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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chick-Fil-A, Leading the Way: From Beverage Cup to Bench

My son knows one of my anti-mantras is "Styrofoam is Evil." (Capital E intented!!)

Of course he does, since I'm a raving environmentalist.

And as his mother, I know he loves Chick-Fil-A.

Of course I do. I'm a mom.

But one thing that has always seemed at counter odds with that fast food stop is their love for polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) cups.

Insert mama anti-mantra here!

Well, unbeknownst to me, Chick-fil-a has an environmental game plan about that.  Watch the video here to see how they go from beverage cups to benches.  Way to go, Chick-Fil-A for finding an innovative environmental solution that works for everyone!

To learn more, check out:
Chick-Fil-A's Environmental/Sustainablilty Mission Statement.

Chick-Fil-A's blog post "Inside Chick-Fil-A: From Cup to Bench"

Image from; video from

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

11 Dynamite Sites for #Eco Lesson Plans

We've all seen the "Keep Calm and..." memes.  How about if we went a li'l environmentally crazy:

Here are 11 dynamite sites where you can "go eco" and find environmentally-oriented lesson plans:

Lesson Plans from

Read-Write-Think: Reading and Writing About Pollution to Understand Cause and Effect
Global Environmental Issues: What Are the Worst 9 Environmental Issues Globally? 

Discovery Education:  Protecting our Planet

EekoWorld @ PBS Kids

Learning to Give, Earth Connections (A site dedicated to philanthropy education)

Science Lots of Lessons

BrainPop Educators:  Water Pollution Lesson Plans

Teach Engineering:  What's Air Got to Do With It?

Image from

Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Impact, Man?!

When you hear the words "no impact," what does that mean?

Well, if you go online and search out a definition for "impact," this is what you get:

1. the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision: The impact of the colliding cars broke the windshield.

2. an impinging: the impact of light on the eye.

3. influence; effect: the impact of Einstein on modern physics.

4. an impacting; forcible impinging: the tremendous impact of the shot

5. the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology: the impact of the industrial revolution.verb (used with object)

6. to drive or press closely or firmly into something; pack in.

7. to fill up; congest; throng: A vast crowd impacted St. Peter's Square.

8. to collide with; strike forcefully: a rocket designed to impact the planet Mars.

9. to have an impact or effect on; influence; alter: The decision may impact your whole career. The auto industry will beimpacted by the new labor agreements.verb (used without object)

10. to have impact or make contact forcefully: The ball impacted against the bat with a loud noise.

11. to have an impact or effect: Increased demand will impact on sales."

"NO Impact" clearly means the opposite.

Which lands us upon "No Impact Man."

"No Impact Man" was a movie, documentary, experiment on NOT making an impact on the environment.  Like I said: it's a book, it's a movie, it's a blog.  It could even be called a way of life.

There's even a follow-up with "How To Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World"

It even made its way to the world of podcast (and a very good one at that):  "The Good Life Podcast, Colin Beavan: No Impact Man on How to Be Alive"

From Bill McKibben via Amazon:  "This is the book where self-help turns into helping the world—and then turns back into helping yourself find a better life. Fascinating and timely!"

A good read I can't wait to read!  Or watch!

You can buy the movie from the website, or rent or buy it from Amazon.

Dictionary definition from; Images from and; video from

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Brrrrrilliant Blizzardarious Lesson Plans

It's no surprise to anyone that the Eastern has been dumped with snow.  A LOT! This past weekend was a blizzardarious 48 hours worth of wind, blowing snow, drifts, and ever-falling snow.  To look at one falling snowflake, you wonder how in the world it can be an item of such peril. Then you ponder how many millions, billions of snowflakes are out there, piled up!

While contemplating all of that, with all that gift of time (and equally wonderful gift of snow days), teachers start thinking about the way to incorporate all those snowflakes in topical, seasonal lesson plans.

