Friday, April 20, 2018

April overviews (where do the days go?)

Dear reader,

It seems to have happened again. The projects continue at full speed, the weeks pass, and suddenly, it's been a month since I've updated the blog. Alas, here are weekly summaries of what we've been doing since we returned from spring break.

week of 4/2/18

It’s been a whirlwind week back to school as we wrapped up our Solar School projects, finished reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and started preparing for two debates next week. Students completed feasibility studies and submitted their proposals for judging as part of the Eco Center’s Solar School contest. Here is one team’s proposal video.

Next week’s debates will focus on two topics: the “Hole in the Wall” project and the “One Laptop per Child” program. Using The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as a framework for thinking through issues of technology and energy in developing countries, students will debate the successes and limitations of both of these programs.

week of 4/9/18
This week, as students finished their Solar Schools contest entries, science focused on power storage, batteries, and how the differential work function of metals allows for the creation of electrochemical cells.Students also worked on their final solar panel presentations to share with Walter in the near future. We also bid farewell to our electronics (for now) as we deconstructed our old robots and reassembled our Arduino kits so that they’re ready to go for future projects.

Students prepared for two debates (one was this week, one will be next week) on approaches to technology implementation in emerging countries, focusing on the “Hole in the Wall” project and the “One Laptop per Child” project. Students debated the efficacy and the potential implications of the programs through the lens of what they learned about William Kamkwamba and his educational opportunities in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  

week of 4/16/18
We kicked off our last project of the year this week with an introduction to Detroit history, focusing on 1900-1967 as a class (students are doing individual research on aspects of the city ranging from 1701 to the present). We watched Mayor Cavanaugh’s 1965 Olympic bid video and contrasted his vision for the city’s future with the consequences of  the “urban renewal” movement of the 1950s (including, specifically, the destruction of the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods in Detroit). This set the foundation for our trip to the Detroit Historical Museum’s “Detroit 67: Perspectives” exhibit, where we walked through the exhibit with an  outstanding discussion facilitator. Our focus was on both the events themselves and the ways that multiple narratives, when woven together, work to broaden and deepen our understanding of past events.

This project will include research as a class, such as the work we’ve done on the 1967 uprising and the work we’re continuing to do on the trial of Dr. Ossian Sweet, and individual research based on students’ own area of interest. Students will be writing formal research papers based on their original research questions. Over the course of this week, students read through primary and secondary sources related to their areas of interests in order to focus their topic into a research question and thesis statement. Next steps will include note taking and outlining. They will also be producing an annotated bibliography, including sources they used for their research and at least one source that they chose not to use (and why).

As part of our study of Detroit history as a class, we’ll be reading a different Detroit-related poet each week (someone who was born in the city, spent significant time in the city, or whose writing was impacted by the city in a significant way). We started with Robert Hayden, the first African American poet laureate (although that was not the title at the time), who grew up in Detroit.  After reading “Those Winter Sundays” and “Frederick Douglass” in class, students analyzed each poem and responded to questions and writing prompts related to the poems and the poet.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 3/19/18

During this short week, students continued to work on their solar schools project. In small groups, they are finishing presentations and planning out their short videos in order to submit them to the Ecology Center’s contest in just a few weeks. Some students are working on 3D modeling, others are working to develop a proposal to present to Walter, and another group is working on low-cost options for the use of solar panels to power the greenhouse (a related project about which the 3-4s presented at last week’s morning meeting). In addition to their work on the specifics of solar energy and its feasibility (including using the architectural site plans from the school in order to determine roof angle and area), students have also been learning about simple and compound interest, including related math used to determine estimated payoff and return on investment.

They’ve also been reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. On Tuesday, wrote an in-class impromptu essay responding to a prompt about the book (“impromptu” in the sense that they didn’t know the prompt beforehand; they did know they’d be writing an essay in class). After reviewing how to structure a three paragraph essay, students had approximately one hour to write an essay with quotes from the book and commentary that connected the quotes to their thesis statement. This was our first opportunity to write a timed essay this year and we’ll continue to practice this skill.

We hope everyone has a peaceful, joyful, and healthy spring break.








Monday, March 12, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 3/5/18

We kicked off our third major project of the year this week: solar schools. Students are divided into teams of four and each team is investigating the feasibility of a solar panel array in different parts of the building as part of the Ann Arbor Ecology Center’s “Solar School” contest. After surveying the campus for potential areas, they started their research into practicalities of the project and developing a list of known unknowns. They then categorized their questions into those we can answer in our own research and those that will require us to reach out to an expert (our school as an assigned expert mentor as part of our participation in the contest). Over the course of the week, as students found answers to their questions, we spent time sharing resources and developing classwide collaborative notes documents. Moving forward, as they fine-tune their group feasibility studies, they will eventually create solar proposals for their designated locations and short videos to submit to the Ecology Center for the contest.


