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Eleanor Roosevelt quote

A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. It sums up the philosophy of global citizenship.

On Feb. 16-18, 2017 I had the privilege of attending the Teachers for Global Classrooms symposium in Washington D.C. It was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown, not far from Washington Circle. I’ve written about our first day and evening there and the opening reception in my last post, so this post will focus on the actual symposium sessions and getting to know my Indonesia Cohort of teachers.

The main part of our symposium occurred on Friday, Feb. 17 and the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18 as we learned of our responsibilities through the U.S. Department of State and found out more about the culture and expectations of our host countries. In some sessions, we were all together as teachers but separate from our administrators. Some sessions we were with the administrators, and some we were just with our own cohort in smaller side sessions. We were given a complete packet upon arrival with detailed schedules, paperwork, and biographies of all the teachers. We were given a nice notebook to write notes, but I used my standard notebook that I write everything in, knowing that it will be easier to find that way. The following paragraphs are based on my notes.

Me by TGC sign

David Black at the TGC Symposium, mugging for the camera . . .

Prior to my flight to D.C., I had familiarized myself with Indonesia in the best way I know how – by drawing a map of the country by hand in my notebook. I labeled the major features and cities, the volcanoes I’d heard of, and researched culture and cuisine trying to get a few words of Bahasan down. I found having a decent knowledge of Indonesian geography to be very helpful at the symposium.

My roommate – if I had one – hadn’t shown up by the time I got ready and went down to breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. It was served buffet style, and we were assigned specific tables with nameplates mixed across cohorts, with teachers and their administrator together. At our table was Betsy Devlin-Foltz of the State Department, and once we were done eating (it was all very excellent food), we were greeted by Jen Gibson of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the State Department. She introduced our keynote speaker, Mark Taplin – the Acting Assistant Secretary for Education.

Fairmont exterior

Exterior and entrance of the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown.

Mr. Taplin spoke on how the Teachers for Global Classrooms program was an outgrowth of the ideals of Senator Bill Fulbright, who first created the legislation that became the Fullbright Scholarships. His goal was to promote mutual understanding through real experiences – no virtual experiences allowed, or “fake news.” We will truly be citizen diplomats and ambassadors for education in the countries we visit. This is meant to be a transformational experience for us and for our students so that they can become global citizens. He spoke of the craft of quality education and of his teacher, Mrs. Darling of Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA who inspired him as a student through her 30 plus years of managing the Model UN program, and how many ambassadors and Foreign Service people came through her program. He went on to say that Sen. Fullbright’s vision was more imperative than ever, and how we need more “outwarders” than “inwarders” with our recent turn toward isolationism and protectionist policies. He encouraged us to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into this experience, then share what we see and do in our communities and classrooms.

Washington Circle

Washington Circle, near the Fairmont Hotel.

I enjoyed his remarks more than I expected to; he had a great sense of humor considering his high level diplomatic rank and wasn’t afraid to speak differently than what we hear our own national leaders saying. It’s good to know that programs still exist (and will continue to exist) that try to counter the inward turn we’ve made as a country, because we need a global perspective now more than ever.

Panel Discussion

Grand Ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel, preparing for the alumni panel discussion.

Following Mr. Taplin we heard from a panel of five TGC program alumni, including Kirsten from South Carolina who went to Senegal, Camille from Florida who went to Columbia, Jasmine from Philadelphia who went to the Philippines, Tyler from New York City who went to Senegal, and Seth Brady from Illinois, who went to Indonesia in 2012. They spoke of how their experiences changed their classroom practices and how they were able to connect their students with the outside world. Seth helped to promote and get passed legislation in Illinois for a Global Competency certification for Illinois teachers. He spoke of talking to stakeholders and not being shy to say, “Here is what I want to do. What is your advice?” We should take our mandate as global educators seriously and push for real change and buy in at our schools and districts. They finished with questions and answers from the audience, which included what we should bring as gifts/cultural exchange items.

Spanish Embassy

The Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Our hotel was located near Embassy Row.

Rebecca Bell of IREX, the group that administers TGC for the State Department, spoke on the six years of the TGC program and lessons they’ve learned. So far, this is the most organized program I’ve seen – they appear to have thought of every detail.

We then moved into separate smaller rooms on the basement level of the Fairmont to meet with our individual cohorts. This was the meeting I was looking forward to – getting down to the details of what to expect. Sara from IREX led the meeting. She will be traveling with us to Indonesia and has previously led a cohort to the Philippines. Ashley, who has lived in Indonesia for a year and helped to coordinate our stay there, also led the meeting. They officially introduced us to Sofia from Ambon Island, who has been here as an ILEP exchange teacher this year. She will become a future host for U.S. teachers in Indonesia.

Cohort session

Some of the teachers in my Indonesia cohort during our breakout session.

They spoke of the two exchange programs offered to foreign teachers to come to the United States. The first is called TEA (Teaching Excellence and Achievement program), where teachers from developing countries come to the United States for six weeks and take courses at one of over ten universities. This year, teachers are here from 61 different countries. The second program is called ILEP (the International Leaders in Education Program) and allows selected teachers to stay in the U.S. for a full semester (five months) at four host universities.

They went over some of the logistics of who does what – we will be assigned as partners to travel to a host (ILEP) teacher’s school for at least one week. IREX will manage all the details of travel and our first week in Jakarta, where we will meet with U.S. Consulate officials, Indonesian Education officials, take tours, and visit schools. Then we will travel to our host schools for about 9-10 days, then return to Jakarta for 2-3 days of debriefing before flying home. Our agenda will be packed, but we can request items and will work with out host teacher on the agenda for when we’ll be in their school. We will find out our host teacher’s name and school in April. This delay is because the first cohort will be leaving for Morocco in three weeks and we will be one of the three summer travel cohorts. But that means we get a full three weeks trip (that’s why I asked for a summer slot) whereas the others get two weeks.

Washington Monument with cherry

The Washington Monument with cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom; Feb. 17, 2017.

All our expenses will be paid through a stipend/grant for hotels, transportation, tours, and food while at the host teacher’s city, which we will need to arrange ourselves. All other details (flights, Jakarta hotel and food) will be arranged by IREX.

Our responsibility is to have fun, stick to the rules of our agreement, and be ambassadors of U.S. culture and education. This is an exchange program in every way – we will bring back Indonesian culture with us. We need to provide a guiding question, and develop our shared unit plan upon return, which is due by September 5. We will need to apply for visas on our own through their service using an online link to the Indonesian consular office.

Sofia provided a Powerpoint on her school, SMA Negeri 4 in Ambon. It has 923 students and they have one computer lab and five projectors for the whole school. She teaches for seven hours per day, six days a week (and Sunday School on Sundays). Students wear uniforms and must pay fees, which can be a difficulty for many families, but they are able to work off what they owe by cleaning classrooms, etc. She showed us photos of the Maluku Islands, where Ambon is the largest city. There are 1725 islands just in the Malukus alone, and up to 17,000 islands in Indonesia. 90% of Indonesians are Muslims, but the Maluku Islands were colonized for many years by the Dutch, so there are more Christians. I would love to go see the Malukus (if for no other reason than to say I’ve been where Columbus intended to go), but she will probably not become a host for another year or two since she is still here in the U.S. through May.

