Biodiversity in Riley Woods

  • Each tree was identified by species, and then the diameter was measured. Saplings and seedings were counted, too. 

  • In order to sample the forest, quadrats were measured and every tree within the quadrat was scored.

  • Biodiversity measures the likelihood of finding any one species in the woods. We used this formula to calculate biodiversity in the pine plantation and in the native forest.

November 1, 2018

More Context: measuring and calculating biodiversity

            This week in ecology we have been talking a lot about biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem. We have specifically been looking at the biodiversity in the native forest and in the pine plantation out in Riley Woods. As predicted, there is more biodiversity out in the native forest, part of which is because there is a lot more variety of trees which create a natural environment for living species. The trees out in natural environment are native to the forest and have not been touched or planted in a certain place. The pine plantation, on the other hand, contains symmetrical rows of pine trees that have been specifically planted and arranged in certain ways. Species that are introduced to a new area are able to support less living organisms like animals or plants rather than native species that have naturally grown and are self-sustaining.

            During one of our recent trips out to Riley Woods, we split off into small groups to measure either soil or the girth of trees in certain quadrants. My group measured the distances around a group of trees in Quadrant One which was in the native forest. We measured the circumference from a variety of trees such as American Beeches, Red Oaks, White Oaks, and Sugar Maples. As we were going through and measuring all the trees in Quadrant One, my job was to write down the type of tree that Zach identified and the measurement of the tree trunk in centimeters that Eli measured. My group measured around 100 trees in total which was a lot. It was a little difficult to keep track of which trees we had already measured and identified. Also making sure to measure every single tree in our quadrat was tough.


Beneath the Surface

Craig and Maia
October 18, 2018

Students seek for what is the upside-down!

I thought this class wouldn't have much to offer at first. I was used to a science class where we sit for the whole 45-60 minutes in our desks, and learned about things. This ecology class is very different. It incorporates elements of a public school white-walled classroom, but is way more focused on getting the students to think for themselves. Of course, it's hard to always connect ideas, like trying to find an equation for biodiversity, but we learn through communication with our follow peers, and our teacher… And nature…

We get to go outside in this class!

I mean you would think that I would already have the precognition that a high school ecology class would entail going and exploring, you know, the ecology, but I didn't have that back at home. In physical science, the only thing physical about it was memorizing formulas and maybe getting to mix salt in water, but wow! I was surprised when on day 2 of ecology at IAA, we went outside. We went to the woods, and was told by the teacher that this was our place to do our research. This pine woods right outside campus, was our place to become knowledgeable about how our planet works.

Early in the year, we were assigned a big project, as “Artists in Residence.” We decided to make our project about the mini ecosystems under dead trees. Sounds fun, right? For me, I want to learn about how fungi grows and utilizes fallen trees. Also, did you know that salamanders live in dead trees. These dead trees play an important role in the fertilization of the forest, and I want to find out exactly how.

 Walking around the forest, we usually take in a very one-sided viewpoint of communities of organisms around us. We see the leaf-covered ground, the trees randomly emerging from the Earth, and underbrush taking up negative space. How we see the environment from one perspective doesn’t change much from when we are exploring as children. Especially because most people are not educated extensively in how nature works, their opinions are formed from the surface-level knowledge, mostly acquired by the media.

The conditions under logs are perfect for species like fungi, insects, mushrooms, and animals such as salamanders. As a result, we have set out to uncover these communities to show that there is more to the iconic Michigan forests than we think, through a photographic collage. The photos we take in the forest at Riley Rd. will be used to show that the most overlooked aspect of the forest can be the most vibrant with life.

So far, we have been collecting pictures and observations over audio recordings in the forest. We have on weekends to Riley Rd. and used class time to carry this out. Normally, we will select a log in which we think will have biodiversity underneath, so in other words it looks like it has been on the forest floor for a significant amount of time. We then flip over the log to see what lies under it, record what we see, and finally return it as best as we can to the way we found it in an attempt to not disturb natural processes. Throughout this sequence of events, we take pictures of what is going on to ensure that we record every aspect of the decomposing log and the organisms that depend on it for a habitat. Lastly, we are taking data from multiple locations, including Riley Woods, a forested area off-campus, and around the Interlochen campus. Within the locations, we look for logs that are in various areas. For example, some could be in well-lit areas, low-lit areas, near water, near the coop, as well as other factors in a forest that could be different depending on where you look.


Setting the Context: Biodiversity and photosynthesis at Riley Woods

  • We categorized part of the species list out on Riley Road by each species role in the trophic diagram; that is, the way energy flows from producers (plants) to consumers and up to the carnivores!

  • Beechroot is a weird "green" plant -- it has lost it's ability to photosynthesize by becoming a parasite on the roots of beech trees. Beechroot still makes flowers and seeds, but the plant is pink, not green!

  • After a dry summer, the decomposers are beginning to pop out after a September rain.

  • A sneak peek at a great blue heron near Bridge Lake (the south end of Riley Woods).

  • Our classes researched the role of species identified at Riley Woods in the past two years. They identified primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers and top predators. (And that was BEFORE we saw the bobcat on the trail camera!)

Alex and Giannie
September 20, 2018

Each species has its role

Middle September 2018

Today in class we began by discussing Biodiversity. We discussed how Biodiversity in the measurement of the number of species in a given area; this includes both native species and alien species (either invasive or non-invasive).

            We then began to go off of last classes discussion on the Flow of Energy through the Trophic Diagram and the distinctions between primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers. At first glance, a food chain appears to be a simple, uncomplicated chain of producers and consumers. However, when tangled in the web of nature, this chain becomes increasingly intricate. We also realized the convoluted nature of omnivores in the grand scheme of things. This made me wonder how this labyrinth of a system is applicable to human life. Humans are an immense part of the food chain, and become increasingly involved in the complexity of it when they consume animal products, as well as kill animals for other reasons. Knowing the general structure of the food chain (and the food web) serves to connect people on a deeper and more profound level.

 We were given a list of species in the area and categorized them into their given positions on the Trophic Diagram. We worked together in order to classify all the species (including birds, arthropods/annelids, herps, and mammals) and created our own Trophic Diagram by the end of our exercise. Some interesting facts our class discovered is how some of the species dietary classifications changed due to its maturity. We also decided as a class to add the section of omnivores to our diagram, since there was an abundance of them on our list.

            Afterward, we discussed the differences between animals who consume blood/meat. Just because an animal eats meat/blood, it does not mean they are considered a top predator / tertiary consumer on the food chain. There is a difference between those who feed off of carcasses/dead things (parasites) and those who feed off of their kills.      

In photosynthesis, plants are “fixing Carbon.” The gaseous CO2 is transformed into an aqueous form in order to create glucose so the plants can build themselves to produce energy. This energy is stored in chemical bonds between Hydrogen and Carbon. Mary Ellen said poetically, “Photosynthesis is when energy becomes matter.”

