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.

New Trier Organic Garden