Saturday, July 31, 2010

Park Quest #9 ~ Patapsco Valley State Park

Maryland Park Quest #9...
tidied up and now tucked away. 

Glorious temperatures, no humidity, a treat here at the end of July!  Bikes would have been icing on the cake, but we did okay without them, despite a 4 year old, flip flops, and an unfortunate fall resulting in a split lip but no major incident.

I've got to say...there aren't too many places where you can see a stone aquaduct (oldest one here in MD) & arch bridge, a beam bridge, and cross a suspension bridge.....all in one place!  That's Patapsco Valley State Park.  As a teacher who teaches about bridges, I'm giddy with the thought of potential field trips and my own quest creations. 

That's one of the things as a teacher I've enjoyed with these Park Quests--thinking about how many ways I can integrate some of these ideas in my classroom.   As a mom, I have loved watching my kids experience new places and embracing the great outdoors (hopefully without too many calamities along the way).  And as an outdoor adventurer, it's been great watching the numbers rise on my pedometer, checking out the challenges along the way, and experiencing some great vistas in all the different state parks.
To check into the Park Quest at Patapsco Valley State Park, click the title above or  go to

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Park Quest #8 ~ Sandy Point State Park

Jimmy, Sally, Sook & Sponge, they aren't characters on Sponge Bob!  But after today's Park Quest "Where's Jimmy" at Maryland's Sandy Point State Park (outside of Annapolis), I know the difference.  (And no, I'm not giving away any of the Park Quest Answers!) 

From the Nature Center (which is new to the park since the spring) which is small but has great wall paintings of Chesapeake Bay animals, live creatures in aquariums, and an invitation to trekking barefoot bay-side in the sand (a good leg muscle workout) a wooded thicket, we had it all.  Going from one blue crab placard to another, we completed our informational scavenger hunt with no problemo's!  The hot day lent itself well for both sweaty brows and the beach, but a pending storm (and the promise of food) sent my two young questers and I home earlier than intended. 

Being a teacher who does an art field trip to this park every spring (see Bay Week Revisited at, I hope they leave up the crab marker posts year-round.  It would be a great addition to our field trip, and it makes a nice hike mission for anyone who might happen upon it and want an informational hike. The two DNR park rangers who were in the Nature Center told me they that since the Center was new this season, it was on a trial to see how much visiting support it would get.  So far, so good, and they've had a good number of visitors.  If you are an Anne Arundel County native (or anyone, for that matter) who is interested in seeing people connect with nature and the Chesapeake Bay, you might want to drop a line to encourage the continuation of this good thing. (This is also the place to go to schedule a field trip or school visit to you):

Sandy Point State Park
1100 East College Parkway
Annapolis, MD  21409
410-974-2149 office
410-974-2772 marina
Likewise, the TEAM Program (Teaching Environmental Awareness in Maryland), also through Maryland DNR, offers free classroom programs to Maryland Teachers.  Whether in pursuit of Watershed Studies [they offer 4:  Watershed, Chesapeake Bay, Streams I, and Streams II] or Marine Studies [oyster reefs, horseshoe crabs, or Chesapeake Watermen], there will be something in this 60--120 minute mix of programs that will be to your liking!!  To learn more go to .

To learn more about Sandy Point State Park & Maryland's Summer 2010 Park Quest, click the title above or go to .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thank You...No, Thank You!

I think it really does say something about the integrity of a person like David de Rothschild who has been part of a crew to risk their lives to do something as amazing as sail the Pacific Ocean in order to present an environmental message...who then sends out a video of thanks to their supporters.  

Thank you?  No, thank YOU, Plastiki!!

Video from 

As I mentioned on the comments of my last blog entry about the Plastiki, two great places to go to see video footage of the Plastiki arriving in Sydney are here:  

CNN's Plastiki News Page: 

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Picture & A Plastiki Say 1000 Words!

After 4 months, 8,000 nautical miles, and a lot of sweat & perseverance, the Plastiki arrived in Sydney's Darling Harbor.  These 2 pictures say it all!
To see these pics and read of the Plastiki's arrival, go to .  More pics are available at

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Message and a Bottle Sailing Into Shore!

"Message in a Bottle".... Whether it is Plastiki's "motto," "slogan," or "battle cry," you decide. This phrase has been their catch phrase announcing when the crew finds cyberspace commentary highlighting their mission. It also has been their adage detailing their own mission. That mission? Single use plastics are a waste of resources and a polluting mess to our oceans, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will show.