            After this, we learned about biodiversity, which can be defined as the diversity of species. In our spot in northern Michigan, we are between different biomes, and our land is vastly biodiverse. We also discovered that the biodiversity is generally higher in the Equator. Learning about biodiversity works to increase our awareness of where we are, and the wide variety of plants and animals that surround us daily.


Year Two, Wilsonart Riley Woods Project

  • The first thing we see as we walk into the Riley Woods is the installation Sky Opening, which opens the forest floor to sunlight. This work by the artists of WatershedSculpture was supported by Wilsonart and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

  • Blue skies above plantation pines at Riley Woods. These trees were planted 70 years ago as way to protect used-up soils and provide trees for utility poles.

  • Some students have never seen or held a toad before! We are getting to know the citizens of Riley Woods!

  • Mushrooms emerge after a September rain.

Carter and Ash
September 18, 2018


Welcome to Ecology @ Riley Woods blog post series. Ecology students at Interlochen Arts Academy are supported for the second year by Wilsonart. Ash and Carter write the first post:

 Have you ever been in a science class where you were bored to death? Me too.

After years of biology, chemistry, even advanced chemistry, I felt bored out of my mind. Now, for the first time in my academic career, I am finally enjoying my science class. I’m taking ecology, and my teacher believes in taking full advantage of the wonderful environment that surrounds us as part of education. Our Ecology class is helping to return a pine plantation to a natural forest, and our efforts can serve an artistic purpose as well. I’ve never been more inspired by environmental work in my life. Not only do we get to have hands on opportunities to help in the process, but we were provided with an amazing assortment of filming technology to document and capture the habitat in all of its beauty.

On our first trip out to the Riley Woods, our Ecology class headed south down the path. On the east horizon was the sun (morning) but gradually it moved to be right above us (noon) by the time we left the woods. Visiting artists had trekked through the same trail and painted the tips of tree stubs red for the “aesthetic.” We learned that some trees had been cut down to stubs to allow light to enter the woods.

But why make a pine plantation? Why plant white pines (distinguished by having five pine needles in a bunch and a dark bark) and red pines (distinguished by having two pine needles in a bunch and, self explanatory, red bark)? When people voyaged to Michigan years ago and exploited the land, they realized the soil was made of sand and considered it poor soil. Because it’s difficult to farm on, they planted trees.

The trees in the plantation had fewer branches and they were skinnier than the native trees. The plantation has three times the amount of trees it should have and the pines were planted too close together. At a certain angle, you can see a straight row of trees. There is also not a grand diversity of age within the plantation, unlike the native side of the forest.

            On our hike, we also found many mushrooms that sprouted from the intense rainfall and there was even a slug feeding off the nutrients that the mushroom was repurposing. The fauna of the forest hid from us, except for one small American Toad. Many students, including Zach and Carys, got to hold this toad in their hands until she hopped away.

            Finally, we came to a clearing, “The North Coop,” where (guest artist) Lydia Hicks waited for us with equipment. In this section we were joined by the head of Motion Picture Arts and Interlochen Public Radio. We were introduced to solar panels and power packs, a time lapse camera, audio recorders, and an endoscopic camera. We also got to see a camera marketed as a “ghost hunting camera” which shoots in infrared for night time videoing (in case anyone has some “creative” ideas for their artist in residence projects…), a location tracking camera, and a canon 5D with a macro lens or telephoto lens.


The Art of Ecology: Restoration through beauty

June 20, 2018

Environmental artist Mary O’Brien explains how she is working with fellow artist Daniel McCormick and Interlochen Arts Academy students to restore the Riley Woods environmentally and aesthetically. Support for this project provided by Wilsonart and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Learn more about Interlochen Arts Academy:


Festivities in the forest

  • Homemade paper flags embedded with native plant seeds hang at the Riley Woods site.

  • President Trey Devey (center) along with students, guests, Visual Arts Instructor Johnny Hunt (second from right) and Director of Visual Arts Mindy Zacher-Ronayne (far right) plant a sapling at the Riley Woods site.

  • Students utilize a seating area at the Riley Woods site.

  • Signs created by Art of Ecology students help guests find their way in Riley Woods.

  • Students model garments created by visual artists.

May 29, 2018

On May 9, the Visual Arts and R.B. Annis Math and Science Divisions celebrated the culmination of this year’s studies at the Riley Road pine plantation.

The site, now called “Riley Woods,” is a transitional space for art and ecology. Since September, the Art of Ecology and Ecology of Art classes have been collaborating to increase the ecological diversity of the site through reforestation and remedial art.

The May 9 event, called “Mother Earth Day,” was originally intended as an all-go for Arts Academy students, but was cancelled due to inclement weather. However, President Trey Devey and several donors braved the weather to visit the site and celebrate the students’ achievements.

During the opening event, Devey, with the aid of several guests and students, planted a young sapling on the site. The event also included original fashion designs modeled by students of all majors.

The Riley Woods site includes two clearings, known as coops, that are designed to aid in the area’s reforestation. One of the coops has been designated as an artistic space, where students can create and install remedial art pieces. Some such pieces already installed include seating made of natural materials, handmade paper embedded with seeds, and more. The second coop has been set aside for ecological study. The Riley Woods area also features wayfinding and educational signs made by the students in the two courses.

The Art of Ecology project will continue in the 2018-19 academic year.

Fish and physics

  • Students arrange the elements of their projector in a shoebox.

  • Students sketch a schematic of their projector.

  • Students experiment with using a toy truck to play their film.

April 19, 2018

Math and science students celebrated the culmination of several studies in April.

On April 9, Biology students traveled to Honor, Michigan to release salmon into the Betsie River. The students received the salmon as eggs during the fall semester as a part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’’ “Salmon in the Classroom” initiative. The fish are now large enough to survive in their native habitat.

In the second and third weeks of April, physics students wrapped up their study of optics by participating in a group projector-building project. The students were tasked with building a working projector out of common household projects, making sure the projector was capable of playing a strip of film.

Fun with physics

  • Final scores from one of Mr. Nadji's Kahoot games.

March 13, 2018

This March, Physics Instructor Taoufik Nadji introduced a new game to help his students learn physics concepts.

Nadji’s students are currently learning about optics, the study of sight and the behavior of light. Students played an interactive game called Kahoot! to help guide them through a mathematical proof of one of the major formulae that describes the behavior of light.

Later, the students had the opportunity to see their knowledge at work with a demonstration on refraction.

The Art of Ecology: An Evolving Forest

February 22, 2018

This year Interlochen Center for the Arts has begun a project to unite science and art in transforming a pine plantation into a beautiful native forest. Director of the R.B. Annis Math and Science Division Mary Ellen Newport and Director of Visual Arts Mindy Ronayne explain the ecological and artistic intent of the project, and the many partners working to make this collaboration possible.

Support for this project provided by Wilsonart and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.


A day in the life of a crime scene technician

  • Wendy Brittain addresses Taoufik Nadji's Forensic Science class.

  • Brittain accompanied her presentation with a slideshow of photos from her career.

