Saturday, August 1, 2020

Bandwidth


There's irony in the fact that "bandwidth" relates to both technology and mental capacity.... which means it is also ultimately tied to nature and the outdoors (for we all know that the latter is the cure for the former).

In this world that's already highly tech-i-fied, after a season of remote learning and multiple Zooms a day, computers make the world go 'round. Especially as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States. Social media, news, the TV, and more tell us that now as August arrives, we in the United States did a rather abysmal job of curtailing the Covid as our curve continues to crawl the wrong way.

From a teacher's perspective, summer is always my season to regroup, relax, and rejuvenate. It's that time we teachers soak up, tackling those home tasks we maybe haven't gotten to over the past several months. (Mine right now is overhauling the basement!) Likewise it's time to read books (for business and pleasure), search out new ideas, percolate over our classrooms and curriculum, and even have a few adventures so that we can be ready to dive into the fall school year.

School is not now, nor has it ever been, a 9 to 5 job.

Summer 2020 ... much like the rest of 2020 ... is an beast unto itself, and the normal "summer things" just aren't the same. For me, I've noticed a direct hit on my bandwidth. Literally (technologically by way of my wifi) and physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually.

It's summer, and yet I've spent approximately 12-15 hours both this week and last doing school work. Teaching professional development (PD) classes, taking other PD classes, reading, researching, wrestling with wifi, orchestrating, and organizing some real needs for my school, my teachers, and myself. Will we be in school, out of school, or somewhere in between with a hybrid model--and will it be safe? I know teachers who love their jobs who have resigned rather than go back into a classroom they do not deem safe due to their local Covid numbers. Likewise, I know others that are making sure their affairs are in order by making sure their wills are written. Just in case.

As my zoom meetings have moved from spring teaching to summer learning, it all heightens awareness. Perhaps only if we can prepare for everything! Typically, summer is a time to relax the reliance on calendars... yet this year I am religiously keeping a calendar so I can make sure to show up at the proper Zoom times. My calendar is peppered with white sticky labels as events get rescheduled or canceled due to quarantine restrictions. I've got layers and layers of labels covering up canceled commitments.

My brain feels much like that layered calendar, trying to keep track of what is and is not happening. I can't shake the feeling that the ground beneath seems to be constantly shifting. We're trying to be flexible, but there is so much uncertainty in the unknown. It makes it difficult to plan. (Teachers are big planners by the way!) Case & point: we're working on the 4th iteration of move-in days for my daughter's college. The lacrosse tournament we went to (masked) last weekend for my son was on it's 2nd or 3rd calendar date, having shifted a month or two later month than originally intended. In our house, my family is putting forth dedicated effort to follow the restrictive orders of "safer at home;"yet, after months of this it leaves us wondering why we are trying so hard to stay healthy when it's clear that others are not. Meanwhile, numbers of Covid cases and deaths grow exponentially. (Yes, there is increased testing, but the positivity rate in some states is downright scary.)

It all leaves a layer of frustration under the surface--much like my calendar sticky labels. It all piles on top, dismantling motivation along the way. Plus, social media and nightly news show us continued signs of racial injustice, peaceful protesting, reports of rioting, and stories of military-style secret police in major metropolitan areas. All the while, we carry our own concern for our own children, our own parents (some of whom we haven't seen in awhile due to all the regional restrictions), our own wallets and how the economy is affecting it....also on top of conundrums of "what's for dinner," "do we have clean laundry to wear," and a myriad of other mental calisthenics that keep us awake at night.

There's an overload in my brain.... all related to a lack of bandwidth!

The oft-used quote "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" comes to mind. But, the pile-on sometimes does more than just build character. The overload can weaken your immunity because there just are way too many things to think about. In the age of coronavirus, a weakened immune system is the last thing we need!

Now more than ever, as we enter August, teachers and students need to make sure to take the time to relax our brain. Parents and kids and the community as a whole does too. We need to schedule in more than zooms and work and planning. We need to take time breathe. To unwind. To unplug. To get outside. To get some sleep. To focus on healthy approaches like sleep and exercise. To slow down if have yet to do so. We need time to watch campy TV shows just to laugh! We need time in or near water to decompress and to soak up #bluemind to counter the non-stop, active, anxious, "red mind."

Without doing a combination of all of the above, we certainly aren't going to have the bandwidth as teachers (and parents) to make it through the upcoming school year. By all means, no matter whether we are remote, in class, or in the in-between, I sense that this will be the most memorable school year of our lives. It'll take grit and work to reconfigure the art of teaching school. Teachers are some of the hardest working people I know, and I have no doubt we will accomplish that goal. My hope is that it doesn't come at an incredible expense or loss--of our spirit, of our creativity, of our clarity, of our health, or even our lives. We love our students and give them our all... but we want everyone in our midst to be safe and stay healthy.

A wish I have for all of you!


Definition from dictionary.com; Images from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-bandwidth-2625809https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/570709/yes-you-have-too-many-tabs-open-your-computer-and-your-brain-probably-blame, and https://psmag.com/magazine/this-is-your-brain-on-poverty

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Looking Up, Living Differently

In the lazy, hazy, heated, days of quarantined summer as August falls upon us, an inspirational quote felt like the place I needed to land. What if... what if we all were here: outside, looking up, living differently. Maybe in the middle of a little moonlit mindfulness we could definitely take notice of those stars outside!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Go Outside

Some days it seems like you are just knee deep in the middle of triage. This week has been kind of like that as we are still trying to figure out what the fall has in store for schools, near and far. Sometimes the uncertainty gets hard to manage. Perhaps this is why this image from 1000 Hours Outside really struck me!

