Monday, May 25, 2015

Injecting Fruit Flies, Calculating Orbit Trajectories, and Predicting Cloud Formations

Image result for mars images

Science has been a busy arena for our kids over the past couple of weeks.

Mars Out of Time found us following up on our reading of Andy Weir's The Martian by assessing the problems solved in the novel's manned mission and applying those lessons to our fictional colonization of the Red Planet. At last look, the document they created outlining problems and solutions totaled thirty-three of each.

Jennifer Ayala, SK parent of Andrew '22 and NASA Ambassador, came in for a lively presentation on the book and a Q&A on all matters aeronautical in mid-May.

Our gathering of elites for the Mars Out of Time Symposium and Banquet featured student-run projects including a guide through the University of Michigan's Place Out of Time site, a review of the thirty-three problems and solutions, a presentation of the Martian Constitution created to address the complexities of a new society, a dozen creative, scientific, and literary projects from the 5-6s, and six focus groups debating the following scenario:

Life has been discovered at the foot of Olympus Mons at the microbiotic level. Nearby, the richest deposit of impossinium in the solar system has also been detected. We can't mine the ore without endangering the habitat. What should our next two steps be?

Our guest professors from U of M were deeply impressed with the discussions that followed. They observed that all groups conducted their conversations equitably, regardless of age (grades 5 through 8 were mixed), gender, or character; and that each was highly strategic, hardly needing the fifteen minutes allocated. The most astute observation we heard was that the proximity of the habitat and the vein of ore was too close to be coincidental, so extreme caution was called for.

We returned to the Drosophilia Laboratory at the University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute, once again under the guidance of Dr. Lisa Johnson, SK parent of Lindsay Barolo '17. As in the fall, the kids were manipulating genetic material.

Here are the paces she and the kids put those fruit flies through:
Below is a link for a virtual transgenic fly lab from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The parts of the lab called "prepare fly embryos" and "inject fly embryos with DNA" are what Lisa demonstrated when the kids are in the lab, along with dissecting, which is not shown in the virtual demonstration.

Finally, Dr. Frank Marsik, Friend of SK, helped us generate a brief activity that we pursued over the course of two weeks, on meteorology and weather prediction. We focused on atmospheric pressure and wind generation, with a delightful sojourn in Monica Wilson's art class on cloud portraits. Those can be seen all over the Atrium at Summers-Knoll. Find Nik's! It's amazing!

Here'a a little more on Dr. Marsik's work. This is the truly awesome stuff--a hurricane assessment system that will float in outer space.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Reading Aloud

The tools of technology have changed the look of education. Much of the 7-8s' work is done electronically, through Google Docs. They can all make Prezis. Many of the kids carry miniature dictionaries and encyclopedias everywhere. They are very adept at researching, substantiating, and chronicling work on the fly using web-based tools.

But the best innovation of the year for me has been reading aloud. By the end of the year, the fifteen of us will have read eight books together--literally together, at the same pace, gathered in a small clump for storytime in a manner that would not have seemed out of place at a Stone Age campfire.

From September through May, in order, here is our list:

Icarus Girl, Helen Oyeyemi
Keeper, Malcolm Peet
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 
        Mark Haddon
Tracks, Louise Erdrich
The Martian, Andy Weir
X, A Fabulous Child, Lois Gould
Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Yes, we are halfway through the Steppenwolf Theater Company's staged version of The Grapes of Wrath, not customarily a middle school assignment. Tracks, Curious Incident, Kitchen and The Martian are also books for grown-ups, not kids. We're able to do this because reading together means stopping together, contemplating themes, clarifying moments, inviting conversation, and addressing complexity. The kids write too, of course. Our work in the Our Whole Lives curriculum helps lend vocabulary and context to what is euphemistically called 'mature themes'.

Kids absolutely crave understanding. 

Reading aloud has opened all of our worlds.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Karenna & Aristea's Exhibition: Pottery in Five Civilizations

Kaeli and Margaret wrote some notes on this Exhibition. Jianmarco took the pictures.

Aristea and Karenna were interested in ceramics as transformation: clay becomes functional art.

