Saturday, October 21, 2017

Earth Day's Half Birthday

As a kid, not a year went by that I didn't celebrate my half birthday. Now... not so much. But my kids
do. A year seems an awful long time to wait to get to that special day, just for you--your own personal holiday. Given that, celebrating a half birthday seems to make sense--honoring the fact that you are halfway to that special day... celebrating at least with an ice cream cone or a candy bar and that personal realization that you're half way there.

With that in mind, we're just 6 months away from Earth Day. Our very own planetary holiday. For that reason, since we're halfway there (and I've often said that Earth Day should not just be celebrated one day, but every day), here's a Green Team Gazette reminder to go out and do something for your planet today. (And I'll leave it up to you if you also celebrate with an ice cream or a mini-munchie!)


Buncee art created by me:; Half birthday pic from

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Digital Safety & Citizenship with Dr. Sameer Hinduja

As the Lower School Technology Specialist, I know about dates such as this: Digital Citizenship Week this year is October 16--20th.  (Which, ironically coincides with this year's White House proclamation of Character Counts Week, October 15-21st).

Last week, tying into that, we had an Internet Safety, Digital Reputation, & Cyberbullying Assembly at school. The speaker, Dr. Sameer Hinduja (Co-director of Cyberbullying Research Center with Dr. Justin Patchin), was amazing!  As a speaker, researcher, author of 7 books, and Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, Sameer is quite the expert in his field!

Sameer was on campus for approximately 48 hours, and spoke to all constituents in different assemblies: grades 4-5, Middle School, Upper School, Faculty, special group leaders, and parents too. Each assembly was geared to the specified group, and  Sameer spoke candidly and expertly to whichever group he was addressing. My own middle schooler and upper schooler came home telling me they enjoyed their assembly and the fact that Sameer really spoke to their level and knew what he was talking about. He had his finger on the pulse of social media.

The main messages were that of kindness, empathy, resilience, character, creating a positive digital reputation, anti-bullying, and avoiding digital drama. 

He. Was. Excellent.  

My favorite take-aways (in no particular order):
  • Sameer's definition of 3 important words definining behavior:
    • rude: unintentional insult which upsets someone
    • mean: intentional insult which upsets someone which happens once
    • bullying: intentional insult which upsets someone which happens over and over, even when you tell them to stop.
  • You can't perfectly insulate children and teens when online. Given that, you need to teach them to be smart consumers of tech (especially since that's their world).
  • 1 of 3 kids have been victims of cyberbulllying--the results were from an anonymous poll of numerous 12-17 year olds...this impacts the dating world, which then leads to the potential of dating violence. I love that he spoke to Upper Schoolers about this, and how pressure to "sext" could lead to future dating abuse down the line!
  • Communication is key... and parents need to enter their teens worlds.
  • Encourage kids to make kindness go viral and do something legendary. (He shared so many "good videos!")
  • The "X Plan" is a great tool for parents to set up with their kids to give them an "out" during difficult party/group situations.
  • Raising moral kids and kids with a moral compass is the best line of attack! Build creative problem solvers in your children with resilience, who rise above, who overcome obstacles, and who fail forward.
  • The more people succeed over time, the more "haters" they'll be exposed to.
  • When it comes to "tech time," creation is always more important to consumption. Let that be the guide to your "tech time policing."
  • When it comes to digital presence and digital response to other, just like the toothpaste...once it's out there, it's out there.
  • "Pause before you post, think before you text or type."
If you ever get a chance to see Dr. Sameer Hinduja, please do. You'll be glad you did. His future schedule is taking him to Nashville on November 5-7, 2017 to the 14th Annual international Bullying Prevention Association Conference.

Resources from Cyberbullying Research Center worth diving into, on specific topics:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season: Design Challenge

This hurricane season has done a dandy on us all, and we still have a month and a half to go. Between Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we've all gotten an education on hurricanes this year!

Given the degree to which hurricanes have been on all our minds and in the media, I decided a "Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season" design challenge was just what my 4th and 5th grade Digital Design Process elective needed.

