Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Getting a Good Deal in Bali

As travelers in Bali, we are still trying to figure out the money thing. The exchange rate is kind of staggering — we get 13,517 rupiah for every U.S. dollar. So, we still laugh about getting to the airport and taking out 100,000 rupiah, thinking that was a good amount to get us started. We realized we had just withdrawn a little more than $7. We had to go back and get a million. Our wallets are now fat, since most bills are 50,000s.Rupiah

Together with the fact that haggling is expected here, it can be pretty confusing to figure out what something is worth. Yesterday, we wanted to head northwest to the town of Pemuteran, which is very close to Menjangan Island, where snorkeling is supposed to be amazing. It was a long drive from where we were before, Ubud — maybe 4 hours or so. It sounded like we could have paid about 150,000 rupiah per person to take a bus most of the way there (total about $22), but we realized that a private car was not too much more. So, for about $50, we called up a driver we met a few days before. With our new friend Wayan, we got our own mini tour of Bali. Wayan took us to several beautiful stops, including this stunning lake:LakeThe drive itself was gorgeous, through rice fields, mountains, and loads of green.View from Car

We also stopped at the GitGit Twin Waterfalls. There, a guide tried to convince us to pay 300,000 rupiah per person to walk us to the waterfalls. In case you didn’t do the math, that’s about $45! We ended up deciding to go on our own, and the path was totally clear without a guide. GitGit Twin Waterfalls

We had a sweet stop for lunch at Lovina Beach, where we got a laugh at the salt and “paper” shakers, and treated Wayan to some fried rice.

Salt and Paper

Lovina Beach was beautiful, famous for its dolphins. The sand was dark, but not quite the black sand from volcanic ash that we had heard about:

Lovina Beach

We made it to Pemuteran after a full day of adventure, where we had reserved a hotel room for about $40. Wayan told us that we were paying too much — we could find something for $10. Sigh. But hey, we got a welcome watermelon juice and we have a really cool bathroom with an outdoor shower. So, here’s to getting ripped off in style.

Sacred Monkey Forest

Yesterday, we visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary of Ubud. It lived up to its name! There were beautiful temples, trees, and monkeys everywhere. It was possible to get pretty close too, which was simultaneously amazing and terrifying.Me with monkeyI know you probably just want to see cute photos of monkeys, so I’ll just include them here, along with some interesting facts from the brochure we got upon arrival. I had trouble choosing my favorites, so this is a monkey heavy post. Enjoy!Parenting is rough

If you want to interact of feed the monkey, please exercise caution. If you give bananas or food to the monkey and they approach to take it, do not ever try to pull it back. To maintain the monkey’s health, please do not feed the monkeys peanuts, biscuits, bread, or other snacks.Mmmm… BananaThe mission of the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is conserving the area based on the concept of Tri (three) Hita (happiness) Karana (the cause). Thus, Tri Hita Karana means “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being” or how people maintain a harmonious relationship in their current life. Those three relationships comprise of harmonious relationships between humans and humans, humans and their environment, and humans with The Supreme God.
How's my hair?

As well as being the lungs of the city, rare plants are cultivated for conservation purposes alongside those used for rituals.

The forest area is sanctified by the local community. There are some parts that are prohibited for the public to see or visit, for example the sacred area or temple. The temple area is only accessible for those willing to pray and wear proper Balinese dress.

Clean my backside!

There are about 600 monkeys living in the area. They are divided into 5 groups. Conflicts between groups of monkeys cannot be avoided. Sometimes a group may pass into another’s territory for a specific reason, such as taking a bath in the river in the dry season. See these teeth?

This type of primate is active during the day and rests at night. Their gestation period is about 6 months and generally they give birth to only one infant; they rarely have twins. Mama and Newborn

The infant stays with their mother for about 10 months, and thereafter they will be weaned in order to live independently. Little Guy Learning

Mothers intensively care for their infants; even female monkeys who are not the parent may also participate in caring for the baby.Parenting can be boring

The average weight of female monkey is 2.5 – 5.7 kg and male monkey 3.5 – 8 kg. Transport

The lifespan of male monkey is up to 15 years while female monkey can live up to 20 years.Just a typical day at work

Long-tailed monkeys are omnivores. In the Monkey Forest Ubud, the main food they eat is sweet potato, given 3 times a day, combined typically with one of the following: banana, papaya leaf, corn, cucumber, coconut, and other local fruit.Multitasking

And… a few more cute ones, because you can never have too many monkey photos, right?

