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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Get Thee Outside to a No Wifi Zone This Fall!

Using SparksPeople's article "Why Getting Outside is So Good for You," this is the word cloud you get. The words that crop up are evident:  outside, vitamin, natural, health, benefit, green, outdoors, and more!  These are the words that were vital and apparent in this article, and the ones that "stand out" because they are the ones that are "outstanding" in the article.

What does your LIFE "word cloud" look like?  Where do you spend your time?  What words are going to be bigger in the spectrum of your world? Where does your emphasis lie?

Indoors? Outdoors? Or upside down?

When I hit the wall, stress-wise, emotional-wise, fretting-wise, I check in with myself.  What does my word cloud look like?  

Dry! Dull! Dud!  
Overworked. Overtired. Overwrought. Overyuck!

Not at all like the above.

Note to self! Get thee outside this fall!  It makes all the difference!

Maybe you need to check into the no wifi zone. Do it more than once!

Maybe you need to check out one of this season's Michael Hyatt's podcasts: "Season 5, Episode 2: Nature's Calling Podcast: Get Outdoors & Gain 3 Life-Changing Benefits.. (I love Michael Hyatt!)  Do it more than once.

So it's Thanksgiving-approaching fall, and we are on the edge of becoming more sedentary. What are we to do?  Take advantage of that last li'l bit and get thee outside!! Now. Pronto. ASAP!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Turkey Day is On The Way-

A week and a day from today is Thanksgiving.

I'm not really sure how that happened--this passage of time thing. Didn't school just start?!?  Shouldn't it only be like the end of September?  How is it nearly the end of November? Sometimes that's what happens to us teachers.  Running like mad, racing the clock, with our heads down lesson planning and grading papers, looking up to see exactly how much time has indeed passed!

If you are like me with Thanksgiving sneaking up on you, you might find yourself scrambling like a turkey on the move from Farmer Joe.  If that's the case, here are some resources that might make your late-breaking planning a little smoother. In turn, that might open up some time for you to investigate the items in your life for which you are thankful. 

Get your kids shaking their tail-feathers with the Turkey Dance:

Turn Into A Turkey Poster Set
No, you're not turning into true turkey's, but Digital Divide & Conquer over at Teachers Pay Teachers has come up with a 6-word, character-driven acrostic of the true meaning of the season. There's a free "lite" version and a full, paid version, depending on your teaching needs.

NEA Thanksgiving Lessons
With a multitude of categories, and even more links, the National Education Association website has a slew of resources for you and your K-5 classroom.

Scholastic's Thanksgiving Lessons
Scholastic is always a go-to place for many curricular contents. There are lessons geared to PreK-2nd grade, as well as 3rd-5th grade lessons.

A Change in Perspective:  Looking at Life from the Turkey's Point of View
If you want to investigate what Thanksgiving looks like from the turkey's feathers, here are two places to investigate.  Check out the Thanksgiving Goodies at Classsroom Magic to get some ideas using the book "Pardon That Turkey" by Susan Sloate.  There's also some fun things over at Teachers Pay Teachers including Stephanie Stewart's "Don't Eat The Turkey."  Get your students doing some persuasive writing, petitioning for another major dining feast other than our feathered friend.

An Attitude of Gratitude
Looking to gear your Thanksgiving studies more toward attitudes of gratitude? Check out these 3 links for a wealth of activities for many age groups, complete with both student and teacher resources.

And it's always good to end on a tasty treat!

images from:

Turkey Dance video from
Oreo Turkey treat video from

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Diabetes Day: November 14

Slated half way between Halloween and Thanksgiving, today marks an awareness day:  World Diabetes Day.  In fact, November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

I wonder if that was by accident. I know I've added an unwanted pound or two the last few weeks as I raid my kids' candy cache from trick or treating. And I know that the tryptophan. carbo-loading, feast-fest Day o'Thanks' menu is in the making.

Here's a startling quote from (which is an excellent place to go for fact sheets and interactives)
"415 million adults have diabetes. By 2040 this will rise to 642 million."
Wow!  Those numbers are staggering.

Clearly there is a need for a little awareness so we can try to turn those numbers around.  I've written about our sugar-saturated & overly-obese society before.  When I look at the dates of my posts, the conversation hasn't changed much over the last five years.