I found this "Building From Hurricanes: Engineering Design Challenge" from NASA's Precipitation Education website. That site is laid out well & has several printable lesson files that you will want to be sure to print to help guide your students. With some minor tweaks (most notably: trading the tennis balls to these cute Dollar Store "emoji guys"), we were set.

Using Buncee, I created this slide show to set the stage and intention of the challenge.

30 minutes.
Teamwork & collaboration.
Emoji guys for the win.
Shelter-building on all sides.

We all gathered around to watch as we worked through the 3 fan speeds (now known as "Category 1," "Category 2," and "Category 3" hurricanes), then moved the fan closer to the structures for a more direct hit for a Category 4 & Category 5 hurricane.  This brief snippet tells the whole story on what a success this whole activity was!

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season Design Challenge Fan Testing from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo.

Presentation created in Buncee and can be found at; Photos from my camera. Video from

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Booklists for Budding Young Social Justice Activists

 A quick Google search for definition for “social justice” and “activism” give you these two definitions:
Both can be seen in the political sphere, as certainly there are line-item beliefs from both of the American parties that clarify a particular "party stance" on certain social, economic, and even civic ideals. 

Yet, one can also look to the social science side of the terms instead… focusing not on what’s Democratic or Republican, but rather looking at it more from a humanitarian or cultural side. As teachers, that’s really what we do in our classrooms when we discuss issues—whether it’s in the kindergarten classroom or up to the college level. We inspire our students to think, to ponder, to weigh the issues, and consider the alternatives and even the consequences. Our students bring their personal experiences to the table, and sometimes they widen their view after encountering other’s perspectives. It is through this that students begin to develop their own perspectives amidst the insight of their peers. It can often work that way for adults as well. (Insert open-mindedness here, though! 😉)

Social justice topics are many, including some the following:
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Ageism
  • Gender/sexual rights
  • Human rights & equality
  • Bullying & discrimination
  • Poverty 
  • Homelessness
  • Food & hunger issues
  • Environmental issues 
  • Access to clean water
  • Access to health care
  • Access to education
  • Access to a living wage
  • Child & migrant labor laws
  • Acceptance of others’ cultural beliefs
Of course there are more, and I purposely left out the outwardly governmental issues that we can all read about in the newspaper.

Lucky for us in the age of the Internet, we have resources that abound—both for our own personal growth and life-long learning, and also to use in our classrooms. Additionally, there is such a wealth even in the picture book genre that can be used as teaching tools for our youngest (and also our oldest) students. Sometimes the visuals in a picture book paint a very clear picture that can speak volumes to 5th graders or high schoolers. I witnessed this in action this spring with our school-wide study of Karen Williams’ books on both Haiti and Malawi. Picture books can be ageless!

Here is a bounty of social justice & activism booklists, a mere click away:
Of course, this is just a start and a fraction of what is out there and available.

I’ve said it before: I’m not sure when I became an activist. Certainly in high school “apathy” was more my view when it came to issues of any sort (unless of course it was girl drama, buddies, and boys of high school 😉). But a girl who writes an environmental education blog, has spoken at state governmental committees about Earth Hour, has written letters to the editor, has attended marches in DC, and has squawked her political views on social media is an activist, no doubt.

May this booklist broaden your perspectives, and bring out a little bit of your own inner activist!

Definitions screenshot from a simple google search and put in the Li-Pix app.; Social Justice books image from; Wordle from; Stand-Speak-Act image from

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Artistic & Alternative Side of the Department of Energy

Thinking back to the "American Eclipse," there were some great posters created this year in the style of WPA (Works Progress Administration), akin to those of the New Deal era, highlighting and advertising the momentous occasion.

The secondary cool thing about that is that another series of other cool posters, done in the same style, that were created in 2016 to commemorate alternative energy and the anniversary of 2009's Recovery Act (aka the Stimulus Bill). They came from the Department of Energy's Loan's program office to celebrate the numerous projects and jobs created via the Recovery Act between 2009 to 2011.

