Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “Guest Blog”

Guest Blog from Portugal: Lisbon Art

Art can be found all over the world, and our fabulous art teacher, Jennifer Shaby, wrote today’s post from her trip to Portugal this summer.  Ooh! Ah!  She found art everywhere, even where you might not expect it…


I always like to check out art museums when I travel. While in Lisbon, Portugal, I visited two fantastic museums: the Berardo Collection & the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. I saw everything from Ancient Greek coins, illuminated manuscripts, Impressionist, Surrealist and Pop Art pieces by artists whose names you would recognize (or else I have failed as a teacher….), and works by Portuguese artists. Check out this painting by Portuguese painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso called The Life of Instruments. 

I feel pretty confident that you can identify the movement that this piece represents. But, the most surprising, and perhaps the most interesting, art I saw was not in a museum. During my taxi ride from the airport to my hostel, I noticed tons of graffiti tags lining the walls on either side of the highway and asked the driver about it. He told me that there is, indeed, a lot of graffiti around Lisbon. On Friday evening I joined up with a group going on an urban art walk, which was led by a guide from my hostel. He explained that there is a lot of street art in Lisbon that has been commissioned by the municipal government, and so the illegal element that we often think of when we see “graffiti” does not necessarily hold true here in Lisbon. There are plenty of tags and stencils around, too, and we wandered around the dilapidated walls of an old building that have been covered in graffiti. While this particular “collection” is not supported by the city, they don´t seem to be actively getting rid of it, either. One mural we saw covered the sides of a couple of buildings and was inspired by Fado, a style of Portuguese singing.

We ended our tour in a parking garage, where several artists were each given a floor of the structure to work on. While I don´t typically enjoy my time spent in parking garages, it was very cool to discover the colorful and whimsical  paintings covering the walls and posts as we spiraled down the ramp. I love that the city is supporting these artists and that the government appreciates the value that this work provides to the community and to its visitors. Wandering the streets in search of the next historic site listed in my guidebooks, the pleasure of being surprised by quirky, humorous art on the city’s walls only increased my enjoyment of the city. Don´t get me wrong – I´m not suggesting that you go out and start painting the walls of the parking garage in your downtown, or spray paint the sides of abandoned buildings – it is illegal. But, I do think it’s worthwhile for us to reconsider what we think of as “art” sometimes, and keep an open mind about the ways that art can enrich our public spaces and create some unexpected joy.

~ Ms. Shaby


Did you like Ms. Shaby’s post? Add your comments and questions here, and you might feel like you are sitting in art class. Do you know which art movement she is writing about?

Guest Blog from France: Language = Opportunities!

We are very lucky to have our second guest blog from science teacher extraordinaire, Mary Patterson. If you were in Paris this summer, you might have seen Ms. Patterson having some exciting adventures. And now you can read the story yourself in this silly post:
I spent several weeks in France this summer, and it was amazing to get a taste of a different culture, especially through its language.  I’ve done a bit of traveling, but mostly in countries where English was spoken or in countries where I had not studied the language at all, so that expressive facial gestures and hand motions were the only way to communicate.  Thankfully, due to many, many…many years of French classes, I found myself able to understand a larger portion of conversations that I had imagined.  I even felt comfortable when out and about, conducting all my business transactions in French.  It was quite exciting!
So I had this on my mind as I was wandering around Paris one morning.  I happened to be in front of a major tourist destination, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is a very old church with beautiful gargoyles and stone arches, and a long interesting history. While admiring the building, a young boy came up to me and said, “ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, photo?”  Clearly, my French wasn’t perfect.  He said it again, “blah, blah, blah, blah, photo?”

