Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aunge's Classes


The Precalculus students are gaining confidence in their usage of mathematical terms and concepts as we develop the classroom into a comfortable space to share ideas, questions and theories. The class completed the first unit and is now working through the basics of relations and functions. As their understanding of functions solidifies, students are mastering the concepts of how equations transform from a parent function and move about a coordinate plane.


Giggles continually surround the Languages class as students practice various clicks and uncommon letter combinations of the Xhosa and Zulu languages. These two languages are closely related in the Bantu language group and involve three different clicks. As the students repeatedly practice the palatal click, similar to the noise made to encourage a horse, their confidence in using the greetings and expression phrases expands. On a recent village tour the girls practiced Xhosa with the locals as they tried on traditional clothing, attempted to weave floor mats and delivered bread.


Six new lives were recently created by the Math Concepts students for the Game of Life. In class we now have a doctor, teacher, waiter, seasonal worker, Costco employee and dishwasher/mother. The students are using these personas to understand and develop budgets, apply for credit, and establish savings and checking accounts based on different life situations. The students are realizing the importance of consciously making wise money decisions throughout life while struggling to understand the difficulties of reality and misconceptions of the costs of college, rent, and bills.


Brenna's Classes


Light from the flames wrap around the girls’ faces, hand in hand they circle round and round singing, giggling, smiling, gazing towards the stars their laughter carries over the ocean. A hook sentence engages the audience from the start and leaves the reader wanting more. During the past weeks Travel Journalism students focused on keeping the audience present through an entire article. From scaling up rocks to wandering Nelson Mandala’s homelands holding the reader's attention is never easy. Sometimes the most difficult element of writing is the balance of keeping the audience interested and selecting information you want the readers to know. Six weeks into the trip the students are filled with more experiences every day, making selecting a topic difficult and then writing about it in 750 words even more difficult. Learning how to write eloquently in few words is not easy and will be tested the next couple weeks while the students write their midterm article- a paper and three pertinent photographs.


After climbing in Watervel Boven and hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains the students had to settle for a “normal” P.E. class in Qunu. In Qunu we had a gym and were able to reflect on the old high school P.E. days. As we delve farther into the semester and experience more physically demanding activities, the students are coming to realize P.E. can be a beneficial class despite its challenges. This coming week we will be testing out the students’ surfing skills.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Caroline's Classes

History & Government of SW Africa

In history class we have begun our study of the Apartheid through the lens of Nelson Mandela. This past week we spent time in Qunu, the small village where Nelson Mandela was raised from ages 2 to 10. We visited the Nelson Mandela Museum in the nearby town of Mthatha, slid down the “sliding rock” that Mandela slid down as a child, and toured the exact spot Madiba (his clan name) was born in the village of Mveso. The girls wrote an eloquent letter to Mr. Mandela thanking him for his contributions to South Africa and to the world that was hand delivered to Mr. Mandela's home in Qunu! In addition to studying Mandela, the students are working on oral presentations about famous figures of the Apartheid era and reading and responding to My Traitor's Heart. In this memoir the author struggles to come to terms with his Afrikaner identity as he reflects on the complexities of race relations in South Africa. In the coming weeks, as we make our way towards down the Cape, we will continue our study of Nelson Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement and take a closer look at the current politics and government of South Africa.

SW Africa Literature & Composition

In literature class we have begun the early stages of writing an analytical essay exploring a theme in The Power of One. We are a week away from finishing this novel, and class discussion has been lively! In addition to reading, writing about, and discussing The Power of One, the students wrote metaphor poems beginning with the phrase, “I am...” We just arrived at a beautiful piece of coastline along the Indian Ocean, and the girls shared their poems with each other by shouting their words into the ocean. They are talented poets, and their honesty, creativity, and power with words impress me. Here is an example of one student's metaphor poem (more student work to come!):

I Am”

I am a passport

I belong to one place

but inside I have traces of the world.

My stamps are my scars,

telling stories of where I've been.

I am a passport

tired and scuffed up after a long journey,

but always there when the opportunity arises to explore.

I am a passport

when staying still, I collect dust

and I am only at home

when finally being carried, once again,

to a new land to discover.

I am a passport

I may be dented, but I'm not broken

I may wander, but I'm never lost

I may be property to one country

but I belong to the world.

--Tate, Junior, New York

We look ahead to our backpacking trip and mid-terms in the coming weeks; in class we anticipate an oral poetry assignment and writing a college essay.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Classes and More

Global Studies and our steps along the Nelson Mandela trail: TTS18 has had an amazing week regarding our studies and travels. As we traveled into the Eastern Cape Province, we stopped in the town of Umtata, where we visited the first stop of the Nelson Mandela Trail, the Nelson Mandela Museum. The first museum built for a living person, students were toured through the exhibit by a local tour guide. They examined the turning points within Nelson Mandela’s life that led him to become one of the most known and successful leaders in our history. With this knowledge as their base, we then traveled to the town of Qunu, where Mandela grew up. From the Nelson Mandela Youth Heritage Center, the students went on a walking tour of the original places where Mandela went to school, herded cattle and played with his friends. Through the lens of museums, exhibits, village tours and articles read, the students began to really piece together the rich history of South Africa.

