July 29, 2010 - 6:45 PM
Earlier today, the Aim High Redwood City staff and student body took a day off and hopped a train into San Francisco to watch the Giants play the Florida Marlins.
It was a gorgeous day in the city. Not a cloud in the sky. We could see clear across the Bay while we sat in Seals Plaza near the marina behind center field for lunch. I love these days because, as with the field trip, we can see the kids for who they actually are, not just as students sitting at a desk raising their hands to ask questions. These are the days when we have to appreciate community over education.
Inside the stadium, after habitually grabbing a Louisiana hot link and garlic fries, we headed up to our seats in the upper deck. After climbing up miles of bleachers, ramps and stairs we finally arrived to our $5.75 seats in View Reserve Section 336 in time for the first pitch. All the students complained (what else is new) that they couldn't see the action but, hey, what else can you do with over eighty kids! They barely watched the game anyway. Today was just an excuse to listen to their iPods, flirt with each other and gorge themselves on cotton candy and Ghirardelli ice cream sundaes.
Personally, I really enjoyed the seats. First of all, they were tucked under the overhang enough that we were in the shade for most of the day. And second, I couldn't help but laugh at how high up we were. My co-workers and I made jokes that we could almost see our campus 25 miles away in Redwood City. Our seats were actually higher than the foul pole. At one point, a pigeon flew down to perch on the top of the pole. It was hilarious!
Our group had to leave in the sixth inning to catch the 2:39PM train back to Redwood City. Sadly we had to have the kids back by 3:30, but considering the way the game was going I wasn't that disappointed. By the time we left, the Giants' were trailing 3-0 and being two-hit by Marlin's pitcher, Anibal Sánchez. We found out on the train ride back that we ended up losing 5-0. Tough luck, but even the best teams in the league lose sixty games a year.
The train ride back was amazing. At least compared to last year's ride that is. Last summer we did the same thing, taking the train into the city for the game. Last year, however, our students were a little more chaotic. All that sugar from the cotton candy started rushing through their veins. Add eighty loud kids to a train car that acts like an echo chamber and you end up with a lot of teachers with splitting headaches. This time around we apparently spread the students across the train enough so that no single group could manage to be too noisy. And, yes, we did get everyone back on time.
This is a bittersweet post for me because this will be the last post about Aim High for the summer. Tomorrow is the last day of school, and tomorrow night is Celebration Night. I look forward to relaxing for at least a few days before heading back up to Oregon for the rest of the summer, but I'll be sad to say goodbye to all the students.
I've said it once and I'll say it again, Aim High is a really special program. My job title says Teaching Intern, but I swear that I learn just as much from these students as they learn from me. Ask any teacher, we have just as much fun as the students. Sure it's hard work, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
With that said, I'd like to give my final shout out to Aim High Redwood City. Thanks for another incredible summer. Best of luck during the school year and I hope to see you all next June. Take care.
July 28, 2010 - 9:41 PM
This week's assignment for Stanford Speech Class was the "Demonstration Speech." Each student was given the task of presenting a speech in which he or she had to teach and/or demonstrate how to do something. The presentations were only five minutes long so specific and menial tasks were preferred. There were a few standard topics, such as ‘How to Throw a Football,' ‘How to Make a Sandwich,' and a couple card tricks. Then there were some fairly creative presentations, like ‘How to Make a Camera from a Tissue Box,' ‘How to Make a Soccer Ball with a Roll of Tape,' and my personal favorite, ‘How to Seduce an American Girl in Two Minutes.' That speech was given by a French student whose best line was, "The most important step is to have an foreign accent. If you don't have an accent...well...just get an accent. It helps, trust me."
As I was watching these speeches, I thought about what topic I would present on if I were taking this class. Then I remembered the lesson I'd taught for my 7th Graders at Aim High earlier that day. My co-teachers and I led a class in which we made model lungs with Gatorade bottles. The kids loved it, so I figured you all might find this interesting as well. Without further adieu, here's a quick lesson on the human respiratory system.
