Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “Global Citizenship”

The Heroes Among Us

What is needed to destroy a microscopic virus like this?Virus

Students in my advisory drew pictures of superheroes that could defeat Covid-19. We had some creative ideas! They held them up during our video conference so I didn’t get amazing screenshots of everything, but here’s a taste:

Mr. Clean

Super Cat



I decided to make my superhero out of balloons. I think doctors and scientists are going to end up being the real life heroes to help us out of this mess, so I made a person in scrubs with a cape and virus catcher:

Medical Hero

I have been seeing a lot of people in our community stepping up to help others, in big ways and small ways. While they might not be super heroes exactly, it makes a real difference. A local 3rd grade Girl Scout troop put out a call online to see if anyone wanted cookies; I sent them money electronically and got some Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties delivered to my doorstep. Many people are sewing masks to donate to local hospitals. A lot of people are checking in on friends and family members who are alone or vulnerable. I’m grateful to these real-life helpers.

Who do you know who is taking superhero-like actions these days? Comment below and let’s inspire each other.



Superheroes Needed: Connection in the Age of Corona

It’s a scary time, but I just got off of a video chat with the students in my advisory and I feel just a little more hopeful. Finding ways to connect is so important. Normally pre-teens complain about school a lot, but everyone just wants to come back now. Schools are not meant to be empty. Empty Halls

We’re all doing our best to get through each day. Live video is awesome — so far this week, I went to a virtual yoga class, sing-along, open-mic birthday party, guided meditation, and a concert. It’s not quite the same as seeing people in person, but it’s the closest we can get right now. At my friend’s birthday party, we all did a one-minute sketch of her, and it was a blast. Sharing Pictures

Every time I get outside for a walk, I am reminded how important it is to get fresh air. It’s raining today, but even a few minutes outside can be healing, so maybe I’ll go stomp in some puddles. Yesterday’s sun was divine.Flowers

My husband and I have also been doing a lot of cooking.Cooking

And artwork is so healing. I stumbled across this chalk art yesterday at a public park (don’t worry — I stayed far from other people). I love it so much.Art

What are you doing to keep sane and happy? My students and I decided to meet up again tomorrow, via video chat. We gave ourselves a challenge, just for fun — everyone is going to draw a superhero who can defeat this virus. Tomorrow we’ll share them via video.90387981_10156851191607127_2227511979784798208_n

Want to join us? Send in your own superhero pictures by 3 pm on Friday, March 20th. I’ll try to post some here once I get them in. We could also use a good superhero just about now.

Valentines Around the World

Today, my students offered to help me teach you a bit about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in different countries around the world.Love is Friendship

1. Denmark

If you’re a woman in Denmark, today you might get a pressed white flowers called snowdrops, or a gaekkebrev, or “joking letter” with a funny poem or rhyme, signed only with anonymous dots.

2. France

Would you want to participate in a loterie d’amour, or “drawing for love?” It’s outlawed now, but unmatched women used to have a big bonfire and burn pictures of men who wronged them. VDay France

 3. South Korea

February 14 in South Korea is similar to our Valentine’s day, but March 14th is White Day, when men give their ladies gifts that go beyond chocolate or flowers. Then April 14th is Black Day, when singles mark the day of being solo by eating black bean-paste noodles. VDay South Korea

4. Wales

People in Wales celebrate Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th, when it’s traditional to give a lucky wooden spoon to the one you love. VDay Wales

5. China

In China, Qixi, or the Seventh Night Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year. Young women prepare offerings of melon and other fruits in hopes of finding a good husband. Couples also head to temples to pray for happiness and prosperity. VDay China

6. England

In the United States, we have the Easter Bunny on Easter, but in Norfolk, they have Jack Valentine! He knocks on children’s doors, and when they open it, they find candy and small gifts on their porches. 

VDay Engalnd

7. Philippines

This is the day to get married in the Philippines! Head to a mall or another public location, and you’ll probably see hundreds of couples getting married or renewing their vows.

VDay Philippines

8. Italy

There are may traditions in Italy’s Spring Festival, including giving yummy Baci chocolates and going for romantic dinners. A weird tradition was for young single girls to wake up before dawn — the first man she spotted was thought to be the one she’d marry, or at least someone like him!VDay Italy

9. Brazil

Brazilians have Lovers Day on June 12th, but gifts can be exchanged between anyone you love, whether your family member, friend, or partner. VDay Brazil

10. South Africa

Would you be embarrassed to pin the name of your love interest on your sleeve? That’s what women in South Africa do, and sometimes, this is how men learn who likes them.VDay South Africa

So there you have it! If you want to be a good global citizen, keep learning about other countries, and someday, consider visiting yourself.

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Want to learn more? Read more about these traditions in the article below. Credit:

Sure, it’s cold, but who else is excited to go back?!

Last week, we missed 3 days of school because of excessive cold and snow. Snow shadows

We’re literally covered and freezing. Cold I ventured into Downtown Boston on Friday, and the city is still beautiful as ever.

Customs Tower

But the first week of 2018 has been mostly spent inside, huddled for warmth.Hiding

I have to admit, I’m excited to go back to school! Sure, it’s nice to spend the day in pajamas, but I love what I do. Before winter vacation, it was beautiful to watch my students learning about other cultures by visiting houses of worship.

Check out this experience, when a student asked the Imam at the mosque if they could hear the Muslim call to prayer. The students were silent as they listened:

I get to spend my days with a bunch of thoughtful, creative, generous young people. Gift Exchange.pngBefore break, my advisory participated in a Yankee Swap of homemade items, and it was so great to see what everyone came up with! These are just a few of the gifts that the kids made:Homemade Gifts.png

So, yeah, snow days are exciting, who else is excited to go back to school tomorrow?


Peace is the key

Crane.pngLast week, I asked my advisory if they wanted to participate in a global project — a school in Japan is trying to get students in every country around the world to make paper cranes. Tomorrow, photos of students and their cranes will be presented at a big celebration to recognize ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) for winning the Nobel Peace Price. The project aims to “express our sympathy for victims of nuclear weapons and to consider peace while folding the paper cranes with a prayer for world peace.” While the celebration is happening this week, schools are invited to participate in the project beyond this single event, and photos will be posted on the Paper Crane Project webpage. When you look at this site, the list of countries represented is growing every day! My students eagerly signed on, but then discovered that this origami challenge wasn’t so easy. After a bunch of practice, we did it, and here’s our contribution:


The students in my advisory came up with this slogan, “Peace is the key” on their own, and I love it. In a lot of ways, it’s been a real theme of this year, even though I didn’t know it. In Social Studies, students have had lots of opportunities to bridge differences and get to know other cultures, and I certainly believe that this is a key to peace.

This fall, IACS students got to talk to Native Americans living in Massachusetts on our field trip to Plimoth Plantation:

They have also chatted with students in Morocco, over video chat:

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And most recently, each 6th grader conducted a one-on-one interview of someone in their community, learning about a culture that wasn’t their own. Students were creative about finding a “cultural connection” — from their barber or a local restaurant owner to a neighbor or relative living abroad. Listening to students share about their interviews, it was clear that the conversations were meaningful.

These moments are powerful — an act of folding paper done by young people thousands of miles away from each other, an internet that allows people on opposite sides of the world to chat, or even a simple conversation between two human beings who live in the same city. I don’t know if these acts will be enough to abolish nuclear weapons, but if there’s any road to peace, it starts with getting to know people who aren’t like us. And that’s the work ahead of us. Teamwork Float

Up next week? We begin our visits to 5 houses of worship, all within a 15 minute drive from our school. Over the past 15 years, I’ve taken hundreds of students on this field trip, and still, I can’t wait.

A Challenge to Teachers: #NoHateClassroom

I am proud to be an American, but embarrassed and scared by recent acts of hate in our country. When our leaders don’t condemn hate groups like those at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, it is up to us to do so.

Somerville Vigil

Somerville Vigil in Solidarity with Charlottesville

As a teacher, I commit to post a statement in my classroom so that students see it when they arrive on the first day of school. Here’s what I’ve got so far (feedback welcome):

You are entering a space where hate will not be tolerated. You will be treated with respect here. It doesn’t matter what race, ethnicity , or religion you claim, or what languages you speak at home. It doesn’t matter what your gender or sexual orientation is. It doesn’t matter whether you have disabilities, or struggles with money, or any other challenges. Here, we will fight for all people to be safe, appreciated, and treated with kindness. You are welcome here. 

I challenge other teachers to write their own statements, or use this one, and post it in your classroom. I challenge administrators to send a statement like this to the school community. If you feel comfortable, share your statement in the comments of this blog entry, and share this challenge with other educators using the hashtag #NoHateClassroom. When I post mine on my classroom door, I’ll share a photo too.

Let’s start this school year out right.Empty Classroom

“We are the leaders we’ve been looking for.” ~Grace Lee Boggs

N.B. If you came to this blog to learn more about global education and our amazing planet, you’re in the right place! Stay tuned for more on Tofu-San’s summer adventures, coming soon.

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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  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?

What part of Europe will I set out for TOMORROW?

I leave for a trip tomorrow! Here’s where I’m going… drumroll please…

What part of Europe?

In case you can’t see on the map, that’s Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. I’ve never been to any of these places! Maybe we’ll even hike into Austria, since we’ll be right by the border. Here’s a close up of the area, for those of you who aren’t geography nerds like me:


I’m not sure what to call this region, because I’d imagine most people would look confused if I said “Southeast Europe,” and it’s not really all that south or east compared to a country like Greece. Perhaps these regions are defined by being around the Adriatic Sea? However, Slovenia, where I’ll be spending a good chunk of the trip, is a country with very little coastline. In fact, much of the time I’m there, I’ll be up in a corner of the Alps.


This is an area that is also defined by its history. It was once part of the vast Roman Empire, and much more recently, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia/Herzegovina were part of a country called Yugoslavia.


I’ll be on the northwest edge of an area that has seen a lot of violence and change in the not-so-distant past.

Former Yugoslavia

Why did I choose this part of the world? Basically, some friends recommended it, and I got really interested as I started doing more and more research. I’m not doing any kind of exciting fellowship like I did in Japan and Ukraine. I’m going to have an adventure and expose myself to some new people, places, and perspectives. Hopefully, I’ll have a bunch of fun too!

It’s a strange time to be traveling. The U.S. state department has issued a travel alert for the entire continent of Europe, and our own country doesn’t always feel like a safe place to be either. I’m torn between wanting to find ways to fight against the injustices of the world, and wanting to escape them. Hopefully, I can do a little bit of both on this trip — and I’ll return home with some new insight on how people can get along just a little bit better. If there are moments when I feel anxious, I’ll just remember that even though I’ve never seen this corner of the world, many people call these places “home.” And so… Tofu San and I are off to finish packing!

Boston Sunset

Boston you’re my home.

Students Working for Change

FireworksSummer is upon us, and America’s Independence Day is approaching very quickly! My city already had some early fireworks, pictured here.

As an American, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening locally, but I try to teach my students to:

  1. Be curious about other people and places
  2. Care about what’s going on elsewhere
  3. Feel empowered to take action and work for the world they believe in

During the last few months of school, I worked with several different groups of students on action projects, all focused on issues that the students chose. Each class had a different focus, but they were all based on current events research.

Action 1: Fighting Chinese Air Pollution, by the Leach and Maier Advisories

A student in this class read an article about this issue on a great website called Newsela, which publishes news content at multiple different reading levels. The rest of the class agreed that breathing clean air is a human right, so they decided to target companies that use coal in China:

Action 2: Ending Assumptions about Homelessness, by the Krakauer Advisory (with help from the Destramp Advisory)

Each advisory at our school takes part in some community service. My advisory decided to focus on homelessness. They were able to Skype with an expert from a national organization called Community Solutions (a former student of mine from way back). My current students learned that the first step towards change is for people to understand that homelessness is not a permanent label, but a situation that people can get out of, if they have the right support. They decided to make posters to hang around the school to teach their peers about what they learned:

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Action 3: Individual Campaigns by the LaRoche and Bresnahan Advisories 

My last class did fabulous research, but then we ran out of time for the collaboration piece, due to a power outage and some schedule changes. Instead of doing one big project, students teamed up in small groups to design their own actions.  They each chose an audience to appeal to, whether their peers or a person in power, like President Obama. Even with the time crunch, their results ended up quite persuasive:

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I’m proud of the work my students created, and I hope they inspire you to take action on whatever issues matter most to you. Former President John F. Kennedy said,

I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.

On this Independence Day, let us work to live out his dream and fight for a better future for people across the globe. If these students can do it, so can you!

Note: Want to see more? Last quarter’s classes also had some powerful things to say. Check it out here!

Our School’s Musical Inventors

Homemade %22Guitar%22This blog is about global education, but don’t think that this kind of learning only happens in Social Studies class! To be prepared to grow up to be adults who tackle global issues, students at Innovation Academy learn to think creatively and come up with new solutions to problems. They do this in many classes — even in music class!

We’ve only been offering a music class at our school for a handful of years, but our middle school music teacher, Jess Destramp, has developed an amazing program. After listening to seventh graders recording music videos to “Livin’ on a Prayer,” in every corner of the building, I had to stop in today to see my 5th and 6th grade students’ sharing their final projects.

Ms. Destramp explained that these students  just finished a unit where they learned about the science of sound, and how different types of instruments work to produce and amplify their sounds. For the final project, she asked students to invent and build their own instrument.Instrument Fun

The requirements were that 1) it couldn’t be a homemade version of an instrument that already exists, and 2) it had to make some kind of sound! Students also completed a worksheet that asked questions about how to classify their instrument, what vibrates to make sound, how to change the pitch and dynamics while playing, and what kind of music they thought their instrument could work well with. Some students got really creative and ambitious with what they constructed!Instruments

I was blown away by their creativity. You have to see it in action to believe it!



What will they innovate next?

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