Thursday night, nearly all thirty-six MCS students crowded into the science lab on the lower floor of the Allen Center. You might ask why so many of us were packed into a single room. The answer? The second Species Test. For the second time this semester, Rhan Flatin, our Natural History teacher, organized an accumulative exam to test our ability to recognize some of the animal and plant species native to Maine.
One entered the science lab the night before the exam to see classmates bustling around the black tables and countertops, across which samples of small and large mammals, twigs and shrubs, and test tubes of stoneflies and dragonflies were spread. Some students were clearly in a panic. One girl placed the small mammals in species pairs, masked shrew with short-tailed shrew, meadow vole with red-backed vole, mumbling the names to herself in a frenzy. Others brought a calmer attitude to the studying experience. Music was playing from a computer sitting in the corner, and some chatting and dancing ensued as groups of students came up with tricks for memorizing the characteristics of certain twigs. The buds of the moose maple trees look like little moose hooves paired on the sides of the twig. Christmas ferns look like no other fern, they’re a “surprise,” like the ones you get on Christmas. 9:30 rolled around finally, and students trickled slowly out of the room and back to their cabins for the night.
The next day, Friday, we all triumphantly took the test during class, this time observing the species with a little less chaos and no dancing. Many remarked that being able to identify twigs like this was in some ways exhilarating and most left the exam-room proud and smiling.
-Sarah Consagra & Claire Saint-Donat, New York, NY