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"If we have powers of imagination, these are activated by the magic display of color and sound, of form and movement, such as we observe in the clouds of the sky, the trees and bushes and flowers, the waters and the wind, the singing birds, and the movement of the great blue whale through the sea. If we have words with which to speak and think and commune, words for the inner experience of the divine, words for the intimacies of life, if we have words for telling stories to our children, words with which we can sing, it is again because of the impressions we have received from the variety of things about us."
- Thomas Berry
The Dream of the Earth
No new presearches this week, as we work to complete what's already begun. Specifically:
Sixes have been assigned groups for their final project on California hydrology (see CH4, "California's Water Projects," week of 3/18). Each group will take on a region of California, and two water projects serving that region. Poster project, oral presentation, and socratic seminar to follow.
Sevens are looking at genes and heredity: How can I have blue eyes, if both my parents have brown? And what about my Great Aunt Wiggily, who had one of each? We'll cover these in class...
Eights are at work on sundials. Last week was research: three different designs, described in text and diagram. This week: a working model by Friday.
Spring break is on the way. Help your Middle Schooler to stay on top of things this week by checking homework planners.
“In the dry West, using water means using it up. What we put to municipal or industrial use is not coming back into the streams to be available for irrigation, or if it does come back, it comes back poisoned. What is used in irrigation largely evaporates. The percentage that finds its way back to the streams is increasingly laden with salts, fertilizers, and pesticides. And anything we take out of the rivers for any purpose leaves less in-stream flow for trout, rafters, picnickers, herons, ducks, skinny-dippers and TV cameramen photographing pristine America.”
from Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, 1992
NPR this week reports that 50% of the nation's rivers and waterways are polluted or otherwise compromised. The single greatest harm? Nitrogen, in the form of agricultural runoff....
Lately in the Middle School we've been looking for "wormholes": connections that transport us from one time and subject to another. Case in point: the Sixes continue their study of California's hydrology; next year, they'll examine the industrial food chain and its dependence on nitrogen-based fertilizers. So much to learn.
On to the presearches:
Sixes continue CH4, "California's Water Projects" (see last week's attachments). A bit more reading from the 'net, then a group project to follow. The unit culminates with a socratic seminar on cost-benefit ratios.
Sevens dive into cell growth and replication, a.k.a. "mitosis" and "meiosis." Video lectures from Khan Academy, and a bit of drawing: DNA, base pairs, chromosomes, genes. Meanwhile, queueing up for a lab in isolating DNA from strawberries. Anticipate some rose starts, as well, as we explore how organisms activate different sections of their genome: how do roots grow from cells that previously made their livings as stems or leaves? And how do they know when to do it?
Eights are working on construction of sundials. Research at least three designs, and select one to build. Why doesn't noon by the clock correspond to the sun's crossing of the meridian at midday? Does it matter? Should we do something about it? Last week, we plotted the sun's position on our astrolabes, and found that its position doesn't match the dates found in a horoscope. A similar observation prompted Hipparchus in the second century BCE to propose a tilt and a wobble in Earth's axis, known today as "precession of the equinoxes." To think we figured it out on the schoolyard with a stick and a shadow....
Thanks to those who attended our evening presentations for parents. All the better to help your students enjoy success.
The new presearch for Sevens is attached.
"I wonder what it would be like to go into a forest where nothing had a name. If there were no word for tree stumps, would they sink into the duff? It's possible. And if we started over, giving names, would any fact about the forest compel us to name the same units? Would we label trees? Or would we instead find a name for the unity of roots and soil and microorganisms? Or would we label only the gloss of light on leaves and the shapes of shadows on the bark? How would we act in a forest if there were no names for anything smaller than an ecosystem? How could we walk, if there were no way to talk about anything larger than a cell?
There must be things we do not see because they have no names. If we knew a word for the dark spaces between pebbles on the river bottom, if we had a name for the nests of dried grass deposited by floods high in riverside trees, if there were a word apiece for the smell of pines in the sunshine and in the shadows, we would walk a different trail."
- Kathleen Dean Moore
I'm reminded that one of the most effective ways to help your children learn is to create cause for them to use words. Without language, so much of what we might know of the world is missed.
This week we begin a new term, with new Science presearches all around:
Sixes wrap up their study of California's hydrology with some readings in costs and benefits of water diversion. A group project will be followed by a Socratic Seminar next week.
