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VERNAL POOLS: Why Are They Important? by Chase Dallin

Vernal pools are beautiful. Vernal or ephemeral pools are temporary pools of water that offer protection to juvenile amphibians and insects. They are created when snow melts, and a large amount of the water gathers in a single place. Since vernal pools usually develop inland they’re completely free of predatory fish. We don’t typically think of little freshwater fish as fierce predators, but to insects and amphibians, especially young ones, they may as well be what an owl is to a mouse. Vernal pools are home to many rare species of frogs, toads, salamanders, crustaceans, bacteria, as well as many rare species of flora. Vernal pools can be found in places all over the world, but they’re becoming rarer and rarer due to agriculture and urbanization. Over 90% of California’s vernal pools have been destroyed, and the sad thing is most of the people destroying them didn’t even know they were doing something wrong.

Luckily Massachusetts has laws that protect vernal pools, but it’s not that simple. People in Massachusetts still destroy vernal pools because of lack of awareness, or simply blatant disregard.
There are a number of laws concerning vernal pools in Massachusetts. Although originally protected under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, vernal pools are also protected by Title 5 of the Massachusetts Environmental Code, Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act, the Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards which relate to Section 401, and the Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act. For more information concerning the laws involving vernal pools is at Once a vernal pool has been destroyed, it can’t be brought back, once it’s gone…it’s almost certainly gone for good. Numerous experiments have been done trying to create artificial vernal pools, and many have failed. It’s possible to create, a vernal pool, but it’s very difficult to do.

There are ways ordinary citizens can help protect vernal pools. In Massachusetts vernal pools can only be protected if they’re certified. The process by which vernal pools are certified relies on volunteers that submit evidence of a vernal pool. I encourage you to go out, to try and find a vernal pool. Even if it’s already certified they’re amazing to see.
Although I wasn’t able to interview him in person I have exchanged multiple emails with Wayland’s conservation land manager Brian Harris, I asked him some questions and here are his answers:

“How many vernal pools are there in Wayland?”

Currently the town has 3 “certified” vernal pools. A certified pool is one that meets the criteria set forth by Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Service. One of my goals as conservation land manager last year was to get out there and find more vernal pools and map them accordingly. I get extremely busy in the spring and just didn’t have the time to properly survey them. However we have some vernal pools out there that haven’t been submitted to the state whom is responsible for overseeing certified pools(see below)

“How many vernal pools in Wayland have been destroyed?”

-I have no idea the numbers of vernal pools that have been destroyed. If I looked at historical aerial surveys when technology was sharp enough to identify a vernal pool I imagine the number would be extremely high. Before Wetland regulations were put in place to conserve areas of critical habitat like vernal pools the destruction was probably vast, but again to reiterate I personally do not have this data.

“Why are vernal pools important?”

– Per a field guide to vernal pools by Kenney and Burne:
“Vernal pools are indispensable for biodiversity, both locally and globally. For a species with a wide distribution individual vernal pools are essential to the local population. Eliminate those pools and the population of that organism will die out in that area. For a species with narrow distribution a specific vernal pool might be the only place on earth that organism is found. If the pool is destroyed that species becomes extinct.”

They are also so susceptible to disturbance, destruction and pollution and are in such short supply that its critical to preserve what few pools remain for these organisms

“What are some species of vernal pools?”

The following species are obligate species of vernal pools:
Wood frog, spadefoot toad, spotted salamander, blue-spotted salamander, Jefferson salamander, marbled salamander and fairy shrimp

Obligate species refers to in this case an organism dependent on a particular habitat to be able to breed.

“How can people help protect vernal pools?”

-become knowledgeable about vernal pools and spread the knowledge
-become involved in local governments such as conservation committees planning boards and similar regulatory groups that make decisions which affect land use and vernal pools
-similarly become involved with and support regional and nationwide environmental or biological organizations that promote environmental protection species protection and land preservation

Vernal pools are some of the most beautiful and rare natural habitats, and we should do everything we can to protect them. I’m Chase Dallin and I hope you enjoyed and learned something from reading this article of mine. Bye!

The Overthrow by Ayaan Rashid

I plugged the drive into the USB port. “Come on, come on!” I said to myself quietly.

“Begining transfer now,” the metallic computer voice said. This better not take long. I have to get out of here as soon as I have all the files. I know I’m going to get caught if I stay. Who knows what they’ll do to me if they find me.

“I would stop that upload if I were you.”