Capitol Bldg

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. with remodeling completed.

We had lunch back in the lobby before the Grand Ballroom, with a choice of meats and salads – they are certainly keeping us well fed and hydrated.

For our next session, we talked about instructional design for teaching global competency. We were asked to bring examples of globalized lesson plans, and we proceeded to do a gallery stroll of our lessons. I shared my STEAM it Up class’ dyeing cloth inquiry lab, and how they research natural dyes used in world cultures. I was impressed with many of the ideas and hope to use them – using a database of newspapers from around the country to get an international perspective on current events, collaborating with students in other countries to collect and compare weather data of our local areas, figuring out the total supply chain of raw materials from around the world (and their true cost) for common products we use, and others. I was too busy looking through the lessons to take many notes, but I incorporated some of these ideas into the presentation I made at the UCET conference in March.

Pacific Theater

Part of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

In our next session, we talked about how we will bridge the gap between our field experiences and our classrooms, schools, and communities through the stories we will tell. We discussed what constitutes a great story or powerful narrative. How will we rise above the “single story” narratives we often hear about a country and its people? That people in China eat “fish heads and rice,” for example (this is one I heard before my LDS mission to Taiwan – all my family thought I would starve to death. I didn’t. I came to love Chinese food. And I never actually ate a fish head). How do the people in Indonesia see us? The fat, lazy, over-privileged, Bermuda-shorted, only English speaking stereotype? How will we show a different story about what Americans are like?

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial. My iPad is hard to hold still for nighttime photos, so this is the best shot I have.

We also talked about redemptive versus contaminating stories, which I wrote about in detail three posts ago when I introduced this new chapter of my life. It was here that I thought of what will be my underlying guiding question (or at least one of them): In what ways are people in American and Indonesia alike? How do we all show our common humanity? This guiding question will be an ongoing theme as we write our blog posts and report on our experiences through the stories we’ll tell. There are many overarching, cross-cultural themes that we can explore,

Seth Brady was with us in our cohort meetings and gave us a presentation on his experiences in Indonesia in 2012. He went to a school on Bangka Island, which is between Sumatra and Borneo and has one of the largest tin deposits in the world. He shared some books we might want to read, and told us how he was treated as a celebrity – asked to sign autographs, sing at a wedding, speak at spontaneous neighborhood gatherings, take photos with people, etc. We will bring prestige to those we work with, and we will be asked to do some interesting things. He suggested that we just roll with it. It is a good thing that we will have individual rooms at night, as the press of people will become difficult without some time for personal space. The humidity and heat will exhaust us (this I know about from my experiences in Taiwan – but this is much closer to the Equator). He spoke of how to dress, health notes (bring mosquito repellent and get immunized for malaria). Yes, this will be an adventure. It’s going to be amazing, difficult, challenging, fun, and beyond any expectations!

FDR statue with dog

Bronze statue of Franklin Roosevelt. And his dog.

This was the last session of a long and interesting day. As a group, we decided to go out to eat for Indonesian food. The IREX people had prepared a list of possible restaurants that served food of our nationality (that’s what I mean by every detail being planned out), so we made reservations for a restaurant called BKK Cookshop at 1700 New Jersey in Northwest Washington D.C. After resting in my room for a while, I headed downstairs and met the others in the lobby of the hotel. We arranged for Uber cars to drive us, and it was fairly close to where I had supper with the group at the Einstein Fellowship interviews last year – we passed the same metro station. Not everyone could come, but we had about 12 people at the restaurant, which wound up being Thai food, not Indonesian. It was still good and we had fun.

Afterward, five of us decided to get another Uber car to take us down to the Mall to walk around. I don’t have a smart phone (I pick and choose which technologies to use, but eventually I’ll have to make the transition to mobile connectivity), so I more or less tagged along.

Fading light on Embassy Row

Buildings in Georgetown near the Fairmont Hotel; Feb. 16, 2017.

The weather was cool and windy yesterday as I had taken a walk around Washington Circle, too cold for my thin jacket. But tonight the weather was warmer and we had a nice walk from the Smithsonian Castle down to the Washington Monument, then to the Korean War Memorial. It was nice to see the Capitol Building all finished from its remodeling, and cherry blossoms were just beginning to open around the Washington Monument. We crossed the road to see the Martin Luther King memorial (which was new enough that I had not seen it before). We walked on around the tidal basin to see the Franklin Roosevelt memorial, which I had never visited either. I took as many photos as I could using my less than ideal iPad as a camera. I took multiples of each shot just to make sure that most of them would turn out well. We found a final Uber driver to take us back to the Fairmont at about 9:30. I called home while we waited – Becca was still awake. These were my first experiences with Uber, and it seemed to work out well.

TGC Symposium-Thurs night

A photo of the TGC symposium taken Thursday, Feb. 16. I’m wandering around in the background.

I was very tired by the time we got back and basically crashed. I never did have a roommate – perhaps he paid to have his own room. Fine with me – it means a room of my own without paying extra.

On Saturday, Feb. 18 the symposium continued. After another excellent breakfast, we heard more speakers together as an entire group in the Ballroom. I won’t go into much detail, as this post is long enough. After hearing from two speakers we went into the Kennedy Ballroom next door for a “dealers room” style open house, where various organizations that promote global education had booths that we could visit. These included National Geographic (I asked about the Grosvenor Fellowship again) and many programs I had heard of and some I had not. I picked up quite a bit of freebies and information packets to go through when I get home.

We had a lunch and a final meeting in the Grand Ballroom, with a group photo. It has been an amazing conference and I’ve learned a great deal, met my cohort of exceptional teachers that I am excited to work with in Indonesia, and were even given three books to read to help us prepare. Now I’ve got to do my homework and go through all my notes and get ready. Five months will go by quickly.

TGC whole group-Feb 2017

The entire group of teachers and administrators attending the TGC Symposium in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017. I am at the far right in back.

I had booked a somewhat later flight so that I would not have to be rushed getting to the airport. I’d already packed up and left my bags at the hotel front desk. I called a taxi and had him drive me back to Reagan National Airport. I had plenty of time to check in, go through security, and wait for my flight. I arrived home in Salt Lake City near 11:00 and landed in a mild snowstorm. Oh well, back to the reality of winter weather. At least I have a day to rest up before returning to school.

Fairmont room

My room at the Fairmont Hotel.

The hardest thing about these expanding experiences is “pouring” myself back into my everyday life once I return. In the rush of normal events, the feelings I’ve had at these conferences soon evaporate. So I need to remember what I’ve learned, and that is why I write such long blog posts. It’s my way of remembering even if no one else ever reads them.

 

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial. I snapped this photo as I was being driven back to the airport on Feb. 18, 2017.

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And notes on my TGC Seminar Trip: Feb. 16, 2017.

tgc-sign

Sign for Teachers for Global Classrooms, a teacher exchange program of the U. S. Department of State. We met in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017 to prepare for our international experiences.

