Monday, January 24, 2022

What is Dungeons and Dragons Anyway?

What is D&D?

I thought this was a good explanation of Dungeons and Dragons – also humorous. For some students in our middle school it has become quite popular. Some parents worry it might be too much entertainment and not enough academics for a club. Here is why I promote middle schoolers' new-found love of role-play.

1. I supervise it and include complex math, logic and word puzzles.

2. Role-play allows kids to refine appropriate responses to social situations without the higher stakes of real-world interaction with classmates.

3. Middle school students are developing their identity, and in D&D they get to try on different identities, such as leader or someone who makes mistakes or does bad things. 

4. It is an incredible challenge for imagination and creativity. Players invent entire characters and determine how their characters respond to situations. It's great practice for creative writing. 

5. Kids come out of their shells and engage with each other.  

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Scavenger Hunt in Downtown Tacoma

Every Tuesday afternoon the middle school students go on a 50-minute walking tour of downtown Tacoma.  Students have learned about local architecture, offerings at the Karpeles manuscript museum, and the new extension to Sound Transit Link. A few weeks ago they went on a scavenger hunt for a myriad of images that could found within a 4 block radius of the school. The images were picked for aesthetics as well as the need for students to be attentive and have a keen idea of their surroundings while walking around the city.  As a group, students found almost all the images; however, Humpty Dumpty and the hand prints remained elusive.  If you find yourself downtown and wish to redo the scavenger hunt, I invite you to try this fun activity. The first photo is one of the groups of students part way through their search.  The second photo is the items to find. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Plate Tectonics – Inquiry Based Learning

 How were the Hawaiian Islands formed?

This was the phenomenon that middle school scientists investigated with multiple hands-on science labs these last few weeks. Hawaii is one of the world's newest geological structures, and the science behind its formation and plate tectonics is a recent development, as recently as the 1930s. 

Maps of Hawaii: Hawaiian Islands Map

Looking at this map and some photos of the islands, some students noticed the line-like formation of the islands and the ascending size of each island compared to the islands to the east and south of it. They also notice the color of rocks and amount of vegetation. What do you notice?

Kauai, Hawaii 2021 | Ultimate Guide To Where To Go, Eat & Sleep in Kauai |  Time Out

Big Island, Hawaii Insider's Travel Guide

Students also looked into eruption and earthquake data, finding volcanism on Hawaii an anomaly in the middle of the Pacific Plate. We used a digital resource for this.

The students then made a claim based on evidence and reasoning. They advanced their claim with further experiments: one on the movement of plates caused by convection currents and another experiment on how heat forces magma to the surface. These experiments modeled plate tectonics and how Hawaii may have formed.

By the end, students were able to state their claims about how the Hawaiian Islands were formed and the evidence they used to support it. They could predict the date of each island's formation and even the formation of volcanoes on the big island. 

This is an inquiry-based model, where students are presented a strange phenomenon, and then through questions and experiments, they gain understanding. This is also how real geologists came to understand plate tectonics and the formation of Hawaii. We hope by understanding this part of geology, students will also understand the formation of Washington geology as well. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Creating hanging mobiles using algebra

Before Thanksgiving break, Algebra1 students created hanging mobiles out of plastic autumn garlands, dowels, and string. Students provided the imagination and creativity for their floral arrangements, and mathematics provided the algorithm for balancing their creations in a hanging mobile.  

The algorithm can be observed at children's playgrounds (at least pre-2000) with the simple seesaw.  Two evenly weighted children, seated at either end can move and down easily because balance is achieved.  However, when one child is much heavier than the other, the seesaw stays tipped to the heavier child's side.  There was no balance for the seesaw to go up and down easily.  The solution is for the heavier child to move closer to the middle of the seesaw.  The explanation can be explained with algebra. In order for the seesaw to balance, the weight of one child multiplied by their distance from the center of the seesaw has to equal the weight of the second child multiplied by their distance from the center. Thus, the greater the weight difference between one child and the other, the less distance from the "fulcrum" the child needed to sit.  

