Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “IACS”

Forget the Flashcards

The longer I teach, the more I realize how important creativity is in the classroom. When students are engaged in interesting, imaginative work, grades become secondary.*  But don’t take my word for it. Watch what my 5th and 6th graders came up with when given a chance to “study” in a non-traditional way:

I don’t mean to suggest that flashcards are a bad thing (I still use them sometimes too).  However, there are many other ways to learn information. In this case, we were studying the events leading up to the American Revolution.  In class, I showed the students some memory tricks that I made up, using different motions done in different parts of the room.**  For their homework assignment, students got to use their bodies to make up their own tricks, and then share their work in any creative way they could come up with. Some students drew cartoons, wrote original songs, and made videos like the ones shown above. It’s clear when you see the results that they had tons of fun with the assignment. I’m pretty sure they’ll remember these events a few years down the line.

Thanks to Charles Linskey, our guest speaker today, for bringing the people of the American Revolution to life!

* I’m also motivated by creativity, as you can see by this website!  It’s not part of my job description, but I love to flex my creative muscles through writing, photography, and videography. That’s why I’ve put my heart into this blog even though there’s no A + grade or financial reward around the corner.

** I have to credit the teachers who came before me for coming up with the concept for this assignment, and my previous students for coming up with the idea to make videos showing their memory tricks.  Creativity spreads easily!

Back to School Night

Dear Parents and Guardians ~ Welcome to Back to School Night! By now, you’ve probably been to a number of these events before, and you are expecting the same old routine.  Let’s get to the heart of this all. Here’s what matters:

We live in an increasingly complicated world. As your child’s teachers, we will do our absolute best to prepare these students to be successful, caring citizens. 

Whew! We have a difficult job ahead of us- preparing students for the 21st century.  We are ready… and thrilled to take on this challenge with your children. You might be wondering about some of the other basics of this class. We can answer those questions too:

Who is my child’s teacher?  My name is Sara Krakauer. This is my 10th year teaching at Innovation Academy. I co-teach HB Salk and HB Gandhi with John Bresnahan.

What is this class and what is it like? We teach Social Studies Project to a combined class of 5th and 6th graders.  It’s a two hour class that meets every other quarter (alternating with Science).  It focuses on American history (5th grade standards in Massachusetts) and world geography / culture (6th grade standards in Massachusetts).

What will students be learning this year?  This year, we’ll be working on two units (you can download the overview and documents on our class website):

  • Reaction, Revolution, Reform: U.S. Government, how it came to be, and the American Revolution
  • The Global Action Project: World geography and culture, studied through a lens of international development in Africa and the Americas

How are students assessed? As noted in our grading policy, we mostly assess students through rubrics (big projects), but we do have some more traditional homework and tests.

How can I support my child at home? There are lots of ways to support your child with love and attention, but here are a few ways to use technological resources to support what’s happening at school:

  • Check X2 regularly!
  • Check your child’s planner and the Homework GoogleDoc as needed.
  • Log onto Edmodo, our new online forum. Set up an account by using the parent code that your child gave you (or can access when they log in). Monitor participation.

Oh, and how was your summer in China? Wonderful! If you haven’t already checked it out, this site includes my blog so you can see lots of photos and videos about my experience. And here’s some highlights:

Have questions, comments, or ideas about 21st century education?  Email me any time:

Cool Like Facebook

Student profiles on Edmodo are personalized, but secure.

In Social Studies class, we recently piloted a new technological tool called Edmodo.  It’s a website that is made for students to communicate with social networking tools in a safe, secure manner.   In some ways, it has an interface like Facebook — students create a profile page, can post on a wall, and comment on each others’ posts.  However, there are many additional features, like the ability to submit assignments online, take polls, earn badges, and give parents access to seeing what’s going on in class.  In addition, it’s totally safe, because all content is hidden from the public and monitored by teachers. Facebook requires users to be 13 years old, but that doesn’t mean that our 5th and 6th graders aren’t interested in connecting with each other using new technologies.

