Vince’s summary

Report from Vince

15 August

Computer programming CP-1B. Thursday period 01, 8:30-9:05 AM.

This group of students strongly preferred to work on their own without my help last year, so they will largely work on their own this year. I dedicated the first class to how computers work, from the CPU to the high-level languages. The topics included how a CPU is made from extremely purified silicon, which is then doped with boron or phosphorus. We discussed how big transistors are (as small as 300 atoms wide), and how hugely challenging it is for chip designers to figure out efficient wiring.

Computer programming CP-3. Thursday period 02, 9:05-9:40 AM.

This group will largely be programming in Python 3, an extremely popular language for code developers. We discussed how programming developed, from the Jacquard weaving loom through the work of Ada Lovelace and Admiral Grace Hopper. We covered the differences in action and in speed of execution between interpreted languages such as Python and the fast languages that include Fortran and C. We discussed how the core of action, the central processing unit, interacts with the monitor, the keyboard, several kinds of memory, the mouse, and more, starting with “interrupts” = “hey, I need to talk with you. “

Computer programming CP-1B, Friday period 04, 10:35-11:10 AM.

The group is mainly 3rd-graders; most have not programmed in either graphical systems (Scratch) or linear code such as Python. I brought up some examples of Scratch, which interested the students. We then got into a number of details on how they will run code in the cloud in a browser, using the 15 Chromebooks we have. I outlined the system: the device (Chromebook), the operating system (Chrome OS), the browser (Chrome), the storage of student work (Google Drive), the account for access (a Google account), and the applications we’ll use (Scratch, at code.org or at scratch.mit.edu). I am sending details to the parents.

Math C. Thursday period 04, 10:35-11:10 AM.

This advanced student is now working on probability and statistics. As it turns out, the levels 7 and 8 Singapore math books have only textbooks, with work being done “offline” in a notebook. We reviewed the basic concepts of probability, computing it as (number of successful occurrences) / (total number of possible occurrences). We worked through 6 or 7 cases.

Science, 6th – 8th grades. Thursday periods 09 & 10, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Several of the students are new to middle-school science. We began with selecting the kinds of questions we may try to answer in science. First was, Why does ice float. We traced this through several levels – it’s less dense (with Archimedes’ law), why it is less dense (the more rigid connections of water molecules in ice), and why molecules bond that way (a lead-in to quantum mechanics, with a brief review of its surprises). We got into the distance to the Moon, why it is increasing (related to the Moon creating tides and then pulling on the water bulge), and how we measure the distance through the laws of mechanics and direct laser ranging. We spent time on the nature of static electricity, from doorknob sparks to lightning.

Tennis A, 3rd grade. Thursday period 03, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Everyone had experience in tennis, so we chose racquets for best length and weight and reviewed the rules and scoring of tennis. Players practiced getting ready to return a ball, serving a ball, and returning a ball hit to them.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday period 02, 9:05-9:40 AM.

One student is essentially new to tennis, so we went over the rules of the game. We selected racquets by length and weight. We all practiced the grip, the ready position, some elements of forehand and backhand strokes, and the overhead serve. We played two short games, 1 against 2.

 

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday period 03, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Several students had not played tennis before or else only minimally and over one year ago, so we reviewed the rules of the game. We selected racquets by length and weight. We all practiced the grip, the ready position, some elements of forehand and backhand strokes, and the overhead serve. I served to each student in turn and they worked on serving to me.

World culture, 3rd – 4th grades. Friday periods 09 & 10, 2:35-3:45 PM.

We began by recounting the diversity of ethnic origins among all the parents in the school, then the diversity of languages spoken, as well as of special customs. I recounted the 41 countries that Lou Ellen and I visited or lived in, many in the company of our son, David, and his wife, Yi. I brought up the webpages I created, Call of the Far East. Students had a great number of questions, as well as observations from their own experience.

22 August

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday 8:30-9:05 AM. This group tends to work alone without asking for or dealing with my help, so, before their getting into programming, we discussed how computers work. I noted the layers of control over the transistors that set all the results: software, on top of firmware (especially BIOS, the Basic Input Output System), on top of hardware (the silicon chips). We watched a monitor taken apart to show how all its parts work. We’ll do a computer teardown soon, perhaps using also a computer that Zain took apart. We discussed how all instructions and all data are encoded as on-off patterns of individual “binary digits” or bits.

Computer programming CP-2, Tuesday 2:35-3:10 PM. The students here are experienced in using Chromebooks and in programming in Scratch. They all retrieved their assigned Chromebooks and went to scratch.mit.edu for programming in Scratch, with which they are all familiar. They readily picked up where they were working last academic year, generating new projects with chosen backgrounds and characters (sprites), motion controls, and other controls.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday 9:05-9:40 AM. All refamiliarized themselves with Chromebook use, sign-in to Google accounts, and getting into colab.research.google.com for Python programming.

We looked at three forms of variables: strings, integers, or floating point numbers, and looked at the latter in a bit more detail. They started their first new Jupyter notebook and their first program: Print (“Hello”). Then, they expanded the code to input a string of characters and print it. This expanded to inputting two strings, adding them, and printing the results.

Math C, grade 8, Thursday 10:00-10:35 AM. Samantha is working to finish book 7B, in the section on probability – she has it well in hand. I showed her the odd probability >50% that two people in the same room have the same birthday, if there are simply 23 people in the room!