Looking at it again, I think it's time for me to go outside! I suggest we all do the same! Pronto!

Image from https://www.facebook.com/1000hoursoutside/photos/a.184030321780374/1451711875012206/

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Blues and Greens of West Virginia

For a week, we were immersed in a spectrum of blues and greens. With some pent up pandemic-centric cabin fever, we decided to hit the road for a change of scenery and a strategically-planned socially-distanced vacation. Original plans for the summer had been a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, but for every reason we chose that place (aka: a lot to do), it was every reason we decided to bow out. Especially thankful after we saw the rise of some 36 states with their Covid cases.

Instead we decided to head to Nowhere, West Virginia... more exactly Lansing/Fayetteville and the New River Gorges area. Perfect place for a socially-distanced vacation. Packing our bikes, helmets, and paddleboards, we traversed about 5 hours from home. We had a week of outdoor adventure. Biking (yikes the hills of West Virginia!!). Water sights and scenes. Time on and in the water by way of inflatable kayaks, paddleboards, stream-exploring, and swimming. We got to see the breathtaking sites of New River Gorges Bridge, Summerville Lake, paddling by once-boom town Hinton, hiking amidst the ghost railroad town of Thurmond, and a whole lot of windy mountain roads in between.

More than once, surveying the landscapes: the blues (periwinkle, sky, cornflower, robin egg, azure, cerulean, denim, indigo, Prussian) dotted with clouds or birds, or dazzling in its aquatic sparkling reflections. The greens (moss, asparagus, lime, emerald, shamrock, viridian, hunter, pine, forest), where you could focus on each individual leaf to the sum total of those leaves per tree and those collection of trees into forested walls. Rock formations and the height of the mountains. The depth of the green & blue hues. The vitality and beauty. The richness and the vastness. The healthiness of it in a world that seems more than just “pandemically sick.”

In gazing about, I took great comfort in feeling small amidst the immensity of the world that surrounded and encompassed me. Humbled by its greatness. Perspectivized. (Yes, a word of my own concoction, but a word that fits.)

Rest, relaxation, rejuvenation... surrounded with Vitamin N, forest bathing, and blue mind... and just plain not long enough!!



Pictures from my camera, compiled in the Pic Edu App.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Sailing the Seas of Citizen Science

In the 3rd and final part of my series following some of the 2019-2020 Severn School Van Eney Fellows Projects, activism and advocacy continue as senior (now graduate) Baillie McNitt merged her love marine biology, citizen science, and global health initiatives to to a deep dive into microplastics. Her project involved constructing a Low-impact Aquatic Debris Instrument, or LADI trawl, which came to be known as True the Trawl. Additionally, she created a YouTube channel to curate & document her beach clean up and more.

Using her LADI trawl, she also analyzed and classified her microplastics findings into 5 groups to determine the original source of plastics: fragments, fibers, foams, nurdles, and microbeads. By having this level of research, Baillie was better able to make the connection to the item--which ultimately helps keep marine debris out of our waterways. From there, she created a set of guidelines to help people reduce their use of plastic.

Here is Baillie's 6 minute "TED Talk" style explanation of her project.
Van Eney '09 Fellows: Bailey McNitt '20 from Severn School on Vimeo.


To learn more about Baillie's design process and project, check out her Fellows website. Of particular interest, check out her video page on her website. My personal favorite: "Seven Household Products that Contribute to Micropollution."

Going forward, even though there will be college life after Severn, you can't take the environmentalist out of Baillie. She has plans to share some information from of her Fellows project with Severn's Surfrider Instagram page to promote reducing marine debris.

As you go forward, think about the big and little things you can do in your house to minimize your plastic use. If you don't use it, it certainly won't wind up in our waterways!

Video from https://youtu.be/L4L7fU806ww, Compilation image created at Canva.com using pictures from Baillie's website: https://severnfellows20bmcnitt.weebly.com and micro plastic image from https://severnfellows20bmcnitt.weebly.com/bullet-journal

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Student Advocacy: Zero-Waste Lifestyle

In Part 2 of my series following some of the 2019-2020 Severn School Van Eney Fellows Projects, activism moves away from a documentary on activism and takes a look at living a zero/low-waste lifestyle. Environmentally-minded high school seniors (now graduates) Maddi Meyer & Solana Page did a deep dive into what taking on a zero-waste lifestyle would look like, living that life for the better part of a year.

Secondarily, they turned their own personal activism into advocacy by creating a guide for other folks to follow in their footsteps. Their pursuits had them in search of environmentally-friendly shops that promote zero-waste that use reusable containers and locally-sourced items. They looked at more natural products to replace common items such as dryer sheets or toiletries. Some of their finds included reusable snack bags, wool dryer balls, cellulose sponges, and bamboo scrub brushes. They visited the landfill to see where our waste ultimately lands.

