Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Bad, Worse, & Ugly of Aspertame

I was a Diet Coke Girl.

I've talked about it here,
a time or two.

But now, I'm a changed woman.

I'm rounding out 9 months of being Diet-Coke-Free. Only Green Tea and water for me these days, Bay-bee!  (Well, yes, the occasional vino as well!)

And I really will say, regarding Diet Coke....I don't miss it. I thought I'd miss that zingy zip, but I really don't.  It might be because of the spicy Bigelow green tea that I love. (No fruity tea for me, thank you very much.)

They say recovering alcoholic are the worst in their attempted conversion. Same for smokers, over-eaters, & probably newly turned Vegans & more. Odds are high it's true for Aspartame addicts as well. I'm not trying to be in that category, yet I will say this video did strike me multiple times in my old Diet Coke department.

In the multiple episodes of Shawn Stevenson's Model Health Show I've listened to over the years, This is my go-to podcast! In it too, I've learned that food & intake are probably more important than exercise.

This video highlights that too. It also packs a punch with all of it's factual information. It's worth a watch!

video from no soda pic from;

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

NASA Shares 20 Years of Climate Change Impact

I've heard it said that as soon as astronauts hit outer space, they turned the cameras back on ourselves and our planet. I'd imagine, back in the day, being able to see what our giant blue planet looks like for the first time was probably pretty awe-inspiring.

December 7, 1972 was that first photo date. Our first planetary selfie. This now-famous photo was known as the "Blue Marble," and the Apollo 17 crew did a beautiful job with this snap shot.

NASA's still taking pictures of our planet, nearly 45 years later. This time, in video form. A pretty amazing 5 minutes and change.

This video is a compilation from NASA of nearly half of those 45 photo years.  This data visualization & compilation was released mid-November.  In it, you see:

  • The polar ice caps waxing and waning with the seasons...and shrinking over time
  • Oceanic colors that showcase the life that is (and is not) under the ocean's surface.
  • The green-ness moving further north, taking the place of where ice should be covering land.
Close analysis also shows algae blooms, a shrinking Lake Erie, and evidence of warmer temperatures further north.

In a world where climate change has become a partisan issue, perhaps data such as these will help open the eyes of policy makers so that our big "Blue Marble" continues to breathe, thrive, and survive.

To read more about this, check out this article.

NASA logo from; "Blue Marble" photo from National Geographic: 
Video from

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age

I wrestle with my phone.

It's nearly always attached and it is the "remote control" to my world (I am a Tech Specialist by day, after all). It's my phone, my email, my camera, my calendar (though I will admit, my paper calendar is my #1 event planning place), my Internet, my Seesaw digital portfolio monitor, my "Words With Friends" portal, and my place to text, connect, troll Facebook, and sometimes even write this blog.

I wrestle with my phone because I live a connected life. It's a true love-hate relationship. I research lessons for school, read (& sometimes grimace at) the news, and stay in touch with the #edtech and #eco trends and information out there.

I don't always set the best example to my children. And I definitely wrestle with that.

A decade or 2 ago, I was the first to make fun of smart phones and crack a joke about "the CrackBerry" (errrr... I mean, BlackBerry, mobile-phone-wise versus fruit, that is). And now I'm living life on TechCrack.

A few months ago, we had Sameer Hinduja at our school talking to all levels about Digital Citizenship, good choices, bullying, and empathy. He was excellent. Today I landed on this video trailer which feels like a good revisit and "part 2" to the conversation.

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age is a documentary by Dr. Delaney Ruston. In it, she details our diminishing attention spans, our thoughts that we can actually multi-task (we can't), and the fact that teens spend (on average) 6.5 hours on screen per day. She discusses how tech affects us all and how we can achieve balance.

I've not seen the movie, but the trailer alone has sucked me in.

SCREENAGERS Movie Trailer from lisa tabb on Vimeo.

Screentime has a wealth of resources on their site:
My plan--to find a place to see this or inspire my school to host a screening. What's your plan?

