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Class update: Sept 16-Oct 3, 2013

posted Oct 11, 2013, 7:12 PM by Rhonda Schlosser   [ updated Oct 27, 2014, 7:34 PM by Laurie Becker ]

Hello Lovely Parents,


Next Parent Meeting: Wed., Oct. 16, 1:30pm-2:30pm.  Please all come, if you can.  There is lots to share and plan.


We have now had two complete weeks in the classroom, working with the regular routine.  It definitely appears that it will be a fun and lively group to work and learn with over the year.  They have already shown themselves to be respectful of each other, and the safety of the class is already solidifying so that we can really begin to reflect on and make use of their critical and creative skills as well as their collaborative knowledge.


Here is a summary of what we have done so far, along with a couple 'homework assignments to have completed for this coming week.


Circle check-in:  Tuesdays and Thursdays we spend some time checking in with each other, practicing reflective listening and planning for the days ahead.  One week I asked them what they learned about themselves, and about the group during the Ropes course and here are a few of the things they said: "I learned that I can do more than I thought I could"  I learned that it was hard to keep focused on my partner when I was excited about the next thing I was doing" "The group was accepting and easy to work with"  "I am still scared of heights"  "I did more than I initially expected"  "I wasn't the only one who messed up"


Immigration: Personal Heritage /Writing strategies:  (This topic will become our writing focus for the class time which will extend to writing 'homework' every once in a while.)  We began this topic by brainstorming where we can see diversity.  We discussed word definitions of immigration versus emigration.  We broke into pairs and table groups to share what we knew about immigration based on our studies in history.  We briefly talked about the formation of the United States and how waves of immigration have occurred since the 1600's.  We will be talking about this further in the coming weeks in relation to the students' own personal heritage.  Rhonda shared a picture of her grandfather and a bit about his surname and where he came from and what his life was like.  Most students each made a short family tree.  Many shared where their family came from.  Now each of them are at varying levels of their research.  The students took the time to research some in class.  Some got far enough to find their country of origin and the possible reason why they immigrated.  Others researched, but didn’t find anything yet//possibly due to a change in the spelling of the surname?  or needing more specific information, such as a date or country.  We have found out some sights that are good to find more information.  

"HOMEWORK" for this coming week.  Please help your student create a family tree starting with them (no need to show siblings) and going back hopefully to their great grandparents.  THEN!  Please help them research the origin of the surname of their father and/or mother in order to begin to reflect on their family heritage, and write down what they found out.   The purpose of this is to have them find out the actual, (or possible time) period that their families came to America, and the reason why they immigrated.  We will then be writing about what we have researched. Some students are at this point, and are ready to write greater detail about their specific family and the reason they immigrated.

We briefly discussed matriarch versus patriarchal lineage, and that it may be more difficult to trace the heritage of the mother's family line.  If there is adoption or divorce within the family, we discussed that the family that a person is raised in (nurture) is as, or more important as the genetic lineage (nature).  If this is the case, we let the student decide, or leave it up to the family to determine what to do with the assignment.


Project Presentations:  Rhonda introduced the presentation projects that each student will be working on...mostly at home in pace with what is taught and facilitated in the class.   She gave the students a packet that will be used to prepare for the project, and talked through the first few steps with each class.  Many of the students in the Thursday class took theirs home with them.  If They Did...PLEASE make sure they bring it back to class this week.  

The FIRST STEP will be for each of them to decide what they want to study.   We brainstormed a bit in class about possible topics.  There really is not too many limits but that Rhonda, and the parent has to approve of the topic.  Generally, there needs to be a purpose behind the topic. (What is the purpose behind what will I learn, and what will the audience learn as well?)   The topic can be based around a hobby like gymnastics, horses, or video production, an interest or curiosity such as the use of pesticides, why football is so big the United States, or changes in fishing over the decades... or a subject area such as an area in history, science, current authors...  the possibilities are almost limitless.  We will be talking more about this project at our next parent meeting.


"HOMEWORK" for this coming week will be for each student to brainstorm and come up with a specific topic they may want to research and present to the class. (Many of the students already have an idea in mind, they may simply need help making sure it is narrow enough and researchable.)  We have practiced brainstorming in class in order to narrow down a topic. Please help them choose a viable topic by next week!


To help with the transition between teachers and topics, Marcy has been taking the kids up on the field to teach them new games or has been doing call and response rhythm exercises in the classroom.  


Biodiversity: We’ve been diving into the science theme of biodiversity, talking about the meaning of the roots of the word and working in pairs to self-identify differences and similarities between class members.  We’ve discussed why biodiversity is important, including examples from history when the planting of moncrops in agriculture ended in mass starvation and emigration.    


After introducing the idea of both transect and plot sampling, and practicing using an “alien” landscape, we headed out to the Nature Academy garden and completed our own vegetation surveys.  The kids worked in pairs to measure and map their plot, then used a tally sheet to record the number of different plant species found and the number of individual plants found.  


Math: As well as practicing measuring through the mapping process, we also practiced estimating numbers, sizes, and percentages of ground cover.  The kids worked with their table mates to come up with a way to approach the following problem:  If a 66 square foot plot equals 1/10 of an acre, what fraction of an acre is a 33 square foot plot?  More interested in the kids’ thinking and how they approached the problem than the answer itself, each group of student-mathematicians came up with a (different) approach...which was so refreshing to see!  As a group we tried each approach on the board to see where each approach took us.  Finally, Marcy showed her approach (which happened to be different from everyone elses).  This last approach used drawing to compare the picture of the two plots which made it easier to visualize.  Good thinking was done by all and we’re hoping that exercises like this will help the kids feel freer in their mathematical problem solving strategies.


More math was practiced as the kids added up their tallies and plugged their numbers in to the follow formula: number of species divided by number of individuals.  Completing this division problem results in a number between 0 and 1 which represents the relative biodiversity of an area.  The closer the number is to zero, the less biodiversity, the closer it is to one, the more biodiversity.  This number is referred to as the Biodiversity Index.  The plan is to calculate the biodiversity index for the entire Nature Academy garden and present that information to the NA students along with recommendations of how to increase or maintain maximum biodiversity in their garden.   Another goal is for the kids to evaluate the flaws in the tools that we’ve been using and improve them for use in working independently at home, calculating the biodiversity index of their yard or a location not too far from home.  You may see this as a homework assignment sometime next week.


Ceramics: We’ve been digging into ceramics a bit, using a pinch pot technique to create a drinking cup for use in the classroom.  Now that the clay is dry, the kids will use carving and sanding tools to sculpt their cups.  We’re hoping to get the cups in line for bisque firing in the high school kiln sometime next week.


Kayaking:  Wow, what an amazing day we had yesterday!  First fog, then sun, calm, then chop.  Kim and her fabulous crew of naturalists took us around and showed us sea nettle jellies, a large raft of sea otters, sunning harbor seals, a massive number of sea lions, and a huge, sea hare spewing bright purple ink.  We also dug in the sand to pull up live sand dollars caught crabs and tiny seaweed-like shrimp in a fishing net, and looked at various bones and squid beaks.  The kids clearly enjoyed the day, including working together to steer, paddle and care for their kayaks.  I’m sure the kids have already told you their own stories already.  What an amazing day this was for us!  Thanks to all who contributed to making it happen.

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