Saturday, June 24, 2017

Take Part in #ISTE17 This Weekend--Whether You Are There Or Not!

Football fanatics have the Superbowl.
Soccer fans have the World Cup.
Baseball aficionados have the World Series.
Movie lovers have the Academy Awards, while music lovers have the Grammy's.

If you are an #EdTech Teacher, your ultimate "Superbowl" is the annual ISTE conference.

And ISTE 2017, my friends, is THIS weekend: June 24th--28th, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas!

Man, do I wish I were there!

Disclaimer: I've never been to ISTE, but being a bit of a techno-nerd, it is on my bucket list. I'd be in my own personal nirvana! (Though I will say, that FETC 2016 was pretty darn awesome and a super second place!! And, as a Maryland environmental educator, MAEOE ranks right up there too!)

Typically 18,000+ teachers attend, and the learning and experience are at a global, exponential level. From Expo Hall to Keynotes, to workshops and networking, it's just downright like no other!

Like I said, I'm not going to be there this year either; however, listening to Vicki Davis (aka @CoolCatTeacher) and her "The 10-Minute Teacher" Podcast this week & interview with Peggy George (episode #105: "5 Ways to Participate in #ISTE17 Even If You're Not There #NotAtISTE17), I can be there without being there. That's pretty darn awesome!

If you are like me, and long to be there, you can learn from your couch, computer, car-ride commute, patio, or poolside these next few days ahead.  Check out the following:

And don't forget to check out ISTE resources for 2016 (just replace "17" with "16" to see what you missed last year.   You could have a boatload of professional development between them both and all these resources!  Which, let's be real, isn't that part of how we teachers spend part of our summer?!)

I'd love to hear about your favorite finds as you parallel travel alongside the ISTE Conference--whether you are there or not. I'm certainly going to be making my way along the above links myself!!

ISTE/Coolcat poster from; 10 Minute Teacher Podcast from; Video from

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


There are 2 official days of summer:  The day you get out of school (says teachers and students everywhere!) and the true calendar date that marks Summer Solstice: June 21st, where the sunlight hours are at their peak due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis toward the sun an its annual trip around.

For me, there might also be a third... that day I get to get in our backyard pool and just bask! Not having had that experience as a child, I was startled when we moved into our house 10 years ago. With a newbie walker wild child at the time, I was sure a backyard pool would be a disaster. Little did I know how much it would capture my heart. It certainly is my summer love!

It is here that I...
  • read books;
  • become one with the water;
  • become more mindful;
  • truly take notice of the blue of the sky; 
  • marvel at the depth of green of the leaves;
  • work out my muscles with a variety of water aerobics;
  • nap on my pool floatie;
  • play around with my peeps and my pups;
  • listen to the osprey family that always returns to the tower behind m back fence and trees;
  • watch squirrels scampering about, in the grass or along the fence-line;
  • get my dose of Vitamin D & Vitamin N (Nature!);
  • slow down to the speed of life--something I always have a difficult time doing during the busy-ness of the school year;
  • breathe!
Today, let's celebrate all those reasons on this first official Summer Solstice day of the season! May the longest day filled with the brightest of sunlight to make your day truly shine and cause you to take pause to celebrate!

First Day of Summer pic from; Pool pic from my camera

Saturday, June 17, 2017

10 Eco Innovations Worth Celebrating

When it comes to the environment, sometimes we are steeped in the negative. We can thank politics and news for that. However, the good news is all too often overlooked.

Let's take a minute to champion these 10 things on the environmental front that are worth celebrating!

video from; image from

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Great American Duck Rescue of 2017

School's out for summer, in my little world. Last week for kiddos, this week we teachers wrapped it up. In honor of that, I felt like it was the right time to share "The Great American Duck Rescue of 2017."

You see... kids weren't our only patrons this spring. In addition to all the little cherubs that are left in our care and safe haven by their parents, we had some extra special trust placed in our hands. Trust from Mama Duck.

