Monday, June 27, 2011

Got Books? No? Go Green & Get Thee to The Old Book Barn!

One of my favorite places in the world is an excellent example of "going green."  And, it's a definite stop for every trip to Central Illinois!  If you're in that neck of the woods, you need to make sure "The Old Book Barn" in Forsyth, Illinois is on your agenda!
With over 200,000 books (mainly used, but some new) and  covering 14,000 square feet of space, it can proudly claim being one of the Midwest's largest book stores.  It's completely unique in its layout, in that the store is decoratively divided up by genre, with props galore to set the scene.  You name the genre, it is there!! You can easily spend hours there--in fact, this afternoon, I think we did!

200,000 books could have taken up some major real estate in a landfill, but instead, booklovers can rejoice as it's nirvana.  An affordable nirvana, at that!  A bulk of these books were once on someone else's shelves.  It's the classic example of "One man's trash is another one's treasure."  And boy oh boy, it certainly is like finding hidden treasures.  As a teacher,a mother, and a booklover, time stood still (or so it seemed, yet the clock clearly betrayed us as we departed hours later).  My children and I combed the store, loading up our basket.  By the time it was finished, we had four stacks on the floor we had to sort through to decide what was truly going home without terribly breaking the bank.  (A lot of books x $2, though a great deal, can add up like you wouldn't believe!!)  We narrowed it down to a mere 2 dozen or so.  My classroom library just got some new lifeblood, we took pride in our "green-ness," and my night owl reader child just got a motherload!  I just wish there was an Old Book Barn in Maryland--or that teleportation was a viable option!!

Check out the Old Book Barn on Facebook:

Or, if you're in the neighborhood, stop by, go green & get books: 
126 S Route 51,  Forsyth, IL  217-875-0222

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Maryland 1st State for Eco-Literacy

Michael Recycle#1 is a good place to be: 

On Top.
Leading the way!

Way to go, o'homeland Maryland!  Tuesday, June 21st, on the FIRST day o'summer, 2011,  Maryland's State Board of Education became the first state Board of Ed. to vote that all high school graduates need to be "environmentally literate." 

So...What exactly does all of this mean? 

Michael Recycle Meets Litterbug Doug1. This was a pretty historic decision.  It's a brand new kind of educational legislation, and it is a move that will help to lay the groundwork for other states to follow.

2.  It means students, upon graduation, should be able to (literally) be "litter-ate" to "eat litter" in a single bound.  Maryland's working to mold a generation of Michael and Rachel Recycles who will know how important human decisions regarding our usage and disposal of waste.  This education will need to occur cross-curricularly in all subjects, especially social studies and the sciences, and meet the Board of Ed's standards.

3.  It means that the traditional 3 R's of school will double, if not triple.  No longer is it just "Reading, wRiting, and 'Rithmatic," but we can add in the environmental mantra of  "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" well as the unstated, yet most important, three:  "Refuse, Respect, Responsibility."  ["Refuse" as in "refuse the plastic (and other over-consumption) waste initially, at the front end."]

4.  Students will be trained about the importance of being responsible for their actions, at least environmentally-speaking. Hopefully too, as an aside, it gives an added dose of character education. It also goes without saying that "health and fitness" go along with being active in the great outdoors, so we might also be doing a little bit to fight the "obesity in America" crisis!

5.  It pays to have an environmentally-focused governor, like Governor Martin O'Malley.  Likewise...having an eco-supportive State Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Nancy Grasmick) helps too. 

6.  In Governor O'Malley's words:
“This is a defining moment for education in Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “By approving this environmental graduation requirement, the Board of Education is ensuring that our young people graduate with a keen understanding of and connection to the natural world. Only through exposure to nature and education about our fragile ecosystem can we create the next generation of stewards. ” 
7.  It means Maryland is paving the way for other states to follow: 
“This is a momentous day not only for Maryland but for educators across the country who are watching what Maryland does, and hoping to increase outdoor learning in their states," said Don Baugh, director of the No Child Left Inside Coalition (NCLI). “ Governor O’Malley and Dr. Grasmick deserve our profound gratitude. For years they have put Maryland at the forefront of the environmental education movement.”
8.  It means we're grooming a state of future environmental leaders, who can work to make positive steps toward conservation, resource-management, and greener energy supplies.  With any hope, we're also sculpting a solution to dissolve our over-reliance on oil in this nation!  (Definitely needed given today's headlines stating that the US [along with other oil-consumption nations] will be releasing well over 50 Million barrels of oil from federal reserves in order to help keep energy prices down:  Don't even get me started on the disposable petroleum waste that is plastic!!

