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Stay updated with current happenings at Grand River Academy. This blog also includes resources for families and friends of GRA.

2014 Summer English Language Institute ~ Message in a Bottle

Week #5 Message in a Bottle

It is so hard to believe that 5 weeks of Grand River Academy's Summer Academic Camp is over on Friday.  Wow, the time sure does fly when you're having fun!  At least I hope that is what Nat (China) & Alex (Russia) had while at GRA.  I know I had a great time working with them.  They are both wonderful students, hard working and a lot of fun!


We decided the best way to end our 5 weeks together would be to 'send a message in a bottle' down the Grand River in hopes that it is found and contact made.

To begin with, the students decorated their bottles and wrote messages to the finders about themselves and their experience at GRA's 5 week Summer Academic Camp.  We then placed the message in the bottle and sealed it up.  



Following lunch we drove to the Grand River and the boys stood in the middle of the bridge where they dropped their bottle and watched it float away!  The river was high and the water was moving quite fast as we just had a rain storm the day before.




While watching their bottles float away, we met a gentlman who had just caught a large catfish.  Nat was pretty amazed!


Before we returned to campus, we took one more trip to fullfil the goals made at the beginning of the summer camp.  Every week during class, we would talk about the goals for that week and things the students wanted to do before leaving GRA.  Alext shared on his goal sheet that he wanted to ride go-carts before leaving GRA, so we did!  We went to Geneva On the Lake's Adventure Zone and the boys had a blast racing each other around the track!  I must say Nat is one fast driver!!


5 weeks worth of great memories I trust will last a lifetime!


Amish Country

     During Tuesday's cultural trip, we traveled about 30 minutes south of Grand River Academy to Amish Country in Middlefield, Ohio.  Nat and Alex were able to see first hand what they have been reading and learning about regarding the Amish way of life.  The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress and are reluctant to adopt  many of the modern technology.  Though the Amish choose a simple life, they are dedicated hard workers as they prefer farming as a way of life.  They believe that their families can greatly benefit in a rural environment.  They do not choose to use tractors as farmers do today, but instead choose to use modern equiptment pulled by teams of horses or mules.

     The Amish are very devout in their faith.  They believe in the literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the word of God.  They believe they are to be seperate from the things of this world in effort to remain close to God.  

For more information on the Amish way of living refer to this web site:

 Our first stop was at the End of the Commons Old General Store 


Alex and I enjoyed a fun game of Checkers at the General Store, while Nat was enjoying his huge Jaw Breaker!


Our next stop was at the Middlefield Cheese Factory where we were able to sample a variety of cheese, while watching a video on the history of the factory and the making of cheese.



While driving through Amish country we witnessed the beautiful countryside, along with the Amish one room school house.  We observed how many of the Amish homes had their clothes hanging outside as they do not have electricity to operate a washer/dryer.  And we passed many horse drawn buggies used by the Amish in place of the automobile. 


We also had the opportunity to stop by the Amish farm store to see where they purchase many of their supplies.  Nat was especially interested in the horseshoes that are put on the Amish horses hooves in order to protect them.


Our last stop was at Ridgeview Farm Market where many of the fruits and vegetables were grown by and sold by the Amish. 




                                                                                                                                      Angela Thomas

International Student Coordinator ELL Teacher


Week #4 was a 'sweet' ending to a busy week during Grand River Academy's Summer English Language Program


During this week's lesson on listening and following directions, the students enjoyed Tie Dying and making chocolate ice-cream bowls.

On Thursday, Nat and Alex worked together to make an edible chocolate ice cream bowl they could share with their friends during lunch. First, the students had to blow up balloons and then melt chocoalte to dip the bottom of the balloon in to form the shell.  However, we quickly learned after having several balloons pop in the chocolate and splash all over us that the balloons could not be blown up all the way nor could the chocolate be too hot.


Once the chocolate was all melted the boys were able to put a teaspoon of chocolate on the wax paper to hold as a base for the balloon after having been dipped in the chocolate bowl.


Poor Nat had to clean up the chocolate that managed to splash all over him! 


After dippig our balloons in the melted chocolate we placed them in the refridgerator to help set the chocolate before popping the balloons.


After 5 minutes in the refridgerator, it was time to start popping the balloons!  The students had a great time poking and popping away! Then Alex decided he also wanted to have a chocolate covered apple.


