Saturday, February 25, 2017

Design Process & 3D Printing & Tinkercad....Oh My!

It. Is Hard!

And I have to teach this stuff!!

Playing around in Tinkercad, working on designing my first item for the 3D printer.... Playing is serious business!

The same can be said about swirling around the design process.

I am finding that I am really hitting the wall with my spatially-inept self. This is not one of my innate talents! My 9th grader and my 5th grader were totally running laps around me as I was showing them my Tinkercad-antics. Simultaneously, they were teaching me.

I think it's the same thing that makes me feel seasick when I watch them play & build & navigate Minecraft. I don't have "that" vision.  I was always the Algebra Gal, not the Geometry Girl. It's playing out here and now as I'm trying to take shapes and turn into real pictures.

I feel topsy, turvy, and all over.  Especially when I flip it around, feeling upside down, trying to get my shapes to all land on the same plane.

Yet, eventually--remarkably--they did! Right there in the middle of feeling like a complete failure at this technology, All of a sudden, my own personal lightbulb went on.  I'm doing it! I feel kind of like a rock star (while simultaneously about ready to pull out my hair!!)

There's merit in learning new skills and doing, making, tinkering, & innovating. 

The challenge and frustration is part of the process. The glee of tackling a challenge is just right on the other side.

From here, I have a few weeks to practice and wrap my head around designing in 3D in order to get it under my belt enough to teach 2nd and 3rd graders. I can do this. Yes! I can do this, and it feels pretty good! Not to mention... it builds my awareness of how challenging it can be to learn new tasks. That lesson of empathy might be the most important thing to learn yet--for teachers and, well, just plain everyone!

Tinkercad logo from; "EcoLeader" image from my creation on; Design Process poster from PBS's Design Squad

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

10 Timely TED Talks to Insire You About Nature

Over the last couple years, I've become a mega-fan of podcasts. They are the perfect thing to listen to in the car, on the move, while doing never-ending laundry.

But in my pursuit of podcasts, I've lost sight of another true love:  TED Talks.

As a person who likes to soak up information like a sponge--sometimes there's just not enough hours in the day for all!

These 10 TED Talks speak to me on the beauty and glory of nature.

In this era of change for the EPA with Scott Pruitt's confirmation as Head within the Trump Administration, these 10 talks remind you of the importance, magic, promise, and meaning of nature. As Thomas Peschak said in his talk , "You can't love something and become a champion for it if you don't know it exists."

Watch (in any order), and embrace the awe of what exists, and then go forth and be a champion for nature and our planet:
  1. Emma Marris: Nature Is Everywhere, We Just Need to Learn To
  2. Franx Lanting: Photos That Give Voice to the Animal Kingdom
  3. Deepika Kurup: A Young Scientist's Quest for Clean Water
  4. Suzanne Simard: How Trees Talk to Each Other
  5. Elora Hardy: Magical Houses Made of Bamboo
  6. Zaria Forman: Drawings That Show the Beauty and Fragility of Earth
  7. Thomas Peschak: Dive Into An Ocean Photographer's World
  8. Francesco Sauro: Deep Under the Earth's Surphace, Discovering Beauty & Science
  9. Mac Stone: Stunning Photos of the Endangered Everglades
  10. Stephen Ritz: A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx
PS... These are just a small handful from TED.  Be sure to go and search for your own meaning there!

TED Talks logo from; David Suzuki quote from

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Tiffany Diamonds Aren't Just for Valentine's Day

Tiffany & Co.'s diamond's aren't just for Valentine's Day.  You could possibly argue they are for Earth Day as well! Or maybe just plain every day, in an eco sort of way!

"Transparency" is a very common word these days in the news.

Tiffany & Co. take transparentcy to a new level as it relates to sustainability.... and "a girl's best friend." (They say "diamonds" are that best friend--well at least Marilyn Monroe and Carol Channing have been known to say that!)

Tiffany & Co., a company that relies on mining to obtain their product, has strong feelings on both sustainability, responsible practices, and the environment. These two videos add a new layer of sparkle to an already-shiny name that is synonymous with jewelry. Perhaps these are why they are leading their industry.

You can learn more about their dedication toward mining responsibility on their very detailed Sustainability portal on their website. In it, they include their plans for a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future, a Social Accountability program, energy efficiency, commitment to reducing their environmental footprint and more!

videos from and; Images from's_Best_Friend and

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day 2017

Nothing says "I love you" like a little time and celebration.  Whether you have a sweetheart this year, young snuggle bunnies of your own at home, college kids to commemorate... or even if you are your own favorite valentine, take time to honor those you love. That includes you! 

