with Sally Zeiner
Working with marbles on smooth and rough surfaces, we explored the concepts of mass, inertia, and friction in class this week. Mass, on earth, is how much something weighs. We learned that inertia is like wanting to keep playing Legos rather than being interrupted to do our school work. Friction acts on a soccer ball when it rolls across a grassy field. Once we discussed and understood these concepts, we conducted experiments and recorded our observations.
We tested the large and small marbles on the smooth table top, a towel, and a bath mat. We also did the final "just for fun" experiment -- hitting the marbles against each other.
Work @ Home
Please discuss the results with your child, and review the material on pages 46-48 together, writing up the final experiment together at home.
Have a great week!
with Rich Piscopo
The Certainty of Uncertainty
In keeping with our discussion on what constitutes a fact, I introduced the concept of The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Werner Heisenberg was a physicist who said the electrons with which we use to observe the reactions of sub-atomic phenomenon affect the very phenomenon we are observing. Therefore, we cannot be certain that we are observing the phenomenon objectively, as it is in and of itself.
We extrapolated that concept to our larger existence. When we observe a deer, for instance, how do we know our presence does not affect the deer's behavior? Are we observing the deer objectively, as it is in and of itself? One student said, "That kind of doubt can be applied to anything. For example, maybe this table in front of us turns into a chair when we stop seeing it." Then another offered an example, "Or, like the movie Toy Story, where all of the toys come to life after the humans leave the room." Then yet another offered a third example, "Maybe the kitchen appliances talk to each other after we leave the kitchen."
This wonderful exercise in imagination led the second student to add, "I always wanted to be in the mind of a dog." I praised her for her creative curiosity, for this perspective leads one to see the world from another's point of view; to imagine what it would be like to walk in another's shoes.
I went on to say that this ability to see the world from another's point of view is critical to a healthy society. We could surely use that ability in our current Congress, and in dealing with the current crisis in Ukraine.
The fact that our students have this capacity to be open to another point of view gives me hope for the future. Soon enough, our students will be allowed to vote. They will have the power to effect change. With their rational perspective, I have faith they will bring about positive change; change that can defeat ignorance; change that will bring light into the world.
Monday's dialogue demonstrates how philosophy is so much more than an intellectual exercise. Studying philosophy develops reasoning skills. Good reasoning skills lead to good citizenship. And, good citizenship leads to a healthy society. Therefore, studying philosophy leads to a healthy society.
with Michelle Cameron
Notes From Homework
Taking their stories home with me gave me insight into some issues that the writers are almost all dealing with. We discussed these at the beginning of class:
Today's Story Critiques
We didn’t get through as many of their stories today. Please do have them bring a copy each week, in case we don’t get to hear your student’s story in class.
Among the comments we made today when considering their stories:
Today we talked about the rules of dialogue and why dialogue is important. We discussed how we all love to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations and that dialogue helps bring a story to life.
We then talked about the “rules” for dialogue:
We then discussed dialogue grammar:
Then I divided the writers into groups of two and three, gave them a scenario and a particular character. In these small groups, they wrote the dialogue, making sure to include where the characters were and what they were doing.
As always, this week’s homework is a choice. However, all homework should include dialogue in it.
See everyone next week!
with Ed Insel
This week, we started by reviewing the job types they came up with after reading the Stratfor article on climate change. They did a good job. The purpose was to expand their thinking about 1) areas where engineering meets science/society and 2) how a basic understanding of science and math can help even non-technical workers become more valuable to their employers and even transition into other important areas.
Our topic this week was engineering drawings and how ideas for new objects can be turned into real parts (traditional drafting, computer-aided design, machining, and 3D printing). I gave the students a set of drafting triangles and a compass and we practiced changing isometric drawings into front, top, and side views. We discussed line types, paper sizes, and dimensioning.
We will discuss Project Management next week and that should wrap up our coverage of the fundamental tools used in all of engineering. Then we’ll be on to the study of specific technologies. I will be asking the students to begin bringing current events and think about the project they want to pursue for the semester. More on this in next week’s wrap-up!
Homework for Next Session
There are two problems at the end of the packet we didn’t get to. The first involves creating front, top, and side views from an isometric view. The second covers dimensioning. I’ve asked the students to try these on their own and then I will send my solutions to them by email on Friday so they can check their work. They also each brought home a randomly shaped foam object. They are to draw and dimension front, side, top, and isometric views of their object.
