Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Boston on Earth

crowdsThis website is called “Innovation on Earth” for two reasons. Not only do we want to make innovative change happen across the globe, but we want to remember that our little school, Innovation Academy, is a part of a larger global community. The town of Tyngsboro, MA is our location, but we are one school of many all over the planet.

Today was one of those days when it’s easy to remember that we are part of a global community. I went to watch the Boston Marathon and it wasn’t just the locals that were shouting “Boston Strong.” People from all over the world came out to participate in this event and bring love to our city. Pictured below are runners from Portugal, Mexico, Denmark, Australia, South Korea, Ecuador, UK, South Africa, Costa Rica, USA, Brazil, and Canada! Collage

There were so many more countries represented. I couldn’t snap my camera fast enough as they whizzed by. The world wanted us to know that we are cared for. Thank you, World! We felt the love today.

Next up: ESD in Japan

I’m thrilled and a little embarrassed to share my big news:

I’m going to Japan in June!

SaraLionsWhy embarrassed? I love to travel and learn about different cultures around the world, but sometimes I feel like I’ve had too many opportunities. I firmly believe that anybody can get abroad regardless of money, but the facts are still hard to swallow. Many people only get to leave the country a handful of times in their lives, and I’m about to visit my 35th country. Is this fair?

My challenge is to turn this passion into a gift to the world, and I look to one of my favorite celebrities for inspiration. Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 6.00.12 PMAndrew Ference loves to play hockey. This fabulous Bruins player is using his talents and fame to teach people around the world about what it means to be “carbon neutral.” He encourages people to bike to work and donate money to counteract their carbon footprint.

LokiJapanThis brings me back to my big news: I’ve been selected as a participant on the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)! I’m one of 24 American teachers who will go to Japan to learn about how we can teach kids about nurturing a planet that we can all live on for years to come. I’ll also go to San Francisco in May, where I’ll work with 24 Japanese teachers who are coming to the U.S. to learn with us. If all goes well, hopefully our impact will be great, both individually and as an international cohort. We’ll be learning how to teach young people about the only thing that really matters — making the world a better place for everyone.

With privilege comes responsibility, and I hope to give back more than I get from this experience. I plan to blog, as I’ve done in the past, so that all of you readers can follow along, but there will be more. I hope to collaborate with other American and Japanese teachers to create a service learning curriculum to inspire teachers and students at my school and around the world to take action. Hands

Please comment below:

  • If you are a teacher, have you used travel or other passions to give back in your school community? If you haven’t had many opportunities to travel, what kinds of resources would help you to get abroad? (Anything here help?) What curricular resources could I create from my experience in Japan that you would you like to use in your classroom?
  • If you are a student, what are you interested in seeing me bring back from Japan? What kinds of blog posts or videos would you be most excited to see?
  • Finally, is anybody reading this a fellow participant in the Japan U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for ESD? Please get in touch ~ let’s collaborate!

I’m thrilled to have this experience — not just to travel to Japan, but to continue finding a way to use my passions for something bigger. Thanks for being a part of this journey.

Final Note: According to, just the air travel from my participation in this fellowship will use 7,786 lbs CO2. I plan to donate to offset this, which I believe means about a $46 donation. I’m still deciding the best organization to donate to — let me know if you have ideas. 

Labels Lie

Homebase Barton was challenged to think of a project that would benefit others and show global citizenship. The class voted to focus on the issue of discrimination, working to decrease intolerance and promote understanding in the United States and beyond. Check out their work, and please spread the word to people you know who work with middle school kids. We hope that many other students benefit from seeing their peers send these positive messages.

Labels Lie: GLBTQ

Labels Lie: Race and Ethnicities

Labels Lie: Religion


Starting with Self

JordanHow can anyone understand another culture or religion without first understanding their own? This quarter, students in my Social Studies classes are learning about people from Europe, Asia, and Oceania throughout our Holy C.O.W. (Cultures Of the World) unit.  Before we could start building knowledge of other religions and cultures, students explored their own. They drew art pieces demonstrating aspects of their own culture, which we are sending to students in Ukraine, China, and other schools around the world (thanks, in part, to the good people at OneWorld Classrooms).

