Walk for Water: Town School for Boys Commit to 3 Miles

Do you recall how the 7th grade math class used the United Nations Millennium Goals to study, histograms, graphs and stem and leaf plots and box and whisker plots?  Yes, it was December and January and the boys developed interest and empathy for the world they share with so many others.  And while demanding course work, the dreadful SSAT's and outdoor education trips crowded our schedule, the boys never lost site of what they wanted to accomplish here at Town School.  A WALK FOR WATER.  

While it's been a few weeks since we planned and participated in our walk, I wanted to share what the boys pulled off.  For a week before we cruised down to the Marina Campus and after their final exam the boys split off into 4 groups.  Logistics, Fundraising, NGO Search, and Education.  So what did we come up?

Logistics-The boys decided that the 1.5 mile walk from the Exploratorium to the Warming Hut and back would be the route (3 miles total).  All the 6th and 7th graders would join us on the walk.  6th graders were welcome to sell their new Town water bottles filled with lemonade before the walk and 6th and 7th graders were encouraged to walk with signs or pamphlets to help raise awareness to both global access to water AND the current drought in California.

Fundraising-The boys decided on a penny drive.  84,480 pennies or $848 dollars was their initial goal.  While working drop off for 3 mornings the boys quickly discovered that they were willing to take any coins or dollars they could.  In the end the boys raised $400.  Given the time frame and constraints they were proud. Even if they fell short of their goal:)

NGO search-The boys decided to donate the money from their fundraising effort to The Water Project.  After carefully looking at many organizations the boys felt that the mission of this organization was most closely in line with the mission of our project.  The boys also like that they can track their dollars with this company and they look forward to hearing updates in the future.

Education-Lastly it was the job of the education group to gather sites and information to share with the 6th and 7th graders so that they could be reflective on their walk and in their creation of posters.  Together we came up with this presentation to share with the other classes.  

Kiva Celebration 2014

Another year of lending at Town School.  School total to equate to $7773 by the end of the week.  Happy Lending!

Boys reconsider goals for products and for lending while working through a chalk talk. Everyone has voice as they write their responses and respond.

Boys reconsider goals for products and for lending while working through a chalk talk. Everyone has voice as they write their responses and respond.

Not a bad total for a school that only began lending less than 3 years ago. Here's to another year of making a difference!

The sixth grade boys of 2013-2014 at Town School for boys embraced micro lending like those before them.  Excited and nervous all the same.  They put their heads into running businesses that would further promote global education, lead them to an understanding of global citizenship and allow for them to think way beyond the doors of 2750 Jackson Street.  This experience of course had it's ups and downs.  With half the campus in another location, the boys at times struggled to keep momentum going with just upper school clientele.  But they powered through, collaborating, problem solving, empathizing, and mostly enjoying themselves along the way.  And while it wasn't perfect, is running a business ever going to be?  

From stress balls, to fat dots, to silly puddy, custom t-shirts, erasers and more... the boys held weekly sales and convinced peers to embrace the movement!

From stress balls, to fat dots, to silly puddy, custom t-shirts, erasers and more... the boys held weekly sales and convinced peers to embrace the movement!

I am proud of these boys.  I am proud of what they have accomplished.  I am proud of the money they earned for entrepreneurs around the world.  And mostly I am proud to know that each one of them has accomplished and contributed to something greater than themselves. Perhaps it's true that one sixth grade class in San Francisco, California cannot possibly solve the issue of global poverty... but then again we can try.


Sharing our mission with other classrooms around the world. Check out the youtube video from our friends:)

Sharing our mission with other classrooms around the world. Check out the youtube video from our friends:)




Please take the time to learn from these boys as they reflect on their experiences in a variety of ways.   Here's to another year of "kiva'ing" as we call it in the garage. $899 dollars strong for these young men!  





Here are the media components to our celebration.  Well done boys.  As a community we will have a total of $7773 in loans to kiva once I get each of you to make those loans!

Town Toys Inc.

How have we successfully or unsuccessfully simulated microfinancing?  


Thingamajigs for Less

How has our experience with microlending changed our outlook

on poverty around the world?


Kustom Clothes for Kiva

What is the hardest part of being in a business?


Novelty Toys

Who’s lives have we changed through Kiva.org and how?


GTS Aerial Products

How can we encourage other students to be good global citizens?


Tiger Swag

What did we learn about being both a borrower and lender using microfinance?















It's the little things. #globalmath

While many of the global projects and activities I write about are large and may be overwhelming to other educators just starting their journey to becoming a global educator, other times I create lessons that simply touch on global as I transform lessons from my traditional math class into something with a global twist.  

This week the 5th graders are practicing powers of 10 and scientific notation.  After having them watch a video at night on the concepts #flippedclass, and working through a few traditional warmups with buddies, I handed them this worksheet and allowed them to discover a little bit about the world we live in for further practice.  This lesson proves that you don't have to sacrifice core elements of your curriculum to go global, but rather you simply use the statistics of the world to practice concepts you are teaching.  Why couldn't they discover more than 5?

Using geohive the boys worked through this document.  I have imaged it here too.

The boys started to choose countries that many of them had never heard of.  And within their inquiry they also discovered population growth and how it differs from country to country.  This led to informal discovery to "why", with small conversations about disease, poverty etc... It was fun for them to look around the room and relate this to the millenium goal posters my 7th graders had made.  The real fun was then watching them use google earth, 360 cities and www.ifitweremyhome to learn more about their chosen countries. Rewarded with this 10 minutes of inquiry, they had no problem heading home to practice their skills a little more.  #balance #blendedlearning

While I continue to hear people say that it's hard to make math global, while reading this recent blog post by Homa Tavangar the following really resonated with me:  "As practice is built around the integration of global themes in everyday learning, you will begin to find that you no longer have to make a difficult either-or decision between test results and global know-how, or between fulfilling mandated curricular requirements and bringing the world to your students. Successful implementation of global education can expand what you thought was possible and create a more fulfilling, productive, life-long learning process for your students and for you—before you even buy plane tickets".  

To me, it's strange not to go global on even the simple things anymore.  The more you immerse yourself in it, the deeper you get, the more you will realize that their is no turning back. Start with a passion and transform it into practice, it will be rewarding for all. 

Where in the World is Sierra Leone? Hmm... I Wonder?

Where is Sierra Leone?

Let's start there. When I was 12 years old, I likely couldn't even answer that question. In fact, I might not have even known to ask it.  But in the last few days I have had the unbelievable opportunity to expose my students and allow them to think and wonder about life nearly 7,000 miles away.  With a little help from www.ifitweremyhome.com, wonder they did...

  • Why is there more of a class divide?
  • Why do they live shorter lives? Why is the chance of dying in infancy so much greater?
  • If they spend so much on health care, what is health care like there?
  • What is it like to make 98% less money than the US but have 2.8 more children?
  • What would it be like to live without electricity?
  • Why is the average annual income only the equivalent of $900 while in the US it is $46,000. 
  • What causes people to die sooner?
  • Does birth control even exist is Sierra Leone?
  • Is their a class hierarchy? 

And to sum it up, I wonder if all of these things are related?  

We had the wonderful opportunity to have the boys listen to Jennifer Klein talk about her 3 week journey to Sierra Leone and address some of their wonders.  We are just at the beginning of our journey, but as we embrace global word problem solving we are sure to dig deeper about the world we share with so many others and challenge our minds.  

Thank you Sierra Leone for sharing these wor(l)d problems with us.  We can't wait to learn more about you, your community and your country in the future!  Word Problems Here:)

Disclosure:  We received these word problems on lined paper and Jennifer was able to lend her camera for the pictures.  I scanned them and placed them in this document to share with others.  Enjoy!




Eureka! Rhode Island: Hope

When I started the wor(ld) problem project at Town School for Boys I didn't really plan on how fun it would be to have the boys learn about places in the US.  But I have to admit, learning about Rhode Island (a state that I grew up 30 minutes from the border of) and through the eyes of 5th graders and in the greater context of statistics and math has been a lot of fun.  Today, during our "I wonder, I learned, and I connect with activity" we discovered this fun site that compared our two home states.  Check out their problems here:)

What else do we wonder?  

  • How much of the coast line of Rhode Island is accessible for swimming? 
  • How deep are the bays?
  • What is the weather like in Rhode Island?
  • How many islands in Rhode Island?
  • How many "Alcatraz" size Islands would fit in Rhode Island?
  • Are water sports popular? and if so which ones?
  • How many bridges in Rhode Island and which one is longest? 

And cheers to the city of East Providence for providing some great math on their website about carousels.  A great add on to what we have already learned from our partners.  Math, it's everywhere.  Join us.  We love learning about your world through math!


See below: Boys were excited to learn about the longest game in history, 33 innings!  AND I was excited to be reminded of all the baseball greats that played in THAT game:)

Ratios, Rates, Proportions Help with Intentional Learning

It's Spring Fever!  Spring break is days away, it was 70 degrees in San Francisco the past 2 days and the boys are excited and anxious about many things-puberty will do that to you.  Front line and center is next week's spring break followed by 4 days in the mountains of Santa Cruz.  I on the other hand am anxious about the amount of money stirring in the bank accounts, the increasing "capital" without intent and that our current ratio of lending on Kiva is 9 to 4.  

Begin Chapter 8. My Everyday Math curriculum states that it is time to work with rates, ratios and proportions. This has always been a great unit in my mind.  It let's us play with REAL WORLD math.  Now, alongside finding how many chocolate chips we need to make 3 1/2 of the recipes, we can discover more about the world, our lending styles, Kiva borrowers and develop empathy.  This is what makes math real and exciting.  

Getting the boys to stay focussed with spring break on the brain, I had the boys answer the following questions for me using kiva.org.  As they discovered an individual we listed the country they lived in so that we could gather borrowers from across the globe, and 20 different countries. 


1.     Choose a borrower on Kiva.org that appeals to you.  Summarize who they are, what they are asking for and how much their loan is.

2.     What is the average annual salary of that country? 

3.     What is the currency of that country?  How much does $1 USD equal? 

4.     How much was your initial loan on kiva.org



After working through that worksheet we circled up to share.  I was excited to hear the reasons to "why" they would lend to these individuals and I wasn't disappointed.  From countries of turmoil to, to people with lots of children, to the kinds of businesses  and lenders previous success, the boys took the time to think intentionally about how they would spend their money.  In the end the message was clear that when asked to make the right decision they can.  

However, what I soon realized is that the boys of Town School were choosing to lend to men more than women.  When I brought this to the attention of the boys they came up with some interesting thoughts and ideas.  

"Wow!  Our goal in the beginning of the year was to focus on women. Where did we go wrong?" -Jacko

"Likely we identify with men more, we are young men" -Henry

We spent some time discussing the traditional roles of men vs women and challenging ourselves to consider to identify with lenders for other reasons.  I told them that I wouldn't force them to lend to any group or gender but I thought I should inform and remind them why lending to women is as important if not more.  The boys understood, in fact they recalled the reasons they had decided at the beginning of the year to focus on women. When one of the boys mentioned that in the green category the ratio of men to women was male dominated, I decided to take the lesson to another level.  We pulled up the Kiva Website and looked at the different categories ratios while teaching the boys how to simplify and write ratios from the data.  Before using the sorting button, the boys would vote if they thought it would more more favored to men or women and then we would convert it into a simplified ratio.  

Green 4:1   Clothing 1:5   Construction 2:1  Education  4:1  Food 2:7  Retail 1:3  Housing 3:4

Gender stereotypes, conversation about roles in communities, and overall interesting dialogue that had the boys really thinking, this was exciting and real.  While they were able to guess correctly on most of the ratios, they were stumped on education.  They see educators as mostly female and so I challenged them to spend some time in the future to consider both that and the kind of education loans that were online.  Women or Men? That's the question.  

Boy do you recall, "The ratio of women to men's wages in the US increased to $0.82:$1.00 in 2013."  -The Wage Project?  

So where will we go next with this unit of proportions, rates, ratios and percent? Converting currency, comparing and contrasting annual salary, and looking at what our class loans would look like on kiva and what percent of that nations annual salary we are "playing" with here in class on daily basis.  

Wow it's an exciting time, Spring Fever and ALL. Who said you couldn't bring global to math class?  Try it, I promise it's fun for both you and them. 

