Saturday, February 24, 2024

Things To Love This February: FETC Follow Up

I love me a good conference. I mean, only if it is a REALLY good conference. One filled with loads of workshops by engaging presenters, with ideas that you can put into place the very next day.

Two annual conferences fit that bill for me: MAEOE (my environmental Superbowl) and FETC (an edtech extravaganza). 

January 23-26, 2024 they held the 44th annual Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida. I've been twice (in 2017 and 2018) and each time, I soak up information like a sponge. 

It didn't work out for me to go this year, but I was thrilled when I got their email announcing their free February 14th's Best of FETC: Top Takeaways and Future Trends for 2024 webinar.  Moderated by Rita Ferrandino (FETC Founder), Jennifer Womble (FETC Conference Chair), and Micha Ward (FETC Education Reporter & District Administration).

If you are an edtech junkie, it's definitely worth a listen. On top of the synergetic experiences they all had, some of their big topics of conversation were:
  • Certification & Badge programs
  • eSports
  • Robotics, coding, & drones
  • Creativity as engagement
  • All aspects of  artificial intelligence: upholding academic integrity, productivity helps to teacher, and AI-built into products as "magic"
  • How tech can leverage people with disabilities with assistive technologies
  • Cyber security and digital citizenship
  • 3D printing
  • Augmented and virtual reality.
One of their big thoughts included the optimism they are seeing in education. The tools that are out there are really giving teachers some of their time back--helping them to automate grading, co-creating lesson plans and streamline teachers work, and making teaching fun again. (Dan Fitzpatrick, author of The AI Classroom, was one of the keynote speakers.) 

Other places to go learn more about how FETC was this year:
Additionally, FETC is planning monthly webinars will continue to follow their name, carrying the edtech conversation into the "future." You can click here to learn more about that and those future topics. 

The world of technology both in and out of the classroom is exciting right now. I expect there will be lots happening in the future! FETC will definitely have its finger on the pulse!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Things To Love This February: World Thinking Day

World Thinking Day is celebrated annually on February 22nd in the arena of Girl Scouts, and has been for 98 years--since 1926. Officially "Girl Scouts" falls in the more largely named "World Association of Girl Guides & Girls Scouts." This is an organization that touches 10 million girls in over 150 countries.

World Thinking Day is a day dedicated to international friendship, and thinking about global issues that impact each other. Themes differ from year to year, but this year's theme is Our World, Our Thriving Future: The Environment and Global Poverty.

Recent themes in years past (which also tie to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) include:

Whether you are a Girl Scout to any degree or not, thinking about our world, it's thriving future, and how the environment ties into global poverty is an important issue to think about. 

Here are some places you can learn more: 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Things To Love This February: Black History Month Resources

With February being Black History Month, mid-month is a good time to check in with where you are with educating both your students and yourself about the importance of black history 

The Center for Racial Justice in Education has a treasure trove with at least 80 links on these subjects:

  • How Do We Celebrate Black History Month? Lesson Plans and Curriculum Resources for Educators
  • Do We Need Black History Month? The Underrepresentation and Miseducation of Black Stories, Experiences, and Histories in Schools
  • Why Teach Black Lives Matter in Schools? (Think Pieces)
  • Where Are Afro-Latinos Represented in School Curricula?
  • How Do We Center Black Women and Black Girls in Our Schools?
  • How Do We Center Black LGBTQ Experiences?
  • As a Parent, What Are Ways I Can Engage My Family in Black History Month?:
Other good places to check in on:

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Things To Love This February: Valentine's Day

The literal and figurative heart of February is Valentine's Day. Smack dab in the center of the month (as well as in the center of Random Acts of Kindness Week--this year: Feb 11-17), it's a day centered around the heart and cherishing our loved ones.

In case you need a little history lesson, here's a kid-friendly video on the history of St. Valentine's Day.

Given the tie in between Valentine's Day and  Random Acts of Kindness Week, why don't you sprinkle the love and kindness around like little heart-shaped confetti. See how far your heart can spread this year. (There are great resources for both schools and individual use at the Random Act of Kindness website!)

Videos from https://youtu.be/5fmy1MX42b8?si=Rld6OXuBjVqfbafm and https://youtu.be/tOLEyhNJksg?si=yve1Iu5zW8UwbxFE, Image created at canva.com

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Things To Love This February: February Environmental Days

We all know about your standard February days of Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, and Leap Year this year. Well that's not all that's in store this month. There's also a slew of Environmental Days as well!


Click below to learn a little bit more about each of these February Environmental Days :
  • World Ostrich Day: Feb 2nd (not endangered or vulnerable, but populations declining due to threats)
  • World Whale Day: Feb 18th (many species are endangered--celebrated annually 3rd Sunday of February)

Image created at Canva.com

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Things To Love This February: Super Bowl Sunday & President's Day

Unless you are living under a rock and have missed all the hubbub about Taylor Swift & Travis Chelsea, you probably know that this weekend is Super Bowl Sunday. Time honored tradition, and always ripe for classroom resources...whether you go to watch the game or the commercials.

Additionally, Presidents' Day is up ahead this February 19th. Here's some more resources for my teacher friends:


Super Bowl image from https://www.npr.org/2024/02/10/1230621176/super-bowl-58; Presidents's Day Image from https://www.template.net/edit-online/57412/vintage-presidents-day-linkedin-post

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Things to Love This February: #FeedTheBirdsDay & The Great Backyard Bird Count

It's that chilly time of year where some parts of the country are blanketed with either white, cold, or a combination of both. This is the time that animals who have stockpiled their food supply may be running low. It's that time of the year where our neighboring nature creatures are start really having a hard time finding find food. This is especially true for our feathered friends. 

Given that and given that February is National Bird Feeding Month, every year on February 3rd is Feed the Birds Day. The first official one was in 1994, proclaimed by Congressman John Porter, encouraging people to hang their bird feeders to offer food to flyer-by. Additionally, you can help by setting up bird baths for drinking water or birdhouses for shelter. 

Also tying in to all this, the Great Backyard Bird Count is held annually for 4 days in February. This year it is February 16-19. The Great Backyard Bird Count gives you an opportunity to be a citizen scientist. Lowest level commitment to participate: find a 15 minute block of time during those 4 days, then record your findings online at birdcount.org. (As I tell my students: you can always do more!!) Your recorded observations will then help scientists get a flavor of the biodiversity in your area, as well as helping to better understanding of global bird populations. You can always learn more at their website.

Whether you are a tried-and-true bird watching aficionado or a casual backyard enthusiast, you can take part during this last leg of winter. Help pump up those extra calories to help them stay warm and help make their search easier. Fill your feeders and embrace that mantra from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." Make your backyard a fly-through dinner spot for your neighborhood feathered friends this month, especially here on the 3rd of February!

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Nature is the Best Teacher

Just as art sometimes imitates life, the environment can inspire technology.

In these 4 minutes by Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials, we can see just how in many ways. Nature and the environment tend to be the best inspiration for tech and innovation--and likewise, innovation will help solve our environmental issues.

Video from https://youtu.be/BYCI8SYngR8?si=G72oVHSboIOFdNQQ

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Using Environmental Education As Empowerment

As the perfect follow up from my last post about the history of environmental education...

In this TED Talk from May 2023, Arvolyn Hill speaks out about her experiences as a black woman tying together environmental awareness with racial justice. She also talks about her nature programs at the New York Botanical Gardens and how these programs can help black and brown kids see themselves out in nature....because representation matters!


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

History of EE: Environmental Education

October 14-26, 1977, in Tbilisi--now in the country (not state) of Georgia in what was once part of the USSR--there was the First Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education. Created by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Tbilisi conference was one of the first of its kind to place emphasis on educating others about the perseveration and improvement of the global environment to help develop balanced communities world wide. 

While environmental education wasn't a new idea, this funneling of attention toward education and stewardship took root here in Tbilisi. 

To learn a bit more about this blossoming of environmental education, check out these two videos from the North American Association of Environmental Education.


Learn even more about the history of environmental educations more by going through NAAEE's 5 part learning module about the History of EE.

Videos from https://youtu.be/7wzIKwyYXlw?si=z4J9JUv9l-EAXUrs and https://youtu.be/e1uCExDFAgI?si=_ob-4VkiDMDH6EcN, logo from https://naaee.org/, last image screenshot from https://eepro.naaee.org/learning/eelearn/eelearn-2-history-ee


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Population Education's: A Quick Trip to 8 Billion


Population Education is an amazing website that brings together a lot of globally important factors: numbers, demographics, and human impact on each other, economics, and our planet. In the many. years of Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education conferences I've attended, I always try to catch any workshops presented by Population Education. They have a wealth of lesson plans and teaching resources, and they are top notch in anything they do.

One of my favorites is their World Population "Dot" video, which I first wrote about in 2015 and I watch at least once a year with students. Another version of it is their World Population History data visualization accompanying website.

Now, as our numbers keep growing, they have a new poster out: "A Quick Trip to 8 Billion." This two-sided wall chart gives a timeline of historical events and inventions over the past 200 years to show how the population has impacted all of this. The flip side shows a multitude of infographics detailing the challenges that come from increased population growth. Along with the poster, 3 lesson plans are included: 1). a guided exploration of the timeline; 2). a scavenger hunt to see how numbers and resources have changed over time; 3). an activity where students create a planetary report card to measure the human and environmental health of the planet over the past 200 years.


I'm looking forward to ordering a couple for my school. (Posters are $5, but $4 if you buy in larger quantities. Click here for details.) Additionally, you can also get a high resolution version of the e-poster.

Other Resources on their site include:

Population Education is tied to the following education websites to check out for even more resources:

Images from https://www.worldof8billion.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/wall-chart-high-resolution.jpg and logo from https://populationconnection.org/population-education/k-12-students/

Disclosure: I am not profiting at all if you purchase anything from their store--I just love their resources!

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Beauty of Each Season: Winter

Winter is probably the hardest season for me to be outside. I do love the crackling of the fireplace, the hibernation, and the coziness of blankets or snuggly warm clothing. However, it's the outdoor stuff that's hard for me. I'm not a fan of the cold, the wet, the snow in my boots, the ultimate turn to the slushy mushy mess, and the super dry skin. (The latter, this year, more than ever before!)

I will say, I do find it beautiful to look at though. The glowy bright light illuminating off the snow. The puffy piles of white lying on branches. The swirl of snow as it starts to fall. The stunning color of a bright red cardinal against the world of white. The backyard birds and animals foraging for seed from our feeders. 

Last year, we had a snow drought and basically in our area went over 700 days without snow. While we did see it a year ago Christmas when traveling, here at home it was a long while without snow. Until this past weekend! Mother Nature did her thing and dropped 4 or 5 inches, gifting us even with a ❄️ SNOW DAY!! ❄️ For teachers and kids alike, that announcement elicits a happy dance indeed. It never gets old. It's the ultimate gift. Even better if premeditated the night before. 

Living in a land of 4 distinct seasons, even though the outdoor part is something I have nudge myself out in, the first major snow definitely offers a pause. Especially when combined with the unexpected gift of a snow day and the gift of time, it offers the opportunity to take notice of the beauty that surrounds. Watching my son play with our frolicking dog who finds fascination in eating the white stuff. Taking note of how the world can change by these tiny little flakes that keep coming down. By the way everything changes when this planet crystalizes. 

Yes, there's a lot to learn from the winter and soaking in it's beauty and gift.




Images from https://www.instagram.com/p/C1kI3KKgW8G/?igsh=MzY1NDJmNzMyNQ%3D%3D , other images from my camera compiled with canvas.com


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

With this weekend being Martin Luther King Day I've been doing a lot of thinking about all that 39 year old Dr. King accomplished in his life.

Monday (MLD Day) is seen as a Day of Service, one the only holidays we have dedicated as that. A day "on" versus a day "off." Of course, people are free to use it as they wish. As a teacher, even though we are newly back to school after Winter break, the 3 day weekend definitely felt like a timely gift. Already. 

Every year, right before MLK Day, I teach a curricular lesson with tech integration to the 4th graders, all about Dr. King and his 6 steps of nonviolent social change. 

