A Look at Denny Middle School’s Dolphin University

City Year Seattle at Denny Middle School with their Boxes of Infinite Inquiry!

The City Year Seattle corps members serving at Denny International Middle School have revamped their after-school programing, called Dolphin University after Denny’s school mascot, to add to the academic potential of the students. Corps members worked hard for many weeks to create a program that focuses on both tutoring and incorporating lessons that will enrich and supplement the education of their students.

Because the school and district science fairs are coming up, corps members thought it would be the perfect time to run a three-week-long unit on Science. In the first week, corps members re-introduced the scientific concepts of observation and inference. One of the lessons of the week was “Cube Your Enthusiasm.”  Dolphin Universtiy Activity

During the lesson, students spent ten minutes relearning the definitions of inference and observation and shared some examples. One team’s example was:

“We observe that clock on the wall has two hands moving, and we infer that there is a motor inside making it tell the time.”

Once the examples from each group were shared, a corps member transitioned to the second part of the activity: “The Boxes of Infinite Inquiry!”

The corps members worked hard to make the boxes as enticing as possible. As soon as the students walked into Dolphin University that day, the first thing they noticed were two boxes covered with a cloth and signs all around it saying “Don’t open” or “STAY AWAY.” Every time a student went to sharpen a pencil a corps member walked with them to make sure they didn’t sneak a peek at the boxes.

Corps members then unveiled the cubes, which had sets of numbers or equations that were linked to each other by a sequence. Each part of the number sequence was written on a different side of each box. Corps members covered two sides of each box, which gave the students an opportunity to observe the boxes and try to infer what the covered sides displayed. The boxes and the task for finding the missing sides were explained to the teams. Then a corps member announced: “Let the great debate begin!” as the boxes were handed to each team. The teams immediately began trying to deduce what the missing sides were.

The inferences they came up with were very smart and detail oriented. One team wrote:

“We thought we were right because the numbers on the opposite sides of the box always added to eight.”

This team was the ultimate winner because of how broad their various ideas, plans, and inferences were and not just because they were able to get closest to the correct answer. The Corps Members and the students then took the time to applaud everyone’s efforts and participation during the activity.

Finally the groups settled into talk about what the lesson was meant to convey. Teams presented their different strategies for finding the missing sides. As a group, students talked a little bit about human logic and how sometimes people’s past experiences inform their present. One student talked about how she used what she knew about dice to try to infer what the missing sides were.

It was awesome to watch their brains clicking even after a long school day and over an hour of after-school tutoring. Their participation and willingness to engage in the lesson is always a gift. It was a great opportunity with a talented group of students learning to focus and then expand their education alongside their City Year corps members.

Text by Denise Taylor, City Year Seattle/King County corps member of the JPMorgan Chase/NELA Diplomas Now Team at Denny International Middle School

This team was the ultimate winner because of how broad their various ideas, plans, and inferences were and not just because they were able to get closest to the correct answer. The Corps Members and the students then took the time to applaud everyone’s efforts and participation during the activity.

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