Their guidebook plan shifted from a coffee table-style book (with plans to have it printed on recycled paper and with soy ink) to an eBook when the coronavirus quarantine shut down their publishing plan. That eBook guide can be found on their Fellows website, with distinct ways to reduce waste in your bathroom & kitchen, and at the grocery store, restaurant, beach, and with your school supplies.

Here is a brief 6 minute TED Talk style video explanation of their process and product.

Van Eney '09 Fellows: Maddi Meyer' 20 and Solana Page '20 from Severn School on Vimeo.

May their dedication on this project serve as inspiration for you to think through what you are using (and perhaps ultimately wasting) at home.

As Maddi said in their video: "Small changes can have big impacts."


Video from https://vimeo.com/422529761, image created at Canva.com using pictures from Maddi & Solana's website: https://severnfellows20meyerpage.weebly.com

Saturday, July 11, 2020

From Adolescence to Advocacy: The Documentary

We have all seen a major shift in educational thinking this spring as schools flipped on a dime to remote learning due to the global pandemic. It has caused major conversations in educational circles about best ways to provide engaging education.

I recently read Prepared: What Kids Need For a Fulfilled Life by Diane Tavenner, cofounder of the innovative Summit Public Schools network of 15 middle and high schools in California and Washington state. Some of the principles of Summit are far different than many schools out there (including mine), but I found a striking similarity that aligns with my school, especially in the area of student-directed pursuits of passion projects.

Last summer, when I shared the student-created documentary "STEMinism," I described the Severn School Van Eney Fellows Program that our school has sponsored annually since 2009. High School Seniors are invited to present a project proposal of which they are passionate about, in hopes of being selected to take on this individual, in-depth, year-long project. The Fellows Program has inspired over a decade's worth of students to do a deeper dive on a personal pursuit. Much like Google's 20% Time or the educational trend of Genius Hour, the purpose is to "expand intellectual curiosity." Of the 11 projects developed this year, the focus of this post and my next two will be on 3 of these student-created Fellows Projects.

"From Adolescence to Advocacy" is the one hour documentary from Mackenzie Boughey. During her high school career, Mackenzie became deeply empowered, impassioned, and enraged by the number of mass shootings striking our nation--particularly in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. As a result, in 2018 she founded March for Our Lives: Annapolis, MD. Through her work raising awareness for common-sense gun legislation via town hall meetings and community marches, she got a first-and, inside look at activism. This led to her desire to learn more. Her documentary showcases both thoughts from student activists and governmental officials (from the 1960s to present) by way of interviews. Social movements she includes are Civil Rights/racial relations, anti-Vietnam War sentiment, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental protections, and common-sense gun reform.

Here is a brief 6 minute TED Talk style video explanation of her documentary.

Van Eney '09 Fellows: Mackenzie Boughey '20 from Severn School on Vimeo.

To view the "From Adolescence to Advocacy" documentary in its entirety, watch it here or go here for an online screening and question & answer panel on July 15th at 7pm, hosted by the Arundel Patriot. You can learn more about this screening via Arundel Patriot's Facebook Event.

Additionally, you can learn more about Mackenzie's process from her Fellows website.

In looking at all the conversation and controversy of racial relations currently in American, Mackenzie certainly had her finger on the pulse of activism given the number of racial protests we have seen this spring. May Mackenzie and her documentary inspire you to stand up for what you believe in... and may it inspire you to vote!


Images from: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07M9HGLB3/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0, "Adolescence to Advocacy" image created on canva.com using images from Mackenzie Boughey's website:
https://severnfellows20mboughey.weebly.com/uploads/9/8/6/3/98638398/image-1_orig.jpg, and https://severnfellows20mboughey.weebly.com/journal; and https://www.facebook.com/events/1190416971305528/, Video from https://vimeo.com/422517475

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

MAEOE's Cavalcade of Collected Resources

I love collective nouns. Those unique words that describe a bunch of something.
An atlas of maps.
A cache of jewels.
A quiver of arrows.
A blush of robins.
A charm of hummingbirds.
A wonder of stars.
A kaleidoscope of butterflies.


When it comes to a knowledge base, I like to think of it a a "cavalcade of collected resources." If you are looking for a wealth of nature-based info, Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education [MAEOE] is the place to go. Given their dedication to environmental education & green schools, it's no surprise!

This summer, they are creating weekly newsletters entitled: "Engaging With Nature: Weekly Ideas for Parents & Caregivers Newsletter." Here they have a collection of outdoor, nature-centric ideas to connect you with nature in a variety of no tech, low tech, and high tech activities, camps for kids, and adult inspiration. At this writing they have Summer Edition 1 (June 19) & Edition 2 (June 26).