ADVANCED TOPIC – “LINEARIZATION”
This information is strictly optional for students who want to understand more about the close relations between math and physics. We do not cover it in class but I’m happy to help anyone interested.
An advanced concept called “linearization” appears on AP exams. You take an equation like the one for the period of a pendulum and re-arrange it into the form of an equation y=n.
with Kim Rodgers
"We're going on a quest!"
We finished the third book in the Gilgamesh trilogy called The Last Quest of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh searches for the secret to immortality. He winds up finding out that he will always be seen as immortal, because of the way he lives on in the hearts of the people.
We talked about the elements of a good quest. The students thought a quest should be adventurous, with the characters searching for someone or something, not for the character’s own good -- but for the good of those he/she cares about. The students were invited to create their own quest stories, choosing to work on their own or with others. They could write it, draw it, set a story up with scenery and figurines, or do a skit. Two students decided to write and draw their story, taking turns drawing the characters and adding to the writing. Three others worked together setting up an elaborate storyboard where their story played out. We missed our two absent students!
I had planned some time in the last half hour of class for students to work on ongoing projects, but the students were SO engaged in their stories I didn’t dare pull them away! Next week we will begin class by presenting our stories to each other. For the rest of class we will work on the projects to wrap up our time in Ancient Mesopotamia.
What a great group to work with! They are so creative and engaged. It’s a joy to watch them!
with Leigh Ann Yoder
Today the students became Marine Engineers! We opened class with two demonstrations -- the first, illustrating the difference between weight and density. We were able to extend the concept to explain why a steel nail will sink, but an ocean liner made of steel will not. From there, the students were easily able to deduce how a submarine submerges and rises. Make certain you ask them about it. The second demonstration illustrated Archimedes' principle. We used water displacement to measure the weight of a block of wood. This was very similar to the experiment they watched for homework. I believe all the students enjoyed seeing this demonstration live.
Next we had our opening challenge which was to make a cup out of one piece of aluminum foil that would carry water a distance. Although some of the students were very successful, it was harder than it seemed for others. It was a quick and fun challenge to get the students thinking.
We followed with a reading about Ole Evinrude and his invention of the Outboard motor. Hopefully the students will share the details of his story with you.
Our main challenge today consisted of designing a barge that could hold the most weight. The teams had three opportunities to implement the design, test, redesign process -- each time incorporating new materials. The teams were judged on how many nails their barges could hold until they began to sink. Below are the results:
One piece of aluminum foil, 4 inches tape, 5 straws, 2 balloons
Team Two - 63 nails
Team One - 18 nails (got a hole)
Team Three - 16 nails (got a hole)
Next week I will not be in class, but Mr. Insel will be covering for me. He has all of the materials needed to lead an exciting class with brand new challenges!
Note On Homework
Some of the students are not up to date with the Engineering projects. I really hate to see this become overwhelming for them at the end of the semester. Each week's assignment is a particular part of the final project. Please, if you have questions or trouble opening documents, email me during the week. In just a few weeks they will be putting together the first section of their tri-fold boards. At the bottom of the homework section I am including the assignment from last week, as several of the students did not hand it in.
***Bring in Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Rolls, Bring Cardboard Boxes on March 24th***
****If you missed last week's homework - see below ****
Semester Project - Job Description:
Students are to research their specific engineering profession and answer the questions they have been given. They are encouraged to type their responses.
A good resource is: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm
Another resource is: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/profile/index.html
(You need to scroll to the bottom of the page and choose your profession)
with Michelle Cameron
Critique of Stories
Despite taking a break in the middle to write, we managed to get through everyone’s story today. I did give the kids a choice of giving me their print outs if they wanted a more in-depth critique. From here on out, I’ll always include that as a possibility – and definitely take home those stories we don’t get to share.
Here are some of the things we discussed today as we critiqued the work that they brought in from home:
1. One of the aspects of creating a character’s voice is that the character may use phrases that otherwise might be edited out – such as “like.”
2. Exaggeration can help create a strong voice – if it’s in keeping with the character.
3. That one of the (few) hard and fast rules of writing is that we need to know who is speaking at all times.
4. We spent awhile talking about the role of prologues, particularly because two students used them this time to start off their stories. Among the aspects we discussed:
5. Fairy tales told from another perspective can be fascinating – a retelling of stories we already know. (We may incorporate this into a prompt in a later class.)
