Category Archives: Science in my Life

Poisons in Jazz Age New York City

So, I know I already posted my book talk paper that I read over winter break but I just recently started another chemistry based book and thought it’d be a great read for some of you all. I had actually hoped to read this book initially when Jo Ann explained what the book talk book had to be but alas, after searching for my original copy it seemed to have found itself left behind at my ex-boyfriend’s house halfway across the country and so, I set to find a new book which resulted in this paper and book talk.

I had talked to Jill at length about how much I wished I could have that original book back but didn’t want to reach out in order to get it back and so Jill, being a true PIC/BFF and the SpongeBob to my Patrick, got me a new copy for Christmas this year =). The book is called “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum. Luckily, over break I have been able to start reading it for my third time and have really enjoyed it so far even more than the first two times (I’m only halfway right now). The main reason I think I’m enjoying it so much more this time around is because of how well it demonstrates the nature of science and how being included into the culture of science is seen as a privilege given to very few (when it really isn’t that way). And therefore, here is a halfway-point book talk about a second book!


The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York

Title: The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

Author: Deborah Blum

Big Idea: Science is tentative and often seen as exclusive of other disciplines


In this book, Blum breaks up the history of poisonings in 1920s New York City into each category of poisons, as they seem to have a rather chronological path through time. The book covers the many poisons including chloroform, wood alcohol, the cyanides, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, methyl alcohol, radium, ethyl alcohol, and thallium.

Each chapter includes several aspects of the history of poisonings in Jazz Age New York in order to paint a vivid picture of all that happened to make forensic medicine and poisoning the complex yet intriguing spider web that they are today.

First, within each chapter is a historical account of how forensic medicine really got its’ footing in the laboratory and, more importantly, in the court rooms of New York. The chapters start by telling of the corruption within the medical examiner’s office and later on how it gets reversed and forensic medicine makes incredible strides forward by hiring a top pathologist, Dr. Charles Norris, from Bellevue Hospital at the time who went to great lengths to develop newer, more precise, and more sensitive tests to determine how a person had died. The chapters also includes multiple stories showing how a particular poison was used, often in multiple ways, in order to get rid of someone whom the poisoner didn’t want around (for whatever reason). These stories start with explanations of the crime scene, moving towards the story of what Dr. Norris and his team did in the lab to determine cause of death, and ending with the stories from the courtroom of who said what, what the verdict was, and what the (assumed) story of what really happened was. Some chapters include extra ties to things occurring in history at that time, for example the invention of the car, its’ increased popularity, and the ties to the increase in carbon monoxide and tetraethyl lead (TEL) (linked to mercury poisoning) deaths in car and gasoline factories).

Overall, “The Poisoner’s Handbook” tells an incredible, scientific and historical, account of how poisoning changed forensic medicine forever. The stories included within these pages cover multiple viewpoints of history including legal, scientific, historical, political, and technological of Jazz Age New York, which combine to create a colorful painting of what Jazz Age New York looked like, from both sides of the courtroom. People who would enjoy this book include people with scientific interests, people with medical interests, people with legal interests, as well as anyone with a strong sense of curiosity surrounding crime and science. Having a chemistry background would help in your initial understanding of the poisons before Blum discusses them; but, her descriptions of the physiological effects as well as her explanations of why these compounds and elements were so dangerous for human contact mean anyone could enjoy and understand the inner workings of poisoning in the Jazz Age of New York City through reading “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York.”

Reflections and Rochester

This week, as many of you are already aware of, is many of our first interviews for grown-up jobs. In preparing for this with the cohort I was prompted to reflect on all that we have done up until this point and find some shining moments for us to really highlight on Saturday. This reflection started for me at my first placement, since that’s where I really felt I got my teacher voice and persona down. However; after delving deeper into our journeys thus far it became more and more clear to me that all the hoops we jumped through for GRS are really rich experiences that, in retrospect, challenged me much more than my placements have. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t felt overwhelmed and at the breaking point at either of my placements, but it does say, heck it screams, that science in all spaces (authentic, culturally relevant, scientifically relevant) plays a monumental role in a cultivating a student’s scientific identity.

