Friday, September 21, 2012

Community Service in Action!

D.A.T.A.'s 7th grade World Geography students are currently participating in a PBL (Project-Based Learning) unit studying the fall of the Roman Empire and comparing and contrasting its fall to the weaknesses in modern-day America.  Since America is experiencing several similar weaknesses, students are working in teams to develop their own community service projects to help prevent a similar fall of America.  Some teams are addressing the issue of homelessness and beginning fundraisers to create "care kits" for the homeless, another team is attempting to fight crime on our school campus by creating "crime boxes" for anonymous tips on crimes, while others are befriending kids with cancer with teddy bears and foster children with pen pal letters.  On September 20, 2012, one team went on a mission to encourage kids to stay drug-free.  Accompanied by Miss Lukins, the team of four girls visited a fourth-grade classroom at E.P. Foster and presented a PowerPoint and engaged the 4th graders in a VTS (Visible Thinking Strategies) discussion using images comparing and contrasting a drug-addicted and drug-free lifestyle.  They then passed out coloring sheets with "Say No to Drugs" themes that the 4th graders eagerly colored.  At the end of their presentation, the four D.A.T.A. 7th graders were presented with a "police for the day" badge by a Ventura policeman accompanied by Mr. Carlos Covarrubias, principal at E.P. Foster.  The girls left empowered with a memorable experience and the 4th graders were left with an inspirational message to positively influence their lives.  Way to go D.A.T.A. scholars!  Your community service is making an impact in people's lives!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Connecting the Roman Empire to America through Community Service

After comparing and contrasting the weaknesses of the Roman Empire to America, students in room A-4 are on a mission to prevent America from falling like the Roman Empire!  Working in teams, students are creating community service projects to target America's weaknesses such as homelessness, vandalism, crime, drugs, bullying, starvation, disease, etc. After planning a community service project (based on similar weaknesses to the Roman Empire and internet research), students design posters to show the steps of implementing their community service and the cause and effects of the impact of their service.  Finally, students create eye-catching flyers to showcase and advertise their community service projects.  Experience student interaction and excitement to save America in the photos below!  Also, stay tuned for their finished presentations of the complete project...

Video of Cause & Effect of Fall of Roman Empire:
Video of explanation of Community Service (using flyer):

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If I were a Roman...Narrative Writing

Students immersed themselves in creativity today during a 20-minute power-writing session pretending to be a person living in the Roman Empire during its fall.  Using their knowledge of the weaknesses of the empire, their stream of consciousness, and imagination, students wrote powerful and chilling narratives as one of the following:  emperor/empress, Roman soldier, citizen/noble, farmer, merchant, homeless person, slave, or barbarian.  Students finally shared and enjoyed each others narratives on Edmodo (our online classroom).  Enjoy some student narrative examples below:

