Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “Innovation Academy”

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!


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: 


“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.”


*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?

Global Citizenship: As Simple as Learning, Caring, and Acting

PeaceI always know a quarter has been successful when students are able to apply what they have learned to a real life situation. That’s what the Global Citizenship Project is all about.

Today was the last day of Social Studies for this group of students, and we closed out by taking some action! Each class chose a different topic, and in a very short time frame, they wrote and produced a video that they hope will influence adults around the world to think differently.  Please watch, and share with others who might need to hear these messages!

Global Citizenship Project for the “Turtle Duck” Class: Responding to the recent bombing in Brussels

Global Citizenship Project for the “Cool Kid” Class: Responding to a report on Arctic temperatures being higher than ever

Pretty impressive work, right? In case you are curious how we did this project, here’s a taste of our  action-packed week.

First, we watched a film about Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This film helped students understand what it means to be an extraordinary global citizen.

OuttakesIn order for each class to decide on their issue, students researched current events. They each chose a news article (from student-friendly sites like NewselaDogo News, and Time for Kids) and posted about their findings on GoogleClassroom, a forum where they could further exchange ideas and comment on each other’s articles. 

Then, we moved into the discussion phase, where we went through several rounds of talking and voting to narrow in on the preferred topic and method of change.Mess Ups

After that, the class needed to brainstorm action steps, and make it happen. Since we were time crunched, I helped with facilitation and video editing, but the students hashed out all of the other details collaboratively. There were plenty of outtakes, but all in all, students took the process seriously and supported each other as they each contributed in different ways.

I am proud of their global citizenship and dedication. May it be a first of many experiences for these young people to get to take action on a global issue.

Art Exchange Success: Ukrainian American Connections

Today, I was so excited to pass out artwork that we received from our Ukrainian friends at the Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum. It turns out that mail between Ukraine and the United States is expensive and takes a long time. However, it was worth it! We are making some amazing connections between these two countries, one friendship at a time.

My friend Lydia and her students received our art last month, each accompanied by a photograph and write up. Our students illustrated various aspects that they identified of their personal culture.

In return, we got stunning artwork from these talented Ukrainian students.

Each piece of art was accompanied by notes and photos, which were equally poignant for our students to read.

Many of the Ukrainian students expressed a real sense of pride in their country.

And many students just drew their hobbies, favorite cartoons or video games, pets, and other interests — not so different from any of our students.

All in all, the experience of exchanging art like this couldn’t be more powerful. We did a similar exchange two years ago, but this year we matched individual students with a particular partner, so that they can get to know each other. Each student received the art made by the student who got their art, and we are hoping students exchange emails after this introduction. My students are a little shy, but a few students wanted to say their “thank yous” right away:

What’s next? Our afternoon classes are waiting for our partners in Bangladesh to finish up their art, and I’ll be seeking out more international partners for our next quarter’s classes. It’s never boring in Social Studies class!

Note: This project could not have happened without all the of the talented educators who helped make this exchange possible. Thanks to my partner teacher Katy Angelone, and my teacher friends in Ukraine: Lydia, Julia, and Lyudmila. I got to travel to the Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum as part of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, back in 2012. You can read more about my time there by checking out my videos and blog entries posted here

What does the sacred look like?

Today was a big day in Social Studies — we had our first two visits to houses of worship in the area! First we visited a Hindu temple and then a local mosque. The students were very curious and asked lots of questions.Listening BAPS.png

Tofu-San might be the first Japanese plush toy to visit a holy place! First, he went to the Hindu temple. Hindu Tofu-San

Tofu-San and the students were very interested in the statues of Gods on the alter. They learned that Hindu people believe in many Gods and Demi-Gods that are part of a single divine power. Some students requested to try making a wish by pouring water over one of the statues, and our hosts allowed them to try it.

Next up, Tofu-San got to visit an Islamic Mosque.Imam with Tofu-San

The imam (the leader, like a priest, minister, or rabbi) explained that Muslims have a very different view of how to show God. They only recognize one God, called Allah in Arabic, but they don’t have statues of him.

The students were able to see that there are many different ways to show what is sacred to a person. They asked lots of questions here too!

On Thursday, we will visit three more houses of worship — a Christian church, a Jewish temple, and a Buddhist center. We are all excited!

We know that there are an infinite number of ways to show what is sacred. Last week in class, students got a chance to share what is “sacred” to them. In fact, some of them volunteered to share what is sacred to them in a photograph or video.

What is sacred to you? Join our exploration by sharing your experience of the “sacred” in the comments section. Also, check here to read about part two of this exciting two day field trip.

Valentines and Vacation

Today is a holiday in the United States — Valentine’s Day! My students have been busy making valentines for our friends in Japan. So the junior high school students at Omi-Sensei’s school can have something to look forward to in the mail (probably next week)! But here’s a wish for lots of love to all my friends around the world.Valentines

Students in Social Studies classes have also been busy making art for the “My Culture, Your Culture” assignment. Each student drew a picture of aspects of their own cultures, and then we are sending them to partner classes in Ukraine and Bangladesh. I have HUGE piles of art to bring to the post office. Culture Art

I’m very grateful to the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) program, for helping me to make connections to teachers in Ukraine and Bangladesh, and can’t wait to see the art that their students create. How did I make these connections? I visited the Classical Lyceum in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine during my TGC fellowship year, and still keep in touch with my partner teacher, Lydia, from that experience. In October, TGC asked me to give a presentation at the Global Education Forum in Philadelphia, and one of my co-facilitators was from Bangladesh. TGC has opened up so many doors for me. For any teachers reading this, I highly recommend applying for this program — applications are due March 17th.

Here in Massachusetts, it’s school vacation week, and I’m staying in the USA this time around. Even though I’m not leaving the country, I’m excited that my mail will be! Here’s where it will be going!Where we are sending mail.png

It’s extremely cold here. I’m not sure what climate change is doing to us, but here’s the temperature right now:

Weird Weather

For those of you reading this in other countries, that’s -9° Fahrenheit (which is -23° Celsius)! SnowNote that in two days, it’ll get up into the 50s. This area is known to have weird weather, but this week is especially weird.

Balloon DressI’m lucky that I’ll be traveling to Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, where the temperature is expected to get up to 81° F. I’m going to a balloon twisting convention! I’ll get to take classes and learn from some of the best balloon artists in the world. People come from all over the globe for this event. I already know that there will be instructors from Australia, Spain, Italy, Israel, and more. Even though I’m not getting abroad this February, it should be a global experience! I’ll try to post some updates from the convention, so check back soon. In the past, there have been some amazing photo opportunities!*

*Note: Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see balloon photos and updates in real(er) time. Also, I’ve posted a few entries about my experience at previous balloon conventions, which you can check out here: @globetwisting at EdCamp and The Jam Room.

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