Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Truth About Plastic ~ An Interesting Infographic

There are some really great infographics floating around Pinterest these days.

Here's one of my "favorite," about the insidious truth about plastic.  It highlights how all of those seemingly disposable pieces of plasticized petroleum are still circulating about, somewhere, here today, on our planet.
To view the original source or to see it larger, click here:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Camping & Contemplating

Camping on Memorial Day weekend, an annual tradition, greets the summer nicely.

Especially as it dovetails and overlaps the end of the school year.

With camping you get the opposite of "The Perfect Storm;" you get a collision which ultimately results in calm.  Exhaustion meets with a slower pace, and the removal of the home energy-zappers of laundry, yard work, home tidying, dishes, and couch potato-ing mindlessly in front of the TV or some other mindless piece of electronics.

Instead, you can "couch potato" on a foldable chair, breathing fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun through dappled vivid green leaves, do nothing, and call it "camping." You get to sit back and watch a li'l wildlife--some romping chipmunks, newby baby scampering squirrels, nectar-sipping butterflies as they glide from flower to flower, and birds you might just be able to match up in that bird watching book.

Opportunities for fireside chats with the group are married with opportunities to escape in solitude.  Time for hiking, canoeing, and Maryland Park Questing segue nicely in between nap times as the energy ebbs and flows. Loving how my kids always get an opportunity to try something new...and to feel safe in the cabin [even if we're a cabin or two (or a community fire) down the way].  Time.  Ahh.  Time to laugh with friends.  Time to sleep when tired.
Time for growth in the stillness and in the remoteness of the woods. 

“Change is often rejuvenating, invigoration, fun... and necessary.”
~ Lynn Povich

Looking back on my camping weekend, it was most certainly needed. I personally was coming off a week of extreme activity paired with an odd tummy bug, so I was not up to par.  Yet interestingly, that actually served as a double blessing of relaxation.  Sleep and "just being" called louder than homework. There are still report cards to write, final tests to score, but they'll still be there on the flip side. The time away in the wilderness (even if it is only "cabin camping," with our group camp cooks, and "partial unplugging" from the world all still count for the "weekend wilderness") might just be what this girl needed.

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”  ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The House That ECS Built

The story of the 3 Little Pigs could have had a much different outcome had the pig family spent the day with Eagle Cove School on May 16th.  Those pigs could have gotten a lesson in sustainable building to make one heck of a wolf-proof straw bale house, had they combined their efforts and worked as a team!!

Lucky for us at Eagle Cove School, we got that tutorial and that experience from our Green Roof orchestrator, Mr. Rick Truett.  Last Thursday we were finally able to have our "hold-out assembly" from our ECS Earth Week (due to rainy weather rearing its head and causing us to postpone it).
Here's a YouTube example (to a much grander scale) of the process that Rick Truett directed our "10 yrs. old  and under" set to do.

After a short info session complete with slides of what sustainable, renewable architecture and building looks like (and how some German "wattle and daub" houses have held up for over 800 years), the PreK to 4th grade students got their assignments for the day. They all involved pulling up their sleeves and getting a little dirty (if not a little straw-prickly)!

Second through fourth graders started out around 9:30 am by splitting into 3 groups:
1). The Foundation Builders moved some pre-used sidewalk slate rectangles to the building site to form the foundation. Muscles were heavily used!

2).  The Soil Crew unloaded Mr. Rick's truck, with shovels in hand.  This dirt would be used to make the necessary mud later on.

3).  The Straw Balers moved the straw bales to the site and started laying them in place, almost as if they were laying big prickly bricks. 

Metal poles were paced in the 3-4 layers of bales to pin them in place. The kids filled the corners between the bales with excess straw to make it even more compact, filling in all the gaps.

During lunch, our ECS Sci Guy and Mr. Rick placed some top beams and roofing in place so that the PreK'ers, Kindergartners, and first graders could start the dirty part of the program:  mudding the walls.  (Of course, if it was a more traditional hut, dung would have been added to the mix for additional strength and durability, but for obvious reasons, we skipped that ingredient!!)  Based on the twinkle in a few of these kids' eyes, I think the urge was strong to hug a teacher or two while covered from head to toe in mud!

Time got the better of use (isn't that always the case), and the kids only got an opportunity to do about half of the exterior.  If given time to do it fully, inside and out and pack the mud into the outer layer of these regular Home Depot-style straw bales (as opposed to the much denser building-grade bales), Rick assured us that our structure could last up to 20 years.  Not to shabby for a structure built by our student population!!  As it is, this one will probably last a year or two before it starts to break down and biodegrade.  But, in the interim, it'll make for a fun homemade addition to our playground, teaching the kids a little bit about how eco-friendly and sturdy building can be--without the use of petroleum-based plastics which come from non-renewable resources.

I'm not sure how old those three Li'l Pigs were, but I think they could have learned a thing or two from our ECS four- to ten-year olds.  Our straw bale sustainable structure could (and maybe should) now come with not only a "green seal of approval," but also a "wolf-proof certification" too!!

All in total, reminds me a little bit about another structure ~ Check out this video from Hug It Forward.

