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Final Capstone Blog

     This semester in Carbon Capstone has been an interesting experience. I have learned so much about myself over the past 4 months. I learned that I love to do research and I actually like public speaking. One of the major aspects of this course was to conduct a research project based around carbon. For our project, we wanted to determine the amount of carbon consumed in different environments. I learned how to use an environmental gas monitor and different measurement kits to collect the data needed. At the beginning of the semester, we were taught how to use the equipment and how to collect our data. Afterwards, we had to write up a lab report that would be turned into a poster. I’ve always wanted to create a research poster and I was excited at the opportunity to make one for this course. We were able to use ANOVA , which analyzed our results.  I liked the idea of using Google drive to put the project together. One of the challenges was finding time outside of class to complete the poster. However, I found that a majority of the work was done when all of us were together. My previous labs have helped me in writing the pieces of the poster but this was much more intense. I say this because this is a unique project. Most of the time when we were writing lab reports for other classes, everyone was writing the same thing. For our project, we were able to come up with what we wanted to test and we are able to present this to other scientists. What made the poster different from our previous powerpoint presentations was that we all had to work collectively instead of individually. Also the information is on a giant slide as opposed to a collection of slides. We wanted our poster to be unique and visually appealing. This would keep the viewers interested in what we are telling them when we present the poster at VCU’s Rice Center Symposium.

     At the beginning of the course I was apprehensive about teaching highschool students. Just the thought of having to lead a class made me super nervous. I felt that these students would not be interested in what I had to say about the carbon cycle. What I truly appreciated was that our instructors helped us every step of the way. There was enough time to put together the modules and we were given critiques to tweek our presentations. I learned that as long as I am passionate about what I am saying then I would be able to keep my audience’s attention.  When we had a lecture from the school of education, I was more prepared to engage the highschool students. When it was time to teach, I was amazed with myself that I could actually get my point across and that the students seemed interested in what I said to them. I was fortunate to have the same class for all three of my modules and was able to build a rapport with the students. They were knowledgeable about the carbon cycle and seemed to care about what to do to preserve the environment. My presentation skills definitely improved because I was really confident and not too nervous. The hardest part about teaching was dealing with students talking while I was speaking. Instead of stopping, or looking/feeling anxious, I just kept on speaking to the rest of the class and eventually the students who were talking would listen. I was most comfortable with the Data Analysis module. I loved the Lab module because I was able to keep each student occupied with a different task but the Data Module was my favorite. I say this because this was the most challenging one for me to present. The mock presentation did not go as well as my other two mock modules. Now in all honesty I am a perfectionist so when I don’t do something well the first time, I will try my hardest to be better the next time. The Data Analysis was challenging because I had to teach Excel and help students at the same time. Thank goodness I had Eric to help me because that module went pretty smoothly. The main reason why it was my favorite was because I showed the students different tasks Excel can do and afterwards they wanted to use it for every subject. I believe that is what teaching should be about:present a new idea/method and opening up a student’s mind to new possibilities.

     The first module had a lot of information and we had to make it as informative and concise as possible. I had to look up the information online and watch YouTube videos to gain a better understanding of the material. I am a visual learner so I played an online game that helped in learning the material. I was also able to go to our instructors to help me gain a better understanding of the why should we care section and how to explain the photosynthesis and respiration. I also took the advice of our instructors and taught each module to my family and some friends. Since they had no idea what each topic was about, I was able to gauge the type of questions I would have to answer. I was also able to gauge the length of each module so that I knew the type of pace I should have. I used activities like the vinegar & balloon experiment, questions on index cards and a carbon footprint worksheet. What truly helped the most was being able to view the instructors and my classmates teach the modules. This was a great strategy to see what tools I would need to bring, the classroom setting and the mesocosm I would work with. The least effective strategy was practicing the presentation by myself at first. This wasn’t helpful because I was unable to know what I was doing right/wrong. The way that the mock modules were setup was helpful because I had my own day to present and got feedback from my instructors and classmates. I also was able to try the activities with them to see whether or not they were interested in doing them. Afterwards, I was able to tweek my modules using the critiques and had successful presentations.

