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After Colombia, our next trip was to a backcountry hut, The Lost Wonder Hut, for a class on avalanches. It was a perfect example of what we strive for — connection from the classroom to the field and back again. Students started preparing for the trip in Science class, where they studied the physics of snow and avalanches. Topics included avalanche climates and terrain (i.e. how the terrain features determine the motion of avalanches), slope, tensional, compressional, and shear strength of snow, and digging a snow pit to examine layers and perform tests on its stability.
While at the hut, we had a mixture of indoor, “classroom” time and outdoor time making observations and practicing companion rescues. The content felt so relevant, as we were surrounded by steep, loaded slopes and could hear avalanche charges being set off just over the mountain at Monarch Mountain. We learned about alpha angles for avalanches, snow morphology and crystallization, the anatomy of an avalanche, types of avalanches, causes of avalanches, classification, identifying avalanche terrain, and much more. The goal was not to scare students or encourage them to stay inside all winter, but rather to help them enjoy the snowy mountains intelligently and equip them to know what to look for to make informed decisions.
Upon return to school, students are continuing the study by exploring destructive force, distance traveled and displacement, and speed, velocity, and acceleration.
With our upcoming trip to Colombia in January, we have been studying about Latin America this semester and specifically how US foreign policy and US intervention has impacted individual countries and Latin America as a whole. The class has been primarily lecture- and discussion-based, and the discussions have been strong.
The final exam was a series of essays to hear from the students on issues such as communism, US aid, regime change, and foreign investment. Here is an excerpt from the exam of a student. The question asked them to put into writing their thoughts and ideas about governance if they were given the power to decide US policy relative to Latin America.
“Many Latin American countries are very unstable and are mired in poverty. A lot of this is due to corruption and organized crime within the country. These issues lead to the big problem of immigration. The people of Latin America see our country as the very safe, stable county filled with opportunity. Due to instability in their countries, the people of LA will naturally want to come to the US. I would not work to build a wall to keep them away but rather to hit the problem at its heart and focus on making the Latin American countries more stable and less violent so that the people do not have the thought that they need to flee the country. In order to make this happen, I would work with the countries in a very diplomatic way in order to curb corruption/ dictatorship…. Latin America being our closest set of neighboring countries, the US would really benefit having them as strong, dependable, and non-corrupt countries.
To fight off the organized crime and their products entering our country, the US might fight corruption in Latin America. Organized crime groups take advantage of the fact that the country is poor and easily manipulated. By working with the local governments on first making sure that the governments themselves aren’t affected by the corruption, eventually it will open the gate for easy help from the US to provide support and eventually stabilize LA.
In the end, everything connects to the idea of the goal to stabilize LA, step by step, in order to create a better, more diplomatic environment on this side of the world.”
The following is in response to the prompt to write about articulating strong and positive influences that US citizens and the US government have had on Latin America:
“…US foreign policy has contributed to Latin America by standing by its 5 basic pillars: Advancing social services, supporting (renewable) energy future, multilateral engagements, economic expansion (US- Mexico agreement), education (US visas), and ensuring a democratic future (which is the United States’ idea of the most successful government for all).”
It has been fun to see the students’ level of thought, awareness, and global citizenship.
Hello! It has been a busy semester with a lot of solid academic work. Teachers have been pushing students, with our staff’s collective goal in mind: develop students’ critical thinking skills. It has been such fun to see students discover themselves as strong thinkers and communicators, and we have a lot to build on, going into our Colombia trip.
The end of the semester is a time to celebrate, so I wanted to share some academic honors that we recognized on our final day of the semester. In Spring of 2018, we implemented two different types of academic awards. One type is given every week, and it is called the “Teachers’ Award.” Recipients of this award are nominated by the teachers for their demonstration of engagement, effort on a particular assignment, or anything that made them stand out that week. Each time a student earns this award, he or she receives a $5 gift card to our local coffee shop!
The other is a semester award called the “Honors Library Award.” This is given to students who earn a 3.5 GPA or higher for the semester. Students who earn this award are gifted a book from the teaching staff and also get to choose a book to be added to the Honors Library in their honor (along with getting their name added to a plaque).
