Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tutorials and Another Big Chart

We spent the last few weeks of the semester tracking our progress differently. Rather than rely upon the Tutorials document, in which individual students' work was listed on a spreadsheet, we put up a huge tracker called the Avoision Chart (the word, coined by Mike Paskus '15, is a combination of 'avoid' and 'evasion'--the point being to avoid panic as Exhibitions approach).

The Avoision Chart is simple. On the x-axis are two dozen distinct tasks, including six writing prompts, four Identity Project tasks, four Identity Exhibition tasks, two books to read, six America (Abridged)-related tasks, and some science, work crews, portfolio, and art responsibilities. On the y-axis is each student's name. This public accounting helps in a few different ways. One, it's a constant visual reminder. Two, students can help each other out as they see fit. Three, big deadlines (Exhibition, Project, America) are broken down into manageable parts. Four, it is eminently satisfying to cross items off.

The other Big Chart, located on the opposite wall, tracked our overarching plans for the months of September, October, November, and December. Review it here in this September post:

That has been erased, soon to be replaced by a similarly structured Big Chart for January, February, March, April, May, and June. Look for that in an early January post, soon after our return to school on January 4. Until then, enjoy the holidays, and let's raise the highest of hopes for 2016.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Lindsay's Exhibition: Genealogy and History

Here are some notes on Lindsay's Exhibition from Marcellin.

Lindsay’s project was to look at her ancestors’ history and their emigration from other countries to the United States.  She talked about her family’s travels from Sweden, Italy & England to the US, and passed around pictures of the actual ships upon which they traveled.

Lindsay picked three family members to research.  

In Italy before World War I, her family felt their lives were threatened and they would probably die, and so migrated to America.   Many did not have enough money to send the entire family, so they would get a document allowing one family member to go and start a new life for the entire bloodline.  Once in the new country, the immigrants had the potential to earn enough to bring the rest of their family.

One of her relatives was John Holland.  He fell off the Mayflower, but made it back on board and lived to sign the Mayflower Compact, a community agreement for common living.

Another of Lindsay’s relatives was aboard the first passenger ship from Sweden that arrived in the New World; it was carrying 140 people who were hoping to create a Utopia in this New Land.

For Lindsay’s activity, she had each person fill out their family tree (sample shown below). Then  we discussed the origin of each family member,  talking about where they came from and who they were. Her activity was a great introduction to the theme of immigration.  

IMG_0911 (2).jpg
A portion of a family tree, filled out on Lindsay's schematic.

Emma's Exhibition: Making Art from Discarded Materials

Margaret attended Emma's Exhibition. Here are her notes.

Emma started out her Exhibition by setting shoeboxes in front of us. Then she took charge and started telling us about her project.
She told us how she and Evan had noticed good wax on the Babybel cheese being thrown away. The two of them had then started to rescue those bits of wax and use it to sculpt things. Emma told Tracy about this and Tracy gave Emma more, different, multi-colored wax. Emma made a bunch of cats and one girl with that wax. Karl commented on how this was like the Heidelberg Project, in which houses slated for destruction are transformed into art. That’s what prompted Emma's trip into Detroit to interview Margaret Grace, Heidelberg's Education Director and a certified Friend of SK, about Tyree Guyton.
Then Emma told us about how exciting it is to make new things from scraps and why she likes it. Emma then explained that the little shoe boxes on our tables were for: we were supposed to use the scraps inside them to make beautiful creations. That was really cool. Someone even made the CN Tower.

Here is a link to an article on Tyree Guyton on the occasion of his exhibit at U of M.

And here are links to earlier blog posts at our classroom site about trips to Heidelberg.

Matthew's Exhibition: Composition for Piano in A Minor

Evan attended Matthew's Exhibition.

Music is an important element of Matthew's identity. Matthew sat down at the piano and played a pleasant piece in the beginning that he had composed in A minor. He explained about the piece, how it was a waltz, its key signature, and note lengths.

