|Fourth Graders Launch Water Bears and Dental Gum into Orbit
photo courtesy of Terry Anderson
Davidsonville Elementary students will find out whether water bears microscopic water organisms similar to Sea Monkeys can be reanimated after enduring the rigors of space when their experiment lifts off with a space shuttle launch planned for November. Back row, from left: Jacey Herbert, Kate Johnson, Kurt Bonner; middle row: Molly Evans, Nikolas Wachoviak, Taylor Giordano; front: Chris Scott.
"First we cut out the eyes, and then we weighed them," explains Marc Lagana, a fourth grader from Bryon Portz's science class at Woodside Elementary in Glen Burnie. He weaves his way through a description of their scientific investigation of the orbs, soon alighting on the hypothesis: "We thought they would pop in space."
Dressed smartly in white shirt and black tie, young Lagana practices his sales pitch to NASA. He explains his team's agenda for launching fish eyes into orbit to test the theory that they would explode; to do this he goes between a trifold science fair display and a PowerPoint slide presentation set up on a desktop computer. He talks across a dead fish, species unknown, swaddled in a plastic bag and set out on the table for visual aid.
His scientific reasoning seems sound enough. Says Lagana, "We think our project should go up just because it's weird and different."
Exploding fish eyes comprise but one of many proposed space experiments being pitched by some 270 eager fourth graders at Space Expo 2001. Now in its third year, the expo draws to Central Middle School some of the brightest minds from 20 Anne Arundel County elementary schools to tout their projects to roaming NASA scientists. The chosen will install their experiments in one-inch-wide-by-three-inch-tall vials in Space Experiment Module 12, a cylindrical hive of 10 capsulized experiments from around the nation set to launch as shuttle cargo this November. As fifth graders, the lucky few will then conduct post-mission experiments to finish their projects.
The student teams spent two months devising, hypothesizing, experimenting and preparing exhibits to wow the NASA crowd. Eastport Elementary's team was curious about which chewing gums would keep or lose their flavor. A Germantown Elementary team wondered what space would do to the binding properties of glue. One seven-member Waugh Chapel group wanted to squeeze celestial Charmin.
"If they ever need toilet paper in space, we're trying to see what's best to use," explained toilet paper theorist Olivia Cook. The team hypothesized Charmin would work best, because it's thickest, and they'd test the theory by checking the absorbency of terrestrial samples against the Toilet Tissue from Space. How did they get the idea to experiment on ET TP? "Just smart thinkin'," said teammate Mallory Brumbaugh.
photos by Mark Burns
Glen Burnies Woodside Elementary students wanted to find out if fish eyes would explode and to see what would happen to an apple when launched into space. From left: Trista Chandler, Marc Lagana, Jeffrey Beaudin, Malcolm Cooper, Amber Dollinger and Lindsay La Fon.
The room brims with smart thinking, but in the end only two projects - already chosen as long ago as April - will make the hallowed space jump: Maryland City will test the cosmic effectiveness of dental chewing gum as a possible alternative to water-expensive toothbrushing; Davidsonville will discover whether or not dormant tardigrades, or 'water bears' - microscopic water organisms quite similar to Sea Monkeys - can be reanimated after enduring the rigors of space.
"They're just thrilled beyond words," says Davidsonville teacher Susan Madden, who with Terry Anderson guided the school's teams. "It brings their learning to life." Already her students have had impressive progress in their research, having subjected the first batch of water bears to more Earthly extremes; one mom, a biologist at University of Maryland, even exposed them to radiation at a university lab.
"Anne Arundel County is pretty special because they've been developing the Space Experiment Module as part of their curriculum," says Chuck Brodell, NASA's module mission manager. "It's the only school organization that's doing that right now."
The next big step comes on May 30, when classes from both schools travel to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, to prepare their experiments and install them in one section of Space Experiment Module 12. With midsummer arrive the module's nine other projects from around the nation. Not until the shuttle is poised for launch will the module be installed in the cargo bay where it joins Module 11, an international collection of experiments from Argentina, Australia, Morocco, Portugal and the United States.
Modules 11 and 12 will be mounted on either end of a cross bridge spanning the bay's width. Experiments within them will be exposed to cosmic extremes during the shuttle's orbital flight, when the bay doors are kept wide open. For the sake of simplicity, projects at the fourth-grade level are required to be "passive," using no power source, and none of the experiments inside the modules will be handled by the mission's astronauts; all research is being handled by the kids.
Meanwhile, though the launch mission is still several months away and the experiments have yet to be loaded, at least one truth has already been discovered: Yesterday's grade schooler has much to envy.
Revive Memorial Day Memories in Chesapeake Beach, Beyond
They were young and middle-aged, parents and grandparents, high-school drop-outs and PhDs, rich and poor, volunteers and draftees, men and women.
They packed their bags and boarded horses, trains, buses and ships. Some would fight their brothers on their native soil; others would travel to fight in foreign lands. Thousands would lose their lives.
Nowadays, in Bay Country and across America, Memorial Day weekend opens summer. We begin our celebration of the Chesapeake and its bounties. We enjoy lavish social picnics, pig out on crabs, eat the first corn of summer and savor life.
