Saturday, April 27, 2013

This week culminated in our Grade 7/8 Math and Art Festival, and the collaborative middle school dance at Friends School of Portland.  The dance was of course a really fun event.  We are lucky to have such a gracious and talented group of young people!

A few specifics to ask your young person about
  • We continued work with our Afghanistan studies.  Ask about making a music video in Kabul, and about the clash between tradition and change in modern culture.
  • Thursday afternoon was our annual Breakwater Variety Show to benefit the backpack project.  Sabrina and Simon were top-notch MC's for the event, Sydney and Carl along with some help from Owen (one of our pals from first grade) sold out of snacks before the show even started, and Izzie and Elsie were aces from behind the scenes.  Our 7-8 performances included singing from Thalia and Alicia.  
    The money we raise at this event goes toward the Backpacks for Refugees project, which helps young refugees settle into academic life.  The School holds a Giving Ceremony where we donate many backpacks filled with school supplies. The backpacks are donated to the Catholic Charities Refugee & Immigration Services, which provides refugees in Maine with the opportunity to improve their stability, independence, and overall quality of life.
    Throughout the year, bottles & cans are collected from the local community (that big bin you see as you walk through the main entrance) to raise money for the project, though the biggest source of fundraising comes from the Variety Show!

  • Our Math and Art festival included the Playing Card Platonic Solids featured earlier, along with three huge cardboard dodecahedron made during the event.  There were also tessellations, Notan designs exploring balance and negative space, Mandalas exploring radial symmetry, Photography with explanatory notes exploring the math of pictures, cuisenaire rod fraction work, "Math Faces" made by graphing, and fraction and percentage work around geometric designs.  Students examined each other's projects, and left a question for each of the other groups.  Check out the work, which will be up in the front hall for the next weeks.  
  • In Art, students are continuing a project based on Art&Math connections. They are creating clay puzzle boxes that involve precision in measuring in both two and three-dimensions. Ask your student to tell you the dimension of his/her box.
  • In Tinkering this week, the 7th/8th graders were given a challenge of thinking about what their culminating project should be for Tinkering. After some discussions and ideas, groups began the design stage by drawing out plans and making shopping lists. One group began to plan the building of a playhouse for the toddlers and preschoolers, another group began to design wooden dolls that could be dressed in different outfits for preschool/kindergarten, another group started designing stools to make for the Tinkering studio, while some individuals looked to do more independent projects for their culminating idea. Ask your child which idea for a culminating project they chose. Why did they choose that?
  • In Science, we are working on preparing a proposal about our year-long Nason's Brook project to the property owners on the edge of the brook. None other than the vice president of Bill Dodge Auto Group will hear the  proposal next Friday. In June we will build the Biochar berm and plant to eliminate run-off from their vast parking lot within 12 feet of the brook.  The kids will each state an important benefit to them, the brook and to Bill Dodge Auto Group. Stay tuned for our story of the event next week.
  • Work on our Grade 7/8 Yearbook will begin this week.  We'll have regular lunchtime meetings for the next few weeks to keep this moving.  
  • Flatbread Pizza's Fundraiser for Breakwater Tuesday, 4/30.  Click HERE to see details for this event and more at Breakwater's Calendar

Friday, April 12, 2013

Here is the latest, up to the minute news from our classroom, and a taste of what's still to come.  