Then he talked in a lot of detail about music theory and some approaches to composition. For example, here is Matthew on arpeggios: Arpeggios are like chords, but they’re broken up into one note at time. (In an A minor chord, you play A, C, and E at the same time. In an arpeggio, you would play A, then C, the E, then high A, and then go back down.)

He let us go for a while and let us mess around on the instruments, trying to compose something. Then he brought us together to share our music with each other. At the end he played the piece that he played in the beginning again.

Here is a link to the sheet music of Matthew's composition in A minor.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kaeli's Exhibition: Fashion Design

I’m Lee, an eighth grader. This is a blog post on Kaeli’s exhibition.

Kaeli made clothes (a blouse and stencilled jeans, shown above), and wrote an essay (shown below) on how fashion is related to identity. She took three identifying words, elicited from friends, and made clothes based on those. The words were fun, laid back, and passionate. 

She said fashion is your personality. For Kaeli, inspiration comes from everything, such as flower petals. Making clothes is hard--the process of stencilling, painting, sewing, drying, washing and drying again took several days.

For the activity, we all designed clothes based on us, using templates Kaeli passed out. Then, we all put them up on the board, and she commented on them and talked more about inspiration.

Ada's Exhibition: Snakes, Evil and Good

I’m Karenna, and I will be writing about Ada’s Exhibition.

The topic of Ada’s Exhibition was Snakes in Science and Literature, and the exhibition started by having the presentation content handed out before hand, which I found very useful, as you could follow along even if the slide changed and it was useful during the activity, where we debated whether snakes were good or evil. Her project was researching different myths and facts about snakes, as well as stories told about them from different cultures. Ada brought in her pet snake, Charlie, who is a corn snake, and quite adorable.
Ada and Charlie.
The first thing the presentation showed was the order of how things would be going for the exhibition, and it moved on to how people view snakes, as well as why people are so afraid of them. After that, Ada told us some different myths about snakes, including a Greek myth, an Egyptian, and some others. At the end of the presentation there was a slide talking about the characteristics of a corn snake, like that their teeth are curved backwards so prey can’t escape (corn snakes kill their prey by squeezing them to death, and by swallowing them.) Corn snakes are also non-venomous, and are named for the pattern on their stomachs.
The activity consisted of a debate between the two different sides of the room, one half argued that snakes were evil, the other half that snakes are good (I was on the evil side….. our main argument was that you had to wash your hands before petting them.) We argued points such as, Apophis tried to swallow the sun, and the cobras tried to murder a helpless boy in Rikki Tikki Tavi, and the other side argued that snakes are symbols of healing, as well as being intelligent.
Overall the exhibition was informative and I enjoyed it very much. The debate was a great way of talking about what we had learned, and having Charlie there was a nice touch.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Evan's Exhibition: Civil War Equipment

Gabe attended Evan's Exhibition on how troops were outfitted in the Civil War.

Evan’s Exhibition was very interesting. He taught us about weapons and equipment in the Civil War and how they reflected the North and South. The idea of the ‘ragged rebel’ was especially interesting. That is the myth that soldiers from the Confederacy weren’t as well-equipped as Federal soldiers.

image1.JPGEvan the hit main points very nicely. I was also impressed by his knowledge of his topic. When he was talking he made it easy depict facts which really helped me learn. He answered lots of questions without trouble. Another thing: he was very into his presentation. Not only did use the slides as a companion piece, but he also made them interesting to look at with illustrations.

He ended by showing us pictures and asking us to match the soldier to their rank or role. That was well-prepared and interesting too.

Margaret's Exhibition: Portraiture

Matthew wrote a little report about Margaret's Exhibition on portraiture.

Margaret's project and exhibition comprised making pencil portraits of each of the seven eighth graders, along with a little paragraph on them. The eighth graders are Kaeli, Karenna, Ada, Margaret, Nik, Lee, and myself, Matthew. In her exhibition, she was teaching the attendees how to draw portraits. To do this, she started by having her attendees drawing portraits of a random face. Then, she taught them about how she drew portraits, with a focus on the proportions of the human face. After that, she had them draw another portrait, to show what they had learned. One thing that Margaret did that helped the attendees was demonstrating drawing a quick portrait on the board.