At the placement I’m in right now I actually teach one of my campers from this past August. At camp this camper became my project for the week and I really wanted to get him invested like the rest of our team was at the time. However, at school these days that same camper, now my student, is a leader in the classroom and really identifies with science being a part of his life. Now, maybe at camp he didn’t want to be there, or he didn’t see the point, but something happened between camp and today where he gets it now. He’s already asking me what the investigation is going to be next year and was quite disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t be the team leaders again.

I have felt slightly out of place in middle school but have started to really get it as of late. Seeing as a good portion of my current students haven’t taken science formally yet in school many of them need many more scaffolds than at my other placement; where the students were older and more familiar with how to participate in science. These additional scaffolds that need to be included for my students have really started to push me back to camp and STARS where we had to make it relevant and fun for our learners to increase their buy in.

It seems like one of the ways to do this is to include the community, which is all over our evaluation rubrics and other Warner materials, but is a real challenge for some units. For my opening lesson in Evolution I taught about fossils and rock layers and based it all around the Rochester Gorge at Lower Falls, which is a familiar and relevant place to many of my students. My CT commented after the day was over that it all clicked together really well in that lesson, which was structured similarly to past lessons of mine, but it did have much more buy in from students of all abilities because they all have a story about the Gorge and all want to have some fun facts to take to impress their family members at home. Seeing how well this went for me I am publicly challenging myself to include more pieces of the community and surrounding areas of Rochester in my future lessons whenever it works. It really sparked some interest in my current students, including my past camper at camp, and I think it can promote the inclusion of science into a student’s identity, especially in students with less background in science who haven’t realized that it is really all around us all the time and so it is relevant to their lives.

What do Rubber, Morphine, Purple Dye, and Nylon all have in common?

This week I wanted to share my book that I read for our book talk papers.  Although the book is on the longer side I really enjoyed that it didn’t require me to read it all in a short period of time (so that I wouldn’t forget the plot).  Each chapter could stand on its own and that made every time I picked up the book feel like a totally new experience.  It’s thorough and interweaving historical accounts of chemistry provided me with a ton of valuable insight into how far chemistry has come since the beginning of modern science.  I don’t want to give away too much more though, so that my presentation isn’t totally ruined before I even start it!


Book: Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History

Authors: Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson

Big Idea: Science is tentative, messy, and unexpected.

In Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules That Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson, a central idea of the Nature of Science, namely the fact that science is tentative and ever changing is pervasive. The book discusses seventeen molecules that, in the authors’ opinions, changed the path of history significantly with their identification and induction into society. As more molecules are discussed in the book, more overlaps between the molecules become evident. Ties between quinine and picric acid and aspirin, for example, are laced throughout all three of the chapters, which speak directly about those compounds. Furthermore, because many of these compounds were discovered, isolated, and synthesized within a similar range of dates their overlaps must go beyond even the scope of this book.

While there are many similarities between a large number of the compounds on which Napoleon’s Buttons focuses, the book pays special attention to the struggles and obstacles that scientists encountered while trying to isolate, determine the structure of, and stereo-selectively synthesize the molecules in question. This point is one that I think is significant for my future students, and would provide real-life Nature of Science into my future classroom. These struggles highlight the facts that science is messy, and indeed even some of the molecules spoken about in this book were discovered accidentally, while a researcher was looking for an entirely different compound, or even as a result of tiny differences in molecules’ structures.

In addition, significant time is spent in the book discussing how the development and use of some of these “miracle” compounds turned out to be “nightmare” compounds. For example, at the time of DDT’s (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) initial use for eradicating malaria and slowing the spread of typhus it seemed to be a positive, life changing molecule; but, DDT ended up having serious environmental impacts despite its efficiency at doing its main job and whose use has since been significantly reduced.

