Posted by: lapazfarm | June 26, 2010

Wrapping it up

It has become rather obvious that we at LaPaz Home Learning are not gonna finish this course as written, right? I mean, considering it is the end of June, and Superboy is gone to New Mexico for a Boy Scout high Adventure trip, and I am hyper-focused on planning for next year, I just don’t see it happening.

To be honest, once we moved here to Sitka, things changed.  Superboy got so involved with his volunteer work at the Science Center Aquarium and the salmon hatchery, plus just exploring  the many tide pools and shorelines, whale watching, learning about the local herring  fishery, observing sea lions and sea otters from our front yard, catching crabs and snails, doing shore clean-ups,  identifying shore birds and waterfowl… well, assigning extra bookwork just seemed kind of superfluous!

From the beginning this course was about encouraging hands-on learning in the sciences–getting away from the textbooks and getting out there in the world, getting our hands wet and getting up-close and personal with life itself.  I fully believe that is the very best way to learn any subject, but most especially science.

So..that’s what we did. For that I have no regrets at all.

But… I do feel a bit guilty for dropping the ball on this curriculum because of the folks who were following along. I hope I did not leave anyone hanging.  And if I did, I apologize. I feel kind of awful.

One thing that gives me some comfort is that  I do believe that through the 24 weeks where this blog and the plans within were the guiding force, that I laid down enough of a foundation that any one of the Fieldworkers following along could take the rest of the syllabus and run with it. Some of you did just that, I know! After all, the plans are fairly simple, following a pretty regular format:

  • For the marine biology component, read the chapter from the Seaside Naturalist
  • Copy important diagrams into your field notebook
  • Get out and find some relevant living examples, sketching them in your notebook, and noting interesting behaviors, etc.
  • Use your local field guides to identify them.
  • Watch some related YouTube or Netflix video.
  • Read up on the oceanography component on the internet or other source material (plenty of good links for that in the sidebar). Summarize in your notebook.

That’s pretty much it and is a format that can be applied to any of the chapters. There are actually only 4 (I think) topics I don’t have written plans for and I think if you apply this format and just run with it, you’ll be fine.

I’d love to hear how you guys finished up the course, and if anyone has any links, lesson plans, etc you’d like me to put up and share I’d be glad to do that.And who knows. I may just get those last lesson plans up one of these days!

But for now…I’ve got some hands-on Chemistry to plan!LOL!

Posted by: lapazfarm | April 26, 2010

Gone fishin’! New plans up!

Plans for weeks 22-24 are up and we are all going fishing! Woo hoo!!!

There are plans for all kinds of good stuff: anatomy, behavioral study, arts and crafts and (of course!) RECIPES!!!

Grab your rod and reel and check it out!

Posted by: lapazfarm | April 12, 2010

An interesting find

This is a lion’s mane nudibranch (Melibe leonina) that JBug found washed up in front of the house. It was really difficult to get a good picture because it is mostly clear, but if you look closely (near the clamshell on the left) you can see the fringe of sensory tentacles on the oral hood, which it throws out like a cast net to catch it’s prey. Pretty cool, I think. Better pictures here:Ketchikan Photos.

Hope everyone is doing well. For some reason we  have been stuck on arthropods for awhile, but are moving on to echinoderms this week. Superboy is learning so much by volunteering at the Sitka Sound Science Center aquarium and hatchery that our lessons at home seem almost superfluous!

Posted by: lapazfarm | March 25, 2010

New plans are up!

For week 20, tunicates and the fouling community. There is a neat project there, so be sure to check it out!!!

Posted by: lapazfarm | March 25, 2010

Week 20: Tunicates and the fouling community


Tunicates, despite being extremely simple looking at first appearance, are chordates just like us!  And therefore they are the animal most closely related to us thus far. Hard to believe, eh?

Well, chapter 13 in the Seaside Naturalist will fill you in! Go ahead and read that and then complete the following:

Questions to answer:

  • What is the taxonomyof a tunicate?
  • Why is it placed in this phylum along with dogs, fish, snakes, and humans (among others)?
  • What dramatic changes take place during the tunicate life cycle?
  • Where did the name “tunicate” come from?
  • What are some other names for tunicates?
  • How does the adult tunicate feed itself?
  • How does it reproduce?

And here is a site with a bit  more tunicate info if you are interested:

Make a sketch of tunicate adult anatomy in your notebook and label it.

Look back in your notebook to your sketch of poriferan anatomy. Compare the anatomy of a tunicate to that of a simple sponge. Although superficially similar in appearance, a sponge is little more than a sack of loosely connected cells with a few cells specialized for certain tasks. A tunicate, however has actual tissues and organs, and is therefore much more complex.

