Sunday, April 29, 2012

Earth Week Excitement

I'm a little befuddled that Earth Day was a week ago already, and I'm only just getting back here! I think in the aftermath of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (which is what I like to call getting named the private school "Teacher of the Year" in my county) and an amazing Earth Week of daily celebration at Eagle Cove School, that's just how it happens. I have a lot stored up to write about, so it'll probably trickle in here over the next several days in several posts.

Earth Week's excitement this past week included the following:

An article came out in the Bay Weekly (a local weekly gazette), timed specifically for Earth Day, highlighting the eco-side of life, me, Eagle Cove School, and GTG: "Little Actions, Big Effects: Changing the World Begins with Small Steps Even a Third Grader Can Manage.   It is here you'll see me in all my Capri Sun glory from above!

Solar Car Races ~ The Pasadena Patch has a nice article about our day at the races thanks to Solar Energy World and the cars our 5th graders built and each class designed.  The Patch also has a nice video of the sun at work, pushing each vehicle closer and closer to the finish line!

An action-packed outdoor adventure day with visiting 1st--5th graders from Grace Episcopal Day School (from Kensington, MD).  To help enhance their yearlong study of the Chesapeake Bay, Eagle Cove invited them to come and hang out with us for the day for: seining in the Magothy River, cast netting, geocaching with iPads on an eco-QR code quest (complete with an impromptu raccoon sighting), paper making using recycled paper, nature trail hikes, and a visit from local children's author Jennifer Keats Curtis. The grand finale... a student musical production from our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders (written and directed by our science and music teachers) entitled "Jack and the Green Stalk."  Oh yeah, this day alone is a whole other post!!

Songwriting from our annual favorite visiting musician, Linda Richards from New York.  She has a knack for creating amazing songs with each class that are parodies of time-honored songs like "Row Row Row Your Boat."  In a half hour, magic happens as the kids and Linda write an environmentally-based song that we then perform the next day at a fabulous Earth Week culmination concert that has us all moving and grooving in our seats.  Yes, magic in motion, and a great way to end up the week!!

Oh, and we also met the challenge for a completely "trash-free" week, with everything finding its way back home for reuse, the recycling bin, or the classroom compost buckets!!   

So that's the snapshot of our action-packed week, with more to come since everyone should enjoy our "green" week of fun!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hip, Hip, Hooray! It's Earth Day

Hip, hip is Earth Day
Go forth and celebrate Earth Day in a multitude of ways:

Head outside. Go for a hike.  Listen.  Observe.  Bird watch.  Frog watch. Be the deer whisperer. Feed some ducks.  Lay in the grass and follow the clouds.  Splash in puddles.  Plant a garden. plant a tree.  Pick up trash.  Give a hoot--don't pollute.  Recycle.  Reuse.  Refuse plastic.  Turn off lights.  Turn off the TV.  Turn off electronics and turn on your senses.  Breathe deeply.  Eat healthy.  Be active. Do something to make a difference.  Do something to make the world a better place.  Do something to make our planet a healthier planet.
Wordle: Happy Earth Day!
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Go forth and have excellent Earth Day today!

"Happy Anniversary, Earth Day" banner pic from; Earth Day Wordle using the text above:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Following Dr. Ben Carson's Philosophy: THINK BIG!

As the week continues, I still feel a little bit like I'm on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  Upon getting a hero's welcome upon my return to school, there are news articles being posted about my Anne Arundel County Private School Teacher of the Year Award.  My head is still spinning in the media frenzy, email kudos, and hugs from kids/parents/and colleagues alike.

I also found it extraordinarily fitting to return to school this week in time to finish our latest read aloud:  Gifted Hands:  The Ben Carson Story by Gregg Lewis & Deborah Shaw Lewis.  This book is especially meaningful this year to me in that last year our Eagle Cove School 3rd--5th graders were fortunate enough to meet Dr. Carson at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  This week, we were just in place to read the last two chapters in this biography of Baltimore's famous pediatric neurosurgeon.  Those chapters were entitled:  "Do You Have a Brain?" and "Thinking Big."
I was struck with how timely these words of wisdom were in relation to having just received the Teacher of the Year award.  Especially when I read this book quote:
"He tells students that it doesn't matter who they are, what color their skin is, where they come from, or how much money their family has.  Education is the great equalizer....Education and determination were all he needed to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor."
Dr. Ben Carson's philosophy for success in life is simple:  "THINK BIG."  Each year after reading this book to my students, I use his acrostic as one of our weekly dictations, just as I did this week, along with a quote:
Gifted Hands, Kids Edition: The Ben Carson Story (ZonderKidz Biography)

