Class Notes, October 2011

 The site at the Finnstitute has evolved from the clamorous kitchen with it’s easy access to the big gathering room and the outside play spaces, which required daily set up and break down; to the quiet, warm, carpeted Meditation room which engenders more thoughtful contemplation and conscientious learning, and requires set up on Mon. break down on Wed. It also calls for indoor shoes and some indoor decorum and self-control because of the proximity to the Little Leaf 3,4,5 class next door. We still thankfully get to have snack and lunch and woodwork and messy experiments in the kitchen. The play space, soccer field, basketball court, and patio have been a great source of energetic social interaction, and these occasionally raucous teens and pre-teens always come back inside almost civilized. Some students have begun to help, during Finnsitute time,  with the nature lodge I’m building on Fridays with the students K-5 of Little Leaf. That makes a healthy connection between the two educational groups. We’ve also drawn up a plan to install a new deck and railings to support the slide at the correct height on the playground I built years ago with my Stone Circle students. We’ve done drawings, checked prices and drawn up an estimate which we’re submitting to the Foundation of Light, as if we were the contractors, which we are. That also builds a bridge between school and ‘tute’.
   We’ve been focusing on experiments that are hands-on and striking, and writing many of them down in simple scientific method. Let me say, at this point, it would be really healthy and helpful for each student to have a notebook for writing down all our work in science, math, creative writing, economics, social history, architecture and shelter, etc. and so keep a continuing record for themselves and for you as parents,of what we’ve been working on. This will make your job of understanding and reporting on academic and creative activities so much easier. Also a drawing pad for architectural drawings, sketching, pastels, etc is an essential tool if the child is to be prepared and successful at the Finnstitute.
   Some of the experiments we done so far have dealt with: Ghost penny and retina retention, Lift that cube using salt and ice, Pulse detector made of match and tack, Floating frankfurter, a curious optical illusion, Circles out of lines geometry changed by spinning, Hot and cold and room temperature explores judging subjectively ( personal reaction ) and objectively ( scientific measurement ), Probability in possible combinations of boys and girls in families with surprising proportions and combinations ( numerical! ), Paper fold proof of geometric laws with simple folding technique, Lightning fast addition using number secrets to astound, Magic multiplication to give your friend his favorite digit, in the millions, Subjective color, creating Fechner discs in black and white, which when spun, create color. ( We liked this experiment so much we convinced Larry at the Sciencenter to let us try and make a big disc and hook it up to one of the windmills we built at  the Sciencenter last spring. More on this in another report.), Gravity seesaw, made of melting candles, Finger in the bowl, seeming to defy reason, Irregular balance finding the center of gravity, the Unbreakable toothpick explaining first second and third class levers, Floating ball the mystery of air pressure made simple, Magic money startling power of refraction, Overcoming friction how thr pyramids were possible. Many more will follow.
    After a visit to see how our windmills were spinning we realized we wanted to keep the lightweight, volatile one un-slowed down by its load or possible work. This led to our class study of Ohm’s Law, where we begin to understand the relationships between current(amps), potential difference(volts) and resistance(ohms).
   Next week I’ll write about some of our work in Language arts, grammar, creative writing, fine arts, architecture, world economics and woodwork.
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