David de Rothschild's bottle, with Adventure Ecology's message, is about to come to shore!!

March 20th, 2010 David de Rothschild & skipper Jo Royle, along with their crew, set sail in the Plastiki from San Francisco, California.  Now, just 4 months later they are on the cusp of landing on the shores of Sydney, Australia.   Not just any catamaran (which alone, crossing the Pacific would be intense), but one made of 12,500 plastic water bottles. Why? To highlight the importance of reusing (rather than having to generate new) materials and to discover the sea of plastic slop that's out in our oceans.
All systems are a-go for the Plastiki to land in Sydney "tomorrow" (but we're talking time zones and different continents here, people!).  Actually, upon checking twitter updates, it seems that late night Sunday USA could very well be Australia's tomorrow!  Case and point:   
The Plastiki is coming through the Heads and in into the Harbor right now, such a beautiful sight!!   37 minutes ago via web

the Plastiki is so close! About 4 nautical miles from the Heads, the gateway to Sydney Harbor. Wahoooooooo! 26 minutes ago via web
The Plastiki is sailing through Sydney Harbor!! Such an awesome sight! Helicopters over head & a very excited crew   
Being a person who has tracked the Plastiki along the journey and even before, it seems fitting to sort of watch it as it happens, here and now, from afar...I'm excited about the "message in a bottle" that Plastiki is sharing....From the United Nations' Environmental Program & their July 23rd interview with David de Rothschild: (
" 'This is truly a message on a bottle', said Mr. de Rothschild. 'We have this addiction to single-use, throwaway plastic, which is choking up the ecosystem. With Plastiki, we want to enlighten, inform and inspire people and show that there are solutions here and not just problems.'.... Mr. de Rothschild also raised concern at the scarcity of marine life his crew had observed on their journey across the Pacific. 'We've spent four months at sea but have seen very little fish stock and only a handful of marine mammals', said Mr. de Rothschild. 'That is a real sign that the oceans are in desperate need of our help.'....
At the end of the live link-up with UNEP, Mr. de Rothschild said Plastiki's next challenge was to encourage others to use plastics more responsibly. Once the boat is back on dry land, Plastiki will become a travelling exhibition raising awareness on waste plastic and marine pollution.   'After this adventure, Plastiki's second chapter is a chapter of change', said Mr. de Rothschild. 'The message we're sending out is 'What is your Plastiki- What can you do to change the world?' "
Kudos Plastiki....G'day & Grand job!!  We're definitely tipping our hats off to you for an amazing feat!!

To get a closer look at the poster above, or to read the Plastiki's blog article about their nearing arrival, click the title above, or go to

Map image of the voyage from

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Reel Expert Can Tackle Anything!

Cambridge, Maryland, Friday, July 23, 2010:  
Heat Index = 116°F
Hottest Heat Index in the state of Maryland for yesterday.

What are the odds of being there & smack dab in the middle of all that?

Despite the heat index, hot pavement, & literally dripping sweat, I was amid a throng of friends & family to the late Bill Burton.  An avid fisherman and newspaper man, Bill Burton was a defender of the Chesapeake Bay.  It's only fitting that Maryland Department of Natural Resources named the old Choptank River Bridge in Western Maryland "The Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park."  Likewise, since Bill Burton wrote several columns in 1985 to save the Choptank Bridge from destruction when the new one was built, it's even more fitting that it carry his name. 

At the dedication yesterday, that you could truly see how much of an impact one person can make on so many others.  From Joseph Gill (Deputy Secretary of MD's Dept. of Natural Resources), to Lois Burton (Bill's wife of 42 years), to his daughter Heather Boughey, and even his granddaughter "Grumpy," everyone regaled stories of Bill's stories.  Overwhelmingly, you could see that even if you didn't know him, you felt as though you did both from their stories of him, and his stories he wrote for the paper. You could see the ripples (as a stone thrown in the Bay) of Bill Burton's importance and unknown impact on others...which reach farther than perhaps even Bill Burton knew. 

One of the beauties of this fishing pier, as Joseph Gill commented, is that it is a place where people can come to laugh and fish, and be alive.  How very appropriate for Bill Burton.  He felt that everyone should have access to the Bay, whether boat owners or not, and here was a place you could do it.  Especially kids--Bill loved to get kids "hooked" on fishing.

