Sunday, March 25, 2012

Earth Hour

Global warming!  Global climate change!  Is it real?  Is it a problem?  Is it a fraud?  Is it something people caused?  Is it something we contribute to?  Is it something that can be repaired?  If it is something at all.  You are probably aware of the great debate regarding the topic of "global warming", which has recently been re-framed as "global climate change".  There are those on one side of the argument, like former Vice President Al Gore and his movie An Inconvenient Truth, who seek to convince you that it is a a real problem and people are the primary culprit.  There are those on the other side, like Senator James Inhofe and his new book The Greatest Hoax, who seek to convince you that it is a fabrication and that if there are any changes to earth's climate they are negligible and not at all the fault of humanity.  I AM NOT TRYING TO START A DEBATE HERE!

Those who know me know that I am not a "tree hugging hippie" environmentalist type of guy.  I'm not a global warming doomsdayer nor I am I someone who will argue that any climate changes that might be occurring are not impacted in any way by the actions of people.  However, I do believe that when God placed creation under the care of humanity (Genesis 1: 28-30) He was also included a responsibility that humanity must appropriately care for His creation.

Are there people who are wasteful? Yes.  Are there people who give lack of care and respect for the creation we have been given? Yes.  Is it within our individual and collective power to help make a positive difference for the future? YES!!

Therefore, I have made a commitment to improve the way that I act so as to care for God's creation.  This includes things such as recycling paper, plastic, cans, etc.  This includes turning off the lights in rooms when I am not in need of them.  Am I perfect at accomplishing these things? Heavens no! But I believe I am improving over time.  Little things can make a difference!

This is the ultimate goal of an environmentally conscious movement known as Earth Hour.  What began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007 has now grown into a global movement of symbolic awareness of how we, in our own day-to-day lives, can take steps to help improve our environment.  The premise is that what if we all, on the same day, turned off the lights for one hour.  One, it would symbolically help promote simple ways that we can each better care for what God has given to us.  Two, by turning off the lights during a peak usage time (8:30-9:30) PM in your local time) it could same a little bit of the electricity which, in nearly all of the world's communities, runs exclusively off of nonrenewable resources.

This Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 8:30-9:30 PM (your local time) is "Earth Hour".  I encourage you to turn off the lights and do something "special".  Use candle light to illuminate family game night (remember those?) or to read a book (yes, the paper ones since your Kindle or iPad uses "lights").  Gather outside with a group of friends at a bonfire and sing "camp songs".  Be creative!

On this one night, we can roam a remote road of global community and do something simple to honor and respect God's creation.

Friday, March 23, 2012

South Korea is a "no go"

This was my third year to apply with The Korea Society (in New York City) for their teacher fellowship to South Korea.  The fellowship provides a two-week trip throughout South Korea exploring history, politics, culture, religion, and economics.  This would be ideal for the AP Human Geography class which I teach.

I just received an e-mail today informing me that I was ACCEPTED for this year's program!!  However, rather than there being two travel groups (one in June and one in July) their sponsoring partners had to reschedule into only one travel group.  This singular trip straddles the June/July divide with a return that will conflict with my preexisting commitment to go on a Honduras mission trip with my church.  I've already paid the deposit for Honduras and am excited about going so it was an easy, although sad, decision I had to make.

So, I just got off the phone with The Korea Society to decline the fellowship for this year.  I did inquire as to whether or not this year's selection (although declined) would help in the consideration for next year and was told that yes they do keep that in I'll apply again next year (for the fourth time).

Sometimes the remote roads that we hope to roam end up getting delayed.  I'm still very VERY excited for the opportunities to roam remote roads in both Honduras and Indonesia this summer!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rain as a Unifier

I just read a Facebook status update from Congressman James Lankford, Oklahoma 5th District, in which he commented about the "beautiful rain" which central Oklahoma is currently receiving.  I submitted a reply to him: "The rain this morning is wonderful. I'm sitting at home (on Spring Break) with the front door open listening to the rainfall and feeling the coolness of the air."

