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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"When we listen, we learn more.
Be patient, kind, and respectful.
Try your best. If you hit a small problem, 

it’s no big deal."

- from Portfolio’s Kids Constitution

We the students of Portfolio School...

Children of mixed ages, from our youngest to our oldest, together drafted our own Portfolio Constitution, framing what we want learning and being at Portfolio School to look like. We immediately applied our goals within our academic, intellectual, creative, and social activities, bonding more and more as a mixed age community of learners and makers, and transforming our school into a movie studio.


Portfolio Productions begins production on first pic, filming, prop-making, set design, and soundtracking.

The excited buzz in our studio was palpable as we jumped into filming, set design, prop creation, and musical accompaniment. Using stop animation with stories our students wrote and storyboarded, characters our students designed and laser cut, and backgrounds our students crafted, we have filmed the first scene of our movie. Meanwhile, set design continues and we have some great ones: a surface for Mars (made of rice, vinegar, and red dye), NASA’s control room, deep space, Hayden Planetarium, and more. We’re developing our design and engineering skills through prop creation, learning how to convert drawings into designs we can laser cut. Our drawings feature parts of the solar system including planets and meteorites.

Mars must have music...

We’ve begun to build pianos we will play in our movie about permanently settling on Mars. We explored a piano that was laser cut and connected to a computer - taking it apart, putting it together, drawing its pieces, explaining the functionality of each piece, and brainstorming ideas for our own unique laser cut pianos. We are making the Hamilton piano (each time you strike a chord Hamilton pops up), the wearable Tiano piano (based on a drawing of our very own Tiana’s face), and a Rube Goldberg piano that produces music as part of our own Rube Goldberg machine.

The crew continues testing rockets with a successful launch!

The launch of our rockets was a great success! It was such a team effort with everyone having a responsibility - either a film maker, rocket pumper, measurer of the distance the rockets traveled, and supporter - cheering on the rockets as they flew! We measured the fins, traced them, cut them and found the most symmetrical way to attach them to the base of our rockets. We also made sure the air could be pumped through our cork by making a tiny hole in it. Once everything was ready we went to pier 25 and launched our rockets! Developing our measurement skills, we measured how far our rockets traveled from our base, using measurement tapes and taking videos of each rocket’s journey. As we mapped the trajectory of our rockets, we used coordinates to reveal the secrets that live in deep space. The children worked in groups to support and guide each other during these activities. The more they grew in confidence, the more they wanted to try a harder challenge.

Working hard on math, problem-solving and reading skills

Together we explored many complex math problems, working on our resilience and determination in problem solving. Learning not to give up when we face something new; or when the challenge seems beyond us at first, we practiced reading the question and taking it step by step. Our reading exploded this week with many more children jumping on the reading train! We are bursting with pride like peacocks! You could hear students telling everyone at school, ' I can read, I can read...!" More advanced readers enjoyed books they have chosen at their own level, diving into books and finding great pleasure in reading. Readers are writing book reviews so we can share and recommend them to others.

Check out our personal projects!

We continue working on our personal projects: our robotic dogs, Rube Goldberg machine, laser cut spinner, LEGO WeDo constructions, programming the KIBO Robot and sewing exploration.

Hurtling forward into next week, we will be learning together as one mixed age community, re-organising our space in Learning Zones 1, 2 and 3. The possibilities are endless.

And now for something completely ridiculous: