Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Five Senses in the Alps

Since you aren’t up in the Alps Mountains with me, I thought I’d share a bit about each of the five senses so you can get a feel for what it’s like here.

SOUNDS ~ While hiking in the mountains here, we hear these cow bells all over across the hills. Someone told us that cow bells are a status symbol for farmers here, and sometimes cost $2,000 a piece — but owning cows is very difficult to actually turn into profit.

Cows.pngSIGHTS ~ There are so many beautiful sights. Photos don’t do these mountains justice, but here are a few that might give you a taste. Pano from Murren.pngCows and ViewAnother ViewMe and Amazing MountainsDon’t let these photos fool you — the weather hasn’t been perfect this whole time. We tried to go up to the top of a mountain to see the view, and ended up in a cloud. We’ll try again tomorrow, but here’s what we saw at the top so far:White.pngIt’s a cloud. Eventually, we got some nice views from the Cable Car, once we got out of the cloud:

Coming down.png

SMELLS ~ Ah, the flowers! I have really enjoyed stopping to smell the wildflowers in the mountains. So many colors and varieties!

The village of Allmendhubel is famous for its flowers, and they even have a flower playground and flower walk, where you can learn about all the types of flowers you’ll see while hiking. This little garden had an exhibit with a wooden platform to lie on, inviting visitors to lay down to smell the flowers. Who am I to refuse?!

And then I tried out the playground too… it was an extra good one.

TASTE ~ We’ve been eating lots of cheese, served every day with bread at breakfast. We also had fondue the other night (the dipping bread into melted cheese kind), along with the traditional bratworst sausage and rösti, a kind of potato fritter. Mmmmm…

Fondue, Rosti, and Brotworst.png

FEEL ~ We visited a waterfall that was inside of a mountain! It felt very… wet! Here’s the evidence:

Tofu San at Trummelbach Falls.pngThis was a neat experience, but as you can see, it was pretty touristy. Even better was the next day, when we were hiking and came upon a sign we didn’t understand. Sprutz sign.pngWe used Google Translate, and saw the word “caution” but decided to proceed down the trail very slowly anyway. It was very steep, and in the woods.Me and trail.png Eventually we were rewarded with a beautiful waterfall. Sprutz from far away.pngI was very careful, but we figured out that it was safe to walk underneath and through to the other side, which was pretty amazing!Sprutz from the topSprutz People under

Can you see me on the other side after I made it through?Me and Waterfall.png

So, there’s a little taste of the Alps (and sounds, sights, smell, and feel)! I hope you got a little bit of a sense of what it’s like here.

European City Hopping: 4 Cities, 3 Countries, 2 Sleeps

Greetings from Switzerland! We are finally up in the Alps, and decided we needed a rest day to bask in the mountain views– a chance to slow down and sneak in a blog entry. Views from Murren.png

During our first few days of this trip, we did some country hopping. We left Saturday night from Boston, and flew overnight, arriving in Lisbon, Portugal with 13 hours until our next flight. We barely slept on the plane, but stayed awake enough to get in miles of walking around the city and a stellar first gelato cone of the trip.Lisbon Pano

We arrived Sunday night in Zurich, Switzerland and crashed quickly. With a full night’s sleep under our belts, we spent the morning wandering around the city, which is the biggest in Switzerland but still much smaller than Boston.

That afternoon, we decided to country hop over to Liechtenstein, since it was less than 2 hours by train. One of the smallest countries in the world, Liechtenstein is a little kingdom with the highest GDP per capita in the world — that means that it’s a very wealthy country. It has a ruling prince, and while we didn’t see him, we did see the castle where he and his family currently live. Vaduz (pronounced “Vah-DOOTS”) is kind of small and fairy-tale like, but also modern in the “downtown” area. We made it up the path to the castle, walked around town, and arrived at a restaurant for dinner just as the sky opened up into massive thunder storms.

So despite the jetlag, and having seen three countries in two days, we woke up the next morning and set out for a full day journey through Switzerland. We took some time first to walk around Zurich more, and then spent several hours in the capital, Bern, which we loved. It’s just a really lovely city all around, and feels really quintessentially Swiss.