Here are two of the portraits that she drew for her project:

A portrait of Margaret.
A portrait of Nik.

Be sure to check out the other exhibition posts!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Karenna's Exhibition: Stereotypes in Media

Kaeli prepared a little report on Karenna's Exhibition.

This semester we are doing identity, so Karenna decided to do Stereotypes in Social Media. She created an online presentation and a collage about stereotypes.

Karenna's collage of stereotypes in media
She started off talking about stereotypes with genders, like how “All girls like pink and all boys hate ‘em.” She then went on to the stereotypes vs. bias, giving an example that, if you saw two black cats and one had a torn ear and the other was perfectly fine, you’d probably pick the one the looked ‘normal’.
Karenna’s project was a collage. She decided this because even though she could have done a report, but she decided on the college because it was part of her own identity.
She then went on to 'Gender Stereotypes', how, for example, among other things, women are nice, and work at home. They have long hair and wear pink. Men on the other hand, are angry, work as CEOs, and work out at the gym. She expressed that this is not any kind of universal truth.
After that we talked about 'Racial Stereotypes'. She has said that, since the institution of slavery and the Civil War, the most prominent racial stereotyping is about African-Americans or Blacks. I also noticed that on her college, there was one black woman amongst many white people. This indicates that white is considered 'normal'.
The final slide was about ‘Positive Stereotypes’. She said that these can be viewed as both positive and negative. The examples included the following: Italians are good cooks, Asians are extremely smart, women make good teachers, and men are strong.

We moved on to the activity after that, making collages with stereotypes from magazines......

Friday, November 20, 2015

High School, Two Corners Away

High school is not right around the corner. The kids aren't ready yet, though when the time comes, they will be. Right now they're too busy being middle schoolers to be nothing more than apprentice high school students. But they are all moving in that direction. They are designing and carrying out projects that range from animal dissection to social media analysis to fashion design to Civil War history. They are in service to the school in weekly work crews and in their nascent Legacy Projects. They are managing their own costumes and props as well as rehearsals for the all-school play. They are elbow-deep in Algebra and Geometry. The days are full for the eighth graders, and they are passing by, each one, like it or not, a step closer to a new school and new adventures.

Here is a brief calendar for open houses and deadlines for area high schools. High school is not around the next corner, but it's fair to say that it is waiting around the corner after that.

12/7/2015WTMCadmissions invitational for 8th grade families
12/7/2015Steinerschool tour
1/4/2016Communityapplications available
1/6/2016Dexterincoming 9th grade scheduling
1/7/2016WiHiadmissions open house
1/10/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/11/2016WiHiadmissions open house
1/12/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/20/2016Greenhillsadmissions application deadline
1/20/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/20/2016WTMCadmissions invitational for 8th grade families
1/23/2016Steineradmissions open house
1/24/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
1/25/2016Steinerschool tour
1/27/2016Skylineincoming 9th grade visit; curriculum night
2/9/2016Saline8th grade open house
2/3/2016Communityincoming 9th grade orientation
2/5/2016Communitylottery application deadline
2/8/2016Steinerschool tour
2/9/2016Pioneerincoming 9th grade night
2/9/2016Communitylottery draw for incoming 9th grade
2/10/2016Huroncurriculum night
2/20/2016Greenhillsfinancial aid application due
2/22/2016Steinerschool tour

Friday, November 13, 2015

Identity: Self-Portraits in Two Media

For tonight's Music & Art Cafe, the kids are exhibiting both written work and self-portraits. The former are based on the second novel we read together, Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. This beloved book is a series of forty-four snapshots in the life of an eighth-grade girl in a Latino neighborhood of Chicago. Our kids wrote three snapshots of their own lives, each series given a title such as The Willow on Bridgeway Drive or The Kitten on Pearl Street.

