Expeditionary Learning Teachers Awarded Fund for Teachers Grants for Global Learning Odysseys

Will spend summer in 11 countries/5 continents to model lifelong learning for students

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Fund for Teachers Awards 63 Houston Teachers Grants for Global Learning Odysseys

Will spend summer in 17 countries/7 continents to model lifelong learning for students

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24 Los Angeles Teachers Awarded Fund for Teachers Grants for Global Summer Learning Odysseys

Will spend summer in 8 countries/4 continents to model lifelong learning for students

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Newsletter – Volume 7, Spring 2011

In This Issue:
TA Piece of Pi
Back in the Classroom
Fellows’ Spring Calendar
A Wisconsin Teacher’s POV
Where Are They Now?

Read our recent newsletter, Odyssey.

 

Teachers’ Exploration of Irish Potato Famine Informs Local Student Prejudice Issue

(March 17, 2011) Minturn, CO, a small town on the outskirts of Vail, relies on international visitors for its livelihood. Ironically, it’s also the increasingly immigrant work force that’s fostering prejudice at Minturn Middle School. With a racially-divided student population (52% Hispanic/47% Caucasian), cultural discrimination extends even to “established” and “new” Hispanic students. Seventh grade teachers Noel Falk and Stephanie Gallegos chose to address these schisms with history. Turning to an earlier era marked by ethnic turmoil, the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-50, this teacher team traveled to Ireland on a Fund for Teachers grant last June to better understand how that crisis led to Irish immigration, American stereotypes, and, ultimately, prejudice.

Noel and Stephanie stand by a soup pot once used to feed famine victims.

“With our $9,500 Fund for Teachers grant, we chose to use Ireland’s Potato Famine and resulting mass emigration to help students comprehend the enormity of leaving one’s home country with only a “dream” as a lifeline – much like our Hispanic families who emigrate from Mexico,” explained Falk. “By applying this first-hand research toward a two-trimester course on immigration, we hoped to show our students the cultural and economic roots of prejudice and how we can address it in our own culture.”

During their nine-day odyssey, Falk and Gallegos visited Skibbereen, the worst-affected area of the famine and home of the Skibbereen Heritage Center and its Great Famine Commemoration Exhibition, and the Abbeystrewery Cemetery, where nearly10,000 Potato Famine victims are buried; the Heritage Center in Cobh, an emigration port for 2.5 million Irish; a traditional farm in County Kerry that simulated an Irish farmer’s life 200 years ago; and the Famine Warhouse 1848 in County Tipperary, where the Young Irelanders Rebellion protested British rule and British reaction to the famine.

Noel and Stephanie tour Abbeystrewry Cemetery, a mass gravesite for famine victims.

Back at Minturn Middle School, the teachers’ experiences and primary sources sparked dialogue about immigration past and present. Students spent the fall digging into the Potato Famine and its impact on Irish/English relations. As students moved across the Atlantic with the Irish, they learned that the rough journey for the Irish immigrant didn’t end when they passed inspection at Ellis Island. Rather, the Irish spent decades climbing the American social and economic ladder while experiencing nativist perspectives and prejudice in the United States. As students now begin studying Mexican immigration, they realize how much the two cultures have in common. The curriculum created a safe forum for students to discuss the roots of prejudice and how groups can overcome social injustices with facts and dialogues. Consequently, Falk and Gallegos report that students’ own preconceived notions of others are changing.

“This Fund for Teachers fellowship provided us the contacts, connections and perspectives we lacked, but that now help us effectively address the central lesson for our students: Individuals can lessen prejudice by better understanding one another,” said Gallegos. “By bringing Ireland to our classroom and shrinking the world for our students, they begin to realize how similar our cultures are and that the Mexicans who immigrate to the United States in search of a better life are not that different than the Irish who preceded them.”

A national, donor-supported organization, Fund for Teachers makes an important contribution to America’s educational conversation by expanding the definition of teacher professional development. By investing $14.5 million in 4,000 educators over the past ten years, Fund for Teachers inspires teachers’ pursuit of meaningful, self-designed work that translates into skills and scholarship directly impacting student learning. For more information, visit fundforteachers.org or facebook.com/fundforteachers.

For more information on Fellows who have traveled to Ireland, visit our Teacher Project Search, and search for “Ireland.”

A Piece of Pi

While math enthusiasts around the world celebrate Pi Day on 3.14 (or March 14), a select group of Fund for Teachers Fellows celebrate math year-round as our Pi Society Fellows. Founded by Apache Corporation Chairman and CEO Steve Farris, the Pi Society incentivizes teachers to design and pursue math-related fellowships that will directly impact students’ knowledge of concepts vital for corporate leadership. In its first two years, the Pi Society is already fueling meaningful work by its Fellows and their students.

Left: Merit sits at the entrance of Pythagoras’ cave classroom on his 2009 fellowship. Right: Bob with his guitar made under the instruction of master craftsman George Riszanyi.

Living in an isolated rural area, Merit Bean’s students at Mt. Abram High School in Salem Township, ME, are amazed when he begins the year’s math curriculum with a slideshow of his 2009 FFT fellowship to Greece. He introduces the Pythagorean Theory by showing students photos of his hike to Pythagoras’ cave classroom on the island of Samos. He teaches geometrical proportions using photos of Grecian buildings exhibiting the Gold Rectangle premise.