DeclanWe used a systems thinking tool, the iceberg theory, to explore the ways that culture is often invisible at first glance. For example, Declan drew his family enjoying a roller coaster, and he wrote, “One of the main themes in my piece is that life is too short not to live it to it’s fullest. We don’t take vacations so that we may lounge on beaches and do nothing for hours on end. We like to get up early and excited to live every day like it is our last when we go on vacations.”

SarahSarah drew a basketball game, and she explained, “When we are playing we feel a part of a team which is fun because we are working together toward the same result.  Although different players may have different attitudes we all play for the love of the game.”

ParkerStudents didn’t only show positive aspects of American culture. Parker wanted to communicate our culture’s obsession with junk food. He wrote, “Americans value fast, cheap, and easy food because they are so busy that they do not think about whether their food is healthy or not.” Ellie wrote, “You can tell that our family likes to hang out together… What you probably don’t see is that we can have bad tempers if you get us up to that point.”

ConnorSome students identified with cultures that are not American. Lauren wrote about the Italian tradition of feasting on seven fishes for Christmas Eve, and Dalena drew people praying to Buddha like her Cambodian family. Teshi used photography to show different aspects of her Kenyan American identity. Our culture is however we define it! Connor wrote, “I am ⅓ Irish, ⅓ Scottish, and ½ American” and even though that’s more than 100%, who is anyone to question that?

sacredAs we got deeper into the unit, we began exploring religion around the world, starting with what is sacred to each of us. Students brought in many items that were highly valued and worthy of holding up. We explored how different people value all sorts of different things, and we saw how it was always clear when someone was sharing from the heart. Some students even wanted to share their sacred items with the world:

Having explored our own cultures, values, and traditions, we are now more open to learning about the diversity of traditions that others bring to the table. And so, readers, please join us and share! What’s unique about your culture? What’s sacred to you? We want to hear your stories, see your artwork, or embrace any kind of media showing what matters most to you.

Sacred Items

Note: Want to learn more about this unit? Visit our Sacred to Me, Sacred to You website or click below to explore each student’s artwork and writing about their culture.

Jordan  ~ Jordan  ~ Tess  ~ Kaleigh  ~ Julia  ~ Diego  ~ Anita  ~ Adam  ~ Ellie  ~ Eli  ~ Jessica  ~ Parker  ~ Connor  ~ Daniel  ~ Owen  ~ Matt  ~ Drew  ~ Rhiannon  ~ Athena  ~ Sam  ~ Jaden  ~ Matt ~ Georgia  ~ Rena  ~ Sophia  ~ Manny  ~ Savannah  ~ Ashlyn  ~ Josh  ~ Astrid  ~ Mia  ~ Sean  ~ Declan  ~ Jason  ~ Sam  ~ Josh  ~ Hudson  ~ Liv  ~ Jarred  ~ Gachau  ~ Adam  ~ Jack  ~ Ellie  ~ Sarah  ~ Patrick  ~ Dante  ~ Isabela  ~ Lauren  ~ Dalena  ~ Teshi  ~ Pyper

What’s next? Teleportation?

My students video chatted with people in three different time zones today. No big deal, right? Just a few clicks, and that’s the power of the internet.

VictorHere’s how we did it. Yesterday, I realized that I didn’t have a guest speaker lined up for our Wednesday Speaker Series this week. During our world geography unit, we have weekly visitors talk about different cultures and places around the world — our last fabulous speaker, for example, was Manny’s dad who is originally from Portugal.

So, I went to social media and wrote a quick post — “Looking for someone who is from a country in Europe, Asia, or Australia (or has spent time abroad) and wants to be a guest speaker tomorrow from 1-3 pm EST… My 5th and 6th graders would love to hear from you!”

NicoleThe responses came streaming in. It turns out that one of my buddies from middle school works in Spain. A college student who came on my China trip offered to speak about the Netherlands, where she is from.  Other old friends linked me to their friends in Ukraine, Japan, Australia, and Germany.

