Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “IACS”

Being Different isn’t Wrong

How often do people judge others for being different?  One inspirational class of students at Innovation Academy decided to stand up and try to make a change.  Homebase Edelman chose to focus their global citizenship project on educating the public about Autism, a disorder that affects 1 in 88 kids in the United States. The topic was personal to many of them, as they told story after story about family members, friends, and neighbors who live with Autism. I’m proud to present Homebase Edelman’s film, featuring singing, dancing, and a whole lot of heart:

Students in Homebase Edelman planned and executed this entire project this week in Social Studies.   They brainstormed, researched, composed, wrote, and practiced together. It was a lot of work, and sometimes it was hard to come together around a common vision.  In fact, we weren’t ready to film until Friday, and ended up doing all video taping in one morning. Despite some challenges, I think it’s safe to say that the project was a huge success.  It’s too early to say if viewers will approach people with Autism differently after watching this little film, but I’m confident that Homebase Edelman students are changed because of this experience.  They’d love to hear your comments, and please help them spread their message far and wide by sharing their youtube link.

Note: If you haven’t already seen them, check out last quarter’s Global Citizenship Projects here.  Also, this quarter Homebase Gandhi did a fabulous collaborative art project shown here.

Hawks for the Hawks

I am so proud to be a teacher at Innovation Academy. Our students’ successes were recently celebrated at Friday’s art show and written up in the Lowell Sun.

Graduating seniors this year are heading off to schools like Brown, Columbia, and Boston University, and many of these students are the first generation in their family to attend college. Since our high school is relatively new, we are gearing up for our second graduation ever on June 16th. As students like Shannon and Jenzel (pictured here) accept their diplomas, I will be remembering their accomplishments when they were 11 years old in my homebase.

What makes me most proud is that students at Innovation Academy are not waiting until they graduate to work for change. In fact, a group of middle school students saw a problem recently and took immediate action to fight for the needs of our planet. The numerous middle school students organized themselves into the “Lorax Society” to fight for protection of the trees that were being cut down to build athletic facilities at our school.  The Hawks (our school mascot) haven’t had proper fields or a track to practice on, and so we are currently building a new facility, which will be complete with a state of the art soccer field, track, and even a snack shack.  Some IACS students worry about the red-tailed hawks that could lose their homes due to the land being cleared, and began communicating online about their concerns.

Students mobilized, and pretty soon, they were able to meet with Walter Landberg, the Executive Director of Innovation Academy, to discuss the expansion in person.  He listened carefully to the students’ perspectives, and also told them more about the expansion initiative.  He pointed out how the school is tearing down 5 acres now, but working to protect over a hundred more acres of forest that we own.

Innovation on Earth is a website about building global citizenship, and it’s clear that these students are seeing themselves and their school, Innovation Academy, as a part of a larger world community.  They are putting the needs of others, in this case the animals, above their own. While seeing the trees come down is heart breaking, the dedication of these students is beautiful:

Back in elementary school, many of us were taught that there are two sides to every issue: good vs. evil or wrong vs. right.  As we get older, we learn that issues are more complicated.  While these trees will be missed, the benefit to the school will be huge.  We want to offer our students the best educational facility possible, and that means we need to make space for this growth. We need to show our community membership by supporting this project and helping our school to grow.  I am equally proud of those who supported the expansion.  Our school community has raised over $50,000 to benefit this project, and that’s good citizenship too. Mr. MacKinnon’s speech at the groundbreaking ceremony said it best: this facility will give us “the ability to invite others into our community and demonstrate to them the exemplary citizenship that Innovation Academy instills in all of its members.”  Check it out:

Can we be good community members at Innovation Academy who support our school AND be good global citizens who protect our forests? Students, we are looking to you to show us how it’s done.

Blog Round Up

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know my student Anna.  Her comments after each entry truly demonstrate what this blog is meant to be: a conversation.  If done well, each entry should begin a dialogue that inspires learning about living well in a world of diverse cultures.  I am proud that many students, in addition to Anna, have gotten involved.  They’ve been commenting on entries, doing research beyond this site, and talking to each other.  Some students even started a global action club at our school, which I am helping to get off the ground.  This blog isn’t meant to be about me, but about them.  As I continue writing from China this summer, I hope to experiment with even more creative strategies to get young people involved in this exploration of global citizenship.

I interviewed Anna and two other students, Sarah and Juliano, about what they’ve learned through this site. It’s always best to hear directly from the experts, so please view their video blog debut here:

Readers: What have you learned from this blog?  What ideas do you have to continue building this site and get more voices involved?

Students at Innovation Respond

I am back at Innovation Academy and have begun sharing my experience with students in person.  It’s been wonderful to see how the students were able to learn through my experiences in Ukraine and Turkey. They really are starting to think of themselves and our school as part of the global community.  Check out what they had to say after reading the blog:


An Innovation Academy student checks out Cossack dolls that were gifts from staff members at Zaporizya Classical Lyseum

“I found it surprising that in many schools in Ukraine parents have to pay in order for children to get a grade or so their children will get accepted.  I found it interesting that they learn a lot of languages (from an early age).”

