Monday, March 8, 2010

Long Overdue - Steve's Class

So this has been on our "upcoming blog" list for... months. And I was waiting for Steve to get around to it but finally got impatient today. So, welcome to Mr. Bennett's class room.
This is more what the students look at everyday.
And for the kids who have Mr. Bennett towards the end of the day, he looks a little more like this... (This is an older picture where Steve had long hair. Not so much these days.)
The first animals we added to the class were glofish.
In this picture the darker fish is what glofish actually looked like originally. However, scientists developed glofish by adding a gene from jellyfish found in Puget Sound to create 3 bright colors: pink, orange, and yellow. Eventually, the goal is to create fish that change color as an indicator of water pollution, and getting the fish to change color at all was the first step. Hence glofish. Steve uses these guys to help teach genetic engineering.
This was our next classroom addition. It's a tank of African Rift Lake Cichlids, all from Lake Tanganyika. This lake is completely cut off from other water sources, and science indicates that all the 100s of fish in this lake evolved from a single fish to fill different niches. Steve uses these guys as an illustration of evolutionary radiation.
As much time as I spent trying to get good fish pictures, I should be able to show you every spot and stripe on each of our fish, but instead these are the only 2 decent pictures I got...This tank also houses our two bristle-nosed plecostumus. We have one standard color and one albino, which allows Steve to have a great example of genetics and recessive genes on hand in his classroom.

And then came finches. Their connection to teaching biology and evolution should be fairly obvious since the ideas of natural selection and evolution are synonymous with Darwin and his study of finches from the Galapagos Islands.
Since we already posted pictures of the gouldian finches... And since finches are about as hard to get decent pictures of as fish.... Here are the society finches we added. It's hard to tell here, but the one on top has a smooth head and the one on bottom looks like old cartoon depictions of exploding cigars. It's a funny trait to look like a mop-head.
And our single caramel colored society finch. These aren't uncommon, but we only inherited the one. We'll pretend that the differences in our finches were on purpose and help teach about variation and genetics instead of the fact that this is just what we bought from a lady over near Seattle.
And, if we were up to date instead of using pictures I took months ago, then there would be a picture here of another tank the size of the cichlid tank, only full of small salmon. Steve got them through a local program that allows teachers to raise salmon in their classes and then release them into a local river in the spring. They're a great discussion piece for environmental science, global climate change, and the pros and cons of hydro-power, all big topics here. Also, as an unexpected bonus, Steve gets to talk about mutation now as one of his eggs hatched a two-headed salmon. He doesn't swim too well, so needless to say we don't expect him to last a real long time. But he keeps the kids coming in to check if he's alive every day! Oh the lure of Mr. Bennett's classroom... Part of the reason we plan to eventually add a mammal, reptile, and amphibian!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tour. I've met the home-bound wildlife, but not the classroom ones. I like Steve's goal of allowing the kids access to animals they might not otherwise see. It looks like you're accomplishing that. (Who are we kidding...I'd like to see a two-headed salmon!) :) Hope all is well!