If that's you, here's a few lesson plans that might come in handy:

Free Tech 4 Teachers: Lots of Lessons About Winter Weather
Richard Byrne includes quite the collection of resources all in one post on the hottest cold topic of the week. Some of the topics he includes are:

  • A multitude of activities from Scholastic (including the Interactive Weather Maker)
  • A video explaining the Wind Chill Formula
  • A video from Minute Earth entitled "This is Your Brain on Extreme Weather"
  • A video from Bytesize Science entitled "The Chemistry of Snowflakes"
  • A video from Minute Physics entitled "Why the Full Moon is Better in Winter"
  • And a list of some fun things to do in the snow (which always includes igloo making!)

Education World:  A Blizzard of Winter Lessons
Education World has "shoveled up" (their words) links for 2 dozen sites which directs you to over 50 cross-curricular activities, with approximate grade levels next to each link.

Just In Weather  Baltimore Snow History: Breaking Pattern Of Storms
In the neighborhood of more information than lesson plans, we have Justin Berk's weather site with news on the pattern of storms over the past 2 decades or so.  Baltimore apparently has a history of a major snowstorm (or two) every 3-4 years.  This year, however, it broke that pattern!  In checking out the snow measurements at the cusp of this storm, I was struck with how this would make a great graphing project to take that chart, and then add in the numbers of this storm.  Topping out at 29.2 inches of snow here in my neck of the woods, it certainly was a recordbreaking doozy. Have students jump on Excel, Numbers, Google Sheets, or the Create-a-Graph website. What a great real-world math problem and STEM connection!

Snow photos from the toasty comfort of my house; "Big Baltimorre Snowstorms" chart from

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Reflecting on Our Fall Hour Of Power

Two months ago inspiration struck as a result of a 2-day technology conference I attended in Boston. A weekend of creating and computing, we rolled out both a S'more website and the post "Sharing our Planet: Hour of Power."

Upon unleashing the project with the students, you know it's successful when they start complaining when it's time to leave for the day.

As we were wrapping up our inquiries, investigations, and final projects right before the holidays, we ended with a reflection on our 8+ weeks of our "Hour of Power:"  Yes, we all learned a lot from the studies on oil spills, water pollution, deforestation, methane plumes, world hunger, clean drinking water, overfishing, and more. Yet, the student reflections below (in addition to their projects) showcased their creativity, collaboration, and level of engagement during this process.  

Hour of Power Reflection

We started our “Hour of Power” with the hopes of giving each of you the opportunity to explore a topic related to the environment that is important to you. Take some time to reflect on everything we did from:

· brainstorming environmental issues
· thinking about a topic
· creating inquiry questions to investigate
· researching
· taking action & making a personal action plan
· creating a project
· including technology
· and presenting our project.

  • "'Hour of Power' was very fun, interesting and educational to me...I think it was fun trying to get other people involved in helping this situation because I feel like other people are going to be interested in it." ~ L
  • "'Hour or Power' was a gigantic project full of excitement, fun, and tough times... My partner was awesome, especially because we got to bounce ideas off each other, and helped each other improve our own ideas." ~ J1
  • "I really enjoyed being able to pick our partners and topic." ~ C1
  • "It was a good way to learn about our environment.... We accomplished a lot." ~ N1
  • "My favorite part was when we made our documentary video. I found the editing very challenging.... I am especially proud of our documentary..... I would love to do it again." ~ N2
  • "In the end of the editing, it was worth the work, even though it took a lot of time... I am super proud of the documentary we made." ~ B
  • "I learned lots of facts in water pollution. I learned how much polluted water there is all over the world and who it affects."  ~ N3
  • "I felt it encouraged others to think about not using water that they have been using unwisely. Also, it will make them save water because they know someone has less or unhealthy water." ~ M
  • "I think our topic is important because when one problem starts, another starts and another. So if you can help our problem, we can help to avoid more problems. I learned that there are many other environmental problems than pollution, and other major problems." ~ S
  • "I was not aware of how bad overfishing is. I did not know overfishing is right where we live!" ~ K
  • "One thing I enjoyed about Hour of Power is that we came up with over 25 facts about water pollution! HOP really educated me about problems in the world." ~ G
  • "I think working with my partner was good because he had a lot of determination for this project. He and so ended up being really successful....I learned that world hunger is one of the biggest problems in the world and kills a child every 5 seconds." ~ R1
  • "My group and I worked really well together. We stayed on topic, we used our time wisely, and our final project turned out great! I wouldn't change a thing!" ~ J2
  • "I liked working with a partner and choosing something I thought mattered to me. I also enjoyed the creative part like the action plan." ~ R2
  • "The part that I was most proud of in the outcome of the scripts. They included facts, humor, and most importantly what new information we learned... We learned that many of the marine animals suffer from all the trash that people drop--some on accident, some on purpose." ~ M1
  • "It is important to inform and persuade people about safe, clean drinking water because a lot of people die from it and it is terrible. I learned that environmental issues can cause a lot of things to happen to our environment." ~ C2
  • "It felt good when we were taking action to take inform people about our problem... If we could do it again, I would definitely do this because I liked having the choice on everything and to be able to use a lot of technology." ~ P
  • "I have learned that one environmental issue leads to another." I think that is important for people to was really nice focusing I what really matters to me an deciding where the project should be driven....This project has provided an experience that has changed me to be more aware if environmental issues." ~ G2
Nearly all of the students mentioned being so proud of the work they did... and how much they both learned and enjoyed the process.  That is the part that truly stands out!!  Will we do another Genius Hour?  More than one student requested that we do!  Time will tell!

