Hi, everyone! Happy Sunday. I hope you are all having a restful and productive weekend thus far. Tomorrow, Monday, March 5th will be the official launch of the 2018 Science Fair season for all of my classes. On that day, all four of my classes will have started their projects that will be presented on April 23rd during a collaborative Science Fair and Earth Day celebration. This week, I reflect and discuss on the four projects that my students are currently engaged in. Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions or comments!

6th Grade – Endangered Species Tour

My 6th Grade Science Fair project was inspired by a trip I took in January 2017 to Biomuseo in Panama City. More specifically, I was inspired a very simple exhibit, The Gallery of Biodiversity, that was composed of various plaques with details of various species of their conservation status. Their status was color coded so that warmer colored plaques (reds and oranges) were more threatened of extinction while cooler colors (yellows and greens) were less threatened or not at all. While my students will not be doing a project reminiscent of this, like I said, it was certainly inspiration.

My students will be put into groups of 3 or 4 and assigned a country widely known to have a high abundance of endangered species. From there, they will research six IUCN listed species whose range includes their assigned country. Students main source for research will be the wonderfully informative World Wildlife Fund. They will record information such as the conservation status, life cycle, diet, adaptations, reasons for population decline and efforts meant to combat those trends.

Additionally, they will also do some basic research on the country assigned to them. They will take note of average climate throughout the year, cultural sights, sounds, and smells, and travel requirements for U.S. citizens.

The final product will blend their animal and country research together in the form of a travel agency promoting an eco-tour of the regions in which their endangered animals can be found. For the science fair, students will advertise and market their tours to the audience using Google’s Tour Builder and advertisement flyers designed on the web-based tool, Canva.

7th Grade – Sustainable Cities

Sustainable Cities is an engaging project in which students are a mixture of urban planner, engineers, and ecologists. After an in-depth review of non-renewable and renewable energy sources, students are put into the role of designers of a brand new sustainable city development. Now in my third run of facilitating this project with 7th graders, I have decided to add some new collaborative elements special to this year’s science fair. After a productive discussion with my science teaching parter, who teacher the other half of 7th grade, we decided to form a collaborative dynamic between the two classes. My teaching partner’s class is currently preparing for the science fair by conducting group research and experimentation on various earth science topics (glaciers, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc). My groups of students will be assigned various country in which their sustainable city will be developed thereby limiting their options on which types of energy sources they can use. For example, students based in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona will have a wonderful time utilizing solar energy but have a harder time utilizing hydropower. Those based, say, in the Olympic Peninsula will see virtually the opposite. Starting tomorrow, groups from either class will be paired together dependent on both group’s country / earth science assignment. The group assigned to research glaciers will be paired with my group who has been assigned Iceland as their home country due to the high presence of glacial features in the country. Those based in Guatemala will partner up with the group researching volcanoes and earthquakes because of the abundance of such phenomena in the Central American country.

For the science fair, groups will build a model city (think scaled down to humans = Godzilla) highlighting both their measures to become 100% sustainable along with the geological and topographical features found in that world region.

10th Grade – Genetic Diseases

After some stressful (for the students) lessons and a big test on Mendelian genetics, my 10th graders are ready to begin their science fair projects. I was having a tough time developing ideas for a project, but a quick discussion with my teaching partner put me in the right direction. My inspiration for this project initially came from the Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book series, believe it or not. Students are in groups of three and have been assigned a set a five chromosomes found in the human body. The first step for them is to read the chapters respective of their chromosome assignment of Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. The book beautifully breaks down each of the 23 chromosomes in detailed, scientifically-accurate chapters. Second, students will the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Chromosome Map to discover what diseases could result from either inheritance or mutations on each assigned chromosome. While the plan is still very much in the early stages, students will create a CYOA-type presentation to engage the audience of the science fair. The audience will be provided a healthy chromosome in which they are then presented with multiple scenarios to choose from. Depending on which route they choose, they could end up with a mutation that encodes for a specific disease found on that chromosome. From there, and if the disease is contracted, they are then to decide how to proceed with each step providing multiple scenarios to choose from. When will I see a doctor? How is the disease diagnosed? What treatment or medicine do I need to take? What are the side effects of that treatment? What happens if I do not treat the disease? Students will be given the choice of how to present the CYOA story to give them some extra freedom.

11th/12th – 3D Printed Inventions

I have already had a recent blog post discussing this project so there aren’t really any new updates as of yet. Students will continue to design, redesign, and redesign again until their product is just right. This week, they will start to work on their strategies to market their product including product names, logos, and social media.


The last two weeks, I have taken a huge risk in teaching and implementing a project in which I have very little expertise in, yet much interest in. 3D printing is a technology that was invented by a man with the name Chuck Hull. In the 35 years since the machine was first introduced, the technology has come a long way – to say the least. In fact, the amount of different types of materials in which filaments are now made from is unreal. Plastic. Glow in the dark. Nylon. Wood. Bronze. Magnetic iron. It’s both crazy and extremely functional as the same time! My students and I currently work with a very basic, beginner $220 model – the Monoprice Select Mini. It’s nothing fancy, can only print as big as a 4.25″ square, and works best with the standard PLA or ABS filaments, but it gets the job done for us. For a little sneak preview, this week I am going to show you some of the incredible design sketches of my students’ inventions or product design enhancements (I’ve cropped the photos to ensure complete privacy). The products will eventually be 3D printed to display and discuss the design process from draft one to the final draft at this year’s science fair. Enjoy!

The Filtrangle

Being in Guatemala, fresh, clean drinking water is very difficult to come by – particularly in the rural areas. My students were inspired by this and designed The Filtrangle (working name). It is designed to capture water vapor, mist, and fog through the fine mesh sides of the triangular prism. From there, the water condenses and gravity pulls it down to the water filter. From there, the water is stored in another section in which a valve is attached for obtaining the water. A test print was done this week and some minor adjustments are necessary such as adding finer mesh and leveling of the triangular prism.


The Ice Maker: Redesigned

This group of students were inspired by the never ending battle of standard ice cube trays confidently dropping ice on the floor when trying to obtain the cubes. The design uses an innovative cylindrical shape to minimize ice falling to the ground. The ice itself forms using the insert (seen on the right) that can easily be pull out from the cylinder. In this way, the user can remove only the amount of ice that he/she needs. A first prototype print was done this week and we noticed that the circumference of the cylinder was way too small. The students are back to the drawing board to fix the issues.


3D Printed Ribcage

Probably the most complex and innovative design of the class is the 3D printed ribcage. This design is meant to be utilized for those who have recurring ailments related to the sternum or ribcage. While a non-functional prototype will be all that is printed, the final product is meant to be expandable so that it can grow with the person who possesses it. As it expands, locking mechanisms prevent the sternum and ribs from contracting back to a previous size. This design will specifically take much more focus and creativity from the students to make functional. They expect they will need to order additional components on Amazon to ensure that the expandable design functions properly.



Hey, everyone! This week, I will be discussing what I think are the four best online stores for purchasing science lab equipment of all types. I have experience working with and/or purchasing from all four companies in either an educational or industrial setting. Enjoy!


Probably the most well-known and certainly the most universal is Carolina Biological Supply Supply. Commonly referred to as just Carolina in the science education community, the most enticing aspects of the company are their prices and their availability of resources from virtually all science disciplines. I have personally purchased products from Carolina and, from personally experience, do not let the price deceive you. Their products are great quality. My purchases include simple Eppendorf tubes (which are really hard to produce low quality), forensics tools, and specimens for dissection. Educators can even purchase live organisms, if need be! Categories of live organisms on the site include animals, insects, fungi, prokaryotes, plants, protists, and protists. Since handling and shipping live organisms has strict regulations, Carolina was smart enough to include regularly updated USDA permits to stay compliant with local and federal laws. The company even offers products for distance learning “with more than 190 hands-on investigations” available for purchase. This is perfect for those homeschool teachers or students taking online classes.

Carolina also benefits the international education community. Living in Guatemala makes finding quality laboratory resources rather difficult to find. Even if you do, the materials are not cheap. I personally have communicated with Carolina representative of Guatemala for purchasing equipment and their boundaries extend across the entire globe!

