Fund for Teachers Convenes Industry & Educational Leaders to Contemplate the Fate of Thinking Big in US Schools
Fund for Teachers Convenes Industry & Educational Leaders to Contemplate the Fate of Thinking Big in US Schools
In rather uplifting news from the realm of education, some 430 teachers will be striking out on an expedition around the world this summer. The teachers will embark on a 7 Continent odyssey with over $1.7M in Fund for Teachers grants.
This news spotlights what could become a groundbreaking educational opportunity as teams of Pre-K-12 teachers take up worldwide experiential professional development at the behest of Fund for Teachers. This initial 61 country experiment promises to vastly enrich the teacher professional knowledge base, which in turn promotes mentor-like teaching of via first-hand knowledge.
Not only will students benefit from such grants, but the teachers will find new and exciting rewards in their chosen subject cases. One such teacher, Aliyah Frazier, teacher at Atlanta’s Stanton F. L. Elementary, had this to say about his endeavor:
“Receiving a Fund for Teachers grant enhanced my passion as a teacher and is giving me the opportunity to take professional development and enrichment to new heights.”
Aliyah is using the grant to using her grant to research ancient and indigenous cultures of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. In so doing, Frazier can more easily and effectively show students the relevance of Spanish in his classes. Natalie Dennison, another teacher at New York’s Bushwick School for Social Justice, had this to add:
“My 2010 grant allowed me to assist in conservation efforts on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and equipped me with personal experiences I daily use as a visual and anecdotal platform to model, motivate and teach.”
Fund for Teachers, for those unfamiliar, has given almost $16 million in teacher grants since 20o1. Executive Director there, Karen Kovach Webb, said; “These grants catalyze a ripple effect of inspired learning for the teacher, their students and school community.” Her organization is wholly supported by donors who invest in the idea Fund for Teachers expands the definition of what it is to be a teacher. Inspiration is the central theme of this organization.
For more information on this cutting edge travel news, consult the original press release via our friends at PR Web, visit the Fund for Teachers website, their Facebook aspect, or contact them via Twitter. The video below is from the Fund for Teachers YouTube Channel.
In This Issue:
V.I.P. Teachers in Any Language
Back in the Classroom
Summer Learning on Seven Continents
Where Are They Now?
While America’s educational system navigates budget cuts resulting from state shortfalls, two teachers from Friendship, Wis., will navigate Lewis and Clark’s cross-country sojourn via motorcycle this summer on a Fund for Teachers fellowship.
Paul Timm and Virginia Fritz, teachers at Grand Marsh Elementary School, proposed their ideal professional development experience to Fund for Teachers through an online application and, fueled by a $8,000 team grant, will now embark on a 7,000 mile journey retracing the explorers’ epic journey to emphasize its historical significance while promoting environmental awareness and physical activity.
The goal, for themselves and their students, is to understand environmental awareness and responsibility, but also to enjoy the outdoors for a lifetime, while treading on nature lightly.
“Only the Apollo trips to the moon rival the Lewis and Clark expedition when it comes to important discoveries and explorations,” said Fritz who, with colleague Paul Timm from Grand Marsh Elementary, will use their grant to follow Lewis and Clark’s cross country journey, emphasizing its historical significance while promoting environmental awareness and physical activity. “To travel in their footsteps and physically challenge ourselves to endure the elements is exhilarating.”
Timm added, “Just as Lewis and Clark did before us, we want to experience all of the natural conditions – wind, rain, storms, heat, and mountain cold. Making the trip on motorcycles adds intrigue and realism to our journey. We want to accomplish something few have, in order to motivate our students to attempt something equally as challenging.”
The teacher team’s month-long, round trip expedition begins on June 27th down the expressway from Wisconsin to St. Louis’s Camp Dubois. From this original expedition starting point, these 21st century explorers will follow their predecessors’ trail westward on state, county and local roads paralleling the Missouri, Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers. When not riding their 2004 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide and 2002 Electra Glide Police bike, Timm and Fritz will recreate the explorers’ travails with a raft ride down the Snake River and a canoe excursion and subsequent hike along the Continental Divide.
Scheduled highlights include: Camp Mandan in North Dakota, where Lewis and Clark spent the first winter and met Sacagawea; Great Falls in Montana, where they ran into and circumvented this huge natural obstacle; the Nez Perce National Historic Park in Idaho; and Fort Clatsop in Oregon, where they finally reached the Pacific and spent the winter in preparation for their return trip.
Timm and Fritz will document their progress at corpsofdiscovery2.blogspot.com.
Upon their return, Fritz and Timm plan to use their experiences and insights to create outdoor classrooms where their students can also simulate Lewis and Clark’s adventure.
“Our area has an abundance of water and beautiful, scenic landscapes. What better way to expose our students to lifetime activities such as those undertaken by Lewis and Clark?” asked Fritz. “With the assistance of the Department of Natural Resources, we will, with our students, cut and maintain trails, identify species in our forests, and find uses for the area without doing permanent damage. We envision all children in elementary, middle and high school having access to the outdoor classrooms, and that teachers will take advantage of the opportunity for learning to occur in these atypical spaces.”