Image from our S'more website & Hour of Power paperwork.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MidMonth Climate Manifesto: Defined

Thinking back to before Christmas and our really warm, unseasonable weather, I'm weighing heavily this whole climate change thing.  As I wrote about in that post, my son got a bit worked up. I think he felt like the warm December days were going to continue, and we might just implode. Even at his age, he's heard enough and knows enough about this climate change thing to know it's a big deal. It's all over the news. And it's scary.

Given the fact that it does make the nightly news more and more these days, I certainly have a plethora of which I could write about. But, I don't want Green Team Gazette to be the forum for just spewing doom and gloom. It's too doomy and gloomy!

But, we also can't bury our heads in the sand. It's a concept that needs to be revisited.  Often. (Or at least, frequently.) When armed with information, we can then do what we need to do: we need to reinforce that climate change a significant matter that needs our attention.  We need to reinvest our time, energy, and commitment to helping minimize the harmful effects of our lifestyles that are leading to the rising temperatures of this global problem. We need to remind ourselves of our individual and collective responsibilities in causing the problem so that we can begin to diminish the effects.

Thus begins a monthly feature.  A MidMonth Manifesto, if you will:
"manifesto, noun:  a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization."
May it serve as a mid-month morsel of relevant resources to help both raise awareness and also point us all in the direction of taking action to fight climate change.  

The following letter is from NOAA, where you can find many other great letters written by kids on climate change.

Image from; definition from; letter from

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dreaming With Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's not new news:  Monday is a national holiday:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Of course, probably more so than anyone else, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is strikingly known for his efforts to strengthen, enhance, and move us forward in the Civil Rights Movement, both as individuals and as a nation.

As partisan politics and differing views STILL noisily show & bark on--we are not done.  His message on equality in our world is still so vital, here 50+ years after the Civil Rights Movement.

Empathy is still needed for all of us, on a daily basis.

To help you celebrate Dr. King and his visions for a united "United States" and connected human community, here are several links for contemplation, reflection, and even perhaps even some activism:

  • 8 Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King Jr  (Michael Hyatt Podcast & Post)
  • All National Parks Are Free On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Huffington Post Article, 1/8/2016)  Get outside!! This year's January 18th is an admission-free day for national parks. The first of 16 days for this year ahead.  It might be a nice way to go forward for your personal self as a way to celebrate the great wide world we have out there.
At our little schoolhouse, we are having a Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly ahead on Wednesday. At our grade level, we showed our students Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech.  We also then videotaped students reading excerpts of that speech to show at the assembly.  We then had a brainstorming session where the students came up with a compilation of what our dreams are for a better world.  Following up a study of homelessness, thoughts included having everyone feeling fortunate for what they have as well as having a warm bed and safe place to sleep at night.  Other thoughts included helping the environment/fighting climate change and also treating others the way we all want to be treated. 

There were more!

In his 39 years, Martin Luther King did so much on behalf of civil rights, activism, and our country.  Activism comes in big and small steps.  What can you do, even in the tiniest of ways, to be a leader that would make Dr. King proud??

