• Welcome to Park Day School's Making Learning Visible Blog

    When you walk on to Park Day's campus you can feel the curiosity, joy, and love of learning. Whether five years old or 14, Park Day students know themselves as builders, mathematicians, artists, historians, change makers, and more. Read on to understand more about our school--a community of amazing students and staff who create an integrated learning environment where strong academics, social emotional learning, and social justice create an exceptional foundation on which students build their ongoing education and their lives.

  • A Warm Park Day Welcome to New Feathered Friends!

    Posted by Amelea Canaris and Joe Patton on 6/7/2018

    Our Learning Garden Program is a beautiful living organism--always evolving, flourishing on change. The seeds we plant, harvest, and taste change with the seasons. The progressive curriculum throughout the Lower School grades is constantly being integrated, helping to shape our garden lessons. And, the school community continually changes: students transition to higher grades as some children arrive for the first time. Among the newest members of our school is a small flock of quail who moved to Park Day School in late April. The five hens were rescued from a house Amelea's friend had moved into, and unable to care for them, their owners passed them onto us. In mid-spring, Amelea installed a small coop near the chickens, and with it, our new friends.




    As their name suggests, these Coturnix japonica quail are native to Japan. The species is found throughout East Asia, migrating as far south as Vietnam and Laos during winters and as far north as Russia. The earliest record of their domestication is the 12th century, although you wouldn’t guess it from meeting our quail! The flock at our school is nervous around large groups. They are still very much settling into their new home and appreciate peace and quiet.




    As ground-dwelling animals that prefer habitats with dense vegetation for sources of protection, an exposed coop presents a major challenge. We have been working on adapting their little home to accommodate their needs. Afterall, our flock is essentially wild. Branches of cypress, woodchips, and stones now cover the cardboard flooring. A container with sand in a corner of the coop offers a place for dust bathing, a favorite pastime of quail for grooming and removing parasites from their feathers. As with everything, improving the quail’s home on campus is a work in progress.

    Because our flock is still acclimating, we have asked the community to give the quail plenty of space. It is important to note that we can NOT let them free range as chickens do (they will not return and may be attacked by predators).  Additionally, their coop should only be unlocked and opened by adults who have signed up for chicken and quail care and they should NOT be held or handled by anyone other than the garden teachers. Students have been delighted to visit and observe them this month, joyously feeding them little snacks through the wiring of their coop such as pieces of fruit from the nearby strawberry tree, or Arbutus unedo (an evergreen in the same family as cranberry, blueberry, and azaleas). They also love fresh greens like cabbage, sour sorrel, and lettuce leaves, broken up into tiny pieces for them to taste!  We are collecting their small, speckled eggs to cook with students and parents/families that sign up for chicken and quail care are welcome to take home any quail and chicken eggs they find during their volunteer day.




    As summer moves along, we are on the lookout for volunteers to care for our chickens and quail, as well as our bountiful gardens. We hope to have some vegetables to harvest in the fall! Do you live near campus? Are you going to be around this summer and looking for a routine family activity like caring for our sweet chickens/quails/gardens in exchange for fresh eggs and summer veggies? We will be offering a training for summer garden and chicken/quail care givers during our garden work party this coming Sunday, June 10th.  The work party is from 9am-1pm, and the training is from 10:30am-11:00am.

    If you or someone you know is interested, please email Amelea (amelea.canaris@parkdayschool.org) or Joe (joseph.patton@parkdayschool.org). You can find an electronic sign-up sheet for chicken and quail care at https://www.wejoinin.com/sheets/eymlt/edit.


    With gratitude from an ever-changing program,


    Amelea and Joe

    Comments (-1)
  • Pause to ponder

    Posted by Susan Lee and Katy Ailes on 5/24/2018

    In a society overwhelmed by instant gratification, quick fixes, and googling, Math, Science and Engineering Night at PDS was a moment to revel in the programing that makes our school special.  Progressive. Thought focused. A place that pushes back against modern wave of media that can sometimes make it so challenging for parents to parent and for kids to explore their inner curiosities.  


