Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Classes, Classes, Classes

TTS24 and friends

PE & iLife

We are busy in the early mornings with jogging, yoga, soccer, frisbee, and even synchronized swimming! We have found ourselves running next to zebras on our morning jog, playing a game of soccer on a golf course, and choreographing a routine to “Under The Sea” for our swim class. The enthusiasm the girls bring during these early mornings is a great way to start the day feeling accomplished and energized. Soon the students will have their own opportunity to lead PE class and implement the activities they love into our outdoor classroom.

In our moments of iLife classes – habitual islands of stress-free magic – we've allowed time for reflection on the course of the semester thus far. To follow up with our goal-setting from the start of the semester, students revisited their self-projections and made relevant revisions. We also took a look at personal effort in PE classes, and considered what changes each individual could make to get more out of their workouts. Leading up to midterm exams, students were especially in need of a clear discussion about stress management techniques. In addition, students and teachers participated in a poignant fishbowl discussion regarding grades: numbers assigned to humans and the importance (or not) they carry in their lives. Soon, the students will take over more leadership of their daily lives as they become “chieflets”: setting the schedule, managing work crews, and creating the flow of the day. We look forward to coaching them through this exciting experience!

Travel Journalism

We hope you've been enjoying the pieces coming from our famous TTS writers in Travel Journalism! After visiting South Luangwa, students completed a series of “Who Am I?' articles in which they wrote a narrative coming from the perspective of the animals we've found on our travels. Upon arriving in Lusaka students continued to perfect their interview skills by asking people around our campsite about Malaria and if/how it has impacted their lives. Later in the week TJ students wrote a series of skits based on their interviews and performed them for Malaria Day.

Over the past two weeks students have been working hard on their Midterm: The Legend of Nyami Nyami. Without many clues, they spent a good part of their week reading books, interviewing staff, local vendors, and people we met along in Livingstone and Victoria Falls. Once this assignment is completed, students will start to write and design The TTS Times to showcase their work and the writing of their fellow students for the Campus Visit. Upon completion we hope to have a copy of their newspaper online for all our viewers.

In the midst of our first cross-curricular day concerning malaria, our science class found itself walking through the life cycle of the parasite. One patch of grass at our campsite represented the mosquito – stomach at the shady tree, salivary glands at the sprinkler. Another section of lawn was the human skin, penetrated by the mosquito's secret bite. Down the brick-lined pathway of the bloostream, the students followed Plasmodium into the liver, and through the rest of its lifecycle within the blood of a human. Students described each stage in detail, working from a reading they completed to prepare for our exercise. We then launched into the TTS-TV portion of the day, with all the members of TTS24 playing characters on a fictional television talk show. Anopheles the Mosquito, Bill Gates, Rachel Carson, Stephen Hoffman, a representative from Glaxo-Smith-Kline... various perspectives joined together to discuss the local and worldwide effects of malaria, why citizens of the U.S. should care, and what a solution to this deadly disease might look like.

The next day, Dr. Anna Winters of Akros Global Health (check them out at invited us to visit their non-profit, and learn more about malaria and strategies for its control in Zambia. Via the utilization of techniques from mobile phone tracking by rural health workers to DNA screening of known malaria cases, Akros is a leader in the potential eradication of the disease in this area. We were especially inspired by the all-female leadership that we met: Dr. Winters, their communications director, and a chemist from their research lab. To my delight as a science teacher, we were even invited to check out their lab, where they run routine tests on blood samples from infected individuals from around the country.

Malaria Day and Akros provided a splendid introduction to our unit on infectious diseases. Throughout our time in Livingstone and our first days in Zimbabwe, our class dove into different types of disease, the classification of infectious agents, potential treatments, and an overview of public health measures. Students presented infectious agents as evil villain characters, and drew up superheroes to demonstrate the values of their nonspecific and specific immune systems. Ignited by the news of the first Ebola diagnosis in the U.S., our class turned to the study of epidemiology, and worked in groups to come up with strategic plans for dealing with this disease in Africa. As we move towards midterms, we are concluding this exciting unit with a review of antibiotic resistance, herd immunity, and a final exam involving the creative elaboration of 14 brand new create-your-own dieases (and epidemiologic plan to fight them, of course)!

Global Studies

Our time in the capital of Zambia will be remembered for its zebras and our heightened awareness of malaria's influence. The teachers devoted a full class day to a cross-curricular look at malaria. Each class focused on a specific facet of the disease. Science students role-played the life cycle of the parasite while travel journalism students interviewed locals' perspectives. All the classes prepared the students to share their newfound knowledge through our imaginative 'TTS TV presents Malaria Day'. Each student was given fictional or nonfictional  roles that are affected by the disease. Bill and Melinda Gates, a local Zambian aid worker, a drug company representative, "Anapheles" the mosquito, and a plethora of other creative characters were interviewed in the program. The teachers acted as servers and commentators during the show. TTS TV was a great success on all accounts. To top it off, we were fortunate to visit a malaria research center. Akros Clinic gave us an in-depth tour of their facilities and answered our infinite number of questions about the prevalence of the disease and its ramifications.