Basically, students are into it.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Listen to what they have to say about Edmodo after less than a week using it:

We aren’t just using Edmodo because it’s cool.  We just finished posting our first rubric assignment there!  Students had to write about an issue that they’d like to see changed in America.  They analyzed how the government could make a change on their issue, and how a regular citizen could influence the government to make the change happen.  Students wrote about getting rid of the Electoral College system, getting health care for all citizens, preventing future terrorist attacks, and many other interesting topics. For extra credit, some of them are developing their ideas into real action.  Stay tuned to hear more about how these individuals begin changing the world… one person at a time!

Global Leaders Club

If you are a student at Innovation Academy, consider joining a new Global Leaders Club!

Our school on Google Earth (zoomed out)

What will students in the club do? Students will work in teams to research global issues that they care about. Then, they will design action projects to make a difference on the issues that are most meaningful to them. Action projects may include creating awareness campaigns, making web videos, writing blog entries, or organizing fundraisers for organizations already working to fight global problems.

When will the club meet? It will meet on Mondays (approximately every other Monday) from 3-4 pm in Ms. Krakauer’s room. The dates for the first half of the year are: October 15 and 29, November 5 and 19, and December 3 and 17. To join, you should be able to attend regularly.

Let’s create beauty where there’s a need!

Who can join? Any student in 5th through 8th grade is eligible to apply, but due to size limitations, only some students will be selected. If you are interested, please answer the application questions listed below and share your answers with Ms. Krakauer through email or google docs (

Application Questions:

1. Why are you interested in joining the Global Leaders Club?

2. What’s one thing you’ve done in the past that shows strong global citizenship?

3. What’s one project you’d like to work on as part of the Global Leaders Club?

4. Describe an example of something you’ve done this year that shows your self-direction skills.

Where Would You Go?

I have a busy weekend ahead. In addition to social activities, school work, and a balloon twisting job, I also need to set aside time to work on my Global Education Resource Guide. As part of my TGC fellowship, I am developing resources for other teachers to help students become more “globally competent.”  I’ve always believed that the first step to being a good global citizen is curiosity about the world around us.  Young people today know that they are globally connected — through the food they eat, the games they play, the places their families have lived, and more. You can see it in their recent classwork shown below. I asked students to answer this question: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Here’s a selection of their responses. As you can see, students are thrilled to connect globally… and now I’m just trying to figure out how to take them one step closer.

If you are not lucky enough to be a 5th or 6th grader in one of my classes, go ahead and answer in the comments section — Where would you go?

Technology: Terrific or Terrible?

“Clouds” in Lynn, MA (made by a group of sky writing jets last weekend)

Here I am, writing a blog entry in my bedroom, getting ready to send this text up into the Cloud.  I rarely think about what I am doing when I publish something online. However, it’s really amazing when I stop to think about it. In a few minutes, when I am done writing, this text will be sent to storage farms which could be anywhere in the world. In just a few more seconds, it will be made available to billions of people online. There’s no guarantee that anyone will read this, but they could.

Girl in Beijing fighting with her mom about her cell phone use

In fact, my statistics reveal that fewer people viewed my blog today than any other day all summer, but I still got views from Australia, Japan, and Germany. It’s hard not to feel like the internet is magic.

Over the 10 years that I’ve been teaching at Innovation Academy, technology has become a greater and greater part of the classroom experience.  Today, more 5th grade students have their own cell phone, email address, social networking accounts, and more. They speak this technological lingo as their first language, and not as a foreign tongue.  During our orientation sessions over the past few days, I led classes on technology for over 100 students. We are working to help students understand how computing works in the 21st century, to go beyond just clicking. We showed this fabulous video which I can’t take credit for, but does a hysterical job explaining cloud computing:

Students are impressed with the Cloud, but they were able to identify problems with increased technology in today’s society. Students named the following challenges that technology brings:

  • Less time to play outside
  • Frustrations waiting for broken machines
  • Empty wallets due to money spent on computers
  • Hackers and “haters” that can be very dangerous
  • Increased use of energy to run all the computers, creating more CO2 which is damaging the environment

Today’s youth are connected, and they are aware. Watch out.  They are not just taking in information. They are producing new knowledge. And it’s not going away. It’s stored up there in the Cloud.