In addition to their Resource Library, they have another page of a multitude of resources dedicated to providing parents & educators loads of links. Their Home-Based Environmental Education Resources (Teachers, Parents and Guardians) page has links to resources on all of these:
  • 50th Anniversary of Earth Day resources
  • Bay Backpack Resouces
  • National Wildlife Federation Resources
  • Project Learning Tree 
  • Green Center Partners
  • Virtual Field Trips & Tours
  • Spanish Reosurces
  • Climate Education Tools
  • Community Science Tools
  • MAEOE Video lunches
  • Professional Development & Webinars
  • Activities
  • Videos 
    • Wednesday Lunch and Shares--A google drive folder filled with all of their weekly lunch recorded events since April 1st
      • April 1, 2020: Taking a Purposeful Pause
      • April 8, 2020: Share ideas for connecting families with nature nearby or inside
      • April 15, 2020: Climate Change and COVID-19
      • April 22, 2020: Earth Day and Citizen Science
      • April 29, 2020: Climate Education and Art Online
      • May 6, 2020: Online Portals and Virtual Learning
      • May 13, 2020: Engaging With Volunteers During COVID-19
      • May 20, 2020: What's the Buzz: All About Native Bees
      • May 27, 2020: Conservation and Agriculture
      • June 3, 2020: Environmental Forums and Virtual Green Team Meetings
      • June 10, 2020: Virtual Encounters with Live Animals
      • June 17, 2020: Agricultural and Virtual Education Resources
    • Environmental Educators Collaboration Meetings:
      • March 30, 2020: Working Collaboratively Together
      • April 14, 2020: Equity and Inclusion
      • April 27, 2020: Place-Based Learning
      • May 11, 2020: Aligning Virtual Resources to Standards
      • May 26, 2020: Engaging in Nature this Summer & Communication Strategies
      • June 8, 2020: Continuation of May 26, 2020 Meeting (Engaging in Nature this Summer & Communication Strategies)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

4th of July Flags

When it comes to the 4th of July, in America, one of the first things that comes to mind is the flag. It is the symbol of our nation and an icon for what we stand for.

I typically see the 4th of July as the halfway point of the year. Our nation's birthday happens near the start of the 7th month and the 2nd half of the year. And what a year 2020 has been.

Thinking back on the first half of this year, I'm struck that there are other flags of honor to celebrate this country that I love and care about. Flags that take our defining American ideals and values of freedom, liberty, equality, democracy, unity, & diversity. These are what stand at the base of who we are. In this time when we've seen so much loss due to the coronavirus, it's certainly a time to take hold of what is important.

As you celebrate Independence Day, think about the flags that come to your mind. Here are some of mine. I envision them waving proudly in the air, alongside our American flag, giving us all strength, courage, hope, gratitude, perseverance, faith, resilience, and community. Happy 4th of July!



Images created at www.canva.com from their photos and also these sites: https://www.flagamerican.com/earthdayflag.aspx, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gay_Pride_Flag.svghttps://www.amazon.com/Matter-Bandera-Detener-violencia-Banderas/dp/B06WWHPK7N/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=%22black+lives+matter%22+flag&qid=1593273252&sr=8-4, https://www.flags.com/healthcare-heroes-flag/, https://www.noveltiescompany.com/products/coexist-flag-5530

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Maryland Green Schools

I've written about our Maryland Green School recertification process a time or two. Given the process parameters of what you need to do, it's certainly a daunting task. It was one I spent hours upon hours on, and that was with a committee of folks working alongside of me to help gather our 4 years of data, checking boxes as we went.

But in the category of "great success comes from the feeling of accomplishment from hard work," it was a significant triumph indeed when we were awarded our recertification designation  on June 3rd.

This video from Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education was a nice tribute to our school and the many others that did the hard work.



Video from https://youtu.be/C3TcLnUedJE

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Face Masks for a Cause

Once you start looking up some product, it's amazing how your Facebook feed starts giving you all sorts advertisements of items in that category. With the coronavirus still lurking out there and masks & hand washing coming up as definite deterrents, building my "cute face mask collection" has been one of my recent quests. And, with the potential of a vaccine still being a ways away, face masks are going to be with us for awhile.

Given all of that, it's obvious that more and more places are finding their footing in the face mask market. Here are a few companies I've been particularly impressed with as they are not only making masks, but they are doing it for a cause.

These two I have happened upon given my own personal exploration and recommendations from friends:

Cotopaxi: Named after an active "stratovolcano" in the Andes in Ecuador, Cotopaxi's founder Davis Smith wanted to pay tribute to the poverty he saw while growing up in Latin America. Every Cotopaxi purchase gives 1% to support poverty and community development. They also have a grant program where they promote multiple organization to help improve living communities as well expecting ethical work environments from their suppliers. Their company creed: "Do Good." The have a significant environmental philosophy and use recycled items when possible--and scrap fabric is the basis of their mask making efforts. Also, when you buy in bulk, they give the same amount of face masks to those in. need.

Mango & Main: An Annapolis-based store (though the e-commerce came first), Mango & Main is part of the Fair Trade Federation and supports "artisan entrepreneurs" from 23 countries across the globe. Their business values center around making a positive impact, creating opportunities, promoting fair wages & safe working conditions, respecting cultural identity, cultivating environmental stewardship, and ensuring the rights of women & children. Given it's Maryland store, I literally can shop locally and globally simultaneously.

But wait, there's more: These 48 others clearly show me that it's a very good business model that a lot of companies are adopting!  Check out: Who What Wear's "48 Face Masks to Buy From Brands That Are Giving Back"


Logos from https://entrepreneurship.wharton.upenn.edu/blog/launch-pad-davis-smith-g11wg11-founder-cotopaxi/ and https://www.facebook.com/mangoandmain/; Mask images from https://mangoandmain.com/collections/accessories/face-mask and https://www.cotopaxi.com/pages/teca-cotton-face-mask.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Summertime & Remote Learning Reflections

It's officially summer, and boy oh boy does it feel good. For teachers, 'tis the season for decompression and reflection.