I then had the realization that rain should be viewed as one of the great unifying factors throughout the world.  We are all impacted by rain in some capacity.  Some areas get too much.  Some don't get enough.  Others get just the right amount at the right time.  Regardless of the quantity of rain, it is still something which impacts us all.

People so often look for reasons to draw distinctions between themselves and the "others".  Gender, race, nationality, religion, wealth, physical abilities, etc., etc., etc., are classifications used to separate "us" from "them".  I wish that we would all have a strong perference for looking at those things which show our similarities...things such as rain.   The Christian scriptures attest to rain as a factor for unity: "[God] sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45b). Whether rain is viewed as a good thing (typically be those who don't receive enough) or a bad thing (typically by those who get too much) it is something that when it falls it impacts all of us regardless of the distinctions we try to draw.

So while roaming the remote roads of life I encourage you to focus on those things which serve as indicators of the unity of humanity rather than those things which try to exhibit division.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weebly for a Portfolio

Each year within my AP Human Geography classes I assign a year-long "Country Portfolio" project.  Each student is assigned four countries representing different regions of the world and different levels of economic development.  My initial reason for this project is that it gives students a wealth of specific information on which they can draw as they compose the free response portion of the AP exam offered in May by the College Board (success on this exam can earn college credit for the students).  Each year I also create a portfolio; this year my countries are Bolivia, Nigeria, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates.

As a fellow in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, I see the benefit of integrating more of a global education focus into my classes.  Thus, I find a new reason to continue this project, and modify it for the future.  One focus of global education as promoted by TGC is to provide students a greater opportunity to use technology so as to enhance their learning.

I have to admit that my use of web-based technolgoies has been limited, but through TGC I have learned about some worthwhile resources.  One such resource is  Weebly...a build your own website platform.  As I learned of Weebly during the eight-week TGC online course I decided to play with it some and when I saw how easy it was to navigate I offered it to my students as an alternative presentation format for their "Country Portfolios".  Few took advantage of this, but I continued working with my website and I want to introduce you to Burton's Country Portfolio 2011-2012.

An additional way that this project relates to global education is that through research, comparison of countries, and discussions with classmates, my students developed an interest in how they could use their new knowledge and provide a meaningful impact to a lesser developed country.  Once they learned about "mico-loans" during the Development/Industry unit they knew they wanted to make a loan.  Enter here another web-based resource, Kiva Loans, which I learned about in the TGC course from another participant, Steve Kelley (visit Mr. Kelley's school website & Ukraine travel blog).

So here we are, the TGC course has helped me roam some remote roads of technology integration and has enabled my students to roam into some inspiration for helping people in another country in economic need.  And the roaming journey continues...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Morocco?...It's a GO GO.

The second group of educators in my TGC cohort begin their international travels today. A special blessing for an amazing adventure is expressed for those heading to Morocco. Their trip will include about 4 days in Rabat, the capital city. Then the group will be divided in to pairs to travel as smaller teams to various communities around Morocco, being hosted by a local teacher and his/her school. The group will then reconnect in Rabat for another few days together before returning back to the United States.

This pattern of travel will be repeated by the next four international teams, including my team which heads off to Indonesia. Travel dates for all six TGC teams within the 2011-2012 cohort include:

Ghana: March 3 to 18, 2012
Morocco: March 17 to 31, 2012
Ukraine: April 14 to 28, 2012
Brazil: June 9 to 23, 2012
India: June 30 to July 14, 2012
Indonesia: July 17 to 31, 2012

If you are interested in roaming the remote roads, in a virtual sense, along with these educators, I've linked some of their travel blogs here to my blog site. It's exciting to see this whole process finally unfolding! Blessings to the Morocco team!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Armed Man

Last evening I stayed late at school for the opportunity of attending a band concerts.  For some reason it seems like I have a LARGE proportion of band students within my AP U.S. History classes and nearly each one of them invited me to attend tonight's performance.