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016's "One Word" Resolutions

A common trend in New Year's Resolution writing over the last few years 
has been to find a word, one word, and make a commitment for the year ahead.  

This year, I'm going that route again.  My word:

I see this as a very "up"lifting word--always nudging towards the side of half-full versus half-empty. always aiming high versus low.  A word that always encourages you (aka, me) to check in with myself and strive to be my best self.  Whether it's....

Looking up.... to others, from my devices, to a higher power;
Shaping up... and honoring myself, my health, & being their for my peeps;
Stepping up & jazzing up... my game, my routine, my character,
                  my ability to be my best self;
Filling up... my water glass to "hydrate up," my spirit, my heart with love.

All these words work to help me "live it up," "show up," "wake up" & "get up".... and sometimes even "lighten up" to have a fabulous 2016 ahead.

What's your word this year?  

I encourage all to find that word, and find a creative way to express it, unleash it, and live it!

Up image created using both the Scrap It & Pic Collage Apps.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Wolves & Rivers & Changes Over Time

The 4 minute movie "How Wolves Change Rivers" is not new to the Internet--it was posted nearly 2 years ago.  Yet I'm always moved by it (as is my dog when he hears the wolves howl).

In 4 minutes it discusses the shift in multiple levels of environmental change--all brought about over the course of  the reintroduction of wolves that were once absent for nearly 70 years at Yellowstone National Park. This change is called a "trophic cascade," which happens when a top predator is either added or removed from a predator-prey food chain situation.  Over time the entire ecosystem is transformed.

It shows us the power of biodiversity!

For a visual about how wolves have kept "Yellowstone in balance," check out this infographic:

Video from; photo from, & "Wolves Keep Yellowstone in Balance" in 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Back to School: Restarting Your Engines

Time is so weird.

Yes, I realize the profoundness (and somewhat silliness) of this statement.

So it's now 2016.  Now January. Now post-New Years, post-Christmas, post-winter break.  AND, we're back to school. How the heck did all of that happen?  Oh yeah, time. It's constant, continual, and a run-away train.

We are now 3 days in to being back to school. It's always a little rough of an adjustment after being off a week or two--especially given all of the late nights antics, festivities, and fun. We've been blessed to have 2 weeks off, which has been so great and so ripe for the time away. Time to get ready for the holidays then celebrate with friends & family. Time to travel to visit family far away. Time to sleep, time to get caught up, time to step away.

As a person on the constant go, "stepping away" is actually something I'm not always quite comfortable with--and typically not very good at. There's never enough "time" for all of that (she says facetiously)!

Of course, after a whole bundle of days of watching yummy movies on the Hallmark Channel, surfing the Internet, reading actual books, playing card games with the kids, sleeping, and visiting with friends and family, you see that it's in the "stepping away" that it is there that you find the cure.  It feels backwards, but that's where the rejuvenation comes from.  That's the exact thing you need.

Here are 3 good articles that prove my point:

It's Official, Teachers Must Relax Over Christmas to Avoid Burnout

Christmas Break Seen as Vital to Teachers' Well-Being

Dear Teachers, It’s Time to Reset

Teachers out there:  Depending on how your break went, you may or may NOT have gotten that "time to reset," that well-deserved break.  Same goes for doctors, engineers, and anyone else out there in the working world.  I think these articles above can speak to you--regardless of your profession.  

Teachers are a rare bird, in that our work definitely comes home: whether that's grading papers, creating lesson plans, answer emails, or waking up at 3 am trying to wrestle with how best to be there for "Johnny" or "Suzy."  I like the fact that these articles talked about how even a few days can make a difference.  Martin Luther King Day is coming ahead, so if you missed out over break, maybe that's your chance.  Or maybe you need to set aside a weekend of no work. Or maybe a snow day is around the bend (despite the very non-winter-like Christmas we just had out in the East & Midwest).

Or maybe you need a well-placed mental health day.  Even a few hours can truly go far.

