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

Friday, September 4, 2009

We We Care About Poster Sessions Today

Students set up displays with posters and computers to display and speak about their plans of action for problem solving.

Students will view all projects, leaving comments, answering questions. Teachers will assess projects with a rubric.

Introduction of new Origins Unit. Solar System mapping done out of doors - a live scale model. Sun began at the train tracks, planets mapped all the way east on Winnekta Ave to Pluto. I learned that Pluto is now NOT a real planet. Students filmed the experience.

First reading assignments for the solar system and big bang theory are assigned:

!) Big Bang Theory - Encyclopedia of of Earth Sciences

2) Follow the Bouncing Universe Martin Bojowald. Scientific American. New York: Oct 2008. Vol. 299, Iss. 4; p. 44
These are available from Blackboard and our Origins of the Universe resource page.

Town hall committee time to plan initiatives discussed last week: Nine standing committees.
1) Flag Committee
2) Show & Tell Committee
3) Public Relations: Adviser/Recruitment
4) Social Committee
5) Global Food Day/Food Committee
6) Fund Raisers/Senior Carnival
7) Pen Pal Committee
8) Room Arrangements - mural & pet
9) Music Mondays and Film Fridays & Global Culture/Art days

Thursday, September 3, 2009

IGSS New Brochure in on our website

Take a look at the new IGSS brochure on our website. See some familiar faces.

Source citation lesson:
formatting citations in the new MLA format (7th edition). Teaching Noodle Tools with the sharing feature so that students create flawless bibliographies.

Research time: So What Do you Care About: A Plan for Action. 1-1/2 hours of research time for Poster Sessions tomorrow.

Senior students: College Essay Assignment; Sirens of Titan reading/discussion as an introduction to Origins unit with Mr. Markham.

Junior students: Lecture/study of U.S. Constitution with Mr. Vargas.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


7:30 p.m., Winnetka Congregational Church, 725 Pine St.

TRACY KIDDER, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of our Summer Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, speaks about his new book, Strength in What Remains, the remarkable account of a refugee from Burundi who arrives in New York with $200, no English, and no contacts—and with the help of ordinary people is led to Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. The admission ($10) will be donated to Partners in Health, the organization co-founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, whose story is told in Mountains Beyond Mountains.

We're doing research today!

Started with personal interviews; students travelled outside to learn more about classmates. Their assignment is to project what they will be up to at age 50. Several stories will be shared each day.

Science - examining growth of microbes in petri dishes. Some students examined the contents with a microscope to answer a packet of questions prepared by Ms. Smith.

Preparation for essays
: What is our moral obligation to strangers?

Research - "So What Do You Care About"? See resources for A Plan for Action.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

25 Students Who will Change the World

One of them is my niece, Sophie Sharp, a senior high school student in Jackson, MS.
Hoping that some of our IGSS students will join the ranks of those who change the world.

I. Moral Obligations discussions/arguments 1/2 class
There is no moral obligation to strangers.
Our greatest obligation is to help the neediest.
Our greatest obligation is to those nearest (our families; those with political allegiences).
Our greatest obligation is to those we have personally harmed.

II. Students growing bacteria in the lab room 102 - 1/2 class

III. Classes switch so that each has science lab and moral obligations discussion.

IV. Guest speaker Sue Walsh from "Little by Little", a nurse practioner who has practiced in Haiti. "Piti piti na rive" (little by little, we will arrive) is a proverb spoken cofounder of "Zanmi Lasante" (Partners In Health) who has devoted his life to delivering healthcare to the poor.

Assignment for Thursday, read Chapt. 1 of Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan.

New Trier Organic Garden