Go West, Young Woman

Field trips are often the highlights of Summer Academy classes, and students in Go West, Young Woman, couldn’t agree more.

“My favorite was going to Gibbs Farm,” said Ilsa. “I liked going into the one-room schoolhouse. Alex had to wear the dunce cap.”

Alex laughed. “Yeah, I wore the dunce cap,” she fessed up. 

Ilsa and Alex sat on the floor with a group of students putting finishing touches on their cardboard buildings. “We’re building a town, a pioneer town in the 1800s,” said Abby. 

“We each have our own little store that we build,” added Sidney. “I’m building an ice cream shop.” Sidney learned that in “the old timey days”, they used ice boxes to keep ice cream cold. “It’s a cupboard where you put ice in a drawer and it keeps your food cold,” she said. 

Livia’s favorite field trip was to the Swedish farm called Gammelgarden in Scandia. “It was so fun. We got to learn about their culture.” Gammelgarden, she said, means “small farm” in Swedish. 

“We learned about homesteaders and how they came here and how they settled,” said Samantha. She liked everything about the class, except tasting the hardtack. “I didn’t really like it,” she said. 

From Story to Stage

When the credits roll on the student productions in From Story to Stage, there will be just one name under each category. For instance, Scriptwriter-Keira; Stage Design-Keira; Costumes-Keira; Lighting-Keira.

Kiera and her classmates worked on their play projects today. “Now we know about ALL the things you need to do for a play,” said Keira. For example, “If you’re going to be a prop designer, we know they make little models, like we did. Designing costumes taught us how to pay attention to detail and to pick fabric.”

“It’s like one step closer to how (the professionals) actually do it.”

The theater professionals spend years learning how to do each step, added Nora. “We spent three weeks getting a little preview.”

Lilly based her production on the book “Stacy’s Extraordinary Words.” “It’s a book about her loving words. She gets in a spelling bee, but doesn’t win,” Lilly said. “The moral of the story is perseverance.”

Lilly’s character Stacy has to go up against the class bully, Jake, in the spelling bee. “I had to make the outfits. Since Jake was the bully, I wanted to put him in leather, a leather jacket,” she said. In the book, Stacy wears a dress to the spelling bee, but Lilly decided to dress the character in denim overalls. 

”I love Broadway-type music and I want to be an actress,” Lilly said. “I think this class shows everything you need to run a play. It’d be nice to know if you want to be an actress.”

Strategy Games of the World

Game strategy is universal. Students in Strategy Games of the World have learned this through playing board games from all over the world. Today, the gamers made their own games, and, who knows, children may be playing them generations from now!

“We’re modifying games,” Maxwell explained. “We took games and we’re making them different.” Maxwell used the template from 5 Field Kono, a game from Korea, to create his modified game. The main difference, he said, is instead of trying to get your piece to the other side, “in mine, you have to jump over them to capture. The object is to capture all your opponent’s pieces.”

Emmett turned the game board from Pong Hau K’i (China) into a 3-Triangle game. “You try to get three in a row,” he said. He placed shiny blue glass beads on the grid and demonstrated the main strategy. “One strategy in the game is to trap your opponent.” 

Namsel’s new game is called Norway-the Game of Strat, ‘strat’ being short for strategy. He likes the class, he said, “because there are fun games and plus it’s really fun to play chess with my friends in the morning.”

Asmaa made many modifications to the game Asalto (Germany) and named her version Battle with Heros. Although her game involves battle and war, Asmaa said she most enjoys less aggressive games. “Some games are long and challenging,” she said. “I like Scrabble because it’s a word game and you have to try to make words.”

Jay’s goal during Summer Academy is to beat someone at chess. “Everyone when I play them wants to beat me. It’s annoying when I lose,” he said. “I want to play chess everyday to get better.”

The Art of Mathematics

Art and math seem to be such opposing skills. Right brain, left brain. Reason vs. creativity. But The Art of Mathematics shows children how indispensably related they really are.

“I like how it connects art and math together,” Truman said of the class. 

“All of it is math, because it’s shapes,” noted Calvin.

“Shapes equal geometry and geometry equals math,” said Ben. “It is art, but instead of math and art, I think it’s arts and crafts or crafts and math!”

Today, mathematical artists cut five-sided shapes out of colorful construction paper. “It’s a pentagon with another pentagon on it,” Isabella said. Liam added,”It’s going to be a 3D shape, with 12 pentagons.”

Calvin predicted what they would make. “We’re using 12 pentagons to attach together to make a duodecahedron,” he said. 

Fiona was excited to be able to blend her passions. “I like to draw, I like to make things, and I love math,” she said.  “I absolutely love, love, love numbers. I’ve never thought of art being mathematical before.”

Journey into Japan

Students in Journey into Japan made a delicious snack today as they explored a popular Japanese dish.

“We’re making onigiri,” said Emma. In front of her was a plate with a mound of white rice, a glob of cooked chicken mixed with mayonnaise, and a strip of dark green seaweed. “It’s usually tuna,” she said about the chicken replacement. She was glad because she admitted, “I’ve never had fish before.”

Colin described onigiri. “It’s a triangle of rice with a filling in it wrapped in a piece of seaweed.” Colin appreciates Japanese foods. “I’ve tried ramen, sushi, miso soup, Japanese dumplings,” he said. “I’ve made sushi and ramen before.”

Rom’an started to assemble his onigiri. He grabbed a hunk of white rice and started molding it into a ball. “Mine’s not sticking at all!” he lamented. 

Matias had similar sticking issues. “Is this a problem?” he laughed, holding up his rice-covered palms. “My hands are too sticky!”

“I smashed mine. It’s a patty,” said Jake. Jake formed his rice and started to put chicken into a depression in the center. “I’m going to try it.” Seconds went by as Jake chomped and chewed. “Hmmmm, it’s all right!” he decided.

“It’s good,” agreed Noah. “It’s salty. It tastes like seaweed.”

Mika liked the seaweed taste. “I’m going to tell my mom to buy seaweed so I can make this,” she said. 

The onigiri was washed down with lots of hot green tea. 

“This is definitely the best class I’ve been in,” said Jake. “We get to eat!”

A Chemist’s #1 Tool – The Periodic Table

Suheyla’s favorite part of her class, A Chemist’s #1 Tool, is “the chemical-of-the-day reaction,” she said. 

“Every day we do an experiment with a different chemical. The first day they made an explosion,” she said. “A couple of days ago we used chemicals to dissolve gummy bears.”

Today, chemists tried a new method for creating crystals, like the ones that grow in geodes. 

“Today we’re going to be cooking!” sang Cameron as he grabbed a large glass beaker and began measuring out Aluminum Potassium Sulfate. 

Luciana agreed that chemistry is kind of like cooking, because they follow a recipe. “We have to have exact measurements, too,” she said. 

Cameron recited the recipe: 100 grams of alum, 300 ml distilled water, 3 drops of food coloring. “We have to use distilled water because it’s more pure,” Cameron said.

“There’s no metals in it like this stupid tap water we drink,” added Lucas. He explained the chemistry behind the solution. “This chemical helps to create the potassium sulfate into crystals.”

Once the ingredients were mixed, students placed their beakers on hotplates and stirred continuously. “I need to dissolve the chemicals,” explained Suheyla. “I have to stir until all the white stuff dissolves.” She slowly stirred her beautiful lime green concoction. “I didn’t expect the green to be this bright. It looks like Mountain Dew!”

Jevenson pointed out the hanging crystals that have been growing since early in the first week. It was a similar process, but the heat source was different. “We’re not using bunsen burners today,” he said. Students will use their cooked chemicals to grow crystals in a plastic egg shell that has been prepped for the purpose. 

Ocean Adventures

A strained undercurrent of concern ran through the Ocean Adventures class on Friday. 

Captains Michelle and Carrie (aka the teachers) excitedly announced to students that they would have the opportunity to eat penguin food. They proceeded to explain in graphic detail how penguin parents regurgitate partially digested fish and krill into the babies’ mouths. But, they assured the kids, they wouldn’t have to do anything that extreme. They would just try the formula that zoologists feed to hand-raised penguin babies – blended, rather than regurgitated.

