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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What a busy few weeks we have had!

Work-in-Progress Night

We welcomed parents to our “Work-in-Progress” night: we screened our movies, performed our favorite planet song, and offered a glimpse into our learning - rockets, gears, computational thinking, reading and writing, personal projects, and movie making magic - scenery, props, and characters. We practiced our oral presentation skills and demonstrated depth of learning and pride in our accomplishments.

Editing movies and putting it all together

In preparation for “Work-in-Progress” the filming groups recorded their voices, created sound effects and music. In some cases this was narration, in some cases the groups wrote their own dialogue and acted out the characters! They drew inspiration from the beginning of Trolls to appreciate the visual and auditory layers are in a movie. We were introduced to editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, laying down the separate tracks of audio and moving clips around on a timeline.

Rough cut of stop-motion animation. Shown at "Work-in-Progress" night 11/16/17.

Exploring Planetary movement

Meanwhile, we’ve have taken a detour from our immersive learning about Mars, making sure we have a grounding in space more broadly. We travelled into deep space, passing constellations and avoiding asteroids. Delving deeper into the orbits of the planets, we’ve investigated how each planet rotates and at which speed. The children were actual planets and rotated around the sun as a human solar system, taking care not to bump into another planet causing a massive collision!!

Connecting many skills

In true interdisciplinary manner, we connected our learning with creative writing, making, and computational thinking. We read constellation myths and have plotted our own constellation designs and written our own myths. Some children have also been making fact books about the planets in the solar system. Computational thinking skills have extended from linear sequences to using conditional statements and looping and drawing out the paths of the planets, all with the correct timing which creates a simulation where forces and gravitational pull can be described and explained by the children. Working with various tools for computational thinking including turtle art, spirograph, and scratch, we created  simulations that represent laws of motion and the orbits of planets.Seeking to deepen our learning and strengthen our abilities as makers, we are learning how gears work in preparation to design and 3-D print a model of the solar system.

Skyping with Marianne Dyson!

We were treated to a Skype conversation with Nasa astrophysicist turned science fiction writer Marianne Dyson. She shared with us her experiences at Nasa, her conviction that people will live on Mars, and her sense that the greatest challenges of settling Mars will be the psychological impact of being so far from our home planet (although not for those who will one day be born on Mars) as well as producing food and water.


A tasty tour of Grandaisy Bakery!

Some children visited Grandaisy bakery and were in awe of the bread making process on such a huge scale! They were also very excited about the walk in fridge because we could all fit into it….brrr!!!! We left with the biggest foccacia I have ever seen and it did take us 2 days to eat it…!

Learning why we remember

We commemorated Veteran or Remembrance Day, joining together to listen to children from other parts of the world explain what this means and why the humble Poppy flower is so important. In 2014 in London, an exhibit was opened commemorating some 888,296 soldier who died in WW1. The exhibit was ‘planted’ in the moat of The Tower of London and each soldier was a ceramic poppy.

Learning reading, writing and math (mixed-ages style!)

We’ve continued to make huge progress in reading and writing, with mixed age groups working together supporting each other’s writing at different levels emphasizing simple, complex and compound sentences with adjectives and bold punctuation. We’ve expanded our math with interactive games and a fun collaboration with Portfolio advisor and internationally renowned maker and math educator Gary Stager.

As always, personal projects

We’ve been enjoying working on our personal projects, exploring glue guns, clamps, hammers and saws, sewing and delving into robotics and laser cutting.