Materials: (Refer to above diagram to see finished product with all materials labeled)
• One 20-ounce Gatorade bottle
• Two straws
• Two Small balloons
• One Latex glove
• Duct Tape
• Sharp knife.
Step 1: The Trachea & Bronchial Tubes. Cut one straw in half and insert both half-size straws into the bottom end of whole straw to make a long Y-Shaped straw. Tape together with duct tape.
Step 2: The Lungs. Tape one small balloon around the end of both half-size straws. Don't stick the straws too far into the balloons. You want to have the balloons dangling.
Step 3: The Mouth (sort of). Use the knife to cut a hole in the bottle cap large enough for the whole straw to fit through. Use duct tape to secure the straw and make the opening as airtight as possible. After assembling, screw the cap back onto the bottle with the small balloons/half-straws inside.
Step 4: The Diaphragm. Cut the bottom off the Gatorade bottle off and wrap the latex glove around the opening. Secure with tape.
Voilá! Four easy steps for making a model of lungs. Now, in order to demonstrate the way or lungs work, pinch the glove at bottom and pull downwards, away from the bottle. You'll notice that the balloons inflate. Then if you push the glove back into the bottle, the balloons will deflate. This motion of pulling and pushing the glove represents our diaphragm, the long muscle located beneath the lunch, as it flexes and relaxes. When the diaphragm flexes downward we are breathing in and filling our lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes upwards we are breathing out and expelling air from our lungs. That's the basics of negative pressure breathing.
It might take a little more than five minutes for the first time, but if twenty-four seventh graders can do it then I'm confident you can figure it out.
Here's a funny story about preparing these materials for our seventh graders. We bought Gatorade bottles for the kids over a week ago, and we didn't want to any so my co-teachers and I spent all last week drinking Gatorade. When we finished on Friday, we set the twenty-four empty bottles aside for the weekend. Initially we had planned on teaching the Gatorade Lungs on Monday, but when Monday morning rolled around we quickly noticed a problem. All the bottles were gone!! We came to the conclusion that the janitor most likely found them a tossed them away. We were absolutely devastated. All of our hard work erased and tossed in a recycling bin.
Lesson learned, you will never be completely prepared for a class. Or, as we teachers say, expect the unexpected.
July 25, 2010 - 5:25 PM
Congratulations to newlyweds, Briar Goldberg and Elliot Freeman, who celebrated their marriage on July 24th 2010 at the picturesque Spruce Mountain Ranch in Larkspur, Colorado. It was a day (and night) for the ages.
The Bean Family has known the Goldberg Family for decades now. It all began when the two patriarchs, Bruce and Mark, were introduced in the summer of 1976 by their common work associate, Jack Beavers. The reason I tell you this is because Jack is without doubt the most highly regarded friend amongst both of our families. Without Jack our lives just wouldn't have been as rich. There would be no summer trips to Aspen, no stories in ‘Alf' language, and there certainly wouldn't be Gold-Bean Theatre productions. I realize that the majority of my audience won't understand these allusions, but know that it means a great amount for those that do understand. And these were the people at yesterday's wedding.
Back to the present. The wedding couldn't have been more perfect. Beautiful venue. Gorgeous couple. Friends and family traveling from all stretches of the nation. The ceremony itself was....well....it was very "Briar and Elliot." That's the only way I can describe it. It was a perfect combination of laughter, tears and tenderness. Let me explain.
First, the wedding officiators. Rather than looking for an official wedding officiator, as well as having to choose between a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi (yikes!), the bride and groom made the ceremony more personal. Briar's sister, Alex, and Elliot's college buddy, Jacob, presided over the ceremony. Plus, they chose not to have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, so it was just the four of them standing under the chuppah, which was built by family members from both sides of the family.