Science, 6th – 8th grades. Monday 2:35-3:45 PM.

We got into more questions we can ask in science, tracing the oxygen that keeps us alive back to plants’ action, then to rain supporting plants, then to Earth’s water, then the delivery of oxygen to ancient Earth, then to nucleosynthesis of oxygen in old, exploded stars. We looked at the provision of water naturally, then in managed supplies (wells, utility companies, water moving in aquifers, water recharge by rainfall as in our nearby mountains). We similarly discussed provision of food, tracing it “all” the way back to farms and the inputs that modern farms need. We noted links in the chain the might break, threatening our supplies of oxygen, water, and food.

Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM: I gave students a quiz on oxygen origin, balancing a chemical reaction, suggesting experiments, and why Mars lost its water. We began discussing mechanics, starting with the mechanics of levers as force balancers. We looked at three classes, and what force ratios and distance ratios occur. I noted our muscles as mechanically “disadvantaged” lever operators. This gets us into physics of F, distance, energy, power, velocity, acceleration.

Thursday 2:35-3:45 PM. We dove into mechanics, the description of how bodies move under the action of forces. I noted the use of the metric system as the SI (Systeme Internationale), with its base units in mechanics of mass (kilogram, kg), distance (meter, m), and time (second, s). A force accelerates a body; it gains in velocity. There are close examples of constant acceleration, that of gravity near the Earth’s surface. We worked out how the distance and the velocity increase with time, using examples of a dropped marker, then of a falling human (skydiver). We discussed how two forms of energy get exchanged, potential energy and kinetic energy. We talked about the balance to multiple forces, such as gravity and a small rocket engine working on the marker. In a digression we looked at how heating of the Earth’s rock from below makes patterns in the rock as it solidifies, by analogy with a heated pan of water. This led also to a discussion of tectonic plate motion and earthquakes.

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday 10:35-11:10 AM.

All the players selected a racquet. Some helped set up the net and frame. They briefly tried an exercise in racquet control, balancing a ball. They learned the bounce serve after I showed them the legal overhead serve;. All had great fun serving to each other 4 on a side.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday 10:00-10:35 AM.

We all selected racquets and set up for doubles, with players rotating in and out. The service proved challenging, so all the players practiced that. Next, they practice returns of a simulated ground stroke.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday 9:05-9:40 AM.

After a long pandemic break, we all had to refresh our serving and receiving. Students took turns in doubles formation to serve to each other. Next, I served to players so they learned position on the court, readiness, and the approach to the ball. We ended with players working to serve to me.

Tennis D, 6th-graders. Friday 9:05-9:40 AM.

The players set up in doubles. They played doubles, rotating positions around the court. All of them got the opportunity to serve. We’ll be working on the serve intensively now.

Tennis E, 8th grade, Wednesday 10:00-10:35 AM.

Samantha is the most experienced player by far, so she and I practiced serving and returning, followed by 7 games. We both appreciated the refreshing of our serving and returning skills.

World culture grades 3-4, Friday 2:35-3:45 PM.

The theme this week was the introduction to a country; I chose Viet Nam, with a follow-on of Cambodia (Angkor Wat, primarily). We covered how one gets there, then what is developing in these nations. I showed many photos from our visit in 2017. Students had many good questions, as well as observations from their own and their family’s experiences. At the end questions about Kenya came up, so we looked at about 12 of our photos from that interesting country.

World culture grades 5-8, Wednesday 2:35-3:45 PM.

This is a brand-new class this year, an open discussion of how people around the world speak, work, celebrate occasions, travel, meet fellow citizens and strangers, use money, and more. Students noted the origins of their families in the US or in other nations, plus the variety of languages they speak. I brought in banknotes and coins of some of the 41 nations that Lou Ellen, David, Yi, and I have visited or lived in – this was so interesting to students. I asked students which countries they’d like to visit; the range was Canada, Japan, Iran, Pakistan, England, Kenya, and beyond. We talked about how to travel to another country and how to gain entry legally with a passport and a visa. I called up my website, lcaoutreach/org/travel/call-of-the-far-east to show students the great range of customs around Asia, as a start.

29 August

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

I talked about the reward of top-level programming jobs and the challenge to be met by hard work and talent. I loaned out Time-Life Books for students to learn how computer work, in more depth: L: Speed and Power; D: Communications; P: Computer Languages; Z: Memory and Storage; A1: Computer Basics; A2: Input and Output

Computer programming CP-1B, 3rd grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

Most students still have accounts that cause problems logging in, so we will not do logins now; we’ll use “Browse as Guest.” Students should get a small notebook to record where they stopped. They all enjoyed Scratch coding in the Web at code.org 🡪 Learn 🡪 Grades K-5 🡪 Course D.

Computer programming CP-2, mixed grades, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

All students began programming on their own, mostly on scratch.mit.edu, someone code.org, all in Scratch mode. The variety of projects was notable. I passed out individual spiral notebooks to students who wished to have them to record insights on coding.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We are all coding in the Python 3 language. We use the servers at colab.research.google.com. We did short programs to do math, including an if-block to prevent dividing by zero, and a test of matching a person’s name from names in an array.

Math C, 8th grade, Thursday, 10:00-10:35 AM. Samantha is reviewing book 7B to take unit tests and book tests. I helped with one problem.

