Firsts and Lasts

A Rabbit Pond Exploration

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

Last week in my Ornithology class, Mr. Cone split us up into groups and sent us on different missions. My groups’ task was to venture down to Rabbit Pond and record the number and condition of birds that are occupying the bird houses set up around the pond. These “houses” are similar to your typical bird house, and there are eight of them surrounding the pond. Ironically, I never noticed them until that day!

We had a spread sheet that asked whether or not there was a nest in each of the eight houses, if there were eggs present, and what kind of nest it was. Out of the eight that my group checked, we found four nests, one of which contained four small eggs. Every nest we found was a house wren’s. Very easy to identify, these nests are made up almost entirely of sticks.

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Unfortunately, we did not actually see any house wrens in the area, but here is a picture for reference.

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During our adventure, we had the great fortune to see three sets of parents and their baby geese wandering around the outskirts of the pond. Now I know these little ones are famous by now in the Science Department, but I felt it was worth mentioning again. The baby geese, just like we learn, followed their respective mothers’ every move. Despite geese’s typically friendly nature, these mothers were especially defensive. With each step that we took toward the family, the mother was quick to hiss back at us. Needless to say, we kept our distance!

In addition to our adventure down to Rabbit Pond, my class had the opportunity to see one of Audubon’s Birds of America copy in the Addison. Known as his “double elephant pholios,” Audubon’s giant prints were incredible! This massive book contains hundreds of birds, reproduced from his original work by the use of a copper plate and a printing press. Did you know this book, which is worth a lot of money, was once on display in the library? Good thing the Addison decided to take it in, as many of the edges of the book had been damaged by students. Pictured below is one of Mr. Cone’s favorite Audubon prints:

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Here comes the hard part. Given this is my last post of the term, I wanted to thank all of my readers for following my journey through this class. It’s been a lot of fun to write for the PA Natural Sciences blog and learn more and more about birds. I want to give a special thank you to Mr. Cone for teaching such a great class. You will be missed at Andover, but we are excited to see your next adventure. Happy last week of class, and happy summer! ❤

With admiration, Sabrina Appleby

Home is Where the Sticks are?

Ornithology takes a look at different birds nests this week!

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

Last week in Ornithology class, we spent the double period inspecting the nests of a variety of American birds. When I walked into class, I thought that these nests were all going to look and seem the exact same. I could not have been more wrong. Each nest was so intricately made and contained a multitude of different materials. Amongst the many materials, the most frequently seen ones were grass, sticks, spider webs, feathers, mud, and moss. Here are a few that stuck out to me:

1. Robin’s Nest
Created with mud and sticks, a robin’s nest is perfectly circular. Mr. Cone told us that the materials are gathered by the male robin and the female makes the nest. She uses her body to sculpt the nest in a way that provides the circular shape.

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2. House Sparrow Nest
This nest is pretty gross. These lovely birds essentially gather up a bunch of grass, trash, and feathers and blend it all together in a messy heap of stuff. At least it’s an easy nest to identify?

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3. Downy Woodpecker
This one’s pretty straightforward – just some bark and holes.

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4. Speke’s Weaver Bird
Made of almost entirely of grass, the nest situates similarly to a bee’s nest – circular, sometimes hollow inside, and suspending from a tree. Often times, this bird hangs upside down from the nest, clinging on by its feet.

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These are just a few of the 20 nests that we looked at last week. In addition to learning more about the homes of these curious creatures, I also learned that Andover has wonderful resources to research birds and their habitats. Sometimes we take for granted all that PA has to offer. I encourage my readers to check out the casing on the first floor of Gelb that holds a variety of birds. Even if you take just a moment, you will see some pretty cool bird features up close and personal.

As always, thanks for listening. Check back next week for my take on John James Audubon – our next topic of the term.

Mornings with MAC – Abel Edition

Get to know your Science Faculty with your weekly installment of Mornings with MAC!

Guest Post by Michael Codrington ’18Mornings with MAC logo

Welcome to yet another great installment of Mornings with MAC! This week, amidst AP season, I was able to sit and chat with Biology teacher Willa Abel. Ms. Abel is an instructor in biology and a movie extraordinaire (but more on that later 🙂 ). I talked with Ms. Abel right after her 6th period class and she has the pleasure of being the first person that I’ve interviewed that I had not personally met before.

