Friday, January 27, 2017

I Think, Therefore I.....Ah.....I Forget

This week's work included ongoing progress in the Place Out of Time simulation. The U of M facilitators assigned identities to our kids, ranging from Dian Fossey to Eva Peron to Richard Dawkins. It's a rich and original collection. The next step is for the kids to build on their character request essays and write extensive autobiographies, which are called 'resumes' in the lingo of the program. We also read our way into Act III of Twelfth Night, a highlight of our days. We returned to the classroom constitution activity. Each student selected an element of the proposed constitution about which they were particularly passionate and argued the case to the rest of the group. Next up: the art of compromise.

Math tasks for the pre-algebra students featured the continuation of work on scientific notation and exponents, the latter moving into the realm of negatives. Ed Feng came in as usual to work with the kids on probability and statistics. Algebra students carried on their work with the slope-intercept form, part of which you will remember as 'rise over run'. They also had a lesson on Rene Descartes and the origin of the Cartesian coordinate system.

In PE, we took advantage of the lousy weather to go over to County Farm Park--since the sky was grey and the air was cold, there was no one else on the playground. We played a game called 'fetch' and three invented ball games, then played soccer through the obstacles of playground equipment.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What You Will

This week, Place Out of Time moved into its second stage. Place Out of Time is a University of Michigan program in which students from several different schools interact online as different figures from history. Each of our 7-8 students completed a three-paragraph proposal for each of three different historical personages. Their range was impressive, from scientists to authors to admirals to mathematicians. Those proposals were then reviewed here and submitted to the program's directors at U of M. (Summers-Knoll turned in its selections early.) Next week, the students will be assigned their characters from the initial three choices.

In the context of the food project, we read and analyzed nutritional guidelines from five countries across the world. Then, we looked at them in the context of Peter Menzel and Faith D'Alusio's remarkable book, Hungry Planet, in which families were photographed all over the world with all the food they consume in a typical week. The kids assessed some of these photographs in terms of expense, nutritional value, and the stated guidelines from various governments.

We also began our work on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which will be our 7-8 play this spring. First, the kids learned which parts they would be playing. (Every student in the 7-8 takes on a role.) We watched a funny summary of the play and enjoyed a five-minute account of how each character interacts with the others, and the many ways in which they are deluded and confused (so many). The kids were very entertained. Then we passed out scripts and began reading the play aloud.

Math met twice this week, on Thursday and Friday. On the former day, Sam previewed the AMC national math exam, which most of the kids will take next month, and students completed registration forms. With the sixth graders visiting, the kids discussed differences in content and approach between the 5-6 and 7-8 programs, and went through content from both the pre-algebra and algebra curricula. On Friday, Ed Feng continued his ongoing work (and play) on probability and statistics, and Karl taught a lesson on Thales, Pythagoras, and the classical Greek influence on the deductive origins of modern mathematics.

Friday, January 13, 2017

People Throughout History

The first week back from the holiday break is always notable in the middle school because this is when we kick off our participation in the University of Michigan's Place Out of Time project. This online forum requires students to take on the character of a historical figure (some schools permit literary characters; in the interest of historical research, SK does not). Hundreds of students from schools in Michigan and Ohio debate a topic posed by the U of M staff. This year's question, in its simplest form, is Does poverty excuse theft? Online participation is monitored, facilitated, and discussed by a staff of faculty and graduate students at the university. This week, our students began the process of selecting characters, a protocol that requires selecting three candidates, researching them, and writing brief biographies of each. 

It is notable that, when launched about a decade ago, Place Out of Time was originally slated to be a high school project only. It was Summers-Knoll's relationship with the project's founders that convinced them to include fifth through eighth graders.

We also are returning to our work, inspired by human rights documents, in proposing a homeroom constitution. We use a December assignment prioritizing various rights and responsibilities and will advance next week to another simulation--that of the American Constitutional Convention.

Finally, we are beginning our reading and production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, this year's 7-8 play. Hooray! This students (cast) watched a plot summary and began reading the script aloud. Twelfth Night will be performed three times, once during the school day and twice in the evening. The dates are April 28-29.