The Woods Hole @ Cape Cod Adventure Begins
My Kenan Fellows Teacher Leadership adventure began today. Flights from Denver to Boston followed by a two hour Peter Pan bus ride transported me to Woods Hole, Massachusetts. After meeting housemates and Dr. Amy & Dr. Paul Maddox , the Maddox’s served us a delicious meal complete with excellent conversation. Following dinner, my walk ‘home’ to our Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) cabin symbolized what I ‘expect’ from this experience: I have no idea what to expect— I never thought in the morning that I’d be carrying a fan (to help keep cool on the in-AC’ed cottage) while walking along a cut-through with a post-doctoral student from Italy. I’m excited to see what this experience brings! Follow me on this journey!
Introduction to Woods Hole & MBL
My first day began with a lecture, ‘A Colorful Solution to the Challenge of Breathing through a Biofilm’, by Dr. Diane Newman of CalTech. This impressive presentation focused on micro diversity, redox chemistry, and the challenge of organism’s oxygen access specifically of phenazines. This sharing of information in the auditorium was the exchange of information and questioning.
As a teacher, I especially noted the speaker’s continuous reference to other scientists’ studies and giving credit to the work of others. I also appreciated the presenter’s openness to questions and willingness to answer questions more in-depth later. Even though my personal understanding of the topic was very limited, Dr. Newman’s passion for her studies and desire to explain her research and knowledge were completely evident and contagious!
The majority of the day was spent becoming oriented with Woods Hole, the incredible facilities, and just a little of the Maddox’s research. The town of Woods Hole is charming and quiet with a few restaurants and gift shops along Water Street. Woods Hole is a gathering of intellect and research including the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the National Marine Fishery, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), Sea Education, & the US Geological Survey.
MBL alone is busy with between 250-1200 people at a time throughout the year. Impressively, 58 Nobel Laureates have spent time working and collaborating at MBL. Also extremely meaningful and forward-thinking since inception, MBL has included women, different races, and various cultures.
Pictured above you can see the gate paying homage to the unofficial MBL mascot (the squid), Lillie Hall, remote water vehicles in Buzzards Bay, a statue of Rachel Carson (environmentalist & marine biologist), a display in the MBL visitor center, & a view of Buzzards Bay including the ferry to Martha's Vineyard.
Photos below show highlights of the hands-on tour of the MBL’s marine resource center’s tank room.
I learned some jaw-dropping facts about horseshoe crabs (their blood is excellent at clotting & determining toxic materials), welks, (who build their own shells), dogfish (who hunt in packs & birth live pups), & more!
The MBL has the largest collection of cephalopods (squids). These creatures have complex social behavior and the largest brain-body ratio of any creature.
They can change their skin’s color and texture.
A highlight of the day was being given the opportunity to help out in the lab. After instruction from Amanda Brown, a research assistant, I prepared some Petrie dishes by setting worm and embryo colonies in agar gel with a sugar food source. These worm and embryo samples are used for research on the cell division ring, isolating certain proteins, & learning specifics concerning the outer cell wall.
During the tour around Woods Hole, I stopped in the gift shop and purchased picture books on my students' levels. Click on the photo below to access a Google Slideshow I created for one of these books.
MBL Day 2 of Science Immersion
Tuesday’s physiology lecture was presented by Sarah Keller on phase separation which is currently a controversial topic. From her teaching, I gathered the importance of physical movement, hand gestures, voice inflection, and reenactments during a presentation. These expressive actions maintains attention better and illustrates the enthusiasm in the topic. She also discussed the importance of choosing the best collaborators for yourself. As learned at NCCAT with Kenan Fellows, aligning yourself with colleagues with similar passions yet different abilities & character traits makes for dynamic partnerships.
Time with Dr. Paul Maddox was enlightening with discussions highlighting the challenges of the digital to-from analog converter. From a teacher’s perspective, Dr. Maddox accepted every level of questioning and responded with the sincere desire to help that person understand. Which for me as a teacher, reiterates the importance of respectfully meeting our students at their level of understanding and helping them grow. Paul also shared the story behind his company’s name and logo, Mizar. Interestingly, Mizar is a double star to the dimmest star in a well-known constellation.
Later in the day, Amanda Brown taught two researchers how to use the laser imaging microscope for their study of yeast and the transitions between light and dark domains. Amanda’s ability to make learners feel comfortable and relaxed is a teaching skill that I believe to be important. Our brains work best under less stress so making students feel unnerved is beneficial in teaching.
Tonight, folk singing and another lecture is on the agenda! Fun and learning never ends!!
The fun and learning never ends in this beautiful town!
Stay tuned for more!
