Innovation on Earth

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Archive for the category “Guest Posts”

Astrid’s Adventures in Germany

Astrid and Runa's Tofu-SanYesterday, we heard from 7th grader Astrid, who wrote about her exciting visits to Switzerland and Austria. Today, her adventure continues, this time in Germany!  Of course, mini Tofu-San is along for the ride. 
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Day 5: Driving and Neushwanstein Castle 

     Finally, we were headed for Germany, the main focus of our trip. But first, we had to make a few stops. Neushwanstein Castle 5The first one was Neushwanstein Castle. Neushwanstein Castle is a very popular attraction that many tourists enjoy visiting. The building of the castle began in the mid-eighteen hundreds but was never finished. The king at that time was Ludwig II, and it was him who ordered for the castle to be built. He wanted Neushwanstein to be “In the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles”-Ludwig II. The castle was built for many years but construction was halted in 1886, when the king died. And, due to expenses, it was left unfinished.
Day 6: Dachau and Munich, Germany
Germany.png       The second stop we had to make was the concentration camp at Dachau. Before that though we took a quick look around Landsberg am Lech. Landsberg am Lech is where Hitler dictated Mein Kampf, his autobiography, while he was imprisoned. From there, we headed to Dachau. We took a tour and our tour guide was very good at explaining what happened at/in Dachau. Dachau Concentration Camp was opened on March 22, 1933. It was originally for political prisoners and was used to practically brainwash them into thinking the same way as Hitler and the Nazi Party. They were doing this to that the government would be mostly Nazis. Throughout the 12 years that Dachau was in use, over 200,000 were taken prisoner there.Dachau 3
As they walked through the gate, three words would greet them. “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means, “Work Makes Freedom”.Dachau 1
When Dachau was mostly political prisoners, those words meant that if you worked hard, you may be set free. Later, those words meant that you would be worked to death, and that death was freedom. On April 19, 1945, Dachau was closed after the survivors were liberated by U.S. Troops.

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     Later that day, we took a train from Dachau to Munich, Germany. Once we settled in, we took a look at Marienplatz and went to get dinner.
Day 7 – 10: Munich, Germany
     We spent most of our trip in Munich, Germany. On our first full day in Munich, we went to the zoo. The zoo was huge and had tons of animals. There was a small petting zoo but I didn’t go in because there was a school group there when I passed by.

The rest of the day we spent looking at street art, but not all of it was on the street. There was a little Shepard Fairey (creator of ‘OBEY’) exhibition in a place called Positive Propaganda Artspace, so we went to see that. It featured lots of Shepard Fairey’s works, and the man working there actually knew him personally. He told us all about the meanings behind the pieces and also recommended a few places for us to visit.

The next day we went to Museum Brandhorst. The museum had a room of Andy Warhol pieces, which we were very happy to see. After the museum, we went to a small cafe called Cafe Marais. It used to be an old drapery store, but a bit more like a haberdashery. They still had many of the goods that were sold, with shelves lining the walls. Then, we went back to Marienplatz and shopped for a while (but didn’t really buy anything).New Munich.png

     We headed to Marienplatz early on our last full day in Munich. After waiting around for a while, the Glockenspiel, a large old clock with life size moving statues, starting playing its music and moving. Old MunichIt last for what seemed like forever, but was really only a bit over 5 minutes. Then we decided to head to an area of Munich that had some great shops. But, when we stopped in the subway station to get breakfast, my dad and oldest sister ditched us. My mom, second oldest sister, and I didn’t know the name of the area, but after wandering around for a few hours we managed to find it. The first thing we did was visit the Viktualienmarkt. The Viktualienmarkt is similar to a farmers market but it is way larger. It has about 15 rows with around 20 stands in each row. We didn’t buy anything since it was so crowded but we did look around. Then we went to get lunch in a big beer hall. It was early afternoon though, so it was pretty empty. After that we went to the Alte Pinakothek. It had many paintings by The Old Masters (great European artists working before the 1800’s). Finally we headed back home and packed up our stuff.
     The next day we were heading home. We drove back to Zürich and went to the airport. The flight was about nine hours, and by the time we got to Boston it would have been 2 in the morning in Switzerland. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was two hours after that when I was finally able to sleep. But, the trip had been long and I was happy to get back home. And that entire time, Tofu-san was right by my side!
-Astrid C.

