Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

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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.

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 12.50.26 PM

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.

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?

 

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.

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.

Students Working for Change

FireworksSummer is upon us, and America’s Independence Day is approaching very quickly! My city already had some early fireworks, pictured here.

As an American, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening locally, but I try to teach my students to:

  1. Be curious about other people and places
  2. Care about what’s going on elsewhere
  3. Feel empowered to take action and work for the world they believe in

During the last few months of school, I worked with several different groups of students on action projects, all focused on issues that the students chose. Each class had a different focus, but they were all based on current events research.

Action 1: Fighting Chinese Air Pollution, by the Leach and Maier Advisories

A student in this class read an article about this issue on a great website called Newsela, which publishes news content at multiple different reading levels. The rest of the class agreed that breathing clean air is a human right, so they decided to target companies that use coal in China:

Action 2: Ending Assumptions about Homelessness, by the Krakauer Advisory (with help from the Destramp Advisory)

Each advisory at our school takes part in some community service. My advisory decided to focus on homelessness. They were able to Skype with an expert from a national organization called Community Solutions (a former student of mine from way back). My current students learned that the first step towards change is for people to understand that homelessness is not a permanent label, but a situation that people can get out of, if they have the right support. They decided to make posters to hang around the school to teach their peers about what they learned:

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Action 3: Individual Campaigns by the LaRoche and Bresnahan Advisories 

My last class did fabulous research, but then we ran out of time for the collaboration piece, due to a power outage and some schedule changes. Instead of doing one big project, students teamed up in small groups to design their own actions.  They each chose an audience to appeal to, whether their peers or a person in power, like President Obama. Even with the time crunch, their results ended up quite persuasive:

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I’m proud of the work my students created, and I hope they inspire you to take action on whatever issues matter most to you. Former President John F. Kennedy said,

I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.

On this Independence Day, let us work to live out his dream and fight for a better future for people across the globe. If these students can do it, so can you!

Note: Want to see more? Last quarter’s classes also had some powerful things to say. Check it out here!

Our School’s Musical Inventors

Homemade %22Guitar%22This blog is about global education, but don’t think that this kind of learning only happens in Social Studies class! To be prepared to grow up to be adults who tackle global issues, students at Innovation Academy learn to think creatively and come up with new solutions to problems. They do this in many classes — even in music class!

We’ve only been offering a music class at our school for a handful of years, but our middle school music teacher, Jess Destramp, has developed an amazing program. After listening to seventh graders recording music videos to “Livin’ on a Prayer,” in every corner of the building, I had to stop in today to see my 5th and 6th grade students’ sharing their final projects.

Ms. Destramp explained that these students  just finished a unit where they learned about the science of sound, and how different types of instruments work to produce and amplify their sounds. For the final project, she asked students to invent and build their own instrument.Instrument Fun

The requirements were that 1) it couldn’t be a homemade version of an instrument that already exists, and 2) it had to make some kind of sound! Students also completed a worksheet that asked questions about how to classify their instrument, what vibrates to make sound, how to change the pitch and dynamics while playing, and what kind of music they thought their instrument could work well with. Some students got really creative and ambitious with what they constructed!Instruments

I was blown away by their creativity. You have to see it in action to believe it!

 

 

What will they innovate next?

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