Screenagers Trailer video from; image from; phone handcuff pictures from

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cows to the Climate Rescue

Cows have frequently gotten a bad wrap when it comes to the environment because they are well-known as methane producers. (Methane is 100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases are responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere, causing ultimate rises in temperature, which contributes to climate change).

In classic philosophical logic, we could say the following is true:

cows are gassy animals 
bovine gastrointestinal distress causes methane
methane leads to raised greenhouse gas
higher greenhouse gasses lead to climate change

therefore: cows → climate change

What if the inverse was true:

If we could eliminate cows having gastrointestinal distress
we could diminish methane
we could diminish greenhouse gases
we could lower our risk of growing climate change!!

There seems to a way we in fact can do that. Dried seaweed seems to be the this cow problem and a couple others! Cheers once again to science and innovation!

Video from; graph from; cow meme from

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Have a #DeviceFreeDinner This Thanksgiving

Common Sense Media is the king of all things kid-friendly and tech-healthy!

Make your Thanksgiving Season one that's balance, safe, & tech-free by taking a pledge and making a commitment to going device free while feasting!

For some more festive and fun plans for your holiday season, check out the following links:

Image created using; Posted videos from

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Greatest Pumpkin Revisited

I love STEM/Design challenges, because you never know what you are going to get as they are so dependent on the individuals creating them. No two outcomes are ever the same.

Right before Halloween this year, I put duos to work facing the “Great Pumpkin” Design Challenge." The goal of this challeng: to create a transport system made of Legos to carry a mini pumpkin to the center of town, as led by their Playmobile guy. The designs were fabulous.

It is with activities such as these where you see curiosity, perseverance, thinking, engagement, and excitement all at play.

These are the elements that makes teaching elementary school one of the best jobs out there!

Photos from my students' cameras as recorded in their Seesaw digital portfolios; the designs are theirs as well!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Cup Monster Cometh

What is that eerie and looming creature over there? 
Is the Demogorgon or Shadow Monster from "Stranger Things?"
A meta-human from "The Flash?" The The Loch Ness Monster, perhaps? 

Some might call it even worse.  It's the Cup Monster!!

(Insert scary music here!)

In October, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson (as he was kicking off the 2017 GeekWire Summit in Seattle) was greeted with "Grounds"... the "Cup Monster" pictured above.  Created by the Bellingham, Washington group, Grounds was meant to be a major statement in his looming and eerie-ness.

Made of 500 used Starbucks coffee cups and sporting bloodshot eyes, Grounds was meant to pressure Starbucks to move to "100 percent recycled or tree-free cups."  This campaign (also known as the "Better Cup" campaign) stems from the 2008 Starbucks promise that by 2015 it would go to 100% recyclables or even reusable mugs. But here in 2017, we're not there yet. In fact,  The Better Cup Campaign claims that 1.5 million trees (in the form of 8000+ cups) are still being sacrificed and trashed for cups. The added problem is the plastic coating on the inside of the cup, which helps keep that coffee nice and piping hot, but makes it less likely to be recyclable in some areas.

If this is a campaign you support, you can show that by going to the Better Cup website and sign the petition to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.

Starbucks cup & "We Call on Starbucks to:" images are screenshots from; Cup Monster pic from

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Honoring Our Veterans 2017

This week I’ve been doing a lot of compiling & editing videos created by our 5th Graders for our Veterans Day Assembly at school on Monday. In the videos, 5th Graders are interviewing a Veteran: their uncle, grandpa, dad, mom, or friend of the family.

In watching these & hearing the experiences & memories of so many our Military men and women...and in watching the interactions between the youngsters and their elders, this year’s Veterans Day is particularly meaningful and heartfelt! Thank you to all who have served on our behalf! 

For more on my thoughts on Veterans Day, go to my 2015 post.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

41 Green Ways to Save Some Green $$

We've all heard the phrase, "Put your money where your mouth is."

Unless you are made of unlimited funds, saving money is one thing we all tend to talk about. This list helps to not only save a bit of green cashola, but it also helps show some green environmental actions as well. (Plus, when it comes to the food options, a lot are definitely healthier alternatives!)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bee's Wrap: Sustainable Food Storage

The buzzzz is all around...there's a new kind of food storage in town. It's from Bee's Wrap, a company created by Sarah Kaeck in 2012. And indeed, these new eco food wraps are made from organic cotton infused with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. It could be a game changer for plastic wrap as it can be washed, reused, and composted--3 things plastic wrap cannot be!

If that's not "the bee's knees," I'm not sure what is! These two videos give you an even closer look to the magic of Bee's Wrap.


For a more indepth story about how Bee's Wrap started, check out Sarah's video from her "About Us" page... then check out her website and consider doing some shopping!

Bee's Wrap® - Our Story from Sarah on Vimeo.

Video #1 from; Video #2 from; logo from; other image from

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tackling Ocean Conservation, One Comic Strip at a Time

I was a product of the 80s, which means I was a child in the 70s. The shark soundtrack of “Jaws” still brings me back to that 1975 movie, raising the hairs on my skin to prickle level. It made for 7 years of adult living in Tampa and Clearwater (or trips to Ocean City, Maryland or any Caribbean vacation) ones where I was scanning the shoreline on beach days, looking for dorsal fins, and hearing that “Jaws” music in my mind.

I’ve never seen one. 
But the music continues in my mind in certain circumstances.

I had a degree of that music serenading me on my drive to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD. The reason for my Tuesday night trek… I was off to see Jim Toomey, cartoonist, conservationalist, and creator of Sherman the Shark (from his “Sherman’s Lagoon”) speak at SERC. This struck a particular thrill in me as I’ve written about Toomey before

During his humor-filled evening of frank conversation on cartooning and caring for our planet, he shared with us some of the regulars that are a part of “Sherman’s Lagoon,” the cartoon strip he’s been writing since 1997:
  • Sherman, of course. A shark who is “not quite well-adapted to the real world…. The Lucy of “The Lucile Ball Show” or “Homer Simpson with fins.”)
  • Sherman’s wife Megan. Again, a shark who is “very no-nonsense… the Desi of Desi and Lucy. The one who brings everyone back down to earth.”
  • Hawthorne, the crab. “Always cranky and complaining… I think a lot of people can relate to someone like that.”
  • Filmore, the sea turtle. “He’s the philosopher” and part of the comedic pairing as “the straight guy” to Sherman’s more dramatic side.

While “Sherman’s Lagoon” takes place in the ocean, Sherman does travel to other habits, and has been to the Chesapeake bay a few times. Here in the Chesapeake Bay area, the big issues tend to be “agricultural runoff, loss of coastal habitat, and invasive species.”

Some of the more global marine issues he mentioned he’s tackled in his 20-year stint of comic strip writing with a message include:

--More mindful choices when it comes to menu items (addressing demand and the ultimate oceanic cost);
--Shark-finning (one of his more heavy and difficult topics to cover);
--Ocean acidification of coral;
--Animal tagging;
--Climate change;
--Tracking a plastic bottle to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Toomey mentioned he felt we were in a “sweet spot in time.” With that comes optimism. He feels that there is a meeting of the technology, the data and the ability to go forward to teach and take action. Additionally, scientific facts stay measurable and hard to argue against. He sees us now as the first generation (especially with rate of technological change) who will be able to go forward now and into the next decade from now to be able to gather and make sense of all sorts of scientific data. With the media as it is—meaning we ARE the media during these social media days--we all are more able to talk to the power than in the past. That means we can share the message, and do something about it. This role of citizen scientists (and activists) aligns itself very closely to SERC’s main mission. 

He quoted Dana Meadows: 
“We have exactly enough time starting now.”