    During the Math and Science Night event, and in the weeks leading up to it, we heard children excited to be experts sharing their thinking. We heard kids so versed in the vocabulary of the subject matter they were exploring that they could listen to and respond to questions asked using scientific language and examples. We saw kids fail even as the evening was underway,  and we saw kids explore iteration after iteration of a design, learning new things along the way, even if their original plans might not have worked.


    For the past two years, we have been immersed in the Agency by Design Oakland fellowship. The opportunities and learning have layered well with Park Day’s progressive philosophy and educational mission.


    For a moment, let’s look at two studies happening simultaneously on Math and Science night: An ocean study in first grade and a marble roller coaster project in second grade.      






    The first graders in Katy’s class studied the ocean.  The project was fueled by the children’s curiosities- “I want to know more about how coral ends up in the ocean,” “How do whales float?,” and “How did salt get into ocean water in the first place?” (to name a few).  Through the project kids were asked to look closely at the interconnected systems within the ocean (parts, people and animals, and their interactions). We visited several local places (the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, Rodeo Beach in Marin, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and Saildrone in Emeryville) where ocean experts work and they taught us about how they are actively trying to help the ocean and why.  






    The children were asked to find opportunities in how they might help the ocean and, as scientists and engineers, what they might design that brings more information to light about their important ocean questions.  They were asked to communicate these complexities in their sharing with guests throughout the evening. The children’s jobs as people who work with the ocean allowed guests to witness the essence of first grade- PLAY- while also seeing the students interact with one another in a way that showed the depth of their learning.  Some phrases overheard included, “Now we are entering the dark zone,” “This is a symbiotic relationship,” and “Watch out for those sea turtle nests!”





    In their classroom reflection following the study, the children shared about the amount of choices they had-  which ocean animal they were going to research, design choices in making their Saildrones, and whether they were going to be tour guides, park rangers or Marine Mammal Center veterinarians when sharing the ocean with others.  One student went so far as to compare the Ocean exhibit to a more traditional “science fair” saying, “It’s not like we just brought our parents up to our work and they said, “Nice work.” This writing by a child articulates how this study will live on in children and shape their thinking as they encounter the deeper complexities and challenges in our world.  In response to the question, “Why is the ocean important?” she writes, “Because it is the heart of our world. It is also very delicate. And if the ocean didn’t live, we wouldn’t live. A lot of animals live there too! And earth is mostly made of water! And don’t throw trash please!”

    In second grade, we build upon children’s natural curiosities to understand how systems are interconnected and how things work by capitalizing on their growing ability to observe and notice. Using a thinking routine, we looked closely at a picture of a roller coaster and dissected the parts, purposes and complexities in a single roller coaster. What feelings came up? What questions did they have about roller coasters? As the class discussed the roller coaster system, we began to see interrelated connections and questions - the discussion branched out quickly to questions about the forces at play and design elements which allow roller coasters to be “thrilling, yet terrifying!”.


    Now a year older and more developed in their fine motor skills, the second graders looked closely at their marble experiments each step of the way and utilized patience as they tested variables against controls.







    Throughout this project, students were asked to explore and test how materials worked in partnerships. They looked closely at the impact of materials and found opportunities in improvising ways to use the same materials.






    They also explored the complexity of explaining whether or not scientific data supported their initial hypothesis. For many, it was a challenge to learn how to interpret the data that was collected and to learn how to extrapolate a response using scientific terms.  






    As they became experts in how to make a marble roller coaster, children found opportunity as designers and engineers to resolve problems with creative solutions in real time with instant feedback. Multiple opportunities to iterate and re-iterate forced us to slow down and make careful, miniscule adjustments each time in order to re-calibrate each marble coaster.


    Alongside learning physics principles, the children had an enormous amount of exciting fun. We capped off our marble coasters with a virtual ride on a roller coaster, which was a highlight for many of the second graders.






    These are just two examples of the dynamic yet grounded ways in which making, thinking and learning are fostered here not just on Math and Science night, but on a daily basis. Making is an extension of our mindful approach to teaching- when you approach something with mindfulness, it helps you to discover things you never knew about how it works, who made it, and even leads to imaginings about how it could be designed differently.  We would argue that making and mindfulness go hand in hand, that children learn even more deeply by creating their own meaning and understanding through their made experiences and, that it is through this lens that children at Park begin to see the world as interconnected systems where everything has an impact and anything can be changed.


