Each year, students in Pia De Leon’s fourth-grade class at River Oaks Elementary School study Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a children’s book about a girl who died from leukemia as a result of radiation poisoning during World War II.
This summer, De Leon will be traveling to the very Japanese city in which that story is set, Hiroshima, where she will visit the Children’s Peace Memorial in honor of the child for whom the book was named, Sadako Sasaki.
“I reflected non-stop about where I would want to go and why,” wrote De Leon in her blog. “Students end up loving the novel and they talk about it long after we have finished. I will come face-to-face with Sadako’s statue and next school year, when I teach this novel again, I will be the living, breathing monument of her for my students.”
De Leon is one of a dozen HISD teachers who will be traveling the globe this summer, thanks to Fund for Teachers (FFT), a non-profit organization that allows educators to envision their own most-meaningful professional development opportunities and then provides them with the means to finance the trips over the summer break.
Other HISD teachers who won FFT grants in 2014 include: Gloria and Gregory Freitag (Project Chrysalis MS), who will be studying the impact of power plants on flora and fauna along the Pacific coast; Shana Steinhardt (Garden Oaks Montessori), who will be exploring the steppes of Mongolia to enrich her Asian social studies curriculum; and Rebecca Stewart (Benavidez ES), who will be visiting art museums in Amsterdam to draw inspiration from original masterpieces by painters such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
In addition to her visit to the Children’s Peace Memorial, De Leon will be studying how Japanese teachers promote independent thinking and inquiry outside of the classroom, a key component of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, which River Oaks ES is authorized to offer.
You can monitor De Leon’s progress or read about her plans to sleep in a “pod” hotel, efforts to learn Japanese, and other glitches in the preparation process in her blog, which she created specifically to chronicle her experiences as a Fund for Teachers grant winner.