Mama Duck is a frequent friend, who finds a home with us each year.  For years, she has come to nest and set up shop in our courtyard--a completely enclosed, fox-free, kid-free, complication-free (& catered) environment. Not to mention, it becomes a peek-able, teachable moment for our students, watching the ducks grow in the spring, then fly off in the fall, right after we have returned back to school. We know it's the one and only Mama Duck as she has a little limp, which is part of her signature trademark.  Here's a picture of Mama Duck and last year's crop of ducklings.

This year, we may have even gotten to see some of the courtyard courtship with her and Papa Duck, and conveniently camera-captured it.

I'm not exactly sure what Mama Duck was thinking this year, though.  She managed to set up shop in a non-traditional spot. She must have been casing out the joint on a weekend, where it was kid-free and quiet.  She decided to put her nest not only on our playground, but right outside one of the 5th grade doors--which believe me, is never a quiet location on a weekday!

Being a school who embraces problem solving and the maker movement, the 5th graders, their teacher, and the janitorial staff put up some orange fencing as a temporary boundary to keep wayward PreK & Kindergartners out of the nesting area. Then a team of handy 5th graders and their fathers came to put up a more sturdy wood and wire "Fort Knox Fence."

All was well in the newly-created coop, and baby ducklings ultimately hatched. About a dozen of them! They had a lovely first day, experiencing their world, where playground peeks could happen, and impromptu pools showed up.

But again, the question arose:
Mama Duck, what were you thinking?

She had build her nest right under the bush beside the 5th grade door--but more importantly, next to a PVC drainage pipe. A broken one at that, with an open and exposed hole on the bush-side of the pipe that none of us had previously seen. Enter Duck Drama on Day 2 with that! While the ducklings were all cozying up in their nest, about 7 of the dozen ducklings got a lesson in gravity and the fell right on in the side-hatch-hole-door, and down the pipe. Luckily, a few teachers noticed some of the ducks were missing then happened to hear the distant sound of baby ducks, peeping down the pipe. Operation Great American Duck Rescue began in earnest!

Duct Tape Tools & extensions were created that crouching teachers attempted to use to rescue the little fluffs. About 5 were retrieved via bending, stretching, reaching, and with some major arm scrapes along the way. But there was still the sound of tweets beneath. So then we all started surveying the territory. Where did this pipe lead to? We found the ultimate ending to where the drain would drain, down little hill on the far side of the playground. Problem solving minds started brainstorming. Ducks can swim; this is a drainpipe. What happens if we flush water down?  The hose alone didn't create strong enough current, so then buckets of water were poured down. I happened to be one of the teachers with a student, down by the outflow area--where we decidedly heard the tweets as well. The water stream was building, and wait--it sounded like the tweets were getting louder! Yes! But wait? My 5th grade friend and I looked at each other--do you hear 2? We both could have sworn, yes indeed!

It took far longer than we thought it would, but the stream kept flowing and the sounds of the ducklings sounded closer and closer. Please, let there be no grate to close them off from the exit!

As other teachers were looking for flashlights or buckets to help with the rescue, there came a point I was by myself, sitting on the concrete block hoping and awaiting our feathery friend(s). The river of water kept flowing the right way, when voila! Out popped a duck. Rescue! But wait! Open land... a duckling... me! Must Capture Duck!!

Well of course, the li'l fella was scared to death when I attempted to scoop him up, which he didn't really like all the man-handling and jumped right out of my hands...inches from the concrete block I'd just been sitting on. Li'l ducky, we haven't come this far to have death by concrete! As I'm jumping around trying to contain a little scaredy-duck, out pops a second feathery friend from the dark depths of the drainpipe....leaving me nervous I'd lose one or jump on the other. Luckily, our science teacher had perfect timing, with a 5 gallon bucket in hand--wondering what on earth I was doing jumping all over the place. She clearly had steadier hands than I, and swooped them up in the bucket. Ducks were all reunited with Mama, and we all breathed a little sigh of relief!!

One of our Master Fence Builders happened to have one wayward duckling at home by the water, apparently abandoned by its mother... so that night, Operation Relocation took place. Our waterside family came to the school to gather up and relocate Mama Duck and her dozen ducklings to their house. Mama Duck instantly adopted the little orphan, and have a new playground-free, waterside community to live in.

And they all lived happily ever after!

