Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Have the Benefits of Technology Made Us Happier?

Civilization and its Discontents (1929) Sigmund Freud reading:

Is technology even worth it?... considering the impacts on our happiness?

Class Discussion:According to Freud, human power over nature, subjugation of the forces of nature "has NOT increased the amount of pleasurable satisfaction which they may expect fro life and has not made them feel happier."

Do you agree that technology is allowing for incredible overcrowding of our planet?

Are we messing with natural selection? Is this a scary eugenics kind of argument?
Does technology always help the sick? Are we equipped to make ethical decisions?
Have societal ethics shifted? What is unnatural?

Group Time for collaboration on Community Proposals.

1/2 class tour of Physical Plant: Steve Linke and Jon Ackerman from PPS gave us a tour of the NT roof; we viewed the solar photovoltaic panels. He explained how the HVAC system works at New Trier and toured us through the boiler room; Linke also explained how future plans for heating/cooling will happen with future renovations of the physical plant.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NT Community Footprint Proposal

Five Community Proposals will be made based on combining individual efforts with research:

1) Food/eating/drinking
2) Energy
3) Outside the building
4) Technology
5) Student Life

Students will be assessed on the following aspects of their footprint proposal, all due on Wednesday, January 13:
1. Statement of Philosophy. Why should this be done? What responsibility do we have in this area? Create a thorough, polished piece of writing, of about 250 words. Include citations and quotations from authors, thinkers, and historical figures from class material.
2. Community Footprint/Proposal/Manifesto /Blueprint for a Better World (you need to come up with the title): What should be done? What is feasible? What is necessary? What can be done immediately? What should long-range goals be? Once again, this should be formal , polished writing, but might include non-essay elements like bullet points and lists.
3. Supporting Data. Use the best work and scientific research that groups completed on Step 1 (each proposal group will have access to all IGSS data, and may of course, find new data) to support your proposal. Present your data in the most powerful fashion possible, and be sure to credit all sources.
4. Suggested Audience(s). Research who and what needs to receive your work. Develop a plan for spreading the word that might include media outlets, New Trier committees, or larger groups.

Steve Linke and Jon Ackerman from PPS gave us a tour of the NT roof; we viewed the solar photovoltaic panels. He explained how the HVAC system works at New Trier and toured us through the boiler room; Linke also explained how future plans for heating/cooling will happen with future renovations of the physical plant.

Student Research time/collaboration. Science Lab Time.

Value Statements: Defending our ideas
To what extent do you agree/disagree:

"We should always keep the future and the environment in mind in every single choice we make. Even if extreme measures are necessary, it is our obligation to care for future generations and for others who need access to resources."

"Climate change is part of life on Earth. Humans are as natural as anything else, and our effect on the environment is just part of global history."

"Limiting growth and production has too many negative consequences. It's not worth it to hurt people for polar bears."

Monday, December 14, 2009

What is our Footprint? What should we do about it?

Footprint Unit:
Friday --continuation of data collection by individual and partner groups.

Speaker: Art Gressel: Carbon Trading member of the Chicago Climate Exchange
Lecture on "What is cap-and-trade"?

Monday -- compilation of research and survey data due today.

Speakers on Monday: Dr. Dohrer, principal New Trier High School & part of facilities steering committee at New Trier
goal: radically change the physical plant at New Trier

Jerry Johnson & Christopher Hale - Perkins & Will architects Schematic Presentation of proposed renovations which will happen if referendum is passed on February 2nd.

Read New Trier Facilities Initiative to get facts and outcomes:

* High quality, state-of-the-art facilities will more effectively support our first-class academic and extracurricular programs.
* Classrooms for Science, Math, English, Social Studies and Modern/Classical Languages will be modernized and increased in number.
* Academic and teaching environments will be improved significantly with appropriate technology and modern equipment.
* Planned construction will result in more efficient, cost-effective buildings instead of investing millions of dollars in renovations and upkeep.
* Replacement of buildings from 1912, 1925, 1928, 1931 and 1950 will result in safer, more efficient buildings.
* New construction will meet standards for designation as a “green building,” with a cost-efficient and sustainable design.
* Accessibility issues will be resolved.
* Technology integration and implementation of contemporary heating, cooling, and fire suppression systems will be easier to accomplish.
* Modernized facilities will more easily respond and adapt to changes in curriculum, instruction and technology for the next century of our existence.

See also FAQs related to the new facility plans.

LEED Certified building planned:
getting rid of old steam boiler system; new high efficiency modern boiler. Energy efficiency is the goal. Looking at solar energy with photovoltaic. Green roofs proposed. Not sure about level of certification.
Green certified; also LEED Silver; LEED Gold; LEED Platinum --these options explained.
Looking at grants for school construction.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Emerson Readings - related discussions

Nature Essay:
radical in what it is proposing!
"So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, -- What is truth? and of the affections, -- What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. Then shall come to pass what my poet said; "Nature is not fixed but fluid. Spirit alters, moulds, makes it. The immobility or bruteness of nature, is the absence of spirit; to pure spirit, it is fluid, it is volatile, it is obedient. Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven."

Emerson reading synthesized:

The world you occupy is the world you make.
The more seriously you take this, the more beautiful your world becomes.

Do thoughts create our reality? Consciousness is part of the fabric of everything.

How does our spiritual path affect the water in our bodies?

How pliable is our our world? To what extent do we create/alter our own reality?

Philosophers with related ideas---

Music Video -You Do it To Yourself

Lao Tzu:
"He who knows how to live can move
Without fear of tiger or rhinoceros.
In battle no weapon will touch him.
In him the rhinoceros can find
Nowhere to drive its horn,
The tiger finds nowhere to put its claws,
Weapons find nowhere to thrust their blades.
Why is this so?
Because he has passed beyond the region of death."

Video: interview with Masaru Emoto,who has gained worldwide acclaim through his groundbreaking research and discovery that water is deeply connected to our individual and collective consciousness. Dr. Emoto explains how water's structure can reflect our consciousness and change our life.

Footprint Project work continues.
Science Lab - presentation of footprint data.

Read cap and trade articles for tomorrow's speaker: Carbon Trading.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Speaker Today!

Brooks Scott, regional manager of Patagonia gave a thoughtful presentation on the footprint of its products.

Their philosophy is: A belief in "in using business to inspire solutions to the environmental crisis".

Patagonia is committed to making quality products with processes that cause the least harm to the environment. They evaluate raw materials, invest in innovative technologies, rigorously police their waste and use a portion of our sales to support groups working to make a real difference. Those who work there share a strong commitment to protecting undomesticated lands and waters.

Read more at The Footprint Chronicles!

