Monday, 20 May 2019

Great Summer Creative Writing Programs for High School Students.

Great Summer Creative Writing Programs for High School Students.
Great Summer Creative Writing Programs for High School Students.

Summer is a terrific time to focus on your creative writing. A summer program gives you the opportunity to develop your writing skills, meet like-minded students, and gain an impressive line on your activities resumé. Below you'll find some excellent summer creative writing programs for high school students.

Emerson College Creative Writers Workshop

Emerson College

Emerson’s Creative Writers Workshop is a five-week program for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to develop their writing skills in a variety of media, including fiction, poetry, screenwriting, graphic novels, and magazine writing. Participants attend college-level writing classes exploring these genres and write and present their own work, creating a final portfolio of their writing, contributing to the workshop’s anthology, and presenting a reading for family and friends. On-campus housing for the duration of the workshop is available.

Alfred University Creative Writing Camp

The Steinheim at Alfred University

This summer writing program introduces rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to many different genres, including poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, and drama. Students read and discuss the work of established authors and participate in writing-intensive exercises and workshop sessions led by Alfred University faculty members. Campers stay in university housing and enjoy a variety of recreational activities outside of classes and workshops, such as movie nights, games, and social gatherings. The program runs for five days at the end of June.

Sarah Lawrence College Summer Writers Workshop for High School Students

Rothschild, Garrison, and Taylor Residence Halls (left to right) at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY

This program is a one-week, non-residential summer workshop for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to explore the process of creative writing in a non-competitive, non-judgmental environment. Participants have the opportunity to attend small writing and theater workshops led by faculty and guest writers and theater artists, as well as attend and participate in readings. Classes are limited to 15 students with three faculty leaders per workshop to provide individual attention for each student.

Sewanee Young Writers Conference

McClurg Hall at Sewanee: The University of the South

This two-week residential program, offered by The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, provides dedicated rising high school sophomore, junior, and senior creative writers an opportunity to develop and polish their writing skills. The conference includes workshops in playwriting, fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction led by celebrated professional writers as well as visiting writers whose works students analyze and discuss. Participants select one writing genre and spend their two weeks attending a small workshop dedicated to that genre, with opportunities for one-on-one contact with workshop leaders. Students also participate in lectures, readings, and discussions.

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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Quartzite Rock Geology and Uses

Quartzite Rock Geology and Uses
Quartzite Rock Geology and Uses

Quartzite is a nonfoliated metamorphic rock that consists mostly of quartz. It's usually a white to pale gray rock, but occurs in other colors, including red and pink (from iron oxide), yellow, blue, green, and orange. The rock has a grainy surface with a sandpaper texture, but polishes to a glassy shine.

Key Takeaways: Quartzite Rock

  • Quartzite is a hard, nonfoliated metamorphic rock formed by the action of heat and pressure upon sandstone.
  • Usually, the rock is white or gray, but it occurs in other pale colors. It has a grainy, rough surface. Magnification reveals a mosaic of quartz crystals.
  • Pure quartzite consists entirely of silicon dioxide, but usually iron oxide and trace minerals are present.
  • Quartzite occurs in folded mountain ranges at convergent plate boundaries worldwide.

How Quartzite Forms

Quartzite forms when pure or nearly pure quartz sandstone undergoes heating and pressure. Usually this is caused by tectonic compression. The sand grains of sandstone melt and recrystallize, cemented together by silica.
Quartzite arenite is the intermediate stage between sandstone and quartzite. Arenite is still considered to be a sedimentary rock, but it has an extremely high quartz content. However, it's difficult to identify the transition from sandstone to quartzite. Some geologists use the term "quartzite" to refer to metamorphic rocks consisting almost exclusively of quartz. Here, quartzite is identified by the way it fractures across grain boundaries, while arenite breaks around them. Other geologists simply identify "quartzite" as a tightly-cemented rock found above or below a band of sedimentary quartz rock.

Quartzite Composition

Quartzite consists almost entirely of silicon dioxide, SiO2. If the purity is about 99% SiO2, the rock is called orthquartzite. Otherwise, quartzite commonly contains iron oxide and may contain trace amounts of the minerals rutile, zircon, and magnetite. Quartzite may contain fossils.


Quartzite has a Mohs hardness of 7, which is comparable to that of quartz and considerably harder than sandstone. Like glass and obsidian, it breaks with a conchoidal fracture. Its coarse texture makes it difficult to hone to a fine edge. Under magnification, quartzite's interlocking crystal structure becomes apparent.

Magnified thin section of quartzite displays its mineralogy.

