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April 30, 2008

Arachnids, amphibians, and mammals, oh my!


These past few weeks have been quite interesting. The students had a big test on classification and kingdoms, etc., and are now starting to work on a new assignment: animal projects! The projects take the form of an informative poster that each student has to create. To begin, they are required to select a certain animal group (mammals, for example). Then, they are to answer specific questions about them (such as whether they are vertebrate or invertebrate) and then state five characteristics of their group that makes them different from other groups. To find these characteristics, the students have to look in library books in the classroom. This is what I helped them with today. For the most part, it was easy to find the information, but it was difficult to explain that they needed to find characteristics of the ENTIRE group, not just one animal in it. One student was studying arachnids, but he kept pointing out facts just about spiders, not really considering the other members of the group, like scorpions and grasshoppers.

It's hard because I can see that the students are very, very intelligent, but they just have a hard time understanding English. When I come in before class, I always have conversations with the students, and they always ask me questions about college, the upcoming elections, etc. I know they are very bright and inquisitive kids on every level. However, I can see how difficult it is for many of them to digest English readings and comprehend them enough to answer questions about what they read. The teacher in the class does an amazing job explaining things so that they understand, but I wish I knew how I personally could make things easier for them...

(Images combined in photoshop from www.flickr.com)

April 29, 2008

Quote o' the Day

"You can't stop the waves.
But, you can learn to surf."

April 20, 2008

Quote o' the Day

Last week, I was perched on my chair at my computer, feverishly typing a paper for my "Intro to Design Thinking" class. For our topic, we had to write about a memorable place and how it related to specific design theories, etc., etc. We also had to describe why the place was meaningful to us, so I was looking through pages of quotes on memories. I came across this one that didn't really relate to my paper, but it resonated in my mind, rather sadly...

"Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened"
-T.S. Eliot.

April 18, 2008

Yay! Volunteering!


If I had to choose one thing that I liked most about volunteering at MNIC, I would have to say it is the people and the students. Every time I walk into the classroom, all the students say hello and are very friendly. These past couple weeks have been no exception. I greatly enjoy getting the chance to learn more about the students as individuals and to understand their personalities.

My experience with MNIC has really made me stop and consider my future. About the time when I was in second grade, I decided that I really wanted to be an elementary school teacher (before that, I wanted to be a custodian...long story....). Of course, things have changed, but I have to admit that a little piece of me is re-considering that option. I don't know if I would be good enough or would have enough patience to be a teacher, but I love having the opportunity to help people. At the same time, however, I don't know if I could ever be good enough to be a good architect or designer. I am having a tough time picturing my self doing anything career-wise. I like a lot of things, but I don't know which path to seek. I really wish I was one of those people who passionately knew what they wanted to do. At any rate, I know I will continue with MNIC through finals week and as long as possible. I sincerely hope that I will be able to volunteer here next semester, even I do not have a service learning class.

(Photo from http://www.cstrainingcenter.com/classroom1.html)

April 6, 2008

The things I have come to learn...

I apologize that my volunteer updates have been rather sporadic. Our spring break and MNIC's spring break did not coincide, so I missed two weeks. In addition, I volunteer for just an hour every week as opposed to 2 hours every other week like most people do, so I've been trying to combine my journaling into longer narratives. This way, I feel I can better sum up the work I have done and I can look back at what I have experienced in perspective every few weeks or so.

Lately in class, the students have been working on learning about cells and body systems (nervous system digestive system, ect.) and are now moving on to learning about the classification of organisms and taxonomy. I have to admit, it is a good refresher for me as well. It has been quite some time since I learned and used this kind of scientific information. I was slightly worried at first that I wouldn't remember the content and wouldn't be able to help the students. It is funny, though, how you can suddenly remember things you thought you had long forgotten when need arises.

Throughout my lifetime, I have said on many occasions, "Man, I would hate to have English as my second language." This is because I have always thought that it would be extremely difficult to learn. I mean, I am in college and I STILL could not tell you the proper usage of "who" and "whom" or the correct spelling of recieve (receive...? This one gets me all the time...I know its "i before e, except after c" but I also know that this is not always true...). Anyways, I always speculated that English would be exceptionally hard to become fluent in. I hadn't really realized how true that was until I started volunteering at MNIC.

Kids ask me frequently about the meaning of certain words, and quite often I end up confusing myself. The English language is tough...really tough. On one occasion, a student asked me to explain to him what the nervous system was. So, I broke into an enthusiastic description, telling him about the brain sending messages through your nerves to various parts of your body, telling your arm to move or your legs to walk, etc. However, when I finished, he had a completely blank look on his face. I asked him if he understood.

