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

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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?  

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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.   


Let's Launch. Trust Groups, One Hen, Financial Literacy & Global Issues

It's been an exciting few days in the garage as we have entered into the land of micro lending leading up to PBL. While I may be quoted as saying, "the structure of the 6th grade project doesn't need any work, I will just roll with it and put the effort into the hands-on time with the boys" I didn't exactly leave everything as is either.  Having just walked away from an incredible few days at Kiva U Summit and having had the chance to work through some of the materials KIVA U has put forth, I wanted to work towards my goal of making the math concepts deliberate/intentional.  

So, without much change, I read the book ONE HEN to the boys on Monday in class. The boys are always pretty interested in the reading and I had them reflect on Edmodo afterwards. Some of their responses are here:   


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On Tuesday we spent some time going through the One Hen simulation about trust groups.  Having gone through this simulation a few times, I personally didn't want to get bored and needed to make sure that I helped inspire great conversation.  I gave the boys the information on trust groups and compared and contrasted them to the less formal model that is shown in One Hen.  I did this before giving them role play cards.  The boys then spent a few minutes understanding who they were and making decisions about their lives. After they introduced themselves to the group we brainstormed community issues that we noticed in this village.  

  • Lack of food and nutrition
  • Access to healthcare
  • Large families with limited resources
  • Access to loans and/or money
  • Access to clean water and electricity
  • Confined living space
  • Limited transportation opportunities
  • Limited access or financial means for education
  • Women's rights and gender inequality

One of the questions that resonates with me is:  "If the cost of uniforms is preventing kids from going to school, why do they need uniforms?" I don't have a lot of answers about poverty and lack of access to essential needs but this one really did make me think.   I am looking forward to peoples thoughts and responses on this.  

After talking about our community issues, we moved onto the second part of our role play, problem solving.  One member is always unable to pay back the loan and we have to deal with how we can assist as a community.  During the simulation the person who couldn't pay back had issues with collecting payments from their business.  Above and beyond the idea of helping this individual payback the loan-immediate help- we talked about how we could support their business in the future.  From buying products to helping them with collection process, all of this will be relevant as we consider launching our own businesses in the days to come.  Of course, anger and emotional distress did lead the conversation at one point as they discussed collecting money from the people who hadn't paid up.  Violence is not the answer is the message I had to send. So we had a small discussion on why violence may happen in these communities. Being able to reflect back on the poverty simulation they did in 5th grade really helped.  I will also have to remind them of how they sometimes act when emotion is involved as we work on collaboration and other life skills in the coming months.  

It was amazing how I was able to tie in a few stories from my travels so naturally this year, and giving myself the time to do it as well. Empowerment of women with loans led to conversations about my friends in Chilamate, while lack of access to needs lent itself to the townships of South Africa.  These were ways that I was able to work my own empathy and better understanding of the developing world through travel into meaningful classroom conversations.  It felt great to have these experiences in my toolkit and I continue to be thankful for the experiences Town has helped me have. 

After the simulation it was time to bring in the math.  So we talked about loans, both traditional and non traditional.  The conversation started using KIVA U materials (grades 6-8), and we talked about the difference between cash, checks, credit, and debit. We also talked a little about bartering, which is obviously more common in other parts of the world.  The boys were extremely interested and engaged. They wanted to talk about credit reports, the lesson of "never give your social security number to anyone" and using your credit card to gain air miles.  We also talked about the banks as a business.  All great lessons for these 12 year olds!

When it came to credit and loans, I introduced the formula for simple interest:

Interest = Principal x Rate x Time

We talked about interest rates as they pertain to credit scores the students were interested in fluctuating rates and why people with less money may have to take on higher rates.  Made me smile inside when one student said, "Does't that mean the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? It should be the exact opposite".  I like that they have exposure to what happens in this world in terms of financial access and opportunity.  

In conclusion, the boys looked at rates here in San Francisco, before extending our conversation to Kiva.  I had to explain what kiva really means when it says 0% interest and how that looks/is different at the lender vs field partner/borrower level.  It's pretty well explained on the Kiva website and is an extension since last year in terms of teaching the concept. In fact, KIVA U materials on better lessons really helped me investigate the concept of Interest with the boys and may provide a few more twists in our modeling micro finance process this year.  Time will tell.  

It's been an exciting start and the energy is really amazing. The boys are on the edge of their seats waiting to hear the driving question... It's coming!! 