Sevens begin an examination of DNA, "life's most important invention." Again, lots of reading, to be followed by some lab work: how do you get the DNA out of a strawberry? What does it look like when you do? And how much does it resemble the DNA from my own cells?
Eights look at the laws of thermodynamics. What are they, and where can we find them expressed in the day-to-day? Begin by wondering what it means when your soup gets cold....
Copies of the presearches are attached below.
"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
This week, Sixes get a new presearch, "Water and Power." They'll look at California's aqueducts, with an eye toward costs and benefits. Better to move water to the people, or people to the water? Who pays, and who benefits? And what does it all mean if you're a salmon? There's also rain in the forecast... watch your gauges.
Sevens continue to explore the rise of life on Earth. What characteristics do all organisms share? How did life begin, and why? What if all boils down to a matter of probablility...? Readings from Lucretius to Bill Bryson provide some food for thought. A new presearch on cell structure is also on the table this week. Specific due dates will be assigned in class.
Eights finish construction of their moon finders... In what phase is the Moon if it rises at 2 p.m.? Complete the responses to this week's prompts, due Thursday the 7th. A new presearch on Energy is already queued for next week.
Presearches for Six, Seven and Eight are attached.
Please note: Only those readings that I've typed to digital format appear with the blog attachments. All others are given out in class as hard copies with the presearches.
Conference notices also on the way. Be sure to send them back with your available times.
“We experience nature mostly as sights, sounds, smells, touch, and tastes—as a medley of sensations that play upon us in complex ways. But we do not organize education the way we sense the world. If we did, we would have Departments of Sky, Landscape, Water, Wind, Sounds, Time, Seashores, Swamps, Rivers, Dirt, Trees, Animals, and perhaps one of Ecstacy.”
- David Orr
from "The Problem of Disciplines and the Discipline of Problems"
Hope everyone had a nice break from school. Fine opportunity to relish The Departments, as David Orr likes to call them.
This week the sixes continue their examination of California's hydrology, with a look at the state's population centers and the enormous water projects built to serve them. Before the mid-winter recess, Olivia mused: "People should think about where the water is before they decide where to live." Fitting intro to this week's presearch....
Sevens begin a new unit with a presearch that explores life's origins. Lots of reading. As a parent, expect an interview at the dinner table this week, asking you to define "life." No, you won't be graded, but your responses will be fodder for discussion in class. A reminder also that seventh grade parents will be meeting Thursday evening at 6:30 to discuss preparations for Utah. Please be prompt!
Eights will pick up where they left off before mid-winter recess, looking at cycles of the moon. No new presearch for them, as they still have unfinished business from the last one. I hope they're keeping up with their moon logs. We're about halfway 'round the cycle.
New presearches for sixes and sevens are attached.
"I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter into foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me."
This week the Sixes continue their study of Earth's hydrosphere with a survey of California's primary river systems. In weeks to come, we'll follow with a look at costs and benefits of large-scale water diversions such as the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the All-American Canal, and others. In the meantime, I hope the Sixes are standing by with their rain guages... Anything looming in the forecast?
Sevens are still working on preparations for a final exam in their unit on Diet and Nutrition. Test prep is due at the close of Wednesday's block period; the test itself will be spread over Thursday and Friday. We also wrap up the last two chapters of The Omnivore's Dilemma with a book report. Following Mid-Winter break, we begin a new unit on genetics and cell function.
The Eights become "lunatics" this week, with a study of the Moon and its phases. They'll need to start a Moon log, so if your student seems to be "mooning about" don't be alarmed. We'll also unravel the mechanics behind eclipses of the Moon and Sun, and incorporate what we learn into our astrolabes.
The week's presearches are attached. Specific due dates will be given in class. Be sure to check your student's homework planner for daily updates.
Here are the current presearches for the Sciences. Sixth graders are looking at effects of the Sun and Moon on Earth's ocean tides. Sevens are culminating their study of Diet & Nutrition with preparations for a unit test. Eights, meanwhile, are exploring the reasons for seasons, and measuring movements of the Sun through the zodiac.
Specific due dates for assignments will be given in class. Check your student's homework planner for daily updates.
These are the current presearches for Sciences in the Middle School. Due dates for specific assignments are given in class. Check your student's homework planner daily for updates.
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