I’m in the Salt Lake International Airport waiting for my flight to Washington Reagan National Airport. It’s been almost a year since I last visited D.C., and that was for the Einstein Fellowship interviews that I did not succeed at. That was a nice trip, with good weather, even if the results were disappointing. I’m hoping the weather will be all right. It is supposed to be in the 50s during the day, not that I’ll get any chance to be out by day. This is a quick trip – a reception tonight, followed by a full day of meetings tomorrow and a half day Saturday morning, then I have to get to the airport for my 5:00 flight home.

I am looking forward to meeting my cohort of fellow teachers who will be traveling with me to Indonesia in July. When I found out in December that I would be traveling to Indonesia, I started researching all the possibilities, knowing that I couldn’t get to all of them, but wanting to learn as much as possible. The more I study the country, the more excited I become. There are so many great places to visit there that are scenic, scientific, and cultural. If I were to rank the places I would most like to visit, it would be in this order:

Indonesia greatest hits

Locations of my top picks for things to see in Indonesia.

Borobudur

Borobudur, an 8th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia and a World Heritage Site.

  1. Yogyakarta and Surroundings: This is a cultural center on the island of Java that has been described as the “soul” of Indonesia. It is famed for its marketplaces selling silver, batik, shadow puppets, and the local gudeg, a type of stew served with rice. About an hour north is the famed Buddhist site called Borobudur, built in the 8th century and lost to the jungle for many years before its re-discovery in the 1800s. It is built over an earthen mound in the shape of a mandala, with hundreds of stupas containing statues of various forms of the Buddha as well as hundreds of carved relief panels depicting Gautama’s life.
    Prambanan

    Prambanan, a Hindu temple near Yogyakarta.

    Nearby is the Hindu complex of Prambanan, also with hundreds of small temples and statues of various Hindu gods ranging from Brahma through incarnations of Vishnu, Kali, Shiva, and Ganesha. The city of Yogyakarta was also the capital of a sultanate and has Islamic mosques. And as a bonus feature, not far north of the city is Gunung Merapi, a very active volcano that last erupted in 2010 and wiped out several villages. The Earth Science teacher in me would love to see that.

  1. Sulawesi and Surroundings:
    Bunaken-Manado

    The coral reefs of Bunaken near Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    This island is shaped like a giant cursive K with a curled top and boasts beautiful scenery and biological and cultural diversity. A TGC team stayed on North Sulawesi in Manado three years ago and had an amazing experience, including snorkeling at Bunaken, a series of islands off the north coast, and a visit to a national park with giant tarantulas and miniature primates. There are also the Toraja people, known for their inverted boat-shaped houses and interesting burial practices. It is also is the cacao growing center of Indonesia.

    Bali - corrected

    3D Rendering of Bali, a popular destination in Indonesia. The major city is Kuta on the peninsula to the south. I hope to explore Ubud in the hills in the center of the island.

  1. Bali or Lombok: This whole island is one beautiful, cultural paradise. Probably a bit too touristy for my taste, but it would be a shame to visit Indonesia without at least a day or two here. There are amazing white sand beaches, beautiful scenery including temples perched on rocks along the coast, the famous rice paddies near Ubud, a sacred monkey forest, and much more. If Bali is too busy, then the neighboring island of Lombok is a good alternative, including snorkeling and beachcombing on the Gili Islands and a visit to a sea turtle hatchery. And, of course, a large double caldera with the active Gunung Batur.
Bromo

Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo) on Java in Indonesia.

Toba Crater-s

3D Render of Toba Lake. The massive caldera has filled up with water. When it erupted 74,000 years ago, the ancestors of humanity almost went extinct from six years of winter without summers.

  1. Mt. Bromo or Other Active Volcanoes: A popular place to visit on Java and a series of active volcanoes, including Gunung Semeru, with incredible views. Of course, I would also like to see Tambora or Krakatau or even lake Toba. I realize no matter where I go, there will probably be active volcanoes galore (my kind of place) but it would be cool to visit the famous ones. Mt. Toba sent up so much ash, when it erupted 74,000 years ago, that it created six years without a summer in what was already an ice age. The ancestors of humanity almost went extinct.
Tambora from sky

The caldera of Gunung Tambora, which erupted in 1815 and caused the Year Without a Summer, which led to crop failures and starvation worldwide. The explosion of Toba 74,000 years ago was even worse – the dust lead to a six-year winter.

  1. Orangutan Watching: One place is a sanctuary called Bukit Lawang on Sumatra, not too far north of Lake Toba. But the original place is Kalimantan (Southern Borneo), where you can take small boats up a river to see the orangutans in the wild.
Komodo dragon

I would love to meet one of these. Just at a safe distance . . .

  1. Komodo Dragon Viewing: We will probably get to touch a real dragon at an international zoo/village in Jakarta, but it would be fun to see them in the wild on the island of Komodo itself.
Ambon

The city of Ambon in the Maluku Islands, where Columbus was trying to reach when he ran into a little problem . . .

  1. The Spice Islands: The Maluku or Banda Islands, which lie east of Sulawesi, are the original Spice Islands that caused so much history. Cloves, nutmeg, and pepper are native to these islands. It would be fun to say I’ve been where Columbus meant to go. Nearby are the Raja Ampat Islands with incredible marine biodiversity.

 

These are my top picks. I know I my not get the chance to see any of them – everywhere I’ve researched Indonesia, the possibilities are exciting and I’m sure I’ll enjoy wherever I get to go. I’ll learn a great deal, meet amazing people, and bring back memories for a lifetime.

Child of Krakatoa

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa). This island exploded in 1883 and caused a tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people. Now the child is quietly growing in the submerged caldera.

Opening Reception:

My flight to D.C. went smoothly, and it was a new Boeing 757 with video players on the backs of each seat. Instead of pulling out my iPad and watching “Star Trek: Into Darkness” again, I watched the first episode of the National Geographic Mars program (they only had one episode available or I would have watched more), then saw “Dr. Strange” again, and began watching “Inferno” with Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones. It seemed like a quick flight.

I got off the plane and got my bag at Carousel 3, then picked up a taxi to the Fairmont Hotel near Georgetown. I walked downstairs and picked up my registration packet from Ashley and Sara with IREX. Sara will be travelling to Indonesia with us in July. I checked into my room and read through the packet, reading up on the biographies of my cohort.

Toba comparison

Putting these volcanoes side by side, the big historic eruptions of Tambora, Vesuvius, and Krakatoa are insignificant compared with Toba, which put so much dust into the stratosphere that it blocked sunlight for six years. And what of Mt. St. Helens? It’s a tiny popgun in comparison. Should it worry me that the three biggest known eruptions were all in Indonesia? Not at all. I would be like Pliny the Elder – last seen running toward Vesuvius as it erupted.

