Our Global Studies class this semester began with activities and readings designed to help students investigate aspects of their own culture and identity. As Anne discussed in her first weekly reflection, comparing and contrasting stereotypes of American culture with our own personal cultures raises our awareness about the dangers of overgeneralizing and the importance of understanding culture on a more individual basis. The girls embraced their first opportunity for cultural exchange during a cooking activity with South African students from Southern Cross school. Sarah, Peri, Anna, and Maeve tended to our cooking pots and sought advice about spices for traditional stew from their South African counterparts. Other girls chopped veggies and chatted. Katherine listened attentively to the Southern Cross students' stories, soaking up the details of everyday South African teenage life. Natalie was impressed at how much the Southern Cross students knew about the US, while South Africa was so unknown to our group. Girls received a crash course in South African history during a fascinating talk from a former ANC activist detailing his first-hand experiences in the resistance against apartheid. We will further investigate themes of race, identity, and power throughout the semester as the girls continue to read My Traitor's Heart, which follows a white South African's personal struggles as an Afrikaner and anti-apartheid journalist.
Algebra 2 & Pre-calculus
On a chilly and misty day in Magoebaskloof, both the Pre-Calculus and Algebra 2 began the semester with discussions about converting temperatures between Celsius and Fahrenheit, requiring students to recall and apply algebra skills from previous courses in a real-world context.
Several Algebra 2 students have set goals for improvement in math this semester. To address these goals, we will focus on breaking down problems into manageable parts in order to understand the processes we use to solve, rather than memorizing procedures. As Maeve has pointed out, in order to better remember what we learn, we need to make connections among topics and push ourselves to "see the big picture." In pursuit of this goal, Algebra 2 students extended our first day discussion about temperature conversion to a more general review of graphs and equations, focusing on understanding graphs as pictures of solutions to algebraic equations. Students applied knowledge of graphs and used graphing calculators to investigate patterns in transformations of functions. After completing their first test this week, the girls have begun a more in-depth unit on solving linear equations and inequalities.
In Pre-calculus, students have reviewed algebraic concepts to set a solid foundation for our work this semester. We approached review topics such as simplifying expressions and factoring polynomials with a questioning lens in order to gain a deeper understanding of why the processes learned in previous courses actually work. Rather than memorize rules for simplifying exponents, students derived the rules themselves. A review of solving quadratic equations focused the decision-making process in choosing a strategy as a way to best understand the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques. Most importantly, the students in Pre-calculus have set the intention to approach math in a new way this semester - rather than slogging through math problems, we will have fun challenging ourselves with interesting math puzzles. Hannah embraced this sentiment with the title of "Fun Stuff!" on the top of her math homework.