Saturday, December 7, 2019

Our Climate Our Future

"Our Climate Our Future" is one of the projects from Alliance for Climate Education [ACE]. After a decade of climate education for our youth, while also creating young activists, ACE proudly has enlightened and educated over 3 million students.

"Our Climate Our Future" is a video series that totals 40 minutes of climate education. It's a combination of teen narrators, animation, and a lot of facts. Here's the trailer.

The 40 minutes are well worth it and you walk away learning a lot. It leaves you empowered. Imagine if our middle and upper school students world wide all watched this and decide to take this on? To watch the video in its entirety (either as an educator, and educated citizen, or as future activists), all you need to do is get on their email list. You can either watch it in total, or by chapter. Chapters include:

  1. Welcome
  2. Living Large
  3. Fossil Fuels & CO2
  4. CO2 & Climate Change
  5. Real World Impacts
  6. Is It Real
  7. The Big Picture
  8. The Solutions
  9. The Movement
  10. Take Action
  11. It's Up To You
There's an interactive piece where you can use your mobile device to text your responses to questions that are tied into the video.

Also at the website, you'll also find Educator Resources such as a discussion guide and a student worksheet of comprehension and vocabulary activities.  Likewise, the Activities pages has a significant list of other classroom activities. There also is a portal where you can get ideas of ways to take action to be part of the solution.

Also on the website you can find "Climate Stories"--20+ stories of what young people around the US are experiencing and also ways that they are taking action. Their video stories are great ways to open your eyes to other people's experiences as well as the way climate change is affecting people around the country. Additionally, there is a form in which you can potentially share your story here too.

My favorite quotes of the movie: 
"When the people lead, the leaders will follow." 

"Today, over 90% of people under the age of 30 
agree that climate change is a real problem 
and that humans are responsible."

"No one is too young to lead."

Every day actions take us steps forward. Their question: what's your 'DOT?' What's a DOT? It means: "Do One Thing."

So my question: What's your DOT? Maybe it starts with watching this.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Mighty Mississippi River Watershed

According to National Geographic, the Mississippi River is the 4th largest river, behind the Amazon, Nile, & Yangtze Rivers. Notable in and of itself, but when you consider the whole watershed, which reaches from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains and runs through 31 states, it's bigger than you think!

To help you visualize it, Nat Geo's website has an animated map created by NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio which brings all the branches, streams, and tributaries of the Mississippi River to life. You can click the above link to see the map from its original home at National Geographic (where there's more information on its creation), or watch it here.

Five sites to lead you to some more mighty Mississippi fun facts:

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Olympic Sustainability

As the temperatures start dropping, the thought of Summer Olympics sounds like a long time from now.  July 24--August 9, 2020 the pomp and circumstances of Summer Olympics 2020 will be here. Well, not "here," but in Tokyo.

When the Olympics and Paralympics games come, along with it will come a major statement of sustainability. The medals for 2020 will be made 100% recyclable material. More than 90% of Japan's local authorities have been involved in collecting recycled and discarded devices. The numbers are staggering what they collected:
  • 78,985 tons of recycled devices were collected.
    • Roughly 6.21 million mobile phones 
    • Additional devices include: digital cameras, laptops, and handheld games
  • During their 2-year collection, they reached their final goals by March 2019 close:
    • 32 kg of gold
    • 3,500 kg of silver
    • 2,200 kg of bronze
  • About 5,000 medals are expected to be distributed between the Olympics and Paralympics games.
In the past, the Rio 2016 Olympic games had about 30% of the silver/bronze medals came from recycled materials. But clearly a goal of 100% just a mere 4 years later is a greater goal in a lot of ways. Additionally this push and collection drive strengthens the theme of sustainability, resourcefulness, and innovation of the 2020 games.

Project organizers hope the nationwide electronics drive will help establish a theme of resourcefulness for the Tokyo games.

It's upcycling at its finest!

