Headwaters Science Institute Goes to SF

Earlier in September, Headwaters Science Institute had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to work with the 7th grade boys and girls of Convent & Stuart Hall. Headwaters instructors arrived on campus Tuesday morning to give an introductory presentation on the weeks ecology lessons ahead. Once acquainted with their science mentors, the students refreshed their memories on their previous weeks lessons on the history of their neighborhood park, the Presidio. Students brainstormed questions they were interested in investigating on their field day and organized into research groups in preparation for a full day in the park the following afternoon.

The Presidio of San Francisco, located just a short walk to the west of the school provided a wonderful opportunity to facilitate the student’s interaction with their neighborhood park in a whole new way. Many of the boys and girls had visited the 1,480 acre park for various other reasons, but this time around they explored the grounds from a different perspective.

On the hunt to find answers to their unique ecological questions, the students were excited to not only venture outside the classroom for the day, but also to use the various tools that many of them hadn’t been exposed to previously. Teddy and Will fought over who got to use the moisture meter to measure each new soil location and Ethan designated himself the “quadrant man.” Due to the schools close proximity to the park, the class was able to walk to and from the field sites in the park, meanwhile enjoying scenic views of the San Francisco bay and Golden Gate Bridge. It was a gorgeous day to be a scientist.

Once in the Presidio the students broke off into their research groups. Although instructors were always nearby to answer questions, trouble-shoot, and share in the excitement of discoveries, student groups largely worked independently. It was inspiring to watch as students came across speed bumps in their methods for collecting data and worked as teams to problem solve in new directions. Sometimes a whole new experiment would emerge and students would stumble upon a new area of interest.

Some of my favorite moments included watching the excitement of groups gathering data that they did not think would be very exciting. In particular, one 7th grade girls group I guided was jumping up and down, running to tell their friends when they discovered that a majority of their sticky bug traps had indeed caught several live insects. They took close up images of the wasps, flies, spiders, and ants and were inspired to identify their findings. Prior to their day in the Presidio, two of the girls in the group had expressed their fear of some of the insects they thought they would find, however their excitement surpassed their fear when they indeed caught those insects.

Both girls expressed their interest in doing further research in the future and schemed about what they could do better next time to capture an even more diverse specimen in the park! As a scientist it is always extremely fulfilling to facilitate learning experiences that can potentially encourage future interest in the sciences!

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