Microscopy, Carbon Game, and Collage

February 24, 2010, Takilma, OR
by Daniel Dalegowski

Today Joe and Kelpie led the students in a microscope activity while Lorie helped them play carbon cycle games and work on the carbon cycle collage.


Kelpie's biochar sprouts
Kelpie shared a bucket of biochar that two sprouts had developed in. There was no soil, only biochar. The students asked an excellent question about how the biochar could be crushed to add to the soil. Kelpie answered that she has a compost shredder that will work. Ari told the group that his dad had obtained char from a bonfire and has been peeing on it. Heather asked how much char needs to be mixed with soil to grow plants well. Kelpie answered that she has mixed as much as 1 part char with 1 part soil in a potted plant, but that 1 part char to 3 parts soil works well too. You can use even less in a garden bed with good results. It can be added each year and doesn't break down in the soil or wash away. Unlike a lot of soil amendments, it's cumulative. The small holes in the char are ideal for holding microbes and nutrients that plants can use when they are ready.

Carbon Game and Collage with Lorie

Lorie assisted the students with the carbon cycle game.

The carbon cycle game. The avatar travels along the path of the carbon cycle. At each juncture the students must answer questions about the carbon cycle. A number of facts about the carbon cycle were obtained by the students in this way.
Lorie helped the students get started in the computer lab with the carbon cycle game. It was an exercise in patience to get the programs running, but one by one the games came to life and the students worked in pairs to obtain important facts about the carbon cycle. These facts were in then included in the large collage the students have been constructing over time. It is a beautiful representation of the movement of carbon through our environment. The collage is being constructed on a large board which has already had the various parts of the cycle laid out in pencil; like a giant paint by number project.

At each stage of the game the students must answer questions about the carbon cycle; if they don't know they must guess.

In addition to the carbon cycle work with Lorie and the microscope activity with Kelpie and Joe, the students are writing charcoal myths with Heather and reading with Katherine.

Microscope Activity with Kelpie and Joe

Kelpie and Joe discussed the microscope activity. Students and instructors examined the literature.
Microscope activity. Notice the plant samples and individual scopes and slide-sets.

The students used microscopes to look at standard slides. The slides they examined proceeded like so:

1.) Onion skin; very large cells
2.) Plant leaf; much smaller cells than onion
3.) Plant stem; smaller cells still; horizontal cross-section
4.) Plant stem; lateral cross-section

The question for the students was "how do the cells of the various samples differ?" The main thing to notice was the structure of the woody-stem cells; the manner in which they formed tubes--this was particularly apparent in the lateral cross-section. When converted into bio-char, these tubes form the structures which will hold nutrients. Not a bad idea: need something to hold nutrients for plants? How about plant structures.

Heather worked with the students to study and write their own biochar myths.
One student at a time worked with Joe who helped them look through a high-powered microscope at mold. Everyone was excited to look through the powerful scope and it was hard to cycle all the students through in time. I had the pleasure of looking as well, and the mold was fascinating--very beautiful like water-drops; not like it is on our macro-level at all.

Carbon cycle collage that the students are constructing.
Kelpie helped the students examine various plant specimens with hand-lenses. Lichen, moss, and onion skin were all examined. The onion was a particularly big hit. "Oh, wow, cool!"