Here are 11 eco-friendly ideas to help you sprinkle a little love your way.

To make it even a little more hands-on this Valentine's Day (in a Maker Movement kind of way)... go for a little STEM action! Check out the STEM Activities for Kids website for 4 heart-centered STEM activities that kids (and adults) willl love!):

💝 Catapults & Flying Hearts
💝 Candy Grabber
💝Valentine's Frogs
💝 Heart Rate Math

Buncee created by me & inspired from the article "21 Eco-Friendly & Romantic Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day," from the Team, Feb 1, 2013; STEM Activities  pic from

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mark the Map with a Wanderer Bracelet

For Christmas, a good friend of mine gave me a bracelet. Good friends do things like that
However, this wasn't just any ole bracelet. It was a Wanderer bracelet.

No, not because I'm a "wanderer," but because of what the company Wanderer Bracelets does. They employ artisans in Bali who do handiwork in their homes. The pendants are carved, repurposed water buffalo bone of animals that die naturally--the same domesticated animals that help farmers plow family rice fields. The bracelets are individually handmade, not mass-produced, and all made of natural materials. These artisans create so they can make a life for themselves and their families. All of these things speak volumes to me. Buddies & pals know these things.

 Among the many symbols among their product lines, they have a custom coordinate-style bracelet.  Here's where the magic of this bracelet lies:
"There's one dot on the map that holds more of your deepest memories than any other place. It's where you fell in love, found your tribe or risked it all. It's where you were born - or maybe, it's where you were reborn into a braver, stronger version of you.Where's your place? Keep it close to you with a bracelet engraved with your favorite coordinates." ~ From their website
For me, my coordinates are where I found my tribe.
My good buddy knew that place for me, and hence this bracelet.

My "dot on the map" was where I became a passionate environmentalist, and it was where this blog was born. It's a place where friendships were formed and unbreakable bonds were built. Despite the fact that I no longer "live" there on a daily basis, it lives on in my heart...and now my wrist.

Learn more about the origins of Wanderer Bracelets from the video clip below, then check out their collections at their website.  May you find your symbol or commemorate your own "dot on the map."

Rice Terraces Ubud from Wanderer Bracelets on Vimeo.

Images from my camera; videos from and

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Repurposing Oceanic Debris to New Products

With an annual estimate of  "14 billion pounds of trash" finding its way to the ocean each year, that's a lot of UNnatural resources and pollution.

But sometimes you need to think outside the box, especially if you are an innovator.  In doing so, you might land on a solution or two.

B the Change's December 14th, 2016 article entitled "5 Products Made From Recycled Ocean Waste" by Matt Clough focuses on 5 companies and their products that take innovation by storm by mining the ocean for these UNnatural resources--then turning that plastic debris into something greater than it was before.

Clough's article focuses on these 5 products pictured above & their manufacturing companies.

Ahi Performance Cruiser Skateboard  

From Bureo
This Los Angeles company takes discarded fishing nets and transitions them into skateboards.  Approximately 30 square feet of recycled nets are washed, melted into small pellets, then formed into these $195 skateboards.

Kayu Sunglasses
From Karün
Now a partner with Bureo, but even before that nature always served as inspiration for Karün's sunglasses. Their Ocean collection is made from Bureo-sourced fishing nets in a process similar to how Bureo makes their skateboards. Additionally, part of their profits from their $139 sunglasses go for education programs in plastic pollution-affected fishing communities.

River Bank Backpack
From Fishpond
This outdoor lifestyle/travel adventure company of Colorado lines their River Bank Backpack with a material called "Cyclepond." Again, recycled commercial fishing net is at play.  Additionally, it's a type of material that uses less natural resources in its production that water-consuming fabrics like cotton. At $149.95, you can have a sturdy backpack lined with a fabric that helps cut down on greenhouse gasses.

Graphic Tee Collection
From United By Blue
This company that makes a variety of fashionwear for both men and women doesn't make their nature-themed T-shirts from oceanic plastic debris, yet they are heavily committed to the environment.  With each purchase of their $36 T-shirts (and other products), United By Blue works to eliminate a pound of trash from the ocean.  They pride themselves in hosting over 170 cleanups and removing over 360,000 pounds of trash.

