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!

Holt Hill Adventure!

Mr. Cone’s Ornithology Class Ventures to Holt Hill

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

This week in Mr. Cone’s Ornithology class, we took a trip over to Holt Hill! Believe it or not, it was my first time experiencing the beautiful views of the Boston skyline and the blossoming apple trees.

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On our way up the hill, Mr. Cone, already on the look-out, spotted a female and male bluebird. By the time he pointed out the male bluebird, it had taken off! But the female stayed behind for a couple minutes. She was had beautiful light blue back, not quite as vibrant as the males usually are, with an orange tint on her underbelly. She was enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. My picture doesn’t do her colors justice, but you can see her peaceful perch on the tree branch.

Not far from the bluebird, we spotted two cowbirds, a male and female, perched on another tree. They were calm, but playful, as they interacted with one another up and down the branch. Once the female took off, the male did not hesitate to follow her. I tried to get a picture, but they were too active to get a good shot!

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When we finally made our way toward the open field, my class all stopped in their tracks to admire the views. It was truly amazing, especially given that we were there for a class (thanks Mr. Cone!). Immediately, we could hear birds singing everywhere, and Mr. Cone was quick to call attention to two turkey vultures flying overhead. Over in one of the apples trees, in the midst of white flowers appeared a Baltimore oriole. It’s bright orange colors were hard to miss. If you look closely at the picture I took through my “binocs,” you can see a little speck of orange surrounded by the white flowers.

Considering this spell of gloomy weather, we were lucky to get outside on Thursday and enjoy the sunshine. It truly was beautiful. Each time I go outside, I am more and more keen to the birds around me. The moments when I either see or hear a bird and can identify it are the most rewarding for me. It is nice to know that I can keep this knowledge with me wherever I go! Until next time! 🙂

 

Mornings with MAC – Faulk Edition

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

GUEST POST BY MICHAEL CODRINGTON ’18

Mornings with MAC logoOn this week’s Mornings with MAC, we have former Andover student and Chemistry Department Chair, Mr. Faulk. Brian Faulk was Andover class of 2000, having shared parts of his Andover experience with many faculty including Natalie Wombwell ‘01 and Terrell Ivory ‘00.

Faulk taught my last term of Chemistry 250, and definitely offered a challenge. Gifting me the nickname MC3+, after one of the ions we worked with, it’s safe to say me and Mr. Faulk had a good relationship. I sat down with him during his morning coffee to ask him some questions.

FA 3075722 Faulk, BrianMC: What do you teach at Andover?
BF: Are you recording me?

MC: Yes I am – hahaha!
BF: I teach all levels of chemistry, primarily chem 250 and organic chemistry.

MC: How long have you been working at Andover?
BF: I’ve worked here for 10 years.

MC: What brought you here?
BF: As a student I was really inspired by my teachers not just my classroom teachers but my coaches and my academic advisor. I thought it’d be cool to come back and serve in those roles as a faculty member.

MC: Where did you go to college? What did you study?
BF: I went to Stanford to study chemistry and Harvard for grad school to study chemistry.

MC: What is your favorite thing about Andover?
BF: I think my favorite thing is the people – both students and faculty, it’s a really rich and vibrant community and that makes it fun to come to work everyday.

MC: If you weren’t studying/teaching chemistry, what other discipline would you be in?
BF: History. Probably history – I love history and I’d probably do something with the Civil War.

MC: What’s your favorite movie?
BF: What?

MC: What is your favorite movie?
BF: I really like Patton.

MC: Like the General?
BF: Yeah, they won an Academy Award. It was a great film.

MC: Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
BF: I’m sure the students would say I’m difficult. I have high expectations, but I always want to do what’s best for the students. I want to coach them along to learn as much as possible.

MC: What’s one thing that a lot of people don’t know about you?Snapchat-1945347321
BF: I think it’s probably that I love history, and it’s my passion. Sometimes I wish I was a history teacher. I read a lot of history magazines in my free time.

