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.

Chemistry Visits Addison Art Gallery

Chem 200 Visits the Addison Art Gallery to Learn About the Chemical History of Photography

Guest Post by Sofie Brown ’18

Our Chem 200 class was a little bit surprised when Mr. Robinson told us that we would be taking a class field trip to campus’ Addison Gallery of American Art. Chemistry is usually not something associated with art museums but Chem 200 was there to take the sometimes abstract and hard to understand equations and formulas and apply them to photography.

Before the trip, the class divided up into pairs to research the different types and chemical processes involved the history of the creation of photographs. We researched the Daguerreotype, Tin type, Ambrotype, Albumen Prints, and Gelatin Silver Prints. All of these photograph types uses a different chemical process to create the image and by looking at the chemical processes involved in the creation we could trace the history of photographs.

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By looking at rare old photographs and sharing our research we discussed how chemical advances have made photography more accessible which has significantly altered the country’s memory and way of looking at history. Photography made memory visual and became the most democratic way of capturing the stories of all people, not just those who could afford to have their portraits painted. Chemical advances took photography from using large equipment in many steps with many poisonous chemicals to print a fragile easily faded photo to a small two step process on paper that is durable and cheap. Photographers would take large wagons of equipment and glass around with them to Civil War battlefields in order to photograph soldiers and the fields of dead when photography first came to prominence. Soldiers also often had Daguerreotypes taken (the classic framed black and white head shot). Gradually, Daguerreotypes evolved to be printed on tin and cheaper and more durable and then eventually became a two step process and printed on paper.

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The digital photographs we have today would not be possible without the chemical advances in photography over many, many years. Learning about the chemistry of photographs offered our class real world applications and implications of the molecules and elements we struggle to fit into formulas and categories in the classroom.

Ornithology Feeds Baby Geese at Andover Pond

Great Weather for the Ornithology Class Field Trip!

Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hello Blog Readers,

This past week was an action packed adventure for those of us in Biology 421. During our double on Thursday, we took an off campus field trip to North Andover, where we searched for Herons. Unfortunately, we saw some nests but we did not see any Herons themselves. The landscape was a vast open swamp filled with many dead trees. The area looked seemingly eerie and desolate; however it was surprisingly filled with many red-winged Black birds and of course the Herons nests. After we spent some time on the dock overlooking the swamp, we drove to a nearby meadow, which was quite beautiful. We spotted some Bobolinks at the meadow, but it was a bit difficult for us because they were easily lost in the thick grass. Luckily, the weather was incredible which made this trip enjoyable for everyone. 

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Perhaps, my favorite part of the week came on Friday when our class fed the goslings at Rabbit pond. The baby geese were so adorable, tiny and fluffy. Mr. Cone brought us some bread to feed them, which they definitely enjoyed. We were surprised by the fact that the parents did not feed their young and often actually took the bread for themselves.

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Although the parent geese do not feed their babies at this stage, they are still extremely protective of their young. Whenever any of us or another adult geese got a bit too close, you could hear the parents hiss or see them change to a more aggressive position. Overall, it was a fantastic week in class and definitely our most interactive so far!

Spring is for the birds…

A Visit to the Bird Blinds to Prepare for Grandparent’s Weekend

A couple of times this term, Melanie Poulin and I were fortunate enough to accompany Mr. Tom Cone and Mr. Marc Koolen down to the Bird Blinds. For those of you who don’t know, a bird blind is an area where you can watch birds through slits in fence, so as not to frighten the birds away with your presence. This particular bird blind was made possible through the generous funding of the Abbot Academy Association in 2003.

The bird blinds are located off of Highland Road across the street from the 1929 House.You have to walk a bit down the beaten path, but it is well worth it. You come up to a large fence with benches on one side, but you cannot tell what is behind it until you get up close and look through the slots.

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When you look through the slots, you see that there is a pole system that holds lots of different bird feeders. There are lots of tree around and a little stream nearby that creates habitats for lots of different birds.

Every few days, someone will go down to fill the feeders so that the birds will keep coming back and give us something to view! Lots of birds will come to visit, just in time for Grandparent’s Weekend!

Along the way, we also saw a few nests with either baby birds in them or mother birds sitting on their eggs! We saw a little baby Phoebe bird sticking it’s head out of this nest:

A baby House Finch’s tail sticking out of this nest:

And a mother Robin sitting on her eggs in this nest:

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A Collection of Nests

Ornithology Begins to Wind Down With Oral Presentations and Bird Nest Viewing

Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hi Blog Readers,

Our Bio 421 class is now in our oral presentation phase. This past Tuesday we had two sets of partners present their topics. The first group, Richie Ciufo ’16 and Ben Anthony ’16, showed the class their PowerPoint on Bird Vision. Their slides compared human vision to bird vision. It was quite remarkable to see how much better the birds eyesight was. Not only can birds follow things faster with their eyes, they also have the ability to see ultra violet light. Next came Livy Golini ’16 and Morgan Gramlich ’16, who presented on bird’s magnetism. The extent to which bird use magnetic fields is still widely debated and currently being researched. Tomorrow, my partner Olivia Lamarche ’16 and I will present on bird emotions. Similar to Richie and Ben, we will also compare bird and human emotions to see any similarities or differences.

On Friday, we took a break from oral presentations to observe the best collection that Mr. Cone set up for our class. We looked at over 20 nests and were tasked with identifying which material were used to create each nest. Certain nests were made out of pine needles and mud, whereas others may have contained feathers, leaves and sticks.

It was really unique to see such a variety of nests all in one place. I always assumed all nests were circular, which was not the case at all. Some were square and others did not have an explicit shape.

This week we will have presentations on Monday and Tuesday and most likely an outdoor adventure Thursday! I’m hoping to see the sun more this week than we encountered last week.