One of my favorite days is that last day of post-planning meetings, when it all wraps up (with or without the nice tidy bow), and we walk out to summer, with the glory of all that is ahead. [For us, that was now almost 2 weeks ago, but due to time-specific GTG postings (like Father's Day & Summer Solstice), this post got bumped a little later in the line up.] Part of the walking out into summer business on that last day is the soundtrack playing in my brain all day long: Alice Cooper's "School's Out for Summer!"🎼🎸I can't write it without singing it. And yes, some air guitar usually also happens day at random points, delighting my kids, no doubt!😎

But this year it's different and definitely weird after having done remote learning for 3 very long months. I'm already home & I've been at home, so that part isn't all that different. But ahead, we now have 3 (probably too-quick) months of summer. How will summer this year be really truly different from the home time we've had, especially since Covid hasn't truly gone away? Yes, our state curve is looking better, and things are opening up, but it's still a weirdly "safer at home" time period, and it still feels odd to me to be out in the world even with masks, soap, sanitizer, and all. 

I guess the true nature of how it will be different now that it's summer is yet to be seen, though I definitely am looking forward to many zoom-free, carefree days ahead!!!!!

That all piggy backs on the reflection piece we were asked to write for our school's virtual time capsule. Our very own primary documents in a historic time period of unprecedented quarantine and remote learning. After rereading what I wrote, it really serves not only as my story, but a tribute to all of the hard-working teachers who had to turn on a dime from in-school teaching to remote learning. Some, over the course of a weekend! Although all our stories and situations and remote learning settings were different due to platforms, school wide device availability, community internet capability, synchronous versus asynchronous teaching, and more, teachers have shown such an ability to do what they can for the best of their students. That is what teachers do.

Here is my remote learning reflection:

There's the dichotomy of both the good and the bad to the coronavirus quarantine hitting right at the cusp of our Spring Break. Foreseeing the potential need to go into remote learning, a team of people on campus spent first 2 weeks in March furiously making a game plan. Being in Lower School Tech, I was pulled into all school planning meetings with IT, Division Heads, and the School Head, along with Lower School specific meetings as well. We scurried furiously to make a systemic plan using Seesaw as our main mode of student/parent communication since our younger students have far less learning management pieces in place than our Middle and Upper School students do. Luckily, we had all 8 grade levels PS-5th using Seesaw as a digital portfolio to share in-school student work with parents, with 100% family participation.) We managed to get some in-house Lower School training on both our plan and on Zoom right under the wire of Governor Hogan declaration to shut down school right before our Spring Break. That was certainly the "good" part--that and the fact that the sheltering in place would coincide with our Spring Break. 

However, a 2 week Spring Break also gets zapped when you are still working out all of the details, especially if you are in Technology. My 2nd week was a very full and busy work week! [And yes, there's a lot of gratitude in being at a school that has the rare benefit of a 2 week spring break to begin with!!]

Before we knew it, we were "back to school" (yet of course, still at home) after break. Monday and Tuesday were days of giving and receiving last minute tech training. We were jumping in with both feet on Wednesday, April 1st. (The irony was quite apparent!)

Life as a member of the Tech Help email group can only be described as "maniacal" during the first 2 weeks of our Remote Learning term. Teacher, parent, and Middle & Upper School student emails were coming in fast and furious to Tech Help. Additionally, there were texts from teachers and phone calls to my phone. Our Lower School students and parents trying to send their urgent comments via Seesaw's teacher posts. (Everyone soon learned that was indeed the slowest way to get tech help, as it was not a constantly monitored forum.) Sometimes in those first days of set up and trouble shooting, I would be in the middle of problem solving one situation, and about 6-10 new emails and a teacher text or two would pop over by the time I finished writing just one tech support email. This was the same for every member on that tech team. Those days were long, computer-filled days during those first two weeks. Luckily after everyone got into the groove of the "new normal," tech troubles died down. Phsew! There is no way that pace would not have been sustainable over time!

Remote Learning settled into a daily version of the movie "Groundhog's Day." Lather, rinse, repeat. Zoom, tech help, repeat. I was so thankful that my own children were old enough to be on autopilot. It certainly made our houseful of 4 Zooming-homeworkers workable. My heart goes out to my colleagues who have "little littles." For our elementary students, we had homeroom teachers doing 2 zooms daily with their students, and then the students had 1-3 specials a day as well. Given the time on screens, we did not hold additional Technology classes--everything was Tech these days! But we did give weekly assignments--mostly short keyboarding assignments and maker activities using the design process. Most of those Specials asynchronous assignments shifted to optional over time due to Zoom fatigue being a real thing. Given all of that, my role shifted away from teaching students and was split between tech support and teaching teachers. Helping them with the Zoom tools and a variety of websites, restructuring our report cards to best accommodate this term, or creating online materials for our teachers--things that are certainly not central to our style of PS-5th grade classrooms. Remote Learning was a brand new animal in the elementary school setting--especially for our youngest Preschool and Prekindergarten students.

