Innovation on Earth

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Archive for the category “Guest Posts”

Speaking Spanish in Costa Rica

Today’s guest post is from Mr. Ticotsky, who works with teachers at our school to plan systems thinking activities. He wrote about trying out some new Spanish skills in Costa Rica. Read carefully if you are studying Spanish yourself! Some of our middle school teachers are planning a trip there, so maybe you’ll be the next one blogging from there!

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The Arenal Volcano

The Arenal Volcano

Last winter, my wife and I went to Costa Rica for about a week.  Neither of us speaks Spanish, although my wife speaks French and is quick to pick up languages.  Before we left Massachusetts, we practiced Spanish using instructional CDs, especially while we were going somewhere in our car.

We concentrated on useful words first, including polite phrases like “Please” and “Thank you.”  Our language CDs (and our prior knowledge) taught us that “You’re welcome” is often said “De nada” in Spanish, which might roughly translate to “It’s nothing,” or perhaps matches the typical American response “No problem.”  Certainly polite, but not the usual phrase we heard in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican WaitorAlmost all the Costa Rican people we met were very friendly and kind.  Many smiles greeted us, and the people working in the tourism and service fields especially expressed pride in their country.  We learned that in Costa Rica, the most common way to express gratitude is “Con mucho gusto.”  That phrase would be expressed as “With much pleasure” and symbolized for us how thoughtful and gracious the Costa Rican people were to us.

Costa Rican Van DriverAnother phrase we learned in Costa Rica is “Pura vida.”  Literally, that might mean “Pure life,” but in Costa Rica it is a response that also means “Great,” “Excellent,” or “Very well.”  It is kind of a motto for the country and is very descriptive of many of the policies they have to maintain and improve their beautiful land.  There are no armed forces, sustainability seems to be considered in most government decisions, and environmental concerns balance tourism and development.   If you have an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, I highly recommend it.

Adventures in an Indian Village

This is our third student post from India (check out Athul’s and Sonakshi’s too). Wow!  Adhiti tells about something pretty different — the countryside. She took lots of great photos and I think you’ll really feel like you’re there with her. Enjoy!

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Hi! This summer my family and I visited my grandparents in India. Five weeks sounded like a long time, but it went by very quickly. We did a lot of fun activities, such as, shopping, watching indian movies in the big theaters, sightseeing, tasting different types of foods, and visiting our extended family. I’m going to tell you about my trip to the village where my grandfather was born, named Annaram (in the state of Andhra Pradesh).

When we first got there I saw a dusty road leading to a small house inside a gate. The house belongs to my grand uncle and grand aunt. At their house, we decided to explore. They have a well next to the house where they get water from using a pail.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 6.42.45 PMThen, we got to play with the chickens. My brother went into the pen first, then my cousin and I followed. We scared the chickens out of their skins and they hid in a big bush. They were such scaredy cats, or should I say chickens!

Next, we saw the cows (2 moms and 2 babies). We got to pet the calves, but we washed our hands after in a small fountain.

Then we walked around the fruit orchards and saw some green trees filled with really big fruits called jack fruit.There were also mango, sweet lime, lemon and pomegranate trees.

As we walked out of the gate we saw some small houses. My grandfather’s house was donated and turned into a school as you can see in the picture.

As we kept walking, my grandpa ran into his childhood friends who stopped and talked to him as you can see in the picture. They were very interested in meeting us too. Once we saw most of the village we decided to go back to the house. We slept over and left the next morning. My family and I had a great time on the trip and I hope that when we go back to India, we can visit there again!!!


An American Celebrates Canada Day

Canada DayJust like we have the 4th of July, our Independence Day, Canada has its own day too. Check out Matthew’s experience celebrating Canada Day and having some other adventures too!

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The first thing I did this summer was go to Canada to visit my family. While I was there I celebrated my birthday with my Uncle Chris. On July 1st, we celebrated Canada day by going to watch fireworks. They were awesome! The next day we went to the Pavilion, which was flooded because of all the rain. In the basement, there were sandbags by the doors to keep the water out.Matt

I saw some interesting buildings, like the Canadian Humanitarian Rights Museum. It has a wall that is curvy and looks like it might fall down.Human Rights Museum

Next we went to the Louis Riel bridge, a suspension bridge that has a restaurant on it!  I also went to the museum and went inside a train engine.Louis Riel Bridge

After that we went to the farm where our family cemetery is and had a picnic. But most of all, I enjoyed visiting my Nanny and playing with her dog, Sasha.Nanny's dog Sasha


Pink Sands of Bermuda

6th grader Hope was lucky to get some exciting travel in this summer! It looks beautiful, doesn’t it?

