Friday, September 21, 2012

IREX Brazil Video Collection!

Hello, everyone! It's been a while since I last posted. The summer has flown by quickly as I spent much of it preparing for a new teaching position. I have moved on up to high school after having spent five glorious years teaching youngsters ages 9-14. I also now teach two courses that I have never instructed before - Digital Photography and Computer Art (Photoshop, really). I hold certifications in both Art and Technology, so this new role has both sides of my brain lighting up constantly. Needless to say, I have been incredibly busy.

With that said, I haven't had much time to address my other great passion, global education. I have been in fairly regular contact with my amazing Brazilian host teacher (mostly via Facebook chats) and I am hoping that once the dust settles at the new job, we can put something substantial together - perhaps a collaborative photo essay project, an ad campaign (PSA) for a social issue our schools may have in common (bullying comes to mind), or ideally, a student exchange program. I will keep you posted as things develop.

Meanwhile, since our second IREX Global Education Symposium is quickly approaching, I thought it would be convenient to showcase all of the videos I shot which document our trip to Brazil here in a single post. I am really proud of how there clips capture what my fellow teachers and I experienced while visiting this beautiful and diverse country. I think I can speak on behalf of the other Brazil IREXers when I say that it was a life-changing journey for us all. Thanks again to IREX for providing us all with Sony Bloggies! It proved to be invaluable, as it is a small, inconspicuous, yet high quality camera.

DAY ONE - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY TWO - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY THREE - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY FOUR - Brasilia, D.F.

DAY FIVE - Brasilia D.F.
A video of my school in the U.S. that I shared with Brazilian students - it was a big hit!

DAY SIX - Japeri, Rio de Janeiro

DAY SEVEN - Nova Iguacu, Rio de Janeiro

DAY EIGHT - Rio de Janeiro (Copacabana, Sugar Loaf)

DAY ELEVEN - Downtown Rio and more.

DAY TWELVE (PART ONE) - Nilopolis, Rio de Janeiro

DAY TWELVE (PART TWO) - Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

I also shot hundreds of pictures while in Brazil which I will post to Flickr shortly (the link will be provided here if you are interested). Brazilians love getting their pictures taken, as you can see in the videos above. And there is certainly no shortage of beautiful scenery to photograph, too. 

Believe it or not, I still have so much to write about Brazil. I hope to find the time in the upcoming weeks to detail our meetings with the diplomats at the US Embassy in Brasilia, the city of Brasilia itself, and more information concerning the Brazilian school system as it strives to serve as the underpinning of a powerful and globally relevant 21st Century Brazil. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Industrial Strength Hospitality

Now that I have recharged a bit during my much needed summer break, I am ready to hit the ground running with some fresh blog entries. Since I have so much yet to say about my trip to Brazil, I thought a good place to start would be to write a long overdue entry about my host teacher, Eduardo Vasconcellos.

Prior to departing America, Eduardo and I spoke at length via Skype about what to expect once David (my co-teacher) and I arrived in Brazil. During these conversations, he was always courteous and provided answers in great detail to all of my questions and concerns. This proved to be true once we met in the flesh, as well. While some other teachers in our IREX Brazil cohort were often left to their own devices by their host teachers, Eduardo ensured that David and I were always pointed in the right direction and treated like kings.

David, Eduardo and I meeting for the first time at the airport in Rio de Janeiro.

He enlisted a veritable army of friends and relatives to drive, entertain and chaperone us throughout our stay. I titled this post "Industrial Strength Hospitality" for a reason. At any time of the day or night, Eduardo and his entourage, Adriana, Claudio (see my other post entitled, "Driving in Rio"), and Eduarda appeared seemingly out of nowhere to escort us to the next event on our densely-packed itinerary.

A typical day during our visit.

David and I would often sit in the back seat of the car amazed. Not only was Eduardo incredibly kind and thoughtful, he seemed to be a perpetual motion machine, never losing steam, even after spending 16 hours shuttling between four different teaching locations and various social engagements. It would be nearly impossible to reciprocate this kind of hospitality. As an example, after one particularly long outing to downtown Rio, we arrived back in Nova Iguacu to be greeted at the train station by two of Eduardo's dear friends. It was 10 PM by this time and we were completely tired out, but David and I mustered a second wind and spent the next few hours eating, drinking and laughing with more new friends. "We'll sleep when we're dead," David and I would joke.

Out to a late dinner with more new friends.