As I wrap up this writing on our last official day of school for our students, it seems hard to believe this "new normal" is how we spent the last 2.5 months of this school year. I miss seeing my colleagues in the hall and chatting with them at lunch. Yes, we can get together by Zoom, but it is so not the same thing. Likewise, I am not accustomed to full days of sitting as my role as technology specialist typically has me "zooming" around school in a far different way: on my feet, not my computer camera! Most of all though, I miss my students. Having been more "tech help" than "tech teacher," I only get to occasionally pop in on classes to solve problems, rather than doing what I have been trained to do--teach children. I did not get the end of the year closure with students, nor did I get to see their smiling faces as they bound out the door to summer. I know they have grown so much over these last few months, especially with their tech savviness, but I miss that human connection.

As we enter into summer, we have no idea what the fall holds when it comes to school. Will it be full in session in the classrooms, back to learning and teaching remotely from home, or some hybrid combination? Time will tell. We all have resilience and will do the best with the situation, but it certainly makes you appreciate things in a new way. As teachers, we have grown in our flexibility, our creativity, and our ability to learn to teach in new ways. As a result, we are stronger and better off for it... but we are tired! Summer will feel so good in order to have time to step away, decompress, reflect, and then rebound.



Sunday, June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day


Mother Nature certainly is a fan of these famous fathers in nature--
animal species who have doting dads that take part in the rearing of their young.

To see some fabulous furred, feathered, or other animal fathers, check out these links to get a nature-centric, animal kingdom tribute to dads:
Which all reminds me of one of my favorite books: Mr. Seahorse by Eric Carle.

Happy Father's Day weekend to all you dynamic dads out there who do so much for your family!

Do something joyous together as a family.

Even better if it's outside!!


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Stonehenge & Summer Solstice 2020


Symbolically fitting, June 20, 2020 marks this year's Summer Solstice, the "longest day" of the year (in that it is the day of the most hours of sunlight). It also is the official seasonal start to summer, despite the warming temperatures many people find in May and early June.

Traditionally summer solstice has many ties with Stonehenge in England, due to its layout and how it has been found to align with the sunrise on both summer and winter solstice. Dating back to it's start 5000 years ago and it's completion in 2500 BC, Stonehenge has been known as a mystically sacred and spiritual place. Its history has ties to the Druids, Celtic beliefs, and Danish kings, and it serves as transcendental spot for both New Age and earth-centric religions as well. Annual events are common for summer solstice, where people flock to experience the twice annual event of the sun aligning through the rocks, and which reverse their position for winter solstice.

With the restrictions on gathering places, this year the English Heritage organization (the managing entity of Stonehenge) is not opening for the sunrise celebration and is asking people to not visit. But fear not, as a grander opportunity for all of us awaits, making it not necessary to travel to this historic location. Instead, the sunrise will be live streamed on English Heritage's Facebook page and their other social media accounts the morning of June 20th, making it possible for anyone world wide to witness this experience. Mark your calendar!



To learn more, check out these sites:

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Why We Need Environmental Education

It seems forever ago, but this past February I shared some in-house professional development with a group of colleagues at school. The first 5-10 minutes of my presentation (entitled "Infusing Environmental Education Into the Classroom" detailed some statistics and the health benefits of nature, and is here below. The remainder of the hour was spent detailing a multitude of classroom activities.

Given the numbers, percentages, what nature lowers, and what it improves, it's a strong statement of how important it is to get ourselves outside a lot more often. What are you going to do outdoors today?


(Much of the research I included here came from sessions I attended early February at Maryland's Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education's annual conference.)

Link to my presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1lcRig9zhnVdyXcCcRiVwzKAl5VeiqnAUsk-ulXuH6RE/edit?usp=sharing

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Cleo Wade's TED Talk "Want To Change The World, Start By Being Brave Enough To Care

As a follow-up to my "Rooting for Each Other" post, here is Cleo Wade's TED Talk "Want To Change The World, Start By Being Brave Enough To Care." In it, she voices the long held idea that big change comes from small actions. We are all activists--whether through refusing the plastic bags or straws, or standing up for a friend, or closing down a racial joke. We do it in the daily choices we make, the way we parent our children, every time we vote, and all the times we choose to take a stand.

Today's a good day to make an impact on our world: "Be good to as many people as possible."



Video from https://youtu.be/yg8SBuTuoKk

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Sunday Drive

Last week I went for a Sunday drive. Well, actually, it was a solo bike ride on a beautiful day.

But much like that old image of the Sunday drive to nowhere that I remember my granddad or mom telling me about, it had the same feel. Actually, it also is reminiscent of some of my solo ventures in my Mom's car after getting my driver's license. Just being out in the world, with no where to go, just seeing the sights. Time was a non-entity!

As I was meandering down neighborhoods I'd not ever been to on my 11 mile bike ride, I was reminded of simpler days. Days of my childhood. A time before bike helmets, when the wind whipped through my hair. When I had free reign to bike all over the place to go to my friends' houses. I can see in my mind's eye the stack of bikes that landed in my friends' yards as we ran all around the neighborhoods, jaunting down secret sidewalks, prancing in the sprinkler, or going inside for popsicles and air-conditioning. A time when we were all "unplugged."

It has an overwhelming body-feeling of both summertime and "freedom."

Sadly my kids don't have that kind of neighborhood to freely ride about in. We're a small 2 street neighborhood that backs into some crowded roads. As they're older, they can navigate this better, or we just throw the bikes in the truck and go to a park with trails and that satisfies the biking bill well. But the freedom isn't the same.

