Upper School Student-Scientists Spend Spring in Action

Over the course of the spring semester, Collegiate students in Upper School science teacher Sandra Marr’s ecology classes delved into sustainability issues using inquiry-based projects.
The students worked through several iterations to build birdhouses and test design on bird occupancy; create reflective window art in an attempt to reduce migratory bird strikes on the bridge between North and South Science buildings; integrate a QR code system with website to identify and monitor campus trees; clear non-native, invasive honeysuckle from the outdoor classroom to promote biodiversity and construct roosting boxes to support insectivorous bats.

With each student-driven endeavor, their task was not only to address a conservation concern, but also to embed a means to ask citizen science questions with their work.  Future Collegiate students will be able to improve and deepen the impact and scope of these methods to improve biodiversity on the School’s Mooreland campus.

Biology II students had a mandate to increase the scientific value of the Pagebrook Outdoor Classroom space for JK-12th Grade students. Working every other week in a variety of weather conditions, the budding scientists researched, proposed and implemented four citizen science projects in an engaging outdoor space.  

For one installation, students designed a native pollinator garden using organic straw bales for raised garden beds. Collegiate Cougars of all ages will be able to collect data on herbivory, pollination and biodiversity in these bales using a data form accessed by a QR code in the field.  

Similarly, another group invested serious physical labor to carve out available logs for native shade gardens. Students of all levels will also be able to help track the health and success of these plantings with a data form available by QR code.

After leading a JK field trip early in the spring semester, the biology students wanted to provide a more manageable hike and space for little feet to ponder nature and their impact on the environment. Five students boldly and tirelessly cleared fallen trees, raked leaves, hauled trash and added a dozen sitting stumps donated by Truetimber Arborists to give younger (and older) visitors a Cougar Crossing Trail and Learning Circle easily accessible from the parking lot of Pagebrook.  

The fourth student team designed an interpretative tree trail, giving another opportunity for students to collect and interact with field data. At the end of the semester, students presented their work to Collegiate faculty so that teachers can better understand the myriad of opportunities that Pagebrook has to offer.

In addition, Biology II students worked in pairs to test questions about growing legumes in the raised garden beds outside of the North Science building. Legumes form symbiotic relationships with rhizobia bacteria which convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that their host partners can use. Legumes such as lentils, beans and peas are an important, sustainable source of plant protein, since legumes can grow in depleted soils.  Understanding how to manage legumes and rhizobia is important work in agricultural science and Collegiate students benefit from asking their own questions and seeing how their inquiries impact environmental issues?