Out of our greenhouse and into local streams! Aquaponics at Friends adds to local biodiversity.

Here is something that the Aquaponics Seminar didn’t know before last Friday: Deer Creek, which runs through the Towson High School campus, is a lovely, shaded stream!  That is where, thanks to a permit obtained through our collaboration with iMET, we released last Friday our first batch of native yellow perch, Perca flavescens. These fish had been growing in our 2nd aquaponics system this spring. We built this second system because we wanted to construct a deep water culture system where plants float on the water, and that incorporated a fish tank big enough to host native species of fish. (The first aquaponics system we built in the greenhouse grows plants in a hydroshale bed and has a fish tank only big enough to grow small goldfish.) Many thanks to the South Carroll High school for giving us one of their old fish tanks, to iMET for giving us an old biofilter tank, and to Manchester Valley High School for giving us a small young population of yellow perch to raise once we finished constructing our new system.

Another thing we learned this year is that yellow perch grow fast! Our field trip on Friday began with a fishing expedition in our tank to catch these now much larger and faster yellow perch. Then we loaded them up for transport with a portable bubbler and drove to Towson High School. We found the deepest part of the stream, released our fish, and then got to sit on the banks and enjoy seeing our greenhouse guests explore their new home as they nosed around mossy rocks in a quiet pool of the stream.  It was a lot of fun and we hope to raise more yellow perch next year to release in local streams. Next year, we know we definitely need some larger nets to catch these active native fish. Come on by the greenhouse next fall to see our fish and plants growing together! If you are interested in reading more about aquaponics at Friends, check out this article published recently in Green Teacher magazine.

5th Graders Fighting Plastic Pollution and Climate Change

Fifth graders and other students during a lunchtime Climate Walkout on March 15, 2019

Time for a student post from two of Ms. Lebron’s fifth graders! Sasha Rosenthal and Xuan-Xanh Henry-Pham co-author the following post:

The 5B homeroom has been doing activism all throughout the school year. The Climate Change group is focused on Climate Change, also known as global warming. We are especially focused on plastic pollution. Our goal is to get rid of plastic bags in Baltimore.

This year, we have had a few people from various organizations visit us. One of these people was Greg Wilson from the Sunrise Movement chapter in Baltimore. He discussed ocean pollution and plastic. He talked about that even though most of ocean trash comes from Asia, it still affects us in Baltimore. We should still be trying to fix it.

Also this year, we have organized a Climate March with the Upper School PNSJ class. Along with the rest of the fifth grade and other grades too, we took a route up Charles Street, raising awareness in a place where people would notice us.

We just met with Mr. Micciche to inform him on our intentions to start reducing plastic waste, starting in our homeroom and school campus.

You have now learned about much of our work this school year. If you want to learn more about what we have been doing or work with us please contact our homeroom teacher, Ms. Lebron at vlebron@friendsbalt.org. Thank you for reading.

Ecomodernism, Utopia, Dr. Erle Ellis

Dr. Erle Ellis, UMBC prof, author of a new book on the Anthropocene, and lots of nationally published editorials, co-author of the Ecomodernism manifesto, and a Friends School parent, came to a combined session of Ms. Romney’s Sculpture class and Mr. Ratner’s Utopias and Dystopias in Literature class. We talked about technophilic and technophobic approaches to environmentalism and what it means to be a pessimist or an optimist in “the age of humans.”

The literature students had just finished Chinese Science Fiction author Liu Cixin’s book The Three-Body Problem, which contrasts pessimistic environmentalists and optimistic technologists in Cultural Revolution era and contemporary China. It’s a wild read! Then we read some praise and critique of dystopian environmentalism and one strand of that critique is ecomodernism. Students had plenty of questions for Ellis, who has also studied agricultural practices in China and helped us think about the book, about environmentalism in general, and about the uses, risks, and opportunities of utopian, dystopian, and other kinds of futuristic thinking.