Day 3 of Research continues on footprint project.

topics include:

Nik and Claire ---gym towels
Katie and Anna ---transportation to school
Spencer and Ryan -meat at NT
Danielle and Jess-paper towel
Emily & Christian-salt and plowing
John and Josh ----water on sports fields
Leslie and Liza-- paper bags use in the cafeteria
Rachel and Bella- water bottles
Jesse and Jeremy- plastic water bottles
Annie and Josie-- light bulbs
Hanna and Alex -- lighting/electricity
Ali ---carbon footprint of transporting food to NT
Corey and Elle ---construction project at NT
James and Patrick-fertilizer and lawn care at NT
Dylan and Alex L.- computers and electricity
Claire H. --energy efficient or hybrid cars
Gabby --computers and electricity
Ellen --NT fields and their impact
Joe --use of textbooks at NT

Student initiated project: Completion of service project-- students bought supplies to pack hundreds of sack lunches to donate to Niles Township Food Pantry. On an assembly line students made sandwiches, added chips/pretzels and fruit chewies during the break time.

Town Hall Meeting to prioritize ideas for future fundraising.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Emerson and more.....

Session I:
Look back over the Emerson essay and your five auto-dialectic journals.

(1) Meditate on any of these questions:

What was the main message you got from Emerson? Was there a pattern in your responses to him? What was it? What sorts of things did you learn from your auto-dialectic process? Do you see the world differently now? Was there anything from our class discussions that stayed with you? What was it? Is there something that “clicked” and you’ll now remember something from either Emerson or your journal as a kind of mantra?
Write about what you learned both specifically and in general.

(2) Transmute it into some kind of art. What kind of art? Well, I’d say, “play to your strength,” but anything, really… write a poem, draw or paint a picture, make a collage, write and record a song, make a video, perform a dance…

(3) Compose an artist's statement about your work.

(4) Make sure all 5 auto-dialectic journals are complete: see BlackBoard example for expectations.

(5) Complete assignment due December 16th.

Session II: Lecture-- Global Warming
How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?

Student activity: Come up with different theories based on your understanding of climate change.
Reading from Scientific American (2005).
Fire "invented"
Farming - 8,000 - 10,000 b.c.e.
Industrial Revolution
Columbian Exchange
Shift in population growth
Private wealth
Massive scale irrigation

Lecture on History of Farming.

Move from subsistence farming to large scale farming: (due to population growth)
early techniques: slash & burn; fallow farming; paddy irrigation

What is the difference between "cultivation" and "domestication"?

Increased population = increased demand
Corporate farming
Genetic engineering
Dominance of high-yeild crops --corn & soy
21st Century backlash

Session III: Research Projects
- see Library resources

Green Cup Challenge

Green Cup Challenge
January 26 to February 22, 2010

"Created by schools for schools, this first and only student-driven, inter-school energy challenge invites all schools – public and private, boarding and day - to measure and reduce campus electricity use and related GHG emissions, while supporting campus greening efforts including recycling and water conservation.

The GCC empowers students, raises awareness about climate change and conservation, and builds community. It educates the community about the importance of resource conservation, and encourages the participation of the entire campus. In 2009, 120 schools in 24 states reduced their aggregated carbon emissions by 2.5 million pounds, the equivalent of taking 220 cars off the road for one whole year."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Check this out!

The EnviroLink Network rates Chicago as #3 in a list of America's most toxic cities.

What is puzzling is how our air quality remains high relative to the number of facilities releasing toxic chemicals and the number of pounds of toxic chemicals released.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Does Mr. Markham exist?

Students give arguments for the existence of Markham, based on their reading of Plato.

Does this chair exist?

Does Plato think that things you can see, feel, or touch are not a genuine article, but merely a shadow of the real thing?

Is the outward circumstance a dream?
We think we understand the real world, but because we are trapped in our bodies we can see only the shadows on the wall. According to Plato, we should not be a slave to our senses.

Shaw: "Better keep yourself clean and bright: you are the window through which you must see the world".

What is the self? Is the self "consciousness"?

IGSS Science:
Lab - Analyzing Greenhouse Gases and Global Temperature Data Over Time
Students will determine whether amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been increasing by graphing temperatures over time and looking a projected trends that the group has established.

Part I: Analyzing the student graphs produced. Students compare their graph to Annual Mean Temperature Graph: 1866-1996

Part II: Historical Data of Carbon Dioxide
Are all temperature changes related to human activity?
Does C02 lag temperature or do temperature changes lag C02? What does this imply?
Besides humans, what are other factors that could related to carbon dioxide emissions?
How can ice cores, sea floor sediments and tree rings tell us about the past?

Part III:
C02 --Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Assuming the current rate of increase continues for the level of C02, predict the levels of atmospheric C02 in the year 2025? 2050?

Part IV: How has the C02 concentration changed over long time scales? What were the pre-industrial concentrations? How has the CH4 concentration changed over long time scales? What were the pre-industrial concentrations. Looking at graphs, determine how the N20 concentrations have changed over long time scales? What were the pre-industrial concentrations?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Today in IGSS

Continuation of Panel Discussions on Chicago topics.

Discussion of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". The allegory of the cave is written as a fictional dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon which explains his beliefs:
--the world revealed by our senses is not the real world but only a poor copy of it
--the real world can only be apprehended intellectually
--knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student
--education consists in directing student's minds toward what is real and important and allowing them to apprehend it for themselves
--the universe ultimately is good
--enlightened individuals have an obligation to the rest of society

Brainstorming topics to investigate for Human Footprint unit.

Paper use
Plastic use
Watering athletic fields
Water resevoirs in NT Township
Styrofoam use
Light bulbs
Electric Hand Dryers
Wasted food
Thrift stores - clothing
Team uniforms
Aluminum cans
NT T-shirt phenomena
Team travel
Club travel
Administrator's travel
Catered food for NT lunches
Cell phones
Driving to school

Monday: be prepared for "When did Humans First Alter Global Climate"?

New Unit:

What is our Footprint? What Should we Do About it?

As an individual or in a pair, choose one aspect of our local community’s footprint which you believe is problematic or in need of serious study. Once you have chosen your area of interest:
a. collect accurate data on the subject; come up with accurate quantitative (and perhaps qualitative) data; use a combination of class time and homework time to get this data; call people, visit places, ambush people in their offices; keep track of your data!!!
b. research carbon footprint calculators and formulas which are relevant to your topic; organize your data, and use your understanding of natural cycles to apply the correct calculations to your data; your teachers will show you a couple of models during class, such as the footprint of paper at NT and the footprint of a hamburger
c. analyze your data and present it in the most clear fashion; you will probably want to show several ways in which you have examined the footprint of this item; you may want to give comparative data to help your audience really understand the impact; in the final and most important step of any data analysis, apply your knowledge and beliefs and make concrete suggestions as to what our local community should do

In-class brainstorm: Weds., Dec. 2
Choose area of study: Fri., Dec. 4 at the latest
Class time (to supplement your own time spent): Dec. 7-9
Turn in final product, begin step 2: Dec. 11

Monday, November 30, 2009

Emerson Readings --Journals

Small Group Discussions:

Each student shared thoughts from their journal by sharing important concepts such as:

Quotes - "Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths".

