Friday, February 28, 2014

SNAPSHOT: Harnessing the Power of Maker Club as Tech Support

BPC's Director of Technology, Blake Hansen, offered Maker Club the opportunity to assist him with fixing our collection of broken Chromebooks from this school year.  He offered up tools and a few suggestions, and let the boys disassemble the machines and combine working parts to create functional machines.  The group was more than willing to participate.

The four boys planned, organized and collaborated; replacing cracked screens and motherboards with bent charger ports.  Through tenacity and creativity, the kids were able to put 3 functional machines back into circulation!

Friday, February 14, 2014

BPC at Julia Robinson Math Festival

On Saturday, February 8, an enthusiastic contingent of sixth and seventh graders from BPC attended the Julia Robinson Math Festival at Pixar Studios. The students engaged in a wide variety of math challenges in a collaborative, noncompetitive environment.  The student built flexagons, folded fractals, solved problems for Cookie Monster, estimated, played Criss-Cross, and wrestled with the Prisoner's Puzzle. 

Here is what some of the participants had to say about the event:

"I liked the event because it was an interactive way to solve math problems. It was fun to share ideas with friends and learn new things from other people." - Ella

"I really liked the Julia Robinson Math Festival; their events really challenged me a lot." - Dylan

"The math seemed less like a challenge, more like a game." - Nicola

It was an engaging event in an inspiring environment. Each student was pushed and did some great mathematical thinking. We hope to organize a trip again next year.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

BPC Kids Participate in Live Video Chat with Dan Norton, Video Game Designer

On Thursday, Feb 13th, BPC students had an opportunity to join a videochat with Dan Norton, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Filament Games.  The event was part Jason Learning's focus on STEM careers.

Students from all three grade levels joined an 8th grade science class already watching the broadcast.  

It was interesting to hear more about the day to day work of a video game designer, and we were particularly thrilled to hear Dan Norton suggest that getting involved in creative extracurricular activities, like improv (?!), is a good way to find inspiration for future ideas.  Of course, we couldn't resist asking our own question. The kids were SO excited when our question was picked to be answered (at 39:50).

In case you can't read the blurry screenshot, it reads. 
(Christine Mytko, middle school teacher from Berkeley, CA): I am here with my class and we were THRILLED to hear you suggest improv as a creative outlet (we have an active improv after school club here).  Do you have a favorite improv game? :)

Dan Norton's answer? 
There is a game I used to play where you had to set a scene and not be funny.  You had to be a unfunny as possible….  What would often happen is that the scene would become really, really, really, really funny 'cuz everyone is working super hard at the opposite.  I always thought that was really great because the outcome was unexpected.

Other good advice comes from answering a question at 37:50: 

A lot of the best opportunities to be creative and to come up with great ideas is by collaborating with other people [be]cause other people know lots of things you don't.   And learning from them and working with them and getting their opinion back and forth is a really critical part of a great creative process.  … [W]orking on your own project… to get better at your skills, but if you want to make something great, you should work with other people to make it happen.

After the presentation, we took a few minutes and discussed how technology is changing opportunities for learning. Students noted that interactive webcasts like these allow for interaction with experts, or tours of places, that we might otherwise would not have the time, money, or resources to experience.  We all are looking forward to our next virtual experience (TBD.)

You can watch the entire interview on the Jason website, or embedded below.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SNAPSHOT: Virtual Field Trip to the Berkeley Lab via Google Hangout

Earlier this week, we learned that Berkeley Lab was hosting a "virtual field trip" on Google as part of a new series of Google+#connectedclassrooms hangouts at the National Labs.
Check out how our scientists use the Advanced Light Source to image microscopic life in 3-D. Tour a clean room at the Molecular Foundry, where scientists create nanoscale structures. And learn what’s possible with one of the world’s most powerful electron microscopes at the National Center for Electron Microscopy, which can see individual atoms. 
The three scientists featured included: Dula Parkinson (beamline scientist at the Advanced Light Source), Deirdre Olynick (staff scientist at the Molecular Foundry), and Jim Ciston (senior staff scientist at the National Center for Electron Microscopy).  We were especially excited to "revisit" with Dula Parkinson since he helped make our recent real-life field trip to the ALS happen!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SNAPSHOT: Fruit Loops Ratios in 6th Math

The sixth graders are beginning their work with ratios and proportions. To kick off our unit, each split took samples from a box of fruit loops and created ratios comparing the different characteristics of the fruit loops. Those ratios were then applied to help them make predictions about the larger sample (the whole box). We used Google spreadsheets to collect and process the class data and to share across splits. They also used skills learned in tech class to make the spreadsheets do sum calculations.

Each split enjoyed the hands on research and loved "encrypting" their fruit loop data after the research!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

7th Grade Visits The Cultured Pickle Shop!

This week, the 7th grade took a walking trip to The Cultured Pickle Shop.  This cool little shop is in West Berkeley and has been a passion for Alex Hozven and her husband, Kevin Farley, since 1997.  There were interviewed in 2010 in this Berkeleyside article.  They aim to create naturally fermented foods (no vinegar, water, or heat) like sauerkraut, kim chee, and kombucha with "a locavore sensibility and seasonal twist."

Photo reprinted with permission from Alex Hozven

We went to learn about the positive roles of microbes in food production and the process of fermentation.  We amassed interesting vocabulary words like zoogleal, SCOBY (various SCOBYs pictured right) and terroir!

The class split into two groups:

(1) one group learned about kombucha and asked general questions about microbes

(2) the other group went back and toured the pickling room full of fermentation vats!

I really enjoyed learning about how fermentation worked, and especially the containers for fermentation with the seals, and how important it was to keep them in an airless environment.  - Jane

We were grateful to The Cultured Pickle for sharing their shop with us and the kids made a big thank you card.  We also threw in a little BPC special: a 3D printed pickle! (pictured below)

And finally, a dramatic interpretation from Flynn:

Fade from black. Dramatic music plays. A high pitched scream is heard then, "IT'S COMING!!!" Footsteps. Suddenly, a gravely voice. "Ko- KOMBUCHA!!!" The footsteps get louder. A slurping sound is heard. "Yes.... VERY GOOD..." More screams are heard as other kombucha particles are sucked from their homes and are forced into the deep pit of the monster's stomach. No. Seriously. That kombucha was really good. Besides the wonderful tastes, I learned alot about the fermentation process. I was interested when I was told that their 'Classic Dill Pickles' are seasonal. Very interesting stu- SLUUURRPPP!! Ne- NEED MORE!!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Student 3D Work Selected for A Serving of Shapes Museum Exhibit

In other 3D printing news, some kids (Daniel F, Abe & Jane - all 7th graders) and I took the train down to Santa Clara on Saturday, January 18th for a Serving of Shapes 3D printing workshop at Santa Clara University.  This event was facilitated by artist Corinne Okada.

Well, it ends up that Jane had her TinkerCAD design selected to be in the final exhibit at the de Saisset Museum!  Participants were asked to "reflect on the history of food in this region or their personal relationships, experiences, and associations with food, and to use those ideas as inspiration for creating digital 3D designs."  Here is a Jane's winning design!

"This is a chicken caged by a dollar. This represents big agricultural firms containing animals in smaller and smaller spaces, animals as a product, not as a life or a creature."