I spun around to see four heavily armoured assault droids supporting ten armed peacekeepers. The captain leading the massive force aimed his gun at my head as they slowly advanced towards me. “Put your hands up, Smith. It’s all over for you.”

I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t give myself up and surrender. I would be letting everyone down. Our operation’s success and our own survival depended on me getting these files. “Whoa there, Cap, you don’t need your gun! Chill out!” I said, trying to sound cheery.

“Are you trying to be funny?” he yelled as he stepped forward, aiming his pistol at me even more intensely.

“As I just said, take a chill pill,” I replied.

“Take out the flash drive, now!” he commanded.

“Ok, look, I’m taking it out,” I said as I stepped in front of it, shielding it. I rested my hand on it.

The captain pointed the barrel of his pistol up and down a few times, signaling he wanted me to pull the drive out.

“Transfer complete.” The metallic computer voice said.

As soon as the computer said “transfer complete”, I yanked the drive out and shoved it in my pocket. I bolted off to my right, towards my escape.

The Captain was unprepared for what I did, but he quickly yelled, “Open fire!”

I dove behind a table and sheltered there while hundreds of rounds were being fired at me each second. I stayed hidden behind the table until I came up with a plan of action.

I slowly stood up, my hands above my head. “Hold your fire!” the Captain commanded. The firing stopped. “Turn over the USB.”

I pulled it out of my pocket. “Here it is,” I said.

The Captain cautiously walked towards me. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he said. He reached out to take the USB from me.

“Not so fast. I’ll only give it to you if you let me free once you have it.”

“Fine, just give me the drive.” the Captain said.

“A-a-ah, not just yet. Tell your units to stand down. Make them put their weapons on the floor.” I instructed.

He turned to his units and told them to stand down. They did what I had requested.

“Here is the drive.” I dropped it in his hand and dashed away to the exit. I got in my pod and headed back to my squad’s rendezvous point.

“Let’s see what he tried to get.” the Captain said. He plugged the drive into the computer. After waiting for a minute, the computer said, “No information.” in its metallic voice. The Captain screamed as he yanked the USB from the computer and hurled it to the ground and shattered into a million pieces. “Go get him!” he yelled at his soldiers.

“A very special thank you to my handy-dandy backup flash drive,” I said as I plugged the real USB into my ship’s onboard computer. I watched the screen as all of the files in the Archives appeared. “And now, it’s time for a promotion!”

End to Enemies? North and South Korea Unite at the Olympics by Kally Proctor

We’ve all seen and read lots of news about how North and South Korea hate each other or are planning to bomb the living daylights out of each other, but the reality just might not be that bad.

During the recently completed Winter Olympics in South Korea, a time for countries to unite and have fun together playing sports, North and South Korea have been very cozy: cheering for each other just as much as they’ve been cheering for themselves.  Even more symbolic and perhaps more unusual: South Korea’s female hockey team included North Korean women. It was a combined team, just like the athletes from the two countries joined together under a unified flag and marched in the Parade of Nations at the official opening and closing ceremonies.

My point?

The media might be making it much worse than it actually is. Sure, their politicians might be threatening each other, but that doesn’t mean the people in those countries feel the same way. As we’ve seen during these Winter Olympics, the people of Korea might be hoping to unify their country once more, and this time for good.


The Hidden City–Dystopian Scene by Ayaan Rashid

I was running as hard as I could. The guards were still on my tail. I had to lose them somehow. Down the street, there is a supermarket. It’s always packed with people trying to get their groceries quickly and get out. I dashed into the blob of people standing outside the entrance, through the doorway, and into one of the aisles. I slowed down to a walk, trying to regain control of my breath and not attract any attention. I stood facing one of the shelves when I heard an announcement on the intercom.

“If there is a Mr. Hamilton here, could you please come to the front of the building?”

I immediately knew it was the guards. How had they searched everywhere already? I thought. I bolted out of the aisle trying to find the closest exit. It happened to be an emergency exit, but between me and the door were at least 50 people, a ton of small shelves, pastries, and two guards. I cautiously approached the door, every so often stopping to take a look at the bakery items on the tables. It looked like the guards didn’t see me. I was blending into the population. The guards eventually turned around, and that is when I made my move. I sprinted to the door, threw it open, and darted as fast as I could away as I heard alarms and screams coming from inside the shop. I ran with seemingly no guards chasing me. When I turned back around to see where I was going, I saw a concrete wall rapidly approaching me. I had quick enough reflexes that I stopped just short of the wall.