Once the balloons were all popped, the shells were ready to fill with ice cream.  Nat decided to give his chocolate shell to Ali since it was Ali's birthday the day before.


While Alex wanted to give his shell to Mr. and Mrs. Polak's son, Tommy!  Needless to say, Tommy was very happy!!

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International Student Coordinator/ELL Teacher


On Monday evening, Alex and Nat came to my home to Tie Dye their very first shirt.  Once they had finished their shirt, they welcomed other interested students and shared the steps needed in order to make their very own Tie Dye shirt too.  The students were able to choose from four different Tie Dye styles; the swirl, the bullsey, the crumple and the sunburst.  Nat and Alex deomonstrated and helped the students learn how to complete their style.  Once they finished making their Tie Dy, the shirts had to set for 10 hours before washing and wearing.  


After making the Tie Dye, they had to wrap the shirt in siran wrap and let sit for at least 10 hours before washing and wearing.


Alex (left) and Nat (right) were excited to see the finished projects and distribute the shirts to the students who they had helped Tie Dye!


                                                                                                                                                      ~ Angela Thomas

International Student Coordinator/ELL Teacher



Week 4's Tuesday Tour with GRA's English Language Learners was a trip to Niles, Ohio to visit President McKinly's Memorial and Library followed by a visit at my parents' farm; Manna Farms ~ Grass-Fed Beef Cattle Certiified Organic.


Prior to our field trip, Nat (China) & Alex (Russia) learned that President William McKinely was the 25th President of the United States of America and that he served as president from March 4, 1897 to September 14, 1901.  Sadly he died in office as a result of an assassin's bullet.  


We also learned that President McKinley was one of eight Ohioans elected to the United States Presidency.


As we walked through the Museum, we discovered that President McKinley's photo is on the $500.00 dollar bill and that early in his life he attended a one-room schoolhouse that stood on the site of the memorial located in Niles, Ohio.  When he was 9 years old, his family moved to Poland, Ohio so that he could attend a private school called the Poland Academy.  At the age of 16 he attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa however he became very ill and was forced to return home.  After he recovered from his illness, he was unable to return to Allegheny College as his parents financial situation had changed.  He instead received a job as a postal clerk. It wasn't until 1866 when President McKinly entered law school in Albany, NY.  Later he opened his own law office, and became active in the politics of the Republican Party.


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Following our tour of President McKinley's Memorial and Library we stopped by my parents' farm ~ Manna Farms ~  for Nat and Alex to see where I grew up.  I shared with them that a farmer's job never ends and how there is always something that needs to be done.  We talked about the raising of and caring for the different animals and the types of fodder (one of their vocab words this past week) the animals are given.  I explained that my parents have been farming since the early 70's when they began milking cows.  It wasn't too long afterwards that my dad decided to become an organic farmer.  It was in 1976 that he became classified as an Organic Farm.  Today he raises Grass Fed Beef Cattle; Registered Piedmontese.


Alex was very brave and walked right into the cow pasture while Nat enjoyed feeding the baby turkeys.


We climbed in the mule and took a ride around the farm while dad was busy on the tractor raking the hay in order to have it ready to bale.




Lastly, we rode up to the top of the hill where the garden and blueberry bushes are.  The students enjoyed picking the rippened blueberries and eating them :) 


Next week we will be visiting Amish Country as the students will have an oppotunity to be introduced to a whole new culture.



Week #3 of Grand River Academy's Summer English Language Institute

This week's 'Tuesday Tour' was of Ashtabula's Historic Harbor.  Our first stop was at the beautiful Lake Shore Park.  Alex and Nat enjoyed walking the beach looking for beach glass.  They also thought it was pretty amazing that they could look through the binaculars to see the ships that were way out in the Lake Erie waters.  They loved that the ducks were just walking around the park and the Peacock had come out of it's house to see them!






Our next stop was at the Harbor Lift Bridge, where we visited the unique Bridge Street shops.  We also stopped off at the very popular Harbor Perk Coffee Shop where Nat purchased a hot coffee and Alex a vanilla mocha shake.  We sat near the lift bridge waiting for the bell to ring and the bridge to lift so the boats could move through.



