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Monday, October 31, 2011

You Know It's Gonna Be Interesting...

You know it's gonna be an interesting day when the first two quotes are:

"Mr. Finn. You know what you should do? Spill candy on us! That would be fun." -Tyler

"I'm gonna sing a funny song about when you put someone's face in a bowl of barbeque chips!-Seth


Monday, October 24, 2011

Bigelow Labs Visit

Perhaps I don't express often enough how lucky we are here at Frenchboro School. To think that we're on a remote island often conjures images of deprivation but this post is a perfect example of exclusive, amazing opportunities we get just because we're an outer island. Mr. Finn and I are such science junkies that whenever a scientist contacts us to work with the kids, we jump in with gusto. Last year at the STORMS conference in Orono, we were approached by Jochen Nuester, a scientist whose focus is on phytoplankton (more specifically the iron levels in phytoplankton...I know...who'd have thunk that was a specialty). He and his colleagues got a grant to take a research boat from South America to Australia. As part of the grant, they are encouraged to include an educational component. That's where our school comes in. The scientists will be working with us, teaching us about microbiology, and also communicating with us from their research vessel via Skype. So. Cool! Here's Jochen, giving us his background. I love that he's German and has the accent and the great hair. We don't get a lot of that out here in Frenchboro.

Here's Ben Twining. He also studies phytoplankton and will be the one skyping us from the vessel as Jochen can't go because he has a little baby on the way. Ben described the process of gathering the plankton and where the boat will be located, as well as all the other researchers and their jobs.
Then he showed us the phytoplankton net we'd be using and how it works. I had to laugh when I saw their net. Next to it, the one we got is like a little baby net.
Then it was time to get down to business! Of course the tide was low so it was a loooong drop off the ferry pier. Ben's first question...Anybody know how to tie a good knot? You're kidding, right? You do know you have a group of lobstering kids surrounding you?
Brody was quick to help.
Then down went the net.

It was hard to get it into the water the second time as the wind kept turning it into a wind sock. There's definitely a technique to it because you're trying to get as much phytoplankton consolidated into the bottom as possible so you need to drag the net back and forth. It was like the circus came to town.

After many drags back and forth, they raised it up and Ben carefully removed the bottle at the bottom and sealed it up.
Then it was back to the school to see what we got! I love this photo. I mean, really, how often do you get to take a stroll with a phytoplankton scientist? Probably asking him if he has any pets.

I bet you thought it was only the scientists that arrived. Nope. Since we have the new Wednesday ferry, they drove out and brought all their equipment with them. Such awesomeness makes me all aflutter. Just look at those gadgets. My inner geek is doing cartwheels.

There they are! Those are the barrel-shaped phytoplankton. One is a face-on view, and one is a side view, that's why they look like different shapes. It's like they were posing for us.
Then it was time to use OUR goodies and project the slide up on the big screen.
This is, apparently, a 'baby' crab. I'm cringing at all the seawater I've injested in my life as there was some weeeeird looking stuff in there.
This is a hugely magnified barrel phytoplankton. You can actually see internal structure. Uh-mazing.
The kids got a chance to use the microscope that Jochen and Ben had brought with them. The double eyepiece took some getting used to.
Just look at the clarity. There were tons of zooplankton zooming in and out of the screen. Another scientist will come out to teach us about these little critters.

I believe this is a mollusk of some sort...
Just look at how they chain together! They have a certain beauty to them.

This is a great magnification of a barrel phytoplankton from the side.
Beware. The eye of Sauron is watching you.

Wow. Holy tentacles, Batman.We got to map out where phytoplankton are mostly concentrated around the world. Then we were given some different aged solutions of phytoplankton to illustrate how the actual water changes color as the plankton multiply.

Lastly we got to see how light affects the amount of phytoplankton using a special device that attaches to the computer and instantly charts the data.
Thanks so much to our new friends from Bigelow Labs for taking the time to teach us. We can't wait for the next visit!

Sculpture Building

We had to get some found objects to add to our sculptures so it was off to Big Beach, Middle Beach, and Little Beach. We are nothing but literal here on Frenchboro. A trip to the beach almost always means our pockets are full of something, but this time we had been tasked with finding a "base" for our sculpture. Driftwood is in abundance. Entire wharves seem to wash up on our beaches. It wasn't a matter of finding something, then, it was more a matter of "Can I heft this puppy back to the school?" or "How to choose just one?! I can carry these fifteen piece of wood, I'm sure of it!"
No matter what the weather, they're always room and time for a little appreciation of nature.
Mr. Finn toted the saw just in case we were forced with shortening any timbers of unusual size. (TOUS's for you Princess Bride fans.)
Back to the school and it was time to break out the hammers. I personally don't remember EVER in my entire life hammering in school. The things I missed out on could fill a book, as I don't remember using wood glue either.
How to include all our favorite objects into one piece? Myron had a good eye and I loved how he used the piece of an old wooden lobster trap that he found. So cool.
Teressa's was so far outside the box that I'm thinking major modern artist in the making. Everyone else's was on a flat base, but hers was all about height. I offered to buy it. No dice.
Thanks again to Robin and Edie for coming out and sharing this new art form with us!