Wednesday at Woods Hole
‘Self-Assembly of Intercellular Matter’ lecture was presented by Cliff Brangwynne of Harvard. He is considered a pioneer in the molecular biology field. He stressed the idea for learning (& teaching!) that it’s good to ask simple questions. He made the basic comparison of biological vs man-made creations: self-assembly vs required assembly. He also explained organelles, cytoplasm & nucleoplasm organization, membrane-less organelles, and phase separation.
Here's an inspirational quote by an MBL fisherman/scientist: "I'd rather not catch a big fish than not catch a little fish." That's a great statement to base your dreams on!
Following the lecture, the adults played at the Zephyr Education Foundation. The Augmented Reality Sandbox was an incredibly fun & addicting Interactive Modeling System. This hands-on learning experience can help us better understand various landscapes, the effects of rising water levels, erosion, and much more!
The touch tank is always fun! Horseshoe crab, sea urchins, starfish, and hermit crabs are my favorites!
WHOI’s Ocean Science Discovery Center shows the historical and continued importance of WHOI’s scientific achievement. Interactive learning stations mixed with displays about Alvin and the discovery of the Titanic’s wreckage & other accomplishments.
Dr. Amy Maddox took time to explain several posters and her research on worms, Her willingness to teach and scientific knowledge is incredible!
Learning in the lecture hall, the lab, & the Library
Lillian Fritz-Laylin of the University of Massachusetts presented today’s lecture, ‘Our Evolving View of Cell Motility.’ She presented information of the evolution of cell movement specifically focusing on flagella-based swimming and actin-based crawling. Cell mobility is important in all aspects of our body functions including reproduction, development, immunity, and disease. Movement with and without local adhesion was discussed plus new research on cell movement transition.
Being a student instead of the teacher is always enlightening. Bring n a ‘classroom’ and learning environment in which I understand only a very basic level of the discussion reminds me of important factors of teaching which ALL constituents here at Woods Hole have exhibited: the encouragement of discussion, respect for everyone’s time and ideas, the use of audio visuals to enhance understanding & retention of information, passion for sharing information, and the ability to teach to all levels of understanding.
Dr. Paul Maddox explained laser microscopy, camera imagining, and optic wiring. From this particular microscope, there are three colors of lasers that can be emitted. This impressive microscope costs about $200k!
Some delicious lunchtime perks to be in Cape Cod: lobster roll and clam chowder!! The seagull desperately wants some!!
We had a productive time in the lab watching sea urchin embryos perform cell division. Dr. Amy Maddox is particularly interested in the alignment of the spindles.
Today was a day to go down in history!! I held a Nobel Prize, a copy of Origin of the Species signed by Charles Darwin, a delicious fresh lobster roll & my brain which fell out after so much thinking!
MBL Librarian Jennifer Walton graciously gave us a tour of the library that services MBL, WHOI, and other research organization in Cape Cod. Whole much of the collection has been digitized, there are many books still on the shelves. We were give the opportunity to explore the Rare Book Collection which for me as a librarian was so very exciting! This library is so amazing, here's a Google Slideshow:
The library had some books on discard so I grabbed on for a hands-on item to include in my show-and-tell for my students. Of course this book is for the most advanced learner, yet seeing this gives students something to strive to understand and motivation for setting learning goals.
I ended my day with a relaxing walk along the Cape Cod seashore via the bike trail. I was amazed by the multitude of ‘lady slipper’ seashells and the osprey nest. It was a beautiful end to an incredible day.
Friday began with a virtual meeting of the Maddox staff in Woods Hole and UNC-CH. UNC-CH biology graduate student, Jenna, presented a summary of her MBL Embryology summer course. She discussed the use
of illumination microscopy, development vs regeneration, and compared radial-lateral symmetry of some organisms.
The rest of the ‘work day’ was focused on collecting worms, setting plates, finding embryos, troubleshooting, and innovating a slide-coverslip system to help align the worms correctly for the laser microscopic imaging. My personal achievement for the day was creating a plate containing five worms prepped to undergo laser microscope imaging.
Friday night’s lecture which was open to the community was given by Dr. Ayanna Johnson about ‘The Future of Ocean Conservation.’ She has studied a multitude of subjects from ecosystems to policy management & is very active in grass-level research and government-level issues. She interviewed and learned from fisherman and divers (250+) about their concerns about our changing waters. She stressed the importance of meeting people where they are. Other very important points included concern over the percentage of minorities knowing how to swim and ocean farming. If you’d like to learn more about our ocean’s issues and future, check out Drawdown.org & the Billion Oyster Project and read the Green New Deal.
Sunday was a day for personal adventure! I headed out on the first ferry from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard at 6am. Then, I boarded Vineyard bus to Oak Bluffs to see the uniquely-colored houses with gingerbread trim. After coffee & a fresh peach scone, I traveled by bus to Edgartown to walk the streets to see the stately homes & the lighthouse.
Another bus ride took me to my favorite part of Martha’s Vineyard- Aquinnah. The beautiful clay cliffs, non-pretentious restaurants, a winding natural walk to the beach, and calm-water beaches make this a relaxing spot. Knowing this area is part of Wampanoag history adds even more appeal. My favorite restaurant of Cape Cod is here at the top of the cliff where I enjoyed clams and clam chowder soup.
Taking the bus back to the ferry was the way to go and since I had wait time, cooling off in the water was a no-brainer as was a nap on the ferry ride back to Woods Hole.
A walk through the historic cemetery, down Church Street to the lighthouse, and back to my MBL cabin catapulted the day’s walking total to over 12 miles. So, ferries, buses, and feet are all you need for an unforgettable adventure on Martha’s Vineyard & in Woods Hole!
Woods Hole Public Library
To day a visit to the public library was fun! Wherever I travel, I love to pop in the library because, just like with people, you can learn something from each one!
I saw similarities to my own local library (like magazine, books, multimedia, displayed art, books for sale, etc). I also found some interesting new ideas like a "Things for Checkout" such as a sewing machine, musical instruments, & games.
Last Day in Woods Hole
My last day in Woods Hole consisted of meeting two directors of educational operations, exploring in the aquarium, going on a water quality test, and having a final dinner at the Maddox home.
Doug Jones, director of the Children’s School of Science (CSS) in Woods Hole, spent a few minutes showing us around the school and answering my questions. CSS follows the premise that students should discover and be in nature as much as possible. Activities are hands-on and occur in a stress-free environment. CSS has many natural and organizational resources at their disposal. Experts in the fields from MBL, WHOI, and the community are involved in the programs at CSS.
Rob Reynolds, the mastermind behind the Zephyr Museum & other endeavors, discussed the creation of equipment in his museum, answered all of our questions, and gave a tour of the ship yard in Great Harbor. I hope to connect again with the Zephyr Museum on a project that would enhance science in our school.
Rob had arranged for our inclusion on a boat ride around the Cape Cod coast. On this trip, students of the Children’s School of Science conducted experiments and collected data on water quality. Kate, the teacher leading the course and experiment, was inspirational. Students gathered data on depth clarity, surface temperature, and pH balance in various locations in Great Harbor, Buzzards Bay, and other locations around the cape up to Wild Bay.
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium was a fun place to explore. The typical up-close encounter with fish and ocean animals plus a 'back-stage pass' for all visitors was fun.
Graciously providing and preparing our fourth meal at their home during our stay, the Maddox family wished us farewell.
What did I learn?
As a teacher, this blog section is my 'ticket-out-of-the door', my reflection.
I learned so much during my stay in Woods Hole:
*Woods Hole is an impressive compilation of great minds, a group of the most intelligent people I have ever met.
*Members of the science community are very willing to share their knowledge.
*Collaboration is extremely important.
*Science discovery is not a fast-paced, check-off-the-boxes type of work. It is a slow, tedious, trial-and-error endeavor.
Being a student again instead of the teacher taught me:
*Even though you may not understand much of an academically rigorous topic, you can always learn something.
*Respect for all learners, regardless of their level of understanding, is important.
*Letting students ask questions during the lecture is important because it clears up thinking for the remainder of the lesson.
*Using analogies to relatable topics is very helpful to teaching abstract concepts.
*A teacher's passion for the subject being taught is extremely valuable.
*'Stage presence' during instruction is important to the learner.
*Having visuals (images and words) help all learners.
Here are questions I still have:
*Why had I never heard of Woods Hole before this?
*How can we begin to include our students in experiences like Woods Hole?
*Can I go back? :)
Much Appreciation Goes To...
I have Kenan Fellows for Teacher Leadership for connecting me with this opportunity! I also have many people to thank for this wonderful experience!
Dr. Amy and Dr. Paul Maddox are responsible for providing this experience through Kenan Fellows. They gave of their time and personal finances to ensure we maximized our learning and enjoyment of our time in Cape Cod. They invited us into their home, prepared four dinners, suggested itineraries and led many wonderful conversations. I cannot thank them enough for giving me this learning and personal growth opportunity. (Pictured below: Rachel and I offered coins in honor of the Maddox Labs as is custom at MBL for good fortune. Best wishes to the Maddox dynamic duo in all endeavors!)
Amanda, a Maddox lab technician, was the best tour guide, cabin mate, and patient teacher of all-things-science. She taught me much about the culture of Woods Hole & scientific experimentation.
Thanks also to Rachel for being such an interesting and kind travel friend and Kenan Fellow partner. She explained many scientific terms and topics during my stay.
Thanks to my wonderful family who always supports and encourages me to be my best self. I love you all!! This trip has been fabulous but there is no place like home!
I'm Nicole Emmert,
I am glad you are traveling and learning with me!