Highlights from the week

  • As the culmination of their second Milestone, most 7th graders delivered their State of the Classroom addresses.  They each identified an area of strength, and a place for improvement, and attempted to persuade their peers to implement their suggestions through their persuasive speaking.  Ask what they celebrate most about our community, and where they might change things for the better.
  • 7th Graders delivered our paper cranes to the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center.  Ask how it felt to be part of this process.
    Lauren adds to the sculpture
  • In Artstudents are putting the final touches on a group installation sculpture for the Middle School art/math show. Ask your student where we have decided to install the piece and why.
  • In Science, we had our unit test this past Tuesday. Most everyone showed a good grasp of knowledge about chemical and physical changes and the states of matter. It was hard for some to visualize the bose Einstein condensate as we can only imagine a state of matter where the atoms nearly cease to vibrate because they are so cold. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine the activity inside a florescent light and its excited gas particles being plasma, but these two states of matter are at opposite ends of the temperature rage that includes the more familiar solid, liquid and gas states. A few students are opting to retake the test to get a higher grade, but everyone had fun exploring chemistry these past few months and identifying six unknown compounds through a variety of tests.  Following the test taking the students began their search for unique energy sources to report on when we continue our study of alternative energy when we get back from April Vacation.
  • In Tinkering this week, the seventh and eighth graders participated in one of the more difficult challenges of the year - making their initials out of wood. The students worked very hard with drawing and designing the best way to accomplish their task and then used various methods, materials, and tools to make their letters. The fact that they had to do all the sawing and work themselves added to the challenge. Ask your young tinkerer why they think this challenge was harder than other ones that they've undertaken this year. Why did those people with certain letters have an easier time of it than others? What would they have done differently with their design and strategies?

  • Nat's Math class practiced with linear equations, tables and graphing through study of expanding patterns, and an epic Barbie Bungee jump from the balcony in the Jessie.  Ask whether your young person's Barbie had a conservative or thrilling jump.  We also examined patterns in Sierpinski's Triangle, and the Koch Snowflake.  Ask about the paradox of an object with infinite perimeter, but finite area!?!?
  • Sra. Kristin stepped in as a full day guest teacher while Nat was at a math conference with Dan Meyer (a current hot shot in the math Twitter/Blogosphere).  In addition to her regular Spanish classes, Kristin led an experiential activity and subsequent discussion about life in contemporary Afghanistan as part of our Integrated Studies work.  Ask what the major obstacles to rebuilding Afghan society are? How do poverty, war, and illiteracy connect to the instability of a country? Nat continued this work with more reading, video study, and discussion about how charities provide assistance and aid.  Ask about examples of short-term aid that support immediate needs but are not sustainable (food distribution, medicine distribution) and in what ways this aid might become more sustainable (prevention programs like helping people grow their own food, get jobs, start businesses, education, vaccinations against disease...) 

  • Mr. J. has contributed some recent news from PE, which has been all about the "flying disk."  Students completed a series of challenges, to build technical accuracy, distance skills, and team-building with partners and the whole group.  We have been working towards playing Ultimate Frisbee, which is a team game involving moving the disc down the field with your team in order to score a goal in the end zone.  Ask your young athlete how many times in a row did they make a catch with their partner during warm-up at the beginning?  Ask if they prefer to develop their accuracy or their distance? (this could be considered a trick question...) and ask what was the most fun part and the most challenging part of PE class
  • Monday 4/22 is a professional day (no school)
  • Thursday 4/25: Breakwater School Variety Show (formerly known as the Talent Show) 3:30 pm in the Jessie Auditorium (Admission .50 students, 2.00 adults with proceeds to benefit the Breakwater Refugee Resettlement Backpack Project)
  • Friday 4/26: We are collaborating with the Friends School to put on a spring middle school dance for grades 6-8.  Our students will be helping to organize, decorate and plan the event.  The dance will take place from 6-8:30.  Admission will be $5 and will raise money for the Friends school 8th grade trip to Washington DC.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

In addition to our renewed focus on Capstone and Milestone work, we have now kicked off both of the two final integrated studies units for the year, focusing on Sustainability and Afghanistan.

Breakwater Las Meninas  on view in the Brick Building

Eighth grade families: We've scheduled the Capstone presentations for Tuesday and Wednesday May 28 and 29.  Please let me know right away if you have a conflict with either of these days, or if you prefer for your young person to present on one or the other. Thanks!

