Tag Archives: education

Adapting in Place – New Haven

(I’m planning to attend Friday night!)

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An Open Letter to my Alma Mater

This is a letter that I sent to Dr. Stanley F. Battle, Interim President of Southern Connecticut State University. 

Dr. Battle,

I graduated from SCSU in 2003 with a degree in Biology and Secondary Education, and then obtained my Masters in Science Education with a concentration in Biology in 2007.  Since then, I have been working towards a second Masters in Environmental Education.  I have taught science at the high school level for the past seven years.  Recently, I have discovered that my education in Biology was incomplete, and I’m writing to voice my concerns and ask you to make adjustments to the curriculum.

When my son was born, I realized that I knew nothing of the biology of breastfeeding, a basic biological function of mammals.  Why was mammary gland structure or milk’s chemical composition not studied in Vertebrate Zoology or Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy? Why did we not look at mammary tissue under the microscope in Histology? Why didn’t we learn about hormones as related to milk production in Animal Physiology? Why were genes and biological pathways for milk production not explored in Genetics? Why did we study breast cancer genes and environmental factors in Human Medical Genetics, but ignore the data that suggests breastfeeding helps to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer?

As a breastfeeding mother, I would have enjoyed knowing more about my body’s own biological function.  As an SCSU alumnus, I feel that my education was incomplete and I should have learned more about this most fundamental of functions for our species’ survival.  As a breastfeeding advocate, I’m disappointed that the classes I took, which were the same classes as the Pre-Med students, did not cover breastfeeding.  If future doctors learn nothing of breastfeeding as related to anatomy, physiology, biochemistry or genetics, it’s no wonder that only 14% of American mothers continue to breastfeed their children exclusively to six months of age, as recommended by the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics.

All students need to learn about the health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies, either in the required Health course or in general Biology.  Students pursuing degrees in Biology, Nursing, or Pre-Med need to learn about breastfeeding from a biological perspective.  Breastfeeding is an evolutionary adaptation that belongs in a Biology curriculum.  Leaving breastfeeding out of the curriculum is a disservice to all SCSU students.

Thank You For Your Time,

Abigail XXXXXXX

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Island School

I’m dreaming today about my trip to the Island School back in summer of 2007.  You can read the whole post about it here.  I just want to share some pictures…

My mom and me snorkeling on the first day.

Snorkeling… this was our “morning exercise” on the first full day. 

Artificial Reef Construction

Helping to build artificial reefs to help prevent erosion.  Will my waist ever be that small again???

Enjoying the ocean

Swimming in the beautiful aqua and turquoise water.  I’ve been imagining floating in the warm water, peering down at the yellow, purple and orange fish and the coral.  Moving up and down with the waves.  Swimming and swimming and swimming.

Jumping off a cliff.

Jumping off a cliff into the ocean.  That’s NOT something I would typically do, but it was amazing.  Right before I jumped, a spotted ray glided by, and I had to wait for him to clear out.  After jumping in, I explored the clear water, looking about 30 feet down at the ecosystem below.

Teachers

My Island School friends… educators who are passionate about sustainability.  Kindred spirits.

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My Students Need Your Help!

Here’s a call to all the greenies out there!

I’m totally re-vamping my college-bound environmental science curriculum this year, and I’m looking for cool, exciting resources in this last week before I go back to school.  If you know of any interactive websites, articles, outdoor activities, contests, video clips or anything else my students may benefit from, I’d love to hear from you!

Our major units of study for the year include:

I. Water, Soil and Air

II. Agriculture

III. Waste Management and Recycling

IV. Energy: Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Alternatives

V. Biodiversity, Biomes, Endangered Species

If you know of anything on these topics, please leave a comment.  I know eco-bloggers are wonderful resources, so I’m counting on you!

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Filed under Outside, Sustainable Living

Outer Island

My grad class spent today on Outer Island, which is one of the Thimble Islands.  We did a whole bunch of data collection, but I also had a chance to take lots of pictures.

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Here’s the tide pool that my group monitored throughout the day.  It reminded me of an infinity pool.

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The tide was coming in while we were there.

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The Thimble Islands are granite, and are therefore more stable than many other islands in Long Island Sound.  This pink rock is known as Stony Creek Granite.

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Outer Island is about 5 acres, and is the only Thimble Island used for research by Connecticut State Universities and Yale.

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I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of this boat sailing by us.

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Here’s our tide pool again, from a different angle. 

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Although it was a busy day, we still had some time to relax and take in the scenery.  I love this class!

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Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh…

Today in my environmental science class, I was lecturing on ozone depletion, CFC’s, UV, and the Montreal Protocol.  The majority of students were looking at me as I spoke, pen in hand, occasionally glancing down at their notebooks.

I had walked behind my desk for some reason, even though I use my remote to progress through the PowerPoint slides.  I walked to the left and realized that my foot had gotten tangled in the laptop power cord.  Instead of jerking my leg to free my foot and taking the risk of pulling the computer onto the floor, I instead tried to pause to untangle it.  However, my understanding of momentum should have made me realize that my body would keep moving, even though my feet had stopped.

Next thing I knew, I was on the floor.  I heard students gasp as I fell down, but I landed behind my desk and I couldn’t see them.  For a moment I wondered if I should even get up, or if I could just hide behind my desk for the rest of class. 

I slowly got up, peeking over my desk at my class.  They were all staring at me.  I quickly said “Well, at least the computer didn’t fall!” as I felt my face turning red.  Then I added: “Is that the first time I’ve fallen in your class?”

Still in shock, my students said “Yes…”

“Well,” I replied, “it probably won’t be the last.”

Everyone erupted in laughter, including me.

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Yummy Soil Model

Years ago, when I first started teaching the soil unit, I was looking for a way to make it more exciting.  The importance of soil structure is often lost on students, and I finally came up with a great idea: Soil Cake, modeled after the popular Dirt Cake my mom makes, a mixture of pudding, cake and whipped cream.

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Here’s how I make it, from bottom to top:

  • graham cracker crumbs- parent mineral material/ C horizon
  • butterscotch pudding- subsoil/ B horizon
  • graham cracker crumbs- eluviation layer/ E horizon
  • chocolate cake mixed with chocolate pudding, gummy worms hidden within- topsoil/ A horizon
  • crushed oreos- humus/ O horizon
  • dyed green cool whip and green sprinkles- plant material
  • gummy worms on top

It’s important to do this in a clear dish, so that you can see the layers.  It’s a great way to demonstrate the horizons of the soil, and you can modify it to look like the soil in your area.  I include thick layer of topsoil, because the chocolate is everyone’s favorite.

Another option is to have all the ingredients, and let people assemble it on their own so they can learn the layers as they make it.  I’ve done that before, but carting it separately into school was a pain, so I’ve gone back to this version.

Last year, when I was buying the ingredients to make these models, the teenage cashier asked what I was making.  When I explained it to her, she said “I wish you were my teacher!”  That made my day.

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Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Recipes