December 17th, 2013

Spring Saturday Science Academy

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Contact Nathanael Davis 360.420.1387 or ndavis@nwic.edu

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December 7th, 2012

Physics & Rocket Science

This was the fourth of five Saturday Science Academy (SSA) events to be hosted by the Science Program of Northwest Indian College (NWIC) for the Fall Quarter 2012.  Gary Brandt, the NWIC instructor in computer science, leads a team of NWIC students to build large, live rockets for national competition. Today he and some of his students helped guide participants in discussions and the construction of personalized rockets.

 

  Each student watched intently as Gary demonstrated the overall flight of an aircraft, modeling the action of the four forces acting on that aircraft to allow it to fly.  The first was weight (gravity) which pulls the aircraft down back toward the earth which is counter acted by the force of lift.  The third and fourth forces of thrust and drag examined the propellant that helped push the aircraft forward and the competing forces like wind that would divert the aircraft from its intended destination. 

 

Using simple 2-liter bottles as the body of the rocket and political signs as the fins, participants created their own unique rocket design.  Some student’s rockets were tall and thin and others were short and squat.  When it came time to launch, despite the rain, students filled their rockets with water (propellant), strapped them to the PVC pipe launcher and with some added pressure, exploded their rocket to life.  Each rocket had a flight path as unique as its design.  Student approximated and recorded the height and distance each rocket flew.  Some rockets went as high as 10 feet; others flew as high as 300+ feet into the air.

 

 In the afternoon, students got dry and warm with a good lunch and settled in to watch video of the Spitzer Telescope Launch and the amazing pictures (like the Hubble Telescope) taken of the universe of stars, planets, nebula and moons.  Additionally, the students watched another video of the final NASA Endeavour Space Shuttle mission and the work that astronauts were completing on the International Space Station before the end of the NASA astronaut program.

                             

 Finally, participants began building their final paper rocket project with the goal of mapping out the trajectory of the rocket toward a target at a distance of 50ft.  Again, different designs (nose cone shape, number of fins, body length, etc) all contributed to unique launch outcomes.  Some went into the ceiling rafters, others blew apart under the high pressure, and still others shot across the room, nearly striking the target by inches.  The day ended with lots of keen excitement and desire to continue shooting off rockets.

December 7th, 2012

Water Chemistry & Stream Ecology

This was the second of four Saturday Science Academy (SSA) events to be hosted by the Science Program of Northwest Indian College (NWIC) for the Fall Quarter 2012.  Today, Marine Biologist and NWIC Instructor, Jeff Campbell, introduced students to concepts of salmon physiology and water chemistry relating to changes in salinity effecting osmosis and salmon gill anatomy. The students started the morning in the environmental chemistry lab examining shell-less chicken eggs with only a semi-permeable membrane which they placed into three different liquid solutions of varying “salinity”. These eggs would change in size based on the varying degree of saline in each solution.  After pre-weighing their egg samples, students loaded up into the van and quickly found themselves in rubber calf boots exploring nearby streams for macro-invertebrates species which are the base of the food web for local salmon.  These small species also vary in form and kind from fresh water streams and saline beaches/estuaries where salmon must adapt their physiology to changes in  

 

 Along with adaptations to salinity, salmon species, Jeff explained, must also endure challenges to finding adequate food supply (macro-invertebrates) in changing habitats throughout the long salmon life cycle.  Moving from freshwater stream to salty open ocean beaches, students began collecting more macro-invertebrate samples.  They quickly found that macro-invertebrates along the beach was more scarce, however the diversity of alternate food sources were bountiful and higher in protein (muscle-building) content, such as small vertebrate fish and shrimp species.

 

  Following the morning activities and a hearty lunch, students returned to the labs to examine their semi-permeable membranous eggs for changes in weight.  Students quickly found that two of the eggs changed their weight dramatically (one heavier & one lighter) while the third remained generally the same.  After learning about what osmosis is and how the process of fluids moving across solutions from lower to higher concentration, they came to understand how it was that one egg became larger and heavier and one became smaller and lighter.  This same process of osmosis effects salmon as they move from low salt concentrations in fresh water streams to higher salt concentrations of the open ocean.

   

                Students realized the important need for habitats of brackish water (part salty part fresh) in which salmon may life and adapt their body physiologically before entring the open ocean or returning to their natal streams. The day ended with new understanding and exhuberant smiles.

 

October 15th, 2012

Salmon Education & Habitat Restoration

This was the first of five Saturday Science Academy (SSA) events to be hosted by the Science Program of Northwest Indian College (NWIC) for the Fall Quarter 2012.  Today’s event began an hour earlier than usual (9am instead of 10am) so as to begin work with our partners on time.  As students finalized their sign-in worksheets (e.g. emergency contact form), they were quickly ushered outside for the warm-up game activity, “All My Friends Who.” This is a team building game in which individual participants discover their common connections (likes and dislikes) with the larger community of participants. Subsequently, Nathanael Davis welcomed students back from their summer vacation for the start of the fall SSA series and introduced the students to the day’s activities. 

