Class V’s On-Campus Field Trip to the Nature Lab
Each year, Class V embarks on a unit in science with Kristi Watabe ’90 that covers heredity, traits, adaptations, cells and organelles, and DNA. During this unit, students specifically learn about traits that are dominant, recessive, or that skip a generation, how to use a Punnett Square to help predict outcomes in offspring, how to make slides for and use microscopes, as well as a close look at the DNA of strawberries. As a culmination of their studies in this unit, this year’s Class V was able to take their learning one step further with a field trip to Waterford’s impressive Nature Lab, run by former Middle and Upper School science teacher, Mark Bromley.
Dr. Brandon Bennett, Associate Head of School wrote, “Currently housed in Mr. Bromley’s former classroom in the Art Building, the Nature Lab serves as both a practical tool for education and a living testament to the deep intertwining of science and art in the liberal arts tradition, and in the philosophy of science (and art) education at Waterford.” The Waterford Nature Lab houses an impressive biological collection of taxidermied animals, pelts, skeletons and more, all right here on the Waterford School campus.
A few Class V students shared what they found most interesting about the Science unit and what they learned and saw in the Nature Lab. See their thoughts below.
Science was full of interesting facts. There are two types of genetic traits—Recessive and Dominant. Even though I would inherit a copy of each trait from both parents, the dominant trait would prevail over the recessive trait. This is a concept that can be explained by Heredity—how genes are passed down from parent to offspring. Every gene has two copies (allele), For example, the dominant would be “Dd/DD” and recessive would be “dd”. That's when the Punnett square comes in. The Punnett Square determines if a new child is going to have a Dominant trait or Recessive trait. Two lower case letters is always going to be Recessive. If there is any capital letter in an allele, the trait is Dominant.
We also learned about many other things like adaptations, cells and DNA. In a cell there is Membrane, Mitochondria, Ribosomes, Nucleus, Cytoplasm, and Lysosomes. We looked at DNA with a microscope. It was very cool to watch. Microscopes have three glasses to magnify with, and you should never touch the lenses. For example, if you were trying to look at a dog liver under the microscope but you touch the lenses, instead of seeing the dog liver, you would see your fingerprints.We used them three times in the unit, and Mrs. Watabe gave us slides with things on it. Slides are glass things that you put on what you want to see. The Marshall family got slides with parts of a body for us to look at under a microscope. It was so cool!
On the last day of our unit we did a “field trip”. Except, still in Waterford. We visited Mr. Bromley. Mr. Bromley’s classroom is full of stuffed animals. He doesn’t shoot them though. Somebody donated their collection to him. There are bobcats, bears, bat bones, elephants, rhinos, hippopotamuses, alligators, etc. We talked a little about arms and fingers. I learned that arms have one bone above the elbow joint and two more bones below the joint. We also learned that many animals have the same bones, but they use them differently. My entire life until then, I never even thought about that.
Science in this unit has been outrageously interesting. We have been learning about heredity, traits, adaptations, cells, DNA, and we have gone to Mr. Bromley’s room. It was all great, but I personally loved looking through the microscopes into the slides. One, because my dad donated the slides. Two, it is just cool to look at microscopic things that you have trillions of inside your body. I only went through a few slides before our time was fried, but it was still fun. We also learned about Punnett Squares. A Punnett Square is a two-by-two box that is used to predict how and what the offspring will look and be like. For me the Punnett Square is very satisfying because it works exceptionally well. We also looked at our cheek cells. First, we took a toothpick and scraped the cells from the inside of our cheeks. Next, we smeared all of the cheek cells we got onto a slide and looked at them. Some very funny moments were when we found that some of us had hairs in our mouths! Or they were just on the slide. It was still pretty funny.
After that, we took the DNA out of a strawberry and looked at it under a microscope and it looked pretty stellar. We got to mush the strawberries, then we poured some soapy, watery, salty liquid thing into the bag of muck. The soapy, watery, salty helped tear apart the cells which would end up leaving us with the DNA. We then filtered it and held the stringy, sticky DNA. Finally, we went on a “field trip” to Mr. Bromley’s classroom. His classroom is pretty dang legit. It has tons of dead animals that were made to look real. Mr. Bromley informed us that making the dead animals look real is incredibly hard. He showed us one of his to show us how hard it really is. He also told us about different animals like us (not by first sight). The animals like us have the same arm bones as us. 1, 2, many, 5. 1 is for the one bone at the top of your arm. 2 is for the two bones that make the higher part of your wrist. Many is for the many, small bones at the end of your wrist, and 5 is for your five fingers. Overall, like I said, it was a fascinating, mind-blowing, a 3-week adventure that was definitely worth it.
In science, what I found most interesting was how to use a microscope. I’ve got one at home so now I finally know how to use one, and I’ve been trying to figure out for so long. We learned about dominant and recessive traits, Punnett Squares, horses, cells, and microscopes. When I say horses, I mean we did this little play and we met a horse named Paint. We learned about his parents' traits, and his grandparent’s traits. That’s where we learn that traits can skip a generation.