February 21, 2018

In February, Taoufik Nadji’s forensic science class had the opportunity to speak to a professional in the field.

The students received two visits from Wendy Brittain, a former crime scene technician who retired from the Wyoming (Michigan) Police Department after nearly 20 years of service. During her presentations, Brittain explained the day-to-day activities of a crime scene technician, including the necessary skills, standard procedures and types of crime scenes she encountered during her career. Brittain accompanied her presentation with real crime scene photos from cases on which she had worked.

Brittain stressed the importance of attention to detail in forensic science, a key skill that Nadji emphasizes in the class. “It’s someone’s life and your reputation that’s on the line,” she said. “You can’t assume, and you might have to accept that there just isn’t enough evidence to convict someone.”

While Brittain recognized the rewards of the career, she also acknowledged some of its difficult elements. For example, Brittain explained that crime scene technicians cannot always expect a standard nine-to-five workday, often working after hours or overtime if needed. “You’re at the mercy of the phone,” she said. Brittain also discussed the emotional toll of careers in law enforcement.

The Art of Ecology: Laying the Groundwork

January 22, 2018

In the fall of 2017, Interlochen Arts Academy launched an initiative that explores the nexus of art and ecology, as a collaboration between the Visual Arts and R.B. Annis Math and Science Divisions. Watch as co-instructors Mary Ellen Newport and Johnson Hunt describe the mission, objectives and learning outcomes of this bold program. Support for this project provided by Wilsonart and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.


Student Observations: When You Must See the Forest for the Trees

January 5, 2018

This blog post is the second in a series documenting The Art of Ecology. Read the introductory blog post here.

Teacher’s note: Students at Interlochen Arts Academy come to study arts in seven different arts areas, in addition to taking a traditional high school science, math and humanities curriculum. This blog post represents the work of two students; one, a creative writing major, and the other a music major. Both pieces were written over the course of Spring Semester 2017 through Fall Semester 2017. Very soon, we will begin restoring the beautiful red pine plantation forest on Riley Road on the Interlochen campus. This first step involves thinning the forest of 100+ trees so that new, native tree species can be re-introduced and the forest can evolve. Over the past few months, our students have been exploring the ecological considerations necessary to take this step, and documenting what is necessary for the forest restoration. Having spent more than half our class periods out at the Riley Road forest site, the forest itself has become our second classroom.

Ari, creative writing major: To return the mature pine plantation on Interlochen’s campus to a natural, healthy state, the Interlochen community needs to address several ecological issues. These issues are soil quality, biodiversity and the amount of carbon stored in plantation trees.

The soil in the pine plantation is very acidic due to the accumulation of pine needles. Because of the acidity of the soil, fungi and insects have a difficult time living in it, so very few fungi and insects live in the plantation. Due to the lack of these vital decomposers, many of the pine needles in the forest do not decompose quickly. This lack of speedy decomposition means that the soil has less organic matter in it. When the soil is very acidic and lacks organic matter and decomposers, it is harder for other species of plants that are not pines to germinate, which leads to a lack of plant biodiversity in the forest. The lack of plant biodiversity leads to lack of reliable food sources for animals, which leads to a lack of animal biodiversity. Therefore, to create a forest with good animal and plant biodiversity, the Interlochen community must lower the acidity of the soil and increase its organic matter and decomposer biodiversity.

The pine plantation was planted 70 years ago with red pine (Pinus resinosa), white pine (P. strobus) and Scotch (or Scots) pine (P. sylvestris). Because there are only three pine species in the plantation, the tree biodiversity of the plantation is low. However, because the pines are so tightly packed in the plantation, there is no room to plant other tree species. To increase tree biodiversity, IAA will have to create more space within the plantation to plant new trees. Because the pines drop so many needles that cannot readily be decomposed, there is a thick carpet of needles across the entire forest floor. Many undergrowth species have a challenging time germinating through this carpet, causing a lack of undergrowth biodiversity. To thin this carpet and subsequently increase undergrowth biodiversity, create space for new tree species and reduce needles accumulating on the forest floor, the plan is to remove some of the existing pines. Once some of the pines are removed, native species of trees can be planted which will increase tree biodiversity and enhance the soil in the forest floor. The plantation is surrounded on three sides by local native forest. Seeds and saplings will be transplanted and protected from deer browse to speed the forest conversion.

Over time, as the soil becomes less acidic, soil decomposition will return more organic matter. Native tree and undergrowth species will also provide year-round food for animals, which will lead to an increase in animal biodiversity. The documentation of this process of facilitated succession has begun in IAA Ecology classes, with measurements of soil quality, tree abundance and community diversity. As of Fall 2017, 24 bird species, 44 plant genera or species, and eight species of amphibians and reptiles have been documented in or around the ten-acre plot.

Mitchell, music major: As we spend time in class out in the woods, I am introduced to many new scientific and artistic concepts I had never thought of before. One of these is the relationship between art and ecology, specifically the way in which a forest can be a stage for artistic expression. When the plantation is cleared, there will be tree stumps left behind. My colleagues have come up with many artistic and brilliant ideas for how to make these stumps, and the entire forest, more aesthetically pleasing. My idea was more practical than artistic.

Looking around the plantation, I didn’t see many animals. That seemed natural, because the unnatural monoculture doesn’t exactly make the best home for forest animals. To invite more critters and crawlers to live in the area, I proposed the idea of hollowing out the stumps to make room for the animals to make homes. While the idea is simple by itself, it could be combined with my colleagues’ other more creative ideas to make something practical and beautiful.

I am learning about the effects of monoculture on an ecosystem. I now know that an ecosystem thrives on diversity, and a lack thereof stunts its growth dramatically. The plantation, with just one type of tree, feels more like a desert than a forest. The ground, covered with acidic pines needles, can’t nurture any other plants. The unified canopies of the trees create a wall that blocks out much of the sun, cutting off the plants’ food supply. Incorporating diversity where there is none already is a complicated process, because many species are aided or harmed by the presence of other species, meaning that the order in which the species move in is important. Our next steps are to figure out how to foster the growth of native species in the timbered areas.

This project was generously supported by Wilsonart and The Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs.


Raising salmon and studying the mind

  • Jenna Scheub places the still-bagged salmon eggs in the tank to acclimatize to the water temperature.

  • Jenna Scheub (left), Katie Wibby (center) and Kirsten Hoffmann (right) take a selfie on the subway during their Boston conference trip.

December 15, 2017

December has been a month of growth for the students and faculty in math and science—and their special guests.

In Jenna Scheub’s biology and ecology classes, students are raising salmon as a part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ “Salmon in the Classroom” initiative. Scheub received the fish from the DNR as fertilized eggs. Now hatched, the fish are under the care of the students in Scheub’s class, who are learning about fish care and egg harvesting through the experience. The fish will be released into Michigan’s rivers and streams in May.

