Two of Every Animal

 

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Country Day kindergartners are getting a hands-on lesson in life, logic and labor thanks to “Charlotte’s Web” and a passel of newly hatched ducklings and quail. In a unit called “Comparing Animals Two-By-Two,” students complete journals and use Venn diagrams to help them toward a kind of Taxonomy 101 understanding. They’ve compared and contrasted goldfish and guppies, insects and arachnids, and, most fun of all, ducks and quail.

Having the birds in the classroom (along with the rest of the lively kindergarten menagerie) gives students firsthand experience with caring for animals. “They also see that these guys might be super-duper cute, but they’re a lot of work,” said Betsy Hedbavny.

“Every morning starts with, ‘Who’s ready for some farm chores?’” said Jo Anne Farley.

Ag Lab 2016

 

When Liz Peters’ first grade class heard they were going to be farmers for a day, there came from the back of trailer a small cry, “Yay!”

Perhaps a more accurate description of the kids’ new occupation would have been farmer-scientist-lawyers, because the students in the Mobile Ag Science Lab’s “Feast Like A Bug” experiment got down to work answering an accusatory question: “Which insects are guilty?”

“Guilty” in this case meant guilty of eating plant leaves and wrecking farmers’ crops, so to proceed with their prosecution, the kids had to learn some insect anatomy and fun, polysyllabic words, like “piercing proboscis.” Using clothespins as stand-ins for mandibles and pipettes for piercing proboscises, the kids took turns trying to use their bug mouths to eat leaves and seeds. Finally the kids had their men (or more precisely their bugs) and their verdicts. Aphids: Guilty. Grasshoppers: Guilty. Ladybugs: Not Guilty.

This was the third year that Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Mobile Agriculture Science Education Lab has come to Country Day, enriching the Lower School curriculum with experiments such as “Pigment Power,” in which the third grade learned how to use pH to discover which fruit drinks are the healthiest, to “Super Slurpers,” where the fifth grade surveyed four different powders before devising and testing a hypothesis about which would hold the most water.

Bringing the Ag Lab to Country Day was the idea of Lower School Science Coordinator and Science Department Chairwoman Laura Trout. “Most students wouldn’t think of farming as science, but there is a lot that goes into planting, tending, harvesting and distributing our food. The Ag Lab provides a perspective on science that we don’t usually address in our science curriculum. It gives students a better understanding of one of Pennsylvania’s largest industries.

“And it’s just plain fun going to science class in a big trailer,” Trout said.

‘A Steady Rhythm Of Exploration And Adventure’

By Claire C. ’17
Photos by Julia R. ’17

The second the Hawaii trip crew arrived back at the Philadelphia airport, we were already planning our return. As we stumbled to claim our luggage, it was obvious that all our minds were still fixed on the island we had just left. And who could blame us? Hours earlier, we were in a sunny paradise with exotic fish, incredible landscapes and kind locals. But most importantly, we were also in the place where 15 classmates became a family that will forever share the memories of a fantastic, enriching experience.

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At 2:45 a.m. in the wet, chilly darkness, the Science of Hawaii class hit the road for the airport with visions of beaches dancing in our heads. Two five-hour flights and a quick stop in Phoenix later, we stepped off the plane at Kona Airport and a tropical island breeze greeted us.

After that first day, we fell into a steady rhythm of exploration and adventure.

We rang in our first full day in Hawaii by watching the sunrise from the peak of Mauna Kea. After hiking and listening to Hawaiian myths that directly connected to the natural features around us, we made our way to Mauna Loa Observatory. The observatory has been measuring the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere continuously since 1956, and that data has been invaluable in helping scientists understand climate change. On a tour around Mauna Loa, we learned more about the principles of global warming and its potentially dire implications, building on what we had studied in class and making the first of many interesting connections.

After this day of volcanic exploration, we spent the majority of our time at beaches, snorkeling and observing the wildlife. I use the term “beaches” loosely because instead of sand, we often had to scramble over volcanic rock to reach the ocean. Once we finally got in the water, we were surrounded by yellow tang, eels and one graceful sea turtle. The entire class found it fascinating that the fish we had studied in class were now swimming before our very eyes.

