Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “Student Work”

Stormy Democracy in Action

As we brace for Hurricane Sandy, remember that every person can make a difference. If Frankenstorm lives up to its nickname during this Halloween week, we’ll need lots of informed, caring citizens to look out for each other.

Sandy’s current path

In a few mere hours, the storm is set to strike Massachusetts. Most of us are prepared, but we know that some damage and power outages will be unavoidable because of the strong winds and rain. However, we’re in better shape than we would be if we didn’t have any warning of what was ahead. The hurricane hasn’t hit yet, but you won’t believe what I woke up to in the middle of the night last week:

What I woke up to on October 20th

As you can see in the video, a short burst of rain caused my street to flood.  The water got into the cars, and set off the horn in one and the lights in another.  I called the police and waited on the porch, watching. My neighborhood woke up. The guys across the street put on their bathing suits and went swimming (which was funny but disgusting, since the water did not look very clean).  Lots of people peeked out, took a few photos, and went inside to find their earplugs. The police arrived and a work crew set out to try to unplug the drains.

Work crews at 5 AM

I’m not sure what they did, but by 9 AM the next morning, the water was 100% gone.  Sadly, most of the cars that were parked on the street were totaled. Apparently when water gets into a car computer, it costs thousands of dollars to fix.  My car was parked in my driveway, but the inside of the car was still filled with water. It’s been in the repair shop for a week already and I’m waiting to find out whether or not the insurance company will agree to replace the carpet. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a new interior and only need to pay the $500 deductible.

My car interior filled with water

The line shows where the water level got to the night before

It’s pretty clear that this happened because of an issue with the city sewers and drainage, and so I decided to take action. The next day, I sent an email to my city officials telling them about what happened. I wrote, “I believe that there is a serious problem with drainage on my street which needs to be addressed immediately.” That afternoon, my local alderman (the local legislative branch representative) actually came to my house to talk to me about the problem.  On Monday, he sent the city engineer out to my street. On Wednesday, there were crews pumping out the sewers.

Wednesday’s work crew

Notice of Sewer Work

On Friday, I got an email from another city official, who copied me on an email to the city engineer, asking if this situation was being addressed. When I got home from work, the street was lined with cones letting people know that sewer work would be happening on Saturday.  I don’t know if the city succeeded in solving the problem, but their test will come tomorrow.  If they did fix the problem, Hurricane Sandy won’t turn our street into a river again. I’m probably not the only person who spoke up, but it feels good knowing that I played a role in fixing this problem. Now that’s Democracy in action!

Hoping to avoid this during Sandy!

There’s always more problems to solve. In my classroom, students have been studying the U.S. government, and they recently learned about how citizens can influence their local government. For their Democracy in  Action Rubric, students wrote about issues they wanted to see addressed by the government, and they brainstormed how a citizen might influence change. Here are some of their ideas:

Voters of the Future

“As citizens of the United States it is our job to make our nation a better place and to be more peaceful. I would write a letter to the senator telling him that people in prison need to be treated fairly.”

“A normal citizen could record a video about how the Executive branch of the Federal level could control the F.D.A. to set higher standards for the number of side effects a drug can have or how dangerous those side effects can be.”

“I would send a letter to my representative asking for a law to lower the allowable rate of plastic production. I would also text the President to tell him to approve the law. Friends and countrymen join me. Write to your representatives. The United States Congress has the power to create bills. We can stop companies from producing plastic in excess. Companies may not like this because they make money on useless plastic. I say, give up the happy meal toys. We should all recycle and use less plastic to save our planet!”

More happy students who one day might change the world

“Organize a doctor’s strike until all people are provided with health insurance. By then, people would be dying and the government would have no choice but to provide health insurance. If they’re stubborn enough to not provide the health insurance, they will be sued by lots of people and then have to buy in.”

“If the roads are safer people will not be as likely to crash and be killed or severely injured in those car crashes. You should all send letters to our mayor saying which roads are dangerous.”

As you can see, at 10 and 11 years old, these students already understand how a single citizen can make a difference. As we prepare for this upcoming storm, I encourage you to be on the look out.  What is the government doing to protect us, and what can you do to show good citizenship? Even though our system isn’t perfect, every little bit counts.

