2007-2008: Week 31 Reflections

April 3, 2008 (Day 139)

In Morning Meeting, we watched CNN Student News, and the stories today were rich with moments for us to explore deeply.  The first story looked at the recent report on high-school drop-out statistics in urban areas.  Graphics were included that gave percentages for big city urban areas and their suburban counterparts.  We paused the webcast during the displays for several cities and converted and/or gave the fraction that was closest to the given percentage.  A discussion about the long-term economic impact of attaining different levels of education ensued, and we also learned about the various acronyms that are associated with post-undergraduate education (JD, MBA, MD, MA, PhD, DVM, etc.).  The next story looked at the importance of establishing and adhering to a budget.  The example used was a 23-year-old dancer in New York who performs in a Broadway musical.  He makes $7,500 per month, and we were challenged to determine quickly his yearly pay and gauge what his income is in relation to American and South Carolina averages.  The final story was a primer on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; he was killed forty years ago this week.  The angle of the story was from the Memphis Police Department’s perspective, and we gained a better understanding of the forensic science available to them in 1968 and what clues they discovered to make the connection to James Earl Ray.  In Math, we reviewed fractions and equations, and this involved group analysis and individual challenges.  In Spanish, we went over our vocabulary words and phrases related to the future and time.  As an exercise in study and learning skills, Mr. Kreutner showed us a web-based flash card maker program.  After looking over the words in small groups, we each used our laptop computer to make virtual flash cards to prepare for an assessment on the vocabulary.  We learned that building the cards ourselves is better for us because we use multiple “senses” and acquire the information as we go.  In Humanities, we discussed the preface to the next book in our American history series, A History of Us, and we got a sense of the challenges and opportunities facing the new American nation in the late-18th and early-19th centuries.  We also touched on the start of Act II of Romeo and Juliet.  For the rest of the period, we watched Act I of Romeo and Juliet as seen in the 1997 film production of Shakespeare’s play by Baz Luhrmann.  We were thrilled to see the “timeless themes” of one of Shakespeare’s works set in the 1990s.  Although the language adhered to the play, it was not disconcerting to watch this compelling version that was gripping from the outset (i.e. a “fight” at a gas station in Verona Beach between members of the Capulet and Montague “gangs”).  In Science, we began studying the digestive system.  First we sketched and labeled a diagram of the human digestive system.  Then we watched a video of the same and took notes.  Some of the important concepts covered in the video included mechanical and chemical digestion, peristalsis, and enzymatic juices.  It was interesting to realize that the concepts of pH, acids and bases are important parts of the digestive process.  We will learn more about the neutralization of stomach acid with the pancreatic juices next week in our lab.

April 2, 2008 (Day 138)

In Morning Meeting, we watched CNN Student News.  The topic of the day was autism (World Autism Day), and the stories explored medicine’s incomplete understanding of autism, facts about the disorder, and several treatment regimens and special programs (including a look at “Autism: The Musical”). We then used Google Earth for a geography lesson about today’s Learning Outside the Classroom experience as Charles Towne Landing, and this included a review of earlier sites we have visited.  We then drove to Charles Towne Landing and began our walking tour of the 300 acre park.  After working on the virtual archaeology dig (a projector and “smart” board set-up), we walked to a demonstration at the indentured servants’ quarters.  Here we learned first-hand the methods of creating fire used by the English colonists and the Native Americans.  This led to a discussion of the use of “fire” in English weapons and dangers that fire and explosive elements carried for the settlers.  We also conducted an investigation of the architecture of the house and its implements, and we then discussed and shared what we saw with our classmates.  We continued our exploration of the park’s features as we made our way to the animal exhibits.  Although several of the species are/were not-native like the buffalo, we did enjoy seeing them.  We were especially impressed by the beauty of the wild turkeys and by the elegant behavior of the puma that was comfortably resting in a perch within a tree.  After eating lunch at a picnic shelter and pondering how the view and the area’s development had changed in the 300 years since settlement, we returned to the visitors’ center to examine the exhibits.  We enjoyed learning about several aspects of the journey to and settlement of Charles Towne, and the exhibits were engaging, diverse, and interactive.  One of our favorites was a huge 17th century map of the world, and we spent several minutes translating various geographical aspects and location names from Latin to English.  We then headed back to Mt. Pleasant, but we first made a tour through Hampton Park on the peninsula.  This allowed us to see this gorgeous park by The Citadel, and we saw the location of the Charleston Police Department’s stables for their horses in the mounted patrol units.  We also discussed the reasons that police departments use horses.  Finally, we ventured through The Citadel itself, and we marveled at the consistency in architecture from the barracks to the renovated football stadium.  We discussed the class system on campus, and we saw the first-year students walking in the gutter and learned about some of the traditions of the institution (parade on Friday, faculty members are inducted into the state militia, the public “freeze” when the American flag is lowered each evening, and the integration of women and students of color in the past forty years). Upon our return to campus, we had a group conversation in which we reflected on the day and made connections to our studies and earlier LOTC expeditions.  For example, we discussed the theme of authenticity that has driven several exhibits, especially Middleton Place, to ensure that their presentation is more representative of the desired time period.   This also includes the recent renovation of Charles Town Landing in which the original pavilion constructed for the park’s opening in 1970 was deemed too out-of-synch and replaced for the more natural wood and glass visitors’ center.  We also watched a few more webisodes from the PBS Recontruction: The Second Civil War series.  The story focused on the rancor in Congress after Andrew Johnson’s leniency to the states of the former Confederacy and the move to Reconstruction overseen by Congress.  As we have talked about in our ongoing comparisons to other reconstruction efforts that America has been involved in, including our current work in Iraq, it is difficult to find a middle way that appeals to the victor and the vanquished.

