Students Soar with Experiential Education

By Ishanni Gokli ’18

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.” – Kurt Hahn

Experiential education is a fundamental part of being an Athenian student. Our students truly take pride in having it as a part of our daily curriculum, and an exemplary example of this is the Advanced Physics project taken on by Akshay Shah, Trenton Tan, and Anthony Ottati ’16.

Hang gliding Diablo 4The three seniors are building a hang glider for a project in their Advanced Physics class.

The Athenian class of ‘71 alum, Tim Holm, with his love of hang-gliding and adventure, inspired them to design and take on this project.

Tim Holm always wanted to build and fly a plane but never thought he would have the funding to do so. During Athenian’s Project Week (now Interim), Holm designed and built a plane for $8. His launch wasn’t successful and Holm cracked a vertebra. However, Holm felt grateful and passionate for his experience. 20151206_150143In a reflection on this flight, he wrote, “Not once have I regretted my decision to fly, for now, I know that I can.”

“We really wanted to explore and innovate like Tim Holm would have,” said Shah. “Our choice to attempt to make a biplane hang glider really lets us make use of the experiential learning aspect offered at Athenian: which I think Tim Holm would have been into.”

Akshay described their process of trial and error: “We went to Home Depot and bought all the materials we needed. Bruce Hamren gave us the cloth for the final design. We started by looking up a few designs and going through the pros and cons of each. We decided on a biplane design since it was the most effective. The three of us built it in the Maker’s Studio and outside of the orchard classrooms. We did have some problems throughout the building process, especially with attaching the cloth to the pipes, but we improvised and it ended up working out.”

With a project so fulfilling, the spirit of Tim Holm is embodied Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.33.17 AMby the three seniors.

By taking on this inspiring feat, it speaks to how Athenian students challenge themselves for the pursuit of knowledge and the spirit of adventure.

Building Rome in a Day

by Lauren Railey, Head of Middle School

Rome5This fall, as part of their study of ancient Rome with Sven Miller and Matt Zahner, students investigated the impacts of the great ancient civilization on modern history: roads, sewer systems, the calendar system, central heating, and more.  This year, students had the opportunity to physically construct for themselves many of the city structures the Romans pioneered.  

In small groups, the students researched, designed, and created either a Roman shoe, an aqueduct system, an arch, or a model Roman city.  With the help of Maker Studio expert Lori Harsch and several Upper School students, the seventh graders spent a few days in the Maker Studio learning how to use tools they had never used before to recreate various aspects of Roman life.

FullSizeRenderSven Miller, one of the planners of the day, described three anecdotes of student groups applying their knowledge and solving problems in the course of their building.  One group who was working on building a model Roman city began by researching the types of structures a Roman city would have.  They quickly found many CAD files that they could print on the 3-D printer or laser cutter.  However, they encountered the issue of scale.  Some students, eager to see their city come to life, sent CAD files to the printer and saw enormous models of a coliseum being printed next to a tiny model of a library.  Realizing the problem, they had to decide as a group what a millimeter would equal in their model world and then use their math skills to scale the CAD files to print at the correct size.

An aqueduct group was given the task of crossing a culvert up on the hill by the baseball field.  They brainstormed in the classroom before they realized that they needed to go walk up the hill and look at the culvert directly to measure it in real life.  They created an inverted trapezoid and used their geometry skills to figure out the correct angles to build an aqueduct that could cross the culvert.

Finally, one of the arch groups realized that the central problem in building the arch was determining the correct angles for each piece of the arch.  They began by measuring a model of an arch and tried to copy it.  That led them to realize they would need to use geometry to figure out the supplementary and complementary angles.  Using trial and error, they determined that they needed to have an odd number of blocks with a central keystone for pressure.  They did calculations and determined that 9 blocks yielded the most workable numbers.  They then made the cuts in the blocks in the Maker Studio using the measurements they had calculated.

All in all, the students engaged in a challenging, hands-on variety of activities that engaged their minds and bodies as they “built Rome in a day.”