Kara Morrison

Winnona Park Elementary School, Decatur GA

Interview craftspeople, farmers, and entrepreneurs in Otavalo, Ecuador, to develop a case study documenting the stages of production of various goods and create a non-fiction book and museum-in-a-box that enlivens economics and models primary source research.

Where I've Been

  • Otavalo, Ecuador
  • Quito, Ecuador

My Fellowship in Images

The secretary at our school, Blanca, took us to visit her family in the rural mountains. Her grandfather lives by himself on the side of a mountain and speaks only Kichwa. Blanca translated to Spanish so that we could interview him.
Our host father had a stall in a newly opened market.
We went to an instrument workshop and watched this man make Ecuadorian flutes from reeds.
This woman showed us how she designs and makes shirts that younger indigenous girls will want to wear.
We went to a jewelry shop where women make jewelry from tagua seeds.
20 indigenous families together purchased an abandoned factory where many of them had worked as teenagers. They turned it into a Museum of Kichwa Culture. These families were thrilled to be able to preserve their culture for their children.

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

The biggest change I experienced was in my ability to risk talking to new people in a language I am not fluent in. My desire to hear people's stories and learn more about them allowed me to overcome my own fears about making a fool of myself. Two weeks of Spanish classes and living with a host family also allowed my Spanish to blossom. I felt much more comfortable conducting interviews at the end of our stay.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I feel capable of teaching economics in a way that I believe will completely engage the students. I look forward to using our museum in a box along with pictures and stories to show how goods are created using natural resources and how individuals make choices about what to sell and how to market goods. I also feel well prepared to model non-fiction writing and primary source research for students.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

My greatest personal accomplishment was conducting many interviews in Spanish. I have always loved Storycorps because I believe that everyone's story is important. This fellowship was a true dream come true for me because it mainly involved asking people lots of questions and listening to their stories. Even when the topic was something seemingly impersonal (economics, or how goods are made), I still felt that we got to know the people we interviewed in an important way.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

Our museum in a box, together with the book we are creating and the stories we share, will bring economics to life in am amazing way for our students. We plan to use the museum in a box and book to teach students how craftspeople make goods using natural resources and how they market those goods. I also believe that showing students footage of our interviews and talking about how we decided to organize our information into sections will give students a unique model for research and writing.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

My team is writing a book together about the economy and entrepreneurship in Otavalo, Ecuador. We will also plan together how we will use this book to model non-fiction writing and how we will use our experiences interviewing craftspeople about the creation and marketing of their products to guide students as they create products for market day.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

We plan to use our non-fiction text as a model and have the students write non-fiction books. We will share these books with each other in a gallery walk. We also plan to have a market day where the kids sell and market goods that they have created.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

Yes! We hope to support craftspeople, artists, and fair trade in Ecuador. Although our expedition is in the spring and we have not completely planned the details yet, we are planning on having the kids learn about fair trade as well as sell fair trade goods at our market day.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I have struggled with anxiety for much of my life. I have learned that the less I focus on myself, the happier I am. I can sit at home with my worries for company or I can travel, learn, and listen to other people's stories. I believe that we grow most when we allow our fears to be with us but do important things anyway. Nothing is more important to me than honoring my belief that everyone's story is important. Traveling to Ecuador allowed me to hear, honor, and share many people's stories.