Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marvy Math Month @ Eagle Cove School!

January 31st finds us at the end of Math Month at Eagle Cove School.  Tomorrow, February 1st, is the day the last projects are due in from our PreK to 5th grade population.  All classes worked together to put a project or two together (to find out more, see my Jan. 29th "Math Month Meets Eco-Stats & A Touch of Tech" blog article), while our 2nd to 5th graders also worked on individual projects as well.  Even our youngest PreK'ers made mitten graphs and button-clad snowmen.  Our 8-paneled stage enclosure is filling up nicely, with more to come tomorrow, for sure!
"Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas."              ~Albert Einstein
No matter how many years these boards get filled (and this is my 4th of being in charge of cheerleading this month and seeing that all projects get hung), and I swear, each year tops the one before it!  So many neat, new, original project ideas... from individual students as well as from classrooms as a group, art, science, and more! And even more in-class projects in the books we read in library, the songs we sing and play in music, the rhythm we count out in gymnastics in PE, and the foreign words we count in Spanish! 

Yes, yes indeed... it's a marvelous, mega, math world in which we at Eagle Cove School live... and we love, love, love it!!  

"Go down deep enough into anything & you will find mathematics." ~ Dean Schlicter

Photo from my camera, from my school!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Math Month Meets Eco-Stats & A Touch of Tech

January is Math Month at Eagle Cove School.  Given that, we encourage math exploration across the grade levels, send home math calendars for enrichment activities, read about math, incorporate math in all our special/enrichment classes, and work up both individual and class projects that then get posted in the Mega Math Museum in the gym.  It's a big deal!  
QR Code Caption:  Styrofoam cups
take ____ years to biodegrade.

As the teacher/cheerleader who runs Math Month, it's exciting each year to see the different projects that come in.  Every year is unique and different, and it's always a surprise what the kids will bring in.  It's a delight, too, to have even our youngest munchkins come running up to me at recess to tell me all about the math they are working on and the project that they'll be bringing in soon!  They are excited about math, and I love it!!

Given my "green" leanings, I always try to build in an environmental project or two for my whole class projects.  This year, for one of my whole class 3rd grade projects, I decided that it'd be timely to tie in a math project with a few of our new ECS iPads.  Using the Kaywa QR Code Generator, I loaded it with some statistical data from my eco-library:  how many years does it take for a plastic grocery bag to biodegrade; how many weeks does it take a banana to break down; how long does it take Styrofoam to biodegrade; etc.   

So my young math minds made some prediction using the blacklines below in the SlideShare.  They predicted the order (from least to greatest) that they thought the following items would biodegrade:  cardboard milk carton, sheet of paper, banana peels, aluminum cans, cigarette butts (which always brings 8-9 year old to chuckles), plastic grocery bags, plastic cups, and Styrofoam.  Then they made reflections about their findings.  Some surprises... that's for sure!  At this point, I had my "Math-Month"ians complete a graph and a paragraph frame of their findings.  2 examples are in the SlideShare below.  To go the extra mile for an amazing presentation, I had them take their rough draft graph to the computer lab to type in the blanks on a pre-installed black-line on our school server in the computer lab. 

The computerized end-results were completely a thing of beauty, and I swelled with pride in that "proud teacher" moment.  Their comments were rich:  "Wow! After this, I am going to use less plastic," "I think I need to recycle more," "I was totally surprised by the numbers!"  In the end... our Math Month project had great results, both with its in-class commentary and with the dynamic presentation it made. Plus, it might even teach the Mega Math Museum viewers a thing or too.  That, too, makes me swell in "green" teacher pride!
QR code from my document above as created from http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Soaring Like an Eagle With Synchronicity

"Synchronicity" is when 2 (or more) events come together in perfect harmony.  We had a moment of exactly that--synchronicity--yesterday in 3rd grade. 