In October, Scheub and Mathematics Instructors Kirsten Hoffmann and Katie Wibby traveled to Boston to attend the Learning and the Brain conference, which focused on the latest research about the human brain and how we learn. This month, the trio have been incorporating what they learned at the conference into their classrooms. The results have been so positive that the R.B. Annis Math and Science Division hopes to bring one of the conference’s keynote speakers to campus to speak to all Arts Academy faculty.

A Unique Collaboration

Mary Ellen Newport
December 5, 2017

Interlochen Arts Academy (IAA), nestled between Duck Lake to the east and Green Lake to the west, is an Ecology teacher's dream. "In the stately pines" of northern Michigan, IAA educates high school arts students from around the USA and the world. With a full academic and boarding school program, arts students can dive into their disciplines with the finest teachers and peers. I came to the Academy six years ago to head the R.B. Annis Math and Science Division, and to teach Ecology. Through a wonderful series of connections, Wilsonart approached us about a collaboration that will weave their commitment to education about endangered woods and forests with a unique approach to art and ecology.

The collaboration is an answer to a problem: what to do about aging pine plantations on the outer reaches of the 1200-acre campus. These plantations have not been maintained for harvest, so they are beginning to fall of their own accord. Pine needles acidify the soil, making it challenging for native hardwood forest communities to re-establish. And as trees fall and decompose, they liberate all the carbon stored as carbon dioxide (CO2). A recent Forestry Management Plan suggests that the pine plantations could be better managed to capture stored carbon, increase forest community biodiversity and restore the forest soils.

Only at Interlochen Arts Academy, we can make art about restoration of a native forest! With funding from Wilsonart, an Ecology class and a Visual Arts class (taught by my colleague Johnny Hunt) will team up with visiting artists to create landscape art in a 10-acre parcel of red pine and Scotch pine. The science and arts classes will be taught at the same time, so that science students (who are also artists) can collaborate with visual arts students to create an installation that tells the complex story of native forests, managed forests and human endeavor. I can't tell you about the installation - students will design and construct the art over the course of the 2017-2018 school year!

This spring I piloted some of the techniques we will use in the 10-acre woods for the Wilsonart-sponsored project. In addition to guest artists, we will bring in botanists, foresters, soil biologists and invasive species experts to help us with the restoration and creativity process.

The scientific process and good data collection are important, but of equal importance to me as a lover of trees and birds and morels and mayflies is the relationship that students develope to native ecosystems. Young people won't love what they don't know, and they won't fight for what they don't love. Our field work is the way for students not just to believe that everything is interconnected, but to know it through their own experience, through all their senses. We've learned our tree names, bird songs and frog calls. We walk through the forest with intimacy when the "cheeseburger, cheeseburger" of the black-capped chickadee, or the "oh sweet Canada-Canada-Canada" of the white-throated sparrow. There is noting like the smell of a newly felled pine, and the challenge of counting the rings to establish the age of the forest. Students smell the difference between the rich humus under the hardwoods and the sterile sand under the pines. As high school students, they can't always appreciate in the moment how amazing it is to hike through the pine plantation to an on-campus pond to find a pair of loons and young trumpeter swans feeding.

Likewise, that wide-openess will be part of a project to create, synthesize and install art in the woods as the transformation from plantation to natural forest is taking place. While guest artists will come to guide, inspire and provide feedback on what is possible, students will be the ones dreaming and creating art in the woods.

We are looking forward to the 2017-2018 school year and will be posting regularly about the students' experiences and the ongoing transformation of our beautiful red pine forest. In the coming months, also look for videos that will chronicle our progress.

This project was generously supported by Wilsonart and The Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs


Putting skills and water to the test

  • An ecology class poses for a group shot before canoeing.

  • Two students examine their test results.

  • A student reads instructions on the kit before testing a sample.

November 15, 2017

In late October, Mary Ellen Newport and Jenna Scheub’s ecology classes learned how to test water quality.

The students grabbed their water quality kits and took to Green Lake in canoes to test samples from various areas of the lake. During the outing, the students learned how to use the testing kits, and how variations in water quality affect both aquatic environments and human life.

Students advance in Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition

  • Interlochen's two Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition finalists, Hoon Chang (left) and Lily Dunlap (right).

November 15, 2017

On October 12, 2017, thirteen Interlochen Arts Academy students participated in Part I the 61st annual Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition (MMPC).

The MMPC is sponsored by the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) to encourage students to develop their interests and abilities in mathematics.

Part I of the MMPC is open to all students in Michigan high schools. This exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions involving topics from high school mathematics.

From over 6,000 participants in Part I, the top 1,000 students are invited to take Part II of the MMPC. On Part II of the exam, students work on five challenging problems and write their solutions providing full justification and proof of their claims.

This year we have two finalists, Hoon Chang and Lily Dunlap. They have been invited to sit for Part II of the MMPC in December.

We congratulate all the students who completed the MMPC this year, and wish Hoon and Lily the best of luck on MMPC Part II.

Spotting sunspots in science

  • Taoufik Nadji helps a student locate the sunspot using a telescope.

  • A student's notes on the sunspot viewing.

October 16, 2017

Taoufik Nadji’s astronomy class enjoyed a short field trip to the “Astro-Hut” on Faculty Lane  a former cabin now used store Interlochen’s collection of telescopes and astronomy equipment.

The students used the gear to safely view a sunspot. Several students even used the telescope to photograph the solar phenomenon with their iPhones. After the trip, the students began a lab that tracked the motion of that sunspot for a month using NASA’s SOHO data.

Math and science students took two other trips during the first month of classes: a weekend camping trip, and a trip to the nearby Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay.

Linking up with LIGO

May 9, 2017

On May 1 and 2 2017, students in Taoufik Nadji’s classes had the opportunity to talk with some of the nation’s leading scientists.

Over the course of the two days, the students spoke via Skype with professionals from the Hanford LIGO Lab, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and jointly operated by CalTech and MIT. The LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) system includes two research sites and two interferometer sites, which measure gravitational waves. In 2016, LIGO made headlines for confirming Einstein’s 100-year-old prediction of the existence of gravitational waves.

The students chatted with some of the physicists who monitor and maintain the instruments at the Hanford site in Washington state, asking them questions about the site’s operations and discoveries.

The following week, former Interlochen Arts Academy parent Dr. Brian McNamara visited campus to talk about recent developments in the study of black holes. McNamara is currently on the faculty at the University of Waterloo, where he teaches physics and astronomy while pursuing his own research in astrophysics. McNamara explained what black holes are, and how emerging technology is helping scientists learn more about black holes and how they are formed. McNamara’s presentation was broadcast live on YouTube, and can be viewed here.

Math and Science unveils new Botanical Lab

April 17, 2017

The R. B. Annis Math and Science Department is preparing to open their newest addition, a greenhouse and plant laboratory donated by the R. B. Annis Foundation.

The facility will provide a space for biology and ecology students to study the structure and development of plants--including non-native species--in greater detail. The first specimens for the botanical lab were cultivated by biology and ecology students during Inter*mester, and have been growing in the foyer of the Dow Rotunda since mid-January.