Note: I used a zoom lens for most of these photos. These monkeys can be pretty dangerous, as they do bite, and could carry diseases. There were Monkey Security guys at the park for helping to keep visitors safe. Note the band-aid on this monkey security guy’s finger. Yikes!

Civet Poop Coffee… and More!

Today, I visited the Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation, where they make make all sorts of teas and coffees… and they are famous for one very special type. You might not believe it, but this animal’s poop is used to make coffee.


These animals are called Asian Palm Civets, and they are in the cat family. We saw them in a cage, and they were pretty sleepy because they are nocturnal animals. At night, they go out eating, and they love to climb trees and chow on the coffee beans off the plant. Coffee PlantThen people collect the pooped out beans and process them into coffee! Why would you want those ones? Apparently, the civets only choose the best, most ripened beans, and then some enzymes in their stomachs also help the beans become less bitter and less caffeinated. It’s not gross because the beans are cleaned, roasted, and boiled before becoming a nice top quality coffee.

Coffee Beans Pre RoastedAt the farm, we decided to try the civet poop coffee. To me, it tasted like any other coffee, but I’m glad I tried it! I also loved that the farm let us sample all their varieties of coffee and tea. Some were very unusual, like coconot coffee or mangosteen tea, from a fruit native to Asia. It was a taster’s dream!Samples

They even let us try the chocolate made there, by special request.

ChocolateIt was really neat to see foods that I have eaten often in a plant form that I’ve never seen. For instance, while we were walking by the coffee and cocoa plants, our guide took a leaf off a tree and crushed it up for us to smell. It was cinnamon, and it smelled so fresh! Unfortunately, cinnamon the spice is made from the bark of the tree, so they have to cut down the whole tree to harvest it.

It turned out that the owners of the coffee plantation also keep a pet fruit bat named BomBom. I couldn’t decide if she was adorable, or creepy, but getting to meet her was a highlight of the visit. Too bad this bat couldn’t earn her keep like the civets!

8 Reasons to Visit Uluwatu if you go to Bali

1. Uluwatu is a sea temple in a stunningly beautiful location.


2. It was built in the 11th century, long before the United States of America even existed. If you look carefully at the photo below, you might see a little friend of mine, Loki.


3. It’s fun to watch the monkeys there!

Monkey at UluwatuHe looks cute right? Don’t be fooled. These guys steal people’s sunglasses and phones. You’ve just got to watch your things, and don’t get too close. Maybe they just like things that are shiny, or maybe someone will try to bribe them with fruit to get their belongings back.

4. It felt amazing to be there surrounded by visitors from all over the world. When visiting the temple, everyone wears a purple sarong or yellow sash provided by the temple staff, for modesty (not showing your knees). It was great to be surrounded by other guests, all in the same outfit, enjoying this spectacular place.


5. It’s so peaceful to watch the waves crash from up above.

6. If you stay for sunset, you can watch a traditional show in the most awesome location, as the sun sets behind the stage. Note the stadium seating behind me in this photo:

Me at Uluwatu

7. Kecak is a form of dance and music where the musicians create all the sounds with their mouths. Very impressive. This show also told a Hindu story of the capture of Sita, and her husband Rama’s rescue.

8. My favorite part of the show was watching Hanoman, the Monkey King. He was very funny, and acted just like the real monkeys, climbing into the audience and stealing people’s sunglasses. He also performed some fire dancing, kicking balls of fire with his bare feet!

All in all, Uluwatu should definitely be on anyone’s list for things to do when visiting Bali. While you’re in the area, stop by Padang Padang Beach and then get fresh fish right on the beach in Jimbaran too.

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Bali Offerings on Kuningan Day

Whenever I arrive somewhere new, I’m like a toddler exploring the world for the first time. Everything is new and my eyes are open wide.  Being in Bali for the first time, I loved walking around and checking out our neighborhood. We are staying in Sanur right now, which is somewhere between a popular touristy beach town and a sleepy, quiet place. The first thing we noticed is these little offerings.Offering On Road

Sometimes they were in front of temples or religious statues, like this one:

In front of a religious statue

But they were also in driveways, in front of shops, and just about everywhere:

And sometimes there were A LOT of them in one special place, like in front of this statue in the middle of a traffic circle:TrafficCircleOffering

We learned that that it was a local holiday called Kuningan Day, which marks the end of the 10 day holiday of Galungan. ClosedPeople in Bali are very friendly, and one taxi driver on the street told us that the Balinese people use this day to practice dharma, or being compassionate to others. But he said that these are daily offerings, not just for the holiday. A little internet research told us that this is the day that Balinese people believe their ancestors go back up to Heaven after visiting during Galungan. Lots of shops were closed because of this.