Thoughts - Nature in itself is a "truth".

Revelations - A wise man will look at the parts, not just the sum of the parts. There is a universal soul in everything. When you understand something, it becomes beautiful.

Questions - Is nature an ethical discipline? Is all art beautiful?

Larger Group Discussion:
Address questions:
Do readings seem contradictory. p 13 - The wise man is one who can see gray areas. p. 15 "Each creature is only a modification of EACH other."

Is Emerson seeing unity? How does he articulate the world? Oftentimes, people don't have words to describe their thoughts. When you head into territory outside your articulate world.... trying to put thoughts into words will always fail.Words will let you down when it comes to very abstract thoughts. Because of the nature of words, you will sound like you are contradicting yourself. Putting things into action works better...
p. 16 The wise man in doing one thing is doing all...

The language we use needs to be grounded in spiritual reality. As soon as language gets intellectualized and too many steps away from nature, then it becomes corrupt.
(then WE become corrupt.

Movie Clip - from Waking Life

Handout--Speed Levitch "We are the Authors" (ghost reading)...continual reading by several readers
"The world is an exam to see if we can rise into direct experience. Our eyesight is here as a test to see if we can see beyond it. Matter is here as a test for our curiosity. Doubt is here as an exam for our vitality."

"On really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Environmental Readings

"A Good Oak" - Aldo Leopold
Explain how Leopold connects the life of a tree with his depiction of U.S. History.
According to Leopold, what should our relationship to the land be?

How does this connect to Thoreau's Walden?
Will nature outlast humans?

"A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf" - John Muir
Summarize Muir's view of creation and the implications this has for us as humans.

What suggestions might Muir have for 21st Century Americans?

"Prosperity" - Gifford Pinchot

What is Pinchot's vision of our nation's relation to the land? Why is he arguing for national parks and forest preserves?

"The More Factor" - Laurence Shames

What is the More Factor? What national relationship with the land is Shames proposing?

String Game: connecting species with the web of life

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Emerson Teaches Us

"Of course you will insist on modesty in the children, and respect to their teachers, but if the boy stops you in your speech, cries out that you are wrong and sets you right, hug him!"

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) : American transcendentalist philosopher, essayist & lecturer
Source: Lectures and Biographical Sketches[1883], "Education"

No Impact Man

Highland Park picks the book NO IMPACT MAN, by Colin Beaven, as their community read. NO IMPACT MAN chronicles "The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet - and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process".

Beavan and his family take on life in the Big Apple au natural for a whole year. That means 12 months of fresh foods (minus refrigerator), hand-washed clothes (minus dryer), and no cars, buses, airplanes, OR electricity! We’re talking good old fashioned bicycles for transport and reading books by candlelight.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Emerson Readings Discussion

Discussion on Beauty - Truth - Virtue - Nature

Your eye is trained to see things from different perspectives. Emerson sees beauty in everyday things. How is beauty related to Virtue? You can't find beauty by trying to "clutch it". Have to make your mind sensitive to nature.

Does Emerson contradict himself? In Self-Reliance he says, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

The Most Beautiful Thing Ever Filmed: Clip from American Beauty--The brilliant flying bag scene from the movie American Beauty.

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."

How does detachment figure in to all this? How can one find beauty in death? If you are more attuned to beauty, are you more virtuous?

Is death as beautiful as life? We're all complicit in the circle of life - death. We are all alive by having consumed living things.

For Monday 11/23: Read Emerson Chapter 4, Auto dialectic journal #3

Lecture: US Environmental History
Next week: Modern Ecological Movement

Town Hall meeting/Committee work.
Applications to IGSS program for next year will be on our website Monday 11/23. Application is open until January 20, 2010.
Meeting this morning with prospective IGSS students went well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today in IGSS - C02 Sequestered in a Tree

Students participated in a science lesson which focused on the CO2 sequestered in a tree.

They learned that trees will sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide at an average of 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per tree per year. The rate of carbon sequestration depends on the growth characteristics of the tree species, the condiition for growth where the tree is planted and the density of the tree's wood. I learned that is greatest in the younger stages of tree growth between 20- 50 years.

Students learned how to roughly estimate the amount of CO2 sequestered in a given tree. When they divide by the tree's age they can calculate a yearly sequestration rate.

Students spent about 15 minutes outside finding trees to measure using a string and ruler to measure the circumference of a tree at chest height, and paced off a convenient distance from the tree ( ~50feet) to calculate the height of the tree using this height calculation:
Height = tangent of angle of elevation x base distance

Using formulas and calculators inside the classroom, students determined the total weight of the tree, the dry weight of the tree and the weight of carbon in the tree.
Then they were able to figure out the lbs. of carbon dioxide sequestered in the tree.

Concluding activity: Compare the C02 produced by a family to the C02 sequestered in a tree.

Students calculated that 100 trees were being used per month just for New Trier students C02 footprint on their commute to school!

Using a carbon calculator it is calculated that an averge of C02 emitted each year per person is 7.5 tons. See carbon calculator.

To explore this topic further see the work of the Center for Urban Forest Research Tree Carbon Calculator. Their program allows users to realize that trees don't just look nice; people now have an incentive to plant trees or maintain those already standing.

Readings this Week:
Emerson: Chapter 2 and 1st 1/2 of Chapter 3 - due Monday

US and Environment Part II readings due Tuesday; read pp. 6-18 (a good oak) in Leopold's Sand County Almanac. A Sand County Almanac is a combination of natural history, scene painting with words, and philosophy.

Leopold defines his land ethic: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability,
and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

Emerson: Finish Chapter 3 and Auto-dialectic journal #2. due Wednesday;
US and Environment Reading Packet III assigned

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday @ IGSS

Our first science pre-lab readings for the new unit:

GLOBE - A Introduction to the Carbon Cycle (UNH); Goldilocks and The Three Planets (Level 4; Life of a Carbon Atom PreLab-Reading

Science Lab Carbon Cycle activities in the context of Climate Change.

Social Studies readings: break into small groups
1) Look at source; content; bias
2) Find out about relationship to environment
3) Figure out historical context

Christopher Columbus' journal
Amerigo Vespucci's journal
John Smith's description of Virginia
Etching 1764
William Oglethorpe's founding of Georgia
William Bradford & Thomas Morton - sources on Puritan America

Monday, November 9, 2009

Film: The 11th Hour

Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity ... We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet.
—Leonardo DiCaprio.