There are lots of places to learn more:

Image from; video from

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

God love the advent of YouTube--it's a way have your own personal "Back to the Future" experience!

One of my personal Thanksgiving season traditions requires a visit to YouTube. It's clearly a common Google search as it pops right up even before you finish typing "WKRP Thanksgiving Turkey Drop."

Disclaimer: It's not an environmentally-friendly clip as it has a bit of the dark and macabre humor to it, but it's a classic throwback to 1978 and my childhood, and makes me laugh like crazy every time, every year.

Additionally, it takes me back to simpler times. Not just because it was before I was an adult (and everything seemed simpler when you were a kid), but also because it WAS back before the time of YouTube, cell phones, social media, hashtags, Pinterest-perfect photo ops, iPads, 24-7 news cycles, and constant connection.

It reminds me of this article I recently read on Grown & Flown's website: "Seven Reasons Why Thanksgiving Was Just Better in the ’80s" It takes me back to a time where I was at the kids' table at one or the other of my grandparents' houses (or even at my own house on holidays). There, seated 'round the table, were loved ones--many of whom have since-passed. It was a family-focused day where the TV was off and community was key.

Do I want to go back to those days? Only sort of, as I do miss those who are no longer here and the simplicity of those days, but there is certainly a richness in having a family of my own. It all makes you realize that conceptually we need to go back to those days prior to devices and unplug while you can, taking advantage of the gifts and gratitude that's in front of you.

Have a wonderful, heart-filled and blessed Thanksgiving this year.

video from and image from

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tempestry Revisited

Tempestry's Color Palette
The Tempestry Project is not a new concept to me. I wrote about it a little over a year ago and that post gives a great overview of what it is.

For those of you who are curious, here's the short story:
A tempestry is a temperature tapestry that is either knitted or crocheted, using a very specific color palette tied to temperature data from NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration). Each line of the tapestry details either the day in one year or the average yearly temperature in a block of years. The standardization of the colors makes it possible to globally compare the climate data via this visual display.
One of my most meaningful birthday gifts a few weeks ago was from an eco-minded friend of mine who is skilled in the fiber arts. Opening the box delivered in the mail revealed my very own Tempestry!

I still look at it a bit stunned and blown away by all of it--the meaningfulness of the gift, the time it took her to make it (knowing my li'l eco-self would love it), and the data that it reveals. Additionally, as news just came out this week, 2019 is on track to be the Earth's 2nd or 3rd hottest year on record. (According to NOAA's records, 2015 gets the "honor" of being #1.) As I texted my dear friend and Tempestry creator, looks like we'd be adding another row of Garnet...making this gift more timely than ever.

My Tempestry is similar to Ed Hawkins' "Warming Stripes" image below. Both show the Annual Global Temperatures from 1880--2018. In mine above, an up-close look shows the decade tabbed by the side and all 138 years of recorded data. Not only is this Tempestry visually striking, it's eye-opening as it clearly shows the warming of our planet.

Interestingly, the Tempestry Project was born in 2016--the same year that Ed Hawkins created the "Warming Stripes" visualization of Annual Global Temperatures. The Warming Stripes page from Ed Hawkin's Climate Lab Book website has several Warming Stripes pictures. It is fascinating to compare other visual data from a variety of locations.

I will say, I like my fiber arts version of warming stripes the best of all. πŸ˜‰ For those of you who want to do a deep dive in the numbers of the average temperature, the climate data/color chart for my tempestry is available on The Tempestry Project's website❤️πŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’™

Images from: and the collage I made from my own Tempestry gift.  "Warming Strips" image from

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Climatarian Diet

I always love a good infographic. This fun one entitled "The Climatarian Diet" was created by Emiliy Ehlers (also known as "Eco With Em"). You can find her on Instagram (where she has 33K followers and it is her most active platform) as well as Facebook and Twitter . Her Instagram account is chock-filled with more like this!

You can also catch a listen of her on episode 19 of the podcast "Simply Complicated with Katie Dean."

