As the first quarter came to a close, Travel Journalism students dove into the intriguing world of investigative journalism. The midterm dealt with a fictional murder mystery! Non-TJ members of the TTS community we're assigned roles to play, and the students in the class were charged with the task of interviewing these characters, reviewing documents, and researching police reports and newspapers to figure out how all the pieces connected. They continued to consider the ideas of interpretation and analysis while writing their investigative report article. Next, we turned to blogging, and the significance of journalism and mass communication in the age of the Internet. As the group set off to Cordillera Blanca, the TJ girls took charge of the TTS activities blog to document the excitement of the Santa Cruz trek (check out their updates!). The students conveyed the trip with words, and they also took some fantastic photos, both of the group and the incredible scenery! I have no doubt that our visit to Machu Picchu will inspire more photography and opportunity to update the blog.
Advanced Conversational Spanish
The Santa Cruz trek provided ample opportunity for conversation, so naturally certain parts of the hike were designated as Spanish-only. With the majestic vistas of the Cordillera Blanca serving as points of conversation, the students enjoyed casual discussion practice while walking. The Advanced girls were called upon once again for their translation skills in a Global Studies class in which we chatted with our arrieros (donkey handlers) about their lives and work. Once back in Huaraz, we were able to take our class to the streets (literally), as the students worked together to navigate themselves to the market and purchase ingredients for group meals. During the experience, they were excited to learn and practice words for fruits and vegetables, as well as amplify their direction and bargaining skills in Spanish. As we explore the Sacred Valley around Cusco, the students will continue to fortify their translation and conversation skills with our friendly local guides. Grammatically, our course is moving towards more complicated constructions in the subjunctive mood. In addition, we are making progress with El Alquimista, as the girls continue to dedicate their minds towards a deeper comprehension of the novel.
While in the Galapagos, our Global Studies conversation turned to ecotourism: the students read articles about the topic and interviewed members of the boat crews to investigate their perspective. Our arrival to Peru inspired snapshot snippets on the bus ride, in which we previewed aspects of the nation's culture, history, and government. These mini classes and discussions provided a scaffolding on which we will build comparisons between the three countries we visit during the semester. The midterm exam for the course involved construction of a "mind map," a graphic organization of connections among various parts of the curriculum, centralized around a quotation from Joe Kane's book, Savages. The goal of Global Studies is to provide a forum to make interdisciplinary links between classes and our experiences, and so we are working as a teacher team to encourage inquisitiveness about our environments. To provide motivation to this end, we have added a new crew to our group responsibilities. This group, which rotates every other day, is in charge of "hospitality": ensuring that the people that we encounter as a group are acknowledged and utilized as teachers. For example, hospitality crew helped run a discussion with our donkey handlers during the Santa Cruz hike. In addition, as we begin the second half of the semester, we will be providing format variations of the RRQ weekly reflection, to allow for student input and increased creativity. We look forward to these exciting changes as they are implemented during the campus visit and our journey to Machu Picchu!
After their trip to the Galapagos Islands, the girls completed their projects which required them to research the distance between islands and use these distances along with the Law of Sines and Law of Cosines to calculate the angle that the boat should sail to travel from one island to the next. A natural extension of our discussions about navigation was our study of polar representations of points, where points are represented by a distance from the origin and an angle, rather than an x- and y- coordinate. Students explored various polar representations for points and equations and discussed which types of equations are more simply expressed in polar coordinates and which are more simply expressed in rectangular coordinates. Next, we transferred our previous trigonometry work address computations with vectors, including addition, subtraction, scalar multiplication, and the dot product.
Since midterms, Algebra 2 girls have focused on rational functions. They applied their previous experience in factoring polynomials to factor numerators and denominators and make observations about factors of the numerator and denominator relate to the appearance of vertical asymptotes and holes in graphs. An exploration activity using their graphing calculator allowed girls to generate and test hypotheses about the appearance of horizontal asymptotes as well. Following the rational function study, girls considered radical functions as inverses of quadratics and cubics. Our previous work on graph transformations provided a natural foundation for graphing radical functions and inequalities. As we transitioned to study conic sections, Maise and Allie applied the distance formula to derive the standard equation of a circle. An ellipse drawing demonstration using a string held by two tacks at the ellipses foci (as shown in the figure below) allowed girls a hands-on opportunity to understand the definition of an ellipse.
Honors History and Government of South America
The second half of the semester began with students taking over the class. Allie, Sophie, Rebecca, Maisie, and Erin taught their peers about the past two presidents of Peru in addition to the current one. They taught about The Shining Path, a revolutionary group still active in the country, and the influence of Che Guevara. Each student came up with their own creative way to impart information. At first we gathered beneath a rock in the high altitude meadow we were camped in to have the Cordillera Blanca mountain range as a backdrop. Yet as rain began to pour down we piled into our circular yellow 'dining tent'. Allie took on various personas via masks she made. Maisie read a speech she wrote. Sophie and Rebecca recited original poems, and Erin read a children's book she created. Scout, Lindsey, Anne, Susannah, and Alizah had already presented pre-Galapagos, and got to sit back and enjoy the presentations.
Students rocked the history exams taken in the Galapagos. Though they are grappling with complex issues in class discussions and written work, I look forward to watching them engage even more with each Peruvian and Bolivian they meet, seeing each interaction as an opportunity to learn. As we regrouped post-midterms, students got to share the histories they learned from the Galapagos crew members. Interestingly, many workers spoke about oil issues, but in a vastly different way than people encountered in the Amazon, the region most intensely affected by drilling.
Many connections are being made. Students remembered the grotesque painting on the ceiling of the Guayasamin museum in Ecuador depicting Peruvian silver miners and their early deaths when reading statistics on resource extraction in Peru. They are brimming with questions and can't wait to ask people they encounter the things they want to know.
History students are knee-deep in reading on the colonial history of Peru and its road to Independence. After an introduction to the government and political structures of the country, we will read more on The Shining Path, and discuss violence as a means to an end. Who knows what will come next...role plays, a debate, a graphic novel? All will culminate in a beautiful map of our journey, full of historical and personal events and revelations.
Honors Literature and Composition
Students lay with their backs to the alpine meadow grass and their eyes to the sky as I read the first pages of 'The House of the Spirits', by Isabel Allende. They let their minds open to the Trueba family, and the fantastical things that happen against the sometimes violent political backdrop. Literature class in the Cordillera Blanca was magical. Students journaled spread out on rocks, having conquered the mighty Punta Union pass at 15,000 ft! Each in their own world, they silently finished the sentences: I used to be...I am...I want to be...
We will continue to immerse ourselves in literary analysis in the coming weeks, writing love letters between the characters, discussing plot, and trying our own hand at the genre of magical realism!