6B Towns School for Boys math class experience micro financing for themselves! #microfinance #math #loaning #poverty #yolo$wag
— -Jake

Are You Ready to Take the Plunge-Join the 1 million Alongside Town School


During the past two weeks, the boys have been busy creating advertisements for Kiva.org.  This was a PBL that began with, "As employees of Goggin Advertising how can we best represent Kiva and convince new and existing customers to loan to particular geographic areas."  Unlike last year, a few groups decided to do print ads as well.  I made it my priority to focus on feedback and revision (1 of 8 essential elements) which worked wonders for some of the groups.  You will see an example of this below.  

Overall it was a successful journey through PBL with a new class of boys.  While we adapt to projects at our school, I think I had forgotten about how much the boys grow in one year. While I know that the boys don't know the particular rules of our classroom, expectations etc... I think I forgot that the level of inquiry, urgency and motivation to move swiftly through things and more also needs to develop alongside new teachers and their expectations.  

As I prepare for a weekend at Kiva with motivated educators, high school and university students all dedicated to using micro finance in their classrooms I smile.  I hope that these ads make you smile too, and why not make a loan?  #KivaU Summit.  Let's Rock it!  


Middle East Kiva Sami and Holden

South America Tom, Kyle and Ben

Kiva Zip Pierce Thompson Benjamin Grant Carson Levit

Central America Henry Connor

Check out the Revisions to the left!


Inquiring Minds Want to Know


The 6th graders have been entering my classroom the past few days knowing that a project was on the horizon. Is it Kiva they ask?  Will we start selling products they wonder?  This is where a project with a large public audience becomes a bit more challenging.  Do the students know too much when they enter my classroom?  Will the "need to know" die out?  Will students not need to participate in "inquiry"? Will it just turn into a project and not a pbl? 

In order to gauge where they were on the toic I started class with a thinking routine called Think Puzzle Explore.  With a few minutes of solo thinking time and then a partner share before coming back to our circle up they asked themselves the following questions.  What do you THINK you know about this topic?  What questions or PUZZLES do you have?  How can you EXPLORE this topic?  The topic-KIVA.

Of course some kids started thinking about KIVA as the project they saw from the outside and not as a non for profit in San Francisco at all.  Yes, some of the students wrote that they think "Kiva" is us starting a business and selling to the other students. And sure that has been a product of a driving question PBL, "How can we model micro financing in our own community?".  But I quickly redirected them to thinking about the company as a whole.  Kiva isn't about Town School. It's about something much bigger, I reminded them.

What do they think?   

They think Kiva is a company that loans money to businesses and or people in need. They think the need base is from education and/or money. They think it is micro financing but they don't really know what that is.  They think people may not pay back their loans. They think kiva is a non profit.  

What PUZZLES them?   


How do you know what Kiva is doing is good?  real?  They wonder if Kiva is a big or small company/organization?  How do they find people to loan to?  Does Kiva profit? Do they make money? How do the borrowers actually get the money/How do the lenders get the money back?  How does Kiva keep track of the money coming in and out? What's the chance of getting the money back?  Are other schools in San Fran working with Kiva? Is interest involved in the loans?  Who was it founded by?  How many loans has Kiva made?

How will they EXPLORE? 

While today was an investigation of Kiva using these puzzles and some vocabulary, the boys also hope to talk to people from Kiva and the current 7th and 8th graders.  The boys hope to have access to people at Kiva to answer their bigger questions. They also hope to explore the concept of Donate vs Lend.  And lastly, they hope to do a project often referred to around here as KIVA.  

 So in the end when they ask, "Are we going to do Kiva?" I just have to laugh.  They have no idea what that looks like on the inside.  They have no idea how investing in micro financing, working through the struggles of modeling it and "connecting" with the greater world will transform them in the end.  Fingers crossed, it's worked so far.  

A Little Extra Work Goes A Long Way-Global Math Stats Class

Today's blog is highlighting a class period that I had this week with my 7th graders.  With the demanding curriculum of my 7th grade class, alongside it being a little more "new" to me, in years past I have had a hard time making it global. The statistics unit comes up in the first week of school and I am often caught off guard. Thankfully I got ahead of things this year... 

If you haven't visited the site www.ifitweremyhome.com you should.  It's a great place for students to check out how countries compare to one another.  We had the website setting on "comparing to the US" and in particular the country of comparison was physically compared to San Francisco, CA. and the Bay Area.  

