is more about function than fashion. Most boots are made to carry expeditioners and winter sportsmen through snowy terrain. But for the average urban resident, it’s an icy sidewalk you have to worry about.

So how do winter boots stack up against a slippery surface? To find out, researchers at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute tested the slip resistance of 98 different types of boots at their Winter Lab, which includes a 6 x 6 meter ice floor used to simulate winter conditions. The most surprising result? Only eight percent of the boots passed muster when they were tested against a seven-degree incline, a number taken from Ontario’s curb accessibility guidelines.

Vocabulary: terrain, ice, incline, engineering & design, shoes
NGSS: ETS1.3: Optimizing the Design Solution, PS1.A: Structures and Properties of Matter

Audio Excerpt “Not All Soles Are Created Equal” 12/2/2016. (Original Segment)

Segment Transcript


  • Why do you think the group chose to test winter boots against curb accessibility guidelines?
  • What do the two new successful winter book technologies have in common? How does each technology approach the problem differently?
  • Not everyone has access to a Winter Lab like the one at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Design a test you can do at home or in your classroom for your shoes to see which is most “slip-proof.” The test must be conducted without wearing the shoes.

Activity Suggestions

  • Dive into winter boot testing design. Have students look at this description of the research at the Winter Lab and explore the testing done by Rate My Treads. Have your students research different soles for winter boots and look at the different designs that companies have tried. Using either donated shoes or student’s own shoes, design a test that can be done in class without anyone wearing the shoes. They will need to account for the weight of a person in their experimental design.
  • Explore the border between ice and water with this investigation based on NOVA’s Descent Into Ice.

We are still developing this resource and would love your feedback.

Related Segment

Ice Science a Slippery Quandary for Physicists

Related Educational Resource

Use Flubber to Model Ice Shelf-Glacier Interactions and Sea Level Rise

By Jennifer Leigh via Wikimedia Commons
By Jennifer Leigh via Wikimedia Commons

Cat Tongues

It feels weird when your cat licks you, but cat tongues are effective at combing out tangles in thick fur. Using high-speed videos, a graduate student has discovered that cat tongues are lined with tiny hooks that pull through snags and straighten out a tangled coat. Amy Nordrum, from IEEE Spectrum, fills in this story.

Vocabulary: keratin, structure & function, Velcro, evolved, adaption
NGSS: LS4.C: Adaptation, LS1.A: Structure and Function

Audio Excerpt “Cat Tongues” 12/2/2016. (Original Segment)

Segment Transcript


  • Cats spend 50% of their waking hours grooming! Why is grooming an adaptation in cats?
  • Even wild cats groom themselves, how do you think this benefits them?
  • Amy and Ira compare a cat’s tongue to Velcro and a hairbrush. How is a cat’s tongue like Velcro? How is it like a hairbrush? Decide which object (hairbrush or Velcro) is a structural analogy and which is a functional analogy to a cat’s tongue .
  • How were they able to collect data on the movement of a cat’s tongue? How would you do it? (Remember that any method you come up with should not harm the animal.)
  • Based on this study, what would you want to explore or investigate about the structures of a cat tongue?

Activity Suggestion

Have students find images and videos of a wide variety of tongue structures in nature. Start with this article on five weird animal tongues. Have them compare the structure and function of different tongues using the media they obtain. How do the tongues of organisms contribute to their survival?

We are still beta-testing this resource and would love your feedback.

Related Segment

Here Kitty, Kitty: The Genetics of Tame Animals

Circadian Rhythms of the Microbiome

You probably have a typical daily routine: making a cup of coffee in the morning, reading the newspaper at lunch, unwinding on the couch before bed. It turns out that the microbes in our gut probably have a schedule, too.

In a study out in the journal Cell, immunologist Eran Elinav and his team looked at the circadian rhythm of gut microbes in mice. They found that those microbes changed locations and metabolic output throughout the day. Elinav discusses how the circadian rhythms of our microbiome might affect the rest of our body.

Vocabulary: microbiome, microbes, circadian rhythm
NGSS: LS2C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

Audio Excerpt “Circadian Rhythms of the Microbiome” 12/2/2016. (Original Segment)

Segment Transcript


  • When Dr. Elinav refers to clocks inside our body, microbes, and even genes, what is he actually talking about? Why can it be compared to a clock?
  • What do you think we can do to help our microbes maintain a normal circadian rhythm?
  • There are biological clocks throughout our body, working synchronously. Develop two questions you have about our body’s circadian rhythm that you think researchers should pursue.

Activity Suggestions

We are still developing this resource and would love your feedback.

Related Video

Your Very Special Microbial Cloud

Cover Image Credit: Jennifer Leigh via Wikimedia Commons.

Educator's Toolbox

Meet the Writer

About Xochitl Garcia

Xochitl Garcia is Science Friday’s education program assistant. She is a former teacher who loves hanging out with her fat-tailed gecko, which, despite the efforts of students, family, friends, and a fantasy football league to name it, is still only referred to as “the gecko.”

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