While he purposely mentioned he was not going to get political (because all roads these days do seem to end up there), he feels that we need to help people see that the vision of environmentalism is not just “old hippies.” We need to take note of our former environmental (and Republican) president Teddy Roosevelt is the one who began our National Park Service. It’s the poets and the painters out there who have always held an appreciation of nature. To really have your #eco message heard in this noisy world these days, you need to make it so that everyone has a stake. It shouldn’t be a “Left thing” or a “Right thing,” but something we all bring to the center, highlighting the importance to ourselves, our children, and our future. “Environentalism is really all about preserving things for future generations. It’s about sustainability, it’s about the precautionary principle, sustainable business—these are values I think both the left and the right can embrace.”

Getting everyone to the center can be a tricky thing to do, but that’s where Toomey is in the “sweet spot…” as humor has an amazing way of doing just that!

To see Jim Toomey in action…

Find his comics in books & newspapers
Quoted remarks either mentioned directly by Jim Toomey or from the informational sheet written by Kristen Minogue, given out that night at SERC: Tuesday, October, 17, 2017. Cartoon from the same informational sheet.  Photographs from my night at SERC. Jaws Movie Poster  "Sherman Lagoon" pic from Jim Toomey pic with cartoon characters from

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Great Pumpkin STEM Challenge

I've mentioned before that I teach an elective to 4th and 5th graders entitled “Digital Design Process.” It’s a remarkably fun class to teach, as I never know that I’m going to get from my students because creatively is uniquely wonderful and individual like that. In addition to talking to them about innovation, I’ve taught them how to be innovative with tools such as Buncee, Canva, Padlet, and more… and then we capture them in our digital portfolios with Seesaw—which adds a nice paper-free, environmental layer to the class.  Additionally, we also do some no-tech or low-tech STEM/Design challenges like “Trying to ReasonWith Hurricane Season.”

With Halloween around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time for another Design Challenge—this time regarding “The Great Pumpkin.” While I’m a major fan and grew up on “The Peanuts” cartoon strip by Charles Schwartz, the name stuck, but the direction of the cartoon didn’t fit with where my gears were turning.

But I was struck by a book I read lifetimes ago when I was teaching Kindergarten: “The Biggest Pumpkin Ever” by Steven Kroll. This delightful story has two little mice inadvertently giving the same pumpkin extra love, attention, and nutritional power, causing it to grow like gangbusters and be the greatest pumpkin ever. This led them on the need to transport their super-sized pumpkin to the center of town to be shared with their pumpkin-loving peers.

So the challenge for students: Create a transport system to carry a mini pumpkin, where the “you” in this situation is a 2 inch Playmobil character.  (As a mom of 2 kids, I had plenty of these guys.)  With odds and ends Legos (minus any wheels!), a collection of corks and craft sticks, a yard of string, and some rubber bands--and of course a mini pumpkin-- the stage is set for my designers to design, my creators to create, my builders to build, and my engineers to engineer!  Their li’l Playmobil guy (or gal) has to pull the pumpkin across the designated space to cross the finish line, with students only able to drag their guy (not the transportation system).

I can’t wait to put them into action this week! I’ll be sure to share pictures in a future post!

For more Halloween STEM Challenges:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

See-Through Camping

Today I just finished reading "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman. There were a lot of references to being outside and being one with nature. While reading it, I found myself craving the outdoors. Add in the fall festival photos on Facebook, and plethora of seasonal and open apple orchards/pumpkin patches/corn mazes that are out there, I think that intensified my desire to be one with nature.

Then I ran across this video.  This could completely be my ideal form of camping. Security against the threat of looming bears, inclemate weather, or critters in my sleeping bag. Then there's the awe and wonderment of the vast vista that surrounds. The best of all worlds (with a comfy mattress to boot). Yes, a weekend here, unplugged, could be just what the doctor ordered!!


Video from

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Earth Day's Half Birthday

As a kid, not a year went by that I didn't celebrate my half birthday. Now... not so much. But my kids
do. A year seems an awful long time to wait to get to that special day, just for you--your own personal holiday. Given that, celebrating a half birthday seems to make sense--honoring the fact that you are halfway to that special day... celebrating at least with an ice cream cone or a candy bar and that personal realization that you're half way there.

