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Saturday, October 3, 2015

4th Graders: Get Your Free National Parks Pass This School Year

Judy Blume knew it way back in the '70s when she wrote her book "Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing:" 4th Grade is THE BEST.  It's an age of major growth for kids, as connections spark left and right.  4th graders have a huge sense of justice (just check out any recess playground at a nearby school!).  They also are very curious, eager, experimental, and fun-loving.  (To learn more about typical child development for the 4th grade stage, check out this article.)

One could argue kids at all ages are "all of the above," but there's another reason that "4th Graders Rock" this year.  They are the chosen ones.

With President Obama's proclamation and the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative, every 4th grade student nationwide is entitled to free entry in any of the 2,000+ National Parks of the United States.  This is effected for any fourth grade student from Sept 1st, 2015 to August 31st, 2016.

If that doesn't elicit a hoot and a holler, I don't know what does.

So what is it about 4th grade?  Given it's an age of connection for kids (who, can't drive, by the way), this is the perfect age to get kids and their families outdoors.  From the Every Kid in a Park website & media kit, doing this now (at this age) serves as a:
"nationwide call to action action to build the next generation of outdoor stewards of our country’s spectacular and diverse federal lands and waters. Connecting our nation’s youth to the great outdoors is even more important at a time when 80 percent of American families live in cities and most children spend more time on computers and smartphones than exploring nature. The initiative is slated to continue with each year’s group of fourth graders to inspire successive generations to become responsible stewards of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage. Every Kid in a Park invites children of all backgrounds to discover their public lands and all they offer, including opportunities to be active and spend time with friends and family. As living classrooms, these outdoor places and historic sites also provide hands-on, real-world opportunities to develop critical skills and learn about the natural world."
Likewise, here are some other reasons why 4th grade was the chosen age:
  • 4th graders in many states focus on their state history.
  • The National Park System has 4th-grade-specific programs in place.
  • 4th graders are just before the age of 11, which has been noted as the age by which the window of "outdoor connection with nature" closes.  After this age, if kids haven't connected with nature, it might be too late.  As with anything:  the earlier, the better!
So here we are at the start of October.  If you didn't realize it last month, there's still a whole 11 months to go. You can go to the Every Kid in a Park website and have your 4th grader do an activity to get a paper pass to print.  That pass will get you free entrance into the parks and exchange it for a plastic park.  The Every Kid in a Park pass not only gets your 4th grader in, but anyone else in the vehicle (no buses, please!) who is accompanying them (up to 3 adults).  The website also has an educator portal with a lesson plans/activities to download and free passes to anyone who teaches 4th grade.  Likewise, teachers can print class sets of passes, each with their own unique identification code.

To get you excited and wanting to start your own "Tales of a 4th Grade National Park Adventurer," check out this PSA for the National Park Service.  Then head over to the Every Kid in a Park Website!

Which National Park would you want to visit first, 
to share your pictures on social media with #FindYourPark?  
Please leave a comment below as to where you'd want to go!  
I'd love to hear about it!

Images from; "4th Grade Rocks" image from, video

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Make Time To Fall In Love With Fall

A week ago, we were all saying:

A week later... I'm still having a little bit of a hard time with that.

Don't get me wrong.  I do love fall.  
It's gorgeous, the colors--at their height--are amazing. 
The beauty seems to transform each and every day.  
The crispness and coolness are delightful, and it's like we can breathe after the summer (and then again in Indian Summer) days of swampy, sweaty mess.

But, autumn means shorter days... and it means saying goodbye to my pool.  

This is the arrow in my heart!

The pool makes summer's heat endurable, and it brings me as close to meditation as I get.  (Clearly I need to work on this.)  The canopy of backyard greenery and leaves almost makes breathing easier.  You can't sweat in a pool.  And the backyard commute is the perfect length of time.  
It's my place to play with my kids, my crazy dog, and my own thoughts while chillaxing as only teachers can in the summer.  Major decompression!  Ahhh!

Now, we're clearly back to school, and it won't be long until the pool gets closed up.  The water temperature has already dramatically shifted, 
and it's lost its solar magic.  I miss it terribly, already.  

But that's when we need I need to embrace the season-specific outdoor activities that you can only do in October & November.  And I need to make sure to carve time out for more than pumpkins... but rather for all of those things as 
I'm knee-deep in the back-to-school busy!  