In-depth Learning
Greatness, or God, or Gratitude   
[I let the kids choose the word of their choice... although Ben Carson openly discusses the strength of his faith in God.]
"To THINK BIG and to use our talents doesn't mean we won't have difficulties along the way.  We will--we all do.  If we choose to see the obstacles in our path as barriers, we stop trying." ~Dr. Ben Carson
As I was stating it for the kids, I was struck by how many of these traits (plus education and determination) had led me to where I am right now (including being on "this side" of my award, which still leaves me humbled and honored).  All of my years of hard work helped me earn this recognition.  Most certainly, I am filled with gratitude and the awareness that every experience in my past has led me to this place where I am now.  In looking at it with this perspective, with this vantage point, you most certainly see the gifts... the gifted hands... that have set me here on this path.  Moreover, it's clear what a teachable moment truly is!

Book image from; class photo from our Johns Hopkins experience with Dr. Ben Carson last May 2011,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

'Tis the Season: Earth Day is On The Way

Less than a week away, Earth Day is around the bend.  'Tis the season to be Lorax-esque, and speak for the trees, the water, the air, the oceans, the landfills, the recycling centers, and the Earth.

Here's an "Earth Day Eight" set of resources of Earth Day and other eco-friendly resources for your classroom, for your family, for life.

Green Team Gazette's EcoMania Pinterest Board

PlanetPals:  The Greatest EarthDay Pages Ever

Earth Day Network's Educator's Network

Thinkfinity:  Think Green For Earth Day

Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Education Clearinghouse

The Lesson Plans Page:  Earth Day

TeacherVision: Earth Day Resources

National Geographics Xpeditions:  Earth Day Every Day
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.   ~ John Muir

Lorax pic from, Pinterest "EcoMania" image a screen shot from my board.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hanging 10 on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

There's a ride at DisneyLand (one of the originals to the park since 1955, in fact) called "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."  That title seems appropriate for my week.  I think I am at the place where not only has the magic and wonder of Disney has crept in, but yes, indeed, it has been a wild ride!!

Tonight I went from being a finalist for the Anne Arundel County Private School Teacher of the being the actual winner!  At a banquet at the BWI Marriott Hotel, 50 nominated county teachers were honored to ultimately come down to one private school and one public school teacher to be voted to fill the coveted position of "Teacher of the Year." 

With a crew of Eagle Cove School colleagues, friends, and family members, I found that just being at the banquet made the surreality of it all become a reality. (Likewise for the butterflies in my tummy)!  Upon that Academy-Award-winning announcement when they opened the envelope and pulled out my name, "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" hit high speed gear!!  I found myself in good company--humbled and honored (beyond belief!)... not only with all the nominees, semi-finalists, and finalists, but also Martha Gardner, the fifth grade Public School winner--a fifth-grade teacher at Belvedere Elementary School in Arnold, Maryland.

To see the 5 public school and 3 independent school teachers who were the final round finalists from Anne Arundel County of the Year, check out Maryland Gazette:  Who Will Win Teacher of the Year?

The application process (which involved a series of essays and requirements for the first round, and another series for the second round, then finally a panel-judged interview), was multi-faceted and lengthy.  One part included an analysis of the Educational Issues and Trends that teachers face.  Here is my essay on that point, and one part of my "wild ride" that led me on my path to tonight's still-surrealistic appointment of "Anne Arundel County Private School Teacher of the Year."

In today’s world, there are many educational trends/issues that affect all classroom teachers. Common Core standards have been adopted by most states. Smartboards, iPads, and “the flipped classroom” are on the rise as motivating teaching tools. Conversely, cursive has been eliminated in over 40 states. Property taxes continue to fund education, which place schools in an unintentional “separate but equal” socioeconomic strata based on zip code. 21st Century Learning integrating the traditional 3R’s and the 4C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) has begun shifting the way we teach. This short list is just the tip of the educational “issue” iceberg.

Yet there is a bigger issue afoot. Daily, I drive past a billboard that illustrates it beautifully. On one half of the sign, there is a child’s hand holding a smart phone with a cartooned frog game on it. On the other side, the same hand holds a real frog, out in the woods. The only text: “Unplug!”

