This week the class traveled to the Lake Erie Metropark Marina to study Lake Erie, the body of water that the Huron River empties into. When we think about the health of our water it’s important to think about the bodies of water and communities both up river and down river from us.
We began the week on the Huron River, specifically the Argo Cascades. The class, along with extra chaperones (Thanks, Dan and Jenna!) rented tubes and enjoyed a gorgeous day in the sun. For many, it was their first experience there and most left adamant about bringing their families back. In the coming weeks, we will be looking into the history of the cascades and how economic and environmental concerns inform land use decisions. The trip was a joyous one as well and was designed with the hope of building positive connections between the students and the river. This will make our work with the river more meaningful beyond an abstract appreciation.
This week we worked on writing prompts as a way to connect with aspects of our identity and what matters to us. They included creating a list of rules for being us at this age, describing moments when we were happiest and imagining our lives as a video game and ascribing points to the things that bring us joy, whether that was based on experiences or overcoming obstacles. We will channel these into our work on our 6 Word Memoirs.
- Ice Caps and Glaciers
- Rivers, Lakes and Streams
- The Atmosphere
- Reporter – Summarizing
- Profiler – Character Analysis
- Curator – Finding Interesting or Confusing Words or Phrases
- Detective – Asking Questions and Making Connections
We also thought about the importance of visual representations in math using a series of patterns that represented the numbers 1 – 28. Students identified the numbers and then made connections between numbers through repetitions of patterns in numbers. They also did a gallery walk, observing the connections others made based on how they marked up their work. This activity is good for reinforcing the visual aspect of mathematical thinking as well as an introduction into factors and multiples which they will work on in greater depth later on.
Happy First Week of School! This week we spent time settling in and getting to know each other and our space. We began with a game called The Great Wind Blows which helped us learn more about our interests. Academically speaking, the students have been reading independently daily while I conducted informal reading assessments.
Academically speaking, the students have been reading independently daily while I conducted informal reading assessments.
Much of our work, as of late, has been focused on the Ypsi-Arbor Student Forest Project. The work is a collaboration with We Are The Forest, a local non-profit that focuses on education and reforestation and students from Ypsilanti New Tech High School.
The project takes a bioregional approach to understanding the Ypsi-Arbor Corridor and focuses on the shared green spaces and watershed. One goal of the project is to create new connections with and tell new stories about the Ypsi-Arbor Corridor. They will be documenting these stories and sharing them with the broader community through interactive story maps. The other goal is to complete two green infrastructure projects on their respective campuses using trees and the ecosystem services they provide to improve air and water quality as well as provide energy savings.
Together we will learn more about the importance of trees and forests to ecosystems, study the history of our local area, and plant trees on our respective campuses.
Our class began the project by traveling to Ypsilanti New Tech High School where we learned more about some of the challenges the school faces regarding flooding on campus and the different trees they have planted so far to improve storm water management and provide energy savings to the school.
After the presentations and a walking tour of part of the grounds, we were invited to play Capture the Flag in the beautiful forest on their property.
We also invited the students to join us on our campus to share the work we’ve been doing. Part of this work included designing a game that highlighted the different relationships in a healthy forestial ecosystem. Working through the design process (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Play/Test) we defined the elements of our game and games in general. After identifying key ideas, goals, core mechanics and materials, we play/tested, revising based on our experiences.
The current version of the game, Ecosystem Infection (working title) pits native and invasive trees against each other as they work with mycelium to accumulate nutrients and establish themselves in their respective zones.
After sharing some of the key ideas with the students from Ypsilanti New Tech High School, we invited them to play the game. While some played, others helped us mark invasive species that we will clear before planting more native trees at the end of the project.
Later in the week, we joined our Ypsilanti New Tech friends, as well as Nate Ayers (We Are the Forest), Jason Hogans, and local historian Matt Siegfried for a “Surthrival Course” at County Farm Park. We began with an introduction by Matt on the history of County Farm Park and Washtenaw Avenue, how the land has been used over time and how the changes reflected changes in societal values.
Nate showed us how to use common plastic bags that can, unfortunately, be found all over to build a solar water still to collect water in case of emergency. Taking advantage of the condensation that happens overnight, we learned how to set up the bag to collect this water and save it for later use (after boiling.)