Young Farmer Girl:
Dear Diary,
     There’s so much to say. My mother is ill, my father is in war. There was no easy way to tell myself, I was going to die. My father was a farmer, we all were in fact. But he wanted to help the city of Rome and he became a soldier. My mother and I have been waiting for my father to die. We knew that the Barbarians were too harmful, merciless, to let my father flee. He put himself in a trap. My name is Lea, short but simple, just like me. I helped my baby brother in my spare time which meant whenever I wasn’t helping out in the farm. I was already old enough to start doing my own things. My brother is only three, he is ill along with my mother. They haven’t eaten in weeks, I already knew the feeling, my mother had to work, my father had to fight, and my brother, well he was only an infant. I could sacrifice a dinner or two every now and then.
     I was tough for only being seventeen. There was no way that the Romans would be able to defeat the Visigoths, they were much too strong. My father sacrificed his life to work in the military for free because the people of Rome needed that money for themselves, they needed it to eat and take care of their families, they couldn’t give that much to the military, they were so greedy. The emperor is spoiled rotten with all of his slaves and servants, he sickens me. And don’t even got me started on his brat of a daughter. She gets whatever she wants. While they away sleeping sweet, the city of Rome is scavenging for every croock and penny.
     We were suffering from inflation. Badly. The bread costs more than two golden coins now! Well the coins aren’t even that golden those greedy people up in the higher class have used it all! Because people were becoming unemployed every day, there were more and more homeless people. We’ve already have three break-through in our small apartment all the way at the top of the building. But those silly emperors will probably die from led disease before the Visigoths could kill them! Our pipes were giving away disease, along with the over population in the Coliseum. Did you know that my mother made me eat the dead gladiator’s stomach!? Gross! I almost threw up! But food is food, you know? 
     Do you know how they chose our emperor this past election? Well we didn’t actually. The new emperor basically bought his way up the throne, it was between him and some other guy who apparently had less golden coins. But then this new emperor who had one too many golden coins raised our prices even more! I was so ashamed of him. I pity the fool. My mother envies him and it sickens me. I was thinking of crossing the border to Byzantine Empire where there was hardly any trouble. But they were probably next on the Visigoths hit list right after us. I heard that the Visigoths were mean and viscous. But my father says that some were nice and merciful. That they only came for food and shelter not to fight; they were all scared of the Huns. It wouldn’t be long before my father figured out who they really were.
     But there is so much to sacrifice that you might as well let the Visigoths kill you. Why would you run if you knew they were everywhere? Why would you hide if you know you were going to be found? That’s why I don’t eat all the time, so that my infant brother will have more of his life ahead of him. Why would you fight, if you knew there were so many? So why should you live, if you already know, that you’re going to die?

Roman Soldier:
     Hello, I am a Roman soldier named James. I have been serving Rome for many years and I have noticed our military growing weak lately and we have really had to ration any food and water we get. Five years after I joined the army, the Roman Empire started going downhill. Each day feels shorter and colder as we approach the cold winters. We have noticed with how much money they have spent on the military gear, has affected on our food. Each day, many of us fall from weakness and illness. Our group is slowly getting smaller and smaller. When we engage in battle with barbarians, many of us fall but some barely have the energy to make it out of the battle alive. Soon the barbarians will be able to get through. The Visigoths attack usually because we have taken their children as slaves and we can’t hold them much longer. What used to be a mighty empire slowly falls as the emperors don’t even care and they waste themselves getting drunk. Many of the emperors have also been assassinated.
     We finally get to go in Rome for a day to be with our family which is lucky for us because usually men don’t get to ever see their families again. After the day we got off, we were called into battle. The Visigoths have pulled together a huge attack when the gates to Rome were opened. All the soldiers have been called for this battle. I charge in on my horse and when I arrive at the battle I can already see many Roman bodies lying on the ground and Visigoths slowly gaining ground. I meet a barbarian in battle my sword clanked against his. I did a quick maneuver to disarm him and finally take him down and then I move to the next guy. I do this for over an hour slowly falling back but their numbers this time seem endless. Soon I see some more soldiers who come to help us and we gain ground on the barbarians for only five minutes before they get the upper hand again. For another half an hour we fight a long battle when suddenly they pull back but for some reason I don’t think that was the last of them.
     A few minutes later they make a rush with even more men, but luckily, all our men were still ready at the gates to meet them in battle. This time they were killing faster than ever and we needed more reinforcements fast. But this time I fought for only half an hour before I felt a sharp pain in the back of my neck and fell forward………

Roman Slave:
     As a slave, I have never been happy. But as the homeless become dirty cannibals, and the streets smell of decaying corpses and moldy flesh, I feel more fortunate. But it all changed the day I went insane. My eyes twitched in the misty daylight, the smell of burning tobacco from my master swirled in the air, crawling into my lungs. My heart beat so fast it felt it would suddenly stop from exasperation. The bugs crawled up my arms, and into my soul, eating up my memories. The image was foggy, for my eyes were swollen up, my vision blurs, I’m whipped, my skin breaks, I fall down in a thrashing disarray of uncontrolled lashing around. I was uncontrolled, as if the devil himself lived inside me. I fall down, like a dead animal rotting from raw flesh and moldy blood. 
     I wake up on the backside of an abandoned building, my tongue is like sandpaper, and I crave the taste of meat suddenly the insects lead me to a decayed body, cut in every which way from bloodshed in gladiator fights. I have to eat, but I must not eat a fellow slave. My hunger overwhelms me; I have to. The warmth is good, and next all I see is a pile of scrapped bones. All on my mind is RUN! I must leave before my hunger and insanity take command.
     The king disgusts me, but recently the rich have been dying from poisoning of lead. Serves ‘em right! Now the homeless seem to be better off than many wealthy citizens, although they complain that us slaves have taken all of the jobs that the unemployed lived off of. Why are they complaining? I only just got whipped this morning, or after noon; this reminds me of the large gash on my back. When I look it isn’t there! It was all insanity, I want suicide. The bugs crawl into my heart, take control, there no longer is the slave I once was. As I slowly depart from Rome, and the world, I think it’s over. Rome deserves to fall. And insanity will always win!