They made eight ceramic pinch pots representing five different time periods and civilizations. They started their Exhibition with having people guess which pots matched which era. Afterwards, Ari & KK opened up a Prezi explaining what pot went with with what setting, and some special characteristics about each. They explained the different styles and materials from Japanese, Greek, Egyptian, and Mayan cultures.

After they explained where each pot came from, they showed the pots they made themselves. On the pot they made, they wrote their names, Karenna & Aristea, in numbers, and had people guess what they wrote.    

IMG_0165 (1).JPG ←  Both Mayan pots

In the Mayan culture their pots were mostly orange, tan, and red because those were the most accessible colors in 900 C.E. Most pots were more individualized than the Greek, because of the stylistic freedom most artists of that era enjoyed.

←Their own pot(s)

There’s not too much of a history behind these two pots, since they were created in 2015. The one on the left is an original piece made by Karenna and Aristea. The one on the right is a flower made by one of the attendees in the exhibition.  

IMG_0161 (1).JPG←Egyptian pots
This set of pots were made to be used as makeup pots in Ancient Egypt. This set is based off a set made around 300 B.C.E. There was some influence from the Greeks. The hieroglyphs on the front show what the pot contains.

IMG_0164.JPG←Japanese pot
This pot is a traditional ceremony pot called Mukozuke. It was ritually used to hold food in ceremonies. It has an interesting squarish shape and almost looks metallic.   

←Greek pot
This Greek pot is a copy of a Skyphos (or wine cup) that came from around 400 B.C.E. The original pot showed an athlete standing next to a statue.

After Aristea & Karenna showed the pots, and had the attendees guess their origins, everyone made their own pots. They used the same type of clay that Ari and KK used for their pots. As they did that, they watched Teen Girl Squad.

If you want to see their presentation, click here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Leander & Elizabeth's Exhibition: What Do Mealworms Like?

IMG_1364 (1).JPG
Elizabeth and Lee’s exhibition was about the preferences of mealworms and darkling beetles. They conducted experiments with the first and second graders, and later on in the Exhibition did the same experiments with us. At the beginning of the Exhibition, Elizabeth and Lee had a really nice Prezi which included information on the mealworms and darkling beetles and their different transformations, and also some very cute pictures of the first and second graders working on the experiment. The experiments they did with the first and second graders included identifying preferred foods for both mealworms and darkling beetles, and the light and dark test with just the mealworms. They then conducted the light/dark test with us at the Exhibition. I thought that it was a really well put together Exhibition. I think that most people learned a lot, because Elizabeth and Lee knew all of the information well enough to teach it to us effectively.


Margaret & Nico's Exhibition: Gravity Candles

Nico and Margaret's Exhibition was about gravity. Their main topic was about the planets in our solar system and how they formed. They also had a slideshow that gave facts about how the planets formed and how the solar system was made. The spinning of the planet's revolution and the solidity of its makeup combine to cause gravity. Their activity was a gravity machine made from candles. When one side got heavy from all the wax, that side tipped down while the lighter side came up. They also talked about how the equation of gravity applied on Earth. 

F=6.67*10(-11)*(m/kg)2*62kg*~5.9 sextillion/40.69billion. 

That is the equation written-out. F stands for force, G is a universal constant, M1 is mass 1, in this case, me, M2 is mass 2, in this case, Earth, (r)2 is the distance between to object(2), in this case it’s the distance to the center of the Earth(squared). Nico and Margaret did a nice job.
Nik and Trent.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Isobel & Trent's Exhibition: SK Butterfly Garden


Trent and Isobel’s Exhibition started off with a presentation depicting the painted lady butterfly’s life cycle, where they showed us pictures of the painted lady as a caterpillar, as a chrysalis, and finally, a butterfly, with descriptions of how they grow up. A butterfly lays eggs on the bottom of a leaf, when they hatch the caterpillar eats their way out of the egg. A caterpillar sheds its skin three times, before becoming a chrysalis, and eating its way out of the cocoon as a butterfly.


