Saturday, June 3, 2017

2017 Spring Trip Up North


With an on-time departure of approximately 7:55 AM this morning, Sam's class is off for our adventures Up North!

Mostly, Shan will be driving. I'll be available by email, text and phone. 

Next scheduled stop: The Mystery Spot

Getting introduced to the wonders of the Mystery Spot

Sophie is floating in midair?

What does 'level' mean anyway?

We concluded our day with a boat tour of the Soo Locks, dinner at the fine Pennies diner, and a round of putt putt in Sault Ste. Marie. (Apparently, the more tired I get the fewer photos I take, Shan took many of this part of the trip, I'll link to them once I've got them.)


After a rainy morning our day on Mackinac Island is looking a bit clearer. 

At the public boat dock on Liberty Mackinac Island

We're stopped for lunch midway through our carriage tour after looking at the butterfly house. 

Next stop Arch Rock and then on to Fort Mackinaw:

We returned to the mainland after completing our adventures on Mackinac Island and now, after an hour at the pool, we're getting ready for bed.

Notice the boxes of fudge


We had gorgeous weather all day as we made a loop through the Upper Peninsula.
The kids got to touch Lake Superior and skip rocks at Whitefish Point, before visiting the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. 

Whitefish Point

Our next stop was lunch in Paradise, a few kids even had a cheeseburger, but the star of the meal was the authentic pasties. We stopped at the upper and lower Falls in Tahquamenon, and then proceeded to Oswald's Bear Sanctuary. 

The Upper Falls at Tahquamenon

The Lower Falls

Baby bears are exceptionally cute.

We returned to Mackinac for dinner and are now taking a short rest before heading out for stargazing at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Stargazing was a big hit with the kids (once the clouds of Mayflies went to bed). We were able to see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter and, had a great view of the half moon of in the telescope Ore brought. It was pretty cold so we didn't stay out too long, but interest level was high so Ore suggested planning a night of stargazing closer to home. 


We've now said our goodbyes to Mackinaw and are headed to Petoskey to look for the eponymous stones on the beach before making out way back down state. Rock hunting in Petoskey was a bit hit, everyone found at least one Petoskey stone. There were also some other interesting finds. 

Is that a Petoskey Stone?

Locals told us that in season this beach is so picked over it's very difficult to find anything. Good thing we were there before the crowds.

After lunch in Grayling at the Bear's Den Pizzeria (the owner made a point of introducing himself and saying how well behaved the kids were) we cruised back home.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mid-May Photos

Here are a bunch of photos from Late April and May:

Working on a math activity about area vs. volume

Another math activity, this time curious triangles

Showing off the Hubble telescope luminary.

A fish tank luminary at Morning Meeting

Juliana's fashion show, with Lucas as Erik the Red

Weeding and transplanting the milkweed bed

Analyzing rock samples with HCl

Digging out the bed for the Pollinator Garden/Monarch Way Station

Friday, March 24, 2017

Week 26 -- POOT Testimony and Projects

Sam's Homeroom:

This week we went further into the Place Out of Time trial. Looking further at the testimony of Tom Joad, each student wrote a reply to an initial comment made by some other member of the simulation. In this way, the kids are not only responding to testimony but also critiquing and furthering others responses, which requires a different type of thinking.

Separate from, but related to the simulation, each student was asked to brainstorm a few topics for a long-term project that somehow builds on their character's life and times. Each project will lead to the creation of some kind of artefact (that's educational jargon for a tangible, physical or digital product). So far the ideas for the projects run the gamut from designing clothing and putting on a fashion show, to investigating the impact of minor technical tweaks to the performance of an RC-car, to short graphic novel biographies, and more traditional slideshow presentations or formal reports. We will be working on these projects well into May, each week taking time to think about the next steps. 

 Above: Tomoe Gozen taming a horse.
Monday's Warm Up asked the students to draw their
POOT character doing something typical.
Below: Coco Chanel making a dress.

