Monday, October 22, 2012

2012 Photo Report #5: Campus & Classrooms

NOTE: You can left-click on any picture to enlarge it and/or view all the photos as a slideshow.  (Most definitely you will want to enlarge the pictures of the GIANT SPIDER I found while out walking the property!)

We are all looking forward to the day when the first PROJECT BUCHANAN school building is completed, so that classes can begin here on the new campus--perhaps as early as next school year!

This is what can be seen of the PROJECT BUCHANAN property from a hill not far away.  The building off to the left is not on our land, but the blue roof is a giveaway--that's the house where the New Jersey team worked so hard this summer, putting in windows and ceilings.

Since this is a clear sunny day--which is not that common in the middle of the rainy season--, let's go for a short walk along the water's edge on the PROJECT BUCHANAN property.

The tropical morning air is humid and still, and the Benson River on the south shore is quiet and peaceful.  This view down an overgrown trail is particularly beautiful.

From higher ground on the rounded ridge of the peninsula, the view down to the water and across to the other side is pristine.  Rarely is a day in the humid tropics as clear as this!

Suddenly I notice something suspended motionless between the branches of the trees.  Wow!  That must be one of the largest spiders I have ever seen!  We will have to come here later to check this out!

Well finally... here I am in one of these many report pictures!  Actually, this is a flashback to 2010, when Paula and I were in Liberia for the summer.  So she must have taken this shot...

...and now I guess I have the camera back!  On this overcast afternoon, Paula and I were having a look at the footings that had just been cast for the first PROJECT BUCHANAN school building.

We were already excited!  From that 100-ft X 30-ft concrete rectangle in the ground would rise the walls of the first classrooms on the new campus...

...and now, two years later, here are those walls!  When we arrived in Buchanan this summer, Flomo was just finishing this work!

This is the west end of the school, with the front of the building (right) overlooking the river down the slope.

This photo, and the next two, pan the front of the school (from left to right).  Each of the four classrooms in this building is about 30 ft X 24 ft, and each one can be entered from the 6-ft-wide "porch corridor" that runs along the front of the building, between the two end classrooms.

At the center of the building, between the two middle classrooms, there is a breezeway (right half of photo) going from the front porch to the back of the school.

The two classrooms at the east end of the building are pretty much a mirror image of the two classrooms at the west end.

The view here is from the east-end classroom, out the door and down the front porch to the west-end classroom door.  (In temperate parts of the US, schools typically have an inside hallway, or corridor, with classrooms on both sides; but that design does not work well in a warm humid climate, where continuous airflow through the classrooms is an absolute 'must'.)

Because the building is only one classroom wide and there is a breezeway between the two middle classrooms, it was possible for each classroom to have (essentially) 3 exterior walls and no less than 6 large windows!  Only one wall in each classroom--the wall that will be at the 'front' of the room--has no windows or door.  This, of course, is where the blackboards will be mounted, and they will be well-lit by the windows on the other three walls.

Let's take a look out one of these windows at the building's east end...

...Recognize that area?  That's the lavatory building where the New Jersey team was installing drain pipes earlier (see my last post).  In October, when the heavy rains start to taper off, Flomo will be casting the floor slab out there.

"Wait a minute!  Isn't that spider out there somewhere among those trees?"...

..."Thanks for reminding me!  Let's go find it again!  I think biology field trips are going to create themselves around here...starting now!"

"Look up... there it is!"

"Wow!  That thing's as big as my hand!"

"Isn't that amazing?  Beautiful, even!  Looks like one of those relatively common golden silk orb-weaver spiders!"

A week or so later, on a very overcast day, I found that the spider was still thereWell, where did I think it would go?  In this sheltered spot between the trees, the days are not too hot and the nights are never cold.  It rains almost every day, so there's no danger of dehydration.  And since she doesn't move around a whole lot--yes, it's a 'she', because the males of this genus are much smaller!--, she really doesn't need much food.  In fact, to conserve energy, these spiders eat their damaged webs and in this way recycle the materials needed to make new strands of silk.  So time is on her side, but sooner or later some hapless flying thing--maybe even a small bird!--will blunder into her golden trap, and then she will be able to nourish those eggs inside her.  When the time is right, she will descend to the ground to lay them in the leaf litter.  Eventually she will die, but by then her offspring will be climbing up into these same trees to repeat the complex, instinctive behaviors of their parents.

In general, golden silk orb-weavers (genus Nephila) tend to mind their own business and are relatively harmless to humans.  Besides helping to keep insect populations in check, perhaps part of their "purpose" is to give science teachers like me something to marvel at.  In this case I got to take a few pictures, which now I have somehow managed to work into the storyline of a missions report!

Now then... back to the other part of the real world!  Next February (2013), when Gordon Tiner brings another work team over from New Jersey, he is hoping to put the roof on this building.  After that, there will be walls to plaster, ceilings to put up, windows to put in, and floors to put down!  There's really still a lot of work to be done!
Hey, before I let you go... Would you like to watch a short, one-minute tutorial on how to get your car started when all else fails and you know the battery is just about gone?  Here's my friend Prince to give you a few pointers that he's picked up along the way!  While we were in Buchanan, he used this method several times, and it always worked!  Your off-camera, play-by-play commentator will be Jason Young...

To start the video, just click the "Play" button (bottom left)...  To make the picture bigger, click the "Full screen" button (bottom right)...  You may need to turn up the volume on your computer!


  1. Can't tell which I liked best: the big spider, starting the car, or your commentary!!! It looks beautiful there....thanks for the 1000's of words!

    1. Thanks, Linda! Yes, it's a great location! If I could start my teaching career over again, it would be in that building right there--when it's finished, of course! BTW: If you enjoy the sand and the sun, the ocean is less than two miles away!

  2. Nice shots! Never seen anything like the gas spitting trick lol.