Global Teaching Labs: Teaching and Traveling

January 20th, 2019Global Teaching Labs

By Meghan Reisenauer '19 My classes so far have been great. I can’t believe I am already two-thirds of the way done with my time at the school! I am teaching students from Year 2 (about 14 years old) through Year 5 (about 18 years old), so each lesson must be tailored to the students’ English level and science background. I’ve been pleasantly surprised again by how much the students seem to know already about climate change and environmental issues – at the end of each lesson, I go over ways to prevent certain issues (for example, air pollution), and I nearly always get a question from a student asking what they can each personally do to help solve a problem that we discussed. I started to include these answers in my presentations, and the students seem to really appreciate the suggestions for ways to actively help. Of course, one of my main recommendations is to study fields like environmental engineering, to be the next generation of scientists searching for large-scale solutions! In front of Schloss Belvedere, a palace that has been converted into an art museum Vienna from the Stephansdom cathedral tower at dusk I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit while I’m here! Last weekend, I went to Vienna to visit a high school friend, which was convenient for me since my host city, Udine, is right next to the Italian-Austrian border! Vienna was gorgeous, with stunning architecture, palaces, art and of course, delicious strudel. I also [...]

By Meghan Reisenauer ’19

My classes so far have been great. I can’t believe I am already two-thirds of the way done with my time at the school! I am teaching students from Year 2 (about 14 years old) through Year 5 (about 18 years old), so each lesson must be tailored to the students’ English level and science background. I’ve been pleasantly surprised again by how much the students seem to know already about climate change and environmental issues – at the end of each lesson, I go over ways to prevent certain issues (for example, air pollution), and I nearly always get a question from a student asking what they can each personally do to help solve a problem that we discussed. I started to include these answers in my presentations, and the students seem to really appreciate the suggestions for ways to actively help. Of course, one of my main recommendations is to study fields like environmental engineering, to be the next generation of scientists searching for large-scale solutions!

In front of Schloss Belvedere, a palace that has been converted into an art museum

Vienna from the Stephansdom cathedral tower at dusk

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit while I’m here! Last weekend, I went to Vienna to visit a high school friend, which was convenient for me since my host city, Udine, is right next to the Italian-Austrian border! Vienna was gorgeous, with stunning architecture, palaces, art and of course, delicious strudel. I also briefly visited Trieste with my host family for dinner. Next weekend, I’ll be traveling to the South of Italy for a separate program called Soroptimists, wherein I will encourage middle school girls to become women in STEM (just like me!). Stay tuned for further blogs about this experience!

The Mediterranean seen from Trieste

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TREX Day 8: Leilani and the Super Blood Moon

January 20th, 2019TREX 2019

By Rayna Higuchi '20 Leilani Estates was right by the Fissure 8, the most destructive fissure during this past summer’s lava flows. The surrounding area has been transformed into volcanic glass; it is dangerous, unstable, and sharp. Ben, one of the TAs, is friends with someone whose property was destroyed. As sad as this is, it was luckily his second residence, so he and his family are not without a home. He was gracious enough to let us visit, both to view and understand the aftermath of a volcanic event, as well as to see the impact of the surrounding plants that survived the flow. Near the hardened lava, the trees had lost their leaves from the sulfur dioxide emissions. Only a handful showed signs of regrowth. The volcanic remains were not at all what I had expected. A brand new mountain loomed in the distance. It was generated around the fissure as lava spewed forth and began to build up around the opening. The ground had thick air bubbles that had crumbled in places. Everything glinted in the sun. Small pebbles were safe to pick up and glittered as we turned them in our hands. They weighed a fraction of what a normal pebble of similar size would. Volcanic glass from the eruption [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20] As terrible as the destruction was, the creation of new earth was also beautiful. New coconut plants popped up from the landscape. They’re often used by humans here as the first [...]

By Rayna Higuchi ’20

Leilani Estates was right by the Fissure 8, the most destructive fissure during this past summer’s lava flows. The surrounding area has been transformed into volcanic glass; it is dangerous, unstable, and sharp.

Ben, one of the TAs, is friends with someone whose property was destroyed. As sad as this is, it was luckily his second residence, so he and his family are not without a home. He was gracious enough to let us visit, both to view and understand the aftermath of a volcanic event, as well as to see the impact of the surrounding plants that survived the flow. Near the hardened lava, the trees had lost their leaves from the sulfur dioxide emissions. Only a handful showed signs of regrowth.

The volcanic remains were not at all what I had expected. A brand new mountain loomed in the distance. It was generated around the fissure as lava spewed forth and began to build up around the opening. The ground had thick air bubbles that had crumbled in places. Everything glinted in the sun. Small pebbles were safe to pick up and glittered as we turned them in our hands. They weighed a fraction of what a normal pebble of similar size would.