The opening reception was held on the lowest level in the ballrooms. Ryan Hagge and his wife were already there, with their new baby. He is acting in the stead of Scott Jones, our school director. He surprised her with a ticket to D.C. so she could explore while he was in the administrator meetings. I began to meet my cohort while eating horse doovers, including Jennifer from Louisiana with her administrator. I met Sonja, who is going to Senegal, and her administrator. Then after a few welcome remarks, we got together as groups and I met most of the rest of our cohort. They are a very diverse and interesting bunch, and I can tell that we will get along well. We have a mix of subjects, ranging from science, technology, ESL, migrant education, English, and social science as well as a range of grade levels. I also met Sofia, who is part of the TEA/ILEP program and will be one of our host teachers. She is from Ambon in the Maluku (Spice) Islands and she showed us some pictures. It looks amazing.

Wisata-Malioboro-Yogyakarta

Malioboro St. in Yogyakarta.

I am totally excited for this opportunity and what it will bring to my perspectives and what I can bring back for my students. What an adventure lies ahead of me!

I’ll report on the rest of my Symposium experience in the next post.

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Global competency with Earth

What does it mean for one to be globally competent?

I received word early in the summer of 2016 that I was accepted into the Teachers for Global Classrooms program created by the U.S. Department of State as part of their Bureau for Education and Cultural Affairs. During the rest of the summer, I filled out and sent in paperwork, got a thorough medical exam with more paperwork, and sent off to get my passport renewed. All of this kept me busy so that I almost forgot there would be a ten-week online course required. I was about to e-mail the program to ask what was going on when I received an e-mail from them that same day asking why I had not yet submitted any assignments; the class had already begun ten days before!

Global competencies matrix

The core concepts, skills, values and attitudes, and behaviors of someone who is globally competent.

It reminds me of the old college anxiety dream. You know the one. Where you discover there’s a class you’ve completely forgotten about. It’s two weeks into the semester, and you’re already behind. You run to campus and you find the class is meeting in some obscure location in the cellar of the most labyrinthine building. You run into class an hour late and only then discover you forgot to get dressed. And everyone is staring at you . . . I still have this dream occasionally and I’ve been out of college for several decades. Only this time, I really was behind. Apparently my e-mail from my former school, which I had used in the application, had been shut off so I wasn’t getting the notices.

Global Competencies diagram

The Four Key Global Competencies: Globally competent students investigate the world, recognize multiple perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action.

Fortunately the program leaders and my teacher, Craig Perrier, were very understanding. I was always a few days behind and posting late, so I didn’t get as many comments and suggestions in the forums as I would have liked, but the assignments were certainly interesting and educational. I finally completed all of the course just before the last deadline. It took about ten hours of work per week during a time when I was already extremely busy trying to set up a new chemistry lab at my new school.

Here are some of the topics we discussed in the class:

  1. Framing Global Education
  2. Perspectives in Global Education
  3. Developing Global Citizenship
  4. Exploring the Global-Local Dynamic
  5. Transforming Global Learning Through Technology
  6. Globalizing Your Standards
  7. Global Education and Competency in Your School
David Black-Twitter summary

As part of the course, we had to learn to use various social media platforms for communicating ideas (the third global competency). I’m not much for using Twitter, as I tend to want to say more than 140 characters worth.

One of the core concepts of the TGC course is that to be globally competent, a person should do four things. They are: (1) investigate the world, (2) recognize multiple perspectives, (3) communicate ideas, and (4) take action locally to solve global problems.

We had weekly webinars with experts; watched TED talks and other videos related to global education and competency; worked on exercises, lesson plans, and unit plans that integrate global education into our own standards; and participated in discussion boards.

Me with global citizen 2

A still from the video we did on global competency and global citizenship.

One of the major components of the course was to learn various types of Web 2.0 and social media technologies that can be useful in teaching global competency and promoting innovation, collaboration, and communication between cultures. Here are links to two of the resources I learned:

Video and animation production tools: I used PowToons to create an introductory animation describing a cosmology research assignment for my astronomy class. Here it is: https://www.powtoon.com/c/bUypsA24f9K/1/m

Me with AAI vision

The Vision of American Academy of Innovation. This is a still frame from my Teachers for Global Classrooms video.

ThingLink: A tool that turns Infographics into interactive experiences. This is my description of where my school is at regarding technology implementation: https://www.thinglink.com/ scene/853070881360969730

Here is a link to other Web 2.0 and social media tools: http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/101-web-20-teaching-tools/

Noah with Killingsworth quote

As part of the TGC video, I interviewed some of my STEAM it Up students on camera before a green screen and had them speak on what global competency meant to them.

Another assignment was to create a video of how my school is integrating global education. I was teaching out of the school’s library at the time because my science lab was being built upstairs, and I hung up a green screen and interviewed my students on why they thought global education was important. They also videotaped me. Unfortunately, I got the lapel microphone a bit too close to my mouth and the audio got distorted. I still need to redo the video with better audio, but if you want to see it, here is the link: https://youtu.be/9FE78JTID9E.

Slide01

Title slide from my presentation at the UCET (Utah Coalition for Educational Technology) conference in March, 2017.

In March 2017 I presented a session at the Utah Coalition for Education Technology (UCET) conference and shared some of the things I learned from my Teachers for Global Classrooms course, including what global education is and four technologies that can help in teaching the four competencies. I used Indonesia as my example of another culture and described my upcoming travel experience.

To Investigate the World, I shared a new resource by the U. S. Geological Survey called EarthExplorer. Here is the link: https://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/. It acts as a one-stop shopping center for digital elevation models and includes worldwide DEMs in various formats and even Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data. All you have to do is type in the name or coordinates of the area you want to download and it will list the target. Click on the correct item from the list (if there is more than one) and it will move the Google Map pointer to the correct spot. You then choose the data set(s) to download. I chose the Aster Global DEM. Then click the Results button and it will open up a window with the target grayscale height map, which can be saved (best to rename it as the numbered file name won’t be of much use to you).

Slide09

Using EarthExplorer from the U.S. Geological Survey, I downloaded digital elevation models as grayscale height maps, which I then modeled into terrains in Daz3C Bryce. Here I am showing (clockwise from upper left) Mt. Toba, Gunung Merapi, most of Bali, and the Wasatch Front of Utah. I live close to the mouth of the large canyon (Provo Canyon) emptying the Wasatch Plateau in the middle of the image.

I tried this out for various volcanoes in Indonesia, including Gugung Merapi near Yogyakarta, Gunung Tambora (the one that blew up in 1815 and caused the Year Without a Summer), Anak Krakatau (the Child of Krakatoa), and Lake Toba, which caused a six-year volcanic winter that almost wiped out the human race 74,000 years ago. Once I have the grayscale height maps, I can easily load them into my 3D modeling software (in this case Daz3D Bryce) and add textures, etc.

For Recognize Perspectives, I discussed creating Infographics and turning them into ThingLinks. I also talked about looking up English translations of newspapers from around the world to get another culture’s perspective on world events. Here is a good site to visit: http://www.world-newspapers.com/

For Communicate Ideas, I showed PowToons as a technology for easily creating videos that’s much more fun to use than Adobe Powerpoint or Google Slides.

Take Action

My slide for Competency 4: Taking Action. I propose to collaborate with my host school in Indonesia to collect and compare weather patterns.

For Take Action, I spoke of collaborating between schools to gather global weather data (see: http://worldweather.wmo .int/en/home.html) or take astronometrical readings.

