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November 2011

In this issue

The Secret Lives of Monks

Walking on Air

A Flatter World

"[Your project] has all the elements for the best practices in education - authentic assessment, tech skills, student driven, real world problem solving, and a focus on making students true global citizens. "
Reuben Hoffman
West Hills High School
Santee, CA

What We Do


For the first time, students Take 2 summarythroughout North America have the opportunity to edit National Geographic-quality raw footage to create their own documentaries and shorts. Take 2 is offering in-depth, professional footage that comes with a comprehensive curriculum and teaching tools that meet national curricular standards for English, social studies, economics, government, science, and media. Teachers do not need to have any video or editing skills. Comprehensive curricula, student activities, worksheets, and teaching tools are available in the supporting materials.

For more information, please visit

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Thank you!

Thank you so much to our friends, board members, and supporters whose generosity is making all of this possible:

Pete Colhoun

James and Sheila Schultz

Mark Bussey

The National Geographic Society

David and Louise Schulman

Anne Brooks

Jessica Padilla

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The Secret Lives of Monks

Though I am not Buddhist, I was allowed to enter Japan's Mount Koya monastery monks in Japanas an acolyte, to film the lives of the monks from the inside out. I stayed in an ancient wooden temple, its walls made of paper and its floors polished to a high shine from hundreds of years of silent monks slippered feet.

Every morning at 5AM, a monk would beat an enormous bell with a metal mallet until we all scrambled out of bed and gathered for several hours of dedicated chanting. Breakfast was a single bowl of rice and a piece of pickle. The other acolytes and I then set to our main chore scrubbing every inch of the seeming miles of wooden floors and stairs.

I didn't take my video camera out for at least a week. I tried to learn the chants, to sit still and think of nothing, while my eyes wandered to the window and my mind thought, It's 6:10AM, light's falling right across the head monk's face. Great shot.

Ten days into my stay, a Pakistani film crew came through. Like most production teams, they had only two hours to get their footage, so everything was pre-scripted, with story and shots already decided. They focused on our youngest acolyte an 8-year-old boy who chanted obligingly, then went through his chores without ever cracking a smile. I knew exactly what their punch line was going to be that this poor young kid was living a strict and unnatural childhood.

But I knew Tomo's secret. He was in fact an household name in Japan a champion video game player. The same powers of concentration that he had learned from chanting sutras hour after hour came in handy when he went online for competitions. And, since my room was next to his in the acolytes quarters, I also knew that he had a wall of music CDs, liked to lift weights, and never made his bed. When I did finally start to film his life, my conclusions were a little different from the Pakistani crew. Despite Tomo's rather extraordinary upbringing, he was still just an ordinary kid.

Footage from Tomo and other aspects of Japanese life will soon be available for students to edit through Take 2.

Walking on Air

All nonprofit organizations dream of getting a major grant. Problem is, most foundations want you to be able to prove that not only are you performing an extremely important service, but that you can measure your success by the cup, or calorie, or kid. If you happen to run a community swim program, this is easy: kids need to learn to swim so that they don't drown in the local quarry, the way little Tommy did six years ago. And as a result of our program, 23 fifth graders will learn to swim fifty meters in under two minutes.

But how on earth do you measure Global Citizenship? Do you ask students if they know the capital of Sudan? That's geography. Whether they read the papers? Have foreign friends?

Luckily there are experts out there who know how to develop tests to measure almost any outcomes. Unluckily, we can't afford them unless we get a grant, and we can't get a grant unless we hire them.

So here is my outcome measure:

In early 2011, Sudan had elections to determine if the southern half of the country would declare independence. One teacher from a small public school in Illinois wrote to me to say that three parents had clipped articles on the elections from the New York Times and sent them in to class with their kids. She then went on to explain that teenage boys never talk about their school projects with their parents, and that this meant those seventeen-year-olds had not only told their parents, but gotten them fired up enough about it that mom and dad had started following the news on Sudan themselves. And that in this was the first time in thirty years of teaching that she had seen this happen.

Was it enough to get us a grant? I doubt it. Did it make me dance around for a day or two? Hell yes.

A Flatter World

ewasteWe breathe air from Chinese factories while they dispose of our waste. Nuclear fallout knows no respect for national borders and over fishing crashes ecosystems half a world away. Environmental problems have become planetary in scope and can only be solved through global cooperation.

This year Take 2 is focusing on environmental issues. Our first seven topics - Global Warming, Solar Energy, California Water, Wind Energy, The Water Cycle, Recycling, and Overfishing - will be available to students across the country within four weeks. To find out more, visit our website in early December!


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