Wildlife at the Land Lab

Over the span of 6 weeks, the AP student body has found a variety of both common and unique species, while working at their Land Lab Classroom, located up in Wildwood, Missouri. The AP Blog Committee then documented pictures of each of the species, and identified and researched each of the reported wildlife types and classifications. Please enjoy their findings below, as you dive into the realm of bugs, amphibians and reptiles!

J- “The Leopard Slug or Limax Maximus, which translates to “biggest slug”, is a gastropod. The Leopard Slug is also very slimy compared to other slugs. The Leopard Slug lives just about anywhere. We found this one under two big trees. It probably came down off one of those trees at some point or fell out of one. We also found some snails.”

J- “This tree frog might be a Gray Tree Frog but we don’t know for sure. Tree frogs have little “Stickers” on their feet which helps them climb trees. We saw many frogs down by the creek. I don’t remember where we found this one, it was probably by the creek. Different kinds of tree frogs live everywhere in the world, even Australia.”

R- “Mole Crickets are in the same family as crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts. Mole crickets are native to the United States, but are mostly found in Australia. We had found a few mole crickets, near the pond, and the one we took a picture of seemed to be missing its bottom half. They have two long antennae, forearms like a mole’s, and either four or six eyes.”

R- “Grasshoppers and crickets are also related to locusts. Grasshoppers don’t really have a specific country or continent they’re native to, but they can be found on all continents, except Antarctica. Crickets are actually native to Asia, though between 1950 and 2000 they were spread worldwide. Grasshoppers can actually bite humans. Though nothing happens if you do get bit, just a tiny red mark, or a welt. Crickets can actually bite, though they rarely puncture skin. Though crickets carry a number of significant diseases, none of them are fatal to humans, but it can sometimes cause painful sores.”

R- “Crawdads and Crayfish are actually the same animal. Crawdads are native to the United States and northeastern Mexico. Crawdads are actually related to lobsters. Crawdads can actually be colored sandy yellow, pink, red, dark brown, and blue. Crawdads live on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. There are about 200 species of crawdads in North America. We have found many crawdads and crawdad skins in the creek at the land and will continue to find more.”

R- “There is a butterfly we keep on seeing every time we go to the land and it is called the Pipevine Swallowtail. Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies are found/native to North America and Central America. The male butterflies are more blue than the females. The Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars are typically black or red. We have found a few, or the same one over and over, at the gravel bar near the creek.”

J- “The Ribid spider is able to  carry babies on its back as you can see here. It has its babies on its back and when they are born they are able to carry them on their back to protect them. They’re native to the US.”

J- “Haldea Striatula snakes also known as brown snakes are harmless and don’t attack humans when bothered and just try to get away. The Haldea Striatula is native to Missouri and can be found near rocks.”

J- “Assassin bugs are called that because they pierce their prey with poison, instead of hunting them and being a normal bug. They are also native to the US.”

Fall “Trip” Fun

Last week, the Adolescent Program, at Chesterfield Montessori School, experienced a week full of fun that they will never forget! Albeit, the fall “trip” didn’t quite take place like normally expected, each day, all of the AP students participated in an exciting new adventure, surrounded by spectacular outdoor environments. On Tuesday, the adolescents were able to explore the CMS Land Lab up in Wildwood, MO, where they prepared the ground for planting trees by the pond, learned about different ecosystems on the land, and identified a variety of species within the river. On Wednesday, the students hiked the rolling trails of one of the last preserved Prairie Lands in the USA, known as the Shaw Nature Reserve. Breathtaking sights such as luminous limestone bluff overhangs, a grandeur Sycamore tree, the wide untamed Meramec River, and the abundance of stunning wildflowers and plants that lined the walking paths, were just a few of the many observations that the students made. Then on Thursday, the AP students walked to the CMS campus where they serviced the CMS garden and compost piles and created seed balls for Micro-Economy. Needless to say, the AP students did a fantastic job in transforming the garden into a beautiful environment. Finally, Friday brought a wealth of exciting new experiences such as getting to ride in the shiny new CMS school bus for the first time, float down the Missouri River in large canoes for over 20 miles, and explore the sandy beaches of the river while going for a splash in some good ole’ swimming holes! All in all, it was a wonderful week and the students learned a lot, thus challenging them academically, physically, emotionally and socially. Below, the AP bloggers have captured in writing, descriptive moments in some of last week’s photos. Enjoy!

R– “Trying to catch some tiny frogs in the mud near the pond. We found some big spiders too. A few spiders had some egg sacs on them. So much fun!”
C- “We got a bus! Now we can take some more trips with the whole class in the bus! Seat belts everyone!”                         
J- “Here we stood on limestone rock, while looking at the amazing view of the trees and sky, while being mindful not to go too close to the edge.”
J– “We floated almost 22 miles on the wide Missouri river in two 23 foot canoes. 
We stopped to swim two times, went under three bridges, and even got to talk to a dredger captain. We all got wet!” 