At the end of my presentation, I included links to several other programs that promote teacher travel for global education. I am including a PDF of my presentation here:

Global Education-Digital Tech-s

You can go to the final slide and link to the programs yourself. But be warned: I plan to apply for several of them myself in the next two years.

Slide15

Links to other programs that promote teacher travel and global education.

The presentation went well, with about 12 people in attendance. I encouraged them to apply for the TGC program, which had a deadline of the following Monday. I hope some of them do. It has already been a valuable program for me just from what I have learned from the online class. Of course, what I will learn in Indonesia will go much further.

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final-flowers-2

Glass flowers made by AAI students at Holdman Studios.

During the 2016 fall semester at American Academy of Innovation, I started out in a bare science classroom without any lab stations or sinks. This was a challenge, but also an opportunity as I got the chance to design my own lab. Once I had finished the design and the architects rendered their version of it and the bids came back, it was late October. By the time the cabinet makers were ready to install, it was the week before Thanksgiving. I moved everything into the center of the room and covered it all with a large green tarp for the duration of the construction. I moved my classes into the school library for three weeks.

final-flowers-3

Glass flowers made by students at AAI. Mine is the red one with blue edges at the bottom right.

Since my STEAM it Up class couldn’t build sculptures or do tie dyed shirts or other such projects in the library, we took the three weeks to learn video filming techniques. I also set up a tour of a local glass studio. We researched the processes of glass blowing and the students wrote up a basic script and filmed the narration.

gathering-glass-from-crucible

First step: Gathering molten glass onto the puntil rod from the crucible.

Now I have done this before, as reported previously. I took a group of students from Mountainland Applied Technology College to Holdman Studios in 2009 to document the processes of glass blowing and stained glass artistry. The blown glass video was edited into a short description of the process which can be found here on YouTube (https://youtu.be/0TyDqZCGkpI ) and on my video page in this blog.

shaping-the-gather

Step 2: The molten glass is shaped on a metal shelf next to the crucible.

This time I wanted to get additional footage and give my new students a fun experience, so I set up a class for them to learn how to make glass flowers. These are simpler because they only involve stretching the glass, not blowing, so each student who wanted to pay the fee could make their own.

cullet-for-first-gather

Step 3: The glass is rolled in colored cullet or frit to produce the interior stem color.

We traveled down to Thanksgiving Point to Holdman Studios on November 30, 2016. We signed up and chose our colors. I set up some video cameras to record the process and explanation. A puntil rod is used and not a blowpipe since no blowing is needed.

Here are the steps for making a glass flower: A pre-heated puntil rod is used to gather the molten glass from the crucible, where it is shaped into a cone on a metal shelf.

rolling-first-gather-brielle

Step 4: The first gather is balanced by rolling it at the rolling station.

Colored cullet or frit is added to the molten glass by rolling it through the frit on the marver table. The rod is rolled to get the glass to the desired balance. A second layer of glass is gathered at the crucible and a second color added at the marver table. The first color will be the interior or stem of the flower, the second will be the outside edge or petals of the flower.

second-gather-cullet

Step 5: A second layer of molten glass is added and shaped, then rolled in a second color of cullet to create the flower petal color.

The student at the rolling station then uses forceps to pull out the molten glass into a flower shape. If the student is too cautious or takes too long (like me) the glass may cool too much to be pulled and must be reheated in the glory hole.

flattening-the-glass-me

Step 6: A flat paddle is used to flatten the molten glass agains the puntil rod, to allow for a hollow stem in the flower. I am wearing gloves and a fireproof sleeve to prevent my arm from getting burned. The glass is very hot.

pulling-out-flower-drew

Step 7: The student begins to pull out flower petals from the molten glass.

Once the flower shape is done, the flower is pulled out along the axis of the puntil rod to form a stem, which is either kept straight or twisted up depending on what the student wants. The glass is scored and knocked off the puntil, then fire polished with a blowtorch and placed in an annealing oven for 24 hours to gradually cool down.

pulling-flower-3-sterling

Step 8: Working quickly around the flower, the student continues to pull out the glass to make the flower larger. It feels like pulling taffy.

Six students and two adults, including myself, made flowers. They turned out very well. I had to return two days later to pick them up, and the colors were amazing as seen in these photos. Mine is the flower with a red stem with blue petals, which I gave to my wife as a Christmas present. The process was tricky but fun. I had to wear gloves and a fireproof sleeve to prevent my arm hairs from singing. The glass felt like pulling taffy. I highly recommend that you try this out if you get a chance.

glory-hole

Step 9: If the glass begins to cool (as mine did because I took too much time to pull it), the piece must be re-heated in the glory hole.

We got some good photos and video, even though lighting conditions in the studio are challenging (there is a strong backlight). Audio is also a problem as the glory hole and fans are noisy. But I can hear the explanations well enough to at least transcribe the footage, and record new narration over the top when I finally edit all of this together into a longer video.

pulling-out-stem

Step 10: Once the flower shape is done, the flower is pulled away from the puntil along its axis to create a stem for the flower. The first color of cullet becomes the stem color.

If you want to schedule your own lessons to learn to make glass flowers or even blow your own Christmas ornaments, here is the link to the Holdman Studios page:

https://www.holdmanstudios.com/hotshop-classes/

spinning-the-stem-noah

Step 11: If the student desires, the puntil rod can be rolled to twist up the stem.

fire-polish-me

Step 12: The glass is scored with forceps, knocked off the puntil rod, then placed on fireproof cloth and fire polished with a blowtorch, as I am doing here. The flower is then placed in the annealing oven (at left) to slowly cool down over 24 hours.

students-with-flowers

Some of the students at American Academy of Innovation who made glass flowers at Holdman Studios.

glass-display

Displays of glass at Holdman Studios. In addition to classes for making glass flowers, the staff also holds classes for traditional glass blowing including making Christmas ornaments.

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junk-hat

A hat created by Justin, one of my STEAM it Up students. It is made of upcycled and repurposed materials.

At the beginning of the school year in my STEAM it Up class I had the students vote on which of many possible projects they wanted to work on. The one unit they all agreed on was to make a series of sculptures or cosplay items out of repurposed, upcycled junk. I’ve been collecting materials for years, ever since I created my first “junk” sculpture at the age of 18. I’ve taught this unit three times before in Intersession classes and afterschool clubs when I was at Walden School of Liberal Arts. The results were mixed – the high school students did fairly well, but not so much the middle school students. It seems at that age students are much better at tearing things apart than at systematically planning how to put them back together.

junk-cat

Small junk sculpture of a cat, made by Emily.

My main reason for teaching the class was to actually use up the junk I’ve been collecting and clean out my workshop. Yet it seems I wind up with more stuff before than after – maybe because of the aforementioned “tearing apart” proclivity of middle school students; what was nicely compacted as old VCRs and DVD players is now a series of scattered pieces.

bracelet-and-diagram

A bracelet and a diagram, created for my STEAM it Up class.