After the sweltering yet endearing ceremony, that's just what we did.  We got kids hooked on fishing--and appreciated the breeze over the water!!  A crew of 3 adults and 5 kids, fishing rods, and tackle boxes headed down the pier!  From the "one that got away" (breaking the line, that strong one!), to doing the "Woah Nellie!" reel-in, to kissing a caught fish or two, to seeing swimming crabs & turtles...Bill Burton was smiling down on us, I'm sure of it!  And though it was steamy, the breeze was a relief, and there were no complaints (until hunger of course hit)!  It was a lot more fun that being the "human couch potatoes" in our own, solitary, AC'ed homes.

To see Candus Thomson's article about the dedication in the Baltimore Sun, go to her blog:

To read up more on Maryland's great outdoorsman, writer, storyteller extraordinaire, and local version of Ernest Hemingway, go to 

To learn more about the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park, click the title above or go to

Photos clicked by my camera & me!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Park Quest #7 ~ Tuckahoe State Park

Like Marquette and Joliet trekking the Mighty Mississippi....
Like Lewis & Clark traversing the Louisiana Purchase...
Like Gilligan and the Skipper and the infamous 3 hour tour...
Okay, maybe not the last one...though we did break into the "Gilligan's Island" Theme song (much to my children's chagrin) our 2.5 hour canoe trip for Park Quest #7 up the Tuckahoe Creek in Maryland's State Park by the same name. The water lilies and winding creek were gorgeous with the sun coming through the trees as we answered nature questions while paddling up with the kids sitting on life vests in the middle of the canoe. Only a few near-tippings, but we all stayed dry, and I got a nice arm workout row, row, rowing my boat, gently down the stream.
One of the most amazing views were all the painted turtles we saw.  Seriously, near 100.  If we got too close, they'd slip off their log...unless of course they were one of the few, the proud, the brave, and they'd eye us as we'd float by.  Sometimes six to ten even filled the same log.  If you're a painted turtle, there's nothing like hanging out at the turtle condo, riverside, sunning yourself with all your other turtle buddies!

The 3/4 mile hike through upon landing upstream (before paddling back) was by far the LEAST favorite of the four of us questers.  The mosquitoes thought nothing of coming in for their dinner entree on our arms...and that was immediately following the bug spray!!  It deterred them not at all!  Needless to say, that part of our quest was short and sweet, with a welcome return to our canoe where we were bug free!
"Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe." -- Henry David Thoreau
"The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing." -- John Muir
To find out a bit more about Tuckahoe State Park & Maryland's Park Quest, click the title above or go to

Pictures a la my own (still dry!) camera!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Park Quest #6: Soldier's Delight

A Sunday afternoon, a Park Quest Passport in hand, and Team Dabrowka is on the move.  A trek to Owings Mills, MD gets us to Maryland's Soldier's Delight State Park.  With numerous reason's out there WHY it's named this, the jury's not quite certain.  But it certainly was delightful!  

We've learned here on our 6th Park Quest that if we have a shortened version/option, it's best we go that route--4 year olds can be rather vocal on the longer quests.  So can 8 year olds.  Especially when mid-day heat and humidity are at play.  But this Quest had a bundle of fun, both outdoors and indoors:  a letterboxing element with some detective work needed to unlock the treasure box, a scavenger hunt, and even a visit with a screech owl at the Scales and Tales program the nature center offers.  We learned on the "Owl-ometer" that barred owls are the most mellow (and saw 2 darling ones) and that Great Horned Owls are "the most tenatious"...and that screech owls (which look a little baby-Great-Horned-Owl-esque) are somewhere in the middle.

Being someone who has never Letterboxed, it was a pretty cool phenomenon.  According to (where you'll find all the North American letterboxiing hotspots), letterboxing mixes "treasure hunting, art, navigation, and exploring interesting, scenic, and sometimes remote places."  Hidden somewhere "out there" is a weatherproof box with a logbook, rubber stamp, and perhaps even other treats for the finder.  After following clues or the map and applying keen detective skills, the searcher hopes to find the hidden treasure.  Once found, the clues unlock the box, where notes can be left in the logbook for future finders.  Takes you back to the time of treasure maps!  And with kids, that idea of being a modern-day pirate is golden!

Inside the nature center on the scavenger hunt side of things, my reptile-lovin' kids loved the painted, box, and red-eared slider turtles that they saw.  They were going left, right and then some on the scavenger hunt within their 3-roomed nature center with AMAZING painted walls (which have only been here since early this spring).  It really captured my Dabrowka Duo's interest for two solid hours!!  Job well done, Soldier's Delight & Maryland's Department of Natural Resources!!