     I really enjoyed coming to this class because it was only four students and four instructors. The instructors made me feel welcome and less intimidated. They are students as well and were understanding to everyone’s schedule. I really liked the lecture from the school of education and future class should have that same lecture. It would help them to feel more at ease about presenting. I liked the recycling lecture and maybe in the future a class trip to the Richmond landfill would put in perspective what happens to our trash. The blogs each week really helped because it was interesting to see different ideas that we had on a topic. The blogs also helped me in citing articles better. Also when we had to put our poster together, we were able to use the articles from our blogs. I really liked the TED talks on the instructors’ blog. They opened my mind to the future of technology. I especially like the “green” apartment building.Another aspect of the course I liked was going to the Rice Center. I knew it existed but never had the opportunity to go there. It would have been nice to go to the Rice Center for our modules. However, I liked the way that everything was broken down into three parts instead of two because I did not feel rushed to get through the material. I liked the idea of doing the mock Data Analysis module in pairs and maybe this could be done in the classroom as well.

     Now that I have done the course I know the carbon carbon inside and out! I am able to teach random people about it. I have changed my habits a little bit after completing the carbon footprint worksheet.I am more conscious about my carbon footprint and by changing a few bad habits I know my score is much lower than the first score. I learned the different colors of carbon, which was very cool. I plan to use my presentation skills to sell myself for job/school interviews. I am also more aware of climate change in the news. Knowing what I know now about greenhouse gases, I am able to tell my friends and family the truth about what is really going on as opposed to what the media is saying. Studies have shown that the media relay deceitful information about global warming(Liu et al, 2008). It is up to us as scientists to inform others of the reality of what is happening to our environment.

     I am glad that this class is offered as a Senior Captone because it helped to reinforce what my future goal is (to become a doctor) and more confidence in myself. I have the skills to become a better researcher and better biologist.

Liu, Xinsheng, Arnold Vedlitz, and Letitia Alston. “Regional News   Portrayals of Global Warming and Climate Change.” Environmental Science & Policy 11.5 (2008): 379-93.


Know Learn Apply

I have learned about the carbon cycle in elementary school. I was taught the basics about photosynthesis and respiration. As I got older I would learn a little more about it but my teachers did not spend too much time going over it. For my college biology courses, I learned about photosynthesis and respiration but not about how carbon is cycled through them. Due to the time constraints and pressures of getting through required chapters for the semester, my professors would highlight what they felt was important for us to learn. The carbon cycle was not one of them.

One thing I found out about myself this semester is I love doing research on anything new. I do this in all aspects of my life. Whenever I am buying something, I find myself on the internet for hours making sure I could find it at the best price and quality. Before starting this course, I did a lot of research on what the carbon cycle is. I did not really understand everything but at least having some knowledge wouldn’t hurt. When the course first started, I had no idea how important carbon was to our environment. I’ve taken organic chemistry and learned all about carbon molecules and what other molecules they bind with. Throughout this course I have been able to relate it to my everyday life and I am able to teach family and friends about it. I learned that carbon we use carbon all day every day. I finally understood the meaning of a carbon footprint and I have been more conscious about lowering my carbon footprint. Before calculating my carbon footprint, I would leave a few on my lights on, let my shower water run for at least 3 minutes before I would get in, most of my appliances would stay plugged into the outlet all day. Now I try to remember to turn off any lights or appliances that are not in use. I usually walk to school but now I also walk to and from the supermarket unless I have heavy items.

At first I felt that teaching highschool students about the carbon cycle would be an impossible task because not every students may feel that it is interesting. As I gained more knowledge and started to care more about our carbon output, I realized that it would not be as impossible as I once thought. When you are passionate about a topic, others will see it and will pay attention to you. Using technology as a teaching tool was a great help. Usually when students learn everything is centered around the teacher. The teacher would give a lecture and also give the students the materials needed to learn a topic (Kolikant,2012). I believe that it is important for a student to gain hands-on experience with a topic so that they could have a better understanding of it. When I taught my students, I engaged them throughout my presentation so that I could gauge their understanding. Using my powerpoint presentation, I used some animations and visuals so that the lecture would not be so dry. When teaching the carbon cycle it is important to speak about the basics, such as the carbon reservoirs, the regulating processes and carbon sources. It is also important to speak about why you and other people should care. You can talk about a subject until you are blue in the face but if you do not show that you care about it, others will not care as well.

After this class is done, I plan to use what I have learned on a daily basis. My mother loves hearing about what I learn in this course. I have already taught them about what a carbon footprint is and how they can decrease theirs. Since my career will be in healthcare, I plan to teach my future patients about how they can maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercise and better eating habits.

I found a video about Chevron dontating over $100 million to schools for science education. This touched me because I remember my love of science started with an elementary school teacher who let my class do really interesting experiments. She taught us to think outside of the box and that there are many ways to get a correct answer. I plan to use that lesson when I become a physician.

Work Cited

Ben-David Kolikant, Yifat. “Using ICT for School Purposes: Is there a Student-School Disconnect?” Computers & Education 59.3 (2012): 907-14.


Super Crabs Could Disrupt Chesapeake Bay’s Ecosystem|main5|dl6|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D296086

Coined super crabs, the ocean dwellers bulking up as a result of the waters’ high levels of carbon pollution have anything but a hero’s story

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Blog Reflection: ReCyCLiNg!!!!


On April 1, 2013 we had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Nancy Drumheller about recycling. She is the Public Information Coordinator. I was interested in listening to her presentation since I usually recycle.  I also took the Environmental Pollution course so I had some idea about what can and cannot be recycled in the Greater Richmond area.  Mrs. Drumheller engaged all of us during her presentation and presented some facts I already knew, for example the different classes of plastic. I was surprised to find out that each person creates 4.43 pounds of garbage every day. I had to think long and hard about what I used over the past few days. I could not believe that every day I threw away 4.43 pounds of cash. The most interesting part of the presentation was learning about what a landfill was, how it operates and what happened when it reached its capacity. I liked that the CVWMA took initiative in getting people more interested in recycling.  I thought that if more people knew the benefits of recycling then more people would not feel that it is a chore.  Many individuals in the 18-25 age bracket  feel that recycling is a chore. Also not everyone knows what you can and cannot recycle. For example the CVWMA does not accept pizza boxes with grease stains on them since they cannot be reused. After learning this fact, I now throw away my pizza box in the regular trash. Another reason why those who are 18-25 may not recycle could be because they would have to drop-off their trash instead of having curbside service due to where they live (BioCycle,1996).

An incentive program may be a great solution to encourage people to participate. However, this would not be enough. We watched an informative video on the types of recycling programs offered by CVWMA. They are curbside recycling, drop-off service, and electronics recycling. It looked so simple and easy and I wondered why more people don’t take more advantage of this? One suggestion could be to make a commercial that shows shock value. When people see the dangers of not recycling and the impact it could have on us and our environment on the long run, then maybe this would encourage people to recycle more.

If we had time in our schedule, we could have a class trip to the landfill to see how it operates.  I’ve always been a little curious to know how out trash gets recycled and what new products they could be made into.

Coca Cola Recycling<—I love Coca Cola so I thought watching a video on what happens to all the cans I drink was insightful.

R.S. Filling the gaps with dropoff recycling. Biocycle [serial online]. September 1996;37(9):36. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 9, 2013.