In our overly “connected” world, technology has caused our youth to lose sight of nature. Currently, it seems as if our smart phones become outdated faster than we can text each other, update our Facebook status, or play the next Xbox game. With this couch-based computing, insert a rise in self-esteem issues, cyber-bullying, inactivity, depression, and obesity. No wonder First Lady Michelle Obama has made such a commitment to her “Let’s Move!” active lifestyle campaign.

Richard Louv (with his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder) and Governor Martin O’Malley have seen the problem—and its solution. Nationwide, Maryland stands out as being the first state to demand an environmental literacy graduation requirement. When outdoors, we can help our students build connections, sharpen their awareness, observe, collect, measure, write, do math, read, and learn about limited resources and global sustainability. We can approach student motivation and success through a “no child left inside” vision. In doing so, teachers integrate real-world situations as a means of developing critical thinking skills in our students, while immersing them in their surroundings. It is a “win” for all!

Images:  of me: from my camera; "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" from; "Unplug" from; "Last Child In the Woods" from

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Let's Keep Environmental Issues Far from "Titanic!"

As I write this, I looked at the clock....9 minutes ago, 100 years ago, the Titanic (you know the one, that big "unsinkable" boat of days of yore) struck an iceberg. Lucky for all, it was unsinkable.

Oh, gee, wait! Maybe not so much.

On behalf of true disclosure, I am a Titanic nut. I find it fascinating. I am drawn to it, like a ship drawn to an iceberg. Er, I mean...well, you know what I mean.

Funny too, in the world of "Mini Me," my daughter is following in my footsteps.  Not intentionally, and not by anything I have specifically's just the ways of the world and the circle of life.  (Case and point: About a week ago, she built an amazing model of the Titanic!)

Anyhoo... the historic, gigantic, "Titanic" 100-year anniversary is upon us, along with pomp, circumstance, and the 3D re-release of the 1997Kate-Winslet/Leonard DiCaprio movie. Ranking 3rd in movie earnings this week, it's not too shabby for a fifteen year old movie.

I've written about the Titanic before. This time last year, in fact. The reason I wrote about it last year was more than mere fascination and obsession. It was in regards to the floating plastic that was found near the wreckage site. Yes, "plastic" nearly rhymes with "Titanic." And it shows the pervasive-ness of marine debris in our oceans. It's a problem...a problem of "Titanic" proportions.

Which leads us to IcebergAhead.  This environmental website has the Titanic in mind. Created by Dennis & Judy Holm, the site focuses on social and environmental issues that America faces. The site name was chosen specifically to be aligned to the Titanic. Just as it was the lookout's job to be on iceberg patrol, it is our job to be on watch for environmental issues. Just as the Titanic was viewed as "unsinkable," the planetary problems Earth faces are often, unwittingly seen as non-issues. We are not recognizing our own environmental, "sink-worthy," self-created "icebergs." Let's hope we do before it becomes too late, and let's hope we have enough lifeboats aboard if/when we get there!!  Again, case and point: The Titanic At 100 Years: We’re Still Ignoring Warnings, This Time It’s Climate Change, Says Director James Cameron.

So today, as we approach this monumental century-old anniversary, let's stop and think, and take the time to learn from our old mistakes.  Let's not go forth with a lack of lifeboats aboard the ship.  Let's plan ahead, and plan well...and make it to where there WON'T be a future environmental problem of Titanic proportions!!

Image:  from my camera and, Titanic Newspaper:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pre-K Saves the Bay

Four-year-olds are wise--it's no surprise! 

Given it's the month of Earth Day, and smack dab between that, our Earth Week, and Earth Hour a few weeks ago, things are running "greener" than usual over at Eagle Cove School.  Here's the bulletin board in our office, as created by the Pre-K class of our Maryland "Green" School.  Notice the wisdom AND the recyclable fish above, AND the words of wisdom in the oysters below!!
  • Do not throw trash into the Bay from your boat.
  • Keep the water clean for the fish.
  • Plant grass and trees near the shore.
  • Put more oysters into the Bay and help them to grow.
  • Do not catch all of the crab and fish.
  • Do not throw garbage in the Bay.

Images from my camera of Pre-K art.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Bottle, One Dream

Just when you thought it wasn't easy to be green, it just got a little easier with a new book for your book shelf.  And, if you're in the Tampa, Florida area, you might just find yourself visiting with the book's author!

