Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Don’t just be sad about slavery – Do something.

After last quarter’s slavery unit, students were racing around with petitions and letters. Did you hear about the infamous pirate ship? Want to get in on the action? Here’s how YOU can make a difference also.Playmobil Pirate Ship.png

What were we studying?  All sorts of people come to America every day, and that’s been going on since colonial times. Back in the 1600’s and 1700’s, there were lots of new settlers coming over from England, and many Africans being forced to come over to be slaves.

GarageBandWhat was the project? Students wrote poems from the perspectives of both slaves and colonists, and they composed music on GarageBand to show similarities and differences between the experiences of these two groups of people. As you can see in this example from Reid and Steven, both groups of people had their challenges. My impression was that students were most affected by learning about the hardships and cruelty experienced by enslaved Africans.

RootsIsn’t slavery over and done with?  After we watched excerpts of the movie Roots in class, some students asked, “why did we have to watch that sad movie?!” Students learned that, unfortunately, racism is still a problem in our country. We need to know about slavery so we can begin to understand how to work towards true equality.

What’s one problem that shows racism is still alive in America?   We saw an article in the news explaining that a mother in California bought a toy pirate ship for her child, made by Playmobil. When she opened the box, she found that the pirate ship came with a dark-skinned figure and a neck shackle, along with instructions to put the neck shackle on the figure. She was very disturbed to see her young child playing with a slave toy.News

What have students been doing about this? Some students decided to take on some activism for extra credit. Here are some examples of what they have to say to Playmobil:

  • “How can you ask a four year old to put a chain around a toy slave’s neck, and then ask them to play with it?” ~Emma and Kerry
  • “So rude to all those Africans or African Americans who had family members that were slaves. Please do not make any more and put them on shelves of stores.” ~ Makayla
  • “Maybe it’s not offensive to you, but– I bet you — it is to billions of people. I have a lot of friends that agree with me.” ~ MattInstructions
  • “This picture comes directly from your directions for the pirate ship toy. Who in your company would have approved this? I hope you see what a huge mistake you’ve made and take action to correct it immediately!” ~ Marissa

What can you do to take action against Playmobil?  There are many things that you can do to make a difference. Here are some ideas that you can do at home (if you are under 18, ask an adult to help you):

  • Write a letter to Playmobil and tell them to change their pirate ship toy. Here’s how to get in touch:
  • Write a review on Amazon so that other parents know what they are buying for their children.
  • Boycott Toys R Us until they stop selling this toy. You can also contact them directly here:
  • Share this post with your friends on social media, and encourage them to take action also!


Will this work? Ashley and Seneca brought around a petition and got almost 200 signatures. If these students can get that many people involved by circulating a piece of paper, consider how big a difference could be made with the power of the internet. As Anagha wrote on her flyer above, “If it’s only a few people they’ll just shrug it off but if it’s a bunch of people they WILL care.”

Join us — take action, and encourage others to do the same!

The Legacy of Jonathan Tyng and Wannalancet

Our school sits on a very special piece of land, and our Social Studies students began exploring it last week. We took a mini-field trip (really, a short walk) to investigate the history that took place right on our school property. Looking at artifacts outside, and then doing some internet research, we pieced together an amazing story. Walking BackImagine the year 1675, and there’s no school built yet here in current-day Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. At this time, this area was a frontier — pretty much just wilderness, with several Native American tribes who used the area for fishing on the Merrimack River.Pond from the other side The frontier stretched all the way up to Canada; only a few settlers had arrived up this way. Otherwise, it was just the Pawtucket Indians on the lower side of the river, and the Pennacook Indians on the upper side of the river. Chief Wannalancet was considered the “chief of chiefs,” reigning over the local Native Americans and forging alliances with the settlers.School PondAt our school’s property, a brave English man set out to make a safe home. Jonathan Tyng had a mansion right here, looking out on the river on one side, with his farm land in back. It does appear that he set up some sort of fortification to keep out the Native Americans, but it’s unclear what that was. As far as we can tell from looking at historical records, he got along pretty well with the Native Americans and things were stable at his house. The house is no longer there, but today we can see the foundation of his front porch.Walking AroundUntil everything changed.

