Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8, 2009 - Group A

The twelve days(counting today) that have gone by seem to be moving too fast to even stop for a minute to think about the experiences that have happened while here at Sewanee. It is hard to imagine that only three days are left to spend with our newly developed friends. Despite being extremely tired from the intense learning done on the previous day, everyone was able to get up, and in some way or another, everyone was able to get to class. Groups switched for the first time today, so everyone was able to spend a little more time with the people they hadn't previously spent time with. The new group A participated in the class titled, "Water: A Reflection of our Environment," with Dr. Rob Bachman. In this class we were able to visit the water treatment plant for Sewanee, and learn how clean water is produced to be supplied to the whole town. Following the field trip, we ate lunch, and returned to Spencer later in the day for a Chemistry class. In the class we participated in an experiment that tested the iron in different water level samples. On top of learning about water, we were able to have answered interesting science related facts, for example, "why does diet soda explode when frozen?" So far today has been very interesting, and later today we will be having dinner with the admissions Staff, as well as prepare for an intense group project that will demonstrate what we have learned while participating in the Sewanee Environmental Institute.

- Anna Stachura

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today Group B woke up early for a long hike down the mountain to the cove. We biked down to Morgan Steep to begin our hike. We examined biodiversity, focusing particularly on snails, in several different locations at varying elevations. Dr. Haskell explained the importance of snails to the surrounding environment, emphasizing their calcium content as a critical nutrient for female birds. We listened for different species of birds in the forest and were able to get responses from the scarlet tanager and the yellow billed cuckoo using recorded bird calls. We were able to find and identify several species of snails throughout our hike. In addition to all of this, our group discovered several small ponds overflowing with tadpoles. We ate a quick sack lunch before the difficult hike back up the mountain.

After we arrived back on the central campus, our group went canoeing on Lake Dimmick. We had a great time exploring the lake, paddling, and swimming.

Tonight after dinner, we are going to the Culprits concert at Lake Cheston. The band is local and includes two of Dr. Evans’s sons. We are looking forward to meeting some of the members of the Young Writers program, another pre-college program currently taking place at Sewanee. All of us are excited for Fourth of July tomorrow!



So we woke up and did the normal thing: shower, breakfast, and meeting in the atrium. We picked up out sack lunches for one of the culmination events of the SEI program. We were going to dig at the old King's Farm site. The site was home to the King family until the late 40's when Sewanee bought the area and bull-dozed the site to the ground. Our main excavation focus was at the cellar site, where most of the artifacts were to be found. We were seperated into three groups when we first go to the King's Farm site. One went to a former dump, another was to dig shovel test sites that might lead to later full excavation areas, and the last group went to the cellar site where the archeology was already underway.
At the dump site, we set out into three smaller divisions. Kyle and Sean started a 1 by 1 meter test area where they dug up the soil and sifted it with these big screens in search for glass, pottery, china, and other various dump items. Gaby went out about 15 meters and walked in a giant loop around the entire dump site in search of interesting artifacts. Jane searched through the main dump site. The test area group didnt find much other than some shards of broken lightbulbs and an interesting bead. Gaby found some really interesting water jugs and teacups around the perimeter. Jane found an old Coke-a-cola bottle and a whisky bottle with the top still attached (sadly for us, no alcohol).
At the shovel test sites, each group that rotated through did a 1 by 1 foot digging where they went to the B horizon (the bright orange clay material). The material taken out of the pits was screened out and the items were collected. Will Noggle found a bunch of nails in one hole, but that was probably the most interesting finds. Most other people found small bits of glass, clayware, or pottery. After the digging and sifting was done, we filled in the holes (so the little deer didnt break their legs or anything). The plan was to have both groups A and B dig around 16 to 20 test holes to see where future, larger-scale excavations were to be made.
Lastle, the large cellar excavations site was everybody's favorite because of the "loot" they found. The site was sectioned off into three areas with different depths at one of the areas. The digging consisted of around 4 or 5 people digging and scraping at the soil with trowels. Once 10 litres had been dug up and put in a bucket, the dirt would then be sifted out and the smaller goodies would then be uncovered. A ton of things were discovered at the site. An old 1930-1940's toy car was unearthed along with some matching pieces of china, a knife, and some other silverware. A ton of other things were found, but it is simply too much to list.
After the collecting, we went and brought the artifacts to a lab where we washed and seperated everything onto plates. It was rough and tedious, but we survived. After that, we went along to dinner at McClurg and ate our various food. After dinner, we went back to the lab, took up the artifacts to another lab. We documented most of the artifacts and looked up dates and cross compared them from the cellar to the dump. Most of the things in the dump and the cellar were closely related time-wise, but we've only been at the top of the cellar, not the bottom where most of the original King's Farm items are. But that was the field activity for Monday. Group A will be repeating what we did tomorrow, except for the dump area. The archeology was really interesting and we all learned a lot about the King's Farm homestead.