I use the principles from the King Center and tie it into how the ideas of non-violence can be adapted on the playground, in their own home, or in big ways as they were used during the Civil Rights era. We discuss what "civil disobedience" means and how that would have looked during the 1950s and '60s with sit-ins, marches, bus boycotts, and peaceful protests. There's always a bit of shock and awe when I paint the picture of how sitting in at a Whites Only lunch counter could have people yelling or spitting or pouring milk shakes on black protesters quietly sitting there, peacefully making their point, and only wanting to purchase a burger or coffee, which really should be everyone's right. Then we discuss how courageous it is to sit there, trying to silently, peacefully showcase your point in a nonviolent way--how the violence being bestowed on theses protestors speaks louder and in a stronger, more poignant way... especially in a time period where watching the news unfold on the TV screen in your house was a new concept.

I always am hopeful that, as a white woman, I can convey my empathy, historic facts, and the fact that we aren't always proud of our history. I'm hopeful that I present it in a compassionate way to be heard by my students--especially my black students. I found myself this year, more than ever before, thinking that in this very partisan world, this classroom conversation was one that could create personal ramifications for myself and my own employment if I was living and teaching in a different school--in certain states...in some of which I once taught. 

My guiding principle of teaching has always been "to educate." Especially with the following principle being at the heart of who I am as a teacher:


Yet here we are, in 2024, living in a very divided society where book banning happens and being "woke" (which isn't that really just being educated?) is seen as a problematic putdown. Sometimes, when doing the math, it feels like we are going the wrong way from the world in which I lived in as a child. We are 70ish years removed from the American Civil Rights movement, which was approximately 100 years after the Civil War. 

Perhaps we would do well to refocus as a society on the words and teachings of Dr. King to strive to do better, to be better, to embrace the ideals set forth in the Constitution, and work for the betterment of our community. Imagine the nation (if not the world) we'd live in if we had more days of service, taking action to help out our neighbors...for we are all indeed neighbors. 

If you need some ideas of what you can go out and do (on either Martin Luther King Jr. Day or any other day), revisit my GTG post from last year: "Go Beyond a Day of Service and Give Back All Year Long.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Riding the Line Between Snow And Rain

This past weekend we were trying to time a flexible yet sizable drive based on the weather. It would have us going westward through the mountains of Western Maryland while a weather system was traveling eastbound. 

Mountains and higher elevations tend to complicated life when it comes to potential snow storms, inclines, ice, and road preparedness for all of the above. Add to that the two day window of a weekend, and trying to figure out when it's best to leave and when we definitely want to make sure to be back. Additionally, we knew to expect more rain here, but there was a lot of uncertainty as to to what was between here and our western destination in the middle of all of the above. 

It makes for an interesting juggle, to say the least. Not to mention, it's a lot like Vegas gambling. Try to get there before it all hits? Wait until it all passes? Hope the timetable and the storm doesn't shift in a way that does not serve us! And heaven forbid: no freezing rain or sleet!

There's a lot of unpredictability that exists when riding the line between snow and rain. A few degrees of temperature difference can make all the difference indeed. I think the impact of it all has hit harder as this is really the first winter storm system that was heading our way this year, when the ground at our house has yet to see its first flake in probably 2 years.

All of this lead me to pondering and the land of investigation...and the following videos. Might as well learn a little bit while we were waiting for our travel window to fall in our lap!


Saturday, January 6, 2024

The Endangered Species Act: Looking Good at 50!

Thursday, December 28th, 2023 marked the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. With all the hubbub of the holidays, this li'l snippet of information might have gotten lost by many. (I know I personally was losing track of what day of the week it was, while traveling, home on break, and partaking in far too many festive feasts.)

But 50th birthdays/anniversaries are meant to be celebrated. And truly, since 1973, there's a lot to celebrate regarding our planet, biodiversity, animal conservation, and the protection of endangered species!

Five Fast High Fives:

1. Species Recovery: Thanks to the Endangered Species Act (the ESA), many species have come been fortunate enough to become success stories, bouncing back from the edge of extinction. Some notable ones include the bald eagle, gray wolf, California condor, and the Peregrine falcon.
 
2. Habitat Protection: Through restoring habitats, the ESA has led to the preservation of a multitude of diverse ecosystems. This level of safeguarding has helped protect the Florida panther in the Everglades, red-cockaded woodpeckers in longleaf pine forests, and several salmon species in the Pacific Northwest. 
 