 

They say that Bern was named after the bears in the area, so they actually have some bears in an enclosure in the center of the city. So cute!

Close UpAnd after 7 different legs of trains, trams, or cable cars, and about 7 miles of walking, according to my phone’s GPS, we arrived in the mountains. The Swiss rail system is really incredible.

All four cities were beautiful, and had some things in common.

Two of the cities had castles, where we hiked up and looked down on the city from above:

Two had funky outdoor elevators to help navigate the hills:

Three had beautiful churches, too:

We saw lots of interesting art on the street…

…ate some yummy food…

…and had great views overlooking the water.

But now we are in the countryside and looking forward to a bit of a slower pace. It’ll be a few days out of the city, but I’m sure we’ll make our way back soon.

The Big Update: Off and running in 2017

This blog has been quiet for a few months, but things are about to get interesting. It’s summer!

To be honest, this spring HAS been eventful. I guess it’s been so action-packed, that I haven’t had a chance to write about it all. This was the year of the fidget spinner, dabbing, and water bottle flipping. I even figured out how to make a fidget spinner out of balloons.

At school, students have been creating some fantastic projects. At the very end of the year, they even took action on real issues in the United States. Call #1.pngSome students wrote letters to their representatives asking for more funding for services to help people experiencing homelessness, while others made phone calls arguing against funding Trump’s border wall. Call #2.pngWe had students calling the Department of Homeland Security, giving their input on train safety in America, and others calling the Department of the Interior, letting Secretary Zinke know that they want National Monuments protected. One group even made a petition that you can sign, which is now public on Change.org.  Check out their video, and if you like what you see, sign their petition to Governor Baker.

I was busy teaching this spring, but I still snuck in some travel. Though I didn’t get a chance to go international, I did “visit” many different countries at Epcot, in Florida’s Walt Disney World. Epcot’s global village allows visitors to experience a taste of many different countries, all within a short walk. Having been to most of these countries for real, Epcot’s versions seemed a little bit superficial, but it was still a blast to country-hop around. I’d definitely recommend the global village at Epcot, but if you ever have the chance to actually go to a different country, that’s even better.

Many of you have met Tofu-San, my plush friend who was introduced to me by a Japanese friend, Omi-Sensei. She started sending Tofu-San around the world many years ago, and she shared the tradition with me. In April, I brought Tofu-San camping in Utah, and he had a blast. Here he is at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks:

“Where will Tofu-San go next?” you might be wondering… Well, thanks to Omi-Sensei, Tofu-San has a few friends who are already traveling. One of my students, Nico, has a miniature Tofu-San in Mexico, and will be reporting more on his adventures soon. Here it is in Isla Mujeres soaking up the sun:TofuSanMexico.png

In other exciting news, an adorable friend of Tofu-San’s, disguised as a sheep but undeniably cute, is currently on a journey with Mrs. Angelone, our other Social Studies teacher extraordinaire! They are in Bali, Indonesia right now (where I took Tofu-San two years ago), but here’s a sneak peek of their adventures in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they were last week:

What other adventures are in store for Tofu-San? Everyone has been asking me about where I’m going this summer, and yes, I’m headed out of the country… at the end of this week! Tofu-San will join me in the Alps, checking out the mountains of Switzerland, as well as a taste of Northern Italy. I’ll also try to give him a peek out of my backpack while on some interesting layovers — there will be a day to adventure in Lisbon, Portugal on the way over to Europe, and two days in Reykjavik, Iceland on the way home (where I visited in 2014 and am psyched to see again). After I come home from that trip, I’ll rest a little before exploring the other side of our country — Seattle, Portland, and a few other highlights of the Pacific Northwest.

Summer 2017 Map.png

As you can see, many more global experiences await. Check back soon to read about my journeys, Mrs. Angelone’s whirlwind tour, or the adventures of Tofu-San and his friends. If you are a member of the Innovation Academy community, and you have a global experience, whether far away or close to home, please consider writing your own blog entry. Details are here, but basically, you’ll just email me your text and photos. If you are local to Massachusetts, I bet you can hear some world music or try a new kind of food at the Lowell Folk Festival, which is totally free. There are so many ways to experience another culture. Where will YOU have some global experiences this summer?