 

Activities for the day included meeting two partner youth programs (North Cascades Wild and Western Washington University College Students) to help with stream habitat restoration and salmon life-cycle/habitat education. Students were loaded up into vans to leave the Northwest Indian College campus for the work party site at the north end of Terrell Lake and the headwaters of Terrell Creek.

 

 The facilitating partners from NSEA gathered all of the students together along the banks of Terrell Creek and initiated discussion among the students about healthy salmon habitat and the on-going county improvement efforts to restore Terrell Creek to salmon bearing conditions.  The youth discovered that the stream had once been damned (now removed) to compound the existing lake.  In order to restore the stream, the WCCD re-graveled & graded the stream bed with new cobble and added woody debris to help revitalize the physical parameters of the former creek. Today, students would be helping to replant the stream banks in order to provide stability to hold the soil on the banks, shade to cool the stream, and woody vegetation as food for macro-invertebrate organisms living in the stream. 

 

 After a brief introduction to the diversity of trees and shrubs to be planted and a demonstration of proper planting technique, students broke up into teams with adult leaders to begin work.  In total, more than 2500 trees and shrubs lined both sides of the stream bank waiting to be planted.  While students worked diligently to plant, educators from NSEA shared with groups about the complex life-cycle of local salmon and the need for projects like this one to restore disturbed creeks to salmon bearing condition.

 

Lunch was provided following the morning work and students joined in games for a period of reprieve.  The afternoon continued with more tree and shrub planting, educational walks and a follow-up discussion when students arrived back on the Northwest Indian College Campus. Pacific Northwest salmon species are significant cultural, spiritual and subsistence organisms for Coast Salish peoples and today’s service-learning allowed these native youth to take full perspective of the science and traditional values of sustaining healthy environmental practices for the benefit of all creatures.  The day’s activities were full and engaging and I am very excited to the students return for the next Saturday Science Academy.

June 12th, 2012

Service-Learning at Horseshoe Bend Trail – Mt. Baker

This was the fourth of four Saturday Science Academy (SSA) events to be hosted by the Science Program of Northwest Indian College (NWIC) for the Spring Quarter 2012.  On this event, students joined the US Forest Service Staff at Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest to help clean-up and maintain a heavily used local trail along Horseshoe Bend of the North Fork of the Nooksack River.  Students arrived early to the Glacier Public Service Center on a brisk and chilly morning to meet Kathy Vue and Stella Torres who were hosting today’s service-learning event.  After brief introductions among the students and staff, participants filed into the park office for a warm-up and exploration of wildlife displays and maps that introduced guests to the Mt. Baker Ranger District. 

Once students were satisfied with their introduction to beautiful forested landscape, they were off to start their work to maintain and restore trail access of a local trail.  Justin Paglia and his USFS trail crew initiated the students to the various tools and equipment used to clear brush and trim tree hedges from overgrowing the trail boundary.  Each student was paired up with a staff member, practiced a few times with their tools, quickly donned their hard hats and gloves, and were off down the trail to do some hard work.  The trail snaked its way along the edge of the Nooksack River, which provided beautiful scenery of wet, mossy river rock, bubbling currents of rushing water, and the music of morning birds on their way to feed their young.  

After about a half mile of hiking, students divided up their tasks and went straight to work removing low vegetation climbing its way across the edges of the trail, to trimming low hanging branches that snag hikers as they  pass, and to removing leaf and twig litter that had fallen in a recent storm.  The students were eager to be busy working as the cool air from the river and the little sunshine that came through the over cast skies drew many to shiver and bundle up in their loose spring sweatshirts. The work seemed to finish up quickly along a quarter mile after three hours of labor and the students found themselves hungry.   After hiking back down the trail, thanking our trail crew leaders and jumping in the van, the students were off again to the next stop at Douglas Fir Campground for lunch.

After lunch, students went for a short hike and lessons about local native plants and their uses by native peoples of the Pacific Northwest.  The students enjoyed finding salmonberries, Oregon grape, bracken fern and so many others.  Once the short lessons were over, the students played a few games of “Searching for Sasquatch.”  Students hurried themselves around in search of Sasquatch and then quickly finding partners when a number is called out to start a different activity.  Those students without a partner were then called out of the game and the game continued until only two students remained.  After the games, students were engaged with instruction from Sean Martin of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.  He brought students down to the river’s edge to examine small invertebrate insects caught in a net after kicking up rocks in the current.  These insect form the foundation of the diet of local salmon and are vital to the success of the river ecosystem to allow runs of salmon to return each year.  The day finished with discussions the salmon life cycle and a big wave goodbye to the park as we cranked up the heater for the long ride down the mountain back home.  :)

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