Cherry Tree Cookie Day 2017

Biology Faculty Tom Cone welcomes Spring and calls attention to one of the natural beauties of campus with cookies at the Cherry Tree

It is time again for a great tradition of Phillips Academy Andover, cookies at the Cherry Tree. For his last time, Tom Cone, put out cookies between under the nearly 65 year old Cherry Tree between Sam Phil and Morse Hall to commemorate Spring and to celebrate one of the natural treasures of the campus. Tom Cone is retiring (after 51 years of teaching!) at the end of this school year, so this is his last trip to the Cherry Tree. The Biology Department is committed to keeping this tradition alive for years to come!

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Keeping with tradition, the first period Bio100 classes helped make the trays and bring them out to the table set up under the tree.

And the crowds quickly followed! Mr. Cone reminds everyone who takes a cookie to look at the tree and marvel in its beauty.

This nearly 65-year-old cherry tree has a rich history on the campus – it has been around for decades and was almost cut down – twice! The first time was in the early 1970’s, when the old Evans Hall Science Building still stood. Some in the school thought that the cherry tree blocked the view of the building from the west side of campus and planned to cut the tree down. Students and faculty heard this and many people literally “hugged” the tree the day the cutters came so they could not cut the tree down. They did not come back.

Later, after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004, some in the school again thought that the tree blocked the view of the building from the Foxcroft area. Members of the PA community fought to keep the tree and when the architects of Gelb agreed with the community, the result was an agreement to keep the tree.

If you look closely at the tree, you can see it is held together by wires! The tree would probably fall right over if they had not brought in an expert to repair the tree and keep it standing. Thank goodness they did, because this is certainly one of the most amazingly beautiful trees on campus. It only blooms for a few days – as you can see, the petals were already starting to fall off! So, enjoy this natural beauty while it lasts!

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!

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.