Watershed Study with Foss Waterway Seaport

This year, we had the lucky opportunity to participate in a study of the Puyallup River Watershed with four other middle schools in the South Sound area. The study is in partnership with the Foss Waterway Seaport, and fits in perfectly with our “home” theme this year!

Students began the study by learning about plastics in different water systems around the world and why looking at plastic levels matters.

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We then went on a field study of Swan Creek, a small creek at the bottom of the watershed. We gathered dirt and gravel samples from the banks of the creek, and tested the water’s Ph, velocity, turbidity, and for copper, which affects salmon’s ability to smell their way back to their breeding grounds. We also took water samples for plastics in the water, that will be sent to a lab.

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We still have one more field study to complete and then we’ll compile our results with the other groups! Stay tuned!

Art + Social Studies

Here at the middle school, we try to integrate as many subjects as possible to expand and solidify learning. Right now, students have started a unit on Tacoma history in their social studies class. They are also studying and making glass art in Art, as well as interviewing local Tacoma artists.

To begin our social studies unit, students “question stormed” and came up with inquiries about Tacoma. Here are some of their questions:

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Students have also been making glass-esque chandeliers and mobiles that mimic the glass art around Tacoma.

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We’ve also been exploring the city’s art and recently took a trip to the Glass Museum to see the hot shop and learn about the glass movement in Tacoma.

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This week we’ll be going to a hot shop to make our own glass art. Stay tuned to see our creations!

Snow Shoeing and Semester Showcase

It’s been a big week at the middle school! On Wednesday, we went up to Mt. Rainier with Dr. Todd (glaciologist, PLU) to see the differences in seasons with the glaciers and rivers. We talked about how the park was different a few months ago, a few years ago, 100 years ago, 1,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, and one million years ago. We also got to snow shoe around Longmire and see the hot springs and remnants of the turn of the century retreat that used to be there. What a great day! Huge thank yous to Dr. Todd for coming with us and sharing her expertise on glaciers and Mt. Rainier, Cory for securing the snow shoes, and students S. and F. for helping plan the day.

Thursday night was our big Semester Showcase. We had a great turn out of current, former, and prospective Seabury parents and students. There were presentations on students’ Washington history Social Studies projects as well as creative writing projects on the Mima Mounds. The evening ended with a bang and a rattle as the students tried out their Earth Science final projects on the shaking table. Students were challenged to create a 1/15 scale model three-story building that would withstand a strong earthquake. On Thursday, each student got a chance to explain their philosophy and strategy in their design and try out the finished product on the shaking table. The diversity of strategies and products was truly amazing and the kind of thing you can only see at Seabury. We were finally able to topple one project by putting the shaking table on full-bore-destruction-mode for quite a while, which was strangely satisfying and fun. But amazingly, all the buildings survived the regular trials! Another great day! A huge, enormous thank you to Carlos for building the shaking table!!

Brief Update 12.11.15

It’s been a busy week at the middle school as we’re getting closer to Winter Break. Over the past couple weeks, students were reading myths that native peoples all over the world have written about volcanoes and earthquakes. Last week and this week, they got a chance to write their own myths. Math has been moving along as well. Geometry students have been working on ways of proving triangles are congruent and writing proofs, while Algebra students have been working on writing equations of parallel and perpendicular lines in point-slope, slope-intercept, and standard form. In Social Studies, students are working in small groups on various topics related to Washington State history. They’ll be writing papers and making presentations on these topics before the end of the semester.

Field Studies and a very happy Thanksgiving

One of the tenets of Seabury Middle School is using the community around us as an extension of our classroom. This takes many forms throughout the school year- using the YMCA for PE, partnering with local experts and organizations, and utilizing the resources around us to connect with our curriculum on a deeper level.

We’ve had quite a few field studies lately! To supplement our study of Washington state history, we rode the light rail down to the history museum to look at the Clovis points and explore their exhibits about Isaac Stevens and the first Europeans in WA state.

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We also had the opportunity to go to the Seattle Art Museum to check out their impressionist exhibit as an introduction to impressionist painting in art class.

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Also, this year we got to join the Lower School at their annual Thanksgiving feast! We kept the usual middle school traditions in the morning (having a read in and watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”), and then headed over to the lower school’s campus where we spent some time in the makers’ space and had quite the feast!

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Yum!!

Doing Science

At Seabury, students are scientists, historians, mathematicians, writers, etymologists, linguists, and engineers. We don’t just learn about subjects, we actively engage in them. A great example of this is our current study of geology. Instead of reading about glaciers in a book, we’ve been taking field studies to Mount Rainier and observing rock formations with Dr. Claire Todd, a professor at PLU.

This week, we had the opportunity to go to the PLU campus for lunch and field work with Dr. Todd.

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Students eating lunch in the University Center

After lunch, we made our way to the Rieke Science Center, where Dr. Todd showed us maps of the Pacific Northwest, and how glaciers had affected the region. We found where Seabury was in the Puget Sound and what would have happened if we were around when the ice sheet covered the area. We discussed geologic sorting and how glaciers don’t sort rock like rivers and lakes do.IMG_5902

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After that, we headed outside to really do some geological research. PLU has a pit that’s used by the geology department to study rocks in the area. Our students made observations on how we could tell glaciers were once in the area using geological clues.

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Here are the observations they came up with:

  • Most of the rocks are smooth, which is evidence of glacial erosion.
  • There was no rock sorting like you’d see in places with rivers and lakes. Glaciers are unique in that they don’t sort rocks by size, like rivers and lakes do. You can see this in the layers of rocks in the pit.
  • There were scratches on the rocks, which is evidence of glacial erosion.
  • Most of the rocks were the same type.
  • Most of the rocks were faceted with rounded features.

Dr. Todd also mentioned that most of the rocks were the same type that you would find in Canada, which is more evidence that they were brought down by glaciers.

Dr. Todd then showed us a faceted, glacial rock and students hypothesized theories about why it was so uniquely shaped. They came to the conclusion that because the tops of glaciers move faster than the bottom, the rock would flip and then get smoothed out again and again, which gave it its faceted shape. They then named the rock Clarence (they are still middle schoolers, after all).

It was a great opportunity for our students to really do science, and we thank Dr. Todd for all of her expertise and help!

New Space and Science Update

Whoa! The new space has been working out beautifully this week! The new classroom is quiet and cozy and set up perfectly for learning. The new Math room is quieter and larger and enclosed. There’s still a bunch of unpacking to do, mainly with the library and in the student lounge, and we’ll get to that in the coming couple of weeks.

Students worked on a challenging and fun Science activity this week. We’ve been studying plate tectonics and where the continents have been in the past. This week students worked on figuring out, based on the current information we have about how fast and what direction the continents are currently moving, where the continents will be in 100 million years. There was a lot of math and a lot of complex problem solving involved in this lesson, as students used the raw data and maps available to make the conjectures.

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