Can’t get away this week? Try out some virtual travel!

Jardin Etnobotanico Oaxaca.pngWhen studying world geography, I often describe what we do in class as “virtual travel.”

If you walked into the room last week, you would have seen students fishing through guide books, planning trips to all sorts of exotic destinations. Thanks to my local library, I could stock the classroom with a whole travel section. That’s because for their most recent assignment, students were assigned to groups, and they needed to work together to plan a trip to their assigned country. Easier said than done!Catedral metropolitana, Mexico City.png

Each group rolled dice to determine their budget, and collaborated on map making. They worked together to choose which cities to include as stops on their trip. Jamaica Map.png 

Each student then planned at least 3 activities for their stop on the journey, and they had to fit within their group’s budget. Some students even converted costs into the local currency of the country being visited.activities

If you haven’t already figured it out, we used a green screen app to take pictures as if the students were really there. Read some excepts from their “trips” and you won’t believe that the students never actually got on an airplane:

From Aquario do Bonito in Brazil:

Aquario do Bonito.png“I woke up early, got ready and hopped in the car. I wanted to get there early to beat the crowds. We got there and I was invited in by the tourist guide who spoke English. He gave me a presentation of what we were going to do and where the bathrooms and the souvenir shop was. I was very excited. First we went to the stingray tank he offered me to touch them. They were very slimy in my opinion but it was still very fun. After that we went straight  to go snorkeling. I got my bathing suit on and then the guide showed me how to use the mask and the actual snorkel itself. The guide said that the snorkeling takes 45 minutes to 1 hour. After it was done all I could say that it was so fun! I really wanted to go here because I love learning about environment and I thought it would be very important.”

cristo-redentorFrom Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

“My last stop was Cristo Redentor. We had to hike up the mountain to the statue but it was worth it. The view of Rio de Janeiro  was beautiful but the statue was better. This statue is historical because it’s been there for 86 years and people pray to him. Overall, I loved all these activities and I would strongly recommend them.”

From Las Terrazas, Cuba:

Las Terrezas.pngI woke up early to beat the crowds and check out the Canopy Tour. When we got there, we were approached by people from our hotel saying that we get a special because we are staying at Hotel Moka. Then we saw a guy named Kevin who was suspended in the air 25m from steel cables. We went one at a time Me (Sarah) going first, Keira going second, and Daniel going last.  We finished our course and it was so beautiful I would go back in a heartbeat. After we left we went out to lunch before going to the Museum.”

From Playa Caracol in Cancun, Mexico: 

Playa Caracol.png“Apparently locals call this specific place the last “real beach.” I instantly fell in love with the beach once I stepped on the soft sand and saw the beautiful crystal clear beach. In fact I think the water was the clearest i’ve ever seen! I laid out all of my beach things and the wind was warm but not too cool. Perfect. I noticed a little building that had a sign on it: Wind surfing for anyone, any level. I walked over savoring the best beach i’ve ever been to. The first time I did my first run of wind surfing it was a little difficult at first. When I got the hang of it I realized you just have to have good balance and direct the board in whatever direction the wind is going. I loved the beach even more when I accidentally fell in a couple times. The combination of the warm wind and coolish water just made my day even better. For a second I was wondering weather I should just put the board away and stay in the water all day but i’d have plenty of time to do that later, so I kept going with the windsurfing.  Part of what made the beach so good was that there was a band playing at one of the hotels at the beach, so you could hear it while still at the beach and the restaurants looked so good.  I also noticed that there weren’t a lot of people there. Something else was that there weren’t a lot of rocks or seashells by the sea shore. (it’s supposed to be a tongue twister ;)) I looked at my watch, 14:38. Gotta go. Sayonara beautiful beach.”

