Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ocean Awareness Day

With another week behind us and one more week closer to Winter Break, it’s hard to think that an activity in the classroom could be exciting enough to even periodically take the student’s minds off their break from school and the anticipation of the holidays. While these thoughts were undoubtedly still circulating in their heads, during last week, every mind was focused on Ocean Awareness. It all started with a visit from speaker Lindsie Wallenfang, who is an active environmentalist in the Green Lake area. She often visits the Global & Environmental Academy to help with different projects and share her travel adventures. She has spent time abroad in places like the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. and has seen first hand the effects of pollution on our oceans. “Being exposed to what is normally out of sight out of mind has been the driving factor in what I am doing right now with the Charter class. Sharing what I've learned with them sets the stage for them to become advocates of environmental awareness and awakens their roles as responsible stewards,she says.  While assisting the students with their IEarn Composting project, she mentioned that Friday, December 10th was National Ocean Awareness Day, where people around the United States wear blue to show their support of and to attract attention to the current state of Oceans. The students were instantly intrigued, and decided that they were going to take part in this special day by spending class and home time collecting recyclable materials to make posters, signs and displays to raise awareness around our school. They also wrote informational messages that they read during class announcements every morning. All of this, on top of their normal homework, school and extracurricular obligations. All over the school you could find posters painted on scraps of cardboard, or even painted on old shirts. Diorama's were made out of used boxes, recycled trash and bottles were formed into unusual pieces of art. “Our poster was made out of recycled cardboard, because we’re trying to save the oceans.,” says Max Linse, GEA student. “Right now there is a big vortex in the middle of the ocean, where a lot of trash accumulates. It kills the fish and ocean life, and we need those fish for biodiversity.” It was a huge success, and certainly accomplished the goal of raising awareness. Friday at school was a sea of blue shirts and hoodies as students showed their support for the state of the oceans. “It was really cool seeing everyone wearing blue,” says Max. “It’s fun to see how people get together.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Folk Fair

There are certain field days that all GEA students look forward to every year. The first being the Sailing trip taken in the first few weeks of school, and the next being the annual trek to Milwaukee for the Holiday Folk Fair. Housed on Milwaukee’s west side at the State Fair Exposition Center, students have the opportunity to meet and greet hundreds of people from countries and cultures all over the world. Each student was given a Passport that they could get stamped for every country or culture they “visited,” and energy was high as the kids streamed off the bus and congregated in their designated groups. The fair was set up into four different sections. The outer ring was lined with booths decorated specific to their occupant’s origins, most complete with traditional dress, artwork, music, toys and historical information. Conversing with the occupants gave students a peak into the past, as well as insight into the present conditions that different people around the world face every day. Inside the ring of booths were a shopping center, a food bazaar, and several performance and workshop spaces. In the shopping center, students purchased unique items made from all corners of the globe. Mrs. Hunter was able to find many different patterns of socks from Latvia spun from pure wool and knit by the same person who sold them to her. Kylie bought a winter hat lined with fur from the Philippines, Claire purchased a bindi from India and chopsticks from Japan, and Brian purchased a Mexican sombrero and a whistle from Belize. The workshop section offered mini lessons in languages, dance, and cultural crafts, as well as exhibits in art, photography and global pastimes. The food bazaar, which was my favorite section of the fair, was filled with delicious treats and foods that our students may probably never have been able to try anywhere else,  unless they traveled to those specific countries. Diana tested a Philippine Manapua, which is a cooked chicken baked inside sweet bread. Brian ate an entire string of Greek ribbon cookies, and Andre sampled some French Crepes. “My favorite part of Folk Fair was the food!” Says Kristen. “I like looking at what each culture eats.” Brannon’s favorite part of Folk Fair was also the food, “because I was able to eat things from countries I’d never even heard of.” In the performance area, students were able to see traditional dances and musical numbers performed by people in costume, many of them the students’ own age. “I liked watching the dancing,” says Savannah, “because the boys and girls dance together and it’s very fancy, not like it is here.” All of the performances were set in front of a large American flag. This was a powerful message not only about our cultural diversity but also our bond and unity as Americans. I’m sure it was meant to say that no matter what country or culture you hail from, we are all one people.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bye Mr. Baker!

Even with the shortened classes due to exciting WKCE testing, we still managed to have a busy week here at GEA. Students presented their animal extinction power points during science, showing off their knowledge of prehistoric life forms that used to rule the Earth. We learned about the giant sloth, the wooly mammoth, and the giant beaver, just to name a few. Students used their power point skills to add photos, videos and animations to their presentations.

In English, our time was focused on completing our Wisconsin projects, which included a report and poster. This finished up our theme for October, which was Early Wisconsin History. By looking at a census from the early 1900's, students were able to see what kinds of jobs people held, what they made at their jobs, when they died, and what diseases ravaged the people. It was very interesting and informative.

In Humanities, our time was spend working with Mr. Baker to pick an iEarn project. iEarn is the world's largest non profit organization aimed at connecting teachers and students around the globe. With these projects, students are able to work with other students in schools all over the world. This enhances our global perspective and allows us to see how education is similar and different all over.

