Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Highlights of the Future

Here's a Top Ten list of upcoming activities for the next few weeks of SKMS:

1. Planning for the spring trip, which will get us off campus for three days in May.
2. Two smaller trips, one to the U of M School of Music, another TBA.
3. The completion of the lit circle books and an coffee-and-cake event showing off each circle's projects.
4. Scenes from Julius Caesar.
5. The implementation of each student's SK service project; each should be in place before spring break.
6. Assessment in the form of the electronic, innovative, individualized Let's Go Learn tests.
7. Participation in U of M's Place Out of Time simulation, in which students take on historical or literary figures and debate the progression of a fictionalized trial in France on freedom of expression.
8. Design and preparation of the third and final round of Exhibitions, to be conducted in May.
9. Design and preparation of next year's seventh and eighth grade classroom spaces on the SK second floor.
10. Tracking the road to enlightenment in different world religions--by creating board games.

Just as Mesopotamia is the Land Between the Rivers, this period will be the School Between the Breaks. We'll try to be civilized about it as we tie together the year's themes, with a current focus on Global Civilization and the Circle of Life.

Friday Exhibitions

The last day of this round of Exhibitions featured two girls who had never done one before: Lily and Aristea. Both really blew us away, having prepared extensive, active, fun lessons on wildly divergent topics: German vocabulary, finding missing proportions, Egyptian Cinderella, and a mathemagical treasure hunt.

Lily gave a wide variety of activities and information on German. She had us talking, hawking, watching, asking, guessing, reading, counting, adding, and subtracting. It was as impressive a first Exhibition as I've seen. Like other math teachers in this round, she worked effectively with students as a guide, giving us work to do and then circulating to give useful help.

Aristea brought candy and read us fairy tales, but the real genius of her Exhibition was sending groups of kids around the campus, working on problems that required an impressive combination of basic operations, code-breaking, collaboration, and running. Any lesson that has students digging in a sandbox at three o'clock on a Friday afternoon is one that will be remembered for some time.

Thursday Exhibitions

Thursday was almost as busy as Wednesday, with four Exhibitions, but this time they all happened in the morning: Saul at zero dark thirty (actually 8:00 am) on Gilgamesh and hexaflexagons; Taylor on photosynthesis and the Konigsberg problem; Denali on lattice multiplication and Mandarin vocabulary; and Trent, not bearing succulent chunks of steak this time, but less succulent chunks of wood for his carving lesson. Trent also facilitated a round of Math Jeopardy.

Saul pulled off the trick of getting four adults and three students intently folding, cutting, decorating, and reforming strips of paper into quasi-floral playthings called hexaflexagons. Jonathan, Mike and Kaeli were the good soldiers who came to this Exhibition, early by SK standards. Taylor took us into George's room to show the experiment he and Mike had conducted, submerging a plant in water and showing us the oxygen bubbles it produced as it engaged in the life-sustaining process of photosynthesis. (Taylor also gave us three minutes to try to solve a logic problem that mathematicians have been struggling with unsuccessfully since Leonhard Euler gave the initial 'negative proof' in 1735.)

Denali gave us chopsticks and candy hearts; we gamely tried to pick up one with the other while she gave an illustrated lecture and quizzed us on the differences between the Pinyin script and Western writing. Trent divided the students in attendance into gender-based teams, then presided over a high-stakes tie--both teams got all their problems right, mostly three-and-up-digit multiplication. He did throw in a couple of wild-card questions. Those were a big hit even though, or because, they did not show his teacher in the best light.

Trent was just kidding around. I think.

Wednesday Exhibitions

This was the biggest day in the brief history of Summers-Knoll Exhibitions: there were five, beginning with Lev's first, a look at his fictional polis called Syphoni and Hexadecimals in the morning. After lunch, we saw Danny on multiplication methods and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Evan on Julius Caesar and a logic problem involving gnomes and hats, and Isobel on the origin of Arabic numerals and knitting. We finished after school with Mike on French and another look at the Gnome Problem.

Lev took us through a shorthand language of mathematics that echoed Jonathan's demonstration of the binary system; like Jonathan, his lesson was strong in the lecture and really caught fire when he began consulting with his students. Danny showed us a highly algorithmic approach to two- and three-digit multiplication and had everybody scribbling away.

Evan gave us some historical background on the man himself, then put us to work reading from Caesar before giving us a brief quiz. Isobel shared the unexpected historical nuggets that Arabic numerals were Indian in origin, and that the number of angles in each original design corresponded to the digit's value. We drew these and counted angles to verify this.

Finally, Mike gave a charming lesson in French vocabulary, speaking the language and then asking who could identify words or phrases (Imogen was exempted from this exercise). Mike walked us through half a dozen brief lessons, using variations of this approach, and wrapped it up by passing around madeleines. Evie pestered him for seconds.

Tuesday Exhibitions

This round of Exhibitions, Summers-Knoll's second, kicked off with Jonathan right after lunch and Jianmarco in the late afternoon. This time around, every student had to teach one lesson on a mathematical topic; the other lesson could be on any work undertaken up to this point (though I have veto power over any choice).

Jonathan taught a lesson on Julius Caesar and another on the binary language of mathematics. Some of the attendees struggled with the concepts, until we began working on multiplication and place value exercises. When Jonathan started circulating, working one-on-one with those who requested it, keys began to turn in locks.

Jianmarco showed off his fictional Greek polis, Rhazorn, and then took some weary adults through an activity in which an odd-shaped, cash-strapped art gallery is trying to hire as few guards as it can while still remaining secure. In this case, any room shape needs to be divided into triangles in order to identify the smallest number of observers necessary to see the whole space.

This is sometime called the Untrustworthy Museum Guard exercise, since they need to see each other as well. One person commented that his cats organize themselves in his house according to these principles. Does that mean his cats are not trustworthy?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Revised Exhibition Schedule!

Hello, All!

There's no school tomorrow, Friday, February 8, given the expected storm and the large number of teachers and substitute teachers currently in sick bay with Dr. McCoy.

Given that we had planned to rehearse all the Exhibition lessons on Friday, and a few families have identified conflicts, we have rescheduled several Exhibitions. 

Please check the schedule below. Remember that each Exhibition is thirty minutes long. I have included the two lesson topics for each student.

Tuesday, February 12
12:45 . . . . . Jonathan (binary, Julius Caesar)
4:00 . . . . . Saul (hexaflexagons, Gilgamesh)
4:45 . . . . . Jianmarco (gallery problem, Rhazorn)

Wednesday, February 13
10:00 . . . . . Lev (hexadecimals, Syphoni)
1:30 . . . . . Danny (multiplication methods, Part-Time Indian)
2:15 . . . . . Evan (gnome problem, Julius Caesar)
3:00 . . . . . Isobel (math in history, knitting)
4:45 . . . . . Mike (gnome problem, French)

Thursday, February 14
10:00 . . . . . Denali (lattice multiplication, Mandarin)
11:45 . . . . . Trent (math Jeopardy, woodcarving)

Friday, February 15
11:45 . . . . . Lily (shadow math, German)
1:45 . . . . . Taylor (Euler circuit, photosynthesis)
2:30 . . . . . Aristea (math hunt, Cleopatra)