Several pieces caught my attention, but one that really stood out was Dan Bukvich's "Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945).  This piece brings to life the Allied bombing of the Germany city of Dresden during World War II.  Through the sounds, you could clearly hear the bombardment; the artistic decision to turn off the lights through part of the performance and to have some of the larger bass drums scattered throughout the back of the auditorium and in the balcony added dimension to the presentation of the battle sounds.  The performances last night were simply  AMAZING!! "Memoriam" stood out for a couple of reasons: 1) it awakened my senses to both the history and geographic space of the event and 2) it reminded me of a musical Mass that I sang at Carnegie Hall several years ago.

In June 2005 I had the opportunity to join with some folks from Canterbury Choral Society in Oklahoma City to travel to New York City.  We joined forces with several other choirs from around the United States and performed the American premier of Karl Jenkins' masterpiece The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace.  Like "Memoriam" The Armed Man tells a story of war, the 1990s war in Kosovo (Eastern Europe).  In a region of the world which experienced a clash of cultures within the context of war, Karl Jenkins incorporated multiple cultural representations in to this Mass formatted presentation (use of French, Latin, English, and even Arabic as part of an Islamic call to prayer).  While the premier that I was part of only performed five of the Mass's pieces, I do own a CD of the entire Mass and in its entirety is very moving.  Perhaps my most favorite portion of The Armed Man is "Benedictus" which features a beautiful cello solo and presents an amazing and peaceful calmness following the horrors of the armed conflict.  I am strongly considering having this piece performed as part of my funeral (hopefully decades down the road).  Here is a performance of "Benedictus" recorded in 2009 in Wales (home of Karl Jenkins):

Music is one of those ways which allows, no...encourages and facilitates, us to experience remote roads from various cultural and historic expressions.  Music moves us; it moves our souls in ways that no physical journey can.  Take advantage of the opportunities to roam the roads of lands remote through the medium of music especially if that musical medium is being presented by Southmoore's Bands or your local high school's performing arts program.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I'm going to Honduras!!!

For a couple of months I've been toying with the idea of going with my church on a missions trip this summer.  There are a couple of options for the actual summer months and a few others throughout the year.  Ideally, the trip to Roatan, Honduras would have been my preference because it would be a group made up primarily of single adults (albeit most would be younger than I) and it would be to work with a missionary whose family I know and have respected for many years.  However, that trip's departure conflicted with my annual summer job of scoring essays for the AP United States History exam as well as another teacher trip for which I've applied (although not yet received acceptance) through the Korea Society.

Ultimately the "best fit" would be the family trip to Pena Blanca, Honduras from July 7 to 14.  Although labeled as a "family trip", there are several singles going AND I've been accepted as "almost family" by our missions pastor and his family.  Originally there had been a hiccup for my participating with this trip too as my pre-existing commitment with TGC for the trip to Indonesia was scheduled to leave on July 14.  It would be HIGHLY difficult to travel home from Honduras AND travel to Indonesia all on the same day.  However, the departure for Indonesia was rescheduled for July 17...I'll still be cutting it close.  Anyhow, I paid my deposit this past Wednesday night so now...I'm going to Honduras!!!

So, in addition to blogging about my preparations for Indonesia in this forum I'll also include information in preparation for my trip to Honduras.  I'm excited for all of the upcoming opportunities for roaming the remote roads for both Honduras and Indonesia!

Japanese Children's Song

Each Sunday evening I gather with a small group from my church for dinner and a Bible study.  During our dinner time tonight two of my friends were discussing experiences and memories from their respective times spent in Japan.  Miriam lived in Japan during her childhood because her parents were missionaries.  Glenn spent about eight months there as part of his military service.

Something in the conversation sparked the topic of music and they each recounted learning a common children's song.  Glenn had never known the topic of the song but had always remembered the tune and text (in Japanese).  Miriam remembers that the song had something to do with a young girl being meet by her mother while traveling home during a time of rainfall.