To download your own high-resolution set (for your classroom decorations, for your bedroom decor, or as conversational pieces), click here. Let's hope that with all of the alterations and changes within this current presidential administration that the Department of Energy keeps them here for a long while!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Buncee: My New Favorite #EdTech Tool

I was tickled pink early this September when I got the email that my application was chosen for the Buncee Ambassador program. I first learned about Buncee from Shannon McClintock Miller when I attended her workshop at FETC this past January. I have been hooked ever since.

I've used Buncee for my own creations and I've used it with my upper elementary students in my role as Lower School Technology Specialist. (I spent a lot of time this summer experimenting and creating, earning my "Buncee Master" badge for making 30+ items). Kids and teacher alike...we all love it and the possibilities it offers. One of my favorite parts about Buncee is its ease of use and it's availability across platforms. It's web-based and works with all devices--plus there's a simplified version within the Buncee app, making it user-friendly across the ages.

Here are 10  13 ways teachers can use Buncee (more than just to make really cool presentation for your students):

1. Buncee Book Doodle
In my Digital Design class (which is a 4th and 5th grade elective), I had students make Buncee Book Doodles. They enjoyed making these visual riddles and trying to guess their classmates' creation. They loved both sides of it. Here's mine (Scroll down to find the answer at the bottom of this post--see if you can guess it.) Of course you could do this for anything: famous people, songs, historic events, etc.

2.  Interactive Notebooks
Use Buncee to make detailed notes with visuals and annotations. This is a perfect way to showcase student learning. Here is an excellent example of illustrated learning (and the rationale behind it) from Sean Farnum, who leads the Buncee Ambassador Program. 

3.  Use with Global Read Aloud 
Global Read Aloud has been a growing since 2010 as a way of connecting with others and bridging through books. The official start to 2017 was October 2017. Shannon McClintock Miller has shared several ways to combine Buncee and Global Read Aloud in her blog "The Library Voice." To learn more about Global Read Aloud and this year's books, start here.

4.  Booksnaps 
Check out Amy Nichol's guest post on Buncee for a step-by-step list of how to create an engaging way for students to annotate pictures of the books that they are reading. Doing so will enhance their reading experiences. I love that her story example in her post was the book Me...Jane, a biography by Patrick McDonell about Jane Goodall. What a super #eco & #edtech pairing!

5. Bring Book Reports To Life
This Buncee blog post from Cynthia Stogdill illustrates some great ways to do just this. Given that Buncee has a feature that uses only Creative Commons images from Pixabay, the act of citing images is a built in feature. Additionally, by having the ability to add videos and voice along with the art and animations, your students have much more depth than a traditional book report. The same is true whether you are writing book reports, author studies, biographies, character analysis paper, or other written research.

Here's an excellent example of how one 2nd grade teacher, Amy Nichols, used Buncee in coordination with her Genius Hour research projects. Be sure to click this link for the detailed article on her activities and process, which may build your own inspiration!

6. Graphic Organizers
Templates on the Buncee website can serve as graphic organizers--or make your own! This sample shows how the image was cited.  When choosing a background for your Buncee slide, just go to the category "Educational Templates" to find a wealth of choices.

7.  Inspire your students to make math games.  
Here is a direction slide and game board created by Buncee user Kimberly to do just that. I like how she used audio to give directions to her students right inside her presentation slide--perfect for providing solid directions at a center activity for your students.

8. Vocabulary Building
Buncee makes illustrating vocabulary a breeze.  Click through this Buncee and also this blog post by Shelly Sanchez Terrell for more ideas.

9. Formative Assessment
Use creation as a way to for students to show their understanding. For more formative assessment ideas check out the Buncee below and also this Buncee blog post by Sean Farnum.

10. Personification Challenge
Put a little life into figurative language.  Have your students illustrate personification. Check out these examples here.

11. Make Invitations
Make an invitations to a class event for parents. This Buncee visual below as well as this blog post show you in great detail how you can create invitations. 

12.  Tie it in with your foreign language program or use with your English Language Learners. This post by Shelly Sanchez Terrell has a lot of ideas.