“As Wisconsin educators continue working to ensure every child graduates prepared for success in the workforce or further education, it is important for teachers to continue their own studies and professional development,” said Jonas Zuckerman, education consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. “The educational experiences empowered by Fund for Teachers grants provide powerful lessons that teachers can integrate into rich learning experiences for students.”
“Wisconsin teachers have received more than $190,000 in FFT grants over the last two years,” explained Karen Kovach Webb, FFT executive director. “These fellowships catalyze a ripple effect of inspired learning for the teacher, their students and school community. Our goal and expectation is that teachers, when empowered as lead learners, will deliver better instruction to more engaged students.”
In total, 430 teachers across America received $1.7 million in Fund for Teachers grants to travel this summer on self-designed learning odysseys. A complete list of these teachers’ project descriptions and destinations is available at fundforteachers.org.
Denise Pedersen, a Barr Middle School sixth-grade social studies instructor who teaches word geography, can remember how excited a Laotian student was after she had taken a trip to Cambodia and Thailand and it was time to teach the unit on Southeast Asia.
Pedersen, though, knew that she did not learn everything about Southeast Asia during her visit.
“I told the student, ‘You correct me if I make any mistakes,’” Pedersen said.
However, the student surprised Pedersen by saying she did not know that much about Laos. Evidently, the student was either very young when the family left Laos or perhaps the student was even born in the United States, after her family left Laos.
That same phenomenon can happen with young people at Barr who were born in Latin American countries such as Mexico and Honduras, or African countries, such as Sudan and Somalia.
“The kids from Latin America get really excited when you start teaching about Latin America and the kids from Sudan and Somalia get really excited when you start teaching about Africa,” Pedersen noted.
But just like the Laotian student, the level of personal knowledge Barr kids have about their home countries depends on how young they were when their families came to the United States.
Pedersen said sixth-graders’ knowledge about their ancestral country also will depend on how much their parents brought with them from their native land and how much they talk about their native land.
In any case, knowledge about other countries is a necessity for any young person in a world that many people now describe as a global village because of the relative ease of international air travel, almost instant connections made possible by communications satellites orbiting the earth, and of course, the Internet.
But there still is no substitute for firsthand experience.
That’s why Pedersen approached sixth-grade language arts teacher Geri Pagel and sixth-grade math teacher Kari Ekberg about joining with her in a grant application to the Malaika Foundation and Fund For Teachers to travel to Cameroon this summer.
The original idea was for Pedersen, Pagel and Ekberg to teach an interdisciplinary unit on Cameroon to sixth-graders during the 2011-12 school year. However, those plans have been disrupted because of the shortfall in state aid that is causing the school district to reduce its budget.
Budget reductions will mean that the district must operate with a leaner staff, which resulted in a number of teachers getting new assignments. Pagel will be teaching eighth grade this fall, while Ekberg will be teaching Top 20, a character education program.
However, folk tales are part of both sixth-grade and eighth-grade language arts, so Pagel should be able to work out some joint lessons that could be used by sixth-graders. And when it comes to Ekberg’s new teaching duties, the topic of culture can easily be included in character education lessons.
In addition, student lessons have already begun in the form of a weblog with a dozen entries on the Barr Middle School website.
The first entry begins with the news that the teachers’ grant proposal was accepted by the Malaika Foundation and Fund For Teachers. The weblog continues with the booking of the tickets; meeting with Ann Masters, executive director of the Malaika Foundation; getting vaccinations to protect against yellow fever, Hepatitis A and tetanus, as well as medications to protect against typhoid and malaria; filling out all the paperwork for passports; and meeting with their Cameroon host family, who are Americans who have worked in the country for nearly two decades.
Pedersen knows the parents in the host family, which is why she wanted Pagel and Ekberg to go to Cameroon. She said the husband is a veterinarian who works with the Fulani tribe on how to better raise cattle. Pedersen said the husband also operates a veterinary clinic, where the wife also works.
As part of the learning process for students on both sides of the Atlantic, the trio of teachers had all Barr sixth-graders fill out postcards so that students in Cameroon can learn about Nebraska. Barr students could tell a little bit about their own interests, describe their favorite foods, and also tell what their parents do for a living.
One student from each sixth-grade class also got to appear on a video where they had an opportunity to ask one question for young people in Cameroon.
“They asked some very good questions,” said Pagel, who noted that students had studied enough about Cameroon to know that it is an oil-producing nation.
“One student asked why Cameroon is a poor country if it produces oil,” Pagel said.
Ideally, the teachers’ weblog will continue uninterrupted while they are in Cameroon. That would allow Barr students to follow their adventures day by day. However, Cameroon is a Third World country, so the teachers are not sure if they will have an Internet connection. In fact, the teachers know they will be fortunate to have electricity. The host family’s home is the only one in the village of 1,000 people to have electricity.
The teachers will spend their mornings in the village teaching students how to speak English, a skill that is highly prized in Cameroon. Although English is a part of the regular school curriculum in Cameroon, that does not mean it is an easy language for young people to learn, especially if their teachers do not have complete mastery of the language.