Blog Reflection: Data Analysis/Excel Presentation Follow-Up

Last Friday, Emily and I did the Data Analysis/Excel presentation. To be honest this was not one of my better presentations. I guess the strength of our presentation was the fact that we were able to keep pushing through our presentation regardless of how many mistakes were made throughout our talk. Our weaknesses were we were not as prepared as we thought. Emily and I practiced for a few days prior to our presentation. We divided up the slides we felt that we were most confident on and then reviewed how to do the excel portion. I have used excel before and I thought it would be a piece of cake to be able to walk the rest of the class through it. The reality was I needed to practice how to teach it more. I also need to use the slides since they are a great tool in explaining how to use excel. I know that I need to not assume that my audience knows what I am talking about. Eric gave us a great tip: Pretend that there are 5 students who missed the carbon cycle lecture and try to catch them up to speed in 5 minutes. I know that will be a challenge for me but I am up to the task. I have already done a presentation of the data analysis with my mother and brother and it was much smoother than when I presented on Friday. Another challenge we have is to do the data analysis presentation without a partner. I like the idea of having a partner since there is a lot to do for this presentation. However, we will still have help the day we are teaching the highschool students anyway.

Mariah and Luke did their presentation first and their presentation was not as disastrous as Emily and I. They divided their presentation like we did but theirs was definitely smoother. They were able to explain the slides and walk us through excel without many corrections. We all have improvements to make but I’m confident we will all improve on our excel skills.

Simon Mills article “Who’s A Smartie??” gave me more insight on how to engage the students in using excel.Mills used an interactive white boards which helped him involve his students in making graphs and using excel.  One point that stood out to me was making a connection with the activity and the students. I realized that I have to know the data analysis/excel as thoroughly as possible   and also be interested in what I am presenting. When I show interest then the students will not feel that what I am saying is boring.



Blog Reflection: Future Healthcare Provider

So far I have learned a lot about myself while attending the CAP course. When I first came in I was apprehensive about what I had to learn and the fact that I would be giving presentations throughout the course. I approached the course with a positive attitude and was put at ease by the few instructors that we have. I know that with my goal of working in the healthcare field that I would constantly be talking to a room of my peers and/or patients. My goal is to become a physician. I’ve known I wanted to become one since I was four years old. I love science and I love problem solving but I detested public speaking. This class has helped me to approach speaking in public not as a burden but as an interesting exercise. Our instructors gave us students tools on how to make an interesting and interactive presentation. When I had to give a mock presentation to my class, I was given critical feedback on how to make my presentation better. I have learned that the best way to make sure I know a topic is to be able to teach it to someone else who has no clue as to what you are speaking of. I learned that I am good at articulating my point. By relaxing more, I am able to let my personality shine through and in turn this makes others more comfortable around me and listen to what I have to say. I’ve also learned not to talk at someone but to relate something to them so that they have a better understanding of what I am speaking of.

Over the next few months I will be preparing to take the MCATs, finish up my medical school applications, and going on interviews. The interview process is very important because this is where admissions officers get to know who I am as a person and not just what I put on paper. With what I have learned in this class, I feel more confident with marketing myself and showing the admissions officer that I belong at their school.

After graduating medical school I want to be a family doctor. I would like to implement a healthy living program for families in my hometown that would be simple and fun to follow. Learning about the carbon cycle and the simple steps we can take to decrease our carbon output, I would like to teach others that they do not have to give up their material possessions but that they can use it in more energy efficient ways. I believe that it is important for children to learn at an early age how they can not only live a healthy life but help to maintain their environment. Once it is instilled in them, then it would be second nature to them.


I found an article by Demark and Becker called “The doctor-patient relationshipand counseling for preventative care” that spoke on the emphasis of having a good rapport between a doctor an patient. This article encourages doctors to be able to provide better counseling on a disease a patient has and to find ways to help the patient cope and live a healthier lifestyle. I believe it is very important for a doctor to be able to relate to their patients. You do not necessarily need to have a similiar background but at least show that you do care no matter how outlandish the situation is. I hope to demonstrate this when I finally become a physician.

Here is a link to the article: The doctor-patient relationship and counseling for preventive care





Hypotheses for Carbon Consumption Experiment

We are now beginning to do our research project on dissolved organic carbon (DOC). We are using 2 different mesocosms, one in an open field and one in the forest, and we are also using a vernal pool that is in the forest. For this experiment we are going to determine how much DOC is consumed by bacteria over a 28 day period.