See Worksheet Here

A Letter to Belmont Day

Dear Ms Grossman and Belmont Day School,

We want to thank you for taking the time and energy to work with us on a mystery math skype call.  It was a great opportunity for us to review our measures of central tendency and create a fun poster/double line graph that showed our March weather.  We love sharing and getting to know others.  

While debriefing our day we came up with a few "I wonders" about not just the call itself but about Belmont Day School and some of the individual interests of the 5th graders.  We thought we would share in case you had some time to write us back. 

I wonder...

Do you have to bring/make your own lunch? Or does school provide it?

Do you switch from class to class or is Ms Grossman your only teacher?

What does your school look like?  (We'd send a picture of ours but it's a mess as it's undergoing major reconstruction).

When it snows do you still get outside recess?  

What kind of school breaks do you  have? 

Do the kids of Belmont Day School like to ski?

What sports do you play at school?

How many kids at Belmont Day School?

Were you scared during the Boston Marathon last year?

Will we get to skype with Belmont again, how about other schools? 


Ms Goggin & 5th Grade Core Math Class

photo 8.JPG

Wor(l)d Problems Live from South Africa

The 5th graders from Town School for Boys waited patiently to learn more about where our word problems have travelled and who has been completing them.  It was an exciting day when Ms Karen Kirsch Page visited our classroom with pictures from South Africa.  Our friend, Mr Amani, invited Karen into the classroom to share the problems and to assist the middle school students from Langa Township to complete them.  As Karen shared her story our boys listened intently.  Karen allowed the boys to notice and wonder from the many images she collected from her math lesson and told the boys about education at Moshesh primary school.  

With a huge smile on his face Thomas exclaimed, "Wow, they are completing my word problem on the board!" as he watched video of a teacher explaining the process. The boys were excited to see the students completing their problems and to hear that Mr Amani, who rarely has an opportunity to work through projects, asked for multiple copies of our "Book" to use for years to come.  As we wait for the next round of word problems to come from Langa Township, we embrace our new local partner, Wheeler School, and the problems they sent from Rhode Island.  

Learn more and join us!

Equation Writing: Connecting Algebra to Kiva Project

While math is everywhere in our micro lending project, it's a this point in the year that I am really excited to work through equation writing, solving multi-step equations, proportions, ratios and percent increase and decrease. This is some of the material that I find it so easy to connect to our project and it challenges the boys in new and exciting ways. Every year I create new problems using the financials of the companies within the class.  During the next few weeks I hope to share through "Stories from the Garage" some of the ways I use our project to help teach these math skills and empathy as we use these math skills to explore what other places in the world look like.  

Todays lesson is to introduce simple equation writing and solving.  See it here.


Good Morning Premal-The Delivery of the Jumbo Check and Reflections from the Garage

Premal Shah visits Town School for his JUMBO check!

Premal Shah visits Town School for his JUMBO check!

Teaching 5th and 6th grade for so long, I am no longer surprised when the 7th and 8th graders cruise through the hall without the intention of acknowledging me.  The same boy that last year met me with a daily high five or (hush) a weekly one armed side hug, is now too busy or embarrassed to say "Good Morning Ms Goggin".  So when I discovered the news that the 7th and 8th graders on the Kiva Council had decided that this year the school fair would benefit kiva.org I was over the moon.  Take your daily high five, fist pump or "hollah".  This was the kind of "hug" I wanted.  

The school fair made over $6500 and we now have $500 in our Kiva Council account so that we can spread the love to lower school and allow each class to make a loan.   It was really exciting to have Premal Shah come to accept our $6000 check that will benefit overhead costs for kiva.org.  During his time, Premal introduced the boys to a math lesson related to the reality of kiva overhead funds: "If for everyone $1 donated to Kiva's overhead we are able to generate $10 that impacts borrowers, what impact will this $6000 have on the global community? If we were to make $25 loans with that "impact" number, how many could we make?" In addition, Premal told stories from the field in Sierra Leone and asked the boys what criteria they use when they make loans.  When one of the boys noted that they like to lend to countries in turmoil, Premal acknowledged that many lenders don't feel the same and that it worries some.  In the garage a few hours later, the 6th graders spoke from the heart:

"It's completely illogical not to consider loans to countries in turmoil.  While we have to get the sense that they are trustworthy, we do know they may need it the most".  

"It will empower them to find a good way out of this state turmoil, let's do it!"

"We aren't talking people in turmoil, we are talking people who are in countries that are in turmoil.  Our loan could make even more of an impact"

"How can we convince others outside of our class to loan through kiva or donate to kiva?" 

I ask the boys the same question Premal did when they make loans using this form, it helps to drive intentional lending which to me is an important part of our growth as global citizens.  I want them not to just give for the sake of giving, but to learn how to make those decisions and to believe in them.  This voice and choice is important and also makes lending on Kiva.org pretty fun.  

Here are a few recent reflections from the loan process.   

Pakistan LoanOne of the reasons I chose to loan to this person is because my mom is originally from Pakistan.  In addition, we chose to loan to Shazia because she has three children, and her husband is the only person in the family that has a job.  Finally, we chose Shazia because she was 95% funded, and the $25.00 that we gave her would make that 100%

Zip.kiva.org loan USA:  The juice she is selling can make people healthier and it is a local company, and our group thinks that it's good to loan to local companies.  Her juice company helps people who have "lyme disease, cancer, and other debilitating diseases, because they are too weak to cook their own food and supplement their bodies with the much needed vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for them to survive and beat these diseases." 

Gaza, Palestine Loan:  1) he has six children that he needs to provide for  2) he is in a group that have been discriminated against (muslims)  3) he is starting a business instead of expanding. Which will make more business in general a the area he is working in.



How do we know that the lessons we are teaching these children through our global work is worthwhile? It's hard to quantify. I notice kinder hearts.  I notice kids willing to go the extra distance because it matters. I notice kids making decisions that are less egocentric (which developmentally can be tough) and more about the greater good of our community whether it be Town School, San Francisco or the world.  I have this gut feeling it's worth it.  Try it, I bet you will too!

Our partnership with KIVA will continue to grow, I know.  Did you hear that Kiva U was recently recognized for an international sustainability award and featured in Forbes after just 6 months. Cheers to that.  

