Open House!

Summer Academy Open House is a show we really should take on the road!

Families viewed not only their own children’s fantastic work, but also had opportunities to play games, watch a live musical, view animated movies, eat pizza, throw clay on a potter’s wheel, and so much more.

In the class Incredible Machines, Devices, and Gizmos, Sheridan and Jim listened to their son, Henry, as he explained his baseball-themed pinball machine while he played it.

Incredible Machines was the third class Henry has taken at SA. “It’s a lot more fun,” he said. “I like that we get to do a lot of stuff on our own.”

Sheridan and Jim appreciate Summer Academy for the opportunity it gives Henry to engage and learn with other high-performing students. “He needs the challenge in a classroom that he doesn’t always get,” Sheridan said. She said teachers at Summer Academy recognize the students’ needs and accommodate their creativity.

Jim said that if he had gone to SA as a child, he would have gravitated toward the tech classes, like Lego Robotics. “Even as a kid, I made robot kits,” he said. (I say this every year, but we really should have an adult version of Summer Academy, don’t you think? What class would you take?)

Kai demonstrated his complex marble run roller coaster to Open House visitors. His contraption required two differently weighted marbles, a loopty-loop spiral, paper funnels and cups, switchbacks, tubes, and a tunnel through the middle.

“It was really fun,” Kai said of the class Incredible Machines. “We didn’t have certain requirements. They let us do what we wanted. I liked the freedom in that.”

Kai’s mother, Wendy, liked that Kai had the freedom to express his creativity and to work hard on a product. “He doesn’t like camps where you don’t do anything,” she said. She was also impressed when she witnessed students in the class collaborating and helping each other.

Aldous, a first-time SA student this year, took the class Rock World. “I think it was great,” said mom, Emily. “He talked about it every day. He was so excited!”

At Design Studio, Samantha (or Sam) pointed out her artwork to her parents, Brandon and Jill. Brandon said he likes that SA students focus on one particular skill and get a choice of class. “It’s a great opportunity to learn and grow,” he said.

Jill appreciates that SA is “a chance to do something different than what’s normally offered in school.”

Zaley also showed her family her projects from Design Studio.

Shelli was impressed by her daughter’s work. “I particularly like the chance they have to delve deeper into something that’s of interest to them,” she said about Summer Academy.

Zaley’s father, Jeff, appreciated the opportunity for his daughters to explore potential careers, like graphic design or business. Zaley’s younger sister, Vienna, took the class Pay to the Order Of this year. “It was a real-life experience,” Jeff said, with second graders learning what a paycheck looks like and how to run a business.

Vienna described her favorite activity – Cookie Battles – in which students learned to make decisions about purchases and to stay within a budget.

In Video Games for Good, Marley’s mom, Wendy, learned about how Marley created a video game through computer coding.

“He’s very creative and (SA) is a very unique experience,” she said. Wendy likes that the classes challenge her son and “teach him balance and how to keep learning through the summer.”

She and Marley have already decided on next summer’s class. “Next year, he’ll be back to cook!” Wendy said.

Design Studio

Graphic arts and design students learned real-world skills this summer by creating logos for actual Summer Academy clients.

But before they created their client’s logo, they completed a number of drawing and design lessons to increase their skills.

Samantha was proud of her practice Op. Art designs. “Op. Art means ‘optical illusion,'” Sam said. “They are shapes put together, and you have a pattern you do, like stripes.” One of Sam’s black and white Op. Art examples featured an abstract zebra.

Students also completed two sketches to learn another important art technique. “We had an apple at our desk,” Sam said, “to learn shading and shadows.” Each artist completed two apple pictures, one in black and white, and the other in full, brilliant apple red.

For the final project, Design Studio students are assigned an SA class that becomes a “client” for their own graphic design business. Sam’s client was the class, El Mercado.

“I asked my clients what they wanted, and they said a pinata and taco thing,” Sam laughed. “I made three thumbnail sketches. Then I went back to the class and they picked the one they liked.” Her finished logo features a colorfully decorated burro pinata with tacos falling out.

Kennedy created logo designs for the class Stop Motion Animation, using key symbols from the film industry, like a camera, film strip, and scene marker.

