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Dove Science Academy students find their voice during Close Up trip to D.C.
For over 40 years, Close Up has educated and inspired young people to find their voice and participate in our democracy. Dove Science Academy Oklahoma City (DSA OKC) took advantage of this program and encouraged its students to use their passion to infuse the political process with thoughtful, innovative ideas and solutions.
Starting in the fall, DSA OKC students began discussing hot button issues, current events, and ethics. Meeting twice a month, students participated in the Close Up program by engaging in friendly debates and discussing how the people and events represented at Washington, D.C.’s memorials impact their lives today.
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“The students were learning by having fun. They didn’t have to worry about being graded. We were able to explore their potential. Here, they can really express their intention and pick a side. No one is judging them. It’s a non-judgmental zone and that’s where you see students open up and grow,” said Silapberdi Berdiyev, DSA assistant principal and Close Up advisor.
For the next part of the Close Up program, students took on an issue important to their community.
“Throughout this experience, students really learned that they need to challenge everything our legislature decides. At first students were surprised that we were going to let them pick their project. They’d ask ‘Are you sure’? And I’d tell them, ‘Raise your voice’,” Berdiyev said.
DSA OKC students elected to garner support for a new Oklahoma City flag design. Josmar Medina, sophomore, said he wasn’t even aware that Oklahoma City had a flag until the Close Up project.
“I was disappointed when I saw it. As Oklahoma City, you hear that we are growing and doing better as a small city, but the flag doesn’t represent that growth. And when we asked people on the streets, they felt that they weren’t unified by our flag. We want our flag to inspire a unified city,” Medina said.
However, Medina and his classmate Maia McDonald, DSA sophomore, weren’t disappointed in their campaigning efforts. In just two short months, students brainstormed new flag designs, some for instance featuring the Oklahoma City National Bombing Memorial Survivor Tree, and obtained almost 500 petition signatures in support of a new flag design. Students educated the public and got signatures by approaching their family and friends and speaking at community events like Kids Fest and the OKC STEM Expo.
“We actually impacted OKC. We made a difference, and the fact that we’re all young and not some old people in an office made it special for us,” Medina said.
“If we actually do change the flag, I can point to it and say, ‘I did that!’” McDonald added.
Once their project was on a roll, snagging signatures daily, students traveled to Washington, D.C. to learn even more about the democratic process and the nation’s history. From war memorials to monuments to Capitol Hill, students saw it all in this life changing experience.
“There was no moment of disappoint for me for the entire trip,” McDonald said. “I made so many new friends and made so many connections.”
However, for DSA OKC students, the time in D.C., although exciting, was no vacation. Each day students would travel to D.C. monuments and complete workbook exercises as well as have discussions about our nation’s democracy. McDonald said that on the bus rides from monument to monument she worked in her workbook.
“There was no down time. We were booked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” she said.
During their trip, students were not only introduced to new sights, but to new people too as students from across the U.S. roomed together, discussed their projects and what it is like to live in different states.
“Even though we all live in the same country, the kids that lived there basically lived in a different country. For example, here, walking around downtown, you’ll almost never see a woman in a full-out burka, but there it’s everywhere. It was amazing how much acceptance was there,” McDonald said.
As a final part of their trip, students presented their flag project to Close Up officials and student participants as well as legislative assistants and visitors at the nation’s capitol. DSA OKC students said the best part of presentations was seeing other Close Up participant’s work and the diverse issues being addressed.
“When we actually went to Capitol Hill and presented our project, and just seeing all the other projects and other young people that impacted me. I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t think we could actually do this, but we got here’,” Medina said.
Now back in the Sooner state, the Close Up program has concluded for DSA OKC students, however Medina and McDonald each said they would continue to push for a new OKC flag by speaking with their friends, family and community, and they even have plans to meet with the mayor.
“It was hard to balance our school work with Close Up, but every second was worth it. I would do it again,” Medina said.
About Close Up Founded in 1971, Close Up is a non-profit that exists to educate and inspire young people to participate in our democracy. Close Up uses hands-on programs to educate students and teachers in Washington, DC. Using the city as a living classroom, students gain access to the people, processes and places that make our nation’s capital so unique. For more information about Close Up, see closeup.org.
Europe trip enhances Dove Science Academy students’ cultural understanding and acceptance
Ancient cathedrals, boat rides on the Balearic Sea, soccer matches and so much more enriched the lives of Dove Science Academy (DSA) students during a recent study abroad trip to Spain. Within 10 days, students, teachers and alumni visited the cities of Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Barcelona and Girona.
"Being there was such a nice experience. It is something that will stay in my head. It really was magnificent," said Daisy Colindres, Spanish teacher and trip chaperon.