The self-portraits were painted under the guidance of Monica Wilson in the style of Tyree Guyton, creator and curator of our old friend the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Descartes' Error

At Summers-Knoll, our strategy of education is built on the conviction that true learning happens when the mind and the heart are engaged.

The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about the essential mixture of emotion and reason in his book Descartes' Error. The error of the title is in the phrase I think, therefore I am. Damasio's research into the distinct areas of the brain indicated to him that emotion and reason are not separate processes, but are in fact inextricably linked. Without emotion to direct reason, one cannot function in the world. One of this year's eighth graders explored this connection last year in a project on Phineas Gage, victim of a brain injury that compromised his ability to feel. A motivated, well-liked foreman prior to his accident, Gage became sociopathic afterward, unable to attach any kind of moral system to his (otherwise unaffected) cognitive processes.

The crux of our work at SK is about the relationships we as a faculty develop with students. Again, this is not something we do because it's groovy or cool. We establish relationships with our students because that is the best way to promote learning. David Walsh, a presenter at the ISACS conference I attended last week, cited the work of Edward Tronick at Harvard University. Our brains are constantly wiring and re-wiring how neurons fire. Only 17% of these are hard-wired at birth. If we do not have meaningful interactions with other people, our ability to build cognitive and emotional strategies stagnates.

Dr. Tronick's work, repeated cross-culturally, shows how babies respond when their mothers stop responding to them--even if they are still making eye contact and in the immediate vicinity.

Relationships are not an assist to learning. They are absolutely essential.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mile Week

One of the highlights of the PE semester is Mile Week. It's just how it sounds: the kids run, jog and/or walk six laps around the school, which adds up to a mile. (There's been no crawling yet. They have some pride.) Everyone does at least some running over the course of those five thousand feet.

Sometimes we go together and sometimes we invite the kids to run at their own pace throughout.
This year, Matthew ran a personal best at 6:48, and then, the next day, ran a 6:30 mile.

Legacy Projects

All eighth graders are required to complete Legacy Projects, which are left behind at Summers-Knoll to benefit the community even after our graduates are released into the wild.

The SK Class of 2016 brainstormed sixty-six potential Legacy Projects today. Here is their list.

art project
faerie door 
& garden
kids’ clubs
PE games
SK logo
7-8 archway
bake sale
false door
kids’ performance
PE storage
SK lunchbox
7-8/K-2 buddies
athletics league
(chickens & goats)
lunchtime band
pizza Fridays
SK merchandise
7-8 storage room
atrium plan
field day
playground equipment
SK pet (indoor)
slack line
bookshelf door
flora (e.g, trees)
musical composition
SK pet (outdoor)
speaker/PA system
ceiling tiles
free library
musical equipment
prop shop
SK pond
stained-glass window
charity fundraiser
greenhouse fix-up
obstacle course
rope swing
SK t-shirt & sweatshirt
climbing wall
homeroom pet(s)
older alumni gathering
SK anthem
school fix-up
trick out the bathrooms
costume shop
hoop house
older alumni handprints
SK drone
school lunches
vending machine
identity cards
SK gift shop
secret door
water fountain upstairs
electronics manual
indoor play equipment
PE equipment
SK grounds care
security system
zip line

Here is the list of our fourteen past projects:

  • Alice cast album, recorded by a student who wrote most of the music
  • alumni handprints & signatures in 7-8 stairwell
  • alumni newsletter, sent electronically
  • Culture Day, a celebration of global living
  • exchange library
  • mural in the theme of diaspora, showing movement between a dystopia and a utopia
  • mural in the dual themes of dystopia & utopia
  • mural in the theme of identity
  • raised garden beds & butterfly garden
  • service learning at Glacier Hills Center to complement the in-school work crews program
  • Skeidelberg playhouse (pictured above)
  • technology usage video
  • work crews system, in which 7-8s work with teachers & staff throughout SK
  • yearbook, debuted by the class of 2014 and now carried out by the 7-8s