Monday, February 24, 2014

A Smorgasbord of Eco Articles

This week has been a rather uber-busy one (when are they not any more?!). Given that, even when there’s not time to sit down and read up on eco/edtech news, there’s always seems to be time for me to do a quick swipe through Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest. Of course, there’s not always time to read my finds…. and then what I find is that I have emailed myself a boatload of things to read.

So, today, I’m giving you a collection of my latest finds in the eco world that are definitely worth taking the time to read. Here’s a little smorgasbord trio of links for you!

#1:  Kindergartner Takes Down Trash
(From HuffingtonPost 2-20-2014)

This is a feel-good article that serves as a great way to counteract the 7 lbs of trash per day that the average person generates (yikes!).  It just goes to show you how much one person can do when they stand up for their convictions. (Even more impressive when that 1 person is a 6 year old!)   (Added bonus—a great link for how to build a trash free lunch.)

#2:  Is Outdoor Education the Way of the Future
(From Treehugger 2-21-2014)

Outdoors might be a suggested way to beat the boredom, dull the drudgery, and activate some excitement & alert the senses.  All of this in turn can potentially lead to better focused, nature- & nuance-centric kids. Three cheers for environmental education!

#3:  See How Climate Change is Affecting Your Backyard with This Map
From  2-4-2014)

Here’s an interesting worldwide map interactive map that you can click through to see how severe climate change has progressed over the years. Using NASA technology, you can find “you” on the map and see how the climate data changes. It’s no spoiler alert to tell you that the further north you go, the more significant the change.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A STEM-Style Snow Day, Part 2: The Great Gumdrop Challenge

As I mentioned in my last post "A STEM-Style Snow Day, Part 1:  The Precursor," I have been battling the techno-zombied-children in my own home.  Sometimes the grown-ups too, including myself.  I've been wrestling between using tech as a tool to teach (meaning I have to research such things to create dynamic EdTech lessons), and also using it as my own personal escape when I need to zone out from the barking dogs with a peek at Facebook, a text to a buddy, or continue a riveting game of "Words With Friends."

I've seen the articles stating that kids on average spend 7.5 hours per day plugged in.  I've seen how the hours per day in my own house have "upped" over the last few years (though, not quite that high).  I started my Unplug: Tech Timeout Pinterest page, and I started looking for "cures" out there. "Creativity cures" to help us all unplug this snowy day, extended weekend with 5 days of no school.

The outdoors of snow play with the dogs and even shoveling only got me so far.

Going to see The Lego Movie helped. (I was tickled to see the unique twist to the story, highlighting that creative building was essential.  Rest assured, no this isn't a spoiler or movie deal breaker!)

Another key for me was beefing up my STEM ~ STEAM Pinterest page.  (For those who might be uncertain, check out my Jan. 27th post "E-STEM = Adding the Environment to STEM Education.")  In doing so, I came up with some great classroom activities that I could actually bring into my home.  Yes, we have the Legos and such, but it seemed my dynamic duo needed a little inspiration & creativity that can only come with seeing things in new light.

Hence yesterday we had "The Great Gumdrop Challenge."  My daughter was quite curious when we were grocery shopping this morning and had to be sure to get gumdrops, marshmallows, and toothpicks. Both of my crew became interested when theses items came out in front of them on the kitchen counter in bowls.

The task they would face:  Create a structure using these 3 items.  Judging would be based on a two part scale:  height and creativity.  The dual judging element seemed doubly inspiring.

It was interesting to see them quickly determine that gumdrops were heartier than the marshmallows.  They experienced geometry, gravity, problem solving, and changing their plans mid-flight (when gravity took over). The conversation along the way was also very interesting, as was they way they each approached it quite differently.

I think my biggest take-away is that kids (in particularly mine, but I would imagine most) need a little help in getting inspired to step away from the technology.  It's the go-to easy, highly motivating obsession.  But more than that, they need the tools to try something different, or to see their existing tools in a slightly new & shiny light.  Of course, it's at this place that I chuckle....for I believe that's what actually is called "parenting."  

Likewise, it was a good reminder that sometimes quality learning comes with a little mess... and that's okay too!

Pics from my house, my kids, their inventions.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A STEM-Style Snow Day, Part 1: The Precursor

We have had some snow here the last few days.  And when I say "some snow," that means multiple inches--up to 24 inches in part of the state of Maryland!   With the snow of course came 2 snow days from school, resulting in a 5 day weekend with both Valentine's Day & Presidents' Day.  Between the shoveling and the outdoor frolicking with the dogs, and even a little bit of pink & red valentines, it still seems like the biggest gravitational pull for my kids is still the electronics.

Being an EdTech and an Eco teacher, I often find myself a bit split. There's so much you can do to grow mentally, using technology.  Yet, I see the addictive side.  Even for me--how many times have I played "Words With Friends" or checked Facebook today?  What else could I have been doing with that time?

So, if I'm split, and I have some semblance of self-control, how are kids to navigate?  You need to be the type of parents who shut them down regularly so your kids can see (and learn) the beauty of balance.

Though, I must admit, it makes me the "Tech Police" far more than I want to be.

So, what does an EdTech teacher/mom do about--Start a Pinterest Page called "Unplug:  Tech Timeout."

One of my favorite parts of my new-found "pins" was the Sherry Turkle TED Talk "Connected, But Alone." With 15 years of Internet and interconnected tech studying, Sherry's come upon a lot of the same things I've been pondering in my house...though, of course, she's taken them to a master level.  Sherry's book "Alone Together:  Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other" sounds like an interesting read.  At the very least, her TED Talk falls in my version of "Must See TV" (which ironically invites us all to step away from the TV, texting, and other technology).

Watch the Sherry Turkle "Connected, But Alone" TED Talk here:

Other great ideas were listed at the Tech TimeOut website.  It's definitely a website I want to be visiting.  You'll find great "To Do" lists, challenges, articles, and infographics to get you thinking even more about how to shape your own level of unplugging.

It's definitely helped get my mind rolling on how to better shape these snow days and holidays of ours this weekend.

Beach photo from
Pinterest Page pic, screenshot from
Video from

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"21 Swings"--Music Making While Playing

There's nothing more freeing than swinging--I remember my backyard swing set, trying to touch the trees with my feet, and letting the wind whoosh my hair.  This movie, 21 Swings, and the installation is showcases in Montreal is a creative way to bring that feeling back to mind--especially on these snowy wintery days.  I want to go and swing, and play, and make some music along the way!!

21 Balançoires (21 Swings) from Daily Tous Les Jours on Vimeo.

For a great article on the cooperative, musical, and playful "21 Swings" installation, check out the 2013 article at Huffington Post.

Video from

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Climate -vs- Weather: Just Because There's Snow Doesn't Mean There Isn't "Global Warming"

This weekend I'm attemding my annual environmental conference that I have attended the last 5 of 6 years.  MAEOE (otherwise known as "The Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators") is a great conference, and I look forward to it every year.  Ironically, the one year I wasn't able to attend, a massive snow wiped out the conference, canceling & postponing it to another weekend where I already had out of town plans. Of course it was the year I was planning on doing a joint presentation--so my "partner in green" had to do it alone.
Walking dog in the snow

Well this weekend, that same eco-friend of mine showed me the following clip from Rachel Maddow on climate change.  The reason?  I was telling him about some Facebook people I know who are berating the existence of climate change based on the snow levels the Midwest is getting this year.  Their stance:  Clearly if we have snow (and a lot of it), we have no "global warming" (which, by the way, is more commonly known now as "climate change.")

He shared this video, dating back to February 2010, to serve as the perfect rebuttal.  Bill Nye helps make that point alongside Rachel Maddow.  Despite it being a 4 year old video clip, it's still "right as rain," serving indeed as the right comeback.  A beautiful comeback!

Not to mention, here's a really great infographic, originally found here:

Image from (where there's another great article on this subject)
Video from
Infographic from

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Digital Learning Day

Hip Hip Hooray! Let’s Hear it for…
Digital Learning Day

When? Wed., Feb. 5, 2014

What is it?
Quoted from the Digital Learning Day website:
"A nationwide celebration of innovator teachers and common sense, effective applications of digital leaning America's schools that support teachers, improve learning, and provide options for students to achieve at their highest potential.... We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment EVERY DAY with the goal of success in college and a career. Common sense and effective applications of digital learning should be fully integrated into all of American's schools, libraries, and homes to promote life-long learning and good citizenship."
Where to find out more?
The Digital Learning Day Website includes tools, tool kits, lesson plans & activity ideas. Listed on site by content areas and by tool, the "Tools for Everyone" link has a wealth of websites.   Also be sure to check out the Tip of the Day page:

The Goal?
To have every student and every teacher take part in Digital Learning Day in AT LEAST ONE WAY that day!! This can be whole class, small group, or individually!

Ideas to serve as a springboard of things you can do for Digital Learning Day:

1. Invite a "bring your own device" day for learning activities.

2. Tie in with other curricular activities and thematic units. 100's Day for many schools is getting near.

3. Go to the Computer Lab for some online research or learning games. There are some excellent choices here on my 3rd Grade ECS Homeroom Page.

4. Check out my EdTech or iPad Landia Pinterest pages for some great ideas.

5. Visit some of your favorite or thematic BrainPops.

6. Do one of the Hour of Code activities to give kids an intro to coding:

7. Make a graph with the Create a Graph website:

OR Plan an IPad activity and have kids.....(App names are in color)

8. Take part in a QR code quest or activity you create or find online.

9. Notate a picture or make an acrostic using Skitch.

10. Make a Popplet word web (& add pics!).

11. Make an iMovie infomercial about a book or topic .

12. Use Educreations or Screen Chomp to define a math or social studies concept.

13. Play a math, geography, or language skill game.

14. Locate famous landmarks and locations on Google Earth.

15. Use the Spanish translator apps to look up spelling or vocabulary words.

16. Use the Dictionary app to find definitions or synonyms.

17. Use the Convert Unit app to find measurement conversions.

18. Use Motivation to define a term, concept, Valentine word, character trait, or even a story character.

19. Use Scribble Press or Toontastic to write a story.

20. Use Story Wheel as a whole class to “spin and pass” to tell an oral story.

21. Use Venn Diagram to highlight comparisons & contractions on a subject.

22. Use Sock Puppet to create a 30-second animated video on a concept or character trait.

23. Write a "magnetic word poem" with Word Mover.

24. Create a Trading Card (with that app) of a real or fictional person or place.

25. Use a musical apps to create the soundtrack for a reading book, novel, or read-aloud.

26. Use the stopwatch or alarm feature to time relays or create "beat the clock" challenges.

27. Use one of the Scrap It apps, or anything else in the Art or Creativity/Writing department to make a Valentine's card.

28. Investigate animal sights, sounds, & data on the Pocket Zoo app.

29. Check out websites like Free Technology for Teachers or iPad Apps for School. These both are written by an EdTech teacher named Richard Byrne. Both sites have a boatload of information, apps, ideas, website links, and brilliance!!

30. Learn a new app to teach yourself and your kids something new! The only limits? The sky and your own imagination!!! Use this opportunity to have fun with your students and fun with teaching!!

Happy Digital Learning!

Image from