Friday, July 8, 2011

Eddyville/BLM Native Plant Update

With grant money from the BLM to grow native plants for the Yaquina Lighthouse, the students and I built a new structure for the horticulture program.  Because our existing greenhouse was built with intended use only during the school year, the greenhouse was not usable during the summer months.  In order to meet the demands of the BLM, we added a shade house for the summer.  With help of Cory Phibbs, Dakota Gassner, Calvin Little, and Nicole Borrego, the shade house is all but completed.  I might add these students were paid $10/hour to assist me with the fabrication, a nice wage for an excellent job.

The new shade house has an automatic water system to care for plants during student and my absences.  Inside the old greenhouse and yet to be built, will be heated germination tables with automated misting system for seed germination.

All of this was made possible by a grant from the BLM that began at $10,000, rose to $15,000, rose again to $17,500 and then rose once more with Title II money adding $2,750, to make a grand total of $20,250.  This does not count a $3,500/year operating allowance beginning the the following year.  The grant is expected to last from three to five years.  The whole concept of growing native plants to be re-introduced as invasive plant species are removed at one of Oregon's famous landmarks is wonderful educational experience for the students and service for the area.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April in Bob's Classes

Natural Resources
The Yaquina Lighthouse Native Plant Restoration grant with the Bureau of Land Management received more good news on its funding.  The original grant was for $10,000, but just last week we received word that the grant amount was raised to $17,500.  With success, there is also the possibility that more money will be awarded annually.  The projection for the grant length is three to five years.
The additional money will make capital improvements to the greenhouse area and offset some of the operation costs.  Five new high quality metal tables, heating mats for seed germination, an automated water system, and electrical upgrades have been ordered, received, or in process.  The most exciting news is that in order to meet the needs of unattended young plants and seedlings during the summer a new 20 X 30 foot shade house is going to be built next to the existing greenhouse.  The students and I will begin the construction of the shade house when we receive it.  If you are bored and looking for something to do, come on down!

On May 4th, students and I will be helping the BLM collect and plant 1500 salal, Gaultheria shallon, cuttings from light house area at Newport
The sign for the orchard dedicated to Morris Smith is now being made.  I expect it to be done within a couple of weeks. The final draft of the sign may be viewed at this location. Orchard Sign
The Spring Fling plant sale will happen on May 26th.  An earlier opportunity to get your garden and plant needs will be held at Burnt Woods on May 14th.  I look forward to seeing you and hope you will show up at one of the two locations for your planting needs.

Field Biology
The science lab is filed with a menagerie of wild critters.  As part of an assignment the students were to collect a wild animal and set up a suitable habitat for the animal's care. The object is for the student to become an expert on the species of their choice, make some inquiry observation about it, and report back to the class in written/oral form or power point presentation on what they discovered.  The animals collected thus far are, a Red Legged frog, Pacific Tree frog, a Pacific Giant Salamander, Rough Skinned Newt, Red Back Salamander, Yellow Spotted Millipede, Gopher Snake, Townsend's Chipmunk, and California Ground Squirrel.  The squirrel I actually caught with a live trap.  It was eating all the lettuce starts in the greenhouse.  The class assignment may have saved it from a more unfavorable alternative outcome since I was losing all patience with its daily foraging of my vegetable starts.  There are also around two hundred steelhead fry in the chilled aquarium.  These we raised from eggs and will be released in a nearby stream shortly.

As soon as spring comes, assuming it does come this year, the students will be collecting flowers and leaves for their botany project.

