Exploring Biology and Collaboration in The Baylands

Recently, the 11th Grade high school cohort of Silicon Valley International School (INTL) embarked on a science exploration adventure to the Baylands. The Baylands, one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay, is home to a unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats, making it a prime location for wildlife observation and the studying of nature.

Accompanied by an ornithologist, the students learned about the intricacies of this unique ecosystem. They discovered how the plants and animals of the Baylands adapted to the harsh conditions of living in a tidal marsh. They observed how animals partitioned their resources to coexist, how plants dealt with the tides and saltwater, and how birds flew in flocks without crashing into each other. The question and observation based approach to their study is not only fundamental to learning in science but also a fundamental building block of the inquiry-based learning approach to the International Baccalaureate program taught at INTL.

11th Grade students helping to clean the Baylands.

What made this experience truly special was the collaboration between biology and physics students. They worked together to understand the mechanisms behind bird flight patterns, which involved animal behavior and physics. They explored how birds lifted their bodies off the ground and stayed aloft, discovering how different aspects of science came together to explain this phenomenon. 

This collaboration highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary thinking in science. In everyday work, scientists of different specializations often work together to tackle complex problems. It showed the students that no one science is totally separated from the other, and that inquiry and critical thinking is essential for making sense of the world around us.

11th Graders watering plants at the Baylands.

The students didn't just learn about science; they also gave back to the community by weeding invasive species for two hours. This community service was a way to say thank you to the Baylands for allowing them to explore its unique biology while also eliminating harmful invasive species that threaten the ecosystem.

11th Grader students presenting their findings to a 9th Grade science class.

Overall, the day at the Baylands was a fun and educational experience that encouraged the students to think in new and creative ways that they were then able to bring back to campus and share with others. It demonstrated the importance of interdisciplinary thinking, community service, and hands-on learning. The trek to the Baylands is just one of many hands-on, exploratory, trips students at INTL get to experience in their education.