With that in mind, we're just 6 months away from Earth Day. Our very own planetary holiday. For that reason, since we're halfway there (and I've often said that Earth Day should not just be celebrated one day, but every day), here's a Green Team Gazette reminder to go out and do something for your planet today. (And I'll leave it up to you if you also celebrate with an ice cream or a mini-munchie!)


Buncee art created by me:; Half birthday pic from

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Digital Safety & Citizenship with Dr. Sameer Hinduja

As the Lower School Technology Specialist, I know about dates such as this: Digital Citizenship Week this year is October 16--20th.  (Which, ironically coincides with this year's White House proclamation of Character Counts Week, October 15-21st).

Last week, tying into that, we had an Internet Safety, Digital Reputation, & Cyberbullying Assembly at school. The speaker, Dr. Sameer Hinduja (Co-director of Cyberbullying Research Center with Dr. Justin Patchin), was amazing!  As a speaker, researcher, author of 7 books, and Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, Sameer is quite the expert in his field!

Sameer was on campus for approximately 48 hours, and spoke to all constituents in different assemblies: grades 4-5, Middle School, Upper School, Faculty, special group leaders, and parents too. Each assembly was geared to the specified group, and  Sameer spoke candidly and expertly to whichever group he was addressing. My own middle schooler and upper schooler came home telling me they enjoyed their assembly and the fact that Sameer really spoke to their level and knew what he was talking about. He had his finger on the pulse of social media.

The main messages were that of kindness, empathy, resilience, character, creating a positive digital reputation, anti-bullying, and avoiding digital drama. 

He. Was. Excellent.  

My favorite take-aways (in no particular order):
  • Sameer's definition of 3 important words definining behavior:
    • rude: unintentional insult which upsets someone
    • mean: intentional insult which upsets someone which happens once
    • bullying: intentional insult which upsets someone which happens over and over, even when you tell them to stop.
  • You can't perfectly insulate children and teens when online. Given that, you need to teach them to be smart consumers of tech (especially since that's their world).
  • 1 of 3 kids have been victims of cyberbulllying--the results were from an anonymous poll of numerous 12-17 year olds...this impacts the dating world, which then leads to the potential of dating violence. I love that he spoke to Upper Schoolers about this, and how pressure to "sext" could lead to future dating abuse down the line!
  • Communication is key... and parents need to enter their teens worlds.
  • Encourage kids to make kindness go viral and do something legendary. (He shared so many "good videos!")
  • The "X Plan" is a great tool for parents to set up with their kids to give them an "out" during difficult party/group situations.
  • Raising moral kids and kids with a moral compass is the best line of attack! Build creative problem solvers in your children with resilience, who rise above, who overcome obstacles, and who fail forward.
  • The more people succeed over time, the more "haters" they'll be exposed to.
  • When it comes to "tech time," creation is always more important to consumption. Let that be the guide to your "tech time policing."
  • When it comes to digital presence and digital response to other, just like the toothpaste...once it's out there, it's out there.
  • "Pause before you post, think before you text or type."
If you ever get a chance to see Dr. Sameer Hinduja, please do. You'll be glad you did. His future schedule is taking him to Nashville on November 5-7, 2017 to the 14th Annual international Bullying Prevention Association Conference.

Resources from Cyberbullying Research Center worth diving into, on specific topics:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season: Design Challenge

This hurricane season has done a dandy on us all, and we still have a month and a half to go. Between Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we've all gotten an education on hurricanes this year!

Given the degree to which hurricanes have been on all our minds and in the media, I decided a "Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season" design challenge was just what my 4th and 5th grade Digital Design Process elective needed.

I found this "Building From Hurricanes: Engineering Design Challenge" from NASA's Precipitation Education website. That site is laid out well & has several printable lesson files that you will want to be sure to print to help guide your students. With some minor tweaks (most notably: trading the tennis balls to these cute Dollar Store "emoji guys"), we were set.