Astrid’s Adventures In Switzerland and Austria

Astrid and Runa's Tofu-SanToday we have a very special guest entry from 7th grader Astrid, who I’m proud to say used to be in my advisory. She went to Europe during our recent vacation week, and took along a mini Tofu-San (made by a Japanese student, Runa, in Omi-Sensei’s class). Today is the first installment in her action-packed tale of her family’s adventure! Check back tomorrow for part two.
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This February break took me very, very far away from Chelmsford, Massachusetts. In fact it brought me to a whole nother continent. That being Europe, specifically: Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Since the trip was 10 days long I will write a short section for each place.

Days 1 – 2: The Flight and Zürich, Switzerland

Travel.png     Just a few hours after school on February 10, me and my family headed off to Logan Airport to catch our flight to Zürich, Switzerland. We took a bus from a few towns over and arrived at the airport. After making it through all of the security, we waited around an hour and then boarded our flight. The flight was a bit over 6 hours so dinner and breakfast were both served. I watched a few movies and listened to music on the small screens installed on the back of each seat to pass the time. Switzerland2When we finally arrived it was early afternoon on Thursday. This is because the time zone there is six hours ahead of what it is in Massachusetts. We went through customs and hopped onto a train that would bring us to a station close to where we were staying. We walked from there to the apartment that we would be staying in while in Zürich. After unpacking we got ready to explore the city for the rest of the afternoon. The next night was also spent walking the maze of cobblestone streets.


     Zürich is a very old city, it’s origins dating back all the way to around 15BC. It started as a few settlements before the Romans came and turned it into a customs station. Zürich slowly expanded, but it was only in 1218, when the last member of the ruling family died, that it became a free city. Over the next thousands of years, Zürich would be slowly industrialized and become the bustling city it is today.

Days 3-5: Driving and Dalaas, Austria
     On the third day of the trip we woke up early, packed our bags and hit the road to Dalaas, Austria. As we drove, the scenery faded from city to green fields and hills.Driving 1
It was surprisingly warm and for most of the vacation there was no snow at all. After around an hour, we could see the towering Alps in the distance.Driving 2.png
And then, after a little over an hour, we arrived in Dalaas. Dalaas is located in a valley surrounded by mountains. The area we were staying in was very secluded and we were actually staying on a working farm! The farm was perched at the top a hill, giving us a great view of the small town. Again, the first day was fairly uneventful as we were all tired from the drive.Austria 3

     The second day in Dalaas was when the fun really started. We decided (other than my dad) to toboggan for the first day and ski the next. Sonnenkapf, the popular ski mountain we were near, has a toboggan run that is over a mile long! Going up the ski lift to the top of the run made realize how huge the Alps really are. We weren’t even at the top of the mountain, but it made the White Mountains seem like anthills compared to the Alps. It took a few runs to get the hang of tobogganing, but once we did, we ended up tobogganing the rest of the day.

Austria 2
Later in the afternoon/night, we attended a giant bonfire. And by giant I mean 30+ feet tall! At the top of the wood tower was a “witch”, it was, of course, fake.

 Our host at the guest house/farm explained to us the the fire was to signify the ending of the winter and beginning of spring.Austria Witch Tower Fire

On our final day in Dalaas we finally went skiing. The Alps are famous for their many ski mountains/resorts, but we just stuck with Sonnenkapf. The entire day we were skiing in the clouds and sometimes, above them. At one point we decided to go to the very top and ski from there. Once we were up there we realized we could hardly see ten feet in front of us! By the end of the day we were all exhausted and just wanted to go back to the guest house to warm up.

-Astrid C.
Note: What do zoo animals, a castle, a concentration camp, and modern art all have in common? Astrid’s visit to Germany, which will be featured tomorrow, includes all of these things! Check back then.

