We are one full week into summer vacation-- what a wonderful feeling! But that doesn’t mean we are taking a break from education. In the last week, members of our team have been doing some informal research.
I went to see an exhibit at The Charles River Museum called “The History of Disabilities in America.” It was researched, written, and curated by juniors at Gann Academy and was a major component of their US History class. With a special focus on The Fernald, these students curated a fascinating museum exhibit that brings into the light elements of our hidden history. Find some time this summer to check it out!
Ms. Long and Mr. Emery spent an afternoon at MIT to see the projects at EurekaFest to see the working prototypes developed by high school and college students who are solving real-world problems through invention. Some of their favorite inventions included:
While we are certainly trying to figure as much as beforehand as we can, it is safe to say that we also expect messy sections and will embrace those moments too.
As you walk into the English office, you can’t help but notice the bright glow of artificial lights and the overwhelming scent of fresh basil and cilantro. Visitors are invited in by kale plants growing tall and the sound of trickling water, as it circulates through the system and pumps nutrients into these thriving hydroponic plants.
One of my favorite PBL experiences from this year happened in Emilie Perna’s sophomore comp class. As our ChangeMaker English teacher, Emilie has been thinking about the power of PBL in her current classes. She worked with Mike Barnett, the Director of the Urban Science Education Lab at Boston College, to build and maintain two hydroponic systems. In their two period a week class, the 17 students studied maps of Waltham in order to research food inequities in our community, made decisions about what greens to grow, and problem-solved throughout the process: everything from what to do for yellowing plants and the best way to fill the systems with water. In the end, these students donated over 200 plants to local nonprofits.
While the class worked together in the beginning to build and maintain the systems, they did split into smaller groups to research and create their own projects. What came from this class is a beautiful melding of projects that complemented each other, but also showcased the group member’s individual strengths and interest. One group cooked dinner at Bristol Lodge, using their crops and the money from an in-school plant sale to purchase the other ingredients for Thai Basil Chicken. One student asked Mrs. Perna, “why don’t we do more of this stuff more often?” This is such an important question. And there are many different answers. In The ChangeMaker Academy, we aim to make time and space for this kind of learning-- hands-on, problem-based, purposeful-- to inspire students and drive learning forward.
Below are the student’s descriptions of their projects:
Isabella Meconiates, Lauren Waddick, Abigail Wills and Danielle Pouliot
This year, our class researched hydroponics and how to best grow plants using this method. We found out what nutrients the plants needed, how the systems worked, built multiple systems ourselves, and cared for over 200 plants from seed to harvest. Our group created recipes, that people can make using hydroponic plants. Each recipe was primarily centered around the different plants we grew, kale, cilantro, basil and different types of salad. Other groups within our class, distributed the recipe cards when they were selling and donating the plants and meals made from the plants.
Teaching Teachers About Hydroponics!
Cassandra Escoto, Kenia Guillen, Lidia Martinez, and Kim Garcia
This year, our group sold healthy, hydroponics-grown plants to staff members at Waltham High School. Many teachers did not know about hydroponics, but we as a group, sold the plants and taught our customers about the benefits of growing plants in this method. The money we raised in the plants sales went to creating a meal for the Bristol Lodge in Waltham and buying the supplies to donate our food at the Watch City market.
Fast Food Could Be Your Last Food; Healthy Food For Everyone
Vanessa Greaves, Hanna Touadjine, and Julia Sloan
We believe that everybody deserves a healthy yet enjoyable meal, unfortunately not everyone in our community has access to healthy food. Our group has decided to tackle the problem of unhealthy eating habits in the homeless and low income community by making and serving a meal for the patrons of the Bristol Lodge in Waltham. In order to make these meals we used recipes prepared by our classmates and plants that we grew and cared for in our class hydroponic system.
From Soil to Sales
Kevin Palomino, Tim Galvin, Cullen Millerick, and Mac Surrett
There has been a huge problem not only in Waltham, but all over the world where people don’t have the money to buy fresh and healthy food from the supermarket, so they rely on the cheap and unhealthy foods which can lead to a plethora of different diseases. Our Sophomore Composition class began growing healthy and delicious greens through the wonderful world of hydroponics in order to help combat this epidemic. We are going to be donating them to the community through the Watch City Market, that way a family with a low food budget can have access to fresh and healthy vegetables.
I’ve talked a lot about the tenets of The ChangeMaker Academy, including:
But what will it actually look like in practice? Our first unit, Life on Mars, illustrates the key features of the program.
One might think that “Life on Mars” is a science unit, but for us, it is the theme and premise of our first unit in physics, math, English, and history. Our primary text is The Martian, a fictional story of an astronaut stranded on Mars. The story may be fictional, but the math and science of the story is accurate. We will learn the physics and math standards by putting them into practice. We are going to recreate a Martian exploration and, in the process, we will:
At the same time, we will develop our reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills by exploring personal narratives and the art of storytelling. In addition to The Martian, we will listen to “The Habitat” podcast and watch scenes from Apollo 13, Hidden Figures and Gravity. We will write our own narratives and create our own podcasts.
Voice and Choice
By “going to Mars,” students are essentially creating a new society, so they will need to establish a government and a constitution. This work requires that students know the answer to this question: What do we value as a society vs what is valuable to society?
We will give them the history of world-wide society, what caused them to rise, fall, and evolve, and students will use their knowledge to establish their own utopia.
Throughout the unit, there will be many opportunities for hands-on learning. Some include:
Opportunities for Authentic Audience
This unit has a subtheme: the importance of communication and community/ the effects of isolation. We will explore this theme by reaching out. We would like to write letters to soldiers and create care packages for refugees. Ultimately, we hope to also share our work with the greater community.