Zaley’s graphic arts client was the class, Improv-athon. She interviewed students in the class to get ideas for her logo design. “They wanted a bloody hand at first,” she laughed. (Improv-athon has a lot of silly inside jokes.) She took her rough draft of the hand to the class, but they decided “they didn’t like it” after all. She heard more ideas from the class. “They wanted a flamingo. They also always dinged a bell, and then they wanted a hat,” she said.

She incorporated all the ideas into a sleek design that featured a gold star wearing a black top hat, with a pink flamingo using its beak to “ding” the bell. The design was a hit and Zaley created a postcard, business card, and official stationary for the class featuring their original logo.

If you or your business are in need of a classy logo, call on the graphic designers from Design Studio!

Video Games for Good

The purpose of marketing is mostly to promote profit-making products and services.

So it’s refreshing to see advertising being used to bring attention to an organization that does good in the world, the best good there is, really – feeding hungry children.

Students in the class Video Games for Good are “hired” each year to create a fun video game that brings attention to the work of Feed My Starving Children. This Minnesota-based nonprofit is dedicated to providing nutritious meals to children worldwide.

Marley created what is called a clicker game. The overall goal is to reach $200,000 by using the space bar (clicker) and taking risks to get game upgrades, Marley said. “Once you get to $200,000.00 you’ve fed all the children in the world!” Lofty and admirable goal!

“I’ve played games like these and I generally enjoy them,” Marley said. “I’ve always been a pretty good gamer and I enjoy them and want to see how they’re made.”

Leo’s game features Scratch the Cat, an avatar in the game-making program. Scratch is a block-based visual programming language and online community that the students use to create their games.

“I have a lot of storylines in this game,” Leo said, “and there’s music.”

Leo demonstrated his game, which starts with a startling glitch. “Wait, there’s a glitch!” Scratch Cat declares as a blurred multi-colored square takes over the screen. Leo said one of his game testers was alarmed by the glitch and thought it was real. “One person was like, ‘Why’s there a glitch’?” he laughed.

But, never fear, “Scratch Cat is going to fix the game.”

The first part of the game requires players to find MannaPacks that are spread throughout various Scratch backgrounds, such as the polar bear scene. “MannaPacks are the food we packed at Feed My Starving Children,” Leo explained. “They have vitamins, vegetables, rice and soy.”

Leo enjoyed the class and learned valuable skills in addition to helping to feed children around the world. “It teaches a lot of problem solving and coding,” he said. Leo also learned perseverance. “If something is really hard, keep doing it until you figure it out.”

Summer Academy Players Presents: Great Americans of the 20th Century

“Welcome to the Twenty Greatest Americans of the 20th Century!” declared Angelica, (played by Kiera), the host of the Awards Ceremony. She looked dazzling in her long, red-carpet worthy black dress.

The production opened with a song and a dance number featuring actors in glittery gold vests.

Red, who plays President Franklin Roosevelt, described the musical as a “show in a show.”

“It’s a comedy, about an awards show,” he said. The awards are being given to the 20 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century.

Red and Addie (who plays Henry Ford) said the first week was devoted to learning the songs, before they were even cast as characters. “The second week we got our roles and started learning our lines,” Red said. “And the third week we put it all together with props and costumes.”

Summer said everyone had homework during production. “We had to practice at home.”

Academy students from other classes attended the dress rehearsal today to give the actors experience in front of a live audience. Teacher Rachel Cathey told the audience that the actors “learned to sing and dance ten songs” with only ten days of rehearsal. Cathey herself was director, choreographer, choral master, costume and prop organizer, and worked tech during the performance.

Iconic dancer and choreographer Martha Graham (played by Tiffany) was the first of the Great 20 to be honored. But, Wally Walters the Roving Reporter, (played by Summer), doesn’t always get his facts straight (fake news!). He referred to Martha as, “the inventor of the Graham Cracker!” and asked her how she was able to get all those little perforations on the cracker.

“My character is kind of oblivious,” laughed Summer. “I’m kind of a comic relief.”

Rachel Carson (Jenna), environmental activist, teased her award presentation partner, Walt Disney (Harry). “While I was out fighting with chemical companies, you changed the world with an animated rodent!” she said.

While there was a lot of comedy, one of the most moving moments came when Rosa Parks (Emma) and the chorus performed a number that memorialized her refusal to move to the back of the bus. One by one, chorus members took a seat next to Rosa and then systematically moved backwards to fill in the seats on stage. Rosa steadfastly stayed in her seat at the front while they sang.