The department hopes to open the facility and move the plants into the space before the end of the academic year.

Final Project(or)s

March 13, 2017

On March 1, Taoufik Nadji’s physics classes celebrated the end of their optics unit with a hands-on project.

Nadji divided his classes into teams and challenged them to create a homemade projector that would play an antique film. Students were to create the projector as cheaply and simply as possible. Bonus points were awarded if students found or created their own lenses rather than using one of Nadji’s. Creative lens solutions included a light bulb filled with water, two pieces of a plastic water bottle glued together and a magnifying glass from an eyeglass repair kit. The students also created their own audio accompaniment for the silent films.

During the March 1 showcase, each team had seven minutes to play the film for their class. After the performances, the students enjoyed a celebratory ice cream party. Director of Motion Picture Arts Michael Mittelstaedt was on hand during the afternoon session to watch the proceedings.

Winter updates from Math and Science

Mary Ellen Newport
February 14, 2017

Guest speakers, geometry and grants highlighted the month in Math and Science.

Wendy Brittain, a crime scene technician from the City of Wyoming’s Department of Public Safety, and Patrick Schad, a U.S. Park Ranger / Law Enforcement Division at Sleeping Bear Dunes came to Taoufik Nadji’s Forensic Science class on Jan. 23. Brittain talked about securing a crime scene, collecting crime scene data and witness reliability. Schad talked about ballistics testing and brought samples of spent ordinance. Schad and Brittain are hoping to return to speak to the class about firearms.

Students in the Geometry class took their reasoning to the next level. In pairs, the students used their previous geometric knowledge to discover properties of rectangles, squares and rhombi. The students received only a statement and came up with what they needed and in what order to prove their property on their own using a flowchart.

Instructor of Ecology Jenna Scheub received a monetary award for her participation in the Grand Traverse Stewardship Initiative (GTSI). The award is part of a larger federal grant called Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. These funds will be used to update the wader collection and fund participation in Schoolship adventures for Ecology students.

Students’ assignment benefits student body

December 14, 2016

All senior ecology students at Interlochen are required to complete a Personal Mission Project. Seniors Brittany Sando and Gillian Fisher, however, went beyond the syllabus requirements to help the entire campus “go green.”

Sando and Fisher were shocked to hear how many disposable water bottles Americans purchase each year: over 50 billion. Although many of these bottles are properly recycled, many become litter that is harmful to the environment. Sando and Fisher began investigating the trend more thoroughly.

“After all of our research, we were inspired to take the project to another level, as we really wanted to make a difference, at least in our community,” said Sando. Sando and Fisher decided the best way to combat disposable water bottles at Interlochen was to give each of their peers a reusable water bottle that could easily be filled at Interlochen’s many water bottle filling stations. The two students started a GoFundMe account to raise money to buy a water bottle for every Interlochen student; Sando and Fisher reached their goal in only three weeks.

The bottles arrived shortly after Thanksgiving break and were distributed at the Comparative Arts performance on Dec. 1. “It was a lot of work, but we are so glad we took the time to do it,” said Sando. “It was a really rewarding personal project.”

Looking up and back

Taoufik Nadji
December 14, 2016

Bob Moler, who is the Ephemeris presenter for NPR, a charter member of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, and one of NASA Solar System Ambassadors, visited Taoufik Nadji’s astronomy classes to discuss telescopes and celestial coordinates. He even brought an old-fashioned sexton to demonstrate how it is used for navigation. The presentation concluded with a Q&A session. 

Breaking in the new facilities

December 14, 2016

In Chemistry 1 and Advanced Chemistry, students have been enjoying their new laboratory space. Over the summer, an addition was built onto the Dow Rotunda to make room for the new lab, featuring improved safety features as well as better lighting and ventilation.

Advanced Chemistry students worked on an experiment to identify a hydrate by measuring the amount of water lost through heating. Advanced Chemistry also students piloted a project to keep electronic lab notebooks using Google Docs through their laptops.

Math and Science celebrates Dow renovation

Mary Ellen Newport
November 16, 2016

On Oct. 14, the R.B. Annis Math and Science Division held an open house to celebrate the renovation of Dow Rooms 2, 6, 7 and 8;  the construction of a new chemistry lab; and the construction of new chemistry and physical science storage areas. Teachers were able to custom-design their spaces, technology access, storage and equipment.

The renovation was made possible by Classroom of the Future renovation funds, and a generous grant from our long-time supporters at the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation (Indianapolis, Ind.). Annis board members and alumni parents Chuck and Laurel Angus were on hand for the celebration. Tours and testimonials from Jeff Kimpton, math and science teachers, as well as testimonials by students supported in summer research studies (A-STEP Program), spoke to the impact of the Annis Foundation’s generosity.

Field Studies

Mary Ellen Newport
November 16, 2016

Students in biology started off the year with a measurement lab. They measured the leg length, wingspan length and total height of several student volunteers. The will repeat the measurements in the spring to see if there is any change among the volunteers.

After learning about polarity and hydrogen bonding in water molecules, students designed an experiment to test polarity of other substances. More recently, they entered Green Lake in hip and chest waders and used a plankton net to collect plankton and zooplankton for microscope studies.

Students in ecology started off the year studying trees. They learned about the forestry measurement “DBH” (diameter at breast height) and practiced collecting data. This past month they transitioned to learning about water quality by conducting stream surveys. They are collecting temperature, water chemistry and macroinvertebrate data to assess the overall health of the stream and learn about predator-prey relationships.

Lakes, seas and geometry: math and science explores the outdoors

October 14, 2016

Math and science have had a busy month both in and out of the classroom.

The math department welcomed new teacher Kirsten Hoffman to teach geometry. Ms. Hoffman recently graduated from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, where she researched methods of utilizing technology in the math classroom and worked as the lead instructor at a math tutoring center.

The combined math and science departments held their annual fall camping trip at Lake Dubonnet State Park on Sept. 16. The trip was led by math and science instructors Dave Early, Jenna Scheub, Sarah Merwin and Kate Wibby; camping equipment was provided by funds from the R. B. Annis Educational Foundation.

Lastly, on Sept. 30, Mary Ellen Newport’s ecology class hosted Interlochen Arts Academy alumnus Will McClintock, who is currently working as a project scientist for the Marine Science Institute and senior fellow with the United Nations Environment Program. McClintock discussed his work in marine spatial planning and how non-scientists can help his efforts.

Students share their A-STEP adventures

October 13, 2016

Last spring, four Interlochen Arts Academy students received grants from R.B. Annis Foundation’s  A-STEP program to further their science education through an educational excursion over the summer. This year, the students returned eager to share their experiences and their knowledge.

Kylie Twadell, a junior, traveled to southern California to take part in the “Dolphins and Whales Under the California Sun” program sponsored by Earthwatch. Kylie and the other students helped study the interaction between marine mammals and humans to determine ways to reduce the risk of harm. “I had never thought much about how humans were interfering with [the animals’] daily routines and hurting them because of our ignorance,” wrote Kylie. “This experience helped me realize that I really do want to do something in the natural sciences.”

