Class Notes March 6, 2011

   The students finished the structural parts of their suspension bridge models; they worked very hard and learned to use quite a variety of tools. We’ll decide as a group whether we want to paint them and do sculptural landscapes. I took down a huge old dead cherry tree in my hedgerow. (“I cannot tell a lie”). We took an enormous log and split it into smaller pieces with a maul, then began working the beautiful wood down into woodwork projects size, with a variety of tools.
   After a comprehensive look at the map of North Africa and the middle East, we charted the movements and actions of he US Navy, the forces loyal to Gadhafi, and the Libyan rebels. Much of the fighting centered on oil distribution ports.We discussed the world’s reaction to this, the stock market dip, the 100 dollar/barrel oil, and the effects we would feel. I asked what the kids had for lunch. One of them said, a sandwich, peanut butter and honey. What’s the sandwich on? Bread. How do you get the bread? From wheat. Where do you get the wheat. You buy land. How do you start the crop? You cultivate the soil. With what? Tractors. Using what? Gas (oil). Then you plant the seed. Using what? Tractors. Oil. Then you fertilize the wheat plants using a petrochemical nitrogen rich fertilizer, using a tractor, or sprayer. Oil. Or if it’s a smaller scale farm and you use composts and more natural fertilizers, how do you apply them, to a whole field of wheat, on a commercial basis? Tractors, implements, oil. (Who manufactured the tractor parts, who assembled the tractors, who distributed them, and how?) How do you harvest the wheat? Combines; oil. How do you get the wheat to the mill? Trucks, oil. (Who drives the truck? Farmer, truckdriver.What gives them the energy to drive the wheat? Bread.) How do they grind the wheat? Machines; run on oil, coal, wind, nuclear. Flour put in 100 lb sacks. Where does the paper come from? Paper mill. Trees cut by loggers using chainsaws; gas (oil). What about the printing on the sacks? Ink in bottles, distributed how? Trucks, oil… ” Can we eat? ” the cry goes out from the crowd. We never even approached discussing the peanut butter.
   Later, I read them “The Fork ” a cover story I wrote for the Grapevine 20 years ago, that follows the human and resource journey of an old silver fork handed down in my family. Then the students tried their hand at such a thought process story, part fiction, part social truth. I’ll try and send a copy of “the Fork ” to all.
   We looked at the incredible portraits by Arcimoldo of Renaissance rulers, using fruits, vegetables, sea creatures, etc. Portraits as still lives, and so avant garde for a court painter in the 1500s; many call him the first surrealist. The children tried their hands at such a portrait, using any objects they wished; the results were quite varied. We explored perspective using arithmetic and geometric calculations. Later we’ll look at some of the great masters of perspective.
   We stood in a big circle and tried to keep a volleyball in the air. This is a skill we need to practice. It builds social skills, the capacity to listen, anticipate, be delicate, and flexible, and dynamic. We’ll work on this again and improve our record.

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