Archive 2009-10

May 9, 2010
Challenge Night is Tuesday, May 11

Looking closely at systems whether in technology, in Mayan glyphs, or even in nature we can discover the complexity of our world – the elements and processes interacting to form a whole.  When we look closely we see interrelationships and patterns that can allow us create analogies, think deeply, make connections, and solve problems.The themes of many of our exhibits involve looking closely, looking to the future, and looking at ourselves.

April 29, 2010
This week we investigated the economics, science, and history of some pretty sweet stuff.  CANDY!  3rd and 4th graders looked at the history of chocolate - the folklore, traditions, writings, and sport of Mesoamericans. We designed a cacao vessel to drink a cacao concoction  with gylphs similar to ones that the early Maya may 
have created.  Yes, chocolate does grow on trees - the Theobroma cacao  a small tree.  Theobroma means (Greek) "Food of the Gods"   The drink smelled great - but when we tasted it we found it bitter and hot (from the chillies we put in).
Grade 5 made Gummies out of seaweed!  We also took a look at various ways seaweed and other ocean products are used and how they appear in many of the products we used daily.  
Grade 6 made chewing gum from chicle.  We found a site about how early Mesoamericans  played the first organized sport.  The ball game was literally - winner takes all.  Over 3,500 years ago they had been using rubber to make bouncing balls for their sport. The losing team was sacrificed.
Making gum from chicle was sticky business.  Students created cinnamon and cherry flavored gum.

April 13, 2010
Middle school 7th and 8th grade are taking their very own Personal Style Inventories (PSI)  to out about their attitudes and about themselves. Finding our for the who we are, how we are the way we are, and why it matters to know is self-discovery.  Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?  Are you and Introvert of an Extrovert? Which superpower would fit you best?  What does that say about your personality and future career?  Do you think in Stereotypes?   What are your limits?  We also performed an exercise to boost brain power - refocused using visualization and tried it again.  Finally, we reviewed sample Rorschach tests to see what psychiatrists see and what it means.   The goal of learning and sharing our knowledge and insights with each other is to appreciate ourselves and others more.  

April 2-9, 2010
Spring Break.

April 1, 2010
3rd and 4th graders worked together to make a Sierpinski triangle fractal in 3-D much different than using the computer and just as interesting.  Stage-0 grew into stage-1, then on to stage-2... all work was combined to produce the stage-4 fractal shown: 

We also took digital cameras outside for a walk to photograph fractals in nature for a student-created slideshow.
6th grade is continuing to explore epidemics through 3-D modeling.  7th and 8th grade are trying their hand at pin hole photography, testing exposure and darkroom development time.  
Reminder - Information went home on a summer enrichment program - check that backpack!

March 17, 2010
Students explored nebula by creating creating fractals this week.  This is hard work and required accuracy and attention to detail!  3rd and 4th grade created a Sierpinski fractal and a "Jurassic Park" fractal before trying out fractal generators online.

6th Grade began creating an epidemic model using 3-D simulation software from MIT.  Students are beginning to learn the rules and assumptions of the model as they construct it. 

March 9, 2010
6th grade finished researching and  creating their presentations of various epidemics, pandemics, and outbreaks: Bubonic Plague, SARS, Anthranx, Viruses, H1N1, and Polio.
8th grade began investigations of lens properties, the human eye and  the "camera obscura"  to understand the concepts behind pinhole cameras.  We will build our cameras next week and take test shots to determine our optimal exposure time.

February 26, 2010
5th Grade lunar project is just about finished.  Field-Stevenson students are creating their own designs for space settlements.  Students will look into the futuristic design of orbiting space designs and select a design style (Stanford Torus, Bernal, O'Neill Cyllinder) to create their own vision for a space colony.

February 11, 2010
More to come with the 6th grade pinhole photography...  Cameras have been built and the photos are turning out...Finally!  It took much troubleshooting to get the correct exposure and development time.  New cameras needed to be built with same size aperture and focal length. Our first test images with the newly designed cameras worked out pretty well.  We looked at works of Ansel Adams and discussed photographic techniques.  
Fifth grade at Grant White completed their impact crater experiment, found out what is necessary for lunar survival and began small group lunar projects.  
3rd and 4th grades learned about owls and owl pellets, charted the bones they found.  Looking closely and identifying each of the bones, some students found they had ingested as many as 4 voles!  
Seventh and eighth graders are currently working on web page content and trying to think deeply to make connections with how time impacts traditions.  Some students are creating advanced vector-based animation and others are constructing with advanced web design software.