Overall, Napoleon’s Buttons speaks directly to the Nature of Science in a multitude of ways including its messiness and tentative natures. By reading even only individual chapters of this book my future students would get valuable insight into how sloppy, unexpected, and uncertain science can be. The connections between chapters, and thus reading the entire book, would provide students with an insiders’ look into science research and discovery; which would really uncover the collaborative and mysterious underpinnings of the development of our society, through the lens of science. In my own classroom, I could use this book in segments or as a whole, for the end results I stated prior, but could focus on the connections between seemingly unique compounds. Given the time to do so, a concept map of significant words in Napoleon’s Buttons would be cognitively challenging and profound for students to create, either for individual chapters or for the book as a whole, for which students could be responsible for individual chapters. For this task, the words in the concept map would go beyond just the compound names, by also include locations, dates, routes to discovery, origins, and so on. Through this exercise the interconnectedness of all corners of our current society could be made visible for learners.

This book is one that I would recommend to science geeks, learners, and all people in between in addition to anyone with an interest in history and the progression of modern advancements. In all, Napoleon’s Buttons is a book that can be enjoyed in single chapter segments or as a whole, but either way gives an insightful and descriptive account on seventeen history-changing molecules, many of which are very unexpected choices.



Le Couteur, P., Burreson, J. (2003). Napoleon’s buttons: 17 molecules that changed history. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Grappling with the Nature of Science

Jo Ann recently sent around the NSTA Position Statement on the Nature of Science and I wanted to talk about one of the pieces of it more specifically and the challenges that, I would imagine, come along with teaching students that portion of the statement. The statement is below:


A primary goal of science is the formation of theories and laws, which are terms with very specific meanings.

  1. Laws are generalizations or universal relationships related to the way that some aspect of the natural world behaves under certain conditions.
  2. Theories are inferred explanations of some aspect of the natural world. Theories do not become laws even with additional evidence; they explain laws. However, not all scientific laws have accompanying explanatory theories.
  3. Well-established laws and theories must be internally consistent and compatible with the best available evidence; be successfully tested against a wide range of applicable phenomena and evidence; possess appropriately broad and demonstrable effectiveness in further research.


Now, I realize that this fact of science isn’t new news to any of us, having studied science for 10+ years (if you count from 7th grade on). But I would assume that this is a really difficult idea for most young science learners to wrap their heads around, especially the first few times they come across this.

Obviously my instincts want me to talk from a Chemistry perspective so some topics where this idea would come through include might be within atomic theory specifically with the evolution of the atomic model and within ideal gas laws. I think there would be more opportunities for this piece of the nature of science to be taught in other content areas like within evolution or many of the major physics units but my main struggle with teaching this concept centers around when learners grapple with the concept the first few times they encounter it. This mostly is because this idea that theories explain laws but not all laws have theories is contrary to most other areas of school, and really life.

What experiences have you all had that directly covered theories and laws in class and how did you find students did working through the struggles of theories not ever becoming laws despite evidence that proves them true and how not all laws have partnering theories to explain them? I’m mostly interested in how students responded to this unique part of science and what helped them think through all of these idiosyncrasies of science.



NSTA. (2015). NSTA Position Statement: Nature of science.

Mints, Fire, and Crime

This coming week Jill and I are leading our series of lessons at our placement.  For this mini-unit we are teaching electron excitation and are trying really hard to ground our students’ learning in real world.  For this we have come up with the Wint-o-green triboluminescence experiment, a human model of electron excitation (See Jill’s blog), a flame test investigation, and an investigation into spectroscopic lines.  It seems, and is, a lot to accomplish in only three or four days (depending how much time the students need for each assignment) but we’ve been wrestling a lot recently about whether what we have planned would be enough, because (as we’ve all heard a billion times before in Summer B) “hands-on is not enough.”

We, or at least I am, completely, totally, a billion percent psyched for all of our activities to do in the two general chemistry classes.  For one, what student doesn’t want to see their teachers climbing on stools and throwing M&M’s to each other (See Jill’s post for more on this), or who doesn’t want to change the color of a bunsen burner flame into any color of the rainbow, and lastly (and the one I’m most excited for) who doesn’t want to do a lab investigation into spectroscopic lines that starts with a short video of Miss Weber and Miss Kramer committing mysterious crimes involving fluorescent light bulbs (that can be identified by spectroscopic lines)??? I’d like to think no one doesn’t want to partake in those activities but it’s inevitable that someone might have a bad day or just not care so much about making mints flash light in your mouth that day.  Also, because of timing issues in class we have to start one class off with notes that our CT has already given to the other class.  This is making re-syncing the two classes difficult.

Significant changes to our plans have happened since its conception, due mostly in part to input from our supervisors and other advisors, but also because of Jill’s ingenuity to preface our final summative lab assessment with a relevant, funny, and engaging video clip of us presenting a series of mysterious crimes to our students to solve.  We’ve also decided to change our flame test from an actual lab to a demonstration, but to improve student engagement and increase its “cool” factor (although for fire-based labs I don’t know how much that is necessary) by changing the procedure form burning wooden splints soaked in salt solutions to using spray bottles to mist the flame in salt solution.  After our tests on Friday last week this turns out to work really well (except for if you spray too closely to the flame and extinguish it) so our CT is looking forward to using the spray bottle technique in the future.  Our human model (again, see my PIC’s blog for more on that) also should provide much better basis for understanding than diagrams or regular notes.  By combining YouTube videos and outside suggestions we’ve come up with a way that has already worked very well in improving our Regents class’s understanding of the concept.

Overall, I’m excited but there seems to be so so so much more do to for this than for STARS.  Also, I’ve noticed I feel less comfortable when I’m not the only teacher figure in the room so I will need to do a lot of personal chances to make sure I come across the way I hope to … the first challenge of which will be learning not to always talk over Jill, which after being a single team leader for STARS will provide me with a huge challenge.

A figurative stretch… of sorts

So far my placement has been incredible.  I really feel like I’m setting into my teacher shoes quite nicely and I’ve been surprising myself fairly often with how well I handle situations that I would have died inside because of just a few months ago.

That being said there are a few minor things that I’ve definitely taken my rose colored glasses off for.  One of which is the way our school is handling Regents Chemistry this year.  In the past the school had normal Regents Chemistry classes just like a majority of schools around New York; with direct instruction, group work, and laboratory experiences.  In contrast, this year the school decided to test Hybrid learning for its Regents Chemistry class.  At first, and this was partially due to my CT’s excitement, I was really looking forward to the hybrid class and diving head first into some real-life, real-practice new literacies.  This class seemed especially exciting to me because I would have so much cool “been-there-done-that” experience to share in my Literacy and Learning as a Social Practice class.

However, I can confidently say hybrid learning is not all I thought it would be cracked up to be.  I’d like to think it’s because of how it was rolled out or something along those lines but I have a fear that its a much more universal challenge than that.  Now that it’s been a full month since starting my placement I can see that the students in the General Chemistry classes probably have an equal level of understanding to those in the Regents class, despite covering a very similar amount of material and being noticeably different caliber students.

My placement is technically an international high school so we do have a larger number than usual of English Language Learners that, because of their lower English proficiency, also have a lower reading level compared to their peers.  Take into account that their peers are also at a lower than what is expected reading level and a majority of the Regents class aren’t at the reading level they should be in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade.  This fact alone, I think, is the biggest contributor to why hybrid learning isn’t going as planned.  Because almost all of the content is taught online, it’s required that the students read all of the material to learn the new concepts.  There are, of course, videos and activities to supplement the reading but because most of the class are lower-than-grade-level readers and they are expected to read, not only high level English vocabulary but also brand new science vocabulary, in order to learn the content it’s becoming clear why they’re learning slower than their peers in General Chemistry who are receiving significantly more direct instruction.

