Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Malala Videos

Here is the video with Malala on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Here is the video of Malala addressing the United Nations:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bikes To Togo

Following Tim's presentation on Tanzania, many students wrote in their reflections about how they could help the situation in a developing country such as Tanzania.  In today's Olympian, reporter Rolf Boone wrote a great article about a man from Togo who is taking action to help the people in his home country.  Olowo-n'djo Tchala operates a business based here in Olympia called Alaffia.  Alaffia uses botanical components grown in West Africa such as shea butter to make shampoos, soaps, moisturizers and other products.  These products can be found at the Olympia Food Co-op, Radiance, and Traditions in Olympia, and at similar stores across the country.  Tchala uses proceeds from his business to send bicycles to Togo in shipping containers.  This year Tchala is sending about 1,000 bicylces to Togo.  The bikes will be given to girls and young women in Togo to help them attend school.  Tchala contends that without adequate transportation, girls are more likely to drop out of school.  What a fantastic mission!  As an aside, I wonder how much it costs to send a shipping container from the Port of Tacoma to Togo.  Please leave a comment if you happen to know the answer to this question.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Business of MLS

CenturyLink Field ( photo)
 I'm very interested in the business-side of MLS, and I've recently read a couple of interesting articles that I wanted to pass along.  The first is a report in Forbes Magazine about the estimated values of MLS clubs and their 2012 revenues.  The Sounders are the most valuable club in MLS, as well as the most profitable.  L.A. Galaxy ranks #2 and Portland Timbers rank #3.  Soccer is thriving on the West Coast.

On the flipside is an article published on BuzzFeed Sports about players making the minimum salary in MLS.  The minimum salary in MLS is only about $35,000.  This is a paltry sum for a professional athlete in the U.S. or Canada.  MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL have minimum salaries around $500,000.  So while MLS is growing, it's not quite a Major League sport yet.  Or rather, while MLS is a Major League sport in Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles, it is not quite a Major League sport in the rest of North America.
Kofi Opare of the Los Angeles Galaxy (Photograph by Emily Berl for BuzzFeed)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Trimester 1 Geo Final Study Guide

Terms: Region
New England
Prime Meridian
Arab Spring
Fair Trade
"cheap fashion"
Tourist Gaze
Cultural Landscape
Primary or Cardinal Directions
Secondary Directions
Tertiary Directions

States: West, Northcentral, East, Southeast
Countries: West Africa, North Africa, East Africa
Continents & Oceans

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Golden Compass Essay

Question: How does The Golden Compass differ from a prototypical classic fantasy novel?

Most readers would classify The Golden Compass as fantasy.  It certainly shares a lot of characteristics with works from the fantasy genre.  However, The Golden Compass differs from works in the fantasy genre in some key ways.  Your job with this essay is to explore the ways The Golden Compass differs from prototypical works in the fantasy genre.

Your essay will be 5 paragraphs in length.  It must be typed.  It must have a title.  Use 1.5-line spacing and size 13 font.  It must have an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.  The introductory paragraph must end with a thesis statement.  Each body paragraph must begin with a topic sentence.  The essay must include a quote from the book.  Finally, you must complete an outline before writing the actual essay.

Introductory Paragraph:  Start with an interesting sentence.  This paragraph introduces The Golden Compass and discusses the characteristics the book shares with classic fantasy novels.  At the end of the paragraph it transitions to answer the essay question.  The final sentence in the essay is the thesis statement.  The thesis statement is a direct answer to the essay question.  The rest of the essay will be an attempt to prove the thesis statement is true.

Body Paragraphs: Each body paragraph focuses on one significant aspect of The Golden Compass that differs from classic fantasy.  This difference should be stated in the topic sentence of each paragraph.  The paragraph should then explain in detail how The Golden Compass is different from classic fantasy in this area.  Refer to specific characters, events, and passages when making your case.