We watched The 11th Hour and have learned that it's 11:59. We do not have 30-40 years to stop the clock of destruction.

The film's premise is that the future of humanity is in jeopardy. With contributionsfrom over 50 politicians, scientists, and environmental activists, (such as physicist Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and journalist Paul Hawken) the film documents the grave problems facing the planet's life systems. Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans' habitats have combined to possibly destroy this unique planet.

The film proposes potential solutions to these problems by calling for restorative action by the reshaping and rethinking of global human activity through technology, social responsibility and conservation.

It's not just global warming and fossil fuel depletion, the population explosion: the deterioration of our planet reflects our inner selves. The earth has all the time in the world to heal itself; our human/animal population does not have the luxury of time.

View the trailer
for this important film write down some questions that the film raises for you.

Small groups: Share unanswered questions; attempt to answer each others' questions.

Whole class synthesis: What are some significant thing we have learned from the video? What questions remain? How can these guide our study?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Green Chicago?

Discussion of three assigned readings/articles:

1) The Greening of Chicago
--Daley as a green mayor

2) A Green City Skeptic
-Questions Chicago's ability to become green; not as green as it seems

3) America's 50 Greenest Cities
-- Chicago ranked 9th of 11 top green American cities

Students develop their own questions based upon teacher questions:

**Write tough questions for the mayor of Chicago.

1) Why isn't Chicago doing more recycling?
2) What can be done about Chicago transportation infrastructure?
3) What can be done to provide more bike lanes?
4) Why aren't there more opportunities for recreation at the Chicago River? The NT rowing team members have staph infections from the river.
5) What can be done about light pollution?
6) How can Chicago promote LED lightbulbs?
7) How efficient is our electricity use
8) How is going green helpful to the poor?
9) How can we say Chicago is "green" when the Chicago River is in such bad shape?
10)What is your plan to bring in grassroots ideas to the political machine in Chicago?
11) How can we implement green architecture and green urban planning so that Chicago builders have incentives to become more green?
12) Is it possible to get energy from the Chicago River?
13) How do you spend on some green initiatives that are so many other demands, such as education?
14) How can Chicago reduce rush hour traffic and increase car pools?

Teacher questions:

Is a zero emissions bus a possibility? Each bus costs $2 million
What has Chicago done to take natural gas emissions byproducts(which releases C02 and water)to help make more energy? They are using the water to make steam = more energy.
Do solar panels work without a lot of sun?
How can homes be heated with waste?
How do underwater turbine engines produce energy? The Hudson River uses this technology now. It works like a wind turbine.

IGSS Student Collecting Coats for Refugees

Corey is a tutor for recent refugees who live in Chicago. She said that simple survival and putting food on the table is quite a struggle. Corey noticed that the students don't own winter coats and are wearing no jackets in 40 degree weather.

She'd like all to spread the word asking for donations of gently used children's coats/jackets (or small adult coats) to give where she volunteers at Refugee Relief, an after school program in Chicago.
Coats may be dropped off at the IGSS office between rooms 121 and 123.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chicago Poetry Reading/Analysis & Discussion

November 4, 2009 IGSS Blog post:

Reading/Discussion of Carl Sandburg's 1916 poem "Nigger" from Chicago Poems.

Is this a racist poem? What does this say about black identity? Does Sandburg consider them to have an American identity?

Discussion/analysis of a more contemporary poem - Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "Riot" in 1968. Written after the assassination of Martin Luther King and during the race riots.

Is this a negative portrayal of blacks. What does it say about black identity, race identity and race politics?

Chicago History lesson: Chicago History: DBQ (Document-Based Question)
1. show off and assess knowledge of Chicago History
2. practice incorporating historical sources (both secondary and primary) into an argument
3. formulate strong thesis statements
4. strategize and outline ideas in preparation for critical writing and speaking
Essay Prompts (each group will choose two of these):
A. In what ways did Chicago, at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, perfectly represent the United States?
B. How might the city of Chicago claim to be the stage on which the most important change(s) in United States History were played out?
C. Has the story of Chicago and its natural environment been predominantly one of human dominance or human adaptation?

Due at the end of today, Wed November 4th:

Chicago Research Paper rough draft
Task assigned for DBQ:
I. View the powerpoint of historical sources (culled from student work in this unit)
II. Choose two of the three prompts above. For each one;
a. Write a strong thesis in response. Use our shared readings, classroom discussions, and experiences to make the thesis arguable and focused.
b. Write an outline of what your essay response would be. This shouldn’t be a sentence outline, but must indicate what evidence you will use and how you will use the evidence. You should use at least one source from the PPT, and may supplement with whatever primary or secondary sources you like from this unit.
c. Prepare to display your outlines and key sources to the class from your computer. Send the outline (or give a hard copy of it) to Mr. Vargas at the end of class Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicago Through Three Lenses

Boy, have we been busy on Chicago!
Monday students came for an hour to do more research on their Chicago topics. Students were given time to put together presentations from Friday's field trip exploring the Geology of Michigan Ave. and "looking for the soul" of Chicago via architecture.

Tuesday we heard presentations from students on Chicago architecture and continued to work on research. In class research today for a primary source on a historical Chicago event to prepare with a partner some materials to teach others what this event reveals about Chicago and how it impacts the U.S. as a whole.

After presentations, students broke into Junior and Senior sections.

Juniors: History lesson
Short history lesson - timeline of events post-fire 1871 to present.

Seniors: English lesson- writing techniques --how to integrate quotes into your paper

Groups switched teachers after about 1 hour, so they had benefit of history and English instruction today.

Chicago Through 3 Lenses:

Student presentations on:

Today, Lens #1 Chicago, City of Really Great Parties

1893 Columbian Exposition

1934 World's Fair - Century of Progress

1968 Democratic Nation Convention

Lens #2 - Change Starts Here

1877 Great Railroad Strike
1984 Pullman Strike
1966 Chicago Freedom Movement

Next Monday: Lens# 3

Haymarket Riot 1886
Race Riots of 1919
1929 St. Valenine's Day Massacre
1969 Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Geology of Michigan Avenue - Friday Field Trip

The mixed architecture of downtown Chicago includes a variety of building stones. These provide conveniently located and accessible "urban outcrops" The rocks used in Chicago architecture come from all over the world and represent a wide variety of rock types. Each group of students will observe buildings on Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago and observe limestone, dolomite, basalt granite gabbro, brano-diorite, marble travertine and serpentine.

Part I. Buildings of significance for study of geology:
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington
Crowne Fountain, Millenium Park
Aon Building, 200 E. Randolph
Carbide and Carbon building, 230 N. Michigan Ave
343 N. Michigan Ave
Wrigley Building, 410 N. Michigan Ave
Tribune Building, 435 N. Michigan Ave
Woman's Athletic Club 626 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station
John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan

In the rain on Friday, students worked in small groups on a walking tour of these buildings and are responsible for studying one buildin in-depth and reporting back to the class using a photo journal/powerpoint presentation.

