A Radical Perspective Shift: Division IV Completes Egleston Square Ethnography Project

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Rhys

After a trimester studying urban equality, Division IV Humanities students finished up the year with an ethnography project based upon lives of people in the Egleston Square community. This was a long-term endeavor where students shadowed someone in the Egleston Square community for four hours over several days. The project included many challenging aspects for everyone in the class. Students exposed themselves to a new community as outsiders.

I spoke about this with senior Max, whose subject was Ana Tavares, the principal at the Rafael Hernandez School. He explained, “People act differently when there's an outsider in the room, and to be that outsider but to have the protection and invitation of the head honcho really made me think about the value of having dedicated, safe spaces for marginalized or oppressed groups.” As for the transition into that community, he told me that “we were sent into a community that isn't reflected in our little Meridian bubble without doing any learning to smooth that transition."

I was also able to talk to Nathan about the project as well. As one of the designers, he had a lot of thoughts about the project, some of which address Max’s points. The project was designed, he explained, explicitly to get students into a community that they would not normally be a part of and to learn about that community from its own members rather than outside sources. Both Catherine and Nathan knew that the project would make students uncomfortable, but Nathan told me that he thought it was an important feeling to experience, since it will happen so many times in every student’s future.

Despite all of these challenges, both students and teachers have had a meaningful experience with this project. While Nathan said he experienced times where the project was extremely challenging, there were just as many times where he was thrilled with it. As Max said, “Of all the projects I did at Meridian, it was definitely the one that prompted the most radical perspective shift.”

 

Division II Writes, Designs, and Performs Their Own "Ferdinand"

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Isabel

Remember that story about the bull named Ferdinand? Well, Division 2 wrote a script, and composed music, and made puppets for a performance based off of this story. They spent all year creating this play with music teacher Laura, creative writing teacher Sonja, and art teacher Emily. On May 30th, they performed the show twice: first in front of a group of children from nearby Neighborhood School, and then in the evening for the Meridian community.

I got a chance to speak with Maya, who played Ferdinand, a few days after the show. I asked her what she thought was the hardest part about playing Ferdinand. Maya responded -- and fellow actor Juanzi agreed with her -- “Probably just finding time to memorize lines!” I also asked her what advice she’d give to students -- like me -- who will create their own plays next year. She said the most important thing beyond lines is simply hard work.  

When I asked other Meridian students what they thought, Luca said, “It was amazing! Their voices were very pretty. It was probably the best show at Meridian.” Rhys said, “Practically perfect.” I also got a review from my brother, Isaiah, who goes to Neighborhood School.  He said, “It was great. There was a lot of funny jokes.” But Grace’s review may have been the most appropriate: “It was un-bull-ievable.”

 

Antimicrobial Research Series: Oxi-clean v.s. Trader Joe's

By Division I student Ibrahim

You have all heard the catchphrase: “Oxi-Clean, It gets the tough stains out.” You have probably also heard about Trader Joe’s detergent. Both companies have advertised that their product is the best at getting rid of bacteria. But which one is better?

This question is exactly what prompted an experiment designed by Meridian Academy scientists Grace, Kory, and Ibrahim. Their motivating question was “Does Oxiclean or Trader-Joes get rid of bacteria from compost better than the other?”

The difficulties of answering their microbiology project was that they didn’t always have the same type of detergent format. Sometimes they had powder detergent, and other times they had liquid detergent.

Before even starting the experiment, the group hypothesized that Oxiclean would work better in getting rid of bacteria because it is a more renowned brand that focuses mostly on laundry detergent, while Trader-Joe’s isn’t as known, and it develops many things so less time and money might have been put in the detergent, thus resulting in a lesser ability of getting rid of bacteria. After this, they thought of two detergents that they had in their homes that they could use. After choosing Oxiclean and Trader-Joes, the group chose compost as their source of bacteria, because Grace had a lot of it, and so it was convenient.

