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Chickens are modern dinosaurs. . .

This is a note to a student from Learning Outpost’s science tutor, Dan Wellehan.

Hi Pam and Cade,

I am shocked and saddened. I thought you two should be the first to know. I should have connected the dots long ago, as I’ve known the facts individually for quite some time.

You see, I might not be destined to rise again from the fossil record in a post-human-extinction distant future, resurrected by 6-foot tall cockroaches in lab coats, and populate my own little island of “Anthropocene Park” (or whatever the future-cockroaches will call the attraction in their native tongue. Actually, my money would be on ants or wasps. And in the dinosaur’s time, who would have bet on little rat beasts coming up to dominate life on Earth? But I digress.) In Jurassic Park, as we all know, geneticists and paleontologists tag team the effort to extract dinosaur DNA from the red blood cells in a fat mosquito encased in amber. My own little genetic time capsule, stashed away over 20 years ago in a fat mama mosquito on a spruce tree in the Bigelow Mountains (not too far from the hut by the way!), should be ready for show time whenever the big bugs get here. But I was just watching (for perhaps the 10th time) this great TED talk by paleontologist Jack Horner about his dino DNA hunt, and as he was saying something completely unrelated to me (in fact the entirety of his talk was not related to me), a light bulb went off in my head. You should watch the talk Cade. And yes, though I’m not assigning it to you Pam, it is, in my opinion, well worth watching.

chicks 2
So Horner plainly states one seemingly insurmountable problem in his quest (not to be confused with Michael Crichton’s plot). That is your first homework question: Specifically why has this guy and his team failed to resurrect a Tyrannosaur?

(Now… I am sending you this Sunday afternoon. When is this homework due? I don’t know. BUT I do want to see a completed genetics exam Monday so that we can wrap up that unit and focus on evolution. Genetics will of course inform our study of evolution, but I do not want you (and me) to be further distracted by a bio exam that’s hanging over your head. Slay the beast. Then let’s move on to some fun stuff. And, that first question should land on your lap over the course of the 16 and a half minutes, so it’s not arduous work, but interesting science… according to me.)chicks 1
New more powerful tools are developed, and so one could optimistically suppose that we can eventually find a way around the seemingly insurmountable challenge he highlights with his Tyrannosaur. But even assuming that best case scenario, a second problem with my own brilliant plan deals a near fatal blow. So even if Horner’s team (well, team future-bugs) develop better lab techniques, the odds of my genetic comeback in a distant future just got 1000 times less likely. (Okay, fine: I acknowledge the odds My second question looks further down the road. Inevitably lab techniques improve. weren’t super amazing to begin with, and perhaps, considering the staggeringly slim possibility, with my success at the whim of future bug-society paleontologists, this doesn’t significantly change the odds. But at least I have some plan, right? Albeit, a plan that seems 1/1000 as robust as it did yesterday. (I would like to write here how sad that makes me feel, but then I might sound eerily similar to our president. SAD!) So your second homework question is: What about my (or your) biology makes the Anthropocene Park plan virtually impossible, even if the Jurassic Park plan worked out all the kinks for dinosaurs?

The answer is not obvious. But happily, you do not need to sneak into the Restricted Section of the library to find the answer. It is yours to discover, and just as “What is Fluffy guarding?” took some time to answer, this likely will too. See if you can crack the mystery.

And lastly, for what it’s worth, while Michael Crichton is a fascinating sci-fi author, he has for many years spewed some wildly unscientific “alternative facts” in his personal life. Good writer. Bad policy advocate.

See you Monday with the genetics exam done. And then… Inner Fish? Magic of Reality? This TED Talk or others of Dawkins? We can pick up the conversation in whatever order you choose.

Hasta mañana,

Dan

PS: A third baby dinosaur just hatched today! So cute…

Words, words, words

In writing class this week, we are learning how to organize and present information in a variety of different ways which can then be applied to expository essay structure. So, to practice (and for fun!), we color coded some of our vocabulary words.
Can you guess some of the criteria we used to sort the list? Hint: The 6 different colors correspond to 6 different criteria with completely subjective categories on the left and more objective categories on the right.DSCN1243

For the Birds!

Today, we read some favorite poems and realized we had a bird theme going for the day. I asked the students to write a bird poem in five minutes and we liked the results:

a rotting wood sign
i see it through my window
he Bellows out
I see him through my window
a snake Recoils, ready
i see him through my window
Do garbage people wake up very early
i see through your window
why haven’t you done your dishes?
–Cade Giordano

Cocked quick movements,
Swift like sunlight
Flashing through ragged leaves in winter.

Feet, clawed,
tiny, strong,
perch, grasp,
leap.

A small body made large by
Spread wings, impossible to
Follow with the eye.
Just, in a corner,
a rustle of movement,
like following the flickering light of a firefly.