Bees preparing for winter, students check-in on the colony’s health

On Wednesday the AP met with their bee mentor, Walt, to perform a mite check. In lessons and seminars, students have been learning about the challenges that colonies are facing around the world. What better place than our very own hive to further investigate some of these issues. In a sample of 323 bees, the students encountered 8 aptly-named Varroa destructor mites. Eight mites do not sound like an excessive amount, but our hive is occupied by at least 40,000 bees! When we apply our measured mite density to the entire hive, we end up with nearly 1,000 mites present in the population. Luckily, the mite load in the hive is below the threshold considered to be alarming, but treating for mites before winter not only helps our bees but ALL bees in the area by reducing the spread of the pest. The mites are about the size of a sesame seed and they are a vector for several infectious diseases that can wipe out an entire colony. For a bee, it would be like having a dinner plate-sized parasite attached to your back or stomach while you also have the flu.


Fall Trip Memories

The Adolescents spent the last week of September on a Mad Dog excursion through Southern Illinois. It was a great opportunity for the group to spend time deepening their relationship with each other, and in turn, forming a community in which risk-taking is encouraged and problems are solved with vigor. Through a deep understanding of each other, we can share in each other’s joys and triumphs, as well as support each other when times get tough. There were certainly challenging moments on the trip, but the adolescents met each challenge with positivity and smiles.

If you would like to read more about how risk-taking in nature improves executive functioning skills in children of all ages, check out this article from The Children and Nature Network.

Enjoy this glimpse into the trip.



Water Quality Monitoring at the Land Campus

Twice a year, the students meet with our Stream Team Volunteer Bob Virag to monitor a section of the Bonhomme Creek which is located on the CMS Land Campus. We run multiple tests on the creek in order to determine the quality of the water. Today, our creek received a good score. Two thumbs up. We were down a few crane fly larvae and leeches but overall, the creek is healthy and flowing with life. Bob even said our creek “is one of the nicest creeks in the county. It’s like being in the Ozarks.” Thanks, Bob! We love working with you to improve the quality of our Missouri waters!

Best in Show!

Congratulations to Kaylee for receiving Best in Show at the CMS Iris Show! And Thank you to Erin Chien and Jean Morris who led the design workshop for our students and coordinated the show. This year was our largest group of student participants and many families and community members joined us. Here are a few photos from the event:




Hello, May!

The AP is ending the school year strong. We are busy with events, assignments, trimester projects, and micro-economy sales. Last week, the students hosted the 6th annual CMS Talent Show. What a success! What a talented bunch of kids! Thank you to all who participated and came to this special evening at CMS.
This week the students crafted windchimes and tables for their final Market Day. The AP finance manager reported a record year in sales for the AP INC., and returning students have already begun brainstorming ideas for next year’s products. We all agree the Land Campus has been our number 1 resource for crafting beautifully handmade products.
The class also participated in a Middle School United Nations General Assembly this week, along with students from Crossroads College Prep and Wydown Middle. The following issues were discussed: slavery in Mauritania, drug addiction in Honduras, Russian aggression in Ukraine, Uighur violence in China, and sustainable development in Africa. The group did an excellent job of participating and responding to resolutions. Way to represent! 
Next week the class will host the Annual CMS Iris Show to be held in the CMS gym on Wednesday, May 8 from noon to 3:00 pm. This year’s theme is Elemental Irises (Fire, Water, Earth, Air). The Artistic Design class will be on Tuesday, May 7 at 12:30 PM.
We will also be planting 1,200 plants as part of our habitat restoration project next week! More photos to come! We will keep you posted along the way. Have a great weekend.

Happy Busy Bees

The AP bee colony is happy, healthy, and buzzing with activity. The queen is thriving, fat, and happy. She has been working her way through the hive, laying eggs in every frame that is not occupied by pollen, brood, honey, or nectar. The students met with their bee mentor yesterday to check on the hive. On each frame, there are about 2,000 bees! Good news, considering the colony spent a good part of the fall recovering from the loss of their queen. Next week, we will check for swarm cells, look for the presence of Varroa destructor mites and begin planning for a second hive. It’s still a little early to say that we will have an excess of honey this fall, but it sure is reassuring to see such abundance before the nectar flow in a few weeks.



Springing into Spring with Spring Peepers!

Today, the Adolescents went on another trip to the Land. We scouted the pond areas for frogs and other amphibians. We found many cricket frogs and spring peepers. This is a good sign because those species are native to Missouri. After a successful collection of frogs and data, we split into two teams. One team searched the forest for invasive honeysuckle sprouts and the other team helped Mr. Mike cut down the tall pampas grasses. Later this spring, we plan to replace the non-native pampas grasses with native switchgrass.

By Anna Matthys-Pearce