Learning the Big Picture of Computer Science
We didn't just learn about programming and stuff, we also learned about how the computer works, how storage works, what the CPU is, and a whole bunch of other things too! Learning all those things can take years, so we didn't dive deep into those things, instead, we learned the big picture. Why is learning the big picture useful? Even though I won't remember everything I learned, I will still have the right orientation and a basic understanding, instead of thinking everything inside a computer is just "magic" and out of my reach.
Finishing Middle School M, P, and C in 1 Year!
I don't learn things year by year like in school, instead, I learn things in periods, for example, in one period, I focus on exercising and fitness, and in another period, I focus on Chinese. And in one particular period, I focused on Math, Chemistry, and Physics. My goal was to finish all of middle school Math, Chemistry, and Physics in a period of one year. We bought Chinese textbooks for the three subjects and I made a plan of what order I should read them in and also some smaller goals of doing tests, and not just for the sake of doing it, but doing it as practice and also to see what I could still improve on, and until I get at least 95/100 points, I won't move on. I didn't just finish the Chinese part, but I also finished English middle school Math, Chemistry, and Physics on a website called "Khan Academy" and I earned a LOT of energy points (virtual points on khan academy) for doing that!
Coding the Day Away
Thinking with Mindmaps
Thinking and reflecting is very important for us: there are a HUGE amount of things to think about, and it's really easy to lose track when you're thinking about something complex. So I started using mindmaps! I find mindmaps very useful because they are really easy to use and make thinking and reflecting about things way easier. Here's a few I would like to share with you:
My Time at Make school
I first knew about make school when I was learning to code on khan academy, there was a link to their website, and when I looked, I found out that it was a camp where you can make an APP of you're own in three weeks. This is just what I need! Because I always wanted to code an APP, but I always got stuck on problems and there were mentors to help me so it took a really long time to solve. But at make school, there were a lot of mentors and other students to help me out!
In the first week, I learned the Swift language, a language to code IOS APPs. And then we took a few days to decide what APP we're gonna make, and we took the rest of our time to actually code the APP with Xcode. I made an alarm APP! And in the last day, we presented our APPs.
This was my first time attending a race, and this isn't just a normal running race, you also have to crawl, go in mud and climb to complete it, it was pretty intense!
Learning About Business Stratagy
The Portfolio Project
My Chinese Adventure
Practicing Basketball 2017
Pig and Elephant's Blue Flower Adventure - My First Original Picture Book
This whole book started as a group drawing, which is a drawing that a group makes. This group includes me, Brendan, and Emily, 3 learners at the Base. In a group drawing, you take turns drawing, and each person has 20 seconds. After 20 seconds, you need to stop what you’re drawing and pass it to the next person. We did the first drawing, which is the drawing on the first page:
After that, we decided that it was pretty interesting and we should turn it into a book. We decided to do more group drawings, and we did the rest of the drawings. Later we decided to write the words, which we wrote based on the pictures. Pig and Elephant were the main characters. We finally called the book Pig and Elephant’s Blue Flower Adventure.
When we were nearly finished, we decided we should add it to the show that we were going to be doing, which was a play about germs that I wrote with Ryan and Emily. At the show, we shared the book with other people. Check out the video to hear us reading the book at the show.
After we wrote the book, we actually turned it into a real book. Cassie went to the bookmaking place to turn it into the book, and we decided to sell it at the show. The price was an 80 kuai (Chinese Money) suggested donation. We made 1,255 kuai! It cost Cassie 675 kuai to print them, so we made a 580 kuai profit! Cassie invested for us, so when it was over we shared the profit with her.
Opening Up a New World with Creative Writing
I like doing creative writing because I can write down something that I imagined and that makes me really excited and want to write more. I started doing creative writing when I dropped out of school and started to learn at home, even though now I think what I wrote then is pretty bad, it still helped my writing skills improve so I don't keep writing like that. I think the period of time that I did the most creative writing was during the Page - which was a program designed by my mentors when my friends and I learned about writing styles and wrote our own stories! It was really fun.
The Knowledge Wall was a display that gave people a clear view of what subjects there are and what categories they belong to. The wall had many shelves that we used paper to make, and on the shelves, there were many “ingredients”, which showed the names of each subject and little drawings on top. In the middle, there was a big cauldron.
In this case, the ingredients represented the subjects, the shelves represented the categories of subjects, and the cauldron showed that you could "brew" projects with many subjects.
