Minicourse 2015

It’s hard to believe that today is the first day of spring! From here on the weeks to come will be packed with fun events, End of Year (EOY) projects and thoughts of summer as we near the close of another school year. One of our most anticipated annual events, Minicourse, took place the last week of February and this year students had the chance to participate in one of over 20 different options. They ranged in theme from trekking across Zion National Park in Utah to learning about and discussing issues of social justice to landscape planning. Each opportunity provided our students with a chance to learn more about themselves and the world around them, enriching their MA experience.

I want to thank each and every person who played a role in organizing, executing and leading these weeklong explorations. Alumni often reflect back on Minicourse as one of their most enjoyable and memorable experiences at MA, and these memories would not be made without the support of our dedicated faculty, staff, and volunteers.

While each Minicourse opportunity provided students with unique, engaging experiences, I wanted to highlight a few that implemented STEAM-oriented (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) activities. As we progress further into the 21st century, the intersection of science, technology, engineering, arts and math will be necessary as we face the problems of a constantly changing world. At MA, we know the importance of cultivating well-rounded leaders who push the envelope by thinking, questioning and creating. Below I’ve highlighted just a few of the STEAM-oriented experiences our students engaged in.

Gettin’ STEAM-y

Led by Barry Beach and Jon Bretan (Sophomores – Seniors)

and Nicole Jensen (Freshmen)

Barry Beach and Jon Bretan led 14 sophomore through senior students and Nicole Jensen led seven freshmen in a Minicourse entitled, “Gettin’ STEAM-y.” As the title of the Minicourse suggests, participants had the opportunity to experiment and create, drawing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, for inspiration and guidance.

The first few days allowed students to get acquainted with various tools like a welding rig, saw and drill press. They also took a trip to the TechShop San Francisco, which is a community-based workshop and prototyping studio committed to providing access to tools that foster innovation. At TechShop, students participated in workshops on woodworking, 3D printing, metalworking, and welding. They were then encouraged to get inventive and to devise a plan for a project of their choosing. The students worked in teams and sought guidance as needed, creating projects ranging from a Quadcopter to a sundial. Many of the students had little to no experience with handiwork, whether it be in the form of home repair or building for leisure, so this Minicourse gave them the chance to imagine the possibilities available to them. Students were encouraged to think outside of the box without restrictions and experimentation, and failures were a natural part of the learning process. While the mechanics of the projects were important, much of the process was based on the artistic components, which were utilized throughout design and even in the finesse and technique it takes to weld and shape the materials.

Although not all of the projects were completed, each Gettin’ STEAM-y participant walked away with newfound knowledge of the many tools at their disposal, a sense of possibility in the things they can create and the confidence to do so in the future.

gettin steamy 5

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gettin steamy 3

Get Crafty

Led by Jenny Rosenberg and Lisa Tsubouchi

Get Crafty exposed students to a variety of different crafts from paper mâché and jewelry making to indigo dying.

Indigo dying was a big hit with the students and Lisa, who has explored the art as a side hobby, took the lead in creating the lesson. Students began the lesson by watching a documentary called Blue Alchemy, which details the historical background of this beautiful art, which originated in India but is practiced around the world from Japan to Mexico. Students were able to dye multiple items and participate in a process that dates back thousands of years. The group learned about the process from an environmental aspect, carefully considering the impact of synthetic vs. natural dyes. They also observed the chemical reactions that take place as they created patterns, watched the fabric emerge initially in a yellowish hue and then saw their final product oxidize into a vibrant blue.

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get crafty

Woodworking 101

Led by J O’Malley and Trixie Sabundayo

Through this Minicourse, students became acquainted with various heavy machinery utilized in woodworking. They had the opportunity to create a wooden drum, stools, and a cutting board. Although they did receive assistance in utilizing the equipment and in measuring and determining the mechanics of the various pieces, students had a chance to dictate the esthetic design of the finished product.

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About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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