Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lake Superior

We kept warm on a beach between Munising and Marquette, on Lake Superior's southern shore.

Yes, it's ice. These floes are comprised of thousands of rod-shaped icicles welded together by water.

We must conquer them.

Or not.

Jayonne was pleased with her decision not to go into that water.

This little accidental beach by the side of US-41 was our favorite hour of the trip, up to that point.

Lake Michigan

We settled into the house just west of Saint Ignace. Mike built a beautiful fire.

Some of us started testing the water immediately.

The next morning, we all got out on the lake in kayaks.

The Bridge is an impressive backdrop. We rowed toward the morning sunshine and held collection in a little cove.

Jonathan plans to row in the fall for Pioneer High.

We rolled up our sleeping bags and headed west and north, toward Lake Superior.

Lake Huron

On the first day of the Spring Trip, we were a little bit crazy even before we left.
We walked a mile or two in Bird Hills Park to burn off a little energy.
We ran into Mr. Gil Leaf, former Head of Summers-Knoll, and chatted with him for a few minutes.
On Saginaw Bay, we went out on the schooner Appledore IV.
To raise the sail, you must respond together to the command 'Haul Away!'

Haul Away!

We also got lessons in navigation, history, survival, limnology, and knots.
Then we got back in the bus and back onto I-75. A couple of hours later, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge.
That was it for Lake Huron, for the time being.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Detroit Lives On

Strangely, even though we completed our Detroit Projects with the last Exhibitions on April 14, Detroit continues to exist. Who knew? So we had to get back there to see what's happening.

On May 9, we jumped on the eastbound SK bus for our now-accustomed mobile lunch, downing sandwiches, apples, and those weird sticks of yogurt en route to Earthworks Urban Farm over by the St. Bonaventure Monastery. As we learned at Scattergood Friends School back in 2012, when you pitch in short-term on a farm, you're probably going to see a lot of weeds. Under the direction of Denis Rochac, Earthworks' education man, we took care of a strawberry patch, a raspberry patch, and a tangled berm protecting fields of a unique hybrid called Motown Garlic. We asked about a house we saw on Meldrum with giant numbers painted on the side. He smiled. 'That's our friend Tyree.'

A week later, on a day off, we headed back into the city for a three-stop tour. First, we went to the Heidelberg Project. What a difference to see the installation in bright and warm sunshine after our first view in sub-zero whites and greys. The neighborhood was filled with action, lots of tourists, another school group, and Tyree Guyton himself, the Project's creator, presiding over work, tours, and conversation.

We thought we would be cleaning up a playground, but Margaret Grace, Heidelberg's education woman and our good friend, had other ideas. Margaret had gathered together discarded tires from a vacant lot on Mt. Elliot Street and set us to work weeding, seeding, hauling, planting, and painting. All this was situated near one of Tyree's newer installations, Taxi House.

That mission completed, we accepted a lovely blessing from Tyree and headed over to Cass Tech for the Detroit City FC match against Michigan Stars. En route, we stopped by the Boggs Center and read a little about that groundbreaking collection of civil rights activists (founders, incidentally, of both Earthworks Farm and Avalon Breads).

The stadium at Cass was packed; City's largest crowd ever (until the following week). We were greeted by Donovan Powell, City FC's general manager, and spent the half-hour before the game scarfing high-end macaroni & cheese and Korean beef burritos. The game was great. the crowd was rowdy. Stars' captain had been a City FC player till the week before, and the supporters gave him a hard time. After the match, we got loads of autographs and chatted with City FC's midfielder Kevin Taylor, who is also Pioneer's coach, and who we hope will conduct a soccer clinic for SK kids in the fall.

Here's a link to the club's match report:

A week after that, on May 23, we were delighted to welcome a delegation from the Friends School in Detroit to our Mythology Projects and seventh grade Exhibitions. Ten seventh graders and the eighth grade advisor, our friend Bryan Baker, joined us for a tour of the school, a dash around the playground, and an hour-long afternoon session exploring the essential stories of China, Ghana, Mesoamerica, Britain, Brazil, and Australia.

It's impossible to say for certain that our connections in the city are here to stay, but the evidence of May 2014 is awfully promising.

Monday, May 19, 2014

High School 101

High School 101 is wrapping up with bang; no whimpering allowed.