Ocean Plastic 2-in-1 Dish & Hand Soap
From Method
This is a company you may have heard about as their products are in many local grocery/department stores. The plastic for their $3.99 bottles is collected from Hawaiian beaches. The soap itself is biodegradable to further spread the message of environmental sustainability.

Images above compiled from into a collage created at PicMonkey.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

#FETC & My Top 5 Finds (x 3)

Sometimes you just need a break from it all: the daily grind, the political noise, your home, & your day job. Being in Orlando at the Future of Education Technology Conference (or #FETC) was just the answer last week!

It wasn't just being in Orlando (rather than Maryland) at the end of January. (Yes, that was a delightful dose of Vitamin D and warmth mid-winter.)

It also wasn't just about reuniting with a former teaching colleague and soulmate. (That perhaps was even warmer than the sun!)

It was about being immersed in the latest and greatest current educational trends and being surrounded by educators as far as Canada and Alaska (and everywhere in between).

Makerspaces, coding, 3D printers, oh my!

It was the perfect venue for teachers who want to continue to hone their craft, stay current with the ever-changing field of technology, and learn of new and innovative ways to activate learning.

Between workshops & sessions, and a plethora of vendors and projects in the Expo Hall, my wheels were in overdrive. I've got new apps I want to try, new digital tools &websites to investigate, and a lot of notes to reread, absorb, & reflect on.

It's amazing what you can pack into 3 days! Given that, here's the short list of my
Top 5 Favorite Finds from #FETC:

1. Powtoons--a video tool that will help you make fun, animated videos. Perfect for storytelling. (I created he above video with Powtoons.)

2. Buncee--an online creation tool where you can add visual elements and animations to inspire student voice and make learning fun.

3. PicMonkey--a photo editing tool with tons of free features. This could be helpful in teaching visual literacy and tone or moods in addition with using to create dynamic visual designs.

4. PhotoFunia--another fun photo tool with a lot of elements that could be used to integrate with literature, character analysis, thematic studies, and more

5. Aurasma--an augmented reality iPad app that create 3D images when viewed through the app, making stationary pictures come to life.

But wait! There's more! 

Also being at #FETC reminded me of 5 At-Home Favorites that I already knew about, but can't wait to go back and reuse in greater depth:

1. Kahoot--an interactive iPad quizzing game that could make for great reviews.

2. Seesaw--a digital portfolio platform that is kid-friendly and parent-adored, making it easy to bring the parents into seeing all the magic that happens in the classroom.

3. Chatterpix--a super way to animate student drawings by giving their pictures their own voice...straight from the the image's own mouth!

4. Tellegami--a place to make an talking avatar and an animated video!

5. Do Ink-- a green screen app that could literally help transport your students in their videos "out of this world!"

But wait! There's still more! 

Here are my Top 5 "Hands On, Minds on" Tools that teachers are using in their schools to make learning and computer programming come to life: (Click the green "hot spot" links on the Thing Link to learn more)
  1. Little Bits                                 (We have these at my school.)
  2. BeeBots & BlueBots                   (We have these at my school.)
  3. Sphero
  4. Bloxel
  5. Osmo

But of course, a visit with Moby (of BrainPop fame), made my whole #FETC experience even richer and more memorable!

Powtoon video from; STEAM Buncee from

Thinglink picture ( created in PicMonkey with images from

All other photos from my camera from my 2017 #FETC experience!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Costa Rica: #1 on the Happy Planet Index

There might be a very strong connection between "being green" and "being happy."  At least that's Happy Planet Index.  (Not only that, Costa Rica also ranks high overall when it comes to measurements of quality of life.)
how it works for Costa Rica, which is #1 on the

Check out this informational mini movie from National Geographics entitled, "The Greenest and Happiest Country in the World."

Additionally, check out the Happy Planet Index website to see where your country rates, and compare it with others on the map. You can also investigate the ecological footprint, life expectancy, well-being, and inequality measure of different countries. The interactive data will keep you busy there for awhile!


Video from; Happy Planet logo from

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Noise of the New Normal

It's been a noisy week:

An inauguration (with debatable numbers of attendance and a newly invented term: "alternative facts." Thank you Kellyann Conway!")

A Women's March in DC and 600 or so other ones, big and small. I was there in DC. There was a lot of noise & positive energy! I think my favorite speech over all I'd seen (which was all online & nothing at the march as I was midst the throngs of people in the mall) was Kerry Washington in LA. Everyone should listen to it: men, women, republican, democratic.

The news was no quieter as Trump began changing up the White House website, writing proclamations and doctrines, declaring days of patriotic devotion, and starting to put things in motion.

