Japan Update #3

I was asked by a friend to be part of an aid mission yesterday, and we handed out, made and served over 500 dishes of butter chicken curry and naan in Noda Village in Iwate prefecture.  The whole aid mission was funded by friends and relatives of the restaurant owner in India.  Very generous people and if you ever find yourself in Misawa in Aomori prefecture, make sure to stop off at Ankur Indian Food and thank Mawat himself.  He is a very generous and hard working man, who is working hard to give back to the country that has given him so much.  It was the first time I have ever seen a truck filled with Indian chefs (dressed in full chef clothing nonetheless) filled with curry and complete with two flaming (literally, they were on fire and sending out smoke as we drove) tan-door drums for making naan.  Everything we served was, hot, fresh, handmade, and authentic.  For most of the people in the village, it was their first time to ever eat Indian food.  As Mawat said to them, it is a symbol that the world cares and is trying to help.  Thanks to Mark S (whose 4x4 was the difference between success and failure), Kimio N and family, Mukesh, and all the gentlemen at Ankur.

On a side note, it is very different to see the devastation on TV and up close in person.  Heart-breaking stuff.  Everything is gone.  Though, the people are in high spirits and everybody is working to, as one smiley old man so beautifully said, clean this shit up and get on with our lives.  A strong sense of community exists in this small village, and they are doing their best in the face of extraordinary damage and suffering.  They inspired me to do more and help in ways that go beyond just donating money.  It also gives me hope that Japan will rebuild everything and get on with it, though this situation will never be forgotten.

Also, I am currently working on getting money sent from Canada (via the fathers workplace and company) to make another run as soon as possible.  If you would like to help, contact me at dwyerteacher@gmail.com, and we will how we can help.

NOTE: Even though I took pictures of the event, I will not post them online.  They are personal and I wish them to stay that way.


Japan Update #2

We things are slowly stabilizing in our area of Northern Honshu.  We have a steady trickle of food coming into the supermarket with essentials (milk for my baby is my main concern) if you are willing to brave the long lines in the morning.  Even still, there is a limit to how much you can buy.  We are remaining calm and never buying more than we need.  Everybody needs to work together to get through this.  Panicking and hoarding will only make matters worse.  I was outside watering my tomato plants and I saw kids playing and families washing their cars.  Still, a sense of urgency and pain in beneath it all.

I have been very disappointed with the foreign media.  They are making the situation worse and taking attention away from the area of Japan that needs it most.  I have also been talking with members of the Aomori government, trying to get someone to open up the village to refugees who have no home.  From my early contacts, wheels are in motion but I will not hear until next week what is being done.  My wife and I have a standing offer that our home to open to anybody who wants to come and live with us, for as long as they need.  I hope bureaucracy does not kill the generosity of good people who care.

In other news, all of my students have gone back to France.  I do not begrudge their decision and I wish them the best of luck and happy journeys.  I hope they return, but if not, I fear I will be without a job come summer.  That is on my mind but I at the moment I am still focused on doing what I can to help those who were not as lucky as us.  Jobs and such will work itself out in the end.

I have chosen NOT to leave Japan (unless I lose my job!), NOT to panic, and NOT to promote fear mongering that the foreign media is selling.  If I have to leave because I am unemployed, I will return one day so my son and live here and be proud of where he is from.  Thanks to all the hard workers on the Twitterverse who are alliterating the fear (Ken Mogi!).  Japan will rise again, bigger, stronger and faster than ever,  This much I know.  My passport says Canada but my heart will always be in Japan.



Japan Update

I have so much I want to say, but I cannot find the words to express it.  After the first quake hit we lost power for about 30 hours.  The community came together and kept each other informed and tried to alleviate stress.  Right before we were set to go to bed on the second night the power clicked back on, and we finally saw the images that you all had been seeing for the last day.  Devastating.  We had no idea it was this bad.  I am at a complete loss of words now.  I am thankful that my family is safe, but I am hurt by what is happening to this country that I love so dearly.  My passport may say Canada on it, but part of me will always be Japanese.  All I can do now is wait and see, and that is the most frustrating thing.


Here is a link where you can donate money to the Japanese Red Cross.


And here is a fantastic blog post I came across that sums up how the Japanese are responding.  I am grateful I live in such an incredible country, because this disaster could have easily been much worse, had it not been for the preparedness and quick work of so many.