Part II. Architectural and Photo Reflection Tour

What architectural features and styles seem to dominate the downtown area? What does Chicago's downtown reveal about our relationship with nature? What attitudes about wealth, consumption and progress are revealed through downtown Chicago's architecture and layout? What is distinctly Chicago about Chicago?

Using your background in local geology, Chicago history, architecture and Chicago poetry and literature make some connections as you explore:

The Rookery
Board of Trade Building
Reliance Building
The Monadnock Block
Marina City
Inland Steel Building
The Marquette

What a marvelous experience; I loved my role as a chaperone!

Friday 350 Event Hosted by Environmental Club

Co-head of environmental club is an IGSS student, Jesse hosted a 350 event after school on Friday with live music and students urging folks to call their representatives and senators to support Green legislation. This event kicks off a world-wide Saturday demonstrations Saturday to call for urgent action on climate change.

Saturday events were being coordinated by a group called, whose name refers to the parts per million of carbon dioxide it considers the safe upper limit for our atmosphere. More than 5,400 rallies and demonstrations were scheduled to take place around the world, all of them centered on the number 350.

CNN reports:
"The number of 350 ppm originally came from a NASA research team headed by American climate scientist James Hansen, which surveyed both real-time climate observations and emerging paleo-climatic data in January 2008, according to

It concluded that atmosphere containing carbon dioxide above 350 ppm couldn't support life on earth as we know it".

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Our Neighborhood" Literature Circles Today

It is every group member's responsibility to be current with all group determined reading assignments and uphold their group responsibility. Here are the descriptions of roles within the Literature circle:

Group Leader: summarizes work keeps everyone on schedule and organizes all sheets

Passage Selector
: find 3 key passages for each assignment; complement what group leader has done --complete passage selector sheet

Word Specialist: look for interesting and important words and word usage in your book.--complete word specialist sheet

Chicago Historian: research on a significant location mentioned in each reading assignment; provide images and historical information; keep your eyes open for interesting references in the book

Discussion Leader: lead a discussion on each section of the book and prepare aseries of factual and inferential questions.

Meeting Dates: 10/22; 10/29; 11/5; and 11/12.

Science Lab: Room 102 --Prepare for Geology of Michigan Avenue Trip - Rock Cycle

Field Trip tomorrow to Chicago!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Continuing Library Research today on Chicago Unit

Science - Las Vegas Rock Cycle game

Students will be going to 11 stations to learn about individual parts of the Rock cycle and to determine length of time in each cycle:

Compaction and Cementation
High Temperature and Pressing
Sediments Igneous Rocks
To the Surface
Metamorphic Rock
Sedimentary Rock
Cooling and Hardening
Weathering and Erosion

Library Research continues
Working Bibliographies and thesis statements are due today.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Geology of Chicago & Chicago Research

Science Lesson:

***Glacial Geology of Chicago

***Quaternary Geology of Illinois
"The landscape of Illinois is the product of its most recent past, the Quaternary Period, roughly the last 2 to 2.5 million years. This period of geologic time, in which we live today, has been characterized by alternating glacial and interglacial episodes reflecting Earth's climate flip-flops between cooler and warmer intervals. During the Quaternary Period, over 90% of Illinois was glaciated, and the remaining 10% of the state was affected by glacier meltwater, dust storms, and a climate more frigid than that of today."

15,000 - 20,000 years ago was the last time a glacier moved through Illinois.

See: Why we study glacial and quaternary geology.

Review: What is a moraine? Unconsolidated material which glaciers pick up (debris) --it's a mile thick---. During warming trend, glacier starts to melt and no longer has the power and strength to move the material. Moraines are these deposits of glacial material that has been dumped.

Assignment: Turn in Geology/Natural History of Illinois Summaries by Monday

First Quarter assessments delivered for Science
1) Infectious Disease Lab - group activity
2) TB Essay and handwashing/bacterial growth lab.
3) Visible Light Lab
4) Cosmic Object/Electromagnet Spectrum Visual Presentation

Write a brief reflective statement about yourself and your IGSS experience. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a student? Your accomplishments thus far? your challenges. Individual conferences are next week Wednesday Oct 21.

Seniors & Juniors work on framing a thesis for Chicago research projects.
"How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One" -- Indiana Univ.
Practice working in groups to develop thesis statements.

Monday Oct 19th - more library work; thesis statements due & preliminary bibliographies due on Tuesday. Neighborhood maps due next Tuesday as well!

Brief Reading Quiz - early Chicago history; explanation of scoring.

Town Hall meeting today!
Committee work today:
Mix CD --sharing via Facebook
IGSS movie day - Ferris Bueller's Day Off next Wed. during conferences
IGSS service project--
Advisery/PR visits --junior/senior pairs will sign up.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Northshore Geology Field Trip presentations

Each of 3 student groups visited 2 locations on the Northshore and presented their findings. I was unable to attend the trip, so I thoroughly enjoyed the video presentations:

Students shared findings with other groups to complete packets of questions/information.

Winnetka Grand Canyon - using a topographic map, create a vertical profile of one of the ravines. See "R" is for Ravines for more information.

Tower Beach - visually document the topography

Glencoe Beach - How are bluffs formed? What is a moraine and how are they formed?

Southern Winnetka
- Using the topographic map calculate the approximate gradient of the Highland Park moraine in southern Winnetka.
Gradient = slope = rise/run

Skokie Lagoons Collect/document something representative of this region and visually document your experience. What is a lagoon? What environmental crises occurred in the 1970s at the lagoons and how was it addressed? Where and in which direction does the water flow?

Wilmette Sand spit
The spit was created thousands of years ago when Lake Chicago was at a high water mark (60 ft. higher than Lake Michigan today). Longshore currents swept around the tip of the Highland Park moraine and deposited sediment beyond it, called a sandspit. Visually document the sandspit and the dune field on the grounds of Westmoreland Country Club.

Walking the Beach - Gilson Park
: identify and document a sand dune; collect a sample of granite rocks (contains pink), basalt rocks (all black) and a white rock (dolomite). What are Petoskey stones and how did they form?

Continue with Paradigm Shift presentations.

Library research:
Chicago as an archetypal American city and "culture factory"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Library Research Today!

For the "My Neighborhood" Unit: Juniors will be exploring Chicago as the "most American of American cities, research the city historically, politically, economically and demographically.

see: Chicago - Quintessential American City for unit resources.

