Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “USA”

The Heroes Among Us

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

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

Mr. Clean

Super Cat

Waluigi

JS

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

Medical Hero

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

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

 

 

Superheroes Needed: Connection in the Age of Corona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Post: Kennedy Space Center

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.28.37 PM.pngIt’s Labor Day weekend and officially time to go back to school! We all had so many adventures this summer. I’m very excited to start the school year by sharing this guest blog entry from one of our new fifth graders, Logan. Do get in touch if YOU have adventures you’d like to share too!

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My family went to the Kennedy Space Center on July 5th.  It was just before the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing.Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.29.48 PM.png

Apollo 11 was launched July 16, 1969.  The space ship landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

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Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.  He said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” On our bus tour to the Apollo building, we saw alligators and a really cool bald eagles nest. When we got to the Apollo building, we got to see a rocket that was as big as a warehouse.  The Apollo rocket was so big.  They all the badges from each Apollo mission all alongside the rocket.  We bought all the badges for our house as souvenirs.

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We went to the Space Shuttle Atlantis building. We got to see the Atlantis space shuttle.  It was so cool. We took so many pictures.  There was a great presentation about Atlantis and then the door opened up and you walked into the room where Atlantis was.

My favorite part was the Shuttle Launch Experience. We got to feel all the stuff you would actually feel if you went in an actual space ship.

We also got to see a Mars Rover.  Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.29.06 PM.png

There is so much to do that we did not get to see it all.  I want to go back and do the Astronaut Training experience and see the Heroes and Legends.

~Logan, grade 5

 

 

How can I summarize my experience in Southern Africa in 55 minutes?

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 8.22.44 AM.pngThis morning I spent a 55 minute block talking to students about my experience in Southern Africa, and I’m about to do it again with another group. I’ve been three times to this region — 1) in 2001 I spent 6 weeks in Cape Town while working as a private teacher, 2) in 2011 I traveled for 3 and a half weeks with a group of teachers on an overland camping trip, and 3) this past summer in 2018 I went back to Cape Town, and to see Namibia, which I didn’t get to see on my last trip.

2011 Trip.png

IMG_0038It’s a daunting task — how can I explain my time traveling through 6 countries and miles of landscapes in a way that captures even a little bit of what I’ve learned? I use lots of photos and videos, but mostly, I try to tell stories and share the moments that tugged at my heart. I have to believe that if it meant a lot to me, it will resonate with the kids. So, here’s a taste of my favorite experiences in this gigantic corner of the world:

Walking with lions in Zimbabwe

Antelope Park.pngVisiting Antelope Park was an unbelievable experience. I got to walk with lions who were raised with humans and pet lion cubs. I also got to watch a kill (well, our jeep arrived after the lions attacked but while the wildebeest was still alive). I know that there are ethical issues with keeping lions in captivity, but I do know that this center was very focused on conservation and protection. And it was truly something that I will never forget. Here’s a snazzy little video I made about the experience (back in 2011):

Riding on a mokoro through the Okavango Delta in Botswana

Delta Moon.pngMy guides really got me freaked out about camping in the back country in the Okavango Delta, without fences around our tents to protect us. It turned out to be a really peaceful experience, away from all the hustle and bustle. With stunning views of the moon. I loved getting to know our polers and learning about their lives too.

Experiencing Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls is one of the three biggest waterfalls in the world. Surprisingly, I haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet, one of the other big ones. I wasn’t planning to ride a microlight over the falls, but then at the last minute, I did it. And it was spectacular! But also great to get really close and get soaking wet from the spray.

Climbing Table Mountain in South Africa

There’s something magical about Cape Town, and a lot of that has to do with Table Mountain. Towering over the city, it’s just a gorgeous site.

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On this recent trip, I got to hike it! It was such a beautiful day, and so much better than taking the cable car. Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 12.50.40 PM

Snorkeling with a whale shark in Mozambique

Inhambane.pngI didn’t have an underwater camera when I snorkeled with a whale shark in the Indian Ocean. It lasted about 10 seconds, but it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I’ve searched online for videos which begin to show what it was like, and this is the closest I’ve found to my own experience.

Climbing the dunes in Namibia

I recently wrote about the dunes in Namibia, and the animals of the desert, but it was really special to show my students the photos and videos, and also to let them check out some of the sand that I brought back. When you hold a magnet to it, you can see the iron oxide in the sand!

Going on Safari at Kruger in South Africa, Chobe in Botswana, and Etosha in Namibia

Where do I begin? I love animals. Each experience has been wonderful. I wrote a bunch about Etosha’s big animals, birds, and night life recently, but here are some older videos and pictures.

There’s so much more to share, and I didn’t even begin to talk about my time in Mali, in West Africa. I’m saving that for another day. I do hope that students got a little bit of an idea of why I keep going back to this part of the world.  And hopefully some day I’ll be reading their blog entries. Tropic of Capricorn.png

 

Democracy works when you take action!