With so much to do, it's easy to forget why we celebrate Memorial Day: as a solemn day of remembrance and honor to our departed loved ones.
Soon we'll find a reminder at what is for many the gateway to Chesapeake Bay. Come June, Chesapeake Beach anticipates completing its new Veterans Park at the junction of Routes 260 and 261.
"This is going to be a special place to remember the sacrifices our loved ones - my father among them - have made," says town mayor Gerald Donovan.
The park began about 10 years ago, when Donovan thought "it would make sense to purchase buildings to open up a vista to the Bay."
Donovan sold his idea to Calvert County, which pledged $225,000, and the state, which kicked in $225,000 from Open Space funds. That was just enough to purchase the buildings and bulldoze the lots.
He enlisted Chuck Ruttkay, owner of Bayhill Accents, to chair the Veteran Parks committee and University of Maryland landscape architect John Hilly to seek a design. Next the town sold a bond and committed $400,000 to build the memorial," says Donovan, "But we still had no clear vision as what we'd like the park to include."
Until they received an honor roll listing all North Beach and Chesapeake Beach soldiers who served in World War II.
That's when it became clear.
Hilly set up a student competition. With the Honor Roll as its focal point, each of the 17 architectural graduating seniors of University of Maryland's class of 1999 submitted a design. The town council chose its design from three finalists.
"We want this park to reflect how we feel about our veterans," says Donovan. "We decided it would be a passive park, so it should be highly visible."
There shouldn't be any trouble seeing a 60-foot flag pole and a huge walled waterfall, which will sit in the center of a star outlined by earth. Benches and landscaping will edge it, and the Honor Roll will hold center point.
While we wait, there are still good ways to revive the meaning of Memorial Day.
Try visiting a cemetery and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes. Any local cemetery will do. Or visit Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, where over 268,000 members of the armed services from the Civil War onward lie in rest.
Other commemorations: Fly the U. S. flag at half-staff until noon; perhaps a POW/MIA flag as well. Join in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3pm. Visit memorials. Locally, a new World War II Memorial overlooks the Severn River at Annapolis. Less than an hour away, Washington, D.C., is home to many of our nation's finest memorials:
· The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a simple black granite wall, contains 58,200 names of those fallen in Vietnam.
· The Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial, modeled on a photo, shows Marines raising the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi after the invasion of Iwo Jima in World War II.
· The U. S. Navy Memorial, with its statue of a Lone Sailor, honors its men and women who served in the Navy.
· The Korean War Memorial depicts a group of servicemen of different ethnic groups patrolling together.
Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.
-Sir Walter Scott
At Twin Beach Players,
What Little Theater is All About
Luke Woods plays John, the taxi driver with two wives Stacy Hook as Barbara and Sherry Hall as Mary. Jeff Larsen plays Stanley, the friend who unwittingly becomes involved in Johns dilemma in Run for Your Wife, performed by the Twin Beach Players.
In its fourth year, The Twin Beach Players is fast becoming the little theater that could. The hilarious British comedy Run for Your Wife opened May 18 as the second production in an ambitious four-play year.
A schedule like that takes work and dedication, as I know first hand, having been part of other Twin Beach productions. I'm not in this one, but for the record, I hope they break a leg. I hope it is a big hit, and if it is, I won't feel jealous.
Director Sid Curl, who's helped set this year's ambitious agenda for the Players, is a theater professional of 30 years' standing. When not moonlighting with Twin Beach Players, he's the technical director for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
Curl's experience with Run for Your Wife goes back nine years to North Carolina, where he was assistant director for the Gallery players in Ahoskie. He thought the play, set in two towns five minutes apart, would adapt to the Twin Beaches, North and Chesapeake. In the story, each town is home to one of the two wives of taxi driver John Smith.
Six male roles also suit Twin Beach Players. Two of the other plays on the schedule this year, Last of the Red Hot Lovers (early spring) and Steel Magnolias (August) have only one male role between them. This led to some disappointment among the men in this troupe. I don't like to think about what it would be like to have a bunch of artistically frustrated guys out treading the boardwalk all summer, searching for creative outlets. Not a pretty picture if you ask me.
Luke Woods plays John Smith, the taxi driver with two wives. This is the ninth role for Woods, an original member of the Twin Beach Players. It's a challenging part. First there are pages and pages of dialog to memorize and cues to learn. What's more, the action is fast-paced, with characters constantly exiting and entering. "It's intimidating but fun," says Woods, "which helps me to get in character." Wood plays Smith with frantic vulnerability, like a man caught in a tornado trying to pretend that everything is fine.
When Woods moved to the Twin Beaches, for the first six months he didn't know anyone. Joining the little theater helped him to get plugged into the community. That's one of strengths of little theater. Another, says Woods, is "that feeling" you get when after hours of rehearsal you are on stage in front of an audience.
Sherry Hall plays wife #1, Mary, while Stacy Hook is Barbara, wife #2. In her first Twin Beaches role, Hook is enjoying the process being "a different person." This is the third Twin Beaches' role for Hall, who was Lucy in last summer's production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. Hall, who has acted since she was four, has appeared in such movies as Dave, Sleepless in Seattle and Major League.