Quote: At least one of your body paragraphs needs to include a direct quote from the book.  You can quote Philip Pullman’s narration or you can quote dialogue from the book.  The quote should be placed in the middle of a paragraph.  Do not place a quote at the beginning or at the end of a paragraph.  After the quote is used in the paragraph, explain how the quote is relevant to the argument you are making.  Do not let the quote speak for itself.  Use quotation marks around your quote.  After the quote put the page number(s) on which the quote is found in parentheses.

Conclusion: In the Conclusion, you need to wrap up your argument.  Re-state your thesis statement and key supporting details from your essay.  Then leave the reader with something new to think about.  There is no single way to end an essay.  You can end the essay creatively.  One way to end your essay would be to answer the following question: What makes The Golden Compass unique and worth reading?

Underline all book titles in your essay.

Avoid statements referring to the essay itself (i.e. “This essay is about The Golden Compass and how the book differs from classic fantasy…”).

Avoid referring to yourself in the essay (i.e. “I think The Golden Compass is about…”).

Outline: The outline includes the main ideas and supporting details for each paragraph in your essay.  You must create an outline before starting to write your essay.  You do not need to use complete sentences in your outline, but each main idea or supporting detail must be presented as a complete thought.  It is not required the outline be typed.  However, it must be neat and legible.

Main Ideas: Represent each main idea with a capital letter.  You will need 5 main ideas/capital letters in your outline.  The main idea should encapsulate what the paragraph is about.

Supporting Details: Below the capital letters in your outlines, you need to number your supporting details.  You need at least 3 supporting details per paragraph.  When writing your paragraphs, you will flesh out these details to form complete paragraphs.

Monday, November 18: Outline due 
Tues, Nov. 19: Intro Paragraph due
Wed, Nov. 20: Second Paragraph due
Hebrew Book Cover
Thurs, Nov. 21: Third Paragraph due
Mon, Nov. 25: Completed draft of essay due in class for peer editing.  Draft must be printed prior to start of class.
Tues, Nov. 26: Revised draft of essay due

Custom Cover by Taylor Stone, Edgartown, Massachusetts

British Book Cover

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tanzania Presentation

On Thursday our sixth grade Geography class was visited by Tim Scharks, professor of geography at Green River Community College. Tim shared his experiences leading groups of college students to Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. It was a fascinating presentation; Tim explained how when Westerners visit other countries, what they see in their travels is affected by the "Tourist Gaze." The Tourist Gaze is that set of expectations one has about what is worth seeing and what is not. Thus we saw incredible photos Tim took of Tanzanian wildlife and Mt. Kilimanjaro, but we also looked at slides showing the "Cultural Landscape" of Tanzania. Tim's presentation touched on issues of economics, agriculture, globalization, and sustainability. I'm sure the next time students from this group go abroad, they will perceive what they see in a slightly different way.  It was a great day for students.  You can check out Tim's blog by following the link below.

Tim's WWU Tanzanian Environments Blog

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sounders Day!

Today was Sounders Day at NOVA!  Everyone wore rave green and blue shirts, hats, scarves, gloves, jackets, etc.  Tonight we play Portland Timbers at 8:00 p.m.  The winner advances to the Western Conference Championship.  GO SOUNDERS!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Tomorrow is Sounders Day.  Wear your Sounders gear.  We will have a group photo Thursday at the beginning of Break outside Room 4.  Sounders vs. Portland 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Golden Compass, Part III: Svalbard

Read Part III: Svalbard.  Do not read ahead.  Due Wednesday, November 13.  Please compose on a separate sheet of paper.
1.  Discussion Questions: Write 5 open-ended discussion questions for Part III and/or the book as a whole.  Write the questions only—do not answer them.

2.  Analysis: Towards the end of chapter 21, Lord Asriel explains his understanding of the nature of Dust to Lyra.  In your own words, explain your understanding of Dust.  What is Dust?  Why does Dust exist? How does Dust react to people of different ages?  How can Dust be used?  Your answer must be at least one thorough paragraph.
3.  Reflection:  Give the book as a whole a score out of 10 (10 being the highest).  Explain in at least one complete paragraph why you gave the book the score which you did.  Were you satisfied with Part III as the conclusion to The Golden Compass?  Refer to the specific elements of the book which shaped you opinion.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fantasy Hero Assignment

How does ___[name of hero]__ fit the mold of the Hero from works of Classic Fantasy?