MC: I understand you went to Andover. How was that experience and who was your favorite teacher from when you were a student?
BF: It was tough at times, but I certainly learned a lot, how to work and manage my time, how to ask for help. It prepared me everything after. I think my favorite teacher was Henningsen, recently retired. He was just really good and brilliant. A great historian and a great teacher.

The Herring Are Coming!

Bio100 Visits the Shawsheen River

This year’s Bio100 class had the unique opportunity to visit the Shawsheen River last week and learn a bit about habitat change. Each period piled into a bus and drove down to near Whole Foods in Andover to a bridge overlooking the Shawsheen River.

There, they met Jon Honea, a professor at Emerson College in Boston whose research involves making computer models to see how habitat change effects different communities. In this particular spot, two dams that were built approximately 200 years ago were taken down to allow the migratory fish to return to the area. He is now monitoring the return of the fish that used to be native to this area, namely the River Herring. These fish are silver in color and about a foot long. Mr. Honea and his team are watching the river for about 10 minutes at a time to see how many of these fish are spotted. This data will help to estimate the fish’s spawning population time.

Mr. Honea talked to them a bit about why it is so important for us to repopulate the river with this Herring. They play an important role in the ecosystem as food for many animals. They spawn in fresh water rivers and then move to the ocean to grow up. Mr. Mundra also talked a bit about the two dams that were removed from the area. These dams were preventing the fish from coming back to spawn in the river. These dams were built approximately 200 years ago as a source of energy for the Powder Mills in the area. Mr. Honea also said that the downstream dam was purely ornamental – the owner of the Mills wanted a gurgling sound for his administrative staff to feel comfortable working in the building.

The class then helped Mr. Honea to count the fish in the river. They took some basic data down, the weather and temperature of the air and water, and began to look for the fish. We are looking for the stray fish who are now able to make it upstream, to see how many make it up now that the dams are gone. Unfortunately, in the 10 minutes that we were there, no one saw a fish, but the hope is that within the next three or four years the population will be thriving!

Non Sibi Day 2017

Students and Alumni help clean up Thompson Island on Earth Day

Mornings with MAC – Artacho Edition

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

GUEST POST BY MICHAEL CODRINGTON ’18Mornings with MAC logo

Last week on Mornings with MAC, I interviewed my former teacher and biology department chair, Leon Holley. This week, we’re sticking with teachers that I have had the pleasure of being taught by.

Carolina Artacho Guerra is in her second year as a teacher of robotics and physics. She has 3 sections of Physics 270 (including my 4th period one) and 1 section of Physics 400. In the fall, she taught robotics, a senior elective, and she took some time before class on Tuesday to sit and chat with me.

MC: What brought you here?FA 3688753 Artacho Guerra, Carolina
CA: Honestly, the students. When I came in, I was not sure about the fit and it was all new and I sat in Ms. Odden’s astronomy class but she wasn’t there because she was sick. Her students were there though and they showed me around and were super nice, they talked about their projects. We even went to the observatory and they were so welcoming and willing to talk about their projects and I just thought yeah this is it, this would be great.

MC: Where did you go to college? What did you study?
CA: I did my undergrad Bryn Mawr college a small all-women’s liberal arts college in..

MC: New York 
CA: Philadelphia

MC: Dang I was close – hahaha
CA: Hahahaha – points for effort close enough, but yeah I did my graduate work when I was working full time at the University of Connecticut. I majored in physics and bilingual science education.

MC: What is your favorite thing about Andover?
CA: The students. I think that’s why, I hope that’s why, we all enjoy teaching. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had to do. Seeing students grow from September to now is so rewarding. Day to day interactions with students and getting to know them and stuff, it’s just really fun. And Andover students just go above and beyond. They’re so willing to engage and trust me. It’s really fun and enjoying.

MC: If you weren’t studying/teaching physics, what other discipline would you be in?
CA: Ahhh I don’t even know. I’d say anything that requires lots of thinking and working.

MC: Like chess?
CA: What? Hahaha – chess?

