Savvy Consumers

Social Media Marketing Bootcamp

Most casual social media users have no idea of the marketing principles embedded in the platforms we ingest every day.

Students in Summer Academy’s newest class – Social Media Marketing Bootcamp – have not only become savvy consumers of media, but talented marketers as well.

“Learning about social media seemed like a cool thing because we’re always on it, but we don’t know much about it,” said Ilyas. “I never knew how much thought companies put into scheduling their posts. I thought it was spur of the moment, like we do it.”

This knowledge will help Ilyas to gain exposure for his digital artwork, which he plans to market on his platforms in the future. “I post my art, but now I’ll think about it more, like promoting it instead of just sharing. I want to network with people in my community.”

Mira was also surprised by the techniques used in media marketing. “I never thought about how much actual work goes into making the posts,” she said.

She has become more savvy about recognizing marketing manipulation. When scrolling through posts, she thinks, “Oh, I see they’re using this strategy. I tell my friends, ‘they’re trying to make you do this.'”

Mira chose to market the coffee chain Starbucks for her final project. Students selected the platforms for their posts (Facebook, Twitter, Insta, TikTok, etc.), determined when and how often to post, brainstormed endless hashtags, and created profiles of potential customers.

“We learned about personas, and I hadn’t heard about that before,” said Olivia. Personas, she explained, “are examples of your target audience.”

Her sister, Grace, added, “And we learned how to market to different groups.”

Alice chose a local brand to market – her sister’s photography business, Haggerty Photos. Her personas, for example, included a high school senior in need of senior portraits, and an elementary school student who wanted a unique school photo.

Once students identified potential customers, they created a profile and included the person’s goals and challenges. The marketers then came up with ideas about how to market their product to those customers in order to meet their needs.

Ilyas’ potential Crocs shoe customer, “Tiffany”, had a goal of “finding a comfortable and trendy shoe that’s easy to wear.” However, as a student, she had no disposable income. “We can help by providing a student discount,” Ilyas said.

Students were tasked with tweeting and posting on special days – Human Rights Day, International Sudoku Day, and even National Lazy Day (August 10, in case you want to celebrate.) Ilyas’ post for National Lazy Day read: Kick back in Crocs for National Lazy Day!

Mira’s end of the year post asked users to interact: Comment your New Year’s Resolution!

Students learned the value of engaging customers through questions and challenges. Nora, who marketed Adidas athletic gear during soccer season, encouraged followers to post photos of themselves on St. Patrick’s Day. Take a picture of you wearing as much green as you can!

The students also learned about using figurative language and words that spark. “It was challenging creating the words and pictures and putting it all together,” Mira said. “You have to know the strategies to use to make it interesting and fun.” She enjoyed using alliteration in a post about Starbucks’ unicorn drink.

Julien marketed the business Rando, a company he created. Rando supplies everything from cat food to smart watches that parents can use to track and record their children. He used the classic advertising technique of celebrity endorsement. Who wouldn’t want to shop where Kanye West shops?

Muntaha marketed Barnes & Noble Booksellers through catchy and humorous posts. Dystopian novels are so 1984. Everyone knows THRILLER novels are it right now!

She also posted: This book of spells was useless. This author forgot to run a spell check.

*Cue Drum* – Ba Dum Tsh!

Krazy Krackens, Khaos, and Kings

It’s Greek to Me

The objective of the Krazy Kraken board game, explained Ariana, “is you have to get past the Kraken to get to safety. There are a lot of obstacles.”

Ariana described a Kraken as “a humongous octopus-squid. I don’t think they really existed. It’s a mythical creature.”

Ariana and her classmates in It’s Greek to Me learned about many such mythical creatures as they explored Greek mythology through board games, plays, family trees, and other activities.

Patrick’s board game was based on Ares. “He’s the God of War,” Patrick said. His game used both dice and a spinner and the object was to finish alive. “It’s a game of war,” he said.