Senior Rebecca Williams spent nine days at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas. Her chosen program, also through Earthwatch, was “Tracking Sea Turtles in the Bahamas.” Williams spent five days assisting in the process of catching, tagging, examining and releasing sea turtles to develop a database that will provide scientists with information on the lives of sea turtles. “During my trip, I discovered a new passion for field research,” said Rebecca. “Now, I am looking at schools with Environmental science programs and internships for the summer after my senior year.”

Students get a rare look at Mercury transit

  • This iPhone photo was captured by placing the camera lens set against the eyepiece of the Coronado telescope. Mercury is the small black dot on the lower left edge of the red Sun. On the right side of the image a solar flare is clearly visible.
    Photo credit: Mary Ellen Newport.

May 9, 2016

So much has changed in 10 years. A decade ago smartphones were still in their infancy, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL and our current students were mastering their fine motor control.

A lot has changed since then, but one celestial event has finally made its return: Mercury passing between the Earth and the sun. This event only occurs about a dozen or so times each century, so it was imperative that we give our students a chance to participate using the proper equipment.

Monday, May 9, 2016, Mr. Nadji took students outside with a parent donated Coronado H-alpha Solar Telescope to watch a section of the transit. From behind the lens, students watched as a tiny black dot edged from left-to-right across the southern half of the sun. Mercury completes an orbit of the sun in just under 90 days, but from Earth this transit lasted just over 7 hours.

The next Mercury transit will occur on Nov. 11, 2019. Who knows where society and our students will be by then?

The art and science of evidence recovery

April 14, 2016

Retired Traverse City Police Department Detective Sgt. Mike Imhoff visited Mr. Nadji’s Forensics Science class late last week to discuss and demonstrate the art and science of lifting crime scene fingerprints.

Students had the opportunity to try their hand at using conventional black carbon-based powder and magnetic powder to “dust” the scene for evidence recovery. Mr. Nadji and Sgt. Imhoff both stressed the importance of avoiding crime scene contamination and the strict ethical protocols technicians must adhere to during an investigation.

Every fingerprint may be different, but students were expected to follow the specific recovery procedures consistently every time.

Summer 2016 A-STEP Trips

March 15, 2016

Due to the continued support of the science-focused R.B. Annis Foundation our Arts Academy students have the opportunity to apply for summer research funds through A-STEP (Annis Science Teacher Enrichment Program). A-STEP promotes learning opportunities outside the classroom and has financed student expeditions to as far away as Australia.

The eponymously named organization is dedicated to self-taught scientist and entrepreneur Robert B. Annis. During his lifetime, Annis was a strong advocate for the promotion of science education. It is because of this legacy that four Arts Academy students will have the opportunity this summer to further their interest and education in the sciences outside of the classroom. Trips include:

  • A California based marine science study through EarthWatch.
  • An EarthWatch expedition to the Bahamas to study sea turtles.
  • Space Camp at the Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville, AL.

Best of luck to the four students, and thank you to the R.B. Annis Foundation for making these trips possible.

Math & Science students reach 2nd round in state math competition

  • From left: Jesse Munsat, Paul Boutet, Rebecca Williams, Emma Gossett and Ting Yan (Jade) Fung. (Not pictured here, Max Friedman.)


  • Max Friedman also made it to the second round of the competition.

December 4, 2015

The first round of the Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition was held in September and six Interlochen Arts Academy students have made it to the second round: Jesse Munsat, Paul Boutet, Rebecca Williams, Emma Gossett, Ting Yan (Jade) Fung and Max Friedman.

Math & Science gets technical with apples, meets up with other educators

November 4, 2015
  • TechArtists (see Facebook page!) is an Interlochen Arts Academy club mentored by Kim LeBlanc and supported in part by the RB Annis Educational Foundation. Students met recently to make apple-powerd graphite microphones!
  • R.B. Annis Math and Science Division Director Mary Ellen Newport and Eric Blackburn traveled to The Walnut Hill School (Oct 4-7) and met with their Walnut Hills and Idyllwild colleagues to discuss teaching academics at an arts academy. Conversations centered on core values among the three schools, but also core values such as creativity, observation and communication held in common by arts and academics. IAA is hoping that all three schools develop an Inter*Mester program to facilitate student and faculty exchanges among the schools.
  • The Michigan Math Prize competition is coming up—stay tuned for more!

Math and Science this fall at Interlochen Arts Academy

  • Interlochen Arts Academy Instructor of Physics, Astronomy, and Forensic Science Taoufik Nadji is a member of physics education group.

  • The Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers' fall meeting was held at Interlochen Center for the Arts on Oct. 3.

October 9, 2015

What's going on this fall in Math and Science.

Holly Gilbert spoke at the The Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Holly is a 1988 graduate of IAA (cello). She will also be the speaker at the Oct. 7 IAA Community Meeting. Dr. Gilbert spoke about how NASA scientists determine the nature of prominence support, formation, and evolution and how this relates to solar coronal mass ejections. Dr. Gilbert's visit was supported by the R.B. Annis Education Foundation. This was the first time a high school hosted the MIAAPT.

Students in the Comparative Arts program participated in the Annual Fall Math/Science camping trip Sept 16-19. Students camped at Lower Huron Metropark, explored the local environments in the morning and worked on their Detroit to Rio explorations in the afternoons. The camping trip was supported by the R.B. Annis Education Foundation.

Students in all Ecology classes (with Interlochen dcology instructor Jenna Scheub and Mary Ellen Newport, director of the Academy's Math & Science division) participated in the Diving Deeper exercises on the Inland Seas, a tall ship with the Inland Seas Education Association. Students conducted research in the areas of benthic macroinvertebrates, microplastics, plankton species distribution, baiting treatments for invasive round gobies, and testing water quality indices. The experience was available to IAA gratis due to the work of Scheub, who worked last winter to help craft the Diving Deeper curriculum.

Renovation, Integration and Collaboration

  • Holly Higgins Gilbert IAA '88, NASA Scientist, Skypes in to the Bonisteel Library

  • IAA 3D printing team competed in Detroit, and came home with two prizes!

  • Anna and Gintare paddle down the Platte River to an afternoon on the beach during the annual camping trip held May 6 - 9 at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

  • Happy campers prepare the fixings for 'hobo packets' cooked over an open fire at Sleeping Bear Dunes. The trip was led by Jenna Scheub, residence hall counselor Devon Blumenthal and ME Newport.

Math & Science Faculty
May 11, 2015

Year in review

This year was full of both action and reflection for the Math Science Division. We see almost all students at the Academy, but there is no academic ‘major,’ so we have a different kind of relationship with our students. We know that many students who graduate from IAA pursue study and careers outside of the arts, so we are passionate about providing all students with the background they need to thrive in their chosen fields. Even though they are not our majors, we are just as proud of their achievements and successes.