Meeting Nelson Mandela’s Family…

To top off our time in Qunu, students visited the third piece of the Nelson Mandela trail, his birthplace at Mvezo. Our guide to this remote site, was none other than one of Nelson Mandela’s grandsons! Through contacts at the Heritage Center, word had spread to the Mandela family that there were visitors (TTS) at the Center. Zuko (Nelson’s grandson) was sitting with Nelson Mandela that evening, when word came about our visit. Nelson Mandela told Zuko, “You must go and welcome those people on behalf of our family.” Zuko came and spent the evening – telling about Nelson Mandela today, how he is doing and let the students ask questions about the living legend. Zuko guided us to Mvezo the following day where we learned about traditional Xhosa culture. The students created a letter that Zuko hand delivered to Nelson Mandela that same evening. This was truly one of those mind blowing, beautiful experiences that make the Traveling School what it is. Our education is built upon place, experience, and connecting with people we meet. Although we all have hopes to meet Nelson Mandela some day, spending time with his family was truly spectacular!

Algebra 2: The students in this class continue to work diligently as they have completed all the sections on Chapter 2: Linear Functions. Students learned to solve linear equations and graph linear functions. This study also included solving and graphing inequalities and absolute value functions. With this knowledge practiced and studied, they completed their Chapter 2 test this past week.

Natural Science: After studying the savannah biome in detail, we spent the past few weeks examining population ecology in terms of how energy flows through an ecosystem. Students completed a thorough study of trophic levels within the savannah ecosystem and created a trophic pyramid with a partner. With field journals in hand, students have examined two new biomes that we have encountered in the past few weeks: the mountains of the Drakensburg and the coastal plains of the Indian Ocean. We’ve examined what formed the Drakensburg mountains and will build upon this as the students travel to Cape Town and hike up Table Mountain. Their first visit to the Indian Ocean was built up through a examination of ocean currents. As we will be traveling along the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean during the semester, the students now understand the defining characteristics of each coast line and what makes these two oceans distinct. We will finish up our population ecology unit with a detailed study of biodiversity, on a genetic, species and ecosystem level.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Mountain Times

The group has emerged from the mountains after some adventurous days of hiking. We climbed up and over boulders through a dried up river gorge to see the stunning array of peaks and valleys. The girls rallied each other throughout the hike and encouraged one another up mountain peaks and ladders. It was a great team building day.

We have been listening to the array of languages spoken throughout the provinces and are busy practicing our clicks so we can interact. These skills will come in handy as we head to the province that Nelson Mandela grew up in.

Everyone is doing great and sends big hugs and hellos to all!

~ Aunge

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

P.E. Class

P.E. at The Traveling School involves a variety of activities from rock climbing and hiking to morning runs and yoga. Recently, the girls practiced their team building and trust tactics while discovering rock climbing routes on the canyon walls. We have focused on getting the entire group into running shape as well as using plyo-metrics and core exercises to promote strong bodies. We also play active games including capture the flag, freeze tag, and ultimate frisbee. Later this week we head to the mountains to hike some incredible mountain passes and challenge ourselves.

Brenna & Caroline


After an early morning jog, breakfast and tea the girls are headed to the British Zulu battlefield. Two different cultures are represented at this battlefield. The first museum is described through an Afrikaner perspective and the second from a Zulu. History comes alive for the girls as they walk through the museum and life size sculptures of loggers (wagons) circled up trying to defend themselves wait for them outside on the battlefield. Tomorrow we are headed for the mountains.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Three School Visits...

The TTS18 students have had the rare opportunity of visiting three different secondary schools within our 2 and ½ weeks of travel. Students visited two private boarding schools (Stanford Lake College and the Southern Cross school) and one public school located in the Engwenya Township near Waterval Boven. They sat in on classes and interacted with students of similar age. Debriefing this experience in our Global Studies class provided a platform for students to discuss their observations and question why. The legacy of apartheid is a theme that has been part of the past few weeks in our discussions. We have discussed observations that the students have made regarding infrastructure of the schools, student and teacher motivation levels, racial divisions amongst students and the variety of culture within student groups. The TTS students have been open and honest in their discussions with each other about what they are seeing and experiencing. To compare and contrast the variety of schooling systems in South Africa first hand is what makes the Traveling School a truly experiential learning experience.

Friday, September 9, 2011

History and Government of Southern Africa Class Update

Our semester began with learning the geography of the African continent with a focus on the newest democratic nation of the South Sudan. The struggle for democracy is a theme that we will discuss throughout the semester. With current knowledge of South African’s political structure and leadership, students have looked to the beginning of colonization and the roots of the Afrikaner identity through readings and discussion. While visiting the Southern Cross school, we had the wondrous opportunity to talk with a freedom fighter from the anti-apartheid movement. He gave the students a brief history and focused on his participation in the ANC (African National Congress) political party beginning in the 1980’s. Having been imprisoned several times for political crimes, he gave the students a unique perspective on race and identity in South Africa today. Discussing the importance of perspective has been a theme and will continue to be as the students visit the site of the famous Battle of Blood River next week, where they will compare and contrast the perspective of the Afrikaner (Boer) and the Zulu during the battle in 1838.