Bobby, a self-proclaimed “Greek Nerd”, created a game called Hero Escape. “You’re stuck in a building filled with monsters and trap doors,” he said. “The last one out gets devoured by monsters.”

Today in class, students were challenged to create and market their own Olympic Games. “We’re making a brochure of our own version of the Olympics,” explained Isley.

Isley chose to focus on summer Olympics. “The activities are archery, volleyball, and tennis because those are the ones I like a lot,” she said. Her games will be held in Minnesota.

Olivia described her chosen Olympic sports as “some weird ones, like pole vaulting, gymnastics, and swimming,” and the games will take place in spring. She originally thought they would be held in Minnesota as well, but she considered a more exotic location. “Maybe Costa Rica,” she decided.

Bobby’s winter games will be held in St. Anthony, Minnesota, and will include skiing, bobsledding, and curling. When I asked about mountains for the bobsledding he paused a minute. “Hmmm, I didn’t think of that,” he said thoughtfully. “I might need to revise that. Well, there’s plenty of ice here, so maybe speed skating!”

Jonathan considered the landscape before he chose a location for his games. He searched a Google map of Canada. “I’m looking for a place with a mountain, for mountain climbing,” he said. He decided on Calgary and decorated his brochure with snow-topped peaks.

Parker said he has learned a lot about Greek Gods, architecture, and theater in the class. “In their plays, usually the actors switch between two or three masks,” he said. Students were assigned plays in small groups and made masks for their productions. Parker wore a crown and a mask when he played the parts of King Minos and the King of Athens in the play, Theseus and the Minotaur.

Olivia played Athena in a drama about Arachne turning into a spider. She also enjoyed learning about and making Greek pillars, a staple of the culture’s architecture. “I learned there are Ionic pillars, Corinthian pillars, and Doric,” she said. The Ionic column she created in cardboard featured the characteristic groves running vertically along the pillar.

Since I personally had to cancel TWO trips to Greece because of the pandemic, it was very nice to spend time engaged in the history and culture of this civilization, especially through the eyes of children.

Cinderella, with a Twist

Summer Academy Players Presents: Cinderella (A Modern Makeover)

Hundreds of versions of the classic Cinderella story have been told in numerous cultures across history. But the Summer Academy Players are sure their interpretation will be the most hip ever.

“It still has the basic plot,” Jenna assured us.

“It’s just reimagined,” Birdie said.

The girls described the production as a modern comedy with lots of songs. Their teacher/director, Raven, added lines to make it particularly funny. “It’s nice to get a different director’s perspectives,” said Birdie.

Cinderella is not the helpless young woman we often see in the classic story. Instead, she is a passionate environmentalist (and meticulous house cleaner) who is looking for the perfect job, not the perfect prince.

“I’d say she is different because she likes cleaning,” laughed Kelly, who plays Cinderella in the play. Kelly described her character as “bubbly and naive. She really wants a job, not to marry a prince.”

When a job interview comes up, Cinderella’s parents are excited that she could earn a paycheck. But, they are also concerned she isn’t ready to go out into the world.

“My daughter has issues!” sings her father. “She spends her time talking with vermin and birds!”

He warns Cinderella: “Those people will chew you up and spit you out!”

“Ewww, that doesn’t sound very sanitary,” the cleaning fanatic responds.

Birdie, who plays one of the stepsisters named Stella, said the sisters are not as mean and abusive as they are in the stories. “They’re rude to Cinderella,” she admitted, but said their real goal is to be accepted into the royal social scene. “They’re really wanting the attention of the royalty. They’ll do anything for that.”

During rehearsal Wednesday, the cast of the fairy godfolk perfected their scenes in preparation for today’s productions. Clad in punk colors, metallic wigs, and crazy shorts or tutus, the fairy folk sang and danced around Cinderella after her father told her she was not permitted to interview for the job.