“Ms. Krakauer went to visit a church in Ukraine.  She said that there are a lot of bells ringing, and the church was painted with bright colors!  This could be similar to our religion because in Catholic churches they ring bells (that’s hung in the church) to show when it’s noon or 6 pm, to announce funerals, and to celebrate a wedding!”

“On Orthodox Easter, Ms. Krakauer ate at a restaurant and it was clear that people eat a lot in Ukraine.  The video mentioned that it is custom to eat until you are stuffed.  It also mentioned that it was good luck if the egg you received wasn’t cracked first, showing some possible superstitions.”

An Innovation Academy student holds up a letter from a Ukrainian student he is going to write to

“I loved looking at Ms. Krakauer’s post about the weird food she tried.  I would love to try cherry varenyky.  It sounds really yummy with the honey. I would also like to try salo because I love bacon!”

“I feel that Ms. Krakauer was very brave to try lard.  I find it challenging because it is a new food that I would never go near.”

“One thing that Ms. Krakauer did that I think would be fun was visit Khortytsya Island because it sounds like it’s a historic place and it sounds like a beautiful place! I would love to see a wild boar!  It sounds so much fun to use a bow and arrow.”

“I was surprised that there was a type of therapy room.  I have never seen one in America. It was so cool looking!”

“She had Easter in Ukraine. It was different than the US Easter. They had a feast and did Pysanky eggs there so elegant compared from what I made.  I would like to make Pysanky eggs.”

“I think something challenging that Ms. Krakauer had to do was watch and try to understand a play.  It would be challenging because it could be in a different language.”


Students were excited to get little gifts from Ukraine and Turkey, including this evil eye “good luck” pin.

The Turkish Hamam was a sort of spa-like place with face masks and saunas.  They had a full body peeling.  Ms. Krakauer says in her blog that since people don’t have bathing rooms in their houses, they go to a public place to bathe.  This shows that the Turks practice old traditions, since this hamam idea dates back to the Ottoman Empire.”

“Ms. Krakauer had an experience of a riot over a football game. I think it would be challenging because it would make me feel worried because I would get hurt.”

“Ms. Krakauer was wondering if she would offend the Muslim religion and their people if she wore short sleeves or a tank top.  This would be different than my Catholic religion because we wouldn’t be offended.”

“There seem to be a lot of mountains in Turkey — tall mountains.  Ms. Krakauer’s hotel was built right into one of them!  That shows that the people who live there use the resources they have.”

A sweet thank you note!

“One thing that Ms. Krakauer did that I think would be challenging is trying to figure out what bus to go on, or what it costs to go on on the bus.  When I was in New York, I had trouble figuring out which bus to take, and figuring out where to get off.  I would find it challenging because I wouldn’t know the language, so I wouldn’t know what things to say, or what some people say.”

“She saw Turkish taffy and Turkish cheese is white.  She also saw fish and some sort of meat.  Their food is different from ours.”

“In Cappadocia there were underground cities where people used to live to escape getting killed during the many battles.  There are hundreds of underground cities all over Cappadocia where people lived. They carved out the cities from the basalt rock left over from years of volcano eruptions.”

“Ms. Krakauer encountered Turkish culture in the Istanbul marketplace when she was haggling over prices.  This shows that the Turkish shopkeepers want to get the most amount of money possible.”

And if you didn’t get a chance to check out Nate’s video response to the students in Zaporizhya, check it out here:

Students in Zaporizhya recorded their own video responses here and here. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of the relationship between countries.  What other ideas do you have for ways that our school can connect with others globally?

Want to learn more? I’ll be holding Global Gab sessions at Innovation Academy for any interested students, parents, or teachers.  Come join us from 3:30-4:30 on Tuesday, May 22 (to learn about Ukraine) or Tuesday, June 5 (to learn about Turkey).

On your mark. Get set. Go! Write!

It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow I will be getting on a plane for Ukraine.  While I am away, you are invited to be a part of the journey. Students in 5/6 Social Studies will get credit for completing the following work. If you are not in our classes now, ask your teacher if he or she will give you extra credit for completing this.

Student Assignment: You must answer at least three questions below, each based on a different blog entry.  Extension credit will be given for additional answers here, or thoughtful comments on posts. Make sure to use complete sentences.

Packing is under way: I've got the guidebooks, passport, and IACS bracelets to give as gifts to Ukrainian students. Don't worry -- I won't try to fit my bird into my suitcase! She'll stay in Massachusetts to greet me upon my return.

If you’d like to download a copy of the worksheet, click here. I will be blogging away, so I hope you will be reading along and responding.

The Questions:

1. Fun Experiences: Choose something that Ms. Krakauer did that you think would be very fun to do yourself. Write about what it is, and why you’d like to do that too.