For my hypothesis on the forested mesocosm,  bacteria will not consume a great portion of DOC due to the amount of allochthonous carbon that reside in it.Allocthonous carbon have a hard exterior and specific structure which makes it harder for the bacteria to eat.

For the sunny mesocosm, I hypothesize bacteria will consume a majority of DOC. This is because bacteria would rather eat autochthonous carbon since they have a soft exterior and no specific structure.

For the vernal pool, I hypothesize that DOC consumption will be higher than the forested mesocosm because it is located in the forest and partially in the sun. There are plenty of leaves in the vernal pool. These leaves are considered to be an allochthonous form of carbon just like in the forested mesocosm.

I found an article by Yang et al called “Modelling geochemical and microbial consumption of dissolved oxygen after backfilling a high level radiactive waste repository”. The authors performed a similar experiment to what we are conductiong. However, the scientist are using an underground lab to conduct their research. What I found interesting was that an excess amount of dissolved oxygen can deteriorate a radioactive waste container when left for a period of time.

Here’s a link to the article:Modelling geochemical and microbial consumption of dissolved oxygen after backfilling a high level radiactive waste repository


Here’s a vernal pool simialr to the one we are experimenting on at the Rice Center:



Carbon Cycling in the News

Most recently I learned about the Forward on Climate Rally in Washington,D.C. I was made aware of this on the news and by Mariah as well. I thought this was pretty interesting because I did not know so much about the pipeline. I was under the impression that it would be built in Canada and run up to Nebraska and it would be a safe and beneficial way to transport oil. This coming from TransCanada. The State Department supports TransCanada by saying that there is no major danger with the pipeline being built. However, after I read about both sides of the argument, I realized that this pipeline is not safe and would cause major damage. Also this would cause people along the pipeline route to lose their homes and farmers could lose their crops. Bill McKibben of used an interesting term to describe the pipeline as “one of the planet’s biggest carbon bombs”. Now that was a really intense way to describe it but I agree. If this pipeline were to break, this could cause an abundant amount of CO2 into the atmosphere and pose more threats to our environment. This actually would be a great addition to my presentation because since this is an ongoing issue, the highschool students are more likely to care about it and do their own research about it.

Jamie Henn, the Co-Founder and Communications Director of, wrote a blog about the rally and he had an interesting perspective on it. Reading his blog made me wish that I attended the rally. He described that the rally was able to unite most of the environmental organizations all over the nation. It’s amazing to see children are able to understand what is going on and take a stand on climate change. People of different races and ethnic backgrounds are able to come together peacefully and urge the President to uphold his promises to decrease climate change and endorse green energy.

Here is the link to the Forward on Climate Rally:

‘Forward On Climate’ Rally Brings Climate Change Activists To National Mall In Washington, D.C.

Here is the Link to Jamie Henn’s Blog:

40,000+ Join ‘Forward on Climate’ Rally in Washington, DC

Here is a link to TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline project:

Keystone XL Pipeline Progect

Forward on Climate Rally

Forward on Climate Rally


Presentation Reflection

So I finally did my presentation on the Carbon Cycle and I can honestly say I was nervous to present. I already watched Luke and Emily present theirs and both were really helpful.  As an audience member, I was able to give feedback on their presentations and take away some helpful tips on how to improve my presentation. Luke’s presentation was really good because of all of his animations and he seemed at ease with what he was talking about. Emily brought new ideas on the why should we care section and that was definitely her strong point. I especially thought her ending was interesting and left me with something to think about.

