dljolley's blog

weeks of May 5, 12 & 19

 "The Western landscape is more than topography and landforms, dirt and rock. It is, more fundamentally, climate--climate which expresses itself not only as landforms but as atmosphere, flora, fauna. And here, despite all the local variety, there is a large, abiding simplicity. Not all the West is arid, yet except at its Pacific edge, aridity surrounds and encompasses it. Landscape includes facts such as this. It includes and is shaped by the way continental masses bend ocean currents, by the way the prevailing winds blow from the west, by the way mountains are pushed up across them to create well-watered coastal or alpine islands, by the way the mountains catch and store the snowpack that makes settled life possible in the dry lowlands, by the way they literally create the dry lowlands by throwing rain shadows eastward. Aridity, more than anything else, gives the Western landscape its character. It is aridity that gives the air its special dry clarity; aridity that puts brilliance in the light and polishes and enlarges the stars; aridity that leads the grasses to evolve as bunches rather than turf; aridity that exposes the pigmentation of the rock earth and almost eliminates the color of chlorophyll; arity that erodes the Earth in cliffs and badlands rather than in softened and vegetated slopes, that has shaped the characteristically swift and mobile animals of the dry grasslands and the characteristically nocturnal life of the desert. The West is a semi-desert with a desert heart.


                         Wallace Stegner, from Thoughts in a Dry Land



Sevens this week pack up for their expedition across the Great Basin, and into the fossil beds of the Colorado Plateau. No new presearch, as such--only the orientations necessary for a successful trip. Wish them luck. A gear check is scheduled for Wednesday.

Sixes meanwhile will continue their research into the last of Earth's three abiotic spheres, the Atmosphere. I've attached their readings and assignments for the next two weeks, with specific due dates to be determined by Willow in my absence. 

Eighth grade un-couples from the Sevens for the last weeks of the year. I've attached a presearch to follow up on thier tracking of last month's Moon, with due dates to be assigned by Willow as needs be. They should also work on getting the astrolabes completely up-to-date. We'll pick up with the darkroom upon my return from the desert.

Math 3 has a series of investigations lined up for the remainder of the year: introductions to quadratic equations, through explorations of growth and decay. Copies of the investigations are attached below. Progress to be monitored by my substitute, assisted by June, our aide.


- D





week of March 31st

 "Photograph: A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.

                                                        - Ambrose Bierce


      Sevens and Eights this week are introduced to a new presearch in the Sciences, LC2 "The Pinhole Camera." They'll be scrounging around home for cookie tins, so don't be alarmed at the sudden interest in ginger snaps. The presearch is attached below, due dates to be given in class. Stargaze a maybe this week--we'll keep an eye on the clouds. 


      Sixes undertake a group project on California's water projects, with a new presearch: CH4 "Water & Power." Lots of reading, and a poster presentation in the works. Presearch is attached below, with due dates to be announced in class.


      Math 3 wraps up work in inequalities with a test on Tuesday, moving from there into applications of systems of equations. Problem sets given by day, expect homework every night form here on. Check the planner daily for updates.


      Language Arts finds all students composing drafts of their research papers. First draft due Friday.


      If you haven't already, be sure to check out the pinhole photography exhibit at the Bolinas Museum. Some nice work by the class of 2013, from their trip to Joshua Tree, and a tribute to the hard work of students and parents in support of outdoor education. Many thanks to the Museum and its staff for getting this one off the ground and onto the walls.


- Don

week of March 24th

       "The wars of the twenty-first century will be fought over water."

        - Ismael Serageldin, World Bank V. P. for Environmental Affairs

      And on that note, the Sixes delve deeper into the story of water in California, with a new presearch, CH 3 The Water Wars. (See attachment, below.) One of the readings is included, and the others will be handed out in class. Due dates: "Melodrama on the Right Side of California" due Tuesday. "Water to Grow a City" due Wednesday. "Dry Ditches" due Friday. Meanwhile, copies of a photo essay on construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct are available for loan in the classroom. 

      Sevens and Eights continue with the presearch handed out last week, LC1 Infinite Suns. By week's end students should have composed a thorough summation of their observations and thoughts on the workings of a pinhole. Bob Miller's Light Walk is due on Monday.

      Reminder to parents of seventh graders that we have a meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the Utah field trip. Driver papers should already be in order, and rides arranged. We'll begin with discussion of trip logistics and preparations. Metting starts at 7 pm in the classroom. Hope to see you all there.

- D

week of March 17th

"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

                                        - Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956 - 1968

      In a few simple words, Leonard Cohen nails down the essential concept behind this week's study of pinholes and radiant energy. Sevens and Eights construct pinhole viewers, and begin to explore the nature of light emitted by the Sun. A presearch is attached below, which includes the famous "Light Walk" by the Exploratorium's Bob Miller. Due dates to be given in class. 

      Sixes meanwhile map the population centers of California against the state's water resources. How to get the water to the people, and what are the costs and benefits of doing so? Important questions to consider as Californians ponder another water diversion to the south. A presearch is attached below. 

      Math 2 wraps up probability with a unit test on Friday. Test prep prior, with discussion of same on Thursday. Math 3 takes a look at solving systems of equations using the "determinant." From there they move on to systems of inequalities and linear programming: what are the maximum and minimum inputs for a system, given the system's constraints? 

      Language Arts continues with garnering resources for research papers. Next week we start in on content outlines. Questions being researched are extensions of the recent Global Issues series. A sampling:

        - How to supply water to Earth's seven billion humans?

        - What is hydraulic fracturing, and how does it affect the environment?

        - What are the relative costs and benefits of the Keystone XL Pipeline?


      Yes, Leonard. That's EXACTLY how the light gets in....


- D





week of February 10th

"The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff."

                                                          - Carl Sagan

We continue with Science presearches issued last week.

Sevens and eights investigate starlight: magnitude, spectral class. New data to enter on our astrolabes. See the Planner for the week's homework.

Sixes are still sloshing about in the ocean currents. Check the Planner daily for homework. 

Math II cntinues with probabilities, and Math III works on systems of equations. 

Field trip to the Rafael on Monday for a pair of documentaries on water. 

Tuesday evening there's the dance at Marin Primary & Middle School. We made a nice showing there last year, and I hope for a repeat. Willow and I have already announced a break from homework Tuesday so students can make the event without feeling the crush of a conflict. Flyers went home on Friday: Live Big band (Starduster Orchestra... How appropriate!).  Event starts at 7.

Wednesday evening meeting for the parents of seventh graders to further discussions about Utah. Meeting starts at 7 pm.

- D





week of February 3rd

 "Water should be a part of every school curriculum. Water as part of our mythology, history, politics, culture, and society should be woven throughout the curriculum, K through PhD."

           - David Orr, from Reflections on Oil and Water

We begin February with new Science presearches (see attached):

6th Grade: WO 3 Planet Ocean

A look at the dynamics driving ocean currents: salinity, winds, differential heating and a spinning planet... matter on the move as nature seeks a balance. (And speaking of balance, check out "Ballance Goddess" Lara Jacobs at TEDxEdmonton.) We also work to complete world maps: There's more than one way to peel an orange...

7th & 8th Grades: CS 4 Star Light Star Bright 

Introduction to magnitudes and spectral class. Astrolabes need to be brought up to date by week's end: mater, rete, and all asterisms from the stargazes.

Maths II: We continue with explorations into binary probability and Pascal's triangle. Check the Planmner nightly for homework.

Maths III: Moving into solving systems of equations in two unknowns. First by graphing (clunky!), then by replacement (elegant!). Check the Planner nightly for homework.

Language Arts: We wrap up the final cycle of Global issues with "Energy" and "Standard of Living." Friday culminates with a viewing of the documentary film Gasland. Great precursor to next week's field trip to the Rafael for two film documentaries on water and oceans. (David Orr would be so pleased!) Get those permission forms in if you haven't already.

Last, a meeting on Thursday evening for seventh grade parents to discuss a field trip to Utah in the Spring. The conversation starts in the classroom at 7 pm. Hope to see you there.

- Don

week of November 25th

       "Facts are easy. Concepts are hard."

                         - Irwin Shapiro, Harvard-Smithsonian Center.

You can teach a monkey to throw a tennis ball at a wall. But does he understand why it bounces back? 

Sixes this week finish their lab reports on the density investigation. What does it mean that basalt is denser than granite, when we're talking about plate tectonics and subduction?

Sevens and eights are also at work on a lab report: How many stars are visible on a typical night, and how do we know? Star gazes are lined up as well; sevens on Tuesday, eights on Wednesday. Dress warmly, as it promises to be cold!

Language Arts finds us practicing "close reading" of non-fiction. Annotation, highlights, vocabulary development, and summarization. 


Math 3 explores relations between graphs and functions with an investigation into "x-form." Poster projects due Tuesday. 


No new presearches this week, as we're already engaged.


- D

week of November 18th

       "For me nothing is more compelling in this country than the night skies. On winter nights the stars flicker white and red and blue, twisting and glittering in their places. In the same moment they can seem astonishingly close and impossibly far away. This is not typically comforting: you can feel the size of the Earth beneath your back, which is massive enough to hold all of its cities and oceans and creatures in the sway of its gravity, and on the far side of the Earth is the sun, 300,000 times more massive than the Earth, and slowly your thoughts begin to bump up against the enormity of the Milky Way, in which our entire solar system is merely a mote."

                       - Anthony Doerr, from Idaho


       Sevens and Eights this week look at the Milky Way Galaxy: The Via Lactea. We begin by considering a model made of sand grains, and ask: How much is a billion? And how can we number the stars in the dome of heaven? An investigation and lab report are in the making. Meanwhile, protractors are also due to be completed by Thursday. 

       Sixes wrap up their work on plate tectonics and earthquakes with a lab investigation: First, how can we determine the density of a rock? And second, what might we learn by comparing densities of the rocks we collected last week on either side of the San Andreas? ("Eureka!" shouts Archimedes from the grave.) 

       Math 3 will learn the importance of "drawing the line." 

       Language Arts continues the personal narrative, now in second draft. The goal: get rid of those passive verbs!

       Last, a reminder to all that the second term begins this week, with report cards in the mail. No time like the present to start fresh, set a new course... and remember that C is satisfactory, B is above average, and A is outstanding. Statistically speaking, it's unreasonable to expect that everyone will come in above average, unless we live in Lake Wobegon. Which, of course, we don't. 

       New presearches for the Sciences are attached.

- D

week of November 11th

When the proofs, the figures were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams

to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much 

       applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired, and sick, 

'Til rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time-to-time, 

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

         - Walt Whitman, 1865


         One of my personal favorites. A sobering reminder to keep it real.


       Sevens and Eights this week grapple with the scale of the solar system; we'll lay out a scale model on Stinson Beach on Friday afternoon. A great activity--always a humbling experience. To be accompanied by a new preseach, introducing the Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the solar system for context. The big question: How do we know the size and shape of the forest if we've never ventured beyond our home within it?

       Sixes are on the road on Tuesday to study local features of the San Andreas Fault. Some things we'll ask along the way: Why are there mid-oceanic pillow basalts at the base of Black Mountain, and where did the granites of Inverness Ridge come from? (Any relation to those granites we saw in the Sierra? Naw, couldn't be....) As Barry Lopez muses, how much do any of us really know about our "chosen places?" (See "Home Ground" attached below.) A new presearch accompanies our inquiry.

     Math 3 plays with patterns and functions and their multiple representations. Emphasis: y = mx + b, and its bearing on future generations.

        Language Arts will find us working on personal narratives, as the first term comes to a close. First drafts due Thursday.

       The new presearches for Sciences are attached.

- D



week of October 28th

        "Astronomy concerns itself with the whole of the visible universe, of which our earth forms but a relatively insignificant part; while Geology deals with that earth regarded as an individual. Astronomy is the oldest of the sciences, while Geology is one of the newest. But the two sciences have this in common, that to both are granted a magnificence of outlook, and an immensity of grasp denied to all the rest."

                                                                                              - Charles Lapworth

                      Proceedings of the Geological Society of London, 1903 

        We begin the week with new presearches in the Sciences. Sixes look at the mechanics behind (beneath?) earthquakes. Sevens and Eights, meanwhile, look to the sky for answers: How do you draw the dome of heaven and all that it contains? And what if the things we find there are moving? Star gazes planned for next week... look for details in a notice home.

        Presearches for the Sciences are attached below (text-only versions). 

        Math III starts in with equations in two unknowns: patterns of growth and decay, and their multiple representations. A reading selection on the nature of patterns (and patterns in nature) is attached below, to be read by Friday. Check homework planners for the daily assignments.

       Last, in Language Arts, we turn from reading to writing. What have we learned about narrative devices, and how can we employ it in work of our own?

        Lots to look forward to this week, not least of which is Halloween. And if you're up for something REALLY frightening, stay home and watch the documentary "Gasland." It's on Netflix. The short story: Fracking is scarier than any of us imagined....

- D