StRUT (Students Recycling Used Technology)
The technology students have upgraded ten desktops and five laptop computers we received from the Strut organization.  The desktops replaced aging computers in the computer lab.  The laptops are replacing teacher’s computers.  If you are interested in owning one of the desktops out of the library, they are for sale.  We formatted the hard drives of each one and then reloaded Windows XP Professional with service pack three on them.  That is all the software that is on them.  A complete computer with CRT monitor, keyboard and mouse can be purchased for $50.  If you don’t want the monitor it is $60.  That is correct.  It is more for not taking the monitor since it will cost us $10 to dispose of them.  We also give you a paper with suggested software sites for free anti-virus downloads as well as recommended sites for add-ons to view web pages effectively.  Word processing on line is now available in several places for free in the “Cloud.”  The paper will provide directions on how to find these places or how to down load a free open source office suite called Open Office.  These computers are a good deal for that second computer need, be it school work, email, or web surfing, but it will not meet your child’s high end gaming needs.  See or email me for more details and questions on how to obtain one.  They are limited and it is first come first serve.

Integrated Science
Energy has been the topic for the last few weeks in the freshman science class.  We have covered the numerous energy sources available from fossil fuels to alternative energy to nuclear power.  The students were required to make a steam driven turbine from materials of their own choosing that would spin for thirty seconds.  A steam generator was created by boiling water in a flask heated with propane and modeled how power plants operate.  The students had to bend science grade glass tubing, and temper and narrow the outlet hole in order to develop enough steam pressure to make the turbine spin.  The tubing was inserted into a one-hole rubber stopper that fit the flask opening.  As always, some very interesting turbine creations were made, and as always, with a few modifications, all of them were successful.

We are now doing several activities using coiled winding wire and magnets which will lead us to how electricity is made.  With an energy source, a turbine, and a generator one can make electricity.  With electricity, I can have my toast and coffee in the morning and that makes me happy.
Following this unit and for the remainder of the school year we will discover and explore Newton’s Laws.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Inside The Classroom

Natural Resources
The Yaquina Lighthouse Native Plant Restoration grant with the Bureau of Land Management was finalized as of February 18th.  ECS will be working with the BLM in the gathering, propagation, and planting of native plant species at the Yaquina Lighthouse.  This is a three year grant worth $10,000 and the possibility of more money with continuation of the grant for up to five years.  The greenhouse already has around 150 plants and shrubs growing now. This is a very exciting opportunity for the students to be part of an iconic landmark on the Oregon Coast.  The grant provides opportunities for upgrades needed to the greenhouse and expansion of our irrigation system.  Many thanks to Ann Cook for suffering through the application process of a bureaucracy that exceeds the education system in its difficulty.  A BLM news release can be found here:

Successful sales of student maintained native trees to various watershed councils and individuals for riparian restoration of streams and rivers brought in additional needed revenue for the greenhouse.  Close to six hundred trees have sold this year alone.  The goal is to have the greenhouse be as self sufficient as possible.  As education money continues to dwindle, this is now more important than ever.  Vocational classes are much more expensive to support than classroom classes. The Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District were very pleased with the wild ginger the students gathered for BCSWCD native plant sale.  They already placed an order for next year. The below URL will take you to a newsletter featuring ECS students gathering and processing wild ginger

The Morris X. Smith heirloom orchard across the street from the church is finally close to completely pruned.  A few errant, missed branches remain.  The orchard once had a sign that dedicated it to the late Morris Smith.  I am thinking about placing another one in his honor.  We have over a hundred dollars in donations thus far.  If anyone would like to contribute please see me.  I don't have an exact amount of the cost since we are only in the preliminary stages of design.  Obviously, the more money we can collect, the nicer the sign.  I will use some money from the horticulture tree sales fund to ensure the sign equals the quality of the man to which the orchard was dedicated.

Don't forget the Spring Fling in May for your garden start needs.  We will begin planting some seeds next month.  If you have any requests or favorites you would like me to start for you please let me know.

Field Biology
Forest, river and lake ecology has been the concentration of study thus far in field biology.  Several stream samples of functional feeding groups of macro invertebrates in the local streams for indicators of stream quality were made.  Collection of monthly water samples of the Yaquina River and Little Elk Creek are continuing.  We are collecting data on the changing dissolved oxygen, nitrates and fecal coli-form found in these water systems.   