At the moment, our area is rationing gas and the food supply is running low.  However, we are hopeful that the situation will improve for us and supplies will start to trickle.  I hope that the supplies are sent to the areas that need it most before they are sent to us.



Understanding Probability

This lesson is designed to help students understand the mechanics of experimental probability. Second, it is also a good way for students to make a link between the difference in experimental probability and theoretical probability. And finally, it helps students to organize data in a neat and orderly manner.

1. Introduce a cloth bag (or a hat) and tell the students that there are 12 blocks inside. This is the only information you will give the students. Before the lesson, choose 12 blocks (chips, pens, etc) and put them in the bag. I use 4 different colors in my bag in the following denominations, 6, 3, 2, 1; because these numbers are easily divisible by 12, 6, 4, 3, 2) to find a probability percentage. Of course, all the students know is that you have 12 blocks in the bag, they know nothing about the number of colors not the quantities of each color.

2. Explain to the the students that you are going to pull out one block at a time, they record will record it, and you will put it back in the bag.  The objective of the activity, determine how many of of each color block is in the bag using experiential probability.  There are several key points you will be looking for, or will need to help your learners with:

  • Let them come up with their own system for recording the data.  Most will choose a tally or a table.  After you have pulled about ten blocks, it would be useful to stop and ask the students to share their recording methods in a Think/Pair/Share.  Give time for students to readjust their method.

  • Let the students determine how many trials you will do.  Ask them before you start how many pulls they think they need to figure out the problem.  Once you get to that number, you can reevaluate if it was enough.

The math on this may give them a problem.  Once, you have done enough trials, ask the students to try and solve the puzzle.  The key to figuring out the puzzle is by finding the fraction or percent of the trails, and then applying that to the bag.  For example, if there were 20/80 blocks in the trial that were red, that means that 1/4 (or 25%) of the trial pulls were red.  The conclusion that one could make from this is that there are 25% red blocks in the bag, and 25% of 12 is 3.


Math and Cheese

Since earlier in the week I have been obsessed with melting cheese in microwaves.  I haven't actually done it, but I have been watching videos of others doing.  Dan Meyer posted a great series of ideas and lessons, and it got me thinking. Here is the link to all Dan's work http://blog.mrmeyer.com/. Great stuff!

[WCYDWT] Cheese Blocks — Cheese Cubes from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

As a class we watched the video. The kids though it was amazing and it opened a floodgate of questions. I teach grade 4/5, and we working out fractions at the moment, so I turned it into a fraction problem that we worked through as a group. They worked in groups and made a poster showing their strategies. Here is a link to our GoogleDocs Presentation where we recorded some of our work as a way to debrief after the lesson.

At the beginning of this year I ave each of students a small notebook that they could stick in their pocket with a little golf pencil attached to it. I asked them to write down anything that made them wonder, or strange questions they had. It started off wonderfully, but has been slowly disappearing and interest in the book has been waning. This video however, perked a lot of ears up.

Thanks Dan. Keep up the good work.

Thank you to Skype and GoogleDocs

I would like to send out a sincere thank you to Skype and GoogleDocs. You have made my life easier. The collaboration at our school has increased in quantity and quality since we started using these two platforms as a form of communication. We are more organized, better versed, and ultimately, our students benefit. However, that is not why I would like to thank you. My reasons are selfish.

You see, my wife is a University student, studying a psychology degree at an open university in Canada while we live in Japan (she has her own reasons for thanking you). Everyday, because of Skype and GoogleDocs, I am able to go home at the same time as the kids do, and take care of our son while she goes to the library. While at home, I communicate with my colleagues on Skype, and edit documents, plans, and reports on GoogleDocs. It feels as if I am still at work, though if I need to take ten minutes to change a diaper or read a book, I am able.

Under normal circumstances, I would be stuck at work until 5:30 or 6:00. My son (who is two) goes to bed at about 8:00. That means I would only get two hours with him. Now, I get a full four hours everyday, I get to be there for dinner, bath and bed-time. The time we spend together is what motivates me to do a better job for my students. I am thankful for this time I get to spend with him, and for that I have my colleagues and these two platforms to thank.

So, from a father of a two-year old, I say, Thank You.


Fractions and Percents; Math Ideas

Here is a fun little activity I made for my kids to work on today.  Great activity for converting percents to fractions and seeing the link between them. PDF Percents and Fractions

Percents and Fractions