October 18, 2014
Science: The teenage brain isn't fully functional until 11:30 AM
School 1: Let's start school at 7:30
Science: But...
School 2: Ya 7 sounds good
October 16, 2014
UN-Happy meal: Field trip review


For our field trip, we went to McDonalds, and We ordered 6 happy meals, and then we left. Since we had seen a video where a man de-constructed and attempted to re-construct a toaster, I suspected we were going to ‘dissect the happy meal given to us.

I was excited during the project, since the…

October 13, 2014
The Burger and The Fry (Sorry, Mr. Salinger)


Today, we went McDonald’s. All good things start with that, right?


Although I didn’t get kicked out of our Pennsylvanian prep school and get punched by a pimp named Maurice (Catcher in the Rye references, sorry J.D Salinger), I still learned a lot. I did initially have my inhibitions when we…

October 13, 2014
"badada...da, I'm lovin' it!"

A student finding a love for experimental science in the middle of a history activity…inquiry-based education all the way


Today we dissected a Mac Donald’s kids meal and it was pretty interesting to see. I loved the fact that we got see French fries melt and see the oils drip from it. My group and I decided that we will talk a little piece from the kids meal and were going to see how long it takes to grow mold spoil…

October 13, 2014


I like this project because of the weirdness. Seriously, how many teachers excuse their students from three classes, drive them to McDonald’s, tell them to take notes on people while not looking like stalkers and let them eat their research? Maybe it’s just me but all of those are all firsts. It’s…

October 11, 2014
McDonald's Investigation


The deconstruction interested me, and freaked me out. Being a vegan, I thought I had known everything that was in a McDonalds meal. But I soon discovered, I was wrong. The burger? Nobody thinks it’s actually meat. The fries are not potatoes, and there’s more ingredients on the package of apples…

October 11, 2014
The Great Happy Meal Project is Underway!

Well, we started the UnHappy Meal Project this week.  It was kind of high stakes for me - it is of course the main reason I ended up in NY, and is the reason I am writing a book, and it is the reason my curriculum looks the way it does.  If I screwed the pooch on this I was looking at a long, long road to May.

My plan for the entry event was for the kids to watch the actual Toaster Project video, so they could understand why deconstruction and re-construction of a basic object could be a rich and rewarding activity.  And if they could read between the lines, they could see what “raw inquiry” look like, and the types of detours and surprises that arise.

I wasn’t sure of the best way to set them up for the video, however.  The direction I ended up going was challenging them, as examples of homo technologicus, to explain how their favorite bits of technology actually worked - how sound traveled through cyberspace to their wireless headphones, how internal combustion engines worked, or even what happens when they switch gears on their bikes.  One kids raised his hand and read from a description on wikipedia.  I asked him to explain the words he’d just read (which he mispronounced), but he admitted he couldn’t.

From there, I asked them why a ball stopped rolling after your pushed it, and even though a few understood gravity and friction played a role, they didn’t really know why or how.  I went eve more basic after that, asking them how their eyes saw color (“rods and cones!” they yelled, and others wanted to explain how we saw things upside down initially, but still couldn’t explain how objects materialized in our brains form splashes of light and dark,) what color even was, for that matter, and finally, what fire actually was and how it appeared.  Suffice to say, no one got close.   Despite knowing how to use amazingly advanced technology, most of us are no better than cavemen, and probably less likely to survive if knowledge was required to do so. 

I didn’t have enough time to debrief the video itself, but I got a few responses from the kids when I asked for one take-away.  Some were scared at about how reliant they realized they were on a few companies to make the things they needed, and other were surprised at how many different origins the toaster components had.  They weren’t that clear about why such a project needed to happen, though they seemed excited about the prospect of doing something similar.

I just hadn’t told them what that would be.  They figured it out, however, when our two buses pulled into a McDonald’s.  At first they thought I was buying them all lunch.  I told them instead to take notes on what they saw in the “restaurant” while I ordered 6 Happy Meals.  I was bemused to see they now offered milk, and a choice of apples or something called “GoGurt” as sides, though they still had the same burger and fries combo I was hoping for.

We retired back to a biology classroom on campus, and from there, the teams tore their Happy Meals apart.  At first they wanted to eat them, and I told them to consider doing taste tests, but it was fascinating to see how quickly they became disgusted by the food once they had pulled everything apart.

Their initial task was to draw a mind-web of all the components of a Happy Meal, as these were the things they would have to figure out how to re-make.

An additional schallenge was to deconstruct the larger ingredients down their raw components.  They solved this partly by reading the ingredients list on the package, but this was mostly confusing, as even the apple slices contained chemicals they neither recognized nor knew how to access. 

This led to some fairly interesting paths of inquiry I hadn’t anticipated - but then again, I wasn’t sure what to expect, anyway.  But several students wondered what the effect of the preservatives would be on the food if it was burned - which led to some serious bunsen burner action (watching the grease drip from the fries as they carbolized made several students swear off them for the foreseeable future.)  Others wondered how long it actually take for the various bits to decompose if left somewhere unmolested over time.

My compatriot - a biology teacher - facilitated this, but made the students develop hypotheses and experiment guidelines before they could go ahead with their plans.

The students worked hard for hours on this, and only lost steam with about ten minutes to go.  The vegetarians and vegans meanwhile looked smug, epecially as the classroom began to take on a noticeably “off” odor.

I left the class with a debrief blog to write, in which I asked them to discuss, individually, a list of things they had to have or learn to do in order to recreate the Happy Meal.  This was to be followed by a list of questions they wanted to investigate, including any questions they wanted to direct to Thomas Thwaites, the Toaster Project guy.  

The final step was to list her or his skills or special knowledge that could come in handy in this project.  These could be related to making the physical components, or managing the project, or research and investigation, or creating social media to talk about the project, etc.

For my own reflection, I was fairly happy with the result, and I think some of the teachers who dropped in were taken by how engaged the kids seemed, how energized, and how truly curious they were, once they understood that any inquiry, if properly thought out, was legitimate.

However, what came up in our (the teachers’) debrief was the importance of understanding how to deconstruct something with the intent of putting something back together - ie - documenting the process.  I realized that would have been a better activity then pushing my own agenda of thinking about our learned helplessness due to the ubiquity of technology.  Perhaps giving each time a jigsaw puzzle to build, then take apart - but in such a way that the next group could put it together in a fraction of the time?  

I’ll reflect further when I read more of the debriefing blogs. 

October 11, 2014
The Great Hamburger Project


What’s in a happy meal? Pretty easy right? Just like a hamburger, fries, a drink, apples, you know the stuff. But when you actually look at the fine print you see a lot more..

Theres too many ingredients. I mean, like, there is a lot of stuff in those things. There is a lot of stuff that we…

September 26, 2014
Self Evaluation reflective jornal


On last week, our class focus on doing project, is doing resource about people around the world, what they eat in one week. I think is a very good assignment, from every ones post, I can see many different thing. I am working with Shawn and Jialing, I think it’s hard to work with others, but it…

September 26, 2014


The “Scail Activist Blog Post” that we did finally finished, I enjoy the course of my reseaching, the idea and the new thought continue coming to my mind during my reseaching. I cloud say this time I got a more specific impression of world by “Scail Activist Post”. I mean I knew how the wolrd…

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