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!















Thursday, December 21, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 12/11/17

At our middle school meeting on Monday morning, we welcomed Jenny and Tyler from Spinning Dot Theatre Company. In only twenty five minutes, we talked about the upcoming middle school play, played games, and had a great discussion about the value of learning stories from around the world. Auditions for the play will be held January 8 and 9 at 3:30pm. Students will sign up for auditions at next Monday’s middle school meeting (on 12/18). If students have questions, they can ask their teacher or Walter.


This week, in addition to continuing to learn about the Arduinos through a set of exercises, students also started a small research project to learn about a specific electronic component. With a partner, they’ll be presenting both the science and the application of the component to their peers next week. In science, Sam has been teaching students about parallel and series circuits.


On Wednesday, we left SK at 7:15am for a trip to Lansing for our culminating Michigan Student Caucus activity. Three of our students presented their final proposals to a panel of elected officials and agency heads. We also got to hear from some of the high school and university caucus participants who presented their proposals to the panel, too. Students returned to school and did their final reflections on their student caucus work.

Students continue to read and annotate Player Piano. When we return from break, we’ll have an opportunity to wrestle with the fundamental questions of the novel and begin writing a creative response that aims to answer some of these questions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 12/4/17

The eighth graders started off the week with an afternoon at Early College Alliance (ECA) at Eastern Michigan University. This was our sixth high school visit so far this year. On Friday, eighth graders visited Washtenaw International High School (WIHI), concluding our high school visits for 2017. In February, we’ll head to Huron High.

We’ve continued to be busy exploring with the Arduinos in science class. In addition to working with the Arduinos (and related components, such as sensors and motors), Sam has also been teaching the students about electricity, circuits, voltage, resistance, current, and Ohm’s law. On Thursday, we visited the UM School of Engineering Design Expo, where SK students spent the afternoon learning about a wide variety of UM engineering students’ projects and engaging in conversations with the UM student presenters. The 7-8s were excited to see that many of the UM students’ projects used Arduinos, too.

Three of our students’ proposals were selected to be part of the Michigan Student Caucus platform. As such, they will present their proposals at a special hearing in Lansing next week with a committee of state legislators. They’ll also be sharing their proposals at next Friday’s morning meeting (12/15).

Students are also making their way into Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano. The themes of the novel, including the role of technology in society, the future of an automated world, and the tension between humans and the machines they create and use, are becoming even more relevant as we delve into our current project on autonomous vehicles.

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.