During the first trial, Grace brought in some compost, powder Oxiclean, and Trader-Joe's detergent. In this experiment, the group had two controls: a positive control and a negative control. A positive control is when you know that there is bacteria. A negative control is when you know that their is no bacteria. The positive control was just compost that they got with a sterile swab. The negative control was one milliliter of detergent with two milliliters of water. They did this for both of the detergents. Then they had Trader Joe’s with water with bacteria, and Oxiclean and water with bacteria. The results were pretty surprising. The Oxiclean negative control looked like bubbly specks. The bacteria had spread everywhere in the bacteria with Oxiclean petri dish. However in the Trader Joe’s with bacteria petri dish, there was a similar result. This would suggest that both detergents were susceptible to bacteria growth. The group thought that the water had increased the ability for bacteria to grow, not exactly the detergent.

The difficulties of analyzing the results was that they didn’t always have the same type of detergent format. Sometimes they had powder detergent, and other times they had liquid detergent.

Soon after trial one, the group did another trial. This time, however, they didn’t do controls because they wanted to do trials only. This time, they used three grams of Oxiclean with bacteria in two of the petri dishes, and three grams of Trader Joe's in the other two petri dishes with bacteria. The results were that The Oxiclean petri dishes were full of bubbly specks and there was no visible bacteria. They hypothesized that the Oxiclean powder dissolved and mixed with the gel at the bottom to create the specks. In the Trader-Joe’s petri dish, there were specks of bacteria visible.

After a long delay, the petri dishes for the third trial arrived. This time the group had 7 dishes so they did 4 controls in order to make up for last time. There was one positive control that was just bacteria. There were 3 negative controls that were Oxi-clean liquid, Oxiclean powder, and Trader-Joe's. Out of the three remaining petri dishes, two were Oxiclean and one was Trader Joe's. There was an oxiclean liquid with bacteria and and an Oxiclean powder with bacteria. The 7th and last petri dish was Trader-Joe's liquid detergent with bacteria. The results of this trial for the Oxiclean was that it worked really well and their wasn’t any real visible bacteria in both the liquid and powder petri dish. There were still bubbly specks in both, but he group had by now come to the conclusion that it was not bacteria because it came up even when their wasn’t any bacteria in the petri dish. The reason that the group thought that the Oxiclean worked really well was that the decrease in water used to make the Oxiclean liquid from last time really helped the detergent prevent bacteria growth. The Trader Joe’s had little visible bacteria and the liquid was visible.

In conclusion, the group found out that Oxi-clean worked better in preventing bacteria. However, water in Oxiclean seemed to help bacteria spread and grow. This is The results of the experiment meant that the groups hypothesis was right. However, this would mean that Oxiclean powder by itself worked better than Oxiclean with water, which is what people do when washing clothes.

For future experiments the group decided that more precise measurements of bacterial growth. The group also agreed that more trials were needed with more time for each trial. More time would mean that we could analyze that results better and we could actually get results that could be put out into the world. Researcher Kory says, “ I think that it was interesting and challenging. However, I would’ve have liked more time to conduct the experiment and to analyze our results.” A big question that was spawned from this experiment was how well detergents from other bigger brands get rid of bacteria.

Throughout this experiment, Grace, Ibrahim, and Kory learned about how it is like to be a real scientist conducting experiments. Researcher Grace said, “ The initial process was exciting, but after a while, it gets less exciting because we already kind of knew what detergent was better at getting rid of compost.    

 

Antimicrobial Research Series: What Bacteria Does Soap Kill?

By Division I student Jesse

Have you ever wondered exactly how well handsoap actually works? We did an experiment to find out how much bacteria softsoap really kills.

Our motivating question was: How much bacteria from a lunch table, the inside of a microwave, a keyboard, and a toilet handle does softsoap kill?

We swabbed each of the areas, and rubbed it all over a petri dish. The petri dishes were split into two halves: one was the experimental side, and one positive control. On the experimental side, we took a mixture of two parts soap and one part water, and swabbed it on top of the bacteria. On the control side, we swabbed water over the bacteria. We also had one more pertri dish. This one was for negative controls. We had one negative control that just had water on it, and one that had the soap mixture on it. Positive controls were a key part of our experiment. Without them, we wouldn’t have known how much bacteria there was to begin with on the experimental petri dishes, so we wouldn’t have have known how much bacteria the soap actually killed. We also used negative controls, which tell you if the water or in our case soap mixture already had bacteria in it. This is helpful if you have bacteria on the experimental petri dishes, because you can say that it came from the water, not the place you swabbed.