Last week we were joined by Craig Levin, SK parent and longtime math teacher and Forum leader at Community High. Craig took questions and offered plenty of advice from years of ushering ninth graders into the world of high school living. Above all he enjoined the kids to deal with the new social setting by remaining true to their own natures rather than trying to identify what it takes to fit in.

This week we will have four guests from three institutions.

On Monday, Fan Wu will be here to talk about Pioneer High, where she continues to teach Mandarin. Fan also teaches at Huron High; the contrast should be illuminating. On Wednesday, two representatives from the Neutral Zone will be here to talk about programs for high school students: Mary Thiefels, the visual arts coordinator, and Jamall Bufford, the music coordinator. Last, George Albercook and his son Zander will be in on Thursday at lunch to talk about Washtenaw International High School, aka WiHi.

The following week we're on our spring trip; our last HS 101 session will engage practicalities, including map-reading and combination locks.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Trip Packing List

Saul has made a packing list for our spring trip, to which I’ve added a few annotations here and there. The funny stuff is all his, though. Thanks, Saul.

Average May temperatures in Houghton: high 61, low 39. It’ll be colder on the lake. Bring layers. We will have access to automatic dryers every night of the trip.

Two nights of the trip--the first and last--we’ll stay at a private home in St. Ignace. You’ll sleep outside or on a couch. The other two nights we’re in dorm rooms at Michigan Tech (the college students won’t be there). Our chaperones are Karl Sikkenga and Jayonne Wynne.

Don't pack too much. 
There will be fourteen of us on the bus. Your stuff should fit into one big duffel bag which can be crammed under your seat.

Stuff that everyone needs.
  • Three or four sets of clothes (outfits)
  • A swimsuit
  • A towel
  • Hiking boots (these don’t need to be hard-core)
  • Shoes that you don’t mind getting wet
  • A hat
  • Two warm blankets or a sleeping bag (for when we’re sleeping at Karl’s parents’ house; we won’t need our own bedding at Michigan Tech)
  • Some sort of warm outer layer (a sweater, for example)
  • A bag lunch for the bus ride to St. Ignace
  • At least two pairs of extra socks
  • A reusable water bottle

Stuff that’s optional.
  • A flashlight
  • A small backpack
  • A camera or a phone with a camera
  • Money for souvenirs or raiding vending machines (you’ll have to keep track of it yourself)
  • A pillow (again, for the nights at Karl’s parents’ house)

Stuff that you might need if you’re sleeping in a tent in St. Ignace.
  • Something soft to sleep on (if you’re bringing a tent, you should know what that requires)

Stuff that there’s no point in bringing.
  • Fishing gear (there will be no time for fishing, and fishing gear is a pain to fit in the bus)
  • Electronics that can’t be used on the bus ride (that’s the only time that electronics are allowed, except for cameras and phones used as cameras)
  • Way too much money (people will only borrow it from you; Jayonne & Karl won’t look after it)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart is one of the best-known and best-loved novels in the whole of modern African literature. Written by Nigeria's Chinua Achebe in the 1950s, it tells a story of the Ibo people of that region in the late nineteenth century. In one sense, it is a highly politicized treatise on colonialism and the particular forms of blindness inherent in that system. In another, it is a classic Greek tragedy.

We finished Things Fall Apart on Tuesday after reading a chapter a day together for a little over three weeks. Our conversations were organic, enlightening, and honest. The kids took a bright and interestingly angled perspective on the trials of Okonkwo, the meanest, strongest, and weakest man in Umuofia.

The kids are producing two pieces of writing on Achebe's novel.

The first is testimony from Okonkwo on the case before the justices at the Alhambra--in other words, they wrote a monologue for him as if he were one of the characters in the Place out of Time project at U of M. The second piece is more classic. The Greek concept of hamartia has two meanings: tragic flaw and tragic error. Apply both to Okonkwo. Cite the text.

Spoiler Alert: Things Fall Apart does not end well for Okonkwo. After we finished chapter 25, we used collection to hold a moment of silence for Okonkwo, whom we mourned even though he was one of the least sympathetic characters any of us had ever seen. We still felt for him. What a book.

