A weekly update on the learning and creativity happening at Portfolio from Dr. Shira Leibowitz, Founding Director of Lower School and Nancy Otero, Founding Director of Research and Learning Design.


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How might we get to Mars? Rocket? Bus? Sun beam? Bridge? Balloons? Elevator?

The plot to our movie is emerging

Friday afternoon storytelling featured our own Portfolio science fiction authors, as we planned out a variety of scenes in which different characters in our movie arrive on Mars. We won’t spoil the secrets, but we can tell you this much. Our adventures, once we arrive on the Red Planet, will involve a playground! (Got that - NASA and SpaceX! We’re designing for kids on Mars!)

Beyond the playground, we’ll be thinking deeply about some important questions and dilemmas connected to being human in a rapidly changing, complex world. These next explorations are emerging directly from our students interests and ideas, and we have some great possibilities! We’ll keep you posted!

Some of our rockets launched this week!

Applying our learning about cartesian coordinates x and y, we attached a cellphone to our rockets in order to film their journey. We used sound, pressure, and light sensors in Google’s Science Journal app installed on our phones to collect data both on our rockets’ trajectories and on how atmospheric conditions might change through our rockets’ journeys. We’re excited to continue rocket design camp next week as our older students, who have already designed and launched rockets, teach our younger students how. We’re predicting the next launch date to take place sometime on Thursday or Friday.

Developing the different elements of our film: scenery, music, and more

Gearing up for the beginning of filming our movie on Mars, we designed deep space with splatter paint, and laser cut and painted some unique characters, who will be brought to life through stop-motion animation. Guided by our mentors from the MusEdLab at NYU, we learned more about incorporating music into movie production, exploring how to control the volume of different instruments played in a song, adding soundtracks with contrasting sentiments to the same piece of movie, and creating a melody for videos. Our Team Pluto (mostly 5 and 6 year olds) extended their musical knowledge by learning about the quarter note, eighth note, and half note.

Field trip to Hayden Planetarium!

We explored gravity, movement, friction, and space travel on a trip this week to Hayden Planetarium. In addition to interacting with planetarium exhibits, we enjoyed learning about the universe; its structure, history and our place in it, through the film Dark Universe. Additionally, Team Martian (mostly students 7 and up) are delving deeper into explorations of gravity, writing our own theories about what causes gravity and how we can measure gravity. We began a gravity simulation, using the program Scratch to design mazes with different amounts of gravity and friction, and various obstacles. We are learning about function and variables as we code animations and observe how they jump in environments with different amounts of gravity. One of our students, Lucas, continues to make progress in his own goal to learn Python.

Making great progress in math and literacy learning

Team Pluto has delved into both numeracy and geometry, creatively applied. We’ve advanced in our understanding of place value with numbers 11-20 and beyond, creating our own problems for each other to solve like true mathematicians. Making math real, with applied geometry, we’ve extended our knowledge of Kandinsky and his 'urban art', looking at how we can recreate one of Kandinsky’s painting by using only shapes we have cut ourselves. Team Martian continues our differentiated math learning, each at our own assessed level, with word problems including addition and subtraction, division, and division using fractions. We practiced with our advanced online program RedBird as well as with tangibles we have created ourselves. We additionally applied our math knowledge by calculating the velocity of objects moving at a constant speed, linking our understanding of math with our design, engineering and science projects.

Team Pluto began writing books about how each of their characters arrive on Mars, and we are so proud to see them writing more words and sentences. We continue advancing in reading and writing more and more words and it has been magical to see them grow as early readers and writers. Meanwhile, Team Martian are working on their editing skills as they complete their science fiction stories, and give one another feedback on book reviews. We’ve explored “writer’s message”, speaking of how creative stories not only entertain, but also share their writers’ points of view, and we’ve considered a variety of messages that may be incorporated in our movie.

Stay tuned for more Portfolio adventures! There is much yet to come!