The ingredients? Whole herring, krill, seabird multi-vitamins, yeast tablets, and a variety of other necessary nutrients, all churned into a fishy milkshake. The tables were buzzing. “Are you going to try it?’

“I’m just going to dig in!” said a confident Carter. “I want to try it and see what it tastes like.”

Adalyn definitely planned to try it. “It would be fun to live the life of a baby penguin,” she said. 

Others weren’t so sure. “No!” shouted Jaxon vehemently, wrinkling up his nose. “I wouldn’t try it. I really don’t think that’s supposed to be edible for humans!”

Imagine his relief when the “penguin food” for little humans turned out to be ice cream blended with bananas, chocolate, and other delicious treats.

Poor Carter had been looking forward to the challenge. “I’m a little bit disappointed,” he admitted.

Adalyn and Olivia had known about the milkshakes earlier, so they weren’t fooled by the ruse. Both said they would have tried it, though, if it had been fish and krill. Lauren, on the other hand, was relieved. “I didn’t really want to.”

Earlier, students worked on a counter-shading project that taught them about the unique camouflaging of sea creatures. Students glued black and white shapes onto an ocean background – black representing the white areas on animals such as orcas and penguins – and white representing the black (thus the “counter” shading).

“If you’re under an orca and look up, you don’t notice it’s there because it’s white and it looks like the sun,” Jude explained. “If you’re looking down, it’s dark in the water and the top of the orca is dark so you don’t realize it’s there. It’s a kind of camouflage.”

Eleanor said the coloring works the same way for penguins. “Because when a fish is in the water really deep, it’s hard to see if a penguin is trying to get you because their belly is white.” 

This unique camouflage benefits both predators and prey.

Avery gave an example from a seal’s perspective. “A seal looking underneath at the bottom of an orca, you’d think the white stuff on the whale’s belly was sunlight. And if the seal is looking from above, it looks like the black of the orca is water.” That is one dangerous illusion.

Predators of the Sea and Sky

Predators of the Sea and Sky today learned about pollution and its effects on wildlife, predators in particular. 

“Pollution kills the predators,” Theo said. “It gets in their bodies and it affects their gill flow.”

“Or,” added Aidan, “they eat the pollution and get hurt by it.”

To test how pollution can get into the water, students performed an experiment. They started by creating clay landforms of differing heights alongside a body of water. One group clustered around a tin tray, each molding gray clay in their hands. The group struggled to come to consensus about how to create their landform shapes.

“We have to push it along the bottom and spread it out,” suggested JoJo. 

“Hold on,” interrupted Annabelle. “How about we all make something different?”

Hazel lobbied for her contribution: “Can I make the lower part because I have a technique,” she said. 

One group over, King explained his group’s plan. “We’re making an ocean. We’re going to put oil spilling out and a bunch of pollution in it.” 

Gavin was already considering details to add to the model landscape. “How about we make details for the land? What if we make a dock and then a boat?”

Students squirted water onto their models creating rain. Teacher Amy added colorful baking sprinkles to each set. As the rain hit the sprinkles, color flowed from the landforms and into the water, first creating rainbows in the group’s oceans, rivers, and lakes. 

“The color combines together and makes it black, like oil,” Keegan noticed. “It will go into the predators’ gills and affect their bodies.”

Inventions & Engineering

Even though they’re having a great time, playing in the sun and shooting off rockets, Summer Academy kids understand the science behind the never-ending fun. 

“This will dissolve in the water,” said Hudson, holding out a piece of Alka-Seltzer. He dropped the tablet into a small plastic canister filled with water. “It makes gasses and the gasses pop the top off, and then it flies in the air!”

Students in Inventions and Engineering stepped outside today to launch rockets. They tested “popping” launch canisters before assembling the rocket bodies to the power source. “I’m backing up,” laughed Rory as he placed his fizzing canister on the ground. “WOAH! That went high!” he shouted. “Mine went about as high as that high window up there and then came back to earth. That’s how powerful this is!”

