Friday, April 20, 2018

April overviews (where do the days go?)

Dear reader,

It seems to have happened again. The projects continue at full speed, the weeks pass, and suddenly, it's been a month since I've updated the blog. Alas, here are weekly summaries of what we've been doing since we returned from spring break.

week of 4/2/18

It’s been a whirlwind week back to school as we wrapped up our Solar School projects, finished reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and started preparing for two debates next week. Students completed feasibility studies and submitted their proposals for judging as part of the Eco Center’s Solar School contest. Here is one team’s proposal video.

Next week’s debates will focus on two topics: the “Hole in the Wall” project and the “One Laptop per Child” program. Using The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as a framework for thinking through issues of technology and energy in developing countries, students will debate the successes and limitations of both of these programs.

week of 4/9/18
This week, as students finished their Solar Schools contest entries, science focused on power storage, batteries, and how the differential work function of metals allows for the creation of electrochemical cells.Students also worked on their final solar panel presentations to share with Walter in the near future. We also bid farewell to our electronics (for now) as we deconstructed our old robots and reassembled our Arduino kits so that they’re ready to go for future projects.

Students prepared for two debates (one was this week, one will be next week) on approaches to technology implementation in emerging countries, focusing on the “Hole in the Wall” project and the “One Laptop per Child” project. Students debated the efficacy and the potential implications of the programs through the lens of what they learned about William Kamkwamba and his educational opportunities in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  

week of 4/16/18
We kicked off our last project of the year this week with an introduction to Detroit history, focusing on 1900-1967 as a class (students are doing individual research on aspects of the city ranging from 1701 to the present). We watched Mayor Cavanaugh’s 1965 Olympic bid video and contrasted his vision for the city’s future with the consequences of  the “urban renewal” movement of the 1950s (including, specifically, the destruction of the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods in Detroit). This set the foundation for our trip to the Detroit Historical Museum’s “Detroit 67: Perspectives” exhibit, where we walked through the exhibit with an  outstanding discussion facilitator. Our focus was on both the events themselves and the ways that multiple narratives, when woven together, work to broaden and deepen our understanding of past events.

This project will include research as a class, such as the work we’ve done on the 1967 uprising and the work we’re continuing to do on the trial of Dr. Ossian Sweet, and individual research based on students’ own area of interest. Students will be writing formal research papers based on their original research questions. Over the course of this week, students read through primary and secondary sources related to their areas of interests in order to focus their topic into a research question and thesis statement. Next steps will include note taking and outlining. They will also be producing an annotated bibliography, including sources they used for their research and at least one source that they chose not to use (and why).

As part of our study of Detroit history as a class, we’ll be reading a different Detroit-related poet each week (someone who was born in the city, spent significant time in the city, or whose writing was impacted by the city in a significant way). We started with Robert Hayden, the first African American poet laureate (although that was not the title at the time), who grew up in Detroit.  After reading “Those Winter Sundays” and “Frederick Douglass” in class, students analyzed each poem and responded to questions and writing prompts related to the poems and the poet.


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