Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson on the whiteboard

A great video from the animating geniuses at RSA Animation of a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson on the history of education in the Western world, what's amiss with it & why, and where he thinks it ought to go.

The animation is not quite 12 minutes long.
You can get a bigger view here.

If you want, you can also watch the whole lecture (about 55 minutes).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clearwater Hand Rhyming

Jacy and Maddy, nine (almost 10) and eleven years old respectively, spend some of their time at Clearwater perfecting their skills with clapping games. They have a large repertoire which continues to grow as they add new rhymes, including some of their own compositions. They plan to perform a long routine at Whistlepig, and at the winter concert of the Clearwater Singers.

I love watching them practice. Some might classify their activity as play with little value beyond having fun, and you may rest assured that both girls are having a lot of it. Playing and having fun is dismissed far too often in our culture as charming, but ultimately frivolous and unimportant in the grand scheme. Upon closer observation, however, it becomes obvious that there's a lot going on in addition to having fun. To achieve their goal of perfecting these routines, the two girls must be focused, disciplined, persistent, creative and collaborative. In fact, fun cannot exist without these elements. Play is satisfying and mind-expanding only because it is complex, challenging and engages the whole person.

To create and work out all the details of each rhyme, the girls collaborate, try different things and practice over and over and over until they are happy with the result. When they make a mistake, they stop and instantly go back a line or two in the rhyme and do that part over a few times. They hold a dizzying array of patterns in their heads without confusing one with another.

The fun they have working and playing together is infectious. Here's a sample of what they're working on. Their concert version will have some original pieces, as well as being smoother, longer and probably faster.

End of post.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Cooking Class

Each Tuesday at Clearwater staff member Mat Riggle and Robert, an advanced student chef, work with Clearwater students of all ages to prepare a meal that the group has chosen. When the food is finished cooking, they all sit down and literally enjoy the fruits of their labors. After eating, everyone works to clean the kitchen, from dishes to pots to counters and tables to the floor.

Recently, they decided to make yakisoba or Japanese fried noodles.

Setting up

Separating yakisoba noodles

Cutting chicken

Several students chopped vegetables.

These two peeled carrots.

Robert (below right) noticed that Jaime was peeling the carrot by moving the peeler blade toward his carrot-holding hand rather than away from it. He quickly came over to explain and demonstrate to Jaime the safe way to peel a carrot.

Mat brought a propane wok to school to stir fry the yakisoba. Propane cooks at higher heat than non-commercial stoves. High-heat stir-frying maintains the color and crispness of vegetables better than steaming, which is what lower-heat residential stoves do.

More story, photos and recipes after the jump...

Several students tried their hand at rapidly circulating the meat, veggies and noodles in the wok.

Mat explained that since meat takes longer to cook, it is fried first. He also mentioned that frying with peanut oil adds a distinctive flavor to yakisoba.

Students discovered that keeping the food moving in the wok kept it from sticking or burning. Stirring food up the sides helped the liquid evaporate more quickly and prevented vegetables from steam cooking and becoming mushy.

Various seasonings were added throughout the stir frying to enhance flavors.


Pork Yakisoba
12 oz. yakisoba (rinsed with water and drained)
3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
2 oz. pork (cut into small pieces and marinated with some soy sauce)
2 oz. cabbage (roughly chopped into pieces)
2 oz. carrot (cut into thin strips)
Some scallions (cut into thin threads)
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sake
1/2 tsp mirin
3 dashes white pepper powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp sesame oil
Salt to taste

Heat up wok with oil. Add garlic and stir fry unti llight brown in color. Add pork and do a few quick stirs before adding cabbage and carrot. Stir a few times and add noodles and all the seasonings. Continue to stir-fry until the vegetables and noodles are cooked, for 1-2 minutes. Transfer out and serve immediately with some benishoga (Japanese pickled ginger).

Chicken Yakisoba
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp chile paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch cubes.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 onion, sliced lengthwise into eighths
1/2 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
8 oz. soba noodles, cooked and drained

In a large skillet combine sesame oil, canola oil and chile paste. Stir fry 30 seconds. Add garlic and stir fry an additional 30 seconds. Add chicken and 1/4 cup of soy sauce and stir fry until chicken is no longer pink. Remove mixture from pan, set aside and keep warm.

