Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Year in Pictures

What a great year!!! For the ninth year in a row I can honestly say that this has been my best year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Day Later...The Races!!


It was a shame that the weather didn't cooperate for Track and Field Day on Wednesday. Fortunately we were able to run many of the races today in PE class.

Four More Animal Reports

Four more boys gave their reports today and we learned a lot about their animals. We were happy to learn that the grizzly bear is not endangered in Yellowstone National Park. We were distressed to learn that the Komodo dragon has over 50 types of deadly bacteria in its mouth that infects their prey when bitten. (I wonder if they get cavities....usually if you ignore your teeth they go away). We were surprised to learn that the ring-tailed lemur has a better sense of smell than a monkey. Finally, we were terrified to learn that the lion can run more than twenty miles per hour which is much faster than humans can run. The good news is that lions do not exist in the wild in North America. Great job presenters!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Outstanding Orators

Each spring the Nine-Two boys spend two weeks researching and writing about an animal of their choice. Upon completion of the research and writing the boys draw a picture of their animal on posterboard and make up some note cards for an oral report. On Friday we started our oral reports and they are going quite well. The first four boys are pictured below. The first boy chose the flap-necked chameleon and noted that its tongue can extend the length of its body as it seeks a meal. The next boy chose the red kangaroo and pointed out that the kick of the kangaroo can cause massive internal damage to a person. The third boy wrote about the red-eyed tree frog and was impressed by the frog's ability to make its own poison which it uses to defend itself. The last boy did a great job informing the class about chimpanzees and informed us that chimpanzees care for their young for ten years. Great job fellows!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Kickball Celebration

We celebrated our last full Wednesday with a Ninth Age kickball tournament. After lunch we headed out to the boys' field to divide up into eight teams and have a blast. After the games were over we cooled off with some Freezie Pops. It was a great time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bread Composition Prep

The boys and I looked at the following websites this morning in composition class, and they each wrote down facts that would make a good paragraph about the history of bread. I told them I would make the websites available on the blog so that they could look at them in more depth if they choose to. The interesting thing is that the second and third sites have identical information but neither cites its source. This led to a whole new conversation...

Lady Maryland Composition

In the hustle and bustle of the end of the year I have not been putting compositions on the blog lately. I hope to add a few over the next couple of days. The quality of the boys' writing is outstanding as can be seen by the composition below.

This past Wednesday I went on the Lady Maryland for a field trip. The Lady Maryland is a replica of a Chesapeake Bay pungy schooner that was used to carry perishable cargo in the 1800’s. The Lady Maryland is 104 feet long and 85 feet tall.
There are many interesting facts about where the Lady Maryland sails. The place where the Lady Maryland sails is the Chesapeake Bay. The words Chesapeake Bay mean “Great Shellfish Bay.” The Chesapeake Bay is 200 miles long and is usually 21 feet deep, but in some places it can be 175 feet deep. To keep the Chesapeake Bay full of water, 15,000 streams that cover 100,000 miles altogether feed into the bay. That distance is enough to go around the world four times.
My field trip was better than I expected. Before the field trip everyone on the Lady Maryland went into one classroom and split into groups of five or six people. Within those groups we made group names and theme songs. My group’s name was the Bubbly Blue Oysters. On the day of the field trip all of the boys and girls got onto their buses and we drove downtown near the aquarium. When we got there, we put on our life jackets and got onto the Lady Maryland. Then we sat down and the crew told us the rules and what we were going to do. When they were done everybody split up into their groups. Each group went to one of four stations: flotation, navigation, the wonderful world of plankton, and water quality. The station my group went to first was flotation. In that station my group and I got to build a boat and drive the Lady Maryland. The second station my group went to was the wonderful world of plankton. While we were there we had the chance to catch plankton and look at them under a microscope. Then we went to the third station which was water quality. There we checked the salinity and acidity of the water in the Chesapeake Bay. In navigation, our last station we got to figure out where we were on a map. After the stations all of the groups got together to eat lunch. After lunch we let out a trawl net. In a few minutes we pulled the net out of the water and put the fish that we caught in tubs of water. Them we got back into the smaller groups. When everyone got back into their groups there were two more stations. Those stations were fish and oysters. My group went to fish first. In fish we got to touch the fish that we caught in the net. Then my group went to oysters where we got to see the inside of an oyster. Then the boat pulled into the dock, and we all left. I think the Lady Maryland is a great boat.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Bread Video


The Bread Recipe

The bread turned out well and was quickly consumed. A few of the boys asked me for the recipe which I have posted below. I'd love to take credit for such a simple, yet delicious bread recipe, but I got it from a cookbook written by Julia Childs.


Kitchen Aid Mixer (Kneading by hand also works well and is more fun)
7-8 cups of flour
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
½ stick of butter
2 ½ cups warm water (divided)

Add the yeast and sugar to ½ cup of warm water. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Add the yeast mixture to the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and add the other 2 cups of warm water. Add about 5 ½ cups of flour to the bowl and turn the mixer on medium speed with the dough hook in place. The flour should clean the sides of the bowl after a minute or two but will start to stick to the bottom of the bowl. Slowly add flour to the bowl to keep the dough from sticking. Continue this process for five minutes. Add the butter in small pieces and then the salt. Continue adding flour to keep the mixture from sticking to the sides and bottom. The total kneading time should be about 12 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen and let it rise until it doubles in size (about 1 ½ hours) Punch it down and divide the dough in half. Place the dough on a floured surface and form each half into a loaf. You may use a greased loaf pan or a cookie sheet with corn meal on it. Let it rise until nearly doubled and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

The Bread is Rising!!

