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Global Explorers Blog

Fry Me!

As the holidays approach, you may be experiencing feelings of increased stress at the thought of all the holiday preparation, sadness at the onslaught of winter and 4pm darkness and/or downright anger at the fact that you’ve already been bombarded with holiday music and advertisements since mid-August.  I’m here to ease your tension with a tried and true way to ensure all members of your respective families have a great time---vegetarians and vegans do not apply!

From my perspective, one of the most difficult aspects of the holiday season is the stress involved with hosting a large group of people at your home.  Family dynamics and tensions aside, it’s quite honestly a ton of work getting your dwelling ready for the holidays.  Decorations, cleaning and more cleaning take time and energy that many of us don’t have and the strain this causes on others in our abodes often leads to arguments and irritation.  I don’t have a cure all for this, but cleaning services do help.  Additionally, realizing that everything need not be perfect and that being together is what’s important is a good policy although it’s easier said than done.  However, I digress.  I’m talking about the other primary obstacle for enjoying these holiday gatherings and that’s……cooking a turkey.

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Posted by Ed Shurna  ·  November 24, 2010  ·  holidays, thanksgiving

Thanksgiving as a Pilgrim

In 1620, the pilgrims set sail across the ocean, leaving everything they knew and loved behind them.  Built upon hopes and dreams, they delved into an adventure of the unknown.  In 2009, I set out on my own pilgrimage into the unknown.  I crossed the ocean, leaving everything I knew behind me, and landed in a new land that I knew very little about.  

Four months had past since my maiden journey and I was settling into my new life in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I lived on a friendly street, where the local Vietnamese quickly welcomed me into their homes, as their friend, and as a part of their family.  Although the language barrier divided us, we managed to share stories, laughs and customs. 

While the heat persisted, I knew that back home in Colorado, the leaves had fallen and the cold frosts of winter had taken full effect.  Thanksgiving had arrived.  I missed my family and I yearned for a good, old–fashioned American meal.  I joined my Vietnamese friends that evening and attempted to explain to them the importance of the day and what it entailed.  Through picture books and my broken Vietnamese, the message had somehow vaguely gotten across, at least the important points.  An extravagant meal was in order, and as my new family, they insisted on taking me out for my special holiday.

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Posted by Danielle Thuringer  ·  November 23, 2010  ·  holidays, thanksgiving, vietnam, xan ran

The Power of One

A young girl walks along a beach collecting sand dollars that have washed up on shore. Still alive, they are destined to dry out and die in the heat of the sun. She picks one up and throws it back into the ocean. She continues doing this, one by one. An older man walks up to her and asks, “Why are you doing this? There are thousands of sand dollars on this beach that are going to die. What you’re doing doesn’t really matter.”

The girl picks up another sand dollar and hurls it into the sea: “It matters to this one.”

As an environmental educator, I often used this story to show kids that their efforts to improve the world, no matter how small, made a difference.

As a director of a nonprofit organization, the story takes on a different meaning. To the surprise of many, nonprofits—and the foundations, corporations and individuals that support them—focus a lot on the bottom line. And they use many metrics to gauge progress towards achieving the bottom line. Nonprofits measure profit, but that profit is reinvested into the organizational mission rather than distributed to shareholders. How metrics are used and what they actually say about the strength of a program are a matter of debate.

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Posted by David Shurna  ·  November 19, 2010  ·  inspiration, nonprofits

21st Century Learning

The latest education movement centers on young people learning 21st century skills. Some teachers simply interpret this latest buzz phrase to be a u-turn back to what good teachers have been doing all along—teaching kids what’s relevant through an active, student-centered approach.  These same teachers may even roll their eyes when they hear someone like me, someone “from the district,” talk with excitement about the focus on 21st century learning. 

But I’m with them.  I know this isn’t some modern, ground-breaking approach to what kids need to learn.  I get the skepticism sometimes associated with this “new” 21st century-approach. 

I also get that support for 21st century learning runs deep among business leaders, teachers, policy makers, parents, and academics alike.  And that brings strength to the movement.  That starts momentum to push what’s happening in classrooms in a new direction, away from the drudgery of the standardized testing obsession that resulted from No Child Left Behind.  Not that standardized testing is all bad, it just needs to be one small piece of the pie rather than the most important factor determining what and how kids learn all day.

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Posted by Jessica McConnellogue  ·  November 17, 2010  ·  21st century skills, education, no child left behind

Pamoja Tunaweza!  Together We Can!

In 2007, I left the U.S. for my first trip to East Africa where I was to serve as a volunteer with Roots & Shoots , the educational branch of the Jane Goodall Institute.  This just happened to be the same year that Roots & Shoots was developing a one-of-a-kind conservation education field site on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.  The site was to be a learning center not just for students and teachers from the remote mountain villages but also a community resource center.  The first stage of the plan called for fuel-efficient demonstration stoves, fish ponds to provide a good source of protein for villagers, bee hives, and a huge native tree nursery maintained by local Roots & Shoots students.

For anyone who has visited the developing world, this might seem impossible.  How could such a grand plan really be implemented in only a few months?  Well, when I finally saw the education site with my own eyes, after a one hour mini-bus ride and a 45 minute hike through the village I learned that this place was a reality.  It was a breathtaking sight.  Yes, the views were unbeatable, but what really gave me chills was to see that the work being done was a true community effort.  The conservation education site is a place for anyone and everyone who wants to learn more about protecting the natural resources of the Kilimanjaro region.

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Posted by Shannon Hatmaker  ·  November 10, 2010  ·  jane goodall, kilimanjaro, roots and shoots, tanzania

Beep, Beep… Serengeti Threatened by Road

A controversial road that would cut across one of the most spectacular ecosystems in the world, the Serengeti in Tanzania, is in the final stages of approval. If built, it would connect the rural western communities near Musoma with the urban outpost of Arusha, crossing thousands of acres of African savannah. And it would cut directly through the traditional migration route of more than 2 million wildebeest and zebra.

It is quite clear what happens when a road is built, whether in Tanzania or in your own backyard. Development inevitably springs up. A mass of gas stations, food marts, souvenir shops carefully positioned slowly becomes a small village. That village grows into a larger one. As it grows it needs more land for crops, more water, more meat for food. The increase in pressure on one of the world's greatest biological masterpieces would be felt immediately.

Does the road need to be built? Environmentalists offer a better route for the road that would pass south of the park and serve many more impoverished Tanzanian communities than the planned road route.

Read the New York Times story here...

Posted by David Shurna  ·  November 9, 2010

Sharing the Global Explorers Experience

As a Global Explorers board member I recently had the opportunity over two days to work with Jordan Robbins, GEx director of scholarship programs.  We interviewed four finalist Chicago area schools for next year’s Costa Rica trip, a school travel program sponsored by the Crystal Fund of the Oak Park and River Forest Community Foundation.  It was a great privilege to meet with wonderfully talented and dedicated educators and students in some of the city’s economically poorest neighborhoods.

Jordan and I met with teachers and administrators at three charter schools and one Chicago public school.  We toured the schools and met some of the students.  I’ve spent a lot of professional time in schools over many years, and I think I’ve developed a good ability to sense a school’s atmosphere and values.  These schools exuded a seriousness about learning in and beyond the classroom and an immense personal regard for their students.

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Posted by Jessica McConnellogue  ·  November 3, 2010  ·  chicago schools, costa rica, crystal fund