As we were heading back to campus, we passed the Harbor McDonald's and the boys asked if we could go in as they had yet to visit a McDonald's in America! Needless to say, we chatted about the differences between the McDonald's in Russia and China to the newly remodeled McDonald's here in Ashtabula.  We quickly learned as we have so far with most everything else, that though there are many differences, there are also many similarities!




On Thursday, both Nat (China) and Alex (Russia) had the opportunity to not only learn how to make, but also eat an American favorite 'Rice Krispie Treats'.


After making the treats, Nat and Alex shared them with the office staff ~ pictured is Mrs. Wooding in the business office


To begin with, Nat and Alex collected all of their ingredients then measured the 4 tablespoons of butter, the 6 cups of chocolate Rice Krispies and the 10 ounces of marshmellows.


Next, they put the butter and marshmellows together in a bowl and microwaved them for 2 minutes.  Then they stirred the melted butter and marshmellows together.



Afterthat, they combined the marshmellow mixture with the 6 cups of chocolate Rice Krispies.  They stirred the ingredients together really well and then tranferred it to a buttered 9x13 pan.  


The last step was to use a buttered piece of wax paper to spread out the the Rice Krispie Treats in the pan. 


Finally, the treats were ready to eat!  The boys also shared them with the office staff as well as the students during our mid-morning break!

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On Tuesday, the English Language Learners went on a tour of Ashtabula County's Hisotric Covered Bridges.  There are 18 total in Ashtabula, however we were only able to visit 4 of them.  The bridges are a very popular tourist site for visitors coming to Ashtabula. This October marks the 31st Covered Bridge Festival that is held each year at the county fairgrounds.  People come from all over Ohio and beyond to enjoy this festival!

Our first stop was at the Mechanicsville Road Bridge  This is the second longest single-span Covered Bridge in Ashtabula County, this 156 ft. Howe truss with arch was built over Grand River in 1867. The arch is 15 layers of 2 x 8 lumber encased by large beams which form the X's of the Howe truss. It's believed to be the oldest of the County's covered bridges. This bridge was renovated in 2003-2004 and was once again opened to traffic in the spring of 2004




Our second stop was just a little ways up the road in Harpersville at the HARPERSFIELD BRIDGE
This two-span Howe truss bridge is 228-feet long. It spans the Grand River, which is the primary drainage channel of western Ashtabula County. The bridge was built in 1868 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Located in the County Metro Park it is a great place to picnic. A flood in 1913 washed soil away from the north end of the bridge and changed the river channel. The steel bridge was then attached. A walkway was added in 1991-92 when the bridge was renovated.



Our third stop was at the shortest covered bridge in the United States.  The WEST LIBERTY Covered Bridge.  It is only 18 feet (5.5 m).  Construction of the bridge began in 2010 and was completed in 2011.


On our way to our last covered bridge, we stopped off at Ree's Corner for an old fashion fountain drink!  Alex discovered the pharmaceutical museum located in the store while Nat had fun checking out an original phone booth.




Finally, we arrived at the SMOLEN-GULF Covered Bridge.
This this the longest covered bridge in the United States. And known to be the 4th longest in the world! Engineering and structural design by John Smolen (former County Engineer) and architectural design by Timothy Martin.  The bridge was dedicated August 26, 2008. The bridge is 613 ft. long and stands 93 ft. above the Ashtabula River. With clear width of 30 ft. and height of 14 ft. 6 in. it will support full legal load traffic and has a life expectancy of 100 years!


While at the Swolen-Gulf Bridge, Alex was happy to meet up with this cute lil pup.


The boys enjoyed their time on this historic trip of the Ashtabula County Covered Bridges. Following our trip, they wrote in their journal all about their experience and shared several  differences and similiarities between each bridge.


On Monday, we celebrated Zimu's birthday! 


Followed by an evening bon-fire making S'mores and playing Badmitton!





On Friday, July 4th, the students had the opportunity to join with many other Americans for the celebration of America's Independence by attending a parade in the morning, the Cleveland Indians Baseball Game in the evening followed by a big firework display to end the celebration!  

During class, we discussed this very important and special holiday by talking about all the facts shared in the link below:



We arrived a little bit early to ensure a spot by the announcer's booth in order to hear the description of all the floats in the parade. It was a perfect spot as there was also a Pepsi machine nearby!  While waiting for the local Conneaut Parade to begin, a gentleman and his little girl were passing out American flags and shared one with Alex and Nat. 

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Finally, the announcer said, 'let the parade begin' and one by one the different floats went by.  In the parade there were old antique cars, local high school football and band students, canidates running in the upcoming election. There were different church groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scout troops, 4H clubs riding by on their horses, police and local fire departments even drove through the parade in their vehicles, plus many many more!  Nat especially liked all the candy that was thrown to us as they passed by :)



Following the parade we stopped at Burger King for lunch!  


Nat was very interested in looking at his receipt from the food he purchased to eat.  He was surprised to learn about the 'tax' that is put on food when chosen to eat in the restaurant rather than getting the food to go.  This was also a great opportunity to talk about money and and how much each piece is worth.  


I love how there is always a lesson in every activity for me too!  The boys taught me all about the Chinese 'Yuan' and the Russian 'Ruble'. Nat shared with me that the Yuan on the left, could probbably buy a pencil and was worth maybe 16 cents of American money.  I asked Alex if he would exchange his Ruble below on the right for Nat's Yuan or my American coins and he laughed and said no!  We didn't blame him at after learning that his Ruble is worth $25.00 in exchange for American money! 

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On Thursday, July 3rd, the students in Grand River Academy's English Language Institute program enjoyed a class lesson on following directions as they had to make Kettle Corn!

Both Alex (Russia) and Nat (China) worked together in writing down the directions on how to make this sweet treat.  Then they discussed the steps involved and finally were able to make and enjoy the delicous finished product :) 


Below are the instructions on making sweet popcorn if you would also like to try this at home.              


First of all, Alex and Nat discussed the directions, then Alex added the oil to the popcorn popper and plugged it in so that the oil would begin to get hot. 


After that, Alex measured a 1/2 cup of sugar and added it to the hot oil.  Then Nat measured a 1/2 cup popcorn and added it to the oil and sugar mixture in the popper.


Then, Alex put the lid on the popper and listened as it began to sizzle.  The boys were really amazed as the kernals began popping that they decided to video tape it popping.  

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Finally, it had stopped popping!  The moment they had been waiting for was finally here and Nat was the first to try it and loved it :)

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The boys were truly amazed and happy the popcorn had turned out so well that they asked if they could share it with the students in the other class.


Needless to say, everybody enjoyed this sweet treat!


This summer, the English Languge Institue class has two students.  Zimu from China and Alexander from Russia.   

As part of a fun way to meet some of Grand River Academy's great administration and staff, the English Language Learners were sent on an adventure!  

 The students were each given a small paper clip and instructed to go to the administration and staff offices to introduce themselves and to trade/upgrade their objects to get the biggest, best and most creative objects possible.    

The activity began with an in class introduction of the administrations/staffs' names and titles followed by a role play.  The boys assured me they were ready for the challenge and off they went!!

To my great suprise they returned with such amazing trades!!!  

Zimu (China) pictured below traded his paper clip in on a fan, the fan for a picture frame, the picture frame for a football helmet, a football helmet for a lap-top computer and then decided that the biggest, best and most creative object would be to trade the lap-top in on Mr. Lum (pictured below) GRA's Assistant Admission Director, who helped make it possible for his acceptance into GRA's summer program!!


Alexander (Russia) pictured below, traded his paper clip in on a stapler, the stapler for a buzzer, the buzzer for a water pitcher, the water pitcher for a fan (which was a very smart trade as it was a very hot day), but then decided the biggest, best and most creative trade would be to trade the fan in for Mr. Scharping's (Director of Summer School) car, keys and all!!  

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I was totally shocked when the boys returned with such amazing trades that I told them they were both winners and deserved a trip to the Ashtabula Dairy Queen!


Zimu and Alexander were all smiles as they shared about their time meeting, communicating and trading with GRA's great administration and staff!

Below is another picture of one of the trades that Zimu made with Ms. Hedrick (pictured left) & Mrs. Wooding (right).


Angela Thomas ~ ELL Teacher

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Comments 1

Guest - xia wen on Sunday, 06 July 2014 04:34

thanks ,i am glad to seeing the photo about zimu's.i am excited.could you help me send move photo about eight
children from china.thanks very much. you are an excellent teacher,your classes are full of variety. good job!

thanks ,i am glad to seeing the photo about zimu's.i am excited.could you help me send move photo about eight children from china.thanks very much. you are an excellent teacher,your classes are full of variety. good job!