Fly, Eagle, Fly: An African TaleThis week we have been reading the story "Fly, Eagle Fly" by Christopher Gregorowski.  In it, an eaglet is found, and raised as as a chicken, with chickens.  A friend of the farmer is insistent that the eagle, as it grows, should be allowed to fly as it is one with the sky--an eagle.  Meanwhile, the farmer is insistent that since the eaglet was raised as a chicken--it essentially IS a chicken.  My students were drawn to the story, and found truth in the theme that one should always be themselves.  Being from "Eagle" Cove School our conversation turned more and more to eagles, and my students were able to learn a lot about them as raptors, as predators, as our national symbol, and as a symbol for the environment--going from being on the endangered species list due to DDT and now back again. 

I structured one part of our reading activity around writing an "Eagle Poem." With this, I had my students imagine what it might be like, being an eagle.  I wanted them to write from that perspective.  The poem need not rhyme, but rather it started with beginning phrases such as "It sees... It hears... It feels... etc."  

About the time we started talking about this in class, the sun started peeking through the January sky in a rather unseasonal way.  In fact, the 50 degree weather was more than rare for a January.  Given we have eagles on the island just across the Magothy River from us (and we have the name "Eagle" in our Eagle Cove School name), it seemed only right to go OUTSIDE and imagine what we might hear, see, feel, etc.  With clipboards in hand, out we went.  The rhyme-less poems my students created were down right amazing.  Outside seemed to make all the difference!!
In case there was any question...I am a big proponent of Richard Louv and "No Child Left Inside."

Looking out on the water, knowing an eagle or 2 live on the island across the adjacent river, the kids could imagine what it would feel like to personify an eagle flying overhead. 

Based on the end product, my students clearly consulted their inner eagle, and were most certainly inspired by the great outdoors!  Makes me completely love teaching... especially on a day like this!!
Fly, Eagle, Fly pic from http://www.amazon.com/Fly-Eagle-African-Tale/dp/0689823983; other pics from my camera!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Whether Sleet or Snow... To EdCampDC We Go!

You know you've been at EdCamp all day when...
edcamp dc logo

A). Your day is full, your mind is swirling, and your teacher mind is charged;
B).  You have a lot of ideas you can easily put into practice--as soon as Monday;    
C).  You have spent the day with a lot of like-minded individuals who serve as total inspiration & motivation;
D). You find yourself in bed and asleep by 9 pm because you are wiped out due to operation overload (but in a good way!);
E).  All of the above.

If you answered "E," then you've hit the nail on the head!

As for me and "E," this past Saturday I ventured out with a colleague to my 2nd (and her 1st) EdCamp:  EdCampDC. Just like the US Postal Office Creed:  "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds...."  We trekked the hour or so southwest to DC despite the icy, slushy world around us.  Just like "the show," EdCampDC "must go on!"  Weather did hit the numbers, taking the anticipated 250 down by half or more; but for those of us that were there, the information du jour kept our creative juices flowing!!
To learn more about EdCamp in general, you can take a peek at my experience at EdCampHarrisburg or go to the EdCamp Wiki (where you can see a global calendar of all upcoming Edcamps) or the EdCamp Foundation

Kudos and special thanks to EdCampDC organizers Matt McCrea, Andrew Pratt, and Selena Ward.  It was a great, great day!

Here are some of the great finds I found along the way during the course of my EdCampDC Day (in addition to an amazing final session all about rewarding motivated teachers--great food for thought!):

An education assessment start-up that is due to start-up any time, this will transform your in-class, clipboard-style assessment with just a few clicks on your mobile tablet device.  By help teachers to assess students and then helping them to use that data for differentiation within the classroom, this could potentially transform  not only your teaching but the way in which you assess your students' progress in the classroom.
If you're like me, you know that Evernote is a file-cabinet-style tool for you to access all your finds online (whether by tablet, phone, or computer).  But at EdCampDC, we talked a lot about the ways in which notebooks in Evernote could become great places for quick anecdotal recording of your students' behavior and academic progress.
An online way to both improve student behavior as well as motivating students with "live" feedback.  Class Dojo allows you to program li'l avatars, make behavior reports based on specific in-class behaviors that you design.