What we finally found from our third round of doing the experiment was that the soap works very well. There was no bacteria on the experimental sides of the petri dishes, and the positive controls were covered in bacteria. (as you can see in the pictures below)

It’s not as easy as it seems to answer this question. In our first experiment, we didn’t have any softsoap, so we used Gojo soap and we were not sanitary about putting it into the petri dishes. There also wasn’t much bacteria at all on our positive controls, so we couldn’t say much about what we found. We tried the experiment again and swabbed longer parts of the areas, and got better results, but they were still not perfect. This was because we decided that because there was soap on top of the experimental bacteria, and nothing on top of the positive control, the fact that there was almost no bacteria in the experimental could have been because the bacteria was being smothered by the soap. To solve this, we put a layer of water over the positive controls. This didn’t affect our results, so we are sure now that the bacteria weren’t just being smothered and our results meant something. Lastly, on the third round, there was bacteria on our negative control, but we decided that our negative control was not very important, given our results, so we let it go. Because there was no bacteria on the experimental side, it showed that even if there was bacteria in the water, the soap killed it.

The experimenters all agreed that the most frustrating thing about this experiment was having to redo the experiment multiple times and not getting conclusive results.

Isabel, one of the experimenters, said that “after doing this experiment, I would like to do another experiment to see if there are types of bacteria that this soap can’t kill.”

Antimicrobial Research Series: Mold and Spices

By Division I student Phoebe

Tons of mold!  At least that is what Rhys, Phoebe, and Alex looked at with their experiment.  Their question throughout the project was: What spice out of many is the most effective at preventing bread mold from growing?  The spices the experimenters used were turmeric, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, oregano, onion, garlic, and ginger.  The best spice out of all of them appeared to be cloves.  It had the least amount of mold on where the spot of spice was and right next to it was nutmeg, who had a lot of mold.  Oregano and cilantro both had quite a bit of mold.  Quite different, right?

Things the experimenters could have done better is making sure things are less contaminated and not exposing the petri dishes to air before using them.    Another thing they could have done better was using the right amount because in the first experiment they had used too much spice and not enough mold, or they could have had none at all because no one could not see mold!  The experimenters also decided that they should change from keyboard bacteria to bread mold because the spices were meant to fight back at molds instead of keyboard bacteria.  

    A couple of things that came in their way is that one, their first negative control had gotten contaminated with a huge spot of bacteria on it.  The point of positive and negative controls are so you can see how things  can grow with mold but no spices and just nothing but water itself.  You can see if the spices have an impact on the mold or the spices do nothing.   also see if mold will appear if there is nothing but distilled water.  The last experiment went better.  Less bacteria, almost none, were in the negative control. The control and the positive control had a lot of mold in it.  The others had plenty of bacteria as well for the experimenters had used a little less spice for the mold.  Things they could have done better is making sure things are less contaminated and not exposing the petri dishes to air before using them.    Another thing they could have done better was using the right amount because in the first experiment they had used too much spice and not enough bacteria, or they could have had none at all because  could not see it!  “The project was an excellent learning except. It taught me many things. I came with an open mind, though, I thought that garlic was antibacterial and it was right” (Alex Cooney).  

In the future, the experimenters said that next they would try to figure out what exactly is in the spices that makes them defend themselves against the molds.  They would probably do a chemical test to figure it out.  What they suggest to do to protect your food from mold is to just sprinkle a bit of spice, (preferably cloves), on the food all over.  Thank you for reading about this project, I hope you have a spicy day!

 

Antimicrobial Research Series: Febreze and Lysol vs. Bacteria

By Division I student Lila

Have you ever wondered if febreze can clean your room at the same time it is making it smell better? Well, it can! Over the course of the last few months, Vilmarie, Zayna, and Lila have been testing out whether febreze or lysol can kill or stop the growth of bacteria. The question was, does febreze air freshener stop the growth of bacteria from the P.E. room left pull-up bar? This area was chosen because lots of people use it and spread bacteria all over it. So, it would be a good place to collect bacteria for the experiment.

The protocol was to swab the left pull-up bar in the P.E. room with distilled water and rub onto petri dish. There would then be a reservoir of febreze that connects into the petri dish through a absorbent strip of paper. They would then have another petri dish that was split in half and marked one half as positive control, just the pull-up bar bacteria, and negative control, just distilled water. With these controls, they can compare the end results with the plain water or bacteria. For an example, if the water had bacteria in it to begin with, they would know that that contributed to the result.