Science grades 6-8: Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM:

We talked about defining the quantity of motion, which has been chosen as the momentum, mass times velocity for non-rotating objects. Momentum is conserved, in the absence of outside forces. We looked at notional cases: two students colliding in a game, then a truck and a car colliding. For interesting cases of momentum transfer we used steel ball bearings bouncing into each other on a “Newton’s cradle.” We used various numbers of balls given a start, and also making two balls stick together. I asked where the momentum went to reverse the swing of the balls, which comes from a portion of the force of gravity acting opposite to the momentum. I asked where the energy went as the balls slowed down to rest. To illustrate that the kinetic energy went into the kinetic energy of the atoms inside the balls, we pounded on a few layers of tape with a wooden mallet, finding that the tape got warm. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. Another look at momentum: when the marker hit the table, where did the momentum go? To the Earth. We calculated a recoil velocity of about 9×10-27 meters per second – an exercise in exponential notation for big and small numbers. It was also an engagement with the way that the force of gravity is measured. We discussed the nature of gravity as a distortion of space by masses – the Earth, a mountain, even a pencil. We went on to discuss free fall, from an approximation in a fast elevator going down, to the diving airplane, to a satellite such as the International Space Station. We’ll plan a measurement of the acceleration of gravity, using a high-speed video. We’ll also look at surface-level acceleration of a little cart pushed by small model rocket engines. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. To test the relation of force applied over time (impulse) to final velocity, we continued planning how to mount a model rocket engine safely on the striping cart. We discussed how to drop a feather in a vacuum; we also viewed an Apollo crew dropping a hammer and a feather on the Moon. We set up a pendulum and tested how its period is affected by mass (no effect), amplitude of the swing (tiny effect), and string length (period is proportional to the square root of the string length).

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

All the students lined up in pairs to work on returning balls I threw two at a time. They then split onto two sides to serve to each other, an exercise they enjoyed.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

The students played doubles games, rotating into the game. Some tried overhead serves. There was some arguing on the court, so I’m adding some rules. The shot of the game was made by Dante, with a hard shot to the corner.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Students practiced returns of my ground shots, then they played doubles in rotation.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

The students played good doubles games, following the complete rules of tennis. The shot of the day was made by Daniel with a drop shot virtually lengthwise along the net.

Tennis E, 8th grade, Wednesday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

We played many games of singles. We’re slowly upping our games.

World culture, grades 3&4, Friday 3:10-4:10 PM.

This week we went to Kenya! I brought in a Maasai wedding necklace and an “mzee” (old man) fly whisk of wildebeest tail hairs. We viewed many images from Lou Ellen’s and my trips in 1977, 1980, and 1982, covering many kinds of wildlife, adventures with a car breakdown and bush surgeon Mama Sikinan, and meeting many people – Kikuyu, Kamba, Maasai, & Kiwswahili.

World culture, grades 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

This week we visited China! I wore a late dynasty silk jacket given to me by the family of our daughter-in-law, Yi. We viewed a range of images from our family trip in 2015. Students discussed what they know about Chinese history, ancient and modern.

5 September

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

Students had read the Time-Life books on computers I gave them last week. Zain began the discussion of his book, Memory and Storage. We delved more deeply into storage types (ROM, RAM, sequential storage) and their characteristics (capacity, speed, and latency = wait time before starting to access data).

Computer programming CP-1B, 3rd grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

Most students were able to log in, while a few browsed as guest, which is fine. They all worked on puzzles at code.org, enjoying the challenges at various levels.

Computer programming CP-2, mixed grades, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

All the students are programming on their own, and now all are on scratch.mit.edu to create their own projects. The variety of projects remains notable. I helped several students with methods to encode such actions as simultaneous speech by two characters (“sprites”).

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We are all coding in the Python 3 language. We use the servers at colab.research.google.com. A challenge we posed for ourselves is to compare names that may differ in capitalization. We decided to use a built-in function, string.lower(), to convert both the input name and the target name to lowercase. We had not found the correct syntax during the class; I’ll share the answer next week.

Math C, 8th grade, Thursday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Samantha is reviewing book 7B to take unit tests and book tests.

Science grades 6-8:

Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM: I gave students three experiments to design. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. We went over the first two experimental designs. One was to safely attach a small model rocket engine to the paint striping cart, to test Newton’s second law. I guided the students toward the idea of an enveloping “brick,” which prevents the engine from bending sideways to escape as a projectile. The other was to design a retainer that holds a feather and a pebble inside a vacuum chamber and that releases both for us to see them fall together. We had it all assembled and under a high vacuum, but the feather had some vacuum grease on it and stuck. We’ll redo this with a clean feather on Thursday. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We compared speed, momentum, and energy in various phenomena: each student running a 20-meter course (up to 6 m/s), a car at highway speed (34 m/s), our “ride” on the Earth as it rotates (392 m/s at our latitude), the Earth rotating around the Sun (nearly 30,000 m/s), and the Solar System rotating around the Milky Way galaxy (230,000 m/s)… and a sand-grain meteorite hitting the International Space Station at 30,000 m/s). We also estimated how high above the surface some clouds in the sky were – about 1200 to 1300 m, based on the “adiabatic lapse rate of about 1°C per 100m; we measured the “radiative temperature” of the cloud base with an thermal infrared camera attachment to a cell phone. Low clouds! Yes, in a humid atmosphere.