Here are some details of how we spent the week
  • Sustainability: Some of the rich learning that happened on our academic adventure last Friday was put to use in our discussions and our writing this week.  Mr. Sullivan joined us to explore how money, economics, and sustainability are related.  Ask your young person whether a diamond or a shotgun shell is more valuable.  Ask also if a dusty Cadillac is worth the same as a human life!  To help bring this home, we also made some time to work on our outdoor classroom.  
  • Our 7th and 8th graders are representing Maine as part of our Afghanistan studies, using a curriculum adapted from the Children's Culture Connection.  One school from each of at least 30 states will be participating in these studies, which will include cultural studies, multimedia resources, reading and writing and a collaborative online forum.  I was sold by these prominent words: "It’s not enough to just want to save the world – we teach kids to actually do it."  To build some background knowledge, we watched video of everyday life in Afghanistan, studied some interviews with Afghani kids between the ages of 8 and 16, and looked at a broad history of the country.  Ask what similarities and differences there are between life in the United States and in Afghanistan, and ask if they found out anything surprising about life in Afghanistan.  Here is a link to some of the web-based materials we will be studying (Use: Name: ccc Password JingleBellRocks).  Students have read Journal Entry number one, and are expected to read Journal Entry number two for Monday.
  • Science: The students spent our science time this week preparing for the unit test that is scheduled for next Tuesday. Please remind your child to study the two page review that they filled out  to prepare for the multiple choice test.  The assignment on opposing views on wind power has been postponed so that they can put all of their homework time into Chemistry review.
  • Tinkering: This week, the 7th/8th graders had a guest teacher, Frank Donovan, and they undertook the Marshmallow Challenge []. Every grade from 1 to 8 has now completed this group challenge at Breakwater. Each building group was given 20 pieces of dry spaghetti, one foot of string, a roll of tape, and one marshmallow and then given the task of using a 20 minute time block to build a free standing tower that can support the one marshmallow. During the building time, the different groups employed different techniques and strategies to build their towers. We had several groups, who after several attempts of building more grandiose structures, opted to build shorter towers, but free standing towers. A couple of groups struggled with teamwork, communication, and perseverance in the face of adversity, but everyone completed the challenge. We interviewed the groups to find out how the process went for each of them and what were the keys to success or struggle, and then the groups filled out the written reflection sheets about the activity. We all talked about the importance of a PROTOTYPE in the design process. Ask your child about why a prototype is important. Also, ask how their group did in the challenge. Was there anything
    they'd do differently?
  • PE was all about frisbee challenges this week.  Ask where the name Frisbee comes from anyway.  (Hint - it's sort of like kleenex!)
  • Art/Spanish: Have you taken your family and friends to the main lobby to see the display of the Breakwater Las Meninas?  Ask your student to view the Las Meninas exhibit with you and discuss the project. (front bulletin board of the brick building)
  • Nat's Math class has been busy with geometric constructions, using paper and pencil, as well as GeoGebra.  Ask how to define the center of a triangle (they should know at least four ways), and ask if the center can ever be outside of the triangle! We also took advantage of the beautiful weather to do some "human graphing" outside.  Students took on the role of the x-coordinate, and acted out linear and non-linear functions.  Ask how they knew when someone was not acting out the solution to a function (they were the only one not in line with everyone else.)
  • Yolofiction: Leah joined us for the sharing of our finished short fiction pieces.  Students sat in the "author's chair" to present their work.  It was wonderful to witness both their creativity and their wonderful support for one another.  Ask whether it was difficult or easy to write a whole story in less than 400 words.  Ask as well about our class Twitter account, which I'll be setting up to tweet out some of our stories.

  • Upcoming Science: Coming up after vacation: Wind and solar energy studies. Please ask your child to search the internet for the most unusual energy source currently being explored. The most outlandish renewable sources are encouraged. Hydro power and other common renewables will be explored so are not to be included in their individual research. All they need to do is bring in the information on the energy source they have found and be ready to share what they know about it with the group
  • Next week is Spring Break, and don't forget that Monday, 4/22 is a professional day - NO SCHOOL!
  • Thursday 4/25: Breakwater School Variety Show (formerly known as the Talent Show) 3:30 pm in the Jessie Auditorium (Admission .50 students, 2.00 adults with proceeds to benefit the Breakwater Refugee Resettlement Backpack Project)
  • Great for the little ones.... Alice In Wonderland: One more chance, this Sunday April 7 at 2:00pm in the Jessie Auditorium.  FREE; Running time: 45 min.
  • In collaboration with STAGES, Inc.. Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance: Tuesday April 9 at 7:00pm and Thursday April 11 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm in the Jessie Auditorium.  FREE