Nature-Based Learning Doesn’t Break for Winter

During these cold, winter months, there is still nature-based work to be done and our students have been busy!
 
Rainbow Trout  
The rainbow trout are doing well in Mrs. Stefanski's classroom and the third and fourth graders have taken on the responsibility for caring for them. The fish arrived from the hatchery as eggs and have now hatched. 
 
The students’ first task was wrapping the tank in styrofoam to help keep the temperature around 53 degrees F. They then helped place the eggs and recently hatched fish in a breeder basket. The trout lived off of their own little eggs sacs, which were visible on their bellies, for a couple of weeks and then began swimming to the top of the tank, where students began to feed them. 
 
Next, students learned how to test the chemistry of the water to make sure it's a healthy environment for the fish. They check pH, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels daily and are pleased to report that the tank is healthy. The tank has at least 30 regularly visible fish with others likely out of view in the depths of the tank. Students clean the tank twice a week by siphoning out 8-10 gallons of water and replacing it with chilled, dechlorinated water. They receive “payment” for their services in Lancer Bucks that they will be able to use in the Lower School Spirit Store.
 
The fish will be released into the Chagrin River on May 12 at Rogers Road in North Chagrin Reservation. We have a permit through the Ohio Division of Wildlife to raise and release the trout. 
 
The Gilmour Girls
The third and fourth graders are also helping the chickens by maintaining on a grow light cart the mint, oregano and lemon thyme used to feed them and in their nest boxes. They water the plants regularly and make cuttings to take to the chickens. 
 
The chickens have weathered winter well and have continued to lay about three eggs a day. The Montessori classrooms have used quite a few eggs for baked treats. 
 
While they haven't had a problem with the cold, they definitely do not like getting their feet in the snow! One peek outside and if the ground is covered with white, they opt to stay inside the dry coop. 
 
Trees
Fifth graders collected acorns in the fall from the many Northern Red Oaks growing on campus and stratified them by exposing them to cold temperatures for a 45-day period. They then loaded the acorns into water-filled glass bowls this winter to see which ones sunk to determine which were viable for planting. They planted the viable acorns and some are growing! They hope to eventually plant the seedlings in Cuyahoga County and on campus as part of the N.U.T.S. (Native Urban Tree Starters) program of the Cuyahoga County Soil & Water Conservation District.
 
The fifth graders also studied birds this winter. They fed them regularly and delivered informative presentations on their winter bird of choice. This month, they invited Lower School volunteers to assist them as they joined the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This annual count creates a snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds throughout the nation. It is the first online citizen science project to collect data on wild birds. 
 
The Greenhouse
The greenhouse is nearing completion! We look forward to starting vegetables in the greenhouse for our giving garden as soon as possible. The greenhouse will also house our tree seedlings and any other projects that students and/or teachers devise. 
 
The Hives
Since our bees succumbed to Varroa mites, which are the main cause of hive loss for small beekeepers, we are preparing for a successful new year starting this spring with new bees. We have a mite control plan in place and are gathering everything we'll need to implement that program. Mite control begins with some cultural techniques such as splitting the hives early in the season and removing drone comb as it forms since the larger capped drone bee brood is more likely to contain concentrations of Varroa mites. The great news is that the drone comb is also a perfect treat for chickens! 
 
The new season will begin soon and there are now bee suits, jackets and gloves of every size so that students of all ages can come for a hive inspection.  
 
This coming season, there will be regular honey extraction and the hives will hopefully render some beeswax, too.
 
Water Testing on Campus
Middle School science students recently visited the water filtration and wastewater treatment plants in Lake County and followed that up with water testing around campus.
 
Zero Waste Challenge
Cheers to the Green Leadership Council for working on ways to reduce waste at Gilmour, including a Zero Waste Challenge. The ultimate goal was to raise funds to purchase waste-sorting receptacles for the multiple lunch areas used during Community Block. Members of the group also met with and offered suggestions to Gilmour administrators on ways the campus might streamline lunch provision to reduce waste.
 
VECTOR Research Project
As part of her VECTOR experience, Michelle Wu ’22 is conducting an independent research project titled “Effect of Inoculation with Field Soil and Beneficial Microorganisms on Plant Performance” with a microbial ecologist from Holden Arboretum. She is using a grow light system to raise plants for her research on campus. These sorts of research projects will move to the greenhouse upon its completion.
 
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An independent, Catholic, coed, day and boarding school in the Holy Cross tradition. Toddler-Grade 12.