Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “USA”

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.

Losing Lotteries But Winning at Broadway

Omi-Sensei and I are in New York!Statue of Liberty

We focused the first part of our trip on… Broadway! Omi-Sensei wanted to see some musicals! We started with Fun Home, the story of a lesbian cartoonist who grew up in a funeral home, and her relationship with her father. It was beautiful!

We had gotten those tickets in advance, but we wanted more. And in case you’ve never heard of it, there’s this thing in New York where shows have lotteries for cheap tickets. So, we decided to enter several, but we were especially hoping to win tickets to Hamilton. Some shows have digital lotteries, so you find out the results through email. We didn’t win.

lottery

Hamilton LotteryThen we read online that 10,000 people enter the online lottery for Hamilton every day. So, we decided to go to the Hamilton theatre for the Wednesday matinee and try our luck at the once weekly in-person lottery. There were A LOT of people there, with a line around the block. Spoiler alert — we didn’t win again. However, Hamilton does this thing called #Ham4Ham, where they reward the people who came to the lottery with a mini sidewalk concert. So, despite a little rain, and not winning, we got to see Rory O’Malley from Hamilton introduce Cynthia Erivo, the Tony award winning singer who is currently starring in the Color Purple. She sung us a Beyonce song before we found out we lost. Pretty fun anyway!

Even though we entered 10+ lotteries (two in person and the rest online) we didn’t win any. However, we wandered up to the box office at School of Rock, and happened to arrive in time to get $27 “standing room only” tickets. What a fun show! It’s about a teacher (so perfect for Omi-Sensei and me), and we eventually snagged seats for the second half.School of RockSchool of Rock Sound Board

Our last Broadway musical was an oldie but a goodie. It’s now the 10th longest running show on Broadway, and I still had never seen it — Wicked! After we lost that in-person lottery, the box office decided to offer a deal to everyone in line for remaining tickets. So, we snagged some of those, and off we went.

So far, we haven’t seen the Statue of Liberty, Greenwich Village, or many other major tourist attractions in New York. We realized that even if we stayed a week, we wouldn’t see it all. Instead, we enjoyed a little slice of life here, mostly in the land of musicals. We did see a few other sites, like Central Park and Times Square, but today we’ll wander a little further from Broadway.

Omi-Sensei Visits IACS

Yesterday Omi Sensei and her Japanese Tofu-San got to visit my school. It was a lot of fun walking around the pond, peeking into classrooms, and showing her the place that she’s heard about for the past 2 years. 

After our visit to the rural part of Massachusetts, we went back downtown to see the state from up high — the 52nd floor of the Prudential Center! We were joined by my friends Naoki, Kanako, and Kazu, who just moved to Boston from Tokyo. Omi pushed through the jet lag, and we headed out on a Duck Tour after that. This is a truck that can drive on land and water. Our guide was very funny and shared lots of interesting and obscure Boston trivia.

Before heading home, we also visited the Boston Public Library and Harvard Square.

Today we’re headed to… New York City!

Omi-Sensei Visits Boston!

My travels are over, but now my friend Omi-Sensei is here for some American adventures. Tofu-San was thrilled to meet a new friend from Japan. Two Tofu Sans

Today we did all the things in Boston! Highlights included…

Many stops on the Freedom Trail:

A saint’s festival in the North End, Boston’s Italian district:

A visit to George’s Island in the Boston Harbor:

A Boston Seafood Festival:Seafood Festival

Seeing Shakespeare performed in the Boston Common:Shakespeare on the Common

And much more:

As you can see, today was a BIG day. We have many more adventures planned for Omi-Sensei’s visit. It is very fun to explore all the sites in my own city, and we’ll also be hitting the road soon, for exploring some other parts of the U.S…

 

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