From Leon, Nicaragua:Cerro Negro.png

“The last thing I did was volcano boarding. They gave us instructions and equipment, and than I was up 726M and more so I could see everything below me, I could see a blotched of green below me. It was was beautiful! The landform is  pitched black, so it felt like I was an astronaut and I was on the moon. I learn that the volcano erupted before in 1850.  This place is important enough  I wanted to visit because if you love surf boarding down a snowy hill then you’re going to enjoy surfing down a volcano.”

From La Aguja Dive Center in Havana, Cuba:

Havana Cuba.png“We went to the La Aguja Dive Center first so we could do the early morning dive.  I learned about the coral, plants, and animals that live around and in the reef.  Also I saw shipwrecks from a long time ago.  I even got to go inside one.  I never knew how cool coral walls could be.  I also learned about the invasive species that are killing off the coral and other plants on the cuban coast.  We were in a medium sized group, just about 10 people.  I visited the La Aguja Dive Center because I wanted to learn about the environment under the sea and learn about the animals, coral, and other plants in Cuba.”

* * * * * * *

There were so many more exciting trips planned, but unfortunately, this blog entry would be way too long if I included all of them. Students “went” to all sorts of cities and towns, some of which I’ve now added to my list of places to visit some day:

They researched some very interesting historical sites:

And many students wanted to hit the beach!

isla-las-ballenas

Students learned that travel can be a lot of fun, and each itinerary highlighted the student’s unique interests and personality.

Now you know — if you can’t afford to leave the country, try out some virtual travel. If you do decide to book a trip, I know some students who can give you some advice.

Balloons for All Ages

My students know that I love to travel around the world making balloons for people I meet. Here’s me in action in Dubrovnik, Croatia last summer:

Last week, I taught my students to be balloon twisters themselves! It was a short lesson, but on Valentine’s Day, we put their skills to the test. We visited a local senior center to volunteer and bring some joy to the seniors’ day. As you can see, it was a little chaotic, in the best possible way:

busy-at-workoh-the-chaos

Even as beginner twisters, the students brought forth many smiles with their creations (and yes, I made some balloons also).

The students made some new friends…

…and learned that you’re never too old to play with balloons!

balloon-fight

They might be ready for their Balloon Twisting 102 class pretty soon!

group-photo

A Different Kind of Political News Story

My students are mostly 10 and 11 years old, but here they are calling the White House:

With a big election coming up in the United States, many people wonder if their votes really matter. Does one person’s voice really make a difference? Where do you want to get your food.png

In Social Studies class, we’ve been learning about the political process, through a project called Democracy in Action. We didn’t document the whole decision-making process, but each class chose an issue they are passionate about, and designed an action. In order to do this, they had to agree on what change they wanted to see, figure out how changes in government get made, and then work together to find ways to influence our nation’s laws.

This process took many hands, and many hours, culminating in these projects, completed during their final hour of class this week. I couldn’t be prouder.

My morning class decided to focus on protecting land for animals and people to live on safely. They ultimately chose to call President Obama’s office to advocate for him to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was a little scary and extremely exciting to make these calls:

My afternoon class chose to focus on fair living conditions for farm animals. trappedThey were interested in Massachusetts ballot question #3, which argues that animals not be allowed in cages where they can’t turn around, stand, or fully extend their limbs. After a lot of discussion, they decided to focus on going further than question #3, pushing our senators to fight for a similar law across the entire country.

We discussed ways to communicate our ideas, through email, letters, or even an article published in a newspaper. Ultimately, video seemed like the most fun idea, and the students were excited to see me contribute my balloon skills to the process. Without further ado, here’s their final product, which we’ll send via YouTube Link to Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. They hope it might also convince some MA voters who haven’t gotten to the polls yet.

The U.S. political process can certainly be frustrating, but there’s still space for each person, even under 18, to have a say. If you’re an American adult reading this, do my students a favor and use your voice to vote this week.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. President…

Today, I asked students what they hope the next president of the United States will do. In case you were wondering what matters most to them, here are a few quotes: 

chalk

“Tell us (the public) what is really happening in the government, and why are the police killing black men. Because America is the land of the free and we don’t deserve to be killed for whatever reason the police are murdering citizens. If I was one of the Americans that might be killed, I would have trouble singing Land of the Free.”

flying-guy“When my dad was a kid he could not afford a lot of things. He got healthcare because his father was in the army. But some kids aren’t as lucky. So I want more people to have healthcare.”