What types of activities could we include to help boost student understanding without taking away from the current setup of content online and lab/group work in class? How do I go about implementing these small changes without potentially offending my CT, who treats this project as her baby? What positives of this experience am I overlooking because I’m so focused on the negative?  Is it possible that this is temporary and it’s really only a long learning curve and I’m over-reacting? Why do I have so many questions? Help.

Harambee and Purple Stained Fingers

This week in my latest series of teacher events I found myself at the Freedom School experiencing Harambee for the first, but hopefully not last, time.  Harambee was incredible, and for those of you that know how intensely I feel emotions, it almost choked me up.  After hearing for the past two months how disadvantaged urban students tend to be and how they are often disengaged as well, getting to see (my estimate of over a hundred) urban youth dancing, singing, cheering, supporting each other, and getting excited for another fun, educational, and friendly day at the Freedom School was really overwhelming.

Jill and I then went to battle the gusts of wind to set up our APK station which Jo Ann aptly named “Can you picture this?”

APK Station Sign

The experience felt like mayhem, in a good way.  Ten minutes FLY by when you have campers in front of you, so we were constantly collecting papers, erasing whiteboards, taking pictures, moving Warner paper, etc. just to keep our heads above the water that was APK stations.

APK Station Group Talk

APK Station JandJ

APK Station Graph APK Station Making Graph








Overall, seeing the excitement in the Freedom School was actually a little intimidating, especially knowing we’re all going to have to get ourselves up to that level for camp.  I can already feel the exhaustion!!!  Unfortunately I never played any sport that had cheers of any sort so I’m hoping someone else has or that we’re all willing to get creative and a tiny bit weird.  On the other hand, I am SO pumped for ice breakers and team building.  I have to admit, I HATED this stuff when I was a freshman at college but now that I’ve come out of my shell I can’t wait to do them again from a more outgoing perspective.  I think the fun we have at camp will easily make all the work of Warner Lesson Plans and Unit Planning worth it; although I can already see my sleep calendar getting severely diminished.


To end on a purely fun note; last night the cohort all met at Jo Ann’s house for the most fun tie dye session I’ve ever been a part of. (And just so you all realize how big of a deal that is I have tie dyed at least once or twice a year since high school).  Everyone brought some food or drink and we took out to tie dye a grand total of 34 shirts! My biggest tie dye task yet, so I’m glad I had so much help!  Spirals and accordion style rubber banding dominated Jo Ann’s patio table (and then basement floor) which all came out looking incredible.  Ryan turned out to be our resident spiral-pro and was quickly recruited to spiral at least one of everyones shirts,  Jill quickly realized she could be successful at tie dying, Eric and Angie became our professional wring-out-the-t-shirt-ers, Tiarra and Alanna were nature rubber-band-taker-outers which made easy work out of retying 34 shirts.  I actually found myself being pretty useless! But, I guess that means I instructed well, since several of our instructors have said that when you feel useless you’ve scaffolded and planned the “activity” well.  I just think I have very helpful and clever friends.  We missed Kaitlin and Ceb (following a earlier visit) but I’m sure both of you will be happy with the shirts we’ve made for you; but, on a positive note you guys are probably the only two people who don’t have purple stained fingers today (despite my make-shift plastic bag gloves)!

Overall, a great night with great friends.  Looking forward to camp with everyone, but specifically with (temporarily) named Team Jerica.

11pm and still smiling!

11pm and still smiling!

One of our best spirals

One of our best spirals



The Science of Freedom

Summer B is here!! It’s astonishing to me that we’ve only been here for six weeks … seven if you count orientation because I already feel so comfortable and connected with our cohort.  I’m sad to see 487 go, but also really excited to see where 486 takes us.  The first project seems like it’s going to be very beneficial, especially for camp and for all of our future classrooms, which is a scary but exhilarating thought considering how fast time is going.  I guess everything is falling in line with a quote another professor of mine recently said to our class, “Don’t save time, lose it.”