Visigoth barbarian invader:
      Hi, I am Maritza and I am a Visagoth. I live at the edge of the west right by the east. We mostly eat fish because we live next to a river. My people are planning their attack on Rome. I live in a small hut with my parents and my two little sisters. My father works making plans for the attacks. My mom usually tends to work around the village. Most boys my age are training to hunt and fight. Girls usually just tend to the work. Kids usually are taught about our history and our ancestors. 
       Rome doesn’t know that we are planning our attack because we are quite friendly with them. Tomorrow they are coming to trade. Everyone is very excited. I will inform you about it later because I must go to bed. This morning I got dressed and woke my sisters. We heard the Romans coming so got everybody lined up. The Roman leader whispered something to the leader of our village and his face went pale. He ordered the children under ten to line up. I was a bit confused but went with it. I saw my sisters line up with the rest of the village children. At first they brought out a big rope and called over my sisters and a few other kids. At first I thought it was part of the trade but then they tied them up and everyone started screaming. My sisters were crying a lot. Then the leader yelled at the Romans to release the children but they just propped them up on a white horse.
       My father and the other men started to fight but they just killed them off. My father got a nasty cut on his leg and was rushed to the medicine hut. The Romans left with my sisters and my mother and the rest of the mothers were crying. I felt so sad my heart sank. That night we held a meeting and we all agreed that Rome was going down. We trained and trained till all the men were ready. We all planned where we would come in from and cut off their supplies first to weaken them. This plan was made by my father who was most enraged with the Romans taking my sisters. Then after they would invade on planning to bring down Rome once and for all. The days passed quickly getting closer and closer to the attack day.
      The day of the attack my father asked me to go with them to tend to their needs while trying to conquer Rome. So on our journey we traveled through boats. It was very cold so a little bit of the young soldiers died. Everyone was really hungry because we had finished the food the day before. As we came closer and closer to Rome everyone was very anxious because my plan was while the men fought, I would find my sisters. We cut off supplies coming in by sinking the trade boat. So everyone was starving. Then we attacked. There was bloodshed everywhere. I made my way through Rome so quick I don’t even remember seeing anything. I heard my sisters screaming so I turned left to the sound. As I ran to the house a Roman soldier slit my throat and I died that night. We conquered Rome very easily because Rome had many weaknesses. I never found out if my sisters were saved or not. I am a ghost and I just wanted someone to know my story. Goodbye.

Homeless Person:
    Half eaten bread, moldy cheese, and stale wine fall into the garbage. I scramble to the can, fend off other starvin’ citizens and grab the meal. Because I am homeless, I live behind the palace near the garbage so I can collect the unwanted delicacies. “Common, Lena, give I some.” My best friend Autumn wails (by the way, my real name is Magdalene). I scavenge a piece of cheese and bread for her and we take turns sippin’ the wine. Tonight we ate a delicious feast. 
    I used to live in a nice house and I used to work as a farmer, but when the emperor raised the taxes I couldn’t pay my workers and I had to let them go. Then I wasn’t makin’ enough income to pay the rent so my home was taken away by guards, now I am homeless. The emperor was chosen because he had the most money after the last emperor was assassinated. This new emperor is cruel and lazy! While half his empire is starvin’ and homeless, he is stuffin’ his face with fine dainty food in his palace. While the empire is bein’ attacked by barbarians he is sittin’ up in his castle doin’ nothin’. 
    The palace homeless (that’s what we call ourselves, those that live near the palace) walked to the gladiator show and watched the games. One homeless person bought a dead gladiator. When we got back, the other homeless starting eating the dead body. I ate some cheese and bread from the night before. 
Rome is starting to suffer from these barbarian attacks, and the lazy emperor is helpin’ at all! I’m getting’ ill from the dirty streets. Maybe I will find refuge somewhere.