When we started this project, we wanted to make the subjects clear to everyone so they could understand, so we decided to put it on a wall. That is why it’s called the Knowledge Wall. First, we split into two groups to brainstorm about what the wall was going to look like. We had many ideas, like a tree design and a spider web design… But we finally chose the "potion factory" one which has many shelves with the ingredients on them and a cauldron in the middle.
After that, we made up a process that would help us learn while making the wall. The process that we made up is that every week every mentor would choose a subject and prepare a presentation and then present it to us. Afterward, Emily and I would make an ingredient by drawing a picture and writing down the name of the subject. For example, when Nicolas presented Mechanical Engineering to us, I drew a gear because in Mechanical Engineering you need a lot of gears sometimes.
We used this process for all the subjects we could think of and finally, we finished the wall! Now it has main categories and countless ingredients! Even though we don’t have all the subjects in the world we still have many. Now when I want to do a project but do not know what to do I can go to the knowledge wall and make one up by choosing subjects and “brewing” a project!
German - My Third Language
I started learning German when I was 5 and when I came to the base I learned German with Lisa, we used SLA - Second Language Acquisition. Normally people in China learn English by memorizing, but I learn it by making the words and sentences have relations with things and actions, this is how babies learn English. Series and Dialogues is a method of learning German, here's how it works:
first, a mentor introduces a conversation by saying the whole thing to me. Later, I will listen to the recording and try to repeat it. After that, I will prepare for acting it out. Then I’ll call a mentor and act it out for them.
I wanted to get better at German, experience other cultures, and go see some parts of the world, so Cassie and I planned a trip to Germany and some other countries in Europe. In Germany, I went to a German school and lived with a German family and I think that helped my German improve a lot too.
When Rahel, Emily, and I were doing PE, we came up with an idea of doing some poses and taking pictures of them, we wanted to know what we can do. We took turns in doing poses and taking pictures, we started with some of the most basic and easy ones, and then we created some poses - sometimes we even did a two-person pose. We took more than 60 pictures! After we finished the picture-taking part we needed to sort them into types. We decided to use a difficulty-based system and split them into three levels - level 1 is the easiest and level 3 is the hardest. Afterward, we wrote these on our wall (our wall has special paint - you can write on it) and also put the pictures on the wall and gave a presentation about this project.
Original Piano Solo - Ocean
When I was 8 my Aunt is going to have a wedding. I had been practicing piano for some time so I decided to write a song for the wedding. I was going to Germany at the time so I started to write the song in Germany. And after I came back Carlo (my music teacher) and I revised the song, afterward I decided to call it Ocean. The performance was a success!
This improved my piano skills but also made me perform in the real world, and I think that’s really important.
Living in Europe
Before I went to Europe, I had German classes with Lisa, a mentor from Hamburg. I wanted to get better at German, experience other cultures, and go see some parts of the world, so Cassie and I planned a trip to Germany and some other countries in Europe.
First I went to Germany, where I lived at Lisa’s family’s house in the countryside near Hamburg. Every Monday through Friday, I went to a German school, where I could still speak some English because they have English classes and learn English. But mostly I had to speak German. I learned what German schools are like, and I thought it was cool. It helped me improve my German and helped me interact with other kids. When I wasn’t at school, sometimes I played Lego with Max (Lisa’s brother), and I also read books, played iPad, did homework, or did activities with Lisa’s family like going to a playground or going to an aquarium.
In Hamburg, Lisa’s friend Annie helps take care of some ponies at a stable. I had some German classes with Annie, and at one point she took me to the stable to ride a pony. First, I fed the ponies, and then I brushed them, and then I got to ride one! It was really hard to get on. Annie led the pony with a rope and let the pony walk while I sat on its back. Later, she tried to run a little and I almost fell off! Sometimes I was a little scared, but most of the time Annie was holding the rope. I would like to do it again!
After 1 month in Hamburg, Cassie and I started traveling to other countries in Europe and stayed in every country for about 3 days. I visited Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. We went to many places in each country. I learned many things, like facts about European cultures and how to check into hotels and go through an airport. The Europe trip was a really good experience!
Pirate Play Series
I read a Magic Tree House book about Pirates, and I wanted to do a project about them. I decided to write a play, so I wrote Pirate Play 1: Discovering Captain Morra’s Treasure. Kyle, Brendan, and I rehearsed it for a few weeks. Cassie helped make some costumes, and we made the set together. I performed it for an audience of 8 people; Lisa’s family, Nicolas, Cassie, and Louis.
Later, Ryan and I wrote the Pirate Play’s sequel, which is about the main character from the first play, Captain Fource, taking over Spain and taking over the Spanish Armada (not Armada Education). There is a character called Crab King and one called Water Man, and Captain Fource's enemies (Tunner and Punner) even team up with Captain Fource in the end. We were going to perform it, but there were too many characters, so we worked on a new play instead.
Long Live Picture Books!
We bought a LOT of picture books at one point in time because we wanted to do a project called the "Story Show". But even after that project ended, we still had a more than 100 picture books, so I made it my life goal to read them all. For a long time, I just read them in my free time and whenever I needed a rest, but when we had just moved into a new house [in October 2016], I read nearly all of them in three days! We had all kinds of picture books, some with only pictures and no words, some with chapters, some for older kids and some for younger kids - a lot of different styles! Reading them was really fun. I read approximately 100 picture books in that period of time and sometimes I still reread them!
The first time I got in contact with a horse was in Germany. I was living outside of Hamburg and taking German classes from a mentor called Annie. Annie works at a stable, so every now and then, I went horse riding with her! Even though I only sat on the horse and didn't really ride it, I still learned a lot about how to care for a horse. For example, how to brush horses and how to feed them. Later on, I joined an equestrian training center to learn more about riding horses. Now I can easily control a horse but I'm still working on galloping.
When I was learning about Biology, I got interested in an experiment in a science book. It was about snails and how things affect a snail's behavior. We lived in an apartment building back then but luckily we had a yard where we caught two snails easily. We put the snails in a plastic container and after a few days, we discovered three more little snails! we started the experiment by touching each snail with a stick - it went back into its shell every time. Afterwards, we did a few more experiments. But then one day ALL of the snails were gone! There were no shells in the container, and we don't know what happened to them. It still remains a mystery to this day.
We used to make quote posters every week. Basically, we think of a famous person, then we research online for some inspirational quotes from that person to make a poster and hang it on the wall.
We did this because we wanted to be inspired by our learning. To make it more noticeable and fun sometimes we made the letters really weird, or colored it with intense colors and just made it really artsy!
For example, when we found a quote from Albert Einstein that said “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” we made the poster with crossed out words and messy scribbles.
Not only was making these quote posters fun, but I also learned a lot from them! We made seven of these quote posters in total, and I think it was very worthwhile.
Original Board Games - NEWG and The Darwin Game
I buy board games and I play them. But I didn’t really think about how they were made. I started thinking about that even though some board games were really close to what I want to play, not so many board games were exactly what I wanted to play. So I decided to make one that I really liked to play.
I started thinking about what kind of board games I liked. Brendan and I brainstormed about some topics for what the game should be about, and we decided it should be something with building and attacking.
We talked about how the rules should work and how to fit them all together. I got some ideas from Clash of Clans, an IOS game. We decided there would be rules about getting resources, the weather, disasters like volcanoes and tornados, pirates, attacking and defending, creating bases, and other things. We also made rules like moving and stuff.
After I went to Germany, we started to play and test if it worked. It turned out pretty well, but some parts didn’t make too much sense, so we changed them to make it better. For example, we took out some rules about building bases.
We called it the Never Ending World Game, and later we shortened that to NEWG because that name represents what it is and is super easy to pronounce!
Brendan and I had a plan that every week we would research a famous person. One week we decided to research Charles Darwin - a famous scientist. We read the book "Who Was Charles Darwin" to get a quick overview of him, and I got really interested in his theory of evolution, so I decided to do a project on that! We decided that we would make a board game and a card game.
In the board game, there were 16 triangle tiles - each one represents a different habitat. There are three habitats in total and also three kinds of birds. You can move the birds every turn and each bird survives best in the habitat that matches it. If a bird is in the right biome it can eat food, and you need to give each bird food in order for them to stay alive. You also need to use food to create more birds! In the end, whoever has the most birds wins. This board game is similar to evolution, because the birds suited for a biome continue to live there, and the others die or move on.
The card game was more about knowing facts about Charles Darwin. There were two different kinds of cards - event cards and date cards. If you match them correctly you get a point, whoever has the most points when time runs out is the winner.
I really enjoyed making these board games, and I will definitely make more in the future!