3. Preventing Extinctions:  Through identifying threats and putting conservation measures in place, the ESA has helped to prevent the extinction of many species including the Whopping Crane, manatee, and sea otters. 

4. Global Influence: Successes these past 50 years due to the ESA has served as inspiration to other countries, leading them to create their own laws for safeguarding species on the edge of endangerment and extinction. Japan, Australia, and India are just a few countries that have put protection laws in place.

5. Economic Benefits: Conservation efforts under the ESA have been known to boost local economies by way of eco-tourism. While not a product of the ESA, eco-tourism has been on the rise in the last 50 years in places like Yellowstone National Park, the Galápogos, and other nature-centric parks, sanctuaries, and wildlife refuges.

To go deeper into the celebration, you can check out these websites:

  • The Endangered Species Act at 50 website. You can read up on their successes, events, and learn ways to take action to protecting biodiversity and the longevity of all species.

The Endangered Species Act at 50 logo from https://esa50.org/; Some of the specific species in the Fast Five High Fives were modifiied from questions posed to ChatGPT regarding the five best things to come out of the Endangered Species Act on January 3, 2024. The ESA at 50 National Poster: released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to highlight 8 species that were directly impacted by the ESA. Photo credit: Paintings by Cal Robinson, a public affairs specialist in the Service’s Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office. https://www.fws.gov/media/esa-50-national-poster

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Goals for the New Year

With the turn of the calendar, as I mentioned in the last post, 'tis the season for goals and resolutions. 

Among my logistical travels, it gave me extra time for social medial scrolling travel, and I landed on these 4 images and infographics...all of which speak to living the year with new, green goals. Maybe there'll be a few ideas here to visually inspire you to start your year off right. 


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Happy New Year 2024


A new year is is ahead. 2024. 52 weeks of new are right here with the flip of the calendar page. 

Using ChatGPT, I created this ABC list of environmental well-wishes for your year ahead. May it serve as an inspirational checklist of 26 ways you can green your routine and your 2024.


Afforestation adventures await! Plant some trees or visit some new forests to check out their flourishing biodiversity.

Breathe deeply and take in the bliss of crisp, clean air by "getting out there."

Cultivate sustainable habits and conscious choices for a greener and cleaner future. Start by looking at your home products.

Dive into the depths of eco-conscious decisions. Say no to plastics when you have a pollution-free choice instead.

Embrace renewable energy by opening windows or curtains to bring the sun and wind power in.

Foster a love for our feathered friends. Visit a bird sanctuary or do a little backyard bird watching.

Grow a garden of green: make your backyard bloom with blossoms or a become a bounty to veggies to feed your family. 

Harness some humans-nature harmony: take time out in nature to find fellowship with flora and fauna.

Illuminate your home with energy-efficient lightbulbs to save money and energy.

Join hands with environmental advocates for Mother Earth.

Kindle the flames of environmental education to spread eco-awareness to keep knowledge going and growing.

Let love for our Earth be a guiding star, leading us toward sustainable practices and eco-friendly living.

Marvel at the beauty of marine life, less impacted by mankind, though not immune from pollution.

Nourish your body with organic food to maximize your own health and wellness.

Optimize waste management in your own home: turn trash into treasures when you recycle, upcycle, reuse, and refuse what you no longer need.

Plant the care of conservation by supporting endangered species and restoring ecosystems.

Quietly observe the delicate balance of nature, appreciating the beauty of the separate seasons.

Reduce your own transportation impact: while you might not be ready to buy a lower emission electric vehicle, can you carpool, walk, ride your bike, or take public transportation to get from point A to B?

Sow seeds of environmental stewardship, cultivating a sense of responsibility and care for our home planet.

Turn the tide on pollution, so that our rivers and oceans run free of marine debris.

Unleash your own creativity and celebrate the creativity of architects and artists who masterfully weave sustainable design and environmental awareness to their work.

Value, protect, and celebrate the variety that makes up the rich tapestry of species of life on Earth.

Walk gently on the Earth, leaving behind footprints of kindness and care.

