Sea Perch: A Real-World Experience of the Scientific Process

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Elliot

Many classes at Meridian change year to year, but Sea Perch is an annual project for Division II MST students. For this endeavor, groups of 8th graders engineer and create a remotely operated submarine.

First, student pairs come up with a question that they strive to answer through submarine experiments at the Charles River. Some students collect water samples and test it for nitrates and phosphates, while others study the current differences. With this data, they write a lab report about how they got the water samples and the results. As MST student Emi said, “Sea Perch is a unique and an interesting learning tool that helps us as students really learn more about the scientific process.”

 

With a "Front Pages Project," Division I Analyzes Contemporary News

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Lila

In the final trimester of Media & Journalism, Division I's Humanities class, students analyzed how contemporary news is reported. First, each student was assigned a different news outlet -- like The New York Times, The BBC, or The National Review -- and took screenshots of its front page every day for one week. They also recorded the top four headlines and bylines from that front page. Then, students split into three groups that focused on examining issues of race, gender or topics reported.

The race group focused on questions like: "How many front page stories are by reporters of color?" and "How many people of color are featured in photographs?" The gender group concentrated on questions like "How many media outlets are owned by women?" and "How many front page headlines mention women's names?" The topics group explored questions like: "How many times does the word 'Trump' come up in headlines?" and "How many front page headlines reference violence?" After all of this data collecting, each group created an infographic -- some on the computer, and some by hand -- to share their findings with the community at Exhibitions. Click on the images below to see larger images of their completed work!

Zoos, Farms, and Writing Centers: Seniors Gain Experience at Internships

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Jesse

For the last few weeks of the year, the school building has almost seemed empty. This is because most of the seniors are off doing internships for credit, rather than taking classes, for the last month of school. The internships range in location and focus, and are geared toward the individual interests of each student.

Max interns at 826 Boston, where he tutors kids in reading. Tara is at a farm in Maine. Twyla is working at the Franklin Park Zoo. Madi helps with research, teaching, and organization at the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. As Max said, the experience of interning outside school is extremely valuable: “It does a good job of contextualizing the work you do at Meridian.” He mentioned only a few downsides, particularly that there is still an interesting curriculum for his classmates, which he doesn’t get to experience, and that it feels a little strange returning to Meridian while he’s working elsewhere.

Finally, Max described how, because it is so different from school, and it’s very challenging, interning helps them feel like there is something new and exciting to do all the way up until they graduate.

A Worthwhile Challenge: Division III Produces "Twelfth Night"

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Luca

Throughout the school year, Division III Humanities students explored the art of storytelling. Because Shakespeare is one of the greats, students spent the final trimester memorizing, rehearsing, and designing one of his greatest and most famous plays, Twelfth Night. Emmanuel, a senior who co-directed the production with Humanities teacher Kevin, said of the production, “It’s been a wonderful experience. Everyone's pretty good at staying on-top of things, even when there is a little bit of stress.”

Nadia, a 9th grader who’s playing Viola, speaks fondly of Emmanuel’s support: “Without the spicy comments from Emmanuel and all of their help, I don’t know if the show would even be running.” While Twelfth Night is a beautiful show and fun to perform, the performers acknowledged that memorizing the older style of English can be very challenging. As 9th grader Tempest, who plays Olivia, explained, “It’s really cool to perform, but the language is a lot harder than [the modern plays we often do].” Following months of preparation, the performance was held June 9th in the Parish Hall. Click through the pictures avicw to see the fruits of the students’ labor!

Printmaking: Not Just for Paper!

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Esmé

For the third and final trimester of the school year, some Division I students have the opportunity to take printmaking. One of the projects they did was creating clay stamps. First, they generated designs to put on the stamps, and then they carved them onto clay blocks. Following this, they used these stamps to create custom-stamped cookies and pasta.

Next, they worked to create designs carved on soft cut linoleum, which is a rubbery surface that is soft and easy to manipulate. The designs are interlocking patterns, which means they can be continued because the edges are the same on both sides. They are using these to print rectangles consisting of the designs they created repeated six times.

Art teacher Emily, who led the class, explained, “I enjoy teaching this class because students are so enthusiastic at each step of the process and it makes me just want to keep going.” When I asked 6th grader Zayna about her experience, her comments reflected this enthusiasm: “Printmaking is interesting, fun, and relaxing. At the same time, the finished product is beautiful.” 

 

Skulls, Whales, and Darwin: Division II Explores Harvard's Natural History Museum

By Division I Media & Journalism reporter Phoebe

As part of their learning about evolution and biology this trimester, Division II took a field trip to The Harvard Natural History Museum in Cambridge. As science teacher Stephanie explained, the trip enriched the students’ learning throughout the year, which is focused on marine science. This covers both algebra and a variety of scientific subjects, ranging from ecology to conservation biology. They read Sean B. Carroll’s Into The Jungle: Great Adventures in the Search for Evolution and learned about how other scientists contributed to Darwin’s famous theory, as well as many examples of adaptations in different environments.  

During their field trip, students were granted special access to an area not open to the public, called the stacks. There, they looked at examples of evolution and how species and animals adapted to survive.

Students were also invited to see the collection held by the Museum of Comparative Zoology’s Mammalogy department. They were greeted by curatorial assistant Mark Omura, who walked them through how scientists utilize the specimens for their research.  

They went to other exhibits also, including one on skulls. As students Emi and Juanzi described, “When you looked up, there was a giant whale skeleton above your head.” They said the trip was “exhilarating” and “fascinating.” By the end of the trip, students’ minds were expanded with all that learning -- you could even say they evolved!

Spring Exhibitions: Focus on Microbes

For spring Exhibitions, students showed a range of projects, including Division III's SHEWASSA (or Simple Human Experiment with a Sound Statistical Analysis), Division II's Ferdinand work, and Division IV's Ethnography Project. In Division I MST, students showed their original antimicrobial research in several formats: oral presentations, journal articles, and blog posts. Below, read a blog post by Division I student Jesse about her group's process and findings:

Antimicrobial Research Series: What Bacteria Does Soap Kill?
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.”

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.