Saturday, June 25, 2016

Yacon Village Science Club Summary June 23, 2016

Every Thursday afternoon I volunteer to lead the science club at Yacon Village, my wife's home education community center in Colonie New York. I decided to occasionally post summaries of the science club meeting here as part of my blog. The purpose of the club is to provide opportunity for children and teens to meet to discuss and occasionally do science. We don't have the resources of a university or even a high school science lab, but the lack of systemic constraints on our activities allows us more flexibility to focus on topics of interest to the kids. This year our focus has been on the history of science, beginning with ancient Greeks and Egyptians through the modern age. A week ago Thursday, the topic was the deep oceans, and we covered sea floor spreading, continental drift, flips of the earth's magnetic field, and life at deep sea volcanic vents. This week's topic was ecosystems, including topics in geology and adaptation and evolution of life.

Image from

A beautiful example of semi-isolated ecosystems are the Tepuis of northern South America (see photo example above). Tepuis are remnants of an ancient plain that was uplifted evenly by tectonic forces, then eroded away at the edges, leaving isolated wooded mesas behind. Surrounded by tropical forest, but jutting up to a mile into the sky, the flatlands topping the cliffs experience a cool moist climate and are home to unique species. Looking to the distant future, the same erosive forces that made them will ultimately eliminate them. 

We finished the meeting with a video from National Geographic about a scientist and a team of assistants who traveled to a Tepui by helicopter to collect samples of a rare tree toad: