Friday, December 1, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 11/27/17

This week, we started wrapping up our Michigan Student Caucus work by posting proposals on the site and rating the proposals of others. For the next few days, students will read through and comment on one another’s proposals in order to determine the top proposals that will make up the Michigan Student Caucus platform. On December 13, we’ll head to Lansing (with other MSC participants) to present the platform to an ad hoc committee of legislators invested in civic engagement.

The culmination of one project also signals the beginning of the next project. Under Sam’s direction, students started working through a set of introductory Arduino exercises in order to get comfortable with the programming environment and learn about the functionality of both the microcontrollers themselves and the additional components (resistors, LEDs, sensors, etc.) that we’ll be using in the next few weeks. Students worked through the exercises and documented all of their successes, challenges, and observations in their engineering notebooks. Eventually, students will work in design teams to build autonomous vehicles that complete different tasks.

In that vein, we welcomed three engineers into our class to talk about their work and the role of documentation in their work. Thanks to Charles Hardin, Sarah Kingham, and Jean-Marie Rouillard for sharing their experiences and stories with us.

We also started reading Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which will ask students to think deeply about the potential implications of automation.

On Friday, the eighth graders continued their high school visits with a trip to Washtenaw Technical Middle College (WTMC), located on the campus of Washtenaw Community College.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 11/6/17

During this short week, we welcomed Elena Brennan of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency into our class to talk with us about youth in the criminal justice system. Some of our students have been focusing their research on youth in the criminal justice system for their Michigan Student Caucus projects and we invited Elena to our class to talk with us about MCCD’s “Raise the Age” campaign (which aims to raise the age at which a young person who enters the criminal justice system is considered an “adult”).

Students also continued to work on their Constitution skits (to be performed on 11/21 at 9am in the middle school commons) and their Michigan Student Caucus proposals. They are also getting excited for next week’s Music Cafe and they hope to see the whole SK community at the Cafe on 11/17.

On Friday, the eighth graders continued their visits to local high schools with a trip to Community High School.

Arduino time

Science is off to a blinking, fading, and electrifying start. This week, we've been working through Arduino introductory exercises to get familiar with the programming environment and the related components. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 10/30/17

We hope you had a happy and safe Halloween. We had a wonderful time leading the parade and seeing all of the creative costumes.

This week, inspired by conversations borne out of our visit to City Hall, we researched and debated the deer cull in Ann Arbor. This was our second fishbowl debate of the year and just as lively as the first.

We also continued work on individual consultations with experts in students’ selected topic areas. Students have practiced reaching out to professionals via email and conducting phone and email interviews. They are now working to summarize their findings as they prepare their final Michigan Student Caucus proposals.

In English this week, we started with an introduction to poetic vocabulary and the concept of scansion. After we practiced identifying iambic feet and learning about the history of the sonnet, we did an initial reading of Shakespeare’s eighteenth sonnet (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”). We’ll return to this form (the sonnet) in the near future in order to explore the way that it has changed over time and the way that modern poets use it today.

On Thursday, we welcomed Mohamed Abouelenien, a UM computer science professor who is affiliated with the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor, to talk with us about the fundamental tenets of Islam and the harmful stereotypes Muslims face today. As we’ve been studying the workings of American government (on federal, state, and local levels), we’ve done so with an eye toward the evolving understanding of who Americans are and how the concept of “an American” has grown more inclusive over time.

On Friday, the eighth graders continued their visits to local high schools with a trip to Rudolf Steiner High School.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween 2017

Spooky and charming and delightfully creative (which could describe our class often but rings especially true on Halloween)...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Our visit to City Hall

This afternoon, we took the city bus to City Hall to meet with Council member Chuck Warpehoski. He spoke with us about the Gelman dioxane plume, the rights of non-binary people in Ann Arbor, and the ways in which local government intersects with state and federal laws on both of these issues. These topics, in particular, are areas of study for some of our students in their work in the Michigan Student Caucus. 

After our discussion, Mr. Warpehoski took us on a tour of council chambers and shared his own story about deciding to run for public office.

Tremendous thanks to Mr. Warpehoski for a fascinating and thought-provoking visit.

Weekly overview - week of 10/16/17

We started the week with a zine making workshop with special guest and longtime friend of SK, Megan Gilson. After giving us a brief history of zines, Megan led us through exercised where we brainstormed how we use words to help change minds and then, if given the chance, what systems (on a school, state, or national level) we might want to change. Students then set to work developing their ideas and creating their own small zines. This idea of students as change-makers with something to say intersected nicely with the work that the students on the Michigan Student Caucus (MSC) site.

On that MSC front, students shared their media artifacts (including a game, several podcasts, two original infographics, and several informational articles) with their peers on the site. They are now starting the process of seeking expert “consultants” to help them learn more about their issue and to give them feedback on their potential solutions to the problems they’ve identified.

On Thursday, we returned to the concept of tools that change people and vice versa (a lens that we introduced at Tillers in September and will return to when we start our autonomous vehicle project in November). Jim Horton, expert printmaker and woodcarver, joined us with a moveable press and taught us how to set type, ink leaves, and print our own bookmarks. Jim also taught us about the history of the press and led us in a discussion of the ways in which printmaking technology has changed over time.