Let's Have Fun and Educate!

2nd grade lessons on lending and life. 

2nd grade lessons on lending and life. 

As if running a couple of businesses out of your classroom isn't hard enough, this year with the split campus we have discovered even more challenges. With half our student body living in the Marina and the other half in Pacific Heights, we have had less opportunity for the casual sell of both product and knowledge.  While of course we miss the dollars from the lower school boys coming through the door, what I felt like I was missing the most was the opportunity for the 6th graders to be global educators to the young ones, leaders in their community and change making role models.  I missed the informal gathering of lower school students outside the garage map wondering, "what is kiva, and how does it help these people" and watching 6th graders answer that question time and time again.  I missed snack time chats in the lower school classrooms and little noses pressed to the glass wondering, "when can I buy that kiva product?"  

6th grade peers learn about micro lending.

6th grade peers learn about micro lending.

That said, I decide to shift the focus of quarter 2 from building a sustainable business, to how can we best educate our community about micro lending and Kiva.org in the hopes of them becoming future customers and potential lenders?  The timing was perfect as our student fair was right around the corner and all proceeds were being donated the overhead costs of kiva.org. 



The boys worked hard at creating age appropriate presentations for the lower school and we headed down to teach them about micro lending and kiva.org.  From Big Bear's Loan example used in kindergarten to using Kiva.org's video about Pedro alongside a presentation with 5th and 6th graders.  We had extended talks about setting up ice cream sales using an ice cream maker you buy at Target that leads to sales and profit and prezi's that describe the entire process of micro lending through kiva.org. Don't forget the istop motion video too.  It was creative and educational and I am pretty sure we made a difference.  

While we can't always see the impact of our global lessons so quickly, the second graders really want to follow in our footsteps.  One boys weekend juice sale profits are going to a loan in a second grade classroom and who wouldn't vote for this kid?  

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 3.26.48 PM.png

The Importance of A Good Launch: Take Your Day and Audience Into Consideration

Launching a PBL can come in many different forms.  But the week before winter break, coupled with cabin fever due to the arrival of California's first big rain, made for madness in the gym to be the appropriate launch for our Olympic Sochi 2014 PBL.


By nature, the Olympics are Global. Countries putting their differences aside and coming together in the name of sport.  Athletes from all over the world empathizing with one other through events, victories, struggles, triumphs and more.  Knowing I wanted to continue using global stats in my classroom, and with scatterplots coming up in the curriculum, I decided to launch:  


"How can we use historical results from the Olympics to predict results in Sochi 2014?"
















For this project I needed to grab enthusiasm for the Olympics. I wanted them to think about the different sports, the difference of a tenth of a second, and how results from the past would help predict the future. We headed to the gym, designed a course, and were off to the races!  


Just to spice things up for the rest of the week, the boys also chose countries to follow and represent in our classroom.  Everyday their country earns a Gold we will play the national anthem of that country.  Because we launched the day before the games began, we played the anthem of our classroom winners: Jake and Brooke-Cayman Islands. They were grateful, as they are a little worried if their anthem will be played again (you should check it out, the song makes me want to go to the Caymans).  Playing the anthem gave us time to reflect on the importance of it to a country and how one behaves during the playing of it.  It brought the energy from the games down too.  

The launch? It was successful.  The boys came in to class last period on Friday ready to gather stats and investigate the different events in the games.  Luge, Biathalon, Speed Skating, Downhill skiing, and Moguls... the boys are ready to predict the winning times!  I can't wait to see what they come up with:)  

My first trip to...

Good morning passengers, this is your captain speaking.  While we are waiting for take off, please place all your belongs either below your seat or to the sides of the room. Please keep your chair in an upright position with all four on the floor. In case of an emergency please be silent and wait for your captain or crew's announcement, we will count down from 5 for silence. We will be traveling some miles on this journey and it's bound to be an adventure. 

Ready for take off...

Today was the launch of "Learning About the World through Word Problems" and it was exciting.  

So how did we do it?  

"Oh My!  It's like I am IN Jakarta!"

"Oh My!  It's like I am IN Jakarta!"

I started the class by having the boys look at the tags of their clothes to determine where they would do their initial investigations.  Giving this instruction to 10 year old boys means absolute chaos to determine their location.  Shirts are off, buddies are checking the tags of shorts for each other, shoes are being flung around the room, excitement in the air.  

Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Vietnam, India, China, Bangladesh, Philippines, Morocco... Here We Go!

The boys visited the site:  www.ifitweremyhome.org to get an initial feeling for the country they were about to visit.  After a few minutes they were asked to reflect on Edmodo.  

"I notice that the money made is 90.09% less. I wonder if that affects the daily way of life in Morroco?" - Bauer

"I notice because Vietnam is very poor that there are more negative things than positive. I wonder if the Vietnam war didn't happen how much more money they'd have." -Nicholas

"I notice that India has a huge population for a country. They make not a lot of money. So I do not know why a lot of people live there." - Cheddar

After their reflection they researched the capital city of their country.  It was fun to seem them discover new places and rush to the map to see exactly where it was.  But the fun really began when they set out on their ipads to discover images using Panoramic 360 Cities (which is both an app and website).  


In a reflection circle the boys commented:

"Jakarta seemed pretty nice in some areas.  But then I discovered some real poor sections." -Jashae

"Mexico City is nothing like the Mexico I have travelled to before.  Not all of Mexico is beach." - Chris

"Hanoi was pretty where I was.  And I thought it looked clean" -Jack

"In New Delhi it didn't seem like their was electricity" -Michael

If felt like a successful launch at this point. The boys were energized about learning about the world and so I launched into some word problems from some of our past partners to get them thinking how math can play a role.  

Launch Problems

What did we learn?  Where did we visit?

About our location Colorado:  

  • How tall the mountains of Colorado are.
  • How tall the highest mountain pass in Colorado is.
  • Location of Colorado.
  • Distance we are from Colorado.
  • How long it would take to get their by plane.

Math Concepts with Colorado Word Problem:

  • Conversions of Feet to Meters
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication

About our location Peru:

  • What is the Inca Trail?
  • How the walls were built in Peru.
  • Where the 12 Angled Stone is.
  • Location of Peru.