 We spent a lot of time this year discussing the future direction of our math and science curricula, and the future renovation of the Dow Rotunda. Discussions at every level of the Academy are leaning toward more and more integration of arts and academics, math and science, sciences and humanities. This integration allows cross-fertilization among the disciplines, deepening and connecting student experiences across their studies and experiences. Academic excellence was celebrated in the first annual Comparative Arts Symposium (May 7th), where Kendra Hebenstrait, Enzo Ianello and Madison Douglas presented a trio of talks on climate change.

 As usual, the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation has supported field trips, equipment, technology and speakers that we could only dream of without their ongoing support. We were able to purchase a set of National Genographic DNA test kits as part of a collaboration between Mr. Wescott’s Mythology class and Ms Scheub’s Biology class. Students entered a drawing to have their DNA tested for hints about distant ancestry. Stay tuned for results!

 One of our year-end celebrations in Astronomy was a Skype appearance by the Chief of the Solar Physics Laboratory, Holly (Higgins) Gilbert, IAA ’88. We also enjoyed the return of Professor Brian McNamara who spoke to Physics classes who reviewed “13 billion years in 60 minutes.” Both talks were very well received and we are so grateful to practicing scientists willing to donate their time and energy to speaking with our students.

 Annual rituals include the Math / Science camping trip at Sleeping Bear Dunes, release of baby salmon in to the Platte River and the running of the AP tests (Calculus and Statistics). For the first time Academy students Madison Bucher, Garrett Mosblech, Violette Walker and Adlir Linseman competed in the 3D printer contest at the SAE World Congress in Detroit in April. They won the two prizes/trophies out of four possible! One was first place for the Fast on your Feet Challenge where the prompt was to design and print something that would help their teacher! The other prize they won was first place special recognition for their poster. The poster had to show their universal cell phone holder concept (designed and printed beforehand), school and concept name. Kim LeBlanc, IT Help Desk, took charge and supported the students in this first-time competition. Bravo!

 May is always full of celebration, joy and a touch of bittersweet. We had a great year, and we congratulate the IAA Class of 2015 on their many achievements. We look forward to hearing about their continued growth, artistry and life events! Stay in touch!





Science and Art Collaboration Earns Award From NASA

April 13, 2015

(This is also posted on the comparative arts blog, but we also wanted to share the news about this exciting collaboration between our science faculty and our student-artists.)

Congratulations to Taylor Lundeen (Comparative Arts) Stella Kim (Comparative Arts)and Aliya Ultan (Music) who earned second place honors in the Mixed category of the 2014 Video Challenge, an arts contest sponsored by NASA.

The contest attracted video submissions from 145 artists in 16 countries. Participants were asked to consider the following thematic question: “How will space, science and technology benefit humanity?” Thirty-seven judges from 8 countries evaluated the videos based on production quality, technical skill, creativity, fulfilled intent, and final product.

With participation from comparative artists and a musician, along with guidance from the science faculty, the project was a great example of interdisciplinary collaboration. The final product is embedded above.

Audrey "Nim" Holden awarded A-STEP funds

  • Nim with her biology teacher Jenna Scheub - Earthwatch, here she comes!

Mary Ellen Newport
April 13, 2015

Congratulations to Audrey “Nim” Holden, winner of this year’s A-STEP award to support student research in the summer. A-STEP stands for the Annis Student and Teachers Enrichment Program, which was made possible by a generous gift from the R.B. Annis Foundation in Indianapolis. Here is a little more about Nim, in her own words:

"Hi, I’m Nim! I’m from Chicago, and I’m a creative writing major at Interlochen. In terms of science, I’m super interested in paleontology, physics, astronomy, archeology, and marine biology (which is my top interest). I picked the Earthwatch expedition to safeguard whales and dolphins in Costa Rica because of my fascination with marine biology.

Not only does the expedition give me the opportunity to gain field experience in the subject, it also gives me the opportunity to contribute to scientific research that could truly make a change in marine wildlife preservation. I can’t really put into words how important I consider marine preservation. I think Sylvia Earle (my actual idol) can do it better than I can: “No water, no life. No blue, no green.”

Read more about the foundation's support of math and science education at Interlochen.

Hearts and Minds

  • Comparative arts students dissected preserved cow hearts and a local porcupine who met an untimely end. If you happen to have a weak stomach, note that the next images show some detail from that class! 

  • The comparative arts students partnered with Physics teacher Mr. Nadji to create a mixed media presentation. 

Mary Ellen Newport
March 10, 2015

Teachers in the Math and Science Division love to share the tools and tricks of our trades with young artists, either in our classrooms or theirs. We recently saw two great examples of this here at the Academy involving Comparative Arts students, physics teacher Mr. Nadji (aka Monsieur LeNadj) and Ms. Jenna Scheub.

As a perfect follow-up to the recent Heart and Art Comparative Arts program, Ms. Scheub was asked to guest lecture in a unit about the heart, love and death. She led the students through dissection of cow hearts (preserved) and then a full-body dissection of a porcupine who met an untimely demise. Students were fascinated by how muscular the heart is and how delicate the valves are. When the porcupine was thoroughly dissected, it was revealed to be a pregnant female. Students were captivated at the little claws and the feel of the fetal skin with quill-bumps all over it. Some photos of the dissections are posted here, so if you are squeamish feel free to pass!

Another great example of arts partnership took place when Comparative Arts students wanted to enter the NASA-sponsored 2014 Humans in Space Art Video Challenge. Mr. Nadji pointed the way to data from NASA to inspire student compositions. The work went on to place second in the Mixed (Poetry) Subcategory Award. 

A Cognitively Busy Place

  • Students handle materials and work puzzles to make sense of algebraic equations and geometric properties.

  • Peer tutors provide support four nights a week, and meet their community service requirement. Thanks, tutors!

  • Mr. Nadji has published articles for physics teachers detailing creative use of iDevices in the classroom.

  • Determining complex relationships among variables gets students to practice complicated intellectual tasks.

  • Learning is social and fun, and students help each other in informal settings.

Mary Ellen Newport
February 9, 2015

Arts. And Math. And Science.
Through student-centered learning, through integration of the arts, and via hands-on learning experiences, students are challenged to meet high expectations in IAA Math and Science classes. Teachers in Math and Science are available before school starts, during tutorials on Monday and Tuesdays, and on “flex Wednesdays,” to support students in their studies. We have a highly successful system of peer tutors who are available four nights a week for extra study and coaching.  Class content is challenging and puts a lot of responsibility on students to wrap their brains around difficult material. Teachers are also realistic about the amount of time students have outside of class because of their arts responsibilities. Conversations about time management are ongoing, and successful students learn to prioritize and balance the many demands of an Interlochen Academy program.

Restoration and Renewal in Math and Science

  • Concentration required in Knitting for Beginners!

  • Krav Maga instructors demo a move for IAA students!

  • Fierce! and fit!