13. Staff Pics
When in doubt, check out the Buncee "Staff Picks" page. This gallery has a wealth of inspiration all in one place!

I could keep going, but you get the idea: you can do a lot with this simple yet powerful #edtech tool! Check it out!

Buncee Book Doodle Reveal:  "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Evolution of the Desk (Teacher Desk & Otherwise!)

My folks have a roll-top desk. I've told my brother that I get the desk in the inheritance (which hopefully will be many many years from now). I've always loved the fact that there are so many little cubbies, nooks, and crannies in old-fashioned desks. Spots for staples, paper clips, envelopes, everything. It appeals to my philosophy of "if my physical space is organized then my inner space is organized." It also appeals to my reality (especially as a mom of 2 kids and a husband who isn't always attentive to details): worst case scenario, if things aren't as tidy as they should be, then you can just pull that roll-top down! Perfect solution!

Being a teacher, desks are a big deal to me. As a classroom teacher, I rarely sat at my desk while the students were in class. Instead, I was always on the move, bopping in between student desks, helping whoever needed it. End of the day planning & grading--that's when I'd land at my desk. (Though, truth be told, most of my paper grading happened at home on the couch.)

Now that I'm no longer a full-on classroom teacher (instead I'm the Tech Specialist who goes and visits the kids in their own classes), my desk may be even more important than it ever was. Whenever I'm actually in my office (which is rare), I'm at my desk concocting ideas and activities to enhance the lessons of all my teachers and a school-full of students.

This video captures both my love of the desk, and the nature & evolution of our technologically-advanced world. It showcases the way that technology has filled our world. It's the perfect parallel for the stories I tell my 5th grade students when we talk about digital decision making:
When I think of living at home as a kid, young & growing up, certain images come to my mind. My dad in his recliner, reading the newspaper. My mom watching TV while doing some card making, needlework, or another craft...or maybe thumbing through a recipe book. I'd be stretched out on the floor, doing a word find, or reading a book, or writing an epic novella note to my high school buddy, or talking on the phone (with the cord stretched from the kitchen to the dining room to talk for hours to my friends), or snapping photos with my camera, or writing in my diary (or planning the great American novel). My brother might be playing a game like chess with my dad or one of his buddies.
In today's world, the news can be accessed on a device. Shows can be watched on a device. Photos and other crafts (some of them) can be done on a device, and it's where you can find your recipes. Devices now are where you can read a book, write emails, keep in touch, talk on the phone, take pictures, play games...and more. Is it a surprise we spend so much time on our devices? It's become our one-stop shopping place to do all the things we used to do on so many different platforms--now they're all digital.
Given that, it often makes me shift my perspective when I feel like my own two digital native kids are overly-plugged in.

The video below was created in coordination with the Harvard Innovation Lab and shows how life has shifted from old school desk to our digital world where we do it all on our devices. It'll definitely make you think about your own desk and how it has evolved... and it might even make you a little reminiscent of days gone by!

Video from (video by photography by; engineering by anton georgiev a Harvard Innovation Lab team); roll-top desk image from; clip art from

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Continued Tale of Climate Change vs Climate Denial

You would think with all these hurricanes hitting us this season (especially given the devastation and humanitarian crisis that Puerto Rico is currently enduring), that we'd be a bit more open to the conversation about the rising concern of climate change and how a warming planet leads to issues such as drought (which leads to wildfires) and extreme heat and storms (such as hurricanes).  It still seems that we are caught midst a tales of climate change versus climate denial.

There was hope across social media on Saturday, September 16th. Several news sources revealed that Trump was going to turn his June 2017 declaration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Sadly, it came out on Sept. 17th that the news from the day before was indeed wrong. The White House confirmed that the United States had no plans on reversing their withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. We are not, in fact, withdrawing the withdrawal. I was hoping Trump had gained better judgment in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and decided to stay in with the other 195 nations. (We continue to be alone and on the outside, with only Nicaragua and Syria as our companions. That, and the United States is 2nd, only behind China, for carbon pollution.) Apparently not.

These two videos sum up the head-shaking fact that this is indeed still a conversation or debate at all. When will the science facts be facts?