Then we would be up again bright and early the next day to meet Eduardo in the lobby of our hotel (although, notably, these meetings took place later and later as our visit progressed). Out the door we would head to a car where Adriana would be waiting as our chauffer (after having already spent the early morning baking for her real job). We spent each day visiting students, teachers and administrators at each of Eduardo's schools (did I mention he works at four of them?!?), feasting on amazing spreads of food, enjoying musical performances and sharing details of our respective cultures. Many of these "meetings" seemed very fluid, informal and impromptu and would meander for hours, although Eduardo insisted that we were on a "schedule," which became a running joke. We were on "Brazil Time." As I have mentioned in almost every post so far, Brazilians are very affectionate and physical and after our meetings would end, David and I would be seen off in a flurry of hugs, handshakes and kisses. At one point, I turned to Eduardo and said, "The goodbyes take longer than the actual meeting. I feel like I'm at an Italian wedding!"

We quickly discovered during our stay that Eduardo is an expert on all things Brazil - its education system, culture, customs, history, and food. He is an ambassador, a dignitary, the mayor of both Nilopolis and Nova Iguacu, and the ultimate host. David and I saw and learned more about Brazil in our week in Rio than most people could have in a year and I am eternally grateful for a truly life-changing experience.

Eduarda and Eduardo during lunch in downtown Rio.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Other Blog

I have another blog, which I will be dedicating to digital photography and computer art moving forward:

I will be posting pics, Photoshop tips and tricks and anything having related to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) on it. It's gonna be an interesting year!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

She's in My Bubble

I'm on a subway in downtown Rio de Janeiro during rush hour. I worked in New York City for two years and have ridden my fair share of packed subway trains, but this is ridiculous. I would take a picture to show you, but I can't put my arm down to get my camera out of my pocket. In fact I can't feel my arms at all at this point. Or my left leg. I keep thinking of Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld when she rides the subway. It's not quite that neurotic, but it is claustrophobic, to the extent that I am nearly resting my chin on the shoulder of the woman in front of me. Awkward. I discreetly check my deo to see if it's still doing its job. Thankfully, it is. Nobody seems to mind this proximity, though. As I mentioned in a previous post, Brazilians seem to have a different attitude about personal space. They definitely do not have a problem getting in your "bubble." This closeness persists for almost an hour, until we are far from the city center and most Cariocas (residents of Rio) have disembarked. Now I can breathe again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blogs Within a Blog!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I traveled to Brazil with 10 other American educators as part of the IREX Teachers for Global Classrooms program. We all spent four days together in Brasilia, then ventured out in pairs to different corners of the country into jungles, deserts, mountains, and more. Brazil is a big place (as big as the U.S. in area) and we all had unique encounters. We later reconvened in Brasilia to share our experiences and will be compiling a wed-based tool to capture all of our work in one place.

Meanwhile, below are the links to all of my colleagues' blogs, in case you wanted to learn more about Brazil, or the IREX TGC program. Enjoy!

The IREX TGC Brazil crew in Brasilia.

The Other Rio

Walking into Nilopolis, Rio.

There are two Rios. One is downtown, next to iconic, gorgeous beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana flanked by dramatic geographic features like Sugar Loaf and Corcovado defining its instantly identifiable skyline. This Rio is clean and modern and filled with museums, banks and global commerce. This is the Rio most of us picture when the city's name is mentioned - an exotic and romantic destination reserved for high society.

The other lies on the fringe, two hours by car across a seemingly boundless metropolis. This is where I spent most of my time in Brazil. During the course of my trip, I scrawled the following descriptions in my notebook:

Sprawling. Dirty. Crumbling infrastructure. Favela? Trash burning on the roadside. Mangy dogs everywhere. Some sleeping. Some dead (?). Graffiti. The occasional horse tied up on the median strip of the highway. The smell of wood, charcoal and pork hangs in the air perpetually. Terracotta masonry. Compact cars - Fiats, Renaults, Chevys (models you've never heard of). Graffiti. Ethanol. Buses constantly rumbling past. People/families running across multi-lane highways (directly beneath a pedestrian bridge). The smell of natural gas in taxis. Neglected public spaces. No street signs. No obvious civil planning, no building codes. Dichotomy. Graffiti.

A "favela," or as they are now called, community, up the road from Eduardo's school. The word favela is derived from a plant that commonly grows on hillsides in Brazil. When slavery was finally abolished in Brazil (roughly 30 years after the U.S.), the slaves were forced out of the city centers and up onto the hills. These makeshift shantytowns became known as favelas and have been notoriously dangerous places to live, ruled by a handful of well-armed drug lords. The poorest of the poor live here. Police even refused to go into these communities. Recently, through a program called "pacification," police have established a presence and rid many of these places of violence. Rio is poised to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, so this has influenced the government's increased involvement.