Anyway, today’s the fourth of July and a day that I always look forward to in the summer because it means my boat, a beach barbecue, the ocean, and fireworks … usually.  This year, despite my trip home, Hurricane Arthur has laid down the meteorological law and said “no beach, no boats, and no fireworks; I’m going to rain and thunder all day instead.”  So, instead of getting a little sunburnt and watching Long Island’s finest fireworks from the beach I will have to downgrade to some thunder and lightning as my entertainment.


Ever since I can remember I’ve been pretty obsessed trying to figure out how fireworks work and how you make them bigger and cooler than the ones we have right now.  I guess I assumed it was a process rooted in some unattainable science that I would never really understand.  However, I recently found this video explaining the chemistry of fireworks.  It seems surprisingly basic, compared to what I thought it would be like, and relatively straight forward to anyone with an understanding of simple chemistry.

Here’s the video:

Some things I could especially interesting was that the video says the blue is the hardest color to create and requires the perfect chemistry to produce it.  I never really realized but looking back a majority of fireworks are white, yellow, red, or green. I’ve rarely seen blue or purple ones and when I have they always feel more special … but maybe that’s just me.

Some more information I found really interesting, which was when my initial interest in fireworks really started was with regard to their shape.  From what I’ve read, the shape of a firework has everything to do with the arrangement of the pellets within the outer shell; and often has some involvement of multi-break shells.  Simply, the pellets need to be arranged in the shape within the firework shell but then surrounded on the outside with a break charge and on the inside with explosive charges.  These pellets need to be ignited all at the same time to create the intended shape, otherwise it will just look like a big mess.

Some interactive (but basic) firework shapes:

I wanted to leave you all with the best firework video I could find but there are just way too many to choose from, and I’m biased towards New York or Disney World displays. Besides, I’m sure seeing them live will outdo any video I can supply you.




The Chemistry of Fireworks – Reactions. [Video File]. Retrieved from

HowStuffWorks Field Guide to Aerial Fireworks. (2000). Retrieved from

Brain, Marshall.  (30 June 2000). .How Fireworks Work. Retrieved from

The Adventure to End All Adventures

Words will never be able to tell the story of Jill’s and my adventure yesterday as accurately or as funny as it really was, but I feel that I must try because it really was so much fun. Also, if someone could show me how to upload videos from the iPad to here we took several that will really add to the story.


So basically our plan for the day was to start in Geneseo getting data and water samples and end up in Charlotte at the beach.  Geneseo and Avon ended up being our biggest struggles and we both agreed had we traveled north to south instead of south to north we might have quit after seeing the river access points in Geneseo and Avon.

Finding the Geneseo access point was harder than we expected, we wandered around like lost puppies for a while, called several friends who were alum of Geneseo, and finally we typed the perfect search into GoogleMaps that gave us the result we needed.  Luckily Jill bought rain boots (because her flip flops would have never survived) and we carefully descended the muddy shore down to the river and the labyrinth of bugs neither of us could deal with.  The measurements all went smoothly but during our final 90 seconds at the shore, packing up the DataHub and probes, the insect gods must have decided they wanted to test Jill’s and my limits and we were surrounded with every variety of flying bug you could imagine.  This clearly ended in a ton of screaming, laughing, and a serious sprint back to the car.

Avon was a similar debacle.  First off, the bugs in Avon made the bugs in Geneseo looks like gnats.  Then, the fishing access point that we found online for best river access was essentially a muddy cliff down to the river.  I attempted to climb down in my sneakers but quickly got suctioned into the mud only two-thirds of the way down and retreated to the safety of the cement path.  Huge props to Jill for volunteering to climb down in her boots to get the samples (especially since she has said multiple times how she is not a nature person).  She climbed down with only one free hand and was able to get all the data while dodging airplane sized mosquitos, quicksand-like mud, and me laughing and videoing from above.  She didn’t come out completely unscathed but she made it, and that’s what matters.

Avon Cliff Selfie Avon Mud Cliff

Dirty but still smiling!

Dirty but still smiling!

Scottsville was my turn to climb, for which I switched shoes with Jill and descended a long, rocky hill to the river below.  Unfortunately for Jill this was much less eventful and she couldn’t get the revenge she had hoped for what I filmed in Avon.