And then there's this third video. The Pope. At some point, you'd think people who might not listen to anyone else, might listen to the Pope:

Looking forward to the day when this can be a real movement for change to address the rising temperatures and the problematic climate issues!

For climate facts, check out NASA's website and climate portal.

To donate to the "One America Appeal" (the humanitarian effort brought together by former Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, H. W. Bush, Carter, and Clinton), click here to donate.

Pope video from; Year of Living Dangerously video from; AJ+ video from; image from

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Jimmy & Jane (Fallon & Goodall, That is!)

Last week, the legendary Dr. Jane Goodall visited "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." With a new documentary coming out in October entitled "Jane," and Dr. Goodall running a new masterclass, there was a lot for the two to discuss!

Nearly 10 years ago, I met Dr. Goodall at a "Roots & Shoots" fair at my school at the time. Watching her now on Jimmy Fallon, she's just as sharp as she was back then!

In case you missed it, you can watch two clips here, or go check out the full episode on the Tonight Show. Her part of the episode comes about 26 minutes into the show.

"Jane" documentary photos from, Jane Goodall class photo from my camera, videos from and

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Online Learning: "Disasters & Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate"

"Love of learning" is a phrase that is in my school's mission statement, and as educators, it's our driving force: both for our students and ourselves. If you have a love of learning and a passion for environmentalism, especially in this era of storms and rapid evidence of climate change, this free online class might be an opportunity you want to pursue.

ADPC (the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center) is offering a MOOC entitled "Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate." MOOC stands for "Massive Open Online Course."

Given we still have two more months of hurricane season, it might be the perfect season to sharpen your knowledge base about climate change and how it impacts our weather systems, environment, and planet.

This video gives you a sneak peak into what the course will be about.

ADPC offered this course in 2015 (launched by the Technical University of Cologne, Germany & UN Environment)--with over 12,000 people taking part. It's back again, with a collection of experts, offering two learning tracks: a 6-hour leadership track and a 15-hour expert track. Some of the issues they will address included community resilience, sustainability, ecosystem management, ways to reduce disaster risk, climate change and more. Sessions are 30-40 minutes with reading materials, videos, online quizzes, discussions, and interactives, and more.

The online class is self-paced, opening this week on September 18th, 2017 and this learning module will close March 17, 2018. Upon completion, participants receive an online certificate. The Expert Track requires completion of the Leadership Track and has a smaller open window of November 20--December 31, 2017 and will include designing an Eco-DRR project. You can learn more about this ADCP MOOC here.

Look forward to seeing you in the learning modules!

Images from and; Video from

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Jane Goodall's Masterclass

Jane Goodall's conservation MasterClass is coming this fall, to a computer near you.

Think about it. How often can you learn from the experts? If you are lucky, you are in the right place at the right time and can get to hear a person speak at a conference or festival.

I had that opportunity, ironically the day after Dr. Goodall's 73rd birthday on April 4, 2008. My school at the time, Eagle Cove School, was hosting a "Roots & Shoots" Fair and we were fortunate enough to have her as a guest speaker. She started her talk as she often does, hooting like a chimpanzee. Memorable!

This fall, she's working in coordination with to present 25 online lessons via video on animal insights, conservation, and activism. A downloadable class workbook and "office hours" are available. What an amazing opportunity to learn from a legend!

To get a sneak preview of your class from your instructor, watch this video below or go check out's page "Dr. Jane Goodall Teaches Conservation" page.  It might even inspire you to sign up!

Maybe this year, on your holiday or birthday wishlists, if you are someone who has everything, maybe you'll get your friends or families to give you the gift of learning. That's definitely one way to make a little less environmental footprint in "stuff," but may be a great way to grow your knowledge and environmental impact! has a wealth of other learning opportunities from experts, so maybe that wishlist of yours might grow quite long!

Video from; images from and

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Our Hurricane-Filled Hearts

My heart has been with Florida for the last week. I've been glued to the news about Hurricane Irma, watching the reports, searching out the spaghetti models, studying the changing "cone of uncertainty," stalking social media and the posts of friends and family as they have been prepping for the onslaught of this record-breaking storm.