Math Concepts with Peru Word Problem:

  • Interior angle measurements of polygons
  • Types of Angles
  • Multiplication and Addition

Hooked?  Kind of...  When I told the boys I was hoping to create new friendships with schools across the globe in the hopes of learning about other places and cultures they were STOKED. Potential Skype call if  we were lucky?  SOLD.  

So what do I need from you?  A word problem.  

Don't think your "exotic" enough for these boys...CHALLENGE.

Share with us something we don't know.  We can't wait to be friends.  






I Am A Millennium Child? 7th graders Use Math to Investigate Millennium Goals

If you read my post about Christmas in NH, you likely are already aware that the 7th graders were up to something in the garage.  For 2 years I have been trying to think of a good global project for my 7th graders and this was just the class to try it with.  

The day I said, "this is working" was on Monday, January 6th.  Having just had 2 weeks off, playing all over California and the world, the boys came straight into class asking, "Should we just get started on our project?".  I am not sure if I was shocked or not.  Having run out of time to finish our education/action component, I had purposefully planned two lessons for that day.  I didn't know if they would be over it and hoping to let it go, or ready to roll.  Sure I would have been disappointed if we had let it go, and or I would have found a way in the days to come to offer it a little CPR, but their energy was all telling, "LETS GET AFTER IT!"

And so we did.... But let's reflect on how the process went from the beginning.  

Mathematical Concepts

  • Histograms
  • Stem and Leaf Plots
  • Line/Bar/Circle Graphs
  • Box and Whisker Plots

To get warmed up on using these statistical plots and graphs I went to something the boys LOVE and have been asking about doing a project on... Football.  Long gone are the days where I will focus an entire week or two on the NFL but hey, getting them interested with this to start never hurts.  The boys each found statistics (one specific) that they were then asked to put into each of the representations above (they could choose one out Line/Bar and Circle Graphs but Histograms, Stem and Leaf and Box and Whisker all needed to be taught and practiced).  Receiving yards, points scored, points against, jersey numbers... you name it.  The boys quickly discovered, by trial and error, that some of these stats couldn't really be put into some of these graphs.  Do NFL specific player receiving yards really fit into a stem and leaf plot when the data is:  101, 18, 210 etc... We quickly learned that while you "can" it doesn't mean you "should".  Great life lesson too!  

After we were bored (yeah right) with football statistics I presented the boys the Millennium Goals.  The 7th graders are a great audience for this as they are born right around the year 2000.  We started with a quick video before investigating the 8 goals.  The boys had an opportunity in small groups to think about what goals were most important to them and the goals that they would eventually be able to dive deeper into.  Thoughtful questions led to need to knows and inquiry. This was a great PBL launch.  

The driving question:  As responsible global citizens, how can we use statistics and graphs to raise awareness about our millennium goals?  

The boys decided on 4 goals to focus on and created charts to be displayed in the classroom. It was amazing how much these charts/posters made my 5th and 6th graders think. What do you mean women don't have equal rights?  People really make only $1 a day?  Only 5% of HIV cases are in the developing world?  What does developing world really mean?  When the walls can talk and educate, it appears people listen and or at least wonder...  as a revision, next year I would like to make a solid rubric for the chart/poster ahead of time and create an "I Wonder Wall" for others in the community to contribute to. 

Check out the gallery of charts here: 


Timing was perfect to dive deeper into global. The boys were busy studying for finals and while new material was something they didn't want, developing empathy was moving at championship pace.  So in terms of choice and voice I let the boys create an educational component to their project.  While the boys needed to include statistics in their project, If they didn't want to include their charts/graphs because they didn't fit into the concept, I was cool with that too.  Sometimes it's not the math that is most important:)  

I gave them a few days to polish these up after break and present to their classmates.  The conversation was amazing and something that I can't possibly rehash here on the blog but, WOW.  They are wondering what we can do to "act" so watch out! Walkathons? Bake Sales? Women Shelters? Corresponding with Schools in Africa? Doctors without Borders?  Our Today's Meet was a great way to brainstorm with everyone's voice... these boys are up to good things, great things.   

HIV-Aids - Informative presentation




"Can you believe that when you google Madagascar the first thing that comes up is the movie? Isn't it sad that it's not the country.  The country that needs our help to get out of poverty?" -Jake


Borrow. Learn. Educate. And Other Behind the Scenes Info.

The garage has been hectic and fun as the boys have been busy for two weeks pushing product.  We are turning heads during snack periods as we have been open for business now 6 days.  Some products have sold out, some products have been reordered, some products have just begun and of course, some businesses are already in panic mode.  It's all happening, just as it should.  

The overall driving question of the year remains, "How Can We Model MicroFinance in Our Own Community?".  But, here are a few things you may NOT know about what's happening in the garage simultaneously. 

  • We have two loans through KIVA already, thanks to the generous support of the 7th and 8th grade Kiva Council.  Do you know that we use these borrowers to reflect on throughout our journey?  As students struggle within their own small businesses we reflect on how this would feel outside the walls of Town School.  What would it feel like if "our lives depended on it" or "this was our first big break".  We may have a unique opportunity to meet one of these initial borrowers too.  Gary lives here in San Francisco.  How cool would it be to be able to not only reflect on what it may feel like to be a real kiva borrower but actually be able to talk and empathize with one?  Gary and Maria have paid us back a combined 10% of our initial investment and are on schedule.  
  • The boys of Town have paid back 22% of their initial loans.  Different from years past, I asked the boys to put themselves on a strict repayment schedule with the first repayment due exactly one month after all funds were received.  Seeing that one company hadn't even gotten their product until the day before the first repayment date, it's safe to say we had to have a few important discussions.  How would/could our lending community help the team that may not have money to pay back their loan?  We reflected on the One Hen simulation and how we could either lend them the money and/or purchase their product quickly to help the situation.  The choice was clear... t-shirts were purchased from Custom Klothes.  
  • Do you know that the 6th grade boys (participating in the project) are only allowed to purchase one product from our market place during the first few weeks?  I want to make sure that we are not self sufficient and that we actually do rely on other members of our community.  They think it's unfair as initial products begin selling out and they don't have the means to buy one.  But, we can't have everything and if we are modeling global community members in need of loans we need to recognize that we wouldn't have the money to buy all these goods either.  It's a hard lesson but it's necessary.  To model how hard it can be to run a business and how hard life is when you need to make decisions on spending this is important.  
  • The 6th grade boys have begun advertising their products and the fun has just begun.  Do you know that the boys are charged $0.09 for a black and white copy and $0.49 for a color copy? The money that we use for advertising goes into a special bank envelope and it's all donated to kiva.org for overhead costs.  It's a reciprocal relationship in that regard and a great lesson in teaching the boys about non profit organizations.
  • We haven't even tapped into the lower school community.  This double campus thing kind of hurts in terms of our project.  However, it's my belief that we should not tap in until we have an opportunity to educate the younger boys about kiva and where the money from these small businesses is going.  So we need a plan.  The driving question:  