Seniors will be looking at how Chicago influenced American arts, architecture, music, dance, sports...researching all cultural aspects.
see: Chicago as a Cultural Factory

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chicago Lit Circles will be formed

Chicago book choices include:

Dybek, Stuart. The Coast of Chicago: Stories
Ferber, Edna So Big
Kotlowitz, Alex. Never a City So Real
Langer, Adam. Crossing California
Lombardo, Billy. The Logic of the Rose: Chicago Stories
Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's Wife
Paretsky, Sara. Hardball

Illinois Geology - Glacial Geology of Chicago and vicinity
Interpret geologic maps and develop a geologic history of Illinois:

Geologists are said to be "story tellers". Using the maps and info provided, tell the story of Illinois as would be written by a geologist. Use as much information and detail from the maps that have been provided. Please cite at least three of the readings/resources.

Writing tips: Common wrong turns
on essays for Sirens of Titan: Reflections on in-class essays
You slipped into a summary of the book for either part or for the entire essay. Here, you lost contact with the prompt. Why?

You need to directly respond to the prompt, "someone up there likes me"...

You made a point about the very end of the book without mentioning that the very end is a delusion. Why?

The prompt asked you to reflect on the overall message of the book. You didn't why?

You tended to figure out what you wanted to say as you went. Did you choose to write without making some sort of outline. Why?

Did you make another sort of mistake? Why did you make this mistake?

Poetry Slam

Class poets on light and life and nature: vote for the poem you like best.

From the Google Power Meter Blog

"Google PowerMeter is not yet available to the public since we're testing it out with Googlers first. But we're building partnerships with utilities and independent device manufacturers to gradually roll this out in pilot programs. Once we've had a chance to kick the tires, we'll make the tool more widely available."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Google Power Meter

Googlers talk about our prototype product that will allow you to see detailed home energy information right on your computer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Today in IGSS

Recap Orienteering Field Trip with video/pics/stories:
Highlights from Northshore orienteering:
Wilmette Historcial Society --learning about Skokie Lagoons, a CCC project during the Great Depression; Martin Luther King Memorial in Winnetka, oldest Jeweler in Wilmette; Kenilworth Water tower; Frank Lloyd Wright inspired houses; Kerrigan Plumbing in Wilmette; Roemer Park built from donated farm land in 1953; Crow Island woods; 1837 Schmidt-Burnham log house, Centennial Park in Winnetka, Indian Hill Golf Club; Wagner Farm in Glenview - interview with Todd, 8th generation farmer from Iowa; interview with Mr. Mort Balaban house builder on the northshore; Winnetka Ravines; Glencoe Beach; Wilmette Historical Society; Tower Rd. Beach Water Filtration Plant; Plaza del Lago.

Continuing Paradigm Shift presentations:

Space Travel - a clash of science and religion
Is Obama's policy on cutting funding to NASA so that he can focus on domestic issues a prudent policy?

Darwin - clash of science and religion
Natural selection skit: Does Darwin believe in God? How has Darwin changed science forever?

Science Lab: North Shore Geology: Introduction

Early Chicago History Readings ---due next Tuesday the 13th.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Geocaching and Orienteering Mon Oct 5th

Suburban Orienteering on Monday periods 5-9.Those of you biking, don't forget your bike & helmet on Monday. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online.Very exciting to launch "My Neighborhood" unit.
Complete Journal Entry #3 (summarize your findings) on Monday.

Tracy Kidder author event: Wed. Oct 7th - next week 7:30 pm $10 donation to Partners in Health
Winnetka Congregational Church
630 Lincoln Ave
Winnetka, IL 60093

His new book is:Strength in What Remains is about Deo, a young
medical student who fled the genocidal civil war in Burundi in 1994 for the
uncertainty of New York City. Against absurd odds--he arrived with little money
and less English and slept in Central Park while delivering groceries for
starvation wages--his own ambition and a few kind New Yorkers led him to
Columbia University and, beyond that, to medical school and American
citizenship. Writing with the same modest but dogged empathy that made his
recent Mountains Beyond Mountains (about Deo's colleague and mentor, Dr. Paul Farmer) amodern classic, Tracy Kidder follows Deo back to Burundi, where he recalls the horrors of his narrow escape from the war and begins to build a medical clinic where none had been before.

I can arrange to get tickets and meet you there. If someone absolutely needs a ride let me know.
J. Gressel

Paradigm Shift Presentations Today:
Monotheism - How has monotheism shaped our country?
How has photography changed our world? Our perceptions have shifted. Does photography dilute storytelling or enhance it?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Paradigm Shifts That Rocked our World: Presentations

First Presentation - Freudian Psychoanalysis - explanation of Id, Ego, and Superego; lesson with newscast demonstrating pre and post Freudian thinking.

Second Presentation - Nationalism
War games - make flag, gang sign/symbol, song/chant, reasons for attacking, choosing a country to attack
Film - The Wave - extremism
Film - examples of historical nationalism

Third Presentation: Genetics
simulation, video - Gattica clip & discussion.
1) How does genetics chang your perception of what we are?
2) Does genetic engineering limit human potential or expand it?
3) How did the discovery of genetics change your view of a human's place in the universe?
4) Would you be comfortable living in a world with human genetic engineering?

Discussion: The Five Eyes essay by C.T. Shen
How would the Bodhisattva answer the questions Who am I? Where am I? and What am I for?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ultraviolet Lab Today & Constitution Test

Seniors went outside today (enjoying the sun) to use UVB sensors to measure UVB light. The objective was to determine the percent UVB light that is blocked by various kinds of sunglasses and regular eyeglasses. There was no difference in "cheap" sunglasses vs. "expensive" sunglasses in their ability to block UV radiation.

While seniors did the science experiments Juniors worked on a U.S. Constitution exam.

First Paradigm Shift Presentation - Ecology
Sustainability Lesson - shift happened with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. handout:
excerpts from Silent Spring (1962).

Paradigm Shift Presentation - Personal Computer - Exploring the world prior to and after personal computers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Orienteering Excursion Next Week Oct 5

Survey: Do you have a bike/helmet for next Monday's excursion?

: The Five Eyes by C.T.Shen - annotate this essay by Thursday. Click here for online version.
Buddha said that "with the physical eye and the heavenly eye one sees the incomplete, changeable and unreal world as complete, permanent and real. One becomes attached to it and that is why man suffers." With the wisdom eye one sees that everything in the universe is impermanent and unreal --the other extreme. What is ideal is to see the world with a Dharma eye which automatically generates "an unconditional, non-discriminative, universal love and compassion. The dharma eye sees the infinite aspect of the truth (like space astronomers) and sees no attachment to self, to objects, to actions, or to time.

Due tomorrow: Major writing assignment Who am I? Where am I? What am I for?

Cosmic Objects assessment: student activity "By the Light of a Star"
Cosmic Objects presentation - Questions:
How do scientists determine the features of the cosmic object and why is it important to study it?