Second, the vows. As they stood holding each other's hands Briar and Elliot prepared three vows for one another. It was part of the short-and-sweet theme of the ceremony, which the gallery particularly appreciated considering the Rocky Mountain heat. Some were said with joyful compassion and others with playful honesty. There was even a little Italian spoken, a tribute to when the couple first met while studying abroad in Italy. When it was finally time to say ‘I do,' Briar responded with a "You bet!" and Elliot proclaimed "ABSOLUTELY!" He stomped on the glass bottle and they raced down the hill and through the meadow with the audience cheering in the background.
Third, the reception. Truthfully, the wedding reception was the most traditional part of the entire night. Parents welcomed their new in-laws to the family. Brothers and sisters told embarrassing stories. We laughed at baby photos. We cried at videos that the two took of each other in Italy before they dated. And then we danced the night away!
When I say ‘danced the night away,' I really mean it. There was not a single time between seven o'clock and midnight that the dance floor wasn't completely full. We rocked out to everything from Louis Armstrong to Hava Nagila to Bon Jovi. The final shuttle back to the hotel left at 12:30. We were ready to have the after party in Room 720 at the Hotel Magnolia, but the hour long ride from Larkspur to Denver put a roadblock in our lofty goals. Everyone ate their complimentary parting gift, a breakfast burrito courtesy of Santiago's Taquería and instantly fell asleep. The eight people that showed up breathed a sigh of relief when Briar and Elliot turned in for the night. It was the best fifteen-minute after party you could imagine.
Once again, congratulation to the happy couple! Enjoy the honeymoon and we'll see you when you get back. Cheers and Mozel tov!
July 23, 2010 - 5:46 PM
Once again Aim High served up a little magic with the 9th Grade camping overnight at Huddart Park in Woodside, California.
Yesterday morning began like any other with a morning circle amongst the entire Aim High community, but instead of heading off to our first period classes the 9th Graders and I met up with the four Aim High - Headlands Environmental Home (AH-HEH) staff members -- Elizabeth, Marcus, Marizol and Darrius -- to prepare for our adventure. We started with a quick team building exercise, which became the first of many times we'd entertain ourselves with a hacky-sack, and then headed out to the bus.
Thursday morning's agenda included a morning hike looking at native California flora like bracken fern, bay tree, madrone and, of course, redwood trees. For part of the hike each of us spent time alone on a "solo." During these 30-40 minutes each student was asked to find a space along the trail away from their friends where they could enjoy the solitude of nature. Living in crowded cities, there's rarely a time that we don't hear something or someone buzzing and honking near us. If there's one thing I appreciate most about the great outdoors it is the soothing serenity of soundlessness. Needless to say I also spent time soloing.
After reaching our campsite for the evening, we recharged with sandwiches and a few spontaneous games of hacky-sack. Our afternoon began with story time about the native Ohlone Tribe of Central Caifornia and how they made baskets from tulee reeds and used them for everything from clothing to cradles to cooking pots. Then we walked two hundred feet and found one of those native Ohlone tribesmen that would show us how to make such baskets.
All right, he wasn't a true Ohlone tribesman but he has studied with them for thirty years. Charlie was his name and he showed us his amazing baskets as well as a pair of shoes, mats and water canteens that he'd made over the years. He even showed us pictures of a canoe that he made a few years ago. A weaved canoe! Can you believe that?!?
The students spent the next two hours weaving their own baskets, which I am pleased to say were amazingly well crafted. After watching for twenty minutes I couldn't help but want to try myself and....well... let's just say I don't have a future in basket weaving. Looking down at my own easily forgettable effort I was only more impressed with our students' baskets. A few students were able to make two awesome baskets in the time that I was able to make a single mediocre one.
The evening gave way to more hacky-sack, another round of "solos," dinner time burritos, and finally an evening circle around our faux fire. We weren't allowed to have a real campfire due to high fire warnings, so instead the kids grabbed some sticks and built a miniature log cabin around a large lantern. We had a few more laughs, and a group howl at the moon.