Note to self: Make time to fall in love with fall!

What types of things do you like 
to make sure to sit & take the time for 
while the leaves are turning?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pope's U.S. Pilgrimage... & the Presidential Pups

Unless you've been under a rock the last few days, you know that Pope Francis is in the United States.  He stopped first in Washington, DC, then New York, now he's off to Philadelphia. Certainly 3 iconic cities here in the U.S.

Last night, Friday night, I came home wiped and mentally spent after a long (though good) day of Professional Development. I came home with two pizza boxes in hand.  Ah...the life of an elementary teacher here in the first month of school!

Plopping in the couch to eat with my family., we were tuned in to CNN.  On Friday night, the Pope was touring around Central Park in the "PopeMobile" and then going on to speak at Madison Square Garden, ousting my man, Billy Joel, from his arena. For good and obvious reason.

So it is Friday night, and we are riveted by the Pope. There is something slightly awe-inspiring about this on a traditionally happy-hour-kind-of- night.

I saw the above picture yesterday on Facebook, and it seems to centralize the humanity of the Pope. I view myself as more spiritual than religious, and time in outdoors can become more heartfelt and inspirational at times than some church sermons.  But, I have children and I want them to get some religious education.  This is perhaps why that quote spoke to me.

Despite the fact that Snopes refutes the above, illustrated quote, there are indeed elements of truisms in the quote that date back to history.  How many stories through the ages are there of corruption in the ancient church?  How many people do you know who go to Saturday night mass or Sunday morning church to ask for forgiveness for weekly transgressions of true meanness and wrong doing, with the idea that if I confess I am led to absolution?  How many hate crimes are on the news due to supposedly doing so in the name of God? Being a church-goer doesn't necessarily make you a good person.  You can be spiritual in nature, in your living room, on your back patio, and also in church.

I think it's because of the hope we have in this Pope that quotes like the above speak to us. More than hope, it's also about faith, adoration, respect.  We respect that he turned down a pricy plated lunch with DC politicians to go share a meal with the homeless.  We appreciate his views on humanity and embracing being a good person and being good stewards to our planet.  We are touched by his level to pass down the pomp & circumstance and to go a simpler route.  And that crosses religious lines:  it doesn't matter what your religious bias and leanings are.

Shephard Smith said it well in regards to how we are politicizing things that are just good basic human kindnesses that are traditional teachings of the church:

Plus, who can question the goodness, kindness, & compassion of the Pope--clearly a lover of the Presidential Pups?!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship With Technology: A Litany of Links

If you have been hanging out with me for awhile, you know that the previous two posts were the first 2/3 of my true confession trilogy of my love-hate relationship with technology, despite being a tech teacher.  You can find them here and here.

Clearly I'm not the only one out there that has spent some time and energy thinking about this one. Below are a bounty of pieces that might make you think and rethink yours and your children (and your students) attachment to technology.

Let's start with an infographic:

And here's a litany of other links on this subject:

And lets end with the "Book Book:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship With Technology: Unplugging

As I've mentioned before...
I have a love-hate relationship with technology.

You can learn so much online.
You can waste so much time online.
Your children can become zombified. Just. Like. That.

Sometimes we need to step out of the routine and rut of our "Tech Connect" and go cold turkey and be unplugged.  Vacations are like that.  You are out of your normal setting, your typical sphere.  You put yourself in places you haven't been and you really start seeing.

Unplugging is like that too!  It opens you up to the things that you have been omitting for awhile.

To let you know how well that's going from a tech-teacher and adult-side:
My phone screen recently broke.  My phone is my main line tool of connection, of calendar, of note-taking, of book-reading, of idea-making:  my everything.  It's akin to apolectic shock.  I hurt.  I reeled in pain.  It let to momentary panic of "What am I going to do?"  It led to a trip to the Verizon store.

All that aside:  I am a mom.  And I want my tech-generation kids to unplug naturally. Yeah right. We all need strength, will power, clarity, and vision.  Because in doing so, you really do see.  Broken screen and all!!

Unplugging routinely is healthy, but hard.  This poetry slam piece from Marshall Davis Jones entitled "Touchscreen" really shows us the clear-cut case of addiction that we all know we are sucked into.

