ACADEMIC BRIEFS: High School Biology, MAJ Mike Pemberton & Rachel Yim


Pemberton began the lesson with the white swamp oak, a tree commonly used for furniture and flooring and named for its “musty” leaves which have a “basement smell.” As cadets took rubbings of the swamp oak’s leaves, Pemberton told cadets that, according to a core sample taken last school year, the tree is about 250 years old.

Up next was the chinquapin oak which, like the rare ginkgo tree growing near the middle school building, was planted by past MMA students. The extract of the dioecious ginkgo tree, which is common in China and Japan, is often used as an herbal remedy for memory recall.

Cadets next stopped to admire the white ash tree, which boasts hard bark with few knots. According to Pemberton, white ash wood is perfect for manufacturing baseball bats, skateboards, rowing oars and gun stocks. Unlike the smooth white ash tree, the hackberry tree growing on MMA’s front lawn features tumor-like burls near its base. Though the growths appear ugly at first glance, their wood can be sold for hundreds of dollars and is used to carve decorative items such as coffee tables.

MMA’s front campus also features the slow-growing pin oak; a redbud tree; a fungus-infected sweetgum shade tree; and a “nuisance” cedar tree whose sweet-smelling sap intrigued admirers Rory Davis ‘17 and James Myrick ’18.

In late August, Pemberton’s biology cadets also conducted an acid/base lab focused on problem solving, data collection, and understanding the steps of the scientific method.
On August 26, science instructor Rachel Yim's classes completed the Breakout EDU challenge, an educational escape room simulation.

Breakout EDU games teach critical thinking, teamwork and complex problem solving. Players have a fixed amount of time to solve a series of challenges and riddles using Items such as directional locks, blacklights, invisible ink pens and flash drives.

“We had to solve a lot of different puzzles and each one opened a different lock on a huge box with 4-5 locks on it. It was really fun and kind of challenging for our class,” Yim’s student Clifton Cline ’20 said. “The items [inside] were the "antivirus" to the zombie virus we were trying to defeat. The "antivirus" was Jolly Ranchers.”

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