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

The players learned the way to hit the forehand stroke. They made notable progress. They then tried the overhead serve, which is much harder; again, they all made progress.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Players began with practice on the forehand return. They rotated into doubles play, where the serves are improving each session.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

The court was wet, so we watched an excellent beginner’s tennis video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqgcykDGB2A, followed by a video of great play by Roger Federer.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Players began with practice on the forehand return. They rotated into doubles play, where the serves are improving each session. Most improved serve was Daniel’s.

World culture, grades 3&4, Friday 3:10-4:10 PM.

Today we went to Canada, East (francophone) and West (British Columbia – Vancouver, Haida Gwaii). We discussed the original settlers (Native Americans, some of whom, the Navajo and the Apache, became our neighbors after a volcanic eruption in 1540) and the French, British, and American dust-ups in colonial times. I brought in a traditional style Haida dance vest. Students had many, many questions and comments about the 56 images I showed from our trips in 2005 and 2007.

World culture, grades 5 – 8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today we visited Japan. We reviewed Japan’s history, back to the Ainu settlement, through the warlords period, the opening of Japan to the US, its industrial growth, WWII, and the democratic modern day. I showed various cultural items – a lacquer writing box, a large painting, a replica Ainu statue, Japanese money, a long scroll – and followed with about 150 images from the visit that Lou Ellen, David, Yi, and I made in 2019. Students had many questions and observations.

12 September

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

We’re discussing the topics in the Time-Life books about computers. I filled in on input/output as we traced our individual inputs (keyboard strokes, mouse movements, connecting drives) and outputs (display generation, connection to the Internet). We got into details of how the Internet works, from us to scratch.mit.edu and back.

Computer programming CP-1B, 3rd grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

All students readily accessed code.org, whether logged in via Google accounts or as guest or whether logged in on code.org or not. They vary in the levels of code they are attempting but all are enjoying it. I help students as they feel the need; they’re good at accepting instruction.

Computer programming CP-2, mixed grades, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

All students are programming on their own at scratch.mit.edu to create their own projects. The variety of projects remains notable. We had time for four students to share screens to show what they had created in their projects. Alex has a very large game that he programmed largely over the summer.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We are all coding in the Python 3 language on the Web at colab.research.google.com. We completed the use of string.lower() in comparing names or other strings. Morgan asked to do surveys. We got into more elaborate if-tests for multiple possible paths and for branched pasts. Samantha presented a fine 20-question survey on Marvel Comics that also reported percentage of correct answers.

Math C, 8th grade, Thursday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Samantha is taking the end-of-book test.

Science, grades 6-8: Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM:

No classes were held on Labor Day. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. I gave the students a refresher quiz with calculations of momentum, energy, and flight time, plus sketching how colliding balls in Newton’s cradle move. We’ll need much practice on calculations. We created the first part of a report on an experiment we’ll do shortly – dropping a pebble and a feather in a vacuum, and watching an object move in two dimensions as it falls under the influence of gravity. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We completed the demo/experiment of dropping a dense and a non-dense object in a vacuum, to test that they fall at the same rate. We had perfected a flap last week that was held up with a strong magnet applied outside our vacuum chamber and that could be released quickly by removing the strong magnet. We tried many times with various objects, finally replacing the feather (which stuck to the chamber by static electricity!) with a small piece of tissue paper. We filmed the tissue paper and a button falling, both in air and in a vacuum. We used a camera recording 240 frames per second. Yes, in a vacuum they fell at the same rate.

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

The players again practiced the way to hit the forehand stroke. They made notable progress. They then took the court four at a time in doubles to try serves and returns. By allowing serves to any part of the court the other players got more attempts at returns.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

With 7 players we had a group of 4 and a group of 3 taking turns on the court. In the group of 3 they experienced 2-vs-1 play. Players are getting more and more collegial, as well as better in serving and addressing the ball; court position is the new focus.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Six players rotated into doubles play and played avidly. I coached them on single important elements – the unit turn for returning a ball, the proper height of the toss in serving, keeping the torso aligned during serving, gripping the racquet with the dominant hand.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Players jumped into doubles play, rotating among positions. I continue to guide players to use the unit turn on returns and to face in a good direction when serving. Again, the serves are improving.

World culture, grades 3&4, Friday 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today we went to Japan, via stories of our family travels in Japan, many images, some beautiful arts and crafts, and, of course, so much discussion with the students who had comments and questions galore. I asked students to take some notes and then write several sentences on three topics – the government of Japan, their own favorite pieces of art I showed them, and from which county their own system of writing came.

World culture, grades 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today we delved into the history, culture, art, philosophy, and landscapes of Greece. We located Greece on the map. We discussed how old is Greece, from its beginnings as a city-state (ca. 4000 years) to a modern, independent nation (1831). We looked at what we owe to Greece in our culture – the rule of reason, democracy, voting, many Western standards of art, athletic games, philosophy, the beginnings of science and some areas of mathematics, our alphabet, and many common words in English (e.g.. taxi, democracy). We viewed about 70 images from our travels. I had the students take some notes during the presentation and discussion, then write three paragraphs, as if to a friend, about the Greek language and writing, what we in the US owe to Greek culture, and what they’d like to experience in visiting Greece.

19 September

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

The class was co-opted by the visit of three Supreme Court Justices to the LCA.