'Xperience the joy of eco-friendly exploration. Go out and adventure into the great outdoors. We protect what we love.

Yearn for a world where green spaces thrive, especially in urban worlds where green spaces provide an escape. 

Zero in on sustainable solutions. May zero-waste lifestyles and circular economies become the norm.


Disclaimer: AI was my friend with both the ABC list and the art of this post. I used ChatGPT and the following prompt on December 17, 2023 to build the inspiration for this post. My prompt that I used to create this post: "You are a creative and genius wordsmith who loves to craft creative text. Create an inspired ABC list of environmental well wishes for the new year ahead: 2024."  I then tweaked the verbiage a bit to make it a more streamlined post. Art created using the Magic Media tools of Canva.com using this prompt (then I added the embellishments of the year and graphics): "Happy New Year picture, realistic, pixar style people of all ages and races there, including white, asian, hispanic, and black people celebrating the new year with a happy new years signs around the room, in a party setting."

Friday, December 29, 2023

Katherine Hayhoe's Inspirational Recommendations for Climate Content

I subscribe to climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe's weekly newsletter. I've written about Hayhoe in the past, and her interesting dichotomy between her data-driven profession and her faith as a Christian. Her bio on her website shows her rich background from her University of Illinois days (ILL-INI), to her current roles as Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy and professor at Texas Tech University. She is also a principal investigator for the Department of Interior's South-Central Climate Adaptation Science Center and the National Science Foundations Global Infrastructure Climate Network. In her "spare" time she's also written Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World and previously hosted the podcast Global Weirding.

She knows her stuff when it comes to climate change.

In her latest newsletter, timed right at the holidays, Hayhoe listed out some podcasts, books, and social media accounts to jump into in order to build hope and education around the issue of climate change. You can read that newsletter here, or find her inspirational social media post (with the following images) on her Facebook page. With the doom and gloom that can be a heavy find when learning more about the climate implications on our planet, it is refreshing to land on inspirational leaders and lessons about how we can make a positive impact in our every changing world. Lots of great places to look into with the new year ahead!




These social media accounts suggestions from Katherine Hayhoe:
Alaina Wood: The Garbage Queen on Instagram and TikTok
Climate Adam on Instagram and YouTube 
Others on Instagram include:

For other recommendations from Katherine Hayhoe, check out her FAQ and recommendations page

Images from http://redgreenandblue.org/2019/01/08/katherine-hayhoe-climate-change-thermometer-not-liberal-conservative/ and  https://www.facebook.com/katharine.hayhoe/posts/pfbid02ZHMkgYqcAeZ5Mq9zD6kSHbQRYB51Sg8AJkywDFWc2cykJVK9Ws8SQgGNpbTCvfkgl

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Seasons Greetings 2023

This Christmas,
May you have the fulfillment
Of seeing around you
The people you love the most.
May you have the satisfaction
Of creating special memories
They will remember with pleasure forever.
This Christmas,
May you feel peaceful and contented,
Knowing what Christmas means,
And celebrating it your way.

By Joanna Fuchs

While this poem is about the holiday I celebrate--the holiday that is ahead this weekend--may the sentiments hit you for your holiday of choice. Replace Christmas with the word "holiday, season, winter, solstice, recently-passed Hanukkah, New Year..." or whatever wonderment you hold in your heart at this time of the year. 

Sending you my very best for a love-infused, peace-inspired holiday season.


Monday, December 18, 2023

Winter Solstice: December 21, 2023

This year, Winter Solstice occurs December 21st. The shortest day of the year--meaning the day with the shortest number of daylight hours. According to the Farmer's Almanac, this date happens annually, either on the 21st or the 22nd of December each year.

As a person who feels like dark at 5:30 after the November time change is blacker than midnight, I'm actually always eager to find myself on the flip side of Winter Solstice. I like daylight and sunshine! Short, dark days are harsh! Longer days ahead truthfully make this northern hemisphere girl's heart sing!

I happened on the Royal Museum Greenwich's website, which had some beautiful imagery and also some interesting facts about Winter Solstice. (They also had some beautiful pieces about Christmas in Greenwich too--who wouldn't want to go ice-skating with the Queen's House as the backdrop!)