FA 3185575 Abel, WillaMC: What do you teach at Andover?
WA: I’ve taught 3 courses in my time here. I teach primarily Bio 100 but I’ve taught Bio 500 and I’m teaching a senior elective right now.

MC: How long have you been working at Andover?
WA: This is my fifth year.

MC: Where did you go to College? What did you study?
WA: I went to Williams College as an undergrad and studied biology.

MC: What is your favorite thing about Andover?
WA: Ohhh, hm, I think the overwhelming sense of community, and well, for a lot of us we feel ambivalent about it sometimes it’s too intimate with students and teachers but it’s a fairly unique situation and we have fairly fantastic students. Sometimes we forget how abnormal we are, in a good way.

MC: If you weren’t studying/teaching biology, what other discipline would you be in?
WA: I am an amateurish writer, so I fantasize about writing a book. I love languages, and I speak German, so I fantasize about taking a sabbatical to teach German. History as well, there’s many topics that I can be excited about teaching like global topics and colonialism. I can imagine teaching a course like that… if someone would let me!

MC: What’s your favorite movie?
WA: ….

MC: ….
WA: hm?

MC: …
WA: Sorry, I haven’t seen many recently you’ll have to come back to me – Hahaha!

MC: It’s ok. What’s your favorite song out?
WA: I think it would have to… um… this may sound a little bit cliche, but I like Bob Dylan’s, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Alright”, it’s been one of my favorite songs for a while. Also, Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” is easily one of my favorites.

MC: Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
WA: I guess you’ll have to ask my students, but I like to think that I am demanding in terms of I have a good number of assignment that people have to keep up with daily and there’s a good volume of work, I’m not particularly flexible. I try to make the tests a reflection of all of the incremental work they’ve been doing in the class. So, I don’t consider myself a particularly hard grader, but you’ll have to ask my students.

MC: What’s one thing that a lot of people don’t know about you?
WA: My international background. Before coming to Andover, I’ve lived in a lot of countries and taught in a lot of places. It’s very different than Andover. My previous lifestyle was very internationally involved and that would separate me from your typical teacher.

MC: Ok, here we go again… snapchat with Ms. abel
WA: Oh, no.

MC: What’s your favorite movie?
WA: It’s a movie that I watch over and over again but it’s a bit of a chick flick, so I won’t confess it. I love Victorian novels and their movie adaptations, so Jane Austen, George Eliot, that type of stuff. *Pulls out Laptop* I’m just gonna IMDB search real quick. I do actually like a lot of movies, I swear. Just oneee second. I would say, “To Kill a Mockingbird” might be my favorite. It’s hard I do have a lot of favorites I’m so sorry.

MC: It’s more than ok, thank you so much!
WA: Have a good one thank you!

For suggestions for further Mornings with MAC, or other inquires, email me at mcodrington@andover.edu!

Mornings with MAC – Holley Edition

Get to Know Your Science Faculty with your Weekly Installment of Mornings with MAC!

Guest Post by Michael Codrington ’18

Mornings with MAC logoGood morning loyal fans and new readers, this is Mornings with MAC. Last week, in our inaugural issue, we interviewed Mr. Jose Peralta, instructor in introductory biology and Bartlet house counselor. This week we’re sticking with biology, but transitioning to chair Leon Holley. This particular Morning with MAC was an opportunity for Mr. Holley and myself to reunite for the first time since February of 2015, when I took his class for two terms. It is safe to say that Holley missed me big time.

FA 3044617 Holley, LeonMC: What do you teach at Andover?
LH: I came to Andover in September of 1993. I teach Biology, Over the years, I’ve taught a variety of courses, but currently I’m teaching biology 500. I’ve taught biology 100 and various other types of courses… Since I’m the department chair, I pretty much fill in where there is possible disparity.

MC: How long have you been working at Andover?
LH: I came to Andover in September of 1993.

MC: What brought you here?
LH: I came to the Academy working in the (MS)^2 program over one of the summers. I came for a summer and it was my introduction to Andover. Once I saw the Academy and how amazing it was I was pretty much sold.

MC: Where did you go to College? What did you study?
LH: I went to Howard University in Washington D.C. I was a Zoology major. At Howard they split up Zoology and Botany and there’s not just 1 biology major.