IRW: Toni Buzzeo

I am loving the new high speed internet we got installed at the school. It sure makes uploading these photos a snap. But as usual, I'm way behind on my blogging. I think the whole 'knitting a sweater' undertaking is cutting into my blog time. Island Readers and Writers came out a couple weeks ago with author Toni Buzzeo. It's Toni's second visit out to work with Frenchboro School. In fact, when we piloted the program years ago, it was Toni who was the first author guest. Toni has written many children's books and has a new one coming out very soon. We were lucky enough to get an advanced copy of it! A Lighthouse Christmas is the wonderful story of two children living with their father on a remote lighthouse station. The kids worry that Santa won't be able to find them because they're so far out in the ocean, but the Flying Santa Service has plans for them.
Toni gave us her background and read to us. We love being read to, that's for sure!
We also shared our LIGHTHOUSE acrostic poems that we made in honor of Toni's visit.
Then came our favorite part: getting our signed copies! This was Tyler's first IRW visit. I don't know if he knew exactly why this strange woman was giving him books, but he'll catch on.
Seth was all smiles for his signed copy.
Are you spelling my name correctly? That's "Johnny" with two N's.
Toni also read us another of her wonderful books before it was time for her to catch the boat. Thanks to IRW for another great visit!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Robin and Edie visit

It's funny how you meet people. Sometimes the stories are mundane and other times they stand out and become part of the story of your friendship. I met Robin at the Detroit airport just after flying back from India. It was Sept. 2001 and the towers had just fallen. I had to cancel my extended stay to return to the U. S. early. Robin was returning from Thailand. Some clerk was giving him a hard time and I was watching the 'discussion' between them. When Robin turned, he saw me watching and just broke into this large grin and began to chuckle. It was a relief to see someone smiling. He sat down next to me, laughing, and thus began a ten year friendship that has spanned all the ups and downs of movement, marriage, children, etc. that have happened to us. He's been meaning to come out to Frenchboro School since Mr. Finn and I arrived, and finally had the chance to bring his daughter, Edie, out as well. As per usual guest ordinance, we asked if he'd be willing to teach something. He decided upon a found object sculpture class as he does a lot of wonderful pieces like the one above, named "Teacher".
He started us off with a myriad of objects that he brought along with him, asking everyone to choose just one object to start. Edie is the one in the red sweater.
It was hard to choose just one as there were some great pieces of wood and tiny toys. After their first go, they could choose two they eagerly went back to pick the ones they had had to pass up on the first chance.
Seth was full of ideas about how his sculpture would look.
Robin explained the process, and told them that we'd be going out to look for a "base" for our sculpture...some sort of driftwood piece washed up on the beach. We knew this would not be a problem as you could build an entire house with all the driftwood logs on Big Beach alone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dylan's Soccer Game

Yup, we are those annoying kinds of teachers that show up at former students' games and cheer obnoxiously. Dylan just happened to be playing a soccer game after our inservice on the mainland, so we couldn't pass up the chance to watch him.
He was very obliging of us and even waved and came to visit after the game was over.
It's always so rewarding to see your students turn into great adults...he's well on his way!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Heard Around the Schoolhouse

Tyler: Ms. Finn. Wanna know what my favorite part of school is?
Me: Gym?
Tyler: No. Recess. Wanna know what my other favorite part is...inside school?
Me: Hmmmm.
Tyler: I'll give you a hint. It starts with the "buh" sound.
Me: Uhhhhh.
Tyler: Ms Finn. "Bunny" starts with a "buh" sound.
Me: Is it bunny?
Tyler: Yeah.

"I'm tickling the buoy!" -Seth

"When my gerbil had its babies, we walked in and looked in the cage and we thought it was a pile of peanuts." -Saylor

"I always like to put my cold feet on my mom....then she freaks." -Johnny

"Aren't I supposed to be wearing a mask?!" -Seth (when asked to be catcher)

Mr. Finn: We've got practice tomorrow, too.
Bradley: YEAH! I love it! (on Lego Robotics practice

(rubbing his belly) "When I'm older, this is gonna fit me juuuuuust right." Bradley

"It doesn't smell as bad as my dad's cowhide." -Brody

"When I got hit in the stomach with the soccer ball, it almost made me puke. Dang." -Seth

"Whoever people's names the storms are....when they get mad, the storm gets stronger! That really happens." -Tyler (on hurricane names)

"Look at the penguins. They're so cute. They don't know we're watching them. Because they have little brains." -Seth (when watching the penguin cam at California Academy of Sciences)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Inter-Island Event: Matinicus!

Inter-Island Event this year was held on Matinicus. You may have heard about the recent plane crashes, two in three months time, so our hearts and minds are with that small, special community. As I write this, the community members are grieving the loss of their pilot. We had such a wonderful time out on their island that we want to thank everyone for their hospitality and wonderful events, but also keep in mind their loss.

We were picked up on the Sunbeam last Wed. morning and taken all the way to Matinicus. This was extremely helpful and exciting for us to be able to travel on their comfortable boat. As you can see, Myron wasn't having any fun at all...

Neither was Austin.
When we arrived, it was time to set up tent village.
Here's the terrific post office sign. Love it.
Then it was on to some cool classes like drumming (using bait buckets! We have a FEW of those on our island, too.)
Seth and his dad were really getting down. I was amazed at the sounds coming out of these guys.

There was also mural painting. For real...the kids got to paint on the walls! Austin, true to Frenchboro boy fashion, guessed it: a boat. Looks a little stormy!
We had a ton of fun playing Capture the Flag, a bit IIE staple. The talent show was full of hysterical, and sometimes moving, performances. And all too soon, it was time to head out. Seth is relaxing in the final circle.
Mike and Becky taking photos and listening to the kids share.

Getting comfy for the long trip home. Thanks, Matinicus! What a great trip!