Tiny Neighbors

October 23, 2010 § 2 Comments



Buckeye in Seattle

Buckeye in Seattle

Today on my way to the Washington Park Arboretum I saw a Northern Banded Flicker use it’s quirky curved bill to unearth an insect from a seam in the side walk.

Usually on the first Thursday of the month you’ll find me lost among the crowds at Pioneer Square’s monthly art walk.  This month though, I skipped throwing elbows with Seattle’s art scene to do something I’ve been patiently waiting for since before the My  Microcosm project began; to participate in Home Water’s Tiny Neighbors training.

Home Waters is a local organization that provides hands on training for K-12 science teachers in biological sciences.  Tiny Neighbors is just one of the many training opportunities available to help teachers develop class room curriculum and field exercises to connect kids to ecosystems in their community. Although I’m an artist, the idea of combining art and science in an accessible way has led me to pursue new avenues in engaging my audience and creating art work.

At the Arboretum, we started out with some amazing hospitality and introductions. Our group consisted of some really amazing educators and while I was the only artist I felt in good company.   We discussed ways to engage young people, why ecosystems are important, and how to prepare for a field trip.  Since many people learn best from experience, we to grabbed a plastic shoe box full of tools, a bucket on a pole and a funnel net and made our way out into the park.  The sun was beginning  it’s slow decent through the pale gray Seattle sky. A banded kingfisher flew overhead and curious mallards began swimming towards the shore. We started by making a few general observations about the environment.  We took the temperature of the air and the water.  Took a water sample, threw our the funnel net.

Mallards at the Arboretum

Mallards at the Arboretum

The sample of water collected from the funnel net was literally swarming with life. The light was slowly fading, but i could still make out swirling black specs in the tiny plastic cup. We headed back into the class room to closely observe our finds.  We started by pouring our water sample into a shallow white plastic tray which made the  microorganisms immediately more visible.  Our next step was a little more tricky; sucking up individual organisms in a tiny plastic pipette and depositing them with a small amount of water into a cell of an ice cube tray.  Still to hard to see to identify by name, the microbeasties moved with mechanical precision and proved excellent at avoiding being sucked up.  After isolating a few individuals, they were then carefully deposited into the cavity of a well slide.

Just in our quick cursory study of the water sample we found a leach, copepods, amphipods, fresh water shrimp – apologies for not yet  being able to share images here!  Even with the tiny plastic magnifiers and a dissecting microscope with 2x magnification we saw some amazing sites.  There was such incredible variety of things to look at and with the magnification we had available I knew that there was most likely even more organisms yet unseen.

I learned  lot, but I now have so many new questions to answer.  What are the positive and negative human impacts on the lake? How many different kind of life live there?  How does the time of year, time of day, and temperature effect those organisms?

As I left the park that evening in near dark, I realize I could easily dedicate the rest of my artistic career to the subject.  What a good way to end the day.

Thanks for reading.

❤ g


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