On Tuesday the whole middle school went to see the Ann Arbor Symphony perform several pieces of classical music at Hill Auditorium; the highlight was the loud booming bass drums at the beginning of selections from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite.

The class has been getting so good at completing the Perplexors (grid logic puzzles) that this week we moved on to a different kind of logic puzzle that involved thinking about missing letter combinations in words--a mini-spelling lesson in addition to a logic puzzle.

Sam's 5/6 Math

This week we spent some time reviewing concepts relating to percents, especially calculating discounts and markups with an emphasis on using a 10x10 grid to help us think about what quantity in each problem represented 100% and then figuring out what 1% would be so that other percents could be calculated more easily. (Singapore Math calls this the Unitary Method).
We also took a look at concepts surrounding averages: calculating the total (sum) based on an average, finding the value of one item from the average and information about the other items, recalculating the average of a subset when members of known value are removed from the group.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Week 25 -- Origami, π, the Legal System

Sam's Homeroom:

This week we've been getting into the meat of the Place Out of Time simulation. As the trial phase begins, we spent some time going over various legal terms (plaintiff, defendant, testimony, magistrate, objections, evidence, hearsay, etc.) and looking at and responding to the opening arguments from the plaintiff and defense attorneys. 

On Wednesday the first witness, Tom Joad from the Grapes of Wrath, was called by the defense. We spent a lot of time discussing: the basic legal framework, the content of the opening arguments, and the testimony of Mr. Joad (including a sidetrack into the history of the dustbowl, US labor relations and 1930s era socialism), so that the students were all clear on what was being said, argued, and meant. They were all asked to respond, in character, to open of the opening arguments.  

To further their engagement with the topic, we did our first round of "Take a Stand" this year; an activity where, in or out of character, the students are asked to take a position ranging from strongly agree (standing by the window of the classroom) to strongly disagree (standing by the door) in response to a prompt. This time we did it in character and talked about two prompts about the role of the individual and society in creating and maintaining wealth inequality. Unsurprisingly, Al Capone and Erik the Red had a very different perspective than St. Nicholas of Myra or Pierre Trudeau. I've found this activity a great way to encourage the children to think about how to respond to topics that might show up in their research of their character. 

[As an aside, this week's logic puzzle, has a poorly worded clue that was, to my reading, missing a colon. This lead to a good conversation about the importance of accurate punctuation, and for those who were ready to think about, an introduction into the proper use of a colon for lists.] 

Jarod and Folu argued that video games should be considered a sport.
This weeks Scholastic News asked the children to take a position on whether or not video games should be considered sports (E-sports). Thursday afternoon, we had a lively discussion about their opinions based on what they'd written.

Working on a luminary for the Fool Moon parade.
Sam's Math

This week has us spinning around in circles and folding ourselves up. Monday, we continued to look at Origami, this time working on actually folding cranes, dragon heads or cups -- which was an interesting exercise in following directions. The rest of the week was spent in a celebration of Pi-day, looking at some of the basic concepts about circles: circumference, radius, diameter and area, which required the introduction of the concepts of irrational numbers and square roots. 
On Tuesday, we had a special guest lecturer, our very own sixth grader, Jarod Meakins, who presented the basic formulas and did some examples with the class. On Thursday, we measured real-world circles and talked about the difference between abstract and potentially perfect ideas, versus the inexactitude of measurement in reality.
Friday was the big celebration of Pi-Day, complete with Pie!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Week 23 -- Time, time, time, see what's become of me......

Sam's Homeroom ---

This week we did a lot of activities centered on the Timeline that we've been working on for a few weeks now. This week we got into some "Why" question and worked to fill in the gaps in time and place with additional notecards. On Friday we presented our project to the whole school at Morning Meeting.
Also related to the Place Out of Time project we talked a lot about the concept of dignity, which matched up nicely with one of the stories in Scholastic News about segregation and the Brown v. Board of Ed. court case. 
We also had an extra music class to prepare for the Music Cafe.