A few Feet away, a glimpse into its eye.
–Clara Brandt

wings flutter like a Beating heart
filling the planet’s Internal skies
creating their own woRk of art
their night flight reflected in Dusky eyes
–Beth McDougall

Sonnets

We’ve been studying poetry and I asked the students to try and write sonnets: 14 lines in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme. Here are two examples that we liked a lot. The first is a Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet and the second is a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet.

Sonnet: A Flower Pot
by Clara Brandt
A flower pot is such a strange design,
As though a flower could by means be kept.
Its roots will grow til up the sides it’s crept,
Defying any who might call it “mine”.

It’s human nature designating lines,
Across which we proclaim no one shall step.
But soon, as all our bluster proves inept,
The flowers, small and steady, reach the sky.

As soon as one decides what can’t be done,
Proclaiming using strong authority,
It’s seconds at most until there’s one
Who shall refuse submissive harmony.
Yet as each old clay pot, now cracked, is flung,
Another’s thrown upon the potter’s wheel.

Lyfe, Spelled with a “Y” Because I Am Edgy: A Sonnet”
by Cade Giordano
My black backpack is much too big sometimes,
It is the right size for a bouquiniste.
I have a new bike. I’ve fallen two times
Yesterday when I was biking up east.

Within my backpack, the tools to fix it.
Maybe its huge size is not a problem.
During the ride home the road was moonlit
My new bike was fine but I felt solemn.

I got home, the dishes were in the sink.
Oh well, I will get to that tomorrow.
The night, horrible! No– I must rethink
The night, a painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

I bike during the day. I think at night.
Should I bike at dusk and bring a flashlight?

Benjamin Franklin reincarnated

benjamin-franklin-portrait-22494876Here’s a wonderful essay by a student written in the style of Benjamin Franklin:

Autobiography in the Style of Benjamin Franklin

At the age of 13 I graduated from that good institution where I had been a scholar for many of my childhood years, and at 14 began attending the new school I and my parents had selected. From the start I found myself in strikingly different society, yet soon had the good fortune of becoming acquainted with several ingenious and good-natured scholars of my age. I was surprised to meet like-minded individuals so quickly, but then, the student body was large compared to the smaller congregation that had frequented my previous place of education, so mathematically it was logical there would also be a larger number of students disposed to my sort of conversation.
Due to this large student body, the organization of classes was different than my previous experience. Rather than the students being divided into equal groups so as to attend classes together, each individual’s schedule was unique. I soon found myself needing to pay far more attention than previously required to where I was supposed to be, and at what time. In my schedule also were more segments of unscheduled time than I had been used to, during which I would begin the work assigned in classes. While I did learn to use this time advantageously, there were also undoubtedly moments when I would cease work on my tasks—most memorably, when a friend and I took it upon ourselves to rescue a number of balloons from a teacher bearing an unforgiving pair of scissors.
I even now do not consider these breaks from labor to have been improper, for continued use of a dulled mind shall ne’er sharpen. And, twas often my mind was worn of its keen edge, as there were many requirements to be daily fulfilled. The number of academic subjects I studied now numbered five, as opposed to the previous three at one time. And, although each supposedly distributed but forty-five minutes’ labor at the most, I discovered the magnitude of work assigned to rather dispute this presumption. But, then, there were also days when few classes were held, perhaps three on a good day, two classes on every second Thursday.
The building itself in which these classes were held was not especially large, but its various hallways did at first give me pause. I learned on my first day of a particular staircase which would lead me to a classroom, and from thence on proceeded to use this staircase, unaware of another far closer to where I stored my belongings until partway through the year. Indeed, for quite a while I would walk past the unknown stair, continue for half the length of the school until I reached the other, then would walk back along the second story until gaining the classroom. A friend who also attended this class eventually enlightened me.
It took me not long to learn to judge time by bells, although sight aught always to be trusted above the other senses. There was an occasion when I had believed my time for lunch had but barely begun, when the teacher of the class I had next informed me that I could bring my victuals to the class were I to run out of time to eat them. Catching sight of the clock, I realized a mistake had somehow been made and proceeded to eat hurriedly. An explanation never appeared for where that hour had escaped too, and a friend who experienced this along with myself wondered at it as well. It was lucky I had been notified of the mistake, else I might have committed that infraction I diligently worked to avoid, and missed a class.
My new daily routine was greatly altered from what it had previously been, and several adjustments occurred in my way of thinking and personality. My responsibilities required me to advance myself in that trait, to think more often of time, and my productivity therein. I was certainly more communicative, as I had a continual stream of emails that needed viewing and occasional responses. I generally found that I adapted well to a new environment, an encouraging sign for future endeavors. What was most helpful in the transition was the routine, the reliable schedule which permitted me the complete ability to plan and assess. It is good for me to recognize such a quality in a system as helpful to me, for understanding the workings of one’s own mind helps it to run all the smoother.

