HTML coded space websites and a field trip to the Blue Origin rocket factory!

In Computer Science this term, the 8th graders have been working very hard to learn how to code websites in the HTML and CSS coding languages.  While they are still very much works in progress, each of the students have linked their websites and narrated screencast video explanations of their HTML code — all can be found on this student showcase website!  Students are currently in the process of editing their websites content, debugging their HTML code, and adding color and design to the websites as they learn how to code in CSS.

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Additionally, Astronaut Candidates and their Commanders visited the Blue Origin Rocket Factory this week.  Some of the student takeaways after the trip are listed below!

  • What I took away from the trip is that some projects can seem really, really big and difficult but when you work with other people collaboratively, the project becomes smaller and less difficult.
  • I learned that it takes a lot of math and calculations to make a perfect rocket. Also that there are not nearly as many women in the space industry as there should be.
  • I absolutely loved being on the floor and looking at all the rockets being made.
  • I think it is really good that they are focusing on reusable rockets and cleaning up space trash.
  • I really loved learning about what Blue Origin is making and I learned a lot about what they plan to do in the future and when the flights will be open to the public. I also learned a lot about the engines and what a career at Blue Origin entails.
  • I realized how complicated it is to take people into space and how many different pieces there are and how each one is really important.
  • The machinery was enormous and it was funny that they had to put an extra 5 feet or concrete beneath it.
  • It was amazing!
  • I hadn’t previously known that they were working with reusable equipment, which I think is very interesting because I care a lot about the Earth and all the space trash that’s surrounding it really isn’t very good for the planet or it’s surrounding area.
  • Our guide said that our mission mantras were pretty much the same as Blue Origin mantras.  She said they will come in handy in adulthood and that rockets are BIG.
  • I liked being able to be there and see the rockets being built and the science behind it.
  • I thought their big end goal was pretty cool.
  • We are lot further along than I thought.
  • That the space industry isn’t just NASA launching satellites or rovers into space, it’s also smaller but still big companies such as Blue Origin sending tourist flights into space and such.
  • I thought it was so cool how they are working to give ordinary people the opportunity to go into space and how they designed The Shepard. I loved their approach and . Learning about how they build rockets.
  • I loved learning about how they were made/are working on fully reusable rockets because, for me, this has always been a sore spot about rocket and space exploration.
  • I thought that the New Shepard Capsule was super cool and it was really interesting to learn about how they make the first stage reusable. I also really liked how they named the spacecrafts after famous astronauts (Alan B. Shepard, Jr. and John Glenn)
  • It was an incredible experience. I was so amazed at what they were building and I am really considering it as a future career. It is something that I have wanted to do ever since I was really little.
  • I really appreciate Blue Origin and the commanders for making the trip possible!
  • I have always learned and heard about space. But to be able to be truly involved in a top secret environment and to be able to see all of these items that are the real thing was really cool.
  • I thought it was really cool how they used metal 3D printers to create giant rocket parts!
  • From our trip to Blue Origin, I have taken away a belief that commercial spaceflight can one-day be a reality. I have taken away a hope that if Blue Origin grows larger, that they may open more “sections” and have a place for biologists/neurologists to work. I have also taken away that rockets are in fact much larger than I previously thought.  
  • I found the mission of Blue Origin very inspiring and how their slogan is “slow and steady” because they are accomplishing so much but taking things slow so they make sure it’s their best.
  • One of my takeaways from the Blue Origin field trip was that it takes a lot more work than I thought to make spaceships, like the planning, physics and engineering. Also that what makes Blue origin work so well is that all of the people there love what they do.
  • It was really cool to see all the software behind rockets and things.
  • How do these people keep their work such a secret because it is so cool!?!?
  • I learned that working can be fun and that there is so much in our world and outside that is hard to explore but also fun to explore.
  • The biggest thing that stood out to me was the machines that were so big. I’m really interested in engines and machinery, and seeing things like the pressure welder was really cool.
  • It was an unforgettable trip!

Classp photo Blue Orign

Writing, Writing, Writing

In Language Arts, over the last couple of weeks, students have been working on using peer and teacher feedback to edit, revise, and develop polished drafts of their Personal Narratives. After completing them, they began to put themselves in someone else’s shoes by exploring personal narratives through Virtual Reality software. This not only allows them a unique opportunity practicing and reflecting on empathy, but it also will provide a fun connection to our future work with the novel Ready Player One.

Once Personal Narratives were handed in, we shifted our focus back to analytical writing. We reviewed the difference between writing that analyzes and writing that summarizes and compared analytical essays to science labs and math proofs. In the coming weeks students will craft essays investigating the correlation between the theme and the conflict within their new Choice Books and tracing the hero’s journey of a movie character of their choice.




Finance Unit in Math

The past couple weeks we have been learning about finances. Students have been very interested in this useful topic asking questions such as:

  • How are interest rates set?
  • Why do different people pay taxes?
  • Where does a bank keep your money?
  • How do loans work?

We have spent last two weeks learning: why financial literacy is important to young people (especially women), simple vs. compound interest, debit vs. credit, how to write checks, how to budget, how to use formulas in Google Sheets, and about the different types of taxes. We even had a visit last week from Jennifer Thomsen, Reese’s mom and a financial planner, about her career and how she supports others with their finances. She gave the students tips for saving and an overview of budgeting.

Next week we launch into our Budget Project where students are given a character (gender, race & education) and that character’s yearly salary and they will have to pay their taxes and then figure out a monthly budget for their person. They will put to use what they are learning in Google Sheets to build formulas and help them with the many calculations that come with budgeting!

Museum of Flight Field Trip #2

On our most recent trip to the Museum of Flight students were put through several team challenges. They did a simulation to Mars through the Challenger Learning Course, created space suits for marshmallows simulating pressure in space, and coded Lego Mindstorm robots through a challenge course. It was a fun day!

Human Rights in Global Studies

Thursday in Global Studies, students were introduced to their next big project (partnering with Lulu in Production and Performance Studies). They will produce a 3 to 5 minute documentary on a human rights issue. We’ve been learning about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the product of 18 countries’ work – chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt – in 1948). The assignment is to apply their understanding of these rights by selecting a real-life human rights defender working on an issue they feel passionately about. This issue will connect to one or more of the 30 articles in the UDHR.

Their completed videos will be submitted to a nationwide contest called Speak Truth To Power, sponsored by the Robert F, Kennedy Human Rights Center and the Tribeca Film Institute. Because of the Robert Kennedy connection, students yesterday learned a bit about him, and viewed the speech he gave just hours after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He addressed a shocked crowd that could easily have turned hostile – a crowd police warned him they could not protect him from. Some in the audience – who had learned of King’s death – came armed. Thirty-four cities rioted that night. Indianapolis was the only American city with a large black population that did not. Many observers felt Kennedy’s speech was part of the reason why.

Among his elegant and powerful words – scribbled on a piece of paper on his way to Indianapolis – were the following:

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”

At a time when our country feels polarized and incomprehensible – and the Commander in Chief makes blatantly racist remarks – such words are worth revisiting. The wisdom of King and Kennedy – and the humor, insight and compassion of 8th graders – make me incurably hopeful.