Mornings with MAC – Peralta Edition

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

Guest Post by Michael Codrington ’18Mornings with MAC logo

This week on Mornings with MAC, we have Jose Peralta. Mr. Jose N. Peralta is a house counselor in the greatest boys dorm to ever exist, Bartlet hall, and a Teaching Fellow in introductory Biology for 9th graders. Peralta has an office in CAMD (Community and Multicultural Development). Throughout the year in the dorm, Mr. Peralta and I have gotten to know each other very well. So, I thought who better to inaugurate Mornings with MAC than Mr. Peralta. I sat down to ask him a few questions.

FA 3686471 Navarro Peralta, Jose

MC: How long have you been working at Andover?
JP: For about a year – started my teaching fellowship in the fall of 2016. However, I’ve worked in Summer Session for the last two summers. Specifically, as a teaching assistant for the Mathematics and Science for Minority Students (MS)2 program.

MC: What brought you here?
JP: I would say a United aircraft, but that’s my silly attempt to be funny. And, they didn’t drag me off the plane!

MC: Where did you go to college? What did you study?
JP: Bates College for undergrad. Studied biology and completed two concentrations in Film and Media Studies and in French and Francophone Studies

MC: You studied film? That’s pretty cool actually. What’s your favorite movie?
JP: Wow, you got me with this question! I’m a film fanatic, so choosing one is hard for me, but I would say the new Doctor Strange is one of my favorite movies; it’s a movie I would watch again. Sorry, Moonlight and La La Land– you weren’t that great, just saying.

MC: I’d just like to say I enjoyed both of those movies, so I’m a little hurt, but I hold nothing against you. What is your favorite thing about Andover?
JP: The students, faculty, and staff. I’ve been supported by everyone on campus, and the students in my classes and dormitory, GO BARTLET! They have made my year at Andover one to remember. Saying bye will be very hard.

MC: Do you have any advice for aspiring Science Teachers?
JP: Be yourself, be authentic, be genuine—students will appreciate that, sometimes more than any of your lessons.

MC: Do you consider yourself an easy or hard teacher?
JP: I’m not sure. You should ask some of my students. Some would say that I’m “picky” in my grading, and I would have to agree with that. My good sense of humor and approachability makes up for anything they might say about my grading style.

MC: What’s one thing a lot of people don’t know about you?
JP: I think some people know that I’m an amateur photographer, but many might not know that I placed third in a nation-wide photo contest on Instagram.

MC: Whoa, I actually had no clue about that, that’s crazy! Well thank you so much Mr. Peralta!
JP: Thank you for having me.

Next week on Mornings with MAC we interview whale-fanatic Mr. Leon Holley.

A Friday Treat!

Mr. Cone’s Ornithology Class Takes a Trip to the Bird Blind

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

After Mr. Cone’s bird quiz from last Thursday, we were all relieved to get outside on Friday. Though the weather predictions had said warm and sunny (which we all needed after the rainstorm on Thursday), dark clouds still loomed above us. Of course, this certainly didn’t stop my class from getting the most out of our outing last week!

Now that we have the lay of the land, I expect Mr. Cone thought it was time to take us down Salem Street to a designated bird watching area located off the beat and path of the main road. This re contains ten bird feeders, blocked off by paneled wooden walls, that attract many birds from the area; it’s the perfect destination to observe all the birds we are lucky enough to have around here. As soon as each of us took a seat around the walls and opened up the small panels that allowed us to see the bird feeders, the watching began.

A goldfinch with the most vibrant yellow coloring, a female downy woodpecker, and a peaceful cardinal were amongst the many birds that we had the privilege to watch on our outing. Not to mention the array of chickadees that paid us a visit. I attempted to get some photos through my binocs again:

It was an exciting day for me and my classmates, as we were introduced to some new faces in addition to ones more familiar to us. Mr. Cone was quick to point out a dark-eyed junco. He said they would not be around New England for much longer, as they start migrating north after our winter months! They must really like the cold!

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Dark-eyed Junco

Despite the gloomy skies, the excitement during our bird watching outing provided a nice change of pace. I think we are all starting to our embrace our newfound bird knowledge. I know I am! The other day, when I woke up to my alarm, I heard birds chirping outside my window. I thought to myself, that must be a house sparrow. And sure enough, it was!

