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Showing posts from April, 2017

Nature in Art

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Art students get a closer look at nature through
the loupes.

Citizen Science Soil Collection Program: What’s in Your Backyard?

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What do cholesterol meds, drugs that help prevent rejection of organ transplants and penicillin all have in common? They come from fungi. Ardmore High School students are learning about the importance of biological research and helping scientists identify new soil-dwelling microbes by participating in the University of Oklahoma’s citizen science soil collection program. This program is in partnership with the National Cancer Institute. Researchers think that the next new life-saving cancer treatment might be living in our yards. Alabama has a variety of unique soil types, so naturally we are interested to see if we can help.Our students are collecting soil samples from various locations around the county. A lab will analyze the samples and use the genetic barcode of the fungi to identify new species. They will use Cheerios (yes, Cheerios!) to prepare a culture of the bacteria. Once the lab has identified what kind of microscopic life there is in our dirt, they will send us information…

Discovering Alabama

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To meet the needs of the kids in Limestone County, next year we will be expanding our nature studies program by partnering with 4-H and Alabama Master Naturalist.This is a yearlong program that involves students in citizen science initiatives, community service projects and leadership opportunities. The program will focus on the natural world of Alabama while exploring its geography and ecology. As part of the program, students will become certified Alabama Water Watch water chemistry and stream biomonitoring volunteers. Participants learn about career opportunities, develop a positive conservation ethic and hone outdoor skills while gaining hands-on experience with nature.One of the resources that we will be using is the Emmy-awarded public television show Discovering Alabama. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Doug Phillips (the show's host and producer) to discuss our project. He gave us lots of materials to help us with our new program and some great tips to help make…

Mini Schoolyard Bioblitz

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My nature studies students are in the process of cataloguing the species that appear in our schoolyard. Today, we learned how to properly use the bug nets and to collect specimens. We are off to a good start, and we will continue this effort in coming days.

Stream Biomonitoring in Bankhead National Forest

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Today, we loaded up the nets and microscopes and carried them down to Caney Creek Falls in Bankhead National Forest. The students have already learned about stream bio monitoring in the classroom, but today they learned to use the equipment in the stream. We sorted our findings into 3 groups of macro invertebrates:
*Group 1 critters are super sensitive to pollution*Group 2 critters live in a wide range of conditions*Group 3 critters can survive very polluted water

This field study was the second part of Alabama Water Watch training. The students have already completed their water chemistry monitoring certifications. Ardmore and Clements students are involved in this program that is offered through 4-H. Our chemistry testing kit and transportation for the trip has been provided by a grant from PPG.
To see more about this project, check out this article in Athens News Courier.

Exploring Alabama's Amazon

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Alabama is seriously underappreciated.  Seriously. 
#1 in freshwater biodiversity #1 in carnivorous plants #1 in species of crayfish #1 in species of mussels
That's just off the top of my head. There's way more.
So when we started an Alabama-based nature studies enrichment program at school this year for a group of kids who had mostly never even  been camping before, we had lots to do!
We listened to cicadas and examined their life cycles. The kids got over the "ick" factor and stuck the shells all over their faces and clothing. 
We studied bats and visited Sauta Cave at nightfall to see 400,000 bats emerge (armed with ponchos and umbrellas to protect us from the poop).
We learned to identify poison ivy and the kids wrote songs about how to spot it. 
We learned to read maps and to use a compass, made pacing beads and learned to use the sky to navigate. 
We learned what to do if you get lost in the woods. The students made informational survival videos.
We made shado…