World Diabetes Day is a global awareness campaign that is spear-housed by the International Diabetes Federation. Last year, over 100 countries had dedicated events to raising awareness in both the dietary and hereditary causes of diabetes, and how to handle life if you are afflicted with this chronic condition. This year, 323 events are scheduled in 76 countries. The first World Diabetes Day was in 2007.

Here is an infographic with some more eye-opening statistics:

To learn more about World Diabetes Day, check out some of the following resources:
Here are some recipes that can lead you on a
Go forth this weekend with greater awareness, and a pause with the intention for a more mindful approach to eating.

Images from:; Infographic from

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Celebrating 11:11 AM on Veteran's Day

Picture 5 soldiers, standing straight and tall, in a line, side beside. One tall representative for each branch of the 5 branches of military: Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. Standing at attention, honoring all of those who have come before them to fight for our freedoms, and honoring all of those who are yet to come,

In a way,  Anthem Veterans Memorial in  Anthem Community Park in Anthem, AZ is like that line of attentive soldiers. However, something environmentally magical happens on 11-11 at 11:11 am. That's November 11th: Veterans Day. The placement of the five pillars align in the most perfectly planned way.  It was engineered so that the sun would directly align on a mosaic of the United States' Great Seal through the precision-cut elipses within and throughout the marvelously metallic pillars. Military environmental and engineering magic indeed!

41703 N. Gavilan Peak Pkwy.
Anthem, AZ

And then there are the bricks. Each paver in the ground has names of Men and women who have been in the service. The red if the bricks, the gleaming white if the 5 pillars, and the backdrop of a blue sky further commemorate the day in patriotic color.

The park was dedicated Nov. 11th, 2011

To learn about  what when into the memorial and how it was engineered, click here to see an interview with Jim Martin, Chief Engineer.

This is my environmental tribute to Veterans' Day--what's yours?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sharing Our Planet: Hour of Power

After attending the OESIS Conference (the Online & Blended Education Symposium for Independent Schools) with five colleagues a month ago, inspiration hit.  A baby was born. That baby's name was "Sharing Our Planet," an environmental issues showcase for the students in our grade level.

You can see this cute little baby, now a growing toddler in the making here with the S'more webpage I created to inspire my students to take action on a global environmental issue.

Additionally, you can get a sneak preview of the Tellagami video I created for the S'more webpage:

It is based in the Google Idea of 80-20 or "Genius Hour," a growing trend in education for kids to use "their hour of power" (=1 hour a week) toward something they are passionate about. Rather than give them an open realm, we centered it around environmental issues.  Eight weeks seemed like a natural time period to "drive this car."  Integrating technology, research, writing skills and creativity, this collaborative multi-media projects will have its debut sometime mid-December.

To help guide students, I took screen shots of the S'more and created this hand book to help lead them through the process and the project (see below).  Given the multi-steps associated, I knew the guidance would come in handy.

We are currently only about one-third of the way through the process right now in our classroom. The kids are knee-deep in researching their inquiry questions.  I'm eager to see how the projects will grow and develop. The kids were ecstatic and ready to dive right in the moment they heard "project" and "choice!" Overfishing, marine debris, deforestation, and loss of habitats are just a few of the topics my young friends are eagerly researching. They are trying to decide if they will be filming documentaries, teaching the skills to another class, making power points or public service announcements.  These are just a few of the ideas--yet the sky is the limit!

My class actually booed when the end-of-the-day-announcements happened the other day and and it was time to go home! Signal of student excitement & teacher success indeed!

I will keep you posted as the creativity continues with our Share Our Planet Showcase.  I'm sure the excitement will only continue to grow as the showcase approaches!!!  (For students & teachers alike!)

Image & Slide share created from the webpage I created specifically for thiis topic:; All photos are cited in the s'more as to where I found them. Video created using the Tellagami app.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bill Nye's Nat Geo Explorer's "Meltdown"

This past Sunday night (November 1st), over at the National Geographic Channel, you could find Bill Nye lying on a couch.  He was stretched back on his therapist's couch, bemoaning how he was feeling with the angst & grief of his planet.  His therapist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, told him that what he is facing is "climate change grief."  Arnold told him (as only "Ahr-nold" can do) that he's going through the 5 stages of mourning about climate change:

  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

It is from the couch of the therapist's office that Sunday night's "Meltdown" began, from National Geographics' Channel's show Explorer.