Work on Paradigm Shifts project today in collaborative groups. Presentations start tomorrow for seniors on Paradigm Shifts. Juniors have U.S. Constitution test.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? begins Sunday, Sept. 20

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? begins Sunday, Sept. 20

Is torture ever justified? Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? How much is one human life worth? What do you think, and why?

For the first time, Harvard University and PBS have collaborated to provide one of the most popular classes in its history: Michael Sandel's "Justice" course. Hear discussion with Sandel's students as he challenges their moral reasoning through lively, engaging, and intimate debates.

Episode information is linked at Boston's WGBH public television station.
Watch the YouTube preview and view basic and advanced discussion guides which are linked at Harvard's Justice site.

Links to all 12 Episodes (each a 2 part, 30 min. lecture)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Paradigm Shifts That Rocked our World

Paradigm Shift Topic Presentations:
Discussion of Sample Lesson Plans - Students are teaching a lesson & need to create interaction. Preliminary lesson plans are due today.

Collaboration Time for Groups/Research Day

Due Dates:
Wednesday September 30 - Seniors only
Ecology - Joe & Ellen
Computers - Patrick & Ryan
Freud - Josie, Corey, Drew

Friday, October 2
11:45- 1:15
Darwin - Christian, James Leslie, Gabby
Heredity - Josh Alex L. Annie
Photography - Jessica John
The Pill - Elle , Alex
Nationalism - Jesse, Nik, Bella

1:15 - 2:40
Freud - Katie K. Claire x2, Emily
Space Travel - Dylan, Ali
Sept 11 - Liza, Anna, Jeremy
The Pill - Rene, Hanna
Monotheiism - Rachel, Spencer, Danielle

Friday Town Hall Meeting:
Showing of IGSS film made by Mr. Vargas which was shown to parents at IGSS Open House.
To Do's Today --Continue planning
Brainstorming sessions for 10 minutes
Report out to larger group

IGSS folder of film images on N: drive Classes folder

Dylan's Poster

Service Projects - narrow and choose one

Pen Pals


Food Committee

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three Questions: Writing Assignment

Discussion of writing expectations and essay criteria:

This essay is largely a formal paper but also a creative paper answering Where am I?,What am I?, and What am I for?

Short Essays returned:
Paragraph response for Vonnegut's Siren's of Titan: Why was the Space Wanderer was exiled? This is one of four writing samples for 1st Quarter assessment.

Discussion of writing prompt:
Discuss why you think Vonnegut begins with this thought: "I guess somebody up there likes me" --Malachi Constant

Explore the role that this epigram plays in the overall plot and message of this book.

Science Lab: Visible Light Spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum - ultraviolet light and filters - Next Tuesday
X-Rays, UV Rays, MRI
Using red and green gels, predict what the spectrum will look like when you place a gel in the beam of the projector.
Predictions; Observations; Conclusions - Explain your reasoning & results.

Click here to visualize the Doppler effect.
Exploring The Doppler Effect
= astronomers explore the universe with spectroscopy to determine the speed at which celestial objects are moving towards or away from us.
A student suggested this valuable website for understanding the Visible Light Spectrum.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paradigm Shift Research began on Tuesday

Students spent about half the IGSS time in the library yesterday researching their paradigm shifts for presentations on Sept 30. Other half of IGSS was devoted to a Science lab review session for the Universe/Origins unit.

Juniors: Constitution Test Review session today. Each student became expert on an an amendment or topic or Constitutional concept to share out with the class.

Seniors: writing in-class essay

Review of expectations for Paradigm Shift project.
The project must be related to SOME of the essential questions for the Origins Unit:
What is the basic nature of the universe?
Does the universe have a purpose?
Was the universe created for a reason? Is it merely a giant accident?
What is consciousness? Is procreation really what it's all about? Am I here to help others or just myself and my people? Can I tell the difference between good and evil enough to act?

Seniors: Metaphysics and Argumentation

Reality is often science-based but metaphysics goes beyond disciplines to ask "what is real?"
Is reality made up of matter (objective world) or is the world what we see (my perceptions)?
Handouts: Hobbes and the Materialists
Reality Consists of Ideas - George Berkeley

Using Metaphysics and Argumentation to Decide about God
1. Anselm's Ontological Argument
2. Aquinas' Cosmological Argument
3. Paley's Teleological Argument (The Argument from Design)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Digging Deeper into Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan

In class short essay on predicting how does the pageant fit into Rumfoord's overall goal in Sirens of Titan?.
[Pageant is the ending point to human history--banished inequality]
Discussion of short essay in class:
1) Rumfoord's deterministic view
2) Plan to banish what Beatrice (excess of reluctance; purity) and Malachi Constant(selfishness)represent
3) Malachi has unfair advantages; does nothing with what these advantages
His life parallel Jonah's story - he runs away from his destiny; cannot escape his fate --gets swallowed by a spaceship (The Whale)
4) Rumfoord sends away from Earth Beatrice and the Space Wanderer--gross self-indulgence
5) other parts of the plan:
How will humanity become united? Will feel unified by slaughtering Martians and promote a sense of collective guilt.
Development of a new Church of God of the Utterly Indifferent. see pp.218 - description of an apathetic creator; purpose is to do good without doing harm (like Boaz). If you don't have God, who do you have? Must take responsibility for ourselves and help each other.

Friday Town Hall Meeting.

Monday excursion to Adler Planetarium. Journal assignment at the Adler Planetarium.

What would Vonnegut's answers be to the questions:
Who am I?
Gigantic indifferent universe
Earth has some importance
We are stuck in an unchangeable course

Where am I?
We are specks in the universe with no significance?
We are victims of a series of accidents
Human nature is brutal, violent, and self-destructive

What am I for?

Ending violence
Uniting humanity

Do the means justify the ends?

Feedback on Active Reading:
Have you been interacting with the text in a meaningful way? Goal is to ask questions of the text and connect the text to other texts.

Science Lab: Light Spectrum

Library lesson: How to find article on Paradigm shifts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where am I? What am I? What am I for?

We started with a film: Powers of Ten (1977) about our place in the Universe. This scientific film essay, begins with a set of pictures of two picnickers in a Chicago park, with the area of each frame one-tenth the size of the one before. Starting from a view of the entire known universe, the camera gradually zooms in until we are viewing the subatomic particles on a man's hand.
What do we know about the Universe that has changed in the past 40 years?

English discussion with Seniors:
defining paradigm shift--see wikitionary definition:
paradigm shift

1." A radical change in thinking from an accepted point of view to a new one, necessitated when new scientific discoveries produce anomalies in the current paradigm."
2." (US) A radical change in thinking from an accepted point of view to a new belief."

1) Write down concise answers to the questions:

Where Am I?

What Am I?

What am I for?