In 6th grade Social Studies class, we’ve been learning about how our ancestors fought in the American Revolution so that we could have a say in how our country should be run. Our students visited the Boston Tea Party Museum, and participated in a meeting to decide how to respond to the king’s taxes.Meeting.png

Then we got to go on a ship and throw some tea overboard!

We also walked on the Old North Bridge, where the famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” was fired.

Many colonists died in that war so that we could have the system of government we have today.Have a Say in the World

The students have been studying the democratic process, and they learned that people in our country have the right to voice their opinions. Each class voted on an issue that they were passionate about, did lots of research, and figured out how to use their voices to work towards change through our government’s system. It was a lengthy process with a lot of discussion, but ultimately they got to see what Democracy in Action means.Vote Now

One class decided to explore the issue of safe gun policy, and they were happy to learn that Governor Baker recently signed a “Red Flag Law” which would allow family members to take away firearms from people who are a danger to themselves or others. The class collaborated to make a website to encourage citizens to write to their representatives asking for this to become a Federal law. RedflagWebsite1

Another class was excited to dig into the topic of immigration, and they voted to focus on the issue of children in detention. After doing a bunch of research, students found out that citizens have until Nov. 6th to voice their opinions on a proposed rule that would take away the current 20 day maximum for holding children in detention. Many students had ideas for what to say to members of government about this proposal, and they figured out how to make a public comment, so they could show the adults in their families. One group of students in that class made an Instagram post to get their ideas across, while others preferred writing letters with their opinions. Public Comment.png

There are many ways to make your voice heard, whether you are old enough to vote or not. Please stand up for whatever you believe in, and be a part of our Democracy.

New Mexico: Our Nation’s Heritage

Plate.pngI hope all of my American friends had a relaxing and fun Fourth of July yesterday! I thought this would be a good opportunity to remind everyone about our country’s history, which did not begin with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. We hear a lot about the British empire, but many other groups of people helped shape the country we live in today.

Petroglyph5See these drawings from Petroglyph National Monument? They were carved into the rocks 400-700 years ago by Native Americans and Spanish settlers — that means that even the most recent ones were created before the Mayflower landed at Plimoth in 1620.  Last February I visited New Mexico, where more than 10% of the state’s population is Native American (Tofu-San’s mini friend came along for the trip).

There are now 23 tribes in New Mexico, and each is considered an independent “sovereign nation” with its own government and way of life.

Today, Native American culture is woven into New Mexican life for all residents, but it was a very different place before the arrival of Europeans. I visited Puye Cliffs and Bandelier National Monument to see the archeological remains of the cliffs where people used to live.

Bandelier

The rows of holes you see are from support beams that used to hold up a roof or floor, so this area would have been a multi-leveled home. We were able to walk around on the cliffs and see reconstructions of homes, to get a sense of how they used to live.

The Spanish arrived in New Mexico as early as the 1540s, and pretty quickly, the Native Americans were forced to change their lifestyle. Taos Pueblo is a Native American village that has been continually inhabited by the Taos people for over 1,000 years, and tourists can visit today to see what life is like. While there’s a large community of people who still work there and are involved with the Pueblo, about 10 families still actually live there, and follow the traditional lifestyle without running water and electricity. It’s a beautiful place, quite cold when we visited so there weren’t a lot of other visitors.

Taos Pueblo.png

The building you see above is kind of like an apartment building for Native Americans, though traditionally there weren’t doors. People entered from the roofs, with ladders. With a guide, we were able to walk around the village, go into shops, and explore.

As you can see above, Christianity is common in this Pueblo, but that wasn’t the original religion of the Native Americans. Today people still practice traditional Native American spirituality, as well as Catholicism brought by the Spanish. In fact, I was surprised to see the remains of this church built by the Spanish around the same time that British colonists were beginning to arrive on America’s East Coast.

Old ChurchThis church represents the fortitude of the Taos Native Americans, who fought hard to maintain their lifestyle despite advances of the Spanish. It was destroyed twice, in 1640, and rebuilt only to be ruined again two hundred years later, in 1846. Both times the people of the pueblo fought hard to save their home. New Mexico is full of stunning places — I can imagine how heartbreaking it would be to live here and then have people invade

Kasha Kitiwe Tent Rocks

Many Americans, especially those who live on the East Coast, focus on the British when they are thinking about our country’s history. While it’s true that the British did a lot to  shape our nation, so many other people made our nation what it is today. New Mexico is a good reminder that Native American culture is key to the history of this land, as is Spanish culture.

There are indeed dark parts of our country’s history. I hope you are able to take some time this week to celebrate all the different groups of people who make America beautiful.

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

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

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

Customs Tower

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

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

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

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

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

 

Peace is the key

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

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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