But, I guess the times aren't the same either. Which is both good and bad... and definitely worth pondering on a bike ride.

Speaking of which, the wind is blowing through my hair as I write this outside on a gorgeous day. I think I hear my bike calling me. I think that means it's time to close my computer and head for a Sunday drive, here on a Saturday!


Images from https://www.caranddriver.com/features/columns/a31817529/with-no-particular-place-to-go/ and Kennedy quote created at Canva.com

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Rooting For Each Other

2020 has been a year.

As everyone is still reeling from the quarantines and shelter in place from Covid-19, and navigating the reopening of the country and the "safer at home" rulings, our nation is swept with visuals of George Floyd's murder. This happening on video and at the hands of law enforcement officers has sent people into a tail spin. As I'm writing this (on Sunday, May 31st), riots are happening in a number of cities, and social media is blowing up.

The nature and purpose of GTG is not to get political. However, over the past decade of writing it, I've been struck that seemingly apolitical, non-partisan concepts (like environmentalism) have indeed become political issues. Yet, it was upon my social media scroll that I found two things that have struck me that I feel compelled to share.

One was my daily read of political historian Heather Cox Richardson, who makes it her job to look at the political news of the day through a historical lens. One thing she said was that while the riots are occurring, we only have a window into the events. We don't actually know who is rioting nor what their agenda is in many of these cities. The riots might stem from angered African American citizens who feel their voices have not been heard any other way. It could be extremist groups (from either the radical left ANTIFA or the radical right white supremacists) going in to make their point or counterpoint. It even could be opportunists taking advantage of the mayhem. In some areas, journalists are even being attacked by local authority. It certainly could be a combination of any and all of the above. We do not yet have the full picture or the full perspective--a vital point. But it shows the context certainly changes given the perspective. Time will indeed tell.

The other thing I happened on was this photo in a post from Hands Free Revolution's Facebook page. It is what served as the ultimate inspiration for this post. I think it also speaks to those of us who both believe in God or the overarching spiritualness of nature/Mother Earth.

This is where my heart is in this situation, and leads me to want to delve into learning more about Cleo Wade and her writing. You can find more of her inspiration on her websiteher Instagram, or her books "Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life" or "Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World."

If we have learned nothing in this quarantine, it should be that we are here for each other, and we are better with each other. We all need to be rooting for each other, supporting each other, and standing up for each other. In doing so we have a healthier garden, community, nation, world, and planet. Perhaps too, a more just world.

May we all do something today, to support each other--on either the small or the large scale.


Photos from https://www.aqua.org/Connect/Oceans-A-to-Z/m-mangrove and https://www.facebook.com/TheHandsFreeRevolution/photos/a.149731118410856/3213028792081058/?type=3&theater

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Benefits of Gardening

I am not a gardener, tho I am married to one and my dad had a massively green thumb and certification as a Master Gardener. But I do like the benefits of having always lived with a gardener.

I ran across this and found it a lovely follow up to my earlier "Nature = Necessity Not Amenity" post. If you aren't a gardener, maybe this will inspire you to pick up a trowel and plant something...or at least take advantage of a beautiful garden near you.


Photo from https://www.facebook.com/customconceptlandscapes/photos/a.703164543434240/969322516818440/?type=3&theater

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Virtual Field Day

Typically around this time of year we always have Field Day at school. It's always a perennial favorite in elementary schools. It's a grand opportunity to take advantage of a beautiful day, leaving the books, paper & pencils indoors.

This year, with most schools diving into some degree of remote learning, it's one of those annual traditions that just can't happen in the same way.

But, necessity is the mother of invention, and in the world where so much is going virtual, who is to say that Field Day can't either. I ran across this great resource that allows for you to have your very own Virtual Field Day! May it inspire you to get outside and move and groove!


Field Day logo from https://clipartlook.com/look/1787-field-day-clipart.htmlScreenshot from https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1b_5dunjX5JZvBvKCHUA3gM_UOtyxRxhdlA-v_-9ZqGI/mobilepresent?slide=id.g7181f696e8_0_0

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Nature = Necessity Not Amenity

In reading a Business Insider article by Anna Mederis Miller entitled "Stop Shaming People Going Outside," I ran across the quote from University of Chicago physchologist Marc Berman: "Our research has found that nature is not an amenity — it's a necessity." It inspired me to make this graphic:

It speaks to the heart of "Green Team Gazette." There are numerous studies about the physical and mental benefits to children and adults alike about the reasons to be outside.

In this techie world, where "zoom fatigue" is certainly a thing this season. It requires more focus to read non-verbal cues, expression, voice tone, body language, and more. All of that require energy. For those of us who are not extroverts or fans of "selfie nation," there's also the added piece of seeing ourselves midst meeting. It's all an exhaustive zap on our energy, and the conversation (especially with larger numbers on a zoom call) feels stilted and unnatural.

We need to be out and about (while maintaining safe physical distancing due to maintaining good health in the pandemic) to help neutralize the negative effects of the home isolation and the tech saturation.