Where to Find Quartzite

Quartzite forms at convergent tectonic plate boundaries. Converging plates bury sandstone and exert compression. As the boundary folds, mountains arise. Thus, quartzite is found in folded mountain ranges worldwide. While erosion weathers softer rock away, quartzite remains, forming peaks and cliffs. The rock also litters mountain sides as scree.

Quartzite cliffs surround Lake Oberon in Tasmania, Australia.

In the United States, you can find quartzite in eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, the Wasatch Range of Utah, the Baraboo Range of Wisconsin, Central Texas, near Washington, D.C., portions of Pennsylvania, and the mountains of Arizona and California. The town of Quartzite in Arizona takes its name from the rock in the nearby mountains.
Quartzite occurs throughout the United Kingdom, the La Cloche Mountains in Canada, the Rhenish Massif in Continental Europe, Brazil, Poland, and the Chimanimani Plateau of Mozambique.


Quartzite's strength and toughness lends itself to many uses. Crushed quartzite is used in road construction and for railway ballast. It is used to make roofing tiles, stairs, and flooring. When cut and polished, the rock is quite beautiful, as well as durable. It is used to make kitchen countertops and decorative walls. High-purity quartzite is used to make silica sand, ferrosilicon, silicon carbide, and silicon. Paleolithic humans sometimes made stone tools out of quartzite, although it was harder to work than flint or obsidian.

Quartzite Versus Quartz and Marble

Quartzite is a metamorphic rock, while quartz is an igneous rock that crystallizes from magma or precipiates around hydrothermal vents. Sandstone under pressure becomes quartz arenite and quartzite, but quartzite does not become quartz. The construction industry further complicates the matter. If you buy "quartz" for countertops, it is actually an engineered material made from crushed quartz, resin, and pigments and not the natural rock.
Another rock commonly confused with quartzite is marble. Both quartzite and marble tend to be pale-colored, non-foliated rock. Despite having a similar appearance, marble is a metamorphic rock made from recrystallized carbonate minerals, not silicates. Marble is softer than quartzite. An excellent test to distinguish the two is to apply a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to the rock. Quartzite is impervious to weak acid etching, but marble will bubble and retain a mark.

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Sunday, 12 May 2019

New Mexico National Parks: Ancestral Pueblo History, Unique Geology.

New Mexico National Parks: Ancestral Pueblo History, Unique Geology.
New Mexico National Parks: Ancestral Pueblo History, Unique Geology.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Aztec Ruins National Monument preserves the remains of an Ancestral Pueblo (formerly Anasazi) village on the terraces of the Animas River. The site was called Aztec because early settlers believed that the Aztecs had built it, but it was actually constructed several hundred years before the Aztec civilization's time.
Built and used between 1100 and 1300 CE, Aztec Ruins includes several Pueblo Great Houses, the largest containing 400 masonry rooms. Several rooms still contain the original beams of pine, spruce, and aspen extracted from the distant mountains. Those beams are sufficiently intact and are used to peg the chronology of the occupation using dendrochonology (tree rings). 
Each great house has a great kiva, a large circular subterranean chamber used for ceremonies, and room blocks built around an open plaza. Three unique above-ground kivas encircled by three concentric walls can be found at Aztec Ruins. The Ancestral Puebloan people also built roads, earthen berms, and platforms, as well as irrigation ditches to sustain an agriculture based on the "three sisters" of corn, beans, and squash. 
At an elevation between 5,630–5,820 feet above sea level, the environment of the ruins is a diverse habitat of grasslands, piñon pine, and juniper trees, supporting a wide variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Bandelier National Monument

Cave Dwellings in New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument, located near Los Alamos, was named after anthropologist Adolph Bandelier, who was taken to the ruins by Jose Montoya of Cochiti Pueblo in 1880. Montoya told Bandelier that these were the home of his ancestors, and archaeological research supports Cochiti oral history.  
The park is set at the southern end of the Pajarito Plateau, a region formed by volcanic eruptions about 1.5 million years ago. Several rivers cut narrow canyons into the plateau, which eventually empty into the Rio Grande River. Between 1150–1550 CE, the Ancestral Pueblo people built homes in the canyon walls carved out of the volcanic tuff, as well as masonry houses along the rivers and on the top of the mesas.
Bandelier contains the Bandelier Wilderness, a protected area of diverse habitats, including piñon-juniper woodlands, ponderosa pine savannas, mixed conifer forests, desert grasslands, montane meadows, and riparian areas in the canyon bottoms.

