May 3, 2019
In English, students started the week with an analysis of Roque Dalton’s poem, “Like You.” We’ve been working to develop our poetic sensibilities, which include a sensitivity to what is around you, multisensory perception, asking questions, making connections, developing one’s desire to find the right words, and using one’s imagination to connect these words and phrases in unexpected ways. Students practiced their multisensory perception skills by eating a piece of bread, writing about both their associations with bread and their sensory observations of this particular piece of bread. After sharing their associations and observations, we analyzed the poem, the poet’s story, the message of the poem, and the way the poem works to connect the speaker and the reader.
Students also revised their essays on genetic editing, which they first wrote during an in-class impromptu writing assignment. They wrote revisions and then submitted their second drafts for editing. These final drafts will be (for most students) the third iteration of their essays.
For the food project while we’re continuing to work on the final presentation pieces for the first half of the project (making more delicious food), we’ve also started thinking about making food more delicious. Specifically we’ve been focusing on wheat flour and gluten; the class has made 8 sourdough starters (2 recipes, stored in 4 locations) to do a comparison of the final bread products (to be cooked next week). On Thursday and Friday we continued to look at gluten by making pasta from scratch and reading about the process of making pasta from Cook’s Science.
May 10, 2019
This week, students continued working their food projects and related endeavors. They completed rough draft of their research posters (final drafts will be displayed at our Empty Bowls dinner fundraiser on June 6). Topics include brining, pickling, kimchi, kefir, smoked meat, GMOs, food preservatives, polyploidy, grafting, selective breeding of vegetable plants, irrigation systems, chocolate farming and deforestation, bee conservation, vegetarian protein sources, cattle farming and consumption of natural resources, and fermentation in wine-making.
We welcomed SK parent and food scientist Ruta Inamdar into our class this week to teach us about her work in food manufacturing and about the science of microorganisms in food. We walked over to Whole Foods together to compare expiration dates of fresh produce, frozen produce, canned produce, and dried produce. After walking through the store, talking with employees, and comparing shelf life, we met up to share our findings and hypotheses and learn from Ruta. We also sampled various fermented milk products while we discussed helpful and harmful microorganisms found in food. Thank you, Ruta!
In English this week, we focused on the way that we write differently for different purposes and for different audiences. Our practice included writing emails to different people (famous and infamous) about different situations in different voices.
On Friday, we started researching food insecurity in Washtenaw County in order to prepare for our upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser. Students will continue this research as we decide on the organization for which to fundraise for the event. As we work to look at all of our classroom content through the lens of social justice, it is impossible to study food and sustainability without carefully considering the fact that 1 in 7 people in our county is food insecure. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will spend time asking and answering complex questions related to that statistic.
May 17, 2019
In English, students read and analyzed Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Traveling Onion.” We then discussed the ode as a poetic form and attempted to write our own odes. As is to be expected, some of the students decide to invert the readers’ expectations and write ironic odes. Many of these odes are still in draft form but we hope to revise and share them at some point in the near future.
We also spent time learning about Ms. Georgia Gilmore, whose “Club from Nowhere” helped to fund the Montgomery bus boycott. Ms. Gilmore, a trusted friend of Dr. King’s (among many other leaders of the Civil Rights movement) turned her home into a safe space for organizers and participants to gather, strategize, and eat. She also sold baked goods as a way to fundraise for station wagons and gas money for people to use to get to work during the bus boycott. As someone who literally nourished the Civil Rights movement, her story and work served as a starting point for our conversation about the role that food can play in social change. Students are thinking about this concept as we move into the final segment of our current food project: our upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser.
Speaking of the food project, we had several opportunities for experiential learning this week (ie making food). On Monday and Tuesday we used the sourdough starters to make bread; we were then able to do a comparison of the breads between starter type (with or without pineapple juice) and location. On Thursday, Georgette Stubin (mother of Joey), led the class for the afternoon in baking four different desserts. As we think about what to serve at the Empty Bowls Fundraiser, we will use this experience to help narrow down our options. Georgette also introduced us to the use of low-gluten cake flour and we were able to consume some cupcakes made with that flour, noting the difference in texture from the low gluten cake flour compared to the much higher gluten bread flour we’d used for the sourdough loaves.
There are many more pictures in the class photo album.
May 24, 2019
Our first stop was at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for lunch; a few of the children endeavored to take a dip (or fall in) to the rather cold Lake Michigan; fortunately we had extra clothes and a place to change. Next, we finished the drive and checked in to the very welcoming Holiday Jones. We finished the day wandering around the Loop, with Pisano’s pizza for dinner, and stops at Water Tower Place, and the Hancock Observatory before heading back to the hotel. We had a great first day.
We are returned to the hotel for the night after another day out in the Windy City. We began our day catching the El to the Federal Reserve Money Museum. (Look and see if you child comes home with a bag of money, we picked some up there.) Rain changed our further plans, and we briefly went to the Public Library before heading to Lincoln Park for lunch with my good friends Avi and Liz, who also showed us the wonderful view of the Loop from the roof of their building. We then spent several hours wandering in Lincoln Park, including the Lily Pond, Zoo and Conservatory. Our final adventure of the day brought us to Wrigley Field for the Cubs vs. Phillies, but it was very cold and windy and we were all quite tired, so we left a fair bit earlier than expected and returned to the hotel in time for a comfortable night.
Something like 10.5 miles, that's what we walked today...
After a leisurely breakfast we hopped on the CTA for our tour of the Pilsen Neighborhood; our tour guide Amanda (incidentally an alumna of UofM) walked us through the history of the neighborhood from it's Czech/Polish roots, to the late 20th century Mexican neighborhood that is now rapidly gentrifying. For the 8th graders there were many echoes of last year's Detroit project.
After the tour and lunch in Pilsen, we headed back to the Loop for our program focused on Gwendolyn Brooks at the National Poetry Foundation; many of the students wrote poems inspired by the activity (and may even have them to show you).
Our final adventures of the day had us heading to the north side of town for a tour of the country's only certified organic rooftop garden and dinner at Uncommon Ground. After dinner we headed to the beach near the Loyola University for a quick dip in chilly Lake Michigan before heading back to our hotel for the night. Our El driver on the way back offered to let the kids take pictures from her cab--you can check them out on the class Google Photos album.
We're looking forward to our last activity at Inspiration Kitchen tomorrow for lunch and then we'll be departing the Windy City for our return to the Mitten.
May 31, 2019
This week, we dedicated time to preparations for our upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser. Students worked on different aspects of event planning logistics, including communications and promotion. Students also decided on the two beneficiaries of their efforts: Growing Hope and Water for South Sudan. At the event, the students’ display tables will contain research they’ve done on both organizations.
In English, as we wrap up our last novel of the year (The House of the Scorpion), we turned our attention to the concepts of capitalism, socialism, and communism (because these systems are represented and alluded to in the novel). After a lecture on the different systems (with a focus on economics, not politics), students participated in a simulation where they played Rock, Paper, Scissors using different rules for each round, representing the different systems (with teachers acting as the government). After the simulation, we deconstructed the activity and addressed its limitations. After analyzing the activity, some students asked if they could create more accurate simulations for the different economic systems and we (Sam and Rachel) suggested that as a summer project option for interested students (only half kidding, really).