Friday, March 31, 2017

Weekly overview - week of March 27

This week, students presented their final projects and reflections on the food unit. Each student presented a research question, a hypothesis, a procedure they developed to test their hypothesis, results (in raw data and in graph form), and conclusions to be drawn from the results.

Students also presented their reflections on the food unit. We’ve been working toward the answer to the question of how we decide what to eat since January 9, when we first watched a documentary on bread and proceeded to make our first loaves together. Students reflected on ways in which their perspectives and understandings have changed since we started this project. Below are excerpts from their reflections (shared with their permission):

  • “I realized how important it is to be connected to your food, and to know where it comes from. [...] When people are connected to their food, they remember the love for food that stretches all the way back to the first people to grow a crop. They know then that food matters. To be connected to your food is to be connected to your history.” -- 8th grader
  • “I’m now really eager to grow things and make something new (or not so new) for the world.” -- 8th grader
  • “Now I have more faith in myself to bake and cook.” -- 7th grader
  • “I now realize how much food can have an impact on a community by bringing people together.” -- 7th grader
  • “I learned so much about how food is intertwined with culture.” -- 7th grader

P.S. Don't forget to check out the class photo album (upper right sidebar). I just added new photos from our adventures (in and out of class) from the last few weeks.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly overview - week of March 13

This week, students continued to wrap up the results, analysis, and conclusion portions of their individual (or partnered) science projects. Students used spreadsheets to format their data into readable tables and then used that data to create useful, appropriately labeled charts (within the spreadsheet). Through this project, in addition to the content of their work, we’ve also been developing spreadsheet and data visualization skills. It’s exciting to see them create charts with the data they collected themselves (and to see their excitement when they’ve figured out how to use the technology tools in a meaningful way). They will be sharing these projects during presentations the week of March 27.

We also welcomed Eric Kampe, owner of Ann Arbor Seed Company, to our class on Wednesday afternoon. Eric taught students about seed saving: its history, how it works, and why it matters. We also discussed current issues in seed farming, including hybrid seeds and seed patenting. Students participated in a lively game of “guess what vegetable grows from this seed” (based on a diverse selection of “show and tell” seeds that Eric brought for us to examine) and enjoyed videos of Eric demonstrating how to separate seed from chaff. As we wrap up our unit of study focused on how we decide what to eat, it was interesting to consider the most basic element at the core of what we eat: the seed. Huge, huge thanks to Eric for such an engaging and interesting presentation.

Weekly overview - week of March 6

During this short week, we focused on independent science projects. Students conducted their experiments with participants and learned how to take translate their procedures into actual trials with students and faculty volunteers. Most students are now working on data analysis and visualization (drawing conclusions based on results and creating charts). We ended our short week with a full day of fun at the Livonia Rec Center (as a make-up day from when we were supposed to go snow tubing the day before midwinter break) where we swam, played games, and climbed in the indoor tree fort.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Freedom House fundraising dinner

In December, I reached out to Bee Roll, owner of Beezy's Cafe, to see if she might be willing to speak with my class about how she uses food as a way to build community through her restaurant. She then told me about a new event space that she'd purchased (right across the street from Beezy's) and said that it might be neat to do some sort of program there with the 7-8s. I agreed. 

Fast forward to February 28, when over sixty people gathered at Project23 for dinner prepared by Bee and the 7-8s as a fundraiser for Freedom House, a shelter in Detroit that provides critical services to refugees seeking asylum. (Side note: When we first decided to do a community dinner fundraiser, we discussed several organizations to which we might donate our proceeds. After learning about the comprehensive services offered by Freedom House, its recent cut in federal funding, and its uncertain future, the students voted to support this organization.) 

In between that initial meeting with Bee and March 1 (the day after the dinner, when we sat in our classroom to debrief and eat leftovers), we worked diligently to plan the event. Focusing on collaboration skills (taking responsibility for oneself; helping the team; respecting others; making and following agreements; organizing work; and working as a whole team) and planning skills (event promotion; organization of information in shared documents and spreadsheets; communication of tasks and responsibilities; logistics; and time management), the class worked together to take the idea from our classroom out into the world. 

Planning tasks and keeping one another accountable

Trying on the aprons 

Loving the aprons 

Sketching out poster ideas 

Prepping the salad dressing

Chopping the fruit

Always time for a waltz (or a waltz-like dance)

Serving the dinner

More delicious dinner

Enjoying the company of friends and families

Happy 7-8s

As we ate the aforementioned leftovers the day after the event, we discussed what worked well, what worked less well, and shared highlights. Highlights included: "a whole new experience," "serving dinner to my family," "meeting new people," and "getting to talk to new adults." In addition to our own personal (and collective) highlights, we also raised over $500 to help asylum seekers entering our country. 

Huge, huge, huge thanks to Bee Roll for her kitchen wizardry and for welcoming us into her space. Additional gigantic thanks to the friends and families who supported us in this endeavor. 

If you would like to join us in supporting Freedom House, please do.  

Weekly overview - week of February 27

The highlight of our week this week was our big dinner fundraiser for Freedom House on Tuesday night. We spent the day preparing dinner (under the guidance of Bee Roll, owner of Beezy’s Cafe) and setting up and then we returned to Project23 (an awesome event space in Ypsilanti) to serve the meal to friends and families. We raised $525 for Freedom House, an organization that provides shelter and critical support to refugees seeking asylum. We’re tremendously grateful to all of the families and teachers who supported us in this project.

During the rest of the week, students worked on their independent science projects. They are doing background research, coordinating the logistics of their experiments, and beginning to draft their abstracts.