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wands for Wildlife

One of the best ways to keep trash out of the landfill is to reuse. Often times, that's where people hit the
wall given some items just don't seem to have a natural way to reuse them.

Take plastic mascara applicator wands, for instance. However, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina has come up with a great reuse for these with their Wands for Wildlife program.

Twice a year, in October and February, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge accepts mailed-in collections of old mascara wands. The little bristles on the wand are perfect for removing fly eggs and larva from the fur or feathers of orphaned animals or birds that need rehabilitation. All they ask you to do is soak them in soapy water and dry to get off the mascara residue. They had to move it to only a twice-a-year acceptance policy due to their initial flood of donations. That's definitely a good problem to have!

To learn more about how to join the "Wandraiser," check out their website.

Video from, image from

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Plastic Is Not Fantastic--Emily De Sousa's TEDxTalk

"9.1 billion tons of plastic created to date." How heavy is one plastic bag? Hardly anything! Emily De Sousa details what that weight means in visual terms in her TEDxKanata talk from last year.

Other statistical figures she presents:

♳  Half of the 8 million tons of that winds up in our oceans and waterways. 

♳  As for straws... she mentioned that 57,000,000 straws are used daily in Canada. 

♳  She also mentions major numbers regarding how much oceanic plastic we eat annually through seafood.

Emily, as the founder and owner of the sustainable travel blog "Airplanes and Avocados." In addition to sustainable travel, marine conservation issues is one of her topics of choice and she is an avid SCUBA diver. She promotes activism through digital storytelling and education in order to reach many via the masses through social media. She's certainly a #BlueMind advocate...without ever mentioning those words!

Through her TEDx Talk, she voices her love of our planet, lots of those statistics mentioned above (and many more), and the fact that we all need to be doing something for sustainability. There are so many simple things we can all do.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Winding Your Way Up Above The Trees

Trees have been a frequent theme this fall here at GTG. Along with images of Richard Powers' book The Overstory continuing to filter through my head, I've been:
Given all that, it's not a surprise that Denmark's Camp Adventure Forest Tower struck a chord with me.

Nestled about an hour's drive from Copenhagen, Camp Adventure boasts Northern Europe's longest zipline (at over 1,500 feet) as well as 10 ropes courses and an indoor climbing wall. While many of the ziplines careen through the trees, the Forest Tower takes you above them. The innovative structure created by EFFEKT Architects was purposefully created to provide an opportunity to soak in the surrounding nature while maintaining respect for the surrounding trees. The combination of corton steel hidden beneath oak beams provides strength and yet aesthetically coexists with natural beauty. The 650 meter ramp (= 2,100+ feet) takes you up 12 spirals to the top, putting you 45 meters (= 147 feet) above the ground. The views, no doubt, are phenomenal!

Camp Adventure was listed as one of the 100 places worth visiting in Time Magazine's World's 100 Greatest Places of 2019 issue.  Additionally, the Forest Tower received the First Place ICONIC Award 2017 for Visionary Architecture. Definitely makes you want to go!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Rising Water

I've been thinking a lot about climate change lately. It started recently when I ran across the Grist article by Miyo McGinn "When Teaching Kids About Climate Change, Don’t be a Downer." I've seen that in my own home through the years as my kids have lived with their eco-loving mama. My son has asked pretty hard questions that are fraught with concern. I watch what I say because doom & gloom gets you nowhere.

But concern heightened awareness does set in at times. The weekend of October 11-14th my husband and I were in Oxford, Md celebrating our anniversary at the very quaint, historic water-side inn (the Robert Morris Inn) for our anniversary this wkend. It was wonderful with it's small-town charm, and we loved being there and bopping over to St. Michaels by way of the oldest ferry, which was just a walk from the inn. I'd highly recommend it to anyone!

 But, between the waterside placard (see below) for an art installation just across from our inn... and the water flooding the streets (due in part, we’ve been told, to the trifecta of a full moon, high tide, waters rising from Tropical Storm Melissa on its way), my mind has been heavily pondering the rising water. I had walked the ferry dock the night before, and the next day they were submerged by 4-5 inches as in the picture below. (Granted, even the night before, the water was perilously close to coming up between the boards by only an inches or so.) Parking lots were pools, and some streets were completely undrivable.

Facebook revealed that Annapolis too was mired in flooding streets--which used to be seen as a "100 year event" that has been happening every year or so. Ironic that the streets were flooding in Annapolis during a boat show weekend.

Sunday was way better than this
Saturday picture!
The next day, the flood waters in Oxford were down--and even more so the day after. We biked around and saw we were able to travel streets we couldn't the day before, but a restaurant we were planning to visit was still closed due to water in the kitchen. I was somewhat comforted when a shop owner said that this is not a typical high tide experience, but they did have a previous problem in September during the last big storm event. Luckily, the flood waters hadn't been this high since Hurricane Isabel in September of 2003, with a close second with Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012.

The news of Oxford's flooding events being storm-related helped comfort me. But it led to a lot of contemplation about how the rising water of climate change is going to affect a lot of people worldwide--both local to my coastal Maryland and on a bigger global scale.  It didn't help that an article in the Baltimore Sun that same weekend referencing the rising sea levels could force the Naval Academy to relocate. It took me back to Jeff Goodell's book "The Water Will Come." It felt like the foreshadowing of things to come--like the trailer to a movie I don't want to see.

This is the point where I hope a lot of our leaders get their head out of the sand--especially when the sand is getting buried!

Pictures from my camera or screenshot from Google Maps. Collage created using Pic Edu.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Steve Trash! To The Rescue!!

Ahhh... to be known as a "rockin' eco hero," a comedian, and a magician. It might just be the trifecta.

Steve Trash holds this triangular title, and has been in action since 1984 spreading the message of recycling, sustainability, and being an environmental steward.

He's taken his show on the road just about everywhere: North America, Europe, Asia, multiple news channels, PBS, and issue of Weekly Reader, and more. He's got a YouTube channel with well over 250 videos. He has 2 albums and music videos along with his Trash TV series and more. He has a blog he's maintained since 2008.  He even has a bank of solar panels in his front yard. He's all in, and all about ecology, science, STEM-STEAM, and even some videos on character development like manners, bullying, taking responsibility, empathy, being a good friend, digital literacy, and more.

He's everything you'd want an environmental educator to be! Definitely check out the plethora of resources he has on his website and YouTube channel when you are wanting to bring a little zip to your classroom eco unit!

Video from, photo from

Saturday, October 26, 2019


As the recent host of a slumber party with seven 14 year old boys in my house, I know loud. These were perhaps some of the loudest people in America (or so it seemed on that Saturday night). But they were having clean, wholesome fun so how bad can that be.

Just as "loud" has a place in our world, so does "quiet." More often than not, though, quiet is quite the commodity. Background noises such as binge-watched television, show streaming, or catching a half-dozen Youtube videos is what more and more of us are gravitating toward in our free time. Or music--often with headphones (that would be my two teens at home--though back in the day a generation or so ago, it was loud music blasted from the stereo). Even social media these days is more often in video versus visual form with snaps, Insta-stories, or other videos. When my students get overly chatty at school, I discuss how we need to cut back on the "noise pollution," and we have enough pollution as it is!

As mindfulness is on the rise, so too is the move to #SaveQuiet. This is a hashtag started by Quiet Parks International. From their "About" page, looks like I might be onto something with this "noise pollution" thing. Much like animals, "quiet" is becoming an endangered species. With air zones overhead, highways near by, city sounds surrounding, noise is everywhere. A startling statistic from this page: "90% of children will not experience natural quiet during their lifetime." Yikes! That makes my ears hurt just writing this!