Lucky’s Blog- 11/29/16

Welcome back from Thanksgiving, everybody!  Hope you had a good one. So, before vacation…

Prompt: We drew a card from the storytelling deck that said “travel agent was wrong”.

Students were given five minutes and here a two we liked:

She is sad. She does the weird human mouth twist that she does when she is happy, but she is not happy. We are somewhere different. Whe is she sad on vacation? Sure, is not most exciting place I have been, but soon we will go home to the nice smelling place with the happiness. She does the mouth twist again but  this time it is less sad. Maybe she would be happier if this place smelt like me. I rolled around, sending up a shower of fluff and dust. She made a soft noise and laughed, water dripping from her eyes down her face.

I can’t believe Pam agreed to take me to the Squirrel Convention in Squirrel

Town. There is going to be all types of squirrel cooked different ways, I am so

excited. Pam is making me go a travel agent; I guess she doesn’t trust a dog booking

our plane tickets. It was time to pick up our tickets from the travel agency. I enter

the agency and approach the lady at the front desk to receive our tickets. The lady

hands us our tickets. I look down at the tickets and then I realize the tickets are for a

round-trip to Squid Town. “These are tickets are to Squid Town not Squirrel Town!”

I bark at her. The women sheepishly apologizes but all I can think about is how I’m

going to tell Pam! Well, I hope she likes squid!

Lucky’s Blog- 11/4/16

Prompt: We used the storytelling deck this morning and drew the word “recluse”.  So, we connected Lucky to recluse.

Students were given five minutes and this one had us giggling like fiends:

I wish I was like most dogs. I take that back, most dogs are stupid. But I wish I felt normal. Most dogs run up to people and love attention and I’m just a recluse. I ask Pam if there is anything wrong with me, she says it’s just a phase but then I bark in her face and say “God, Pam, it’s not a phase!” Most dogs spend their days begging their owners to take them out on a walk, I spend my days begging Pam to take me to Hot Topic. What’s wrong with me?

Lucky’s Blog- 10/28/16 Part 2

Prompt: We used the storytelling deck again and drew “car won’t start”. So, the prompt was to connect Lucky to that idea.

Students were given five minutes and we liked them all!  I’ll be posting them as I receive them. Here’s another:

Dang it! The car won’t start. PPPPAAAAAMMMMM! I bark. PAM! I bark again. Why won’t she come? Urg humans are so dumb…..SQUIRREL! There is a squirrel in our garden, it must die! I slowly exit the car and make my way toward the fuzzy beast. I move like a ninja up the stairs and start barking at the squirrel. It runs to the backyard. I go after him. BANG! I hit the fence. I hate that fence!

Lucky’s Blog 10/28/16

Prompt: We used the storytelling deck again and drew “car won’t start”. So, the prompt was to connect Lucky to that idea.

Students were given five minutes and we liked them all!  I’ll be posting them as I receive them. Here is the first:

They were supposed to be going to the park, but the car wouldn’t start. All the students were lounging on the seats, a couple of them petting Lucky’s ears while they chatted. They didn’t seem concerned.

They did not seem to understand the crisis occurring at that very moment. The car. Would not. Start. The car was needed, was vital to getting to the park. Did they just not get it? No car meant no walk. No walk meant no sniffing, no peeing on weird scents, no running around with flapping ears. Did the students not want to do this? What was wrong with them?

As the moments passed by, Lucky twitched with anxiety and began to whine.

“It’s okay, boy,” someone said. It was not. Every rumble created by the car’s attempts to start lifted Lucky with hope- until the sound faded away, and he was filled with terror. How could the students just sit there? Lucky climbed off the seat and began pacing on the floor of the car, turning in the cramped area and shoving people’s legs out of the way. He stuck his nose in Pam’s lap. Surely she knew the danger of not getting the car to start. Surely she fully comprehended the situation.

But Pam seemed only to be mildly frustrated, and slightly amused. What was this? Was he the only sane one in the car?

A rumble–then a responding VRRRR. Relieved, Lucky wagged his tail and jumped back up on his seat. He was glad everything had turned out well in the end, but he had found the humans’ response to such a serious affair extremely concerning. He would teach them. They must learn emergency procedures by heart, and understand that events with such immense repercussions could not be taken lightly.

Lucky Blog- 10/21/16

Prompt: We have a deck of story cards at Learning Outpost and we selected a character card at random today. The card read “waiter” so today’s prompt was to write about Lucky and a waiter, whatever that means to you.

Students were given three minutes and here’s one that made us all happy:

I can’t believe Pam is letting me come to a restaurant with her; that never happens! I get a lot of stares, but I just bark at them. We sit down and the waiter comes over to take our order. I bark at him telling him I want a squirrel done medium rare. He has a confused look on his face, so I repeat my order. Then he hesitantly says, “We don’t have squirrel. “

“What do you mean you don’t have squirrel?” I bark in his face.