Although the show is a little humorous in places, it certainly isn't humorous about the loss, potential future loss, & subsequent grief we will face if we continue on the trajectory we are currently on.  The stunning quote from NatGeo's own web news article by Michael Greshko states:
"According to the National Wildlife Federation, more than 200 million Americans likely will bear some mental health hiccup because of climate change and related events."
That's a lot of people, and a lot of hiccups.

If you haven't seen the show, check the listings to see if/when it is going to be replayed.
Sunday, Nov. 8th 9 am EST looks like it might be the next time it plays.

In the meantime, check out:

The "Cool It!" Special Issue of National Geographic's Magazine--centered around climate change.  Check out the interactives & online additions here.


Video from, pic from

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Blasts from the Pasts

Happy Halloween!  In honor of today's day of costumes, trick-or-treating, parties, haunted houses, candy bags and more, I thought it might be fun to take a little trek down memory lane!

Here are some blasts from the Past:

Going Green At Halloween

Blast from the Past:  October Green Team Gazettes

Sing A Sad Song of Plastic

Halloween in Retrospect

Bein' Green This Halloween

This Halloween: 1). Watch Out For Witches' Drawers, and 2). Don't Get Buried

And of course there's me, in my Capri Sun Dress, Halloween 2009!  I can't even tell you how heavy that was!  All juice pouches went to TerraCycle, and only a few safety pin stabs were mine!

Image from

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Crash Course Ecology

You can't beat a good movie....or 12! That's exactly what Crash Course Ecology is all about!!

Hank Green, brother of author John Green (who also does a number of his own online info shows), leads us all into greater understanding of ecology. His 8--13 minute videos pack a punch with a lot of good food for thought (with a dash of well-placed humor along the way). Add in they are affiliated with Khan Academy, who can be anti-Crash Course Ecology!!

Here are the goodies of Crash Course:

Images from and

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween 2015--A Week Away!

One week to go....the final countdown is on!  Halloween costumes are getting gathered, candy bowls are being stocked and readied for Trick or Treating, and the leaves continue to turn colors, readying the world for All Hallow's Eve!

While all of you are getting your gear in gear, it's not too late to go green this Halloween!  Here are some sites to set your sights upon to help you accomplish your sustainable goals this Halloween!

Inhabit's "Green Halloween" Archives

Green America's: The Healthy, Eek-O-Friendly, & Fun Halloween Revolution

Green Halloween For Students, Parents, Schools

10 Green Halloween Tips from World Wildlife Fund

Forbes:  How Smart Companies Are Making Halloween Eco-Friendly

Green Halloween Ideas from Huffington Post

A Happy Green Halloween from A Green Initiative

Going Green from Kelowna Real Estate

Image from 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Make a Difference Day: October 24, 2015

  I have this quote magnet in my classroom:

This sentiment is at the very heart of Make A Difference Day.

An annual event of "doing good," Make A Difference Day is the 4th Saturday of Every October.  That places this year's #MDDay this upcoming weekend:  Saturday, October 24th.  Perfect for Oct. 24th to be the 24th year of #MDDay, sponsored by USA TODAY, the Gannett Company, TEGNA, Inc, and Points of Light.  Given it's still a few days away, it's not too late to make a plan to take an action stand and do something this upcoming Saturday.

One could argue, "Shouldn't these 'days' be EVERYday?

Yes, yes they should.  But, in focusing one day (or weekend) around a common goal (in this case, of service), you can see how effective the force of good is.  How powerful every one person is in coming together to do something outside of themselves and for the community.  

A girlfriend of mine on Facebook wrote this:  
"One of my favorite days of the year! Do a neighborhood drive for food, office supplies, animal shelter needs, bottled water, etc. Bring dinner to someone who just brought home a baby, is battling an illness or could use some company. Host a craft-making event and donate the goodies to hospitals or nursing homes to place on patient trays. It doesn't have to be just needs to make a difference."
Big or small, it doesn't matter at all, just do something to do good!  

At our house, we are starting out by fixing a pasta casserole for our church, who delivers them to shelters every 4th Sunday of the month.  We have our silver pan ready and waiting to be filled.  From there, we'll see what else we can do to make a difference in our local community.

You can find a lot of resources at the Make A Difference Day website. There, you have an option of starting a community event or joining one... but of course, you could just go forth and do something on your own. Additionally, here are two great resources packets that will help you learn more, and even bring in into your classrooms:
Be that stone thrown in the water of a pond: watch the ripples extend outward. You never know when or where your influence (like those ripples) will end.