We were excited to have FOUR recipients of the Honors Library Award this semester. Their names and the books we gave them are below. (Stay tuned to hear what books they decide to contribute to the library.)
Santiago Doutrich: On the Ridge Between Life and Death, David Roberts
Avery Holshouse: Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Becky Smith: A Wolf Called Romeo, Nick Jans
Kelvin Elrick: The River, Gary Paulsen
We are so grateful to all of our students for their persistent effort towards a strong, growth-filled semester.
As the semester comes to a close, we have been celebrating the academic growth students have experienced so far this year. In particular, we are excited to share some creative writing that demonstrates students’ understanding of a writer’s tone, voice, and overall style. After reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the students were asked to write an essay about a real person, place, or incident in a way that mimics Didion’s style.
They all challenged themselves, and here are a few highlights:
This is the story about love and truth in an overwhelmingly white mansion of Forest Hills, Durham, North Carolina. In a seemingly typical home, owned by a seemingly functional family, later to be anxiously bought by a New York psychic. This curious woman was just one of the many people who followed up on the tragedy that took place at the end of a staircase in 2001. The controversial murder of Michael Peterson’s wife, Kathleen Peterson. The reason why this single murder is such a big deal is because the Petersons perfectly fit the American depiction of a perfect family. And this cookie cutter family depiction was adored by media and admired by wine sipping magazine moms. But this same prosperous and seemingly spotless family just so happened to turn into the perfect American tragedy.
-Avery Houlshouser: “Steps to Incarceration”
The name Len Bias never came across my mind until a couple weeks ago. I have no understanding why this name has been the drug on my mind lately. It has taken over my thoughts, much like the fungus ophiocordyceps unilateralism does to an ant. Making the ant steer in any direction it would like it to go. Making me feel like I am not in control of my own thought whatsoever, controlling my brain, taking over the power I have.
-Beka Petersen, “Len Bias: The Prevalence of Cocaine”
Ashima Shiraishi is one of the best rock climbers in the world. She started climbing when she was seven years old. No she is climbing routes that she would never think would be possible. Little by little she became the person that she always dreamed of. Within her climbs she symbolizes the women’s movement by persevering.
-Brian Burr, “Achieving the Impossible with Ashima Shiraishi”
A few days before August 28, 1963, the weather in Washington DC was quite nice. There were temperatures around 75 degrees, with no rain surprisingly. Then a few days later, on August 28, the weather was nearing 90 degrees, with high humidity; the world knew that something had been boiling and it was about to spill over. 250,000 were gathering around the Lincoln Memorial, dipping their feet into the reflection pool, trying to cool off in the tentative atmosphere, and millions were watching at home across the country in their homes. They were desperately anticipating what was about to happen. Something incredible was about to arise, disgust, empower, enrage, and delight millions for decades to come.
-Bryce Marmolijo, “Martin Luther King Jr.”
Dave and his crew fully rebuilt the transmission, upgraded the engine, fixed the power steering, shocks, tires, light bars, winch and some other things for a $60,000 upgrade. This is very moving because it shows how one man sees another man’s problem and does his best to fix it. When there is something that we can do to help another we should do that because it is spreading kindness and you never know what will happen from that experience, like the person that you helped may help you in a time of need.
-Eric Trevor-Roberts, “Dave Sparks”
In 1907, the United States of America fell into a “panic”. The New York Stock exchange had fallen 50% in the last year, and Wall Street was in chase (History). The crisis was saved by John Pierpont Morgan, America’s millionaire.
-Santiago Doutrich, “Capitalism through J.P. Morgan”
We are in week 2 of Semester 2 after a wonderful trip to Peru. Makenzie’s English classes started this semester with a creative project from the books the students were reading while in Peru.
Here is the assignment:
Develop a creative or interpretive work based on a section of your reading that you feel is particularly significant. You may choose to represent a scene or character. Present information about this scene or character in an unconventional way that creates a feeling – empathy, anger, curiosity, etc. – for the viewer. Your creative interpretation might be an illustration, a poem, a sketch of events (like a comic strip), song lyrics, or something else!