9.  It means some classroom teachers out there are going to need to step up their own level of education. Fingers are crossed that as a state, we can back the funding necessary for any of this training. Luckily, Green Team Gazette is always a great place to start--and free at that!!  ;-) 

For more, go to...

Baltimore Sun's "B'More Green Section":

Care2's "It’s A First! Maryland Students Must Be ‘Green’ To Graduate:

My Green Guide Maryland (where above quotes were from)

Michael Recycle images from .
"Environmental Literacy" pic from
Maryland Green School Flag pic from

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The AlphaTech Soup Continues: A Spoonful & Mix of #Eco, #Edu, & #Tech

The other day, in my ponderings in "The Alphabet Soup of Technology," I was commenting on my personal homeschooling project where I'm digging deeper into the Web 2.0 side of life this summer.  A slew of online sights has introduced me the mecca of interactive educational & technological teaching that I really only had an inkling about.  I'm literally just discovering the tip of the iceberg.

It was along this pursuit that I found Symbaloo EDU and fell in love.

If you are a teacher, and know nothing about Symbaloo (especially if you a visual learner, much like myself), run--don't walk--to this website:!  Here you'll find an online bookmarking site that is not only intuitive, but starts you out with a massive head start.  No need to reinvent the wheel here! 

At Symbaloo Edu (an offshoot of, you've got over 50K students and teachers globally using it as their PLE:  Personal Learning Environment.  At the S-EDU site above, there are 5 informative videos which give you a great introduction into their bookmarking site.
My wheels started turning instantly from a Smartboard perspective or even a computer lab situation when your students are working on something you design. A Symbaloo webmix will be especially great if you are trying to direct your peeps to multiple complicated sites. (No more need to type each one into the URL bar!)  This web-based app not only gives you instant access to pre-loaded educational bookmarks where there's a gazillion links/lesson plans, but it also allows you to create your very own Symbaloo webmixes.  With it being a web-based set up, your bookmarked favorite sites are with you wherever you need them.  You can create tabbed webmixes by topics, and you can even search for other ones people have created and instantly have a boatload of bookmarks at hand. 

Here's the place where Symbaloo meets the Eco-world of GTG.  Surprising to no one, one of my first Symbaloo webmixes I made has an environmental slant with all my favorite green sites.  In creating this webmix, I had the option of keeping it all to myself, or putting it out there in CyberSpace for all to see. VoilĂ ...Here is my Green Team Gazette "Green Team Galore" Webmix of Eco/Green sites:  

Come, see, save, share, and create your own.  It's love, I tell you!
All pics from

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Alphabet Soup of Technology

iPads . PLNs. DiRT. Wi-fi, wikis, hash-tagged abbreviations...
These days, it's a regular alphabet soup out there in the world of technology.
I am a pretty tech-savvy individual, yet with the speed at which the technologies are changing, I can't keep up!  Add to the mix a Smartboard landing in my classroom in the fall like an early Christmas gift AND 4 iPads purchased for the school this spring, I am feeling the need to study up this summer to get my "game on" regarding all this technology. So, my "game plan?"  Summer homeschooling... for me!  I've been stockpiling websites that I've found here, there, Twitter, Facebook, everywhere!  My thoughts: an hour a day will put me in a brilliant place by fall.
It was along my homeschooling regime this week that I made discovery.  I was introduced formally to the term "PLN."  If you're like me, you too would need to master the fact that
PLN means "Personal Learning Network."   Essentially, a PLN is where you create your own connections to people in your field, out there in cyberspace with tons of information from which you can learn oodles and gobs.  It'll differ for everyone, & every field... but it's an idea that perpetuates the idea of lifelong learners.
Well, what do you know....truthfully, that's how I had set up a lot of my Facebook and Twitter contacts. Hmmm.... I had a PLN and didn't even know it!  That's exactly how I'd been using both FB and Twitter--primarily as news feeds vehicles for environmental and educational issues.  Ironic too, given that not horribly long ago I thought both FB and Twitter were the craziest concepts.  I used to think that Facebook was a form of stalking (being too much in everyone's business) and that Twitter's only purpose was to report feckless fodder that no one cared about--like what people ate for breakfast.  Now, an avid connoisseur of both, I'm clearly of a much different mindset.