Volcanic glass from the eruption [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

As terrible as the destruction was, the creation of new earth was also beautiful. New coconut plants popped up from the landscape. They’re often used by humans here as the first colonizers of a new soil, because, to paraphrase, coconuts will grow just about anywhere. Primary succession of plants onto new land can take decades before any trees appear, but with the use of coconut trees it should be much quicker. In a year, coconut trees will cover his old yard. Their leaves will help shade the ground so that other plants can grow, and they will help build up the healthy bacteria into the growing soil. When his daughter, now in first grade, is our age, she will be able to return to her old home and see a land covered in green.

Closed-off road for lava flow [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

When we were done, we went to a nearby park to take one last transect and a final drone measurement. I took a break from plants to work with TA Abby on flying the drone. We got a vertical sulfur dioxide profile. A vertical profile is when a drone flies straight up into the air and takes measurements (e.g. temperature, relative humidity, etc.) for comparison at different layers off the ground. Sulfur dioxide measurements take a while because the sensor has a lag of about a minute, so I flew it up in 50-foot increments and let it hover. On the way down, I successfully landed it on TA Kevin’s stomach. Safety schmafety.

Then, tonight, we went to see the lunar eclipse! We didn’t go to the beach as I had hoped we would, instead opting for a much closer park. Sadly, for the entire peak of the eclipse there was cloud cover. We eventually hopped into our cars to head home, only for the moon to finally show her face. We pulled over to the side of the road and watched the tail end of the eclipse from next to our car. It was beautiful, and the stars that were revealed in the dimmer moonlight were even more so. I forget how much light pollution Boston has sometimes, and how many stars there really are. Even here where there are fewer people, fewer cars, and fewer lights, we couldn’t see them all.

The sky was gently freckled. The moon veiled her face. A local horse came to visit. We pet him. It was a surreal experience.

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Classrooms & Carbs: Two Weeks in Europe

January 20th, 2019Global Teaching Labs

By Meghan Reisenauer '19 Last January, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Hawai’i for research through the CEE department’s TREX program. This year, I wanted to spend my last IAP (yes, my graduation is impending!) traveling somewhere completely different, like Italy! I signed up for MIT’s Global Teaching Labs program to teach environmental science to high schoolers somewhere in the world. Italy is the most popular GTL program, and I have many friends who have done it in the past and recommended I go for this IAP. So, I decided to spend a month in Europe! Being a tourist in Europe This was a very exciting opportunity for me, as I have essentially no experience in teaching. I really wanted to gain public speaking skills, learn how to communicate my ideas effectively and problem solve. I knew this would be especially difficult yet rewarding, given that my students would have learned English as their second or third language. This definitely added another layer of complexity when I was planning my lessons, since I wanted to use accurate scientific language, but also make sure the words would be easily understood to a non-native English speaker. I was pleasantly surprised that almost everyone I have met and taught in Italy so far have been nearly fluent in English! The younger generation is particularly talented due to the emphasis on teaching English in schools. One of the only words my students did not understand was in my presentation about plastic pollution in [...]

By Meghan Reisenauer ’19

Last January, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Hawai’i for research through the CEE department’s TREX program. This year, I wanted to spend my last IAP (yes, my graduation is impending!) traveling somewhere completely different, like Italy! I signed up for MIT’s Global Teaching Labs program to teach environmental science to high schoolers somewhere in the world. Italy is the most popular GTL program, and I have many friends who have done it in the past and recommended I go for this IAP. So, I decided to spend a month in Europe!

Being a tourist in Europe

This was a very exciting opportunity for me, as I have essentially no experience in teaching. I really wanted to gain public speaking skills, learn how to communicate my ideas effectively and problem solve. I knew this would be especially difficult yet rewarding, given that my students would have learned English as their second or third language. This definitely added another layer of complexity when I was planning my lessons, since I wanted to use accurate scientific language, but also make sure the words would be easily understood to a non-native English speaker.

I was pleasantly surprised that almost everyone I have met and taught in Italy so far have been nearly fluent in English! The younger generation is particularly talented due to the emphasis on teaching English in schools. One of the only words my students did not understand was in my presentation about plastic pollution in the ocean – I suggested using reusable straws as an alternative to plastic waste, and none of the students had heard the word straw before! Overall, the students’ comprehension and ability to ask questions in near-perfect English has impressed me immensely.

A main square in Udine, Italy in the evening

My host family also speaks very good English, but I am still immersing myself into Italian culture and food while I am here. I walk through the beautiful narrow streets of Udine with my host mom each morning to our large high school, and have incredible lunches with pasta, bread, vegetables and lots of cheese! The family has three cats that are the best for keeping us warm during our naps each day after classes are over.