Computer programming CP-1B, 3rd grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

All students readily accessed code.org, whether logged in via Google accounts or as guest or whether logged in on code.org or not. They vary in the levels of code they are attempting but all are enjoying it. I help students as they feel the need; they’re good at accepting instruction.

Computer programming CP-2, mixed grades, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

All the students are programming on their own at scratch.mit.edu to create their own projects. In a Zoom session, I covered the 31 code blocks available to them in the Motion and Looks areas, such as “Move n steps” and “Switch backdrop to …” Students had tried many of these blocks. We’ll look at more blocks next week on Sound, Events, Control, Sensing, Operators, and Variables.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

The class was co-opted by the visit of three Supreme Court Justices to the LCA.

Science grades 6-8: Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM:

I proposed to the students that we create a YouTube video of our experiment, dropping a button and a tissue in a vacuum, as the report. I gave students a quiz on momentum, energy, and gravitational acceleration. We did a demo of air pressure in a balloon in the vacuum chamber. Two students tried pulling the Magdeburg sphere apart, needing great force (it is a hollow sphere that can be partly evacuated. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. I returned the quizzes that the students took yesterday. We discussed creating a storyboard for the YouTube report on the chamber experiment; the students will work on it at home. Using the vacuum pump and chamber, we worked with the Magdeburg sphere again, then puffed up some (old) marshmallows, and ended up boiling warm water in a vacuum. We discussed boiling and freezing as phase transitions and the energies involved. I introduced the temperature scales, including absolute zero. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We talked over some progress on students writing a storyboard for a YouTube video that will be the report on the vacuum chamber demo/experiment. We finalized the design for the “flight of the eraser” to test the acceleration of its motion as it flies through the air. We considered centrifugal force – how we can measure it with a weight on a rotating line, and how it accounts for the stable orbit of the Moon around the Earth.

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

Players took the court four at a time in doubles to try serves and returns. By allowing serves to any part of the court the other players got more attempts at returns.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

With 6 players the group played doubles with rotation. Players are learning to charge the ball to keep it from going over their heads on a return.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Six players rotated into doubles play and played avidly. I coached them on single important elements – the unit turn for returning a ball, the proper height of the toss in serving, keeping the torso aligned during serving, gripping the racquet with the dominant hand. Play continues to be very congenial.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We were down to two players today so they played singles. They got a lot of practice serving and returning. Best backhand returns: Arezou.

Tennis E, 8th grade, Wednesday, 10:00-10:35 AM. The two students played 12 singles games. Both are serving very well. Each faces strong serves that helps them refine their court position. Both show strong pursuit. My coaching focuses on the unit turn for returns, which they generally make well.

World culture, grades 3 & 4, Friday 2:35-3:45 PM.

Allons y en France! We discussed so many connections we have with France, from their assuring victory in the Revolutionary War to fine wine to the Statue of Liberty to many words in common (avant-garde, entrepreneur, le parking…). I showed about 70 images from the 8 trips that Lou Ellen and I, and, later David also, made to France, in categories of history, beauty, buildings, friends, living and working, amusement, joie de vivre, and “and more.” The discussion was energetic again! I gave out a 3-question sheet, with one question being, Which picture did you like best? Most of them liked the Eiffel Tower!

World culture, grades 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Allons y en France! We discussed so many connections we have with France, from their assuring victory in the Revolutionary War to fine wine to the Statue of Liberty to many words in common (avant-garde, entrepreneur, le parking…). I showed about 70 images from the 8 trips that Lou Ellen and I, and, later David also, made to France, in categories of history, beauty, buildings, friends, living and working, amusement, joie de vivre, and “and more.” The discussion was energetic again! I gave out a 3-question sheet, with one question being, Which picture did you like best? Every student picked a different image!

26 September

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

Logan took his turn leading the discussion of speed and power, based on the Time-Life book he read. We got into the processor – its speed as the clock rate, its use of cache RAM and the data bus to get a fast flow of data and operations, its structure as transistors that are increasingly small and fast in switching.

Computer programming CP-2, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

All the students signed into scratch.mit.edu. They brought up their projects saved on the MIT servers and continued to embellish their projects. I queried them about using some Scratch functions, particularly the coordination of actions among sprites by broadcasting and receiving messages.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We program in Python 3 in the Web interface colab.research.google.com. I proposed that we get our survey program to use audio files in its responses to our inputs. We got a prerecorded file to play, as a test. We recorded three mp3 files, using the Audacity app on my laptop (easier than other options). I shared them from my Google Drive, though the capture on student Chromebooks turned out to have subtlety. We’ll use them next week.

Math C, Thursday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

She is working well on fractional exponents, both algebraically an numerically.

Science 6-8, Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

We reviewed the storyboard for the YouTube video that will be our report on the experiments of dropping a button and a piece of tissue paper in a vacuum. We then performed the “eraser flight” experiment: We launched a whiteboard eraser from a podium and filmed its progress with a high-speed video camera (240 frames per second). We did a second take with the eraser launched slightly uphill. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. We analyzed the eraser flight experiment. In successive frames of the videos we extracted the pixel positions of the eraser’s center of mass. We calibrated the pixels against height, from the meter sticks and yardsticks placed on the wall behind the trajectory of the eraser. We entered the pixel readings into Excel and proceeded to digitize many frames for the eraser height and its lateral position. We’ll finish this on Thursday. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We completed the analysis of the eraser flight data. We ended up using a mathematical model to fit the data, as a far more precise way than using frame-to-frame changes to compute velocities. We did a critical look at an ingredients label on a soap container (mostly lies or distortions). We considered which way a balloon hung from the roof of a care moves when the car is braking (it moves forward). We shook a box to see how the scientific methods of inquiry helps us figure out what’s inside a system we can’t open (it was a AAA battery). We ended with the Cartesian diver – an inverted test tube with some air in it. When the test tube is put in water with just enough air to float, pressurizing the bottle by squeezing it compresses the air, reducing the buoyancy of the test tube; it then sinks.

