First week back from Spring Break is always daunting, don't you think? Kids are feeling the hints of summer freedom, they forgot that the "F word" is factoring, not the expletive, and the STAR is looming.

And it is also an interesting time for a maturity growth spurt for my Freshman Algebra students.

On Wednesday the third day back:

Student 1 to Student 2:       I am so going to tell Mrs. K. (their 8th grade Algebra Teacher) how much I hated taking all those notes but now I am SO glad I have them so I can figure out how to do this stuff.

Okay, I'll admit I was so butt hurt. Really. But then I got to thinking about it. Now they want to learn it. Why now, and why are they not using their interactive notebooks? Because maybe now they are motivated. Maybe now, they see big picture and they see the math in context, not just as a set of procedures. Does the SAT or a Physics textbook problem set say, "For this problem you will need to set the quadratic equal to zero and then you need to take out the GCF?" Of course I summarized for the students in a flipbook what it means to factor, but I don't give them a problem set with each step illuminated for them. I just keep repeating, "remember the flipbook we made about factoring? Read the first page!"

What do you think?

First Day on the Job at Las Brisas School in Chacraseca, Nicaragua
I used to think when my students graduated from their local town high school in Windsor, California, they should be handed a one way bus ticket to an unknown destination with their diplomas. Now, however, after spending 10 days double digging twenty-three 4' x 12' vegetable beds in a RURAL school in the 2nd poorest country in Latin America, I have changed my mind. If you want students to get behind their own success, send them into the rural communities in developing countries whose fertile land was stripped by the agro-industrialists and left to rot when the prices of their commodities dropped.

The program I had the privilege of chaperoning 14 High School students on is Global Student Embassy (GSE), a youth leadership program that emphasizes sustainable food and reforestation projects in Latin America. GSE partners with Students for 60,000, to build schools and provide the school families with a sustainable means of feeding themselves. We worked at Las Brisas, a fairly new school to 150 students (yes, they are all housed in that those four rooms) in Chacarseca, Nicaragua, 45 minutes by bus from Leon. (The American engineer who has designed and in overseeing the installation of bringing running water to the school, rides his Honda 650 motorcycle to the location in just 20 minutes). The school is accessed by 2-3 kilometers of paved road before one goes bouncing and bumping down 8? 10? 12? kilometers of rutted, rocky, dirt road. Students arrive at the school by bike, on foot, motorcycle, or horseback.

So what is the connection to getting students behind their own success and that one bus ticket?

We GET 7.5 hours of school per day. We GET 4 years of English, 4 years of Math and Science, and  4 years of Social Studies, not to mention the opportunities for 4 years of language study, AP Art, AP Sciences, PE, Jazz Band, Digital Photography, Dance, Leadership, Ceramics, and Drama.

Students in rural Nicaragua go to school, if their parents can afford giving their children the day away from the farm for 4 to 5 hours per day. They take Spanish, English, Math, and Science. Some get PE and a Practical hour during the week.

After 4 back breaking days of pick axing, mixing concrete, and weeding, my 14 students are MOTIVATED to do whatever it takes to go to college. They see the power in giving themselves choices, including the choice to do more than serve, but learn how to help those who have fewer choices achieve independence and have the opportunity to choose the direction of their lives too.

I am so inspired by my students and the twenty-something leadership team.  These young men and women actively serve as amazing role models to the students. Between the four leaders, they have 4 Bachelor's Degrees and 3 Master's Degrees and are passionately finding ways to heal and sustain the Earth. (They range in age from 24 to 29.)
Final Bed. That building in the background houses the Boy's and Girl's (and teacher's) restrooms, concrete pit toilets.

Back to the homework, school work connection. These kids met some amazing Nicaraguan youth whom had skills our students were floored by. And now they are ready to come home with a new appreciation of the gifts they have been given, including the opportunity to do their homework.
English Class
Typical Classroom

Shows how the top soil flies away

Clearing land late in the afternoon

The Volcano we climbed

MS Funday Sunday is hosting a link to Math Stations:

This was the one of the most fun activities my colleague, Jessica, and I did with our Algebra 1A students.

We put Four 3 and and Two 4 digit pad locks at stations around the room. Then we made easy to horrendous Order of Operations problems that gave the correct combinations to unlock the locks. The students were so motivated! Talk about self -correcting! I guess we could have put candy inside a lock box or free homework passes or stickers...Eh...

One answer even had a fraction so that the answer 86 1/3 was the four digit combination, and of course, one decimal answer too.

What other kinds of problems can you think of to come up with combinations for the locks? You could have answers labeled 0-9 for any type of four problems per page and the answers that match those digits (say 3.375 seconds is an answer attached to digit 7). Hmmm...