Pro Vita Snapshot

Monday:

Themes from Aristotle's Ethics: Clay Splawn
What is a good knife? What is good for a lizard? What is a "Good" human? What is good strawberry shortcake? Mr. Splawn, along with 13 young philosophers, played with these questions today in Aristotle’s Ethics class.  Starting with intrinsic and extrinsic value, the class looked to where one finds meaning.  Can one solely find happiness in intrinsic goods? Only in extrinsic goods? Or does there need to be a balance between the two.  Today’s class was not only about Aristotelian philosophy; rather, it was more of a self-discovery through Aristotelian philosophy.  Senior Max Babigian, struggled with the notion that morals are not necessarily “natural” facts but, perhaps, conventions of society.  Fellow senior Ali Van Laer questioned how one can live a "Good" life without extrinsic goods.  Perhaps the most thought provoking question confronted by the class was, “What is good for me?”  And can a high school student—or even a 32 year old English teacher—answer that question with any degree of certainty?  Of course the answer is, “yes.”  All high school students know what is good for them—who else would?  Tomorrow, the class will continue this conversation through Aristotle’s function argument: What are we here for?  -- Stuart Miller, English teacher and Pro Vita roving reporter

Tuesday

Strat-O-Matic Baseball Tournament: Jesse Howard and Nathaniel Blauss
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Joe Mauer, batting clean-up and catching for the Minnesota Twins, steps into the batter's box. The Twins trail 1-0. Scott Kazmir, south paw hurler for the Angels, glances to his left - Michael Cuddyer, the first Twin to reach base, uninterested in endangering his perch to a chance pick-off, restrains himself to a conservative lead - sets, and lets fly with a split finger... twenty sided dice? The game, it turns out, is not a mid-season nail-biter, sweated out under the lights at Target Field, but a fantasy form of the national pastime known as "Strat-o-Matic" baseball - a table top dice and card game that seeks to simulate, with a laudable degree of authenticity, a real baseball game. The Strat-o-Matic system, using past season individual player statistics (this particular match-up simulated a 2009 meeting of the Twins and Angels), translates the recorded probability of a baseball event (i.e. for every ten at-bats, Joe Mauer reached base about 4.5 times in 2009) into a series of dice rolls to determine the course of a mock game.

Taught by Jesse Howard and Nathaniel Blauss, students enrolled in the course learn the ropes of the Strat-o-matic system - while leaving out some of the minute complexity, like injuries and balks, that the system is capable of incorporating - and, after researching players, participate in a mock draft to create a 21-man roster for entry in a class tournament. While the intricacies of the Strat-o-Matic system may seem daunting, and perhaps even inane, they can teach quite valuable lessons about the fine differences between luck and probability, success and failure. After all, as Mr. Howard noted, the best professional baseball clubs are separated from the worst by mere percentages - which, in the Strat-o-Matic world, results in the probability of Joe Mauer sending the ball over the left field fence, bringing Cuddyer home, and giving the Twins a one-run lead, to anything from 0-14 on the twenty-sided dice, or limply flying out to center on 15-20. Success, then, depends on capturing those extra percents that augment the probability of a positive outcome of any given event. Luck doesn't even begin to enter into it. -- Hugh McKeegan, English teacher and roving Pro Vita reporter

Making Household Products: Amanda Morgan
Coming into the Making Household Products class, there are the sounds of questions, chatter and the clicking of beakers; students are sporting fashionable green goggles and stirring a whitish or clear liquid.  These students are making soap today. 

They are busy.  Nim Farhood, ’13 was looking for the chemical equation explaining what happens when lye and oil saponify.  Meanwhile, Bill Kelly ’11 is finishing his liquid soap.   He explains the process: “When you add a base (lye) to a heated fatty oil (coconut oil), it separates the fats out of the oil and you get a product that cleans you—soap.” 

There is a slight scent of chemicals, from the lye used in the soap, but the products students made yesterday smell more appealing.  “Yesterday we made lip balm and lotion,” says Kennedy Alvarez ’14. “We melted beeswax, coconut oil, and other oils.”  Caroline Ellwood ’14 adds “The skin products are all-natural.”. “The lip balm really works!”  says Elsie Guevara ‘13,  as she shows off her “Peppermint Fluff Lip Balm,” complete with product label that was made as a homework assignment last night. 

