— In the News: Challenge within a chair’s construction

The Half Moon Bay Review published an article about our seventh graders’ project in the Innovation Lab: Challenge within a chair’s construction: Educator looks at everyday objects in a different way. They prototyped four chairs out limited materials as part of their Explorations and the results were remarkable.

Sea Crest School students were recently challenged to think outside the box — outside the cardboard box, to be exact.

As part of a semester-long exploration class, aspiring makers were required to enhance an old office chair using nothing more than masking tape, cardboard and hot glue.

The lesson took place in the Innovation Lab, a maker-space where tinkering is not only encouraged, it is expected.

“During the summer, I saw a lot of old chairs in the hallway that were going to be thrown out,” said Patrick Neary, Innovation Lab manager at Sea Crest School. “There was a lot of cardboard that was also going to be thrown out. I thought maybe there was a way to upcycle both slightly and see what we could do with them.

“It occurred to me that the curved, rotating chair was a common thing, almost in contrast with these big square boxes,” he continued. “One of the things that I was concerned with was challenging the kids about their basic assumptions about things.”

Before the course, most students would look at the chair and disregard it as a utilitarian object. After completing the project, it was clear that the students would no longer take the art of sitting for granted.

Innovation Lab Chair“To get started, the kids had to think about how does this chair come about?” said Neary. “Once they re-examined this common object, they could start to reinvent it.”

Part of that process included deconstructing a few samples in order to gain a clear understanding of how the chair worked.

Innovation Lab Chair“Some of the students used power tools, like drills, to pull out the screws,” said Neary. “The students then had to figure out how many screws were used and why.”

Once the kids understood how the chair worked, they were challenged to improve upon the design. Neary created four teams. Students drew lots to determine who was in each group.

“It was random,” said Neary. “Some students liked the partners they were grouped with, others had never really talked before as partners.”

The newly created groups started sketching out their ideas as they began working to build a better chair.

Once the drawing was complete, the makers-in-the-making moved into the physical world of construction.

“The students experienced obstacles of different viewpoints and agendas that required that the students collaborate, negotiate and corporate,” said Neary.

The students worked hard on their final designs, pieces of cardboard that were held together with nothing more than masking tape and hot glue.

The groups then presented their projects to a panel of judges that assessed the projects on the basis of collaboration, the mindful use of the materials, the overall design aesthetic, and the cleanliness of the final construction.

There was also one more catch, the completed prototype had to support the weight of the intended user, whether a student or an adult.

The results were stunning to say the least. One group opted for a minimalistic design going heavy on the masking tape. The end product was a sleek chair sure to hold up under the average adult. Others were more creative, adding butterfly wings, cup holders, and slots for books.

 

Fourth Graders Team Up with Wildlife Associates to Design Safer Wind Turbines

As part of their recent unit on California raptors, Fourth Grade students investigated the impact of wind farms on birds’ ability to hunt, migrate, and survive.

“Over the course of three weeks, students learned about different California habitats, the species that live there, and how to better protect birds of prey,” said Fourth Grade Teacher Tyler Elliott. “Raptors are crucial to the diversity and sustainability of many ecosystems across the country. We want our students to understand humanity’s connection to other species and how we can preserve vital ecosystems, both locally and abroad.”

Wildlife AssociatesOne exciting aspect of this unit was the classes’ collaboration with Wildlife Associates, a 120-acre animal sanctuary in Half Moon Bay. A team of wildlife specialists came to Sea Crest with live birds of prey and worked with students in small groups to help teach them about raptors, conservation, and wind turbines.

“I was so impressed with the Sea Crest Fourth Graders,” said Michele Durant, Programs Manager at Wildlife Associates. “They embraced the opportunity to help local wildlife and eagerly accepted the challenge of learning to think like biologists and engineers.”

Wildlife AssociatesFourth Graders learned how hawks help manage prey populations to keep nature in balance, and they explored the challenges facing scientists as they work to maintain both wildlife and sustainable energy solutions.

Next, our students spent two weeks designing their own solutions to help wildlife and the wind power industry to better coexist. On the final day, representatives from Wildlife Associates returned to hear the presentations.

Students shared ideas such as…

  • Placing wire cages over wind turbines to let in wind but keep out birds;
  • Using sensors or lasers to detect birds before they get too close to a turbine, causing the turbine to stop spinning;
  • Projecting images and sounds of predators to scare birds away from turbine blades.