Fighting erupted in June of 1675. King Phillip’s War brought devestating violence to the area, as Native Americans pushed back against the English settlers who were encroaching on their land. It’s hard to imagine that all around this area, people were being killed, houses were being burned, and many were fleeing North to Canada.

Except for one man. Jonathan Tyng sent a petition to the general court in Boston, asking for 3-4 men to come guard his house. He argued that it was in a good place to keep watch over the “enemy.” The general court agreed, and there he stayed, one of the only English settlers to last here through the entire war. Info StandWas Jonathan Tyng friendly to the Native Americans that whole time? It’s hard to tell, but probably not. One of our 5th grade students, Jaden, found out that Native Americans used guns that they bought from white people, though before that they used bows and arrows most often. Jaden wrote, “When an enemy was defeated his enemy often took his scalp to bring back and become famous in the tribe.” The English definitely used lots of violence in this war also.


In our investigation, students discovered that just in front of the spot where Jonathan Tyng’s house once sat, there’s a rock with a plaque on it. The plaque reads: “In this place lived during his last years, and died in 1696, WANNALANCET. Last Sachem of the Merrimac River Indians, Son of Passaconway, like his father a faithful friend of the early New England Colonists.” Rock

As it turns out, 6th grader Spencer discovered that the Native American chief, Wannalancet, was also forced to flee to Canada during King Phillip’s War. When the fighting ended, the settlers encouraged him to return to the area, as his presence had always been a calming, positive one.

During the last four years of his life, Wannalancet lived with Jonathan Tyng, as a guest in his home. They say that he used to sit on this very rock, look out at the river, and think about how times were changing for his people. Wannalancet Rock

Fifth grader Isabelle found out that “originally there were about 12,000 Pennacook indians and 30 villages, but after the English came and settled in there were 2,500. But after smallpox there were 1,200.” Wannalancet had a lot to mourn. His people were conquered. House SiteStudents across the ages have probably wondered:  “Why do we need to know about this history stuff? Who cares?” So, if the house is gone, why should we bother to remember what happened here?

Tyng House

The Tyng Mansion before it was destroyed (due to arson) in 1981.

I challenged students to consider why learning about these issues matters to helping us deal with today’s global challenges. This was tough for many students, but some made really powerful observations. One student wrote, “Refugees trying to get away from their home to go somewhere else — it happened in the past and (it happens) today.” Unfortunately, it is true that people have had to leave their homes to escape violence at many different times in history.

Another student wrote,”Christopher Columbus went to the Tainos and tried to trick them into believing in (his) religion. I think ISIS is trying to to get people to believe in (their) religion.”


Overall, student are hopeful. They were able to see that situations are not as simple as they might seem. After we read a storybook about the Columbus story told from the perspective of a Native American boy, we also read some of Columbus’s journal entries. When asked if this teaches us anything to use to understand current events, a student wrote, “Try and view things from different perspectives instead of just looking at it from one, and assuming that it’s right when you haven’t seen it from another perspective.”On the steps

So, is the friendship between Jonathan Tyng and Wannalancet worth remembering? Bridging differences isn’t always as easy as it seems. However, this student makes it seem pretty simple: “Everybody is equal. It doesn’t matter what religion they practice, if they’re big or small, black or white, young or old. We know not to make assumptions about someone’s appearance now.”

If we can remember stories when people were able to get along against all odds, like Jonathan Tyng and Wannalancet, maybe it’ll be a little easier for us to figure it out today.

Credits / Sources: All photographs taken by Sara Krakauer last week at Innovation Academy Charter School. Video footage (and photographs in the video) taken by Sara Krakauer at Innovation’s pond in December of 2012. Research on Jonathan Tyng and Wannalancet from these sources:  History of Middlesex County, Volume 2; Jonathan Tyngs’s Profile on WikiTree; Nashua Telegraph article; Library of Congress Records; Pennacook History

Travel. You’ll experience more kindness than terror.