In another “strong woman” moment, Georgia O’Keefe (Bryn) dared the audience not to look at her large flower paintings. The cast created the beautiful paintings, as well as Jackson Pollock’s (Evan) splatter painting (on which Wally stepped), and the rest of the props.

Red, Addie, and Summer loved putting on the musical. “We got to have a lot of fun and meet all the other actors,” Red said.

Summer also liked the friendships she made. “I like how when you’re acting, you get to make friends,” she said. “I feel like it makes students get out of their comfort zone when they’re singing and feel more confident.”

For Addie, it’s all about the excitement. “I like the rush when you’re up on stage!”

Louis Armstrong (also Emma), the musician, (whom Wally Walters claimed was also the first man to walk on the moon), summed up the entire production through his lyrics.

“There’s no such thing as too much fun; that is jazz rule number one!”

Architectural Design: Dream House Edition

Where would you build your dream house, if you could pick anywhere in the world?

Henry decided his dream house would fit well on the shores of a lake in Iceland. The home has front facing windows and a deck that runs the length of the front overlooking the lake and the mountains beyond.

The location is certainly beautiful, but required unique design considerations. The roof, for instance, had to be practical for a snowy region. “One thing I took into account was the slope of the roof,” Henry said. ” I couldn’t just make a flat roof. It had to be sloped so the snow would just slide off.”

Cooper’s dream house is set in Copper Mountain, Colorado, “right on a hill – ski in, ski out,” he said. “Our friends built a house right on the lot I’m building on.”

While the location and lot were based on the friend’s house, Cooper added his own extravagant amenities.

“I added the things it was missing,” Cooper said, “like a ski room, kind of like a mudroom, but you come in after skiing and you can store your skis in there.”

The house also has a trampoline (yes, IN the house), and a foam pit in the living room. The second story is lofted “and you can jump into the foam pit from the second floor,” Cooper said.

If you think that is over the top, wait until you hear about the garage. The garage/warehouse includes a pool with changing rooms, storage for mountain “toys” like Jeeps, ATVs, skateboards, and bikes, and – wait for it – a skate park, with a second foam pit. “When I built my house I kinda wanted it to be unique so I put a skatepark in it,” Cooper said.

Although many Colorado mountain homes are used for vacation, Cooper wants to make it his permanent home. “I’d probably live here full time,” he said.

The homes created in the class Architectural Design range from the extreme to the elegant. Cece’s house on the North Shore features a great room with a grand piano and “a morning room facing Lake Superior where you can watch the sunrise through the window. There is a hidden library; if you slide the bookshelf it’ll open the library.”

While she splurged on some areas like the hidden library, other design decisions were based on practicality. “We had to think about the design, too, like how many bathrooms, bedrooms. You can’t just have a fun house.”

Cece learned to pay attention to details when designing. “I had to keep in mind the size (of appliances), especially for the kitchen sinks and toilets. You don’t want it to be too small or too big to fit.”

Space, light, and flow also had to be considered. “I learned that once you start putting walls up you see how open or closed the space is,” Cece said. “When you block off space, it can feel closed in.” She discovered this when she built her dining room. “I removed a wall because it would be too closed in,” she said.

Sophie’s property features a forest of large construction paper trees and a tree house. “It looks kind of crooked like the kids living in the house built it,” Sophie said of her unique tree house.

Ryan placed his dream home in a new development outside of Fargo, North Dakota. “I like flat areas,” he said as he flipped through google images of his building site. The flat open prairie stretched for miles in all directions. “It’s kind of out in the country and it’s away from busy streets, like in St. Paul,” he said.

Sadie’s house is located near Washington, D.C., on High Island in the middle of the Potomac River. “I wanted it to be cabin-like,” so she designed the house to feature a field stone and brick exterior.

One thing she learned about architecture was, “it actually matters where the sun sets and rises. It matters where in the house you would be (during those times),” she said. Those elements determine how buildings are angled and where windows and rooms are placed.

Sadie was happy to be in the design class. “I really like building stuff,” she said. “I came in here every year for Open House for five years.” She was so excited to finally try her hand at designing her own dream home.

Strategy Games of the World

If you’re a gamer, stop in to the class Strategy Games of the World during Open House tonight to play original games created by second and third graders.