Still to come this week: students will make paper, slime and bouncy balls. -- Lissa McGovern, English teacher and roving Pro Vita reporter

Wednesday
Completely Authentic, Completely American: Norman Rockwell: Andrew D'Ambrosio
The Norman Rockwell Pro Vita class made the short trip up to Stockbridge today to visit the museum of the famous American artist. The students have been learning about the life and work of Mr. Rockwell during the previous couple of classes, so today’s field trip served as an excellent opportunity to experience his work firsthand. The staff at the Norman Rockwell Museum is fantastic and they had organized a very special visit for the Berkshire students. The visit began with a 30-minute gallery talk where students discussed paintings in person that they had only previously seen in a slideshow. The class was then given the treat of viewing some very special artifacts from the museum’s archives. The finale of the trip was a visit to Rockwell’s studio on the museum grounds where the students witnessed his working environment firsthand. Overall it was a wonderful trip made possible by all of the wonderful people at the Norman Rockwell Museum. -- Andrew D'Ambrosio

The American Civil War: Dan Skoglund
"Is that where the term ‘hooker’ came from?” asked a student from the back corner of a history classroom.  Scott Conant, a guest lecturer in the American Civil War class and good friend of teacher Dan Skoglund, took 12 young historians on an intimate journey of Civil War Field Commanders on Tuesday.  General McClellan of the Union Army, who had the opportunity to decisively win the battle at Antietam, was partial to the Confederate Army due his Southern roots. General Burnside, McClellan’s successor, loved to party but had no idea how to ford a river or how to navigate, which led to thousands of Union deaths.  General Hooker, the Union’s next Field Commander, loved the company of woman—he even had a small regiment of woman follow his troops: “Hooker’s Girls”—and was tricked, in one of the most studied military maneuvers in modern times, by General Lee at Chancellorsville.  “Yes,” answered Mr. Conant, “that is where the term ‘hooker’ came from.”   -- Stuart Miller, English teacher and roving Pro Vita reporter

Zombies are your Neighbors: Hugh McKeegan and Will Cronin
Zombies and the Cold War? Zombies and Freudian psychology? In Mr. Cronin and McKeegan’s course, Zombies are Your Neighbors, students discussed The Night of the Living Dead (1964) today.  “What might be the implications of the 15 million zombies outside the door that they say they can’t see?” posited Mr. McKeegan.  Jack Hughes, a senior, responded: “The zombies outside the house are like the spies thought to have been in the US during the Cold War…like the Red Scare.”  Moving the conversation, Mr. Cronin directed the class to the different sections of the house and the vast space outside the house—Freud’s various levels of the conscious and subconscious.  Students saw how the ego, according to Freud, mediates between right and wrong.  Whether going outside of the house (the id) is best or going into the basement (the super ego) is best.  Who knew that zombies could teach us so much?  -- Stuart Miller, English teacher and roving Pro Vita reporter

Thursday

French and Haitian Cooking: Jean Erick Joassaint
Marie Joassaint assisted by husband and French teacher, Jean Erick Joassaint, shares the culinary skills she learned at the Cordon Blue School of cooking during Pro-Vita week in their French and Haitian Cooking class.  This week, their students have been introduced to the techniques and ingredients necessary to prepare and cook Pate Campagne, Marinade Creole d’Haiti, Riz al la Bayonnaise, Gateaude Mais au Jambon, Quiche Lorraine, and Crepes de l’Ile de France.  Once the dishes have been prepared and are cooking and while impatiently waiting to taste the fruit of their labors, the students sit around the table and are entertained by stories from Mr. Joassaint which cover topics ranging  from France to Popeye and everything in between.  Mrs. Joassaint has enjoyed this “wonderful group of students,” and has been impressed by “how involved they have become, how well they work together, and by how much fun they have been to work with.”  The students describe the whole experience as “fantastic” and are delighted by the delicious food they get to prepare and eat.  Riley Bourbonnais ’11 says, “I eat a small lunch. I need to save my appetite” All agree with Marissa Lavigne ’11 who “is having fun” and Maggie Fiertz ’11 who says “the food is really good!” The writer, who got to sample the Riz al la Bayonnaise on Tuesday, wholeheartedly agrees. -- Anna Romano, Director of the International Student Program and roving Pro Vita reporter

Friday

Coffee Talk: A.J. Kohlhepp
The brew for the day was Sumatra.  Java-Junkies of Dr. Kohlehepp’s Coffee Talk course began discussing the aroma of the blend, the fruit of the blend, the hang time of the blend, the bouquet of the blend. “It doesn’t have an empty, liquidy feel to it,” said Java-Junkie Maddie Hunsinger.  “It is much better than yesterday’s brew.”   Alright, so they didn’t discuss the bouquet of the blend, but they are looking to improve the way coffee is consumed on campus.  After their tour of a local roaster, the Java-Junkies, armed with newfound bean-roasting knowledge, looked to change how fellow—and neophyte Java-Junkies—drink coffee: better cups (heat retaining) in the dining hall, a bistro in the new Math/Science Center, bistro training for Sage, and transforming Shawn’s into a more café-like atmosphere.  With these changes in mind, the Java-Junkies needed to determine their audience—who do they need to approach to make changes—and how to reach them.  Perhaps Berkshire will see a java-revolution this spring.  --Stuart Miller, English teacher and roving Pro Vita reporter

 

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