“I hope they don’t hide things from us. I like to know what is actually happening.”

“We need good relationships with other countries so there is not a World War III. Because I want America to be safe and that all depends on what they president does about certain things.”

“We need to lower the cost on EpiPens and other medicheartal things like that. It is important to me because they cost like $300 or $3,000 for an EpiPen! What if people can’t afford it? Then they take a bigger risk of dying or something because this item is a life-saving item and it they can’t afford it, what are they going to do if they have an allergy attack?”

“Ioutdoor-play-structure don’t want people to die in a horrible nuclear explosion especially if it came from us, because even though it’s not my fault, I would feel like a piece of poo. I don’t want animals becoming mutated. Oh, and also I don’t want to die but that’s not important.”

“I hope they will be fair. Not care only about money and themselves, be kind to other countries, take care of wildlife, and try to prevent people being killed.”

tofu-san-at-avam

*Photos taken a few weeks ago at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD.

Plitvice Lakes: Too much hype, but ok, fine, it’s beautiful.

One of the stops on our trip that seemed like it would be awesome was Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. It is supposed to be ranked one of the most beautiful places in Europe, so we wanted to see what all the hype was about. Unfortunately, about a million visitors a year also want to know.

Crowds.png

Plitvice was a little bit annoying to get to, but you know, we conquered. Instead of doing an organized tour, we took the bus there from Zagreb and spent the night in the area. The bus was actually super comfortable, pretty empty, and had free wifi. So, no complaints there, but it was still a tiring travel day. Once there, we took a nap and then we were able to walk around late in the day and early the next morning. Success! It’s really a beautiful and massive place:

Plitvice

Famous view from above at Plitvice Lakes

One of my favorite parts of Plitvice was the amazing color of the water:

I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, but these ones were definitely nice too:

The sound of the ater was also part of what made me feel the power of this place:

The roots are totally weird and fun:

And there’s all sorts of interesting flora and fauna to photograph:

Even under the water!

Overall, I prefer the little adventures, like the walk to Kozjak Waterfall in Slovenia, but Plitvice was an impressive place.

Tofu San and Big Fall

Tourist Farm Love

Hole in my heart.pngThere are still more days of sunshine on the horizon, but my summer is ending. This week teachers at our school are back at work, prepping our classrooms for the start of a new school year. I’m holding onto a little bit of summer by remembering my favorite places I visited back in July: Slovenian tourist farms.

Never heard of a tourist farm? Basically, it’s just what it sounds like. All over the countryside of Slovenia, tourists can stay at local farms instead of hotels, where they experience the rural life and chow on local food.

After driving through Triglav National Park, making our way up and down the 50 switchbacks of the Vršič Pass, we made our way to Tourist Farm Kranjc near Kobarid. We passed through a quaint little village called Luce as we made our way off the main road.Near Kranjc

And then we arrived. On one side of the house, there was a pretty densely packed neighborhood of local houses.Kranjc Neighborhood

On the other side of the house, there were the views and the farm.Farm Sheds.png

And just like that, I fell in love with this place. I just wanted to sit on their patio forever, alternating between their swing and hammock.

DeckHammock

What a perfect place to relax in nature. SpiderwebsFurry Flowers

To top things off, the family was nice as can be, and they had the sweetest dog (whose name was something like Moscow or Rosco).15 year old pup.png

The best part, though? The food! So local and yummy. Tourist Farm Food

The downside? We only had one night here. We considered backing out of our reservation for the next night, but we pushed on. In the morning, we only had a little time for exploring, and decided to go to Slap Kozjak (which means “Kozjak Waterfall”) for a quick hike before hitting the road. It was a beautiful little adventure:

And then the roads. We had to drive WAY too long to get to our other tourist farm. We did pause for a nice rest stop on the Soca River, but we didn’t have much time to gaze at the ridiculously clear, turquoise waters. (Notice the rocks below. The water is so clear you can’t even SEE it!)