We also started reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the true story of a young Malawian man who built a windmill from scrap parts in order to generate power for his family. We will continue to read, analyze, and respond to this text for the next several weeks.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thursday, February 22, 2018

January overviews 2018

Dear readers,

The last few weeks have been super busy here in 7-8. As such, I've neglected the blog. Below, you'll see weekly updates for the month of January and into February.

For more photos of 7-8 happenings, please check our class Google album here. It's also on the righthand side bar. Below, you'll find some highlights.

To continued adventures,

Rachel



Visiting with friends in kindergarten

Stories and silliness

Robot building

Class roundtable discussion

Snow soccer


Acting out scenes from Player Piano

Can you feel the drama?

Alumni panel with SK alumni + parents and SK eighth graders + parents

Middle school snow tubing trip to Hawk Island



week of 1/8/18

During this unexpectedly short week back, students returned to their exercises using the Arduinos. They are learning to use various components (and combinations of components) in order to a) better understand the capabilities of the Arduinos and b) better understand how each component works in order to use them, potentially, with the robots that they’ll be building in the near future.

On Wednesday, Sarah (one of our wonderful parents) took the class on a tour AVL Automotive to show us how engines are tested and data is collected. Sarah, along with three other SK parents, will be advising teams of students as they start building their robots.

We also returned to Player Piano. In pairs, students are focusing on one specific chapter in order to identify key plot developments, character developments, themes, and settings. They will present their chapters to the class next week.

week of 1/15/18

This week saw us finally get into the assembly of our Arduino Robots. For all of Tuesday afternoon, four wonderful parent volunteers came in and worked with small group of students on the assembly of a 2-wheel drive, obstacle avoiding, autonomous robot. On Thursday, we welcomed the sixth graders for their Move Up Day. The sixth graders got to experience a typical day in the 7-8, including PE, Latin, math, and class presentations on chapters from Player Piano.

One of the other highlights of our week was when the 8s “moved up” to kindergarten. Val and her sweet Ks welcomed the eighth graders and taught them how to play all sorts of games. It was a joy to see all of the kids engaged with one another and we hope to do it again soon.

week of 1/22/18

This week, students have been working to finish building their robots and start uploading code. They also researched everyday ways that robots are being employed (in the military, to do household chores, and to deliver products, for example). Their particular areas of research interest will drive the next portion of their projects in that the tasks that the identified in their research will be related to the design tasks that they will program their robot to complete.

In Player Piano, students presented their chapter summaries to the class. We also read a key chapter aloud together in order to delve deeper into the themes of the novel and to prepare for their upcoming final writing assignment. Students will finish the novel within the next few weeks.

In Our Whole Lives, students have been discussing topics related to gender identity and sexual orientation. On Monday, we’ll welcome a panel from the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center to talk with us about their experiences as young LGBTQ people. As such, this week, students spent time preparing questions and familiarizing themselves with related vocabulary and concepts in order to make the panel as meaningful and engaging as possible.

week of 1/29/18

This week, students continued to work on their robots. At this point, all robots are done with the construction phase and have entered the trouble-shooting phase. They are working to upload the code in order to get their robots moving properly. Often, the problems they are working to solve are related to loose wires or connections that had come un-soldered.
In Player Piano, students acted out a pivotal chapter in small groups in order to deepen their understanding of the primary conflicts of the story. They’ll finish the book in the next few weeks and begin to write their final responses.
On Thursday, we welcomed Dave from Homeland Solar to teach us about solar energy. Dave is our school mentor for the Solar Schools contest that students will be entering once we finish our robot project.
We spent Friday at Hawk Island with the 5-6s. We tubed down the hill, rode the “magic carpet” up the hill, made s’mores, drank hot cocoa, and had a wonderful time.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 1/1/18

During this unexpectedly short week back, students returned to their exercises using the Arduinos. They are learning to use various components (and combinations of components) in order to a) better understand the capabilities of the Arduinos and b) better understand how each component works in order to use them, potentially, with the robots that they’ll be building in the near future.

On Wednesday, Sarah (one of our wonderful parents) took the class on a tour AVL Automotive to show us how engines are tested and data is collected. Sarah, along with three other SK parents, will be advising teams of students as they start building their robots.

We also returned to Player Piano. In pairs, students are focusing on one specific chapter in order to identify key plot developments, character developments, themes, and settings. They will present their chapters to the class next week.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Weekly overview - week of 12/18/17

Over the course of this short week, students started designing in Tinkercad, a web-based CAD program that allows them to create 3D designs. They then turned their digital creations into physical objects using the Makerbots (3D printers). This first assignment asked them to create keychains with their names in order to practice manipulating figures on three axes.

In pairs, students presented their slides on their assigned electronic components, such as photoresistors, servo motors, and piezoelectric speakers. They taught their classmates about both the science of how the component works and its practical application.

We ended the week with a super fun bowling party with the 5-6s (see below).

Have a safe, healthy, and joyful break. To a wonderful 2018!