Graffiti outside of a city school in Rio.

I realize some of this may sound unkind. I certainly don't mean it to be. I'm trying to be as objective as possible here. I even think that our host teacher, Eduardo would agree with much of this. In other posts, I sing the praises of just about everything Brazil. There is just good and bad with everything. A lot of this is admittedly bad and I think Brazilians recognize this. Even though the gap between rich and poor is widening, the Brazilian government views education as the key to its country's prosperity in the 21st century. Social programs, such as Bolsa Familia (which I talk more about in another post) have helped to lift millions of people out of poverty and will hopefully continue to do so as Brazil becomes more and more influential on the world stage.

Rio is on the move. I used the word dichotomy in my notes because everywhere you look, luxury high-rises are sprouting up in the midst of decay. See below:

This development is occuring directly next to...

Brazil is now the world's 6th largest economy and growing rapidly.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brazil Meets Red Bank

In addition to learning about Brazilian culture and its education system, all teachers in our 11 member cohort gave presentations to their host schools regarding their schools and respective towns in the U.S. I presented this video to the students and educators I met while in Brazil to provide a glimpse into an American school. In general, Brazilian students were transfixed by it. They were especially fascinated by my 4th graders, who are building VEX robots in the video (in addition to goofing off). My host teacher, Eduardo also had to explain to his students what a fire drill is (one occurs in the video), as they do not have these in Brazil. According to him, if a fire ever did break out, it would be mass hysteria.

A day in the life at the Red Bank Middle School.

Eduardo's students learning about life in an American school.

I also presented my host, Eduardo and some other educators with gifts from the Jersey Shore - salt water taffy, what else? I gave the students I met bookmarks from the Red Bank Public Library, which were created by Red Bank students from Pre-K through high school. They were a big hit, as you can see in these pics:

Students in Eduardo's private language school in Nova Iguacu.

Public school students at city-based school, Escola Municipal Cyro Monteiro, situated in Anchieta, a neighborhood in the city of Rio. Eduardo also works here. In Brazil, it is not uncommon for teachers to work at multiple schools.

Happy student with a new Red Bank bookmark.

On many occasions, I had the pleasure of presenting a video that my students and I produced to Eduardo's students. A few years ago, as an interdisciplinary project, our school's music, technology and art classes put together a music video called, "2048: A Rock Opera," which placed 3rd in Sony's Technology in Motion contest. The students (and teachers) in Brazil were very impressed with it and had many questions regarding its production. In all of the schools we visited I never saw any technologies or facilities that could be used for high-end media production. The only place that came close was a project-based learning lab in a private school called Marista, in Brasilia. Otherwise, public schools in Brazil seem to face major challenges regarding the implementation of technology, including theft, vandalism, inconsistent IT support, outdated hardware and intermittent internet access.

"2048" makes its premiere in Brazil.

2048: A Rock Opera

Sunday, June 17, 2012

DAY NINE: Sugar Loaf at Night

Had the opportunity to take the cable car up to the top of Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar) in Rio today with my host teacher, Eduardo, his wife Janine and my fellow IREX teacher, David. As you can tell by the short video posted here, I can barely muster any words other than, "amazing." Now that I have time to reflect a bit, here are some more that come to mind: humbling, transcendant, other-worldly, magnificent, surreal. I found myself thinking about my mother while on top of Sugar Loaf, as she loved to travel (I think that's where I get the bug). I think it would have made her happy to know I was there.

Me, Eduardo, and Janine. Check out Eduardo's shirt!

My colleague, David on top of the world (literally and figuratively).

The view from Pao de Acucar. Christ the Redeemer in the upper left (bathed in green for Rio +20). From this vantage point, I can understand why Rio is often called "The Marvelous City," or Cidade Maravilhosa.

Kids playing soccer (futebol) on Copacabana Beach (Sugar Loaf in the distance).

One more shot of Rio (how can you resist?).

The cable car to the top.

The cable car makes two stops. On top of each hill are restaurants, viewing platforms, bandstands, shops and more.

Driving in Rio

I used to be convinced that the worst drivers in the world lived in New Jersey. I was wrong. They all live here, in Rio. In the past four days, I could have been killed on at least 7 separate occasions (don't tell my wife) on the "red line" highway that runs from Rio out to the district where I am staying, Nova Iguacu. Whoever manufactures brake pads here in Brazil must be making a mint.

Here's what I know about Brazilian driving rules: speed limits are merely suggestions, red lights are regarded as "decorations," lanes are ambiguous and using your headlights at night is not considered mandatory. Think Formula One racing, but the drivers are all psychotic.

The best line of the day was when Eduardo (our host teacher) said, "Beware that my brother-in-law, Claudio likes to drive dangerously. You might want to buckle up." Although he managed to get us home in one piece, it was a thrilling ride, to say the least.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

DAY SEVEN: Meet The Beatles

David and I met in the lobby restaurant for a quick breakfast before Eduardo picked us up at 7:15AM to begin the day's activities. We walked down to the train station, busy with commuters heading into Rio's city center. At so many points on this trip I am reminded of India and getting on a train is one of those times. The coaches are painted a greenish-blue (think swimming pool) and bounce around on the tracks as if they were on a road filled with potholes. We sped through the outskirts of Rio, past smaller and smaller concrete homes, over farm land that somewhat resembles Thailand, with lush green hills rising dramatically out of the flat landscape.

We trekked it out about an hour before arriving at the end of the city line in a town called Japeri, where we were greeted by our host for the day, an ILEP (International Leaders in Education) teacher named Patricia. She then took us to her school inside a very poor, rural community. We pulled up in front of ColĂ©gio Estadual Almirante TamandarĂ© (CEAT), not knowing what to expect, as it was a surrounded by a crumbling masonry wall (spilling over with beautful pink flowers), which concealed a courtyard and the school itself.

We all filed through the door and then it got wild. We were met by an endless stream of smiling staff and students who treated us like the Beatles landing at JFK in 1964. It was incredible! Brazilians by nature have a different regard for personal space than Americans, so it's not uncommon for them to hug and touch you when they meet you, which may take a little getting used to. It's immediately disarming and endearing and drives home the fact that above all, Brazilians cherish personal relationships.

Throughout our trip, I kept hearing the same words over and over again in reference to the schools and communities we would visit:"marginalized,""disenfranchised,""forgotten." I was expecting to meet students who had been beaten down by society, embittered by the hand they had been dealt, but this was not the case at all. I've never met nicer, happier, more welcoming and sincere people in all my life. I kept thinking about a Lauryn Hill song I love called, "Every Ghetto, Every City." One line that resonated with me was, "unaware of what we didn't have," which she sings in reference to her own upbringing in a poor neighborhood. I also kept wondering about my own students back in Red Bank and how they would receive a visitor from another country to our school. I can't imagine they could match the enthusiasm and hospitality of these students.

A welcome ceremony was held for us in the school gymnasium and students read a famous Brazilian poem called, "Big World" in both Portugese and English. Here is an excerpt that I feel is very fitting:

No, my heart isn´t bigger than the world.
It´s much smaller.
It doesn´t even fit my pains.

Many students asked us in surprise, "Why are you visiting us?" As if to say that no one visits them. Later, they showed us their art studio, filled with beautiful student-made pieces. Art is not offered during the school day, but is made available after school and is instructed voluntarily by a woman named Peter. They also gave us an incredible impromptu concert in the school's small courtyard - one student played guitar, while the others sang along to their favorite songs. Music is not offered during the school day, either. This seems to be the case in many of the public schools we visited.

We were also given time to meet privately with the school's principal. She was happy to share information about her school and was clearly proud of all the hard work she and her staff put in to it. She was especially proud of the high scores they acheive on state-issued standardized tests. Apparently, they have to deal with them just like we do in the states.

Overall, it was one of the best days I spent in Brazil and I look forward to maintaining a relationship with Patricia and her school.

Public school in Japeri, Brazil (on the outskirts of Rio).

The warm and welcoming students of Japeri along with their gracious teacher, Patricia. She refuses to Samba in front of them (see the video), but made me do it. Her reasoning was that she would have to stay and face their teasing, while I get to leave. While my dancing was not immortalized (thankfully) in the video below, you can see the Samba demonstration I was given by one of Patricia's students, Marcos:

Welcome ceremony.

Patricia's principal welcomes us to CEAT.

My many new friends!

Rock 'n Roll Diplomacy Part I: One student had a guitar and played very well. He entertained us while his classmates sang along to Brazilian "gospel" favorites. I asked to play, and mimicked the chords he was playing, which delighted the kids. Then, in the spirit of the Beatles, I played "Saw Her Standing There." Not many of them knew it, but they seemed to like it anyway. Music is a truly universal language.

My new friend, Grasiele. She painted this picture in her after school art class. It took her two months to make and she gave it to me as a gift. I keep saying that the best thing about Brazil is its people, and Grasiele is proof.

More new friends.