During the fairy folk conga line, the music suddenly stopped and the lights went on. The director asked the actors to run it again to work on projecting their voices. “Hey! I see you!” shouted one of the fairies, pointing to the tech director at the back of the auditorium. In a classic dramatic “aside”, the fairy informed us: “This is what we call ‘breaking out of character’“.

Quickly going back into character, the fairy folk decide to wrangle together Cinderella’s animal friends – the rats, birds, and mice – and use them to help Cinderella go to the interview.

“Those lunatics are going to change us into accoutrements of commerce!” cries the alarmed Rat Leader, a tough looking character with a black eye patch.

The vermin and birds break into song upon hearing their fate.

I like myself just fine! I don’t need to be updated!” they sing.

Once the fairies gather the animals together, narrators appear on stage to walk the audience through the next scene.

“Due to a clause in their contract, we can’t turn the actors into inanimate objects,” the narrators announce. They ask the audience to use their imaginations as they “transform” the animals into “a smart-looking business outfit, an extra large vanilla latte, and a deeply stylish…pair of glasses.” This theater magic transforms Cinderella from a rag-clad cleaner into an urban young professional.

“The pumpkin remained a pumpkin,” the narrators explain, “because Cinderella wanted to demonstrate her commitment to the environment by riding her bike to the interview.”

Cinderella’s job interview takes place with Reginald, a Prince played by Peyton. “I’m keen on green,” Peyton said about his character. He expresses this “keenness” in an extended musical solo. “I want to help the environment. That’s why I’m hosting the job interview.”

Reginald has performed in other theater productions, and he especially likes musicals. “You can express yourself openly, and nobody cares,” he said about acting. “If you mess up, you find a way to fix it and people don’t even have to know.”

The Players have the advantage of learning every aspect of a theater production during Summer Academy. Not only are they learning their lines, but they are singers, costume designers, prop masters, and set builders. “And, we act our hearts out!” an enthusiastic thespian exclaimed.

Earlier in the week, several actors put the final touches on costumes and props for the bird characters. “We’re assembling bird wings for the birds!” said Samantha. Birdie grabbed a bright blue cutout piece and fit it over her arm. “These are the bases of the wings,” she demonstrated. “You’ll put them on your arms like this and flap.”

Maddy received wings in a slightly different shade of blue to distinguish her as the “main bird” on stage. “We have the mice and rats and we added the bird friends,” Maddy said.

Sam explained part of the bird plot. “The fairy godfolk are going to change the animals into inanimate objects,” she said. “The birds sing a song that they don’t want to be transformed.”

The birds’ pleas are not successful, as we witnessed, but it works out in the end. “Without those birds, Cinderella wouldn’t have all the outfits, her sunglasses, and her vanilla latte,” Birdie and Jenna said.

All Abuzz About Bees

First-Grade Project: Math & Science

The room buzzed with excitement as the guest speaker laid out the tools of her trade – long, thick gloves, a smoker, and a netted helmet. “Do you think of bees when you hear the word apiary?” she asked the excited students. “No, I think of apes!” shouted one first grader.

Stacy, a local beekeeper, brought her knowledge and her bees to First-Grade Project students today to discuss patterns in nature.

Preston pressed his face close to a glass box holding hundreds of live bees. He was convinced the bees were scared of him. “The bees keep looking at me because of my mask,” he said. He adjusted the red Spiderman mask over his nose. “They know spiders eat bees.”

Students learned about the different roles of bees in the colony. “The boy bees are called drones,” explained Kingston.

“The ones called drone bees get pollen from flowers,” said Matthew.

Jude added: “They also warn the queen.”

“And, they protect the hive,” Sean chimed in.

“Did you know that drones don’t sting?” Preston asked his classmate.

“Because drones are robots and robots don’t sting,” Tejas cleverly replied.

Watching live bees through the glass and wood viewing box was a highlight of the presentation. “Look! They’re climbing on the wall!” shouted Max in excitement. The “wall” was a bee hive frame that Stacy had pulled from a hive box just that morning, bees and all. “They’re working on a honeycomb,” Max told me. “It’s made of nectar.”