“We’re making games for the Open House tonight,” said Henry. His original game is based on an old board game from Norway, called Fox and Geese. “I used the same game board, but added more,” he said. “The objective is not to lose the big piece and all the little pieces.”

Sage’s game is “kind of like checkers and go-muku,” a game from Asia. He started with an original game board design from Morocco, and added his own elements.

Like in checkers, players can use jump moves in Sage’s game. “You win by capturing all the opponent’s pieces,” he said.

Henry and Sage learned lots of different strategies in the class. “We play a game and then we tell our strategies, and then play again,” Henry explained. “After we share our strategies, we practice trying them out by playing again.”

Ramatee took Strategy Games because she “loves to play games,” she said. “My favorite game is Hex. It was easy to learn.”

Ramatee colored the intersecting points of her four-by-four game grid with different colored markers. Her “Four-Way Rainbow Game” is played using blue and pink plastic gem pieces that move along the points with the objective of creating four in a row. After teaching me the game, Ramatee quickly used her learned strategies to defeat me in about six moves.

Teacher Tom Mathern reminded the students to be sure their game was fair and that they can clearly teach it to others.

“What he means by fair is that someone can lose,” Nathan explained. He knows he has accomplished the “fairness” test because, “I haven’t won once!” he said about playing his own game.

Nathan and Maksim reached across the game board and shook hands. From their wide grins and good sportsmanship, it was difficult to figure out who had won and who had lost.

Nathan’s game is based on checkers, which he thinks originally came from England. The square grid board forms the base and the pieces are yellow and blue plastic disks. “You can move and hop any direction and you win by capturing all of the pieces,” he taught me. “You jump over your opponent’s pieces.”

Maksim’s game was influenced by Ceega, a game played in ancient Egypt. It features the unique “sandwich capture” that occurs when a player has surrounded an opponent’s piece on two sides. “The sandwich capture was interesting to me,” Maksim said about why he chose the game board from Ceega.

Good luck defeating these strategic kids at their own games!

Pay to the Order Of: State Fair Entrepreneurs

We all get excited about new food and shopping opportunities at the Minnesota State Fair. The students in Pay to the Order Of have some creative and innovative new offerings for this August.

“Soviet Cakes is a tribute to the Soviet Union for helping us in World War II,” said Tate. The booth sells yellow cake cupcakes with yellowish and strawberry frostings and a raspberry on top. The store flies Soviet flags and includes outdoor and indoor seating.

Tate feels passionately about his business. “I wanted to do a tribute for something,” he explained. “The Soviets helped us in World War II against the Nazis, to help us not get taken over by Nazis. Hitler was a terrible person.”

Matthew pulled a detailed State Fair map out of his cardboard portfolio. “It’s right by the Mighty Midway,” he said, pointing to a prime location on the map. The team had also figured out the best places for customers to park.

While the cupcakes were Matthew’s idea, Tate ended up baking them. “I came up with the idea, but I allowed him to make them,” he said, pointing at Tate.

Willow contributed to the interior design of the business. “They allowed me to bring in some of my doll furniture,” she said. She showed me a fully apportioned bathroom and kitchen complete with necessary appliances.

For Tate, this is no childish fantasy. “In the future, I want to design the actual business of Soviet Cakes,” he said.

Kieran, Firdawsa, and Logan’s fair business is “a booth for ice cream,” Kieran said. “There is a cookie on top, a cookie on the bottom, and ice cream filling.”

They plan to call their booth, Cookie Sandwich. “We figure out how much profit we’re making, where we’re going to put our shop, and what it’s going to look like,” said Kieran.

Alec, Aiden, and Jackson came up with an entirely new business model for the State Fair.

“It’s based off the tabletop adventure game Dungeons and Dragons,” Alec proudly explained. “We’re selling things that have to do with the game.”

Fair goers can enter the business and join in at the gaming table. Alec and Aiden realized as they described the set up that it might be difficult to maintain the game at all times.

“We won’t always have an active campaign running,” Alec mentioned.

“We should have an hourly shift,” Aiden suggested.

The sales floor of the business is organized into categories. “Over here is ancient ruins to buy,” Alec said. They also run a daily talk show about gaming.

They have created a logo, picked monster nicknames, and planned a uniform to wear when they’re on duty.

Parker, Ava, and Elle have marketed their product – multi-colored elephants – to children. “They are sweets that are shaped as elephants, any treat you can think of,” Parker said. “Our target for buyers is kids.”

