What is Project Block?

Potato gun projectile analysis, March Madness-style debate, visit to Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum…Learn more about Project Block here.
Project blocks meet every other Saturday morning for three and one half hours or longer, depending on each class’s program for that day. These classes support The White Mountain School’s culture of inquiry by providing regular and “authentic” opportunities for students to learn or practice new skills in different situations.
Photography teacher and Director of Technology, Ben Moss writes, “Project blocks give our class the chance to work through a process in one session that we would otherwise not be able to do during the usual class period. In the case of our 4×5 film photography we used the time to set up a still life, lighting, and the camera with plenty of time left to allow each student in the class several minutes to create their own composition, try out different lenses, use the manual light meter to set the camera exposure settings and be creative. We were then able to use our regular class periods to develop the film into negatives and make positive prints.”
A recent Spanish class used Project Block to meet and interview native Spanish speaking employees at the Mount Washington/Bretton Woods Resort. Lindsay Palya ’15 had this to say about her experience:
“Going into the morning I was so nervous! I am pretty confident in my listening and comprehension skills when listening to Brent, but listening to native speakers with stronger accents was a little more challenging. They were great with us, though. They spoke slowly and understood if we needed them to repeat their answer one more time.
I spoke with Brent about an idea I had while we were still at the mountain, and we are both very excited about it. I’d love to be able to partner up with the human resources department at Bretton Woods to create a program with them. The program would allow me to continue to better my Spanish language skills, while helping their staff gain fluency in English. Many of the people who come to work in this area expect to be around Americans speaking English all the time, but that isn’t always the case. Brent and I still need to have follow-up conversations about what the program would look like, but I think that this may become my L.A.S.R. project. I’m excited to see where it goes!“
Here are some other recent Project Block programs:
On one occasion this year an AP Calculus AB class used a potato gun to launch potato projectiles on the athletic fields. Students then collected and analyzed the data. Last Saturday, the class made videos of students and then reviewed the film and graphed the behaviors of the student actors. Then they used calculus to analyze the graphs. Teacher, Jeff Bush, introduced the project with these words, “Today you will be turning everyday occurrences into graphs, equations, derivatives, and integrals. Here’s the catch, every occurrence has to be 15 seconds long, and you have to find equations to describe it in three different dimensions (i.e. position, velocity, and acceleration, or a rate, it’s integral, and it’s derivative).”
A visual arts class visited Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum last weekend, where the students presented information they had researched ahead of time to their classmates, as they all viewed the art in person.

The “By Any Means Necessary: 20th Century Terrorism in Context” class held a debate in the form of an extensive “March Madness” bracket. Students selected different terrorist organizations and debated the scope and impact of their group in history.

A geometry class learned orienteering skills through applied geometry. With map and compass in hand, students and teacher went to the nearby Rocks Estate to apply their new skills.
Students in ESL have used Project Block to prepare presentations in English about their hometowns/countries and present their stories to residents at a local nursing home. On a separate occasion, WMS students worked in pairs to take a traditional story from their childhood and translate it into English. They then performed the story for a group of residents. Finally, the students stood in front of the audience and talked about what the have learned about the cultural differences between the US and their home countries, the things they miss from home, and how their lives have changed since they came to the U.S.
Recent French class Project Block programs have included student cooking shows, movie making, and trips to a small town in Magog, Quebec. French teacher, Campbell Ainsworth, describes the objectives and outcomes of the Quebec class here:
“I aim to expose students to a real setting where the target language is necessary. We explore the town, noting the francophone influence in signage and in daily life and cultural differences. Students are given little missions to complete at various establishments to practice using their French in a meaningful way. Students had to come up with questions at different stores, interview a few willing employees about their background, ask someone the time, ask for directions, etc.  We compiled a big list of new, useful vocabulary words from this trip.”

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