Include with your creative work a written reflection/explanation paragraph that answers these questions:
Why have you chosen both your content and your method of interpretation?
What specific quote or quotes supports or relates to your interpretation? (Include page numbers.)
What do you intend the viewer to feel?
What do you like about what you’ve created?
And here is their work!
Our study hall proctor, art teacher, and yoga instructor (all one person) facilitated our school’s participation in an international program called “ArtLink.” We are grateful for the opportunity for the students to tap into their artistic side! Below is some background she provided, as well as some of the students’ artwork.
Creative Connections is an “international cultural education organization” which has facilitated the ArtLink program since 1996. ArtLink exchanges artwork between the USA and sixty countries on six different continents, which is produced primarily by elementary and high school students. This program allows students the opportunity to share their culture and way of life through creating and trading their artwork. The ArtLink curriculum helps students expand their world view to build both Global Competence and 21st Century Learning Skills.
On Tuesday, we had our first of what we hope will be several “Project Day”s (better name coming soon). The idea of this day came from conversations James and I have had about how to develop higher level thinking and problem-solving abilities in our students – in particular, confidence in their problem-solving. As James said, “Solutions are what we’re looking for in education. We’re looking for problem-solving capabilities, but really, we like to think of our education here as solution-based. We want not just an activity, not just academics, and not just a blending of the two, but to be really looking for solutions and how to solve the larger problems and how to think.”
With that in mind, we decided to come up with a problem and a task for the students. They were given the following scenario:
Due to climate change, the rate of melt off the Sahuasiray glacier has increased, causing runoff to approach earlier and stronger than usual, knocking out crops, deepening tributary channels, and killing livestock in the herding community of Cancha Cancha. This has increased the isolation of this mountain village from nearby cities, as well as from its own school. It also wiped out the existing water infrastructure, as well as several key bridges. Students who would normally be able to walk the 3 kilometers to school each day, now have to take a roundabout route, which has made the walk 7 kilometers, due to flooding and bridge destruction. Girls are no longer able to make the walk because the adjusted route involves many dangers to young girls, and they are also needed at home to carry water for their families. Currently, the citizens are using a series of handcarts to cross the newly-flooding stream, which can carry one person at a time and takes 11 minutes/person. They are not able to get livestock across in the handcarts.
*This is happening in surrounding villages as well (i.e., the other teams), so everyone wants the same resources, which are limited. Be prepared to adjust accordingly!
Then, they were given their task, which was: You are to decide the best way to address the problems. Your options are to either build a bridge or to design and build the water treatment system. In which way would it be best to use the village’s resources? Should the village prioritize putting money into something that will help the community’s economy more immediately, or focus on getting the girls to school?
The students received a 7-page document that included these two pieces, as well as budget, questions to consider, presentation requirements, collaboration expectations, and building requirements. They were also given several resources that provided context on the area and the culture, as well as information on bridge-building, water management, etc. This format is helpful practice for the College and Work Readiness Assessment that students now take in the fall and spring.
We had building materials for them and a “shop” where they could buy materials, rent tools, and hire James to build parts for them (though they were required to build their own products). Prices went up as demand increased, so they had many factors to consider.
Some students’ thoughts:
“I enjoyed working with a group of people to figure out how to fix a realistic problem that might occur. It taught us how to listen to everyone’s ideas and then create a presentation to show the ideas we came up with.” – Beka
“I really enjoyed the project afternoon! It gave me a chance to work on problem solving in a group setting.” – Mathias
“It was nice to be able to solve a real world hypothetical problem; I really liked being able to put my critical thinking skills to the test!” – India
And some photos!
As many of you may know, we enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Denver on Saturday to attend a TEDx event. The theme was “Wonder,” and we enjoyed talks from a variety of people about a wide range of topics, which you will see below.
Members of the staff who were there were struck by the idea of resilience. We were inspired by people who had overcome great hardship and used it to gain strength, wisdom, and passion to share with others.