Student Guest Post: Family Adventures in Bermuda

It’s so great to see Innovation Academy students were having many international adventures this summer. Kyle reports back from Bermuda, where Hope went last year. Don’t you wish you were there now?

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This way to Bermuda My family went on a cruise to Bermuda.  While we were there we got to see some really cool things.

One excursion we went on was to the caves.  As the story goes, two boys were playing cricket and lost their ball in one of the caves.  I learned that cricket is more complicated than baseball and sort of like golf.  CaveIt’s a popular game there.  So anyway, the boys went looking for their ball and discovered the caves.  The caves were very dark and at one point, our tour guide shut off all the lights and I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.  Stagmalites grow very slowly.  Here is a picture of me in the cave with the stagmalites.Inside the CaveWe also visited the National Museum.  Here I learned that many different people helped to make Bermuda successful when it was first discovered.  Different groups of people such as Native Americans, Blacks, English, and Portuguese, came and settled there. They used their own knowledge and strengths to make it great. For example, the Native Americans used their knowledge of planting and harvesting food to develop farms.  I liked that everyone worked together to make this island successful.

~Kyle E.

Bermuda boat

Student Guest Post: Backwater Lagoons of India

Another awesome guest post from 6th grader Athul. Who would have thought that he could rival last year’s elephant post?

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This summer, I went to India just like before but went somewhere totally different from last year. This year, I went to a place called Kumarakom, a popular tourism destination near a city called Kottayam in Kerala, India. Set into backwaters of the Vembanad Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes . . . no, it is the largest freshwater lake of all of Kerala and, Kerala is a BIG place. The most popular way to enjoy the scene is on something called a houseboat. This is when things get interesting, because if you look at it literally looks like a long beach hut fit right onto a boat which apparently is the reason why it’s called house boat.  Houseboat

The inside looked just like a mini house, having a tv and one couch and two long curved benches (to cover the front of the boat) benches

There was also dining room, bedroom and a kitchen:   

The food was cooked on board and it was awesome. It contained fish fry, fish curry, chicken curry, shrimp fry, vegetable curry and some yogurt to wash off the spiciness, especially the fish curry which was the spiciest dish.feast

But the main highlight was the shrimp. It was nearly as big as a lobster, which was the biggest shrimp that I’ve ever seen in my life!

Shrimp compared to my Dad’s hand

Shrimp compared to my Dad’s hand

I hope you enjoyed my blog about Kumarakom. I’m sure you’ll love the experience of travelling in a house boat. If you liked this blog try to read my other one called “Close Encounter with Temple Elephant” which I did last year. Thank you!

~Athul A.

Student Guest Post: A Taste of International Cuisine at Epcot

There are lots of ways to have international experiences without leaving the United States. Sixth grader Kerry got to experience global cuisine at Disney’s Epcot Park, where travelers can “visit” many countries all in a single day. Who else has been around the world at Epcot? If you’ve never been, you can get a taste of the experience by reading Kerry’s blog entry below. 

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Map of Epcot’s World Village

I didn’t travel internationally this summer, but I spent two weeks in Florida. I enjoyed Epcot and spent quite a bit of time at each country represented. While visiting, I searched for new foods I had never tried. I tried quite a few and enjoyed sharing with my family.

In the United Kingdom, I tried two types of candy bars and a type of cookie. I liked the Aero candy bar which had a mint airy center. My mom liked the Lion candy bar which had caramel and wafers. Nobody in my family liked the Jaffa Cakes. We all thought the orange filling tasted fake.

We moved onto France and went into the French bakery. It was hard to choose just one item to try as they all looked wonderful. I finally chose something called Tarte Aux Fraises. It was a mini pie with a custard filling and decorated with whip cream and strawberries on top. It was delicious and very filling even with sharing.Strawberry

Cola FlavorI was feeling full at this time so we decided to purchase foods we could take with us to try later. The next country I visited was Japan. I bought a drink that tasted like Coke. The bottle was interesting which is what got my attention in the store. I had to peel the label back and push a marble into the drink with the palm of my hand. Another item I bought in Japan was potato chips that had seaweed on them. I had never tried seaweed before but I liked the chips so much, I would like to try other items with seaweed.

While visiting each country, I was able to watch several performances of music and dance. I have been to Epcot many times before but doing this project really made me appreciate it more and be on the lookout for new experiences that in the past I would just walk by.

~Kerry M.

Student Guest Post: Dancing about Hindu Gods

Today’s guest post comes from soon-to-be sixth grader, Ishan. It reminds me of the story I saw performed in Bali, which was also a Hindu tale. Do you know other cultures that have stories as interesting as this one?

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This summer I went to a Bharata Natyam performance. It was about different forms of VIshnu, one of the Hindu gods.  It was made up of lots of different stories about the forms of Vishnu. Bharata NatyamThe forms are called avatars. My favorite story was the one where Vishnu turned into a person with the body of a human and the head of a lion. A demon-king was praying to Brahma, who is another one of the Hindu gods, that he could be not be killled by an animal or human, at day or at night, inside or outside, on earth or in heaven. His wish was granted and he went around wreaking havoc. His son kept on praying to Vishnu and that made the demon-king angry. His son one day said, “Vishnu is everywhere,” so the demon-king asked, “So Vishnu is in this pillar?” And his son said, “Yes.” So the demon-king punched the pillar, and out jumped the Man-Lion, and fought with him until twilight, and went to the doorstep with him, put him on his thigh, and then killed him.

Bharata Natyam is an ancient classical dance that uses movement of hands, eyes, face, and feet.  It comes from South India.  My sister was in the performance.  She was in another story.

Student Guest Post: Meat, Meat, Meat in Brazil

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming (posts from Ms. Krakauer’s trip to Japan) to give you… a guest entry from an incoming 5th grader! Who else can’t wait to hear more about Rebecca’s trip to Brazil?!

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Hi IACS! In June I went on my yearly trip to Brazil to visit my family. During the five-hour drive from the Rio de Janeiro Airport (Galeão Airport) to my grandfather’s house, we stopped by a Brazilian restaurant…

Vacaria ChurrascariaThe restaurant was called the “Vacaria Churrascaria”. There was an all-you-can-eat buffet in the center and waiters walking around with side dishes and big cuts of meat held by big skewers. The air smelled like meats, fish and sausages of all types. Beef sirloin, ribeye, salmon, pork ribs, everything!

MeatThe waiters would walk from table to table offering the food they were holding. If we said we wanted a certain cut of meat, they would cut part of the meat off with a big meat knife into our plates. If we said we wanted any of the delicious side dishes, the waiters would use two spoons as a grabber to transport the food from the bowl into our plates.

First place for me was the meat. But in second place was definitely the all-you-can-eat buffet. It was in the very center of the restaurant and it had the most delicious foods. It was packed with sushi, salads, risottos, ham, sauces and cheeses. Practically anything you wanted to eat with the delicious meat could be found at the buffet.

RebeccaThe restaurant had an indoor garden with a big fish tank at the entrance hall. With our stomachs full of delicious food, my brother Leo and I went to see the fish in the tank. But these weren’t regular goldfish; these were big, multicolored carp. They looked as if somebody had splattered white, black, orange and yellow paint into the fish tank. Leo was scaring away the fish while I was luring them back with my hand.

Overall, it was great to visit Brazil again. I hope I can go back to the Vacaria Restaurant next year and eat some of the good food. I think it was a great opportunity to have some traditional Brazilian food in a Brazilian churrascaria.

~Rebecca S.

West African Food In Lowell, MA

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

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Sadie and Family

Photo courtesy of Sadie C-P.

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

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

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

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

~ Sadie C-P.

Cape Coast Castle in Ghana: Not a Fairy Tale

When you hear about Cape Coast Castle, do you picture a beautiful place with princes and princesses? Unfortunately, it’s not such a happy ocean palace. As 6th grader Tyler can tell you, Cape Coast Castle is a very real and sad place to be. Tyler visited there this past summer,  when he was in Ghana, a small country in West Africa. Read on to hear about Tyler’s experience.