Will and Lilith continue to tweak their K'nex car in science class.

Lilith keeps the beat during a rehearsal for Music Cafe. 
In Art the class has started working on their designs for Fool Moon and Festifools.

At Morning Meeting, Mark talks about the scale of the timeline.

Will talks about our class' realization that time is very
long. (To put the cave paintings from Lascaux on our
timeline, we'd need to go 400m from Jason's room.

Sam's 5/6 Math ---
This week we focused on concepts with percents, especially using the Bar Model strategy to calculate discounts, taxes and interest. A few of the sixth graders have begun planning for our Pi Day celebration coming up in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Week 19 and 20 -- "How Did You Find That? AND "Who Are You?

Week 19

Sam's Homeroom:

This week we got really into researching characters for the Place Out of Time simulation. On Monday, everyone learned who they'd be portraying, and started research on their character in more depth. In conjunction with the research, we've been talking about evaluating sources for credibility--Rachel did a wonderful activity with them on Thursday (ask about the F.A.R.T. test if you want to hear more). On Thursday, as a way to organize and deepen their understanding about their character, everyone starting working on a timeline of major events that occurred in their character life, but also in the world at large.

We also spent some time talking about how to extract the meaning from a source with an activity from Scholastic News about Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech, which led to an interesting discussion about the Declaration on Independence (because King references it) and a little bit about Jim Crow and various forms discrimination King alluded to in his speech. 

Sam's Math Group

This week we've been focusing on geometry, particularly angles and the tools of geometry: protractors, compasses and straightedges, as a way of deepening understanding about the types of angles and triangles. A particularly relevant 'discovery' the kids made, if you know the lengths of the three sides of a triangles, there is only one triangle it can be (allowing reflections and rotations).

Week 20

Sam's Homeroom:

Researching characters for Place Out of Time has occupied much of the week. In addition to ongoing work on the research log, everyone is also making a timeline of their character's life, including personal event, and also major cultural or political events that occurred at the same time, but not necessarily to the character in question. [Having a broad knowledge of world events helps the students better understand and portray their characters.] Completing the timelines is the major goal for the week.

We also had a special pop culture connection: In this episode of My Little Pony the young ponies consult with the older characters (collect data from primary sources) about how they got their cutie marks. It turns out that all of the older ponies stories share common elements and an overlapping timeline. The class had a discussion, first about why we watched this episode in particular, and then about the value of overlapping narratives for better understanding an event, a place or a time. 

On Thursday, Rachel continued to discuss digital research and evaluating sources with all the 5-6s.

Sam's 5/6 Math Class:

This week we spent a fair bit of time talking about reading and decoding complicated story problems (mostly about ratios). We went over many of the common mistakes students have made in the past and talked about techniques for avoiding them, like re-reading the problem after writing down the "answer" and using a highlighter to circle or underline important parts of the text. 
We did a couple of problems together as a class, and several of the students corrected me when I (unintentionally?) made one of the common mistakes.
Many of the students will be completing the Singapore Book in the next week and beginning assessments. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Week 18 -- Move Up Day, Science Cars

Sam's Homeroom:

We used our limited class homeroom time this to look back at and go further with previous projects. Most students revisited their first semester reflection documents and worked on finishing and editing their Constellation Myths. 
On Thursday, we had move up day. The fifth graders, along with visitors from Spencer and Chris' classes talked about warm ups, checkout and the general feel of our classroom. In the afternoon we got together with the rest for the 4s and 5s to make posters about real vs. fake internet news sources.
There was no checkout this week because of the limited amount of homeroom time.

Reed and Juliana working on peer reviews of a short story.

Mixed group of 4s and 5s working on a poster about Internet sources.

Sam's Math Group:

Thursday was move up day, so the 4s and 5s got to have math together. We had a game day. On Friday we took a further look at the area and perimeter of composite shapes made from rectangles and triangles.