In the emptied pan, combine onion, cabbage and carrots. Stir fry until cabbage begins to wilt. Stir in the remaining soy sauce, cooked noodles and the chicken mixture to pan and mix to blend. Serve and enjoy!

End of post.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Big Kids on the Playground

As promised, here is the second post about the North Creek Park outing during the first week of school. After everyone had explored the boardwalk and other trails in the park, we all gathered at the playground near the wetland. The youngest student in our party was 8 years old and the oldest 18. With the exception of one surprisingly challenging piece of equipment, the playground was a fun diversion. It's always fun to see older Clearwater kids play with abandon and without self-consciousness, especially in a playground built with with much younger children in mind.

A gaggle of girls on a bridge

A big guy can get a big bounce

Cass (on pole) and Braden

The equipment pictured above was challenging, especially for the oldest, biggest kids, and was the source of much experimentation and discussion. It's a large pole with a platform for sitting or standing that rotates when someone pushes either the person on it or the handles at the top. Unlike a merry-go-round, riders have to be close to the pivot point.

Leo spinning Cass & Keenan

It turned out to be devilishly difficult for big, tall students to even stay on, despite bigger muscles and dogged determination. In addition, several older students looked positively green after just a few seconds spinning. The champion spinner was 10-year-old Keenan, whose pole-spinning enthusiasm and stamina was inexhaustible. She had no trouble hanging on, felt dizzy but never sick, and earned the respect and admiration of the 13- to 18-year-old guys in the group.

Swingers Mara, Matt, Delayney and Leo

Lucas and Cass flying

Older students continued to work at the spinning pole challenge. Some decided that rather than trying to hang on to the pole, they would take advantage of the centrifuge effect. They clung to the handles at the top, ran and launched themselves. For a few thrilling and satisfying seconds, their bodies were airborne.

Not to be outdone and in spite of her awesome ability to hang on to the spinning pivot, 10-year-old Keenan got in on flying, too.

Braden and Keenan

Keenan and Cass (Lucas behind pole)

Airborne trio Lucas, Keenan and Cass

Cass and Aidan

As a staff member, I have the privilege of watching Clearwater students metaphorically spread their wings--maturing, experimenting, developing skills, taking leadership, discovering and pursuing passions, offering empathy and compassion, to name a few examples. How exhilarating it felt that day at the park to watch the physical embodiment of the very real and important flights that Clearwater students take every day as they figure out what's important to them, develop relationships, and work hard to achieve their goals.

End of post.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Unaccompanied Miner (Day 1)

Unaccompanied Miner

Day 1
I've woken up on this strange island. I'll document my adventures here. I'm in the middle of a valley, and there are a couple trees around, but that's about it. The first thing I'll need is a shelter, and I suppose wood is the best material for that. But how to cut down the trees? I suppose I can try and pull some branches off to make an axe. Woah! I'm much stronger here! I can just pull the trees to the ground! However, these logs aren't very suitable for building a house out of. Let's see if I can make some planks out of them.
There we go! That's much better! Now I can start work on my shelter. First, I'll need to clear some space.
Done! Now for the shelter itself.
Ta-da! That's all well and good, but I'll need some more planks if I want to finish this shelter, and that means I need an axe. However, I don't think I can hold all the pieces together. I'll need something to put them on while I piece together the axe. Maybe a workbench?
Sweet! Now I can make an axe! Maybe I should make a sword as well, in case there's anything I need to defend myself against on this island. And maybe a pickaxe, so I can make some stronger tools. First I'll need some handles.
Next the axe head.
Now for a sword.

And lastly, a pickaxe!

There! Now I'll go chop some more trees down, and finish up my shelter.

But what is this! Sheep, and a cow! The sheep will provide wool, and I may be able to make some makeshift leather armor out of the cow's hide!
I need to grab my sword from my pack, and rush over to the fauna before they escape.
Take that, cow! Now to harvest the wool from the sheep, and get back to chopping wood. Oh look, another cow! I almost have enough leather for some boots now!
Uh-oh, it's getting dark. I'd better head back to my homestead and finish building that house.
Hopefully I don't run into anything nasty while I'm finishing the house. If something sneaks up on me, I'm not sure my wooden sword will hold out.

There. Done with my house. I'll go ahead and get a good night's sleep, who knows when I'll have another opportunity to sleep. In the morning, I'll look for some coal, so I can make torches. If I'm lucky, I'll find some other useful materials.


(This story is about the game called Minecraft, and is from the perspective of the character you play.)