Wildlife Associates“These students were not only highly engaged on an academic level, but their kindness and concern towards the birds clearly motivated them,” said Ms. Durant. “It was so rewarding to see their excitement about having a chance to share their presentations. They demonstrated their creativity and compassion as well as their comprehension of the facts and curriculum of this unit.”

“They have built a sense of empathy and understanding about how we coexist with our environment, and they are making connections to how our lessons relate to alternative energies,” said Mr. Elliott.

Since many of the raptors the classes studied are native to our area, students have already been able to apply what they learned to real-life situations.

Wildlife Associates“One day after school, as I was closing up my room, three students came flying down the hall yelling, ‘Mr. Elliott, Mr. Elliott, come look! There’s a red-tailed hawk outside!’ There was a line of about 25 kids along the perimeter of the field, staring at what looked like a big chicken in the middle of the grass. When I walked closer, I saw it was a beautiful male hawk standing talon-deep in a puddle, sipping and arranging feathers, looking at us as we looked at him. Suddenly, he took off with two flaps, talons out, to the top of a 50-foot tree. The Fourth Graders spent the afternoon teaching all of the other students on the field about red-tailed hawks. I know they will never forget this experience.”

 


Watch a video clip of the Fourth Graders’ presentations:

 

The Impact of Eighth Grade Service Learning

For nearly ten years, our Eighth Grade class has focused on Service Learning as a key component of their Social Studies curriculum. They research food insecurity and the causes of homelessness, and they learn that 1 in 5 children in the United States struggle with hunger each day. They volunteer together at the San Francisco Food Bank and GLIDE Memorial, and they participate in the We Schools initiative, which focuses on shifting young people’s focus “from Me to We.”

One of their largest initiatives throughout the year is Adopt-a-Family, which came to a close last week. Eighth Grade students led the charge to collect toys and clothes for local families.

“Thank you to our parent volunteers, who delivered more than 35 full bags of gifts to Coastside Hope,” said Wendy Connolly, who leads the initiative. “Thank you to the teachers, too, for helping the Eighth Graders connect with families. Students created sign-up lists, met with Lower School classes, announced at assembly, wrote to parents and teachers, sent friendly reminders, and made sure they collected all the correct items for each family. We donated holiday gifts to 16 families.”

 

Half Moon Bay History Scavenger Hunt

Fifth Grade Teacher Emma Samuels collaborated with Dave Cresson, the President of the Half Moon Bay History Association, to organize a Half Moon Bay Scavenger Hunt for students. The field trip was featured on the homepage of the Half Moon Bay Review.

“A scavenger hunt is really about adventure education,” said Ms. Samuels. “The point is to get kids to grapple and persevere and struggle. The learning is explicitly designed so that students are put in this place of slight stress, and from that energy comes incredible growth and incredible learning.”

Stops on the scavenger hunt were multi-sensory, asking students to create a skit, write a song, draw something, build something, or compare and contrast. For example, one site along the way said:

Gaspar de Portola and his men were weak from dysentery and exhaustion, and they rested by this creek before continuing on to Montara. Create a film in which you act out this scene. Make sure you include important information about why they were here and what they were hoping to achieve. Include de Portola, Father Crespi, and other members of the traveling party in your film.

All activities during the scavenger hunt were designed so that chaperones could be as hands-off as possible. Students collaborated, shared leadership, and solved problems on their own – and they had a great time.

“The most important thing about the scavenger hunt is that it’s incredibly relevant to the kids,” said Ms. Samuels. “They walk past these buildings all the time, and now they’ll have key ideas and turning points in Half Moon Bay history to share with whomever they’d like.”

View more photos from this field trip at the NAIS Inspiration Lab: “Creating a Hometown Scavenger Hunt.”

 

Eighth Graders Volunteer at the SF-Marin Food Bank

Eighth Grade students volunteered at the San Francisco Food Bank as part of their yearlong service learning project on hunger and poverty. Students learned that one in four people in San Francisco are hungry, and that 800,000 children in the United States go hungry each day.

Students worked for three hours at the Food Bank. They helped sort 35,000 pounds of pears that will go to elementary school students in San Francisco, and they will be returning in late winter to volunteer more. It was a productive day with students, parents, and teachers working side by side!

 

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