Through the wonderful worlds of FB and Twitter, I've learned about new ideas and seen tons of things I wouldn't have encountered without them. In following up on these ideas, I've found other new ideas to pursue.  In the area of educational technology, I've got a 3-page, single-spaced Word Document of ideas to pursue, to be specific!  I feel like a kid in Toys 'R Us, where there's so much out there, my mind is almost spinning.  I've found people out there in my fields that I trust. I want to seek out their expertise though I've never met them...and I'm carving out summer time daily to do that! 
My wheels are turning already, after only a week of "homeschooling" for things I can put into place this fall--regarding the environment, education, and environmental education!!
If you too are in the mood for a little technological boost, here's the short list of some great places to investigate.  Cheaper than a conference, and more convenient than a workshop!  Happy homeschooling!

The Super Book of Web Resources (83 kpages of TONS of goodies!!)

Cybrary Man’s Educational World (portals for educators on a bazillion things, esp tech related, but also by grade level, subject level, and more!!)

Kyle Pace: Instructional Technology Specialist:

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators (associated w/Discovery channel)

Virtual Summer Camp for Teachers (includes tutorials, web tools, developing digital Learning Networks, and more)

Images from (in order),

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Deer Whisperer

Today I think I may have had one of the most profound moments of parenthood.  My 5-year old son and I were traipsing through the woods in an urban park not far from both our home and our school.  We were probably a mere 10-minute walk from our car in the parking lot when we came to the last major wooded stretch in the park.  It was then that we saw the deer. My li'l fellow decided to go in for a closer look.  I'm not sure where he learned to track animals like this, but I swear it was innate!  Jane Goodall could take notes on animal observation based on how my five-year old spent the next 5-10 minutes.  Silent.  Stealth.  Statue.  He inched forward... step by cautious-silent-patient-step forward. 

Never in my life have I been so close to a deer.  My little scientific tracker was leaps and bounds closer than I.   With every step, our deer buddy watched us, but trusted us.  It was an amazing, truly awe-inspiring experience to be one with the nature around us.

Thank heavens for the magic powers of the smartphone to capture this remarkable experience.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Art of Chillin' Out and the "Great Outdoors Month"

At halfway into the month of June, it's a good time for a reality check.  Where are you with following up on the Presidential Proclamation of May 31st to make June 2011 the "Great Outdoors" Month? 
For me, it always takes a little getting used to...going from the teacher-mode of 110% end-of-the-school-year "Busy-ness Blast" to the relaxation brain of "Woo Hoo, Summer Vacation." 

Mentally, I do get there pretty quickly. Even sleep-wise, I can easily fall into that "sleeping-in" mode.  But, logistically, I think there is something about my growing "To Do" list that starts sometimes Mid-March.  From then on, about everything through May winds up in world's biggest dump pile in my garage, basement, closets, scary bedroom corners, etc.  Along the "domestic goddess side," I have so many home-improvement plans ahead, most of which involve the word "organization."  (For me, a degree of of summer structure is good--but I don't want too much; I just want that organized outer world, which ultimately leads to a more organized inner world.)

Then too, I'm faced with the beauty of these 2-3 uninterrupted months, and all these things I want to do, so I become the "Energizer Bunny" on that front, still in "worker bee" mode.
Sunset on a Chesapeake Bay creek.

It's around about here--a week or so into summer--that I drive myself crazy, and try to remember it's summer, for goodness sake!

I forget...or have to chill out.

So enter President Obama and his proclamation for June 2011 to become "Great Outdoors Month."  To see his full proclamation, verbatim, go to gist...get outside, get away from the TV, go have fun, and work to continue our national legacy of conserving land for everyone's future As a follow up to The First Lady's "Let's Move" program, the new dietary guidelines of the Daily Plate (as opposed to the Food Pyramid), and February's report "America's Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations,"June and the onset of summer is the right time for all of this. 

Check out the "America's Great Outdoors" video: 

Geocaching at MD's
Patapsco Valley
State Park
I know for me, going out for a hike in the neighborhood park or a splash in our li'l above-ground, backyard pool helps me to bask in the glorious weather we've had this week.  It helps get me out of my house, out from in front of my computer (to which I tend to find myself glued). 