February 2, 2010

January 21, 2010
Lenses and magnification are the "focus" for sixth graders.  This week we finished up building telescopes and created a room sized pin hole camera or camera obscura. 
 After creating a pitch black room, we created various apertures to see what it is like inside the human eye.  The image projected in the room upside down and backwards  (the same  as the human eye), and was sharp with a pin hole aperture and and less defined with a large nickel sized aperture.  

January 12, 2009
After talking to students in Japan and Thailand in our internet classroom...students 
finally met and talk live to their GVC partners in Japan -- on Monday at 6:00 USA and Tuesday 9:00 Japan time.  The video conference allowed students to introduce themselves and learn a little bit more about each other.

Permission slips for 2 upcoming field trips this month have gone out today  - 3rd and 4th will investigate insects at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and 5th graders will see "Bad Astronomy" at the Cernan Space Center.
January 8, 2010
Third and 4th graders completed their poems and are now "looking closely" at nature with loupe writing and "Private Eye."  Students received a clear box for a specimen in nature such as a plant or insect to bring to class.

Fifth grade created lunar impact craters, recorded and analyzed data.  The mixture for the lunar surface was an odd combination of flour and laundry detergent with a 
dusting of cocoa powder on top (the contrast allows us to see the impact ejecta rays clearly). 

Sixth grade is continuing their exploration on optics and created a telescope.  Please bring in a round container such as an oatmeal box, snack, or a film canister.  The container must have a dark opaque lid.

Seventh and Eighth Grade students are beginning to understand their file system and page creator for a web site.  Next week is our teleconference with Japan - we hope Thailand will join us as well!

Fifth grade is 
December 17, 2009
Don't forget others this season!  Give to the Forest Park Community Center  The Community Center works hard to help local struggling families with warm outerwear, food and necessities.

December 12, 2009
3rd and 4th grade began using their loupes in a program called "Private Eye" to encourage them look closely, think deeply, and develop analogies.  Next week, we will create poems using the analogies.
Fifth grade Field students explored what they would need to take with them for survival on the moon. Students are developing content for their lunar site.  

Middle School students have selected their subtopics are beginning research in various areas for the global classroom project.  We started to post using HTML embeds for links and pictures within our messages.  Their current focus is to decide the content of their topic and how visitors will access that information. I met the students in Japan for a teleconference test run this week - we will schedule a conference early next year; however, it will have to be in the evening due to the 13 hour time difference.

December 7, 2009
7th and 8th graders have been speaking with students in Thailand and Japan through Nicenet on sections of their collaborative web project. We are scheduling a video conference for early next year.
Students are finishing up their finite state machine games and we will post them soon - stay tuned for more links.

November 19, 2009
6th 7th and 8th grade spent time at Argonne National Laboratory this week to learn about what makes things move - how sound moves, how we see color -
with hands on experiments using a spectrophotometer, and a superconductivity experiment that used liquid nitrogen and ceramic to create a magnetic levitation!  Having lunch with scientists proved to be even more interesting when Mr. Hoskins talked a nuclear physicist into speaking to the students about new research and projects he is working on.  A great day!  Absolutely fascinating stuff!
5th grade has been working hard developing their lunar timeline, landscape, and rover.  The scene is really starting to come together.  Some students have told me it looks like the real thing!

November 8, 2009
We examined various types of sorting networks. - those that function in serial and those in parallel.  Not everything can be done in parallel - yet.  Perhaps future system designers can bring some more of our traditional serial processes (Ex: cooking recipes) into parallel. 
Students created various parallel sorting networks, placed themselves in the network, and traveled in it until the network sent them out in order.

October 30, 2009
Students tried a few games - "Dotsy" and "George Boole Says" - a twist on Simon's game with Boolean operators: AND, OR, & NOT.  We moved on to explore logic gates and how they work.  Next, we used the logic gates to design a system for a given scenario.
So many students are out this week - flu season has struck!  With so many out- 6th graders jumped ahead and built crazy hats for their upcoming finite state machine.