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

Players worked at returning balls I threw two at a time to two players. I coached them on turning to hit the ball. They then worked on serving, most of them using the drop serve, two of them trying the overhead serve. The last 15 minutes were spent playing doubles, with the rules loosened on where the served ball had to land. It was a very active group.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Players practiced serving to each other, then returning my soft serves. After this, they rotated into doubles. They have improved over last week.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

The six players rotated into doubles play. Play continues to improve and be interesting to the players. Competition is very collegial. Serves are becoming more consistent in elements (toss height and position, body position) and in execution. Rallies are becoming common.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Players practiced serving and then returning my serves. They then played 2-against-1 for fun. Most improved player: Aaron, for this good pursuit of the ball and more level swing.

Tennis E, Wednesday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

These two very energetic players have fast serves. They played 10 games with good returns and pursuit of the ball. They agreed that the next focus will be on returns.

World culture 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

This week parent Bridget Mitchell presented interesting historical accounts of the British Empire in former Rhodesia and Kenya, personal stories of her parents and grandparents, and many old videos of Victoria Falls and the landscape and animals of Kenya. The students were absorbed, especially having many of their own pieces of knowledge and questions about the animals.

World culture 3-4, Friday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

The same presentation as for grades 5-8.This younger group was even more avid about identifying animals in the videos and offering comments.

3 October

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

I gave a short quiz; most students did well. One student was to lead the discussion on programming languages but was unprepared, so I gave the background to start the discussion. Students were curious about the most popular languages among many hundreds (Python, now, java and javascript up high, etc.). We talked about the need for programming languages, the first real language (Ada, by Adm. Grace Hopper), and the differences among natural languages (such as English or Spanish – not programming languages!), compiled languages (e.g., Fortran), and interpreted languages (e.g, Python).

Computer programming CP-1B, 3rd grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

The eight students quickly got online at code.org to start in their chosen course, level, and puzzle. Some created a game, thoughtfully using headphones to avoid distracting others. All students appear to be picking up the use of new code snippets each session.

Computer programming CP-2, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

Students continued working on their projects, in various modes. Three students are creating new projects, including making new backgrounds. Several are using messages to coordinate actions of two or more sprites with each other or even with changes of the background.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We worked to fix the playing of audio (mp3) files within a loop of repeated attempts; I am still seeking the full resolution of a problem. We then modified the loop to be limited to a set number of attempts.

Math E, 8th grade, Thursday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

The student works efficiently on her own, currently on number representations (integers, floating-point numbers, numbers in exponential notation).

Science 6-8 grades, Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Students took a short quiz on mechanics and did well. We then looked at the static behavior of liquids (water and oil). The higher level of oil than water in interconnected tubing indicates the lower density of oil. We then measured the outflow rates of water from a plastic bottle with holes at three levels, to test if flow rate is proportional to the pressure head (water height) at each hole. It proved not to be so; we will discuss this on Tuesday. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. We looked at transmission of force in hydraulic systems. We examined the phase diagrams of CO2 and of water to understand more of the roles of temperature and pressure in defining the state of the system. We turned to heat, defined as energy in its most disordered state. That led to a bit about heat engines and their limits on efficiency. We covered the Kelvin temperature scale again and got into the changing heat content of items as related to changes in temperature multiplied by the heat capacity. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We considered heat – its conduction between objects, its equilibration between them at long times, its transfer by convection in fluids that can circulate, its loss and gain by exchanging thermal radiation, and the limiting of its gain or loss via our building’s windows by increasing the distance it must travel (the air gap between the two panes of glass) and using a medium of low conductivity (air).

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

The tennis court was wet, so we played table tennis indoors. I demonstrated serving and then had players serve to me; most of them did quite well. For the last 10 minutes 4 players played doubles, again, remarkably well. The game ended at 15-12.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Again, the tennis court was wet, so we played table tennis indoors. With seven players I reviewed the rules and some basics of good form, serving and returning with them individually. Four at a time (once with me as the fourth) they played doubles. The play went particularly well.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Six players rotated into doubles. Servers are still generally behind in games, so we worked on a consistent height of the toss (getting better these days) and avoiding twisting to face the receivers.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

The tennis court was wet, so we played table tennis indoors. I demonstrated serving and then had players serve to me. The four players then played singles in rotation. The play was at a high level. Arezou showed natural skill and bested the others, who all took it in good form.

Tennis E, Wednesday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Samantha and Setareh are energetic players and exemplary good sports. The edge goes variously to one or the other each week. We began the session working on returns, with one player “serving” the ball to the other at any place on the court; this made for vigorous pursuit. They then played about 12 games, with very many fine serves.