This is kind of BIG. This is kind of HEAVY.  But in the next 3 weeks we will tackle it alongside traditional geometry (which will be taught in a blended learning style).  The boys have already started thinking as they have "begged" to hit the lower school for an onsite visit.  Brochures, Prezi's, Movies... a lot of voice and choice and a lot of room for education, leadership and fun.  Bring it!  

It Takes Money to Make Money

As you may recall, the 6th grade boys were fully funded by the middle of December and that means that they were able to order product.  We were about a week off from last year, which meant that all groups didn't get their product before the holiday break, but that didn't stop those that did.  Despite falling ill to the "virus" I managed to make my way in to work that Thursday, December 12th.  I was on the mend, but the reason I pulled my Lifetime watching self, ginger-ale drinking self off that couch was so I could be there to open shop for my 6th graders. It wasn't actually something that a sub could pull off. It was the first sales and I wanted to be there.  

"All you really have to do is know your customer and sell your product"  -Jack L 6th grader

"All you really have to do is know your customer and sell your product"  -Jack L 6th grader

The groups that were ready to go were appreciative.  Because the product had just arrived, and because of the uncertainty of marketplace being open due to the "virus", we had a lot more window shoppers than anything else. BUT it was the first $38.... and that meant something to everyone:)  Sales would boom in 2014, right? 

While waiting for the other product to arrive (and watching my tracking numbers closely), I received an email from Oriental Trading.  Due to the storms across the country, they didn't get all of their packages delivered on schedule. I imagine this might have been a HUGE inconvenience for parents and families that had made orders that were time dependent.  But ours wasn't.  We hadn't planned on using the GTS Spinning Helicopters before the New Year and in fact our school wasn't even open to accept packages during the "controversial" time period.  So you can imagine that receiving a $25 e gift card from Oriental Trading got me thinking.  Do I offer this $25 to the boys?  Is it fair?  Does it fit with the simulation? Morally, what should I do? 

Choosing not to was the easy thing to do.  No one ever had to know that it arrived in my inbox.  Choosing to give it to them meant conversing about it and getting the boys to understand what the $25 signifies.  I chose the latter, but it wasn't an easy decision.  Would this make things too easy for the boys?  Would they face other struggles that would allow them to develop great empathy for borrowers across the globe.  I trust they will.  

So on Monday, I presented the $25 e-certificate to GTS aerial.  They were stoked.  I immediately felt jealousy from the other boys.  That's normal.  But it was time to chat about.  What does the $25 represent?  It takes money to make money.

We spent the next few minutes talking about lottery of birth.  "The lottery of birth is a philosophical argument that states: since no one chooses where they are born, they should not be held responsible for something that is beyond their control (e.g. being rich, being poor, etc.)."  I have also heard it be described along the lines of the opportunity we are born into based solely on the latitude and longitude of which we are born into this world.  From there we discussed how sometimes a lucky break is all that a person needs to turn their life around and beat the odds.  The conversation went back to KOJO and some of the other borrowers we have begun to think about in our classroom.  It was nice to see them think about this and to feel the jealousy subside.  

In fact, we then began to talk about what the $25 would represent for our project.  The boys acknowledged that the $25 would eventually, after it's investment in product from oriental trading, would in the literal sense end up being at least two loans.  Does Oriental Trading know that they are pretty much helping two entrepreneurs down the line?  That my friends is why I made the decision. Do I feel slightly bad about taking the $25 given our particular circumstances? Not when I consider the borrowers who we will help with that money.  Maybe you don't agree.  I didn't get into the moral discussion of it with them.  

What I do know is that today we met as a trust group and gathered our stats from our first 4 days of sales at Town School and I am proud.  WIth only half the school on Jackson campus we are sold out of 2 out of 6 products (and btw only 5 groups actually had product-the last just arrived).  Don't worry we have more stuff being ordered too!

Update for Week 1 January  + December Pre Sale

A Happy Consumer of Tiger Swag Dog Tags Poses with the Team

A Happy Consumer of Tiger Swag Dog Tags Poses with the Team


Thingamajigs for Less - Gross Profit $45 

GTS Aerial- Gross Profit $19.50

Kustom Clothes- Gross Profit $0

Town Toys Inc - Gross Profit $112.50

Swag Gear - Gross Profit $36.50

Novelty Toys - Gross Profit $90




Total Loans = $340 so we have earned 89% of the money we borrowed.  However, in our first repayment term we only owe a fraction of that at $86 so we still have a lot of money to reinvest in the future of our companies.  

Again.... It takes Money to Make Money.  Let the games continue!   


As Tom Petty Said, "The Waiting is the Hardest Part".

As mentioned before, running the same PBL has it's ups and downs.  BUT it's weeks like this that I start to see empathy develop in the boys and I recognize that while I know what's coming on the day to day (mostly), they don't.  And therefore I continue to be energized by the development of these boys throughout the process as I watch them turn big corners into becoming more globally aware, empathetic citizens.  And helk, they still surprise me too!

What am I talking about?  

On November 20th, Micro Finance Macro Results, Town School's online young entrepreneur funding page went live to the Town School faculty and staff.  The boys were pumped, refreshing the page every minute to watch the support flow in.  Comment after comment, the boys started adding up their loans.  10%, 20%...  then a lull... then another outpouring of support and so on...

Novelty Toys, the group asking for the smallest loan was first to get funded.  Having asked for only $30, this was the natural result.  They were ecstatic, and wanting to start ordering immediately.  But where was the money?  Perhaps it's in the field partners system, but has it made it to the garage?  What about the other groups?  When will they be fully funded?  