I knew the guards would find me soon, considering I escaped through the emergency exit. I debated my options. If I went back into town, there was a high risk of getting caught. By now, there must be hundreds of guards searching for me. I could follow the wall and see where it leads me. I could end up in a safer area where I could find shelter, but it could also signal where I was to the guards. I’m not certain, but I think there are motion detectors every so often along the wall. However I’m positive there are cameras. Any sudden movement could trigger an alarm.

“Hey you!” a voice from behind me said.

I spun around and froze when I saw a squad of guards encircling me.

“Raise your hands and kneel on the floor.” The captain instructed.

I didn’t move. I was still in shock at how quickly they had found me.

“Do you hear me!” the captain yelled. “Put your hands up and get on the ground!” he screamed angrily.

I had no other choice now. I had to jump the fence. I slowly advanced towards the guards. When one of them stepped forward with handcuffs, I turned around and ran straight at the wall.

“He’s going to jump it!” one guard yelled.

I put all of my energy into my legs. I sent myself high up in the air and over the wall. The guards stood in shock. I hit the ground and rolled away from the wall, my limbs flailing. I lift my head up to see a lake filled with cool water, shimmering in the sunlight. Surrounding the lake are tall green trees, whose leaves blow in the crisp wind. The farthest area I could see in the distance was a long chain of tall snow capped mountains. I pulled myself towards the lake when two people stepped in front of me. “Don’t hurt me, please!” I cried.

“Don’t worry, we won’t. You made it out of that terrible place,” one of them said.

They helped me up and took me to their city. It was a megalopolis. Bigger than anything I had ever seen. Somehow they had hidden this city into the quiet nature of the lake. The buildings were huge, so tall it seemed they could touch the moon. People and cars quickly moved about. I was shocked by what I saw. I was struggling to take it all in.

“Let’s head to the Centre, shall we?” one of the people asked.

“Let’s go,” I said, not really thinking. Off we went, to the Centre, wherever that may be in this huge metropolis.

Flip, Tuck, and Stick the Landing by Hedaia Elelimy

Walking to the beam, feeling scared to fall, I hear people coughing quietly, trying not to be loud. I can smell the chalk, and I see the banners of champions hanging around the gym. I jump onto the beam. I start my routine: first two steps, next tuck, after, back walk over, then flip off the beam, and stick the landing. Have you ever been in a gymnastics gym? Did you ever think about how long it takes to master that skill? If you play a sport you should know how long it takes to do something well. Gymnastics is NO different!

Practice Makes Perfect

Gymnastics is no different than other sports. In fact, that flip off the beam is a new skill for me, and I have been training in gymnastics since I was four! Gymnastics isn’t easy. I practice three days a week, with two and a half hours for each training. There is a reason the flip take a long time to master because first you have to learn the basics. Some of the basics are having enough control over your body so you don’t hurt yourself. Then you start learning how to flip. After you learn to flip, you have to learn how make the flip look good: exactly how to point your toes or where to put your hands. As you can see it take hard work to be a gymnast! Just like football or soccer, it takes a long time to master a skill and do it well. Gymnastics is a real sport because it requires hard work and focus.

Train Insane

A typical training for a gymnast would look a little something like this: You enter the gym and start your stretches. Then you start your practice, and you go to your assigned events. The different events are balance beam, uneven bars, vault, and the floor exercises. The balance beam is a thin beam that you perform gymnastics tricks on. The uneven bars are two bars that are uneven. You do your routine on them and go from one bar to the other without falling to the ground. To do the vault, you have to run, have strength to lift yourself over, and do the trick you are assigned. A couple examples of tricks might be handsprings or back handsprings. Last but not least, are the floor exercises. The floor exercise is a specific routine of moves that you make up with your coach.

Health Nuts

Gymnastics requires more than just training. First you need to be healthy in order to perform well. You have to cut back on junk food, but you can still have delicious desserts from time to time. I would not give up chocolate chip cookies for anything! In order to be healthy, you also have to get enough sleep. An elementary school aged gymnast should get twelve hours of sleep every night, and middle school aged gymnasts should get nine to ten hours of sleep each night.

Gymnastics requires a lot of hard work and a big time commitment. Even though there are some downsides to gymnastics, there are many more benefits, including great posture, greater flexibility, and most importantly, fun!

So the next time you are looking for a new sport, consider gymnastics!


The Threat: A dystopian scene by Ayaan Rashid

 I walked down the pitch black road. The only light was that of the moon that made it into the narrow street. I looked up at the tall buildings to my left and right. There red light of the security cameras followed me as I walked briskly. The camera eyed me suspiciously. Just keep walking and keep your head down, I thought.