David shows off beautiful artwork that was given to him as a gift.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

DAY SIX: Rio de Janeiro!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been participating in the IREX Teachers for Global Classrooms program, which is offered through a branch of the US Department of State (it should be noted that all of the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the US State Dept. - they are my personal and professional observations). After a year of challenging and exciting work, including an 8 week online course and a global education symposium in Washington, DC, I am finally in Brazil along with the 10 other American teachers of my cohort.

We have all been in the capital city, Brasilia for the past four days, learning about the Brazilian culture and education system. We've had some amazing experiences visiting classrooms in both public and private schools. I will post more regarding Brasilia shortly, but I just want to write briefly about arriving in Rio as I have not had a moment to update this blog.

My fellow teacher, David Angwenyi and I got on our plane in Brasilia early this afternoon and after a quick and uneventful flight on TAM airlines, we made our approach over the beautiful hillside surrounding Rio (pronounced HEE-Oh in Brazilian Portugese), we touched down and met up with our host teacher, Eduardo Vasconcellos and his wife, Janine. They were kind enough to pick us up at the airport and spare us having to butcher the language seeking a ride. Not many people here speak English, but in general, everyone I have encountered has been pleasant and accomodating. I find my self defaulting to some home-brewed patois of English, Spanish and severely wounded Portugese to get by. I also smile a lot and say, "obrigado (thank you)" often.

Eduardo and his wife immediately took us to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant for lunch/dinner. It's one they enjoy and frequent with friends and family. We took our seats and almost instantly were served an endless amount of beef, sliced onto our plates from a sword. While I don't usually eat meat, I have never had Brazilian BBQ before and I wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea that when in Rome, one should do as the Romans. I even tried chicken hearts for the first (and last) time. They were small, somewhat tough and reminded me of mushrooms. Not my cup of meat.

Eduardo is an English teacher in a part of Brazil called Nilopolis (he refers to it as a suburb). Rio is an enourmous city of about 8 million people. Imagine the city of New York sprawling all over gorgeous hillsides and spilling onto pristine beaches and you might get the picture. I am staying in a hotel in another Rio neighborhood/district called Nova Iguacu. Tomorrow, we are off to a local school for a visit and I am excited to meet with staff and students. Based on our experiences in Brasilia, it should be amazing. Check back to read more about my adventures south of the Equator (4 continents down, 3 to go!).

Meanwhile, here are some photos from today...

David, Eduardo and Me at the Rio airport.

Ready to eat!


Eduardo and his lovely wife, Janine.

Chicken hearts.

Utility tower outside the restaurant. Be careful - don't plug that hair dryer in here!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day Trip to Chelsea Market, NYC

My wife, Nikki and I were suffering from cabin fever and decided to drive up to New York City for the day (about an hour's drive). We spent most of our time eating crepes and other tasty foods at the Chelsea Market and the 2nd Annual NYC Vegetarian Food Festival.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter on the Jersey Shore - Asbury Park

Army and I visited historic Asbury Park to check out the boardwalk, hit some rock and roll landmarks, and play some pinball at the awesome Silverball Museum. We also grooved on some cool vinyl creations inside the Convention Hall at Greetings from Geralyn. A big thank you to Geralyn, herself for the quick interview and opportunity to film in her store!

Check it out:

Let's go see what we can see...

Welcome to my blog, Ippolito Globalized. My name is Chris Ippolito. I am a technology educator - a STEM teacher, to be precise. I teach a nationally recognized program called Project Lead The Way ( and I love what I do. I am also in my 4th year as an AVID instructor. AVID ( is a program designed for "students in the middle," fostering a college-bound mindset while challenging students in an academically rigorous environment.

In the midst of all of that, I am also dedicating myself to becoming a "global educator." I was recently chosen to take part in the IREX Teachers for Global Classrooms program, which is offered through the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I am learning how to "globalize" my instruction and impart cultural perspectives and understanding within my lessons. I just attended our first Global Education Symposium in Washington, DC, where I met all of the other amazing and inspiring educators who are taking part in the initiative.

Participants will be traveling all over the world as part of the program - Ghana, Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Morocco, and Brazil. I am traveling to Brazil with 10 other teachers. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity. We just found out that our trip will begin in Brasilia, the modern capital of Brazil. From there, we will be paired up with local Brazilian teachers, spending 6 days in their towns (outside of Brasilia). More info to come...

Meanwhile, I am kicking off this blog with some info about where I'm from, to share with IREX fellows, my Brazilian colleagues and students, and for friends and relatives who are curious about what I am doing these days. My fearless son and co-host, Army and I will be providing a look at life on the Jersey Shore (sans Snooki) - featuring the people, places, things and food that make our area so special. Here's my first attempt at a video blog (shot in Red Bank, where I live):