The next day we traveled to the Pololū Valley for a hike down to the famous black sand beach. A passerby informed us that the hike down was the difficult part, and that the uphill trek back would be easy for us.

This information was incorrect.

However, we did enjoy walking on the black sand, skipping rocks and building cairns (delicately balanced rock sculptures).

After our day at the beach — or at least near the ocean — we had to mentally prepare ourselves to go exploring inside a cave. But before heading underground, we visited a beautiful lookout and the site of a school swept away by a tsunami 50 years ago. The class had learned about this particular spot in school, and it was poignant to view this area, scan the ocean for whales, and pay our respects to the tsunami victims.

Then it was cave time, so we donned our rain jackets and head lamps and entered the giant lava tube. Inside we not only learned about the different kinds of rock and lava present, but the group also heard a ghost story from Dr. Winterer. This offered definite, scientific proof that ghost stories are five times spookier when told inside a damp, dark cave.

We started the next day snorkeling in tidal pools alongside brilliantly colored fish. Once back on land, we voyaged to Volcanoes National Park, investigating cracks in the Earth’s surface spewing natural gas, learning fun facts about Kilauea, and traversing a volcanic crater.

We ended the day with a few special minutes on the beach, shooting photos of the masses of sea turtles congregating there.

The following morning, we found ourselves in yet another of the Aloha State’s many climates, hiking through a desert. Dusty paths and dry grasses surrounded us on our three mile trek to the sacred green sand beach. Off the traditional tourist’s path, the pale emerald sand of Papakolea Beach was spectacular, and if it weren’t for its importance to the indigenous people of Hawaii, we all would have filled our suitcases full of the stuff.

As we neared the end of our trip, the Science of Hawaii students set out on a kayak and canoe tour to Captain Cook’s Cove. During the tour, we were lucky enough to encounter a pod of dolphins that came so close to us that they swam directly under several of our kayaks.

Once we got back on shore, it was time for a luau in Kona. The traditional Hawaiian food was delicious, but the coming end of the trip made the evening slightly bittersweet.

As we boarded our flights home, we all agreed we hadn’t spent nearly enough time in paradise. But even so, each and every member of the trip learned something new every day, whether it was a fact about the volcanoes that formed the islands, or the art of clambering over volcanic rocks without needing stitches afterward.

Most importantly, 15 students and three teachers became a family, and that part of paradise will stay with us long after our toes have left the Hawaiian sand.

Mahalo for the memories, Hawaii.

The Naked Egg Drop and Other Fun at Family Science Night

Photos by Chandler S. ’17

If the photos are any indication, the hippest and most wholesome party in town was Family Science Night last Friday, and the emcee of this fun, funky mess was Laura Trout, FSN’s creator and chairwoman of the Country Day science department.

“It is fun to stand back and look at so many kids having a blast and think, ‘I did this. With a lot of help, that is,’” Trout said. “Every year I have a group of moms and dads that help with everything, and I couldn’t do it without them.” In addition, more than 25 Upper School students volunteered manning the activity stations.

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The unofficial attendance numbers say 2016 drew a record crowd, with all 200 churning, bubbling Matter Monsters gone by 7 p.m., and so many successful entrants in the first ever Naked Egg Drop competition that Trout has already decided next year’s Drop is going to have some stricter egg-catcher specs.

Keith Tarvin, father of Reagan ’25, built the dropping contraption after Trout “asked him if he wanted a little challenge.” This year’s contest replaced the Linguine Bridge event of years past with a new problem for students to solve: Build the smallest device to catch a dropped egg without breaking it.

Competition was so tight that in all three divisions the winners were determined by tiebreaker. That is, all first- and second-place catchers successfully cradled eggs dropped from 15 feet, so the determining factor became the height of the catcher.

The Middle School Science Fair coincides with Family Science Night and affords a unique glimpse into students’ potential and dedication. “It’s not just the science, which is intense and difficult enough, it’s that this is a big, cross-discipline project,” said Middle School Science Teacher Chris Collins. She and compatriot Ned Bushong help the seventh and eighth graders see their efforts through.