MC: What is your favorite thing about Andover?
LH: I guess it’s the.. Wow there’s a lot of things, jeez. I think I would have to say it’s vision. Like there’s so many things that go on here, like the (MS)^2 program, we have the IRT program, you know the saying “Youth from Every Quarter”, that’s just one of the many things we work towards, you understand?

MC: Yeah
LH: It’s all the pieces and the outreach that the academy has. It always stood out that way.

MC: Do you have any advice for aspiring Science Teachers?
LH: If you’re a science teacher, then you have to continually re-educate yourself. Science is always changing, something that is finite for only short periods of time. Science is continually moving forward.

MC: I hear you’re a huge whale fan?
LH: Whales?

MC: Yeah so, like can you talk about it, I don’t know how to phrase that – hahaha
LH: Yeah, I do like whales. I was working in summer session and I got picked to Chaperone the whale watch and it was amazing. It was 26 species of whales, it’s just like tv they jump out the water.

MC: What?
LH: Yeah and we had this one humpback whale that ended up following us and was playing games with us and got underneath the boat. That was my whale introduction.

MC: What’s your favorite movie?
LH: Wow, that’s a hard one. Favorite movie… Well I’ll give you a recent one. It’s called The Arrival and it’s like a first contact with aliens and we’re trying to communicate with each other, it’s really well done and shows you how communication works when you don’t have anywhere to start. I like the human approach to trying to understand the language. You have to see it, I’m doing a bad job describing it.Snapchat-1451131681

MC: Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
LH: I’d think I’m in the middle. I’d hope that I have something to offer all types of students with all sorts of backgrounds and that they all learn and feel challenged.

MC: Was I the best student you ever had?
LH: What?

MC: Was I the best student you ever had?
LH: You? Absolutely.

MC: Hahaha! Thank you very much Mr. Holley.

Happy First Day of Autumn!

Go Outside and Explore the New England Autumn

Nature in New England has so much to offer, especially in the Autumn when the leaves start to change. You don’t have to go far to witness the beauty of this event.

According to an article from the US Department of Agriculture, “A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions – lots of sugar and lots of light – spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson.”

This seems to describe the weather we have been experiencing, so watch out for more color changing trees!

You can find the article on color changing here: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/pubs/leaves/leaves.shtm

Welcome and Welcome Back!

On the first full day of classes, the Division of Natural Sciences would like to WELCOME all new students to PA and WELCOME BACK all returning students!

As you can see by the photos above, our Gelb Garden has flourished throughout the summer and we will continue to use these plots as a teaching tool in our Biology Classes. We are excited about the new year and new possibilities!

Farewell and Good Luck

Marc Koolen Retires After 42 Years of Teaching at PA

One of the joys of working in two different departments is the great people you meet and share your days with  (for those of your who don’t know, I split my time between the Division of Natural Science and the Theatre and Dance Department). One of those great people is Marc Koolen, Biology Instructor. This was his last year at PA – retiring after 42 years of teaching here! I have not known him for very long, but I, like everyone else I have spoken to about him, have enjoyed my time here with him.

At the farewell ASM, Peyton McGovern, ’16 spoke about Mr. Koolen, which also accurately sums up my experience this year as well – “The way Mr. Koolen conducts himself embodies the goodness of the human spirit, and [he] has taught me two lessons that I believe are valuable for everyone here today. The first is to do every project you partake in with passion… the second is to add humor into your daily life as much as possible.”

The Science Division wishes him luck in this next chapter of his life, but he will be missed!

And a special thank you to the Science Division faculty and teaching fellows that will not be with us next year – good luck to Denise Alfonso, Adela Habib, Tom Kramer, and John Tortorello!

Please enjoy some “throwback” photos of Marc throughout his time here at Andover.

Last Day of Classes at Andover

Physics Celebrates the Last Day of Classes with High-Flying Fun!

Carolyn Odden’s first and second period Physics classes spent some time after taking their AP tests to discover the aerodynamics of paper airplanes. Today, they had some healthy competition including: farthest flown forward (and backward), most aesthetically pleasing, and an accuracy test.

Winners of the day were Philip Lamkin ’17 for first period and Justin Williamson ’16 for second period.

Happy last day of classes, Andover, and good luck with your assessments!