The calm before the storm. I took this photo in Cambridge Common this morning. The statue shows John Bridge, who settled here in 1632 and was one of our country’s first town selectmen and ran one of the country’s first public schools.

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!

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!

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?

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:

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.

Worldians Around the Globe

I want to assure you that Innovation Academy is not the only school trying to “globalize.”  This spring, I’ve met many inspirational teachers around the world (in person and online) who are trying to make global connections and encourage inter-cultural understanding. I’d like to introduce you to some of them (and their students).  I encourage you to check out their work, and give them some feedback by commenting here!


Shephali Bose teaches in Mumbai, India, and we met through an online forum sponsored by IREX (which runs the Teachers for Global Classrooms program).  Some of her tenth grade students made a website called I AM A WORLDIAN which encourages students to think beyond being Indian.  The site is focused on building peace (“not pieces”) through encouraging religious tolerance.  One of my favorite parts of their project is a card gamethat they designed to research how kids develop moral values. They posted many videos of their findings, but here is a taste of what they discovered:


When I visited Istanbul, Turkey, I met Miss Sebnem Oral at one of the schools that I toured.  We connected immediately.  In addition to teaching third grade, Miss Sebnem travels regularly to schools, libraries, and youth centers around the city doing storytelling workshops.  Her book, Musical Tales of the World, is published in English and Turkish, and comes with a music CD. Miss Sebnem started a group called “Students Without Borders” which sounds amazing!  I highly encourage you to watch this slideshow about her work, which sounds very similar to what we are doing at IACS with our global citizenship project.  You can also read her article hereabout the process these students went through to learn how to “make a difference.”


I met Carole Joubert through a website called ePals which helps match up students to be penpals with students in other countries. She teaches 12-14 year old students outside of Lyon, France.  Carole is using project-based learning to help her students learn English! She had her students read penpal letters written by IACS students, and she asked me to share some amazing videos that her students made. Click here to watch the videos, which feature her students reading stories, songs, and original raps in English. You’ll be impressed by their claymation and other creative strategies. They specifically asked for your comments and feedback!


As you know, I went to Ukraine and Turkey because of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program.  Five other groups of teachers are doing similar trips, and the next group leaves tomorrow for… BRAZIL!  These teachers also have blogs like mine, and their adventures start now.  If you want to follow along, take a peek at the blogs of ChrisShaunaAliPriscillaNoahMelaniePerry, and Teri.  They’ll be visiting Brazilian schools in the upcoming weeks and letting us know about how Brazilian teachers are innovating in this field. To see the full list of TGC blogs (including Morocco and Ghana, which already happened, and Indonesia and India, which are coming soon), visit my TGC page.

And Many More…

There are so many more teachers and students out there who are involved with global education. In fact, my friend Lillie Marshall, who teaches in the Boston Public Schools, started a website called for teachers who want to travel or travelers who want to teach! I was lucky to be interviewed for her site (check out that article here), but there are many other amazing stories there of inspiring teachers from close and far. Global education is a priority around the world, and this is just the beginning.

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).

Euro Cup 2012

Euro Cup Billboard

Did you know that Ukraine and Poland are hosting the Euro Cup this summer?  This is a big deal — it’s like the Soccer World Cup for Europe.  Our hotel is right next to the big stadium where the final match will be, and the whole city is clearly excited.  We’re seeing posters and signs everywhere!

Today, we visited a school in the capital, Kyiv School 57, where they are even teaching a class called “Euro Cup 2012.” We were all impressed with the students and teachers there, but I will save most of the details for another post.

I do have to share an amazing example of project-based learning.  The 11th grade students are entering a contest for which they had to design a model of the stadium.  They decided to make theirs out of legos, and they did the whole thing on their own.  The result was very impressive!  Here’s a video if you want to see the students talking about their work, and you can also get to see some of the detail on their amazing sculpture:

In a few hours, Carol and I leave for the overnight train. I’m going to try to work on editing some more video to post tomorrow! We saw a lot at School 57 today — much more than the legos.

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!

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