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin Volcano National Monument, in the northeastern part of the state, near Capulin, is dedicated to the preservation of the geological landscape created by a 60,000-year-old volcanic eruption. Capulin is the Mexican-Spanish name for chokecherry trees, a common sight at the park. 
Capulin contains the cinder cone and crater lake of the now-extinct volcano, lava flows, tuff rings, domes and part of the immense andesite shield volcano called Sierra Grande. The volcano is part of the Raton-Clayton volcanic field, the eastern most Cenozoic-era volcanic field in the United States. The field is presently dormant, with no activity in the past 30,000-40,000 years. 
The location of a volcanic field in the interior of a continental plate rather than at its edges has been attributed to the Rio Grande rift, an elongated valley of rifting that extends from Colorado to central Mexico. The park combines the great plains and forests of the Rocky Mountains, harboring 73 species of birds, as well as mule deer, elk, black bears, coyotes, and mountain lions.

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Thursday, 9 May 2019

Northern Leopard Frog Facts

Northern Leopard Frog Facts
Northern Leopard Frog Facts

The song of the northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens) is a sure sign of spring in North America. While the northern leopard frog is one of the most abundant and widespread frogs within its region, its population has declined so significantly that it's no longer found within parts of its range.

Fast Facts: Northern Leopard Frog

  • Scientific NameLithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens
  • Common Names: Northern leopard frog, meadow frog, grass frog
  • Basic Animal Group: Amphibian
  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Weight: 0.5-2.8 ounces
  • Lifespan: 2-4 years
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Habitat: United States and Canada
  • Population: Hundreds of thousands or millions
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern


The northern leopard frog gets its name from the greenish-brown irregular spots on its back and legs. Most of the frogs are green or brown with spots and pearly while undersides. However, there are other color morphs. Frogs with the burnsi color morph lack spots or only have them on their legs. Albino northern leopard frogs also occur.
The northern leopard frog is a medium to large frog. Adults range from 3 to 5 inches in length and weigh between one half and 2.8 ounces. Mature females are larger than males.

Some morphs of the northern leopard frog lack spots.

Habitat and Distribution

Northern leopard frogs live near marshes, lakes, streams, and ponds from southern Canada through the northern United States and south into New Mexico and Arizona in the West and Kentucky in the East. In the summer, the frogs often venture further from the water and may be found in meadows, fields, and pastures. The southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephala) occupies the southeastern United States and is similar in appearance to the northern leopard frog except that its head is more pointed and its spots tend to be smaller.

Diet and Behavior

Tadpoles eat algae and rotting vegetable matter, but adult frogs are opportunistic predators that eat anything that will fit within their mouths. The northern leopard frog sits and waits for prey to come near. Once the target is within range, the frog leaps and snatches it up with its long, sticky tongue. Common prey includes small mollusks (snails and slugs), worms, insects (e.g., ants, beetles, crickets, leafhoppers), and other vertebrates (small birds, snakes, and smaller frogs).
The frogs do not produce offensive or toxic skin secretions, so they are preyed upon by numerous species. These include raccoons, snakes, birds, foxes, humans, and other frogs.

Reproduction and Offspring

Northern leopard frogs breed in the spring from March to June. Males make a snore-like, rumbling call to attract females. Once the female selects a male, the pair mates once. After mating, the female lays up to 6500 eggs in the water. The eggs are gelatinous and round with darker centers. The eggs hatch into tadpoles that are pale brown with black spots. The rate of hatching and development depends on temperature and other conditions, but development from egg to adult typically takes between 70 and 110 days. In this time, the tadpoles gain size, develop lungs, grow legs, and eventually lose their tails.

Conservation Status

The IUCN classifies the northern leopard frog's conservation status as "least concern." Researchers estimate hundreds of thousand or millions of the frogs live in North America. However, the population has been rapidly declining since the early 1970s, especially in the Rocky Mountains. Laboratory research suggests a possible explanation for regional decline relates to the effect of higher-than-normal temperatures on crowding and bacterial infection. Other threats include habitat loss, competition and predation by introduced species (especially bullfrogs), hormonal effects of agricultural chemicals (e.g., atrazine), hunting, trapping for research and the pet trade, pollution, severe weather, and climate change.

Northern Leopard Frogs and Humans

Northern leopard frogs are widely kept in captivity for science education, medical research, and as pets. Educators use the frog for dissection, to teach about how muscles are used for different modes of locomotion (swimming and jumping), and to study biomechanics. The sartorius muscle of the frog remains alive in vitro for several hours, allowing experimentation on muscle and neuron physiology. The frog produces a type of enzyme called ribonucleases that are used to treat cancer, including brain tumors, lung tumors, and pleural mesothelioma. Northern leopard frogs are popular pets because they prefer temperatures that are comfortable to humans and eat readily available prey.

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