Archive 2012-13

Challenge Night 2012-2013

Tuesday, May 7 
at 6:30 in the Field-Stevenson Gym!


Being in Challenge empowers students to make choices about the direction of their learning through topic choices. 
You may have heard your third or fourth grade student taking an interest in local history as he/she explores the exciting history of Forest Park. Portions of this unit on amusement parks were developed by Tufts University and a portion will be developed by students who will create their own adventure as they design and program their own Forest Park Amusement Park rides. For more photos, see Mike Beyer's video

Students in fifth grade are developing their inquiry skills by working in groups to solve a problem-based learning scenario. This PBL introduces students to a serious situation: the town of 
Hopewell’s freshwater mussel population is dying out, and the town’s leading citizens cannot figure out why.The students will take charge of the situation as they join a task force dedicated to solving this ill-structured problem. In order to solve it, students need to define the problem, devise a plan, ask questions, obtain 
research, determine the value of information, and work together to propose a solution. As they explore this problem, they may run into roadblocks, twists and turns. 

Sixth graders are now thinking like a museum curator in order to prepare to present their history research. Some are creating displays and some are creating websites to showcase their work. We are also using online tools to create a bibliography of their primary and secondary sources and locating the sources through the vast online newspaper, magazine, journal collections and photo archives.

If you are curious, then you wonder - seventh graders wonder a great deal. We are tackling some deep questions regarding values as they are presented through the philosophical ideas of Plato, Confucius, Heidegger, Kant, and more. Thinking about the questions will help students see the value in being wise, and, in the process, learn more about themselves. 

Seventh grade is also discovering more about themselves and the people around them through psychology. Are people more logical or emotional? How easily are people fooled? Topics such as these will be explored as students conduct their own 

studies to find out more about the attitudes and beliefs of people. These topics inspire great thinking, so I highly recommend the website Deep Spirits for further study of psychology, philosophy and the arts.

“The future depends on what you do today.” 

― Mahatma Gandhi

Having a vision of the future is a creative undertaking. The eighthgrade not only developed their vision of a future city, but also tackled the problem of run-off and looked at ways to reduce impervious surfaces within the city. They explored th

e issues firsthand while visiting Chicago Metropolitan Water District and Mainstream Pumping Station (Deep Tunnel) and listened to scientists and workers discuss the local problems and solutions.  Some of our eighth graders presented the project at the 2013 Future City Chicago (UIC) in January:  Lucas Rosa, Justin Blaylock, Juan David Najera, Paris

Cowan, Jasmine Hoskins and Ryan O'Connor presented their city narrative, research, simulated model and model city to many engineers throughout the day.  Students received an award for best land-surveying practices for the development of their simulated city and physical model.

Students are now beginning to work independently on their own, self-selected Challenging Project for Creative Minds scenario.  These projects invite kids to explore beyond the core curriculum, to build lifelong learning skills, and to showcase their abilities.  


Fall 2012

Mrs. Finn's Challenge Program news will be delivered to your inbox this year.  I am sure we can all agree that with all of our committments we just do not have time to check websites for updates.  The site will still be available and does contain many student, parent, and teacher resources which will be updated for various projects.

Elementary students are busy solving logic problems and puzzles. We are also solving linear equations with a kinesthetic and visual system that helps students to think algebraically. 
Third and fourth grade visited the Adler Planetarium on a particularly windy day to see the exhibits and a spectacular show at the Grainger Sky Theater.  Students are listening to star stories of Greeks and Native Americans, viewing the stars using a star globe, and creating their own "Stories of the Stars."  
Fifth graders are exploring architecture (history and design) and testing structures (forces and strength) with hands-on building challenges.
We will visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio to learn more about our local famous American architect whose vision changed the way we look at design and its relationship to nature.  Later, we will explore more organic architects such as Bruce Goff and Antoni Gaudi before taking on our own design project.
Middle school students are using Edmodo to share and discuss resources and to learn to communicate appropriately with peers in a safe network that fosters communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
Sixth grade is exploring local history and is selecting research topics that relate to the theme: Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.  Our field trip to the Chicago History Museum included an audio tour In Our Own Words which immersed students in fascinating sounds, stories and personal accounts contained in the Crossroads exhibit. 
Once they select a topic to research they will need to learn enough about it to take a stand on the issue or event to develop a thesis statement before deciding on a presentation format.

Empower, Enable and Connect

Students in Kenya and Russia are working with our seventh graders in a global virtual classroom project to develop an "online journal."  Students will share stories and their own art/pictures/stories in developing content for the site that is reflective of the different cultures or viewpoints.  They will also use mind mapping to brainstorm ideas for the flow of subtopics.  There is also a helping focus which encourages personal, social and/or environmental responsibility in discussion of key topics and issues.  Web development tools (HTML, Flash, scripting) will be used in the development of the site from scratch.

Looking to the Future

Developing a city 150 years into the future takes some serious planning and strategy as eighth graders are discovering as they tackle the National Engineering project "Future Cities: Rethinking Runoff".  The students are currently using a rubric to develop their city simulation.  Once we have one city that survives the test of time we will begin a research paper on runoff, a fictional city scenario, and develop a scale model of a portion of our city.  We will visit a site of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to help us come up with ideas for a future solution to the runoff problem.  Maybe some of their ideas will help alleviate Forest Park flooding in the future!

CSI: Forest Home

Speaking of CSI - the Cemetery Scene Investigators are on their way!  There is a great deal of fascinating exploration within the cemetery. Eighth graders are focusing on : Potowatomee Indians, anarchists, Druids, monument weathering, Haymarket,  cultures, symbols and tokens left by visitors.  Of course, geocaching with GPS and mapping with GIS are also investigated as we explore this vast Forest Park historic preservation.

Fibonacci Flower Garden

Fifth grade is learning about math in nature by looking at patterns in nature (and architecture) and how they relate to pi and the Golden Ratio.  Students are growing plants whose petals fall into the pattern.  Ultimately, the kids are designing and planting a Fibonacci Flower garden in the planters behind the school.  We also created our own hydroponic system for growing plants (which may also be how plants could be grown on Mars).

Creative Computing!

Fourth grade is immersed in a design-based introduction to computational thinking and is creating innovative uses for their sensor inputs in the creation of their very own programs.  The challenge was to use their take their knowledge of programming and sensors and design an interactive experience in which the user does not need to rely on clicking a mouse of use a keyboard to input and control the program.  One program a student created uses a bananna connected to resistance sensors to control music notes and animation each time you poke the bananna.  Items created by students (above) include a  guitar, an interactive pet care program, a musical bananna, singing puffs and more!

Loupe Look

Third grade students are using loupes to look at the world differently and make new connections.  Looking closely allows students to think deeply about structures and ask questions to develop a new perspective and create analogies. Looking closely also opens the door to imagination.  One student brought in a bag of moss- so we looked at it with a high powered scope to really see what was going on inside the moss.  Students were amazed to see teeny worms and bugs crawling about what they saw as a micro world.  Inspired by this tiny intricate world, students expressed their ideas in a creative writing assignment.

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CTD Summer Programs

Northwestern Center for Talent development is accepting applications for their 2014 Summer Program. 

Programs are held in Evanston, Elmhurst, Skokie, Palatine, Naperville, Chicago and Lake Forest, Illinois

Summer program website

Here are 3rd and 4th grade amusement park rides:

Some more of our amusement park rides can be found on Edmodo

6th grade experiences history, mystery and magic at Chicago History Museum.

Sign up for Snowbotics

Snowbotics is a fundraising program to support the PMSA Monty Pythons Robotics team which is coming up on Saturday, November 10 and Saturday, December 8.

Snowbotics Flyer

Registration Form

Hold Harmless Form

The Fibonacci flower garden planted by fifth grade last year looked fabulous at the start of the school year!

Getting messy making the Mars surface
Curiosity for Mars

Last year, we watched as engineers assembled to robot live from NASA and we were lucky to see the launch.  We created our own rovers, base station, missions and (after looking at the Mars geomorphology) even a reall super Mars surface!  Next up - - to create a website with our research and teleoperation of the robot programs.
This summer keep you eyes open for the landing news - also known as the "7 minutes of terror."  

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