So I was a bit reluctant to do this again and bring in boxes of materials that inevitably make a terrible mess in my classroom. But I also knew it could be fun and educational if done right, so I took the chance. I structured this differently than before: each student would need to produce three items. The first would be a small sculpture as a beginning exercise, something that can be easily held in one hand. The second would be a cosplay item or some type of costume piece or wearable sculpture or prop. The third would be a group project where all eight students would plan out a large-scale sculpture together. The second and third projects needed to be sketched out and planned in advance.

little-man

A little man, made from old keys and other recycled objects. Glued together with hot glue and E-6000 adhesive.

They came up with a variety of interesting sculptures for their first and second projects, as seen here. I am also including some of their sketches, although in too many cases they drew the sketches after they made the sculptures. Some of the sculptures involved LED lights, which took some planning and thinking through. The point is to teach them some engineering and materials science skills, and engineers plan everything out in advance. Some students resist this, as they see these sculptures as art forms, not engineering designs, and pre-planning seems to them to impede the creative process. Of course, without planning and thinking through how to attach the disparate materials together, their sculptures tend to fall apart. Glue alone can’t hold a load-bearing member like a leg or arm.

small-soldier

A tiny soldier, made by Noah for my STEAM it Up class.

Which is why we are doing a group project. We decided to build a futuristic Mars colony city (to go with our school’s overall Mars Exploration project – more on this coming in my other blog at http://spacedoutclassroom.com).

space-ship

A space ship sculpture, made from recycled motherboards and other electronic junk.

Two years ago, we had someone contribute a lot of materials to Walden School that were from a doctor’s office or scientist’s lab. I still have no clue what most of the stuff was even for – some of it is probably valuable as antiques. One item was a still for making distilled water, but bought in the early 1970s because of its horrible avocado green color scheme. I managed to get a chemistry professor at Brigham Young University to take it off my hands. But the rest of the stuff was of little use. One item was a plastic autoclave, with multiple levels for sterilizing surgical equipment. There were also glass containers for storing or cleaning microscope slides (I think – based on similar plastic items I’ve seen in the Flinn Scientific catalog).

flying-saucer

A flying saucer that lights up, made by Sam for my STEAM it Up class.

The autoclave looks like a domed city, something out of Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel series of books about the android R. Daneel Olivaw and Detective Elijah Bailey. We were looking at the autoclave and other materials and “noodling around,” which is an important scientific and engineering creative process: putting things together that don’t normally go together and seeing what would look good and work toward a harmonious whole. We came up with the glass containers as pillars for the autoclave layers. One of the students suggested offsetting the layers. I sketched these ideas out on my whiteboard, and we worked through how to attach everything together using metal piping from old 1980s brass and glass furniture with bolts and L-brackets, and wire to tie the pillars together to make the whole thing structurally sound.

bracelet-with-led

A steampunk bracelet with LED light, made by Sam.

Teams of students took different layers. The bottom layer (Level 1) will be the industrial and manufacturing center, so one team is making industrial-style equipment and buildings that look like factories and power plants. One team is doing Level 2, which is the main residential sector. One team is doing Level 3, which is the administrative, shopping, hospital, and school level. They built a school from an old calculator and wanted the holes to become solar panels. I remembered having a folder with a shiny metallic-blue cover, so we cannibalized it to become the solar cells. Level 4 is the park, university, and upper class residential sector, and the dome will have spaceports, defense, and communications centers. Already the pieces are shaping up. This is exactly the engineering and materials science I had hoped for when we started this unit.

magic-wand

Magic wand, made by Sarah for my STEAM it Up class.

We are now beginning the construction of the main city levels, but Winter Break has halted the process. It will be our last project for the STEAM it Up class. It will sit upon two wooden plaques, again donated from the doctor’s office, and we’ll create smaller domes for hydroponics and farms, with small Mars rovers (already made by one student who is great at miniaturized sculptures).

stamp-and-ring

Small sculptures created by my STEAM it Up students: a stamp and a ring.

We’ll make Mars landscaping from paper maché and HO scale model train decorations. I also hope to put wires up through the support shafts and add LED lights to the city. The final city will be quite heavy and hard to move around, so it will stay in my classroom and make a great decoration for my newly completed lab. We’re photographing the construction process, I’ll interview the students, and we’ll add all of this to our ongoing Mars project documentary video. I’ll write another blog post in January when we can show the finished sculpture. I would also like to create a virtual 3D model of the finished city so we can animate and label the parts.

mars-colony-sketch

First drawing of our Mars colony, using parts from an autoclave as the levels of our city and glass microscope slide cleaners as pillars.

We still need to pick a name for it. Looking up names for Mars in various cultures, and adding translations for the word “city,” I come up with some possibilities: Aresdelphia, Al-Qahira Madina, Harmakhis Delphi, Hradelphia or Hrad K’aghak’, Huo Hsing Shr, Ma’adim Delphi, Kaseishi, Mangalakha, Martedelphia or Marte Cuidad, Mawrth Dinas, Nirgal Alu, Shalbatana Alu, Simudelphia, Labouville, and Tiuburg. We’ll have to vote on it.

mars-colony-first-attempt

Even without glue or bolts, the layers stack up fairly well in this first attempt to build the Mars colony city. We decided to use two of the boards instead of one so we could add more landscaping and farming domes using HO-scale model railroad decor.

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woad-stained-pict-warriors-john-white-bm

Pict warriors painted blue with woad pigment. With their blue skin and red hair and mustaches, these warriors must have intimidated even the Romans.

While we were researching dyes for our dyeing lab, I came upon the history of woad, a plant that produces a blue dye used by Europeans for millennia before indigo was imported. It originated somewhere in the steppes north of Asia Minor and was grown, traded, and transplanted all across Europe until it reached Germany, France, and England. During the time of the Romans, warriors from one tribe of Britons would dye or tattoo themselves with woad in elaborate patterns to frighten their enemies. The Romans called them Picts because of the pictures they drew on themselves.

woadballs

Balls of woad. In England, woad leaves were crushed and rolled into balls, then allowed to ferment to precipitate the blue indigotin dye.

During the Renaissance, woad trading and dyeing made whole towns wealthy. In England, many acres were planted to woad. The leaves were harvested and mashed, then rolled into balls and allowed to ferment in a shed. The fermentation allowed the indigotin dye molecule to precipitate out of the plant leaves. The process smelled rather awful, and laws were passed banning any woad dyeworks within two miles of a town.

woad_mill_1752

An illustration of a woad mill in France. The leaves were gathered, crushed mechanically, formed into balls, and allowed to ferment. It was a smelly process, done in the country away from cities.

The other major source of blue dye before synthetics were invented was the indigo plant, which is native to warm and humid climates. Different cultures worldwide have invented their own methods of extracting the indigotin dye from the plants. Japanese dyers would allow the indigo leaves to ferment in a vat to remove oxygen. In India, the leaves were also soaked in vats then treaded by humans to mash the indigo and release the pigment, which was dried and pressed into cakes. Once indigo became known in Europe, it replaced woad as the choice for blue dye because the indigo plant has more indigotin and is therefore cheaper to produce. One wealthy indigo trader, Heinrich Schliemann, used his wealth to explore the ancient site of Troy. Another, Percival Lowell, used his family’s indigo wealth to build the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona to look for life on Mars. Levi Strauss used indigo to dye his original blue denim pants. As you can see, it’s had an impact on history.

woad-shades-031

Young woad plants, with yarn dyed using the extracted indigotin pigment.