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For many first time international travelers, the prospect of being far away from friends, family and the familiar is overwhelming. Giselle Ibanez, DSA senior, bashfully admitted that she cried leaving her mother behind even though it would only be a two-week trip.
“At first I was nervous. I cried before departing. But being with my friends and classmates made it easier,” Ibanez said. “I would go again though. It was worth it.”
Despite nerves, the joy of learning about a different culture made a positive impact on DSA students.
“I was of course excited to see a new place and new things; that’s what travel is all about,” said Rustan Iskandarov, DSA senior.
In addition to sightseeing, students said one of the more interesting yet challenging parts of the trip was being immersed in a foreign language. Residents of Spain speak Catalan, which differs from the Spanish many DSA students currently study.
"It was a lot to constantly not understand what people were saying. But hearing the different language every day made me want to stay and learn more," said Iskandarov.
“As a teacher this was good exposure to this type of Spanish. I was pleased we could still understand each other,” Colindres said. “As for the students, traveling abroad is a very good learning opportunity, and our students adapted well.”
One thing that students didn’t have to adapt to was Spain’s passionate soccer culture. For many students, watching FC Barcelona's win against Getafe was a once in a lifetime experience. Lionel Messi, Neymar Santos Jr., Gerad Piqué—these names of FC Barcelona players excitedly rolled off Ibanez’s tongue as she recalled the match.
“That was my favorite thing of the whole trip. I’ve been playing soccer since I was five. We even got to see the Barcelona players like Messi and Neymar. Neymar even smiled at me. We didn’t get to meet them, but we were so close to the action of the game and I got an autograph,” Ibanez said.
For other students the thrill of travel came from quiet moments observing another culture.
“Every night, I’d see all the lights lit up and people play soccer in the streets. That was my favorite part of the trip. The city felt alive and very different from here,” Iskandarov said.
Many of the students said they could only hope and dream to travel abroad more after seeing the sights of Spain, so much so, that most of the students agreed they had the travel bug.
“The last days of the trip were really sad. We didn’t want to come back! Now I want to travel more; go to Germany and Brazil,” said Stephanie Morales, DSA senior. “It’s so worth it to travel abroad. It really gives you a chance to get out of your comfort zone.”
Oklahoma City National Memorial, new documentary recognize Dove Science Academy’s dedication to the Oklahoma Standard
Silence rapidly engulfed what normally is a very rowdy soccer field as a stadium-size tifo (or banner) unfurled and read, “The spirit of this city will not be defeated.” Fans and players paused to reflect on how Oklahoma City has grown and unified since April 19, 1995.
As part of Dove Science Academy’s (DSA) dedication to support its community, students worked with The Grid, Energy FC’s supporter group, to create a tifo featuring the survivor tree that was displayed at last year’s Energy FC season opener; a day before the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. A year later, Lampstead Media honored DSA and The Grid’s community spirit and the Oklahoma Standard with the premier of the documentary “Tifo.”
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“What an incredible story to tell … Since the film was released, people all across the country and the world are learning about Oklahoma City and our unique culture. Having students like you representing our next generation is just fantastic,” said Marshall Stockdell, member of The Grid.
“Tifo” features a unique collaboration between Dove Science Academy and The Grid after John Bratt, DSA history teacher and The Grid member, was inspired by his student, Shae Hale’s, flag design for a class assignment—the strong silhouette of the survivor tree, a symbol known to every Oklahoman and many throughout the world.
The tifo was so powerful and representative of Oklahoma City that the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum recently inducted it into its archives.
“I’m really touched not only as a soccer fan to have this tifo displayed and celebrated by others, and also as a teacher to have my students involved in it, but as a student of history to know something I created is in the memorial museum, there isn’t a higher honor,” Bratt said.
“Tifo” beautifully intertwines the past with the present and reflects on mourning that has given birth to hope in a generation of young people. During a recent DSA school assembly, Zac Fowler, Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum community coordinator, recognized this generation of young people’s dedication to the Oklahoma Standard.
“I really appreciate what you guys have done. And it’s not just me. It’s the memorial. It’s the state. People are starting to take notice of the amazing things you [DSA students] have done.
“In life we don’t always get to choose the things we remember. Some things happen and they’re just so big that we just can’t forget it whether we want to or not. But we always get to choose what we want to celebrate: whether that’s resilience; whether that is us standing up to adversity; whether that’s pulling our neighbors up through the ashes and putting them back on their feet. And that’s exactly what you guys have done here — that’s the Oklahoma Standard. I’m standing in an auditorium with the future of Oklahoma City in it. It’s our choice. What are we going to choose to celebrate?” Fowler said.
DSA students, who created the tifo, said they thought it was important because the bombing was a catalyst for where we are today.