Roman Merchant:
     Sorry I didn’t know you were there. I am a busy merchant these days. This little shop that you are standing in belongs to me. I guess since you’re here I will tell you a story. It was 50 years ago; the Roman Empire had grown very weak. We all knew what was coming when the army started to auction of the throne to the highest bidder. I was in shock. I knew that the emperors before had been assassinated, but I did not know that the empire was unreasonable enough to sell the throne to those lazy and greedy rich people. The worst was when the greedy emperors would eat themselves sick and leave everyone else to starve and die. I would have to look down when I walked through the streets just so that I would not cry when I saw the homeless people dying. Then the wealthy began to die off because they thought it was a good idea to get lead pipes, obviously not if it killed them. Then people were over consuming alcoholic beverages and food. The blood shed that when on in the coliseum did not help one bit either. I even had to start raising my prices because roman people were using their gold on luxury items. The streets were not safe and violent crimes were taking place all over the empire. Then, because I live right by the border I spotted something fishy coming our way. It was a black line over the horizon. We later found out it was the Visigoths, you could say we found out the hard way. They had surrounded our city. What would we do? The only thing I could do is flee. I fled to the empire of Byzantine, which used to be a part of the Roman Empire. I left just in time because a day later the barbarians broke into the city and raided the empire. All in Rome was lost. Thousands and thousands of people were killed I was so thankful I left. Now as you see I built a new shop. So that was my story. If I may ask are you going to buy that?

Roman Citizen:
Dear Journal, 
     This is the first page of my journal. This paper was found on the dirty streets in my ramshackle, crumbling town. Well, it’s not really my town. I don’t actually feel like I belong here. Of course, I wish I didn’t. I have no home like a citizen should. I have no job in the group process of a successful society like a citizen should. When I moved my family out here everything was fine. It was more than fine really. It was extraordinary. More wealthy and wonderful than you could ever imagine. But time has passed and with time comes change. There is always change. Even when you hope your life will never change. Even when you are striving for the best in your life, pages turn. I was striving for the best in my life: you know moving my family to this conquering civilization and all. I got a job as a farmer growing crops in a vast field that stretches for miles on end. Then the cruelty and corruption in our army and government settled in. This is where my pages turned.
     I watched as the slaves marched in multiple single file lines. The loud boom of our ruler’s voice shouting commands sent vibration down my spine. I knew this was the end of it all. There were too many, the lot of them. So many slaves and so many bidders dying to buy! Near the close of the auction a tear trickled down my face. I wasn’t sure exactly what problems it was going to cause, but I knew deep in my heart what most people didn’t know: slavery was wrong. I don’t know how I knew this. It was like a very classified secret, although for all my years I didn’t know who told it to me. I just knew. 
     Time flashed by and before I knew it my family was up out of of our home on the farm and down onto the cold concrete of the streets. We hit hard and so unexpectedly. Our replacement was the poor slaves. This was the heavy fall of my family and I. I can only guess now that pretty soon will arrive the fall of the great Roman Empire.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Visible Thinking Strategies & the Fall of Rome

Students put their thoughts down on paper today using a Visible Thinking Strategy (VTS) called "Cause and Effect Chain of Events."  Students were given a list of 33 weaknesses of the Roman Empire that led to its fall, a packet of sticky notes, markers, and a piece of poster paper.  Their task was to use their creativity to show cause-and-effect examples leading to the fall of Rome.  Using higher-level thinking, students had to first categorize weaknesses and then put them in an order showing cause-and-effect that they could easily argue and support with evidence.  Below, enjoy their creativity, interaction, discussion, and debates as they put their thoughts to paper!

Video - Explanation of cause & effect on "Fall of Rome" poster: