Seventh Grade Science: Studying Processes of Decay
All seventh grade students participate in a year-long rotting fruit observation in science class. Each student seals a piece of fruit in a glass jar at the beginning of the school year, and the fruit is left to rot until the very last day of the classes! Students record qualitative and quantitative observations on a weekly basis, and the changes in the fruit serve as a jumping off point for discussions throughout the year. The collapse of the fruit and the appearance of fluid at the bottom of the jar leads to investigations into the cellular nature of life. The growth of mold leads to activities that help us understand the differences between living things and how those differences are used to classify living things. The rotting process itself leads to discussions on how living things obtain and use energy. Moreover, there’s always the joy of simply getting to watch something delicious turn into something putrid!
Sixth Grade: Studying Social Pressures and Conformity
“Why do people conform?”
Students focus on the concept of conformity through mutiple lenses: by studying the culture of ancient China, and through a close reading of Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.” Conformity is a complex theme that affects all societies. Students use both new and established thinking routines to examine choices societies and individuals make, and the consequences of these choices. For example, a detailed consideration of the geography of ancient China and the extreme topography in the region sheds light on how people settled and lived thousands of years ago. Each student studies one dynasty extensively, creating a “brick” that contributes to our “Great Wall of China.” They continue to explore their thinking through journal entries, fishbowls, essay writing and class discussions.
Middle School Art: Akari Lanterns
After learning about Isamu Noguchi’s history, philosophy and style, students were asked to interpret the artist’s work in their own unique way, building on the foundation learned in previous projects. The process of making student akari lanterns draws on Noguchi’s own process. Where he used traditional bamboo and mulberry paper, we have employed more modern materials: 16-gauge wire, string and glue soaked paper.
Students began by planning and designing a shape for their lantern. Then they constructed a wire skeleton—twisting, joining and forming the wire to realize their shape. Finally, they wrapped the skeleton in glue-soaked paper, creating layers that made their work strong, while retaining the “light” quality Noguchi strived for in his own work.