Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Advocate for Spark Microgrants

It is official.  I am an advocate for Spark Microgrants.  What is that you might ask?  I have signed up to help promote the organization and assist the organization in raising funds to provide microgrants to communities in Rwanda and Uganda.

I went back to school for my Masters degree because I was convinced I wanted to work in international development focusing specifically on education.  After studying development, I felt frustrated by how development projects generally are planned and executed and did not see myself working for any of the large development agencies, without feeling like I sold my soul.

What I love about Spark Microgrants is that is the locally community that identifies the problem or the need that exists, it is the community that develops that plan and how it will be sustainable, and it is the community that implements the plan.  These projects generally receive grants of $3,000 to $5,000.

So as an advocate by role is to promote the organization (of course I decided to start with my blog readers) and raise money as well.   The project I've chosen to support is a school hygiene project in Rwanda.    You can read more about it here.

To raise money for this school in Rwanda, I am recruiting my seventh graders.  I've designed a project that allows them to work with this real world situation while learning about how to use fractions, decimals and percents in communication.  They will be organizing, promoting, and tracking the progress of a school-wide competition between each class to raise money for the Rwandan school.  They will conduct research about Spark Microgrants, about the school and community we are serving and about the important of school hygiene facilities.  They will use this information to create messages that compel the other grades to donate money, hopefully through the use of data that they have collected.  For example, 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation that 40.9% of the world!  They will also use pie charts and other data to inform the grades on their current standings in the population.  This will be in conjunction with other classroom lessons on our current subject but I am SUUUUPER excited to be combining some of my personal interests with my teaching.  

Stay tuned for updates, pictures, and opportunities for how you can help as well.  
I am currently searching for interesting articles or data (that 7th graders can handle) to develop interesting and relevant practice exercises for my students.  If you have ideas or links, send them by way: KatharineCottrell@glm.edu.co.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Who Am I?

The seniors at Gimnasio La Montaña were charged with creating a website about someone at the school.  Two lovely students, chose me.  They asked me a million questions - some more personal than others and gathered a lot of pictures from my collection and from my parents as well.  It was fun to see my life through their eyes.

Here's what they came up with:
(Keep in mind English is their second language, so they've made some funny connections of ideas.  They also have an interesting word choice at times....for example, according to them my teaching is "peculiar'.  Normally, I'd take offense, but they said they loved my class....I'm confused.)

Kate's Kite Life

Saturday, April 7, 2012

More exploring

Since my last visit to el centro, I have been creating a list of all the things I want to see and do.  Surprise, suprise...so unlike me...
Anyhow, at 7:30am Juan Carlos and I hopped on a bus with list in hand and did not stop until 4:30pm when we got on a bus to head back home.  We covered quite a bit of ground and I forgot to take photos of everything!  (Too caught up in the moment!)

First stop:  La Puerta Falsa for the best tamal in Bogotá. Maybe the world.  

Tamal with chocolate and agua de panela accompanies by almojabana, queso, and pan.  This was NOT a light breakfast.

Next stop:  Juan Valdez.   La Puerta Falsa does NOT serve coffee, despite being in Colombia.  Loved the restaurant, but still needed the coffee.

Stop #3: BOOKSTORE!  Part of the Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez, this bookstore was BIG.  And not every book was wrapped in plastic, per usual, so I could actually peruse for real.  Delightful.

Stop #4:  Popped into La Casa de Moneda...but realized I'd already been.

Stop #5:  Another stroll through La Candelaria.  I just can't get enough.
La Candelaria - I love it!

Stop #6:  Break to try Chicha...at 10am.  Gross on multiple levels.  This is a fermented beverage made of maiz (corn).  It is very strong...and pretty terrible.  You could nurse this over a great conversation on a Friday evening...but on a Saturday morning it's best to take a few sips to say you tried it and dump the rest down the drain.  Thanks to my friend Hillary for telling me about this must-try...check.
Happy to be checking this item off my list.  Never again...well, never say never I suppose.

Stop #7: El parque de la independencia.  It was pretty cloudy and about to rain, so we didn't linger tool long.  Will need to return another day...with a good book.

Stop #8:  El Museo Nacional.  Definitely need Juan Carlos with me for this.  I had a lot of questions about the history and about the vocabulary. :)

The museum is in an old prison.  Absolutely gorgeous inside and out.

Stop #9:  La Macarena for lunch.  It was raining when we left the museum but I wanted to check out La Macarena...so we booked it with my tiny pink umbrella to a street filled with what all seemed like wonderful restaurants.  We chose the Mexican one.  I've been missing Texas a bit lately.

After lunch, the sun was out and on our way to bus I spotted this:

Seems fitting for the weekend...but certainly bizarre for the middle of Bogotá.

Great day...but I'm exhausted.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A little light reading

During my five-day vacation in paradise, I had a lot of time to read.  I did not work at my computer or plan but I read a lot.  I read a wonderful book, by a person who seems to be the male version of me only perhaps a bit more depressed and with a slightly larger vocabulary, on religion.  The premise of the book is that the author has the spiritual void that he wants to fill.  Until this point he as not associated with a specific religion but thinks that he needs to make a choice if he is going to take care of this desire to connect with the divine.  It is hilarious but also thought-provoking (at least for me!).  The book is by Eric Weiner and is called Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine.  I highly recommend it and thank by friend Elizabeth Ballard for sharing an article of his that was in the travel section of the New York Times.  The article was wonderful and so I sought out his book, also wonderful.  Others don't agree quite as much, here's a review from the NY Times on the book, but it was the perfect reading for me at the moment.

I've also been doing quite a bit of academic reading.  I enjoy teaching but my desire to learn, create, solve problems, and generally remain forever active have me constantly thinking about how to both make what is taught in class more interesting, effective and applicable to the world we are living in for both teacher and student, and the work-load a little less daunting for teachers.  Being a part of the curriculum committee has provided be with a place to discuss ideas and ask questions, as this group of people is struggling with many of the same questions as myself.  The group, however, is not acting fast enough for me so I've been pouring over books and trying to figure out how to make some of the things we have been discussing in theory happen in my own classroom....now.  Books that I read and am now regularly referencing include: 21st Century Skills:  Learning for Life in our Times by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, and How the Brain Learns and How the Brain Learns Mathematics by David A. Sousa.   A lot that is in these books I've heard bits and pieces of over the years, maybe even used in my class at times, but the information was always passed on to me from a professional development training or from observing another teacher.  This time I'm taking it all in and making sense of it for me and it is exciting.  With what's left of my vacation, I am spending hours developing some projects for that last unit I have with each of my subjects: 5th grade geometry, 6th grade geometry, and 6th grade mathematics.  I have a lot of work ahead but I am loving having a project.  I'm sure as the units and projects unfold I will have more to share and hopefully exciting news about my successes.  Although I anticipate some lessons learned and what-not-to-dos as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rana Platanera

Just returned from a 5-day vacation in Anapoima with Juan Carlos and his family.  I gained the title Rana Platanera because like the little frogs that sit for hours on end on the leaves of platano trees, I spent nearly the entire 5 days basking in the glory of the sun, the perfect weather and the free time I had to read, to think and to do some serious soul-searching.  I needed it.