4.  Educreation App:  Interactive WhiteboardIf you like Khan Academy, you'll love this with it's ability to make and record similar videos yourself....OR have kids use to create a short illlustrated video where they explain/define something.

5.  Other Good Interactive Whiteboard iPad Apps:
ScreenChomp, Skitch, Splashtop, and BoardCam

6.  National Teachers Alliance
A non-partisan network for classroom teachers, the National Teachers Alliance is out to communicate what is working in the field of education through resources, reviews, and really good stuff!

And no, not from EdCamp, but equally yummy finds this weekend, and equally EdCamp-appropriate for getting the mind in gear with edtech, apps, iPads, and more!!

7.  APPitic - 1,300+ EDUapps
Here you'll find a directory of educational apps from Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs).  They have been tested across grade levels and are organized in classroom-helpful ways!

8.  95 EdTech Resources You May Have Missed–Treasure Chest January 22, 2012: Tech the Plunge Every Sunday the Treasure Chest is posted--wow!  A Treasure Trove indeed!!

9.  Twitter for Teachers from Kathy Schrock's Webinar
Last week I did a Kathy Schrock eGenio webinar--wow!  What a powerhouse she is.  Great tips for teachers on how to build your own Personal Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter!  Love it!

All EdCamp images from http://www.edcampdc.org/ .

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You Know The Green School Education Is Working When...

You know the "green" school education is working when my two cherubs (ages 6 and 9) cue up educational finds on YouTube that they've gotten from their science teacher. 

Yes, it's a low key Saturday night after an amazing yet full day at EdCampDC (more on that later this weekend).  I'm doing a li'l laundry, and I come up to find the 2 of them, gathered around the computer, caught in rapture watching the wayward adventures of a plastic bag.  Which wayard plastic bag, you ask?  The Magestic Plastic Bag:  A Mockumentary.  A personal favorite of mine (and one that's appeared here in GTG before) yet not what I expected my 2some to call up here on a Saturday night.  But most certainly, if you haven't seen it, it's one definitely worth watching in it's Jeremy Iron's-narrated, dramatic style.

Whatever you do, you too, should watch out for the teacup Yorkie AND the illustrious creature, the Majestic Plastic Bag!!

Video from http://youtu.be/GLgh9h2ePYw 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Great Green School Experiment

In 2008, Fisher Elementary School (a school of approximately 500 students/staff) in Walpole, Massachusetts embarked on a mean, green, school experiment.  Their eco-bound route, as you'll see in this short video below, took them a long distance in a short period of time:  they landed a 3-way reduction:  70%  in classroom trash, 53% in combined total school trash, and a 37% in wasted milk!  Major strides... and a prime example of how much of a difference the power of one (one school) can make!

Video from: http://youtu.be/Dopg2MYrsk0 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Food for Thought on Martin Luther King, Jr's Bday

I was reminded this weekend of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch TEDx Event of November 2010 sponsored by Plastic Pollution Coalition.  I watched a bulk of it back then, and wrote about it here in GTG.

In honor of the long weekend celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday celebration this Monday, I think this Van Jones speech from that TEDx Event is the perfect tribute for today's world.  In it, he talks not only of the environment and biomimicry, but of democracy, social justice, poverty, empowerment, and activism.  Yes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud.

My favorite quote from Van Jones from this piece:

That idea of biomimicry, respecting the wisdom of all species, combined with the idea of democracy and social justice, respecting the wisdom and worth of all people, would give us a different society. We would have a different economy, a green economy that Dr. King would be proud of. That should be the goal... The idea of disposability not only hurts the species we have been talking about, but it corrupts our own society.
Video from http://youtu.be/FjvjSlpJoqo

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Singing a Symphony of Whales

"Life is a Symphony, not a sound bite.  Beauty takes wing in its own time."~ Steve Schuch
This week in rading, my 3rd graders read the story "Symphony of Whales" by Steve Schuch.  The story centers around Glashka, a young Alaskan girl who works with her village and the help of a Russian icebreaker to help free trapped beluga whales from a frozen waterway. With the help of music, the whales add in their calls, and are able to find their way through the channel of cut ice to open freedom. Even better, this story is based on the true events of the 1984-1985 winter season where this happened, midst the center of the Cold War, making the event all that much more remarkable during a time of political uncertainty.