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Rocks at Cape Coast CastleCape Coast Castle was a place that people would take slaves and throw them in there and do very bad and inappropriate things to them. The photo above, is one of the many rocks that are on the beach next to the ocean. These boulders are countless and would probably take you many hours to count and climb them all.Cape Coast Cannons

If you don’t know what these are, they’re called cannons. They shoot cannon balls. They used these cannons a lot whether it’s for shooting a ship that the slaves were getting away in, or shooting down a pirate’s brig coming towards here to capture slaves to be in the “Hearty Crew!”CapeCoast

This was another fortress that got attacked constantly. Everyone wanted it so badly, but too bad that its defense was so great they barely left a mark.Inside Cape Coast

Picture this: Close your eyes (Once I’m done talking). Imagine being in this darkness for 75 to 200 WEEKS! That is what it feels like in the cell. I went in there and couldn’t even last 60 seconds in that scorching hot, un air conditioned room. They threw slaves in there if they didn’t listen to their master’s every command. They didn’t even give them Food!!! Some slaves actually resorted to cannibalism (one species eating its own species, as in humans eating humans) just to survive one night. I want you to think about it. If you knew you were going to die in 5 minutes, would you eat your best friend just to survive until tomorrow? Post in the Comments! Thank you!

~Tyler D-H

P.S If you want to know what the building looks like, here you go!

CapeCoast Castle Outside


New England’s Mushrooms

Today’s guest post comes from a student who finished all four years at our middle school, and is now heading off to high school. They grow up so fast! You’ll notice that Anna’s observation skills are very strong, and she has some great insights about our country for both locals and visitors alike. Enjoy!

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Mystery DI know what you’re thinking, “Why would someone write a blog post about mushrooms?!” Well, I’ll tell you why.

This August, my family and I went on a bunch of day trips in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We tried to go once or twice every week, and ended up seeing lots of beautiful sights! I was planning on writing a blog post about a trip that I made (whether in the past or this summer), but I couldn’t decide on one idea. The multiple day trips didn’t make it any easier! In the end, I chose to write about a commonality between all of the state parks we visited this August (yes, we went to a lot of state parks), and I think you can guess what that topic is.

BeaverWhether we were marveling at the beautiful views of the Flume Gorge and Lost River Gorge or just hiking through Great Brook Farm State Park, there were always mushrooms around every corner.

Believe it or not, mushrooms are actually quite interesting. For instance, the largest organism in the world is the honey mushroom. The biggest honey mushroom ever discovered can be found in the Blue Mountains in Oregon. Now you might be thinking, “Does that mean that if I travel to Oregon, I’ll see a GIANT mushroom?!” Unfortunately, the answer is no. The honey mushroom grows from a tiny spore, and gradually grows larger and larger and larger. It spreads to great distances underground, but on the surface, all you see are a bunch of small honey mushrooms.

I did a little research about the mushrooms we saw on our trips, and found out that the mushrooms we found include:

  • The “Small Chanterelles”
  • Horse mushroom
  • Chicken Mushroom
  • Parasol mushroom
  • (White) Matsutake
  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Indian Pipe

See if you can figure out which mushroom is which! (Yes, you may use the Internet.)

Note: One of the pictures is a plant, and not a mushroom (but still interesting). Hint: The plant shares its name with another mushroom that looks like bagpipes. However, if you look up the name online, you’ll only find the plant.

All of the photos are courtesy of my dad, and are not in any specific order.

Those were the mushrooms that I could put names on, but these photos have mushrooms that I couldn’t identify:

I hope you enjoyed my blog post!Finally, I just want to break the stereotype that most mushrooms are poisonous. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; 90% of mushrooms are not poisonous!

~ Anna 😉                                            * * * * * * *

Note: Unless you are with an expert, you should NEVER eat mushrooms found in the wild. Anna is correct that many mushrooms are edible. However, if you guess wrong, it could cost you your life. So that’s not a risk worth taking.

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