This same seesaw principle can be applied to hanging mobiles: the heavier the floral arrangement on one side of the dowel, the closer that arrangement needs to sit from the center (thus where the string holding the dowel is tied).  Below are some photos of the project and its results.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Algebra as a decision-making tool

Suppose you are in the market for a new car, and the particular one you like is offered in

both gas-only and hybrid models. You are wondering for the hybrid at what specific

number on the odometer does the savings in gasoline purchased offset the additional

amount in the purchase price? I enjoy teaching algebra because this question can be

answered with the knowledge of writing and solving systems of algebraic equations. 

Algebra allows one to simplistically model the cost of driving based on the purchase

price (P), the rate of the cost of driving per mile (m), and the variable of miles driven (x).

(Cost = P + mx) Some online research gives you the values for the purchase price,

gas price, and fuel economy (mpg). Graph your two equations, and where they

intersect is the exact mileage point at which operating the two types of car is equal. 

Any miles driven beyond this point and the higher-priced hybrid starts saving you money.

Students in my Algebra 1 class conducted this research and solved the systemsof equations written for operating the two models in order to answer the original
question for themselves. Some of them were surprised by the answer.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Ada Lovelace Day: Women in Science

What do Bluetooth, DNA, and radium have in common? They were all discovered by female scientists. 

Students at Seabury middle school this week were inundated with expert speakers and teachers this week. On the second Tuesday of October, Seabury celebrates a special day with the goal of convincing young female students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to the American Association of University Women women still only make up 28% of the STEM workforce. It is believed that women are systematically steered out of those education tracks. 

Ada Lovelace Day has become a holiday to promote women in STEM. Ada has become a figurehead for this movement because she bucked the gender stereotypes of her time and became a skilled mathematician. Some consider her the first computer programmer. At Seabury we celebrate this day by inviting women professionals to take over the day and teach us, do hands-on science with us, and give us advice. All genders enjoy these experiences. 

This year we were visited by personal trainer Mandi Marquardt, architect Sonja Barteck, neuropsychologist Dr. Audrey Don, Dr. Jamie Brooks and her associates Brenda and Kayla from Brooks Dental Studio, pediatrician Dr. Diane Bartels, and gifted education specialist Ruth Maitlen. 

We learned how to suture a wound, how to make a microscope, how the brain learns, about optical illusions in architecture, all about Ada Lovelace and everything a physical trainer does to keep athletes at peak performance.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

Summer Reading Ideas and Book List (Will Keep Being Updated Until School's Out)

The Tacoma Public Library's Summer Reading Program started on June 5th. I suggest you sign your middle schooler up if you live in Tacoma. If not, please check out your library's summer reading program.

A Note about the Selections:

Each reader is different, and not every reader is ready for the content they are able to read. That is the challenge of finding "good fit" books for advanced and gifted readers. These lists are just here to help you (and them) find some new books to read.

At each level, these are not all designed to be “challenge” books. Some are just strong middle-grade/YA fiction that students might enjoy reading or that a particular student may not have read yet. Students are—of course--welcome to seek a challenge on one of the older lists as well or to read a great book they’ve missed from an earlier recommended grade. Parents should advise re: content. 

It is also worth noting that a 7th or 8th grader that hasn't read something on the 6th grade list might really love the books listed there. Those aren't only for 6th graders, so scan the whole list and find some things that look good to you.

Also, the CCBC, an amazing children’s library resource out of the University of Wisconsin, has a
Web site full of lists. The link above is to their list of recommendations. 

I have made three lists:
Books for rising 6th and 7th graders,
Books for rising 7th and 8th graders
Books for rising 8th and 9th graders.

Within the second two lists, I made subcategories with classics on top. Please excuse any duplicates.

Happy Reading!


Rising 6th and 7th Graders: Fiction and Poetry
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Ghost by Jason Reynolds (whole series)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
The White House is Burning by Jane Sutcliffe
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy
Any of the amazing books by L’Engle
Little Women by Alcott
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (Not that Robert E. Lee)
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo 
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales by Washington Irving
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi
School for Good and Evil (series) by Soman Chainani
• The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar
Ahisma by Supriya Kelkar
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim
Anything by Erin Entrada Kelly from her many middle grade selections
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Ancestor Approved edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
• Silver People (poems from working on the Panama Canal) by Margarita Engle
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez
• Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein
•Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

The Boy Who Could Harness the Wind (Young Reader's Edition)
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson

Rising 7th and 8th Graders

Gulliver’s Travels
The Iliad
The Odyssey (I prefer the Fagles translation)
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
Austen’s Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and/or Sense and Sensibility
Charles Dickens: The Old Curiosity Shop
Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels
The Joy Luck Club
Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (The first mystery novel)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
P.G. Wodehouse (The Jeeves Stories)
Agatha Christie’s mystery novels
The James Bond novels
John Le Carre’s spy novels

Newer Texts:
The Flavia de Luce series of mystery novels (set in England, involve chemistry)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes 
(and other Chris Crutcher novels—he’s from Spokane)
The Fault in Our Stars
Paper Towns
The Book Thief
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (and everything else these co-authors wrote)
Every Day by David Levithan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Highest Tide
Life of Pi
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Martian Chronicles
Ship Breaker
Sophie’s World
Bel Canto
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Box Out
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Rock and the River
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
• My Name is Not Easy
• Hearts Unbroken
• The Beast of Cretacea
• Clap when You Land
• Almost American Girl
• Hearts Unbroken
• Dear Martin
• City of Beasts
• Orbiting Jupiter
• Darius the Great Is Not Okay
• American Born Chinese
• Love and Other Natural Disasters
• K-Pop Confidential
• Legend and Warcross
• Super Fake Love Song
• The Prince and the Dressmaker
• You Should See Me in a Crown
• This Poison Heart
• They Both Die at the End
• The Poet X
• The Chosen
• Davida's Harp
• The Gilded Ones
• Firekeeper's Daughter
• Give Me Some Truth
• Ayesha Dean - The Istanbul Intrigue 

Nonfiction (Check the nonfiction list at the end of the rising 8/rising 9 list, too.)
Port Chicago
I Am Malala
Samurai Rising
Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
The Rainbow Troops
They Called Us the Enemy
Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask

Rising 8th and 9th Graders (Some of the content contained in these novels is a little edgier, so consider discussing options with parents. These are just great books, not necessarily great books for every student.)

Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie
John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden
Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon
Herman Melville: Moby Dick
Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Edith Wharton: The House of Mirth
                        The Age of Innocence
Henry James: Daisy Miller and various short stories
Norman Mailer: The Naked and the Dead 
James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans (Or the whole set of the Leatherstocking Tales)
Richard Wright: Native Son
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Upton Sinclair: The Jungle
James Baldwin: Go Tell It on the Mountain
Frank Norris: The Octopus
Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land
Alice Walker: The Color Purple
Willa Cather: My Antonia
Bernard Malamud: The Natural
Joseph Heller: Catch-22
Kurt Vonnegut: Cat’s Cradle
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
Dorothy Dunnet’s The Lymond Chronicles (a series)
Herodotus’ Histories (460 B.C.)
The Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides (431 B.C.)
Don Quixote (1605)
Wuthering Heights
Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities
Les Miserables
Crime and Punishment
An American Tragedy
The Time Machine
Anything by Wilde, especially The Picture of Dorian Gray
Dubliners by James Joyce
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Lord of the Rings
One Hundred Years of Solitude

Newish adult fiction and YA reads:
The Wide Sargasso Sea
The Hate U Give
On the Come Up
Elena Ferrante’s Novels
Exit West
Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Eva Luna
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Monkey Wrench Gang
The Magicians
Every Day by Leviathan (Series)
Interpreter of Maladies (short stories)
A Separate Peace
The Night Circus
How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents
In the time of the Butterflies
Long Way Down
House of the Spirits
Purple Hibiscus
The Overstory
White Teeth
Cool for the Summer
More than Just a Pretty Face 
Ted Chiang's Short Stories
I Love You So Mochi
The Ones We Are Meant to Find
The Summer of Everything
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Felix Ever After
Lost in the Never Woods
Love is a Revolution
Woven in Moonlight 
We Set the Dark on Fire
This Is All Your Fault

Punching the Air
The Physics of the Future
Plato at the Googleplex
Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?
The End of Money
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Mountains Beyond Mountains
The Color of Water
Kaffir Boy
All Boys Aren't Blue
The Book of Pride

What is Dungeons and Dragons Anyway?

What is D&D? I thought this was a good explanation of Dungeons and Dragons – also humorous. For some students in our middle school it ha...