In researching some clips of the "songbirds of the sea" (aka, beluga whales), I found some interesting commentary on nature and the environment. Steve Schuch's webpage was one of the premier places for that.  Not only does he consider himself the author of this book, but also the "composer" of the story, as he is a musician as well.  On his webpage, Steve Schuch has a musical clip of himself playing violin with the whales.  Also on the site there is an author's interview about the story, as well as an interesting essay entitled "Reflections on the Arts & the Nature of Education."  In the latter, Schuch shares his philosophy about how the arts open up the sense of wonder in both children and classrooms.  He opens with a quote from environmentalist Rachel Carson.  He ends his essay with this final paragraph:

"The challenges we face in this century will require all the creativity and wisdom we can muster. Global warming, changing politics and economies, learning to bring seemingly limitless appetites into balance with finite ecosystems... all these will require awake and thoughtful citizens. They will require diverse languages and rich vocabularies, both to form relevant questions, and to frame meaningful answers."
Along with sharing Steve Schuch's webpage, I also found the following 2 visuals incredibly helpful (and inspiring) to help bring the story... and environmentalism... to life in my classroom.

The first, from a surprising source:  a Pacific Life Insurance Commercial.

The second,  this video trailer from the upcoming Drew Barrymore movie "Big Miracle" (which has a very similar, true-story-based-storyline as "Symphony of Whales"):

My favorite line from this clip, which is so true: 
"There's ALWAYS something you can do!"

Images from http://informationsentinel.com/resources/Computer_Skills_and_Bio_Project_2_Cierra/Computer%20Skills%20and%20Bio%20Project/characteristics.html and  http://www.amazon.com/Symphony-Whales-Steve-Schuch/dp/0152165487/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Video Clips from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVghYFkehGE and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv-mWQUoXOg

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Meditating on the Materials Economy: AKA, Studying "The Story of Stuff"

This winter, I'm taking an online course through the Green Education Foundation Institute.  Through part of the studies, I found my way back to the 21 minute video by Annie Leonard--her original "Story of Stuff."  I have got to admit it: I'm a big fan of Annie Leonard.  I have seen her speak, and I have read her book.  Not quite a junkie, but close.  Well, okay... maybe, I am. 

She just truly has her finger on the pulse of materials economy:  extraction, production, distribution, consumption (including the dastardly planned and perceived obsolescence) and disposal.  If you haven't seen it, you need to take the time, and do it today!  It's that important, and she is soo right!!

Other GTG "Blasts from the Past" and my previous commentary on the "Story of Stuff":

Sweet Tweets & "Stuff"  3/13/2010

Ode to Annie Leonard,  3/15/2010

Scary Stuff and Powerful Percentages, 7/10/2010

Story of... My Garage!  11/14/2010

Another Successful Story of Stuff:  The Story of Broke, 11/17/2011

Story of Stuff  7/7/2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past in My Kids' Toy Room, 12/3/2011

Video from  http://www.storyofstuff.org/

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Retro, Reuse, Pizza, & PacMan

Back in the day, when I was a wee pup, a Friday night was a fulfilling eve with my high school buddies at Hickory Point Mall, in Forsyth, Illinois, right outside of my hometown Decatur.  More specifically, the corner of the mall by Bergners, where there was a routine two-stop "shopping" for every hangout night:

1). The multi-leveled , ladder-esque-looking Garcias Pizza (best pizza by the slice--ever!), and

2). Around the corner from Garcias, there was the video arcade, named Replay.
Given it was the 1980s, and prices were right, a $5 or $10 could take you far in both places.

