TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands

TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands
From left to right: Scout, Lindsey, Sophie, Feyza, Erin, Caroline, Lena, Susannah, Charlotte, Rebecca, Allie, Hannah, Alizah, Maisie, Anne, Kate, Courtney

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A few more academic updates

Math Concepts
Visiting the Galapagos allows us the opportunity to study the economic effects of immigration as well as trade patterns and economies of scale.  Speaking with an array of islanders, we’ll seek to understand how tourism brings both promise and challenge to residents.  Another topic we’re exploring is how the government of Ecuador is now faced with assessing the economic “value” of its diverse natural areas.  We’ll examine how President Corea has implemented a variety of social programs funded to a large extent by oil and the exploitation of other natural resources and look at the consequent ethical implications.  Finally, in anticipation for Peru, we’re looking at how trade patterns, supply and demand, and faith in particular markets affect currency values and exchange rates.  Courtney is drafting a small business proposal as part of a microloan challenge and will present her project near the Santa Cruz trek.

Intermediate Spanish
¡Saludos desde Guayaquil!  Greetings from Guayaquil!  Intermediate Spanish students are hard at work preparing for midterms with an intensive review of the past preterit and past imperfect tenses.  Equally important, the girls have been making huge strides in having more meaningful and extended conversations with those we’re meeting in our travels.  As we finish up in Ecuador this week and head into Peru, the intermediate students are ready to step up to the challenge of translating for our whole group. We’re also looking forward to adding the new local expressions and Peruvian slang to our growing Spanish vocabulary.   Reading local papers and discussing hot topics in politics, education, government, and the environment will help us delve not only into a deeper understanding of the language, but also of the country.

Honors Natural Science: Biodiversity and Climate Change

After turning in their incredibly impressive Amazon unit projects on cloud forest and rainforest flora and fauna and completing equally extraordinary Oil Day presentations on the science behind oil extraction, the girls are off on a well-deserved trip to the Galapagos.  Erin, Caroline, and Charlotte showed off their fine artistic skills and exceptional creativity capturing the detail of the jungle wildlife in their journals.  On Oil Day, Kate did a magnificent job bringing into question the minimal differences between nonrenewable and renewable resources, while Alizah explained in clear, practical, and concrete terms how the oil debate influences economics, international relations, and national politics.  As the students head off to the Galapagos, they will be studying the unique wildlife and land formations of each of the islands they visit and compiling their findings in their unit three culmination project.

Honors History and Government of South America

In the Amazon the students learned first-hand about the history of oil extraction in the region. They interviewed local Quichua residents gaining a more nuanced understanding of the pros and cons of utilizing oil as a resource. They were prohibited to visit the oil company nearby due to the company not wanting outside observers. Meanwhile, half of the students prepared for their oral presentations on historical figures of Ecuador.

Once in Guayaquil, students presented for their classmates and some of the parents. Alizah began with a spectacular poster on the last Incan King, Atahualpa. Scout followed with an awesome presentation of Francisco Pizarro's journeys. Lindsey conquered her fear of speaking in front of others and rocked it teaching the group about South America's liberator Simon Bolivar. Anne performed an original historical rap on the current president, Rafael Correa. Susannah finished the first half of the presentations by teaching us about a female activist in the Amazon named Maria Aguinda, who took Chevron to court.

In the Galapagos, history students had an oral history project. Each student needed to form a few good interview questions to ask a crew member. What stories could they gather from the Ecuadorians who served us food, cleaned our bunks, and kept us safe while snorkeling? What is life like for people in the Galapagos? What is their history? How does their government operate? Are they controlled by the mainland? It was a joy to see students pull crew members aside to sit together under the stars and speak about their lives. The assignment also pushed the students to use their Spanish since none of the crew spoke English!

As I write this entry the students are working hard on a sit-down exam that covers the larger themes of the semester so far. They are diligent, despite the rocking to and fro of the boat, the salt on their skin from snorkeling, and the sleepiness they feel from the sun.

Coming up will be the second half of the presentations during the Santa Cruz trek, and learning about a whole other country 's history and government - Peru!

Honors Literature and Composition

When we returned to our base camp  in Tena, out of the jungle, the Literature students each wrote a 'Found Poem' from words gathered from articles on oil. Once crafted, students were asked to choose their most powerful line. They then stood in a row and recited the lines one by one, which created our community poem, titled 'Black Gold '. Just before dinner, when all were seated, I yelled, "Black Gold", and the students stood up on their chairs, performing the poem for the teachers as a surprise dinner ritual. It was a beautiful moment, the culmination of hours of reading and discussing complex issues around natural resources.

The students just finished their midterm paper, which was a 'This I Believe' essay. They explored their own values at this moment in time, and wrote on their personal philosophies. A few nights ago the students requested a 'read-around'. We gathered on the top deck of our yacht, the Golondrina, in a circle under the stars. Each student wore their headlamp and read their piece aloud, over the sound of the engine and the wind.

Coming up is the main novel of the semester, 'The House of the Spirits' by Isabel Allende. The students will encounter magical realism, and even get to attempt their hand at this challenging style...

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