Carolina Biological Logo


The next on the list, Bio-Rad Laboratories, is a supply company that specializes in the life sciences. I only have one purchasing experience from Bio-Rad, but the quality was superb! Back in 2014, I bought the pGLO Bacterial Transformation Kit for my 11th Grade Biology class. pGLO is a green fluorescent protein (GFP) that is actually trademarked by Bio-Rad themselves. The premise of the lab is that E. coli cells are innoculated with a plasmid containing the GFP that was originally isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. Having never conducted the lab previously, I was definitely a little nervous that it would not work. Lo and behold, virtually all of my lab groups had a successful E. coli transformation! This clearly shows that Bio-Rad’s products are certainly of high quality. Bio-Rad also offers products for clinical diagnostics, spectroscopy, and, most uniquely, food science!



I have not had any personal experience with Fisher Scientific in an educational setting but rather in a professional setting. When I worked as a research assistant studying the ecology of fungal endophytes at the University of Arizona, there was plenty of Fisher Scientific equipment in the lab. As with most science equipment in academia and industry, it was of the highest quality.

The Fisher Scientific Education website offers products for the scientific disciplines of biology, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, and earth and environmental sciences. If you are looking for higher quality products, if you or your school can afford it of course, then this is your stop! Possibly the best perk of the site is its Education LabOutfitter. This tool is best used for those who are either homeschooling students or working at a new school who is on the search for supplies. The LabOutfitter creates recommended product lists that is customizable by many different categories including grade level, subject, and class size! A great place to start if you are in this situation and at a loss of where to go.



Based in Ipswich, Massachusetts, New England BioLabs (NEB) is by far my favorite on the list. At first glance, you may wonder why as it is chock full of products for applications that go way above level of the average middle or high school student. In fact, if a teacher does not have professional experience in some of these applications, it may go over their head, too! Right away you see that their product offerings are for tools such as genome editing, epigenetics, cloning, and glycobiology.

Where NEB shines is this – providing reagents and technical support to high school and collegiate teaching labs absolutely FREE. This is no joke. I have requested PCR reagents and enzymes and received them promptly and securely. The downsides to this opportunity is that (1) your classroom must be equipped with the correct equipment to use these reagents (think PCR machines and gel electrophoresis) and (2) the selection of free product is not open to their entire catalogue. The educational support request form is extremely simple to fill out. On the form, you need to provide basic shipping information, published protocols and procedures that your course will use, and which products you are requesting. The form does state that “requests for items not on the standard list will be considered, but will be delayed due to the need to review the request.” I have not yet had experience with this, but imagine it is not that difficult.



Mr. Noondi


Happy Sunday, everybody! The forensic science presentations by my students were postponed slightly due to some various scheduling issues. The presentations officially happen tomorrow, Monday, January 28th. So, next Sunday’s blog post will be about the presentations. In the mean time read about some amazing web 2.0 tools and other possibly little known resources that you can utilize in your classroom!

The New York Times Learning Network

This one is my personal favorite for many reasons. Over the past year, I have learned to love integrating current events and journalism into my curriculum. I briefly discussed this in my post about our school’s interview with Sarah Koenig. The New York Times Learning Network is a resource that utilizes the brilliant reporting by the Times. Lessons plans are pre-made and neatly laid out for educators from all backgrounds to easily understand and implement. The blog is organized and easy to navigate. They put on regular student contests for students participate in. The current ongoing contest is their 5th Annual 15-Second Vocabulary Video Challenge! The blog has a section dedicated to categorizing the various activities available for students. Just below that are lessons plans separated into the various subjects (ELA, social studies, science and math, ELL and arts, and current events). This obviously comes in handy when you are looking for a quick lesson plan and have little time to spare for planning. You can also search the blog to find any teaching activities for a specific topic that has been archived. The Learning Network is, hands down, a fantastic resource for those educators who occasionally have little time for planning, need something authentic or meaningful, or who just wants to try something new!

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 09.16.37

Buck Institute for Education (BIE)

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is an organization dedicated solely to the wonders of project based learning. The website houses a selection of materials for educators to be introduced to or strengthen their PBL knowledge. Available for readers are blogs, books, and articles to peruse. What may be even more helpful for you, though, are the variety of rubric, planning forms, and student handouts that are available to download for free on their site! These documents are highly professional and can be used in a multitude of subjects. Wether you are a beginner or a pro at PBL, these resources are sure to help you!