Check out the image below if you need a few ideas on how best to give yourself a break, even when we are all now "back in business!" Take a break and be good to yourself! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year & New Year's Resolutions

New Years Eve is around the bend  As we enter into the "new" new year, this is the time that traditionally we all look at what's around us. It's that time to assess:  What is it you want to keep... and what is there that needs an iteration or two? Perhaps you are regretting that extra Christmas cookie (or twenty), or that extra cocktail (or more). Maybe you are taking note of which of your friendships enrich your lives and perhaps which relationships are ones its time to release. Habits & attitudes may need to be rebuilt, readjusted, and renewed. Here's a few of my inspirational suggestions for 2016:

For tackling your own resolutions, here are some handy resources that might simplify your plans of action for the year ahead:

Here are two links from my ultimate favorite life-focused inspiration:  Michael Hyatt.  I'd completely recommend his podcast series "This Is Your Life."  It's changed the way I move about in the world as it is frequently what I'm listening to in the car.  Here are two links specifically for goal setting:
According to, the #1 Resolution of 2015 was to lose weight.  Given obesity in America, I'd imagine we'll see the same for 2016.  If you were one of those who had too many sugar cookies over the holidays, here are some links to help on that front:

  • For a visual of how much sugar you are taking in, check out Sugar Stacks.  Here's just one example.  Sometimes the drinks you are leaning toward are more sugar packed than you think. Beyond beverages, you can also click through their links for sugar in snacks, cookies, deserts, and more.
  • Chef Jamie Oliver has long been a fan of healthier eating.  His Food Revolution show from several years ago gave some eye opening stats, facts, visuals & challenges.  His most recent brigade has been the documentary Sugar Rush where he spoke out on Obesity in the UK.

Whatever your goals for the year ahead, I wish you luck in pursuing them!  
Cheers to your new year.  Make it the best one yet!

Radical Resolutions image created using PicCollage for Kids, "In Defense of Food" trailer; Coke pictures from

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Comic Relief Here Between the Crazy Daze of Holidays

At this point, if you celebrate Christmas, you are at the midpoint... that sweet spot halfway between Christmas Crazies and New Year's Festivities.  While all the pre-holiday stress of shopping is over, there still might be holiday company, travel, cooking, cleaning, and de-Christmasing still ahead.

If that's the case, you might need a bit of sarcastic cheer to help you de-stress.

Funny or Die's Koch Bros Climate Change video is just the one for you. The video does have some language, therefore it’s more for the snark-loving parents/environmental educators out there who need a little comic relief.

Beau Bridges does a nice job of playing both David & Charles Koch.  Add in, there's a musical element singing "The Climate Change Deniers' Anthem."  You'll hear Darren Criss, Jenette McCurdy, Estelle, Emily Osment, Ed Weeks & more.

My favorite line:  "NASA’s wrong, rivers aren’t rising."

It's  undeniably chuckle-worthy!

Video from from

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Cheers to you this holiday season.  
Sending my best!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hitting Home About Homelessness

As part of our literature study the last few weeks, we have split our upper elementary students into two groups, reading two books on the same theme.

The books: Both dynamic: Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.

The theme:  Homelessness

Secondary themes:  Identity, naivety, prejudice/discrimination, needs versus wants, empathy.  All very poignant here in the holiday season of wishlist making and hoping for gifts under the tree.

The class conversations: Amazing.

The changes in attitudes and awareness:  Remarkable.

To help build empathy and really change misconceptions about what it means to be homeless, we've been studying infographics, and checking out some of the videos below.  Through all of this, they've had some eye-opening reality checks that being homeless isn't what they initially thought.

One of the most powerful videos to open the eyes of our 11 year olds has been to visit with "Homeless Dean."  I know Homeless Dean--for real. I've written about him before.  A couple times in fact. (See part 2 & part 3.)  Dean Wright was the boyfriend (and now husband) of one of my college roommates. In 2012, Dean voluntarily went homeless for 10 days [from Nov. 26th--Dec. 6th] in chilly Illinois temperatures.  As the Executive Director for the Freeport Area Church Cooperative (FACC), he did it to help raise awareness of homelessness in his community. Along those lines, while keeping his day job, he restricted himself to a $6.50 amount for food.  He videocast his experience and set up a YouTube channel with multiple videos he created to document his experience.