But the roar continued on, leading to the noise of the National Parks, scientists, and my comedic favorite: the @AltNatParkSer Twitter and Facebook account, where facts are posted and can be found by rogue National Park Service employees after hours. (I shake my head--since when is science debatable or censored?!)

We've had a Trump and Pence supported March for Life (as opposed to last Saturday's Women's March--at least by tale of Trump's Twitter feed). State department top employees were unilaterally fired, losing a base of collective knowledge. And, Friday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump issued a refugee ban to some countries but not others (where he interestingly has holdings), and Christians will be the first to be allowed in.

Due to the growing rumble & grumble, some future proposed marches which seem to be growing in number by day:
As if that's not enough noise....the biggest noise too comes from social media. A lot of "us, "them," & "gee, can't we all just be friends."

It's a highly turbulent time. Certainly the most in my children's life time, and perhaps one of the most in mine.

The silver lining is that perhaps it will galvanize people, calling us all out of our li'l cocoons and into an activist world. Perhaps this is our time to "break out and butterfly." Come out of the comfort, metamorphosize, and emerge stronger, more capable, greater than ever before. Maybe through the anger and the action, and in fighting for our beliefs that might be marginalized by this administration, we will indeed make America great again. Not in Trump's ways (which feel akin to the isolationism of "The Dark Side"), but through unity, compassion, understanding empathy, love, and light.

This week in my house, I found my daughter chanting in her own call and response (like most people hum a jolly li'l tune) the words from last Saturday:
"This is what Democracy looks like."
It's contagious and it's true.

This IS what democracy looks like. Sometimes messy and twisty-turned, difficult even dangerous, like a cacophony of noise....but worth working for.

Sounds a little bit like "love."

Video from; Other images from my camera from The Women's March

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Peril's of Packaging

Even though the holidays are past, online orders aren't, Given and the ease of ordering from your computer, packaging is a bulky problem! This video from Attn: is a good one for showing the pollution perils that come with the territory!


But luckily, there's a silver liner amidst all those boxes. has partnered Goodwill to at least give the Amazon box itself new life.  Following 3 easy steps, you can repurpose your box as you donate items from home and send them along to the nearest Goodwill to you. Here are those 3 easy steps as quoted from Amazon's Sustainability page:
  1. "Open Your Box: Unpack your merchandise from your Amazon shipping box."
  2. "Pack Your Box: Fill the box with clothing, accessories and household goods you no longer need and print your free shipping label from"
  3. "Send Your Box: Let UPS or the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliver your box of donations to Goodwill for you."

While it doesn't solve all the problems, it's a step in the right direction. Kudos to for raising its own bar in helping to keep items out of landfills.

Video from; image from

Saturday, January 21, 2017

#WhyIMarched: Marching Forward Toward Your Beliefs

We've had a full long-weekend here in America.  An inauguration of our 45th President on Friday, and a Women's March on Saturday. And of course, there were tweets and controversy on both and then numbers attending (adding in a joyful new phrase: "alternative facts.")
I took part in one, not the other. Rumor on the DC street was that the two had much different feels from each other--much different energies.

The experience, with my daughter & her friends, was memorable.

Living so close to DC affords one with certain opportunities. Marching in The Woman's March in DC was one of them.

The positive energy and masses of people were incredible. Such a crowded house, yet all so kind, compassionate, and generous as we squished and snaked through the crowds. Not easy for a team of nine in a possible half million people!! Bit of a bummer we couldn't see or hear the rally or Jumbotrons, though in awe of the turnout! Too many to march on the assigned route. Remarkable! ❤☮️\People may think it was a day of hatred toward our new president. I completely disagree. Yes, some people in the mix were angry in that crowd either due to Trump's history of poor behavior (to women & minority groups) over the past or due to the fact that their candidate didn't win...but even given that, they were all powerful yet peaceful.

The crowd today was full of women, men, & children... all of whom were supportive to each other and openly newfound friends. The majority of people there today were concerned for their rights. For themselves and their children. The biggest takeaway was that there are people concerned that they won't be heard going forward because they weren't heard over the 18 months of election. Additionally, they feel as though they haven't been heard since then.

They feel that Trump hasn't invited them conversations to the table since being elected. Rather, many feel dismissed or prejudiced against.