As part of my research, I discovered something completely unexpected: dyers had imported woad to Utah in the early 1900s and tried to grow it here. Since it originated in a high desert environment, it did well in Utah’s climate. In fact, it did too well. It got away from the dyer’s fields and went wild, growing all over the western United States. It is now considered to be a Class 3 Invasive Weed, which means it is almost out of control. The only way to prevent it from spreading further is to pull up the plants before they go to seed.

woad-plant-2

A woad plant, growing in the southwest corner of Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Dyers brought woad to Utah in the early 1900s and it got away from them.

I memorized the characteristics of woad plants, knowing I would want to try to find some and take my students on a “Woad Twip.” Woad has dark green leaves with a white vein. These leaves are clustered at the base of the plant. It sends up tall flower spikes with yellow flower clusters in the late spring. By fall, the flowers become brownish-red pendular seed pods with many small black seeds.

woad-plant-3

More woad growing in Salt Lake Valley. I discovered this by accident while collecting late rabbitbrush blossoms. The seed pods can contain hundreds of thousands of seeds in a single clump of plants, and can spread quickly.

By mid October the rabbitbrush blossoms were beginning to fade. I needed to collect as much as I could for continued experiments, so I found a spot in the middle of Mountain View Corridor in southwestern Salt Lake Valley where the rabbitbrush blossoms were still bright, and I stopped there after school on a Friday. While I was out collecting the rabbitbrush blossoms, I noticed a plant I hadn’t seen before. It was woad! So I collected several bags full of leaves and some seed pods, with the idea of trying to grow some in my back yard.

woad-leaves

Cutting woad leaves to extract the indigotin dye.

My chemistry students cut the leaves into pieces and also separated out the seeds. We looked up the ancient process of woad extraction and found some websites that describe how it is still being done at small farms in England. The process involves quite a bit of chemistry. I am attaching a PDF file that describes the steps. Here it is:

woad-dyeing-process-s

whipping-woad

Whipping woad solution to add oxygen and precipitate the indigotin.

In summary, the indigotin dye in woad and indigo is a rather delicate molecule. Too much heat will destroy it, but some heat is needed to extract it from the leaves. The chopped leaves are steeped in water at 90° C for 10-15 minutes. The leaf fragments are strained out and the liquid has soda ash added to make the solution basic. To precipatate the indigotin, the solution must be whipped with an electric mixer for 15-20 minutes to add oxygen to the solution. The solution is poured into dishes and allowed to settle. The supernate is carefully poured or filtered off and the final pigment allowed to dry.

woad-settling-dishes

After adding soda ash and whipping the woad solution, we poured into dishes to allow the pigment to settle out. We then poured off the supernate.

We took it this far in chemistry class. Our next step will be to put the purified indigotin in a 50-60° bath and add some sodium hydrosulfite to the solution. This is a reducing agent that converts the blue indigotin into leuco (white) indigotin, which will dissolve in water and turn yellow-green. It takes about an hour of careful heating without stirring to do the conversion. While it is simmering (but not boiling), the fabric or yarn must be heated up in a bath with some soda ash. Once the solution turns yellow-green, the hot fabric or yarn can be carefully added without dripping or splashing. After about ten minutes, the dye has absorbed into the fabric but not yet bonded. When it is removed and exposed to the air, the fabric will turn from green to blue as the indigo converts from leuco back to blue indigo. As it precipitates out, it bonds with the fabric. Hopefully.

woad-pigment-settling

Woad dye pigment settling out on the bottom of our dishes. We poured off the supernate and dried out the final pigment.

I purchased some pure indigo from Dharma Trading Company and was in the middle of heating the dye bath with sodium hydrosulfite after school on Tuesday when our fire alarm went off – an exterior pipe in our fire suppression system had frozen and burst, so we had to evacuate the building. I quickly unplugged everything and left. It was the last day before Winter Break. I hope to return by tomorrow and continue the experiment. If it works with pure indigo, I will demonstrate the process in chemistry with our own woad pigment when we return from break. I’ll update this blog post then.

natural-dyes-andes

Andean people with naturally dyed alpaca yarn and clothing. The purples and reds come from cochineal, the oranges and yellows from tree bark, etc. All cultures have solved the problem of how to dye cloth; dyestuffs are found around the world.

All cultures around the world have found ways to solve the problem of how to dye fabrics. They’ve found dyestuffs in plants, minerals, and animals; through continual experimentation they’ve realized that certain salts (mordants) will help make the dyes colorfast. The process of oxidizing, then reducing indigo must have taken a long time to discover. It amazes me that such a complicated process could be developed in many countries and cultures, each with their own way of accomplishing the same thing, and all to get a permanent blue dye.

 

nilda-and-acopia-women

Alpaca wool yarn dyed with cochineal.

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aai-video-frameIn my last post, I said goodbye to Walden School of Liberal Arts after teaching there for six eventful years. My original plan was to spend a year in Washington, D.C. as an Einstein Fellow, but despite making it to the final round, I was not chosen. My Plan B was to go back to school for a PhD, but even though I was accepted to the STEM Education program at the University of Kentucky, I deferred for at least a year so that I could earn up more money for the move. I interviewed at four schools and received two offers, and accepted the offer at American Academy of Innovation.

aai-charter-school-rendering-s

Illustration of American Academy of Innovation

It is a brand new charter school with a mission for project-based learning, stem education, and international partnerships. They started building it in January and the contractors were still putting in finishing touches as we met for the first time as a faculty on August 15, 2016. Our Director is Scott Jones, who has a great deal of experience directing and working in charter school environments. The teachers have been hired from all around, some from Texas, the East and West Coasts, and several from Utah, Idaho, and Alaska. It appears to be a highly creative group of teachers.

aai-innovation-orange

Innovation Orange: American Academy of Innovation on my first day there.

We took a tour of the building and saw what it will look like in the next two weeks – except for my science room. It hasn’t been finished, partly because of last minute changes to the water and gas lines, partly so that they can get my input. I have since designed the lab, with four student stations, a fume hood and teacher demo desk, and lots of cupboards for storage. As I am writing this (November 14, 2016), the contractors are building in the lab stations – hooray! – and I am teaching out of the library.

faculty-touring-school

Faculty of American Academy of Innovation touring the school; August 2016.

For our first two weeks we met as faculty to prepare and plan. We revised the school’s vision and mission statements. Here are the new ones:

The Vision of American Academy of Innovation is to empower the individual mind to improve the world.

Our mission statement:innovation-defl-a

The American Academy of Innovation combines academic fundamentals; career, technology, and 21st Century skills with international and community partnerships through project-based learning to ignite an innovative mindset within the individual and society.