My personal favorite on BIE is the interactive project search. I practice PBL in my classroom everyday and when I am struggling with developing a project, I need some innovative ideas to spark my imagination. This is where the project search comes in. Here, you can search by source, subject, and level to find incredibly creative and authentic projects that your students can engage in.


National Center for Case Study Teaching In Science

I came across this great site by linking through on BIE. Based at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, this site contains a vast library of case studies (721 to be exact!) from virtually all areas of science. The premise of the case studies is that students are introduced to an authentic scenario that could easily be present in the real world. From there, the students answer a series of questions in which there are to problem solve and critically think their way to the answer. This site probably provides the most realistic application of science than either BIE or The Learning Network. These case studies also come in handy when you are short on planning time and need an engaging, easy to understand activity. Just a note: If you sign up for an account to access the answer keys, you will need to prove that you are an educator at which time the organization will provide you with a password.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 09.17.37


Crime scene in the library

Happy Sunday!

Last week I updated you on the ongoing forensics project. This past Monday, the students setup their crime scenes in various places around campus – four to be exact. It is very quickly turning out that this may be the project in which I have seen the highest amount of engagement from the most amount of students. I couldn’t be more excited about it all!

On Monday, the students meticulously assessed their assigned crime scene. Photos were taken from all angles. Gloves were worn and tweezers were used to prevent the tampering of any potential evidence. Artists sketched the scene on the sidelines. The lead investigators all did a phenomenal job managing their team so they could collect the evidence in the most careful way possible. After collection, they filled out Single Evidence Collection Forms and Chain of Custody forms to document the details and handling of each piece of evidence. From there, they began their analysis!

Microscopic hair analysis
Microscopic hair analysis

During the past week, students have been running around interrogating their suspects through hair collection, fingerprinting, feet measurements, and handwriting. All four groups have leads towards one major suspects but some groups are still debating between others that they are unsure of. Come Thursday, lead investigators will present their case in front of a panel of experts (teachers). To convince the panel, the Case Analysts and Case Managers must successfully put together a 2-3 page paper describing how they reached their conclusion and a visual that will support the lead investigators presentation.

That being said, we’ll have an update with the final results next week! Stay tuned!


Mr. Noondi


Good morning, readers! It’s been a little too long since I’ve posted, about 4 weeks I think. After a bit of traveling throughout Central American over Christmas Break, school is back in session for probably all of us. I wish you all the best in the second semester!

Back in November, I posted about the first ever PBL project that I ever completed in my first year of teaching: forensic science. I’m here with a quick update to discuss the details of my project that is now for sale on my TeachersPayTeachers store. The new Forensic Science Project Bundle includes everything you need to launch your very own CSI project!

The project opens with a PowerPoint and discussion about the types of forensic evidence that could be found at a crime scene. This refers to the categories of evidence, not specific pieces of evidence. Secondly, the students dive into a wonderful RadioLab episode about Otzi the Iceman in which they listen and try to write down the pieces of evidence that were found at the scene. Afterwards is where the fun starts!


Lab #1: Forensic Fiber Analysis

The Forensic Fiber Analysis lab is the perfect way to get students engaged in the labs – lighting things on fire! Students will determine an unknown piece of fabric by conducting burn tests on known pieces of fabric and recording their observations. They will observe the burn tests using all their senses (minus taste, of course) to see how the known samples match up to the unknown sample.


Lab #2: Forensic Fingerprint Analysis

The Forensic Fingerprint Analysis lab is the class go-to method of forensic analysis. I guarantee you that if you were to mention “forensics” to your students, the first things they will think of are either DNA or fingerprint. The only additional speciality material that you’ll need is a fingerprint ink pad which is available on Amazon for cheap. Students will be taught how to closely observe their own fingerprints to look for their basic pattern and, more importantly, their more detailed ridge characteristics. Fingerprint analysis takes tons of patience and close observation which is perfect for the science classroom!


Lab #3: Forensic Hair Analysis

The Forensic Hair Analysis lab gives students the chance to observe their and their peers’ hairs under a microscope. They are first introduced to the hair growth cycle and hair anatomy to use as background knowledge. Hair is a very common piece of trace evidence that is left behind at crime scene, so they have the potential to be crucial in the solving of a case. Students will be taught what visual characteristics to look for when differentiating between known and unknown samples.