Stacy told the class that nectar is like glue and it’s used to seal up the hive. This is especially important in a cold climate like Minnesota’s. Lillie pointed to the dull white-colored substance plugging the honey comb at the top of the frame. “This is filled with honey!” Lillie said excitedly. The Beekeeper told the children that honeycomb is always hexagonal shaped and each chamber is tilted slightly so the honey doesn’t leak out.

Haven leaned over a glossy photograph of hundreds of bees in a hive. “I’m looking for the queen,” she said. She pointed to a particular bee in the middle of the photo. “I think it’s this one because of the end of it, on her abdomen. It’s shiny and it doesn’t have stripes. Also, it’s not fuzzy.”

Damani pointed to another bee in the picture. “We think it was this one because it’s bigger,” he said.

Kingston explained, “The queen bee is bigger than all the other ones.” He said he liked the bees, but “I was kinda afraid of them, because once I almost got stung.”

Stacy asked students to guess how many eggs a queen can lay in a day. “A hundred!” guessed Jude. “150,000!” answered Lauren. “You’re getting closer,” Stephanie encouraged. Depending on conditions, queens can lay between 1,500 and 3,000 eggs per day.

Preston leaned in close to the bee window and shouted over the top of the contraption to the students viewing on the other side. “Are there any bees over there, sticking their butts out?”

At the end of the presentation, students were gifted small jars of Stacy’s Homestead Honey. Sean and Jude were excited because they didn’t think they had ever tasted honey. “I don’t like sweet things, but I’ll try it,” Sean said.

Setting the Stage

From Story to Stage

It was a mine field of a very creative sort. We waded through cloth remnants, strips of ribbons, construction paper, and cardboard pieces. We tiptoed around scissors, glue, and children sprawled on the floor. Such is life backstage of the theater, where the magic happens.

The theaters in this case were small stage dioramas and the magic came from the students’ creative set designs.

“I’m making boats for a play about a kid who gets kidnapped by pirates,” Gigi said, holding up a cardboard boat. Gigi chose one chapter of a book from the series Treasure Hunters and adapted the plot into a 3-act play.

Her production involves sophisticated staging techniques. “I’m planning on doing flashbacks,” she said. “The flashbacks would be the lights slowly turning off and then on, a dreamy sound, and maybe different costumes.”

In From Story to Stage, students choose a piece of literature that can be adapted into a play, and write a script with dialogue and stage directions. They develop their characters and design costumes, complete with fashion sketches and fabric swatches.

They also sketch the set and choose lighting and sound. It all comes together on their stage – a tri-fold cardboard diorama of one setting from their play.

“I wrote a story about a teacher who is really mean and she turns kids into apples,” offered Brynn. She chose the first chapter of Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

Brynn’s stage set is a school classroom with a checkerboard floor of woven white and blue paper strips, a whiteboard, and desks. She was eager to share her characters’ costume sketches. “Joe’s costume is a tie-dyed t-shirt, jean shorts, tennis shoes, and his crazy red hair!” she laughed. The teacher, Ms. Gorf, dresses much more somberly. “Her costume is a black dress with buttons, and brown shoes.” Appropriate for a villain.

Henry’s play involves a bit of magic and mystery. “It’s supposed to be a wedding scene,” he said of his stage which features a large tropical-looking tree. “People there are magic. There are two people who are friends. One gets hurt and everyone thinks he’s dead,” Henry explained.

Evidently, there is a “huge secret” about the character who goes missing and other characters try to find out what it is. Henry’s suspenseful plot was adapted from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and he named his play “Dumbledore’s Secret.”

“It had a bunch of fun costume designs and a lot of suspense in the end,” he said.

“My story is about a mermaid who saves a narwhal,” said Noelani. Her costumes for Lana the mermaid and Spike the narwhal included metallic fabrics in blues and purple.

