Stories from our international boarding schools

Teachers visit Explorer’s Club for scientific lectures

Guest Post by Bill Livingston, Academic Coordinator & IB Environmental Systems and English Teacher

On November 14th, 2015, Stephen Fleming and I were sent by EF Academy to The Explorer’s Club (yes, there is such a thing) in New York City.  A posh townhouse is home to the 110 year old club whose members include arctic explorers, astronauts, & former United States Presidents. Admiral Peary’s sled hangs from the rafters, the flags carried to the moon by Neil Armstrong grace the wall, and paintings commemorating the travels of Teddy Roosevelt hang in the hall. We listened to five presentations on ocean waters.

The presentations ranged widely.  We learned about the latest on shark electro-sensory orientation and ways it might help fishermen avoid killing sharks as a by-catch. 50% of shark mortality comes from by-catch, which is altering ecosystems as these top predators are removed from systems with unknown consequences. The presentation was given by Dr. Stephen Kajiura, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University. A second presentation included recent efforts by deep ocean diver Richie Kohler to solve the mystery of why the Britannic, a Titanicsister ship, sank so quickly in 1916.

My favorite presentation was given by Anna Cummins, entitled “More Ocean, Less Plastic”. Ms. Cummins shared how she and her husband built the 5 Gyres School devoted to studying and raising awareness of the growing gyres of plastic waste spinning in five oceans.  Another, Dr. Nasreen S. Haque, described her recent studies “Mapping Microbial Genetics Underwater” in highly toxic environments such as the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn and a quarry/lake/dumpin Brewster, NY. She also spoke about our growing understanding of the long term interactions between microbes and the human genome.  This microbe study is happening at a lab in nearby Valhalla, NY, and could present EF students an opportunity to study as interns or volunteers.  It’s an experience which can turn into a great Extended Essay or even a career in science for our IB candidates.

As a science teacher, I was inspired by the creative ways researchers collect data related to crucial issues we face.  I always look for ways to make IB Environmental Systems “real” for my students. It’s always nice to be a student again and learn from great thinkers and explorers.  They served a mean salad, too, amid the stuffed-bears and secret doors of the old townhouse.

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