World culture grades 3 & 4, Friday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today we visited China. We reviewed its very long and rich history, its current government and its status as a world power economically and militarily, the inventions it gave the world (moldboard plow, rudder, …), its peoples, its arts and culture. I showed the students art and artifacts that we brought back from our visit to China in 2015. We then viewed about 70 photos and videos, selected from the 5,000-plus that Lou Ellen and I took. The student questions and discussion points were many and varied.

World culture grades 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today the visit was to Viet Nam and Cambodia. I brought in a number of artifacts relevant to current events and history, including elegantly crafted wooden tea cups, a Ganesha statue made from recycled sawdust, an old opium pipe and weight set, and samples of banknotes of both nations. We discussed the political history, the many peoples (ethnic groups), the recent strong development of Viet Nam, the food, the Buddhist and Hindu temples of Angkor Wat, the hard work of the rice farmer, and the reasons that Lou Ellen and I went there… with two close relatives having served in Viet Nam, one grievously wounded. The students had vigorous discussion about 60 still images and 6 movies we took in both nations.

10 October

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

Aaron introduced the topic of Computer Basics from the Time-Life book of the same name. We discussed four fundamental aspects of modern computers: digital representation of all state, processing essentially step-by-step (a Turing machine) with logical blocks (NAND, especially, as well as XOR, etc.), changing the calculation in software rather than in rewiring/reconnecting the hardware, and getting readable/visible output with special hardware interpretation of binary output (printers, monitors with own hardware).

Computer programming CP-1B, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

The students all logged into Scratch on their Chromebooks and began solving puzzles or making their own games or projects as advanced skills. I helped students with difficulties, sometimes conceptual ones, other times ambiguities in Scratch instructions.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We tried some more audio playing in Python, but the modules appear to be incompatible with Colab. We turned then to planning to use the tiny Raspberry Pi computer with the Sense Top Hat sensor. This device is programmed in Python and allows retrieval of its readings of air pressure, temperature, humidity, acceleration (3 axes, two detector types), and the direction of the magnetic field (3 axes), as well as displays on an 8×8 array of LEDs. We’ll set up the RPi next week.

Computer programming CP-2, grades 4 & 5, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

Students used Chromebooks to get into Scratch programming, some to work puzzles and others to create projects that animate characters and backgrounds. Two students shared screens on Zoom to work on a project in common. I offered advice and a fix or two for problems.

Science 6-8, Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We looked at how heat moves by conduction, convection, and radiation. We spent some time calculating how strong the radiative heat gains and losses are, especially for the human body. We moved on to the nature of electromagnetic radiation (light, thermal infrared, microwaves, X-rays, gamma rays, and more). Light shows simultaneously properties of being discrete particles of exact energy content per particle (photon) and of being waves that diffract and refract. We lit an LED with applied voltage, seeing a clear energy threshold. Sunlight displayed itself as a beautiful mix of colors in a spectroscope. Polarizing filters on room light and then dramatically on a PC monitor showed light as oscillation in a given direction perpendicular to its direction of motion. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. We worked out how much energy and how much momentum – very small amounts individually, but lots of energy and still little momentum in sunlight. We discussed fates of photons – reflection, transmission (possibly with change in direction as refraction or scattering), and absorption. Upon absorption the energy can go to heat… or to part of it being re-emitted as fluorescence or phosphorescence. We ground up some Vitex leaves to get a solution of chlorophyll; it fluoresces a beautiful pink on being illuminated by a violet laser pointer. We looked at three common commercial ways to “jiggle electrons” and get light – high heat in an incandescent lamp, banging electrons in a fluorescent tube into single atoms of mercury (which fluoresce, with that UV light absorbed by phosphors that, in turn, fluoresce in visible light), and moving electrons into electron vacancies (holes) in semiconductors, the light-emitting diodes. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We reviewed some aspects of light for the two students who were absent on Monday – refraction, total internal reflection, and polarization. We did some new demos of light mixing with 3 LEDs and then on my laptop monitor, imaged with a macro lens, and also phosphorescence excited by sunlight and then with a violet laser pointer. We did some work with sound (tones from tubes of different length, transfer of sound to solids, the speed of sound).

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

Players worked at returning balls I threw to them, then played doubles in two groups. I let them use the drop serve, while two students tried overhand serves. Some servers were quite effective.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

We had 7 students, so they played doubles, swapping entire groups and filling in the 4th slot as needed. They were all using overhand serves, which requires consistent coaching.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We had seven players rotating into doubles for good, friendly games. I coached three of the players more intensively on serving and the others primarily on return placement. There were more good returns of the serve than last week; the level of play is up.

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

Three students rotated through positions in 2-vs.-1 games. They vary quite a lot in success in serving, which generally determined the winning side. Next time we’ll continue more intensive practice the elements of serving – body positioning, the toss, the arc of the racquet, and the angle of the racquet.

Tennis E, Samantha and Setareh, Wednesday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

The students asked me last time to play against me, 2 on 1. We did two games of that and then played 1-on-1 in all possible combinations. I let the play flow without coaching to see how the players picked up ideas on their own.

World culture 3-4, Friday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today we went to Greece. We delved into ancient Greece, modern Greece, and its people. We discussed the rich legacy of Greece – democracy, even if it was limited; the basis of our modern alphabet; much mathematics; key steps toward science; and more. The ancient monuments instilled wonder and a desire for many students to experience them in person. I then showed images of modern Greece, our Greek friends and new acquaintances, and the stories of times the Lou Ellen, David, and I shared with them. I gave a short quiz at the end.