Once they learned how to load and shoot their canisters, students were instructed to place the canisters into their paper rocket shapes and line up against the school wall. On the count of three, they dropped their Alka-Seltzer tablets into the water, closed the lids, placed the rockets on the ground, and ran away. It took a few seconds, but suddenly there were pops echoing across the plaza and rockets shooting into the air.

Aaron learned how important a strategy and patience are to a successful launch. 

“It takes time to put the top on the launcher,” he said. “If you do it fast, then you’ll probably drop it or not put the cap on tight. So, you have to spend about 5 to 7 seconds putting the top on so it’s tight.”

He also hypothesized that a smaller rocket body would have more success, so instead of a paper column of 10 to 12 inches like his classmates, he made his about 2 inches tall. “It’s going to have the same amount of pressure no matter what size the rocket is,” he deduced. “The lighter it is, the farther it goes.” 

It appears his theory was correct. “It went pretty high! I thought it was just going to launch an inch.”

The rocket activity was just one of many projects Inventions students tackled today. Engineers in one of the other classes competed to build the tallest tower, using only spaghetti noodles, one length of string, masking tape, and a marshmallow.

“We have to make it as tall as we can,” explained Alaina. “The marshmallow has to be on the top and we measure it from the floor to the top.”

Layton and Cooper used a triangular design because, Cooper said, “I’ve heard that triangles are a strong shape.”

“A triangle base makes it taller at the top,” said Layton. He struggled to affix a thin noodle with tape. “It’s a little hard using noodles because they snap.” 

Addison and Ada also tried a triangular shape. “We have a sturdy base and then we got the idea to spread the noodles out and attach them with the marshmallow,” Addison said.

“I had the idea to put two noodles on each side,” Ada added.

International Detectives

Hawkins pulsated with excitement. “This is sick!” he said appreciatively. “These are priceless!” The “sick, priceless” objects were elaborate ceramic pieces in a lighted display case. 

Hawkin’s head was on a swivel as he pointed and gasped at the artwork at Minneapolis Institute of Art. His class, International Detectives, visited MIA to study international art. He said his excitement came from “seeing all this stuff from the past!” 

The Detectives are studying the cultures of four different countries this year: Germany, Italy, China, and Cuba. Their quest today involved finding art pieces from the four countries and sketching them.

Iyasu stopped in front of a table in a gallery of modern German art. “It’s classy,” he said. “It has a good design. Most tables don’t have a grid like that,” he said referring to the woodworking on the table sides. 

Nearby, Peyton chose a ceramic umbrella stand to sketch. “I like it because of the tree, the palm trees,” she said of the art deco-inspired ceramic and pewter stand. 

Lorelei was excited to be in such a beautiful museum. “This is my first time going to a museum. I’ve never really been before,” she said. It took her no time at all to choose her object to draw. In the center of the  gallery sat a full-sized automobile. “I really like this one,” Lorelei said. “It’s very cool, and big and it’s different from all the other pieces.” The futuristic-looking 1936 Tatra Sedan has a heck of a backstory. A car so fast, so attractive, and so deadly it became known as the Allie’s secret weapon in WWII, read the display. Check out the full story on the museum’s podcast, called The Object.  

From the modern German gallery, students transitioned to Italian Renaissance. Teacher Max asked how the pieces differed from what they had seen before. “It has stuff in gold frames,” said Channer. “There are a lot of people in it,” added Lorelei. 

Cooper made the observation that “there are less 3D things and more portraits.”

Morgan and Addie parked themselves on the floor under a diCione 1350 painting of Madonna and Child. “It looks Italian and it looks easy to draw, but it’s not,” said Addie. 

A frustrated Morgan agreed. “I don’t even know what I’m drawing!” she said, holding up her paper. “Like, what is that?”

Emilia chose to draw from a sculpture. “It was the only sculpture in here and I think it looked really cool.” The museum visit is helping her to learn more about the countries. “We learn about different countries and what they ate and how they did stuff,” she said.

Scarlett put final details to her intricate drawing of Fra Angelico’s Saint Romuald. “I’m really interested in drawing,” the talented artist said. “I like to use my mind to make fun creations.”