“If people can speak English (in Cameroon), they can get better jobs,” said Pedersen, explaining why their guest teaching likely will be appreciated.
Afternoons will be spent visiting with villagers in their homes. The trio knows that the villagers will want to be good hosts, so they do not expect short visits. Because their host family has lived and worked in the village for 18 years, they are well accepted by all the residents in the small community. The teachers believe that acceptance will extend to them as well.
Pagel said that gives her hope she will really learn about the culture in Cameroon, not just experience it as a tourist. She noted that earlier in the summer, she will be traveling to Sweden with family members to attend a cousin’s wedding. Because of the short stay, her trip to Sweden will be a tourist visit. In Cameroon, she expects to be immersed in the culture.
“They told me to throw away my watch,” said Pagel, pointing to Pedersen and Ekberg, who have already given her one important cultural tip.
Americans tend to create a daily schedule that they religiously follow, almost down to the minute. Pedersen, on the other hand, said they have been told that people in Cameroon “hope” their morning English classes will start on time.
“Relationships are more important to people (in Cameroon) than time,” Pedersen explained. If a Cameroonian meets a friend on the way to a meeting with another friend, he or she may end up seeing the second friend far later than originally planned. But because relationships are valued more than time, that is not considered bad manners.
That is yet another reason that Pedersen, Pagel and Ekberg do not expect short stays when they are welcomed into a person’s home.
The teachers all plan to get fitted for a traditional Cameroonian dress, which uses yards of fabric. They definitely will wear those dresses in Cameroon, but they also have talked about wearing those dresses for their students at Barr.
The timing of the trip means the teachers will be leaving for Cameroon in late July, then returning home on Aug. 11, which is one day before the first teacher day in the Grand Island Public Schools.
Ekberg said she never considered that traveling to any African country would be among her life’s goals. However, she said the travel itinerary to Cameroon will coincidentally allow her to cross one item off her so-called “bucket list.”
“We have a 24-hour layover in Paris, so I’ll get to see the Eiffel Tower,” she said.
Many thanks to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) for featuring Fund for Teachers in their latest edition of Education Update. Read here about three Fellows who shared their “experiences of transformative personal and professional growth achieve through exciting, death-defying, and enlightening adventures” for the article.
Students aren’t the only ones looking forward to summer adventures. Dozens of city teachers are heading abroad on travel grants, and hoping to bring their experiences back to the classroom in the fall.
Kate Philpott-Jensen is one of 48 New York City school teachers to receive travel grants from the donor-supported group Fund for Teachers. She was awarded $5,000 for her proposal to travel to American Indian reservations in the Northwestern United States.
Philpott-Jensen teaches U.S. history and government at East Side Community High School. She said her students come from diverse backgrounds. “Within U.S. history, they’re really interested in, and sort of find that issues of race and identity really gripping, really personally relevant,” she said. “I wanted to bring the narratives of Native American Indians into that.”
She’ll spend three weeks conducting interviews to explore issues of sovereignty and government – specifically, how government relates to the governed. She said she noticed that the history of American Indians post-1800s was lacking in the current curriculum, and will use her research this summer to gather primary sources and develop new lessons for her students.
Philpott-Jensen wants the information to foster lively discussion and raise new questions in the classroom, and said she hopes to have her students work on developing and defending their own policy proposals based on their studies.
Other fellows of this year’s Fund for Teachers program expressed similar hopes. Kendra Din (photo top left) teaches math and physics at the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem. She won a $7,500 grant from the group, to study relationships between mathematics, art and architecture in Turkey and Iran.
“When you travel, you learn so much more than just learning something straight out of a textbook, and that sounds so awkward for a teacher to say, but it’s absolutely true and that’s why I wanted my students to apply for their passports,” she said. She, too, teaches a diverse group of students, and said her school has a growing Muslim population. Part of her goal is to foster more tolerance and understanding of different cultures and religions.
For her project, Din intends to visiting mosques, buildings, bridges, and other sites to study Arabesque art and mathematics. She hopes her findings will make a particular unit of algebra a little bit more engaging for her students next year. “This particular art form is created with a lot of math, specifically the conic sections unit of Algebra II,” she said.
Din will bring pictures and videos back to school next fall, to give her students a first hand look so they’ll be better able to detect the art forms and the mathematics behind them. She would also like to have them create their own artwork using those principles.
Travel projects from this year’s New York City fellows vary greatly, from studies of local Peruvian music, formulated by Jessica Chase and Daniel Nohejl of the Bronx Guild, to observations of India’s caste system, as proposed by Katie O’Hara, of the Bronx Leadership Academy II.
Fund for Teachers has been awarding grants to teachers nationwide for nearly a decade. This year, the group says it granted $1.7 million dollars to a total of 430 teachers across America.
Fund for Teachers Fellows Danielle Merdin and Terri Wellner traveled to Kenya to establish a Virtual Information Project partnership with classes at Nairobi’s Kilimani Public School, an inclusive school for students with disabilities, similar to their school in Boston. Watch their touching documentary here.