Saturday, November 12, 2016

Astronomy Fun

Talk about challenging! Our students traveled to Eatonville and the foothills of Mt. Rainier to visit the Starry Hill Observatory, a private observatory run as a non-profit by two wonderful teachers, Tom and Gracie. The observatory is equipped with several telescopes, equipment for astro-photography, and a planetarium. The highlight of our trip was the highly interactive planetarium show emceed and created by our host Tom. He grabbed the students attention with an amazing sense of story and challenge. He set up situations and questions to challenge their thinking, and was rewarded with complete engagement and the joy of scientific thought. Wow! We learned what a telescope really was. Tom nearly convinced the students that the sun went around the earth, before finally guiding to a deeper understanding of seasons and sunrise and sunset. And we were challenged with a high school level physics lab on gravity and orbits.

In the observatory, students practiced using software to orient the telescope. They learned how to maneuver the turret tower. Tom explained how the telescope and camera create clear images of the galaxies and nebula. Although we couldn't take our own photos, we went through all the steps, learning a lot.

Some Seabury Students also attended Tacoma Astronomical Society's public nights and a student night at Pierce College's Planetarium. T-AS provided some great experiences about the Doppler Effect, gravity, and spectroscopy.

There are continuing opportunities with the T-AS student program. The next student event is November 18th. Check out T-AS' website for public nights.

Taking practice photos in the Observatory.

Students in the warm room. Telescopes need to be the same temperature as outside, so the Observatory can be quite cold.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Seabury students take off on a "sweet" new project!

To supplement our discussions on human rights and international trade, part of our larger globalization unit, Seabury students began a sweet (and tasty!) project this week--creating and analyzing a new chocolate bar! Working in groups and also via individual research and writing, students will analyze market trends in the candy industry and research the impact cocoa production has on the environment and small-scale farmers. Using this research, they will create a brand new chocolate bar recipe! A comprehensive business plan is an integral component of the project, where students will discuss the "triple bottom line" of their bar, discuss the sourcing of their ingredients and the nutritional content of their bar, create a mission statement for their new chocolate company, and even design a wrapper.

As part of the project, we had the fantastic opportunity to talk first hand with Dr. Eric Durtschi, founder and owner of two different cocoa-related companies: Crio-bru, which creates drinking chocolate made of pure ground cocoa beans (brews like coffee) and also Durci Chocolate, which makes bars of delicious dark chocolate. Students asked insightful questions about what Dr. Durtschi does, how he sources his ingredients, his involvement in the fair trade movement, and even the profitability of chocolate bars. We learned a tremendous amount, and were introduced to ideas we had not even thought about, such as logistics of getting freshly farmed cocoa beans out of the rainforest (Eric trades with one village accessible only via a four hour donkey ride!)

We ended our session with a sampling of three different Durci chocolates, graciously donated by the company for our taste bud enjoyment, but only after we were taught the proper way to taste chocolate. :-) Ask your kids- they are now chocolate experts!! We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Durtschi for his time and talents!!