With spring seeming to finally be upon us, I suspect there will be many more faces to come. Stay tuned for more adventures from Mr. Cone’s Bio 421 Ornithology class!

Astronaut Mae Jemison Visits Andover

The first African-American woman to travel to space speaks to the Andover Community

Guest Post by Isabelle Bicks ’18

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Last Friday evening, Andover had the privilege to welcome Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American woman to travel to space, accomplished physician, and lifelong dancer. Her vast knowledge and passion for science were palpable, but I was most interested by the connection Dr. Jemison made between the arts and sciences. As both a ballet dancer and biology student, I loved that she drew from both seemingly opposite experiences to illustrate how she was a pioneer in her career. Dancing has been such an integral part in my own life and has most certainly impacted how I work as a student at Andover. Dr. Jemison explained that the arts are the study of ourselves, while science is the study of the world around us. I had never before realized this connection. Although our world today tends to compartmentalize people and label them as either gifted math/science people or arts and humanities people, Dr. Jemison completely disrupted this tendency and explained how her own passion for the arts translated into the successful career she leads.  I think that these ideas about integrating arts and sciences can be utilized at Andover. Bridging the curriculum between the two disciplines seems necessary and beneficial.  At a school that strives to achieve “empathy and balance,” Dr. Jemison was the perfect speaker to embody these qualities.

The Science Faculty had an opportunity to attend a reception with Ms. Jemison and here is a bonus photo of her with Carol Artacho (physics), Sheena Hilton (chemistry), Caroline Odden (physics), and Fei Yao (physics).

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Spring is Near!

Mr. Cone’s Spring Ornithology Class Begins!

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

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Photo from National Audubon Society [http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/downy-woodpecker]
As we donned our binoculars and prepped for our second outing in Mr. Cone’s Biology 421 Ornithology class, none other than Mr. Cone himself pointed out the rare sighting of a male downy woodpecker from the window of our classroom. This particular bird, according to Mr. Cone, does not often visit the bird-feeder by Gelb, but, that day, we were lucky enough to catch it. With its stark red field mark, Mr. Cone could immediately tell it was a male. The class watched as the bird climbed its way up the feeder, using its sharp tail as a “third foot.”

This is how our outings usually begin. We start from Gelb and make our way around campus, going from one bird feeder to the next, with the hopes of sighting a new bird or observing the behaviors of ones already familiar to us. We have already seen a number of chickadees and become especially accustomed to hearing their high pitched “dee-dee-dee” call. In addition, robins, white-breasted nuthatches, and tufted titmice have frequented our campus skies. Even some less common birds have paid a visit: a male and female house finch and a cardinal. When we made our way over to Rabbit Pond, we found two Canada Geese cleaning their wings in the water, ducking their heads and turning upside down. I was able to get a photo through the “binocs” (as Mr. Cone calls them) on my phone. If you look closely, there’s a mallard duck sleeping on the cluster of rocks.

Submission 1 Photo

On our walks, Mr. Cone encourages us to not only be on the lookout for birds, but also to take some time to enjoy nature. In our world, it takes more effort to go outside than to revert to our tendencies to stay inside. Mr. Cone’s class not only gives us the opportunity to learn about birds, but also it reminds us how much we take nature for granted. I imagine that by the end of this term, my classmates and I will have taken the time to reconnect with nature and develop a greater appreciation for all the beauty that birds have to offer.

Happy Spring (Term)!

Today’s Vernal Equinox also brings the start of the Spring Term at Phillips Academy

This morning, Monday, March 20th, at 6:29am marks the vernal equinox and the official arrival of Spring. Though, it does not look very spring-like outside the Gelb Science Center.

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During the vernal equinox, “the sun’s most direct rays cross over from the southern hemisphere into the northern hemisphere. During this process, the sun is shining directly over the earth’s equator, bathing the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres in nearly an equal amount of sunlight.

Instead of a tilt away from or toward the sun, the Earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun during an equinox. During the equinox, both day and night are balanced to nearly 12 hours each all over the world.