 Marshall Soulful Jones, part of Team Nuyorican 2011, 2nd place finishers at the National Poetry Slam in Boston, performs "Touchscreen". The Bowery Poetry Club NY

Stay tuned for the final part in my trilogy of my Love-Hate Relationship where we will get some more morsels to help you analyze your own and your kids attachment to technology.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship with Technology: My Top 5's on Both Sides

True confessions from an elementary school Technology Specialist:

I have a love-hate relationship with the technology of today.

My Top 5 Loves:
  • In the classroom, technology opens up doors for student engagement. My favorite folder on our student iPads is the "Create & Write" Folder--filled with apps designed exactly for just that! (That being said, technology is one tool, not the holy grail. There are times when low-tech and no-tech options like games, thinking skills, cooperative learning, outdoor experiences are better suited for the task at hand.)
  • For people who love to learn, computers and mobile devices hold so many opportunities to keep your knowledge base going and growing--from software, to apps, to coding opportunities, to the wealth of information called the Internet. This holds true for students & adults alike.
  • iPads, smartphones, & laptops are all ripe with their ability to hold everything in one place.  I remember days-gone-by, packing for a trip: the handful of books I was currently reading in one bag, another one filled with a magazine or two, a music player, maybe a movie, my camera, my calendar, my notebook/journal, any maps, my cell phone, my address book... Now, you've got it packaged all neatly in one place for one-stop-shopping, especially once you connect to wifi.
  • Given the 1-device-ness mentioned above, not only are you packing lighter, but you are packing in a much more eco-friendly way.  My daughter's middle school is almost completely a paper-free environment thanks to their 1:1 iPad program.  That is saving a lot of trees!
  • Technology tools can be used for such a force of good when it comes to 21st century skills:  creativity, connection, collaboration, critical thinking, and more. 

My Top 5 Hates:
  • I am a tech teacher, and I am a mom of tech-loving children.  Given that, I have to be the "Tech Czar" to my own kids--telling them when to turn it off, take a break, and unplug.   (Nobody likes that job!)  I'm still working on ways to have them self-monitor that more, but I haven't found the magic in that one.  (See below.)
  • The seduction & addiction is hard enough for us adults to know when it's time to step away from our devices.  How can we truly expect children to self-monitor this?  (See above.)
  • Given my job, I use my devices for research, for work, for creating lesson plans, and following trends.  I am on tech a lot...which means this is the example I set for my kids.  I try to explain to them how my curation & creation is different than their frequent consumption.  (I mean, how many Minecraft Youtube videos can they really watch?!)  Sometimes this falls on headphoned-ears.
  • To cultivate creativity, studies have shown us that you need to get bored. Steve Jobs knew that and limited his own kids and their computer time.  Can you get bored with your device? In this age of multi-tasking (which never really goes well), we don't ever really get there.  Once you start getting bored, you switch apps, and move on, being driven by instant gratification. Innovation & invention won't really enter the picture if you are time-slicing (or bouncing from one thing to another) at a speed-racer-pace.
  • I've found myself doing everything I made fun of when the first "Blackberry" (aka "Crackberry") came out.  How many times do we check our devices?  (Apparently there's an app to answer that!) How near is it in any given situation?  I have found myself become more Adult-Onset-ADHD. Check email. Text a couple people simultaneously. Play Words With Friends. Scan Pinterest. Check Facebook. Play another Word....Not to mention Twitter, Instagram, the weather, and anything else we can't live without--or so we've told ourselves. We've all seen the family of 4-5 who are all laser-locked at a restaurant table, each on their own device, silent as mice.
So....what's a techie teacher to do in this double-edged sword world in which we live?

As with anything, I know it all comes down to balance & moderation.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Innovation: The Key to Fixing the Eco Problems of the World

Deon Jackson sang in 1966 that "love makes the world go 'round."

He was right. And our world could certainly use more LOVE and less HATE. The nightly news (any day of the week--but especially in the anniversary season of 9/11) will tell you that. But the nightly news will also reveal more than crime in our cities. Wildfires. Droughts. Floods. Climate change (why are we still debating this, people?). Pollution. Marine debris. Deforestation.

Love alone isn't going to handle it.

We also need a heavy dose of innovation & innovators to take the lead, healing our planet by solving the problems we face.  Bill Gates knows it (and just recently wrote about it on his GatesNotes blog). As I've written about, at least 12 young eco leaders were driven by innovation.  The creators of the Hidrate Bottle & the Baltimore trash collecting water wheel were too.  As are people facing drought conditions in California.