Noelani worked on details to highlight her ocean setting. She twisted green plastic Easter grass strands around a dark green pipe cleaner to create flowing seaweed. The floor of her stage was covered in a bright blue ribbon glued in a wavy pattern to mimic the ocean. Cotton balls were massed together to represent clouds in the sky.

Julius created detailed pieces for “An Adventurous Day with Jack and Annie”, his play based on the Magic Treehouse books. The treehouse was cut out of cardboard and then colored with crayons in a way that made it look like a realistic log cabin. A ladder to climb into the treehouse was two white plastic straws connected with pieces of popsicle stick rungs.

Julius described the two scenes that make up his adventure play. “The first one is about when they find a pteranodon dinosaur. Jack is like, ‘Annie, you better not pet it!’ but Annie pets it.”

In the second scene, Annie spots another dinosaur and then it sees her. “It kind of looks like a tyrannosaurus,” Julius said, “and it starts chasing them. They escaped and went into the tree house and it brought them home.”

I’m sure that someday we will see some of these miniature stages recreated in real-life theaters!


Simulation Games

Kieran has “a grand vision” for his board game and Summer Academy’s Simulation Games has allowed that vision to come to life.

Kieran’s original game, Conquest, is a resource development game. “The heart of the game is gathering resources and also resource development,” he said. “If you have the most resources at the end, you ultimately win.”

But unlike other resource development games, Kieran has designed a unique playing surface that solves the problem of so many board games – dislodging pieces when a board is bumped or moved. “I noticed when playing RISK that if you bump the table once, it moves all the pieces.”

“My board is magnetic,” he said, pointing to the large rectangular surface covered in a handmade map of the world. Magnetic sheets line the board under the cut out paper countries. Kieran glued magnetic strips to the undersides of each of his resource pieces as well.

“Each country has a different amount of resources assigned to it,” Kieran said. Each small square represents a resource. A piece with a number 5 written on it, for example, is iron. Other pieces, marked by a circle, represent the amounts of each resource. “The goal is to control all the countries” by controlling the resources.

Kieran likes a pure game based on skill and strategy so he hasn’t included any dice or other chance elements. “I’m not a fan of that,” he said.

“It’s a very slow-moving game that relies on resources,” he said.

Sarah used an old classic to jumpstart her game project. “I made an expansion on Candyland,” she said. She held up two plastic gingerbread men player tokens that she had painted orange and purple. “These show where you are on the board.”

She hand made cards which players draw in order to move their tokens. Included in the colorful card deck were new cards in pink, which meant “jump to the next candy square,” she said.

Sarah’s favorite game she learned during Summer Academy Simulation Games was a civilization development game. “I really like Seven Wonders,” she said.

From conquering the world to conquering a magical Candyland, we next moved to space.

The objective of Colin’s space-themed game is to destroy the space pirate base, he said.

His creative and detailed cards included powers such as a personal shield and a cloaking device. If a player draws a personal shield card, “it adds a defense to their ship and helps to prevent attacks,” Colin said. If you pick the cloaking device card “you cannot engage or be engaged in combat” for a few turns.

Colin has enjoyed Sim Games. “I really like board games and my friend was also doing this class,” Colin said. His new favorite game he played in the class is Machi Koro, a Japanese city-building game.

Quirky Characters

Graphic Novels: Telling Stories

Some of the most endearing, and enduring, characters in literature are classic underdogs.

Ben is continuing this tradition with XXNathanColeXX, the main character in the graphic novel he is writing and illustrating in the class, Graphic Novels.

“He’s quirky,” Ben said of his character. “He never walks. He only uses his hoverboard. And when he runs out of battery, he says, ‘I’m tired’.”

Evidently, nobody likes him except his friend LoliKittiX3 and the two of them annoy everyone, Ben continued. “They’re totally oblivious to the fact that no one likes them.”

The authors learn this type of in-depth character development when first devising their storylines. The character’s physical description comes next.

