Here’s a question: What moves people?
We can ask this in so many ways. Literally, how do people move around the world? Or why do they pick up and move to a new country? To a new home? What role does data and information play? What role do policies play? What about stories?
Spanning myths, maps, metrics, and migration, our students have been wrestling with fundamental questions. Through The Odyssey of ancient Greece, American (and Austin’s) history of development, growth, mapping, and policy, and questions of justice and mercy in literature and lives, our 2023 Spring Showcase explored this question—what moves people?
Each trimester at Waterloo School, students work on projects and presentations that showcase what they’ve learned. This showcase included several presentations of maps, migrations, and metrics:
- Purpose & Choice (English) – Exploring the characters of great stories through podcasting
- American Character (US History) – Building a historical driving tour app to explore Austin’s growth
- Justice & Mercy (English) – Exploring the stories and issues at the US-Mexico border
- Algebra II – Graphing the maps of a developing city (through equations!)
- Statistics – Real-life data telling a story
- Molecular Biology – History Captured in our DNA
Purpose and Choice: The “Podyssey”
What is our purpose in the world, and what choice do we have in it? Ancient literature wrestles with this question all the time, and we’re still asking it today. In this class, we read a range of ancient and more modern literature where characters struggle with their role in the world. We considered what characters owe to their communities, and whether duties and identities are chosen or unavoidable. Along the way, we also worked on reading comprehension, writing skills, and finished the course by creating a podcast series!
US History: A Historical Driving Tour
In 1928, the city of Austin released a master plan that found ways to relocate African Americans from all over the city to a segregated area on the east side. That experiment in urban planning had repercussions that have echoed down to the present day. This term, our American Character students researched and wrote entries for a driving tour on the Clio history app to educate residents and tourists about the 1928 plan, our history of segregation, poverty, and urban renewal, and the vibrant survival of African American culture in our city.
Justice and Mercy: A Border Experience
Justice and Mercy explored encounters at the borders of characters’ experiences and identity in the biblical book of Job, the Greek tragedy Antigone, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, and Bryan Stevenson’s nonfiction story Just Mercy. Then students visited El Paso,* studied migration and tensions at the border, and developed a display to help introduce audience members to their experiences and the complexity and humanitarian issues surrounding the migration issue. What moves people to the limits of their dwelling places? How do we understand people whose stories are so different from our own?
*You can read more about Waterloo students’ border experience in this recent blog article.
Statistics: Storytelling Through Data
This term, the statistics class took time to slow down and begin to notice, analyze, and express the data all around them. Through exploration in basic study design and descriptive statistics, students discovered the importance of rigorous methods and testing assumptions to avoid delivering biased results. In our time with probability, students explored how data can inform and guide everyday decisions—even family game night! Paired basic fluency in the R statistical coding language, students were able to create thoughtful and accurate representations of the phenomena they observed.
Algebra II: Mapping the Growth of Austin
This term Algebra II students grew to better understand the mathematical world through the lens of functions. From their starting point built-in Algebra I, they expanded their ability to both interpret and display real-world phenomena utilizing an ever-increasing list of functions. Then, for their final project, the class worked in conjunction with the American Character class by tapping into this catalog to write a list of functions to plot a map of downtown Austin on a coordinate plane across three different eras, in order to utilize these maps to display the displacement of African American communities in the city over time.
Molecular Biology: History Captured in Our DNA
The world of molecular biology has made astounding advances in the last 70 years, from discovering the structure and function of DNA to sequencing and editing the human genome. Our molecular biology students gave an introduction into some of the foundational techniques used to classify, understand, and edit genes. Guests learned how to pipet, load a gel, decipher crime scene DNA samples and edit genes through CRISPR. And (extra bonus), they walked away understanding what all that really means!