Using Buncee, I created this slide show to set the stage and intention of the challenge.

30 minutes.
Teamwork & collaboration.
Emoji guys for the win.
Shelter-building on all sides.

We all gathered around to watch as we worked through the 3 fan speeds (now known as "Category 1," "Category 2," and "Category 3" hurricanes), then moved the fan closer to the structures for a more direct hit for a Category 4 & Category 5 hurricane.  This brief snippet tells the whole story on what a success this whole activity was!

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season Design Challenge Fan Testing from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo.

Presentation created in Buncee and can be found at; Photos from my camera. Video from

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Booklists for Budding Young Social Justice Activists

 A quick Google search for definition for “social justice” and “activism” give you these two definitions:
Both can be seen in the political sphere, as certainly there are line-item beliefs from both of the American parties that clarify a particular "party stance" on certain social, economic, and even civic ideals. 

Yet, one can also look to the social science side of the terms instead… focusing not on what’s Democratic or Republican, but rather looking at it more from a humanitarian or cultural side. As teachers, that’s really what we do in our classrooms when we discuss issues—whether it’s in the kindergarten classroom or up to the college level. We inspire our students to think, to ponder, to weigh the issues, and consider the alternatives and even the consequences. Our students bring their personal experiences to the table, and sometimes they widen their view after encountering other’s perspectives. It is through this that students begin to develop their own perspectives amidst the insight of their peers. It can often work that way for adults as well. (Insert open-mindedness here, though! 😉)

Social justice topics are many, including some the following:
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Ageism
  • Gender/sexual rights
  • Human rights & equality
  • Bullying & discrimination
  • Poverty 
  • Homelessness
  • Food & hunger issues
  • Environmental issues 
  • Access to clean water
  • Access to health care
  • Access to education
  • Access to a living wage
  • Child & migrant labor laws
  • Acceptance of others’ cultural beliefs
Of course there are more, and I purposely left out the outwardly governmental issues that we can all read about in the newspaper.

Lucky for us in the age of the Internet, we have resources that abound—both for our own personal growth and life-long learning, and also to use in our classrooms. Additionally, there is such a wealth even in the picture book genre that can be used as teaching tools for our youngest (and also our oldest) students. Sometimes the visuals in a picture book paint a very clear picture that can speak volumes to 5th graders or high schoolers. I witnessed this in action this spring with our school-wide study of Karen Williams’ books on both Haiti and Malawi. Picture books can be ageless!

Here is a bounty of social justice & activism booklists, a mere click away:
Of course, this is just a start and a fraction of what is out there and available.

I’ve said it before: I’m not sure when I became an activist. Certainly in high school “apathy” was more my view when it came to issues of any sort (unless of course it was girl drama, buddies, and boys of high school 😉). But a girl who writes an environmental education blog, has spoken at state governmental committees about Earth Hour, has written letters to the editor, has attended marches in DC, and has squawked her political views on social media is an activist, no doubt.

May this booklist broaden your perspectives, and bring out a little bit of your own inner activist!

Definitions screenshot from a simple google search and put in the Li-Pix app.; Social Justice books image from; Wordle from; Stand-Speak-Act image from

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Artistic & Alternative Side of the Department of Energy

Thinking back to the "American Eclipse," there were some great posters created this year in the style of WPA (Works Progress Administration), akin to those of the New Deal era, highlighting and advertising the momentous occasion.

The secondary cool thing about that is that another series of other cool posters, done in the same style, that were created in 2016 to commemorate alternative energy and the anniversary of 2009's Recovery Act (aka the Stimulus Bill). They came from the Department of Energy's Loan's program office to celebrate the numerous projects and jobs created via the Recovery Act between 2009 to 2011.

To download your own high-resolution set (for your classroom decorations, for your bedroom decor, or as conversational pieces), click here. Let's hope that with all of the alterations and changes within this current presidential administration that the Department of Energy keeps them here for a long while!