Ben created the appearance of his characters on the computer using an electronic drawing pad and pen. This is the second year he has taken Graphic Novels because of his love of cartooning, particularly manga. “It’s a Japanese style story, an Eastern kind of unique story,” he explained.

Sloane, Cammi Jo, and Alia worked in the hallway completing the rough drafts of their stories. Their love of graphic novels made this class a natural choice.

“I really like to read graphic novels and I like to draw so I’m smashing that together,” Sloane said.

“I like reading and writing and drawing, so I thought this would be the perfect class,” Cammi Jo said.

Alia had similar reasons for taking Graphic Novels this year. Her friend Sloane teased her: “And, you have an excuse to draw dragons all day,” she laughed.

Alia agreed that being able to obsess over dragons was a selling point. She was surrounded by dozens of dragon sketches. Students were required to create a series of character model sheets on which they explored their character’s expressions, head and body views, and movements. Alia’s sheets showed sketches of her dragon character, Evergreen, in various poses and using different expressions – happy, skeptical, surprised, concerned.

Evergreen is a medic in her story. “She travels around the country for a few weeks at a time,” Alia explained. “Anyone who’s hurt can come to her for help.”

Cammi Jo’s plot involves “a bunch of ‘sweet people’ running for president.” The comedy includes candidates Daisy the Donut and Peyton the Popcorn. Peyton ends up winning the election. “I like popcorn a lot and I like what she enjoys doing, and her speech.”

Sifanne’s novel also involves food – in fact, a whole fruit society.

“The CEO is apparently a social icon who inspires others to live a healthy lifestyle,” Sifanne said, “but I’m going to kill him off.” When the CEO dies, it inspires the fruity society to find out the truth behind his disappearance. “The public is going to learn the truth that will be revealed by my protagonist.” As for that truth? You’ll just have to wait for Sifanne’s novel to come out.

Busting Myths Through Fun

Are You a Mythbuster?

Teacher Becky Marshall had just instructed students to make sure they had a plan before they started constructing their marble runs.

But Jack was eager to dive in. “Do we really need a plan?” he asked his teammates. “Let’s share ideas.”

Jack pointed to the pool noodle his teammate held. “We could cut out pieces so we can see the marble go through,” was his first idea. And then, “Let’s start really high!” Jack climbed onto a chair and draped the yellow pool noodle over a high shelf.

“We’re trying to bust how physics works,” in marble roller coasters, explained Teacher’s Assistant Maddox.

Other groups also took the “try it first, plan it later” approach to design. “Engage!” Nicholas shouted. He held the noodle high and launched a marble through the hole. “No! It’s not working! What if we turn it and angle it so it would fall into the loop-de-loop?” he suggested.

Matthew’s group not only devised a plan, but they even created a theme. “Ours is called Planet Coaster,” he said. “The idea is that it progresses through space. It starts here at Earth and goes by the other planets.” He pointed high up the wall where Earth would be placed.

“Can you run a routine test to see if it works?” Matthew asked teammate Aiden as he held a temporary loop in place.

Emmett and Xavier colored white paper plates to represent the planets. Emmett’s plate was bright red. “It’s Mars, the giant red planet,” he said.

Xavier outlined green and blue portions on the Earth model. “We’re making all the planets,” Emmett said.

“Guys, don’t forget to make the moon!” reminded Aiden.

The marble coaster project grew out of other recent Mythbuster activities. Last week, the classes went to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America to learn about the physics of rides.

“It was to see if we could hold our food in our stomachs,” Olivia teased. Luckily, everyone accomplished that goal. She said she tried a few new rides, including her favorite – the Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge, a roller coaster that features a crazy steep drop.

Sydney said they are using principles they learned from the rides at Nickelodeon to develop their own coasters. From the Spongebob ride, for example, they learned that cars must have a lot of speed to successfully spin through a loop. Spongebob has a steep drop, “and then goes into the loop right away because it still has the speed,” Sydney said.

