Later this week, our first Los Angeles teacher departs on a Fund for Teachers Fellowship. This teacher at the Environmental Science & Technology School designed a six-week fellowship in coordination with RCDP Nepal. She will experience the region’s culture and environment to weave together a curriculum that helps students respect, understand and engage with cultures, practices and environments outside of their own. She explains:

“I always advocate to my students that in order to be true environmentalists and activists for humanity they must first develop a deep connection to all of humankind. While in Nepal I would like to explore how I can evoke environmental awareness as well as compassion, tolerance and empathy in my students for other cultures and regions of the world. I would also like to compare and contrast environmental efforts in Los Angeles to conservation efforts in Nepal by looking at the different challenges each face. I want to explore the challenges of a rural conservation effort as well as explore the threats to Nepal’s ecosystem.

I believe that one of the main goals of education has to be to teach young people to make better choices. As educators we need to foster their ability to make ethical choices about their behaviors and understand how these choices and behaviors affect themselves, their peers, their environment and their world. I want to genuinely foster empathy in my students and I feel that increasing their understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity is the best way to do it.”

Two Mississippi teachers cross the pond today on their Fund for Teachers fellowship to research at Cambridge University the eponymous exam system and consult with teachers at three London high schools. Their mission upon returning home is to develop proficiencies for implementation to increase curriculum rigor and prepare for Common Core State Standards.

“Cambridge University International Exams is the largest provider of educational curriculum and assessment in the world. When our school previewed programs to adopt as part of the Excellence for All board examination system, we chose Cambridge for its quality reputation and international focus.

There is very limited training for the Cambridge program in the United States. We have each attended a two-day workshop and completed an online course, but we have never seen the curriculum in action.

The purpose of our fellowship is two-fold: to increase the number of high-risk students who graduate ready to enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed and to decrease the number of students who enter college and must take remedial classes before starting their degree program. Also by using an international examination program, we can prepare our students for a global economy and workforce.”

Parlez-vous français?

Two additional Louisiana teachers leaves today on an FFT fellowship. They plan to experience daily life and culture in France by living with several contacts established through a long-standing, virtual exchange program to enhance current interaction and draft curriculum for prospective AP French Language and Culture course. In their application, they wrote:

“When thinking about my teaching practice, I realize that I view my content area—French—much like a long-term pursuit. I strive to learn better fluency, a broader vocabulary base, and a deeper understanding of the culture of Francophone countries. Making my ambition all the more difficult is the fact that a foreign language is much like a moving target. It changes rapidly with new technology being invented, adolescent lingo ebbing and flowing, and modern culture constantly evolving. To keep pace with it, to stay fluent, to update my arsenal of up-to-the-minute knowledge, I signed up online eight years ago at e-Tandem Europa to find a partner teacher in France with whom to conduct class correspondence. Our partnership has blossomed into an online teaching team: I know her classes, she knows mine, and we regularly facilitate and participate in each other’s classroom projects.

A key question I want to explore is: how do I extend my online collaboration beyond the capabilities of the internet and snail mail to physically immerse myself in the culture I have fed upon virtually? Another key question is: how do I assist my team member in learning the immeasurable benefits of an internet classroom exchange? The fellowship I propose is fueled by my passion for the language, by my appreciation for truly authentic culture, and by the success I have achieved thus far in my online collaboration.”

The chair of the IT department at Washington DC’s McKinley Technology High School will experience the Summer Solstice from a unique vantage point – an ice-class expedition sail boat. He leaves today to join a group of educators, artists and scientists sailing around the Arctic Circle for one month to create GPS-based mapping projects, an interactive travel log documenting the effects of climate change and video/online journals, to develop content for a new technology class. He explains:

“The Fund For Teachers grant will allow me to spend three weeks on a sailboat in the Arctic Circle on a Solstice Expedition, and one week on Svalbard Island on a residency designed for educators, artists, and scientists to research and collaborate on projects of their choosing. The boat leaves from Svalbard Island, Norway, which is 400 miles north of mainland Europe. Svalbard is home to a few thousand people in mining communities as well as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. I am interested in researching the practical uses of a global seed vault and also finding out what challenges they face. I would like to know how they keep these seeds secure in their complex buried inside an Arctic mountainside, and how they catalog and track the seeds from all over the world. I am also interested in documenting the journey that the boat makes for three weeks at sea in the Arctic Circle. What evidence can I find using photo, video and GPS technologies to illustrate the rapid climate changes in Arctic Sea, and how can I convey these findings to my students back home? How can I manipulate mapping technology to convey my findings in an interesting way? I want to learn how to bring the Data from field research back into the classroom to get my students motivated about their own possibilities.”

“First, I will be producing my own GPS based mapping projects to create content for a Geo-Mapping technology class I will teach next school year for high school juniors and seniors. I will also be documenting the journey with video and online journals to create an interactive travel log showing the effects of climate change. I will document the receding ice formations as well as the loss of habitat for the animal and marine life. Each photo and video will be geo-tagged and loaded onto an interactive map corresponding on the time and location of the footage. This will
create a linear way for students to follow along, but it will also give them the opportunity to scan the map and decide what they want to learn about based on the route and icons on the map. This creates an experience of self-navigation that the students can manipulate based on their own interests, instead of a traditional ‘start-to-finish’ timeline that they might not find interest in. It also gives the students an opportunity to analyze the data themselves to come up with their own scientific conclusions and predictions for the future. This will serve as a learning tool and a model for a unit that the students will take on as their final project.

"For my other project I will be conducting on site visits to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which is run by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The Global Seed Vault ensures that the genetic diversity of the world’s food crops is preserved for future generations. Scientists consider it an important contribution to the reduction of hunger and poverty in developing countries. This is where the greatest plant diversity originates and where the need for food security and the further development of agriculture is most urgent. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is established underground in a permafrost mountain of Svalbard, is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections around the globe. Many of these collections are in developing countries. If seeds are lost as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard.”

A teacher from Lake Travis High School outside Austin, TX, joins the Middle East peace process on her Fund for Teachers fellowship today. Accompanying the World Affairs Council’s “Road to Peace” delegation, she will collaborate with Palestinians and Israelis in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho to help students understand the delicate process of conflict resolution with an emphasis on technological resources. She writes:

“As a high school World Geography teacher, I was hired to teach concepts such as: analyze the human and physical factors that influence the power to control territory and resources, create conflict/war, and impact international political relations of sovereign nations such as China, the United States, Japan, and Russia. I would like to learn the most effective, engaging, and educational way to put the learner in the center of conflicting perspectives and guide them through collaboration of ideas, whether in a physical or virtual Socratic-style seminar (gaining knowledge through the asking of questions) or free-response discussion boards.

My key questions and research goals are:

(1) Are the Israeli and Palestinian youth being taught to think critically for themselves as well?
(2) How much are they collaborating within their own student groups and across borders and boundaries?
(3) Can collaboration help effectively grow understanding and openness to solve conflict?
(4) Are there better ways to collaborate by using technology?

The passion and challenge that inspires my proposed fellowship is to push my students to think for themselves, not to blindly accept what is told to them, but to gather ideas and form their own opinions and to ultimately do something about them. I am challenged and committed
to finding and using effective avenues of collaboration and locating engaging and relevant technology for today’s global citizens. I would also like to make connections and share ideas with other people who are committed to quality education for all.”

For the next three weeks, a Washington DC teacher gets in the trenches, literally, to connect his Latin students with the history behind the language. The Washington Latin Public Charter School teacher will join the American Institute for Roman Culture’s excavation of the Roman port of Ostia Antica.

“Iris Murdoch writes that language is like a net that covers the form of an object, revealing its shape but actually separating us from the object of our attention and is a poor substitute for experience. I’ve memorized details of classic history, written research papers, and collected piles of books, but sometimes it seems the more I know, the more separated I feel – the more Roman history blends with its own mythology. One of my personal goals of this fellowship is to connect with the tangibility of Roman history by studying its artifacts and walking the same streets that Caesar did – to experience history in a way that words can’t do justice and to bring my students one step closer to the reality of ancient Rome.


Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Learning
Dolores Munoz - Los Angeles, CA

My summer has been vast and packed with learning. So much so that the journal I kept is full of rapidly written notes and thoughts. As I reread it now to put my ideas down on what I learned about the American Revolution, I realize it will take me days to clean it up and digest the gems I have in my cryptic notes. But here are some of the highlights that may be of interest to you…

My exploration of our nation’s birth started in Charlottesville, Virginia, and continued onto Colonial Williamsburg. Before touring the Revolutionary City, I visited Monticello to ground my learning in the plantation’s history. As I learned about Jefferson’s life and love of learning I began to appreciate his role as theorist of the American Revolution. Learning about his library and constant passion for learning and seeking like-minded individuals such as John Adams primed Jefferson for his greatest achievement: drafting the Declaration of Independence. As I read the words again from one of the replicas I purchased to use as a primary source with my students, I realize how powerful those ideals are. I am especially moved by the phrases that I have engrained in my mind’s eye as the pinnacle of our Americanism: “All men are created equal” and have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.“

These words stir in all Americans nationalist emotions and are especially powerful once you trace the path of our Revolution as I did in Boston and Philadelphia. As I visited Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia I began to piece together how our Founding Fathers organized themselves and worked together to create our nation. The park rangers narrated the history for us and standing in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House where the delegates met to create the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution was a moving experience. In my mind, I tried to see what it may have been like and having the paintings and some of the original artifacts before me helped me feel the past in a way that textbooks could never do.

As I photographed what I was witnessing I realized how priceless these pictures would be when I brought them back to my classroom. I will be able to show the students through first hand experience and not just tell them, which will be especially critical for my English learners.

As moving as Philadelphia was, Boston was the most critical piece of the puzzle for me. Walking the Freedom Trail was the most edifying part of my exploration. I did not walk up to Bunker Hill as I chose to focus the second and third day on exploring Minute Man National Historical Park. Through the Park Ranger led talks, I discovered the fighting spirit of the Bostonians and the true spark for revolution that they ignited by standing their ground against the oppression of a monarch. The echoes of the past were heard in every presentation and I believe these echoes are still resounding with us as we too share a notion of liberty as something precious and worth fighting for.

 Most importantly, I realized that the elements that were necessary for the Revolution to be successful were in the hearts and minds of the people that were fighting it. The culture of freedom of the colonial settlements from Plymouth to Williamsburg and beyond fueled or path to nationhood.

I have a new appreciation for the words attributed to John Adams, “The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.” Standing in Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House and Park Street Church helped me understand that these institutions were sites where colonists assembled to proclaim their rights, drill their militias, educate their young and govern their own church congregations and in so doing were protecting their property and pursuit of happiness from the British meddling. This microcosm was especially palpable in the North End neighborhood where Paul Revere and others participated in the growing unrest. As I walked and drove the Battle Road Trail to experience the landscape that sow the first day of fighting in our Revolutionary War I was humbled by the sacrifices the Massachusetts Minute Men made April 19, 1775 and for the next eight years as they joined the Continental Army. Our Revolution was hard fought and we all must embrace our nation’s history to value our present democracy with the due respect it deserves.

This Fourth of July, I celebrate the birth of our nation with different eyes. Now I have witnessed the past in its full scale and appreciate the glory of the day beyond the family barbecues and fireworks. In my mind, I see the beginnings of Plymouth Colony and the families struggling in a new land to eke a living against all odds. I thank the fallen for their sacrifice. I remember that our Declaration of Independence was the beginning of a nation that is now founded on a Constitution that must continue to be defended and upheld. I was extremely proud of our Supreme Court Judges’ decision to uphold gay marriage and as I toured the Supreme Court that very day and realized that our three branches of government have served us well. But we must never neglect our duty to be vigilant and protect our rights as citizens as our forefathers did. I will bring all this to my students at Belvedere Elementary and make our history and civics lessons come alive. 

(Photos: Dolores on the Battle Road Trail and at Boston’s Faneuil Hall.)