Post Measurement Boot Cleaning

Post Measurement Boot Cleaning

RIT was also uneventful, as well as the U of R, where we finally took a lunch break to enjoy our matching Wegman’s Subs and chocolate chip cookies.

UR Selfie UR Measurements JK

At Ford St we were asked by some passerby if we were going swimming (and to be careful) which gave us a good laugh.

Ford St Storm Clouds Ford St Selfie








We ran into Mike at Corn Hill who gave us a hard time because, “Don’t you guys have work to do?” To which we got to show off our WhirlPaks and DataHub probes to one of the first people who didn’t look at us like we were crazy.  But then we encountered a few more people who looked at us weird when I climbed down a ladder to the water and had to hang on for dear life as I scooped the WhirlPak under the surface.

Holding on for dear life

Holding on for dear life

Corn Hill Measurements JW Corn Hill Measurements JK








Smith Street Bridge and Maplewood park didn’t give us any access points to the water so we ended up losing those two data points along the way.

Turning Point park gave us a good flashback.  Walking up and down that hill was quite the workout after being out and about for a good seven hours at that point.  We did find a great camping chair at the water access, but it was sitting in the river bed.  Even Jill’s $10 wasn’t enough for me to climb into the river for a comfortable seat to take measurements in.  There was some rustling in the reeds around our access point we were sitting at to which we guessed at that point in our adventure it was probably coming from a Mountain Lion (Jill’s guess) or a crocodile (my guess).

Turning Point Camping Chair

We ended at Charlotte’s boat launch which went pretty well, the parking lady urged us to “keep the fish alive!”  But, after eight and a half hours exploring Monroe and Livingston Counties I think I can speak for both Jill and I when I say we will leave that for another day.

That's all folks!

That’s all folks!

Science, science, everywhere!

Mendon Ponds Canoe

I really struggled this week thinking of what to write about since nothing nearly as exciting/terrifying happened to me this week as opposed to last week and, because I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed with work and moving. However, Friday I spent the day at Mendon Ponds Park in Henrietta, canoeing on Hundred Acre Lake, which ended up giving me plenty of material. Since our field trips around Rochester to “find science in the city” I have been much more attuned to seeing science where it isn’t so obvious.

First getting the canoe securely fastened to the car, which became quite a test of strength for me, made me think of all the forces acting on the canoe as I drove. Then, once we found the lake there was an endless supply of life under the surface to explore …. from above of course, it’s not quite swimming season for me yet. I tried to get pictures of everything but with the glare from the glorious sunshine that became pretty difficult. The only thing I did manage to get was what seemed to be an underwater Christmas Tree farm. These plants covered the entire bed of the pond but never broke, or even touched, the surface. I assumed from this there must be a delicate range of temperatures that the plant can survive in.

Mendon Ponds XMas Trees

There was also a variety of cloud shapes to be named and discussed as well as birds and insects to attempt to identify. Being that I am not an avid bird watcher or insect collector my guesses were assumably completely wrong. However, I did find that I remembered quite a bit about clouds. What started as just a trip out to the park because the weather was perfect became a scientific experience for me. I think I called out “Science!” so many times my friends started to do it as well just to poke fun at me.

Being that I am a chemist, and have spent an incredible majority of my time and credit hours exploring chemistry and its related topics I realized I used to not see science existing as abundantly as it does. Science to me, for a while, was chemicals, experiments, NMR results, chromatography, and the like. Before, in my eyes, rocks were just rocks, bridges were built wherever you wanted, and bacteria was all bad and everywhere (I apologize to all the geoscientists and biologists out there). Being out in Rochester for the two classes last week opened my eyes back up to how much of life the topic of science actually covers, which I am extremely grateful for. Being aware of science outside of the lab and textbook makes learning much easier for students, as we’ve read and experienced ourselves. So, I’m glad to now feel the urge to shout out “science!” whenever I see something I can relate back to a topic I learned back in school.

Mendon Ponds