Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Genius Hour

This year, the first through fifth grades have designated at least one hour each Friday afternoon as "Genius Hour" - an hour to explore our various individual interests and passions. Many credit this idea to a practice by Google to increase productivity by allowing employees to work on their own ideas or "pet projects":

But in gifted education, we have long known and valued the idea of giving students the opportunity to explore and develop their own creative ideas and passions. So this year, it has taken shape in the form of each student choosing between a variety of activities/spaces downstairs each week. There are quiet reading/writing/drawing activities in one classroom, math and other board games and activities in the lunch room, use of computers in the computer lab, and use of the school MakerSpace. Each week teachers offer different focus activities and the slate of choices keeps growing. Students with a particular passion project are also welcome to pursue it during this time.

Watching this in action is truly a thing of beauty. It has resulted in the organic sharing of fun class activities: the Electritioneers and Magnetists brought in the  "Battleship" game they've been playing based on the periodic table of the elements, while the Navigators and Dragons brought in several chess boards (after learning to play as part of their medieval studies), and many students of different ages increased their strategic thinking skills while having a blast playing against students in other classes.

In the computer lab, there is an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise shared as students explore websites like Zooniverse,, where students take part in different citizen scientist projects, or explore the world using Google Earth, or even venture all the way out to the ends of the universe with Galaxy Zoo,

Many of our young students are already interested in coding, and they love to delve into that with like-minded friends. We often see students creating a game, or making an icon move around the screen with help from a more knowledgable friend. There are always a few students working on something having to do with Minecraft - creating new textural elements (a blood heart  block") or redesigning game elements (mobs) like invisible zombies and "agents."

And, of course, there are always a few students that choose reading! Something for everyone.

Fractions math

Future software developer

Time to relax into a great book

Chess with the muppets game board

Collaborating on doll houses in MakerSpace

Helping a younger friend with the glue gun

Getting some strategy advice from Mr. B

Playing a student-created Scratch game

Battleship with the elements

It doesn't matter what they choose ... just as long as they LOVE doing it!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fibonacci discovered!

Last week, we went on a math quest to see if we could discover what the famed Fibonacci sequence is all about. There were items like the ones below placed all around Mrs. Towne's room -- plants, pineapples, cauliflowers, books with pictures of the galaxy, several different types of shells, and a big bin full of different sized pone cones. We started with a question: What "common denominator" do you notice about all these things?

Armed with clipboards, paper and pencils, the Dragons and Navigators spent time observing the different items. They touched, talked, and thought about what they were noticing.  They turned things upside down and looked at them from different angles. What WAS the same about a pine cone, a galaxy, a whelk shell?

We sketched and labeled what we were seeing and noticing...

Were they all spiky? Did they all have tentacles? Then words like "circle" and "swirls" started to rise above the others, and suddenly "SPIRALS!" We looked more closely at the galaxy, the big pine cone, the shell - and everyone agreed - yes, they all had spirals!

We stopped and read the book Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese, and when we got to the part where he talks about his famous rabbit riddle: "There was a man who put two baby rabbits in a field. It takes rabbits one month to grow up and be ready to have babies. And it takes them one more month to give birth to a pair of baby rabbits. Every month a pair of grown-up rabbits gives birth to a new pair of baby rabbits. How many pairs of rabbits will the man have at the end of the year?" We wrote down the numbers in the riddles' solution...
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8...
and we asked: how can you continue the sequence? It did not take these mathematical thinkers long to figure out that the two previous numbers add together to create the next number in the sequence.
Then we looked at what happens when you graph these squares with the dimensions in a spiraling pattern on graph paper:

and there it was - the Fibonacci sequence and the beautiful golden spiral!

Those who were interested went on to explore this some more, some creating pages and pages of numbers following the sequence well into the thousands using calculators and other math tools. Some carefully taped pages and pages of graph paper together and continued to expand the spiral (see picture at the top). All of us will learn more about the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio as we delve into the Renaissance and Renaissance art in the months to come (did you know you can even find this ratio in the Mona Lisa?) I can hardly wait, and many of the kids can't either!

If you are as fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence as we are, check out this wonderful series of videos by Vi Hart at Khan Academy (this is one of 3 - they are all worth a look!):

Monday, January 22, 2018

The notes kids pass at Seabury...

Recently discovered stuffed into a crevice in the 2nd grade classroom library:

We're still working on those pesky homophones, but the author here is asking their friend(s) if they want to write a THIRD book ...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Word Art for the New Year

We started back after the winter break by thinking about our goals for the rest of the school year. We wrote some school-based New Year's resolutions, identifying things like math, writing, spelling, art, and getting along with others. We listed words that related to our goals and then played around with the website to create these cool word art pictures expressing the things we will be focusing on:



We love swimming! (Yes, even in January!) Our classes at the Norpoint have begun and we are already loving it! Can you tell?

An exciting week of learning culminated in a visit from the education department from the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University...