For my local friends and followers, click on the title above or go to to take advantage of some Maryland letterboxing at Soldier's Delight.  Friends afar, go to or to see if you can locate some letterboxing locales near you. 

Pictures à la my Park Quest Cam.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MAEOE’s 1st Annual Maryland Green School Youth Summit

Polar Bear Sky from Daniel Dancer on Vimeo.

This is the text that accompanies this awe-inspiring video called "Polar Bear Sky" from Daniel Dancer. "Polar Bear Sky" is a 10 minute video/music montage detailing pictures and some of the pretty amazing events that happened on June 5th of this year. MAEOE held it's 1st Green School Youth Summit at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis.
"Would you believe Maryland's Governor O'Malley was the sole human on the melting ice berg in this Art For the Sky depiction of global warming?! That's him in the picture above. Courageous guy he was to be part of this performance sky art piece for the Maryland Green School's Summit at Sandy Point State Park on the Chesapeake Bay. As usual in this latest round of sky art projects the magic number "350" is depicted . . . that's the max parts per million of carbon, according to climate scientists, that we can handle in our atmosphere if we are going to make it through this climate changing era with some degree of safety. As most everyone knows, the current number is 390 and going up. Coincidentally, Maryland has 350 "green schools" (16% - the highest in the nation) and this summit and special sky art extravaganza was a celebration of their success!"
MAEOE (or those in the know) sounds like "Mayo."  However, this is no condiment. MAEOE stands for "Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Educators." MAEOE, a major force in Maryland, is a force of "green." MAEOE is the organization that designates the Green School Status for Maryland public & private schools and environmental/nature centers.  Slated to be an annual event (complete with the Chesapeake Bay as the backdrop), this all day youth summit brought together approx. 2,000 students, teachers, environmental educators, community partners, and elected officials (including Governor Martin O'Malley) came together to celebrate all things "Green."

To see some pretty amazing "human action" art. watch the video here, click the title, or go to   You can also find both student and teacher take-aways of the event at these two links:
And if you just can't get enough,download a copy of the entire MAEOE Green School Youth Summit Ceremony here:
Picture from

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Green & Juicy

A banana is good...wholesome, pure, nutritious.  Paired with strawberries, it's even better. Refreshing. Healthy!  Mix them together and add something more, like some ice cream or milk, you've got a milkshake that can't be beat! 

But...REALLY mix it up by adding in a few unexpected twists, blend it up, and make a daiquiri...then you have given it a "ka-pow" and a little something extra!  Before you know it, you've got a fruity taste-sensation!!

Writing a "juicy" blog is a little like that.  It takes something ordinary, tweaks it, and makes it "better" than it ever was before.  It becomes new and improved, and pretty darn tasty!

That's a little bit of what I try to do here at the Green Team Gazette.  (Because let's face it..."going green" and analyzing Earth's environmental impact sometimes is a little more "heavy" [among other words] than "juicy.")  It's what I tell my 3rd grade students when they're writing:  "jazz" it up with your word choice, make it "meaty," add some "hot salsa" words to really give it flavor.  Then, be sure to sprinkle on a dash of "you" to truly make it your own, give it your own voice and differentiate your writing from the rest of the world out there. Go for an unusual angle--make an unexpected connection.  In doing so, try to lead the reader to an "Ah Ha!" moment that perhaps they haven't considered before.

For me, it's pairing the BP Oil Spill with Kevin Bacon. (  

It's pairing multiplying & regrouping with World Environment Day.  (  

It's the oil swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the Plastiki. (  

It's about tying in "Nature Deficit Disorder" with Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods" while simultaneously giving kudos to Candy Thompson as she nears her finale for her Park Quest 24/7 of 24 state ParkQuests in 7 days.

And it's sprinkling in a large dose of personal flavor...which (hopefully) gives what you are writing about a more humanistic and realistic voice.  Not to mention, a hopeful dash of humor!  It's just like we were chatting it up together on a veranda on a lazy July day, drinking a strawberry banana daiquiri.  Cheers!  (Insert glass clink here!!)

Picture from

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Park Quest 24/7: The Grand Finale!

Ranked at 42nd "largest" state, Maryland hardly gets kudos for being big.  But no matter, 12,407 square miles is a lot of ground to cover.  Especially when you have mountains, a bay, and an Eastern & Western Shore. 

