Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “USA”

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.

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.


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…


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?

Where the Heck is Matt? Boston!

Sometimes when people hear that I travel a lot, they tell me about a guy named Matt and his silly videos. Matt is a guy who travels around the world and does a goofy dance in front of all sorts of interesting places with all sorts of interesting people. Here’s one of his YouTube hits:

Yesterday, I heard that he was in town, so I showed up at the Esplanade to help him film a Boston clip. He gathered a group of people and went over the dance with us.


Matt was very nice, and he asked the group for ideas of interesting variations that we could try. We took several takes, which I didn’t record, because I was dancing! I think he got some good footage; he let us see a glimpse afterwards.

Watching the footage

Once the dancing was filmed, he offered to pose with each of us, sign autographs, and even be our dance partner. What a fun experience!

Thanks, Matt, for bringing your good will around the world, and inspiring so many people to see the world!

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