We're heading into our final week of academic classes for the year!
Below, teachers have provided a snapshot of what's happening in each of our academic classes. Parents: ask your Proofnik to tell you more!
Language Arts + Literature
In Language Arts 1, students have finished a unit on book design, and they are now hard at work designing a cover, title page, and interior pages for a book they are reading. They’ve each chosen a book, so ask your child what they are reading and what their book looks like. One student is reading The Pardoner’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales, and the cover image is the pen that President Ford used to pardon Nixon. It makes for a striking, contemporary take on a classic!
In Language Arts 2, students are working in groups to create original old-time radio shows by adapting Sherlock Holmes short stories that we read this block. They’ve written a script by transforming the story to fit this new auditory, dramatic form. They’ve created their own sound effects and developed unique voices for their characters based on their analysis of details from the story. Ask your child which story their group is adapting, which characters they play, and what sorts of changes they’ve had to make to adapt the story to this new form. Next week we’ll record the final productions, so ask your child to email you the audio file and then listen with the whole family!
In Literature 1, students have just finished a 5-week unit on oral presentation and slide design. The growth I have seen has been astonishing—ask your child about how they coordinated what they were saying with what they were showing on the screen. You can also ask them about the three iconic ways speakers open their presentations (hint: by telling a personal story, using an extended metaphor, or asking a question), and which way they chose to open his or her talk. Next week we will be revising our Block 4 papers.
In Literature 2, students have each been theorizing their own original ways of reading and situating them in relation to the different methods for reading and interpretation that we’ve discussed this block. In the next week, they’ll each apply their way of reading to one of the literary texts we’ve read this year. Lastly, they’ll put together visual representations of their methods for the symposium. Ask your child what approaches to reading and interpretation they’ve learned about this block (they should be able to tell you the difference between “symptomatic reading” and “surface reading,” for example). Then ask them about their method of reading and why it’s of particular interest to them.
In Latin 1, students wrote their final exam this past week. They were asked to read a long Latin passage about the myth of Echo and Narcissus, adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and to answer a range of linguistic questions about it. The last question asked students to interpret the passage as a whole and consider why the stories of Echo and Narcissus would be paired together. Ask your child to tell you the story of this myth and to share their ideas on this question. In addition to this traditional exam, students are further synthesizing what they’ve learned through a creative project. They’re each creating a Latin board game, which must be based in some way on the Roman history and culture we’ve studied this year. In their games players will answer Latin language questions of a variety of types—translation, grammar, interpretation, speaking, and listening. Ask your child how their game works, what it will look like, and what Roman history they’ve incorporated.
In Latin 2, students have been learning the passive periphrastic, the dative of agent, and the ablative absolute. By now the students have an expansive panorama of the complexity of the Latin language. It may be interesting to ask your child how his or her study of Latin has impacted his or her understanding of English. Also, related to translations the students completed in class, we read excerpts from Virgil’s Aeneid and Shakepeare’s Rape of Lucretia. Ask your child about these classic works of poetry.
In Ancient Athens class, we have been reading an excerpt from Plato’s Republic. We have been trying to model the dialectic, and we were fortunate to have math faculty visit our class for our dialogues concerning the education of Philosopher Kings. Ask your child why Plato argued that math is a particularly important component when learning to be a philosopher. Also, ask your child what happened when Plato visited Google headquarters!
In World History, students are in the midst of creating an exhibit on the transatlantic slave trade. Students are selecting images, writing labels, and creating an artistic installation in response to this question: how can we begin to grasp the magnitude of the slave trade without losing sight of the individual, human stories within it? It has been exciting to watch students apply teamwork skills that they have been developing throughout the year. Ask your child to give you a tour of our exhibit at our end-of-year symposium!
In Science Studio: The Scientific Method, students have been doing independent experimental work related to crystal growth. They came up with questions to investigate and procedures to use, and have been collecting data. For the end of the block, they will write formal lab reports and informal reflections on what they learned and how well their process worked. Although most school labs are designed to work, our kids were in the position of scientists exploring the unknown, and like real scientists, they have noticed that not everything they try works as intended.
In Science Studio: Light and Electricity, we have been levitating small strips of aluminized mylar film strips using a charged pie pan. This instrument, called the electrophorus, can be built easily at home if you have some packaging styrofoam lying around and some wool to rub it with. Try it, and see what else you can levitate! We are spending the last weeks of the year designing a scaled down furnished house complete with electrical devices and switches to put into practice their knowledge of electricity. Switches are made with paper clips and brad pins and lights fabricated from holiday lighting strips. The rest is only limited by student imagination!