Choose a hero from a Fantasy book or series you have read.

Please answer this question using the following guidelines.  Assignment must be:
  • Typed
  • At least a page in length
  • At least 3 paragraphs
  • Use 1.5 line-spacing
  • Use size 13 font
Formulate your response using the Hero Fantasy Characteristics generated in class.

Assignment is Monday, October 28.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hank Green likes Maps!

Hank Green (brother of John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars) talks really fast about his favorite maps.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Open Writing Prompt #1

One day, Balthasar Snorkelfuss, Harold Carmichael, and Bethany Kerfuffel were eating their snacks in Room 4 at Break.  They were the only ones in the room.  Harold was eating his peanut butter and pickle sandwich when he bit into something hard.  He opened up his sandwich and discovered what looked like a computer chip located underneath a pickle.  He examined it and it was indeed a computer chip!  He thought he heard a faint sound emanating from the chip.  He put the chip up to his ear.  He heard voices.  And one of them sounded like Mr. Gacek!

“Yes…everything is going perfectly according to my plan.  The mind-control drug has been successfully added to the NOVA water supply.  Everyone who has consumed water from the water fountains today will be susceptible to the plan by Closing this afternoon…Yes, I definitely saw Mr. Jeff drink from the fountain today.  Now we just need to make sure Mo drinks some of that water by Closing…”

Friday Open Writing Calendar

  • 9/6 Introduction
  • 9/20 Class #2
  • 9/27 Class #3
  • 10/4 Class #4
  • 10/18 Class #5
  • 11/1 Class #6
  • 11/8 Peer Editing
  • 11/15 Class #8
  • 11/22 Publication Day (one-trimester-long pieces only)

Open Writing 2013-2014

In Open Writing you have the opportunity to craft a piece of writing on a subject of your choice.  Your piece of writing may take the form of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.  Your writing must be original; you may not write fan-fiction or re-tell the story of another book, movie, TV show, or video game.

The first thing you must decide regards the length of your piece.  You decide if you want to work on a piece for one trimester, two trimesters, or three trimesters.  If you choose to write a one-trimester-long piece, you will publish your piece at the end of the trimester.  If you choose a two-trimester-long piece you will need to take Open Writing again in the Winter and you will publish after the Winter Trimester.  If you choose a three-trimester-long piece you will need to take Open Writing all three trimesters and you will publish at the end of the year.  Everyone will publish their work this year in Open Writing.  Publishing only means you will be sharing your work with other NOVA students.  No one outside of NOVA will read your work (unless you yourself make it available to people outside NOVA—which you are welcome to do).

If you only plan on taking Open Writing one trimester, you need to plan a very short piece.  Plan something you can finish by the end of the trimester. 
You may work this year on works already in progress, but the above publication guidelines still apply.  Just because we “publish” a work at NOVA doesn’t mean a work is necessarily in its final form.

You are welcome to work on your Open Writing piece outside of Open Writing.  However, no work outside the enrichment class is required.

Before you start working on your Open Writing piece, you need to write a proposal to Mr. Gacek.  Please use 1.5 line spacing and size 13 font.  Include a proper heading and title.
Open Writing Proposal
Trimester Length:_______________
Genre: ____________________
Characters: Write a short paragraph describing the characters in your story.
Setting: Write a short paragraph describing the setting of your story.
Plot: Write a short paragraph describing what will happen in your story.

Inspiration/Influences: Write a short paragraph describing your inspiration for writing this story and any other works or factors which might have pushed you in this direction.

Once you get your Proposal checked by Mr. Gacek, you may start writing!
If you would like to create a piece of non-fiction or poetry write a paragraph regarding what you would like to write.

"The Surprise"

Your first writing assignment for Language Arts is a 2-3 page anecdote about a “surprise.”  The anecdote will be narrated by you (that means you will write in the First Person).  The anecdote should be based on something you remember well.  However, if you don’t remember the details exactly, you can invent them, so long as they sound plausible.  Remember, this is not a fantasy story; however, sometimes “truth is stranger than fiction.”  Mr. Gacek does not want you to have any help from home with the writing of this anecdote.  However, feel free to talk to parents or others about your ideas in terms of what to write about, or if you need help remembering a particular detail.  The actual writing, however, needs to be done entirely by you.

  • Typed (if you do not have access at home to a computer, please bring in a note from home to that effect and submit a handwritten paper)
  • 1.5 line spacing (Remove Space After Paragraph)
  • Appropriate font (size 13)
  • Heading
  • Title
  • 2-3 Pages in Length (This will require some planning on your part.  Your idea must be big enough that you can write at least two pages, but not so big that it needs more than three.)
  • Dialogue must be included in the anecdote
  • First Person Narration
  • Anecdote must reveal a “surprise”
Brainstorming #1: Before you start writing, you need to come up with an idea about something to write about.  On a blank sheet of paper, divide the paper into 3 rows and 3 columns.  In the first column, think up 3 possible writing topics and place a separate idea in each row.  In the second column, record the biggest advantage you can think of for writing about that topic (you can use a phrase instead of a complete sentence for this).  In the third column, record the biggest disadvantage you can think of for writing about this topic.  After you’ve filled in all nine boxes, you need to choose a topic.  Use your highlighter to highlight this idea.

Brainstorming #2: When you’re telling your anecdote, you’re going to want to tell a story.  Before you reveal the surprise you need to provide the reader with context.  You need to explain who the characters are in your story, where the story takes place, and what activities are taking place prior to the revealing of the surprise.  Some of this background detail can be provided through dialogue; the rest needs to be revealed by the narrator.

On the backside of the piece of paper, place your idea in the center of the circle and draw a circle around it.  Divide the space around the circle into 3 sections.  Label one section CHARACTERS, one section SETTING, and the last section ACTIONS. 

CHARACTERS: Place the names of characters which appear in the anecdote in that space and draw circles around the names.  Draw at least two spokes pointing outward from each name and record a descriptive detail about the character on each spoke.  Details should be words or short phrases.  Details can relate to age, appearance, personality, or relation to narrator.

SETTING: Record the specific place where the anecdote transpires in this space and circle that word or phrase.  Record words or short phrases which describe the setting on spokes pointing outward from that circle.

ACTIONS: In this space, record activities, events, or occurrences which occur over the course of your anecdote.  Record at least three things which happen in your story, including the revealing of your surprise.  Circle each separate action.  Then number each action in the order in which it is introduced in the anecdote.

After you complete your brainstorming, you are ready to write.  You will include description of characters, the setting, and events in your anecdote.  Don’t forget to include dialogue.  Have fun!

Mon, Sept. 9  Brainstorming #1 due
Tues, Sept. 10  Brainstorming #2 due
Wed, Sept. 11 First Page of Assignment due (hard copy due in class)
Mon, Sept. 16 Finished Assignment due (hard copy due in class)

Possible Arenas in Which You Might Encounter Surprises:

  • Sports
  • School
  • Family/Relatives
  • Holidays
  • Vacations
  • Hobbies/Activities
  • Chores/Errands
  • Friends
  • Moving
The surprise should be related to something you experienced or witnessed.  Do not re-tell a surprise from a book, movie, or TV show.

The narrator does not have to be the person experiencing the surprise.  The narrator can describe someone else being surprised.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Geography Quiz Schedule: Trimester 1

Wed, Sept. 11 Continents & Oceans (Plate 1)
Fri, Sept. 20 Western United States (Plate 11)
Fri, Sept. 27 Northern Africa (Plate 39)
Fri, Oct. 4 Northcentral United States (Plate 10)
Fri, Oct. 18 Western Africa (Plate 40)
Fri, Nov. 1 Northeastern United States (Plate 7)
Fri, Nov. 8 Eastern Africa (Plate 42)
Fri, Nov. 15 Southeastern United States (Plate 8)
Fri, Nov. 22 Cumulative Review (Not Graded)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Current Issue Advocacy Letter

Your final assignment in Geography this year will be to write a formal letter advocating for a position related either to the issue you researched or to an issue presented by a classmate.

Your letter should follow the business letter format explained in The Write Source.
After you decide on the issue you will advocate on behalf of, you need to choose a recipient for your letter.  You may choose to write to someone in a position to act upon your issue or you may choose to write to someone in a position to bring awareness to your issue.  You may write to politicians, advocacy groups, media outlets, or individual activists.

Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself.  Explain who you are, your age, and where you attend school.  Then describe your Geography class and the nature of the Geography Project you have been working on for the last few months.  Finally, explain that you have been studying a particular world issue.
Paragraph 2: Explain what you know about the issue you are advocating on behalf of.  Use concrete detail in your explanation so that your explanation is complete and thorough.  Keep your explanation to one paragraph, however.  No need to go overboard with detail.

Paragraph 3: Explain what you think should be done regarding the issue.  Your ideas should be practical and possible.  Be clear and reasonable in your explanation.  You want to convey the serious nature of your advocacy.  
Here are some organizations which come to my mind to which you could address your advocacy letters: The Olympian, The New York Times, State Senator Karen Fraser (D-Olympia), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Secretary of State John Kerry, President Barack Obama, Amnesty International, Gates Foundation, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  There might be an organization specific to your issue to wish you would like to write.  You will need to look up the address to which you write.

Due Thursday, May 30, 2013.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reading Log #16

Final Reading Log of the year!

Please record all reading (minimum of 4 hours).

Due Thursday, May 30.  On this day bring all previous reading logs (which should be archived in your journal).  Be prepared to reflect on your entire year in reading.

Quiz Bowl Questions #5

5 questions total:
  • 1 history
  • 1 geography
  • 1 science
  • 2 pot pourri
Quiz Bowl rules apply to these questions.

Due Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Open Writing Submission Due Date

I will be compiling work from Open Writing classes this year into books.  Any pieces which were worked on this year in Open Writing are eligible.  Pieces should be edited and proofread, but they do not have to be finished works.  They may be works in progress.  Please create a simple title page with the piece’s title and your name for each work.  [Please delete any previous headings you may have created for your works.]  Submissions may be any page length.

The due date is Friday, May 17.
I will be binding the books of student work on the following day (Saturday), so the due date is definitely firm. 

Please submit a hard copy of your work to Mr. Gacek.  DO NOT STAPLE YOUR SUBMISSION.  Please use a paper clip in the upper left hand corner of your submission.  If you are unable to get a hard copy to Mr. Gacek you may e-mail him your submission at
Open Writing students are not required to submit work this year, particularly if students have only had the class during the third trimester.  However, students who have had Open Writing all year are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to submit a piece.
Students who took Open Writing in the first or second trimesters but are not currently taking the class may submit works they worked on earlier in the year.

Students in Open Writing and Open Reading will have the opportunity to read the books during their classes after May 17.
You may e-mail me with questions.

I look forward to seeing all the great work completed this year in Open Writing!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Look! We're on TV!

The episode of "Oregon Field Guide" featuring the sixth grade class aired on PBS tonight!  Not only is the episode very informative, but it shows some great footage of us.  Cool!

Watch Wolf Haven International on PBS. See more from Oregon Field Guide.

Final Geo Quiz: World Capitals

Canada: Ottawa
Russia: Moscow
Australia: Canberra
Germany: Berlin
Japan: Tokyo
China: Beijing
India: New Delhi
Brazil: Brasilia
South Africa: Pretoria (also Cape Town, Bloemfontein)
Italy: Rome
France: Paris
Spain: Madrid
Indonesia: Jakarta
Argentina: Buenos Aires
Nigeria: Abuja
Pakistan: Islamabad
Iran: Tehran
Cuba: Havana
Egypt: Cairo
Syria: Damascus
Quiz Date: May 24, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Current Issue Outline

Now that you have finished taking notes on your current issue, you need to arrange these notes in the order that you need for your presentation.  You have accumulated notes from a variety of sources.  You now need to arrange these notes into a presentation with a beginning, middle, and end.
If you took notes on things which are actually NOT RELEVANT to your presentation, then DO NOT include them in your outling.
You need to put your notes on your issue into a logical order for your presentation.  Your current issue will cover at least 10 slides.  Each presentation will have the following order:
  1. Introduction to Issue
  2. Historical background of issue
  3. Current state of issue
  4. Future outlook for issue
  5. Personal stance on issue
  6. Conclusion
Within each of the headings, you can create sub-headings.  For example, if you have 3 Historical Background slides, you can give each slide a separate sub-heading.  However, you do not need to use sub-headings.  You can use only headings if you prefer.

Outlines should be typed.  This way you can move notes around in your outline to create the presentation that works best for you.

Due Wednesday, May 8.

Story Proposals

You will write two story proposals: one for a Mystery Story featuring your detective from your Detective Dossier and a second for a Science Fiction Story featuring the setting you described in your Science Fiction Setting.

Each proposal needs 2 elements: The synopsis and the outline.  The synopsis should be 5-10 sentences in length.  It should provide an overview of the story.  It must include information about the characters, plot, and setting.  The synopsis is a summary paragraph.

The outline should list 5-10 events from the story in chronological order.  Each event must be one sentence in length.  The outline does not need to cover all the events in the story.  Also, some elements from the outline might change as you write the actual story.
Finally, you need to write about your inspirations for each story idea.  What books, movies, or television influenced your ideas for your stories?  Be honest.
Once you have completed both proposals, you will choose the one you like best and you will write that story.  However, save the second proposal, as you may decide to write that story in the future in Open Writing.
Coming up with story ideas is challenging.  You will need to do some brainstorming.  Be creative.  The more thought you put into the planning stage, the easier you will find writing the actual story.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Current Issue Research

How does a particular cultural, economic, political, or environmental issue within a particular country resonate locally and globally?

Research must contain at least 3 articles from different sources and containing different information.

I.  Notetaking:
  • Locate at least 2 different main ideas per article
  • Use bullet points for each line of notes under main idea headings
  • Include bibliographic information
  • Notes must be in pencil
  • Articles must be printed
Citations must include: author, article title, source, date.

Sample citation:

Gacek, Jason.  "Sounders Defeat Timbers."  Olympia Times.  27 June 2013.

Science Fiction Setting Description

Describe the time and place of a potential science fiction setting.  How is this setting different from the present?

Include in your description:
  • place characteristics
  • location
  • technology
  • time
Length should be about 3/4 of a page, typed, 1.5-line-spaced.  Illustrate the bottom of the place with color.

Due May 6, 2013.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Science Fiction Independent Reading Project

Please answer all questions in complete paragraphs.  Typed, 1.5-line spacing, size 13 font.

0.  State the title, author and star rating (0-5) for your SFIRP book.

1.  Describe the setting of the book.  Where and when does the book begin?  Describe what one would see in this place.  How would this place differ from a similar setting set in the present day?  What technology would one find in this place?  Does the action in the story move to different locations?  Explain.

2.  What is the goal the protagonist must attain in this story?  How must the protagonist attain the goal?  Is the protagonist successful?

3.  Is there an underlying message the author is attempting to communicate with this book?  Explain.

4.  What did you think of the book?  Explain why you liked or did not like this book.

Due Wednesday, May 1.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reading Log #15

Minimum 4 hours of reading.  Due Tuesday, April 30.

Reflection Questions:
1.      What was your favorite book of the past three weeks?  Explain what you enjoyed about this book.

2.     Where and when did you read during Conference Week?  Did you have enough time for reading?