Class Notes, March 25, 2013


I want to keep you apprised of some of the work we’ve been doing before it sifts through the sands of my mind… which reminds me of Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” which we’ve been reciting – “the lone and level sands stretched far away.” We’ve also been reciting “The Fairies”, Yeats’ “Lake Isle of Innisfree”, and “Song of Wandering Aengus” Hopkins’ “The Windhover”, Nashe’s “Spring the Sweet Spring” and  Browning’s “Pippa’s Song”.

   Our exploration of  Babylonian Math revealed astounding innovations and principles still in play. Their astronomers developed the twelve-fold Zodiac, and the division of the year, hour and minute, based on 60 or sexagesimal system of numbers. They advanced the measurement of the circle and divided it into 360 degrees, worked on chords, diameters, radii, and a relative Pi. They advanced the study of square numbers, solved cubic dimensions, and solved complex algebraic problems, as evidenced by many of the 500,000 cunieform clay tablets found to date from the period, 2,000 B.C.
   To advance our study of Area and Geometry we’ve been working with graph paper and floor tiles to explore square dimensions; and we will be corraborrating the work we’ve done outside, as Egyptian surveyors, or rope-stretchers, using the 3-4-5 triangle, by working on and proving the Pythagorean Theorem. We’ll also look into the history and eccentricities of his exclusive school of knowledge. We’ll also explore some of his elegant geometric proofs.
   Some of the pieces we’re practicing and considering presenting, at an end-of-year performance are:  “The Talking Mule” an Appalachian folk tale, “Skunny Wundy”, an Iriquois tale, “Sambara and Indra”, a Hindu myth, “The Unicorn” by James Thurber,  “Yankel the Chicken Man”, “Chelm Goat Mystery”, Jewish folklore, “Pat and Mike and the Snake”, an Irish-American tale, “Gal’O Mine”, American Folk legend, Market Scene from “Isis and Osiris”, Egyptian play,  “Raksashas and the Rainbow”, Buddhist myth.
   We began our study of Atelier drawing, a method I studied as a youth, a Rennaissance method that involves light, dark, reflected light and cast shadow, and careful observation. I brought many different hardnesses and softnesses of drawing pencils and charcoal, so the students could experience various visual qualities. We started with simple natural shapes and will move to casts and drawing in situ.
   For St.Patrick’s, beside the Yeats and Hopkins poems, I taught them some Irish tunes I learned first-hand from the Bothy Band on their first American tour in the 70’s, when they stayed five days at my friends farm in Amish country   “The Butterfly” and a Gaellic air. We continued to work on “Perky Nuthatch”, “I am a Giant “, “The Unicorn is a Mythical Beast”, all songs I  wrote for plays. Best of all, we were at a Jewish/Buddhist alternative Passover Seder, and after singing “Dayenu”, I convinced my daughter to sing with me the version I wrote to that tune to teach her fifth-grade class all the Finger Lakes. She remembered them all perfectly. So I taught the song to the kids today and began a conversation about a class trip to some of the lakes, and a planning for bird-watching, canoeing and camping. We also did some geology, comparing the depths and heights above sea level of all the Finger Lakes. We discussed the Thermal Mass, or radiator effect that the lakes had on the grapes ripening in the many local vineyards.  We’ll also begin to take day-trips to the Wildflower Garden and Lab of Ornithology.
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