Anyone who watches the news these days can’t help but feel some fear. How can people be so terrible? The world is a horrible, frightening place, right?


The crowded streets of Isanbul, Turkey

If you are feeling this way, I have one suggestion — travel. Go out and see the world. Maybe you’ll see some people and places like I’ve seen…

Burj Khalifa

Me and the tallest building in the world (Dubai, the United Arab Emirates)


In Indonesia, I took a midnight ferry from the island of Bali to the island of Java to hike a volcano at night. It was totally worth missing a night of sleep, but I was definitely scared arriving in a new place under the light of the moon.

Java Mosque

A mosque in Java, one of the first sites after getting off the ferry

There was nothing to worry about. Our guides were right next to us the whole hike up the volcano. When my foot slipped a little on a rock, they were next to me in a heartbeat, helping me navigate the next steps. The views at sunrise made it all worth the worry!

With Guide

Me with one of our guides

In Mali, at first I was convinced that I’d get Malaria or some tropical disease. I lathered myself with bug spray every night and checked the corners of my mosquito net.


The room where I stayed my first night in Mali

After a few weeks with the host family with whom we were staying, I knew that I was being looked after. They made sure our food was safe, and that we had bottled water, local currency, and internet access. The little kids even helped us wash our underwear by hand.


Getting some help with laundry

In Lahore, Pakistan, I was told not to go out by myself, even during the day. Only nobody told me that until the day AFTER I went out shopping on my own.


The streets of Lahore (back in 2001)

I didn’t have any problems, though. In fact, this salesman asked me lots of questions about why I wanted to buy Muslim prayer beads to show my students. He ended up giving them all to me for free! And then I bought a shirt from another person who insisted I come into his house to meet his family and have tea!


The nicest salesman ever (who wouldn’t take my money!)

In Istanbul, Turkey, I was pretty confused riding public transport. People warned me to stay away from crowds, and then I ended up taking this video while riding a bus that got mixed up in post-game traffic.

Don’t worry — I was fine. Everyone I met in Istanbul went out of their way to be friendly to me. People on buses scanned their cards to give me free rides when they saw I wasn’t a local. A random travel agent introduced me to a public school teacher who invited me into his classroom.

I could go on with more stories from more countries. The images and stories on this blog entry all have one thing in common though. They are all from countries where the vast majority of the population is Muslim.


Travelers in Capadoccia, Turkey

I know I’m just one person. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I’ve found Muslim countries to be some of the most friendly places in the world. As far as I can tell, they are the most focused on hospitality compared to other places I’ve traveled in North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Please don’t get confused and think that terrorists are representing Muslim people. Islam is a religion that teaches peace.

Balloons in Dogon Country MaliSo the next time you feel afraid, remember that 99.9% of the world’s people are kind and good to others. If you don’t believe me, go find out for yourself.

What do YOU think of America?

Today we played a few little games aimed at getting out our first impressions when we hear the word “America.” First, students paired up, and for one minute, took turns finishing this sentence: “When I hear the word America, I think of…”Board

Next, students took turns at the board, getting only 30 second intervals to draw images to show “America.” Even though the artwork was fast and furious, the results were striking. Some images were not surprising, such as a flag, bald eagle, or even George Washington:

Others were not shocking, but much less positive. Several students drew guns, beer, fast food, and even obesity.

It got even worse, when we saw “raw sewage,” “too much money,” and racism up there too:

Not everyone agreed on these negatives though. Some felt that our diversity is a strength:

White and Black Freedom

There were other disagreements too. Is a Christmas tree representative of America?


What about symbols that Americans have borrowed from other cultures? Even though we associate tacos with Mexican food and fortune cookies with Chinese food, are those American symbols?

We had a little time for debate, but one subject we avoided going into too deeply was politics. It was clear that there would be a lot of disagreements if we got discussing this one. But do Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Jeb Bush symbolize America? Absolutely. We also discussed how in some countries around the world, people can be prosecuted for speaking out against the country’s leadership, but in the United States, we are allowed to say our perspectives freely.


Overall, everyone seemed to leave the conversation with some new ideas about what it means to be American. We also discussed how “America” can refer to more than just our country, but many places in North and South America. What symbol would you have drawn?

Peace and the True Intentions of Veteran’s Day

Today is an American holiday, Veteran’s Day, which most people believe is a day to honor people who served in the military. I did a little research and found out that this isn’t the only intention of the holiday. Veteran’s Day is celebrated today because fighting in World War One ended during the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. This day, November 11, 1918, is considered the end of “the war to end all wars.”

When the U.S. Congress passed the law that this day would be recognized, back in 1926, they said, “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Basically, that means that this holiday should be a time for being thankful for peace, and doing things to help build positive relationships between different countries.

"Children of the World Dream Peace" Mural at the Denver Airport -- click here to see more photos.

“Children of the World Dream Peace” Mural at the Denver Airport — click here to see more photos.

I’m writing from Boulder, Colorado, where I attended a memorial service yesterday for a very close family friend, Ellen, who passed away last week after a long illness. Ellen was passionate about child welfare and fighting for people who needed advocacy. I found out yesterday that in her early days as a social worker, she helped immigrant women get jobs in her office. In recent days, as her brain was failing her, sometimes when she couldn’t find the words in English, she would speak her wishes in French and Spanish. Even as she was dying, her love of languages didn’t disappear. Ellen is a beautiful example of someone who didn’t just talk the talk; she was passionate about global issues and acted on her values to make the world a better place.

Tofu San visits the Dushanbe Tea House, presented as a gift to the city of Boulder by its sister city in Tajikistan.

The Dushanbe Tea House was presented as a gift to the city of Boulder from its sister city in Tajikistan. It is hand crafted by more than 40 artisans in Tajikistan. 

This morning, we woke up to the first snow of the season here in Boulder. The streets are quiet; the trees and mountains are covered in a layer of white. It certainly feels peaceful outside.


Quiet Roads

The journey back to Massachusetts tonight will be long, even if all goes well and we have no delays. Despite all the inconvenience and uncomfortable middle seats, it feels magical to be able to travel thousands of miles in a single day. Wherever you are, today is a great day to remember that the world is smaller than you might think.

A Fresh Start Discovering Early America

Today is the first day of quarter two, which means I am welcoming a new group of students who have been studying Science during quarter one. Sadly, I have to attend a funeral in Colorado, so I will be missing this fresh start. Luckily, we can be together virtually! If you are a student coming into Social Studies, here are 8 highlights students that you will get to experience during the first two days of Social Studies Project:

Social Studies Page1. Learning how we use technology in the classroom

You will get to see our digital agenda, which is projected on the board from a GoogleDoc every day. If you are ever absent, or forget the homework, this doc is shared with all students and accessible on the school webpage.

2. Celebrating the work we did at Plimoth Plantation

There were many exciting entries to the team challenge, and some winners are posted here. Check it out!

Click here to download their PowerPoint

3. Reflecting on why we study Social Studies

You will use this worksheet to reflect individually and to guide our discussion.

4. Watching a powerful video about global citizenship

After you watch the video below, you’ll consider how it affects your own lives, and why Social Studies is so important to learn about in the 21st century.

5. Hearing about what’s coming up this quarter

Once you know why we study Social Studies, you’ll dive into learning about this quarter’s unit, Discovering Early America. I recorded this little video to help give you a taste of what’s coming up!

6. Testing out your team work skills during the Float Your Boat Challenge

To introduce you to the themes of the quarter, and give you a chance to practice your teamwork skills, you’ll participate in a challenge. Will your boat be able to sail to the New World without sinking?!


7. Analyzing photographs of children’s bedrooms around the world

On day two, you’ll be introduced to the idea of an “I am From” poem as a method of studying people and their places. In order to practice using sensory language, we’ll write imaginary lines for some children who live around the world (from a book called Where Children Sleep, by James Mollison).

Indira Nepal

8. Writing your own “I am from” poem

You’ll get to write your own poem, which is a lot easier than you’d think, using the examples and organizers provided in class.

