Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “USA”

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:

PeaceIsTheKey.jpg

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.

Summer 2017 Top 6 Experiences

Summer is coming to a close, and it’s been a great one. I wanted to share my top 6 favorite experiences, in no particular order. On top of Mount Shilthorn.png

1. Wandering into a swarm of butterflies on a hiking trail in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Ok, the trail was called the Path of a Thousand Flowers, so maybe the butterflies shouldn’t have been such a surprise.

 

 

 

 

2. Volunteering in Boston with MIRA, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. We waited outside of new citizenship ceremonies, and as new Americans came out of the doors, we offered to register them to vote.

 

 

 

 

3. Renting a camper van in Iceland, and driving around exploring the landscape. Because there are so many volcanoes in the area, there’s a ton of geothermal energy in the ground. That means there are craters, bubbling mud pits, hot springs, and geysers.

 

 

 

 

4. Seeing glaciers on mountains! I took ski chair lifts up Hohfluh at 7,300 feet to see the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, and also did some hiking at Mount Rainier National Park, getting up to 6,336 feet (via car and foot). Glaciers are beautiful, especially under the summer sun.

 

 

 

 

5. Chilling out on an island in Lake Maggiore, Italy — eating yummy food, watching weird birds, and reading a good book.

 

 

 

 

Ever seen a white peacock? Running in circles? Me neither. Until this summer.

6. Seeing beautiful trees in Washington State — there’s rainforest, record setting heights, and roots that grow in bizarre places. Not your typical evergreens here.

 

 

 

 

And now I’m ready to go back to school! I’m looking forward to hearing about all the interesting experiences my students had over the summer.

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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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.

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)

Family Time

I was very happy to introduce Omi-Sensei to my family in Western Massachusetts. She got a chance to enjoy the countryside a little after our action-packed visit to New York. We had time for kayaking…Kayak

…and swimming…Swimming

…and she got to try her first s’more! She told me that in Japan, they wrap sweet potatoes in foil and heat them in campfires. Yum!Smore Making

We also went blueberry picking…

Blueberry Picking

… and played with my adorable niece (the cute Japanese outfit and sushi erasers are from Omi-Sensei and the balloons are from me, obviously).

I don’t know if my family is a “typical” American family, but I think they’re pretty great! Family

10 Unexpected Surprises in NYC

Our last day in New York City was filled with many interesting experiences. Some of them were planned, but there were many unexpected happenings as we walked around this huge and complex city. Sure, I expected to see the Statue of Liberty…

…but here’s a taste of some of the experiences that I didn’t expect in NYC:

1. An incredible view from the roof deck of the place we were staying in Brooklyn:

2. How moving it would be to see the site of Ground Zero, where the World Trade Towers fell on September 11th:

3. So much beauty, from giant flowers in Battery Park to interesting fountains in front of big corporate buildings:

 

4. Happening upon these amazing globes on the street:

5. Learning about Native Americans at the National Museum of the American Indian (which is free, because it’s federally funded, like the museums in DC):Museum of American Indian.png

6. The amazing diversity of art at MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) — from weird installations to classics that I’ve known my whole life:

7. Trying a new fruit (mamancillo) after I asked a woman on the subway about it:Mamoncillo.png

8. How funny Trevor Noah is! (a friend of mine is a producer at the Daily Show, so we went to a taping, and got to hang out with a cute pup in the crew lounge): 

9. Randomly finding a Black Lives Matter protest and joining in to sing a little:Black Lives Matter.png

10. Eating dessert three times (even if you already had dessert, how could you resist artisan ice cream or ice cream rolls like I had in Slovenia?! Note: I didn’t order the sweet potato and brie cheese ice cream, but I sampled it!):

Thanks for all the fun, New York! Omi-Sensei lives in Japan, but I live much closer! I don’t know why I don’t visit more often. I’ll try to come back soon.

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