Consult your local field guide and see if you can find some tunicates and identify them. If they are under water, can you see the siphons working? If they are exposed (at low tide, perhaps) are their siphons closed tight? Touch them (they will not hurt you) and record your observations as to how they feel to the touch.  Do they squirt you when you touch them??? Be sure to sketch them in your notebook or take photos and put them into your notebook.(And don’t forget to share them here!)

When we were in Key Largo we had great luck looking amongst the mangrove roots for mangrove tunicates. We found tons of them and they were quite beautiful-delicate, colorful and jewel-like in appearnce. This is a strong contrast to the sea pork many folks will be seeing as their only exposure to tunicates. You really should Google image  tunicate photos so you can see the wide variety of forms.

The Fouling Community

What is that????

The fouling community is the group of organisms that in combination conspire to make a sailor’s life difficult. Well, maybe that isn’t their intent, but it sure is the effect!

The fouling community are actually organisms that are found on docks, piers, boats, and any other underwater structure, busily eating away and dragging them down, causing many millions of dollars of damage every year. They typically include tunicates, bryozoans, mollusks, barnacles, polychaetes, sea anemones, hydras, algae of all sorts, bacteria, fungi, and many other organisms.

The thing is, these are the same communities found on natural structures, it’s just that they are called the “fouling community” only when they occur on man-made structures and have the potential to cause damage, or “foul” things up.


Your task in studying the fouling community is to find a dock, piling, boat, buoy,etc that has an easily accessible fouling assemblage, and complete a survey of that community.

By “survey” I mean to make a list of the type of species, and the approximate number of members of each species in the community.You should also make a scale drawing of the assemblage in your notebook. A good way to do this is to measure out a  representative square area  of your community and use graph paper to make the scale drawing. Make notes on what you see as far as behaviors, predation, etc. in order to understand the relationships amongst these organisms. This is a project that should challenge you to make use of all of the identification practice you’ve had so far!

To inspire you, here is a link to a really neat YouTube video that shows fouling communities on various items pulled out of the North Pacific Gyre (remember that???) during a scientific study of the huge trash accumulation in the area:Project Kaisei, barnacle buoy.

In fact, I recommend taking a look at all of  the fascinating Project Kaisei work at their website and their YouTube channel.

Good stuff!!!

Posted by: lapazfarm | February 27, 2010

back and running

Oh, my gosh it has been awhile hasn’t it???

Well, let me just say that we are moved, settled in,and loving our new home town.


We are ready to get back into the marine biology groove! Woo hoo!

How are all of you other field workers doing?? (I know I’ve seen some awesome posts recently by the folks at Somewhat In the Air. Have you checked them out lately? Please do!)

And what are we up to? Just stepping back into the water, one foot at a time.

We took the morning and got a  behind-the-scenes tour of our local science center.

Is that not the largest chiton you’ve ever seen!!! It’s called a gumboot chiton and it is very unusuall. The typical overlapping plated shells are totally covered by a rubbery membrane. Neat!

Superboy is hoping to do some volunteer work there at the salmon hatchery, so we had to check that out.

They raise four different species of salmon here (all but red).

It’s a pretty cool place, and together with the fabulous weather, we were inspired  to head out to the local tidepools to see what kind of marine life we could find on our own.

And find it we did!

Leather star

ochre stars

sponges in beautiful colors

What a great day! It really got us juiced up to dive back into marine biology again.

Ready or not, here we come!

Posted by: lapazfarm | January 8, 2010

Weeks 18-19 Are Up! Echinodermata/Littoral Zone/Tide Pools

The lesson plans for weeks 18-19 are up. I hope you guys like it. My kiddo is ten, so it may be geared for a somewhat younger student.

Thank you, Theresa, for inviting guest contributors to Fieldwork.

Susan Thomsen

Chicken Spaghetti, a children’s book blog

The Wilder Side of Westport, a nature blog

Posted by: lapazfarm | January 7, 2010

Arctic and Antarctic posted

A few thoughts on the Arctic and Antarctic are up.  I couldn’t locate the original article about a fish that has non-freezable blood. Anybody remember this tidbit?  If you run into anything of value, please let the group know.  Enjoy.

Posted by: lapazfarm | January 6, 2010

Hey ya’ll

I’ve posted a weekly plan for arthropoda.  Please provide feedback.  I know what my guys are interested in, and I’m sure some of it will be interesting to others.  I’m not nearly as well versed on the web site its self, so please bear with me.

So far the guys are into lobsters. They get really big and really old – like older than tortoises and about as big. AV is building a large (wall-sized) taxonomical chart.

Posted by: lapazfarm | January 5, 2010

We have our guest bloggers!!!

Thanks so much to Susan and Elizabeth for offering to post lesson plans for the next two units! They will be awesome, I am sure! I can’t wait to see what they come up with for us as they are some of the most creative ladies I know! I feel good knowing that I leave you in good hands!

Meanwhile, I will be packing and moving and trying to find us a place to live before all of our stuff arrives!

Wish me luck!

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