One of the most interesting parts of their Winter Solstice page was how it is celebrated worldwide, both now and historically:

Yule
This neopagan, pre-Christian festival "the Fest of Jul" occurred in Scandinavia at this time of year. Lighting fires was very symbolic during this cold festival time, as a sign that the heat and light needed to return. Hence the born tradition of the Yule log, which historically was a tribute to the Norse god Thor. Other Norse traditions relate to the sacrificing of the Yule boar (to honor Freya) or honoring the Yule goat (a nod to Norse god Thor's two goats). Today, many still celebrate by lighting a Yule log, or taking part in Yule singing (or waisalling, a pre-cursor to Christmas caroling).

Saturnalia
My son's Middle School Latin class annually celebrated Saturnalia (and still does though he's well past Middle School age). This Ancient Roman seven-day festival began on December 17th, honoring Saturn, father of many of the gods (and of course the namesake to the planet Saturn). Saturnalia was a time of feasting, gift giving, and fun--school and businesses were shut down to take advantage of the seven days of fun and festivities. Sacrifices were made to the Temple of Saturn and revelry would be the theme during this holiday.

The Dongzhi Festival
In Eastern Asia and China, this is one of the highly important time of years. Breaking down "Dongzhi" in Chinese, you have the combination of winter + arrival...meaning literally: the coming of winter. The shift to longer daylight hours was cause for celebration as it brought about positive energy. It ties to the yin-yang philosophy of  harmony and balance. This also served as the time of harvesting the winter crops, which also brought about honoring the farms, crops, and plenty brought to the people, and feasting together as a family.

Yalda 
In Iran, Shab-e Yalda ‘Yalda night’ or Shab-e Chelleh signifies the ‘night of forty.’ This Iranian festival has friends and family coming together for food, drink, family togetherness, and poetry readings all night long. Pomegranates, watermelons, and nuts are specialty foods of this festival. It is also celebrated in other parts of the Middle East, including Iraqi Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Azerbaijan.

Stonehenge
While not a holiday, Stonehenge is a high profile place of celebration of the winter solstice. In part, during summer and winter solstice, the alignment of the stones with the sun is significant, especially at sunrise, which provides context for its significance as a seasonal monument when it was created around 3500 BC. It was a place of both Druid and Pagan celebrations of this time of the year, and it continues to draw visitors today.


Image from: the first one created at canva.com; the 2nd & 3rd from https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/when-winter-solstice-shortest-day 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Sustainable Gift Giving Meets Santa's Workshop

This past weekend I was in a vortex of Christmas crazy and creation this weekend. My eyes were a bit bleary, crossed, tired and hurting. My body was sore for over-sitting in worker bee mode. Santa's Workshop was at full tilt, no stops, knee-deep in Christmas construction. 

'Tis the season, right?

As time keeps ticking, we are getting closer to the mailing deadlines, priority shipping dates, and The Big Day. It can be overwhelming, trying to get it all together... especially if you are trying to "shop till you drop" to get those perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gifts.

If you are feeling like you are running out of good ideas, here's where shopping in an eco-friendly way. These two visuals can help with inspiration. Additionally, Green Action Centre's post "Sustainable Gift Giving" can help you go deeper with ideas on their ten categories listed in the infographic below. It may be just what you need to find that "something just right" for that "someone special!"

Images from https://www.instagram.com/p/C0ZK_7Ws_TD/ and https://greenactioncentre.ca/featured/sustainable-gift-ideas/

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Christmas 2023: Christmas Cards

I haven't sent Christmas cards for years (with maybe the exception of a dozen to extended family I never see and who aren't on social media). With Facebook, Instagram, and the like, it seems like all my friends already know my life and what I've been up to. Sending a card almost seems redundant. It also became "one more thing" to an already busy season, and it was an easy cut for me to make in the digital era. 

Moreover, when you start adding in the expense of the cards and then the cost of the postage....it seems like an awful lot of money during an already expensive season.

Blogger, artist, author, and environmentalist Emily Ehlers (known as Eco with Em on Facebook and her website) summed it up perfectly in this poster she created. I saw it at the end of the holiday season last year, and tucked this away to share this year!