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By Samantha Sarafin, VI Form
ASL Sign Language to Popular Songs
In the spring term of St. Mark’s Saturdays, I created and taught this course: “In this course you will learn and practice the foundational elements of American Sign Language, from alphabet-based finger-spelling to more specific signs in vocabulary units. You will learn essential questions and phrases to communicate effectively in ASL and engage with various activities to practice ASL with your peers. You will also learn the history and social contexts of American Sign Language to develop an appreciation for the diversity and cultural richness of the deaf community.”
I designed the final project to be a video performance of an ASL song cover. Each student
found resources and learned the signs to perform one whole song in ASL. Students spent time in and out of class working on the project and presented their videos in the final class. The goals of the assignment were to learn ASL vocabulary, understand how to sign songs, understand ASL word order, and practice sign fluency. This video is a compilation of each of the covers created by the students.
By Keely Dion, Cooper Sarafin, Dylan Sotir, & Charlotte Wood, VI Form and Reevie Fenstermacher, IV Form
The School of Athens’ Tableau Vivant . . . & Memes!
Χαιρετε! Over the course of this school year, we, the Greek II class have put together our Classics Diploma Project, an analysis and celebration of Raphael’s The School of Athens. Our inspiration for this project came from many different places. In class, we’ve read the works of great Greek writers, such as Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon, three authors who present different accounts of Socrates’ life. Charlotte Wood, one of the students in the class, had traveled to Rome in the summer of 2015, and while she was there she saw Raphael’s Rooms in The Vatican. She was awestruck by the scale, perfection, and beauty of each work, The School of Athens in particular. She then began studying the work in Art History, and her love for it grew. Once the class started learning about Plato and Aristotle, she shared her enthusiasm for the painting, and the class appreciated the work as much as she did. We then decided to frame the project around Raphael’s awe-inspiring masterpiece.
By Ms. Casey Pickett’s III Formers
20% Time (Genius Hour) With Freshmen: Civic Action
Editor’s Note: In Ms. Casey Pickett’s III Form English classes, her students pursue 20% Time (or “Genius Hour”) projects. Below are Ms. Pickett’s instructions, a student’s reflection, and several artifacts from the experience. Please keep scrolling!
The purpose of the project is to give you time to pursue something that you are passionate about, interested in, or something you’ve always wanted to do. It is a time for you to be creative and to take ownership of your learning AND your education. If it is important to you, it has value.
What does it mean to be a citizen (global, local, digital)?
What are civics? Why is it important that we are civically engaged?
How can I be a voice for and/or create social change?
A Reflection by Paige LaMalva
As a student, I feel as though there isn’t enough time after academics and athletics to pursue something a student is interested in. At a school like St. Mark’s, for example, we are in class from 8:30am-3:00 pm and then at sports from 3:30-5:00 pm, which is followed by a short period of time to relax before study hall at 7:30 pm. With the 20% Time project, my fellow classmates and I were permitted to explore a topic of our interest. For me, I chose to research pancreatic cancer. Without the 45-minute block per week working on this, I wouldn’t have learned why pancreatic cancer is called “The Silent Cancer.” (more…)
By John Camp, English Department Head
Redesigning Learning Spaces & Flexible Seating
As difficult as it may sometimes be to relinquish the manacles of some tradition(s) in education, I have focused on a main mantra when considering change: what is best for students and learning. Thus, driven by this guiding principle and my teaching methods, I decided to pursue a critical trend in 21st-century teaching and learning: the importance of space, flexible seating, and classroom design. The rub, however, was my particular classroom; since I arrived at St. Mark’s in 2008, I have been fortunate to teach in Room 8/Room 136, which historically had been the “Sixth Form Room” until 1995 (read the partner piece to this article on the history of this room here). Hence, making changes to the “seminar” classroom would be bold, as the beginning move would be removing the large, classic seminar classroom table that has been a fixture since 1995. When I teach, I do not often lecture (if at all), and while seminar-esque discussion is a crucial element of my classes, it certainly is not the only element. In all of my classes (VI Form electives “Getting LOST,” “Getting LOST II: The Writers’ Room,” “Rebels with a Cause,” and V Form English class “Books Without Borders”), students work in small and medium groups, write on their own, present to the class, do activities that include movement and interaction, utilize media, collaborate on writing and projects, watch videos/films, brainstorm and note take on the whiteboards, and conference one-on-one with me (see images below for most of these activities in action!). The large oval table was not conducive to quality student learning in these endeavors. My first stop en route to change was John Warren. (more…)
By Jenny Deveaux and Samantha Sarafin, VI Form
Peripheral Nervous System Deficits and Social Behavior in Drosophila FMR1 Mutants
Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a trinucleotide repeat mutation in the FMR1 gene, occurring in one in 4,000 males and one in 8,000 females. The syndrome is characterized by a variety of social, learning, and cognitive deficits specific to each patient. The pathways surrounding the expression of the fragile X phenotype are largely unknown, and there is no current treatment for the disorder. Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the role of the central nervous system in developmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome; however, there is a lack of studies focusing on the role of the peripheral nervous system. In our study, we developed a line of Drosophila melanogaster, using the GAL4-UAS system, that expresses the dFMR1 mutation only in the olfactory sensory neurons, a vital part of the Drosophila’s peripheral nervous system. We conducted aggression and courtship assays to test the social behavior of the peripheral dFMR1 mutants. We compared these behavioral results with the results of control wild-type flies and with Drosophila that have the dFMR1 mutation in their entire anatomy. Our preliminary results suggest that both aggression and courtship should be further researched, as it was found that specific characteristics of each social behavior were impaired in some way. The most noteworthy data that was collected was significantly lower courtship index in the experimental line and a complete lack of dominance of the experimental line in the aggression assay. Because the Drosophila that were genetically crossed using the GAL4-UAS system had the dFMR1 gene silenced in their olfactory sensory neurons, the flies had an abnormality in their ability to detect pheromones, which studies show are the basis of Drosophila social interaction and behavior. (more…)