Good news for those [of us] in the northern hemisphere: Daylight continues to grow longer until the summer solstice, which occurs on Wednesday, June 21. The opposite occurs in the southern hemisphere, where daylight continues to grow shorter toward their winter solstice on the same day.”*

Blue Moon

An introduction to Andover’s new STEM-based Magazine

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The Phillips Academy students have published a new STEM Magazine – Blue Moon – a magazine of student-written research papers and articles.

Blue Moon was created as a platform for STEM research, as a means by which students can exercise the final step of the scientific method: communication. It aims to foster curiosity and cooperation in both its writers and its readers. Bi-annual print publications are made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring. Issue I of Blue Moon spotlights the diversity of student interest within the sciences, topics ranging from immunotherapy to gender discrimination to prosthetics. (*from the inside cover of Issue I)

We spoke with Amanda Li, ’18 who pioneered this project, which has been about two years in the making, thus far. During her freshman spring, she began to look for a place on campus to share a paper she had written. When she could not find an outlet on campus, she began to formulate the idea of a student scientific publication. 

“Seeing as there wasn’t any such thing yet, I reached out to students from different grades and backgrounds to see if they were interested in a STEM journal. The overwhelming response was yes, so I decided to take some action and hopefully allow other students to share their research and ideas. It also allows new students to start exploring various STEM areas, by allowing them to read about the interests that their peers hold.” -Amanda Li, ’18

img_6869She applied for an Abbot Grant in her lower fall to fund the publication of bi-annual issues. She received full funding and got to work! She gathered editors, graphic designers, and potential writers during her lower spring and summer. They officially started Blue Moon last fall and they have received over 30 articles so far!

“I’m really grateful for the AAA’s support, otherwise I doubt this would be possible. I’m looking forward to start the process of making the next issue!”  -Amanda Li, ’18

If you are interested in learning more or reading the many articles submitted, visit bluemoonjournal.com. They are always looking for submissions and feedback!

World Food Prize: Global Youth Institute!

Learning About Global Food Security Issues in Des Moines, Iowa

Guest Blog Post by Andie Pinga ’19

Hello! My name is Andie Pinga and I’m a lower from Vermont. About a month ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Global Youth Institute World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa. I was honored to be chosen to represent Massachusetts based on a research paper I wrote over the summer. Under the advising of my Bio 100 teacher, Ms. Milkowski, I researched the effects of aflatoxin contamination as a major driver for malnutrition in Malawi. At the World Food Prize, I learned about food insecurity issues around world by immersing myself in the world of agronomists and interacting with some of the leading professionals in the agronomist field, listening to mind-blowing key note presentations, and meeting other passionate high school students from around the world.

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My dad accompanied me to the 3-day conference in Iowa

 

The three-day conference was jam-packed with events and discussion. One of the most inspiring lectures I attended were in the World Food Prize Symposium. Among the many speakers, I was especially impressed by a presentation by Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, who illustrated government efforts to address food insecurity in the United States and around the world. In addition to the symposium, the Global Youth Institute hosted a “watch-party” of the laureate ceremony. This year’s World Food Prize was bestowed to four experts in the field, and the prize is often considered as the Nobel Prize of agriculture. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and inspiring, and also allowed me to make some amazing friends.

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The Laureate watch party!

One intriguing aspect of this experience was the ability to interact with real-life agronomists on a personal basis. I had the great privilege to meet the Former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda before she delivered her powerful speech on women empowerment. I was completely overwhelmed by the truth and weight of her words. And as well as taking picture with her, she was kind enough to sign my research paper!

I also had the privilege to talk with Florence Chenoweth, Liberia’s first woman Minister of Agriculture, and Dr. Per Pinstrup-Anderson, a 2001 World Food Prize Laureate and distinguished agricultural economist. In addition, I sat at meals and interacted with numerous scientists who would passionately described their current global projects and travels to foreign countries to me.