Of the approximate 80 state parks of Maryland, 24 of them have set up "adventures" for you to "Quest"....those 24 being stretched from mountain to bay to Eastern to Western Shore...and everything in between. 

Maryland's Park Quest 2010 is no new subject to Green Team Gazette, and neither is our pursuit of Baltimore Sun's Outdoor Writer Candy Thomson's "24/7 Quest" to do all 24 of the Park Quest state parks in a mere 7 days.  Today, her quest was met and she writes about in her Baltimore Sun "Outdoors Girl" blog....complete with flowers and sparkling grape juice from the DNR staff who met her on her final stop at Assateague.  Major applause and admiration to have our awe and our homage!  Being only 5 quests in ourselves, this was a supreme accomplishment!  Way to go Candy!

To find the picture above (akin to winning an Olympic gold medal in my book) and daily updates as to her adventures, visit Candy's blog by clicking the title above or go to

Monday, July 12, 2010

No Child Left Inside...Not in Maryland At Least

Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder" would be would the 219+ organizations that make up Maryland's "No Child Left Inside" Coalition...Over the last 5 days, my kids and I have barely been INSIDE!

Okay, so we're exhausted (but not nearly as wiped as Candus Thomson, Outdoor Writer for the Baltimore Sun must be as she's trekking across Maryland in a 7 day period doing 24 Maryland Park Quests through some pretty amazing Maryland State Parks). But we've had some pretty wonder-filled times outside too:

* Hang time dashing the waves at the beach in Ocean City.

*Park Quest #4 & #5 at St. Clement's Island (including boat taxi & Baltimore Sun Outdoor Writer & 24/7 quester Candus Thomson) & Calvert Cliffs (including 3.5 mile hike...which was a killer for the 4 year old...thank heavens for the bay & the opportunity to both dip your toes in AND dig for shark's teeth half way through!

* Beach combing for fossilized sharks' teeth on a private beach of a dear friend in Chesapeake Beach at both dusk and dawn (well, shortly-following-dawn)

*Lighthouse climbing and more fossil digging at the Calvert Maritime Museum (yes, largely indoors, but still very outdoor-oriented...not to mention science-driven)

* Throw in too a day with the cousins and grandparents at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, and play time outside, in our backyard, in our above-ground pool!

1.  Watch the video above from the July 16th, 2008 Today Show, including an interview with Richard Louv about Nature Deficit Disorder.  Memorize why it's important.  Do something about it.  Read the book!  Go outside!  See also .

2.  Check out Candus Thomson's blog entries and 24/7 Park Quest Tracker by clicking the title above or going to,0,6649385.mapmashup .

3. Even if you aren't one of the 750 teams signed up for Maryland's Park Quest, look into it and go on some adventures. .  Then sign up next year!

4.  Check out Playborhood ( to remind yourself of the power of play, and find a community of pals should you need them.

5.  Go outside.  Backyard.  City park.  Campground.  Pick your transportational method and in the immortal words of Nike:  "Just do it!"

Recycling, Inc. (Or Is That "Ink?")

In this digital era, where planned obsolescence is more the rule than the rarity, there are probably 2 things we all get rid of:  printer ink cartridges and old cell phones.  Well, Green School Project could be called "Recycle, Inc." (or is that "Ink?").  Seeing a need to keep valuable minerals and toxic materials out of landfills for reuse, Green School Project came up with a way to solve that problem, and also serve as a fundraiser (something schools always need)!

Go to and check it out.  The registration process is a simple online form that probably would take 2 minutes or less.  Then, request some prepaid shipping labels, and set up your recycling station & you're ready to go.  A click on the "Acceptable Items" link shows you that there's oodles and gobs of brands of cell phones and ink cartridges out there that they'll take, and it shows you the reimbursement amount.  And we're not just talking a quarter here!!  The range is huge, and it could be a way to bring in some money to your school or nonprofit simply by decluttering your home & office!  Not to mention, it's another way to shrink the landfill! 

It won't be long before you're in business!

For an added bonus of list of recycling lesson plans and activities, go to

Photo from

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scary Stuff and Powerful Percentages

Walking along the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland, at the tail end of the night, I was disheartened.  I was very glad I wasn't the person who had to clean up the joint. It was a mess of debris:  napkins, fries containers, wrappers, multiple plastic work gloves (?!), and more.  Clearly a busy day had been had, and the remnants were there to show that people had done a good job of trashing the place. 