Taking part in the whole event made me feel in touch with nature in a way that helps put it all in perspective. In this great big, complicated world, it's the little things that are important. Being of service to others is what matters. We saved 2 ducks, and really a family of feathery friends+ 1 orphan too. Yes. These are the important things, and I was grateful we all could help & be a part of something small, but bigger than us all.

Pictures taken from either my camera or those of my colleagues. Word art added using


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Summer is Here for You, Teachers

This week, we had the last day of school for summer.  Yes, every year the song "School's Out For Summer" reverberates in my brain for about two weeks surrounding this time period!

While I still have two days of wrap up meetings, tidying up, and end of the year luncheon's this week ahead, we are officially here. Summer. Some schools have been there for a bit while some still may have a bit to go. But in honor of this season, I want to share these videos with you, my teacher friends. Being one of you, I know how hard you work, and how this gift of sunshiny days are your reward for a year spent well--working hard, planning perfect lessons, grading mountainous stacks of papers, assessing projects, writing report cards, worrying about your students, celebrating the accomplishments and caring for your crew.

May summer be yours to cherish, refresh, reinvigorate, and ready yourself for fall!

Videos from and; image from

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Food & Facts For Thought: #ClimateChange

The world is still a little riled up with life in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Given that, I thought it might be time to check in with the climate scientists to give both climate and science deniers a little food--and facts--for thought from Yale Climate Connections.

Video & logo from

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Inspiration in the Aftermath of The US/Paris Climate "Discord"

The world is a little noisier this week, after the environmental blow from Trump this week, pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord--leaving a stark party of 3, standing alone.

Of course, as Trump may or may not know, it's not as easy as pulling a plug and walking away.  Due to a clause in the Paris Agreement, to withdraw, you need to give written notification to the UN depository, but it can't happen until 3 after the date the agreement was enforced:
Nov. 4, 2016 + 3 years = Nov. 4, 2019.
At that point, it takes another year before a country can officially leave. That date will be  Nov. 4, 2020, which just so happens to be one day following the US Presidential Elections of 2020. This allows for a bit of a sigh of relief, as this will now be a campaigning point for whoever runs for our next president. Time will tell if that will involve Trump or not.

Of course it begs the question: When did our planet (or science for that matter) become a political issue?

Clearly this week (and when the 31% EPA budget cuts were proposed).

But an interesting thing has happened amidst the sideswiping news. America has rallied. The world has rallied. Almost like "Wonder Twin Powers, Activate" (from way back when, when I was a kid), An inadvertent uprising has occurred since Trump's announcement & withdrawal, and a boomerang of events has happened:
    • Many buildings were lit up in green lights Thursday following the withdrawal. This visual solidarity in buildings like New York's City Hall & State Fair, Boston's City Hall, and DC's Wilson Building (as well as others internationally) show that there is support and understanding that Trump's decision isn't every American's decision.
    • June 1st, Leonardo DiCaprio (an avid environmentalist) listed on his Facebook Page the importance of going forward as grassroots activists, mentioning these 5 organizations as excellent starting points:
    1. Indivisible Guide:
    2. NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):
    3. Resistance Manual:
    4. Stand Up America:
    5. Take action on

    All of this, and more, are definite calls to action. These are the elements that give hope to the difficult environmental situation many of us feel we are facing this week. Hope is certainly the opposite of fear and desperation. This fighting spirit is the foundation of many American tenets and much global inspiration. Perhaps, it is in the face of adversity that people truly become united, discovering what's important to them, what's worth fighting for, and what counters complacency.

    Here's some inspiration from Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google, to get you out there, fighting for what you believe in. May it be "uncomfortably exciting" going forth while you "grab a dream" for a cleaner, healthier planet!

    Video from Goalcast:
    Image from;
    Eiffel Tower pic from
    map from
    Environmental wordle
    Wonder Twins pic from

    Wednesday, May 31, 2017

    Destination Imagination: Where #GF17 & #MakerEd Unite

    Expect the Unexpected. That was the theme of 2017's Destination Imagination Global Finals. As I mentioned a week ago, when we started on this Destination Imagination [aka: DI] adventure, DI is the epitome of the maker movement. After living knee-deep at Globals for 5 days or so, it bears being repeated as I reflect in awe on our entire experience.