So, now that we’ve solved climate change, alleviated global poverty and addressed environmental damage (ok, not really–but we’re being optimistic so let’s say….not YET), students can move on to creating their own utopias. Then they’ll work in groups with Ms. Romney’s sculpture students leading the way on how to use the Maker Space to create utopian artifacts (things like the “I have seen the future” pins Ms. Romney made our students). Working collaboratively, drafting some manifestos of their own, prototyping in the makerspace–all parts of imagining better futures.

New class studies FSB Native Plant Teaching Gardens

Upper School Science Teacher Katherine Jenkins is teaching a new science class for 10th graders, “Exploration in Life and Physical Sciences” and an early unit looks at stormwater management and biodiversity on campus by using the Native Plant Teaching Gardens at Friends. Students identify and classify plants in the gardens, conduct field analysis with a plot sample, and practice drawing sketches in the gardens and back in the lab. They also connect with Blue Water Baltimore to see how what we do on campus connects to Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

Want to know more about the gardens on campus? Check out our other blog and website that’s devoted entirely to Friends School Teaching Gardens.

“…but we must cultivate our garden”

12:58 pm: Finishing Candide

Candide Cultivate our Garden

3:47 pm: Volunteering on the newest Native Plants Teaching Garden at Friends

Mtghouse raingarden

Before lunch, Mr. Ratner’s Upper School elective, “Philosophy and Literature” finishes Candide, an eighteenth-century satire of Enlightenment thinking that concludes with a renunciation of abstract philosophy and instead embraces hard work in the form of “cultivat[ing] our garden.” After school, some students from that class join members of the Guilford Garden Club and the Stony Run Meetinghouse to plant the raingarden behind the Meetinghouse. Once we plant again this spring, this is going to be a special place for contemplation, stormwater filtration, and maybe even for reading philosophy. See you out there!

Stone Soup is the Awesomenest!

Potato harvest

Ms. Morissey writes in with more news, pictures, and full mouths to show us:

Last year Mrs. Morrissey’s  Kindergarten planted seed potatoes with Mr MacGibeny. Mrs. Morrissey’s Kindergarten and Mrs. Ekey’s PreFirst harvested them this week. They scrubbed them clean. Then Mr. Valle’s PreK, and Mrs. Fleury’s Kindergarten joined us in the chopping fun of making Stone Soup for  all four classes to enjoy for snack. “Stone Soup is the awesomenest!” exclaimed one enthusiastic Kindergarten child when asking for a second helping.

kindergarten eats stone soup

Green Car Go

First Grade
First Grade “Balloon Car”

Lisa Filer sends this image and description:

First graders make balloon powered cars out of recycled cardboard boxes and wood. They learn to draw blueprints, use saws/drills/hammers/metric rulers, and they learn to test their cars. They learn about what makes a “green car”.

Watch out, Volkswagen: greener cars are on the way….

Small Green Thumbs and a Big Orange Harvest

More Friday afternoon pictures of Friends school kids getting their (little) hands dirty. Here are Ms. Morrisey’s students in April, 2015:

…. And then scrubbing clean again:









But WAIT A MINUTE: those aren’t the same kids, and they aren’t scrubbing their hands. Those are students in Ms. Morrisey’s kindergarten class this year, cleaning this fall’s carrot harvest:

These small raised beds get a great deal love and use in the spring and fall. There’s a lot of jargon and debate about what “real” or “tangible” results should look like in twenty-first-century education: personally, I think it should look like this colander full of knobbly, crunchy beta-carotene.

Reading, Writing, and Arugula

9th Grade environmental science students taking notes, trying the radishes, and learning about Real Foods Farms in May 2015.

We were studying the nitrogen cycle and agriculture at the time. On the farm we focused on their nitrogen management practices ( composting, legume cover crops, and a bioswale ) and then planted the Native American trio of the 3 Sisters ( corn, beans and squash) which is both nutritionally and ecologically sustainable. ( FS donated the seeds and seedlings )