I know about hurricanes first hand. We had to reroute our wedding 24 hours beforehand due to a power outage of our venue (for both the wedding and the reception) due to Hurricane Floyd in Maryland in 1999. About ten years ago, I lived and taught in the Tampa Bay area for 6 years. Shortly after we moved there, we experienced a tropical storm. I was a nervous wreck. Fast forward a few years, with time and experience of living in Florida, I found myself saying things like, "Oh, it's only a Category 1-2 storm, it's not that bad." Comments like that become part of the Florida culture. Ridiculous words really, ones that sound amazing to anyone who has never lived in an area with frequent hurricane watches and warnings. During the bigger storms, we headed over to the Ft. Lauderdale area to my sister-in-law's family's home. Likewise, they did the same by heading our way when storms were headed towards them.

For Hurricane Irma, my husband's sister's family, along with the estimated 6.3 million other people in Florida, evacuated. However, as Irma moved and tracked more westward, it caused more Floridians to make decisions--without the luxury of as much time. The movement of the storm more westward during its final days put all of Florida in harm's way, at one point or another. My stress level was through the roof, watching and waiting for the storm to hit... and I'm several states away! As a Florida teacher, I remember "hurricane days" off of school--they are not anything like "snow days" (which are far more relaxing). "Hurricane days" leave you with a lot of house prep and work to do--sometimes in beautiful weather where you can't believe you are a day (or hours) away from some potential destruction and disaster. You watch the littlest change in the spaghetti models and satellite tracking. I can only imagine the stress level of my friends and family as they were doing their security measures and boarding up.

On the heels of Hurricane Harvey, while watching the swirling Jose & Katia also out in the water, it begs the question, again, about climate change. I'm comforted to see Miami's Mayor Tomás Regalado pointedly saying to Donald Trump, “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is."

An often-used comment when it comes to connecting hurricanes and climate change is "I'm not a scientist." Well, I'm not a scientist, but scientific facts are facts. Hurricanes form more readily over warmer water, and high water vapor causes more rain which leads to more flooding. Drought also leads to a higher likelihood of wildfires--and the west right now has a bounty of those. At this writing, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are 67 actively burning wildfires in Montana, Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, and Alaska. (I purposely arranged them in order of the number of fires, from most to least.)

This short video was created a few days before Irma made landfall on Florida by "Years of Living Dangerously." It puts those scientific facts out there visually and statistically. We need the climate change conversation now. How many more horrific storms will it take to open our eyes?

My heart goes out to the people of Houston, who are still trying to rebuild their city and their lives.

My heart goes out to those who have lost everything due to raging forest fires.

My heart goes out to all of you in Florida who had to evacuate then come home to your new reality.

My heart goes out to those my friends in the Tampa area who were shaking while the wind blew during the night and the rain came pounding down.

My hope is that all of you in Florida and the Islands are safe and comforted by that amidst your loss... and that your loss, in the big picture, is very minimal.

My other hope is that people will start paying attention and tending to our planet before we have to encounter more loss due to harmful legislation and human carelessness.

video from, images from,; "Don't Pray--Vote for a Gov't" meme found circulating from many on Facebook.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

For the Love of Lego's: Wind Turbine Edition

Who doesn't love Lego's?

(Well you might not if you are a parent of a 2-8 year old who discovers one wayward Lego, hidden in the shag carpet, that you discover while walking in the middle of the night, but I digress!)

Once again, their innovation is notably top of the charts! As of May 2017, Lego was running their company on 100% renewable resources. If that isn't great enough, they're doing it 3 years ahead of their goal timeline!

How did Lego celebrate that triumph? By making a giant wind turbine made out of Lego's, of course! 146,251 Lego's and 600 hours, to be exact!

It is located outside the Liverpool ONE shopping center in the United Kingdom. The placement of this Lego Turbine was to highlight their 100% renewable energy goal and their investment in the Liverpool Burbo Bank Extension offshore wind farm.