Happy Back to School (where applicable)!

Getting to know some students during the summer of 2007 while volunteering at a school in Kati, Mali (West Africa)

Tomorrow is our first day back at Innovation Academy Charter School. I always have some first day jitters, but I’m really excited to meet my new classes. It makes me wonder — is it the start of the year in other schools around the world? In my mind, September always brings a fresh start, but in South Africa, the winter is just ending now. In China, it’s still the Year of the Dragon until February. I wish I could see for myself… what’s happening tomorrow at schools around the world?

Students in Sikkim, India during one of my first experiences volunteer teaching in another country (2001).

I came across an interesting article today… and I think it comes pretty close to answering my question. It’s called 20 Classrooms Around the World and I saw it thanks to one of my colleagues from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, the talented David Burton of Oklahoma).  The photographs are amazing, showing beautiful diversity — from Argentina to Yemen… from the faces of the children to the desks and chairs they occupy. I feel very lucky to have captured some of my own photographs of schools around the world during my travels.  I feel equally lucky to be home, starting a school year in the one school where I want to be teaching right now.  It’s good to be here, but I also feel just a little bit closer to some friends far away.

Our beautiful building in Tyngsboro, MA

A public school that I visited in May in Istanbul, Turkey

My classroom, ready to be filled with students tomorrow!

Students at the School for Migrant Children in the Fangshan district of Beijing, China

A glimpse of our new track and field off in the distance! The workers are finishing up.

Sport facilities at School 57 in Kyiv, Ukraine

Peaches from trees in the IACS garden that I picked last Friday. They are now jam!

Last summer, I toured the garden of a school in Inhambane, Mozambique (and picked some eggplant)

Our majestic school library

A classroom library at a private school in Istanbul, Turkey

Student work is now hung up on walls (Homebase Gandhi made this for their Global Citizenship Project).

Student work on display at the Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum (Ukraine)

Looking forward to seeing these silly friends tomorrow…

And already missing these friends in China, wishing them a fabulous first day of school, whenever it comes!

Wherever you are, I wish you a fresh start on your journey ahead.  There’s a lot to learn this year.

Still Want a Penpal?

Never got a penpal in another country to write back? Here’s another chance. I got an email this week from a teacher in Ukraine who is looking for American students to match with her class.  Many  you have already written a letter that you could adapt to send here.  So, if you still want a penpal, keep reading. These students are eagerly awaiting responses!

Here’s the message that I received from the teacher:

Dear colleague: My name is Anna. I teach 10-12 year olds. My fourth graders were extremely excited and amazed about pen pals from the USA. Thank you for the opportunity to email you. I am sending you a recent photo of my students. They are very talented and creative. Thank you so much for reaching out. I hope your students will enjoy hearing back from their pen pals. Hope to hear from you soon.  Yours sincerely, Anna Ukhan, First City Gymnasia, Cherkasy, Ukraine

This is our friendly class.

Boys: (from left to right)

  1. My name is Zhenia.  I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is riding a bike. I have many friends.  I have a pet . It is a dog. Its name is Alik. My family is small. I don’t have any sisters or brothers. My dream is to be helpful to people.
  2. My name is Oleksii. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is swimming. I have a pet. It is a fat cat.  Its name is Ryzhik. My family is big. I have a brother.
  3. My name is Vlad.  I’m  ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is riding a bike and swimming. I have a pet it is a dog. Its name is Palma. I like to play with it in my free time.  My family is small and friendly.
  4. My name is Nikita. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is playing computer games. I have a pet. It is cat. Its name is Sniezhka. My family is big and friendly. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but I have many cousins. On Sundays we spend time together.
  5. My name is Vova. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is swimming in a pool. I have a pet. It is a dog. Its name is Jack. My family is big. I have a sister and a brother. They are my cousins.
  6. My name is Dan. I’m nine years old. I’m the pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is sport. I have a pet. It is a dog. Its name is Sabrina. My family is small and happy. I have a sister. She is funny and cool. She is one but she knows some English words.                                                                     