The boys began the day by using the globes in the classroom to investigate 6 countries in their assigned geographic regions. Some of the boys had personal interests in countries, others chose based either because they felt they knew something about the country or they knew absolutely nothing about it.  One particular conversation, after I suggested South Africa (thought this would be nice as I could speak a little about the country)  came about when a student said, "I don't want to choose South Africa, it's a lot like here".  Further probing led to me discover that the reason he said that was because he has met South Africans, including our Leap School friends and didn't believe based on those interactions that our worlds could be much different.  I told him to take a look, that he would be surprised.  He was.  "I wonder if the HIV/AIDs problem is getting worse" he asked after discovering you are 30.2 % more likely to have HIV/AIDs in South Africa.  The boys discovered that and more as they spent time on www.ifitweremyhome.com and discovered a little about their countries of interest.  The boys had the task of acknowledging and writing down two things that really made them think, "jaw dropping" stats and one I wonder.  The website is so easy to use that the boys were able to quickly discover a whole lot about their countries and they started to really think about the differences between those countries and how we live. I really enjoyed their "I wonders".  

Togo- I wonder if their healthcare is good,

Benin- I wonder what their min. wage is.

Kenya- I wonder why they die so much sooner.

Djibouti- I wonder what they die from.

China- I wonder why their country can be so big but they don't use very much oil compared to us.

Japan- I wonder how much the earthquake effected the country. 

India-8 times higher chance of dying in infancy, I wonder how tough life can be in parts of Inida. 

Venezuela- I wonder if they had better healthcare would they have a lower HIV/AIDS rate. 

Panama- I wonder how many people leave country. 

Costa Rica- I wonder if they had more access to resources would they use more electricity.  

Columbia- I wonder how many people complete their schooling.


After some discovery time we gathered and shared some of our findings before venturing over to the Unicef site to gather more statistics to play with.  I never knew that Unicef had customizable statistic tables that easy allows for one to draw statistics out and use them in excel.  While this week we didn't put them into excel, I wanted them to practice computing mean, median, mode and range without the help of the computer, I am certainly going to use these stats in the future as we learn to create graphs from spreadsheets in 6th and 7th grade.  This is such an easy way to use real world stats!, math teachers must try it!

The boys decided that they wanted to look at GNI per capita (Gross National Income) , life expectancy at birth, and primary school net enrollment ratio.  Their curiosity was high.  We had the opportunity to talk about the birth lottery, as it is often referred to. The idea that where we are born determines our opportunities in life.  The boys were intrigued and thoughtful and I am hopeful that they will bring not only their data landmarks with them to class on Monday, but an open mind and a level of empathy for others in the world.  


9/11 Never Forget

As we move through the years something strange has happened for me as a teacher on this day.  While it is easier to "talk" about-as time heals wounds and likely makes us less anxious as a whole as well, it's harder because our audience has changed. What do I mean by that?  As I gathered my students this year, not one had even the faintest memory of the day, in fact only 2 of them were actually alive.  In years past, I recall having students talk about seeing their parents cry while watching the tv, or being told that the tv would be off for the day.  They had some memory, no matter how faint.  But now it's different, and forever will be.  

Just because students don't recall the actual events, doesn't mean we shouldn't teach it and acknowledge it. That would be the equivalent of cutting history from our curriculum, right?  9/11 might not even be in the books yet.  So what did we do?  

The boys came to advisory this morning and were asked to check in by acknowledging someone or some people who they consider heroes.  Awareness that it was 9/11 certainly put a spin on their responses as they were all related.  Firefighters, military persons, military veterans, SEAL teams, office "guards"...  When we do this activity non related to 9/11 we tend to get a few others such as family members, and historical figures (and the occasional sports figure).  But I would imagine that somewhere in the last 24 hours they were reminded by someone that the world changed 12 years ago on this day.  

After checking in we talked about qualities that make heroes, whip-sharing our thoughts (brave, courageous, thoughtful, putting their own needs behind the needs of others) before watching a brainpop on 9/11.  The boys listened as they were led through the attacks of 9/11 in an age appropriate cartoon style movie.  In conclusion, I asked "What are some other situations where communities have come together based on tragedy, where people have down courageous acts, where communities have come out stronger because of it?"  Dark Knight Movie Shooting in Colorado, Newtown Ct shooting, Boston Marathon Bombing, recent fires in yosemite, earthquakes and house fires... they named a few.  

It was simple, it was thoughtful, and it led to an age appropriate discussion.  I just hope the students and parents know know that we don't teach 9/11 to scare them, but that we teach 9/11 to let them know that our country is full of strong people that do our best to keep them safe, no matter what.  

Never forget.