    As you prepare for this summer, we challenge you to find these kinds of moments to make and learn together with your child. How will you consciously build a bridge to tie school, home and community lives together? Slow down the pace of life and examine the ordinary. Dive deep with simple questions. Pause to ponder. How, when, and where will you look closely, explore complexity and find opportunity together?

    Comments (-1)
  • I "Heart" Science

    Posted by Carrie Moy on 5/16/2018 8:00:00 AM

    As humans we have important body systems that help us stay alive and healthy. Each system plays an important role, and is made up of several key organs and components. There are tons of tiny little things that happen every single moment of the day that help us survive. Throughout our unit on the human body, we explored several mini moments in our own bodies, and especially the heart and circulatory system, to get an overview of various human body parts and systems and how they work. 


    Over the course of the unit, students explored big questions in lab work and dissections and reflected on what they learned. Some highlights included, identifying which part of the body is most sensitive and why and determining a person's reaction time by measuring how long it takes to catch a falling ruler during times of concentration and distraction. Then they discovered under which condition (undistracted or distracted) was the average reaction time shorter and why.


    In addition, they worked collaboratively and shared knowledge during our pig heart dissection and left the dissection with an appreciation for the complexity of the organ in an hands-on learning environment. They explored the questions, "What does pulse rate tells you about how the heart works?" Then, they determined their heart rates before and after various activities. They also wondered, "Physically speaking, why is it necessary for your pulse rate to change with each activity?"




    Here are some of their reflections about the dissection process:


    “I got to put my knowledge into a real-life example. Dissections should continue because it gives you an opportunity to apply your knowledge into an example. It is also helpful because you can compare what the heart looks like in person vs. what a real-life example looks like. It is also really cool to actually dissect because you can see different layers and parts and where they are and how you can get to them plus thicknesses and textures.”


    “What I got out of the dissection was really learning about how the heart really works. I have always seen pictures and diagrams about the heart but never in real life. I think it was great that we got to see how something inside of our body works and looks like. It was also very interesting to see how blood and oxygen flows through the body.”

    An important part of our Middle School science curriculum is having opportunities to share scientific discoveries with the "outside world" just like professional scientists do. Math, Science and Engineering Night provided the perfect way for our middle school scientists to share their newfound knowledge with friends, family and the rest of the school. Below are some of their presentations.


    Students shared how chest only compressions help blood move blood and oxygen through the body to mimic the pumping of the heart and preserve intact brain function and blood circulation for a person who is in cardiac arrest.




    Students used their knowledge of how the heart pumps blood throughout the body to read individual’s systolic and diastolic blood pressure.




    In addition to learning about the heart and circulatory system, students learned about different fingerprint patterns and the distribution of the types throughout a population (e.g. were there more loops, whirls, arches, etc.). On Math, Science and Engineering Night, students helped people determine their unique fingerprint pattern.







    Comments (-1)
  • PDS Service Learning: Middle School Students in the Community

    Posted by Jeanine Harmon on 5/10/2018

    Throughout each school year, our middle school students head out into the community to volunteer as part of our service learning program.  In sixth grade, the students begin working together on projects and activities that benefit a specific site. In seventh and eighth grade, our students participate in three Service Days with their advisory groups at six different sites across the East Bay. We ask our students to literally roll up their sleeves and put themselves in the service of others.  These service learning experiences encourage our students to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Sometimes this means students will get messy. Sometimes they might feel a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes they will work in places in the community they have never seen before. Throughout each experience, our students work together to help make their site a bit better than it was before they started, and learn more about themselves in the process.




    One of the goals of our middle school service learning program is to build strong connections with our service sites and their supporting organizations. This year, we launched a new stewardship project with Frog Park, a neighborhood park located in the Rockridge greenbelt. Our sixth graders partnered with volunteers from the organization Friends of Frog Park to help with ongoing care of this popular playground. Did you know that Frog Park was founded and created by neighborhood and community activists? Our students were able to meet and work with some of these founders as part of their service learning experience this year. Before each volunteer session, a guest speaker came to speak to the class about different aspects of Frog Park history. We learned a lot, including the fact that the park is largely maintained by volunteers, not the by the City of Oakland.


    Our seventh and eighth grade students work with their advisory groups and volunteer at the same site three times over the course of the school year. Each advisor creates the framing for each service learning session, and provides opportunities for both individual and group reflection. Our Service Day sites and organizations include St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda, Cleveland Cascade, Merrill Gardens, Lake Merritt Institute, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and Piedmont Avenue Elementary School.  Our students lend a hand wherever help is needed: prepping food for the soup kitchen at SVDP, playing board games with seniors in the Memory Care unit, scooping up trash and debris from Lake Merritt with giant nets, sweeping walkways and stairways at Cleveland Cascade, removing invasive species at Sibley and assisting first graders with their classwork at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School.




    We want our students to have the opportunity to meet every day people doing extraordinary things for their community. Many of these people are doing their work, both paid and unpaid, without any fanfare.  They provide inspiration and motivation to help make the world a better place.


    We have big dreams for our students. Through their volunteerism and service, through their conversations with their site coordinators and their interactions with the people at these sites, we believe the seeds of empathy, compassion, and activism will take root and grow. Park Day students really can make a difference!

    Comments (-1)
  • Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Mosaic!

    Posted by Ben, Karen, and Kristy on 4/26/2018

    Wow… today is our last full day at Mosaic! Today brought all of the week's learning together.

    Earlier in the week we learned about recognizing, accepting and celebrating the differences that make us unique. Yesterday's theme was “interconnectedness.”  We start each day with a quote after breakfast, and the quote today was from John Muir:  “When you tug on any one thing, you’ll find it is hitched to everything else in the universe.” Each morning, some mysterious visitors also visit from the future, who lay down a challenge to us as change makers of the future. 
    A lot of game-tivities happen in sharing circles, and yesterday we shared about the difference between being passive (allowing someone to invade you or your space), aggressive (invading someone else’s space) and assertive (standing up for yourself or “being strong without being mean”). We noticed that some of our greatest heroes who were peaceful changemakers like Rosa Parks, Ghandi and Dr. King, practiced being assertive and standing up for what was right without hurting themselves or others in the process. We also talk about how to be allies and stand up for/support one another without taking sides. 
    There is also a lot of magic up here at Mosaic, and today’s interconnectedness theme also connected us with nature. The kids go on hikes in their sharing group, and find mysterious maps and messages from the Redwood Tree Spirit. The hike is also stunning, and afforded us opportunities to touch and smell a wild mint (yerba buena) and hear the call of the mysterious Hermit Thrush. 
    We ended Wednesday with one of our favorite activities—the “Very Unusual Dinner,” which simulates the distribution of wealth and resources in the world (while still getting equal food). In our simulation, all kids have the opportunity to change the world and re-create it as they would ideally envision it. And, indeed they did—building a model for community and connectedness based on equity that we can all learn from and hope to emulate. Our PDS kids always make us proud here at Mosaic—taking their leadership and allyship skills and putting them into practice with the larger community. Wednesday night, we had an extra challenge as the area lost power for a while (wild turkeys!), and we had sandwiches for dinner while our pizzas waited to be cooked (we had them for lunch today). All the kids handled this setback really well, and, as always, we love seeing how they will approach and solve the simulation each year. 
    Overall, we’ve been so impressed with this group’s support of one another and their ability to extend themselves to others, whether sharing their feelings with cabin mates, solving an issue with the whole group, enjoying the magic in the air and the pairing up for deep conversations with kids they don’t know and who may be  different from them. The initial homesickness some of our students felt Monday night has definitely turned into “missing Mosaic” feelings as we prepare to head back home. 

    As April is national poetry month and today is “poem in your pocket day”, we started off the last full day today by having teacher time with Ben leading us in a poetry activity. Students were given different poems to keep in their pocket and read their poem to different partners. Students were then given the opportunity to reflect and write their own poems about their time at Mosaic, a way to reflect on this transformational week. 

    We then attended "Conflict Resolution College" and learned the steps to solving problems. Mosaic even has a new way of looking at conflicts: It's not me against you, it’s you and me, together, against the problem. The students all practiced the steps to conflict resolution. 1) Stop and take a breath, 2) Listen to each other, 3) Talk using "I statements", 4) Empathize and 5) Plan a solution. Students received their diplomas (both paper and cookie) upon successful completion of the rigorous examination of conflict resolution. Students had a special pizza lunch and each person got to practice writing and sharing an "I-statement” on how to share their feelings with others in a constructive and assertive manner. 
    This afternoon brought on the ultimate challenge, a culmination of the Mosaic week: the Peanut Butter Booger Snot Fire River (or something to that effect). Working together and using all of the Mosaic Values as well as tools like assertiveness, listening, empathy and "I" statements, each group successfully navigated the treacherous obstacle. After overeating at the burrito dinner (which ended with a refreshing ice cream dessert), we were treated to our final campfire. This group of kids, now bonded by their shared experience, sang their hearts out, and cheered and laughed together.
    The night ended with a special ceremony, a candle lit solo walk, signifying their departure from Mosaic. While our children will leave Mosaic as individuals, their path is now lighted by what they've learned in this place, beneath these trees and amongst these friends.
    Comments (-1)
  • Sixth Graders' Frog Park and Greenbelt Service is Featured in The Rockridge News!

    Posted by Margaret Piskitel on 4/18/2018 4:00:00 PM

    Our sixth graders have been stewarding Frog Park and the Greenbelt through the Community Outreach and Service Learning program. Check out the article which features them and Jeanine, Director of Community Outreach and Service Learning, in The Rockridge News!

    rockridge news

    Here are some photos of the students working at Frog Park. 









    Comments (-1)
  • Making Thinking Structures Visible: Timelines, Maps, and Grids

    Posted by Rachel Stone on 4/4/2018

    One of my goals in middle school social studies is to give students a framework upon which to place future knowledge and weave it into understanding. In my mind, I think of this like a basket, with points of intersection between space and time. I want students to develop a basic understanding of both the timeline and of physical geography so that they can place new information (history, current events, politics, travel plans, etc.) in an internalized grid of timeline and location. Working with the visual tools of maps, globes and timelines is an important part of our work in humanities.


      timeline    time


    6th graders have the fun benefit of starting with the very beginning of time, the big bang! We start the year looking at various representations of the timeline of the whole universe. (A favorite short video uses the football field analogy to show the history of planet earth. Spoiler alert: humans are just a blade of grass.) We try our own version: Students are each assigned a key turning point in the history of the universe and figure out a logical chronology along the edge of the field. We discuss where these events would really be spaced if we had a consistent scale, but don’t actually attempt this as it would take us far off campus!


    Our classroom has a more human-centered timeline running the length of a wall. It takes us from the bronze age through the near future. When we learn about a civilization, a Pharaoh, or invention, we take the step to locate this event on our classroom timeline. For example, students just learned about the three periods of Egyptian history: often called the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. Even to me, getting to see them visually on our classroom timeline brings home the incredible duration of this civilization. (I can’t wait until we get to China!) A student today pointed out that while we had marked periods when the kingdom of Kush conquered and was conquered by Egypt, we had not marked the important defensive victory against Rome in 24 BCE. She added the post-it note herself, to my delight.


    heir   hier

    Maps have come up in an interesting way recently as well. The Nile, flowing north into the Mediterranean Sea, gives us a great opportunity to stretch our brains around the fact that the earth is globe-shaped rather than flat, two-dimensional rectangle. As easy as they are to put on a bulletin board or in a binder, sometimes maps actually obscure this. Because Egyptians thought of their life-giving water supply as flowing from the Upper Nile to the Lower Nile, Lower Egypt is actually above Upper Egypt on any typical North-up map. Struggling to wrap our heads around this, a student suggested that we flip the direction of our Nile River map to better match the Egyptian concept. I had an extra copy, so we put the second map upside-down (or South-up) next to the original. In the next class, a student pushed us further to represent our thinking visually. We held the long map of the Nile River between us, and gave it the slight downhill slope that would show how water actually flows into the Mediterranean. (Thinking that the Nile is not actually a waterfall flowing down our classroom walls.) And we put up this third map horizontally. Sixth graders are still quite concrete, but can grasp (and love to puzzle out) new levels of complexity.  I loved this moment because students were suggesting how to better use our classroom tools to externalize their thinking.


    A third classroom tool we are currently using is more about visualizing a specific way of thinking and categorizing information. Our biggest bulletin board is a grid of ancient river-valley civilizations. Each row identifies an aspect of society or civilization, such as the system of government, religious system, arts and entertainment, or advances in technology. Each column is dedicated to one of the ancient civilizations we study. For example, the first column records our study of ancient Sumer, showcasing images of artifacts we’ve studied in depth, and new facts students found worth pondering. (Carefully paraphrased and with credible sources listed, of course.)



    Last week, we looked at Egyptian artifacts (well, replicas) as archaeologists. When putting up images and new information, students had to think through what aspects of civilization each artifact connected to - usually seeing at least two or three options. I love any chance for students to experience that human methods of categorization can be as limiting as they are useful. A complex understanding is much more about the nuances of grey area than binary categories. For example, students wanting to put up an image of The Victory Tablet of Narmer had to make a physical decision of where to place it. The king’s victory is all about the system of government, but it’s also a piece of art showing advances in technology, and it serves as a type of record keeping of the story of Narmer’s conquest. I love that this structure shows the limits of this type of clear categorization while maintaining its usefulness. As with the timeline and the map of the Nile River, students engage actively with these classroom tools. We want our next generations to be empowered to use, critique, and improve methods of representation.


    art   art1

    art2    art4

    Comments (-1)
  • Our Own Becky's Math Brain!

    Posted by Margaret Piskitel on 3/29/2018

    Check out our own 6th Grade Math/Science Teacher Becky Bob-Waksberg as she gives a talk called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in 4th Grade" at the Ignite event at CMC South 2017 in Palm Springs, CA. 


    Comments (-1)
  • Solving Problems That Arise in Everyday Life

    Posted by Jeff Allen on 3/22/2018

    Whenever we use math to fix a problem or accomplish something, like counting how many plates to put out when guests are coming over for dinner, we create a representation of the situation in our minds and perform mathematical operations on the idea, not necessarily on the physical objects. We don’t need to wait until people actually show up in order to count them.


    We’re quite good at this, and have developed such a strong understanding of the process that we can now teach machines to do many of the most tedious calculations for us. When we enter a formula into a spreadsheet cell, we’re modeling some sort of relationship.


    One of the Standards for Mathematical Practice at the heart of the Common Core State Standards reads: CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4 Model with mathematics.


    Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. In early grades, this might be as simple as writing an addition equation to describe a situation. In middle grades, a student might apply proportional reasoning to plan a school event or analyze a problem in the community. By high school, a student might use geometry to solve a design problem or use a function to describe how one quantity of interest depends on another. Mathematically proficient students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions. They routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation and reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it has not served its purpose.




    Models are vehicles for understanding things: they give us both a direct experience of the models and a vicarious experience of what they represent at the same time. Playing with toys and dolls is very much this kind of modeling, and animated toys seem to be universally engaging.


    A model railroad is a particularly rich toy environment that can represent a wide range of contexts and disciplines: engineering, transportation, commerce, history, politics, physics, communications, geography, geology, botany, economics, manufacturing, architecture, agriculture, labor relations, and so on.


    I was introduced to model railroading as a young boy when a family friend retired. Ruby Ames was a Special Education specialist in Richmond and she had built a large model railroad in her K-3 classroom to entertain and engage her students. Ruby helped me dig out a space in our basement for the model railroad I had inherited.




    A few years ago here at Park Day School I built a small model railroad called “The Inglenook” to test my hunch that middle school students would respond positively to the experience represented by an animated scale model of very massive moving objects. It was configured to introduce some of the basic logical constructs of sorting and selecting required to assemble a train (a linear system) in a specific order. It used digitally controlled models with authentic sounds so that bell and whistle signals could be used to replicate the way communications gets encoded in a large or noisy environment.


    mr  ops


    Kids seemed to enjoy it, and it opened up opportunities to talk about many “real-world” applications of the math we were learning: scale, ratio and proportion, surface area and volume, slope, quadratic and even cubic equations for just a few examples.




    At the same time, I was discovering that the dimensions and arrangement of structural columns in the classroom resulted in “dead areas” that had poor sight lines to the screen and whiteboard teaching surfaces, areas where I couldn’t seat students during instructional time. Perhaps those spaces could be used for other purposes?