Another quote that struck me in the Business Insider article:
"The general principle should be: Outside is better than inside; open is better than closed; fewer is better than more people; and stay away from sick people," from Dr. Erich Anderer, a neurosurgeon and founding member of the North Brooklyn Runners.
So hopefully on the day you read this, you have a good outside-kind-of-day, and you can mark some time to spend outside. Kids aren't the only one who benefit from being outside! Happy Memorial Day weekend! Be safe out there and remember whatever your plans, be conscious of others by following your local safety and health guidelines, wearing a mask when needed as well as maintaining physical distance to keep help eliminate the spreading of this wickedly contagious coronavirus!

The Benefits of Outdoor Free Play - Bring Back Children’s Play
Source: Fix.com Blog





Poster from https://www.fix.com/blog/get-children-playing-outside/; Zoom Fatigue image from https://www.facebook.com/neurochildHQ/photos/a.284534758671308/961862110938566/?type=3&theater; Nature = Necessity not Amenity graphic created at Canva.com; Health Benefits & Suggested Dosage infographic frohttps://livelovefruit.com/health-benefits-of-spending-time-in-nature/

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Backyard Birding with Merlin

I've mentioned before that sitting outside here in the warming season and gazing about while typing is a favorite past time of mine. Along with the visual glories, there also comes a symphony of sounds--those human-made ones from the neighborhood and the busy street not far away, and also a bounty of birdcalls come sounding down on me from our tree-lined back yard. The bird feeder that my husband and son religiously refill also makes us a local hot-spot with our feathered friends.

On a beautiful day, I'd rather be outside than in front of our television and its full DVR or faced with the endless possibilities of Amazon Prime and Netflix. Now, with more of us at home than before, seems like I might not be the only one based on this Dan Friedell article I ran across: "Tired of Netflix? Birds Provide a Show Right Outside Your Quarantine Window"

As he details, this is the season for returning birds, he also mentioned that (of course) "there's an app for that." And who better to be from than Cornell's Lab of Ornithology. The app, Merlin, is your helpful, handy, pocket birding coach created for beginner and intermediate birders. Not only can you list descriptors to help you identify your newest flying friend, but there's also a photo ID feature built in. Additionally, you can download bird packs for your geographical region. Given they have content for over 6,200 bird types, narrowing down your local finds is a must. Once you start going through the descriptors, you can also click a speaker on the app for each bird for further identification by way its birdsong & bird call. I think my feathered-fellows this morning were a type of sparrow--House, Song, or maybe Chipping. It was quick, and still being a newbie, it was one of my first go arounds!

Merlin is a powerful resource right in your phone. Ultimately, it may serve as a good gateway to unplugging!!

Speaking of which....I have a cardinal hopping on my fence...gotta go and be a bird watcher!

Photo from my phone, and Merlin logo from https://apps.apple.com/us/app/merlin-bird-id-by-cornell/id773457673


Saturday, May 16, 2020

60 Seconds with Jane Goodall

I started thinking about numbers, especially in relation to time:

60 seconds make a minute.
60 minutes make an hour.
24 hours make a day.
7 days make a week.
52 weeks make a year.
1 person makes a difference.
1000 people make infinite differences.

I think my numerical inspiration came from the episode of 60 Second Science Podcast with Scientific American's Steve Mirsky where he talks with Jane Goodall. Jane Goodall always seems to be my touchstone of environmentalism. In part, because she was a visitor to my long ago when I was teaching at Maryland Green School Gibson Island Country School/Eagle Cove... and partly because she exudes such grace, hope, optimism, and patience. She's been working on behalf of the environment and conservation for a long time... yet she never gives up the good fight.

In the podcast episode "Jane Goodall: We Can Learn from This Pandemic," her calm voice of wisdom continues to be the same direct and patient voice is always is. I was contemplating her thoughts on how she hopes we might change as a result of the pandemic. Her words about how we need to rethink and reconsider materialism and consumerism versus minimalism and living lighter on the land certainly struck a chord with me.  Imagine that world where true balance was achieved--economically, environmentally, inspirationally, spiritually, medically, politically, and more. Sounds rather healthy to me.

After weeks have now turned to months of sheltering in place and living more simply in order to maintain our health--all due to a virus that has run out of control and tackled our planet, maybe, just maybe, it is indeed time to reconsider, recalibrate, and readjust for the health and well-being of us all.


Quote Image from https://www.ecowatch.com/jane-goodall-quotes-2361011467.html

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Virtual Classrooms

ClientmojiOn several educator boards I follow on Facebook, Bitmoji Virtual Classrooms have been filling my feed. They've become a delightful way to bring a little fun & flair into remote learning.

Being a Bitmoji fan, I decided maybe it was time to check it out, and add some of this flavor to my Technology classes by creating a few of these interactive boards.

Despite the fact that there's no one "app for that," there is luckily a great Wakelet board for it, created by Lindsay Toub. I've seen her "Create A Virtual Classroom" Wakelet board referenced on several sites, so if she's not a viral internet sensation yet, she soon will be. The resources on her board walk you through every step of combining the Bitmoji app with Google Slides or PowerPoint to create your own. Add a lot of your own personal touches plus resources for the lesson or activity you want, and you can do a lot to create a fun clickable for your class.

Here are screenshots of two I created for upcoming lessons:


Mini me Bitmoji and virtual classroom boards created using "wall and floor backgrounds" web search in Google Slides and Bitmoji.