Jason Hogans, who specializes in primitive survival techniques and is a musician shared some of his history and the ways that he uses nature as both an influence and actual samples in his music. He then helped us build shelters using large and small branches as well as leaves and bark that would be useful should we find ourselves in the woods overnight.
After shelter building, we spent time with Jason learning how to build fires using common plants and other materials that could be found in the area.
We capped it off with hot dogs (both beef and vegetarian) and fresh smoothies with mint found in the area.
As the day drew to a close, we left with new perspectives on the ways we can interact with the natural spaces that surround us.
This week, the students continued their work in the Out of Eden Learn Project. One group is focusing on connecting their own lives to the past. Part of this work included reading a dispatch from Paul Salopek titled The Natural History of Kindness which addresses some of the social theories about how and why ‘kindness’ evolved. Reflecting on this and other aspects of our shared human history can help us understand or think differently about our lives. The next part of their work will involve them looking to specific ways their lives are connected to our shared human past.
The other Out of Eden Learn group will be focusing on documenting an aspect of their everyday lives and sharing it with their walking party. When viewed from the perspective of others, the small moments we take for granted can take on a new life.
We also visited the Ann Arbor Water Treatment Plant and Barton Dam (Hydroelectric) continuing our exploration of water and electricity and the relationship between the two.
In math, we continued our work in Singapore math including rounding, factors, multiples and double digit multiplication among other topics. We also managed to find a few different ways to safely transport the wildebeests and lions across the river to safety, solving the logic puzzle from last week.
This week both first years and second years continued their respective work with the Out of Eden Learn Project. The first years dug deeper into the way Paul Salopek has captured glimpses into the moments of the lives of those he has encountered along his journey. Together we looked at his dispatch from the Prophet’s Mosque in Saudia Arabia which occurred during the month of Ramadan. We shared what we noticed, appreciated and wondered about or connected with.
Some struggled with how to approach the work at first which led to some exploration of metacognition (ways to think about our own thinking.) One approach to building understanding that we use in the class is based on the work of Derek Cabrera and involves the following:
Distinctions, Systems, Relationships and Perspectives
Our Expert Eyes walks continued with one led by Ed Feng, with a focus on mathematics around our grounds. He shared with us how he develops algorithms to rank the strength of college football teams and why the home team receives +3 points just for playing at home (Hint: It’s the referees.) After noticing the students practicing archery, Ed shared his understanding of statistics and helped us think about the odds of shooting our arrows inside and outside of the target under certain conditions.
We also welcomed families and friends into the school for Grandfriends’ Day. After gathering in the atrium for a performance from the choir, we set to work on a murder mystery activity created by Clara, a 4th-grader in our class. After learning about the various suspects, we had to carefully eliminate some based on clues she gave us and identify the guilty party.
Working together, grandfriends and students created maps that represented the neighborhoods that the grandfriends grew up in. The grandfriends then shared stories about their childhoods with the maps as visual aids. We were fortunate to be able to share their stories and learn more about their lives when they were younger.
We spent some time across the street with County Farm Park Naturalist, Shawn Severance where we helped clear out some invasive species, including honeysuckle and buckthorn. Our work there is part of an ongoing ecosystem restoration project to encourage more native plant growth in the park.
Our Odyssey collaboration with Imogen continued with homeroom time being devoted to both blocking and scriptwriting for the upcoming performance.
In math, in addition to their work in Singapore Math, students were introduced to some computer programming activities where they had to use blocks or lines of code to complete different challenges.
This week, we welcomed MacKenzie from The Ecology Center into our class for Nature’s Recyclers, a workshop focused on understanding waste streams in our city and the effect composting has on the overall system. With magnifying glasses in hand, we dug through a sample of soil to find some of the invertebrates involved in the process, including worms, pillbugs, and slugs. Moving forward, we will be restarting our compost program, and using our kitchen waste and leaves to improve our soil.
In math, we worked on our Singapore books and played with patterns including Fibonacci’s Sequence and Pascal’s Triangle, where the students worked individually and with partners to uncover patterns in the triangle.