Anxiety, Excitement, Lessons ABOUND!  As Tom Petty sang, 

"The waiting is the hardest part 
Every day you get one more yard 
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart 
The waiting is the hardest part "

So what lessons/conversations have we had over the course of the last two weeks? Read their responses from edmodo and where we took conversations in class.  This is the fun part!

What does it feel like to be waiting for your loans?  

Tom: I am exited because it is awesome when you check and you see you have more money.

Matthew: It's sort of frustrating, because you start to feel like you will never get funded.

Pierce: It's extremely suspenseful while waiting for your loan to be fully funded. You know that it's going to be funded and that it just takes time, but it still feels like forever and you get nervous. But at the same time, you're excited. It goes both ways.

Connor: I agree with matthew, That it is hard to wait when your progress is so slow and you feel like you will never get to the end.

Shaan: I'm nervous because I can't stop thinking about what will happen if we don't get full funded.

After reading what the boys had to say on Edmodo, I asked the boys to think about what it may feel like if they were Maria or Gary (the folks we lent to) or any other borrower on Kiva for that matter.  They thought about their own excitement and anxiety and translated it to how different it would be if they NEEDED the loan and if the loan would actually be "life changing". 

Why doesn't each teacher give everyone the same loan or even a loan?  

Curtis: I am excited as we get faster to getting fully funded. I wonder what goes through the lenders head before they give money and if they give more to one group I wonder why.

The boys often "complain" or talk in class about how faculty and staff give different amounts to each group.  They also wonder why some teachers only give to one group.  I love my faculty and staff for spicing it up in this way. It allows for conversations on intentional lending and leads the way to great conversations in the future when they start making profits to lend for themselves.  Can we afford to lend to everyone? Should we?  What made us choose Gary/Maria?  What do you think made a specific teacher chose you?  

How does it feel to be fully funded but not have the money in your hands to start your work?  

Juniad: I am very excited and I can't wait to be fully collected.

Sami: I am excited and also anxious to get the full funds so we can start ordering our products and also I want to be able to get our product out as soon as possible.

Due to the two campus split, getting the funds this year has been a little more complicated. Our lower school friends are 'lending" but it's harder to see the money as quickly. This is good for them.  It also has led to great conversations about what it must "feel" like to know that your loan is funded but you are waiting for your bank/field partner to actually produce the funds.  For me, I relate this to trying to buy a house.  But for the boys waiting anxiously for funds to be delivered to the garage is doing the trick!  


Thank You Langa Friends!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am writing today to say "Thank You" to my friends in South Africa.  I am thankful to Mr Amani and his class for helping make a dream a reality.  Last year, I really wanted to take on a final PBL driving question, "How can we learn about the world through math story problems?" The 5th graders spent countless hours creating problems and investigating San Francisco so that they could share their city with others. While we did have an opportunity to collaborate with an international school in China, I really was hoping to find more partners.  While traveling in Cape Town this August, I did just that.  Mr Amani is an enthusiastic, committed math teacher at Moshesh Primary School in Langa.  You can read about my visit to Langa, and Moshesh here.


I continue to be reminded of the struggles we face trying to create partnerships with schools across the globe.  In the case of this project, timing is a small issue that i hope to work to overcome in the months to come. You see, Moshesh Primary School just sent us their problem set, BUT they are heading out on summer holiday.  Mr Amani and I have connected and established that this is just the start of something special.  Connectivity.  Technology.  Language.  Those are hurdles that we have overcome.  In the future we both hope to push the boundaries of what we have accomplished thus far and create a lasting and authentic relationship between Town School and MPS.  I so look forward to it.  

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the experiences, support, excitement and the energy around global learning at Town School.  And, "Thank You" Mr Amani and your 6th and 7th grade math classes.  We can't wait to solve these problems!   

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Here's to Another Year. Further Exploration. KIVA.

"Returning was a weird thing. You can never visit the same place twice. Each time, it's a different story. By the very act of coming back, you wipe our what came before.” -The Last Little Blue Envelope

I have to admit, their are moments where it is challenging.  Moments where I struggle to find the energy the boys deserve. Through the experiences I have been through with the 6th graders the past two years, it is increasingly more difficult to return as if I haven't been down the path.  Biting my tongue and not allowing myself to give up too much, too soon.  Or coming across as "been here, done that, don't do that".  These are often occurrences. Because it is the exploration and modeling that is most important to me after all.  The development of truly empathetic global citizens through a year long, real life simulation/experience with microlending.  They need me to be not only as excited as last year, but even more so and more intentional due to my personal growth and education.  

So where are the boys from the garage now?  

For the past week I was able to work alongside the humanities teachers.  In doing this, the boys worked on business plans (group business plans linked to our LIVE page below) in humanities class.  The goal was to concentrate on transition words, mechanics and critical thinking.  I hadn't collaborated across the disciplines in the past so this was an exciting addition to the program.  By giving the leadership of these plans to Dave I was able to fully concentrate on the mathematics that goes into starting a business.  With the help of Justin at Kiva Zip, I also created a borrower application that allowed us to revisit the financial literacy terms of credit, debt, and interest rates, alongside the math skills of unit rates, percent and graphs.  The boys processed these in math class, had meetings with their field partners and some of the groups are currently LIVE AND READY TO GO! CHECK IT OUT.

While being live is exciting, having a visit from Justin from Kiva Zip and giving our first loans this week was even more exciting. Having connected with Justin at KIVA U Summit, I decided to take up Justin's offer to come visit Town School.  I am so thankful I did.   Justin was able to articulate the differences between Kiva and Kiva Zip, talk about the potential growth of both programs, give advice to the boys and lend an ear to their thoughtful and crazy ideas.  It was a lot of fun!  And...