I have to say that I was tweaking my PowerPoint up until the moment I had to present because I wanted to make sure I did a good job. As soon as I started my introduction, I found that I was a little less nervous and felt confident in what I was doing. The strengths of my presentation would have to be my PowerPoint being consistent, bright and colorful, and I was able to explain the heart of the concept which was Photosynthesis and Respiration. The weaknesses of my presentation would be that I didn’t take my time walking through the equations for Photosynthesis and Respiration and not get the results I expected from the vinegar and baking soda experiment. I could improve on my presentation by taking my time to explain the diagrams a little more and slowing down when I speak and not let the nervousness take over if something goes wrong.  I believe that right now I still would practice my presentation a few more times before I speak to the highschool studens. I believe that they will be interested in what I’m presenting to them because the slides are not full of words and they are also doing activities from the time I start my introduction to right at the end when I give them a simple worksheet they can take home.

Thanks to the class we had about how to make a PowerPoint, I was able to make my presentation interesting. I never had to put animation in a PowerPoint before so it was cool to be able to make one that wasn’t bland. The only part that threw me off was the wrong numbers I got after weighing the containers of vinegar. It really threw me off but I hope I didn’t look too flustered when that occurred. I have to come up with a better explanation if this occurs again.

I found an interesting article called “Teachers As Artists: A Reading Of John Dewey’s Art As Experience” by Ailing Kong.  This article stood out to me because it described teaching as an art. I am left-handed and being that left-handed people are often described as being artistic, this article stood out to me. Kong used John Dewey’s book “ Art as Experience” to describe her journey as a novice teacher. The section titled “Teaching as art” was interesting in that it takes great courage to be able to teach and inspire your students. Being able to make the Carbon Cycle our own presentation, we are able to put our own unique spin on it. Each of us have interesting ways to teach the highschool students about carbon and why we care so much. Hopefully they walk away with a better understanding of it and are able to make some changes in their lives to better our environment.



John Dewey


Blog Reflection: Misconceptions in Science

Last Friday we heard a presentation from Dr. Edmondson about Misconceptions in Science. I actually enjoyed her presentation because I never realized how many misconceptions there are in science. There was an exercise that was done at the beginning which tested our knowledge on basic science questions. My partner, Emily and I only got 1 question wrong! The point of the exercise was to recognize that we must be careful in the way we state facts. Since us undergraduate students will be teaching the Carbon Cycle to highschool students, it is imperative that we properly communicate the information with them. The video about the Harvard University graduates who could not answer a simple question about how an acorn becomes a log was very interesting. Harvard is an institution that has mainly the best and the brightest students. To see that these intellectuals were unable to answer the question was very shocking and puzzling. The video also had professors from various universities who all agreed that our misconception about scientific facts starts as early as elementary school. If we are not able to grasp the information at an early age, then it will be difficult to understand the proper information as we get older.

I was not too surprised about the misconceptions because I realized that I had some before I started Carbon Capstone. I have found that I am getting better at using the proper phrases on explaining the Carbon Cycle. Now I know that in order to have a great presentation I need to engage the class in conversation. Dr. Edmondson gave out a checklist which I deemed to be very helpful. The checklist is called Goals for Productive Discussions and Nine Talk Moves. This is very helpful for me to be able to get the students thinking and challenge them to form their own ideas about the concepts. Another helpful tip was to ask students at the beginning of my presentation about their ideas on the Carbon Cycle so that I could gauge their level of understanding. One question I had was what should I do in case a student asked me a question that I did not know the answer to. Dr. Edmondson gave a great tip which I would definitely use. Her tip was to put the question back on to the students and not to admit that I do not know the answer. This was a very clever idea. One part of the presentation of the that would help the highschool students would be the using the chemical kits on the mesocosms at the Rice Center.

There is an interesting article about misconceptions of biology concepts called “Determination of student misconceptions in “photosynthesis and respiration” unit and correcting them with the help of cai material” by by Esra Keles and Pinar Kefeli (2010). Keles and Kefeli state that using computer assisted instruction would decrease misconceptions on photosynthesis and respiration. It was very similar to Dr. Edmondson’s presentation. However, the only difference was using computer animations and on-screen tutors to capture the students’ attention. This could be a helpful solution, however, it could cause teachers to fully rely on the computer and not their own knowledge about the topic.

Here’s the link to this article

Photosynthesis cartoon

Photosynthesis cartoon 2