    Eventually we decided to extend The Inglenook concept to incorporate more sophisticated switching puzzle possibilities, and the plans for an entire town with numerous rail-served manufacturing facilities emerged. Now, the tasks of building a more elaborate railroad have added many “maker” experiences to complement all of the paper-and-pencil work of the normal math curriculum. 


    drill  cut


    An interesting design challenge for the railroad has been the requirement to empty the room every summer for the summer camp programs, and in October the room gets used for the Mini Maker Faire. Whatever we build must be put away from June through October. Therefore we’ve been building in sections, each a separately installed unit with carefully aligned joints. Each year, students have done the calculations needed to build new sections, and the railroad currently winds three-quarters of the way around the room!




    Right now we’re completing the track-laying and electrical work needed to start operating a second town that represents a junction of two railroads and a busy shipping port, where trains arrive from all directions and are broken down into blocks that are routed to new destinations. The nature of railroads as a network of linear systems is adding another layer of mathematical thinking to our model.


    Now when I ask students to calculate how many pencils fit into a boxcar, it isn’t the entirely abstract exercise of dividing the volume of a large rectangular prism by the volume of a small octagonal one. After all, they can see the pencil factory, and the boxcar, and the little person loading the crates of pencils right there in front of them.



    Comments (-1)
  • Design+Make+Engage with Park Day Community Projects!

    Posted by Ilya Pratt on 3/9/2018

    Over the past two months students have been busy with several campus improvement projects supported by the Design+Make+Engage program and the Innovation Workshop.


    Nature Zone

    Fourth grade has been making improvements to the Nature Zone. They built a shingled bamboo shelving unit to hold baskets of Nature Zone materials, added a stylin’ Nature Zone sign to the entrance arch, and bolted together a slab and tree round to make a table. In addition, signage for how to use the NZ was designed by students and then carved using the Innovation Workshop CNC router.

    nature zone  shelf

    kairos   building   amelea

    Hula Hoop Racks and Classroom Storage

    Middle school elective students took on two design and build challenges: hula hoop racks and a storage box for Alisa, 3rd-5th grades Spanish teacher. They were able to successfully meet each project’s design criteria such that both racks and storage unit are now in full use!


    hula hoops  

    Build BIG: Middle School Gathering Space

    The 7th Grade Mini Course week provided the time for students to complete the second phase of the middle school outdoor gathering space. This space was designed last year by 6th graders during the Innovation Workshop electives course after Park received a donation of 14, 3-inch thick, 16-foot long redwood planks. This was a design thinking project, which began with students considering the various stakeholders served and impacted by the proposed structure. They then researched for inspiration and prototyped several possible solutions. Their ideas came together into a large sculptural bench. Phase 1 build was completed during last year’s Mini Course week.

    ms bench   nat


    This was no small project—working with the planks required thoughtful teamwork, serious sawing, and seemingly endless sanding. In addition, students located, dug in and leveled the foundation piers. The build crew was terrific, getting the job done safely and with good humor. Thanks to Jenny Ray for partnering this year, and a big shout out to Jennifer Cooper for partnering through the design process and phase 1 build. Feel free to stop by and climb, sit, or crawl under the benches!


    Thank you to Gabi Rossi for facilitating the plank donation, and to the Abundance Foundation for a grant for the additional supplies and tools used to complete this project.


    Plinko Problem Solver

    This year’s CARE week theme was centered on empathy and kindness here on campus. During the week, Devin’s class decided to see what they could do to help with some of the key conflict times on campus. They engaged in a full design thinking process to identify problem areas, and narrowed their focus to playground conflicts. After brainstorming 100 possible solutions, they prototyped those that met the criteria and then decided to build the Plinko Problem Solver and create a set of accompanying skits to help the community learn to use it. Along the way they had an unplanned math lesson on random outcomes—the foundation for future studies in probability. If you and a friend need support settling a disagreement, try out the Plinko Problem Solver in the lower yard!


    From the educator’s perspective, we love the conversations and learnings that happen during these kinds of projects. While their hands are engaged in building—or acting—students engage in rich conversation related to the central topics, usually asking lots of What If…? And What about? questions of each other, naturally going deeper and deeper, uncovering the nuances of these complex topics.

    plinko   solve


    Comments (-1)