Friday, October 26, 2018

Mentoring - a Win/Win equation

This week during mentoring we played a simple math game with the younger students. Many of the Olympians found it difficult to keep the Ladybugs and Bumblebees on track once they had played the game a few times through, and they ran into issues of younger students getting upset when they lost or having disagreements with their classmates when game play slowed down. Afterward, we reflected on ways to help younger kids solve these problems. Student suggestions included:

1) Make the game harder by adding another game board to extend the numbers. Help the younger students add or subtract the bigger numbers by counting. One mentor even started teaching his mentee to multiply.

2) Remind them to take a deep breath to calm down (a skill we have learned in mindfulness).
3) Listen carefully to what they are saying and help them take turns talking to each other to work through disagreements. 
4) Use gentle reminders to help keep them on track.
5) Make sure to let them do things for themselves and do not do things for them. When they need help, give hints instead of telling them exactly what to do.

There are many benefits of mentoring, but some of the most highly touted are improved communication and interpersonal skills, development of leadership and management qualities, reinforcement of individual academic skills, and improved engagement and motivation. 

These certainly seem to be in play here!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fossil Field Study at the Burke Museum

Blog by the Olympians:

We went to the Burke Museum for a field study of fossils. A Paleontologist named Maureen Carlisle took us on a trip back in time and showed us many things about the cold age, hot age, dinosaur age and pre-dinosaur age.

We had a challenge to fit as many people as we could in this cave with a blue rhino skeleton. We got seven people in the hole. We had a fun time in the Tertiary period!

This is us measuring ourselves to a dinosaur leg in the Mesozoic era.

We were looking at the Paleozoic period and we saw this sign about when Washington was under water.
Maureen Carlisle told us to separate fossils from "not fossils." She gave us many rocks and fossils and we had to separate them.
These were not the fossils.

Theses were the things that were fossils.

After that, we got to dig and classify the fossils we found.

We laid them out in the same order we found them.

Then we had to tell what era the fossils we dug up were from.

After our class, we saw an archaeologist working on  the skull of a T-Rex.

We had an awesome time!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Pyramids and Perseverance

Our first engineering challenge this year had us thinking like ancient Egyptian architects. The challenge: Can you build a pyramid using only toothpicks and glue? The only requirements were that the base of the pyramid had to be square or rectangular and it had to be a minimum of 4 toothpicks in length or width. 

Phase one was a math focus: Estimate how many toothpicks you think you will need. 


Thinking about the number of edges in a large 3D shape was more difficult than the teachers had imagined. Students planned, plotted, counted, added, multiplied and drained their brains trying to figure out a number. Some students came up with reasonable estimates, but many were completely stymied. In the interest of working against perfectionism, once frustration levels peaked, we made educated guesses and moved on to the next phase. We talked a lot about how it is OK to make mistakes as part of the learning process, that struggling with a problem is the hard work that helps our brains grow, and that perseverance is the key to success. So, did we give up? No way!

In Phase 2, using just glue and toothpicks, most of the groups started building one big 3D structure. Every group struggled with getting the glue to hold, and almost every group had trouble with at least one edge or side collapsing, especially as they got longer/taller.

Once we noted the issues groups were having, we came together to share ideas, discussing what was working and what wasn't. Students from each group shared possible solutions. Then we tried again.

Some groups tried reinforcing their joints with small pieces of tissue paper, but sagging sides remained an issue.

Some students had a bit of success, but at the end of phase 2, none of the pyramids looked quite right. We watched some videos about how the pyramids may have actually been constructed, and noticed that they were built using big rectangular blocks piled on top of one another. We talked about three dimensional shapes and how we might stack them on top of each other to create a larger shape out of many smaller ones. We looked at a few pictures. Armed with a new approach, we moved on to Phase 3; this time using marshmallows instead of glue.

Pyramids quickly began to take shape, and some groups created assembly lines to speed up construction. Some groups struggled to add angled sides to rectangular prisms or cubes. One group discovered that many smaller pyramids stacked together created the correct angle, and very soon every group was on track.

It was a long process - three days of work spread out over several weeks - but in the end, every group experienced the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult challenge.

Persevering through a difficult challenge -- now that's success!

Measuring and Mentorship

Watching gifted kids in action can truly be amazing ... especially when older kids are mentoring younger ones. The Olympians have been meeting with the Ladybugs and Bumblebees once a week to help them work on skills that are difficult for little hands to master. The week these pictures were taken, the younger students were studying apples. They used a spiralizer to peel apple skins into long, thin segments. Together, we took these segments out to the playground to measure them. We talked about inches and centimeters, compared lengths of different pieces, added and subtracted the lengths of different segments, compared them to our heights, and finally, laid them all out in a long line across the playground that turned out to be almost 20 kid-lengths long! 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

There is no such thing as a math person...

ANYONE can be good at math! And MISTAKES actually help your brain grow!

Has your child told you that yet? Hopefully this has come up, as we spent the first few weeks of school learning all about how having a growth mindset in math is key to success in this subject area.

We watched (and then discussed) a series of videos created by Dr. Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematical Education at Stanford University, which translates Stanford Pyschologist Carol Dweck's theories of growth vs. fixed mindset into math practices. These practices are designed to promote a growth mindset in math, banish math anxiety and bust some age-old myths about math. Ideas like: you have to be fast at math to be good at it; and: math is a boring subject all about rote memorization which does not require any creativity. At Seabury, we know different!

We have learned how the STRUGGLE to understand difficult math concepts, which can sometimes feel overwhelming and frustrating, is just a part of exercising your brain to "build your brain muscle."  Students who look at that struggle as an exciting challenge, and persevere in trying to solve problems in different ways, demonstrate much higher levels of achievement in math than students who have memorized algorithms or processes without fully understanding what they are doing with the numbers. This idea of struggle being a GOOD thing is an important concept for gifted perfectionists, who often are not used to being challenged in their areas of strength, and often give up rather than take on a challenge they might not soar through.

Thank you, Youcubed, for setting us up for a successful year of math exploration and growth! We are already enjoying "inspirational" math challenges like the Four 4's -- part of the "week of inspirational math" curriculums available through Boaler's Youcubed website. Truly, how often do you see smiles like these when kids are working on difficult math problems?

Evolution & Archaeology Overnight Field Study: Sun Banks Cabins

We roasted S'mores and told stories around the fire. The cabins were nice and we got great cabin mates. There was a lake that people ...