While watching these videos, my students started to change their perceptions. To a degree, I think it was hard for some of them to wrap their heads around the idea of someone literally putting themselves in a homeless person's shoes to experience it for themselves.  Dean gave my kids someone to associate with. Given that, prepubescent humor sort of frittered away on this subject.

Many of the videos are eye-opening.  Day 1 of course details Dean's vision and plan. Day 2 is here below, in which Dean talks about his first night in 20 degree weather. The kids noticed in watching several along the way (here at that same time of year) how even just a few days of sleeplessness and exposure to the night time elements affected Dean.  Two of my favorites are his "Let's Do Something" (where he spoke about having passion and taking action) and "The End or The Beginning."

As we all are approaching the upcoming holidays, may you think about your community.  The needs of the people around you.  Every community everywhere has its share of people who need your help.  Take time to be grateful for what you have, and see how you can help others (whether they are homeless or afflicted with something else that is important to you).  By helping others, and by taking action, you will indeed find the true meaning of the season.

Here are some final inspirational videos to help raise your awareness on issues that homeless people face.

Homeless image from; two infographics the source is listed with them as modified for 11 year olds using the PicCollage app.
"Homeless Dean" Videos from: 
Showers on Wheels Video from
Dumpster Diving video from

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Climate Change Can Be Scary

Last weekend we had some remarkable weather for December in the DC-Baltimore area. Upper 60s & even 70 degrees on Sunday, Dec. 13th. Given the delightful temperature, we had a park playdate set up my son with several of his pals from his old school.  It was a fun day all around.

Despite that though, perspectives changed at bedtime--at least for one 10-year old full-hearted, angst-ridden, tender-hearted/tender-souled boy.  My son began repeating the morning mantra of his, and he was terribly troubled at bedtime. In his mind, Sunday was "the worst day ever." Why? BECAUSE of that unseasonably warm 70-degrees temperature.... all of which he knew was the result of the big bad guy:  Climate Change.

He nearly couldn't go to bed due to his own consternation on the weather, the climate-implications, the "wrongness" of 70 degree weather for mid-December.  I couldn't talk him off the ledge until I did two things:
1.  I showed him the 15 day forecast on The Weather Channel to show him that the temperature wasn't on the daily rise, heading for planetary implosion.  The forecasted temperature drops predicted for the next two weeks went miles for easing his angst.
2. We went online and looked into information about the Paris Climate Cop21 Talks on Climate Change that took place the week prior. When we spoke of that and the fact that world leaders were working to make a difference and change legislation, he settled. 

The world sure can be difficult for a 10-year old.

Yes, he's the kid of an "EcoWarrior" who has invited him to watch Bill Nye and other climate-outspoken-peeps. But still... he seriously was losing sleep on it. Literally and completely. 

These are the things that worry a mom.

It led me to the conclusion that despite your leanings, we need to do something. The projection is worrisome.  Even if you are still on the climate change conceptual fence about whether or not to buy in or deny it. Worse case scenario: we work to do good on this planet of ours, and we work to eliminate pollution/problems/such... If we do all of that, no question: we are ahead. That is not partisan. That is leaving the world a better place than we found it. THAT is what we ALL should focus on.

To Learn more....

Click here to visit the outcomes of the COP21 talks in Paris on
December 12th, 2015 between 195 nations.
"The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."

And here are two videos that show yes, climate change can be scary
(to grown ups too), which is why it's important to make that
2 degree Celsius difference they are talking about with COP21.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Bag Monster, Revisited (Here during the Shopping Season!)

The Bag Monster is not new to me.  I wrote about him 3 years ago.

But, even though he's been around the block a time or two, he's good to become reacquainted with.

This is what 500 plastic bags look like...especially if you wear them.  And the Bag Monster wears them as only he can.  Just watch Bag It, where the Bag Monster made his debut, and learn even more!
Then think of a few ways during your Christmas shopping days to save a bag or two.

 Video from

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How To Go About Having a Green Li'l Christmas Season

When you look at holiday waste by the numbers, it's pretty darn dramatic:

Clearly, there's a bit of consumption and waste going on during the holiday season.  
To have yourself a greener little holiday, check out the following links:

Infographic created by me using and the statistics on

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Documentaries that Counter the "Shop 'Til You Drop" Phenomenon

By this point in the Holiday Season, you probably fall into one of the following 5 camps:

1.  It's not December 20th yet, so you haven't even thought about starting.

2.  You are like me, you've toe-dipped in (mainly through online ventures since you can't stomach "real" shopping), but are still waiting on some wish lists because you want it to be right & your money well-spent on the best deal you can find.