This morning we all woke up to the tune of Marizol serenading us with a Spanish melody. The three members in the staff tent were slightly groggy because sleeping on the rockhard ground next to nine snoring teenagers doesn't make for the best sleeping environment. The chorus of fake fart noises lasting until 2am didn't help either. There were two things I learned from last night. Boys will be boys, and a cup of coffee in the morning can fix just about anything.
We explored Huddart Park one last time after breakfast where we saw a deer, a Northern Herrier, a rattle snake (dead....don't worry), a fuzzy caterpillar, a monstrous banana slug with its pint sized baby slug, and finally a lizard sun bathing on some rocks. A few students stayed behind for a more relaxing activity of making Andy Goldsworthy-esque landscape art. My group made it back in time to see their heart-shaped artwork made from leaves, pines cones and twigs before we headed back to the main field to hop on the bus and head back to school.
Before we headed out we had one last closing circle where the entire group shared a few thoughts about how they felt and what they will take away from the trip. We set a few rules before going around the circle, one of which was confidentiality, so I won't betray my students' trust. All I will say is that everyone in the circle had something nice to say and every student left Huddart Park this afternoon with a big smile on their face.
July 18, 2010 - 11:58 PM
Over the past week, I've been thinking a whole lot about college. College life. College admissions. Public versus private. Big versus small. East coast versus west coast. I don't normally think about these things. (I'm not that much of a nerd) They've just been thoughts on my mind recently for a few reasons.
Last week's theme at Aim High was College and Career Week. As part of the C&C Committee, as we called ourselves, I helped set up the weeks events. We had "Be a College Admissions Counselor," where the kids read through two faux applications and decided which student they would let in to their university. We played "Name that College Mascot," and you can rest assured that my advisory recognized the Oregon Duck immediately. We practiced interview skills and on Friday we invited some professionals to come to campus and answer questions about how they got to where they are today.
I invited my sister's friend and co-worker at Google, Mark, to speak about his experience in Social Networking division. First of all, I'd like to give a public shout-out to Mark because he said some of the most interesting and inspiring things that our students have ever heard. We literally could not have written a better speech than what he said. He had the other professionals on the panel jealous of his job. Then again, that's not saying much when you work at Google.
Anyways, this past week made me think back to my own college application process almost four years ago. As all you high school seniors know, or as you'll find out soon enough, the college application time is really hectic. You're writing essays, asking for recommendations and trying to remember your social security number for months on end! And most of the time, you don't even know what you're applying for. When I applied to Oregon, I'd never seen the campus or even set foot in Eugene. I had no previous knowledge of the Ducks, Prefontaine, Phil Knight or any of that stuff.
Most people don't know too much about what colleges their applying to until after they are accepted. We only know as much as the Fiske's Guide to Colleges will tell us plus whatever big name schools we here about on television. Harvard. Yale. Princeton. Stanford.
After a month of working as the TA for Speech Class at Stanford University this summer, I have to admit something. These students do not impress me. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt seeing as this is Stanford's summer session and there are a lot of high school students in this class, but I just glanced over some of the students' work and noticed two extremely apparent typos. One girl spelled the word ‘emphasis' as ‘enfaces,' and then she spelled ‘college' as ‘collage.' I'm no expert, but I think you have to spell the word right in order to be accepted.
What I'm trying to say, in an incredibly round a bout, sleep deprived way, is that I'm a little ticked off about the way we perceive colleges nowadays. The admissions process is practically a popularity contest. When I told my high school classmates that I was going to Oregon at the end of senior year, they usually replied with a solemnly condescending, "Congratulations. That should be good for you," as if getting into an Ivy League was the status quo. I'll tell you this much, I know a number of people currently attending Harvard. One of them is the smartest person I've ever met in my entire life and he'll probably end up working for NASA sooner rather than later. Another is probably one of the least intelligent people I've ever met. As you can tell I'm not sold on this "Name Brand" university thing.
Like I told all my high school classmates as they headed off to various ‘prestigious' colleges across the United States, have fun with your textbooks and study parties. I'm going to have an enjoyable college experience at Oregon.