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Analy's 'make' class: part math, part science, part art

  • Students at Analy High School in Sebastopol create a geodesic dome as part "Project Make," a unique class conducted on the grounds of O'Reilly Media. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

A modified sphere, made of short metal rods and rising well above head height, was nearing completion Wednesday afternoon when murmurs of disbelief started to ripple through the crowd of about 25 Analy High School students.

The base was too large, meaning there would not be enough pieces to complete the top of the sphere and finish the geodesic dome.

Teacher Casey Shea presented two options: Dismantle the nearly completed structure and begin again another day, or break it down partially, remove the misplaced pieces and build it up again — a choice that would push the kids after the close of the school day.

The students in Analy's new Project Make class hesitated for about four seconds. Do it again and this time do it right, they said.

“It's the most incredible teamwork,” Shea said.

The Project Make class is in its first year at Analy and backers say it's a one-of-a-kind venture — not only in California but in the nation — in which students are asked simply to make things.

Housed at Make magazine headquarters within the O'Reilly Media facilities in Sebastopol, the class is sponsored by O'Reilly and Make magazine publisher Dale Dougherty.

“School is a lot of the time about theory but not enough about practice,” Dougherty said. “I actually believe it's a great way to teach science and technology and math for kids who don't see the relevance.”

“It's an old idea that has been forgotten, I think: Learn by doing,” he said.

Shea, a math teacher at Analy, doesn't let his charges forget the math and science behind what they are doing — even if they are atop ladders in a sunbaked parking lot.

“Trust the math!” he exhorts his charges as they contort to make the hand-cut and tapered poles fit into place.

“All of my classes are really academic and I really wanted to take a hands-on class where I could learn skills like soldering,” said senior Carys Stamp who hopes to pursue a genetics or biology major in college. “It's really autonomous and really good. I'm definitely getting some skills.”

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