working on end-of-year capstone projects

Since Tucker had a Senior Capstone Project (“There and Bleghhh! Again: Understanding the Molecular Basis of Taste Preferences and Predicting Bitterness Perception”) that he presented last month, my idea of assigning the kids an end of year “research paper” turned into “research paper in the form of a ‘zine” and then became the kids’ “capstone projects”. Writing, keyboarding, internet research, science, art, bookmaking — not entirely comprehensive, but pretty good!

We are planning to do more with ‘zines and self-publishing next year anyway, so it was just good groundwork for them to learn a really basic layout, and learn how to choose good search terms. (Thank you, Tucker.) Béla’s capstone is on the Six Simple Machines of Physics, something they both learned about in making their test-run Rube Goldberg machine. Claudia, who is still very interested in geology, and particularly in stones and crystal formations, asks in her capstone, “Do Crystals Have Minds?”… and we will find out.

Our layout is one-sided, so each kid will not only complete a six-page ‘zine, but that ‘zine will unfold into a POSTER! At the moment, Claudia is more ahead on her poster, and Béla more ahead on his actual research and page art and cut-and-paste. But we are making real progress now It was very slow going for awhile, due to end-of-year ennui, but the work we did today seemed to give everyone a boost.

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Béla has looked for unexpected examples of simple machines, and a skateboard ramp as an inclined plane was a good one, but Tucker helped find a particularly good screw:

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Not to give the best of everything away, of course.

Claudia was working on her poster-side of her project today and we did an experiment, using some special glitter on her crystal drawings. This is the glitteriest glitter ever — and yes, it is in fact just tiny slivers of glass. But LOOK how great they look — this geode just jumps off the page!

Unfortunately it’s not going to reproduce very well — but Claudia is thinking about doing each cover of her limited edition ‘zine (maybe twenty copies tops) with the actual glitter applied to it. (And yes. It really is just tiny thin glass shards. It is worth being careful around it, but there were no complaints here at all — none in eyes, none swallowed, none found in feet.) And the effect!

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The kids will be saving a copy of each ‘zine for Philly ‘Zine Fest this fall. They are excited about sharing them with people they know, and while I’m sure they will enjoy mailing them to their pen pals, the “cost” of either of these ‘zines is just some hangout time talking to them about their projects! (If we are super industrious, we may have them finished by the time our evaluator comes by this month.)

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