“Yeah, you still have the momentum from the drop to make the loop,” Tessa said.

Tessa and Sydney both loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock ride. “That was terrifying!” Tessa said, wide-eyed. Both girls listed the ride as their favorite of the day. Evidently, the terror only added to the fun.

Matthew said their Nickelodeon experience also prompted them to make water slides on Friday. “We got big plastic tarps and pounded them down with stakes. We covered the edges with pool noodles,” he said. “Then we poured water on it and slid down. It was actually quite fun!”

Today’s special event featured a chef and food scientist who explored food myths with students. During the mythbusting, students helped the chef to make a tres leches cake – a moist delicacy incorporating three types of milk. I’m not sure they busted a myth with the result, but you can bet it tasted good!

Math in Color

The Art of Mathematics

Ava fit a green construction-paper shape into the “V” formed by orange and red pentagons. “We’re making dodecahedrons, a twelve-sided 3D shape,” she said.

“You have these pentagon shapes, three for each corner,” Ava continued, pointing to the colored shapes on her desk. “We learned about platonic solids, how the dodecahedron is a platonic solid because the faces are the same and there are three faces that go together at each vertex.”

Students in The Art of Mathematics today sat amongst the colorful debris of cut paper, working on their dodecahedrons. While most mathematical artists in the room cut their pentagon shapes from a variety of colors, Dominic decided to go with the classic black and white. Dominic said he traced the shapes first, “then we have to cut out 12.”

Gavin was the first to finish his large dodecahedron, so he decided to take it one step further. “I’m making mini ones that will go inside of it,” he said. In addition, he drew sketches on each small pentagon to add more visual interest.

Samantha also decided to think outside of the dodecahedron box. Most of the students stapled the pieces together with the staples on the outside. Samantha folded her pentagon sides in so the staples wouldn’t show. Her technique created smooth precise seams on the outside of the dodecahedron. “I think it will look more clean,” she said. “But, it’s definitely harder.”

James listed some of the lessons they had learned in the class. “The dodecahedron, symmetry, and Sierpinski’s Triangle,” he said.

Ilsa jumped in to explain Sierpinksi’s Triangle. “It’s a never-ending triangle. You start with a triangle, add another triangle, then divide it into more triangles until there’s literally no more space available.”

Kenley colored the triangles in her Sierpinski’s Triangle design. “You keep adding triangles and it goes on forever,” she said. “It’s a fractal.”

Kenley showed me the portfolio she created to store her two-dimensional work. “I did reflective pieces,” she said, flipping through her handmade journal. “I used a ‘mira’. It’s sort of like a tracing tool. Here, I’ll show you.” Kenley grabbed a red six-inch rectangular plastic tool from a box and set it on the edge of one of her drawings. The image reflected perfectly onto the table to create a double image. She mimicked how she could then draw the reflected image. “It’s sometimes really hard to draw it so you start with small designs,” she explained.

In addition to examples of reflective and rotational symmetry, student’s portfolios included colorful, puzzle-like tessellations and fractals. Students are also responsible for creating several 3D projects: three platonic solids – like the dodecahedrons – and two origami creations.

Bows, Arrows, & Zombie Rats

Castles, Kings, and Other Things

“There’s more than one way to kill a zombie rat!” shouted Colin. “Shoot it in the toe! It’s the most precious part of its body!”

No, Colin was not playing some violent video game. He and his classmates were learning about the devastating bubonic plague, by way of archery. Colin explained that the black silhouette of a long-nosed rat on the archery targets represented the plague.

“Fleas carried the black plague and they can easily spread illnesses,” Colin learned. “The disease got to the rats, so now we’re trying to kill the rats.”

The rats transmitted the disease through their fleas and by scratching or biting people, Colin continued. Infected humans usually died. “They tried to get help from doctors, but back then they didn’t have very good doctors,” Colin said. “Doctors were more interested in cutting off limbs.”