As we drove, I seriously questioned what I was thinking choosing these two tourist farms so far away from each other.

And then we arrived. Yes, Tourist Farm Govc-Vršnik was definitely worth the drive. Our room was huge and we had two porches, both with stunning views:

The place was incredible — it was much more remote than the other tourist farm, and such a peaceful area to walk around.

Even the food somehow managed to give our last tourist farm a run for their money, which I didn’t think was possible. Plus we had a great view from the deck where the meals were served. They even served something that seemed like matzah ball soup for dinner, and it made me feel like I was home.

Sadly, we only stayed there one night too. The next morning we headed back to Ljubljana to return our rental car and leave Slovenia.Govc Pano

Since I travel often, people sometimes ask me which places I would hope to go back someday. Definitely I would love to go back to both of these tourist farms, and explore many more.

Quintessential Maine with ESD friends

Omi-Sensei’s visit allowed me to see New England with fresh eyes, and remember why I love this area so much. Her journey ended with a trip to Maine to see one of the other American teachers from our ESD program, Josh-Sensei (“sensei” means “teacher” in Japanese). We were welcomed with a few versions of Tofu-San from Japan, and a stuffed moose which Josh had given Omi from Maine. Welcome

Josh lives in a very old farmhouse, built before the American Revolution. He and his wife first showed us around their beautiful house, barn, garden, and fields.

Their house has been renovated many times, but some rooms still have the original floors, which were made from huge old trees. At the time the house was built, the King of England laid claim to all big old pine trees so that he could have them used for the masts of ships. Since this house was made with these “mast pines,” whoever built these floors was probably protesting against the king! They are really beautiful floors to see today.

After visiting with Josh’s family a bit, we set out to explore. First we visited one of the world’s most commonly photographed lighthouses:

Most of the Maine coast is rocky, like this, but we drove to a sandy beach to body surf a bit before dinner. Maine Coast

We ate dinner at a lobster/clam shack that was super yummy.LobsterLobster Shack

And then headed to L.L. Bean for some late night shopping. This L.L. Bean is the world headquarters, open 24 hours a day, and it has way more than just the basics. There’s a lot to see, such as these stuffed moose who got their antlers stuck together and died because they couldn’t get unstuck.

The next morning we woke up early to sample some more local food — peaches and maple syrup from Josh’s trees. Yum!Waffles

After that, we headed out to go sailing in Casco Bay. From the boat, we saw a few seals, and lots of sea birds.

But we didn’t stop there. We headed next to the Maine Wildlife Center to see some real life animals. All of the animals there are local to Maine, and they’ve been injured or can’t live in the wild for some reason.

Maine Wildlife Park

We had a blast seeing lots of different animals, and learning about the local ecosystem. I had no idea how long the wingspan of the bald eagle is. Can you see the red label all the way on the right? If Omi were an eagle, her wing would be that long!Maine Raptors

My favorite animals included a bear (who was sleeping when we arrived, but did give us a little nod), an albino raccoon, a red-tailed hawk (our school’s mascot), and… real live moose!

The moose kept walking up and down the edge of the fence for us. They were either a) as curious about us as we were about them, or b) showing off their antlers in a fashion show of sorts. Either way, it was really fun to see!

We ended with ice cream, with real maple syrup and wild Maine blueberries. These are not pictured because we gobbled them up too fast! It’s amazing that we had any room left because of all the wild blackberries we ate at the wildlife park.Blackberries

Now when Omi-Sensei looks at her stuffed moose from Maine, she can tell her students about the real ones she saw. And before she left the United States, I sent her off with a stuffed red-tailed hawk to show her students too. Hawk and TofuSan

Thank you Josh-Sensei, for hosting us, and Omi-Sensei, for inspiring all of these adventures. It’s been 2 years since our ESD program, but everything we learned is still so close in our hearts. I wish the other American and Japanese teachers could have joined us too. Next time!

~Sara-Sensei (soon to be called Ms. Krakauer again when school starts back up)

Post Navigation