April 1, 2008 (Day 137)

In Morning Meeting, in preparation for our afternoon discussion with him, we reviewed Post and Courier reporter Bo Petersen’s “Marine Life in Peril.”  In comparing the web version of the article to the printed one, we were able to learn more about key words and the placement of ads on the internet.  The conversation also swirled around alternatives to plastics that are safe for the handling of food and liquids, and this led us to the website of a company that makes stainless steel beverage containers in several sizes (including one geared to babies).  The suggested benefit is that carrying water in a stainless steel container prevents one from the harmful effects of chemicals in plastic leaching into one’s water over time.  We then previewed the May concert we are hosting of the United States Air Force Heritage Ensemble band.  This is a small band comprised of active-duty USAF members, and they have recently returned from a three-month deployment to Iraq and the Middle East.  They played for US military personnel and civilian groups in their time overseas, and they specialize in Celtic music.  We examined the website for the group, and we listened to several minutes of representative music.  In Math, we reviewed the key concepts of the Third Quarter , and we took an in-class diagnostic in preparation for continued introduction of algebraic concepts in the final quarter.  In Spanish, we practiced organizing words to make logical sentences and learned new vocabulary.  Then we watched and listened to native Spanish speakers conversing.  In Humanities, we discussed the first Act of Romeo and Juliet and took a quiz on it.  We also continued to assemble our timeline of the play.  In Art, a series on painting began today.  We got acclimated to using our brushes, the acrylic paints, and our palettes.  To facilitate this, we experimented with colors to match color cards that Mrs. Johnson gave us.  In Science, we had a question and answer session with Post and Courier reporter Bo Petersen about his article “Marine Life in Peril” and about his role as an environmental reporter, journalism in general, and other aspects of his work.

March 31, 2008 (Day 136)

In Morning Meeting, we watched CNN Student news.  The stories gave us an update on the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and elections in Zimbabwe.  The final story gave us a sense of the effect of a downturn in the economy on discretionary spending.  Although the spokespeople for various theme parks expressed confidence in their ability to maintain stable or growing revenue, the likelihood is a decline in attendance and spending.  We then had our introduction to Schoolhouse Rocks – a series of 3-minute educational cartoons that ran on ABC in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  “Three is the Magic Number” was the first piece we heard, and then we talked about the power of mnemonic devices and songs to help one learn.  We then used our laptops to read the lyrics and then watched the nine segments of Grammar Rocks.   We returned as a group and wrote an argumentative essay about the usefulness of Schoolhouse Rocks videos.  Upon completing our essays, we talked about our varying points of views and the evidence we cited.  The general consensus was that the videos were valuable and helpful, and we learned that some high schools and colleges use the Grammar Rocks videos as primers for composition classes.  In Spanish, after talking about our vacations, we went over the last test and then practiced listening to native speakers.  In Humanities, our time was divided between catching up on current events and Romeo and Juliet.  The discussion touched up the economy, John McCain, Barack Obama, Democratic Party superdelegates, Cambodia’s Pol Pot (& the death of photojournalist Dith Pran), and Iraq (attacks on the Green Zone and in Basra).  We then reviewed Romeo and Juliet Act I, Scenes i-iv.
At the end of class, we watched the first half of Obama’s powerful speech on race that he delivered in Philadelphia a few weeks ago in the wake of the controversy over the incendiary remarks made by his former pastor.  It has been viewed over 6 million times on YouTube, In Science, as a vehicle for getting back up to speed after our break, we discussed the pros and cons of our Making a Difference environmental projects.

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