Lab #4: Forensic Handwriting Analysis

The Forensic Handwriting Analysis lab introduces students to handwritten notes that could be left at a crime scene. While it is very easy for criminals to forge handwriting, this lab gives the students a note found at a crime scene and 5 suspects’ handwriting to compare it to. They are to closely analyze the loops, patterns, dots, crosses, and everything in between to see which suspect matches the unknown sample at the crime scene.


Lab #5: Forensic Footprint Analysis

The Forensic Footprint Analysis lab engages students by having them first measure their height and length of their feet. From there, they measure their stride length. Using these measurements, they can easily calculate two ratios so that, if they were to ever encounter a crime scene ;), they could estimate the approximate height of potential footprint found at the scene.



This last Friday was a half day for our students which means that teachers had an opportunity for some professional development. I was lucky enough to be asked to lead one of the workshops on my passion and specialty: project-based learning (PBL). The workshop focused around the very basics of PBL and how it can engage students in authentic, meaningful learning. We also discussed how teachers new to PBL can dive in and get started with the daunting task of project planning. I am more than happy to share the details of my workshop below! I discuss the workshop as it happened in chronological order. I hope that it helps you in your potential adventure into project-based learning or, if you have tried it, is a nice review for you. Enjoy!

Step One: Project Exploration

High Tech High is a charter school organization located in San Diego, California. They are incredibly famous in the local San Diego community and with those who read consistently about innovation in schools. It is strictly a project-based learning schools that also, impressively enough, runs its own teacher credential program and Graduate School of Education (offering a Masters in Educational Leadership).

When exploring HTH’s website, an excellent place to start is on their Student Projects page. From here, you can analyze specific projects by doing the following:

  1. Look through the long list of projects and choose three (3). One should be a project dedication to your field of teaching. A second one should be a project outside of your field of teaching and new to you. The third one should be one of your choice.
  2. For each project, read through the project details.
  3. As you learn about all three projects, respond to and discuss the following three questions
    1. What impressed you?
    2. What similarities did you see between the three projects?
    3. What questions do you still have?

The purpose of this introductory activity is to show what is really possible with PBL, especially for those who are beginners. Seeing the innovative techniques that can be employed can spark some great inspiration for readers.

Step Two: The 6 A’s of Project-Based Learning

While this is obviously just a guideline, many PBL designs should center around the six A’s. Each of these characteristics are detailed in the PowerPoint below.

Now that you have a very basic understanding of what it takes to design a project, let’s design one! Use the following guidelines and, if available, design a project with teaching partner who is is in a completely different discipline than you are.

Step Three: Project Design

The details of this activity are discussed in the last slide of the PowerPoint above. To complete the activity, use the following Project Design Template to help you get started. This is my design template which was adapted from the many that can be found from various sources online. You can also find a link to the template here.


As a teacher in Guatemala who shares one income between two people, money can be hard to come by. This is ironic because, aside from wanting to grow professionally, I originally moved to Guatemala to save my extra income due to the lower cost of living. So much for that! I’ve had to be creative in how I earn extra income – some of it passive, some not. There are so many ways of earning money online, but I wanted to utilize my skills as an educator to do so. Additionally, I can’t run an Etsy store from Guatemala or sell my old goods on Amazon. None of that stuff really interested me anyway because I’m passionate about education and love to apply it whenever I can. Below are three (3) ways to earn extra income online and do so as an educator.

1. The Obvious One: TeachersPayTeachers

TeachersPayTeachers is the classic method for teachers to earn passive income online. Just don’t expect it to be easy or fast. I first opened my store, Mr. Noondi, in April 2014. To this day, I’ve yet to reach $100 as a monthly income. Still, all that money adds up over time. I’ve grown a ton since I opened my store, but I wouldn’t have done so with the help of my girlfriend’s genius marketing knowledge. Let’s face it – your TpT store is a business. My girlfriend has taught me that running a business requires consistency such as consistent posting of materials and in the aesthetics of your products. You cannot just blindly throw up a product without a unique theme and expect it to sell well. Some of the most successful products and brands are as such because of their easily recognizable logos and mottos.