6. Use of vocabulary can be a strong factor in setting a scene, particularly if it is a time and place not of our world.
7. Any characters who are introduced must serve the story – there should be no “throw-away” characters.
8. Humor should not just amuse the writer – they have to make sure it’s not a distraction to the story.
9. If there is something in a story that is unexplained, often the writer needs to make sure to acknowledge this so the reader isn’t left wondering.
10. We have to believe the facts of a story – someone with a broken leg, for instance, would be in a lot of pain and wouldn’t be able to stand up.
Using Music as a Prompt
Today I challenged the writers to try and quiet their inner critic. We discussed how sometimes we get stuck writing a story when we’re frightened we won’t do it well. Our inner critic gets in the way of the creative process.
So we tried an experiment. I played a piece of music (“Less Is Moi” by Yo Yo Ma’s Goat Rodeo) and told the kids to write without stopping. They shouldn’t think, shouldn’t go back to correct anything. It would be okay if the thoughts strung together were random and nonsensical. I said that what we’re trying for is “spit on the page” – a first draft that may (or may not) uncover a story hiding within.
It took some time for a few of the kids to get going. But what they wrote was evocative and full of imagery. We didn’t critique these pieces, as it was too preliminary to do so. But we did talk about some of the possibilities inherent in them.
As always, this week’s homework is a choice:
See everyone next week!
We opened class this week with readings from those students that had not had an opportunity to read their draft essays last week. Everyone should be a little further along in the process of refining their supporting arguments, tightening up their introductions, and crafting their conclusions.
Essay Structure - Creating Topic Sentences
We reviewed the basic structure of the body of an essay and discussed the importance of each body paragraph containing a clear topic sentence (see post from 3/3/14). For those students having difficulty organizing the information in their supporting arguments (and this is often the case!), I once again stressed the importance of creating a simple outline that lists the topic sentences for each body paragraph. The topic sentences must clearly state your supporting argument. Then, make sure all of the content in the paragraph ties in with and supports the topic sentence. Do you need to rearrange some of your text? Pare down? Remember - your case will be made best with clear, strong, and well organized points. Simply bombarding your reader with a multitude of facts and statistics can quickly become overwhelming and ineffective.
Remember to think too about the order of your topic sentences. How can you make the most convincing case - weakest to strongest argument, or strongest to weakest? Try rearranging the paragraphs in the body of your essay and re-read with a fresh perspective.
After reviewing the basics of the essay structure, students paired up and read a persuasive essay on the topic of "transhumanism". They worked together to identify the hook, the thesis, and the topic sentences. We looked at how the author created body paragraphs that flowed from one clearly stated topic to the next, and how the information within each paragraph supported the topic sentence. I asked students to think about their own essays in relation to this structure and work on editing their drafts this week with an eye toward clarity and organization.
For homework this week:
with Sally Zeiner
Work, Force and Energy!
Toy cars made a big impression in physics class this week, but before we began our experiment, we reviewed the concepts of work and force that we have been learning about for the previous two weeks. It is difficult to remember which is which.
Here are the definitions from our textbook:
"Work is what happens when force moves an object."
"A force is any action that changes the location or shape of an object or how fast or slowly an object is moving."
with Kim Rodgers
We started off class by reviewing what we read in Gilgamesh the King last week. We read the second installment of the trilogy this week, The Revenge of Ishtar, and talked about how the ancient Mesopotamians viewed their rulers -- as a mix of man and god. After her death in our story, Shamhat, a kind woman who was much loved by the city and who filled the streets with her musical voice, was depicted as a bird. The students reflected on the characteristics of a bird that Shamhat might possess. Her beautiful voice reminded them of the song a bird sings. In our version of the story it isn’t quite clear what animal Gilgamesh might be, but it’s hairy, large, and powerful. We discussed what animals they might choose to use for a god they created or animals they might choose to represent characteristics they themselves might possess. These they created, using clay to sculpt their gods. We will be using these next week as we begin working on our own tale.
While some students chose to work with the clay, others worked on our class loom. We talked about how cloth was made in ancient Mesopotamia. They didn’t go shopping when they needed some new clothes. There was a long process involved. Students spent time weaving yarn in and out of the threads, creating wall hangings for our class. Because weaving takes time we will continue to work on them over the coming weeks. Come on in and check our progress!