To check out more of Lego's commitment to the environment, check out these resources:

Video from, and

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Is That a Wind Farm in Heartland?

We have arrived! With Pizza!
Every summer I take a trek to my hometown, where I grew up in Central Illinois. It's always a little bit of a "Jack Kerouac meets Chevy Chase's Vacation" in that it's typically myself as the solo driver (12-13 hours, all in one day) with two kids in tow.  I think this year marked the 10th year that we've done this trip. Given that, it's easier these days with a preteen and a not-yet-driving teenager and all the electronics we pack, but we still get a little campy and fidgety by the end, definitely ready to arrive!

But grandparent time for a week and change is worth it!

This year upon our travels (after about 775 miles, 2-dozen podcasts, 4 thermos' of green tea, and a bag of carrots in my system to help maintain an awake, car-moving stance), we noticed something different as we neared our final destination. The horizon and landscape looked a little different. A little more progressive. A little more #eco. It warmed my heart to see, yes indeed, a wind farm in the backdrop, behind the typical corn and soybeans of Central Illinois. Of course, it wasn't the only wind farm among our travels, and more and more have "cropping" up over our years of travel. But the Radford Run Wind Farm of Maroa, Illinois was certainly the closest one to home.

Construction on Radford Run started the end of August 2016, about a month after last year's trek home. 139 wind turbines are destined to cover 24,000 acres of land and call Radford Run "home." E.ON Climate & Renewables North America, the Chicago-based company that put the project into motion, counts this as their 3rd Illinois-based wind farm (of their many nation-wide wind farms). In addition to wind energy, E.ON also has several solar projects in the works Arizona and California.

Good things come all around when a wind farm goes in--more than just clean, renewable power. Road upgrades took place in my local area to accommodate the construction process. Jobs are created during the construction. Farmers and other land owners get an additional source of income. The stretch reaches out even more as it generates tax revenue which ultimately serves to improve schools and other public services.

Of course, it doesn't come without controversy!

Here is a striking map from E.On's website showing the wind power capacity of the US in Megawatts (MW). One megawatt can power approximately 250-300 homes.

Radford Run is slated to be a 278 MW farm, leading E.ON's Illinois farms to generate a total of 578 MW, powering over 180,000 homes! Proud to see that Central Illinois will be 48% of that total! Makes for a lovely drive in the countryside!

Images from my camera & map from,

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Cool Tech Tools

We have a pretty nifty little thing in the summers at our school. It's called Summer Institute, and it's professional development by our teachers AND for our teachers. It's an in-house education program where teachers can take a myriad of classes taught by their colleagues. Some are one day (9 am -- 3 pm) while others are two days, depending on the topic and depth. There's a limit, so you have to be a little bit picky. But, if you are someone who loves learning, this is certainly your cup of tea!

Of the two sessions I co-taught this summer, one was "30 Cool Tools For Tech." It was a rapid-fire of really amazing edtech tools that are out there that teachers can use to help simplify their lives, their lessons, their presentations, and their assessments.

This PowToon resentation (which indeed was one of my favorites) was created to showcase my personal top 7 favorites. Below you'll see a list of 30+ tools (both websites and apps) you might want to check out to help put a new pep in your teaching step this year ahead!

Top 7 Personal EdTech Tools Summer 2017 from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo.