KitesAnother man approached us on the beach, and started chatting. We kept waiting for him to try to sell us something, but he was just being friendly. He told us that most of the population in Bali is Hindu, even though the rest of Indonesia is Muslim. He said that Indonesia was originally inhabited by natives who had a traditional religion, but then it was mostly Hindu for a long time, until Muslims conquered the area, pushing all the Hindus onto the island of Bali.

Rental DucksWhat we observed was thousands of Balinese people taking the day to be with family and enjoy themselves. It sounds like many do religious ceremonies, and some travel to other islands for both the ceremonies and to have fun with family. People fly big kites, eat street food, and play in the water. Almost none of the kids playing in the ocean were wearing bathing suits. Instead, they swam in their clothes, rented little floaty ducks, and then changed out of their wet clothes after getting wiped dry with small cloths. Very few people had beach towels, but selfie sticks, cell phones, and motorcycles were common.

It was a happening day for all!

At the end of the week, it also seems like there’s a lot of trash:

Offering Trash

A Long Journey and a Short Night in Dubai

Plane Food

A menu with meal choices!

As it turns out, it takes a very long time to get to Bali, but we are finally here!

We were lucky to find a flight on Emirates, which ended up being as great as its ratings. While the seats weren’t particularly comfortable (not a lot of leg room, just like any economy seats), we were fed 7 meals during the approximately 34 hours that we were under their care (12 hour flight + 13 hour layover + 9 hour flight). It was a lot of food, and pretty great quality! We didn’t even need to take advantage of their offer to serve Cup O’Noodles upon request, but we did watch some free movies and play some video games with the little attached controller.

Hotel Buffet

Buffet dinner at the hotel in Dubai

The best part of the journey was that Emirates has a program called “Dubai Connect,” which basically means that they put us up in a hotel and gave us meal vouchers during our long layover. It was enough time to explore Dubai a little bit, take a much needed shower, and sleep in an actual bed. But not for too long — the wake up call for our flight the next morning was at 5 AM.

Dubai is a big city in the country the United Arab Emirates, and it is an oil rich metropolis in the middle of the desert. It was fun to guess at all the interesting roads and buildings as we made our decent into the city.

The welcome sign at the airport

The welcome sign at the airport

Despite the fact that there are camel souvenirs everywhere, the city itself is extremely cosmopolitan. In some ways, it looks like New York City or any other major urban area. But it’s the Middle East — some people walk around fully covered in burkas, while others wear t-shirts.

Hotel lobby like any other, except the pictures…

We arrived around 8 pm, as it was getting dark. Still, when we exited the airport, it was very hot, and humid enough to fog up glasses. Although it would have been nice to see Dubai during the day, the temperatures average above 100 degrees Faranheit in the summer, so evening was much more manageable. Unless of course, you can afford to go indoor skiing, which apparently exists at a mall here. We didn’t do that.

Driving around Dubai

Driving around Dubai

What we did do was get a taxi driver to show us a few sights. Driving around was fun — we saw lots of flashy billboards, skyscrapers, and all sorts of international companies, from Starbucks to Porche dealerships. Our first stop was the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world.

Right there in front of this amazing tower, we saw the famous dancing fountains. It was pretty incredible – I’m not sure if my video quite does it justice, but I did my best: 

Another highlight of our explorations was touching the warm waters of the Persian Gulf (although Emiratis seem to avoid that term and call it the ArabianOld Quarter Sea). Since this was my first visit to the Middle East, that was pretty exciting. It was also fun to just wander around and see the architecture, some very traditional looking but most very new. There are lots of fancy hotels on the coast. Apparently, the one behind me here is 7 stars, and there are suites that cost over $20,000 and include a helicopter pick up at the airport. Not too shabby.Burj Al Arab

We didn’t have a ton of time, but we did manage to sneak in a little shopping. Emirati people use the Dirham for their money, and the exchange rate is about 3.5 Dirham to 1 U.S. dollar. It was fun to look around some shops, but I ended up only buying one souvenir – a deck of stunning gold playing cards which seemed necessary for my collection! There were a lot of other interesting products to check out too.

Some of the shopping was pretty touristy, but it was fun anyway. I liked watching the guys make the sand art, for example: 

It was a short visit, but really fun despite being sleep deprived. And certainly, that was part of the adventure. Dubai is a hub for many airline flights, so it is not impossible that future travels will find me back there.

Neat map showing flights connecting in Dubai! See if you can find the US here!

Neat map showing flights connecting in Dubai! See if you can find the US here!

For now, the next adventure is starting soon. We arrived here at the hotel in Bali at midnight, so I really don’t know what to expect when the sun rises tomorrow. Stay tuned.

West African Food In Lowell, MA

Today’s guest entry comes from an incoming fifth grader, Sadie. She had an awesome global experience… without going too far from home! If you are a part of the Innovation Academy community and want to write a guest blog entry like Sadie, it’s easy — click here for more information. 

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Sadie and Family

Photo courtesy of Sadie C-P.

Hello IACS! In June my family and I went to an African Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. We had so much fun and learned some fun and interesting facts about the African culture. One of the many things we did there was eat many different African cultural foods. The main stand that we got many samples from had West African types of food. One lady who worked at this West African stand was a very good business lady and was the reason we decided to eat the food here.

There were many different types of food to choose from, but we chose 5 of the suggestions the kind woman gave us. These foods were rice bread, a special type of ribs, roasted corn, coconut candy, and even chicken gizzards! (Chicken gizzards are chicken intestines.) I, in particular, did not enjoy the intestines very much, but on the other hand, both of my sisters LOVED them!

While the many people were eating the many different kinds of African foods there were also performers dancing and playing to African jams. The music they were playing kind of made you want to stand up and dance. The beat and the rhythm was sort of upbeat, jazzy, and rockin’ rollin’. The people who were playing the music were very kind and said if anyone wanted to, they could come up on stage and dance and sing with them.

This music and food at the African Festival was very fun and a very good experience for me and anyone else that hasn’t had an experience like this before. I hope I will be able to have this much of a powerful experience with another culture. This African Festival was very fun and a good learning experience. I hope to do it another time in the future.

~ Sadie C-P.

Service Learning at Innovation: First Steps and Missteps

Krakauer Advisory SelfieAs all teachers know, things don’t always go as planned when working with young people.

When I returned from Japan last summer, I had all sorts of visions for amazing active citizenship projects at Innovation Academy. I had been a part of a fabulous team of educators and we were really excited to get our students involved in Education for Sustainable Development.

Japanese Class IntroMy plan was to have students at Innovation design their own service projects, and share the process with students in our Japanese partner school. In the beginning of the year, we received some fabulous videos from Japan, and we were really excited. Students at our school made some awesome introductory videos and we sent them off to classrooms in Japan. Here’s a taste: 

As the year progressed, we did achieve many successes, though there were some hardships too. Communication with the teachers in Japan was difficult, due to language barriers, differences in our school year schedule, and many other distractions which kept us busy. There’s no doubt that our service projects also could have gone more smoothly. IcecreamHowever, for the first time in the history of Innovation Academy, every student in our middle school was involved in a service project during the school year. Not only was this goal tied to my experience in Japan, but it was an exciting new initiative implemented along with our new advisory program. This year, each student had an advisor who worked with his or her group of 12-13 students, offering academic advising, team building, and work building social and emotional skills.

Each advisor worked with his or her advisory to choose a service project that was meaningful to the students. Valentine MakingSome groups, like the Quinlan/Orpen Advisory, decided to focus on helping animals. They made their own dog treats and donated them to the Lowell Humane Society. Other groups, like the McCarthy Advisory, decided to focus on helping children in need. Their advisor, Elizabeth Quirbach-McCarthy, described the process saying, “We felt a strong connection to making a difference in our local community so with some research, we chose the House of Hope in Lowell.  We coined the phrase ‘Wish Tree’ and the idea grew from there.” Each advisory chose their own unique focus.

CyberbullyingMy advisory had some difficulty choosing a topic, but eventually settled on working to end cyber-bullying. They had an ambitious goal, to start a viral internet campaign, by dividing into three sub-groups to make posters, a website, and a video. We worked at least once a week from February through the end of the year. While we never got our posters up and didn’t really fully finish all parts of the video and website, I think it is worth sharing their final product. Even though it’s not perfect, I’m proud of their commitment to this difficult endeavor:


Giving students choice in their projects made them more invested and enthusiastic about the work. BlanketsSamantha Pereyra’s advisory chose to support Project Linus, which gives security blankets to children in need, whether critically ill, traumatized, or otherwise. The students were more invested in the project because all the decision making was theirs.