“The kids have been working on this since the summer, it’s the biggest writing project they’ve ever done, and then there’s the public speaking aspect, because students have to actually explain what they’ve done. It’s a project that brings in a lot of skills and takes a lot of time, but is absolutely worth it,” Collins said.

Two other additions made Family Science Night 2016 a unique event: The Lower School Science Fair expanded to include new projects for first grade and kindergarten, and 10 students from Country Day’s first Horizons class joined in on the learning and fun.

“They had a wonderful time and it was a nice opportunity to introduce kids to the broader Country Day community and introduce the community to them,” said Horizons founder and fifth-grade teacher Meg Reed.

Horizons is a national program that partners with independent schools to help low-income students succeed academically. This summer’s six-week program with rising first-graders from the School District of Lancaster was the first in what will become a larger effort that supports kids year after year.

“I mean, we had a science museum set up in the school,” Reed said. “How could we not take advantage of that?”


2016 North Museum Science & Engineering Fair Champions and Category Award Winners


Middle School Science Fair Results

Eighth Grade

1) Livvy N.

2) Janani I.

3) Wes G.

Honorable Mention

Evie A., Tony A., Ethan B., Christian F., Abby G., Grace G., Giuliet K., Hasan M., Gabriel M., Tess M., Dylan P., Jonah R., Anna S.

Seventh Grade

1) Arielle B.

2) Abbey B.

3) Kent P.

Honorable Mention

Thomas C., Lisa E., Luke F., Ben K., Annika K., Rohan K., Lance L., Lucas N., Alison N., Alex V., Amelia W., Conal O’C., Linnea W.
 


Naked Egg Drop Competition Results

Preschool-Second Grade Category

1) Colton C. ’28 Egg Height: 15 feet *

2) William D. ’26 Egg Height: 15 feet

3) Jace E. ’28 Egg Height: 15 feet

* Tiebreaker — Colton won with an egg-catcher height of 13 cm

Third-Fifth Grade Category

1) Reese R. ’25 Egg Height: 15 feet *

2) Cara C. ’25 Egg Height: 15 feet

3) Jolie A. ’25 Egg Height: 105 inches

* Tiebreaker — Reese won with an egg-catcher height of 22 cm

Upper School Category

1) Caroline F. ’17 Egg Height: 15 feet *

2) James L. ’17 Egg Height: 15 feet

3) Carter A. ’18 Egg Height: 15 feet

* Tiebreaker — Caroline won with an egg-catcher height of 10 cm

 

Family Science Night 2015

The final year of the Family Science Night Bridge-Building Competition saw a last, historic effort from the students. Using only pasta and glue, sophomore Jonathan Z. built a span that held almost 25 times its own weight.

Next year, Family Science Night organizer and Lower School Science Coordinator Laura Trout will unveil a new building competition, but the last three years have produced ever more impressive linguini tresses as chef-engineers have gotten ever more ingenious. Another stand-out from this year’s field came from the Lower School brother-sister team of Julian ’26 and Estelle C. ’27, whose inaugural effort produced a span that held 4,050 g, almost as much as their best Middle School competition.

 

The evening featured a beautiful display of the delightful side of science, such as wildlife presentations by Jack Hubley, mixing chemicals to make polyurethane aliens, and stations to teach students about human anatomy and the heart. In addition, the night hosted the Middle School Science Fair, whose winners will advance to compete in the North Museum Science and Engineering Fair March 25.

“I was worried the weather would keep people away, but we had a really great turn out. There was an excited energy in the air all night,” Trout said.


Bridge-Building Results by Category

 

Preschool-Second Grade
1) Julian ’26 & Estelle C. ’27 — 4,050 g
2) Allie D. ’26 — 2,592 g
3) Zoe G. ’25 — 2,210 g

Third-Fifth Grade
1) Carrington B. ’24 — 810 g

Sixth-Eighth Grade
1) Bryan ’21 — 4,664 g

Ninth-12th category
Jonathan Z. ’17 — 24.9 times its weight
Lily Dell-Levine ’17 — 9.0 times its weight
Julia R. ’17 — 3.1 times its weight