Tofu San at Plimoth

See? You don’t need me around to learn a lot during Social Studies. I look forward to hearing about your accomplishments when I am back from my trip!

Innovative Ways to Study Economics

OwlsI made up the Vator Shop to help students learn about economics principles, but today as we discussed preparation for our test tomorrow, and the students came up with many more ways to study. Some favorites include:

  • Paper Football – if right, go certain # of yards
  • Economics Charades
  • Look for interesting advertising in magazines and analyze it
  • Make a song about profit
  • Shark Tank — act out yourself
  • And so many more!

NonnyIt’s also possible to use a blog entry to study! My morning class, known as the “Cool Kids” came up with these questions about a character named George with a very original business idea. Can you figure out the answers yourself? To keep things interesting, we’ll also include some photos of Vator Shop highlights from this quarter.

* * * * * * *

1. George is a creative business person who came up with an idea for a new chocolate bar with surprises every bite. You never know if you’ll hit a piece of caramel, oreo, or some other goodie. What would we call him — an entrepreneur or an economics?

George2. George and the man in the yellow hat are selling chocolates. At first, people haven’t heard of his “surprise bars” so the demand is low. What should he do to the price?

3. If later on, the surprise bar becomes really popular, what should he do to the price?

4. In the early years of his business, George had trouble finding cheap supplies. He spent $3 on chocolate for each bar and $2 on the surprises in each bar. He sold the bars for $6 each. What was his profit for each bar?

Success5. If George had trouble getting caramel and couldn’t produce as many bars one month, what should he do to the price?

6. George bought $87 worth of chocolate, which weighed 20 pounds. Each chocolate bar that he makes uses 1/10 of a pound, and he sells them for $1 each. He uses 17 pounds of his chocolate to make surprise bars. What is George’s profit?

7. George is interested in how many people want to buy his surprise bar. What is it that George wants to know?

Hologram Viewer8. George wants to raise demand for his surprise bar, so he gives away samples. Unfortunately, some loud people say that it’s too sweet, so other people become less interested. What should he do to the price?

9. George started his business in August of 1986. At the beginning of his business, the demand was low even though his prices were low. The chocolates kept on melting . . . But on the 24th of March 1990, the president of the United States of America had a little taste of (for a show called America’s Test kitchen as their chief guest) George’s chocolate mustaches. “I think that they were really good” he said. So he gave George the money to make an advertisement! Soon people started coming to George’s shop after hearing that even the president liked it. Should George raise the prices or lower the prices? Why and why not?

10. If George wants to keep his money safe, but he knows he’ll need to buy more supplies often, what kind of savings method should he use?

11. George’s friend Jim wants a chocolate Ferrari. He knows he needs to save up for this big purchase, but isn’t sure how long it’ll take him to save. Which method should he use?

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Click here to see the answers to the questions above.

Being a Global Citizen on Halloween

Halloween doesn’t exist in all countries around the world. Here in the U.S., it’s a pretty great day for children. Here’s me heading out to trick or treat in elementary school:

Halloween Bug Close Up

Today, young people still have a blast dressing up, and our school’s Fall Festival was a hit today. I twisted A LOT of balloons. This year, several students pitched in to create a costume for Tofu San Jr. (and he even has a pet cat now):

Halloween TofuSan

If you are enjoying Halloween today, consider these three methods of showing your global citizenship:

1. Try some global candies that you’ve never had before!

I’m still going through my caramels and Starburst-y chewy candies that I got in Japan last summer. Delicious!Candy

Note the bottom ones that are made from salmon. What’s with the Japanese and their dinner-flavored candy?! After looking at this, do you want to see some other global candies? Check out this post on Trick or Treating the Global Citizen Way.