The trick for me is to set a dedicated time during my winter, summer, and spring breaks to get products posted. To do so, I reflect back on the recent lessons, activities, and projects that I have done with my students. I then decide which would be the best fit for the theme of my store and the highest in demand. This huge product dump is not ideal as you should space out your listings as equally as possible, but this is what works for my schedule. That being said, setting up the products for sale can take anywhere from a day to a week of full-time weekday dedication. Here is a checklist of what I include with each listing:

  • catchy main cover photo that is consistent with all your other products
  • detailed descriptions that tell the reader what to expect and how the students will benefit
  • choosing the accurate resource types
  • clear thumbnail images that give the potential buyer a good idea of what the product may include
  • a properly formatted sample document (watermarked with the word SAMPLE) available to download so that potential buyers can assess the quality of your work (without giving too much away)
  • quick response to reviews and questions that customers may write

My overall opinion of TpT is wonderful! It’s incredibly valuable for myself as an educator and, now, an entrepreneur and marketer. There are certainly some downsides to the platform and some of the products available for purchase. That being said, I think the best thing you can do is stand out from the rest. Be unique and don’t hesitate be different.


2. The Oblivious One: Chegg Tutors

While not passive income, Chegg is a platform in which anyone can apply to become an online tutor. When I started on Chegg in mid 2016, I believe it was relatively new. Starting as a tutor on Chegg was much easier than what it is now. In recent weeks, they have cracked down and tightened their tutoring policies. I personally think this is a good thing. It will help identify subjects that are in the highest demand and find tutors who are the most qualified.

The hardest part about Chegg is starting. At first, you are a newbie. No student has given you a review, so you are further down the list of available tutors. Do not let that slow you down! Be patient! It’s very similar to TpT in that regard. Once you get that first request from a student, it motivates you further! If they leave a positive review—even better. Now you are on the right path to getting more students to request lessons.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 14.40.55
Chegg Tutors dashboard

The tutor dashboard is very user friendly. Students who need help appear under the Opportunities tab. Be quick! Other tutors are also waiting just like you for requests. Send a quick, friendly message to the student and hope for a reply (Hint: Have preset messages ready to go so you can reply to a request faster). If you are lucky enough to be accepted for a lesson, the virtual classroom is also very user friendly. Most students prefer to chat (as I do), but there is the option of video chat if you’d like.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 14.48.32.png
Chegg virtual classroom from a recent AP Spanish lesson I did

Tutors earn $20/hour! Not only that, but all time counted is rounded up to the nearest 5 minute interval. In other words, if your lesson lasts 13 minutes, you actually get paid for 15 minutes. Payments from Chegg are super easy and very convenient. Tutors get paid weekly (yes, weekly) every Thursday morning through PayPal. I have made upwards of $200 in one week if I am really dedicated or have tons of free time. My experience shows that Sundays (especially at night) are the best days to be on since that is when many students are completing homework for the upcoming week.

Again, it takes time. Just be patient and you could very well be on your way to making plenty of extra money.

3. The Flexible One: Udemy & Teachable

I do not want to get in too deep with Udemy and Teachable because I myself have no experience in using these platforms as a seller. What I do know is that both can be very profitable passive income, but they take a ton of work upfront. The basis for both is that you create your own full online course taught mainly with videos and screencasts. The topics can be about virtually anything you want and that you are (presumably) knowledgable about. There is one main pro and con for each. 1) Udemy does not have a subscription fee, but Udemy sets the price for each course that you upload and 2) Teachable has a minimum $39/month fee to create courses, but you can choose your own price for your course.  I myself don’t know which I would chose, but I am leaning towards starting with Udemy to gauge the demand for my course and, based on that, switching to Teachable. You be the judge and feel free to let me know your experience!


Do you earn passive income online as a teacher? Tell me about it in the comments below!


Mr. Noondi



20171123_145351 (1).jpg
The entrance to the hike down to Earth Lodge

About 20 minutes outside of Antigua is a tiny village called El Hato. The town is made up of a one lane dirt road next to a cliff that barrels down the side of the mountain. What you’ll find in El Hato is one restaurant (El Tambor), kids playing in the street, women cleaning clothes in the local pilas, and one eco-hotel that provides for essentially the entire town, Earth Lodge. Earth Lodge is well-known with locals in Antigua and tourists alike. It’s a mountain getaway with excellent food, cozy treehouse accommodations, and an even better Thanksgiving dinner. My last two Thanksgivings, including just two days ago, have been at Earth Lodge. They serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal in family style setting. Strangers and friends from all parts of the globe come to enjoy a great meal together sitting at large table benches. Throughout the night, we all stuffed our faces, drank too much, and enjoyed each other’s laughter playing various card games.