May 23

Friday, May 23, is a big day at Summers-Knoll. We will have Reflections Night here at school instead of over at Allen Elementary. Personally, I love this change: Reflections is a means of seeing where our children have been and what they have achieved as artists and performers over the course of the year. Josh, Tracy and Monica are cooking up great plans for the event's layout and format.

For the sixth, seventh and eighth graders, May 23 will also be a Project Day and a Hosting Day as well. At 2:00 on the afternoon of May 23, each of the six Mythology Circles will be showing off projects in the upstairs domain.

Brazil's mythologists, facilitated by Nico, are focusing on the crucial importance of futebol to that nation's identity. Specifically, they will show a project that engages the coming World Cup in that country--specifically, the 'lost Final' of 1950, and the controversies about spending $18,000,000,000 on the tournament, in a nation where millions live in poverty. Margaret and Jonathan are also working on this project.

Ghana's storytellers, led by Isobel, will present a play based on the legends of Anansi the Spider, the trickster hero of West African myths. The play was written for, and will be performed by, students in Val's kindergarten class. Kaeli and Trent are Isobel's partners in this endeavor.

Britain's defenders, led by Jianmarco, will also produce a play. Theirs will explore the story of King Arthur. They have adapted a young-adult script of the Sword in the Stone into a modern setting. Lee and Lily are the other planners, writers, and participants in this project.

China's student sinologists, under Mike's leadership, are creating a board game with echoes of Risk. The playing surface is a map of China during one era of the Warring States. The objective is to win control of all twelve: Yan, Zhao, Zhou, Qi, Qin, Chu, Shu, Lu, Song, Han, Wei, and Zongshan.
Karenna and Denali are also working on this project.

Australia's anthropologists, led by Maya, are looking at Aboriginal concepts surrounding Dreamtime, the mythical primordial state when the world was soft and unformed. Their project will engage this belief through various forms of art, a central aspect of Aboriginal worship. Matthew and Saul are also engaged in this work.

Mesoamerica's historians, facilitated by Aristea, are creating a card game modelled after Fluxx and named after Xquic (pronounced Shkeek), the Eve of the Mayan creation myth. The game will comprise forty original cards, designed by the students, covering four distinct elements of early Mesoamerican civilization. Nik and Ryan are the other artists and designers.

It is a Hosting Day because we will be welcoming a dozen students and faculty members from the Friends School in Detroit as part of our Detroit Project exchanges. Middle schoolers from Friends will spend some time in a facilitated conversation with their compatriots, touring the school, and viewing the Mythology Projects before heading back into the city at 4:00.

Lastly, it is an Exhibition Day for six of the seventh graders. They will be introducing each of the Mythology Projects as well as reading aloud from their writing on the subject. This will comprise their final Exhibition. More to come, in a new post, on Exhibitions for the remaining students.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Isobel and Mike: Avalon Breads Exhibition

This was the tastiest Exhibition of them all.

After working for an hour at Earthworks Urban Farm over on the east side of Detroit, we drove over to the Cass Corridor for Mike and Isobel's Exhibition at Avalon Breads. They set us up at a table in the midst of a busy afternoon at the bakery/cafe on Willis Street. (On the way over, we passed the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we had gone with Monica a month before.)

Isobel and Mike set us up with delicious cookies. Then someone knocked over Karl's coffee, which spilled all over Aristea, so there was a little delay. Then, while we ate, Mike and Isobel explained that Avalon was founded in 1997 to help brighten up the Midtown section of the city. Several businesses in the immediate vicinity of Avalon hadn't been there when they first opened the bakery.

Like Earthworks, Avalon was founded after some meetings with representatives from the Boggs Center, a social activist group devoted to improving the lives of Detroiters. Avalon's motto, Eat Well, Do Good, reflects their dual mission of social justice and great food. (Food is love, after all.)

Isobel and Mike proposed that we have some SK events catered by Avalon. The chief financial officer of the company said earlier that she liked that idea and that it would be feasible, because Avalon delivers products to Ann Arbor every day. We also hoped that there might be some opportunities for Avalon people to teach baking at SK, or hold lessons that we could organize and attend in the city. However, in spite of numerous invitations, no one from Avalon responded or came to the Exhibition, so we are skeptical about future collaborations.

We are grateful to Denali's father, Budge Gere, for helping out with transportation.