We had an excellent time mixing the ingredients and after the first rise, forming the loaves. The loaves are now rising and will head into the oven at 11:30. Since I took 56 pictures of the boys as they worked on the bread I'll do a slideshow and post it later tonight. For now I'll include the pictures of the four formed loaves.

Day 2 of the Great Yeast Experiment

The yeast capture is looking a bit flat, but we did some experiments with commercial yeast that went very well. In class we added ingredients together to see what would make yeast rise. We used Equal, Sweet and Low, lots of sugar, flour, and two mystery ingredients labeled 1 and 2. The mystery ingredients were small white crystals which looked like salt and sugar. What would happen after time passed? As can be seen in the picture below, the Equal, Sweet and Low (which one boy renamed Sweet and High), sugar, and Ingredient Number 2 all caused the yeast to be activated and rise. The flour and Ingredient Number 1 which turned out to be salt did not cause the yeast to become activated. Today as we are making the bread dough we will talk about the chemical processes going on. One astute question from yesterday dealt with why salt was going to be included if it did not cause the yeast to rise. We will talk today about the role each ingredient plays.

Hopper/Cricket Lacrosse

It was a fantastic day for the Hopper Cricket lacrosse games. All the boys played well, and even more importanty they all showed good sportsmanship. Well done boys!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Yeast Experiment

In doing some recent reading I have become intrigued with the Ancient Egyptians ability to capture yeast from the air around them. I decided that it would be a fun experiment to try in our classroom. Today is day one of an experiment that could last a few weeks if all goes well. We started the yeast experiment by mixing 3/8 of a cup of white flour with 3/8 of a cup of rye flour and 1/2 of a cup of water. (The experiment I am following can be found here.) In consulting with a Calvert dad who has lots of experience with sourdough starters I realize that our chances of success are not great, but the experience should prove educational and enjoyable no matter what the outcome is. We will be experimenting with commercial yeast tomorrow and baking with yeast on Wednesday, so there will be many lessons along the way. The students are very enthused.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Amazing Artwork

While it is usually my custom to feature the work of the students, in this case I will be highlighting a Renaissance painter that we are studying in history class. Today in class we will be looking at the Sistine Chapel, The Last Supper, and other works of art. There is a great website that I found that I love. It has a high resolution image of The Last Supper and can be found at The site is in Italian (I think), but clicking on the image of The Last Supper launches the program without any difficulty. This activity should be greatly enhanced with the projector so that the images will be eight feet by twelve feet in size.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pearl Hunt Videos

Here are two videos from the pearl experiment today. In the second video, a name of one of the students was mentioned so I had to edit out a few seconds of video. I was impressed by how the boys who got their pearls out were so quick to help their classmates.

video video

The Great Pearl Experiment

Last week we went on a great field trip with Living Classrooms on the Chesapeake Bay. One of the shipboard activities was opening an oyster and examining it. This week we wrote a composition about oysters and pearls. I thought the boys would like the chance to open a different kind of oyster and find a pearl inside. The information that came with the pearls said that most would be white or pink. Of the fifteen oysters opened today, five were white, seven were pink, one was silver, one was light purple, and one was either very dark blue or black. The black pearls are rare so the student who opened that one was ecstatic. Enjoy the slide show below. The class helped to pick out the music.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Community Outreach


On Friday morning the entire Ninth Age made about 200 sandwiches that will be donated to Paul's Place.

Lady Maryland Videos

I shot more than 30 short videos of the students doing a wide variety of activities on the Lady Maryland. Whittling the list down to these eight was difficult. The amount of hands on learning on this field trip was phenomenal.

In this video the students start to set the first sail.


The first sail is almost there.


The students were divided into four groups and in this video they sing the songs that the wrote and practiced at school in the days leading up to the trip.


There were many learning stations the students visited while on the boat. In this video the plankton catcher is tossed over the side to catch some plnkton, and on the other side of the boat a bucket is tossed over to haul in some water to do a water quality study.


Every student got a chance to main the helm. Our captain was superb and allowed the students to take complete control. He told them where he wanted them to head and if they turned the wheel the wrong way he allowed them to see that the boat wasn't going the correct way and let them get it going in the right direction.


As part of steering the vessel, the captain had the students peer over the stern to see the tiller move as the wheel is turned.


In the afternoon one of the highlights was learning about oysters. This station is the basis for the first paragraph of our composition this week.


The students built boats out of tin foil and popsicle sticks. The completed boats were floated and weights added to test their bouyancy. This boat did very well.


Lunch Recess Highlights

After lunch, Erin and I try to take the students outside to play before reading class. One of our favorite places to go is the boys field since it offers so many possibilities for the boys. The boys can do whatever activity they would like. Popular choices are football, paper airplane flying, running laps to get ready for the half mile in PE, and various dodge ball games the rules of which I could not begin to describe (there is lots of running and lots of laughing). Here are two videos I shot a few days ago. The second video I shot from the classroom. I had walked up to get my water bottle and thought perhaps it would be a good angle to capture the action.
video video

A Visitor in Miss Strom's Reading Class

April Dawn, one of the main characters in The Egypt Game, came for a visit a few days ago. Wearing her extravagant clothing and sporting long, fake eyelashes, she obviously had just come from Hollywood. The students had a great time interacting with April.