2. Avoid giving out chocolate and other candy from companies that use child slavery.

This article explains the current situation with children in West Africa getting exploited by chocolate companies like Nestle, Hershey, and Mars. Look for candy that doesn’t support harmful practices, or consider giving out non-edible treats, like stickers, pencils, and spider rings. If you do this, you’ll also be helping out kids with food allergies and you can join in on the teal pumkin movement. Cool!

teal pumpkin

3. Educate your friends about culturally insensitive costumes. 

Sometimes people don’t realize that a costume that mimics someone else’s culture can be very painful to others. When you see someone wearing a costume that makes fun of someone else’s culture, say something. It’ll make a difference if people around the country start speaking up.

On that note, I think I’ll go figure out what to wear tonight. If only I had bought the these glasses or fake tears in Japan!

If you STILL need to get into the Halloween spirit, check out my niece in her Octopus costume, which she tested out last night.

Octopus Costume

Kids usually do a pretty magical job getting adults into the Halloween spirit. She’s not even 3 yet, but she already gets it.

Have fun tonight!

Plimoth Challenge Winners!

I’m a Social Studies teacher, so I normally don’t teach formulas. However, here’s one that you definitely want to learn: Teamwork + Experiential Learning = Amazing Results!

Meeting ColonistsOne hundred Innovation Academy students slept over at Plimoth Plantation on October 8th. They woke up the following morning, having barely slept, and were faced with a team challenge. If you guessed that they were too tired to function, you’d be wrong. The excitement to go out and keep learning, combined with the creativity of these students, produced many impressive projects. Without further ado, here are our winners!

Math Challenge: Write a Word Problem 

The task ~ Math is all around us, even if you don’t see it. Wampanoag people and English colonists had to figure out things like how much corn to grow every year, or how many people could be fed by one deer. They would have to manage their time, thinking about things like how long it would take to make a canoe or house, or how many hours a day must be spent cooking. Write an original word problem in the form of a story. Use video, photos, or text and artwork to creatively show your word problem.

Math Challenge Winner #1: Team 4: Carleigh, Angelina, Elizabeth, Bella Kay, and Isabelle

Math Challenge Winner #2: Team 6: Anagha, Rachel, Monica, and Nonny

Berries and Cord

Math Challenge Winner #3: Team 3 ~ Mya, Ashley, and Bella

Science Challenge: Relationship with the Land

The task ~ Both Wampanoag people and English colonists relied heavily on the land. Ask Plimoth staff members questions to figure out creative ways that people used to benefit from the landscape in Massachusetts. Using video, photos, or text and artwork, show 5 examples of the most interesting ways that people used the land to make their lives better.

Science Challenge Winner #1: Team 14 ~ Joshua, Jaden, Johnny, Trevor, and John

Science Challenge Winner #2: Team 2 ~ Amanda, Kerry, Marissa, Emily, and Emma

Science Challenge Winner #3: Team 5 ~ Kyra, Marina, Shayla, Leah, and Olivia

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ELA Challenge: 17th Century Problem Solving

The task ~ Today, we use technology to help us with all sorts of things, from microwaving our food to finding our way around with GPS directions. These technologies didn’t always exist. Choose a particular kind of 21st century technology and explore how people used to solve the same problems. You’ll have to be creative about how you ask questions to English colonists, as they’ve never heard of any modern gadgets or the internet! Using video, photos, or text and artwork, tell a story about how people used to solve problems that are solved today using technology.

ELA Challenge Winner #1: Team 11 ~ John, Athul, Dan, Kadyn, and Eshan

This project can only be played on the program Keynote, on a mac, but it’s worth the download (click here). You’ll see awesome cartoon animation and learn about how colonists dealt with illness without modern medicine.

ELA Challenge Winner #2: Team 8 ~ Katherine, Ila, and Sarah

ELA Challenge Winner #3: Team 7 ~ Seneca, Becca, Annika, Sofia, and Cienna

Multiple Challenge Winner: Team 12 ~ Spencer, Carlo, Solomon, and Patrick

This team didn’t just enter one challenge. They shared THREE different docs. Impressive! Here’s a small taste of their video skills, edited for length.

There were many more amazing projects submitted. Some great ones could not be posted due to internet permissions and other technical complications. Thank you to all of our 5th and 6th graders who brought their curiosity and creativity to this challenge! Where will they go next?!

