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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Class Updates from Heather & Sarah


We've made it to Establo de Tomas. It's beautiful here! There is a bigger bridge now, so Humberto was able to drive us right up to the hostel. We got here earlier than we expected, so girls had the chance to cool off in the river before a tasty dinner. 

(In the past, after traveling for about 7 hours, the group had to get off the bus and unload everything about a 1/2 mile before the hostel. Sometimes students re-loaded gear into smaller trucks and sometimes they made the trek to the hostel with everything.)

Algebra 2
Seripinski Triangles
After our initial study of characteristics of functions, graphs, and transfomations of graphs, Algebra 2 students separated into three groups to address individualized curriculum needs based on their first semester work at their home high schools. Maisie and Allie's study of sequences and series included finite arithmetic and geometric sequences and series, and infinite geometric series. As a culmination of their work, the students are using infinite geometric series to describe fractal patterns such as the Sierpinski Triangle. Grace, Anne, Caroline, and Lena reviewed factoring and applied long and synthetic division during investigations designed to explore the remainder and factor theorems. The students made connections between factors, zeros, and x-intercepts of polynomials. Kate and Charlotte also worked with polynomials and extended their study to include complex roots of polynomials as well as an exploration how multiplicities of zeros, leading coefficients, and degrees of polynomials affect the graph. After individualized assessments, the students of Algebra 2 reunited to begin a study of exponential and logarithmic functions.

In the past weeks of Precalculus, students have continued on their personalized curriculum tracks. Rebecca and Erin extended their study of polynomials to learn about rational functions, which are fractions of polynomials. Students used their polynomial factoring skills and graphing calculators as tools to investigate horizontal, vertical, and slant asymptotes of rational functions' graphs. Sophie applied her knowledge of trigonometric functions to find missing sides of right triangles and extended her knowledge of the unit circle definitions of sine and cosine to sketch graphs of the functions use them to describe harmonic motion problems. Hannah built upon her study of systems of equations by learning to solve systems using matrices by performing Gaussian elimination, both by hand and with her graphing calculator. Hannah and Sophie have recently joined together to challenge their creative problem-solving skills and logical reasoning as they apply fundamental trigonometric identities to verify new trigonometric identities. These types of problems can be frustrating since there is no designated process for solving, but the students are discovering the fun and satisfaction of solving these trigonometric puzzles!

Beginning Spanish
Homestays experiences in Agualongo challenged beginning Spanish students with full language immersion. Courtney found that markers, a coloring book, and the Spanish words for the colors were more than enough to form a bond with the three-year-old in her homestay family. Rebecca and Maisie will always remember the difference between antes(before) and despues (after) after a minor communication misunderstanding resulted in them roasting smores with their family before dinner! Although Spanish was the language we used most often to communicate with our homestay families, we also learned common Kichwa words and phrases since this indigenous tongue is the first language for the majority of the Agualongo community. Anna Taft of the Tandana Foundation taught a class in Kichwa, including an adaption of a traditional Kichwa song we later performed for our homestay families to say goodbye on our last day in Agualongo. Students reinforced their experiential learning by collecting new vocabulary in their journals and practicing grammer in their workbooks. Language immersion continued for the girls in Otavalo with four days of four-hour intensive Spanish classes. Students studied vocabulary and practiced conversational skills with their Chilean teacher before heading out to the world-famous Otavalan market to practically apply their skills. With increased confidence in their communication skills, this week students have engaged in short conversations with the staff at the cloud forest ecolodge in Yungilla.  

Honors History and Government of South America 
Students of history have continued to learn about the effects of the Incans in Ecuador. Most recently however, the class is studying the legacy of Spanish colonialism and conquest in the region. On a daily basis students observe divisions that are a result of systemic violence inflicted by the Spanish. Students are paying attention to class and ethnicity, who has land and whether it's flat,  fertile, and desirable, or steep, inaccessible, and small. They are paying attention to where particular indigenous groups live, and where mestizos live, what livelihoods indigenous groups have versus the majority of mestizos, what educational opportunities there are, what the health status is, and much more.

Students are beginning to see that history is all around us, that the world we live in is a result of all that has come before. In Otavalo, on a rainy day, we walked a few blocks to a main square to study a mural depicting Pizarro's conquest over Atahualpa, the last Inca king. At first there were images of blood, shackles, and Europeans descending, but as students walked the length of the block they saw the story transform into images of indigenous empowerment and pride.

Each student is responsible for creatively presenting an historical figure pertinent to the region to their peers. The first round of oral presentations begin next week. First, however, we will dive into the history of oil exploration in the Amazon, our current location. We have already seen miles of pipeline along the road and interviewed various Ecuadorians on their perspectives on how the nation can become less oil-dependent. We are learning that the U.S. and China are major players in Ecuador's current situation, and will greatly affect their future. Students are wondering, can they affect the course of Ecuador's history?

Honors Literature and Composition
Students successfully completed their analytical essays focused on their first novel The Queen of Water and are glad to have a short respite before their next big written assignment, the This I Believe Essay. Just before their final draft was due the group had an amazing opportunity to meet the protagonist of the book and co-author herself, Maria Virginia Farinango! It was a surreal experience for all because we knew so many personal details about her life, such as the scars she wore underneath her traditional Quichua skirt from beatings, and the suffering she endured as a child slave. It was an incredible opportunity, and the students peppered her with questions about her life now, and how she overcame such adversity as an indigenous child servant in a mestizo household to the happy successful, and free  businesswoman she is today.

This week in the Amazon we will read short stories and create a community poem inspired by concepts of oil exploitation, the most prevalent theme in the region. Students are working hard. Some have managed to find free time to access our portable library, a suitcase full of content-rich books. Others have enough on their plates between all of their classes, activities, and learning how to live on the road. Throughout it all, students are journaling to unleash their fears of writing, maintain a steady practice, and dive into creativity.

Check back for more updates at the end of the week after we return from our jungle adventure!

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