Likewise, a jettison out in a friend's boat at sunset to skim across the water on the innertube helps me feel that summer fun freedom. Along those same lines, a trek to a state park (today, to Maryland's Patapsco Valley State Park to partake in our 3rd MD Park Quest) gives me quality time with my kids, the rocks, the salamanders, and the geocaching quest which taps into each of our critical thinking skills. 

Rock Climbing & Crayfish Searching.
 All of these things drag me away from the looming laundry, the daunting dishes, or the compelling urge to clean that garbage heap of a garage.  All of these chores tend to pull at me sometimes when I'm home, making me forget what the lazy, hazy days of summer should be.   
So, on behalf of Green Team Gazette, spend a hunk of the rest of the month of June outside.  Do it for your president; but more importantly, do it for you.  June 2011 only will come around once--make the most of it!
For more info on any of the above info, go to:
Salamander Finds.

All other images from my camera...outside...this June!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Carbon Footprints, Human Footprints, Leaving Your Footprint

“The footprints you leave behind will influence others. There is no person who at some time, somewhere, somehow, does not lead another"~Author Unknown

Wherever we go we leave them....footprints, that is. In the sand, in the snow, in the newly vacuumed rug, in the mud, in the yard, in life. We...leave...footprints.

It is up to us how big they are...if they are our shoe-size, or if they (environmentally-speaking) super-size our normal size.
Today at GTG we're going to analyze our shoe size with a little help from a friend.

Special thanks this week to Guest Blogger Krista Peterson for sharing her commitment for the environment and volunteering to share a little bit with our GTG readers about "Reducing our Home's Carbon Footprint." As a person who is very passionate about the health of our environment and of others in our community, Krista is the perfect person to put in her GTG "2 cents' worth." She give's some practical, every day ideas as to help our energy efficiency by doing little things everyday to help make our footprints as small as humanly possible!!
Thank Krista for your blog article, and your commitment to the environment, encouraging us all to put our best foot forward!!

Reducing Your Home’s Carbon Footprint with Energy Efficiency ~ by Krista Peterson

Ideally, we would all be able to get our electricity from renewable sources like solar panels or wind farms. Although they may not be an option for everyone right now, there are many ways to make your home more energy efficient today.


Heating is generally the third major cause of energy consumption in the household. Adding insulation has been estimated to cut the energy bill from heating in half. The heat-resistance of insulation is measured in R-value, and the Thermal Insulation Association of South Africa recommends
different R-values for seven different climactic zones. If you have insulation at home, it would be wise to check in your ceiling and attic to make sure that it is sufficient for your area. If you are insulating your home for the first time, loft insulation or a geyser blanket are two great choices.

A word of caution: though the use of asbestos waned in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s, the material was not actually banned until 2008, so asbestos-containing insulation can still be found in many homes built before this time. Inhaling loose asbestos fibers has been shown to cause a variety of diseases including
mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. Mesothelioma life expectancy is tragically low, so you must take caution with any materials you suspect contain asbestos. If they are in good condition, they will not release the dangerous fibers, and should thus be left alone. If they are damaged or if you are performing renovations, contact a licensed abatement team to remove and dispose of them. There are a number of alternate organic types of insulation such as cellulose fiber which uses recycled paper.

Hot Water

Electricity is not needed to heat just the air, but also the water in a home. There is some debate as to whether or not turning your geyser on and off during the course of the day is more efficient, but one indisputable way to use less electricity is to simply use less hot water. Wash your hands, fruits and vegetables, and clothes in cold water whenever possible, and try to take shorter showers. Do not run the dishwasher unless it is full, and if washing the dishes by hand, plug the sink to conserve hot water in the basin.

Efficient Appliances

While we should all have the most energy efficient appliances available, there is no need to rush out and buy all new equipment – throwing out working appliances is rarely smart, and only serves to contribute to wastefulness. However, as your old appliances wear out or break, do a little research and buy efficient replacements. In recent times, appliance companies have started to make energy efficiency and protecting natural resources a priority. Most products are accompanied with an energy efficiency rating, look to use products with A or B ratings for the most sustainability. Perhaps the simplest way to start this habit is to replace burnt out light bulbs with
compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, which not only use less electricity, but also last six to eight times longer.

Saving energy will not only help the earth; it will lower your monthly bills. It is good for your health, too – less energy use means less coal burned and fewer air pollutants. Until we can all switch to entirely renewable sources of power, making small changes around the home can have a big impact.

Grassy footprint image from