October 21, 2009
Fifth grade is building a lunar rover and lunar surface to prepare for their study of the moon. 

Lunar project

 The students will explore historical landing sites, moon fiction and fact, and investigate why many scientists and engineers believe moon exploration is important.  

October 14, 2009
We have just received word that our middle school students will be 
collaborating on GVC with Rajini School in Bangkok, Thailand and Wako Kokusai HS in Wako, Japan. - Very exciting!
October 7, 2009
There is a great deal to learn about base-2 numbers...we are examining how flexible and efficient the two digit number system can be.  
Dot cards make our calculations a snap! We also decoded messages in binary and looked closely at word frequency.  
Morse code and binary both use letter frequency for determining the length of the code.  The Huffman coding chart helped students map out letters in binary.  All of this will make these students excellent contestants on the Wheel of Fortune!

Each pixel is a bit represented in binary -Have you ever wanted to create your own cool font?  Ask a sixth grader - they created their own personal true type bit fonts.  
Here are some to download and install on you computer:

September 2009
Challenge Theme 2009:  Point A to Point Beyond

In this theme, students will explore how things move/grow/travel by system designs that are both smart and efficient. 

Tools and hands on exploration will help students in looking closely at the world, thinking by analogy, changing scale, and theorizing. Students will discover the unique, efficient, and purposeful structure of plants and animals. Many of these discoveries have inspired inventors to create new uses based on their findings.

Smart does not always indicate that the movement is positive.  Some things like H1N1, computer viruses, etc. move within structures that enhance their transmission. 

Students in grades 3-8 will begin their exploration of this theme

with differentiated lessons in analyzing the base-2 number system. Hands-on study of topics in discrete mathematics will include: binary numbers, text compression, Huffman coding trees, image representation, error detection, searching & sorting algorithms, Boolean logic, finite state machines, minimal spanning trees, dominating set, and human interface design.


RoboSmashers - Smart Move
On Saturday,
 Dec 13, Robotics Team "RoboSmashers" took on their competed in the Taft Regional in the areas of: research, teamwork, robot design, and robot competition.  The competition was tough; however, the students displayed their gracious professionalism (a key focus of the event) in their efforts.  Nice job!

Chicago Metro History Fair

On March 21st, three of Mrs. Finn's 6th and 7th Grade Challenge students advanced to the Chicago Metro History Fair Suburban Regional Competition at  North Central College in Naperville.   
The students tackled the theme "The Individual in History" with figures in history that are not-so-well-known.  Students Jonah V., Ethan R., and Michael S. did an awesome job of bringing to life the difference that Paul Fisher, Stephen T. Mather and Carlos Cortez made in Chicago history.  The Suburban Junior Division ended with a ceremony congratulating the students for their hard work. 

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

On Thursday, February 19th, Rebecca K. and Caitlyn F., two Challenge students from Forest Park Middle School, found themselves in a very different place -- they were now taking workshops such as Security Systems in the 

Supercomputing Support Facility (ISSF), Nanoscale Materials Lab, Geographic Information Systems, and High Throughput Biology. 

This was no ordinary day at school; this was Argonne National Laboratory’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!  The girls spent the day with a mentor, toured the laboratory, participated in hands-on activities, and attended an interactive presentation about engineering careers. 
They also had lunch with some of Argonne’s leading experts and were invited to ask questions about these exciting future careers. Rebecca’s mentor was Senior Specialist Amanda Petford-Long, a Materials Specialist, and Caitlyn’s mentor was Lori Cesario-Farraj, Information System Data Specialist. 
Rebecca was fascinated by the 5th fastest computer in the world and Caitlyn was an expert in the simulation lab, but they both agreed that the “Car Wars” project that involved building, modifying, and racing a car was the best! 
Rebecca felt the experience of talking with a mentor and the hands-on experience of Argonne’s program was extremely helpful because she is interested in a career in environmental engineering. “Definitely!” was the response from Caitlyn when asked if this opportunity was helpful in solidifying her interest in engineering and technology. They both agreed that this experience was one that boosted their enthusiasm and confidence for getting into the engineering or technology field.


December 15  - Robotics Team "RoboSmashers" Captures 3rd Place in the Table Tournament at the Regional Event - Great job guys!  





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