Even more startling from their page is the effect of noise on our health. It can lead to "cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep disturbance, annoyance, cognitive impairment, hearing impairment and tinnitus, and reduces quality of life, well being and mental health."

Like I said, sounds an awful lot like mindfulness, where the benefits are equally as high.

So Quiet Parks International is on a mission... a mission to quiet things down. They are working to create "a set of classifications, standards, testing methods, and management guidelines for the certification of the world’s pristine and endangered quiet places. Quiet Parks International has established the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park and developed a list of over 262 potential sites around the globe that should be certified and preserved."

Not only do they certify quiet locations, they also have a list on their websites of the following:
Quiet finds nearby may just be a click away!

Screenshot from; video from, Rumi quote from

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pursuing EcoTourism in the Classroom

I co-lead an twice-a-week elective for 4th and 5th graders called "Funtography." It's a combination of photography and digital design. The photography side (run by my colleague) ultimately feeds the yearbook by building digital photography skills. On my digital design side, we talk about all sorts of graphic design elements (like color, typography, and layout). In both halves, there's a lot of opportunity for student exploration and creativity.

This year, we're going with a "going green" theme, which ties to playing with color, and delving into some environmental pursuits including a green screen project. That green screen project will be for my students to make an eco-tourism commercial.

I began by compiling a Wakelet board. Wakelet is a website that allows you to curate everything you want to share with students (or any other group of people). The best part is that with a QR code, link or an embed code, it's one-stop-shopping to all the resources I need for my students to have for the entire project, with the exception of doing their own research. Here's my Eco-Tourism Wakelet board, which details everything from resources to assignment for their green screen activity. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Videos from and; Wakelet board from,

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Tree Talk

Communicating conifers? Chatting chestnuts? Talking teaks? Expressive elms? Broadcasting birch trees? You bet!

After writing about Richard Powers' The Overstory, this seemed like the natural next step. One of the characters in Powers' book was deep into the science of how trees communicate with each other. In the book, this character was initially scoffed at by others based on her sentiments--which isn't surprising as it does sound rather odd. Yet there is actual science behind this line of thought.

These two videos from BBC and National Geographic do an excellent job of explaining the conceptual phenomenon of talking trees and the "Wood Wide Web."


Given the fact that intra-forest communication comes from the tallest, eldest trees, it definitely speaks (pun intended) of making sure we don't take down the oldest trees among us--even if reforesting plans are in place by planting new, younger trees. This, in turn, conveys the importance of maintaining those threes in order to maintain the resiliency and longevity of the forest.

So up until we can understand their language, we're still going to need the Lorax to speak to us for the trees!

Videos from and; Lorax photo from and tree banner from

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Eco Read: "The Overstory" by Richards Powers

I recently read Richard Powers' Pulizer Prize winning book "The Overstory." The title was poignant for multiple reasons--it's terminology refers to a layer of foliage in the trees--a common thread in how the book was divided into sections all based on tree terminology: Roots, Trunk, Crown, Seeds. But more than that was the over-arching story, the "over story" of how trees were vital to each of the 9 main character. Additionally, the trees themselves were one of its greatest characters in the book.

I will say, my favorite character was in fact a tree--the American Chestnut. I enjoyed learning about both its true history and how that tree's history was woven into the fictional life of one of the main characters. As the characters came together, the initial part of the eco-activism storyline reminded me of my own time last summer in California's redwood forest and of Julia Butterfly Hill. An added piece of connection--I read much of the 500-page tome outside, under the trees of my own backyard.

These two book reviews and Richard Powers' website are great places to learn more.

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Digital Citizenship Week, mid-October, has been an annual "event" for the last several years. This year, it falls October 14-18.

Of course, some argue that in today's day and age, is it "digital citizenship" or just plain "citizenship" as the only difference is the device. As parents and educators, we want to be encouraging our kids to be good people out in the world no matter what--both online and off. And, in a world where sometimes this is lacking, the importance is stronger than ever before.

#DigCitCommit is a partnership between 17 major technology and edtech companies urging all to commit to digital citizenship. Their focus is on 5 major strands that encourage all (students and adults alike) to be inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced, and alert. By focusing on these 5 competencies, we build future leaders:

Check out this treasure trove of resources:
Definitely good for parents and educators alike so we can all become responsible & healthy citizens!

#DigCitCommit Partners 
Video from; #DigCitCommit partners pic screenshot from, THINK image from, & the other image from

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

3 Decades of Time, On Either Side.

The year now is 2019. The month, October. Meaning we are almost at 2020.

30 years ago, when we do that rounding up, it was nearly 1990.
I was in college.
Yes, I'm showing my age.
30 years from now, it's going to be roughly 2050. By then, hopefully, I'll be really old (because it certainly beats the alternative!)

30 years of difference--3 decades--on either side. Two environmental resources I've run across really nailed that piece home. One was Time Magazine's September 12th issue, which was entirely dedicated to Climate Change: "2050: How Earth Survived." The other was The Years Project Video: "Thirsty World" video, prophesizing on where we'll be if we aren't careful. It's not pretty. Population growth is not going to stop or reverse. In fact, the expected population by 2050 is 9.8 billion (compared to our current 7.7 billion). Yikes!

Circling back to Time Magazine, the symmetrical math mirror of 30 years was even more striking because they went back to their issue 30 years prior where they named "Endangered Earth" as "Planet of the Year" (as opposed to "Man of the Year") due to the environmental crisis that was afoot then. 30 YEARS AGO. (Yes, I felt the need to yell a little bit.) 

Begs the question--why are we still here? They mention a 30-year wake up call/reality check. It is from this vantage point that details why they dedicated this entire issue to climate change (only the fifth time in their 96-year history they've dedicated entire issues to one subject.) I like how they are clear that they are convinced in the unquestioning science backing climate change, and no climate skeptics are featured in the issue.

Featured in the issue is their "Voices" section, where they take some of the climate thought leaders who write their thoughts on the subject. There are too many good ones to list, so click here to click through and read them all. If you only have time for a few, my favorites are Jane Goodall's, Al Gore's, and Graça Machel's.

There's also a great multimedia 3D piece entitled "The Dying Rainforest" narrated by Jane Goodall on the perils the Amazon Rainforest is facing. Add in, articles on the following:
Bottom line--there's a lot here!! All of which is excellent reading. Imagine the world if we all read and absorbed this issue!

3 decades of time on either side. It makes you wonder, where will we all be 30 years down the line in 2050. Hope and optimism are two of my governing traits, so I pray it is NOT where The Years Project projected! May we all follow the lead of so many mentioned here, and the young activists like Greta Thunberg who were leading the way this past September!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Creative Uses for Cardboard

As the Technology Specialist who talks a lot about the Design Process at school--both in and out of our Maker Lab, these images from the Bioconstruccion's Facebook page show some amazing and massive cardboard construction projects. Now granted, these are not small projects, but they might serve as creative inspiration for your students!! Check out the pictures below!

What a super way to repurpose--especially with the glut in the recycling industry where cardboard sometimes does get recycled in some communities. Add in, in today's age of a lot of and other delivery boxes that come right to your door, cardboard as a building material is pretty easy to come by! 

For more inspiration, watch this and check out the following links of ideas & watch this video:

photos from; video from

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Climate Optimism

In the wacky world of today, we all need a li'l bit o'love... and a whole lot of optimism. Like love, I think it makes the world go 'round.

This video "140 Seconds of Optimism" from Climate Optimist follows suit with the sentiments I wrote about earlier in the month in my post "Handling the Emotions of a Rough August," plus it ties with the "Climate Change Solutions Quiz."

To learn more about how to be a Climate Optimist, check out there website. While there...
  • The "Good News" stories--things that are happening world wide to help solve climate change and move the needle forward.
  • Read the Climate Optimist Manifesto. (My favorite line: "Because hope beats fear. It’s the attitude that inspires progress.... And when we succeed this time, we’ll solve more than climate change. Renewable energy means jobs. Solar energy can help free people from poverty. Cutting pollution benefits our health.")
  • Learn ways to take action.
  • See Climate Optimist's Proof Point sources.
  • Discover their other resources.
It can become easy to be fatalistic, hopeless, or fear-filled. but why? Optimism is a much more pro-active, energized, and positive way to go. What can you do to begin to make a difference?

Photo screenshot from; Video from

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Digging Into the Design Process

Several articles I've recently read discussed how the design process was often a staple in the high schools, but not always in the elementary schools. That's almost downright silly, as PK-5th grade is the perfect age for making and inventing. The illustration here highlights the design process we use with our elementary students, one we've been using for over 6 years. It's a key part of our MakerLab activities and something I've written about before.

Teaching about the Innovation Mindset, you come to see the importance of problem solving, brainstorming, planning, testing, creating prototypes, retesting, redesigning & iterating, then finally sharing. We discuss the key feature of "failing forward" (and I often refer to "fail" as "First Attempt In Learning.") It governed us as we learned to walk, ride a bike, and do many new things in our lives. We can only get better by trying and retrying something, modifying as we go. As Lily Barnett wrote in Peninsula Press' "Design-Thinking Trickling Into Elementary School Classrooms," it's a key feature in Carol Dweck's growth mindset. It builds confidence through the creation and ability to tackle challenges.

Empathy too is an important part, because it helps with the tie-in of real world problems. By trying to take on the vantage point of another, students can see the importance of trying to solve a problem that serves the needs of others. Empathy is a piece that is significantly missing in today's world. Just check out social media or today's partisan politics!

As Rikke Dam & Teo Siang wrote in Interaction Design Foundation's "Design Thinking: New Innovative Thinking for New Problems," it is through new ways of thinking that problems are solved. We need to be able to think outside the box. As educators, we need to help shape our students to be the next generation of people to bring about better solutions to our global problems. It becomes the merging of both logic and imagination, science and creativity, empathy and analysis. Usually collaboration and critical thinking are also woven in there as well. All the essential skills future employers will want from our current students--even those that are still very young. The power of play in the elementary school environment is not all that different from what innovative companies like Google or Apple are doing to craft a creative workspace.

But as Megan Collins points out in her Edsurge article "Design Thinking Is a Challenge to Teach — and That’s a Good Thing," the design process is not set in stone. It's a framework that works for big and small classroom projects. Reflection after the fact to discuss how the process progressed is also key. Being able to see where you could or would do things differently next time is a valuable skill. This might mean teachers need to shift their own thinking and teaching along the way to also "include growth, reflection and failure. They [too] become designers” of both their curriculum and a classroom of creativity.

So for my teacher friends out there who are designing both lessons and students: here's a list of engineering challenges & resources for grades K-12. I made sure to curate this list with both general engineering challenges and also design challenges with a "green lean!"

Video from, design process diagram from and, Think Outside the Box image from

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

1000 Hours Outside & #BlueMind, 2019 Edition

Last summer I decided to do a little outdoor accounting of the number of hours I spent outside after learning about the blog 1000 Hours Outside. You can read more about that personal challenge here and then read about my results (here). I was delighted to surpass my goal of 200 hours outdoors and get 269 hours...which also was more than the seasonal math (given 100 hours) of 250 hours for the summer.

Well as we all know, summer 2019 has come, the days are starting to cool, and fall is officially here (at least by the calendar date).

Traveling back to the end of May 2019, I was once again inspired to carve a corner of my monthly calendar into a tally section, trying to see if I could do it again. Having read Nature Fix and being reminded of the neurological and emotional effects of nature on people, I was certainly up for it. Additionally, having read Blue Mind, I decided to add an extra layer, counting my #BlueMind Days to see how many days I could be in water (usually my pool) or near water like a stream, fountain, river, lake, or the Chesapeake Bay (which is in our neck of the woods).

My results:
Over the 94 days of summer (which was the 3 summer months plus September 1 & 2 due to it being Labor Day weekend--you can see the separation line in my August calendar), I totaled 326 hours outside and 61 days (2/3 of my summer) with some time in or near major water. I'm rather proud of those numbers and the benefits I gleaned from them.

My takeaways: 
  • I am a girl who craves and thrives when I have bulk time in the outdoors. Reading out there, or writing, basking, sitting, being in the pool, hiking, biking, or more. I had a hard time getting back into the "back to school" routine of being back indoors. (I'm reminded I had that bit of culture shock last year as well.) The first week of school meetings and then starting back with students had me going through a little Vitamin N & solar withdrawal. There just weren't enough hours in the day for me once school started back in session to get in my full daily desire!
  • The pool is my meditation and exercise space. I read in the pool, exercise our crazy canine there, and it's one of my favorite places to watch the wildlife that visit the backyard or the bird feeder.
  • A tropical family vacation in Punta Cana definitely was significant to my July numbers!
  • As much as I like my backyard critters, mosquitoes got in my way! I'm one of those people they love to chow on. Bug spray alone wasn't always enough, and after awhile, around dusk or so, I'd be forced indoors after feeling like I was their "feast de la resistance!" If the world had no mosquitoes, I'd have been outside even more!!
  • "BlueMind days" could have been "my everyday" if I went to stand next to my backyard pool. However, I didn't feel that alone counted. It had to be meaningful water--either me in it, on it, or going out of my way to be near it. It did get tricky when visiting my mom in the Midwest--but I found the lake, a fountain, or a duckpond to help me satisfy my quest. It got doubly tricky when I had a minor dermatology procedure that left me with stitches on my ankle for two weeks right before school started. Stitches should NOT be allowed in the summer time!
  • The difference (both in my ability to notate the numbers AND get outside) does shift dramatically when I'm working versus when I'm not. I kind of hate that. It has made me make sure to approach my evening and weekends more consciously, using the gifts of the beautiful outdoors in every way I can.
  • It's an experiment everyone should embark upon!!
Photos from my phone!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Outdoor Adventures: Punta Cana's Scape Park

 This summer we went to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a family vacation. In addition to it being a fabulous way to spend every day outdoors, we went on a breathtaking excursion that was adventures and memories packed all in one! It was also a great way to get both my Vitamin N & my #BlueMind satisfied, all in one!
Scape Park at Cap Cana is an outdoor playground of ziplines and waterholes (and sometimes the two were combined) in the Dominican Republic rain forest. We had an 8 hour packed day, but we certainly couldn't do everything! Here's a sneak peak at all of their offerings:

Their attractions that we did take advantage of (as there just wasn't time for the beach, horseback riding, and all that we did):

  • Visiting Monkey Island, Parrot Island, and Iguanaland to see all of these amazing creatures
  • Doing 8-10 ziplines along their ecotour--the last of which landed in water! 
  • Trekking the Cultural Route--a rebuilt village of the Tainos Indians with historical boards detailing Christopher Columbus' invasion.
  • Splashing about under a waterfall.
  • Swimming in a crysaline underground cave, a treat all to ourselves.
  • Jumping into Hoya Azul, a ceynote (which is a sink hole that filled with water).
  • Visiting the True Bat Cave: Iguabonita Cave--with helmets on to protect us from the bat droppings!
It was a remarkable way to spend 8 hours outdoors.  Here's a peek at some of our favorite memories of the day.

When it comes to traveling and/or outdoor adventure, do it. Just the mere fact of encountering something different is what life is all about. It widens your perspective and gives you new experiences. Some of those may include a glimpse at other cultures. When. you can see the wider world outside of yourself, it it builds perspective, empathy, and even more when some of those experiences are outside!

Video from; My pics & videos compiled in Adobe Spark