3.  You're a DIY-Pinterest-kind-of-peep who has been busy crafting for months.

4.  You are ├╝ber-organized and shop all year long, and are nearly (if not completely) done--perhaps with even presents wrapped under your already-decorated tree.

5.  You shopped 'til you dropped over Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend and you are done, or darn-near close (clearly with more stamina than this girl will ever have to endure the crowded craziness of guerrilla shopping at that level).

Here's AJ+'s take on all that's #5:

Regardless of the type of shopper, you probably have some kind of shopping list, some kind of budget, and some kind of despair of getting the "just right" gift for those you love.  Stress is usually involved in one way or another.

I've written many times before about Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff," materialism, & how shopping doesn't buy happiness--it's a proven fact.  I ran across this great article/list on Black Friday about videos compiled about consumerism (and the conundrum it creates) over at Films for Action (written by Tim Hjersted).

Here are a number of documentaries he shared. (I listed them here by date released, most recent first.):
Interesting: 18 years of still-topical documentaries. 18 years?!  With no real signs of the times based on Cyber Monday's stat's (see the AJ+ video above!)

He also has a nice list of shorts where you can get the condensed version & more on materialism. That's where I found The Center For A New American Dream's "The High Price of Materialism:"

Images from; videos from and

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Making the Most of the Maker Movement

At the beginning of the year, we had a team-building activity to move 6 red cups to a different layout without ever touching them.

When parents of my 5th grade class came to see what we do during the school day during a Parent Coffee this fall, we had teams of parents and students trying to construct the tallest marshmallow-topped spaghetti tower they could.  (The vast array of approaches was intriguing!)

During Earth Day last year, we had a Family Maker Night, where the students invented something at home out of recyclables and through repurposing.  We had an evening of invention and creation for parents and kids alike!

Why?  The answer for all of these:  to highlight the importance of the "design process."  Because that's what we all do, all the time, to be creative problem solvers.

It's a philosophy we have embraced as part of the school culture.  It's not much different that what we do when we ask students to create, craft, revise, edit, and transform a story from a draft in language arts/writing workshop.  It's no different that the "guess, test, and revise" math problem solving strategy where we work to make an educated guess and work from our trials to land on the final answer. It's not much different that what you try to do when you are working through any real life problem solving problem where plan A, possibly plan B, and sometimes plan C don't pan out.

You identify the problem, brainstorm, design, build, test/evaluate, redesign, rebuild, keep testing until you have something to share.

As part of an group I belong to outside of school of current and retired educators, this year our meetings are focusing on trends of education.  I started talking to them about the things our Tech Director does with the 3D printer and some of his Maker Lab projects for the 1st through 5th graders (as well as the general philosophy of the school)...and I swiftly put on the docket of group speakers to talk about the Maker Movement trend.  That presentation is here below--answering the question of "what is the maker movement" and how does it benefit our students today midst a world of trying to soak in 21st Century skills.

What Is The Maker Movement? from Vicki Dabrowka

Photos from my camera, Design process from powerpoint created collaboratively with my tech teachers at my school and uploaded to SLideshare: 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

CNN: Being 13

One of the most eye-opening things I've watched in awhile is the CNN Special Report:  "#Being13:  Inside the Secret World of Teens."  Anderson Cooper makes us all sit up and take notice.

The show reminds us all how of the power and seductivity of social media.  Particularly under the veil of anonymity.  A must-see for all parents in this edtech-ian word.

To go into greater depth than the show follow Anderson Cooper on the show's page at CNN.

video from, pic from

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Dichotomy of 2 Neighboring Days: Thanksgiving & Black Friday

There are memes galore showing the dichotomy of the spending craziness of Black Friday as the follow up to the themes of Thanksgiving: appreciation, family, plenty.

