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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Printing with Jim Horton

On Thursday, we welcomed Jim Horton, renowned local artist and printer, into our class. Jim taught us about the history of printing and then taught us how to set and print our own bookmarks. We also inked gingko leaves and used them as illustrations. 

Thinking about tools and the way that people have used them over time helps us to remember that our experiences shape our world-views. This thinking gives us an opportunity to try to expand our thinking and ask complicated questions (especially about technology but about other topics, too). 

Tremendous thanks to Jim for a delightful and engaging afternoon. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 10/9/17

This week, the students continued their study of the U.S. Constitution by focusing on a particular amendment and researching its history. This research supports the skits they are writing about different amendments. We also took a closer look at state government this week and combed through the database of laws and bills being considered by the Michigan legislature. Students learned to navigate the database and searched for bills by sponsor, by category, and by keyword. They then carefully parsed the text of the bills themselves in order to determine what actions the bill would require or prohibit. This work is preparing them to develop proposals on issues of importance to them in the Michigan Youth Caucus. The proposals with the most votes will become part of the Michigan Student Caucus platform that students will present to legislators in Lansing in December.

As part of the MSC project, nine of the 7-8s attended a town hall meeting on campus at UM. The speaker was from the Ginsberg Center at UM (a resources for UM affiliated people and groups who want to engage in service learning) and she spoke about the ways in which state and local governments are working to address community needs in Washtenaw County. The SK students were engaged participants in the discussion and eager to share their ideas and questions.

Eighth graders also started their visits to local high schools this week with an afternoon at Greenhills. We are visiting many of the schools in Washtenaw County in order to learn about the different options and prepare students for their next steps.

Weekly overview - week of 10/2/17

This week, the 7-8s continued their Michigan Student Caucus media artifacts. Each student has chosen a topic that is of importance to young people in Michigan. On Wednesday, we were joined by two of the graduate students from U-M, Cate and Eve, who are helping to facilitate the online discussion as part of their course work. They spent the afternoon helping students to think through their topics and focus their efforts on their media artifacts.

As part of our continued study of American government, we learned about the structure of our representative democracy (on a federal and state level) with a particular focus on the legislature. We then looked at the concept of “gerrymandering” and discussed the Wisconsin gerrymandering case that is currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Later in the week, we turned our focus to the Constitution itself. After drafting a class constitution, we went through an overview of the document itself. Students were then ready to wade into the actual text. After starting to read the document, one thing led to another and the result is that a student suggested responding to the text with a comedic skit (or several). Soon after that, students were off working alone, in pairs, or in small groups to write a series of skits and songs about the Constitution (some Convention-inspired, some amendment-inspired). At some point in the near future, we’ll have information about a performance. Stay tuned.

The 7-8s also started the Our Whole Lives program this week. We’re looking forward to continuing the OWL program for rest of the school year.