Images from:  JFK quote:, ,,

Saturday, October 17, 2015

S.L.Y.M.I. (Sing Like You Mean It!)

Music is powerful. Just last night, walking into a restaurant, I heard the classic 1976 Stevie Wonder song "Sir Duke" playing. That's the song with these lyrics (which has always meant more to me than the song title itself):

Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
But just because a record has a groove
Don't make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter A
When the people start to move
They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people
They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people

Hearing this song took me back instantly to my grandparents' house when I was probably 8 years old. I was staying there while my folks were on vacation for the week. Being a self-entertaining-unit, I played that song over and over again during that week, trying to work up some kind of dance routine--because that's what 8 year olds do!

Walking into dinner last night, I was transported to 8-year-old-me.

That is the power of music!

And that is the power of Music Education. Our kids need it as music is an enhancer, a connector, a brain activator, an enlightener, an energizer, and it can make learning more fun.

Luckily, there's an agent out there who is working to bring music to our classrooms. Her name is Linda Richards.

Linda has come to Kickstarter with a new to music education program: S.L.Y.M.I. (Sing Like You Mean It!). Her goal--to connect learning through song to capture concepts. 

I've seen Linda in action--she's a powerhouse full of amazing!! For 6 years while I was teaching at Eagle Cove School in Pasadena, Maryland, she was a touchstone & annual tradition to our Earth Week. Visiting each class, Linda could get a group of kids (whether 1st or 5th graders) to whip up & perfect an eco-parody song in a half hour. The production at the end of the week was a magical, musical experience where students' self esteem soared while they performed their songs for the school community.

S.L.Y.M.S's Kickstarter funding deadline ends October 25th, meaning there is still time to jump on Linda's "music bandwagon" and be one of her backers. You can go there to donate to her cause, as well as to learn more and see her perform her program's philosophy in song.

Other places you can find Linda Richards:
SLYMI on Facebook

You can also find her in my Green Team Gazette Archives:
What SLYMI offers:
  • assemblies & class visits, 
  • opportunities to collaborate, create, write songs, & perform music, 
  • concept building, raising social awareness, integrating curricular areas, connection making, & weaving in the wonderment of music.
"Children + Music = The Agent of Change...When I look into the future, I see this program growing thoughtful, spirited, socially aware, participatory musicians. Your support in this Kickstarter campaign will set those songs in motion sooner rather than later. The time for those songs is right now."          ~ Linda Richards, from her S.L.Y.M.I. Kickstarter Campaign

Crowd image of Linda Richards from and a screenshot of her singing her video on

Stevie Wonder lyrics from

"You Can't Touch Music" quote from

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Tech Oasis at OESIS

Within the past week I was given two really spectacular gifts of personal realignment. My first one was a chance to reunite with nature on a field trip of canoeing & outdoor fun.  My second one was an opportunity to fly with 4 colleagues and meet up with our Head of School in Boston to attend a two-day educational technology conference. Given that being in tune with your inner-techie is newly "geek chic" this last decade or so, I was totally in my tech element at OESIS: The Online/Blended Education Symposium for Independent Schools. Add in, I was in good company with nearly 300 participants from 110 schools.

It's amazing how many sessions you can squeeze into a 2-day time period: 2-morning keynotes (comprised of 4 speakers each), 11 presentation sessions, a workshop or two during lunch, and 3 "Think Tank" sessions! My brain was serving as an extra-absorbent sponge! It's interesting to see how other schools are incorporating elements of flipped or blended classes, integrating online learning as a way to personalize and individualize the educational experiences to help students raise their own personal bar.  It's been interesting having discussions with people who are leaps and bounds ahead of us and how they are doing what they are in their schools; likewise, it's been interesting to see the ways in which we are ahead of the learning curve.

Along the way, during these two days, there has been a lot of talk about "change."  That (of course) serves more than #edtech.  "Change" is that one thing that is truly constant, and many of us fear.  Yet my favorite quote this week is:
One of my favorite slides showed how we are also in a state of changing technology--even 100 years ago.  Here's a modified version or that:

This image show a parallel place to where we are now.

As we move forward, it's only true that we wrestle a bit.  As you go forth, take note of where you are so you know where to go next.

Images from!t=1018,; Old-timey photo in the Motivation app, and pic from the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Chiropractic Realignment of Body & Spirit... By Way of the Great Outdoors

This week I was reminded of a few things... It was almost as if I went to the "mental chiropractor." I was "realigned" in body and spirit, in work and balance!