Baby Geese!

Ornithology Returns to the Pond to Feed the Baby Geese

Guest Blog Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hello Readers!

Classes are winding down but the birds on campus certainly are not! Between the baby geese (one of these adorable babies can be seen in a photo courtesy of Angela Dolan ’16), baby Phoebe and the other bird nest at Stuart, campus is bustling with bird activity. It has been so exciting to watch my final term at Andover transition from the brisk end of winter to the sunshine and warmth of spring. Along with the changes in weather, so many birds have returned and filled campus with their lovely songs. It’s been so amazing to watch each week as new species return from their winter migration.

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As my class enters it’s final week together, we will most likely take one more field trip and study to prepare for our final exam. As an all senior Ornithology class, it feels especially bizarre to know we have such a short time left at the school. However, it’s great to spend one period per day studying birds, which is such an interesting and fun topic. Ornithology has been a great class for me this term specifically for three reasons: I have learned a lot about identifying local birds, gotten to engage a lot with my classmates on our field adventures and finally tried a unique course that I wouldn’t be able to take at many other high schools. So much bird watching to do with such little time left!

Inside Look: Aquaponics Independent Project

Biology Independent Project: Aquaponics

Guest Post by Terrence Xiao ’16

Hi folks!

My name is Terrence Xiao, I’m a four year senior from Beijing, China, and I have a weird obsession with fish. For the past school year (and a little more), I’ve been conducting an independent research project about aquaponics. Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – in layman terms, that’s fish farming and gardening; the fish waste is used to fertilize the plants, and in the same process, the waste water is cleaned and can be recycled throughout the system.

For me, it all started with my when I was younger: I thought fish were basically the coolest things ever (I was a weird kid), and became obsessed with aquariums. I realized having more stuff in them (plants, shrimp, snail, clams, frogs, turtles, worms – you name it, I’ve tried it) not only made them more interesting, but more versatile ecological communities; I could let bottom feeders clean up uneaten food instead of having to do it myself, and I never had to worry about dissolved oxygen levels or ammonia build ups because I had plants to regulate all of those factors for me. All of this culminated in an academic interest in environmental science. When I learned about global crises such as the food challenge and global climate change, I began to explore ideas within the field that served as potential solutions. That’s when I stumbled across aquaponics.

This project started officially started during the Fall Term of the 2015-2016 school year. Fall term was all about research, winter term was all about building the system, and spring term has been focused on community engagement. I applied for an independent project through the Abbot Independent Scholars Program each term, to integrated the project within my academic curriculum, as well as an abbot grant through the Abbot Academy Association to fund the construction process, which I received in the winter.

The project had two broad goals – the first was to actually build an aquaponics system; to see if it actually worked, to deepen my own understanding, and most importantly, to reunite with my precious hobby of fishkeeping! The second goal was community engagement; often, issues such as environmental sustainability are construed as lofty and intangible, especially by us mere high school students. I wanted to show that these ideas, relevant on a global scale, could actually be substantiated and explored in a very physical, direct capacity, especially with the wealth of resources available to us as students here at PA.

Construction was complete by the end of winter term, and the system was left to cycle over spring break.

When I returned, the project switched focus to community outreach and utilizing the functioning system as a tool for engaging with others. I’ve given multiple presentations over the course of this last term – a NEST presentation in the makerspace, lectures for biology classes and science electives, and presentations to various student groups, just to name a few. Each of these presentations were learning opportunities for me because I switched my focus depending on individual venues and audiences. The subjects I’ve talked about range from the academic principles that aquaponics embodied, to a procedural focus on the project itself and how it helped shape my experience of hands on learning and engagement as a student.

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Aside from these presentations, I’ve been maintain a digital portfolio, in part as an organizational tool, but mostly as a platform for community engagement – the WordPress blog (linked below) I’m running contains a narrative documentation of the project since its beginning, as well as a synthesis of my research available for others to explore. Please feel free to check it out.

https://paaquaponics.wordpress.com/

The year may be almost over, but this project certainly isn’t! The system will be sticking around in Gelb 109 for the following years, where its maintenance will be taken over as a student work duty. I’m hoping that it can be used by others as a learning tool (A biology 580 group is already using it for their ecology project) and to maintain a conversation on campus about environmentalism and sustainability within our community.