When they finished this experiment, they found that there was bacteria growing, but not only on the positive control. It was growing on the negative control too! This was a confusing result: how had the bacteria gotten into the negative side? They later figured out that since the two controls were sharing a petri dish, the positive spread into the negative one. Also, there was still bacteria growing on the petri dish with the reservoir of febreze, which did not match up with their hypothesis. So, as you might have guessed, the protocol needed a little tweaking.

Their next experiment was a little different. Since the last experiment did not do so well with the controls, they had the idea of having two separate petri dishes for each control. This would hopefully clear up the spreading of bacteria in the dish problem. And it did! Both controls turned out as expected, the positive with bacteria and the negative without bacteria. However, they still wanted to try to prove that febreze can kill bacteria. So, they tried a new method instead of the reservoir. Spraying the febreze straight from the can, they continuously sprayed the petri dish for 10 seconds. This created a little pool of febreze in the bottom of the dish. After 5 minutes, they poured out the liquid, thinking that it had created a sort of layer or coat on the agar. However, they soon realized that they might have washed away all of the bacteria because there was so much liquid in the petri dish. The dish that was labeled febreze had no bacteria, another sign of the bacteria maybe being washed away. And yet again, they needed a change to even more perfect their experiment.

This time, they took a lot of things into consideration. They didn’t want to repeat any prior mistakes again. So, they tried just pouring a little febreze over the bacteria in the petri dish. They decided to pour 1 millimeter of febreze over the agar, and to be fair and even with the other dishes, they poured the same amount of distilled water over the two controls so that each had a small layer of liquid in the bottom of their petri dish. And, they also decided to make a control for the febreze to show if the febreze by itself had any bacteria in it. However, it turned out that it didn’t. The febreze petri dish ended up with no bacteria in it, but they decided to count the number of bacteria that had grown in the positive control. If they counted them by hand every single day, that would be a lot of work. Thankfully, they didn't have to do that. They set up a method where there was graph paper under the petri dish, and they counted the number of graph squares there were in total that fit in the circle under the petri dish. It came out to be 150 squares. Then, looking down onto the petri dish from above, they would count how many squares the bacteria could fill up:

“This project has taught me how to work better as a team, [learn] about different microbes and their growth, while at the same time it was a fun and engaging project!” says Zayna after having a conversation about the experiments with Lila. To look deeper into the process, there will be a lab report and presentation that will be at exhibitions for everyone to see!

 

 

Antimicrobial Research Series: The Power of Mouthwash

By Division I student Elliot

Do you ever wonder what mouthwash actually does other then making conversations with you more enjoyable? Luca, Theo, and I wanted to know the answer to this question.

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At the end of April our class was split up into groups, each group came up with a different question that they were to answer with provided tools. Our group used 5 petri dishes, one positive control, one negative control, and three petri dishes with bacteria and different amounts of mouthwash. Our positive control was bacteria collected from the back of my mouth with a q-tip, and the negative control was just mouthwash spread on a petri dish.The negative and positive controls are important to see if the mouthwash was actually making a difference in the petri dishes compared to the positive control. The other three petri dishes were spread with bacteria from my mouth and then applied to the petri dishes with different amounts of mouthwash. We spread one with  25%, one with 50%, and 100%, these stood for different amount of drops we put on the dish we would put the certain amount of drops on the dish and swirl it around. I then wrapped the dishes with the sealing tape, so that our results wouldn't be affected by any outside bacteria getting in.

Over the course of a couple weeks we took pictures of the progress of the bacteria. We made sure that we handled the dishes with sterile gloves and with great care, so our results wouldn't be affected.  We had done this project three times, due to contaminated petri dishes previously, we made very strict rules about the handling of the dishes.

“It was interesting to see how different concentrations affected the growth of bacteria,” researcher Theo Cooper said. The 25% and 50% dishes had almost the same amount of bacteria, covering a good ¼ of the dish,  just in different sized colonies, but you can clearly see the difference between 25% and 100%, 100% had much less bacteria, from this result we could conclude that mouthwash does make a difference to the amount of bacteria that forms in your mouth.. The differences between the positive control and the 100% also demonstrated the difference that mouthwash has, even the 25% dish was a large difference from the positive control. In the future I would like to see what difference toothpaste makes to the amount of bacteria on your teeth.