    1470 teams went to Destination Imagination. 8000+ students made up those teams... teams which were from 48 states and 17 countries. It's 8 hours from Maryland to Knoxville, Tennessee I can only imagine how far Maine is (as we saw a DI painted van at our first pit stop, 2 hours into driving home Sunday).

    Of course California, China, Poland, South Korea and Australia are a bit farther. (We didn't see their vans....for obvious reasons!)

    We had 4 full-on days between Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies, plus driving days as bookends on each side. We clocked 12,000 to 16,000 steps per day on my pedometer, traipsing around University of Tennessee's campus from lunch to performances (ours and others) to pin trading to the expo to the Duct Tape Costume Ball, to the Recreation Center for outdoor adventures and swimming to more. It was incredible, intense, awe/inspiring.

    They certainly know how to rock a party, sync a #STEM activity, and keep the creativity coming! 

    We "Safety Scrambled" a raw-egg-riding-vehicle, using only limited materials (unfortunately, with no success--twice!). We virtually visited the International Space Center. We attempted to synchronize-build Lego structures via cooperation & communication, behind the walls of shoe boxes, based on words alone, sight unseen. And did I mention the pin-trading! A culture in and of itself!  

    Amongst our antics, our team "Double-O-Severn" embarked on their own Central Challenge: Show & Tech. Pearls of wisdom came from every direction. Even at the pool or at breakfast (both of which served as good pin-trading venues) with the Guatamalan DI team members we met who were also staying at our hotel.

    Then of course too, there were the Instant Challenges that each team performed. We couldn't have been more delighted or proud when our "Double O Severn" boys came in 2nd place of 81 teams in this category for their Show & Tech division! This was a major triumph as that didn't always come easy in practice... which perhaps made that victory feel even sweeter.

    It was a fascinating all along the way, but certainly eye-opening at Closing Ceremonies. China did remarkably well across the board, but especially in the Engineering, Technical, & Scientific Central Challenges. Kudos to China, and all of the high scoring teams! Watching theses results illustrated just how many teams China had brought to Knoxville! Yet, as an American, I saw the future reflected & projected in those fields ...and it was not necessarily in my country. As Americans have been past leaders in the scientific arena, I was startled by these 4th grade through college-leveled kids and their scores. Future indeed. This could be a place to "insert political discussion here" given our country's current leadership & some of the recent, prevailing stances regarding science, innovation, and progress; however, I'm just going to let that statement lie here for contemplation.

    * * * * *

    The Opening Ceremonies (which darn-near felt like we were at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies--parade, pomp, circumstance, and all) were incredibly moving. These words in particular were quite memorable:
    • "Everyday is an instant challenge."
    • "What motivates me to be creative is purpose and passion."
    • "Teamwork can change the world."
    The experience of each team at every step along the way built individual and team creativity, collaboration, problem solving & communication skills, confidence, poise, and courage. Through both the course of the year and the week at Globals, we saw with our boys a strengthening of character, and a full circle transformation as they worked through the rough spots, coalescing into a team.

    It reminded me of those credit card commercials, listing out exact costs of pins, lunch tickets, hotels prices, and more,....yet DI Globals: priceless! The memories & skills gained were certainly worth it, and will last a lifetime!!

    DI Video from; pictures from my camera.

    Sunday, May 28, 2017

    Memorial Day 2017

    As teachers, we delightfully grasp the gift of a 3-day weekend, seeing it as a time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.

    Our students aren't much different!

    Memorial Day is no different, especially as it is the unspoken introduction and invitation to summer.

    Yet, "Happy Memorial Day," perhaps isn't the right sentiment given the purpose of the holiday: to given thanks and pay tribute to the men and women who have given their life to serve our country, and who then periled in their devoted service for all of us.

    I hope everyone takes time this weekend to honor those who have sacrificed to give us our freedom.