2)Charting answers on white charts & examining others' viewspoints. Take your journal and copy down others' existential ideas. Collect the ideas as a tourist would.
Which better explores the limits of human understanding--Science or Religion?

Submit proposals for essay to answer the above. Discussion about how to approach the essay.

Juniors: Study U.S. Constitution
Break: Juniors and Seniors switch classrooms.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Field Trip to Adler Planetarium scheduled next week

Save the "shortened" New Trier day next Monday, Sept 21 to visit Adler Planetarium.

Senior students working on Big Bang Theory and the history of the universe.
Viewed: Nova Film clip NASA Goddard Space Flight Center which explains the birth of the universe and the BIG BANG 13.7 billion years ago. Our understanding of how the Universe evolved since the Big Bang continues to evolve. Stars forged most of the elements of the universe heavier than hydrogen and helium. Stars are the ultimate alchemists making every atom in our universe.

For additional information: Listen to 11 top physicists and astronomers take on the challenge of describing the strangest entities in the universe. Nova's website on Blackholes explained

Junior students: Color Spectrum Science Lab.
Make predictions about what color you'll see through the red gel and the blue gel.
Is black the combination of all colors or is black the absence of all colors? Why do astronomers use infrared telescopes to look at stars.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Future of the Universe: Cosmological Journals

Senior Students: Cosmological Journal Brainstorm session

Film clip
: Harvard graduates (students, faculty & alumni) explain how the seasons change. How does a lifetime of education impact what students know about astronomy? 9th graders have same misconceptions as those with higher education degrees.

Why are there seasons? Why are there different phases of the moon?

Juniors: Discussion of Mountains Beyond Mountains essays commenting on papers: positives and negatives. Self reflections on MMBM papers. To be used later for editing and choosing pieces for portfolios.Sirens of Titan discussion

Town Hall Meeting: Committee work time

Juniors: U.S. Constitution study while Seniors are discussing writing/writing reflections/Sirens of Titan

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11

Remembering September 11

How does this change our world?

Students reflected on how this impacted and affected the nation and world.Events like these can sometimes turn us against fellow citizens. Also finger pointing...who's at fault? Also a surge of patriotism - how we all came together. Hatred of us increased sense of love, especially in NYC. It also impacted the world. This one event has altered the daily fabric of our life and remains a part of our consciousness.

Patriot Act emerged from this act of terrorism, which brought up ethical debates around privacy issues.

America's image of itself is forever altered. Some feel that airport security makes us feel safer. This was a definite wake up call for America.

Feedback on Mountains Beyond Mountains essays; feedback and rubrics distributed for Plan of Action: What do You Care about; example portfolio shown with narrative feedback on student work.

Cynical Cosmogony: clips from Matrix film about the nature of the Universe and the architect who's running things with mathematical precision. Interesting discussions about free will and choice.

Cosmogony PowerPoint available
on BlackBoard.
Each of these images represents one historical or current society’s view of the universe and how it came about. View the slideshow with a partner.
2. Choose two images and insert a text box (you can move or shrink the image if you like) with your comments on the following questions:
A. Where and when do you think this is from? What are the clues?
B. What sort of universe did this society believe in? What can you learn about the society, based on this cosmogony?
C. How does this belief mesh with yours? Modern western beliefs?

Outdoor activity: creating a timeline of the universe. Create a visual representation of what we believe to be the lifespan of our universe. Students created a timeline of the universe. Put separate events on charts, then spread out on the practice field making a scale model of the timeline.
Then one parnter jogged the distance with Mr. Vargas while Mr. Markham filmed it.
Students discovered that humans a just a blip of time in our universe.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Science Lab Today

Class will be split with Seniors doing Expansion of the Universe Lab first, while juniors begin writing portfolios. Groups will switch during 2nd hour.

Essays for Mountains Beyond Mountains returned with commenting.
Vonnegut book: Sirens of Titan
Students have completed Chapter 5 for today.

Expansion of the Universe
: students will demonstrate the concept of Hubble's Law.
Students will measure the hypothetical universe of Balloonia, measuring different points on Balloonia (literally on balloons) every eight years to develop a theory to explain the rate of expansion of the Balloonia Universe.

Students will also examine cosmology findings from the Hubble Space Telescope to report how their findings relate to the balloon activity completed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Origins Unit: Creation Stories - 3 reenactments

Students performed in small groups the Sumerian, Chinese Northeast Indian, Mayan, North American and Japanese tales.
Commonalities: supernatural & other worldly events; anthropogenic/anthropomorphic (processes derived from human activity); culture as central; centrality of nature and elements; competition & conflict; ethnocentric aspects; patriarchal; progression from chaos to order.

Cosmogonic narratives provide insights into the culture that created them.

How can these tales be with modern scientific explanations of human origins?
1) nothingness; instant "life"
2) Heaven/earth dichotomy

Is 21st Century Science myth-making? Does science create truth?
Science and mythology both attempt to classify, quantify, simplify our experience in the world. Science does not claim to be truth; science tries to continually test/prove its theories.

Junior students: U.S. History --Constitution

Seniors: guest speaker, college counselor Gretchen Stauder: how to write the college essay.
English assignment for Our Universe. Develop some sensible connections between the questions Where am I? What am I? What am I for? See Blackboard for related questions about your place in the Universe.

Juniors -- English discussion Sirens of Titan

Seniors - Cosmological journals

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beginning the Origins Unit

1/2 Class:
discussion of (3) overarching questions:
Where Am I?
What Am I?
What Am I For?

Try to fit others' worldviews to see how they fit with your own ideas.
Examine St. Thomas Aquinas 5 rational proofs of the existence of God. (reading linked on Blackboard).
According to Aquinas, where am I? -- I am in God's creation.
Cause & effect idea starts with God; it can't go back to infinity.
God created something out of nothing. Natural laws have been defined by God.
All things act at God's request. Nothing created God; God is eternal.
God is omnipotent so that good will always prevail over evil.

What Am I? according to Aquinas:
We are animals which can communicate; made in the image of God.
We are God's creation. I am somebody who can become wise, or potentially evil.

What Am I For? according to Aquinas:
My purpose is to contemplate God/truth. We should use our God-like traits; we should overcome evil. Our happiness consists of contemplating truth.

What does Kurt Vonnegut think about these questions? Complete chapter 5 by Thursday in Sirens of Titan.

1/2 Class:
How have other cultures answered these questions? Readings/discussion in small groups of Indian, Chinese, and Mayan Creation Myths. Dramatic re-tellings presented to the rest of the class tomorrow. Creation Myths are linked on BlackBoard.

Academic Integrity document: discussed/signed acknowledgment forms.

Origin Unit readings: found on BlackBoard. Big Bang Theory, Sagan chapter, Hawking chapter.

NOVA Film. Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution

New Trier Organic Garden