Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping Through Leap Year

We all know that February 29th only comes around once every 4 years.  And most of us know mostly why we have it.  But, if you are a little shaky, or want to share the rationale with your cherubs, check out the following YouTube which does a nice job of creatively explaining "What is a Leap Year?"  You may come out of it a little bit wiser on this 366th day of this year!!

Video from

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Park on the Magothy River Where History and Environmentalism Meet

There's a little nugget of a gem on the Magothy River in Pasadena, Maryland that combines history and environmentalism.  No, it's not Eagle Cove School (however, yes, it's true, these both also describe our li'l academic gem).  Rather, it's Anne Arundel County's "Future Site" of the historic Beachwood Park.

Right now, Beachwood Park is a nice, unassuming, wooded plot of land, that is about 65 acres.  With it, it holds a hidden pieces of history lying beneath the fallen leaves.  Yet, it was alive in the  mid 1940's to the early 1960's. Then, Beachwood Park was a fabulous, family-centric fishing hole and beach resort--primarily for the African American community of Anne Arundel County. 
With the assistance of the Magothy River Association, the plans for Beachwood Park are for it again to be a great place to hit the river via kayak, picnic, go for a hike, or catch a fish or two.
As Laura Kang, Eagle Cove School's Head of School wrote in a parent/faculty email today: 
"The 4th and 5th graders had a great session yesterday with Dr. Joyce Jennings, whose grandfather owned the land right next to Beachwood Park, which was an African-American owned beach in the 40s and 50s. She essentially spent her summers there. Hearing her memories of the riverboat cruises, the merry-go-round, learning to swim, picnics in the pavilion, games of chance and hearing such greats as Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke, James Brown perform was so interesting. Best of all, she put the history of Beachwood Park in the larger historical context of African-American history from the late 1600s on. She also was in the first class to integrate Pasadena Elementary. She is a retired Baltimore City school principal who now is a caseworker with disabled children in PG County. The students all took notes and will do a short write-up that we will use as a basis for future signs for a history/nature trail in the park."
Beachwood Park Rd, Lake Shore, MD 21122To see "Part 1" of  Kaitlyn Carr's Pasadena Patch article which ran today, click the link below to see her article entitled  Eagle Cove School Helps Preserve Beachwood History.

Soo.... if you are hungry this Saturday, February 25th and are near the Pasadena Peninsula here in Anne Arundel County, check out Angels Food Market and the Eagle Cove School/Magothy River Association Bake Sale from 9:30--1:00. In addition to the Bake Sale, Paul Spadero of the Magothy River Association will have an interactive gizmo that teaches about local environmental issues.  Now, as for the food....I've seen the growing collection of goodies and I've got to say: there's going to be a motherload of taste sensations!!
For more historic information about Beachwood Park, check out the following:

Double image from,; map from Google Maps

Monday, February 20, 2012

Speaking for the Truffula Trees

Ah...the glory of a 3 Day Weekend ~ Presidents' Day.  I love my job, but every now and then, a well placed 3 day weekend is a glorious, fabulous thing for the family.  In honor of our day off, the kids and I are heading to a movie.  Of course, the conversation of movies quickly got us to talking about "The Lorax," which the kids are dying to see.  The countdown to the nationwide reveal is a mere 11 days or so:  March 2nd.  A perfect  release date, in that March 2nd would be Dr. Seuss' 107 Birthday.

Interesting too in that the movie has made news recently with the fourth graders from Ted Wells' Brookline, Massachusetts class.  Having noticed that there wasn't much green on the movie website for this benchmark book on environmentalism, they made a video and posted a petition on to Universal Studios.  And it worked!  For some of their media making news, click here or watch the video where Diane Sawyer names Mr. Well's class as the "Person of the Week.".

To add some Lorax life to you lessons, here are some great sites to check out to Seuss-ly spruce up your curriculum, and gear up for falling in love with the Lorax!!

Seussville's "The Lorax Project"

Scholastic Lesson Plans for the book "The Lorax"

Cybraryman's Dr. Seuss Page

Homeschooling Thematic Lorax Plans
Humongous Dr. Seuss Giveaway from Teaching Blog Addict

Movie Trailer from; The Lorax book pic from

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Marvelous, Maxed Out, MAEOE of a Weekend

You know you've had a full weekend when you have had:
  • Two 3-hour session of eco-art and inquiry
  • Six 1-hour sessions from everything from climate change, marine debris, student empowerment and more
  • A 1.5 hour keynote
  • A 1.5 hour plenary panel
  • And inspiration beyond belief.
Making it past the first day of MAEOE, the second day was a great one, and a full one.  I decided to let my camera do the talking while I let all the good ideas settle and ruminate!  Good stuff, great weekend!
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Photos from my camera (including pictures of the conference bulletin), and incorporated into a Smilebox presentation.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho... It's Off To MAEOE I Go!

Well, it is that time of year again.  Time for the annual MAEOE (aka: "Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators") weekend conference.

Pronounced properly, MAEOE sounds like "mayo."  MAEOE is the Maryland organization that grants schools with their "green" status.  The conference theme this year is "Fulfilling Environmental Education's Promise: Authentic Learning and Real World Impact."  MAEOE has a whole weekend filled with sessions integrating all sorts of eco-issues with other curricular content and the great outdoors.

