A GUATEMALAN THANKSGIVING

 

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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!

Regards,

Mr. Noondi

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

SARAH KOENIG Q&A

Serial

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.

Regards,

Mr. Noondi

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THE CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT

In April 2016, representatives from around the world came together in Paris to discuss and reach the landmark ratification of The Paris Agreement. At the time, I was not following current events as much as I do today. Nonetheless, I knew that addressing climate change was at a critical turning point. Fight now, or it will be too late for Homo sapiens as we know them. Now, day to day, I see positive news about countries banning gas-powered cars by 2040 and the State of California considering a similar measure. This is all well and good, but sometimes I do think we are already too late.

Nonetheless, I was inspired to do a mock climate change conference with my students. The purpose is to engage students in both the science and dangers of climate change along with the policies involved in mitigating the effects. Hence was born The Climate Change Agreement project (click the link for more info on TeachersPayTeachers).

Students are asked to interact with the actual, legal text of The Paris Agreement. They respond to various questions to understand the purpose of each of the 29 articles written in the agreement. From there, students are assigned a role as a representative of a country. They are required to think from the perspective of this role to understand the current effects of climate change seen within their country. These effects include economic, social, political, and environmental aspects. Following extensive research, a climate change conference is simulated in which all representative parties must unanimously agree on a given number of guidelines and goals. These goals are then written in a formal document by each individual student as the form of assessment.

This has been one of my most achieving moments as a teacher. I felt like I was truly empowering and engaging the kids in an incredibly meaningful and increasingly important discussion about a scientific topic that is crucial for social and economic survival. It engages students who may not be into the political side of current events, but immerse themselves easily in science. It works the other way around, as well. Students who do not normally naturally engage themselves in science can be involved through the political aspects of the project.

Whether you use this project or not, consider these lifestyle changes below that make a positive impact on your global environment.

11/7/2017 UPDATE: Within the last few weeks, both Nicaragua and Syria have pledged to sign The Paris Agreement. This leaves the United States as the lone outlier in the entire world to not be committed to the respective climate change goals.

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Source: Grist.org

Perhaps You Need A Little Guatemala

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Hobbitenango, a magical village located in the secluded hills outside Antigua, Guatemala

Last year, I took the daring leap to leave the security of my family and friends behind in San Diego, California to pursue further growth as an educator. Where I ended up is here in the colonial city of La Antigua, Guatemala. I had accepted a position teaching middle and high school science at Antigua International School. It has been the most incredible personal and professional decision I have made thus far. It’s a place of sheer beauty. A place in which there are magical places to call home (such as Hobbitenango – pictured above). A place in which learning Spanish as a second language is critical to your success. A place that opens your eyes to the severity of some of the societal issues that humans must face.

It has been a time for me to view the world from, most importantly, the perspective of students raised in an immensely different cultural and socioeconomic background than of many students seen back in the United States. I surely have grown during my time spent here.

My time here will never be forgotten. The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences as an international educator, my unique project-based learning resources, and their positive effects on my students.

I look forward to sharing my writings with all of you readers. In the mean time, please check out my current resources available on my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Regards,

Mr. Noondi