  1.  My name is Milena.  I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is gymnastics. I’m the best pupil in my class. I have only excellent marks.  I have a pet. It is a cat. Its name is Luksia. My family is big and friendly. I have a sister.
  2. My name is Anna. I’m ten. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is drawing and dancing. I have a pet. It is a cat. Its name is Kuzia. My family is small and friendly. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.
  3. My name is Tatiana. My surname is Dudko. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is reading and drawing. I go to the church with my parents every Sunday.  I don’t have any pets. My family is small. I have a little sister.
  4. My name is Polina. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing disco and hip-hop. I have a pet. It’s a cat. Its name is Ryzhik. My family is small and friendly. I have two sisters and one brother.
  5. My name is Sophia. My surname is Snesar. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing. My favorite subject is English. I have a pet. It is a parrot. Its name is Kesha. My family is big. I have a sister, and brother. My family is friendly.
  6. My name is Emma. My surname is Shtyk. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing. I also like to spend time with my friends. I have a pet. It is a big white dog. Its name is Bobik. It is very funny. My family isn’t big. It’s a pity, but I don’t have any brothers or sisters.

Want to be an American penpal?  Sign up here.

Note: This option is only open to Innovation Academy students, and you’ll have to sign in with your IACS google docs account in order to see the details.

Where is Innovation going this summer?

It’s official.  School is out!  When I was young, I remember summer being a time full of learning.  Of course, I didn’t sit in a classroom and learn like I did in school.  I did so much more!  I learned about teamwork while doing projects at camp. I learned about other places when I got chances to use the vacation time to travel. I even learned about getting along with my family better, since we often had more time to spend together when school wasn’t in session.

What are you going to learn this summer?

Whether you are traveling or not, I challenge you to learn something new this summer.  And not just anything!  Innovation Academy is going global, and we need your help to learn about the world. I will be blogging from China for 7 weeks this summer, but I hope to involve you in this journey too! If you are a member of the Innovation Academy community, join in:

There’s plenty to enjoy here in Massachusetts!

If you are staying local:

Read, comment, and share!  READ the new entries as they come in, getting a chance to see new places as Ms. Krakauer experiences them.  If we are lucky, we might also have some guest entries from other Innovation Academy teachers and community members.  COMMENT on entries to ask questions, give ideas, or offer reflections. Make sure to use proper spelling and grammar, and only one exclamation point at a time.  SHARE what you read with friends, family, and others who might like to join the fun!

If you are visiting another country this summer:

Balloon twisting in Mexico, 2007

Consider sharing your experiences on this blog. It’s very simple. Send an email with photo attachments to  Explain where you are, and describe what you are learning about this new place, its people, and their culture.  Tell readers what’s most special about the place you are visiting.  I’ll put it up on the blog and take care of all the formatting.

Who else is reading this blog?

The map above shows countries where people have read this blog in the last 3 months.  This is a feature of the website that I use to make the blog,  As you can see, most readers are in the United States (more than 10,000 views here), but there have been readers in more than 65 countries! The countries besides the U.S. with the most views include: Ukraine, Turkey, Canada, India, France, UK, Brazil, Belgium, Poland, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Netherlands, Kenya, and South Africa.  Wow!

If you are reading this blog and you live outside of the United States:

Say hello!  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and let us know where you are writing from. Tell us about where you live. The goal of this site is to make global connections, so that means we want to meet YOU.

This is just the beginning.

I leave for China on Monday, but we’ve already taken off.  Innovation is going places. Join us!

HB Gandhi’s Collaborative Art

For those of you who don’t know Innovation Academy, each of our classes are named after people who were innovators in their fields.  Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of his namesake class and their recent Global Citizenship Project. Homebase Gandhi made this stunning collaborative mural about kids around the globe. This gorgeous map of the world will be hung up in our school next fall to inspire students to think about themselves as part of a global community of young people.  Each square on the map includes a unique fact about life for children around the world.  Below are some more photos of the process of creating the art, as well as a few close ups of squares. As you can see, the result is impressive!

Want to see other global citizenship projects? Click these links to learn more:

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