Recently, the class began breeding laboratory fruit flies, both normal and two types of mutated ones.  Genetics and Mendel’s laws of heredity are the course of study.   

This spring we will join USGS lake and stream ecologists in their continuing study of the coastal dune lakes.  Part of this study is sampling native fish and mussel populations for DNA differences in these isolated, closed water systems. 
Soon we will be raising steelhead, frog and salamander eggs in our chilled aquarium as well as field sampling the emerging small mammals from their winter rest.  

In a series of labs in the classroom, the class measured the wattage and "solar flux" of the sun.  Solar flux is the amount of calories the sun produces on one square centimeter every minute (calorie/cm^2 X min.)  The sun was partially hidden by a haze which moved in just as we getting ready for our measurement.  The result we computed in this semi-obscured sky was .5 calories/cm^2 per minute.  The real measurement is 1.5 solar flux which given the conditions and the fact we used Styrofoam cups and colored water for our sophisticated, scientific instruments is not bad.  The sun's wattage was quite startling and once again not to far off considering the tools, blackened tin foil in a beaker with a homemade Styrofoam lid.  The sun's wattage according to our calculations is equal to 4,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts. I wonder why one created scientific notation?  (4.2X10^27)  The current computed figure for the sun's wattage is 3.86X10^26.  Our experiment was off by approximately one zero.  I say not bad!

StRUT (Students Recycling Used Technology)
It was a particularly good year for recycled computers.  Corporate donations to the StRUT warehouse located in The Dalles allowed us to receive several exceptional machines.  The class is refurbishing ten desktop machines with core-duo processors to replace aging computers in the library, and five laptops with dual core processors for replacement of teacher’s computers.  The school budget allowed us to purchase the necessary hard drives to complete the transfer which is now on going.  If you have ever loaded an operating system from scratch before and the assorted programs that go with it, you will know the amount of time it takes.

Independent study of visual basic programming language, Adobe Premier video software and Photoshop, and robotics using Lego robots fills in other times, not to mention maintenance of school technology.

Recently, a new internet filter system was brought online by the ESD, Educational Service District.  The ESD controls the wide area network for Lincoln, Benton, and Linn county school districts.  A network error occurred in the connection between ECS and the ESD.  It caused our network to slow down to a snail's pace much to the concern of all.  Fortunately, with the volunteer help of Lynn Smith from LCSD IT department, we were able to solve the problem and are back up and running at expected speeds.  The filter system keeps wandering internet users from visiting certain sites deemed unnecessary or inappropriate for educational purposes.  Although students may disagree, this is a good thing!

Integrated Science
The class recently changed from the study of matter to the study of energy.  The unit begins with the basic laws of energy such as the law of the conservation of energy which states one cannot create or destroy energy, chemically.  Since it is a law of science it can never be broken.  To demonstrate that one cannot create more energy then one puts into the system, I use a bowling ball attached to a rope as a pendulum hooked to the ceiling with the ball extending to just above the floor, about ten feet.  I then choose a student who I think will add a "special flavor" to the demonstration, such as whom I am having a current "altercation" with, and seat him in a chair within the arc of the pendulum swing.  Placing the bowling ball so it just touches his nose, I ask him to trust the laws of science.  The conservation law cannot be broken and therefore the ball cannot come back any further than the nose which it is touching.  That is why it is a law!  Well, at least we have not observed a case of this law being broken yet.  Telling the student not to move, at least not forward, I release the bowling ball yelling once again for trust.  I can't understand why the kids just don't believe!  The demonstration always is good for a laugh and creates that learning window for the beginning of a unit which students tend to find quite interesting.  A lot of current news events and discussions are about our dwindling fossil fuel resources and the potential and need of renewable resources in the future.  This unit will teach about energy concepts and the advantages and the disadvantages of these important current and potential energy resources.