Springfield Armory Camp: Messing Around in a Maker Space

Armory Camp: Maker Space 3D ActivityYesterday was our first day of this year’s Springfield Armory Camp – a writing partnership that was first forged years ago between the National Park Service/Springfield Armory National Historic Site, the National Writing Project/Western Massachusetts Writing Project, and Springfield Schools/Duggan Social Justice Academy.

One of our activities was to consider the reasons why Springfield was chose (along with Harper’s Ferry) for a national armory by George Washington and other military leaders, and we used excerpts from a letter by General Henry Knox that explained the rationale — the nearby Connecticut River, the abundance of lumber and timber, the local community of experienced workers and the high plains bluff that overlooks the entire region.

HenryKnoxLetterActivity

We then had our campers work in small teams to create a 3D map of the main elements of Knox’s letter, visualizing how their community was chosen so many years ago to play a crucial role in the country’s history. It was fun to watch them plan out and try to build out these maps, with glue and paper and odds and ends of things. The resulting maps then helped spur some writing and some conversation about the geography of Springfield itself.

Peace (into Day Two),
Kevin

 

Waterfall Feldgang

I’m tinkering around with a digital story tool called Soundslides after a visit to Bash Bish Falls with some of my family yesterday morning:

Peace (in water),
Kevin

Comics for the End of School

School Ends: The First Impression

Over in another online space, I am working to make and share a comic every day for 100 days as part of a challenge. I don’t know how I will do it. But I am trying (I am on day 16!).

With the end of the school year (kids left yesterday but I still have today in the classroom), my comics were focused on those final, hectic days. I had a great class this year — sort of loud and most days edged on chaos on times, but overall, they were wonderful, and I will miss them, for sure.

School Ends: Too Loudand then …

School Ends: The Goodbye Classroom

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

Help the Next Person Through the Dark (via poet Joy Harjo)


Espaces Vides (#03) flickr photo by lepoSs shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I love this final line from a poem by Joy Harjo, entitled For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in its Human Feet:

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way
through the dark.

which completes this poem I discovered via Teach that Poem project (poems emailed every Monday), which shared the poem out as a suggestion to teach on the last days of a school year:

Peace (as school days end),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Considering the Quiet

John Spencer has yet another intriguing post up, this time about actively and intentionally noticing the way sound in our classrooms play a significant role in student learning. He explores this from a couple of different angles, and I suggest you read the post he has written entitled “Sometimes a Quieter Classroom is Actually the Answer.” We (me) don’t often think much in terms of sound levels of our learning spaces, other than “that’s too loud” or “that’s too quiet.”

John notes that a noisy classroom does not translate into more active learning in this age of collaborative/cooperative learning. Neither does a silent classroom indicate that all students are working independently. Finding balance, and being intentional about the physical space of the classroom is one way to address this. Differentiating the classroom space for sound? Interesting.

This year, I’ve had one of the largest ratios of loud to quiet kids than I can remember, and I found myself struggling often to balance the spectrum of extroverts — who enter the classroom nearly yelling at their friends, gushing with news of the morning — with the introverts — those who settle in with a book or some work amid the morning chaos and try to ignore the noise. The extroverts are not mean; they’re social and excited and just loud. The introverts are not always passive; they often seem bemused by the antics, as quiet observers.

So, you know, it’s complicated.

I’ve tried different approaches to moderate the noise that often emerges from any learning activity, attuned to the quieter of my kids. And don’t get me wrong — we’ve had long stretches of intense quiet, particularly of writing quiet — the solitude within a crowd where a writer finds their words in stories, poems, essays or even daily writing activities. I enforce that quiet pretty strictly.

But other times? Man. It’s like I become a sound fighter, reminding people as I wander the room to “keep it down” and “you seem to be shouting at the person next to you” and “respect the space.” The lull lingers, and then is lost. There are times when we could barely hear the office announcements, and this is at the end of the day, when students are lined up and ready to head home. They’re so loud, they can’t hear the dismissal.

I’m going to mull over John’s points as this year ends — a sound audit of the classroom? Intriguing. More choice for students to work in quiet or active spaces? Possibly.

I am also sitting (quietly) with John’s (a self-proclaimed introvert) observation: Every student needs some quiet.

In music, there’s a deliberate symbol for rest. It’s not a break from the song. It’s a part of the music. But it is silent, and it is powerful. I think we need the same thing in the classroom. In a culture of noise, sometimes relevance isn’t more noise. Sometimes it’s more silence. — John Spencer

Peace (shhh),
Kevin

Book Review: Vacation

I only picked up Vacation by Blexbolex by chance at the library. I was wandering through the children’s section and saw it on the shelf. Something about the girl beckoned, and I listened. And this wordless novel of illustrations is a beautiful example of how lush illustrations, and overlapping narratives, can tell a story.

The story revolves around a young girl who is visiting her grandfather (according to the text on the back of the book) and it must be a vacation of sorts (deduced from the title), and as the girl and her grandfather spend their days, she takes on a small elephant as a playmate and dreams grand adventures.

The art is just lovely, reminiscent of old-time picture books from long ago and yet it feels fresh in the telling, too. There is something about the movements of the girl — and the vividness of her wonderful dreams — that bring the pages to life. Words are not necessary.

Vacation works on the level of storytelling, merging the ideas of a picture book with the idea of a short novel. And in that intersection, the young girl’s story surfaces and blooms.

Peace (without words … oops),
Kevin