Throwback Thursday…. Way Way Back

“Today is throwback Thursday.” one of the eighth graders told me this morning. More so than they knew. I, only half joking, told my seventh and eighth grade classes that today they would get the most important, life changing assignment I would ever give them. I then directed them to my class blog  and they proceeded to go back in time, twice; first to my past then to the 1840’s.

To any parents of PUCS middle schoolers who are reading this – Based on in class evidence many of them seem to be hooked. I sincerely apologize…and you’re welcome.

If you’d like to see the assignment click the link below.

Travel the Trail?

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The Christmas Celebrations have Begun

Today the entirety of PUCS took part in a traditional Mexican Christmas celebration involving a procession, songs, dancing, and general folderol. The middle schoolers, who have done this before, pretended to remember how everything is supposed to run and are were in charge of herding groups of smaller children from classroom to classroom and then into the gym. Mrs. Matos attempted to be five places at once so she could oversee the middle school students. Once in the gym the student body proceeded to dance, hit pinatas, sing, and eat tacos more or less simultaneously. Meanwhile the rest of the staff milled about wearing the mildly perplexed look that teachers get this time of year. I took pictures.

 

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Sometimes…

Sometimes when you ask for a creative project on the death of a famous British General during the French and Indian War you really have no idea what you’re going to get. Sometimes you get an interpretive dance routine backed by very old (late 1600’s) ballad.

I apologize for starting the video late and the bad camera work. I was trying not to laugh.

Enjoy

Rise of the Machines

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It may not look like much at this point but the photograph above is the beginning of the end for humanity  an interesting new class at PUCS. The students you see have spent several after school sessions during the past weeks constructing VEX IQ robots  in preparation for a class on robotics that will be taught by a megalomaniac Mr. Stehower. The class will begin in two weeks and is only possible because of a partnership with malicious alien androids bent on world dominion Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department. I’ve been told that the finished robots will have color recognition capabilities, sonar, gyroscopic balance sensors, and laser beams that can melt steel at 50 yards. They will also be 50 feet tall. Students will be able to control, customize, and track the progress of their robots as they preform various tasks. Despite some early computer issues the construction of the robots is proceeding on schedule so get ready to acknowledge the new robot overlords  hear all about robotics from the PUCS students you know.

Breaking All the Rules

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I meant to post this last Friday, but in the middle of the day our supply of internet ran out. However, I can pretty much guarantee its worth the wait.

In the process of learning about ancient Israel the middle school history classes had to listen to me drone on about the cultural importance of the ten commandments to western society.  I also let them know in no uncertain terms that they would be required to memorize the ten commandments. They let me know that there were words for people like me. I assume they meant words like ‘devilishly handsome‘ and ‘too clever for my own good‘.  They didn’t seem to find that funny.

In order to broker peace and surreptitiously give them a memory aid I told them to … break the ten commandments.  Allow me to hastily explain why I told sizable groups of teenagers to break what is quite possibly the oldest and most prevalent moral and ethical code in the western world. As well as a memory aid this ‘activity’ made a great intro into the effects of ancient Judaism. In addition to all of this it was really really funny to watch. Rest assured that the students who participated were extremely well behaved…or as well behaved as can be expected while violating basic principles of morality.  But don’t take my word for it watch the videos below and see if you can determine which commandment is being broken.

I apologize in advance for the sound quality. It was recorded via an ipod for no good reason at all.

Check out the accents they come up with.

Quinny-boy and Julikins?

This seems disturbingly fervent…

One question: What kind of car is that?

Here are some more for which I have no words…

Busy Day

Sometimes there is just a lot going on around here.

There are currently a bevy of parent volunteers in the building for Art Expression Day. This is the annual day during which elementary students are scattered all over the building painting, building things out of vegetables, and making granola bars.  (I can vouch for the granola bars their good – a little crumbly but good). This is all very educational…No really, it is.

All the teachers are a little punchy because of the changes to the schedule and because well, its Friday.

While that is going on upstairs the middle school had another cooking class today led by Eduardo Matos. I didn’t even have time to ask what they were making, but it smelled fishy.

The 6th graders finished up an interesting but very odorous science experiment that involved colored eggs, nearly a gallon of vinegar, some corn syrup, and spoiled milk.

The 7th graders are feverishly making plans to bury things in the back yard and I was running around like a madman trying to find a shovel this morning (For some reason there was one in boiler room) before we decided to hold off on the burial until next week.

Because of these events about four people were looking for the schools digital camera none of whom could find it because it was laying on my desk.

Meanwhile it is also pizza day. Have you ever seen a troupe of 4th and 5th grade students waiting in orderly quiet lines for pizza? … Neither has anyone else.

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Eggs with their shells dissolved and only the inner membrane holding them together will take on the color and other properties of liquids they are placed in. The closest was left in Diet Coke.

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Eggs left in corn syrup will lose water due to osmosis

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Left over granola bars. I think they’re all gone by now.

Art Expression Day

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Insightful?

I give the middle school boys a lot of flak for… just about everything. Being late, asking repetitive questions, failing to exercise common sense, failing to exercise common hygiene, moving their mouths faster than they move their brains, and jumping out of bushes at people, just to name a few. However, there are surreal moments when they have flashes of insight…or something very close to it.

 

Let me set the stage a bit. In history class we’ve been talking at length about early societies and the hallmarks of civilizations. All civilizations have certain basics in common; a system of writing, divisions of labor, surplus food etc. The kids in my class have basically been accepting of all this. Although I think I stretched their brains a bit when I claimed that everything they know as ‘civilized’ is the result of agriculture. I’m moving through this material quickly because, to be honest, studying Sumer and Egypt is much more…lively (more on that later). I do get a bit excited about agriculture but that’s just because I grew up in the middle of nowhere full of small farmers who had nothing better to do than be literal and figurative touchstone for a society that has no idea they exist. But I digress.

One of the requirements of civilization following a division of labor is a government of some sort. My classes briefly talked about what the first governments might have looked like, and I was prepared to move on when a hand went up. I almost ignored the hand, which happened to be attached to a 6th grader in the back row. Fairly often I call on one of the boys who has raised their hand for the sole purpose of asking me what type of cheese I favor as a hair treatment or something equally inane. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my tendency to ignore the questions of adolescent male minds in my class. One can only take so many questions about cheese and bodily functions (sometimes in the same question). But I digress.

I did (eventually) call on the 6th grade boy, who had kept his hand up for several minutes. This is a good tactic for teachers; If questions or comments are forgotten or dropped after being ignored for more than a few minutes they were probably not worth answering in the first place. Cheese questions are amusing but soon fade. This question had endured, however, and when given the chance to speak I realized why. “Mr. Wilson? Government is a necessary part of civilization? What does that mean about our government?” At first I didn’t quite see what he meant and started to explain that our government serves the functions of all governments. And I began to list off what those some of the functions are but realized mid-sentence that our federal government wasn’t doing those things at the moment. That was the point of his question all along. Realizing that I told him that, yes, part of our government was ‘shutdown’ but other parts definitely continued to play their role and we have local and state governments that are operating like usual.  Still the question was apt and timely and persistent. What does it say about the state of our civilization that we voluntarily undid a part (small or large) of what makes up our civilization?

I thought I’d take a line or two to inform you all that the Library of Congress website is back up and running. You probably didn’t notice, but the first two days of the shutdown saw the LOC website disabled. I use that resource a lot at times throughout the year and I’m glad to see it accessible again. Through some miracle of bureaucracy the website is back but the Library of Congress buildings are still closed. The library is the single biggest public repository of knowledge and civilization in the world. Closing it is worrisome. But I digress…