    To fully get yourself in the spirit of gratitude, has a phenomenal video to help put you in a mindful and grateful mood.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Growing, Glowing, & Going to Destination Imagination’s Globals #GF17

    Destination Imagination [DI] is the epitome of the Maker Movement marrying STEM skills. I’ve gotten a chance to see that first-hand, up-close-and-personal,  this year with my son and his first adventure at DI.

    We nervously nibbled our fingernails at the end of February at Regionals, where we placed 2nd place in "Show & Tech," the DI 2017 technical category. 

    The angst grew in March as we made our way to State. Our school (who has a couple DI teams each year) has been fortunate enough to have had at least one team per year head to Globals the last 3 years. We always had hope with my son's team this year, but no expectations. We were dazed, amazed, & thrilled to earn a stunning 2nd place success once again at State.

    From here, all roads led next to Globals, May 23--27th. This week! In honor of that, here’s my acrostic ode to honor our 7 boys and our Knoxville adventure we are living, here at Globals.

    Delving into a year of teamwork at school,

    Engineering, building, computing, concocting, and planning.

    Seven of our boys became the “Double-O-Severn” crew.

    Twenty-first century skills in action: creativity, collaboration,

    Inventing to problem solve, innovating, & inquiring along the way.

    Not always smooth-sailing, because collaboration isn’t

    Always pretty. It can be messy, loud, distracting, frustrating.

    Teamwork at its finest, trying to come together for a common goal

    In their Central Challenge; improv-ing through Instant Challenges.

    Over time, growing, sharpening skills, and finding their voices,

    Never giving up, building persistence and grit as they go.

    I’ve seen these boys grow indeed, sharpening their skit & their skills,

    Making improvements and capitalizing on their talents.

    As the year went on, these 7 boys, just like other boys and

    Girls globally, gave of themselves, to each other and to their coaches,

    Integrating their ideas, taking initiation, & getting involved.

    Never stopping. Working hard & taking pride in their performances

    At tournaments; regardless of ranking & place, keeping pace, &

    Triumphing along the way. Kudos to all who made

    It every step along the way. Regionals. State. All is great.

    Onward we go to Globals, slightly stunned, yet ever-excited.

    Never have we been more proud—parenthood is chock-filled with these moments.

    What an opportunity of a lifetime 
    & priceless memories in the making.

    More in a future post on our antics 
    while in Knoxville, 
    soaking up all that makes up 
    Destination Imagination Globals.

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    From Williams to William: The Maker Movement in Malawi

    With the planned visit from author Karen L Williams, I was inspired to do a little reading over my spring break, now a surprisingly 2+ months ago.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Daniel Kamkwamba seemed like a logical choice for a multitude of reasons: I could learn a little about Malawi—one of the central locations in Mrs. Williams’ books; I could see the innovation of the maker movement in action. I could see the integration of innovation and environmentalism through the wind power; and lastly, my daughter had read it last year, so it was safely nestled in my Kindle.

    So it was here I met 14 year old William Kamkwamba. I got to step foot in Malawi and see the sense of community, as well as the the plight of poverty. Life was not always easy. Water was not always clean nor easy to find. Diarrhea and cholera were sometimes the aftermath due to polluted water and poorly-constructed latrines. Money and food could be thin at times. Deforestation was at play, intertwining with the other issues. But despite the environmental issues, spirit was strong. William led a life of curiosity, stamina, perseverance, and strength.

    There were a lot of parallels between William and Karen Williams’ Kondi from Galimoto. Some of our modern day 5-11 year old students found it difficult to make a seemingly-simple galimoto out of pipe cleaner, pencils, & wire (link). Karen Williams’ Kondi’s galimoto was far more complicated than our humble vehicular creations. Some of our cherubs needed nudging and encouragement to keep going, keep trying, and keep being creative risk takers. Not to mention, our students didn’t even have to go a-hunting for the scrap materials to make these toys. All materials were provided.

    Yet, then there was William, whose was determined to discover how things worked. He went much further than making toys. Tearing apart radios (much to his father’s chagrin) helped him discover how they worked. This, in turn, led to a greater investigation and an inevitable pursuit for power—legitimate “energy power,” since only about 8% of those living in Malawi have electricity. He also was on a dogged quest for knowledge, since secondary school was too expensive during difficult times. He learned physics and engineering through reading books as well as trial and error. He ultimately invented a windmill out of scraps to produce “electric wind,” making the energy to generate electricity and running water. All without the Internet (or even knowing of its existence).