Another highlight of the World Food Prize was attending my first Oxfam Hunger Banquet. The event strives to model the world food situation on a smaller, more coherent scale. Each diner received a random raffle ticket to determine their economic status, which then determined the amount food they were served that night. My low-class meal consisted a bowl of rice shared between other participants. It was so enlightening to see the three classes interact and discover the distinct boundaries between the richest 20% and the rest of the world. Some of my friends even resorted to stealing part of the high-class’s three-course meal! In addition, we were able to package rice bags for Haiti through an assembly line. In total, we packaged two thousand pounds of rice.

My experience in the World Food Prize was exhilarating from start to end. On the last day, I was nominated by my peers to present our group discussion to the symposium after my own presentation on aflatoxin contamination. Honestly, I was absolutely terrified to speak to a such a distinguished audience. But I was thrilled to be given the honor to emulate the numerous speakers I had eagerly listened to over the previous three days.

 

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have attended the World Food Prize. I’m so excited to bring some of my experiences back to Andover – and I definitely recommend any student to submit a research paper! This was a priceless experience, and I am determined to take my place in the next generation of passionate hunger fighters today.

Moviemaking on Campus!

Filming Has Begun on a Campus Documentary Featuring Tom Cone

The documentary is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

Filmmaker Charlie Stuart ’62 brought a film crew last week to document Mr. Tom Cone’s 51st year (and last as he is retiring at the end of this year) of teaching and his knowledge of the natural history of this campus. Dr. Christine Marshall-Walker and I applied for an Abbot Academy Association Grant to fund a short film featuring Tom Cone. His deep understanding of nature and his passion for teaching are gifts to be archived and cherished for years to come.

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Along with his crew, John Baynard and Mike Tridenti, Charlie filmed Tom Cone with his Biology 100 class observing different types of trees.

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First, Mr. Cone took his class to see a red oak tree which was planted after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004. He was pointing out the characteristics of the Red Oak Leaves and pointing out the acorns. Each oak has its own variety of acorn and leaves. The Red Oak Leaves have lots of little points at the end of the divisions.

Then, they went to a beautiful Red Maple Tree in full color. He spoke about the pigments and how they are made and how the weather effects the color production. The Maples in particular may produce a red pigment that many other types of trees don’t have.

Next, they looked at a Copper Beech Tree located near Newman House on the Salem Street side of Gelb. They were talking about how this tree, like the American Beech, is characterized by smooth bark. If it is found in parks, this is the tree that many people will carve their initials into it. It can potentially grow to be 300 years old. We used to have an American Beech near Gelb, but it was removed to build the Sykes Center, so the students could not see it today.

They weren’t the only Biology 100 out that day! Dr. Catherine Kemp’s class was also looking at the same trees and talking about characteristics of each tree.

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Charlie and his team will be on campus throughout the year, so keep an eye out for more filming stills and the final product in the spring!

Learning at the Fish School

Animal Behavior Students Observe Schooling in Fish

In Mr. Tom Cone’s Animal Behavior classes last week, students participated in an interesting lab about determining the schooling ability of certain fish.

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According to Tom Cone, the significance of schooling in fish is that of safety, but also companionship. When fish are good at schooling (gathering in large groups), it helps them look bigger to other fish which is a great anti-predator mechanism. It also helps with procreation, as a fish to mate with is never far away. In addition, studies have shown that schooling fish live longer in groups, which indicates schooling is also a social behavior.

Mr. Cone set up multiple fish tanks with different species of fish inside. Students divided into groups and chose a type of fish to observe. The experiment is set up where one fish is in the large tank and the others are in an adjacent smaller tank. The large tank is separated into four equal quadrants.

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Students then began to observe the single fish in the large tank – for 10 minutes they record the location (which quadrant) of the fish. They repeat the recordings with the small tank on the other side of the large tank.

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The students then tried to make observations to determine what attracts the one fish to the others (the releaser or stimuli) – is it their color? their size? their markings? They then repeated the entire experiment, but instead of using the small jar of fish, they created their own model of a fish using paper and markers to see if the fish behave the same way.

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Students then took the data they gathered and used it to determine if their species of fish is a “schooling” fish. Some students found significant data that their species of fish is great at schooling – their fish stayed mostly in the quadrant adjacent to the other fish. Other students found that their fish may not be great at schooling as they swam all around the tank.