A short walk down, and you are beyond the carnival atmosphere, and past all the buildings, restaurants, game places, and rides.  It is here you can see the opening to the beach, across the sand.  As nice as the night was, a swift wind, and anything on that boardwalk would go flying!  With the end of night mix, you wonder how much of "this stuff" empties into the Atlantic Ocean's Garbage Patch in the Sargasso Sea?

Of course if I were in charge of waste management in the vacation hot spot of "Ocean City, Maryland," I'd make some changes.  It would be better set up, with recycle bins galore, and civilian-friendly places to recycle.  But I do realize that's easy to say:  "If I were in charge of   blah blah blah  then I'd make sure to blat blat blat."  It's sad, but true:  once you are in charge, you realize the hidden pitfalls that no one sees. 

But, to have no recycle bins (which is the case on Ocean City's boardwalk)...that is NOT the best approach.  Again, I shake my head at the fact there there are places--more and more than I ever imagined--that don't have recycling bins set up and a system in place.  We still have so far to go.

Along those lines, and what brought me to really pondering all of this, is the idea of "Gross National Trash," from Annie Leonard's book The Story of Stuff  and her chapter on "Disposal."  Joel Makower's graphic on page 186 of Annie's book is eye-opening--and down right depressing. It was what was used to make the pie graph above. Of US trash, only 2.5% of the total waste is municipal waste. That's us--that's what's curbside! The largest percentage, 76%, is industrial waste. The 18% of "special waste" (mining, fuel production, and metal processing) is truly just more, yet specialized industrial waste. Lastly, the 3.5% is construction/demolition waste. 

The reason I find this sooo bothersome is that the smallest percentage is already huge! Like I said, it's us!  It's the 4.5 pounds of trash that we each make daily.  It's the one part of this graph/waste problem we can do the most about...yet you hear that the percentage of people in the world who recycle is 35%.  35% is roughly 1 in 3 people.  One-third of 2.5% is 0.875. Less than 1 percent. That bears repeating--less than 1 percent of the Gross National Trash is what we are actively recycling.  "Upstream" is where we need to be looking to make real changes, with industrial and other waste.  However, what will it take to get everyone on board, when we can't even get rid of styrofoam clam-shell containers as doggie bags at restaurants?  When we can't even get municipalities to put recycle bins out there? 

Annie Leonard goes on to say there is hope, in that many industries are taking steps to reduce their waste.  I'm glad she finds hope out there.  I think it crystallizes for me that there's so much out there, and again...any little thing that anyone can do does help.  My only hope is that it's not too little too late for the future of our planet and all of our someday grandkids and great-grandkids.

Graphic created on the "Create a Graph" website (  -- a GREAT place to do graphing with school-age kids) using the "Gross National Trash" data from page 186 of Annie Leonard's book "The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health--And a Vision For Change."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Plastiki: Yours & OUR Stories

Thank you Plastiki for making us feel like a rock star!  

For 2 weeks, Plastiki--our favorite plastic water bottle boat that's constructed of 12,500 plastic water bottles that's sailing this summer from San Fran to Sydney--has been summoning their friends and followers to send in their stories of what they're doing to eliminate plastics from their life.

Seeing that invitation dangling out there, I sent forth the story of Green Team Gazette, Eagle Cove School, and myself to them.  And I was tickled pink to see we were featured as the 3rd mention in their "Your Stories: Part 1" on their blog.  Thank you David de Rothschild and Plastiki crew for everything you are doing, and thank you all for spreading our message--and many, many other inspiring and exciting messages!! I can't wait to see what other people are doing world-wide to make the planet a little cleaner and a little brighter!! Shows us all there's hope out there!!

To see "Your Stories: Part 1" and see Green Team Gazette and other stories highlighted on the Plastiki's website blog, click the title above, or go to

To see Eagle Cove School's brand new website (different from the one listed in the Plastiki blog), go to    

Image from Plastiki's Flicker Photo Stream upon their departure from San Francisco.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Story of Stuff

  After 3 days & countless hours, I can finally see the floor of my basement and walk anywhere I want (which wasn't the case a day ago).  All toys are sorted, all bins are tucked, and I'm just plain tuckered out!  2 massive garbage cans are filled with recyclables for next week's recycling pick up, and many, many bags & boxes ready to be carted in the big car to take to Goodwill.  

Through this whole "larger than life" decluttering process, it has all had me thinking A LOT about Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff."  It's also had me thinking of all the plastic pieces I"m getting rid of, the plastic trash floating in the ocean that the Plastiki sailed by in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the oil swirling aimlessly in the Gulf that was so important to drill in order to create these things I'm now getting rid of).  

Fitting too that on my bedside table, my book marker is in the middle of the chapter "Consumption" in Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff" book.  Just as she'll say, it's the OVERconsumption that does us all in.  And I'm feeling it!

In an effort to organize, I had my 2 cherubs pull all the toys in the house down to the playroom basement where the sort & conquer process could begin.  We're pretty modest with the purchase of our "stuff," but between birthday parties, generous grandparents & other relatives, "Happy Meal" trinkets, and the hand-me-downs of friends and family, we've got a ton of stuff!  You notice it when you have heaps of it collected and dumped in one whole place.  I'm talking "death trap" here!  In part, I did this to show the kids how crazy & out of control all of this "stuff" is--a mini landfill in our own home. 

As much as the kids were in awe of how much they had, I was one one with the "Ah Ha Moment."  I was struck with the "magic of advertising." It's eye-opening for our times when my four year old told me that of course he could offload certain toys to "kids who needed them" (aka: my Goodwill basket), because he "could always go buy another one."  Ei yie yie, I shake my head!  Yes, I immediately downshifted into "Soapbox #323: Money Doesn't Grow On Trees" & we don't just get rid of things to buy more...but he's four; he's seen commercials; and the advertising industry knows what they're doing!  I've got my work cut out for me!  

It's hard to find the magic bullet that moves children away from that feeling of having spending money burning a hole in their pocket.   I know that parents throughout the ages have faced this one...and it's one of the many things out there that makes parenting hard!  And it's not "one stop shopping" takes countless messages that shopping and stuff does not equal happiness.  Not to mention a heck of a lot of fortitude to keep heralding that message.  

So, armed with fortitude, organized bins, and "the rules of cleaning the basement" (as written and posted by my daughter), we're feeling a little less claustrophobic least till this time next year.  I'm also keeping "Soapbox #323" dusted off and handy to be frequently used!!

For those of you wanting to take it a step further, especially if you want to see a faith-based extension, go to for a Christian-based program for teens on all this "stuff."

To learn more about the "Story of Stuff" or see some of Annie Leonard's other videos ("The Story of Bottled Water is a great one!"), click the title above or go to

Image from

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Xeko to the Rescue

I'm not a gamer (well, unless it's Wii Fit).  Just ask my husband and daughter.  However, there's a new game in town....Xeko, and it's moniker is "Gaming for the Good."  It's part Pokemon, part online game, part everything your average 8 year old could be into...PLUS it involves real animals and real solutions.  

Timely, right now there's a GoodQuest to help save sea turtles online from the Gulf Oil Spill.  By playing, you can make it happen.  Yet, sea turtles are only one aspect of Xeko.  There are multiple other games/projects/ ways to be involved through this website, whether it's protecting sharks, tracking polar bears, or planting trees (or more)!

Rated "G" for "good", imaginations soar and are paired with promoting causes that need attention.  There's definitely a "warm fuzzy" associated by hanging out on this website.  Here, knee-deep in summer where kids tend to get bored with the "same-ole/same-ole" of summer, here's something different and something that matters!  Not to mention, in addition to building math, reading, and strategy skills, the card version of it won the Creative Child Magazines Game of the Year Award 2007 and 2008.   It might even give Club Penguin or Webkinz a run for it's money!

Whether you go the card game or the online version, or find yourself somewhere in between, this is a great find for your computer-oriented youngsters!  (Not to mention, Xeko is hefty on the safety measures for your kids--a double plus!!)

To see a video featured on the Today Show that features the summer hot games, including the online game of, check out
or go to  .

Then make your way over to to go get started!

Image from

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Reads: American Girls Julie & Lanie

Looking for a little hammock read?  In honor of the 4th of July, why not further celebrate the good ole U.S. of A. by going "American."  Here are two for you, even tho they're for the "tween" set as they're American Girl books.  The main characters, naturally, are are two spunky girls, from two different of the beauties of the American Girl series.

Your first book takes place during my childhood...the 1970's.  Julie is a young activist in the making!  She happens upon a bird rescue center and finds herself face to face with an eagle, some eaglets, and some insight into detriment called DDT.  Megan McDonald (author of the very popular "Judy Moody" series) does a nice job of depicting both the era and the environmental impact in "Julie and the Eagles." 

The flash forward a good 30 years.  Oh, let's say, to my daughter's age.  The American Girl series does it again with a new protagonist:  Lanie.  A nature girl from the word "go!"  She's out there, exploring, experimenting, and showing girls that it's okay to be a science/nature girl!!  If your girl is like this girl, this is a must read from you!  Introduce yourself to the "Girl of the Year" for 2010 by Jane Kurtz at

For Curriculum on Nature girl Lanie, go to  There's also more "Lanie books" with her "Lanie's Real Adventures" by Jane Kurtz.  Likewise, Megan McDonald has some other "Julie books" in her collection as well. 

Nothing's better in the summer than grabbing a deck chair or hammock, settling back, sipping some lemonade, and reading a good book or two!  Even better if you have a spunky girl of your own to share books with!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Search, and You Shall Find

Check out this YouTube video to learn about the newest search engine on the block: Ecosia.  Add in, it's an eco-friendly one at that. Ecosia is backed by Yahoo, Bing and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF).  It functions like any other search engine out there, however some major twists:

1.  80% of it's advertising moola goes to protect the rain forest (with the help of WWF--the current rain forest program is helping Brazil's Juruena National Park, near the Amazon River).

2.  They operate under green electricity, eliminating the CO2 emissions that other engines use.

3.  It's an active way to tackle deforestation, both on the part of Ecosia & you!

If you're going to look "it" up (whatever "it" is)....might be worth clicking the title above or going to to try out Ecosia!  Most certainly, watch the video!! 

Picture from        Video  Ecosia: The Eco-friendly Search Engine  from

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hidden Gems

It's amazing what li'l hidden gems are out there just waiting for you.

I found myself in Grasonville, Maryland today--just over the Bay Bridge from Annapolis--with several hours on my hand due to a pup getting some minor surgery.  As I was pulling out of the vet center, contemplating what to do with these hours, I'm facing an arrowed sign directing traffic to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center.  Several signs and curves later, I'm out in the middle of essentially nowhere...and yet, it's somewhere very cool.

Passing through forests, marshes, I found myself on 510 acres of land protected by the Wildfowl Trust of North America, right off the Chesapeake Bay (naturally).  I arrived just before 9 am when the kayak camp was to begin, & I got the rundown at the Visitors' Center from one of the camp leaders.  She sent me off to go explore wherever my heart desired. 

Trail map and bug spray in hand, I was off & trekking on a stunningly mild morning for July 1st!  Along my travels, a wild turkey and I shared the same stretch of woods, and I even got a peek of a fleeting deer.  There was a bounty of bunnies, a bevy of butterflies, and an assembly of dragonflies.  Had I chosen, I could have taken some of the center's binoculars along with me to get a closer look at the osprey, ducklings, or the variety of other birds that this girl doesn't know  by name.  Had I felt really adventurous, I could have set out by canoe or kayak.  With a daily boat rental of $10 per vessel, what a deal!
I must say though, one of my favorite parts of the day was the wild black raspberry or two I found.  Yum!

Another neat feature at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center was their "green" Education Building. The 4,700 square foot building is is designed with many "green" elements:
  • To capture solar energy--the northern and southern sides face the sun by day, the windows are tinted, solar panels are on the roof, and solar tubes are placed throughout the building to bring natural light into the hallways. 
  • To conserve water--a storm water filtering system is in place and rain barrels collect roof runoff, both of which helps lessen runoff erosion; low flush toilets and waterless urinals lessen the stress on the septic system
  • To use more sustainable materials rather than raw materials (such as hardwood trees)--fiber cement siding; bamboo flooring was installed; the decking was constructed from reclaimed wood, sawdust, and recycled plastic bags; organic marmoleum (made from linseed oil, pine rosins, and jute) was installed as an alternative to vinyl flooring; and counter tops made from recycled glass (from windshields, bottles, & computer screens) and recycled concrete were put in the kitchen and bathrooms; and synthetic drywall & cellulose insulation (from newsprint & cardboard boxes) diminish the effects of mining with new materials
  • To control indoor air quality--low "VOC" (volatile organic compound) paint was used; and the facility is heated/cooled with a HVAC-High efficiency unit.
It's a pretty remarkable place, with many more resources available at their website.  If you're in the classroom in the Chesapeake Bay area, it'd be worth pursuing for a field trip.  Or, if you live local, a membership might just be the way to go to plan in some birding, hiking, canoeing or kayaking, or geocaching into your summer.  There's so much going on in this little niche!  To find out more about the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, or to investigate their resources, click the title above, or go to