So following dinner and before our time of study began, Miriam and Glenn performed a special duet for us in Japanese:

During our lives we may each encounter times in which we discover that the remote roads we have traveled have also been travled by another person in our lives.  It is great to be able to recount our roaming stories and learn of shared experiences with others who are special in our lives.  I'm so glad that Miriam and Glenn made this connection and I'm thankful that they shared this connection with our group!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

National Passport Day

How many times have you been sitting on your couch watching a TV game show (i.e. Who Wants to be  a Millionaire? or Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?) and wondered why many contestants have a very limited knowledge of peoples, places, and circumstances outside of the United States.  Both from within the U.S. and from many within the international community there is a strong feeling that people within the U.S. just don't know enough about our neighbors (near or far) on this planet.  In a recent article titled "Catch Up, America!", Samara Green, a high school senior in Maryland, gives a great commentary on why the U.S. educational system needs to clearly embed within its curriculum a greater focus on Global Education.  This focus is, of course, the major element of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program in which I am currently participating.

Regardless of how global in nature the education was that you received while growing up, it is never to late to learn about about the rest of the world.  As adults, one of the best ways that we can learn in person about the rest of the world is by taking the opportunity to physically travel to other lands; to literally roam the roads of lands remote.  After all, as Mark Twain once declared, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness".

Today, March 10, is being observed as National Passport Day in the United States.  It is estimated that only about 30% of Americans actually posses a passport.  And much of the reason for why this has increased within the past 3 to 4 years is due to the requirements to posses one to cross in to Canada or Mexico.

For source of this image, click here
A wonderful result that can come from the initiative of this day (and the much larger emphasis of gaining a passport) is that when people 1) get out of their comfort zones, 2) gain the appropriate documentation for international travel, and 3) actually make the effort to visit other countries is that the overall lack of understanding will give way to increased cultural knowledge.  As we develop a greater understanding of peoples in other locations we improve our abilities to interact with them.  As globalization increases each day, it becomes more and more imperative that we improve our ability to interact with others.  The long term success of so many aspects of life depend upon successful interaction with others.

So, in the spirit of National Passport Day, even though it might be too late to accomplish it today, please make every effort acquire a passport.  And once you do, then you can join me in person for a chance in the near future to roam the roads of land remote.

Friday, March 9, 2012

New Zealand

One of my colleagues and friends is in Los Angles right now boarding a flight to New Zealand.  She is traveling with a group of nine teachers from the Oklahoma City area and two professors from the University of Central Oklahoma.  They have been invited to observe and study schools within New Zealand for the next two weeks.

Feel free to follow Donna and her group as they explore the "other down under".  I have her group's blog and her blog she is using with her elementary students linked under the list of blogs which I follow.  Join me as I vicariously roam the remote roads of New Zealand through her updates.

I'm a Balla' (maybe?)

Today at school, Student Council teamed up with our Special Olympics Team to help raise money for the Special Olympians to be able to go to their state competition in May.  Due to the state competition being out of town all of the expenses for registration, hotels, food, transportation, etc., top $2000.  Today's fundraiser was billed as the "SuperCat Slam" (we call our Special Olympians the "SuperCats") and constituted a pay-to-get-out-of-class assembly for an exhibition basketball game between the SuperCats and a gang of rag-tag faculty members, the FacultyCats.
David "The Globetrotter" Burton
My STUCO officers nominated me as one of the rag-tag faculty members and so I donned my uniform (see picture above) and joined 9 other teachers as we challenged the SuperCats.  Nearly 1200 of our @2000 students paid $2 each to get out of 6th hour to see us make "fools" of ourselves as we supported a great cause.  It was great fun even though the FacultyCats lost 20(something) to 11 (2 of those points were mine, ha!).  I am proud to be at such a great school that offers the opportunity to be part of such a special event.  Sometimes roaming the remote roads demands that we step out of comfort zones, risk embarrassment, and yet be on the receiving end of a very joyous time.
Front row: Kelly "The Punisher" Johnson, Andrae "So So Smooth" McConnell,
and Brandon "The Wizard" Wilmarth
Back row: Kasie "Show-and-Glow" Hill, Macie "The Maniac" Viets",
Cory "The Intern" Vance, Will "Mighty Mouse" Staats, David "The Globetrotter" Burton,
Bobbie "The Baller" Grauman, and David "The Cat-man" Hanneman

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holi Moli

Today is the day that India/Hindus celebrate Holi.  Traditionally this day marks the beginning of spring and it is highlighted by the "festival of color".  The people will gather in public locations outside and "bless" each other with "gifts" of colorful paint and/or powder bombs.

