As the year progresses, science teacher Maria Burgess’s biology classroom grows more into being its own ecosystem.
According to Burgess, the biology classroom’s ecosystem, as she calls it, was started when she obtained two anole lizards for the class two years ago.
“I thought they would be a nice little addition to the classroom, and they would help my biology classes once we started talking about biomes,” she said.
The lizards, Burgess said, require a tropical rainforest habitat. To create this within the classroom, there are heaters, lights, humidifiers, water-retaining bedding that allows organisms to decompose, and live tropical plants. The students are also responsible for spraying the tank with water each day.
Sophomore Molly Crehan said, “We get to learn about the lives of animals instead of just learning from reading or lecturing, which I like.”
Burgess also adopted two gecko lizards from a friend, which allowed the classroom to acquire a new biome because the geckos live in the desert.
The geckos, according to Burgess, recently laid an egg, which is waiting to hatch. The female died last year despite the class’s attempt to research and cure her illness, but Burgess obtained another mate for the remaining male.
“Geckos don’t always take to each other, and they fight, but these two really took to each other right away,” she said.
Next, Burgess purchased a tarantula named Francisco, because the students thought a spider was an animal they would never think of studying, and “everyone is a little arachnophobia, including me,” she said.
Another way Burgess connects the curriculum with the animals is by having the students research them and collect information on the animals themselves as well as their habits and habitats.
“Dr. Burgess always mentions the animals if they relate to what we are learning, and it would be cool for them to play an even bigger role in our class,” Crehan said.
The animals in the room eat crickets and worms, so this year the biology classes decided to breed crickets to feed to them. They researched the exact conditions that would allow crickets to be bred and set up a tank for the crickets.
“We have also just started to make our own cricket food. We use ground-up cat food and dried milk, so we can feed the crickets nutrients the animals need for when they eventually eat them,” Burgess said.
Another job of the biology class, according to Burgess, is working what they call a plant hospital. People within the school bring in their sick plants, and each student is assigned a plant to try and cure. Burgess said they successfully resurrected math teacher Richard Brown’s orchid.
Some of the plants are air cleansing plants, and they absorb fumes in the room that come from the preserved animals used by the anatomy class.
Finally, Burgess said she wants to “find a way to make dechlorinated water” because the water in the room is non-potable. To do this naturally, a student in the class found out that if they have a fish tank, the waste in the water of the fish tank would provide fertilizer for the plants. Also, an aerator in the tank would create dechlorinated water.