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Hi IACS! For my global experience I went on a cruise to Bermuda. I was not able to post while I was on the cruise and in Bermuda because there was no internet access so I am doing it now. In this post I will be talking about the beaches and weather in Bermuda.

First of all the beaches and water in Bermuda are beautiful! The sand is pink and the water is so crystal clear. It looks very blue and you can see the sand underneath it! When we were at one of the main beaches in Bermuda called Horseshoe Bay the sand was so warm and pink we couldn’t think how it had gotten so pink. When we got home I looked it up and it said the sand was pink because after millions of years of red sea creatures such as clams and mollusks that have died and then the strong waves of the Atlantic Ocean have crushed the sea creatures and then their remains have been washed to shore. The water is light blue because of the sun reflecting off of the sand and the water.Bermuda

The year round weather in Bermuda is very similar to the weather in the summer here. Today it is 73 degrees F and in Bermuda it is 78 degrees F. In the winter Bermuda’s temperatures range from 61 degrees F to 80 degrees F from October to February. One day when we were at the beach it rained so hard we could not see anything. It was warmer in the water than out! Our clothes, towels, and bags were drenched. But it was very fun! Bermuda is a great place to visit!

This picture above is of my siblings and friends at Snorkel Park Beach. At this beach we swam and went snorkeling. The sand here was not as pink as the other beach and we did not get to take any pictures because it was pouring out! Unfortunately we don’t have any more photos because of the circumstances!


Sonaskshi’s Adventures in India

SonakshiYou might remember Sonakshi from her video about world religion. Today, she takes us to her family’s home country — India!

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I was on the airplane and about to land in India. It was not as hot as I expected, because it rained few days before. I was in the taxi with no seatbelt on since you do not have to wear one. I was so congested that I was basically laying as I would to go to sleep. When we got to Faridabad, Haryana, I was so happy to meet everyone. The ceilings were so high and there were fans on it. No A.C. anywhere but it was okay until, three weeks later which was like the day I thought I was going to melt. Anyway, soon I was going to Jhansi where my Mom used to live. It was not as hot. One thing that caught my attention was that there were animals: dogs, cats, mouse, lizards, pigs, and cows on the streets. It was crazy but it was India.

RickshawsTransportation was really different in India. There are not any lines to divide who is going and coming. People always stay on their left rather than their right.

On the left is a rickshaw that is a transportation costing a low amount of money. You sit in the back, behind the man who rides the bike. On the right is an auto which is a moving mobile with no doors and goes almost as fast as the cars. I have gone on both of them.

Indian FoodThe foods in India are amazing the taste, the spice everything. My favorite food in chole batura. This is my favorite food. It is spicy and yummy. One of the popular foods in India.

I have not visited the whole india but I did go to see the capital Delhi.

This is the Rashtrapati Bhavan. I have never gone this close but I have seen it with my own eyes which is a big thing. It is the official home to the presedent of India. I have gone to many places like the India Gate, the Taj Mahal, Lok Sabha and more, but this was the most Interesting place after four years coming back to India. I hope I go back to India again, and I hope you all enjoyed my trip in India.India


A Taste of Tokyo in the USA

Today’s guest blog is an exciting one. One of our middle school students, John, got to experience Japanese cuisine and culture… without getting on an airplane! Read on and consider doing the same thing yourself.

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Tokyo Taste 1I knew that I would not be traveling out of the country, so my mother decided to give me an international experience by taking me to Tokyo, the restaurant, not the city in Japan.  I have never been to a Japanese restaurant before so I didn’t know what to expect.  The food was good,  and they cooked the food right in front of you.

Tokyo Taste 2Starting out we had to choose what we wanted to eat.  My sister and I chose hibachi steak with broccoli and white rice.  My mother and her friend chose chicken teriyaki with fried rice and mixed vegetables.  We each got a bowl of soup to start the meal; it was a mixture of broth, mushrooms and onions.  It tastes good but I didn’t really like the mushrooms.

Tokyo Taste 3When I got my meal, my mother’s friend taught me how to eat with chopsticks.  It was hard at first and then it became easy.  My mother was only able to pick up one piece of rice.  The food was delicious.  I got to try both my meal and my mother’s.  The next time I go, I’m going to order the chicken teriyaki.

There is one thing I should mention to you about the food; the servers give you a plate of three sauces to dip your food into. Tokyo Taste 4One is ginger, one is mustard and the other is supposed to be spicy.  So, I thought I would try the mustard.  My mother told me that a little on my food wasn’t enough to get a good taste, so I put more on.  It was very spicy! I couldn’t get a drink fast enough.

At the end of the meal we asked how to say “thank you” in Japanese.  We were told it is “arigatou” .  So we all thanked our server by saying “arigatou.” I really enjoyed going to Tokyo Restaurant, and I can’t wait to go back.

-John S.


Adventurous Eating in Spain

Today’s guest post comes from an incoming 7th grader, Isabela. I’m very impressed with her adventurous eating in Spain, and I think you will be too!

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This summer from the 28th of June to the 30th of July me and my family went to Spain. In Spain we saw and tried many new things, but one thing I really loved was trying all the new food. We tried Yemas, Kinder Buenos, Albondigas, Tortilla Española, and Paella– these are just the beginning too. YemasLet me start off by talking about Yemas. Yemas are a pastry using just the yolk of an egg, cinnamon, syrup, and lemon juice. They give you a very full sort of feeling. I liked them, my sister loved them, and the rest of us didn’t really like them. They tasted very good, but to us it’s a texture problem; they are just a weird texture in your mouth. The town where we got them carried them everywhere so they loved them.

PaellaWe also tried the Spanish dish Paella (pie-a-ya). The one we tried was a combination of yellow rice, chicken, rabbit, peppers, tomatoes, and more. I enjoyed it very much; it is delicious. You must be saying “rabbit? Ewww.” And don’t worry I said that too, but I forced myself to try it and it tastes just like chicken. All of us liked Paella.

We tried Albondigas and those were delicious. They are meatballs in a pepper sauce that is a little spicy. I would have both these dishes again if or when I have the chance.Albondigas

When you think of a tortilla you think of thin flat bread, right? Well, in Spain, they think of tortilla Española which is a salty potato and egg omelette. This is like an appetizer that you can have for any meal of the day. We had this toward the middle of the trip and never left a grocery store without buying it for the rest of the trip.Tortilla

One of the traditional desserts or snack in Spain is Churros y Chocolate.  Churros are fried dough dipped in sugar.  Then, you dip the churro in a thick, rich, creamy chocolate drink.  It’s like a real thick cup of hot chocolate.  Yum!Churros

There is one last product I would like to tell you about and this is like their candy bar. It is called a Kinder Bueno and it is very good. It tastes like chocolate and white chocolate Nutella.

From my experiences in Spain I have learned to try everything because you never know what you might like. I hope that you try new things too.


Rome: A City of Great History, Art, Beauty and Contrasts

BresnahanToday’s guest post comes from Mr. Bresnahan, who traveled with his family to Italy this summer.  As you can see, there are many world travelers at this school!

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My wife Laura, our son Simon and I arrived early in the morning on Wed. July 23 at our hotel in the ancient and modern city unsure of what to expect. We were tired from 11 hours of traveling, but too excited to do anything, but go and walk around. Rome1We met up with the rest of Laura’s family who had arrived a few hours earlier and we walked 3 blocks and saw this…the Roman Colosseum. Although it is enormous it didn’t get its name from the fact that it was huge. It was named for a huge, 120 ft. statue of the Roman Emperor Nero that used to stand just outside of its walls. The Colosseum was built over approximately 6 years in the year 70 AD….we live in 2014 AD. We looked up at this structure as our jaws dropped at its size and magnificence. This structure that has been standing for more the 1900 years took my breath away! Buildings that are 2 or 3 hundred years old in our country are considered old! Not in Italy. Old has a whole different meaning!Rome2

When we took a tour, we learned that the Colosseum was built to house games for the citizens of Rome. All citizens of Rome were welcome to attend for free as long as they had a ticket. Here is where one of the contrasts or even contradictions that I alluded to lies…This almost two millennia old structure that stood as a symbol of the great architectural skill and might of the Roman Empire to the world housed “games” that are estimated to have allowed attendees over almost 400 years to witness the deaths of 500,000 people and over a million animals! The games held there are believed to have led to the extinction of hippos, rhinos, elephants, lions and numerous other animals in northern Africa and elsewhere.

Rome3We walked around the structure that may have held as many as 50,000 people at a time and were struck by its beauty and found ourselves wondering what it might have been like to be there when the games were going on as a spectator and as a Gladiator or other person forced to fight other people or wild animals. The games would last up to 100 days in a row! When we left we were left with a decision, what were we to do after that? What everyone else does in Rome when they are hungry: eat!

SimonandLauraWe were very excited and hungry after walking around so all 8 of us sat down at one of the many outdoor restaurants to eat, what else? Pasta! I told you it is a land of contrasts! The modern restaurants and roads circle, go under, through and over the ruins and not so ruined relics of centuries past. Where we ate was a street lined with motor scooters, motorcycles and modern cars, but with a clear view of the Colosseum and the Ancient Roman Forum (a central meeting place, site of government buildings and market where the rest of Ancient Rome was built). The food was wonderful for the most part and this is what some point in most of Simon’s and our meals looked like. With our appetites for adventure and learning whetted and our hunger sated we looked forward to more adventures to come!