Well, given my journey home to the homeland for Christmas, I got an opportunity to trek back to the past... No, not my mall haunt of days gone by (my Hickory Point Mall haunts have long-since disappeared), but to another Garcias, a new one in town (well, at least, "newish" to me!).  Setting up shop adjacent to Millikin University in a little "college town" strip of shops and restaurants (some of which have been long time Decatur favorites), Garcias is right there on the corner, a beacon, just calling you in!

Little and unassuming, Garcias led me right back to my high school days with the same pizza by the slice.  [My personal favorite:  Sausage, though "The Gutbuster" was always a popular favorite for those who like ALL the pizza goodies.]  Inside, in addition to a handful of tables and booths, it was "VideoWorld", where Sega, Atari, and Midway unite.  There were games galore (everything from Ms. PacMan [my all time personal favorite] to Star Wars to Strike Fighter to driving/racetrack games, and more.  Add in the final touch of perfection: continuous playing 80s music!  If I wouldn't have had my own kids with me, I would have felt like Marty McFly in "Back to the Future" (minus the Delorian, of course).

Atari's circa 1976 donned booths. Retro board/card games like "Urban Myth," "The Simpsons" and "Battle of the Sexes" were under Plexiglas on table tops. The tokens were endless and free.  Event the plates were salvaged from a hometown Good Will (that I swear had been on my home table in the late '70s from the "buy a plate a week" series from the local grocery store), right next to a mix match of garage sale silverware... ahhh! It was not only tons of fun for parent and child alike, but it was an excellent example of retro reuse--and a wonderful way to keep a boatload of items out of the landfill. There was such a beauty in its simplicity!  I was nearly in eco-nirvana.

Hanging out there, Johnathon (the proprioter) was the perfect host, checking in on us, and helping out in any way we needed.  As I was sipping my soda (while my kids were playing free token after free token), I raved about the place to Johnathon.  I told him that it could be made truly perfect with only one additional thing: dump the Styrofoam cups!  Yes, in this amazing world of reuse, the Styrofoam was out of place!  Johnathon took my eco-advice in stride and in good humor. In fact, within 5 minutes of our conversation, he made a call to his supplier to check on pricing. Color me impressed!

Of course his findings didn't surprise me... paper cups would almost double the pricing of what he was paying out for Styrofoam. Alak, alas... The old story of bottom line: of green versus green--economy over ecology.  Especially in the world of small business, where profit margins tends to be narrow, it's tough to be pro-planet when you need to be pro-personal-pocket.  I think this is one of those things that is going to always be the conundrum of the environmental movement.  People want to go forth and make sustainable choices, but until there are affordable, comparable options, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Well, back at Garcias... I appreciated Johnathon for taking a moment to pause and investigate the options.  And he thanked me for planting the seed of thought. He said he might try to investigate a hybrid plan for the future with some reusable cups for in-house use, and perhaps paper for "to-go" cups down the line.  I think that is all anyone can do... take little steps, darkening your shade of green as you can and where you can.

But at the end of the day, I truly did feel like I was in my own li'l retro-green nirvana, in the happy place of nostalgia, tasty food & good music filling my soul, smiles on my video-playing munchkins.  Also, I was glad for the conVersation, the conServation, and the open-minded approach to looking at things through new eyes.  Thanks again, Jonathon!  I'm looking forward to heading back to Garcias on my next trip home!!

Pics, courtesy of my own camera, at Decatur's Millikin University neighborhood Garcias, located at 1099 W Main Street, Decatur IL!  Full disclosure, I just love their pizza, the nostalgia, and the retro & reuse (and the merriment of Ms. PacMan), which is the only payback/compensation I am getting in writing this!  ;-)   That, and my perpetual search for blog fodder that feeds my soul.  Mmmm...almost as tasty as a slice of Garcia's sausage pizza!