Algebra 2 Class Update

The 6 students in this class have been working hard on reviewing Algebra 1 skills and filling in gaps to make a strong platform for our next 5 chapters. Amongst singing birds and the occasional lizard scurrying through the grass, the students diligently work through their problems and take notes. Sitting in their crazy creek chairs today, we reviewed the 5 types of Parent functions and students refreshed their practice of graphing techniques with their graphing calculators. Our first chapter test is coming up and the students will demonstrate their knowledge of functions, transformations, and simplifying equations with square roots and exponents.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Travel Journalism

Travel journalism has been an eye opening experience for the girls. They are learning how to combine travel in a new country with photography and articulate writing, an asset which will be available to them throughout their life. Three weeks into the course we have touched on basic writing concepts, what journalism is today and how writing techniques change depending on the audience they are writing for.
The students had numerous opportunities in the past week with their cameras in Kruger National Park. Sightings of leopards, lions, elephants, giraffes, sables, hyenas, kudu, impalas and the rare flightless bird the ground horn-bill kept the students on their toes, changing their framing techniques through the truck windows.


The precalculus class is busy reviewing various mathematical terms and strengthening their understanding of how algebraic expressions are defined and used. The students are practicing how to factor polynomials and rationalize denominators. The students are also working on verbalizing their problem solving strategies using succinct language to describe the necessary steps to solve a problem.

Math Concepts

In Math Concepts, the students are debating how money can define happiness for a person, a community, or a culture. They are working to define their individual key points of happiness and which factors contribute to a good quality of life. The students are making personal, financial, and educational goals based on different decision making strategies. This week the class will begin to investigate various banking terminology to set a foundation for the upcoming game of life.

Languages of Southern Africa

"Mengwanane!" and "Halo!" echo throughout the campsite as students practice greetings in various languages. The class is awed by the 11 official languages and is inspired by our guest speakers who are able to speak up to nine different languages fluently. Currently, we are focused on developing our understanding of Afrikaans, an offical South African language derived from Dutch. Earlier this week we practiced our pronunciation of various flowers and gardening tools with first graders at a local school. Next week we will begin studying Zulu while continuing with Afrikaans.

~ Aunge

Natural Science in the Savannah!

It has been an amazing week for the girls in the Natural Science class. Our study of the biomes (desert, semi-desert, grasslands, savannah, forest and fynbos) of southwest Africa led right into the discussion of what wildlife lives in these beautiful places. We got to see the variety of savannah animals close up at the Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Students toured with an expert naturalist and did a focused species study on the hyena, rhino and cheetah. Not only did they learn about these animals, but they had the rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the cheetah, baby black rhino and a variety of vultures. With new information fresh in their heads, we then searched for these illusive animals while on safari in Kruger National Park. Students kept detailed field notes on what species were sighted. More than 30 variety of mammals, birds and reptiles were observed within our 2 days in the park, including baby leopards and a family of hyena outside their den. This information will carry us into our next unit as we examine the interactions that all these species have within the savannah ecosystem.

WOW moments

Once upon a cool September morning the wild African animals gathered under the rising sun and asked one another what they wanted to do today. "Lounge high in the tree and nibble on impala meat," squeaked a little leopard. "Make noise and scare the small animals away," commented a matron elephant. "And lets do it all where some wonderful young ladies in a big blue truck will see us." suggested a wise old rhino. Before long the savannah was filled with anxious animals wanting to go out and play. And so off they went, in packs, prides, and troops to roam about and cause a scene.

Luckily, that same day the TTSers happened to be out on safari with binoculars in hand. Before the sun had reached its peak, the group spotted the big 5 and began to peer deeper into the grasses and see the other mysterious animals relaxing in the sun. And by the end of the safari, the group was lucky enough to see some of the rarest animals of all.

As we drove away from the safari, we heard the animals say good bye and wish us luck on our adventures. The rest of the day was filled with laughter, stories, songs and tales of the elusive Sable antelope.

Literature and Composition

The Literature and Composition class has just finished exploring South African folktales, and we are starting to read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay -this is our first novel of the semester. This coming of age tale tells the story of Peekay, a young South African boy of British descent growing up in World War II-era South Africa. Various characters come into Peekay's life who teach him valuable lessons about race, society, family, love, and the human condition. As the students are traveling through many of the places mentioned in this book and immersing themselves in South Africa, the story takes on a kind of immediacy for them. Already, they are passionately voicing their own observations of South African society and how these observations differ or align with Peekay's experiences. I have been so impressed with each student's enthusiasm, passion, and creativity as we take on various forms of the written word including short-story, poetry, and folktales. Their poems about who raised them were lovely to read; many wrote it was their families,their friends, and the books they read that have influenced who they are today. When the girls were asked to write original folktales about the animals they observed in Kruger National Park, they demonstrated great creativity, humor, and a solid understanding of the elements of traditional storytelling.