I most like that our overall goals are to ignite an innovative mindset and to empower the individual to improve the world. I have attended many educator conference sessions on Problem-Based Learning (PBL), so I volunteered to share what I’ve learned with the rest of the faculty and to go through the eight characteristics of PBL, working through a potential large-scale problem as an example. I chose an expedition to Mars (which I’ve used as an example all summer at meetings for potential parents and students). Other teachers volunteered to share their expertise, so we trained each other. Scott also brought in some experts from other charter schools to talk about how we will implement special education and organizational culture. We took time to plan out what our first few days would be like as we started training our new students toward project/problem-based learning.

aai-lobby-august-2016

Lobby of American Academy of Innovation; August 2016. We still had much work to do putting together tables, chairs, desks, and filing cabinets.

In addition to holding daily meetings, we helped to put together chairs, desks, filing cabinets, and other furniture. Parents and students came in to help, and by the time the first two weeks were over, the school was shaping up and ready for occupancy.

first-day-of-school

AAI students meeting in our gym for introductions on the first day of school; August 31, 2016.

On August 29, we held our first day with students at the school. These first two days were to be an orientation to get the students excited about being here and help them get to know us and each other. Some had come from neighborhood schools and knew each other before, but some had come from charter schools or homeschooling. We met in our new gymnasium, and discovered immediately that the acoustics in there are terrible. It is basically a hollow concrete shell, so sound bounces all over the place and the small portable PA system wasn’t up to the job. After introducing the staff, we divided the students into groups and had them rotate through four sessions each day for the first two days.

marble-roll-1

Marble rolling group activity. Students use the pool noodles as channels to roll marbles from a starting line into a bucket. It takes teamwork and problem-solving skills.

My groups were about problem solving. Our first day I did the activity of using swimming noodles cut in half to roll marbles from a starting point into a bucket. As the noodles were short, they had to develop teamwork to move the marble along without dropping it. It was interesting to see leadership beginning to emerge from some of the students. Most of the small groups were eventually successful. It was a lot of fun.

marble-roll-2

Rolling marbles into a bucket as a group problem-solving activity.

Our second day, I ran an activity to make a simple paper helicopter based on Da Vinci’s helix machine. Students were asked to use inquiry to vary the shape of the basic helicopter and try different things. After experimenting and testing in a classroom, I had them drop the helicopters off our balcony in the main lobby and tried to photograph and videotape the results.

helicopter-drop

Testing our paper helicopters. What you get depends on what you’re testing.

Other groups toured the school, took polls for what our new mascot and school colors would be, and many other things. Overall I think we managed to convey a sense of excitement, innovation, and inquiry to the students.

making-marbled-paper

Making marbled paper. Oil paints are diluted with mineral spirits, then dropped into a metal pan with an inch of water in them. The oil/spirits mixture floats on top and can be lifted off by lying a piece of sketch paper on top.

On Wednesday, August 31 we held our first regular classes. We have four periods per day on an A-B schedule; each class is 90 minutes long. I’m used to 70 minutes, so I have to pace myself. Our school day starts at 8:30 and ends at 3:30 with 50-minute lunches, so it is a longer day than I’m used to. My schedule for A days is to teach 3D Modeling during first period to about 25 students (good numbers – I’ve been talking this up all summer). We didn’t have computers to work with at first, so I had to do preparatory things such as going through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain activities and teaching orthographic and perspective drawing skills. Second period I have STEAM it Up, with only eight students (students didn’t quite understand what this class would be about, but that’s OK – a smaller group will be more mobile and experimental). My third period class is chemistry, again a challenge to begin with since I had an empty room and no sinks or lab stations. I started with six demonstrations using household chemicals and had them make observations. I had 12 students but this has grown to 16. My 4th period class is 8th Grade Science to about 20 students. I decided since the new SEEd standards are being implemented fully next year, we might as well implement them now at AAI. We created marbled paper on the first day.

astro-levels-activity

Astronomy activity to determine the correct order of levels of magnitude in the universe. It starts with multiverse at the top and ends at quarks at the bottom.

On B days (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and alternating Fridays) I have the following schedule: First period (B1) is astronomy to 7-8 grades. I began with my scale of the universe activity to arrange strips of paper in the right order from largest to smallest scale. This helps me see what they already know visually while providing a setting for the class. Second period is Innovation Design, basically my MYP Design class again for 7-8 grade students. We began with the bridge building activity that I modified from Wendi Lawrence’s spaghetti tower design challenge. Even with 90-minute classes, the student groups didn’t get as far as I would have liked, with only one truly successful group. I can see we have some work here, partly because the students don’t know each other and aren’t used to working together. My B3 class is 8th grade science again, and then I had a prep period B4.

the-big-sit-down

The big sit down: all our students lined up, then sat down using the student behind as a chair. I kind of worked . . .

Part way into September, one of our teachers, who is from China, found out he had a conflict with his Visa (he had not renewed it), and so was unable to work for the rest of the semester. We found substitute math teachers for his math classes, but no one to fill in for his two computer science classes. I volunteered to give up my prep on B4 to teach the computer science class. It has been a challenge teaching straight through every day without a prep period, especially trying to stay up on grades. Because of our lack of computers, we had to have the students pair up. He started with Scratch, so I was able to transition the students over to my own way of doing things without totally replacing his structure. I also want to implement using AppLab after Scratch, then move on to Python.

building-bridges

Bridge building design challenge for my Innovation Design class. They must span 12 inches and make a bridge strong enough for a Matchbox car to be pushed across. They are given 30 pieces of spaghetti, 10 small gumdrops, and one sheet of paper.

When you add to this that I now have a 45-minute one way commute it can be exhausting. Much of my after school time has been spent in weekly faculty meetings or designing my science lab or putting together the order for initial equipment, lab supplies, and chemicals. We purchased 27 Dell laptop computers, so I’ve also needed to spend time getting software installed including Daz3D Bryce, Stellarium, Gimp, Sculptris, Blender, and others as well as getting the 3D printer up and running. I come home and crash each evening. But slowly, day-by-day, we are making progress and the students are beginning to develop 21st Century skills for collaboration, communication, and creativity. It was a rocky start, but we are almost ready to implement the Big Project.

pouring-sidewalk

Our school was still under construction during the teacher planning weeks in August, but by the time students started we were ready. Except for my science lab, which was completed in November.

We identified four possible Big Projects as a faculty and had the students vote on which one they preferred. My descriptions were as neutral as possible because I didn’t want to be accused of influencing the vote. Except, of course, I may have sweetened the well by using an example of a Mars expedition during our summer meetings. The vote was to do a Mars expedition or Mars exploration theme for our project. I will report on this more in my http://Spacedoutclassroom.com blog.

science-room-august-2016

My science lab at the beginning of the school year. A white board and projector, but that’s about all. It looks much nicer now!

I’ve never worked so hard, and my health is probably suffering as a result. I’m not as young as I once was, and some days I truly feel it, but it has been an incredible ride so far. Over Winter Break I will be reporting on all that we have done in my classes on my two blog sites, so stay tuned.

right-side-of-brain

My 3D students on the first day of school. By this time we had chairs, but no tables or desks. So we handed out clipboards to each student. Here they are doing an drawing lesson where they turn a photograph upside down and draw what they see instead of drawing a face. They do a better job this way.

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