We discussed this idea in our “Study Skills” class on Monday, where students wrote reflections from the event on Saturday. We then watched videos of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” and Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and discussed their intentional decision to choose hope, optimism, and joy, rather than letting adversity beat them down. Students wrote about what things in their lives they need to rise above and how they will do so. Those responses were a little too personal to share here, but I am excited to share some of their (mostly unedited) reflections from the event, below.
(I apologize for the formatting; I can’t seem to get the spacing in the published version to reflect the spacing on the composition / editing page!)
“I really like the awareness it brought. I really liked the guy who was talking about how if someone else had a nuclear war, we would be affected by a nuclear winter. The talk was so inspiring and all the people really changed the way i saw what people were doing. It was really inspiring how Mara mintzer, tamika Mallory, and more who talked about how children are already part of our community. How they were using children to build cities because we all want the same thing and we all want to have the same care for our environment and the same safety. Also the talk about how we can use space to solve some of our problems we don’t need to be contaminating the only clean air we know of. That talk was by James Orsulak he really did answer a question i had for a long time i wondered if we should be going into space if we have so many problems on earth well he literally said we can fix our problems on earth if we use space that is out of earth’s air. That really answered my question. I learned about how we are growing and how once we get to 50% of the population most species die and we can find ways to live, and how much i as a kid can help with my future now. – Callyn
Paula Williams: be willing to be who you were meant to be; don’t be ashamed of yourself
Danielle Shoots: Being a millennial is not as bad as other generations make it out to be
Christian Picciolini: If you find yourself in a bad place, you can always pull yourself out
Dick Durrance: Beauty can be found, even in the darkest of times
Dominique Christina: We can respect male leaders, but we must remember that in history there is always a woman behind the scenes making it all possible.
People care, maybe more than we can fathom. Though there may be a large population of people that don’t care, but there are still those that do.
All the speakers seem to speak to the idea of reconciliation. Wonder is a good word, but the Ted event seemed more about peace, and how we can get there. – Mathias
The whole experience is different than when you are watching ted talks on youtube because you are into the entire experience which is so cool and I want to go to another tedx event. What also stood out to me was how women are so needed in the workforce to help control the environment and use their skills to improve the work force. – Eric
I freaking loooooveeee TED talks. Every single presentation was eye-opening and inspiring. I think my 4 top favorites were: Dominique Christina, Christian Picciolini, Tamika D Mallory, and Danielle Shoots. They were so inspiring and loving. Dominique’s words were powerful. Christian told the story of how hate can always loses to love. Tamika spoke about the power of togetherness and how the oppressors can easily help the oppressed. Danielle empowered our generation.
I am sitting here in the corner of the main classroom, looking out over 13 teenagers, and my heart is content. The students are sitting around the table – physically all together, but each one absorbed in his or her own world: a separate “performance task” on the computer. All I hear is the rapid pattering of the keys on their laptops and the occasional, refocusing deep breath. This might just be every educator’s dream come true.
This is the scene of The Link School’s first crack at the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA). I first came across this test during my graduate studies last year, when it was mentioned in this article by Tony Wagner, in which he discusses the necessity for a different set of skills to become the focus in schools. The test seemed to be a great way to hold ourselves accountable for the kinds of things we like to think we are developing in our students – critical thinking, problem solving, media literacy, synthesizing research, analyzing information, written communication, and imagination. Then, a couple of weeks later, we visited Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, where we learned that they administer this test at their school and are very happy with the information they get from it. We plan to administer this test in the Spring, as well, to provide some insight into how well we are developing these skills in our students throughout the year. One of our main goals is to teach students to think critically, and this is one way to measure how well we are doing it.
You can find information here, but the general overview is that the test is divided into two sections: a performance task and selected respond. As the students are taking their tests, I can see on my proctor interface where they are in the process. The different performance task topics I see are “library digitization,” “paper or plastic,” and “school community.” The questions require students to analyze several different documents (charts, graphs, blog post, news articles, scientific articles, etc) and write a response based on a scenario and a task.
We should get the results in 4-6 weeks, and then we will know what we can do the rest of the year to continue developing these skills in our students.
Feel free to reach out with questions or comments; I tend to get (overly) excited about this kind of thing.