The Exp Summer Daily

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The Experimentory Blog

Our year-round blog describes our program, values, and plans for next year.

The Exp Summer Daily

Our summer news consists of daily updates while we're in session -- giving a window into past years.

Double-Feature: Sustainable Growing and Urban Design

Jul 20, 2018 1:00:02 AM

Today we have an Exp Summer Daily double feature: A glimpse inside two of our courses. Ian is reporting in after visiting our 2 Week Sustainability Course. Meanwhile, Tim checked in with Erika and Sophia to discuss their Urban Planning final projects.

Sustainability for Home and (Far, Far) Abroad

The sustainability classes have been hard at work, innovating and building models to make our world (and others!) a better place. The Experimentory offers two versions of its sustainability course this summer: one that is two weeks long and another that is four weeks long. Mr. Bakker decided that the best way to accommodate these two course lengths was to set two similar but different tasks before them--both under the banner of "A Fixer-Upper of a Planet." 

The morning class is building aquaponic systems. These compact systems are an efficient and ecologically friendly way to grow plants--a way of fixing up our own planet. They use a cyclical system that recycles water between fish and plants in order to grow healthy crops.

When I visited the morning class, Carsten walked me through what he and his team had learned and built so far. First and foremost, they built wooden boards held a plastic container above a fish tank of water. Then they installed plastic tubing and a pump to draw water up into the plastic container. They filled that container with clay balls and plants. Hidden beneath the pellets was an outlet to drain the water back into the tank once it reached a certain water level. 

Ken and Jasmine adjust the pump tubing on their aquaponic system.

“It’s a cycle that uses fish feces to act as a fertilizer for plants, so it is an eco-friendly way of growing plants” describes Carsten. “The plants don’t actually feed the fish” he explains. They still need their own food. But the circulation of nutrients in the water mimics aquatic environments in nature and helps keep the fish healthy. It is a surprisingly self-maintaining system. Mr. Bakker explained that even the death of a fish would release ammonium that would benefit the plants and help keep the other fish healthy.

Bryan, Paul, and Edward

Bryan showed me a little of what his group had been working on as well. They were perfecting their drainage system. “It’s called an ebb and flow system." He elaborated. Although the pump slowly fills the elevated plant container with water, they don't want it to continually drain at the same rate. Instead, they had to design a special syphon that would suddenly drain all the water once before slowly refilling again. The syphon works along the same principles as a toilet: if the water reaches a certain level, all the water rapidly drains into the tank.

Lucas and Andrea greet their 
newest aquaponic residents.

Lucas and Andrea were troubleshooting their pump. Their pump was filling the plant container too quickly, so they were testing different ways of slowing the flow. Using clamps to squeeze the tubing hadn't worked well enough, so that was out. But now they found that by tilting the end of the tube up and down, gravity would either slow the flow up, or aid the flow down. After hard work and many tests, they finally found a way to secure the tube using a clip, which kept the tubing pointed up and created a small fountain of water onto the plants.

Meanwhile, the afternoon class has a project of a less Earthly persuasion. Their systems are the type that might sustain off-world colonies some day: Mars is their "fixer-upper planet." But that's a tale for another day. Since they are only halfway through their Experimentory experience, we'll be checking back in with them in the weeks to come! 

-- Ian, Program Proctor

Boston, Revised

One of the ways that we sample Deerfield Academy traditions at the Experimentory is with sit down meals. Each week students are randomly assigned to a table with six or seven other students and a faculty or staff member. During this week's rotation I shared a table with a few students taking "Design Where You Live." Erika and Sophia shared with me about their experience after dinner one night this week.

Me: Did you have any experience with urban design before you came to the Experimentory? What made you choose this class?

Sophia [shakes her head]: I chose this course because I really like Architecture and I wanted to try it.

Erika: At home my sister and I work on this App that is about planning a city or a home, but this is much more professional.

Me: So what can you tell me about Mr. Payne's class?

Sophia: It’s fun!

Erika [nodding]: First we watched videos and talks about what makes a good city.

Sophia: Like, what makes residential design good or bad.

Erika: Now we are using that information to create a good city space.

Me: Are you planning a city from scratch or modifying an existing city?

Erika: Each group was assigned a plot of land in Boston and we’re trying to make it into a nice area for the people who live there. 

Me: What are the parameters of the assignment?

Erika: You have to come up with a design that will make it unique.

Sophia: You can do anything you want with it. You can make a residential area or a market. There’s a lot of freedom.

Me: What do your designs look like?

Erika: For me, half of my plot of land is shopping malls and residential areas. The other half is outdoor areas for playing and resting.

Sophia: Mine is all residential with a fountain in the middle.

Me: What is your favorite part of your design?

Erika: Probably the focal point. I have a green space with bushes in the middle. I like it. It’s a place where a lot of people can gather.

Sophia: Mine is very symmetrical. I like it when things are in order.

These two girls -- along with 18 of their classmates -- will be presenting at tomorrow's Session 1 Showcase. I can't wait to see how everything turned out!

-- Tim, Program Coordinator

The Exp Summer Daily provides news and updates while we are in session in July and August. The rest of the year, check out the Experimentory Blog for posts feature our students, teachers, classes, values, goals, and plans for the coming year.