If you live like I do, you try to focus on one holiday season at a time. Let's face it: Corporate America doesn't! Christmas Ornaments typically compete for shelf real estate at the same time as Halloween decorations are up in department stores & novelty shops.  The rule in our house & my car (much to the chagrin of my teen) is no Christmas music or movies until after Thanksgiving.  Well here we are, on the other side of Thanksgiving, and it's all open. Black Friday marks the unofficial start to the shopping extravaganza called Christmas. According to the song, it's "the most wonderful time of the year." Or rather, the most "spending-est" time of the year.  Black Friday sales followed up by Cyber Monday...and jingle sales, jingle sales, jingle all the way.  Which leads to the next parody song:  "Just Another Manic Spending Spree."

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and all things First World, I look around, and what do I need?  I truly have enough.  Sure, the bank account could be padded more, we could go back to the days when the cleaning lady came (cut to provide for other priorities right now), maybe a massage, and a nice tropical vacation could certainly be calling my name.  But what do I need?  Black trouser socks. That's really about it.  But, that won't cut it on the Christmas list.

Then there's the kids' Christmas lists.  Ei yie yie: holy guacamole!
It's the time-old-trouble of teaching needs versus wants versus "enoughs."  Plus, there's a lot of people who love my darling duo, so they need lists too.  Next thing you know, a glazed look comes over the kids as they scour the Internet for things they feel they surely can't live without.  I swear their pupils turn into dollar signs. Or probably those are little pupil-sized gift wrapped boxes in their eyes instead.  Lots of them.  I mean, they're kids. They love Christmas. It's a magical time. I get it. They don't have a full concept of money, and the greed thing just naturally comes to play when TV MarketLand is on the move, and all the techified whirly-gigs and gizmos cost a boatload each.

But, it ultimately becomes "just more stuff."  By mid-January, the newness always wears off.  I think about the biggies that my kids wanted last year.  When was the last time they even played with that stuff?  At that point, there's just more "stuff" to manage.

This 4 minute video from Films for Action entitled "Live Rich" does a nice job of poignantly showing the depth of the "stuff" that we manage as we get more "stuff."  It does a nice job of dovetailing (inadvertently) on REI's #OptOutside campaign they had for Black Friday. #OptOutside was their movement to close all 143 of their stores to promote their passion & their mission--to get both their customers & their employees outside.

Even though the Christmas Season is officially on us, and we can now say "Black Friday be gone" as it has now passed, there's still plenty of time this holiday season ahead to focus on a few questions that deserve contemplation and answers:
  • What is truly important to you?
  • What is the true price of the price you are paying for your "stuff" (Christmastime and all the time)?
  • What do you really need?
  • Can money even buy that?  
  • If not, what does?         (Typically that answer is "time and togetherness.")
Cheers to each and every one of us for an intentional Christmas Season ahead.

Images from,
Video from

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time of appreciation, gratitude, and generosity.  It's about pausing and saying thank your for all the pieces in the puzzle that makes up your life.  The messy ones, the beloved ones, the random ones...they all fit together to make the beautiful mosaic that is your life.

In that same sort of way,
it makes me think of stones,
and one of my favorite poems. Yes, I'm mixing metaphors, but I feel both are what's tied to the heart & meaning of Thanksgiving:

"Drop a Pebble in the Water"  ~by James W. Foley

"Drop a pebble in the water:
just a splash, and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.

Drop a pebble in the water:
in a minute you forget,
But there's little waves a-flowing,
and there's ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
to a great big wave have grown;
You've disturbed a mighty river
just by dropping in a stone.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading
from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them,
once you've started them to flow.

Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute you forget;
But there's little waves a-flowing, 
and there's ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart
a mighty wave of tears you've stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy
ere you dropped that unkind word.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
just a flash and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn't believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
in a minute you forget;
But there's gladness still a-swelling,
and there's joy circling yet,
And you've rolled a wave of comfort
whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water
just by dropping one kind word."

Here's a lovely musical montage tied to this same sentiment: 

May your Thanksgiving this year be a mosaic of memories, 
and a plethora of ripples out on the pond. 

Thanksgiving Mosaic from
Stairs Mosaic from
Mother Theresa Quote/pebble/water image from
Video from
Poem from 
(where you can find other inspirational links and resources dedicated to those who make a difference.)

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