-Sean Altendorf

Thursday July 2, 2009

Today “Group A’ spent the morning with Dr. Haskell learning about the animal diversity on the plateau, cove, and valley. We mainly focused on the species of snails and birds in the area because they are related by the need for calcium in the snails’ shells and birds’ eggs. The group only found one snail on the plateau which we learned was a result of the sandstone which is low in calcium, and little moisture in the area. After a hike off trail down the mountain a little ways we found a larger population of snails in the cove. As we approached the limestone valley which is rich in calcium carbonate we found hundreds of snail shells. Mark scared the girls in the group by taking a tumble down a slope but was fine and impressed many of the guys. We all enjoyed sack lunches in the valley by a stream and rested before the trek back up the mountain. Instead of taking the easy way up, we all decided to climb up the empty stream bed full of huge rocks and boulders. Needless to say at the top the entire group was drenched and exhausted but had a great time with Dr. Haskell.

After a short break the entire group set out with Dr. Knoll to study the hydrology of the limestone in the valley. We returned to Morgan’s Steep where we had been with Dr. Haskell that morning and set out down the other side of the mountain. Along the trail the group saw many caves and vertical shafts formed by the gradual erosion of limestone by acid rain. If too much erosion occurs the caves fall in on themselves and form sink holes which were also along the trail. We saw many house-sized sandstone boulders that had fallen from the plateau above into the cove. The group learned the underground air in the caves is constantly 56 degrees by hanging near them to escape the heat of the day. The limestone in the area is a sedimentary rock from an ancient shallow sea so we saw many marine fossils. After the second hike back up the mountain we all enjoyed a much needed rest and got ready for tomorrow’s activities

-Mark and Kenzie

Week 2 - Day 1

Today we went back to learning with a long, hard day of archaeology. We got to be the first group to see what lay beneath the soil of the old king house which was knocked down in the 1940s. We found plates, spoons, pieces of glass, marbles, a toy car, and an old battery. We also visited a dump site where the forest floor was littered with tons of plates, glasses, bottles, and other types of glassware. It was really cool to be working on an actual archaeological dig and learn the methods and tools used by the professionals. One method was where we would dig small deep holes to sample the artifact density and see if we would want to do more digging there later.

Lunch was had at a Native American rock shelter near the dig site. There we were tasked with finding the cave painting on it. Turns out the cave art was of a man. It was extremely faded and pretty hard to see unless someone points it out. After lunch we worked on the site for about another two hours and came back to wash the artifacts and try to figure out what they were. Some things that looked like one thing, turned out to be completely different. For instance, what we thought was a nail turned out to be an old chicken bone that had somehow been turned slightly green.

Later, when we had everything cleaned off, everyone got together to try and date some of the artifacts based on words or makers marks on them. Most thing we dated turned out to be from the 1920s-1940s. We discovered that we had found an old toothpaste bottle for something called “Teel” which was the precursor to Crest. One of the bottles found was and old historic whiskey bottle by Frankfort Distilleries Inc. And on some items we could find almost exact pictures of the artifact, like the toy car. Tomorrow group two gets to continue the dig and I know we all can’t wait to see what they unearth!

Swimming at the Res

A lazy Sunday was welcomed after an eventful Fourth of July. Most of us rolled out of bed around ten and made our way to Stirling's for a quick breakfast, and some coffee. Later that day, due to threatening skies we resorted to the Fowler Center to pursue our athletic interests. Some ventured to the tennis courts for a friendly game, or to the weight room to pump iron, however most of us ended up participating in an interesting game of soccer. There was a wide range of ability level represented in this particular game, ranging from Hannah who had not played since kindergarten, to Will and Doug who did their best not to mow anyone over on their way to an upper ninety shot on goal. All in all the teams worked together to find a good balance, and if nothing else were interesting to watch. After an eventful experience in the Fowler Center, we decided to venture to the Reservoir for a swim.

Despite the overcast sky almost every member of SEI jumped from the Sewanee conglomerate (rock) into the refreshing water of the Reservoir. Once everyone was in the water the fun was able to start. Between the rope swing, Frisbee, and “dock rocking,” there was something for everyone. On the dock in the middle of the Res was an active game of four square, which ended in what has been duped “dock rocking.” This particular activity consists of as many people as possible flooding to one side of the dock and essentially sinking it, while being careful not to fall off. This proceeds as soon as someone decides to make a move to a different side of the dock, followed by everyone else, and their weight, resulting in a seesaw like motion. After everyone had sufficiently tired themselves out, we made our way back to the vans. However, a day at the Res would not have been complete without a belly flop contest. The SEI campers are proud to report that one of our own, Will Vaughn’s stomach was more red than Bentley’s and
thus he brought home to gold for the campers.

-Ellie Renner

Snails and Culprits

Today our group went down the side of the plateau to look at birds and snails. We had to get up early so we could bike to the location. The hike down wasn’t bad we had to do a lot of climbing. Our guide was Dr. Haskell who teaches a class on birds and enjoys studying snails. We climbed to different levels looking for snails. The further down we went the more snails we could find. We also listened for some birds on the way down.

When we got to the bottom we searched for snails for a while then we finished we climbed around on the rocks and looked at waterfalls. Gaby found a turtle shell. We ate lunch before we made the climb back up to the top. The climb up wasn’t nearly as easy as going down. We went up a steep slope and had to climb several waterfalls. Then once we got to the top we had to make the journey on bike back.

Later that night we went to a concert for a band called The Culprits. It was really fun. There was another group of young writers there as well. The band was really good and we ran around and through a Frisbee. After the concert we headed back to Hoffman and watched some TV.


Fiery Gizzard!

Fiery Gizzard was the best activity I did so far! We hiked with Dr. Evans down a really steep trail with lots of rocks. Along the way he told us about different trees like the fungus hemlocks and rotting logs. All through the trail we could hear the stream. Finally after a good bit of hiking, we reached a deep water hole with a waterfall flowing into it. The water was a lot clearer than Lake Cheston, but also colder. It was fun to go underneath the waterfall. Later, after we all cooled down in the water, we dried off and started the accent up the mountain.


Day 5

Friday we went to do some research on plants and find their photosynthesis rates and make hypothesizes about the sun's effect on plants low to the ground and up in the canopy. The coolest part of the day was when we got to climb up into this awesome tree house and walk around with harnesses. The tree house was 60 feet high and the crows nest was 75! It was pretty scary to look down and also when someone would shake it! Once we were done with the canopy we went on the ground and wrote in our journals and talked about why we think some trees grow better up high compared to the ones down low. We also measured the stress/water tensions in plants by cutting a leaf and putting it inside this pressure bomb box with nitrogen inside. Then, when you turn it on it pressurizes and little water droplets come out of the stem. After that we got back in the van and went to McClurg for LUNCH!

Friday night we had a fun little mixer with the Young Writers! So we all got dressed up and went to Lake Cheston to see THE CULPRITS! It's a boys band and two of them are Dr. Evans' sons. They are actually pretty amazing and their songs are on iTunes! At first no one would go up and dance but when the writer's camp came down everyone started dancing. They sang songs like superstition, and steady as she goes, also Jason Mraz, OAR, and even Dave Matthews... We got to meet a bunch of new kids that were at other Sewanee camps and also some local kids that are our age, which was pretty cool. We even danced on stage until they got mad because someone unplugged the drum set thing, but other than that, it was pretty crazy. We had way better dance moves (especially Hannah!) than the writer. Everyone behaved though, so don't fret. After the concert was over we all went back to Hoffman and watched movies and ate leftover cupcakes from Will's birthday (Mrs. Noggle - Will has been eating them for breakfast!) Then we all went to bed.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 4

Today we woke up early and went to breakfast. The bacon, eggs and hash browns were delicious! Dr. Smith, a forestry professor at the University of the South, took us to Lake Odonnell in Sewanee. At Lake Odonnell recent clearing of trees has occurred. The clearing was done to try bringing the Oak population back as the dominate tree in the area instead of the Red Maple. We took measurements on the height and the amount of trees growing back in three different locations: the edge, clearing, and forest. After finishing all of the measurings, Dr. Smith took us to the edge of the lake where we collected so many salamanders. After returning from Lake Odonnell we grabbed some lunch at McClurg. We then headed to the low ropes course. At the low ropes course we did some team building exercises. We helped each other climb a 10 foot wall. We also built team spirit working together to pass through a maze of wires. We also did trust falls. This is where one person stands on a platform and falls backwards. The team stands as a group to catch the person. It was pretty scary falling back. Luckily, the other students could be trusted and successfully caught us. We came back and did this blog and chilled for a bit until Team B returned from hiking and swimming at the Fiery Gizzard.

-Doug and Kevin

Day 3

June 30th consisted of a hike in both the morning and afternoon. The first hike was centered around collecting and identifying various flora. This hike at Lake Cheston was led by Mrs. Mary Priestly and Mrs. Yolande Gottfried of the Sewanee Herbarium, with each taking one of the two groups. My group, led by Mrs. Priestly, walked around the lake learning to properly indentify collected specimens by various distinguishing characteristics. The other group had a similar experience. After a few hours of this, we reconvened and drove back to campus with our bags of collected plant specimens to organize what we had found. Back in one of Spencer hall's labs, Mrs. Priestly and Mrs. Gottfried taught us the proper method to catalog and press our collections. Our collections have been left to press, and we will return to them soon to finish our catalogs.

After a lunch break in McLurg, the two groups separated again to hike with either Dr. John Willis or Dr. Jerry Smith. Because my group had hiked with Dr. Willis the day before, we joined Dr. Smith for a hike around the Domain to learn about identifying the characteristics of the land, or as Dr. Smith put it, to learn the "vocabulary and grammar" of the land so we may "read its text." We started at a past home site long devoid of any indications of human activity save for the natural growth in the area. There we received our first instruction in the identification of certain characteristics of the land that tell the secrets of the area's past, such as age of trees in the area, unnatural alterations of the land's topography, and indicator species. Our group continued on foot around various areas of the Domain such as another abandoned home site, the cornerstone site, and the local cemetery. At the end of the hike we all felt confident in our ability to divine the secrets of the land--a skill that will come in handy later on in the camp experience.


Day 2

For morning session, Dr. Evans took us out to Greens Field to launch his lesson on Biodiversity on the Plateau. First, he had us play teacher and say a fact about the landscape as seen from the cliff. After relating our fact, we had to ask a question to prompt the next ‘teacher’ from the group. Then Dr. Evans took over. “There is no balance of nature. There is only change!” he announced as we overlooked the spectacular view from the cliff edge. Then, he marched in full field gear straight for a trail. The tour of biodiversity was on. He asked us to pay attention to distribution and abundance (“D ‘n’ A”), topography, substrate and disturbances in each location. As a group, we explored Old Growth Cove Forest, Plateau Forest, plateau streams, ephemeral ponds, sandstone outcrops, and stands of short leaf pine. To finish, Dr. Evans led us to Piney Point, a tiny sandstone cliff surrounded by pines.

That afternoon, we split into our groups. I’m in Group A so that’s all I’m qualified to comment on. Group A includes Kenzie, Audrey, Tiff, Angie, Lauren, Kate, me (Hannah), Doug, Kevin, Mark, Parker, Scott, Will Vaughan and John. Group A went with Dr. Willis to discover Landmarks in Time and Place. Basically, he took us on a tour of Sewanee’s natural history centering on the importance of water, sandstone and coal.

After dinner, Angela Galbreath lead us in a case study of Haiti focusing on the links between poverty and the environment. She challenged us to solve one of 7 problems (Clean Water, Education, Environmental Issues, Health, Hunger, Political Instability and Weak Economy) based on the situations in Haiti.


Day 1


Today is the first day of a brand new pilot program for high school Juniors and Seniors. Each day, we (the first class of students EVER through this program) have to update this blog thing. And it’s my turn. So:

For the first day, we all met and went to an Opening talk held by the Dean of Undergraduates Eric Hartman and Dr. Jon Evans, Director of SEI. It was a cool overview of everything we’re going to be doing. The two weeks of field studies culminating in Group Projects on the King Farm where we’ll have to apply all the skills we’ve learned to figure out why the King Farm succeeded onto of the plateau while the others failed. It should be very interesting and educational.

After the Opening, we had a campus tour led by our awesome ‘camp counselors’, Bentley and Allison. Sewanee is really pretty (but most of you parents have been here so I don’t need to tell you that…) We’re staying in Hoffman dorm because it has air conditioning. It’s comfortable. Everyone seems to have settled pretty well. We eat at McClurg’s which is the big dining hall in the middle of campus. They have almost everything. According to Bentley and Allison, whatever they don’t have now, they have during the school year.

After the tour and dinner, Dr. Evans introduced us to SEI through a presentation called Sewanee Landscape Overview. He covered what we were supposed to expect, field safety guidelines, vocabulary, and the basic geology of the Domain. Following Dr. Evans’ introduction to the plateau, Allison and Rachel performed a comical skit designed to teach field safety.

And that was Day 1.