    And, as often happens with inventors & innovators, William's neighbors thought he was a little nuts… until he made the seemingly impossible possible!

    My spring was sponsored by the inspiration of one William to another Williams—capturing the mindset of the maker movement in Malawi!

    Wednesday, May 17, 2017

    Watch Out for "Wishcycling"

     Wishcycling... This isn't "when you wish upon a star" tied up with a bike trip.

    (Actually, I'm getting an image of ET from the 1982 movie air-bike through my mind... Yikes!!! That just dated me at 35 years ago!!!)

    Are you a hopeful recycler?
    Do you think, given what your eco-side knows, that things should be recycled... even if the reality of your community's recycling facilities might not truly have that capability?

    If so, you might be a wishcycler.

    In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, where I live, they often announce that when in doubt, throw it out... IN the recycle bin, and they will figure it out. So tend I "err on the side of heavy."
    [For awhile we were composting a most of our food waste... until we had a short-lived, backyard episode of "Ratatoille" & critters using our french drain like the Parisian sewers. So, we are sadly only composting yard waste these days...but, I digress!]

    But maybe I've really been lulled into the seduction of being a wishcycler. Paper towels gunk up the gears of recycle center machinery?! Oh man! Have I created that? Have I been an over-hopeful recycler, inadvertently loading up the landfill by "my fault" vs "default" recycling? And I'm the one who knows a lot about the environmental lot! My short term fix... to make this infographic:

    So the bottom line and the best line of defense is: get specific to your municipality. Investigate and act accordingly. A classic example is pizza boxes. Many places won't recycle greasy cardboard boxes. But my Arundel County will (see their flyer below). Different communities have different parameters. Therefore, study up, plan with your purchasing dollar, be both well-intentioned and well-informed. And when in doubt, go "real" when choosing items in order to "reduce" and "reuse" (and eliminate the need to "recycle" due to those other two R's)... even during BBQ/picnic season ahead with all those seemingly-recyclable-but-not-always-recyclable-Red-Solo-cups!

    Images from: ET movie poster from; definition from; infographic created using (

    Saturday, May 13, 2017

    On the Go with Karen Williams, Galimotos, & More

    A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of having author Karen L. Williams visit our school. I’m always a little in awe when sharing space with real, published authors.
    In preparation for that, our team of elementary Special Subject teachers created a bevy of activities to coordinate with eight of Karen's picture books. These picture books focus on the life and culture of Haiti and Malawi, two places in which she lived and found inspiration. The activities below took place both before, after, and even during her all-day visit to school.
    While Karen Williams was on campus, she presented two assemblies (one geared for the younger students, the other for 3rd—5th graders). There on stage, she showed us pictures, art, & artifacts; and she told stories of her adventures and how they inspired her writing. We got to see authentic galimotos (GAL-lee-moe-toes), which are toy push-cars made by children out of found wire and natural items. We also got to see both pictures and toy tap taps (colorful trucks, much like buses that people used to get from place to place, and you “tap tapped” on the side to let the driver know where you wanted to get off). No surprise both of these inspired books by the names of these items.

    As we created school-wide activities, these were some of our curricular goals to make her visit truly meaningful on multiple levels:
    • Students discover the natural connections between literature and other subjects (art, music, science, technology, social studies, physical education, research, etc.);
    • Students meet literary children/characters from different geographic regions, socioeconomic levels, and cultures;
    • Students receive writing feedback from a successful children’s author;
    • Students connect and interview both a published author and well-traveled humanitarian.
    Below are some of the ways we integrated Karen Williams’ books with our studies across the grade-level spectrum. With all of these activities, students got a chance to embrace the maker movement, creativity, problem solving, perseverance & grit, innovation, sustainability, and cultural awareness.

    To learn a little about our experience, you can click these links to read both Karen Williams’ blog & the Capital Gazette article by Sharon Lee Tegler.  Additionally, here are some ways to connect with both Karen and her books: