Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Orange Julius Caesar

Most of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is taken up by other characters talking about Julius Caesar. The man himself doesn't make it out of the first scene of Act III alive. The others perjure him, pillory him, worship him, employ him as the cypher for their own hopes, dreams and fears.

Some of that action will be on display in the SK middle school before the 2012-2013 year goes away for good. One element of our year-end show-off on Monday, June 10, will be the performance of four excerpts from Shakespeare's play.

First, Denali and Evan will set the scene as Casca and Cassius, marvelling at the remarkable Roman night that anticipates the Ides of March: lions whelping in the streets, fire falling from heaven (shades of Gilgamesh), dogs and cats living together, that kind of thing.

Next, Lily as Calphurnia will do her best to dissuade Taylor as Julius Caesar from going to the Senate on March 15. We've noted that Shakespeare frequently has his characters equate womanhood with weakness in Julius Caesar. They also seem to be right a lot more often than the men.

After that, Mark Antony will have a word or two to say over Caesar's moldering body. Danny will take on that well-known speech. There are words after 'Friends, Romans, countrymen'--many people don't realize this.

Finally, after the deed has been done and the assassins begin to turn on each other--thanks in large part to Mark Antony--Ryan and Saul will recreate the great battlefront argument between Brutus and Cassius. This scene features the Shakespearean equivalent of did-not-did-too-did-not-did-too.

Enlightenment Games

Every religion has some means of enforcing good behavior on the part of its disciples. This is one path toward the general objective of Global Citizenship--one that can be tracked back to some of the earliest human remains, which show evidence of burial ceremonies and artwork meant to promote good luck and well-lived days on earth.

Seven of our fourteen students are engaging in activities meant to explore these beliefs about human behavior--beliefs that are more or less current, and which, even so, date back many thousands of years.

Lev, Isobel and Trent are working on a board game that tracks the route to enlightenment in Buddhism. Their game will emphasize the Eightfold Path, Buddha's exhortation that all of us lead a life of meditation and moderation. (Was he the first to say 'Everything in moderation, including moderation'?)

Jianmarco, Aristea and Mike are collaborating on a game whose players follow the (even older) tenets of the Hindu path to enlightenment. This game will engage the key concepts of karma, dharma, reincarnation and the caste system.

Meanwhile, Jonathan is travelling with family in Ireland. On his own, he is creating an illustrated game that tracks the progress of a Celtic peasant from the pre-Christian era toward the afterlife.

These games will be beta-tested during the first week in June and will be open to the public on Monday, June 10th, for our year-end bash. For the preparations underway with our other seven students, please see the next post!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exhibitions Review

Danny, Saul and Jonathan kicked off this round with explorations of the world of computing and computers: Saul at the micro level, exploring how microprocessors work; Danny at the global level, comparing the rise and future of the five most popular social networking sites in the world; and Jonathan at the galactic level, recounting ongoing efforts to create nuclear powered rockets.

Ryan celebrated his first round of Exhibitions with sophisticated materials game theory and astrophysics, each connected, in part, to his Lit Circles work on 'Life As We Knew It', in which an astrophysical disaster reduces human access to increasingly limited materials.

Lily pitted two groups against each other in a race to name all the major bones in the human body. Mike pitted two girls labelled 'charged particles' against each other, demonstrating how a particle accelerator works. They smashed into each other and turned into new matter, personified by Lev.

Denali led the group on a tour modeled delightfully after her trip to China with Fan Wu. we wandered from place to place, eating Chinese crackers and listening to the stories of the terra cotta soldiers and the oldest capital in the world. Lev worked his audience through material on the robobee, a fascinating little bot that may revolitionize traffic, exploration, and heaven knows what-all. Jianmarco also talked robots, bringing in and setting loose a Lego robot crawler.

Trent and Isobel both took a historical approach, focusing, respectively, on the Korean War and the rise of the Black Panthers. Trent created a board game across the 38th parallel, while Isobel engaged the group in an advocacy exercise built from the Place Out of Time model. Evan also made use of the Place Out of Time program, asking audience members to assume a historical character and take a position on the issue of concussions in National Football League.

Aristea went with food and with math, working her audience through fractions, proportions, and percentages via the irresistible delivery system of pizza. She was facilitating our participation in a game she had invented in Sam's math class, with support from Trent.

The last round of love is reserved for Taylor, bound for Community High School, who demonstrated his readiness for the existed with two thorough, thoughtful, and entertaining lessons on the kind of big-idea, large-scale science that he really enjoys. First, Taylor guided us through visual material on various attempts at perpetual motion machines, from da Vinci's time through the present day, including a Norwegian artist's amazing pendulum-driven machine, running without intervention for days at a time. Ask Taylor what 101% efficiency means. Next, he showed us an assortment of blueprints for trebuchets before taking outside and firing an acorn into the clear blue sky from a four-foot home-built machine without killing anybody. It was a suitably satisfying conclusion to a fine round of springtime Exhibitions.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mascot Latest

Here is our Elite Eight, or Excellent Eight, or Elemental Eight, or Egregious Eight.