In the end, we got to jump ahead in space and time… with three different “visitors” on Skype:

  • We leaped 5 hours ahead to Ireland, where my balloon twisting buddy Victor told us about all the green in the Irish landscapes and the payoff– lots of rain.
  • CeydaWe leaped 6 hours ahead to Switzerland, where my old camp friend Nicole taught my students about the safety of the Swiss countryside and the ways that the locals make use of the Alps. Our mouths watered as we imagined tasting all those cheeses and touring the chocolate factories.
  • We leaped 7 hours ahead to Istanbul, Turkey, where my sister’s old penpal, Ceyda, explained about interesting topics like history of the Ottoman Empire and Muslim hospitality… and also introduced us to her adorable kitten.

It ended up being a fabulous “guest speaker” day getting to travel around the world. This probably wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago, so what will education look like 10 years from now? My mind is already blown.

Note: Big thanks to all our fabulous guests who helped out today: Victor, Nicole, and Ceyda! I’m so grateful that you are all part of my global community.

The Jam Room

Imagine a place to learn that is full of toys coming in all colors, shapes, and sizes! It’s all there for you to play with, and you can use anything.Balloons

You get to play and create whatever you want, whenever you want. If you want to stay up all night, you can.Dog Pile

There are no assignments or tests, but sometimes there are fun contests with opportunities to win prizes.Victor

What if you were also surrounded by unbelievably talented people who smile a lot?Fun

And how cool would it be if those people came from all over the world, and they were so excited to teach you what they know?Faces

If you’ve never been to a balloon twisting convention, you’ll need to imagine the wonder of the Jam Room. There’s nothing else like it. It’s no secret that I have a second life working as a balloon artist, and I spent last weekend at my 7th Twist and Shout Balloon Convention. Thanks to Qualatex and Betallic, the Jam Room was ever stocked and ready for playing and creating.

Jam Room

Back in the “real world,” I find myself wondering — what if our classrooms looked like the Jam Room? Couldn’t we learn a ton while having fun?Goofy

What if student presentations were full of this much joy?

At balloon conventions, world cultures are not studied, but experienced. Last week my students had an assignment to interview people from different cultural backgrounds, whether an Indian neighbor, the owner of a local Chinese restaurant, or Dad’s Russian co-worker.  I did my homework too, in the Jam Room. I asked lots of questions about parties in Brazil, entertainment styles in Spain, and design technique in Japan.International Balloons

Most of my communication crossed language barriers. Some things just don’t need to be explained.

Bunny Costume

Balloons are a unique medium, but they regularly offer us some simple reminders:

1) Enjoy the little, wonderful things in life.Owl

2) Create freely, and don’t be afraid of popping.Balloon Car

3) Anything is possible when you realize that you are part of a global community bursting with ideas.

Whether you play with balloons or not, wishing all of you a chance to “jam” every day.


Credits: I took these photos and the first video at various Twist and Shout conventions between 2006 and 2014. The second video is thanks to the team at Balloon Manor.  I don’t know all of the balloon artists whose work is pictured above, but I can offer hats off to the following artists, and request that if any readers out there know others, please add them below in the comments: Larry Moss and the Balloon Manor team for the Jack in the Beanstalk Sculpture, Carolynn Hayman for the lobster, Mark Verge for the dinosaur, Love for the Sapporo sign, Phileas Flash for the faces class photo, Brian Getz for the kilt,  Melissa Vinson for the owl, Andrea Noel for the zombie, Victor Forja for the motorcycle, Nate Culpepper  for the giraffe, and Robbie Furman for the car.  And I made the little monster in the last photo.

Discovery Days

Right now the snow is covering our New England landscape outside, but inside, there are a bunch of teachers frantically hitting the “post grades” button for quarter two report cards. We’ve officially made it through half the year, and the snow day is a congratulations gift! So, let’s relax and enjoy some fabulous student projects, made during our Discovery Days, a time for independent research. This quarter’s projects included many different types of work:

A massive cooking project (Viking food!) captured on video 

PowerPoint about how slaves felt (with original artwork)

A PowerPoint about how slaves felt (with original artwork)


An Innovative idea to collage an explorer portrait with magazine pages

And much more! Original posters, storybooks, models, and scripts!

And much more! Original posters, storybooks, models, and scripts!

There are so many amazing ideas from these students, and not all of them can be posted here.  A PowerPoint presentation about entrepreneurs? Yes! A website about how slaves escaped slavery? Of course! You can even hear an impressive song about English colonists! It’s a parody, karoke style, but it sounds professional, right?


As I reflect on the first half of the year, I’m most proud of my students’ self-directed work. It wasn’t easy to find the right balance between freedom and structure, but the International Democratic Education Conference reinforced for me that this work is essential. Some students really struggled to figure out what to do and keep on top of their work, even with benchmark deadlines. I ended up finding that weekly Edmodo assignments were the best way to track their progress. It can be a little scary turning over the reigns to the students, letting them make their own rubrics, but my hope is that the experience will better prepare them for the complexities of the global world they live in. Who knows where they’ll end up? Maybe even somewhere without snow (but hopefully not)!

Students Seek Software Developer

CarpoolThe Global Leaders Club at Innovation Academy Charter School is seeking a developer to help us create a new website or app that will help families match with other families to carpool to school. We are 5-8th graders and we want to help slow down disastrous climate change. With your help, we will create GoPool, which will not only be a carpool matcher but also teach students and parents to not produce so much CO2. We have approximately $2,000 to invest in the project that our club won in an energy efficiency contest, but we would also welcome donated time. Check out our proposal video and more information about our ideas below.

Our Purpose: Decrease the Effect of Cars on Earth’s Climate

Earth used to have predictable climates. The ice at the North and South poles melted and froze at the right times during the four seasons, and precipitation was just the right amount; not too much and not too little. However, climate change is taking a toll on our planet’s atmospheric systems. Now, the ice at the North and South poles are melting too much in the summer, and precipitation has increased greatly all over the globe.

Sad EarthClimate change is a terrible event that is caused by many factors. One of the major factors of climate change is the amount of cars being driven nowadays. Cars release lots of carbon dioxide (CO2). When this gas is released into the atmosphere, it causes what we call the Greenhouse Effect. In order for our planet to thrive, sunlight must enter and exit the atmosphere. However, with all of the carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere, the sunlight has much more difficulty exiting, therefore causing Earth to warm.

At Innovation Academy Charter School, we have many cars coming in and out everyday. Because we are a charter school and serve students from 10 different towns, we are unable to provide buses for the majority of students. The large amount of cars only contributes to the amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere. However, this problem can solved by carpooling. Carpooling is when multiple people of different families join together into one car to travel from one place to another. It saves much more carbon dioxide from getting trapped in the atmosphere, and is very efficient. This is a problem that not only happens at our school, but at other schools as well.

GoPool: The Solution

Our app or website, GoPool, will be a great benefit to a school community. Parents would use it to find other families with whom to carpool, either on a regular basis or temporarily (for example, if a ride is needed after an extracurricular activity).

Happy EarthTo sign up, the person would type in a passcode that the school will create for its students and parents. After typing in the passcode, the user would be able to match him or herself to another person for carpooling. He would enter some information about himself and where he lives, and start finding matches. Each family would have a profile so that other families could find out about their options and seek their contact information. Every time a person carpools, GoPool will calculate how far they’ve driven, how much CO2 they have admitted, and how much they’ve reduced admitting into the environment. There will be more people in each car, and less parents will have to come and pick their students up from school. Overall, GoPool is an app or website that will be very useful to a school community.

How GoPool App is Different

There is a very important issue we have looked into. Are there any other apps or websites like this one? We have done our research. We found that the closest app to our idea is an app called Ecotastic. It is an app that allows you to receive points for doing eco-friendly activities. One of the activities it lists is carpooling. Our app is still extremely different. One of the concepts we have that no other apps had is that ours will calculate the amount of miles the user has driven, inform them how much CO2 they admitted into the environment, and how much CO2 they have saved. No other apps have this contribution. Other apps tell about how carpooling can reduce the CO2, but none of them actually have an attribute that calculates the amount of  CO2 that was saved or used. Ours is also unique in the aspect that it is for our school community, and the school will send out a code so parents may sign up. Also, most carpool apps only locate someone near you and match you up. Our app is for regular carpools or single use, and will give the user another user in the same town, but not automatically match the user up. This will help make happier carpools in case the user is not happy with their first match.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 6.00.12 PM

S.T.E.M. Principles Used

In developing these ideas, we used STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) principles. Driving by yourself creates excessive amounts of CO2. These emissions cause Climate change, which melts the ice caps on the North and South Poles. Other impacts include extra precipitation, and warmer weather overall. CO2 is an emission which is the production and discharge of something. For example, greenhouse gases are a variety of gases that contribute to the Greenhouse Effect, or Climate change. One of the types of greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide, and most of the carbon dioxide gases are the discharge of cars. We also used technology to see what other apps do, and how it makes our app independent from others of its kind. Math will be used to calculate how much CO2 is saved by carpooling. We computed that each 100 miles driven in the average car (20 miles per gallon) is equal to 0.04 metric tons of CO2.

An App or a Website?

IMG_9920We are open to developing this resource as either an app or website. We believe that it would be easier to enter your information into a website, and also it would be more accessible no matter what kind of phone you have. As an app, it’s easily accessible on the go. Parents would also be able to quickly make arrangements for a carpool because the app is on their phones. Finally, many people are buying more phones than computers. Most likely, an app will attract their attention better than a website would, but we are open to either option.

Your Role

Are you interested in helping us make this happen? Click below to apply, or email our teacher, Sara Krakauer, at

Can’t see the application above? Click this link to go directly there: GoPool Developer Application

Thank you! We look forward to hearing from you.

~ the Global Leaders Club

What is Culture?

IMG_9897This blog entry is for today’s class! We are learning about culture. What parts of you are uniquely “you” and what parts are from your culture?

Learn about other people’s cultures by exploring the topics below, using the links provided. You’ll learn about what people are like in Ukraine, Turkey, and China. As you explore, fill out the worksheet provided — you’ll need to write about 2 countries for each category. After, you’ll create a short skit demonstrating some aspect of culture in one of these countries, and the rest of the class will have to guess what country you are showing.





Dance class



Want to see some other aspects of culture? Here are some bonus entries from China:

Welcome to the Vator Shop!

Greetings from Homebase Gandhi and Homebase Edelman, who worked together with Ms. Krakauer to write this entry.  We want to tell you about what we did this week in class, and help each other study for our test tomorrow. Any guesses based on this photo? Here’s a hint: It will help prepare us for lots of different jobs around the world.


We are currently studying economics in Social Studies, and this was a fun way to learn the topic. The Inno Vator Shop gives students a hands-on way to learn how the economy works and have the experience of being an entrepreneur. Each kid made products and then tried to “sell” them. We used an imaginary currency which we called “amp” (with this symbol: &).  We had to buy our supplies for our shop with our starting amp, 50&. If you click here you can see our worksheet.

We had a lot of great entrepreneurs in both classes! Check out some of the great business choices we made:

IMG_7464Owen made paper monsters and he made one of them rare. The supply was low because he only made one, so people really wanted it. That means the demand was high. He was able to raise the price and sell the monster for 18& when the other monsters were selling for 5&.

Shayla made original drawings that she sold for 35&, a great revenue considering that she started with 50& at the beginning of the week. Her costs for this drawing were only 5& for the paper, so she had a big profit - 30& for one picture!

IMG_7448Andrew made coupons and IOUs for other people’s stores. He collaborated with other store owners and came up with an idea that was original. His entrepreurial skills helped him make a profit; nobody else in the class came up with this idea.

IMG_7480Alyssa learned from experience. On day one of our sale, she spent 44& on supplies, and brought in 59& from her customers. So even though her revenue was high, her profit was only 15&. On day two, she made all of her products for free, using materials from nature.

Adhiti made the most profit in Homebase Gandhi, ending with an impressive 120&. Her supply was very large, and she made lots of different products, totalling 20 different products!

These are just a few of the great ideas that students came up with in our classes. Check out some more photos from our Vator Shop days. If you are a student reading this, what did you like about the Vator Shop? If you are an adult, do you have any ideas for our next Vator Shop?

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