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Justin's trip was a great kick off to the boys making their first loans as well.  The day after his visit I explained to the boys that they had been given a $25 gift card from the current Kiva Council.  I informed them that it was up to them as a class to decide who this person was.  I let them know that we would reflect on this person throughout the year and compare our experience with micro lending to theirs.  Immediately 6B suggested that they might want to lend to a local borrower through Kiva Zip and that they definitely wanted to work alongside an entrepreneur as opposed to an education or home improvement style loan.  I was happy to hear them get "there" without my assistance. I had them fill out our Kiva Council Loan Decision Worksheet so that they could start to determine what was important to them, and then each group had 45 seconds to "sell" their person to the rest of the class.  Heads down voting and we had our first 6B loan.  Garry.  The great part of this?  We get to communicate with Garry and who knows, a real LIVE meeting?

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6A walked in with a different agenda.  While they believe in the importance of Kiva Zip they felt passionate about lending more globally.  Secretly I smiled, I liked the balance.  The 6A boys ranked their class top 4 priorities as "Lending to Women, Lending to people with children or families, lending to countries in turmoil and lending to people who had been discriminated against in the past".  The boys went off to discover that it was overwhelming at first to pick a loan and many of the groups got distracted and only hit on 1 or 2 of the priorities they had named themselves.  Just when I thought we were going to have it delay the lending a day or two, one of the boys suggested Maria.  Maria.  Woman. 7 Children. Philippines.  Woman.  Hit all FOUR if you ask me.  The boys started to discuss the importance of lending to the Philippines given the state of the country post storm.  WOW.  They were really doing it:)  

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The discussion we have had in class and outside of class on Edmodo have been amazing.  In an effort to get them to understand how hard it may be for people to fill out applications if they struggle to read or write I wrote my posts in Edmodo in German at first and then asked them to reflect on statistics about literacy.  It was interesting to see their reactions.  




So what now?  We wait.  We wait for the rest of the borrower applications to arrive. We wait for loans from our faculty.  We wait to bring more excitement into the garage, one lesson after another.  This is bigger than us.  This is why I am in education. This is why I find the energy even when it's tough.   

Advisory: Celebrating Global Relationships and Community Inclusion

Early in the morning and things got interesting in advisory this week.  At the beginning of the year we made a decision to incorporate a global issues day into our weekly advisory plan.  This was exciting for me from the start as it would give me an opportunity to further pursue ideas and concepts that don't necessarily fit into my math curriculum.  Global Issues Day was introduced as an alternative to current events.  As an advisory team we felt that current events often led the boys to bring up topics that had to do with sports and other local news that was hard to move beyond the surface with.  I was hopeful that Global Issues Day would allow us to take current events to the next level as we expanded on issues, celebrations and news.  

Examples of Global Issue Topics?

  • 9/11 Memorial
  • International Day of Peace
  • The Government Shut Down
  • Children's Favorite Possessions Around the World
  • The History and Cultural Rituals of Halloween
  • Celebrating Diwali
  • Beginning talks and relationship building with Zim Kids. 

So what did we do this week?  We made the whole week Global in the Garage.  A visit from Zimkids Dennis and Tinashe and a celebration of Diwali.  So what's this whole ZimKids thing?  Let me share.  

At the end of last year, I was introduced to Dennis Gaboury through Ric at school.  At the time, a lot was going on and I knew that in my heart if I tried to force a relationship or program that it would be a disaster.  I needed to work on something that was more intentional and therefore I had to ask for forgiveness with the promise that next year would work out better.  And so we moved forward this fall.  As I stated to my parents: 


"Learning about ZimKids has allowed the boys to get a small glimpse of what life is like in Zimbabwe.  We introduced the program to the boys by sharing this  video  and looking at Zimbabwe compared to the US before matching the boys up with "Buddies" who we learned about through online profiles.  The boys have spent some time writing up their own biographies which will be shared with the boys in Zimbabwe too.  When Dennis and Tinashe return to Zimbabwe the plan is for our boys to connect by sending short emails and do a skype call together.  The partnership was created so the boys can learn about a different culture, work on various styles of communication and sharing skills, and work towards becoming more global citizens."

Dennis and Tinashe joined us on Monday and Tuesday morning during advisory to share more about ZimKids, their own lives, and about the interests and personalities of the buddies.  The boys listened intently to stories about life in Zimbabwe as they warmed up to our visitors.  It was intense, but then again so is life in Zimbabwe.  The boys then asked questions about their buddies, learning about how much they like school, or how they like to rap and dance like elephants etc... Despite the different cultures and upbringings the boys began to truly realize, kids are still kids.  The boys inquired how they could help and some even bought the dolls that traveled from ZimKids and were made by our buddies.  So many elements of this brief time with Dennis and Tinashe will stay with me.  I look forward to our next "meeting".  


While it was hard to transition from ZimKids, I couldn't pass up a celebration of Diwali given that it is an important holiday for some of our community members.  Global Education and Diversity/Community Inclusion go hand in hand and so on Wednesday we planned a Diwali morning meeting.  In order to do a proper celebration and lesson on Diwali, I decided to contact one of the families to help with the history and traditions. So what did our morning meeting look like?  

Greeting:  Have the boys greet each other using the word Namaste.  The word Namaste means “Salutations to you” and is used to greet and say goodbye.  In India and Nepal a non contact form of greeting is preferred and therefore it is often used with a slight bow and hands pressed together (prayer position.)  

Share:  Read the story of Diwali . 

Activity:  Share what else we know about Diwali.   

  • Light many candles or diwas all over a clean house to welcome the goddess laxmi into your home.  
  • Playing Cards or gambling is done during Diwali because if two reasons.  Because goddess Parvati played cards with Lord Shiva on Diwali and because people believe they will win because the goddess Laxmi is visiting and we are sure to win because the goddess Laxmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
  • Gifts are also given during this time of the year.
  • Bhai dooj or Bhai beej is also significant. It's when lord Yama, lord of the dead, visited his sister. It is said that when a sister welcomes her brother into her home in this day and puts a Tilak, a red dot, on his head she vows to protect her brother from evil and lord Yama has vowed not to let harm fall on them.
  • The day between Diwali day and Bhai dhuj, we bend and touch our elders feet asking for their well wishes for the coming year.  

Conclusion:  As suggested by the family, the boys bowed to me with their hands together and I put my hand on their heads wishing them long life and happy new year.  

Oh and let's not forget the sweets.  While we didn't have access to Indian sweets, we did have Halloween Candy so we celebrated with that.   Diwali, our festival without much light (fire hazard), was pretty fun.