~ Mr. Bresnahan

Spain’s Greatest Work of Art

BarcelonaToday’s guest post comes from Sean, who will be starting 6th grade next week! While his sister Alex wrote about her experience in Ireland, he chose to write about a different part of their summer adventure. If you’ve never seen the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, you are in for a treat.

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Hello Innovation Academy. This summer I went to 5 places in Europe: Ireland, France, Spain,  Austria, and Poland. One of my favorite places was Spain. There we saw Spain’s greatest work of art. The Sagrada Familia, which means “Sacred Family” was created by the amazing architect, Antoni Gaudi. This is the Sagrada Familia from a distance:

This the Sagrada Familia from a distance. It seems small, but is much much bigger in real life.

The Sagrada Familia — it seems small, but is much much bigger in real life.

This is an enormous church that started being built in the 1800’s, and is estimated to be finished in 2030. At the moment, it is about 60% complete. The outside has two facades, called the Passion Facade and the Nativity  Facade. the Passion Facade shows all the events that happened at the crucification of Jesus. The sculptures on the side of the church are crude blockish and cold, to show what the feelings were at the crucification. The other side, the Nativity Facade, shows Jesus’s life as he was growing up. The sculptures here are soft, detailed and inviting to show what life for the Holy family (Jesus, Mary, Joseph) was like.

This one of the scenes from the Nativity Facade, with the Holy Family at Jesus’s birth.

This one of the scenes from the Nativity Facade, with the Holy Family at Jesus’s birth.

There are also 4 large towers coming from each corner of the church. In the middle, there will be a 5th tower built and it will be the largest tower. On the inside there is a large hollowed out area where hundreds of people walk, taking the audio tour and praying In the middle, there are pews and chairs set up for mass, and for people to pray.

This is me and my family on a bridge connecting two of the towers. We’re close to 558 feet in the air.

This is me and my family on a bridge connecting two of the towers. We’re close to 558 feet in the air.


This is what I mean by a forest-y feeling

This is what I mean by a forest-y feeling

There are also elevators leading to each tower, and stairs going back down. The windows of stained glass are beautiful making it look like there is a colorful veil across the ceiling. Gaudi wanted to let in not too much, not too little, but the just right amount of light into the church. There are also pillars holding up the ceiling. These give a forest-like feeling, with sculptures of leaves on the pillars at the top.

Overall, the Sagrada Familia is an amazing place, and you should definitely visit it sometime soon.


Irish Step Dancing and More!

Today’s guest post comes from Alex, an 8th grader at Innovation Academy. She traveled to several European countries this summer, and wanted to share a bit about her experience in Ireland. Sounds like a great adventure!

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map_of_irelandThis summer, I traveled all over Europe, but I am specifically talking about Ireland, where most of my relatives are and we had a reunion. I experienced all sorts of Irish culture, from the food they eat (there is a certain type of food that has blood as an ingredient) to their dances (I attended a dance night at a house in the country). I had a lot of fun. I took a tour of Derry (in Northern Ireland), I danced some traditional dances, I learned about Irish history, I met some distant relatives, I explored abandoned castles, I went on hikes to see many beautiful landmarks, I had tea in an a traditional tea house, and saw sheep, sheep, and more sheep.

This is my family photo at the reunion I went to. In the bottom row, from left to right, there is my cousin Andrew, my cousin Mary, and my sister Sarah. In the second row, there is my cousin Joe, my grandmother Elaine, my grandfather Eugene, my brother Sean, and me. In the top row there is my aunt Bevin, my uncle Steve, my aunt Laura, my uncle Barry, my father Brian, my mother Meg, and my aunt Brenda.

This is my family photo at the reunion I went to. In the bottom row, from left to right, there is my cousin Andrew, my cousin Mary, and my sister Sarah. In the second row, there is my cousin Joe, my grandmother Elaine, my grandfather Eugene, my brother Sean, and me. In the top row there is my aunt Bevin, my uncle Steve, my aunt Laura, my uncle Barry, my father Brian, my mother Meg, and my aunt Brenda.

One example of Irish culture is step dancing. In the dance, dancers stiffen their upper bodies, and they do a series of complicated, intricate steps. Costumes are also key to the success of a performance. It can be performed solo or with a group. There are two types of shoes used, soft shoes, which are similar to ballet slippers, and hard shoes, which are similar to tap shoes. Irish step dancing is an important part of Irish culture.

Step Dancing

This is an Irish step dance called the four hand reel. It is danced with soft shoes. The girl in the short black dress is my second cousin Maggie, and other girls are more distant relatives of mine.


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