Tampa's Carrollwood Day School [or, "CDS" for short] was indeed just that lucky.  Local author and creator of the website One Bottle, One Dream is Stephanie Armenia.  Stephanie paid a visit to CDS earlier this April to visit with second grade teachers who had purchased a class set of & activity guide for Stephanie's book When Will We Be Recycled Momma?  After reading her book about Jack (the plastic bottle) who goes from store to recycle bin to a newly-created-something-special, Stephanie led the 2nd graders outside and elbow-deep into a composting activity.  You can't get much more hands-on than that!!  This "real-world connection" dove-tailed beautifully with CDS's International Baccalaureate (IB) World School/Primary Years Programme. To read more about Stephanie's day at CDS, read her blog about her CDS visit here.

Stephanie Armenia with Elementary/Middle School Principal Trudi Buscemi
& Carrollwood Day School 2nd Graders. 
For 2 great videos taking you right to that visit with Stephanie and Carrollwood Day School, check out these two news clip videos from Tampa Bay Online:
Author Stephanie Armenia
Interested in getting your hands on a book of your own? Visit the One Bottle, One Dream store to order individual or group copies, or teacher's resources to accompany When Will We Be Recycled Momma?

Contact the author, Stephanie Armenia, by visiting her website here.

Book image from, pic of Carrollwood Day School students from, Author photo from her website:

Monday, April 9, 2012

"The Island President"

Here we sit, on the cusp of the Filmfest DC:  April 12th to the 22nd.  This 26th Annual International Filmfest will have more than 80 films will be shown in the 10 day period are being shown at more than a half dozen locations.  The selection is huge, and you can download a copy of the film catalog here.

One of the highlights of the Filmfest is a Jon Shenk's documentary entitled "The Island President."  DC film dates are Monday, April 16, 2012 @ 2:00 pm and Tuesday, April 17, 2012 @ 6:15 pm.  The premise of the story is that of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives.  The first democratically-elected president to the country, he has faced unrest with the changing political vision of the country which elected him the documentary, you find he is also facing an issue of environmental unrest. 
The Maldives are one of the lowest-lying global countries, and a "sinking" country at that.  No, the Maldives truly aren't's the ocean around them that is rising.  With an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level (and the highest elevation of 2.5 meters above sea level), a little oceanic  rising would mean a LOT to the inhabitants of the Maldives.  Scientists fear that due to climate change/global warming, the Maldives could be beneath water somewhere between 2050 and 2100.  At 2012, this is NOT good news.

Adding insult to injury, Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign by gunpoint on February 7th, 2012, bringing back the 30 year old dictatorship with human rights violations and more. 

To learn more about the Maldives and The Island President, especially now as they are again enmeshed in political unrest, check out the movie's website.

To see a slideshow of images of the Maldives, with captions that encapsulate the severity of the environmental situation of the Maldives, check out MSNBC's Maldive's slideshow.

Whether or not your in DC for the Filmfest and can catch this film, the trailer is indeed in the category of "Must See TV."  To view the trailer above, click the video above, check out, or go to the "The Island President" Website.

"The Island President" image from, and map from

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hoppy Easter

Easter Sunday: 'Tis that time of the night when we're picking up candy wrappers, stray pieces of Easter grass, and wayward leftovers from either the Easter basket or the egg hunt. Sugared highs have now become lows as chocolatified children head to bed.

Looking back, the weather made for a delightful day outside, and the springy seasonal attire was just right. Flowers were in bloom. Easter bonnets donned the tops of wee ones at church. Giggles and glee were the sounds of the day as Easter surprises popped out like li'l bunnies.

A nice Easter all the way around!!

May your Easter have been equally as bright as ours at GTG, filled with smiles, snuggles, laughter, love, a wealth of food, and warm memories of your own past Easters! "Hoppy" Easter!!

Image from

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Future of Education: What Kids Need Most from Education

The Future of Education.  Now, there's a big topic!  Even bigger is answering the question of what kids need most from education. 

That question was addressed on February 27, 2012, when 3 heads of school were interviewed for the national Internet radio program of VoiceAmerica Business: Visionary Leader, Extraordinary Life by Kate Ebner.

The interview participants addressing that question were:
The broadcast is most certainly well worth a listen as you glean the amazing insight of 3 school leaders who are passionate about their schools' vision, mission, and philosophy.  It's clear that each school is a tight knit community in its own, unique way to build strong, balanced students!
The Future of Education: Three Visionary Educators Share What Today’s Kids Need Most from Education, air date:  February 27, 2012
Hosted by Kate Ebner

VoiceAmerica Logo Video from