MC: I didn’t know what the criteria was – I know feel like you weren’t thinking about chess – Hahahaha! 
CA: No, not chess. Umm oh… like.. maybe like, I did a bunch of theater work before kids. I did a lot of dance theater stuff just for fun. I really liked the techy aspect of it. Also computer programming, like programming, website design.

MC: What’s your favorite movie?
CA: Oh good lord that’s so hard… you guys always ask me this, like every term and I give you a different answer every time. So, anything by Hiromi Ozaki is always beautiful and has great storylines. Those new superhero movies are great. When I’m feeling feisty I love things like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, like I love the genre that challenges gender stereotypes. I’m a sucker for everything Disney even though as a feminist I find obvious problems with certain things.

MC: That’s fair – hahaha
CA: Yeah it’s a recurring thing – hahaha – does that answer your question?

MC: Yes. Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
CA: I guess it depends what you’re talking about. So, I’m pretty chill and relaxed about things you know, deadlines are not too important for me, I put a lot of faith in the fact that students are making good decisions and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I understand that there’s a lot of things going on in your life. That being said, you can’t be disrespectful in my class. There’s a very clear line you know. I mean you would probably be better off asking my students about this.

MC: What’s one thing that a lot of people don’t know about you?
CA: When I was a high schooler, I was the shyest, quietest most reserved person. I had this very small group of nerdy quiet friends and that was fine, I had no problem with it, I’ve just become more outgoing and exuberant throughout the years.

MC: Have I been your best student ever? 
CA: Define best.Snapchat-1455432555

MC: Like number 1 ever, like if you had to rank me.
CA: Well, when we met for our midterm conference, you gave me very honest great answers and you come in and you’re goofy and playful but you engage and bring your whole persona to the class.

MC: Andover or Milton?
CA: Oh Andover, easily, I mean I’m here right.

MC: Thank you very much I’ll see you later.
CA: Did you do the homework?

MC: …. Bye Ms. Artacho!

Up Close and Personal

The Ornithology Adventure Continues!

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

After a gloomy and rainy 3-day week, Mr. Cone’s Ornithology class is back outside again! This past Thursday, during our usual double period, my class explored more of main campus in addition to our usual route down in Pineknoll. Mr. Cone was hoping to point out a new bird to us: the starling. He said that they liked to nest in the gutters on the side of the library. We started on our route toward the back end of the library. When the group reached the path between Common’s circle and the library, the excitement began. We saw a handful of starlings and their nests, settled within the articulate copper gutters on the left side of the library (picture below).

As we circled the back of the library, we began to see more and more starlings. If you get the chance, look up around the roof of the library and you’re bound to see one! They have black bodies with little white specks, and they have a yellow beak.

We found our way over to the Gelb lawn, and we were instantly intrigued by an unfamiliar song: “chip, chip, chip!” My class had met their first Chipping Sparrow! These tiny birds are hard to find but very easy to hear. After finally finding the chipping sparrow hiding in one of the trees on the Gelb Lawn, Mr. Cone asked me and two of my classmates to fetch some loaves of bread from Commons. Without any explanation given, the three of us were en route to Commons for bread.

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Our next adventure was over by 1924 House, which is home to a Phoebe’s nest. As we very quietly approached the house, we waited to hear the distinct noise: “phoebeee.” But to no avail. Then, Mr. Cone showed us the nest, and with his handy mirror, he tried to see if there were any eggs in the nest. While we didn’t see any, this is only the beginning! We will have plenty of opportunities to see and hear more Phoebes.

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It was not until we passed Mr. Robinson’s bird feeder that Mr. Cone revealed the reasons for the bread. Of course! We were going to feed the geese at Rabbit Pond. Mr. Cone explained to us that the “tagged” geese would be willing to get pretty close to a group of humans like us, because of their previous exposure to humans – probably a result of habituation (a common bird behavior type). He was right. After about 5 minutes, we were feeding two geese about five feet away from us!

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.