2. Challenging Experiences: Choose something that Ms. Krakauer did that you think would be very challenging to do yourself. Write about what it is, and why you’d find it challenging.

3. Culture: Name an aspect of Ukrainian or Turkish culture that Ms. Krakauer encountered. Describe what Ms. Krakauer saw and what this says about the local culture.

4. Religion: Did Ms. Krakauer experience anything relating to the religious beliefs of people in Ukraine and Turkey? Describe what she saw, and how it is similar and/or different to religions that you know about.

5. Education: Read a post about Ukrainian or Turkish schools. What did you find most interesting, surprising, or different compared to our school?

6. Landscape: Describe an aspect of the landscape in Ukraine or Turkey. How does it affect the way people live in that place?

R.I.P. Mina the Newt

Today, Mina the newt passed away.  I believe that I got her around the time that I started working at this school, so she was around 9 years old.  She will be missed by many. She spent many years in the classroom and visited the homes of many students during vacations.

Homebase Salk has decided to bury her amidst the peace rock garden, their global citizenship project. I leave for Ukraine on Saturday, but if I can, I’ll post photos of Mina’s memorial after it’s set up tomorrow.

Mina — you were a good little newt and Innovation Academy will miss you.

UPDATE: As promised, here are a few photos of our Peace Garden and Mina’s grave.  Thanks to Homebase Salk of 2011-2012 for a sweet goodbye to our friend.

Crazy Hair Takes Over

Some of you might be wondering who will take over my class while I am in Ukraine and Turkey.  Don’t worry – students will be in good hands.  Alex McNaughton has been co-teaching one section of Social Studies with me since September, and will be taking over both classes.  Here are some photos of our team enjoying today’s spirit week theme: Crazy Hair Day!


Global Citizenship Projects

We just ended the quarter with a challenge to our students: design a class project that shows good global citizenship.  We gave them a week and some criteria, but the students had a lot of room to be creative.  This is what they came up with, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Homebase Barton decided to make a video educating the public about the issue of child labor. They researched, wrote the script, composed the music on Garage Band, made the art, and starred in the film. I did some facilitation, camera work, and editing, but this is truly their creation:

Homebase Salk decided to make an international rock garden for our school. They wrote, “The flags symbolize that we all come from different places but we are all united and a part of the same community. Homebase Salk created this for our Global Citizenship Project in Social Studies class. Through this project we are all aiming to become global citizens. A global citizen is willing to help people inside and out of their communities. We should all try to respect others and their heritage. Homebase Salk hopes that you will try to be a helpful community member. We hope this project will teach everybody that even the smallest things count.” The actual garden isn’t set up yet, but here are some pictures of the painting process.

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Congratulations to Homebase Barton and Homebase Salk! It’s been a pleasure working with you this year, and these projects show that you have truly grown into active global citizens!

Students learn Pysanky

Today, students in Homebase Salk and Homebase Barton learned to do the traditional Ukrainian folk art called Pysanky.  A parent volunteer came in and taught the students about this age old tradition of egg decoration. As you can see, the students made some beautiful eggs, with very simple materials (crayons for wax, for example). They designed carefully and came up with some wonderful products.

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The students also learned an old tale about the origin of the art.  It told the story of a poor peddler who goes out to sell eggs, and comes across a sick old man. The peddler goes over to help the old man, and when he returns to his basket, the eggs are transformed!  Unlike in the United States, where Christian people hide eggs on Easter, Ukrainians give these eggs as gifts to important people in their lives.  Students also learned about the meaning of various symbols and what kind of “luck” they bring to the person who is given the egg.  For example, a spider symbol brings artistic abilities, and grapes represent brotherhood and faithful love.

Note: If you didn’t read about my recent experience making my own egg, click here.

Global Gab on Southern Africa

I’m starting a speaker series at Innovation Academy, and you are warmly invited to attend the first session:

Global Gab Session: Southern Africa: Tuesday, April 3rd, 3:30-4:30, Room 241

Come hear about my trip last summer to South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana.  I will be sharing stories, photos, and videos from my trip. Over 25 days, I traveled over 3,000 miles with a group of American teachers in an overland truck. We camped most nights, and had experiences such as riding in a traditional canoe through the Okavango Delta, swimming with a whale shark, walking with lions, and getting soaked by the waters of Victoria Falls.

The session is open to any student, teacher, parent, or community member who wants to attend. Middle school students attending without family members are welcome, but families should contact the main office to make arrangements for students to complete homework at Work Completion Center from 3-3:30 until the presentation begins.

Mark your Calendar for Future Global Gab Sessions:

  • May 22: Ukraine
  • June 5: Turkey

Why Global Gab?  My hope through sharing my travel experiences is to push our school community to be more globally aware, connected, and ever-adapting to the needs of the 21st century. Join me on a quest to globalize Innovation!  By attending any or all of these sessions, I hope that you will learn about places you’ve never been before, understand what it’s like to expose yourself to another culture, and feel inspired to get out of your comfort zone (through travel or “virtual” travel). Please consider joining us!


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