Also while in Lusaka, the University of Zambia's economics club were delighted to give TTS a private tour of their school. Our students were eager to discuss life, politics and the economy with Zambian students. The club gave us great insight to the issues facing their country.

Our time in Lusaka came to an end too quickly. But luckily for us, our Zambian education does not. While enjoying a laid back weekend on Bovu Island, the students were asked to read an article on Zambian copper mining. During class, we discussed the positive and negative consequences of mining for the local people and the environment. The owner of the island, Brett, overheard our conversation and asked to join. Brett grew up in in a mining family and studied mining in university. In his early twenties he held a high position in a South African mine. Needless to say, our students gained valuable knowledge and perspective about complexities surrounding natural resources.

Currently, the students are analyzing and evaluating the role of the United Nations while TTS teachers prepare a role-playing simulation. Yesterday students acted as UN members to create and implement a resolution for a hypothetical international crisis. This weekend students will take on the role of U.S. senators arguing for varying policies surrounding the role of the United Nations in U.S foreign policy. In order to embody their roles, students completed readings on the history of the UN, its role in international affairs, and issues surrounding the organization.

Algebra 2 is exploring real-world implications and building their problem solving skills. They combined with the Precalculus class to compute and interpret statistics surrounding malaria. In pairs, students performed public service announcements during our Malaria Day cross-curricular presentation. Building off their abilities to determine percentages, students went on to use proportions and cross-multiplication to solve equations. We also used similar skills to convert kilograms to pounds, miles to kilometers, and gallons to liters -- demystifying many of the numbers we encounter here on a daily basis! Most recently, students began to graph linear equations and inequalities. Next up, we will be learning how to determine and interpret lines of best fit.

With the Algebra 2 class, Precalculus took a detour into statistics and percentages during our preparation for Malaria Day. The subsequent public service announcements were alternately moving and humorous, ranging from a vignette featuring a talking mosquito to a factual presentation of troubling statistics. Students then moved on from simplifying expressions into solving equations and inequalities. They are graphing linear equations and can determine whether a graph is a function. In analyzing those graphs, students are learning how to define domain and range and find the x- and y-intercepts. Finally, students are using points on a graph along with parallel or perpendicular lines to determine slope and to write an equation fitting the given parameters.

Math Concepts
Math Concepts students worked diligently on understanding credit cards last week. What is the annual percentage rate? What are the true costs of using credit? How do you calculate what one will pay over time based on the APR?

Moving into Zimbabwe, the questions are centering around inflation, and what occurred in the economy here not so long ago. Why is it that walking down the street people sell billion dollar notes? What is dollarization, and why was it implemented? If U.S. dollars are only printed in the U.S., how do they get to Zimbabwe? Why is South African rand given as change?

For the midterm, students are preparing presentations on their respective novels: 'Nickel and Dimed', 'Small is Beautiful', and 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman'. MC students are also helping their peers on questions around the economy, explaining issues surrounding currency and markets. it is exciting to watch them step into the teaching role, and I can't wait for the increased leadership each student will take in the second half of the semester.

Literature & Composition

Wow, students completed an intensive literature exam two weeks ago, which asked them to make connections from their home lives, their observations, and the text, 'Zenzele'.  Since then, they have written twitter poetry, and recited their epistolary narratives over an open fire and s'mores. Last week we dove into Alexandra Fuller's novel, 'Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight', a riveting memoir that is the definition of 'show, don't tell' writing. We get shivers when reading her descriptions, the harsh and chaotic images clearly painted in our minds. Literature class is aligning with history more than ever, elucidating issues of structural violence and racism in former Rhodesia. It is powerful to be in the locations of the novel, to feel the red African dust, see the sunsets, and understand the ZANU-PF writing on the walls. Students are beginning to understand the complexities of black/white relations in the region through varying perspectives of different authors. For their upcoming midterm, they are each writing a personal manifesto, inspired by the work of Fuller, Sojourner Truth, Eve Ensler, and more.

History has taken on an interesting twist the past week, once we entered Zimbabwe. We have gone underground. Students are learning firsthand what it means to not have free speech, or freedom of the press. What can they speak about in public? What kind of questions are okay to ask strangers? It is an awareness not many of us are used to. Using Papa as our guide, we have openly political classes in the bush, in isolated campsites where our only neighbors are elephants, vervet monkeys, and Cape buffalo. After reading a few intense articles on Robert Mugabe and the past thirty years of oppressive and corrupt policies, we had a Q & A with Papa, who told us what life was like under British control during the days of Rhodesia, during the liberation war, and post-independence under Mugabe. Rolling with the secret vibe of history class (which is all politics), we have decided to have as much fun as possible with the idea of not being able to speak freely. So we are planning a secret meeting/simulation that will ask the question of whether the United Nations should impose economic sanctions on Zim. We will meet in the middle of the night on Big Blue, using headlamps to guide our way. The students can't wait. As a teacher, I can't help but smile that each and every student wants to get up at 1am to talk about history. It is thrilling.
Domwe Island

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