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Day 6: Installing Meteorological Sensors in Ocean View

January 19th, 2019TREX 2019

By Janice Shiu '20 As with most days, the group split into two teams, one focused on meteorology and the other on forestry. Given yesterday’s forestry group’s enthusiasm for 7 feet tall ferns and wading through scaffolds of fallen trunks, and the meteorology group’s quiet appreciation for rest days, scenic landscapes, and building, it was little surprising that the teams were nearly the same as those from the previous day. The morning was spent on data analysis and preparing for the afternoon’s work. For the meteorology team, that meant opening up recovered sensors, taking out SD cards, graphing and comparing data, and making any necessary fixes to get the sensors up and ready for deployment. Viban Gonsalez ‘20 and TA Kevin Nihil replace wires in meteorological sensor boxes on the porch while Jordan Alford ‘20 and Danielle Espinosa ‘20 analyze the data inside. After a quick group lunch of hot dogs and sliced bread, we drove approximately one hour to Ocean View on the Southern side of the island. Hoping to get data on how sea breezes, land breezes, and the trade winds interact on the hill, we placed a series of 4 sensors starting from the beach to the highest reachable elevation. We even had a clear view of the Pacific throughout the day, which would have been covered by thick volcanic smog if the Kilauea volcano was active. Emma Rutkowski ‘19, Natalie Woods ‘20, and Jordan Alford ‘20 attaching a meteorological sensor to a pole for deployment. A [...]

By Janice Shiu ’20

As with most days, the group split into two teams, one focused on meteorology and the other on forestry. Given yesterday’s forestry group’s enthusiasm for 7 feet tall ferns and wading through scaffolds of fallen trunks, and the meteorology group’s quiet appreciation for rest days, scenic landscapes, and building, it was little surprising that the teams were nearly the same as those from the previous day.

The morning was spent on data analysis and preparing for the afternoon’s work. For the meteorology team, that meant opening up recovered sensors, taking out SD cards, graphing and comparing data, and making any necessary fixes to get the sensors up and ready for deployment.

Viban Gonsalez ‘20 and TA Kevin Nihil replace wires in meteorological sensor boxes on the porch while Jordan Alford ‘20 and Danielle Espinosa ‘20 analyze the data inside.

After a quick group lunch of hot dogs and sliced bread, we drove approximately one hour to Ocean View on the Southern side of the island. Hoping to get data on how sea breezes, land breezes, and the trade winds interact on the hill, we placed a series of 4 sensors starting from the beach to the highest reachable elevation. We even had a clear view of the Pacific throughout the day, which would have been covered by thick volcanic smog if the Kilauea volcano was active.

Emma Rutkowski ‘19, Natalie Woods ‘20, and Jordan Alford ‘20 attaching a meteorological sensor to a pole for deployment.

A stunning view from Ocean View Community Center where we paired a previous TREX’s air quality sensor with our meteorology sensors.

By the end of the day, we were dusted by the strong winds of the area. However, before heading home, we stopped by South Point, the southernmost tip of the United States, to watch the sunset.

Viban Gonzales ’20 enjoying the sunset.

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TREX Day 7: Transects and Beaches (Again…)

January 19th, 2019TREX 2019

By Rayna Higuchi '20 We started off today with data analysis, compiling and graphing the data that we have generated with transects so far. Nothing particularly insightful has popped up yet, but we’ll be studying the numbers in further depth to see what conclusions we might draw from them. After a few hours of this, we went off to take another transect. Image of the forest canopy [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20] You would think we’d be bored of wading through oceans of plants by now, wouldn’t you? Lucky us, we’re not! I do have to say, it was significantly less enjoyable than the other transects, due to the high numbers of mosquitoes. We must have looked like lunch to them because they were everywhere, hovering like pesky helicopters against us, the King Kongs. Sierra Rosenzweig (’20, Environment) received the brunt of their attack. She looked like she’d had an allergic reaction all over her forehead and hands. The good news is, the forest looked healthy, with many different plant species growing strong. A red flower found while taking a transect. [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20] To make up for this experience, TA Caio took us on a quick trip to a local beach, which had the most amazing water. It was clean and clear and deep and warm. Swimming out past the break, the waves just rocked us gently, and we stretched out to float on the water’s surface. This water might have been magical, because after spending just a [...]

By Rayna Higuchi ’20

We started off today with data analysis, compiling and graphing the data that we have generated with transects so far. Nothing particularly insightful has popped up yet, but we’ll be studying the numbers in further depth to see what conclusions we might draw from them. After a few hours of this, we went off to take another transect.

Image of the forest canopy [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

You would think we’d be bored of wading through oceans of plants by now, wouldn’t you?

Lucky us, we’re not!