We saw and met people who traveled from dozens of faraway states, from ocean to ocean: Alaskan people standing outside the Native American Museum, Hawaiians who were there, environmentalists, LGBT friends and supporters, people fearful about their healthcare and filled with concerned because their beliefs aren't the same as those of the WASP men on Trump's cabinet. For the first time in multiple decades, there's no Latinos on Trump's cabinet--people want to see themselves represented. Women are disgruntled about the normalization of sexist comments and bodily grabbing that now has become a locker room joke. People are concerned by the questions that have cropped up about our now-President's odd relationship with Russian president Putin who was a former KGB.

People are concerned and want to be heard, not silenced or bullied. People yesterday (in their presence, their posters, and their conversations) showed me they are afraid of that.

Yet they also showed me patience, gratitude, empathy, kindness, caring, and concern.

And that's exactly what we showed to the police officers we encountered, as well as the National Guard and the metro employees.

I am so proud that my daughter and I could share in this moment in history with half a million other marchers in DC and 3.1 million globally on 7 continents. It's something bigger than ourselves, something that showcases exactly what democracy is all about❣  Over 600 marches nationwide! #LoveArmy


Images:  Most from my camera, my quote one from using

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ecovillages: A New Kind of Community

This felt like the most fitting post during this season of Inauguration for 45th President.

As we are entering an era where it has been outwardly stated (both in words, tweets, and cabinet pics) that our next President is about as far from the environment as you can be, picturing a positive utopia of Ecovillages seemed like the best place to rest my brain space.

What is an ecovillage?

Along with "intentional living" as a foundation of their philosophy, common features also include:
  • a return to the nature through community gardens & shared agriculture
  • bartering as a form of economy
  • off-grid energy sources 
  • energy conservation & eco-friendly transportation
  • co-operatives (including homeschooling) & a community of sharing
  • diminishing consumption and maximizing conservation of resources
No, we're not talking communes! But rather, a community based on sustainability.

To learn more about Ecovillages, check out these resources:

As an aside while thinking about a wonderful world of sustainability (a dystopian contrast of what President Trump might envision for America), I do praise President Obama for setting up two new National Parks (Bears Ears National Monument & Gold Butte National Monument)  and making environmental strides in the last month of his presidency.  Some items can be undone, but it will make the de-eco-ing a little bit harder for incoming President Trump. (Insert environmentalist chuckling here.)

May we all have our picture perfect environmental spaces and places, and may we all be environmental activists when needed here in the next 4 years ahead.

Definition image from, Ecovillage map from from

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Zero Percent: Attacking Food Waste & Hunger

The new year always brings about new plans, new goals, new resolutions, and new game plans.

In the category of "innovation will save our environmental and social issues," technology, apps, and smart phones are once again making a difference.  This time, it's in the category of food waste. Timely here, mid-winter, when it seems to have the greatest impact, especially on the homeless.

Yes, once again, there's an app for that!

Zero Percent is an app that was created in 2013 by Rajesh Karmani in Chicago to help connect businesses with excess food with the people who locally need them. Since then, the concept and reach has extended far beyond just one city.

Their motto:  "Zero waste, zero hunger!" Watch this video to see their vision and mission in action.


Environmental stats about our food footprint (or "foodprint") from their website include:

  • 40% of food ends up in landfill that is not scrap or rotten, just excess.
  • Rotting food contributes to methane, which is "21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide."
  • 16% of Americans ar considered "food insecure." This means they do not know from meal to meal where the next one is coming.

When I was investigating Zero Percent, 356,000+ pounds of food had been donated. Way to go.

For ways to get involved with Zero Percent, check out their website. Businesses, join in here.

video from, image

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Litterati: The Digital Landfill

We've all heard the catch phrase: "There's an app for that."

The same can be said for the world of windblown trash & litterbugs.

on Earth Day 2016, a new app was launched by social entrepreneur Jeff Kirschner called Litterati. Inspired by his daughter and an initial 2013 Instagram picture of trash, first a hashtag (#litterati) then a crowdsourced digital landfill was born.

Think of it as a pollution-free version of Pokemon-Go!

By having the iPhone app, people can submit data photographically to be collected in Litterati's database. Additionally, people can track their own personal impact and see both where (internationally) and what physical types of trash is abundantly out there. Or shall I say, "was" out there...because half of the beauty of the app is the inspiration to pick up the litter and make the world a better place.

I've always said that innovation was the key to our environmental success.  Here's yet another shining example of how that is true.

To learn more about Litterati and Jeff Kirschner's brainchild, watch the video here

Litterati app photo and screenshot from; digital landfill gallery from; video from