Yes, Virginia, there is more room in life than merely work (& grading papers).

[Is that spoken like a teacher or what?!]

Sad but true... I had forgotten about that "more to life" thing. I didn't feel like I had the luxury of slowing down right now.  For good reason--but still!
(My good reason: I took on a long-term, leave of absence, classroom teaching position in my school--mid-August, just two weeks before the start of back-to-school teacher meetings. Instead of my "regularly scheduled tech integrator position" I was gearing up for, I was back in the classroom... with all that goes with that in August. Crafting lesson plans and learning curriculum, I'm often still operating in a short-term punt of "creating it as I go." Not to mention, the beginning of the school year is never slow and dull anyway, for anyone!!)

So how does one step "away from the dark side" and "out from under the rock?"  By taking part in a well-timed grade-level eco-adventure field trip with 36 kids.  What makes it an eco-adventure?  We all went to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Merrill Center where we canoed, seined, and investigated the elements of "green" building-ness of the center. We spent the afternoon out on The Margarite, an educational vessel and an old friend (as I've ridden on her time and time again).  On it, we pulled up some oysters, checked out bay life by boat-ride binoculars, and did a little fishing to determine the biodiversity of the bay. It reminded me of my "eco-days" at a dear little place called Eagle Cove School, and my memories of the "best field trip ever!

What this trip also reminded me is how we can get lost in the minutia of everyday life.  Getting all those papers graded, getting all that laundry done.  All the while, losing a whole lot of yourself in the process.  From the vantage point of the inside of a canoe, seeing the still water, with a blue heron flying overhead, with a backdrop of red and rust-colored leaves peppering the trees--you have that "ah ha!" moment of remembrance. That's what I needed.

Add in the reminder of days gone by of "my old (less harried) self," I was struck by how much I missed me.

Proving the point that despite doing the good job of teaching the youth of America, you have to do the self-persevering thing.  It's what they tell you on the plane while going through the pre-flight reminders: put your own life mask on first. This 3 day weekend ahead, I intend to do just that!

What do you intend to do for "you" this weekend ahead?

Pictures from my camera!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Revisited

Probably my one "closest to my heart" environmental issues is plastic waste, particularly as it gets blown to the wind and makes its way to becoming marine debris. Over the last 7 years of Green Team Gazette, I've written about this many times. I'm particularly bothered by the oceanic gyres of plastic trash that pollute all of our oceans; however, the largest one is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I first learned of it on the Earth Day Oprah Show, years ago, and was amazed that this was the first time I'd ever heard of it. Unfortunately, that was years ago... and we're still hearing about it!

Here is a litany of links to gain greater awareness of the plastic trash that surrounds us all... still.

TED-ED Lesson:  "What Really Happens to the Plastic You Throw Away?" by Emma Bryce:

VIDEO: Whitby’s Jaime Rae Reels in $1,000 Prize for Video on Plastic Pollution in Oceans by Jillian Follert:

"What You Didn’t Know About Microplastics" by Lisa Feldkamp.  Find out all the things that you didn't know!

"World’s First Wrench 3D-Printed with Recycled Ocean Plastic Wins Innovation Award" by Colin Payne.  This article highlights Plastic Bank and the idea of "social plastic." The idea is backed with entrepreneurialism and promotes recycling to better communities.

"This Solar Powered ‘Water-Wheel’ Will Clean 23 Metric Tons of Trash From The Ocean Every Day" by John Vibes.  In nearby Baltimore, MD this 'debris raking system' is currently being used.

Boaters Mapping Floating Garbage Patch In North Pacific Return To San Francisco from San Francisco CBS/AP.  At this link you'll find a video worth watching to see what they are trying to do over in San Francisco.

Adidas Wants To Turn Ocean Plastic Into Sportswear by Lorraine Chow.  New textiles are being created using recycled plastic as the key ingredient.

A Plastic Problem in the Chesapeake by Jeff Corbin from the EPA Connect: The Official Blog of the EPA Leadership

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
See the trailer here:

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Trailer from Angela Sun on Vimeo.

"These Artists Turn Ocean Trash into Really Classy Art by Amelia Urry
Here's an example of one of the pieces of art by Mandy Barker

Now that you know what you maybe didn't know before, 
what are you going to do with all that plastic that is around you?

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.