Category Archives: Science

Cautiously starting to compost at Albany High

We are moving ever so gingerly toward composting fruit and vegetable scraps at Albany High. In time, this could be one of the best things we do.

Decomposition is aided by a mix of nitrogen-rich "green materials," such as fresh fruit scraps, and carbon-rich "brown" materials, such as dried plant stalks.

Decomposition is aided by a mix of nitrogen-rich “green materials,” such as fresh fruit scraps, and carbon-rich “brown” materials, such as dried plant stalks.

How, you wonder, could deadly dull composting ever compare to plucking beans and peas from the vine and popping them right in your mouth? How could it possibly compare with getting kids who say they don’t eat greens to try them and to then to declare that they truly like them? How could it provide the satisfaction of a fall harvest?

Well, we see the initiative as a route to engaging students in conversation about environmental challenges and the role that individuals can play in meeting these challenges. Composting can trim use of fossil fuel-dependent fertilizers. It can save landfill space. And it  Continue reading

Undeveloping school grounds to teach about nature

The grounds around Buckingham Pond, maybe a mile and a half from Albany High School, aren’t kept as tidy as we once expected our public parks to be. And with good reason, as explained on the sign in the first accompanying photograph. All the sculpting and groomiNo mow zoneng and lawn-mowing we subject hill and dale to in parks and office campuses and at golf courses and schoolyards destroy habitat that plants and animals depend on. And diverse populations of flora and fauna actually are good for the health of our communities and maybe even the sustainability of life on this planet.

So here’s a thought: If Albany’s Department of General Services can take the long Continue reading

Science opportunities in new look at old practice

Cover crops are catching on in grain-growing regions. So considerable is the trend that the New York Times reported on it in a front-page story in Sunday’s business section. Kinda surprising that the article didn’t mention that we have been dabbling with cover crops at Myers Middle School and Albany High School. Cover cropsBut it still serves as a helpful reminder that this is a subject worth considering for a moment.

So first, what the heck are cover crops? In short, cover crops are plants whose purpose on the farm has more to do with protecting Continue reading

Native plants triggers thoughts about ecosystem

Look cloNative plants plantedsely near our raised beds at Albany High and you will see a line of 11 small ornamentals. Students in one of Larry Bizzarro’s earth science classes planted them last week in a modest observation of the 45th annual Earth Day. And we would like you to know that these plants are native to the Northeast. Indeed, you might say we organized this planting to start a conversation about native plants.

Why?

They ought to be easier to care for than plants that evolved in a different environment and different climate. Also, they should attract the native insects that native birds depend on. “Many bird species Continue reading

An experiment in human nature, of a sort

Squash1-AHS
If anything seems to attract thieves’ notice, it’s big showy fruiting vegetables, such as the squash that will soon appear on these beautiful plants.

The new garden at Albany High is in quite an exposed location. That is to say that, among other things, that trouble-makers must see it all the time. Presumably people who damage things that don’t belong to them drive and bike and walk up and down North Main Avenue. So what were the organizers of this garden thinking? And is it going to be safe without a fence around it?

The first question is easy to answer. In addition to lots of sun, the site is near Continue reading

In search of accurate pH measurement

When you hold a ruler against something you need to measure, you can be sure that the six-inch mark really is six inches from an end of the ruler. It isn’t so easy, however, to measure soil pH.pH testing tools

We discovered in the fall that different tools sometimes produce starkly different results with a single sample of soil. In one instance, we came up with an acidic 5.0 when we tested with pH paper and an alkaline 8.0 with a system that mixes soil with an indicator solution. So what to do? And do user errors or Continue reading