  • Happiness is playing outside! IT staffer Deb Smith helps Happiness and Resilience students create an igloo. This is also a service project, since this beautiful structure will be enjoyed during Winterlochen. Students are also creating a labyrinth with a path made of birdseed.

  • Happiness is outside with friends!

  • Students hunker down in a B block course to hone their calculus skills with Ms K.

  • Ewww -- fake blood splashed on snow for forensics sake!

  • Students learn syntax and eat dates in Mr. Nadji's Arabic Language and Culture class.

Mary Ellen Newport
January 13, 2015

Inter*Mester Explorations

Before I cover our Math/Science Inter*mester offerings, I have some very exciting news: the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation has agreed to support the "Tier 2" renovation of the Dow Rotunda! A big new feature is a botanical lab outside of Rooms 6 and 7, where ecology and biology are taught. There will also be other updates and improvements to the layout, lighting, flooring and technology. We are very excited about these updates to our teaching spaces!

A diverse array of classes have been offered this Inter*Mester: from Forensics to Bikram yoga, from AP Calculus to sitting and knitting.

Jenna Scheub and Dave Early are taking a bus of students at the crack of dawn to town to get "uber-fit" with hot yoga! The group practices two breathing asanas and 24 postures in 110 degree heat and 50-percent humidity; it is amazing how far you can stretch in those conditions.

Right after yoga, Mr. Early returns to campus to meet with his AP Statistics class to support students who plan to take the AP test in May. Ms Kullenberg also offers an intensive AP Calculus Inter*Mester class.

My students are learning to meditate and reflect as keys to happiness; resilience, relationships, gratitude and forgiveness are explored and practiced.

Other math/science teachers are helping students code and decode the world. Tori Lockwood is working with students to decipher puzzles in the world such as street slang, cryptograms and the Caesar shift, while Neil Mittal's students are learning computer coding for visual artists. Nadji is helping students learn to decode forensic information; his course will culminate in mock trials where students create a trail of data for each "jury" to decode.

There were many students who joined the faculty and staff to learn how to knit and crochet. Some students are crocheting hats for children undergoing chemotherapy.

All in all, Inter*Mester is a positive and upbeat time, where teachers and students get to meet new folks and learn intensively some of our favorite subjects.

Bald eagles on Green Lake

  • Allie Kessel '15 captured three birds through the spotting scope.

  • We had a low-wind day, but it was still chilly!

  • Immature bald eagles are a mottled black all over; three male common mergansers sit on the water in front of the baldy.

Mary Ellen Newport
December 8, 2014

Eagles make great spottings for first-time birders

Ecology classes have a concentrated Ornithology unit, which luckily coincides this year with a 'convocation' of bald eagles on Green Lake. Migrating birds from farther north have joined our resident bald perching on ice at the water's edge, hoping for a fish to nab. Students learn to focus binoculars and use the spotting scope. The next level skill is 'digiscoping,' using an iPhone to take pictures through the spotting scope - with varying results.

Salmon in the Classroom

Mary Ellen Newport
November 17, 2014

Ms Scheub’s Biology and Ecology classes are hosting some small fry.

In cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and with financial support from the Annis Education Foundation, Biology and Ecology teacher Jenna Scheub is raising salmon for release in the local waterways. Salmon eggs are collected during the fall migration (from Lake Michigan into our local rivers). Fertilized eggs are provided by the DNR to classrooms around the state. In the spring, young fish will be released to start the cycle all over again.

One of the highlights is when the eggs hatch over a period of tails. They wriggle and shiver their way out of their little shells.

The other end of the life cycle was also a feature in this fall’s classroom. Ecology students were invited to discover the “gut contents” of adult salmon migrating upstream. Donated salmon carcasses were dissected to see what migrating salmon are feeding upon. “It’s great for students to see fish anatomy, but also to become more aware of where their food comes from.” Dissected carcasses were set out in front of a trail camera on campus, where they brought in some pictures of raccoons enjoying a treat.

Happy Thanksgiving to all from the R. B. Annis Math and Science Faculty!

New Astronomy Elective at IAA

Mary Ellen Newport
October 30, 2014

New Astronomy course makes students grapple with immense distances

How Many? How Big? How Far? Where? And Motion! These are the themes for the first semester in Mr LeNadj's (aka Nadji) Astronomy elective. Students are trying to wrap their minds around celestial distances, understand the cause of our dramatic seasons, and make friends with our friendly satellite. - See more at:

Happy Mole Day!

Mary Ellen Newport
October 29, 2014

Chemistry classes celebrate 6.02 times 10 to the 23rd!

Chemistry classes joined scientists the world over in celebrating "Mole Day." A mole is a standard collection of atoms: 6.02 times 10 raised to the 23rd power - that is a LOT of atoms. A mole of copper, for example, is about 63 grams, while a mole of silver is 196 g. This is a fundamental concept for students to master in chemistry, because chemical reactions occur mole-to-mole. Mole Day takes place on October 23rd (10 to the 23rd) each year. Some years it snows on Mole Day, this year we were able to celebrate out of doors!

Annis Math and Science Division supports student research

  • Anela Oh dives off the coast of Eleuthera Island, Bahamas
  • Kate Jagla, Anela Oh and Jon Evans pose with a picture of Bob Annis and a sugar shack on Vermont Land Conservancy property.
Mary Ellen Newport
October 16, 2014

A-STEP Funds Send Students Diving for Experience

Math and Science students can apply for funds for research over the summer from A-STEP (Annis Science Teacher Enrichment Program). Kate Jagla spent a week at Mote's Tropical Research Laboratory. Anela Oh went on an EarthWatch Institute expedition to study fish life history in the Bahamas, and Jonathon Evans shadowed foresters, land stewards, realtors and executives at the Vermont Land Trust. It became obvious as students shared their experiences that conservation was the thread that ran through all of these experiences.

The R.B. Annis Math and Science Division

Mary Ellen Newport
October 1, 2014

Allow me to introduce the R.B. Annis Math and Science Division!

From the left, we are Molly MacInness (Chemistry), David Early (Advanced Math and AP Statistics), Jenna Scheub (Ecology and Biology), Tori Lockwood (Geometry and Evening Study Hall), Ann Kullenberg a.k.a. Ms. K. (AP Calculus and Pre-Calculus), Nadji (Physics, Astronomy and Pre-Calculus), Neil Mittal (Algebra I and II), Katie Wibby (Chemistry), Sarah Merwin (Algebra II and Geometry), and Mary Ellen Newport (Math-Science Division Director and Ecology).

The math and science division at Interlochen has the great good fortune to be endowed by the R.B. Annis Education Foundation. This allows us to enrich classroom activities with field trips, cool technology and student software, and gear appropriate to all occasions!

Jenna and I, the ecology teachers, take advantage of wonderful and not-so-wonderful fall weather to get our students outside for tree (and frog) identification and “immersion” in the little creek that runs between Duck Lake and Green Lake. The data collected now will inform our work for the rest of the school year.