“Using my photographs-ranging from the Parthenon to a shepherd’s hut on the side of an isolated hillside on Tinos- my students calculate proportions in class and then disperse into the community to gather examples of the Golden Rectangle. In January, they returned to class with photos of the geometrical principal at work in libraries, court houses and homes. One of my favorites was a picture of an outhouse that was a perfect fit based on its proportions! The students came away with a deeper understanding of how our isolated, rural community was influenced by Ancient Greece and the ways our cultures are more connected than we realize.”

Bob Dunn’s students at North County Union High School in Newport, VT, experiment with physics under the guise of rock and roll. Last summer, Dunn enrolled in a workshop in Nova Scotia on his FFT fellowship and learned how to make musical instruments while employing mathematical concepts. Under the direction of craftsmen who have built guitars for Keith Richards and James Taylor, Dunn developed skills (and instruments) that served him in creating a math class, “Making Musical Instruments.” In designing and building their own instruments, students considered amplitude and sound wavelength, and selected woods based on their research. A colleague of Dunn’s also created a math unit which focused on calculating the placement of dulcimer frets based on string length. In February, before an audience of parents, faculty and peers, students shared their scientific findings and musical skills on their own hand-crafted dulcimers.

Bob’s student adds clamps to his hand-made dulcimer.

Additional Pi Society Fellows include: Mike Beebe, Littleton, NC, who visited renewable energy technology centers across America to observe, research, and develop a standards-aligned project-based Algebra II curriculum; Padma Rayalla, Atlanta, GA, who observed mathematical teaching and assessment strategies in Bangalore and Hyderbad, India, to implement with International Baccalaureate students; Rebecca Brink, Necedah, WI, who attended the conference History and Epistemology in Math Education in Vienna, Austria, followed by an exploration into the lives of early mathematicians in Athens, Greece, to incorporate the history of mathematics and culture into current curriculum; and Richard Saxer, York, NE, who observed geometry’s relevance and application in prehistoric sites, architectural designs and art displays throughout England and Ireland.

If you are interested in supporting teachers’ and students’ pursuit of inspired mathematical learning, please invest in a piece of the Pi Society by contacting us at info@fundforteachers.org.

Boston Teacher to Watch Oscars from an Insider’s Point of View

Local Teacher Brings Back to Brighton High School Skills Learned from Hollywood Workshop

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Students honor McAuliffe legacy with science fair

Sarah Thomas
The Boston Globe

FRAMINGHAM – A quarter century after high school teacher Christa McAuliffe died on the space shuttle Challenger, a new generation of students honored the teacher’s legacy Thursday evening with a science fair held at her alma mater, Framingham State University.

“More than anything else, Christa was about teaching,” said Mary Liscombe, executive director of the Christa McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching Excellence, which is based on the campus. “Her story reinforces the message that anyone can live their dreams, and that message endures through teachers who inspire their students to learn.”

Training for the Challenger flight included some lighter moments for Framingham State grad Christa McAuliffe (left), chosen as the first teacher in space, and her backup, Barbara Morgan. (Nasa via Associated Press/File 1986)

The fair, which showcased the work of McAuliffe Regional Charter Public Middle School’s eighth-grade students, was the capstone of the center’s memorial for McAuliffe and the six other crew members who died on Jan. 28, 1986.

Hundreds of people crowded into the McCarthy Center Forum at Framingham State for the evening’s events, which included short speeches by Liscombe and state Senator Karen Spilka.

“This is a bittersweet celebration,” Spilka said. “Christa is an inspiration to us all, and it’s great to see such a packed room. My thanks to all the students that participated. You are our future.”

Grace Corrigan, McAuliffe’s mother, was scheduled to appear, but was unable to attend.

The fair was conceived by Dan Anderson, McAuliffe Regional’s eighth-grade science teacher. Despite his school being named after such a famous crew member of the Challenger, Anderson said that until last year, he didn’t know much about space.

“It wasn’t on our curriculum. We focused on cells and genetics, and that’s where my passion really was,” Anderson said. “I didn’t have as much genuine excitement for space science, and I think my students could tell that.”

Luckily, Anderson had a solution: space camp. With the help of McAuliffe Regional’s director, Kristin Harrison, Anderson applied for a grant from the Fund for Teachers to spend a week at the Space Academy for Educators in Huntsville, Ala.

“Part of the grant was bringing some part of my experience back, and this fair was the way we decided to do it,” Anderson said. “We have learned so much. The students at our school learn experientially, and they have interviewed space scientists from all over the world. I love space now!”

One student, Matthew Yaeger, wore a regulation NASA space suit to present his research on propulsion in space, and said he has wanted to be an astronaut since the second grade.

“It was a great project,” said Yaeger, who collaborated with his friend Jacob Komissar. “We went to Worcester Polytechnic and talked to a lot of scientists. It was kind of cool, because I had all these ideas of how propelling space ships could work, and then I found out NASA had been thinking of the same things.”

Another student, Caroline Boldt, said she didn’t have much of an interest in space before she started her project on Pluto with her friend Shannon Pruyn.

“My favorite subject is biology, but when I grow up I want to do something in the arts,” Boldt said. “Now I think I’ll have to do pictures of space in my art.”

The evening’s events also included archival displays from the Christa McAuliffe collections, and performances at the Challenger Learning Center planetarium.

The students who participated in the fair put themselves in contention for a grand prize trip to space camp in the summer by writing short essays about what the project taught them.

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.