World Culture 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Kenya was the focus today, in four categories of landscapes, people, events, and animals. I showed 144 images in those categories, eliciting lots of comments and questions. Students learned about 6 major ethnic groups, the Kikuyu, Maasai, Kamba, Turkana, Samburu, and Swahili, and, more so, our time in person with over 30 individuals. The students enjoyed the artifacts we brought back – a large Kikuyu beer gourd, a small Turkana butter container, a Kikuyu origina (like a chief’s mace), a Maasai woman’s wedding necklace, and a selection of Kenyan money. I gave a short quiz at the end.

17 October

Computer programming CP-1A, Thursday, 8:30-9:05 AM.

We had a student scheduled to give a presentation about how computers are involved in phone communication. He declined, and another student who had read the same book found it difficult, so I did the presentation. We discussed how sound waves get transduced to voltages by the microphone, then digitized, then made into packets with addressed, then broadcast as radio waves to the router. From there the route depends on local communication via WiFi or on the Internet as data (or a special case as phone service). The Internet route uses cell phone towers that gather data packets with addresses. We discussed how the packets take a variety of routes to the other phone, how the connection to cells is shifted as needed, and how the reverse process occurs from packets to digital sequences to analog voltages to sound at the speaker.

Computer programming CP-1B, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

There was no class; we had our short October break on Friday.

Computer programming CP-3, Thursday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We are beginning Python programming on the Raspberry Pi computer that has great input/output capabilities. We set it up with its data storage chip, power supply, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. We booted it up readily and listed the available files in our home directory. We examined the program geiger.py that records individual radiation events as carefully reduced voltage pulses from the Geiger counter. We will create the program from scratch to understand all the functionalities in the RPi.

Computer programming CP-2, grades 4 & 5, Tuesday, 2:35-3:10 PM.

Students used Chromebooks to get into Scratch programming, some to work puzzles and others to create projects that animate characters and backgrounds. Two students shared screens on Zoom to work on a project in common. I offered advice and a fix or two for problems. Nkem shared her screen to present her project with elaborate timed dialogue. Alex is doing final debugging on his complex game.

Science 6-8, Monday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

I gave a short quiz on heat and light. We viewed the news about the Nobel Prizes – the people and their accomplishments. We finished our segment about sound. We discussed the tininess of the displacement of molecules at normal sound levels, how the inner ear’s cochlea discriminates tones, the measurement of sound intensity in bels and decibels, the ability to reflect and focus sound, the falloff of sound pressure with distance, the Doppler effect, and perfect pitch. We looked at patterns of vibration in surfaces creating sound, with the Chladni plate’s beautiful patterns. We began nuclear physics, with the structure of the atom, then of the nucleus itself, and the ability of the strong force to counteract the electromagnetic force. Tuesday, 3:10-4:10 PM. We continued on nuclear structure, looking at elements up through oxygen. We covered the instability against radioactive decay of nuclei with proton-to-neutron ratios deviating much from unity. That included studying the three modes of decay (alpha – ejecting a helium nucleus or alpha particle; beta – emitting an electron or positron; gamma – emitting a high-energy electromagnetic ray) and the pattern in time of decays (the Poisson process with half-lives of nuclei). We looked at a Geiger counter and its responses to natural cosmic rays and to a uranium ore sample. Thursday, 2:35-3:45 PM. We continued on nuclear physics, looking at: natural radioactivity, even inescapably in us; the effects of ionizing radiation (in biological systems, damage that is usually repaired, sometimes not, leading to mutations, rarely problematic but occasionally causing major problems such as cancer); and the way that radiation moves, initially in straight lines, then being scattered or absorbed. I gave a quiz and the challenge to students to write test questions for the class.

Tennis A, 3rd grade, Thursday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

Two groups of 4 students each rotated into playing doubles, using drop serves, with a couple of players also trying a few overhead serves. Players are improving in orienting themselves for serving, under frequent coaching.

Tennis B, 4th grade, Friday, 10:35-11:10 AM.

There was no class; we had our short October break on Friday.

Tennis C, 5th grade, Wednesday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

We had seven players rotating into doubles for good, friendly games. The play was lively. To get more practice on the serve, I amended the rules to allow 3 serve attempts; serves on the first two attempts improved!

Tennis D, 6th grade, Friday, 9:05-9:40 AM.

There was no class; we had our short October break on Friday.

Tennis E, Samantha and Setareh, Wednesday, 10:00-10:35 AM.

Samantha, Setareh, and I played all the permutations of who serves to whom. We had a lot of games with some excellent pursuits and retrievals of difficult returns.

World culture 3-4, Friday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

There was no class; we had our short October break on Friday.

World Culture 5-8, Wednesday, 2:35-3:45 PM.

Today we went to Canada, looking at some history, demographics, and relations with the US. We spent a little time in Quebec and most of the time in Haida Gwaii, the oceanic islands of British Columbia. They’re thinly populated at 6,000 people, about half being Haida, who historically thrived on marine and forest resources; their art is still remarkable and is increasingly rejuvenated. The population was severely reduced by smallpox introduced by European traders but is stable now. I showed 95 images from Lou Ellen’s and my trip in 2007. The students were most enthused again. I gave a short quiz at the end, after which students came up to look all over the big wall map.