30+ Cool Tech Tools (in alphabetical order) to inspire you this fall:
  1. Adobe Spark: Create short videos with included content/images that is simple to use. Videos can't be downloaded separately from app (online or on app)
  2. Bookwidgets: Create widgets to be used for assessment, reviews, or assignments
  3. Buncee: Online presentation maker with animations
  4. Canva: Infographic and poster creator
  5. Constitute Project: Explore world constitutions and compare side by side based on search term.
  6. EdPuzzle: Upload videos and add questions, comments, audio tracks (Formerly Zaption)
  7. Educreations: Screencasting/whiteboard app
  8. Explain Everything: Screencasting/whiteboard app that has a collaboration tool
  9. Flipgrid: A video platform where students can create mini movies to "show what they know"
  10. Google Arts and Culture: Site with interactive exhibits and art museums. Capable of zooming into some art with incredible closeness
  11. Google Street View: Go on virtual field trips through Google's 360 degree photo technology
  12. Human 3.0: Online study of human anatomy
  13. Kiosko: Displays the front pages of newspapers from around the world
  14. Motivational Poster: Create motivational-style posters on iPads with images, headlines, and sentence summaries
  15. Newsela: News site where reading levels can be differentiated. Online or printable activities/quizzes available
  16. Nearpod: Create/upload slideshow and add interactive slides to engage students on their own devices
  17. Padlet: Online discussion board for comments/note taking/KWLs and more
  18. Pixabay: Free photos that are both Creative Commons and safe to use without asking permission
  19. Plickers: Makes classes interactive with quizzing/surveys with a smart device and printable cards
  20. Popplet (lite): Concept mapping
  21. PowToon: Online presentation maker with animations
  22. QR Code Generator: Creates QR codes easily, download to jpg to print
  23. Quizlet: Create flashcards for review and study
  24. Safeshare TV: Past the url of any YouTube video in to watch with no adds or pop ups to avoid the distraction
  25. Screencast-o-matic: Easy screencasting 
  26. Scrible: Annotate and save webpages
  27. Seesaw: Digital Portfolio platform that is easy to use, for ages PK and up
  28. Socrative: Create real time surveys, quizzes, and more. Online or on app (teacher app separate from student  app)
  29. Soundcloud: Allows users to create, share, store audio files. Others can listen and comment on them as an audio social media
  30. Sutori: Create online timelines (not printable)
  31. Symbaloo: Create (or search for) "webmixes" filled with tiles for easy access to a variety of websites you program in
  32. Tagul: Word cloud creator
  33. TeacherTube: "Safe" version of YouTube, created specifically for teachers
  34. Thinglink: Add  hotspots to images with videos, texts, ect
  35. Timeline from Read Write Think: Create simple timelines on app or on their site. Site has lesson plans and a variety of other online interactive graphic organizers.
  36. Wordflex Dictionary: Online (or app) visual interactive dictionary

PowToons from; Image from

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Empathy Makes the World Go Round

In the last few weeks before school started, I was reading the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba, Ed.D. It certainly is an eye-opening book: as a parent, a teacher, and as a citizen in 2017. Especially when it seems a lot of the news these days politically seems to scream of a lack of empathy on one side or the other.

As I was reading this book (which I finished in approximately two days given how engaging and readable it was), I thought often of my own two, personal driving forces, the foundation of Green Team Gazette: environmentalism and technology.

I also thought a lot about my own children... as well as my own parenting style.

In multiple places in the book, the "selfie" side brought about by social media (and the narcissistic tendencies that have been on the rise over the past several decades), the solution points to unplugging. Getting outside. Getting dirty. Building emotional intelligence through actual interaction with others (not texting). Connecting.

My daughter showed me a spoofy YouTube not long ago comparing life in 2017 versus either 1997 or 1987. It really doesn't matter much for the parts that stuck in my head: the cell phones, the texting versus the hours I spent talking on the phone as a kid, the time running around outdoors not tied to a computer, meeting people in the world versus online dating. Yes, as they say: the times, they have changed.

Building our empathy skills--that is the key. The secret to flipping our selfie society.

The 9 factors that help build empathy are here:

Between our "plugged in" culture (kids spend approximately 7 hours and 38 minutes plugged in these days!?! Yikes!) and the "hurry, scurry, aren't we over-busy" mentality--not to mention the social media selfies, we are indeed in need of un-selfie-ing! The opposite: building empathy. Borba's UnSelfie does a great job of giving you both a lot of strategies both for yourself and your kids. It also gives you a lot of food for thought. It's leaving me pondering all of the above for days...thinking of the ways I can unplug myself, my kids, and help build all of our empathy skills!

"The Thoughts in My Head: Empathy" picture was created by me at;; "7 Ways to Cultivate Children's Empathy" poster created by me at; "UnSelfie" book image from; Brene Brown quote photo from