Meeting Famous People at the Global Education Forum

Me and Mark with one of his award winning dinosaurs

Me and Mark with his award winning dinosaur

Do you know the names Mark Verge, Brian Asman, or Rie Hosokai? If not, you are obviously NOT a balloon twister. These people are very well-known in the balloon community, and I feel lucky to get to hang out with them at balloon twisting conventions. This just goes to show you that people who are famous to one person are not necessarily famous to everyone.

Education conferences have a lot in common with balloon conventions, as I wrote about in a blog entry a few years ago. This weekend I got to present a workshop in Philadelphia at the Global Education Forum. Like at the balloon conventions, it was really fabulous to just be in a room with people who are passionate about similar things as I am. Tofu San

Throughout the conference, I got to have conversations with lots of amazing, inspiring people. You might not have heard of them, but in my opinion, these people should be famous to everyone. Some of them are already on their way. Here are just a few of the inspiring people with whom I got to have conversations this weekend:

Me and Pasi Sahlsberg

Me and Pasi Sahlsberg

Pasi Sahlsberg, whose best-seller book “Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland” has inspired many people in the U.S. to re-examine our educational system.

Jenny Buccos, who is the founder and executive director of ProjectExplorer, which has produced hundreds of short films which have been used by 6 million students worldwide to learn about other places around the globe. Jenny’s films are brilliantly curated to help teachers figure out how to integrate global content into their pre-existing curricula.

Kyle Vaughn, who was one of my co-presenters, is a high school English teacher who got a grant (like the ones I’ve gotten) to travel in India. He then wrote a book documenting the experiences of children who live in the red light district in Calcutta, helped to start a study abroad program at his school, and brought students to volunteer in India. Awesome.

Our workshop presenter team: Joann Martin, Kyle Vaugn, Musammat Badrunnesha, and me

Our workshop presenter team: Joann Martin, Kyle Vaugn, Musammat Badrunnesha, and me

Musammat Badrunnesha, who was another of my co-presenters, founded her own non-profit and two schools in Bangladesh. She is currently one of three people worldwide chosen to do the prestigious Brookings fellowship, in order to continue her research on girls’ empowerment in Islamic schools.

Jesse Weisz, who founded GEEO, an organization which has sent more than 1300 educators abroad (I went to Southern Africa with them). Jesse knows that if teachers’ lives are enriched, students’ lives will also be better for it. He also found us a really great Korean restaurant to dine in on Saturday night.

Christen Clougherty, who founded Nobis World, also runs trips for teachers, only it’s a much smaller organization than GEEO. While so far she only runs trips to two locations, it sounds like her programs are really intensive professional development experiences with an emphasis on helping educators learn how to teach service learning and civic engagement. Good stuff.

Veronica Boix-Mansilla, who is a Harvard professor that co-authored the book which I consider to be the piece of writing which literally defines what it means to be a globally competent person. I worked with her on a study of exemplary teachers of global education and know that this woman is paving the way for this field to keep growing into a game changer for the whole education world.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 7.58.24 PMJillian McRae, who is an inspiring teacher in Westchester County, NY, teaches a course on racism, classism, and sexism. I wish I could be in her class. She seems to be doing unbelievable work to close the achievement gap and help young people from all backgrounds become aware and effective leaders.

Elizabeth Hummer is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker. She is taking time out of her busy schedule to do the Global Competence Certificate program at Columbia’s Teachers College, because she is passionate about using media to teach kids to be globally competent. I can’t wait to see what she creates.

I could go on and on. The people who came to the Global Education Forum were exceptional, and this is just a taste. The structure of the conference was also thoughtfully crafted. The speakers included many leaders from around the globe and even some student activists. Instead of your traditional keynotes and lectures, there were ignite talks, hands-on workshops, swap shops, networking celebrations, and unconference sessions.

Let's Debrief That

So, watch out. If you hadn’t heard about these people before, keep your eyes open. These educators and activists are making a difference. They are helping young people around the world to grow into globally aware adults who know how to take action on complex issues that affect our planet. This is not an “extra” for schools, but a necessity.

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