Earth Lodge is crucial for the sustainability of El Hato. In the three times that I have visited, there have been goods for sale promoting that some of the proceeds will be donated to the local school. During the famous Thanksgiving dinners, local businesses specializing in artesian, handmade goods donate a product to be auctioned off after dinner. The entire proceeds are donated to the local school. It’s a win-win situation. Businesses benefit by having their name promoted and, more importantly, the school is provided with a large sum of money to help them purchase simple items such as pens, pencils, notebooks, and backpacks for the children.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time in which donations are requested. On their website, Earth Lodge explicitly states that you can “Help the El Hato school by packing school supplies.” Since 2004, when Earth Lodge first opened its doors, they have helped “fundraise to buy school supplies, food for the breakfast program and anything else needed at the school” and have assisted in “getting running water and helped fund the computer lab.” Such a simple business with a ecology-based mindset can go so far in supporting local communities who are not as lucky to have consistent, modern amenities.

Also, don’t forget to check out my full story of moving and teaching in Guatemala featured last week with Haute Teacher!


Mr. Noondi

Views of the volcanoes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango (left to right)



It seems as if the brilliant podcast Serial never fails to make the news somehow – for good reason! This last Thursday, my students and I had the incredible opportunity to have a Skype Q&A session with Sarah Koenig, the amazing creator and host of the podcast. I’m not sure how he did it, but my high school English teacher colleague managed to find a personal connection who happened to work with Sarah at some point in their career. Within 24 hours of that contact, we were Skyping with the fantastic journalist.

When I read the email from my colleague about the news, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity. The bad news was that I had a class exactly at the time in which the Q&A would take place. The good news is that I’m lucky enough to work at a school in which teachers are given much autonomy. So, I told my 7th Graders that there was a presentation from a major figure from the journalism world that I could not miss seeing. I let them loose at the ping pong tables while I had the privilege of watching and listening in.

Most of the questions from the students for Sarah, for good reason, focused on the basics of Season One of Serial (they had listened to Season One in English class). What are her thoughts on Adnan as a human being? Does she think Adnan committed the crime? What inspired her to become a journalist? Me, personally – I couldn’t help but ask about her concerns, if any, about the state of journalism with the current political climate in the United States. She addressed my question with a very intricate, detailed answer. Essentially, she believes that the current administration has actually improved reporting by the media and has caused citizens to be more aware of the political climate. She stated that subscriptions to many media outlets have actually increased as a result. I would know as I myself subscribed to various outlets in recent months – which brings me to the point of this blog.

Something about the combination of living in Guatemala, an incredibly impoverished country with one of the largest income gaps in Latin America, and the current politics of the United States has inspired me to incorporate elements of currents events in my curriculum. Now, keep in mind I have a lot of freedom in my current position. And I count my lucky stars for this reason. Yet, I firmly believe that so much of the disengagement seen in students is because of a lack of connections. Students should be presented opportunities in which they can connect the content to their personal lives. Current events is crucial to make this happen. For example, as I currently work on a forensics project with my students, similarly we recently discussed the neurological effects of solitary confinement in prisons. We did so by examining the case of Kalief Browder and reading the first published story about the then-teenager. In this case, I was sure to emphasize the point that Kalief Browder was only 16 years old when he was arrested and subsequently spent 3 years at Riker’s Island without having been convicted of a crime. This really stuck with them. They could never in a million years imagine themselves, the same age as Kalief, being put in the same situation. I’ve yet to observe so much emotion and passion from my students as I saw when I read them Jennifer Gonnerman’s piece.

These types of connections give students an incredible perspective of the world and how it can affect their personal lives. All this being said, journalism, I think, is crucial for educating the youth with authentic, meaningful learning. I highly recommend doing anything you can to incorporate these journalistic elements into your curriculum. An excellent place to get started is with The New York Times’ The Learning Network.

Regardless of what you do or what your teaching philosophy is, I think we can all agree to be passionate, be aware, be educated, and be open minded.


Mr. Noondi