Sunday, October 19, 2014

MS detox Experiment a Success

Middle school faculty and students met over lunch last week to share their reflections and to discuss their experience of #DigiDetoxGA. When 7th grader, Zack Thurlow, was asked the question: How would you summarize the detox in three words? he quickly responded, "Not that hard." Cianni Williams, another 7th grader,  had a different experience, calling it "agonizing" noting social pressure to be on her device. She continued commenting that it was painful to know that she was missing out on what her friends were doing and saying.  A silver lining, though, for Cianni: "At least I got a scarf out of it." She took up knitting during her time away from her phone.

Jarrett Anderson, one of the faculty participating in the detox reports, "The detox allowed us use of technology for reasons related to our jobs as faculty and students of GA, and many discussed the difficulty in finding where those professional obligations start and stop. We also talked about how technology has become such a reflex, that we didn't even notice when we'd starting checking e-mail for personal reasons. Technology's massive presence in our lives, and the power of habits!"

Faculty and students plan on continuing the conversations around the use of devices, mindfulness about habits, and other issues related to our daily use of technology.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lower School Tinker Lab Open for Business

After months of work the Lower School Tinker Lab is open and ready for business!  Students, faculty, and administrators gathered this week for an official opening reception complete with a ribbon cutting and a performance of "Thank you for The Tinker Lab" performed by very excited pre-kindergarten students!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Upper School Science, Math, and Arts Faculty Collaborate on S.T.E.A.M. Project

Last spring a group of faculty from the sciences, mathematics, arts, and humanities gathered to begin developing STEAM curriculum for US students.  US Math teacher, Danielle Rock is directing the process planning which will be ongoing throughout the year to develop minimester course offerings.  The Harmonograph Project (a mechanical apparatus that employs pendulums to create a geometric image ) will be implemented in 2015-16.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#DigiDetoxGA: Dare to Digital Detox!

The Middle School is about to embark on a very interesting experiment. Beginning September 30 and continuing through October 3rd.  For four days, faculty and students are challenging themselves to unplug, turn off and put away the digital devices.  The Digital Detox moment has been gaining currency nationally, recognizing the love for and utility of digital devices along with the need to "shut it all down" on occasion.  What does a Digital Detox really mean? It is a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones, computers, and television.  It is a proactive social experiment to see what happens when we unplug. How do we feel?  What do we do instead?  How does the world react around us? This experience is designed to elevate our awareness and appreciation of how we use our devices and to better understand how they impact our daily lives.

Middle School language teacher Jarrett Anderson gives credit for the initiative to Haley Aronow a current ninth grader who when in middle school started The Controversy Club, a weekly gathering of students and faculty aimed at discussing current issues.  Anderson was struck by the language students used when talking about their devices.  Words like addiction were used to describe behavior and students were concerned about what how they saw very young children using devices. From these conversations came the imperative to try a scaled for GA version of the Detox.
In preparing for the challenge Anderson worked with other faculty and librarians along with student clubs like the Technomancers who are making a video to share with the community, laying out the rules and building support for the challenge.  

So how does it work?  Students and faculty sign a pledge and get a button that says "I am on a Detox". There will be a ceremonial turning off of the devices at the start and another gathering to turn back on. During this time the middle school community can participate in alternative activities like yoga, board games, and "drop everything and read" initiatives.  Anderson comments. "We hope that the #DigiDetox will create new friendships, encourage fun interactions, spark great conversations at home and at school, and also lead us to a new appreciation for the ways that technology is helpful and brings us joy."

Monday, September 22, 2014

What We Are Watching

A pioneer in brush technique, drummer Clayton Cameron has toured with Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and jazz legend Kenny Burrell.  In his TEDTalk titled, "A-ryhthm-etic" Cameron explores the math behind music beats and proves that hip-hop and jazz aren't cooler than math, they just rely on it. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Frank Lee Visits GA

Upper school students sat transfixed as Dr. Frank Lee, Professor of game Design, and Director of the Entrepreneurial Game Studio at Drexel University, described the Pong and Tetris games he designed to be played on sky scrapers in Philadelphia.  A Guinness Book of World Records holder for the largest Architectural Video Game Display, he is motivated to change the way gaming happens and how we think of the space of video play.  Concerned about the isolating nature of game play he wanted to develop a way for video games to be a collaborative, outdoor, community exercise.  After his lectures students had an opportunity to meet Dr. Lee for a Q and A session. When asked how he came to do this kind of work, Lee spoke eloquently about his renaissance education studying the humanities, psychology, and computer science and the fact that he simply followed his interests, as varied as they were, until they all seemed to converge in his gaming work. To read more about his presentation and his work click here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Tinkering Lab for the Lower School

When eager pre-k and kindergarten students begin the school year, they will have a new space for experiential learning, thanks to the vision and hard work of Lower School Head, Sue Szczepkowski, and teachers Betsy Duryea and Rose Mirabile. Outfitted with a kitchen, flexible studio space, workbenches and tools, GA's Tinkering Lab is designed to build a child's mechanical thinking skills, help them understand problem solving through the making and building of things, and inspire confidence along the way.  To hear more about the Tinkering Movement, watch this TED Talk by tinker-founder Gever Tulley.