Jeff Larsen, who plays Stanley Gardner - the friend who unwittingly becomes involved in John's dilemma - is a former high school drama teacher, who now owns and manages a glue manufacturing company. Larsen has both acted and directed for Twin Beach Players.
Rounding out the cast are Jeff Vargo as Sergeant Porterhouse; Players veteran Tommy Coyle as Sergeant Troughton; and Pat Healey, chair of the Players' board, doubling in the roles of a reporter and Bobby Franklin.
In rehearsal, Director Curl was encouraging the cast "to go off book, to have fun." To be "off book" means reciting lines of dialogue from memory; that's when hard work begins to show results. There were still a few rough spots, but the actors worked through them. "This is a farce. Let the characters go," Curl admonished, and the players responded by playing up the slapstick.
Despite missed cues, memory lapses and other glitches, even in rehearsal there were times I laughed out loud. For an actor in search of "that feeling" in front of an audience, getting a laugh is a moment of truth. The feeling hits you in the chest and goes to your head. It is electric.
Run For Your Wife plays its second and final weekend May 2527, serving appetizers and dessert with cash bar. 8pm FSa, 2pm Su @ Reid Building, 7995 Solomons Island Rd., Mt. Harmony. Tickets $27 w/advance discounts from Richard's Bayside Florist (301/855-7505) and Bayhill Accents (410/535-3023). Playing at the Reid Building, 7995 Solomons Island Road (parking in rear off Mt. Harmony Lane).
2,945 Walkers Raise Big Bucks for the Animals
photo by Kim Cammarata
South Arundel Hospital vet Laura Lathan and vet-tech Linda Rayhart watched animal walkers for fatique.
Bay area animal lovers teamed up Sunday, May 20, to once again make the SPCA of Anne Arundel County's annual Walk for the Animals fundraiser a record-setting success.
Walkers and business sponsors have raised $140,000 so far ($12,000 more than last year) to benefit over 5,000 needy animals that end up at the Annapolis shelter every year. Volunteers are still tallying donations from late-arriving pledges, SPCA merchandise sales and the eight area schools that held mini-walks of their own. They expect to have a final count by mid-June.
"We're thrilled. This year's walk was a definite success," says Ginny Nicolson, co-chair of the 10th annual Walk for the Animals 2001 committee.
Organizers began to suspect that the 2001 Walk would reach a new attendance high when overflow parking lots began filling a little over one hour into the four-hour event. In all, nearly 1,900 people and 1,045 animals braved cloud-laden skies to parade through the natural beauty of Quiet Waters Park, blowing away last year's totals by 700 and 445.
"We were bursting at the seams," says Nicolson. "The rangers told us we filled up the park."
The canine contingent was by far the most evident of the four-legged walkers at this year's event. They came in all shapes and sizes, from a miniature dachshund in a baby stroller to a Great Dane as tall as a second grader. They came solo (with human escorts), and they came in groups. Some dressed up for the occasion, like the group of three greyhounds with fancy hats. Others opted for the casual look with just a collar and leash.
In the sea of people and dogs, a few cats, rabbits and snakes surfaced along with a burro, a pig and a mouse.
Nine-year-old Galen Irving-Sachs, who you met in last week's Bay Weekly feature about the Walk for the Animals, earned this year's top fund-raising honor with an astonishing $3,472 in pledges. He was "far and away" the highest fundraiser, according to Nicolson. For his efforts, Galen won two open tickets from Southwest Airlines.
The rain that threatened all morning finally began falling after noon, when SPCA volunteers were packing everything up. With another wildly successful Walk under their belt, though, nobody minded.
"Thanks to the volunteers, sponsors and everyone in the community for supporting the SPCA," said Nicolson. "We couldn't do it without it you."
Way Downstream ...
In New Jersey, the Boy Scouts have sold the nation's oldest operating Boy Scout camp, protecting it from developers. They got $5 million from Bergan County and a Jewish community center for the 750-acre Camp Glen Gray, which is tucked in the Ramapo Mountains. Both vow to shield it from development ...
In California, the votes are in, and the answer to the state's energy shortage is cow manure. Well, maybe not the whole answer, but in Tulare County, cow capital of America, folks gathered on Friday to figure out better ways to burn manure from the county's 340,000 cows to produce power. The state recently allocated $10 million to defray costs of a "dairy digester" that produces power from cow pies ...
Our Creature Feature comes from South Africa, where an expedition that discovered the extraordinarily rare coleacanth fish has been halted by authorities. Last week, privately financed researchers found one of the fish, which was thought to have gone extinct long ago. On the Internet, they broadcast footage of the six-foot-long fish, called "old four legs" because it has extra fins that look like legs.
After the footage aired, KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, the government agency responsible for the marine reserve where the fish was found, declared that no more research dives could occur until it was proved that they wouldn't harm the so-called fossil fish. Scientists had believed they became extinct 60 million years ago - until a fisherman hooked one off the South African coast in 1938.