After the presentation we headed outside and discussed the best locations to place the butterfly garden, as well as what plant life would surround it. The younger kids had made little sticks with butterflies on the end for where the garden would be. The fresh air was a nice touch, and when we went back inside, they gave out samples of the butterfly nectar, which was very good!
The presentation was well given, and having half of it outside to talk about the butterflies' environments was extremely helpful. Their answers to our questions were thoughtful and well informed. Overall, the exhibition was very well done, and the project was well thought out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mike & Matthew's Exhibition: Creation Myths

Mike & Matthew reported on their own Exhibition.


This round of Exhibitions, we did our projects in pairs. I was paired with Mikey, and since everybody was supposed to do Exhibitions on Transformation, we decided to do ours on Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Ovid was a Roman poet who wrote a number of books on stories about transformations, and included multiple creation myths. We wrote a paper on one of the stories he wrote (which you can see here), the Roman flood myth. After giving a thorough summary of the story, we compared it to other flood myths, and gave a analysis of our opinions on the story.

In our Exhibition, we performed a creation myth our own making (which you can see here), and handed out a printout of our paper. We then split the attendees into two groups, and had them each come up with a creation myth from the following list: sporks, tables, vacuums, chicken pot pie, zip-lock bags, and energy bars. Once they had written their creation myths, we had them perform them in the puppet theater, using our sock puppets. At the end, we wrapped it all up, and thanked them for coming.

The Exhibition ran smoothly, although we didn’t have very many attendants, because the exhibition started an 8 a.m.

Jianmarco & Kaeli's Exhibition: Fibers & Sweat

Here are a few notes from Elizabeth & Isobel, aka Elizobel.

This round of Exhibitions we worked in partners around the theme of transformation. Jianmarco and Kaeli ended up doing separate projects but brought the ideas together in the activity in the Exhibition.

Kaeli’s: Kaeli did her Exhibition on GSR or Galvanic Skin Response and how music affects mood. She made a Prezi and explained about how different types of music affect your mood in different ways. Music in the morning can keep you happy all day or listening to extremely sad music can make it hard to do simple tasks. Activity: Kaeli made a GSR sensor, meant to identify whether the listener was stressed out by thrash metal music, but it was too sensitive (or cynical; it thought everyone was stressed), so she was unable to run the tests. Instead she played different types of music during Jianmarco’s activity.

Jianmarco’s: Jianmarco did his Exhibition on how nature is transformed into commercial products. He built a tree out of cardboard--i.e, a tree product. His presentation had lots of pictures and he explained how trees make paper and how cocoa is made into chocolate. He then passed around chocolate and explained about the process of making paper. Activity: We made paper. We ground up recycled paper and put it in a screen to filter out the water and then Jianmarco’s dad had a paper press so we were about to press and then dry out the paper. This paper was gifted to the third & fourth graders in attendance.

How they tied together: Kaeli played music during the paper making to see if the music would affect the quality of the paper. We were not skilled enough to really tell whether the music had any difference. Our suggestion for them next time is to have each group listen to a different song in separate rooms and then compare the quality of the paper.

Overall: It was an informative and interesting Exhibition!

Nik & Maya's Exhibition: Detroit & Dubai

Here are some notes from Jianmarco & Lee.
Image result for detroit river

D e t r o i t
Image result for dubaiu

Nik and Maya based their Exhibition on comparisons between Detroit and Dubai. They put up a well-designed electronic presentation, as well as a tri-fold with graphs. They went over how Dubai has grown exponentially over the past 25 years, and how Detroit has been rapidly declining in terms of population and wealth. Near the end, they gave us all pieces of paper and we tried to find to our corresponding paper. Examples included a picture of Motown records on one sheet and the words Motown Records on another. Those would be in the Detroit group. There was another set of pictures for a Dubai group and we had to take turns trying to convince Nik and Mayo to move to Dubai OR Detroit. 

In the end, Nik ‘moved’ to Detroit  and Maya ‘moved’ to Dubai. We found that each city had its strengths and weaknesses, and that each would be desirable or undesirable for its own reasons. Nik moved to Detroit because he would be able to stay near his friends and family, while still being part of a new and great community. He also loves cars, and Detroit is ‘Motor City’! Maya moved to Dubai because it is a very wealthy city and has many beaches and wonderful weather. Overall, their Exhibition was fun and informative.