“It’s important to remember what exactly led up to where we are today and why it’s so important to stay unified as a city and as a people,” said Sahar Hasan, DSA junior.
Throughout the creation of the documentary, Bratt said he was touched to see the symbol of the survivor tree from the perspective of his students.
“For a lot of us, my age or older, we see the survivor tree as a symbol of mourning. But Shae wasn’t alive during the bombing just like none of my students were and a lot of people come here from out of town and they’ve only experienced Oklahoma City after that, so for them it’s as much a symbol of rebirth, renewal, growth as it is a symbol of memorial. That is a perspective I was really touched by,” Bratt said.
Jason Gallagher, creative director, said although there were a lot of players to focus on in the creation of the documentary, the story really wrote itself with DSA’s love of Oklahoma City at the core.
“You guys were definitely the heart and soul of this thing,” Gallagher said. “Thank you for letting us tell your story.”
To watch the documentary “Tifo,” click here. Or to learn more about Dove Science Academy, see doveschools.org.
Celebration of World Languages opens door to richer social networks and cultural understanding
What cultural diversity can be found in your very own backyard — the loud beat of traditional Korean drums, the musical mastery of passionate Ana Becerra, or the sweet melodies of Cherokee Songbirds? With the premier Celebration of World Languages, Dove Science Academy (DSA) opened the door to richer social networks and cultural understanding with song, dance and more.
April 9 at Oklahoma Christian University, the Celebration of World Languages included song and dance performances, a scavenger hunt, poster and video contests as well as cultural exhibit booths and celebrated the efforts of dedicated educators and talented students who excel in learning another language.
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“Bonjour. Guten Tag. Konnichiwa. Those are only a few of the languages taught right here in Oklahoma. My goodness, don’t we live in a wonderfully, remarkably rich world today … It is really heartwarming for me to see languages celebrated in this way. Let’s continue this year by year,” said Oklahoma State Department of Education Director of World Languages Desa Dawson.
From Mexico’s horchata (a sweet, milk-like rice water) and concha (sweet bread) to South Korean’s japchae (clear noodles with beef and vegetables) and mandoo (dumplings) to Vietnam’s eggrolls to Ethiopia’s injera (bread) the taste of diverse, vibrant culture filled the minds and stomachs of event attendees with cultural enrichment.
Exhibit booths included the Asian Society of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma Department of Modern Languages, University of Oklahoma Confucius Institute, Alliance Francaise d’Oklahoma City, English Language Center as well as South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Azerbaijan cultural booths, and more.
Exhibit booth volunteers were happy to share their culture with event attendees and to have the chance to dispel misconceptions or stereotypes.
“Not everyone in Mexico is with a drug cartel. Not everyone is like that. This event is a great opportunity to show the public what Mexico is really like,” said Maria Medina, mother of DSA Elementary student Victoria Medina.
“I’m excited because I get to share things I love with other people,” added Valeria Garcia, DSA Elementary student.
Many exhibit booth volunteers were simply proud to put their country’s name on the map.
“This event is a great opportunity for us because people don’t really know about us. We’re a small country next to Turkey, actually, and people don’t know that. We’re proud to share our culture here today,” said Davud Davudov about Azerbaijan.
As an inaugural event, organizers and performers were happy to see hundreds of people in attendance and expressed positive plans for the future.
“I’m very pleased with today’s turnout. Everyone seems engaged and to be having fun and that was our goal,” said Rabia Akkus, event coordinator and DSA Elementary teacher. “We hope to continue this success next year and to keep growing.”
“For the first year there were so many people here. I was impressed. I thought it was really successful!” Monica Mercedes Rosas, who performed a Peruvian folkdance, said enthusiastically.
Research shows becoming proficient in a second language allows people to have higher test scores, better problem solving skills and access to richer social networks, however people are often afraid to go outside their comfort zones. As such, the Celebration of World Languages made language and culture accessible by way of friendly faces and enthusiastic entertainment.
“Sometimes people are intimidated to try new things, like the Japchae, but the more they try, the easier it is to explore new cultures,” said Sophia Lee, DSA Elementary math specialist.
This event was sponsored by the Kirkpatrick Foundation and Sky Foundation. While partners of the Celebration of World Languages included Dove Science Academy, the University of Central Oklahoma, Rose State College and Oklahoma City University.
To learn more about Dove Science Academy, see doveschools.org.
Dove and Discovery Schools are high performing K-12 public charter schools in Oklahoma that focus on math, science, engineering, and computer technologies to provide opportunities for underserved communities. Dove Science Academy Schools proudly serve more than 1,500 students in four college preparatory schools. With a college acceptance rate of 100 percent, Dove Science Academy Schools have earned the reputation of providing a distinct, high-quality education.
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