Innovation is the springboard, and it is what it will take to make "green fixes of the world."  That means our job as educators is to grow innovators. Sometimes, that spark starts in organically in outdoor experiences during childhood.  Other times, that sparks comes from both those spontaneous teachable moments, while other times it comes in a well-crafted lesson.

2014-11-11-Explorationisthe1.jpgBill Gates spoke about this in his blog post on clean energy innovation at the end of July.  His innovation intention: to invest $1 billion in clean energy over the next 5 years. His view: through innovation, the "pace of progress" can be accelerated. Climate-change wise, poverty-wise, clean-food-wise, anti-pollution-wise.

Here are 8 resources to encourage innovation, investigation, curiosity, critical thinking, & a problem solving mindset (in both students & educators!):
  • "The Last Generation of Kids That Played Outside," the November 2014 Huffington Post article by Nate Hanson
    • This is one of the most powerful articles I have ever read! It continues to linger in my teacher (& parent) brain. The gist: how our current innovators [who have created all the techy gizmos we now love] were outdoor players. This quote is striking, as it reminds me of my childhood. It shows the difference between the bucket of LEGOs I got as a kid, and the instruction-based kits my children now get:
    "You weren't dependent on someone else's creativity and ingenuity. You knew how to dream. You didn't need someone to entertain you or design things for you to have fun with. You could create a game with pinecones and sticks. When this past generation of Apple creators sat down to dream up the next product, I believe they subconsciously drew back on their own 'backyard' roots. They knew how to solve problems because they had solved them before. They knew how to dream up new possibilities because they had been doing that since they were a kid." ~ Nate Hanson
  • 5 Ways To Encourage Kids to Grow Up to Be Innovators by Gwen Moran 
  • 5 ways to get your students started on global PBL projects from ISTE 
    • Whether you begin searching from 5 miles away to 5K, the global project-based learning connects all cultures to solve problems. The article promotes finding a cause, doing the research, using social media both in searching or taking action, and going small and large while looking both locally and globally.  That real world connection is what will make the difference!
  • Choose2Matter 
    • This website is dedicated to inspire folks to work together to creatively tackle social problems. It's an online community for students and teachers, with resources galore to promote collaboration, critical thinking, boldness, bravery, and action in the real world of problem solving.
  • Tech For Good 
    • Here you have a 3 in one: a website. a meetup, and a hashtag: #techforgood. Their mission is to carve the path of innovative solution for social and environmental challenges through technology. The meetup groups at Tech For Good want to unite the "hackers, coders, developers and designers with people who really understand a social problem and want to build digital solutions to social challenges." The Tech For Good TV website houses a number of inspirational videos.
  • Recipe for Innovation 
    • Brought to you by Chobani & Discovery Education, this website is ripe with virtual field trips and actvities for K--12th graders combining entrepreneurship and nutrition education.
  • Filapino Teacher Wins National Outstanding Green-o-vation Award from
    • Here is an example of environmental education innovation...and well deserved accolades.  Jennifer Suzara-Cheng won the 2015 Green Difference Awards this past spring in Massachusets.  Combining STEM and "green" teaching, Ms. Suzara-Cheng has shown the importance of getting kids outside to sharpen their critical thinking skills to solve real world needs.
Innovation is what it's going to take to make the world continue to go 'round.

Deon Jackson album cover; Edith Widder quote from; Chalkboard brainstorm pic from

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nature RX

"Nature has a marketing problem."  So say the good folks at Nature RX.

It's like they read my mind, my recent posts, and GTG.  Or at least Richard Louv's book.  (Deep down inside, I know which one it is!)

From their website--that's exactly what they are doing--marketing Nature:
"The creators of Nature Rx love making films and the outdoors.  Nowadays everything has a brand and marketing campaign.  What about nature?  Maybe a dose of humor and the outdoors would be a good prescription.  Time for Mother Nature to get her own commercial." ~ Justin Bogardus, writer/director of Nature Rx
Take a peek at their videos on their YouTube Channel or here below, 
and be ready to chuckle a bit on the way....then go get yourself outside!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

HidrateMe Smart Water Bottle

This summer has once again led me on a quest toward healthy eating. Upping my water intake, lowering my vices (Diet Coke & red wine), enjoying the ripeness of seasonal fruit, and having the time to allow for a more clean style of cooking and eating. This perpetual quest that indeed seems to get a tad more difficult each year. (What is it about the busy-ness of the school year that leads to the annual "up and down roller coaster" weight graph on my Fitbit app??)

But summer is golden, opening up the time, making it easier to jump on the bandwagon of good health and a heartier commitment to exercising.  My fingers are crossed that I can do the same now that the school year is upon us!

Being techy-minded, I gravitate to "oohing" and "ahhing" over the new gizmos. Luckily "geek" is in vogue. In this fast-growing world of innovation where no stone is left unturned, that includes tech help for healthy lifestyles.

Luckily, there's soon to be "an app for that" as there's a "smart water bottle" on the horizon.

HidrateMe is one of the latest crowdsourced "body-tech" finds out there on Kickstarter. The main HidrateMe objective is to track your water intake in real time.  With a Kickstarter goal of $35,000 to fund the HidrateMe bottle, they chimed in as overachievers, raising more than $600,000.

Slate has an interesting article on the subject.  I will say, I like it. I like the reusable concept. I like that it is chic and moves us away from purchasing plastic bottled water (& the waste that produces). I know I drink more water when I am trekking around town with water in hand. I could totally see the reminder glow as a good Pavlovian response for me to drink more water!!  However, I will say, the price point of $46.95 might be a little high for my blood.  Though, it might make my Christmas wish list as a splurge item.

At the very least, I think it's brilliant that the HidrateMe team saw a need, went the distance with their entrepreneurial spirit to make it happen, and clearly found that this is a niche needing to be filled (as Kickstarter proved). Kudos, team! I can't wait to see where you go!

Video from, "Water" pic & quote from my phone, using the Motivational Poster app, HidrateMe bottles from

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Innovation Defined


No matter the iteration, "innovative" is one of those words that just keeps popping up these days. Commercials. Leadership podcasts. Education books & blogs. Educational trends of STEM & STEAM, Project Based Learning,, & the blossoming Maker Movement.

It's making me wonder: is it really more in vogue lately, or am I operating under the universal magnet of the "law of attraction" where you are drawn to what's on your mind?

Maybe, just maybe, innovation is the key we need these days to solve ... well, just about everything: environmentally and socially.  (But more on that in another post.)

Perhaps the best definition I have found on innovation is the The Innovative Manager's Manifesto:

For some inspiration, hop over to The Innovative Manager for "25 Innovation Quotes That Can Change Your Life." Then, see what you can do to "put a dent in the universe!"

Lightbulb pic from; Innovation Manifesto image from

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Love of Books... And Jane Goodall

This summer, a children's library that was very dear to me closed its doors. Outside of the public system, the books from this library were in need of finding a new home.  Over 1000 books were now homeless.

Books, like people, need someone to love them.

We all know: we protect what we love.  Given that, I pushed hard against my natural instinct to grab them all and run.  (Let's be real: my overstuffed, doubled stacked bookshelf at home already has maxed its limit. That's what happens when you move from a 3rd grade teaching position to that of technology specialist, with an office versus a classroom. There was no way I could accommodate 1000 old friends.)  

Luckily, there were many other book lovers (& lovers of this library), so the majority of the books found new places to live. Classrooms. Gifts for grandchildren. Bookshelves in family homes. A library for a Boys and Girls Club was going to be born from some of these books.  These books were going forth to make a difference in the lives of students, children, teachers, & more.

That is what is called the silver lining in the aftermath of loss.

Within the 5 bags I brought home (3 for another teacher friend and 2 for me), I found some old friends. One book in there was a gem of memories indeed. An autographed copy, in fact. The book: With Love by Jane Goodall. 

With love, indeed.

I was fortunate enough to see this champion of the environment speak at my former school in the Spring of 2008. Dr. Jane Goodall's passion and purpose are unrivaled.  This video speaks volumes of both of those, and points us the direction to go forth and make a difference.

A tribute to Dr. Jane Goodall  
(Song: "Why Shouldn't We?" by Mary Chapin Carpenter)

The video and book also can serve as a spring board to learn more about this amazing woman who followed her dreams and broke barriers as a woman as well as a human going forward in the animal world. It serves as a good example that if this solitary woman can live in this chimpanzee world, communicating and hearing each other, then certainly shouldn't we be able to do that with our fellow humans?

To immerse yourself or your class in Jane Goodall's amazing world, check out the following:

Virtual Tours:
Other Sites to Investigate:
  • The Jane Goodall Institute is always a great place to go to stay current with Jane's adventures
  • Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees site has a number of downloadable classroom activities and lesson plans.
  • BrainPop not only has as movie for Jane Goodall, but some educator resources as well.
  • Core Knowledge has a detailed, multi-day lesson plan for Kindergarten, with a bounty of books and additional resources.
  • Since this is what led me to reflect on Dr. Jane Goodall, this is a good place to circle back to. For a complete listing of books on all levels about Jane Goodall, as well as books she has written, this list at is a good place to go.

Autograph from my book and my camera, Book image from; Video from

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School ~ Back in Business ~ Back to the Monumental Task at Hand

'Tis the season. Today's the day. It's official. Back to school. Back in business.

That annual time has come once again--we are here at end of Phineas & Ferb's "There's 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it." I didn't count, though I'm pretty sure it did NOT feel like 104 days. It's universal: summer is officially over on that day when backpacks are on backs. That first "photo-worthy" day when kids are back to school.

Summer is over. Sigh.

Luckily for my children, they aren't there yet. Their fateful day is still a week away. But as a teacher, today's the day I head back.  No, no backpack, but my car is packed with goodies collected over the summer that need to go to school.

This back-to-school day is a bittersweet moment, as I already miss the luxury of summer. Pool days. Sleeping in. Reading books. Running around. Adventures. Vacations. Change of pace.

Instead, I know I'm in store for a day of meetings today.

But, there's also energy ahead. I know that today I'll be reuniting with my colleagues. We sit at the cusp of a blank slate, a brand new school year. Electricity is the flip side of that freshness. New ideas & new plans get set into motion. This fervor is what sparks our imagination which leads to inspiration.

As much as I hate to say goodbye to that open schedule of summer, there's something to that "back in business" feel. It's a vitality of that only teachers "get."

As classroom teachers, specials teachers, administrators & others who work with students, we always have a lot on our plates. Though we know the answer to Taylor Mali's ultimate question: "what do teachers make?"  We make a difference.  

Making a difference is quite a challenge...but so worth it!  It feels pretty good when you see "your" kids get it. A pride like no other  And they do "get it!"  I know, because we, as teachers, are rooting for them, pushing them, encouraging them, urging them, and guiding them to "get it."

Back to school. Back to business. Back to the monumental task at hand.

Cheers to all of you educators out there.  Have one heck of a school year.

Images:  Phineas & Ferb pic from, Teacher quote from video from

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Water, AJ+, & Their "Running Dry Playlist" @YouTube

We've all heard it before:  "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink."

Fitting for this oceanic planet of ours where 71% of the earth's surface is covered in the wet stuff. Additionally, according to USGS, the oceans hold approximately 96.5% of that blue liquid gold. But, no one is going to go out and grab a glass-full or a garden-full of oceanic salt water for survival. 

Hence why these stats (though interesting) are less-than-helpful at solving the drought problem.

While solving the drought problem is a doozy, we can begin to tackle it with information.  Here's where my newly-discovered li'l info-gem of AJ+ enters.  AJ+ is a news medium that has made it their mission to change the way we look at news.  Gearing it toward the video-and-visually-minded, social media-oriented consumer, AJ+ tells the news through video stacks, and an active social media presence at YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.  There's also an app for that (both on iTunes & for Android).

Their vision:  
"AJ+ is a global news community for the connected generation. We highlight human struggles and achievements, empower impassioned voices, and challenge the status quo. We bring you the stories that are shaping our world. Do you ever laugh, cry, get angry or inspired? You’ll fit right in." ~ From AJ+'s About Page on Facebook

This month of August, AJ+ is dedicated to the drought and bringing about awareness of water scarcity.
At YouTube, they have created their "Running Dry Playlist" which currently has 12 videos. Some are entertaining--all are informative.  (In fact, the Drought Hack of Lawn Painting was one that came up in the GTG conversation not too long ago.) 

My favorite 2 from the 12 (which was hard to narrow down, as they are all good--I mean, who doesn't want to learn about Water Wars with stop-motion LEGO animation?):

Perhaps if we flood all avenues with this type of environmental conversation, more people will start opening their eyes while simultaneously starting to make a difference! 

Planet Earth pic from; All AJ+ images from and AJ+'s Youbtube channel; Videos from and

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Road Tripping: Celebrating Our Country's Beauty

Every summer I take a semi-cross country driving trip, crossing several state lines to visit my family and my original hometown. [Perhaps a rarity in today's world: to be able return home to the same house that my folks lived in when I was born.] It's like an annual Jack Kerouacian solo trek to the motherland,...though different with two (non-driving) kids in tow. As I get older, the trip does feel longer--did someone put more states in there??  But, luckily, as the kids get older, technology helps take them to their own little backseat nirvana, as I drive the 12-13 hours--all the way as the lone driver.
This year, after 10 days in the heartland, we got back in the car, and turned south. A triangular trip was made. Our destination was Nashville, Tennessee to meet up with Daddio for a family vacation. The Grand Ole Opry, The Nashville Zoo, and the historic sites of Franklin, TN were some of the high points we hit before hitting the road again for home. The long way was well worth it--scenery and memories both combined.

As it always happens, the driving creates a lot of time to think.  It opens up a perspective as you consider the time, captive in car.  During the drive we had silence but we also had random conversations.  We played every car game you know. We also bellowed out show tunes & 80s music and air-guitared to Billy Joel music.

Equally as good, we got to see some of the amazing sights of our country.  You witness the landscape changing along the way:
  • Mountain vistas on the horizon. 
  • Rolling hills that eventually flatten the further west into the Midwest you go, then start rolling again when we head back east.
  • The lucky lushness brought on by a summer of rain (as opposed to the brown drought-stricken news scenes of California).
  • Corn tassels blowing in the wind.
  • City skylines of state capitals like Indianapolis, Columbus, & Nashville.
  • Wind farms that would make Don Quixote proud.
With all those sights, there always comes emotions, memories, & new realizations.

It really reminds you how beautiful this country is...which of course circles us back to music:

There is so much day-to-day that we take for granted. Out of the ordinary experiences like all-day driving trips and videos (like the one above) help build perspective. That realization of how small we truly are on this planet makes it really valuable.

May you take time to open your eyes and really see all that is around you today!

[I've written about my road trip experience & associated landscape awe before.  Click here to see that blast from the past.]

Pictures from my camera in a LiPix Pro app picture collage; Video of "America, The Beautiful,"performed by the US Navy Band & Sea Changers from

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Clif Bar: Advertising for Adventure & the Great Outdoors

In today's world, everything has a "brand." It's the logo and the name that stand out and speak volumes with just an image, a tagline, a presences.

We all know it & we can't help but see it on the TV, in advertisements, in radio jingles, and on street billboards.  It's no surprise nor secret:

Companies need marketing departments. 
Actors and actresses need agents.
Politicians need platforms.  

Given all of that, "the environment" is sort of left high and dry:
     -No Vice President of Marketing
     -No advertising campaign or agent to run it.
     -No multi-million dollar budget.
     -No voice amidst the noise.

(Well, there is the Lorax, but the lone Lorax may not be enough these days for all the noise that's out there these days!)

Luckily, "the environment" has Clif Bars on its side. From the look of their ad campaign, it looks as if the Clif Bars company has decided to be the power that empowers us all to embrace the environment. Their message in combination with the power of Vitamin "N" (aka, Nature), Clif Bars does a good job of harnessing the importance of caring for our environment and jumping on outdoor adventure, as these two videos show!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Go Virtually Anywhere On a Virtual Field Trip

Summer and professional development go hand in hand for us teachers.  As I've mentioned before, I've been busy in the PD arena:  reading books, listening to podcasts, and attending workshops (even teach a few). Yes, I've also been toe-dipping in the pool, but it is pretty interesting: those mental gears don't stop spinning & planning.

Maybe it's an occupational hazard for teachers!

My latest PD trip has been has been about trips. Virtual field trips.

With the Internet a click away, it's amazing how you can be, literally, virtually anywhere!  

Here are some good links to pursue if you are in search of somewhere to go... without ever leaving your classroom!

A Symbaloo webmix of 80+ places to investigate.

Get Outta Class With Virtual Field Trips
EducationWorld has a handful of good links and great advice of where to go and how to create your own.

A blog post from Kennedy Schultz from the Kid World Citizen blog (where this VFT image is from!)

Online collections of images, artifacts, videos, map views and more curated from Google on art projects, historic monuments, world wonders, and more.

