The Science of Everything

The rise of environmental science in the classroom

By Sophie Webb

Stepping into the Baldwin School’s main building does not feel like stepping into a school at all. The building, which is a former hotel designed by Frank Furness, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a towering vision of red. The entryway still resembles the lobby it used to be, complete with coat racks, ornate rugs, and a crackling fire.

Students parade by in snappy plaid uniforms, and the essence of the former hotel gradually dissolves into the noise of the lunchroom, the backpacks of the students and the other small clues indicating that Baldwin is no longer a hotel, but an all-girls private school on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

The Baldwin School

The Baldwin School

Although the uniforms and the grandeur give Baldwin an old fashioned air, the institution is actually ahead of the curve when it comes to course offerings like environmental science, a relatively new offering in secondary schools.

Environmental science is the study of the earth through biology and physical science, as well as the examination of environmental issues and potential solutions.

According to the 2012 Horizon Research, Inc. National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, only 48 percent of high schools nationwide offer any sort of environmental science course, and only 18 percent offer more than one year of environmental science. Although these numbers seem low, they have been growing over the past two decades.

In Horizon Research, Inc.’s report on trends in science and mathematics education from 1977 to 2000, they found that from 1993 to 2000, the percentage of high schools offering environmental science courses increased from 24 to 39 percent. Their 2012 report shows that the percent is still on the rise.

At Baldwin, the science department offers two environmental science courses at the high school level, each a semester long. Continue reading

Eat Jewish Food and Be Happy

Warning: This story will make your mouth water

By Sabrina Emms                                                                                                    

At Mama’s Vegetarian on South 20th street in Philadelphia, sabich is served up in a warm whole wheat pita slathered with hummus; a fried eggplant slice nestled next to an hard boild egg and spiced with the hot mango sauce, amba, all wrapped in foil.

Two miles away, at Zahav, a very different hummus is served with roast kohlrabi and a little pool of olive oil accompanied by pita dusted with za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend. Salatim & Hummus, salads and hummus, are only the first plates of a many course meal.

Zahav is a prime example of Jewish and Israeli food moving from being street food or individually adopted dishes, like lox and bagels, to a new place as a mainstream upmarket cuisine. While Zahav was not the first modern Israeli restaurant, it has fast became one of the better known ones. Michael Solomonov is the chef behind both Zahav the restaurant, and Zahav the cookbook, as well as Abe Fisher and Dizengoff an authentic hummusiya (a restaurant serving primarily hummus).

Dinner at Zahav's

Dinner at Zahav’s

As Jewish food becomes more popular and more upmarket, there are a growing number of foodies, especially in this do-it-yourself age of food, who desire to replicate iconic dishes, like Zahav’s incredibly smooth hummus. Also Philadelphia based, Soom, is a company that has risen to fill the niche made by the rise of Israeli food. Soom is a distributor of tahini, the paste made of sesame seeds best known as a key ingredient in hummus. In Zahav Michael Solomonov writes, “Israelis love tahina like Americans love Doritos and wrestling — unconditionally, but a little irrationally.”

Tahini used to be considered almost solely as an ingredient in hummus. Now it is gaining a wider place in the American diet. This might reflect the place tahini holds in Israeli food. Zahav has an entire chapter on tahini, including cookies, other dips and halva, a soft, distinctive candy.

Halva is one of the main offerings at Seed + Mill, a counter in Chelsea Market that opened in 2016, which sells tahini and tahini related goods, like halva. Seed + Mill doesn’t have a lot of competition yet, as it, Soom and Brooklyn Sesame are some of the only companies with a focus on tahini specifically. All were opened in the last five years. Soom does not make halva, or anything other than tahini, but they do pay a sort of homage to halva, with a chocolate tahini spread (halva is also popularly chocolate). Continue reading

Polaroid Redux

The return of the instant film camera

By Maire Clayton      

College students are known for hoarding books, alcohol, and ramen noodles. Recently, a blast from the past has flooded into college dorms.

Instant film cameras have found a new home among the young generation.

Though smartphones have dominated the amateur photography industry, the old-fashioned technology has rebounded.

Instant film photography, which was made famous by Polaroid, has carved out a niche as an artsy and fun pastime.

Caroline Link, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, loves instant cameras. On the weekends, she often uses a small Fujifim instant camera with her friends at parties. “There really cool and only artsy people do them,” said Link. “I have only ever used them with my friends.”

Instax Mini 90

Instax Mini 90

“I know people’s angles!” exclaimed Link. “I have an eye for what looks good and what looks unappealing.”

Link believes instant cameras are definitely making a comeback. Almost everyone she knows has one or is about to get one. Link believes instant film is coming back because it is a great way to mark memories with friends. Continue reading

Standing Learning on its Head

It’s called Flip learning and two Bryn Mawr profs are using it in class


By Nicole Gildea   

While most breakthroughs in science were discovered in the lab, one recent breakthrough has its origins in an unlikely place, the classroom.

Many science teachers across America are revolutionizing the way they teach by using a new educational model called flipped learning. In a flipped classroom, the lecture part of class becomes homework while the homework part becomes classwork. This happens when teachers make their students learn course material first outside of class. Then in place of a traditional lecture, class time is devoted to written work and to problem solving.

Two physics professors at Bryn Mawr College have adopted this model. One is Kate Daniel.

“I firmly believe in learning by doing,” she said.

Kate Daniel

Professor Kate Daniel

Students in her statistical mechanics and thermodynamics class are assigned reading for homework to introduce them to new topics. They collaborate in class to discuss these topics and to solve problems from the textbook. Daniel says this is when real learning occurs.

Carl Weiman, the 2001 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, helped popularize the idea of the flipped model after making an appearance on NPR this year.

“You give people lectures, and some students go away and learn the stuff,” he said. “But it wasn’t that they learned it from lecture — they learned it from homework, from assignments. When we measure how little people learn from an actual lecture, it’s just really small.”

More teachers are beginning to flip their classrooms because it helps their students learn better. Scott Freeman, a lecturer at the University of Washington, flipped his introductory biology class to help improve a 17 percent failure rate, The Seattle Times reported in 2012. The course’s failure rate dropped to 4 percent, and the number of students earning A’s increased from 14 percent to 24 percent.

Professor Elizabeth McCormack first introduced flipped learning to Bryn Mawr in 2012 after wanting more time to work on group problem solving with her students.

“One of the challenges of teaching physics is you’re often teaching concepts in physics to students at the same time you’re using a mathematical language,” she said. “It’s difficult to learn two things at once.”

She flipped her electromagnetism class as a result. Here is an overview of how it ran: Students were introduced to concepts outside of class through weekly reading and podcast assignments. They spent class time mastering the mathematical skills related to those concepts by solving problems.

Not all her students were thrilled at first with this new method. Some even came to her office hours asking for extra lectures because they felt they were not learning in class. Continue reading