    I made a left at the next junction. This was one of the few roads that had street lights. Every so often, there would be a military checkpoint. These checkpoints stretched across the road, so there was no sneaking around them. There was barbed wire lining the fence behind the piles of sandbags sheltering hidden soldiers. There were machine gun nests and squads of riflemen. No one else was waiting to be checked, so I made it through quickly.

    I continued down the street. In the distance, I could see a huge barrier. This must be the cordoned off part of town, where they take all of the “threats”, I thought. I couldn’t imagine the things the government does the “threats” inside that dark, lifeless brick building.

    I sat down on a bench on the sidewalk. I pulled a book out of my coat pocket and began to read when three soldiers appeared. I looked up and the officer in the middle asked me for identification. I gave him my papers. “You’re Shane Morgan?” he asked.

    “Ye- yes, sir, I’m Shane Morgan.” I replied, stuttering.

    “Well, Mr. Morgan, you’re under arrest.” The officer said calmly. As soon as he said it, the troops to his sides pulled their rifles to their shoulders and aimed them at me.

    I threw my hands in the air. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” I cried as I curled up into a protective ball. The middle officer handcuffed me as an armoured car pulled up.

    “Get in,” he said.

    The officers shoved me in the car and slammed the door shut. Then the car shot off, back towards where I came. It stopped and turned into a checkpoint. But this checkpoint was under a wall. I was going into the building of “threats”.  I was a “threat”.


Joseph Baldwin and the World of Magic Chapter 2 by Jonathan Zhang

I lifted my head up and felt my eyes well up for the first time since my parents left me. But this wasn’t because I was sad. It was the thought of how far I’d come since my parents had abandoned me in this dense forest. They’d left me in this forest isolated from all mankind. I hadn’t seen another fellow human since four years ago. My only friends now were the stars. They among everything had never abandoned, disowned, attacked, or tried to eat me. They stayed by my side the entire time comforting me and sharing my sorrows.

I stood up shakily and smoothed down my blue denim jeans. My clothes, it seemed, had been one last parting gift. I had clothes of every size and every style. As if this would make up for their abandoning me. I descended down the metal ladder that connected my roof with my attic. The house, was a two story building made entirely of dark brown wood. The house didn’t run on electricity and I had to use a large number of candles to keep the room alight. My house always seemed far too large for me so I ended up staying in one room most of the time. The library.

My library is probably one of a kind. The room is shaped like a giant circle with thousands upon thousands of books on long curving bookcases that surround the perimeter of the room. Through the hatch I can gaze up at the stars and all around me are thousands of comforting books that I can’t wait to read. Each book is another adventure to distract my mind away from my painful sorrows. Each book an anecdote for my long harbored pain. Each book alleviating the crushing reality of what had happened to me. Each book the friend that I could’ve had. I sighed gently to myself. I gathered some of my favorite books promising the others I would come back for them and walked into the next room.

Chapter 1: Joseph Baldwin: The World of Magic by Jonathan Zhang

My life was ruined on my 13th birthday. On that day my life was put into a stranger’s hands. Fate. I realized that I myself didn’t make my future. Fate made my future. Fate was my future. At least in my world it was. Hello, my name is Joseph Baldwin and welcome to my world. A world past reality. A world of… magic.

I don’t really know how to explain my life. Explaining your life is more like trying to explain a picture that you didn’t draw. But I guess I’ll do my best. In our world there are many possibilities. These possibilities flutter around us each day like snowflakes dancing in the cold bitter wind. By grabbing out at a snowflake you make a choice. Looking back, I can tell you I’d wish anything that I’d chosen a different snowflake. Or better yet, simply not made the choice to choose a snowflake in the first place.

I began my 13th birthday gazing up at the stars. The cold wind ruffled my long unkempt dark hair. It whipped around me like snakes camouflaging in the vast darkness. I lay on the black tiled roof of my house and sighed deeply. This birthday like most birthdays would end like they usually did. Me falling asleep on top of my roof. It was lonely but, I was used to that.

My parents had abandoned me here four years ago when I was nine. I felt that when they left they hadn’t just left by themselves they had also taken a chunk of my heart with them as well. I stayed up here gazing up at the sky with tearful eyes and the star’s luminescent beauty consoled me mending my heart slowly but gradually like honey seeping out of a bottle. It wasn’t as if this would be the first time that I would ever feel agonizing despair like this. This was only a small spoonful of the tsunami yet to come.
It was time to leave this misbegotten place, and in that moment I made my choice, a choice that I regret to this day.