Thursday, October 9, 2008

Urban Birds Contest

All you young ornithologists and photographers: check it out!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vocabulary this Week

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Subjects for anthropomorphism commonly include animals and plants depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse, forces of nature such as winds or the sun, components in games, unseen or unknown sources of chance, etc. Almost anything can be subject to anthropomorphism.
(Taken from wikipedia)

Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another's state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or to in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.

It is important to note that empathy does not necessarily imply compassion. Empathy can be 'used' for compassionate or cruel behavior.

Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means. It is strategy of problem-solving relying on "appeals" rather than strength.

Scav·enge (skvnj)
v. scav·enged, scav·eng·ing, scav·eng·es
1. To search through for salvageable material: scavenged the garbage cans for food scraps.
2. To collect and remove refuse from: The streets are periodically scavenged.
3. To collect (salvageable material) by searching.
a. To expel (exhaust gases) from a cylinder of an internal-combustion engine.
b. To expel exhaust gases from (such a cylinder).
5. Metallurgy To clean (molten metal) by chemically removing impurities.
1. To search through refuse for useful material.
2. To feed on dead or decaying matter.

scar·ci·ty (sk├órs-t)
n. pl. scar·ci·ties
1. Insufficiency of amount or supply; shortage: a scarcity of food that was caused by drought.
2. Rarity of appearance or occurrence: antiques that are valued for their scarcity.

val·ue (vly)
1. An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return.
2. Monetary or material worth: the fluctuating value of gold and silver.
3. Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education.
4. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable: "The speech was a summons back to the patrician values of restraint and responsibility" Jonathan Alter.
5. Precise meaning or import, as of a word.
6. Mathematics An assigned or calculated numerical quantity.
7. Music The relative duration of a tone or rest.
8. The relative darkness or lightness of a color. See Table at color.
9. Linguistics The sound quality of a letter or diphthong.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vocab Quiz Friday

Get a Voki now!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The School Year Commences

Blueberry season, indeed.

Keep a critical eye on the election:

Climate change: what do you think?
Should we make a film about it?
Check out this video:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Our Community Gardens: Thematic Unit

Hello, Welcome Students of Tompkins Square MS!

Fall is approaching. The harvest season. A great time to see what is being reaped in our community gardens. Check out some photos taken this summer in the gardens. How have things changed?

So yes, we are going to do a thematic unit focusing on the community gardens in our school's neighborhood. The community gardens in our school’s neighborhood (see the map to the right, click on it to see it clearly) are some of the most beautiful in New York City. Delicious fruits and vegetables grow, beautiful flowers blossom, and the residents of the neighborhood collectively work together to make their gardens amazing. Mural paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art stand in the gardens as symbols of the struggles and celebrations that people have lived through in the neighborhood. By learning about how the gardens function – how plants grow, how people work together to manage the land, how art is made – we can prepare to sustain and improve our community gardens as beautiful public places for generations to come.
Can you recognize any of these places on the map?


In this thematic unit, students will investigate what is being created in their local community gardens. Students will make a field visit to at least one community garden, and conduct research (in the garden, on the internet, in books, through interviews) that focuses on how one specific plant is grown or on one piece of art in a community garden and its significance. Ultimately, each student will make a website which details their own research and experience, following the guidelines on the rubric. The websites will be linked together to form a more comprehensive resource, on this blog.

To sum up and reiterate: Students, you are going to make a website using Google Pages. You can access Google Pages through your Gmail Account. You may choose to focus on one plant in the community gardens, or on one piece of art in the community gardens. The website should be an attractive presentation of what you have learned about your subject (one plant or piece of art found in a local community garden). You may use text, images, videos, sound clips, any kind of media found online (with proper citations), or create your own text, audio, or video clips. We will use whatever resources we have to make media.

Hear what the sun has to say about the rubric, then click the link below:

Get a Voki now!


Here are some links that students should check out as we begin our project. There are three sections: On Community Gardens, On Gardening and Plant Care, and On Art in Community Gardens.

On Community Gardens:

Garden across the street from our school:

NYC Community Gardens Association:

Red Hook Community Gardens

School Gardens Network for NYC Schools:

On Gardening and Plant Care

Gardening Calendar for New York City environs:

Plants for a Future (specific information about plants!)

On Art in Community Gardens

History of Murals in LES Community Gardens:

See this slideshow of images from murals in our local Community Gardens:

Learning Objectives:

*Students will reflect on the biodiversity of the community gardens to understand how the micro-ecosystem of the community garden functions.
*Students will create and personally customize their own web page, using Google Pages, which focuses on the one plant or one piece of art in the community garden of the student’s choice. Students must answer a set of essential questions about their plant or piece of art, located in the handout.
*Students will reflect on the history of the political struggle involved in maintaining the community gardens, and how this struggle manifests today in our school’s neighborhood.

Learning Standards

NYS ESL Standards:

Standard 1: Students will read, write, listen, and speak in English for information and understanding.

Standard 3: Students will read, write, listen, and speak in English for critical analysis and evaluation.

Standard 4: Students will read, write, listen, and speak in English for classroom and social interaction.

NYS Math, Science, and Technology Standards:

Standard 4: Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

NETS Standards:

Standard 1. Creativity and Innovation:
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Standard 3.Research and Information Fluency:
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Standard 4.Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

Session 1: Community Gardens: How the magic happens

1. Class begins with a conversation about community gardens. The teacher gauges student's prior experience and the students are invited to share their perspectives and experiences in their neighborhoods. Then the teacher shares an anecdote about his experience working in a community garden in Brooklyn.
2. Then the teacher introduces scope of project by demonstrating the blog to the class. The class reads over the Background and the Introduction of the project, the teacher takes any questions. The teacher presents the rubric ( with an introduction by a VOKI.
3. The class watches the video about community gardens by the Parks Department (streamed above). Students are instructed to take notes. After the video, students are assigned to write a one to two paragraph response to the video, including what they learned in the video about the history of community gardens in New York City, and how they see the struggles people have dealt with in the past being handled in the present and future.
4. The teacher provides a handout with a list of different things that grow in the local Community Gardens. Students are told that they will be going for a walk to a local community garden in the next session, and that they will be choosing their favorite plant or piece of art in the garden to make a web site about.

Session 2: Community Garden Field Trip

1. Class reviews handout including a list of the different plants that grow in the community garden and pieces of art there.
2. Class reads over the essential/guiding questions for research that must be answered on the student’s website about the plant or piece of art they choose. For the plant, this includes the name and scientific name, how to start the seeds, when the plant is harvested, origins and history, if it is edible – how it is consumed, and so forth. If the student chose a piece of art, the student must reflect on the significance of the piece in their eyes – what they think it stands for, include research on the origin of the artist, other perspectives that the student may have found online or through conversation with peers or adults, and so forth. The complete list of requirements is in the handout. All of the questions can be answered by following the links online, but students are encouraged to keep the questions in mind while in the garden.
3. Class takes a field trip to the community garden! If possible, students are given cameras to take pictures and videos. Students are encouraged to bring a notepad to take notes and make drawings of the plant or art they choose. Students are encouraged to ask questions to gardeners if they are present.
4. Students are reminded that they must come into the next session’s class having decided on the plant or piece of art they will be making a website for. Students are directed to explore the links on the blog/handout with resources about the different plants and art in the community gardens for the content on their website.

Session 3: Making the Web site

1. Class begins at computers. Students are given a mini-lesson on how to use Google Pages, how to import pictures and videos, copying and pasting, whatever needs to be looked at technically.
2. The teacher presents the links to the sites in which the students should be researching the information about their plants or the art piece they chose. Students are reminded of proper Internet research techniques.
3. Students put their information into Google Pages and design their website. As it becomes clear what each student has chosen to make a website about, collaborative groups of students who chose the same topic are made to share ideas.
4. Students e-mail the address of their site to the teacher. The teacher updates his blog with links to all the student's sites, as a comprehensive resource. The class reviews all the sites in the next session.

Monday, August 4, 2008

ESL Podcast Reviews

Reviews of ESL PODCAST: Assignment #2 Part 2 for TechED/Gura

Olympic Games

This ESL Podcast is about the upcoming Olympic Games. ESL Pod offers free audio files and streams of their podcast, with a short transcript. A complete transcript, with definitions, sample sentences, comprehension question, cultural notes, extra tips, and so forth is available if you pay 10$ a month. The podcast discusses various facets of the Olympic games, including the prestige of being an Olympian, the significance of the Olympic village, and the opening ceremony. The vocabulary level targets intermediate to advanced students, though there are many scaffolding opportunities, as the pace is generally slow. A monologue at the beginning and end is broken up by a dialog in the middle.


The Presidential Campaign Heats Up with Less Than One Hundred Days to the Election

This podcast covers different issues surrounding the upcoming Presidential elections, comparing and contrasting Obama and McCain's experience. The enunciation, voice, and tempo of this podcast is very well done. The podcast covers the candidates stances on taxes, the War in Iraq, and the different kinds of events they have been attending. The vocabulary is not especially dificult, with many words reiterated in different sentences.


Global Warming and Automobilies: ESL Aloud

I like the structure of this lesson. The narrator offers many details amidst a structure of sentences which outline the topic. The student listens to the whole narrative in the first part, then the student has a chance to repeat after the narrator, hopefully using the rich amount of content provided in the first monologue to enrich their own sentences as they repeat in the second part.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Keep New York Clean

Listen to "Keep New York Clean" by Aleke Kanunu (press play below).

I was reminded of this tune yesterday, while biking through Propsect Park.

Aleke Kanonu is a relatively unknown Nigerian musician who played with numerous funk, afro-beat, and jazz artists in the USA and across Europe. What else can we find about him and his music by searching on the internet?
Check out, a great database and marketplace for records:

Olympic Considerations/Time for some Campaigning

The Summer Olympics is coming up, wow. Here is one of my favorite logos for the games, made for the Olympics of 1968 in Mexico City:

The Olympics happen once every four years, just like the U.S. presidential elections.
There are 28 sports which athletes from all over the world compete in during the summer games. Check out all the different sports. Mabye there is one you would like to compete in someday?

Sound like something you want to do one day? Check out the Personal Trainer Video to get in shape:

Peruse to learn more about the games. It starts August 8th!

And about those upcoming elections...

Octopus vs Rubik’s cube

octopus rubik corbis.JPGrubiks cube cc.jpgScientists have given octopuses Rubik’s cubes in an attempt to determine if they have a favourite tentacle, or if they are octidextrous (a word that seems to have been invented specifically for this story).

According to a number of British papers around 25 octopuses at aquariums across Europe will be given toys and visitors will be asked to record which arm they are using to play with them, using a diagram showing the arms as R1, R2, R3, R4 and L1, L2, L3, L4.

“Uniquely, octopuses have more than half their nerves in their arms and have been shown to partially think with their arms,” says Claire Little, of the Weymouth Sea Life Centre (Independent). “Many animals have been shown to favour a certain arm so we will see if octopuses can be added to that list.”

According to Little, the findings could help make life in captivity more pleasant for these intelligent, (and occasionally shark eating), animals. “They are very susceptible to stress, so if they do have a favourite side to be fed on, it could reduce risk to them,” she says (Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail).

No one has suggested that any of the octopuses will actually solve the puzzle, but there’s a very slim chance they might. At the risk of re-igniting the now dormant ‘Echinoderms or Molluscs’ blog war, show us a starfish that can do that…

Images: Octopus – Corbis / Rubik’s cube – photo by Culture-Culte via flickr and under Creative Commons

Republished from

Rhyme Scene Police

The Letter 'M'

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Have you been in the house playing video games all summer? Perhaps you want to design your own challenge. Do you want to make your own video games? The truth is that you won't be able to easily design any really detailed realistic, movie-like graphics like the games you are probably playing now have. That requires some serious programming.
These programs linked below can be the beginning of your journey in learning how to make such complex games. It is a lot of fun.
There are tutorials which explain how to create a scrolling shooter games, maze games, first person shooter games, and even 3-d games. The program is called Gamemaker 7.0.
Download it and try it out. Check out the wiki for help and support. The tutorials are really good.
Here is the manual in Spanish:

Torque Game Designer:
Check out the Torque Game Builder. You can download a free trial. The download box is the third box down on the left side. This program is very thorough and the trial is for 30 days, so have fun. You can save your work too, make sure to do that!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Just BEE'ing here

Honeybees have mysteriously gone missing from their hives all over the world. As of Spring of 2008 nearly a third of U.S. 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America. Beekeepers report entire hives abandoned by adult bees who uncharacteristically leftbehind food and bee larvae, the young that develop inside the hive. The scientific community has named the phenomenon “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD).

The Brooklyn Bee is just John Howe and some of us friends and volunteers. Thats his rooftop and three hives.

Responsible for pollinating over one-third of our food crops, honeybees are an integral part of our ecology. Total bee extinction would mean that fruit, nut and vegetable plants would not be pollinated, thus food would become scarce. The vanishing of such a pivotal species would immediately take its toll on the global economy having grave and lasting repercussions.

(republished from