Day One has been a full day so far, with 2 half-day sessions for me.  Figuring that this is just two offerings out of a sea of many, a lot of neat things were happening, and the MAEOE joint was jumping!

Session one for me was "Engaging Youth in Ecology Through Arts and Nature."  It was led by Desiree Shelley, the environmental educator from Baltimore's Parks and People Foundation.  This foundation creates curriculum for after school programs for Baltimore City youngsters.  Given it's after school, activities need to be very hands-on.  What better way to do that than getting the kids outside or incorporating art and creative expression.  It was a full morning, with a lot of take-aways (including make-and-take aways) as we learned about:
  • "Designs in Nature" (a activity incorporating fractals and geometry),
  • Tree cookies (log slices where you can count the rings and then paint with images of the stories you create about the imagined life of that tree),
  • Spiderwebs and the Iktome tales of Native American culture,
  • Ways to make bird houses out of recycled objects like milk cartons or jugs,
  • Making "habitat mosaics" with paper for indoor art, or with times to make outdoor stepping stones,
  • Taking black and white images of the urban neighborhood and painting in the nature,
  • And much more!
If you are interested in learning more or in obtaining some these lesson plans, contact Desiree, as she's been kind enough to open herself up as a resource here through GTG!

Kim Dixon of the Baltimore Zoo led my 2nd session entitled "Using Inquiry to Explore Nature." She gave us a brief description on how inquiry-based learning has a different dynamic than the more linear scientific method with it's ebb, flow, and "I wonder" approach, being more student-inspired and student-driven.  Then Kim went on with a fun exposure to guided inquiry.

The grand finale was an outdoor trek to the beach for an experience in open inquiry. (Did I mention the fact that the conference is being held at a beach-side conference hotel in Ocean City!).  She allowed us to go into Zen observation mode to see what it is we see, and come up with our own inquiry investigation, then present our results to the group.

Ours:  Do the sand ripples from the wind change as you get closer to the water? With a close measure using the uber-scientific "ripple to ruler" ratio, we discovered that... WAIT!  I could tell you the answer, but that would counter the purpose of actual inquiry! This is the part of the program where I urge you to make your own hypothesis and investigation, and find your own beach to answer your own wondering!

Getting us out there, encountering not only what inquiry is but how it feels, is always good for us teachers (even those of us who sometimes might want to just sit in the back and just take notes--especially right after lunch!)  And, it's the point of the MAEOE and the "Green" School movement:  no child left inside.  Clearly, that applies to teachers too!!

Snapshots from my camera; MAEOE logo from

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pinteresting Stuff: Ring Around the Dendrochronology

I'm a recent convert to Pinterest.  I battled myself on it for awhile:  "Like I really need another addiction."  Of course, I said that too with Facebook, Twitter, "Words with Friends," and now "Scramble With Friends."  I should know by now I don't ever win that battle.

Anyhoo, it was through my Twitter PLN (Personal Learning Network) of folks I follow, that I saw that Pinterest actually had an educational element to it. This I have verified, through finding all sorts of educational boards and neat teaching ideas. (There's a ton of stuff on there for Homeschooling too, a few pals have told me!)  It's also a great place to go for arts and crafts, many of which use recyclable items. 

It reminds me of my reading (years ago) of Sarah Ban Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance" and her urging to make visual visionary boards.  Pinterest is most certainly a digital way to do that.  Being highly visual myself, it didn't take long before I was sucked in.  So much for that aforementioned-battle!!

But it is fullest board so far is my "Good Brain Space" Board.  Finding quotes seems to be something that is not my quest alone, I have discovered.  Qutoes are all over Pinterest!!  One of my favorite lately, I think in part because of the organic nature of it (but moreso due to the actual quote itself) is this one:

Pinned Image
This quote truly has been staying with me for days.  Maybe it has in part since my 3rd graders were talking about tree rings and how botanists use them to for dating the tree in science just a week or 2 ago.  Dendrochronology.  It has been leaving me to ponder my "educational dendrochronology."  For my class.  For my own children who live in my house.  For myself.  It's made me curious about what my own rings reveal in each of these categories.  It has made me want to notate it... draw it out... label it up, almost like a science diagram.  I think it could be revealing to see in each these circumstances:  my class, my kids, and most certainly for me.  Where are  the rings wide?  Where are the rings narrow?  How are my 3 "tree maps" mentioned above the same, and where are they different?  Where am I most proud?  Where do rings need more attention?

In pondering it, I do think I'm quite proud of my own li'l little Math Month Tree Ring as of late.  I have mentioned ECS's Math Month a bit in GTG here lately--see here or here).  The Pasadena Patch online newsletter focused on Eagle Cove School's Math Month this past weekend (click here for the article).  As the head cheerleader for that month-long event, I feel like I've created a nice, wide "love of math" ring for my students...and that most certainly feels good!

Yes...the making of my own visual tree rings might indeed make for a good brain space exercise!!

(Interesting too, as an aside:  Dendroclimatology is the study of tree rings to learn about global climate and climate change.  Who knew?! Not me... yet, as my son told me after his first day of Kindergarten science this year:  "Physics!  It is all Physics.  Nature likes circles.  Circles are physics."  Irony, synchronicity, and tree rings are too--circles that is!  But herein lies the connections of cool quotes, tree rings, good brain space, eco blogs, and physics!! I love it when that happens!!)

Book image for "Simple Abundance" from, Tree Ring Image from, and of course, my Pinterest Boards.