3D models of museum artifacts and more, with printing plans for 3D printers.

360 views and images using Google Maps & Street Views of places all over this world.

Archived trips a

Article full of ideas and implementation from Young Children, November 2011

This of course is just a smidgen on the map of what's out there in the arena of virtual field trips.  If you are finding yourself landlocked or budget-stuck when it comes to trip planning this year ahead, grab a computer and head someplace exotic with your students.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Doozy of a Drought & What You Can Do About It

It's been a doozy of a summer for California and many other places plagued with drought.
Even despite a record rainfall July 20th of this year, California is hurting.  Tends to work that way when you are 4 years into a drought. Especially when it's perhaps the worst one California has had to date. According to NASA, megadroughts such as these aren't going to go away.

Drought brings about a wealth of other secondary issues (many of which can create critical and emergency situations):
  • increases in wildfires
  • diminished agriculture yields (which effects national, state, local, & personal economics)
  • increased food/water costs
  • loss/destruction of animal habitat
  • diminished water supplies for home/commercial use & drinkable water
  • soil erosion &/or poor soil quality
  • increased health issues due to poor air quality
  • a rise in stress-related distress due to all of the above
The cause? If you ask me (and perhaps the vast majority of climate scientists out there), all fingers point to climate change. Yet, some states aren't even allowed to use those words.  But I digress....

So what do you do if this is where you call home?  Clearly, you conserve water! Additionally you make some different landscaping choices [called "greenscaping"] to remove the heavy need for your front lawn to gulp down massive amounts of water. Here are some effective & even some innovative ways to go about doing that.

What do you do to conserve water where you live?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hop on the H20 & Hydrate

It's summer time, and it's no surprise to anyone--it's hot out there.  What's the best thing you can do when you're overheated?  Hydrate!

Since Spring Break, I've been trying to do just that. Largely, my initial quest was for a healthier alternative to my major Diet Coke vice.  Word on the street is that my beloved Diet Coke is filled with all sorts of yucky stuff for you. Additionally, given that my main source of caffeine comes from that (and I'm not a morning girl nor a coffee drinker), that's been a hard cut to get down to just one a day! But I did (although I'm still not ready to go cold turkey yet).

Water boosts your energy. A majority of us are dehydrated (75% according to the infographic below). Often times we eat when our body is really telling us we are thirsty rather than hungry.  Here are two great infographics that might lead you to upping your intake too.  (Note to self: Grab from the tap rather than the mega "Big Water" industry of plastic-wasting, single-use bottled water!)

If competition is what gets going, you might want to check out 30 Day Water Challenge.  At that link you can get more details & some great accountability tools to document your water intake. I'm going rogue (though I could update my intake in my Fitbit), and just trying to travel with a class of water in hand!

How is water working for you?

Do you have any creative approaches to get that healthy H2O into your system?

Images from; "Miracle that is Water" infographic from, "Drink More Water" from; 30 Day Water Challenge pic from

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nature-Starved, AKA Nature Deficit Disorder

Two words have been haunting me since my last post: "nature-starved."

I think there are many people out there who are afflicted lack of time outdoors, communing with nature.

Some might call it a "disorder."  In fact, "disorder" is exactly what Richard Louv, champion creator of  the concept "Nature Deficit Disorder" would call it.  He's written about it in two books:
And I've written about Richard Louv & Nature Deficit Disorder a number of times here at GTG.

Looking at the publication dates of Richard Louv's books, you'd think we all should know well by now that "Vitamin N" (aka, Nature) is the cure that magically could soothe our disconnected souls. Yet, we are all still here in this same disconnected place, years later in 2015.  Articles continue to be written on the topic, as tech addiction and waist lines continue to grow.

If you haven't read either of Richard Louv's books, you really should.  I'd recommend starting with Last Child in the Woods, perhaps because it's my favorite of the two (& my first read of them both).  If a book isn't your style, here are some other good places to start.

May these sources inspire yourself to get out and about and get your daily dose of Vitamin N.  It's easy to start small. Go take a walk. Read a book outdoors. Sip something refreshing on your back patio and soak it all in.  Write a blog post outdoors while sitting outdoors. (Oh wait! That's what I'm doing right now!)  Go out in the world to explore & have an adventure.

Let me know what it is that you are doing!

Images from,; video from