Some advisories stayed local to work on their projects, while others left campus. The Destramp Advisory stayed late on a Wednesday after school and did an extensive trash pick up all over our school groups. Trash Pick UpThe Falewicz Advisory decided to get off campus, volunteering at the Wish Project, where they organized clothes donations for people experiencing homelessness. A fifth grader in that advisory wrote, “While we were working someone came in and looked so happy to get some items from The Wish Project. I felt, and think others did too, as if I had done something to help this person. Seeing how happy they were made it even better to know we were helping.”

Participating in these service projects was a bonding experience for most advisories. My advisory had a lot of laughs while working on our video. Many advisories elicited student leaders to support their classmates in accomplishing the project. For example, one eighth grader, Thea, organized and supervised her advisory to make “kitty blankets” by cutting out and tying the ends of pieces of fleece. The McLure Advisory later took the finished products to the MSPCA at Nevens Farm, and had a great time getting Chinese buffet on the way.Maier Leach

Many students were inspired to do more after their advisory’s service project. The Haley Advisory started with a simple idea to help a family in need have a nice Christmas. They ended up collecting so many supplies and raising so much money that they were able to provide gifts and even trees to many families. One student was so touched by the project that she fundraised on her own and she and her family were able to help feed nine families a delicious meal, complete with a turkey, for the holiday.

Service learning at Innovation Academy is still a growing program. Whether a one time project or something ongoing throughout the year, each advisory was able to make a difference to others in some way. So, yes, my advisory wasn’t the only one that struggled to start (and finish) a meaningful project. But, overall, this year was a pretty exciting first step in getting students involved in being a part of real world change. Oh, and I think most advisories also had some fun along the way.


rainbowsYesterday felt like a rainbow explosion, as news broke out that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex marriage must be legal in every state. I felt proud to be an American. As I’ve written about before, I want to live in a world where everyone gets the same rights regardless of who they are or whom they love. This isn’t the end of the journey, but it’s a big step for our nation.

In other happy news, I booked tickets for my summer travel yesterday. Drum roll please!

Flight number one:

Flight 1

Flying to Denpasar, Indonesia, on the island of Bali! If all goes well, we’ll have an evening to hang out in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. While I’ve been to Pakistan and Turkey, this will be my first time really in the Middle East, and Dubai is known to be a glamourous, oil-rich city full of skyscrapers and shopping.

Bali is known for its marine biodiversity, rich music/dance scene, and its status as a Hindu enclave tucked on the edge of a huge and powerful Muslim country. We hope to visit a sacred monkey forest and see rice paddies, among other adventures. From there, we’ll head out to…

Flight 2

Tokyo! I couldn’t resist heading back to Japan, where last summer I was so very blessed to participate the Japan U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development. The flight goes through Australia, though, unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll have time to see anything. The plan is to spend most of the visit to Japan outside of Tokyo. The details are still open, but I definitely want to visit Kyoto, and I’d love to climb Mount Fuji if it’s possible. There are so many places in Japan that I want to visit, so this will be a chance to see a few more spots. And finally, we’ll head home.

Flight 3

This map is actually totally inaccurate, though it does show the correct locations on the flight home: Tokyo –> Hong Kong –> New York. First of all, it’s a mercator projection, so the areas near the poles are stretched out. Also, the direct flight from Hong Kong to New York City will likely go up and over the North Pole, not across the top of Africa like this. That will take 16 hours, which I believe will be my longest single flight ever.

I’m so excited to go on this adventure! I leave towards the end of July, so there will be some New England adventures first. Right now, in fact, I’m headed to Vermont. Check back soon for more updates, both from me and some of the other Innovation Academy community members on upcoming global adventures.

Planning a Trip?

It’s finally summer vacation! Around this time of year, most people get asked “What are you up to this summer?” Instead, everyone asks me, “So, where are you going this summer?” Apparently, people know that I like to travel!

Teaching a Balloon Workshop in El Salvador

Teaching a Balloon Workshop in El Salvador

The answer to their question? Yes, a trip in the works! I’ll share more when I’ve confirmed the plans.

If you are planning a trip yourself, my students have some resources for you. Earlier this year, these talented 5th and 6th graders researched travel destinations in Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Click the maps below to see their suggested trip itineraries on GoogleDrive.

Will I follow any of these recommendations? I hope so, some time in the future! This summer, I’m thinking of going somewhere a little farther afield… Stay tuned.

Guatemala CircleMexico CircleBelize CircleBahamas CircleDR Haiti CircleHonduras CircleAruba CircleEl Salvador CircleBermuda CircleCuba CirclePanama CircleCosta Rica CircleCaribbean CircleNicaragua CircleJamaica Circle

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