On a sad note, this was Mr. Baker's last week with us here at Green Lake. He is moving on to student teach in Ripon and will be missed by the students and staff here at GEA. We wish him all the best!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Green Screen!!

With parent/teacher conferences behind us and Thanksgiving on the way, the Charter room has been busy with multimedia projects. Students were introduced to Prezi, a web based presentation tool with a map-like layout that allows users to zoom, add pictures, and move from slide to slide in a fun, interesting format. When presented on the classroom Smartboard, the presentations took on a futuristic look, with students able to interact with and move their slides using touch control. Their Prezis were titled, “30 Things about Me,” and each was encouraged to add their own personalities to the slide show via pictures, quotes, activities they found interesting. Presentations lasted for the majority of the week in Humanities, and students enjoyed watching and learning more about their classmates. .

Last week, they also worked on their “Humanity vs Inhumanity” video projects, where they worked in teams to uncover acts of humanity and inhumanity around the world. Filmed in a News-show format, students became reporters and news anchors as they uncovered information about topics that ranged from the Holocaust to animal abuse. After the research and filming were completed, students had to work on the MAC computers using professional video editing software to perfect their films, as well as add backgrounds onto the green screens. It took some time to get the hang of editing out the green and inserting a new background in its place, but all of them did a fantastic job! Some of the kids included a blooper reel and some even put commercials into their productions. We watched the videos in class and everyone was very proud of the work they had done! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Busy Bees!

The fear of bees is one of the most common phobias suffered by children and adults alike. Whether it be the fear of the pain of a stinger, or the reaction to the sting, or maybe just the mystery of the insect itself, few people can stand stationary when a bee is poised to attack. It was with this knowledge, and the fact that I personally have had an irrational fear of bees for the majority of my life, that we set out to visit the Poy Sippi Apiary run by Reverend Lance Buccholtz.  The day was gorgeous, we couldn’t have asked for better fall weather. With temperatures in the 70’s and the sun shining brightly, everyone was excited to learn about the intriguing apis mellifera (honey bee). Students were greeted by a hooded figure covered head to toe in a khaki suit. His face was screened and hidden, his hands were buried beneath thick gloves, and his feet were in,  strangely enough, sandals. Everyone gasped, wondering if they too would have to don such an outfit in order to be around the bees. I was hoping someone would offer me one! After exiting the bus and making ourselves comfortable on haystacks and picnic tables, we unpacked our lunches and awaited our lesson. Mr. Buccholtz explained the basics of bee farming, and students were wowed by the sheer numbers of bees that  he cycles through in one short year. With a lifespan of only 6 weeks, on his small farm he goes through literally millions of bees, some of which never even leave the hive. He not only farms for honey, but also the byproducts of that the bees produce, such as beeswax, pollen, and propolis. Students were able to taste fresh bee pollen, hold a large disc made of wax, and view a queen cell. They learned that all of the bees are sisters, and that one bee is selected from each colony to become the queen.  They learned of the dangers of swarming, the best way to tell if a colony is healthy, and all of the heath benefits that come from bees and their byproducts. Afterwards, we were all able to taste some fresh, raw honey, with one lucky student even able to take a small jar home. As usual, the bus ride home was almost as much fun, with the students breaking into song and discussing their favorite parts of the trip. All in all, it wasn’t as scary as I thought, and even the students that also confessed to being afraid of bees said that they had an awesome time :)

Come Sail Away with Me!!

If you ask any student at Green Lake Global & Environmental Academy what their favorite field experience day is, I'll bet that the vast majority of them will say Sailing! Every year, students are taken down to the Green Lake Pilgrim Center for a comprehensive lesson on sailing and how to navigate on the water. They are taught how to put together a small sail boat, what the different parts are and how they are used, how to effectively sail, and what to do if they tip over. This year, you could almost taste the excitement in the air, both for the kids that had been on the trip the year before, and for the "newbies." After  the lesson and being outfitted with life vests, the kids were partnered up and set loose on the water. Smiles were all around, especially when one of the first groups tipped over and the other students noticed! I was excited, because about half way through the trip, I was able to go on a sail boat as well! It was my first time, and I was guided by a very experienced 8th grader. :) Seeing all of those happy faces, the look of accomplishment in their eyes, and the pride that they had in themselves and their classmates was truly a surreal experience. Kids that had been afraid the year before comforted those that were nervous this year, advice was thrown out over the water to capsized vessels instead of insults, and the camaraderie that built up between the students was remarkable. On the way home, students couldn't stop talking about the trip and how much fun it was. This was one of those bonding moments that really helped build friendships and brought the students closer together. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brand New School Year!

School started on a Wednesday, and you could sense the excitement in the air as kids hurried from class to class eager to see which of their friends would be joining them. As the students of Green Lake Global and Environmental Academy entered the room, you could almost feel the electricity generated by their anticipation. Rumors had been circulating about new technology and exciting field days, and the students couldn't wait to find out if the rumors were true. The most exciting of which being that each student would have an Apple iPad, one of the trendiest and coolest new computer products on the market, to use during class. After choosing seats in the already familiar room and taking note of the recognized faces, students were ready to start learning with a global and environmental focus.  :)