But unlike the other groups, profit is not a primary concern of their business. “We don’t really expect to make a lot of money. We hope we get money, but that’s not really our target,” Ava said. “We just want people to come, eat, and have fun.”

Eating and having fun – I think they’ve captured the true spirit of the State Fair experience.

“”

Graphic Novels: Melding Pictures with Stories

Haaken elbowed an enormous paperback book to the edge of his desk to make room for his sketch book. Bone, a graphic novel by Jeff Smith, is at least two inches thick and contains more than 1330 pages.

“It’s nine volumes packed into one giant book!” Haaken said. “I finished it and I’m halfway through reading it again.”Haaken said his own graphic novels are influenced by the style of Bone.

In describing the process of creating a graphic novel, Haaken said putting time into creating characters is key. “You put together a story line, figure out how the characters act, and their physical distinctions, and then create them,” he said. “You figure out how to make it clear and figure out the word/picture combinations. The picture does most of the work.”

One of Haaken’s characters is Loki, a very intelligent cat. He described the character as “low key”, but also known for his pranks and schemes. “Loki is Norwegian for prankster,” Haaken said.

Another character – Carl, the Scout – is essentially a square with a face. “He annoys people very easily,” Haaken laughed.

Haaken’s plot involves the ominous awakening of a beast. “A couple of friends in school have to defeat all of its evil minions that come out to attack them at night,” he said.

Lauren worked at finishing the final draft of her very first original graphic novel.

“I really only read graphic novels,” she said. “They’re easier to read – not as many words – and they’re funny! I decided to do this class because it interested me most. “

The plot of Lauren’s graphic novel is a combination of adventure and humor. “Two kids who get sucked up into space by a spaceship have to defeat an evil duckling,” she said. Luckily, the characters do end up victorious.

Lauren based her story on Captain Marvel plots. “I start generating ideas off Captain Marvel,” she said.

One thing she’s learned about writing graphic novels is “it has to make sense and it has to be in order.”

In the hallway, Emma, Olivia, and Shea worked amidst blackline sketches spread out on the floor around them.

Olivia said she used to draw comics, and thought the Graphic Novels class would help her get better. “We learn how to put stories together,” she said.

“I’m not a great artist but I’m kind of a writer,” said Emma. “It’s actually been working out okay. At first my people looked like giant blobs, but then they started to come together.”

“”

Chemistry: Fun with Matter

Chemists in the class Chemistry: Fun with Matter today learned about the importance of quantitative data.

“It’s more important to scientists than the more descriptive, narrative qualitative data,” Teacher Brian Marquardt said.

But, getting that data proved difficult for students who were trying an experiment for the second and third times today.

“This is our third time doing it,” admitted Giulia. “The first time we waited too long to add the iodine so it didn’t react.”

“The second time we forgot to add the starch,” Lynnea added.

Giulia was proud to say that attempt number three seemed to work. “This time we did it right.”

According to the lab instructions, the experiment involves biological catalysts – enzymes – and discovering what it is that influences the activation of a particular digestive enzyme, amylase.

The experiment was an effort to “learn what amylase does to starch,” Giulia explained. “It (amylase) breaks apart starch into sugar, from a long chain of glucose into single molecules of sugar.”

Or, in lay-person’s terms: “We’re learning about enzymes in the body and how you dissolve things you eat,” Giulia said.

Light readings are used to determine how much the starch has broken down. The chemists shine a beam of light through the mini beakers and a detector measures how much light shines through. The darkness of the liquid indicates the amount of starch remaining; the darker the liquid, the more the starch.

At another lab table, Abby and her team were using the light test. “We put different amounts of amylase each time we do the test to see how much the light shines through.”

“We figure out how much light gets through the liquid and how much is absorbed,” Olivia said.

Olivia, Mia, and Abby had run the experiment two times and were processing the data they accumulated.

“We don’t know the result yet because we don’t have all the data,” said Olivia. “We have to do more experimentation.”

They suspect a mistake was made in the first attempt. “We believe we messed up the order of when we dropped in the iodine,” Olivia said.

“We’re supposed to put iodine in every 15 seconds, but we did it every 10 seconds,” said Abby.

The good news is that the scientists learned not only from their successful experiments, but also from the not-so-successful ones.

“We learned you have to work quickly and to read the directions,” Lynnea concluded.