My thoughts took a few seconds to decide that I wanted to know what he was asking.  The easier route would have been to dismiss him with a shake of the head, or a “no, merci.”  And with good reason.

a)   Tourist areas are notorious for being places where people are scammed (I had already encountered a scam earlier in the week, where a woman said, “Oh, you dropped something!” and when I looked it was a big gold ring.  I had heard that if you take it, you are then asked to pay for it.  Good thing I had been warned about it in advance!)

b)   In the U.S., most families don’t encourage kids to go up to complete strangers by themselves, and typically parents keep a close eye on younger family members in crowded public places…

Despite this, I just really wanted to know what he was asking so that I could properly and honestly answer him. It took a few minutes of me asking, “You want me to take your photo?” “You want to take a photo of me?” “You want me to take a photo of Notre Dame?”  Finally, he gestured to an area where there were some other people.  I walked over, still slightly skeptical, where he pointed to a woman who clarified, in French (so I still think my language skills deserve some credit), that she was leading a group of kids on a scavenger hunt and that they needed to round up 50 people for a group photo!

OH!  Bien sûr!  Oh course I will be in your scavenger hunt photo!

As I looked out, I saw more kids all over the plaza asking people to participate.  Most of the time they would come back with a disappointed face saying, “No one will come, they all speak English!!”  Since the kids spoke French and most of the tourists did not, they were having a hard time rounding up enough volunteers!  I am sure that many of the tourists had skeptical thoughts like my initial ones, that made them give a quick “No” as an answer.

I tried to help by having them learn “Will you be in a photo with me? For a game?” But after some slow repetition, there was a lot of eye rolling, and exclamations of, “C’est dificile!” (That’s hard!)

Eventually they rounded up about fifteen or so people, including several backpackers, a french family, two italian men, and three police on bicycles, and called it a good effort.  After we took the group photo, I turned to the kids and asked, “Do you want to be in a photo with me?”  They laughed and as we all agreed to make “visage grimace”, which I assumed was a crazy face, but just in case asked for them to make “happy” visage grimace.  And this is the result!

They just about made my day, and if I hadn’t had enough patience that day, or if I doubted my language skills, I never would have met this fun group of kids or participated in this little adventure!

~Ms. Patterson

P.S. Thank you to all of my language teachers over the years!


Comments and questions would make Ms. Patterson very happy. Let her know what you think of her story! If you are on the Effective Communication team at IACS, spread the word to friends to check out their teacher’s post.

Guest Blog: Costa Rica Adventures

Innovation Academy is truly a global school.  Senora Schmalz, one of our extraordinary Spanish teachers, is currently in Costa Rica with her family.  Check out this extra special guest post from the other side of the world.

Hola de Costa Rica! The kids and I have been here for a week and a half.  What a beautiful country!  We spent the first few days adjusting to our new surroundings.  For the kids, the biggest adjustment was the language.  For me it was the driving out here, which is very interesting.  No street names anywhere, no addresses, very few lines on the road, no real clear driving rules, and very impatient drivers.   We’ve laughed a lot every time our GPS says “turn right on road,” which it does often.  Which road- this one? That one?

Our first trip to the market was interesting.  We were hoping to stop at the Mega Super and do some quick one stop shopping- no luck.  Here in Costa Rica, the grocery store sells some basics but if you want things like bread, meat, fish, fruit, cheese and even shampoo, you need to go to different individual stores for that.  We’re so used to our “quick shopping.” We were a little put out at first- mainly because we were hungry and wanted to get back to our place so we could cook dinner.  We had cereal that night and returned the next day to buy the other stuff.  We had so much fun shopping and getting more personal with the shop keepers.  Lots of great opportunities to practice our Spanish!

I just read Ms. Krakauer’s entry about games and we also had a great game experience.  One day at the pool, the kids were playing in the water surrounded by Spanish speaking kids.  Everyone was curious about each other and wanted to talk but there was a language barrier.  I asked one of the Costa Rican kids if they knew how to play Marco Polo and guess what?   They did!  The language barrier quickly disappeared as all the kids played Marco Polo for an hour, taking turns counting in both languages.    They all had so much fun together that the next day, they invited my kids over for a family birthday party.  Thank you Marco Polo!

~Senora Schmalz

The Schmalz family would love to hear your comments and questions.  Let them know if you liked their post, and if you want to hear more!  I’ll try to get some other friends from Innovation to write guest posts too.

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