Sneaky Ninjas
Snow Leopards

This past round was a student-only vote. Each of the seven homerooms chose their favorite eight of the sixteen that started the round. For details on how each class voted, see the posts on the green wall in the SK foyer. It's worth noting that no class was off by more than three--that is, everyone had at least five of the above in their top eight.

Closest to the final tally were Chris' third & fourth graders, who had seven of the eight--they wanted Spiked Lizards instead of Hobbits--and Val's kindergartners, also at seven, who preferred Huwawas to Squirrels.

In the next round, faculty will meet to halve the field once more. After the spring trips, ardent student advocates for each of the four finalists will present their cases in a public forum (time and date to be announced). The only rules: there is a time limit (probably five minutes), and you may only discuss your own mascot, not any of the other finalists.

The Woods

Tracy Gallup went to some trouble to set up a trip for all of us--every class in Summers-Knoll--to hike a mile-long trail up in Livingston County called the Oaken Transformation. In this little stretch of forest, farm, and grassland, sculptures and beautifully rendered poems were scattered along the footpath. We went up with Jason's class on Thursday, May 9, armed with picnic lunches and commonplace books. We read a few of the poems aloud. I gave a few prompts, but not too many; the kids found their own muses. They drew, wrote, and recited. The day was lovely. Danny took some fine photographs on the trail. Here are a few of them.



Friday, May 10, 2013

Fab Five

S K   M S   F A B   F I V E
These are the five projects that will close out the 2012-2013 academic year.
  1. exhibitions
  2. portfolios
  3. julius caesar
  4. enlightenment
  5. library writing

may 13-17
exhibitions; portfolios to six items; writing generated

may 20-24
julius selections; portfolios to ten; enlightenment selections

may 28-31
julius rehearsals; games designed; writing first draft; portfolios all

june 4-8
julius rehearsals; games completed and played; writing final draft

june 11
julius performances

Exhibition Schedule


monday 13 may
tuesday 14 may
wednesday 15 may
thursday 16 may

8:00 Lev
8:00 Trent

10:00 Lily
11:00 Taylor
11:45 Danny

11:45 Denali
11:45 Isobel

3:45 Saul
1:15 Evan

4:30 Ryan
2:45 Jonathan
4:30 Aristea

5:00 Iron Mike
5:15 Jianmarco

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Your Child Has Homework

Here are Evan and Taylor writing schedule plans for our Portfolio work. This collection of student work is being assembled by the kids at digication.com, and will play a role in Exhibitions, scheduled for May 14-16. We took forty minutes last week to engage in long-term plans for those two activities, plus the Maker Faire and the Enlightenment Games.

In addition to these, the children are reading independently, their books from 2012-2013 listed as a Personal Library. The PL will soon gain one or two writing assignments from me, unique to each student, which the kids will undertake, revise, and load into their portfolios over the next four weeks.

In other words, there is plenty of work to be done. I don't assign problem sets for homework, but I do expect the kids to build their skills at recognizing what needs to be done, estimating what will need to be done at home versus what can be completed in work time at school, and planning accordingly.

If you'd like a closer look at what we're up to, stop in the room anytime. All our notes are posted there.
4-up on 4-29-13 at 1.19 PM #5 (compiled).jpg

Friday, May 3, 2013

Twelve of Them Are Alliterative

After the first round of voting, in which 129 members of the SK community cast their votes, we are down to thirty-two possibilities for the Summers-Knoll mascot. 

Look for the next set of voting materials--the 16 pairs and the voting roster--to be posted on the green wall in the foyer of the building, right across from the front desk, next to all the Hogwarts photos.

The next round, narrowing the field to sixteen, will run as follows:

In the first round, we used an electoral college system. This round is a direct democracy: one vote per citizen. Each Summers-Knoll student, parent, and employee is entitled to one vote.

Students may only vote in the presence of an adult. 

There are sixteen pairs. It’s best to cast a vote in each pair, but you don’t have to. Vote by making a tally mark in the box below the name you prefer. When you have voted, you must cross your name off the voting roster. Voting ends on Tuesday, May 7.

Here are the remaining nicknames in SK bracket:
Caterpillars, Cats, Chipmunks, Dragonflies, Dragons, Flash Mob, Fireflies, Hobbits, Huwawas, Jedis, Kittens, Knaves, Knights, Light Bulbs, Minis, Orcs, Rabbits, Redstone Bugs, Robins, Robots, Scientists, Sea Lions, Skinks, Sneaky Ninjas, Snow Leopards, Songbirds, Spiders, Spiked Lizards, Squirrels, Swans, Tree Frogs and Tweets.


As we've noted before, every Wednesday is kindergarten day for us. We stop by Val's room from 2:30 to 3:00 to play, read, paint, stretch, and/or pull funny faces in Joanna's window. Lev, Ryan and Val have taken a few pictures.

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