I do have to say, it was significantly less enjoyable than the other transects, due to the high numbers of mosquitoes. We must have looked like lunch to them because they were everywhere, hovering like pesky helicopters against us, the King Kongs. Sierra Rosenzweig (’20, Environment) received the brunt of their attack. She looked like she’d had an allergic reaction all over her forehead and hands. The good news is, the forest looked healthy, with many different plant species growing strong.

A red flower found while taking a transect. [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

To make up for this experience, TA Caio took us on a quick trip to a local beach, which had the most amazing water. It was clean and clear and deep and warm. Swimming out past the break, the waves just rocked us gently, and we stretched out to float on the water’s surface. This water might have been magical, because after spending just a few minutes in it, Sierra’s bites were little more than a memory. Sadly, I can’t say the same for mine.

Dinner was a delicious vegetable curry over rice. After, I went for a night walk, and the house dog came with me. Some neighbors stopped us as they drove by, inquiring about “Sunny”. Apparently, this is their name for her—we were under the impression her name was Sasha or Sonja. It turns out she’s much friendlier than we suspected and likes following anyone who passes by her.

The moon was massive in the sky, as today is the day before a super moon. The road wasn’t busy, so most of our walk was spent illuminated by moonlight rather than the headlamps of cars. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my fellow TREX-ers, but I won’t deny that it can be hectic all living together. It was lovely to escape alone with a dog.

Tomorrow is the super blood moon! This is a full moon at its closest to the Earth coupled with a lunar eclipse, which colors the moon distinctly red. We’ve asked the TAs to take us to the beach to watch it. When the moon is in the shadow of the Earth, you can see so many more stars, much like during a new moon. It should be really fun to watch.

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TREX Day 6 – Plants

January 18th, 2019TREX 2019

By Rayna Higuchi '20 Sierra Rosenzweig ’20, Stephen Duncan ’20, and I kicked off our day with an early morning call into the CEE mini-UROP. We spoke to the freshmen about our experience in TREX and what we were doing on the island. After yesterday, the instructors gave us the morning off, so we didn’t start until eleven. From there, as always, we split into groups. My group was the plant group. I wore cargo pants and felt like Indiana Jones. What they don’t tell you in Indiana Jones is that wading through thick forest is much harder work than just chopping down a few vines with a sword. We went to Lava Tree National Park to take transects, which had a much different composition of plant life than before. While our first transects led us through light underbrush and forced us to limbo through a series of fallen tree trunks, this one took us through masses of twigs and ferns reaching higher than our heads. Peter Duff ’20 braved the dangers and literally threw himself into the unknown, pushing down the plants with his body to clear the path for the rest of us. He paid dearly for it, with thousands of small pricks in his hands from the foliage. RIP Pete’s hands. TA Caio Guilherme Pereria takes a tape measure to mark transect locations along a line [Photo By Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20] For a while, he and I were far off from the group, having a dandy old [...]

By Rayna Higuchi ’20

Sierra Rosenzweig ’20, Stephen Duncan ’20, and I kicked off our day with an early morning call into the CEE mini-UROP. We spoke to the freshmen about our experience in TREX and what we were doing on the island.

After yesterday, the instructors gave us the morning off, so we didn’t start until eleven. From there, as always, we split into groups. My group was the plant group. I wore cargo pants and felt like Indiana Jones. What they don’t tell you in Indiana Jones is that wading through thick forest is much harder work than just chopping down a few vines with a sword.

We went to Lava Tree National Park to take transects, which had a much different composition of plant life than before. While our first transects led us through light underbrush and forced us to limbo through a series of fallen tree trunks, this one took us through masses of twigs and ferns reaching higher than our heads. Peter Duff ’20 braved the dangers and literally threw himself into the unknown, pushing down the plants with his body to clear the path for the rest of us. He paid dearly for it, with thousands of small pricks in his hands from the foliage. RIP Pete’s hands.

TA Caio Guilherme Pereria takes a tape measure to mark transect locations along a line [Photo By Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

For a while, he and I were far off from the group, having a dandy old time as rugged explorers. The footing was deceptive at turns, sometimes supporting us several feet off the ground with large volumes of fern, and other times disappearing as we stepped into what appeared to be a stable area. On multiple occasions I stepped on a thick branch expecting safety only to have it crumble through.

Me after having fallen into a cushion of ferns. [Photo by Peter Duff ’20]

We found that the vast majority of the ground cover was ferns, with very few Ohi’a trees in this area. We took what Ohi’a samples we could to test the forest health, then headed out. Before we left, we decided to take overhead images with the drone. It was widely lauded as having great obstacle avoidance software, yet on its first programmed run, it rose 50 feet into the air and promptly launched itself into a tree. We had quite the time retrieving it because it was difficult to spot among the dense twigs. When it was finally recovered, we flew it again, this time on manual. I took pictures of the area for us to use in later analyses.

The rest of the day was more low-key, so we showered off all the mud and spores and relaxed for the evening.

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