"What does it mean, nervous? To be nervous?" he asked.

I realized that he had mixed the two contexts of "nervous," so I tried to explain that they were different concepts. One was an emotion and one ("nervous system") meant a physical anatomical structure in you body. All in all, they are somewhat related, but they are still different.

"How is nervous spelled?" he questioned again.


He stared at me. "How is other nervous spelled?"

"Umm...well....it's...spelled the same...but it is a different thing," I stuttered.

I could tell he understood, but was confused why one word, spelled the same, could mean two different things. In all honesty, I was a bit, too.

A similar case evolved when I explained to another student the difference between "produce" (to make or create something) and "produce" (vegetables, fruit, etc.). She understood, but was also confused as to how one word could mean two different things. Just imagine for a moment that you are an immigrant, in a foreign country, and you hear the sentence in a strange tongue, "I produce produce on my farm." How confusing would this be?? I know that other languages have different meanings for the same word, but I feel like this fact in the English language, combined with all our grammatical rules, makes it extremely tough to learn.

I have such deep respect for the students that I work with because of this, among other things. Of all the students I have talked to, most of them have cited wanting to learn better English as one of their top reasons for attending school. And they have such a passion to do so. When they see a word they do not recognize, they always ask me its meaning. Then, they'll make little notes in their readings so they can remember it later. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to try to learn a completely new language, all the while trying to learn subjects like math and science being taught in it.

There is one additional event, clear in my mind, that I know I will never forget. At the beginning of class today, a student who I work with quite often came in, looking rather sad. He smiled at me and sat down, saying "hello" and the usual greetings. He paused for a moment and then asked, "How is school?"

The students know that I attend college at the U, so I told him that I had pretty busy day and that I had a bunch of tough homework to do later.

He smiled, laughed a little, and said, "It is tough, your school?"

I told him honestly that at times it was very tough, but mostly it was a lot of hard work. He nodded his head, looked away, and then looked back at me.

"Yes well...it is much more difficult for us. For us immigrants...to understand english. To learn."

He didn't say it bitterly, more sadly, with an obvious hint of frustration. I was kind of taken aback that he had said it, but I really appreciated that he did. In college, we have our complex assignments. We have our research papers, our group projects, and our scholarly readings. But can we say that our work is more difficult than that of these students, living away from their home countries, going to classes and learning english while trying to learn other subjects and graduate from high school? I am really not sure that I can.

April 2, 2008

Blog Prompt #7

Design three title page options for your research paper.

Hope this works...

View as PDF files:

Title Page Option 1 - Download file
Title Page Option 2 - Download file
Title Page Option 3 - Download file

KINETIC T y p o g r a p h y

This week in our discussion section, Della talked a little bit about the impact and subject of typography. I found this rather coincidental.

Last week, I was doing homework, watching and analyzing the title sequence of "The Age of Innocence" on youtube (It should be noted that I am a person who is very easily distracted). So, after spending a half an hour or so dissecting the design elements and principles of the movie clip, my mouse wandered to the related videos on the sidebar and I began clicking away. I know, I know..I should have been working, but I'm sure we've all done it. If you're on youtube, one minute you'll be watching Harry Potter Puppet Pals, and the next you'll be watching a slow-mo video of some kid eating chocolate cake, set to the "Friends" theme song. It happens.

But this time, I actually found something that was pretty fascinating. I stumbled across a whole series of videos on "Kinetic Typography." Basically, it's just as it sounds - words in motion - but more awesome. Awesome to the power of 56 (<--random number). Most of the clips I found were set to songs or movie scripts. They played the audio from the chosen media and then displayed the dialogue in various colors, texts, and sizes. Then, they animated it.

What I found most intriguing was how the kinetic typography really illustrated the mood of the movie/song. It was interesting how changing the font style and weight could mirror someone laughing or whispering. Even though there was no visual picture, I could formulate an idea of what was occurring in the scene just by the way the moving typography and audio worked together. The people who created and posted these on youtube truly put a lot of thought into each aspect of typography and how it could work to convey the image without showing a direct picture.

Here are some of my (appropriate) favorites. There are a lot more on youtube - I encourage you to check them out!!

Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine.

"V for Vendetta" scene with V's introduction

Go Canada! A short clip to honor Ozayr on the basics of typography in motion by Vancouver Film School students