So that mouthwash sitting on your sink should continue to be used, for the sanity of your friends, and for your health.

 

9th Graders Explore DNA at Biogen

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Ibrahim

On Wednesday, April 26th, the 9th graders traveled to a biotechnology company in Cambridge called Biogen. The company works to find cures for diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's.

First, they learned about how segments in DNA can be altered. This happens through a technology called CRISPR, which is essentially a gene-editing tool. It takes a part of the DNA out and replaces it with a synthetic copy. They also learned about how DNA can break apart at a specific temperature and come back together at another temperature.

In order to learn more, the students took some of their own cheek cells and put them in a PCR machine, which stands for “polymerase chain reaction.” This heats and cools the DNA automatically. DNA is made up of two helixes, and the PCR machine splits these up. Then, it creates a synthetic copy of the DNA and binds it to the original helix. The machine did this many times. With the students’ cheek cells, it showed how much bitter each student could taste.

The trip was especially interesting because the 9th grade is taking Biology this year. Going to Biogen taught them a lot, particularly about DNA. 9th grader Zac reflected on the experiment, saying, “It was interesting to learn about genetics at a renowned biotechnology company. It was a wonderful experience.”

 

Third Open Mic Night Recap: Improvised Acts, Amazing Performances, and Jon on the Saw!

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Vilmarie

How many students can say that they’ve seen their MST teacher play the saw? Well, on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, Meridian Academy hosted its final Open Mic Night of the year, and we were treated to MST teacher Jonathan Cannon playing that particular and unique instrument. Who knew Jon had it in him? But that wasn’t the only surprise of the night.

Twelve performers had originally signed up, but during one of the breaks, Emmanuel cut in and had the audience stomp and clap while they rapped to a short but sweet and humorous poem. Also, at the end of the performances, Jacob and Max played a last-minute Stevie Wonder song with Celine on vocals and Laura and Alex on drums.

On every Open Mic Night, the Meridian community comes together in the Music Room to share and celebrate our talents. Students and teachers sing, dance, recite poetry, and play music as well. The first two Open Mic Nights were held in October and March.

The original idea for Open Mic Night came from our music teacher, Laura. She said that she wanted to create a comfortable and safe space for anyone in the school to share their passions and talents in front of their fellow Meridianites. Spanish teacher Abby, who also helps organize Open Mic Nights, said that “the feeling in the room was very supportive, positive, and happy to be there, and the audience was very supportive of performers.”

Since they have been such a success, Open Mic Nights will continue next year. We look forward to seeing all the new Meridianites showcase their performances. ...And who knows what other talents Jon might have up his sleeve?

Strangers Supporting Strangers: The 2017 Supermarket Drive

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By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Grace

On Saturday, April 15th, from 11am-3pm, a group of students and a teacher congregated in front of the Stop & Shop in Jamaica Plain. Bearing flyers and a purpose, they approached strangers entering the store to inform them about family homelessness and ask for donations or contributions.

When I arrived at the drive, it was a little past 11am. Tables were just set up with signs taped to them. We set out flyers about Our Place and empty jars on the tables. Our Place, a daycare center for homeless children, is run by the Salvation Army and supported by the state and donations. Its purpose is to break the cycle of family homelessness by providing food, supplies and homes for children during the day. We explained to people that we were primarily raising money and asking for contributions of diapers, wipes, art supplies, or baby food. The responses to this varied incredibly; some were happy to give donations the second we explained it to them, while others walked right past. Some of the people who donated explained that they were in shelters growing up, or had lived in shelters with their own children. This experience seemed to make them all the more enthusiastic about giving. Some parents gave money to their children to put in the jars, while others took flyers.

In the beginning, one of the hardest things was talking to people. It seemed incredibly rude to stop random strangers in the middle of their day to talk about something that might hardly concern them. But we took turns standing by the door, and by the end of my shift, I felt completely comfortable talking to people I’d never met. All in all, I felt it was a great experience and a lot more productive than staying home all day. Best of all, our relatively simple asking strategy worked. By the end of the drive, we raised over 6,000 baby supplies and $400 dollars in cash!