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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It was a week of celebration, creativity, and community bonding - Portfolio style! Check out who visited us to celebrate, create, learn, and play!

Lights, Camera, Action! with the help of filmmakers-in-residence: Alex, Luke, and our very own Doug Schachtel

Our science fiction movie, set on Mars, is officially in production! Working in mixed age groups, we mashed together our unique science fiction stories and characters, using stop animation to film the beginning scene sequences of our very own science fiction film. Creativity was unleashed, directorial voices emerged, and we experienced collaborative storytelling at its best! Without spoiling what happens, we’ll share that our film includes a crew of Nasa astronauts on a rescue mission, Nasa guard dogs flying their own robot, a group of children who with the help of interstellar ants find a way to tour the solar system, and a group of real and mythical creatures checking out if Nasa’s mission is real or fake news, finding their own way to Mars in the process. We can’t wait for families to see our work in progress at our upcoming “Work-in-Progress night!”

MIT Media Lab & NYU's MusEd Lab

MIT Media Lab’s Stefania Druga guided some of our children in programing companion robots Cosmos and Jibo. Lucas began thinking about how to create possible extensions on scratch to program the robots. While we hope to visit the MIT media lab, we are happy that in the meantime we can bring a bit of the media lab to us!

Our friends from NYU’s Music Experience Design Lab worked with us on a number of projects. We used musical instruments to create sound effects for our movie and started composing some musical soundtrack that represents the moods of our different scenes. We explored the keyboard, guitar, harmonica, synthesizer, violin, and more. We also continued to design our own unique laser cut pianos: the Hamilton (a figure of Hamilton pops up each time a key is struck; the Tiano [rhymes with piano] wearable in the likeness of our own Tiana; and the Rube Goldberg piano).

And - let’s not forget - our very own parents!

Shhhhhhh - Founding Director of Research and Learning Design, Nancy Otero, thought they were organizing our Halloween Party. Surprise!!!!! It was a wedding shower! We came together as a community celebrating an upcoming momentous event in Nancy’s life.

Mixed Ages took on Newtonian Physics

When not hosting makers and artists and family members, we spent time bonding as a mixed age community, spending most of our time working together in a variety of flexible teams, rather than in our previous “Team Martian” (mostly students 7 and up) and “Team Pluto” (mostly 5 and 6 year olds). We spent time wrapping up learning of Newtonian physics and writing science fiction, with hands on formalization and documenting our learning of physics and filming our stories.

Specifically we formalized learning  of acceleration, speed, velocity, and mass, applying our learning about rockets to the world more broadly, looking at questions such as: Why do objects stop and move? What are forces that can affect speed and direction? How can we measure speed? We then began learning how to calculate average velocity. To do this we used ramps that we constructed with different angles of inclination. We measured their length with tape measures and measured the time they took to go down the ramp with stopwatches. We learned that when we know the distance an object travels and the time it takes we can calculate its average velocity.

We applied our math and literacy skills creatively

Working in a range of flexible teams both at our own assessed levels and in mixed ability groups we immersed ourselves in a range of interactive activities.

Exploration of gears

We received a glimpse into the learning and creativity that is to come in the upcoming weeks, with an introduction to an Orrey (a mechanical model of the Solar Sytem). We will be building one!! The project will be presented as part of Exhibition Night (date to be announced), and we have tons of exciting work and learning to create it. In preparation, we started exploring the power of gears. We used Gear Sketch to create our own gear train, trying to understand how the direction of the driver gear affects the direction of the driven gear. Some of us went to the next step and started an exploration between the ratio of different gears and the number of teeth, as well as the the speed and diameter of the gears. Using our pegboard we created different gear trains and machines, gaining our own initial insights into how gears work in the process.

Personal Projects

We ended the week with a full day of filming and personal projects, exploring different ways to be creative - sewing, sawing, laser cutting, coding and programming, writing and researching, robotics, and making sculptures with glue guns and recyclables. We had the gift of time and the inspiration of peers and teachers to immerse ourselves in creativity!