In Physics, we have been discovering one dimensional waves by manipulating giant slinkies and rearranging the tables in the lab to provide as long of a friction surface as possible so we can explore peculiar properties, like inversion, on reflected waves. We have been steadily increasing the dimension to three, where sound waves have been our playing ground. We have experimented with looking at the fundamental frequencies on standing waves on a cello string using a strobe light, and confirming how beats are produced by feeding in sinusoidal signals to a pair of speaker with closely spaced frequencies. There are easily available apps for generating these signals on a phone so I would encourage you to try it out!
In Chemistry, students have chosen a topic for their final project, and they are dividing their time between projects and a last problem set that ties together many topics from earlier in the year and requires students to interpret real data. In the next week, many will do experimental work (related to titration, corrosion, electrochemical cells, measuring the gas constant, etc.) while others will learn about nuclear chemistry, organic chemistry, toxicology, or other topics and present the information through websites, videos, posters, or essays.
In the last stretch of Intro to Number Theory, we are venturing into the world of modular arithmetic! Your Proofnik should be able to tell you what month it will be 2017 months from now, or the 2017th decimal digit of 20/17. We’re also working on trickier problems, like finding a number whose remainder is 3 when it’s divided by 7, and 4 when it’s divided by 11.
In Intermediate Number Theory, we're playing with primes. We've been looking at special sets of primes, like those that are 1 less than a multiple of 4, or 1 more than a multiple of 3, or 1 less than a power of 2. The first of these sets goes on forever; ask your Proofnik why! The second set also goes on forever, but your Proofnik doesn't know why. The third set might go on forever. No one knows.
In Math of Decision Making, we are taking a look at all possible voting systems (under a couple assumptions) for two voters deciding between three options. While the students have already proven a theorem that no voting system for three options can possibly satisfy all the properties we would like, we are now taking a concrete look at what the issues are and what kind of compromises we have to make.
In Problem Writing Seminar, we've amassed quite a collection of student-written problems for potential use on the Mandelbrot Competition. Ask your Proofnik to share a student-written problem that they particularly like, or a solution write-up that they have carefully crafted!
In Elliptic Curves with SageMath, we have been working towards understanding how elliptic curves play into modern day cryptography applications. Recently, we worked on a light-hearted problem set about “fruit math” that involved some very large numbers! Ask your Proofnik about this deceptively silly-looking problem about fruit.
In our middle school Intro Python course, we’re in the midst of building a robot petting zoo! Recycled Amazon boxes and a heap of electronic parts are coming to life as a red panda, an elephant, an otter, and more. Ask your Proofnik about what sensors their group is using, and how their animal will react to changes in the environment.
In our high school Intro Python course, students have already been exposed to all of the core topics covered in the middle school Introductory Python course, with more than a week still left to go in the block. It's remarkable what can be accomplished with a group of students who are willing to stay on task and write code for over two hours a day! Students are currently using tkinter to write Python programs that run via a graphical user interface. Ask your Proofnik to show you their code.
In Intermediate Python, students have learned about the conceptual idea of a hash table, and have just completed an assignment in which they write and use a hash table to model a bar scanner at a grocery store. Ask your Proofnik what a hash table is—hopefully they can give you an intelligible answer! We will wrap up the school year by looking at the way the Python programming language supports first-class functions.
In our high school Graphics Studio course, students have recently learned how to write programs in VPython, which is the Python programming language plus a 3D graphics module. Ask your Proofnik to show you their work, which is all available online at www.glowscript.org. We are now on a mission to catch up with the Middle School Graphics Studio course, as the high schoolers have just started to learn how to write web pages.
Maker Studio + Project Studio
In Maker Studio, we have been exploring art installations by drawing inspiration from existing work, mocking up ideas under specific constraints, and experimenting with texture and color. In groups of four, students are designing and creating large-scale installations on the theme of growth. Ask your Proofnik about the installation that he or she is working on!
In Project Studio, students are hard at work on projects that range from creating art in nature to building 3d zoetrope art to starting a math blog. Ask your Proofnik what he or she has learned about pursuing an idea in a substantial and sustained manner this year.