Teaching & Learning Blog

My Summer at Tech Camp

Amy Abeln is an educator in Chicago. This summer, for the 3rd year in a row, she is teaching the technology curriculum at El Valor’s Summer Camp, a free ecology and technology program for 9- to 14-year-olds kids in Chicago’s predominantly Latino Pilsen neighborhood. In this opinion blog, Abeln writes about how the camp, supported through community partnerships, has had a transformative effect on both her and her students. (My Summer at Tech Camp ceased publishing in August 2007.)

Education Opinion The End and the Beginning
Graduation. It’s an iconic scene. It’s the same everywhere. A universal passage of sorts. I experienced my sixth graduation from Camp El Valor, six graduations in three years. And now my summer job is over.
August 30, 2007
3 min read
Education Opinion My Acting Debut
Institutionalized discrimination. What is it?
“If a particular group is disproportionately absent in comparison to the pool of those possessing the relevant skills, discrimination is occurring even if it is impossible to document specific individual instances.” – Jo Freeman
August 21, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Whose Job Is It?
Today at Tech Camp, my friend/colleague told me her story. She is taking a serious pay cut to switch from public schools to museum education. A $14,000 pay cut. She told me she loved the kids but couldn’t deal with the crazy administrative rules that, I believe, stifle the true art of teaching. A few things really summed up her five plus years as a public school teacher, but one story stood out in her mind above the rest.
August 14, 2007
3 min read
Education Opinion Fat is Contagious
Two weeks ago, I was on vacation in northern Minnesota and I was in the country. Midway through the week, we were running low on necessary vacation beverages, so my husband and I drove 30 miles on dirt and paved country roads to the nearest convenient store. While in “town” at this shop, we took a few moments to watch FOX-ified CNN on the television that hung prominently in a well-viewed corner. (Note: Over the bar.) I learned three things in less than 10 seconds. The Dow had dropped by 300 points, Lindsay Lohan was off the wagon and, horror of horrors, FAT IS CONTAGIOUS!
August 7, 2007
3 min read
Education Opinion A Multiage Challenge
After returning from a week long vacation, I am back at Camp El Valor for the second four-week session and I must admit, I am very excited! We have the same curriculum, but new faces and new challenges. The first difference I've noticed is the wider range of ages. Last session saw mostly fifth and sixth graders. This session has quite a different split: several incoming fourth graders, as well as several incoming freshman with a strong showing of all ages in between.
July 31, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Moving On
In her blog last week, New Terrain, Jessica Shyu posed the question, "Why do teachers stay?" I think a lot about why teachers quit. But Jessica’s question demands optimism, something that is easy to lose in this profession.
July 22, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion A Meaningful Experience
We have entered the fourth and final week of camp session one. We just returned from camping in Mokena, IL, a first for many of these children. I’ve enjoyed seeing them in a new environment. We met a skunk, a groundhog, a coyote, two gray wolves and a raccoon from the Big Run Wolf Ranch, a federally licensed non-profit educational facility specializing in North American wildlife. We helped replant the prairie at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. We identified caterpillars in the wild and studied butterflies gently swooped up in butterfly nets. We learned how to watch for birds using binoculars.
July 17, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Science or Technology?
Two cheerful and gifted girls sit in the back row of my morning technology class.
July 8, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Recharge
Recharge. This is what teachers do in the summer. My batteries run out of juice around April. By mid-June, when Chicago Public Schools let out, I feel completely deflated—and not from the students. This past year I started my own business to meet the needs of after school programming because I was unable to find a job in a school suitable for me. Sounds a little particular for someone with no health insurance, but I had worked in an unsuitable school before—a junior high with metal detectors and aggressive guards, where I witnessed the principal slap a kid across the his head and I taught thirteen-year-old babies with babies. The same unsuitable school where police barged into my classroom to question my 7th grade student, and my coworker was trampled by a troupe of 8th grade boys.
July 3, 2007
3 min read