Today I decided to have my AP Human Geography class reenact this tradition but instead of throwing the color at each other we just threw it at the pile of clothing on the ground.  So my WHITE shirt that I wore to school today has become a colorful tapestry flavored by Hawaiian Punch and accented by food color.

The kids loved it and we had fun.  Check out this YouTube video clip from the movie Outsourced for an example of how Holi is celebrated: Holi in Outsourced.

Keep roaming those remote roads and observing new celebrations!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Here Today...Ghana Tomorrow

The first group of educators in my TGC cohort begin their international travels today.  A special blessing for an amazing adventure is expressed for those heading to Ghana.  Their trip will include about 4 days in Accra, the capital city.  Then the group will be divided in to pairs to travel as smaller teams to various communities around Ghana, being hosted by a local teacher and his/her school.  The group will then reconnect in Accra for another few days together before returning back to the United States.

This pattern of travel will be repeated by the next five international teams, including my team which heads off to Indonesia.  Travel dates for all six TGC teams within the 2011-2012 cohort include:

Ghana: March 3 to 18, 2012
Morocco: March 17 to 31, 2012
Ukraine: April 14 to 28, 2012
Brazil: June 9 to 23, 2012
India: June 30 to July 14, 2012
Indonesia: July 17 to 31, 2012

If you are interested in roaming the remote roads, in a virtual sense, along with these educators, I've linked many of their travel blogs here to my blog site.  It's exciting to see this whole process finally unfolding!  Blessings to the Ghana team!!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Student Council Exchange

One of my extra duties at Southmoore is serving as one of two sponsors for Student Council.  One of the activities sponsored by our state STUCO "district" is to have exchanges of our councils between our member high schools.  Last week Southmoore's STUCO hosted the STUCO from Yukon High School (in a suburb just west of the Oklahoma City).  Yesterday, Southmoore's STUCO collectively became roamers of remote roads by traveling to Purcell High School (a more rural community south of Oklahoma City).
A symbol of welcome and friendship:
Southmoore SaberCat and the Purcell Dragon
While Yukon is a school near the same size as Southmoore (@2000 students), Purcell (@450 students) provided our Southmoore kids with a chance to see how academic life is similar and different within a smaller and more rural environment.  Some of the differences noticed by our kids: their entire library could fit inside of the computer lab within our library, the total area of their classroom wing would fit within 1/4 of our classroom space, they have one assistant principal while we have four, they have two counselors while we have six, they have one gymnasium and we have two, etc.  Despite the differences noticed, our kids noticed many similarities in curriculum (our students sat through a class session), technology available within classrooms, difficulty with efforts of STUCO trying to get all students involved in something extracurricular, social-family-academic-etc. problems faced by students.

One issue that most of their STUCO kids thought would be a major differences between their rural school and our suburban school was their agricultural program (plant growing techniques, raising of livestock, and other agri-science options).  In fact, many of our students initially thought this was a big difference too.  What struck me as being humorous about this is that our school district ALSO has an agricultural program.  While our program is offered to students at all three of our high schools (Moore, Southmoore, and Westmoore), the actual classroom space and green house is provided on the campus of Moore High and then there is a singular location for a district owned farm to serve as a practical "lab" space.  Since the classroom space is not on our campus this is why many of our own students were not familiar with this option.  It was fun to see their expressions in discovering that this "difference" was actually a "similarity".

All in all, the Southmoore SaberCat STUCO and the Purcell Dragon STUCO had a great time getting to know each other and developing some friendships with our students within STUCO District 8.  Our STUCO will continue our efforts of roaming the remote roads and learning about other schools and their local councils.