Images from:
Wattle and Daub labeled pic from, German style Wattle and Daub house from, YouTube video from; Hug it Forward "How to Build a School Out of Plastic" video from;  all other pics from my camera!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

EdCamp Philly 2012: Oodles of Apps & Super Sites

edcamp phillyAs I wrote about in my last post:  EdCamp Philily 2012: Oohs & Ahhs, there's definitely oodles and more from EdCamp Philly.  More than any one post could hold!  So, given that, here's the Part Deux.  Here's where you find my list of of Personal Fav's--new finds all revealed to me at EdCamp Philly this past weekend.  (Well, most of them are new.  I peppered in a couple of my pre-known loves!)  These are the ones I can't wait to check out due to their high educator-based ratings from EdCampers:

Awesome Apps (both free & at cost)

Book Creator
Puppet Pals
Strip Design
Story Patch
My Story
Noteability (easy enough for a 1st grader to use)
Drawing Pad: Best art for early elementary
Art Rage: Like "Drawing Pad" for the 4th grade and up set
Crayola LCC

Screen Casting:
Doodle Cast: Screen casting tool
Explain Everything: Screen casting tool for older kids
Sound Cloud

Photo Synth 360: Make panaramic virtual tours
Tour Wrist: Go on virtual tours picked from a map

Social Studies/Science:
Encyclopedia Britanica Kids
Science 360

Must-See Websites

Cybraryman:  The Treasure Trove of all things Education!!

Change By Us:  A way to share projects to help communities Cam:  Stop annimation

Pre-Made Tech Rubrics  

Smore:  Creative flyer maker

Incredibox:  Beatbox music creator

360 Cities:  360 degree virtual cities of all sorts of places!!

This Is Sand:  Creative art pics made with colored "sand"

Pine Glen LTC:  So many great examples of what one school can do!

Apps 4 Ed:  Similar to Appetic where you can get feedback on educational
apps, but this one is more community driven.  The creator was the one who presented it himself!!

These are just the ones I can't wait to see.  But this is literally just the tip of the iceberg.  For more, go to the EdCamp Philly Resources Wikispaces page and go have fun.  Not to mention, look into an EdCamp near you!!

Logo from

Sunday, May 20, 2012

EdCamp Philly 2012: Oohs & Ahhs

[Disclaimer:  This is more "EdTech" than "Eco" 
(which happens from time to time)--but equally awesome!]
edcamp philly

Philadelphia is the birthplace of some of the greatest of American history... likewise, it was the birthplace of the first EdCamp ever, 2 years ago--nearly to the date!  How fitting that this past Saturday (5-19-2012) was starting a new "century" of EdCamps--kind of neat to be at the 101st EdCamp, back home where they all started.  Way to go, EdCamp Philly!!
As Dan Callahan (one of the originators of the original EdCamp Philly 2010) admitted in his part of Saturday's Welcome, he's a verified "EdCamp Addict."  I can see how it happens, as this weekend was my third in the past 6 months, having attended EdCamp DC in January and EdCamp Harrisburg this past November.

What is EdCamp, you ask?  You can get a brief synopsis on either of my 2 EdCamp blog posts linked above, or check out one of the following original sources:  the EdCamp Home WikiEdCamp Foundation, or this YouTube video.  In short, it's a day where educators (who just can't stop learning) come together (for free!) to an "unconference."  Once there, the schedule builds up around them, based on what the attendees are interested in sharing, and interested in learning.  On this past Saturday, EdCamp Philly had four one-hour-long sessions, and a "Smackdown" of people sharing "1 minute blips" about favorite websites. This made for 30-45 minutes of amazing new finds!
EdCamp Philly's links of info-galore were stockpiled at this Wikispaces!  Tons, tons, tons of good stuff here from all of the sessions.  Did I say tons?  Also be sure to check out Kristen Swanson's Smackdown Scoop.It Page of the possibly 3 dozen websites that were shared during the Smackdown.

My Highlights & Take-Aways:

a). If you aren't on Twitter, you should be!  It's a great resource of brilliance and collective knowledge.  Whatever your field, follow people in it.  Find colleagues. Use it in a totally different way than you use Facebook.  Don't post the trivial, but post the important.  Build your own Personal Learning Network [PLN].  Do it!  You'll become newly refreshed in your field!!

Edcamp Philly 2012-8589b).  Speaking of PLNs, I got to meet some of my favorite "tweet peeps" I follow.  Finally, a face to face, complete with the real person and personality, to match up with the twitter handles I've come to look for.  I had lunch with some of the great people who are planning EdCamp New Jersey (Dec. 1, 2012), including special guest appearance from Teacher Cast's Jeff Bradbury.

c).  Skype can be an amazing classroom resource.  Bill Krakower ran the session where he ended up skyping in with Cybraryman Jerry Blumengarten and Paula Naugle.  They Skyped in to talk (not surprisingly) about the ways to use Skype. Here's their document of a slew of ideas.  The Mystery Skype idea was a particular favorite of mine.

d).  The iPad is a a pencil, a dictionary, or a ruler.  Yes, a motivating tool (very much so), but a tool.  Your creativity as an educator determines what you do with it.  It's much much more than just the Internet or a set of digital flash cards.  So ask yourself:  what am I going to do with it?  If you don't know, learn.  Experiment.  Branch out.  Be the risk taker you encourage your students to be.

e).  As Diane Marcus commented in the "We Love iPads" session that she presented with Dan Callahan (fellow teacher at Pine Glen Elementary in Burlington, MA):  "As an adult in 2012, how many dioramas do you make in real life? So why is that the best way for students to share their information?"  Her point:  in a digital world, where the expectation down the line will be for digital presentations, perhaps the time to start using those tools is now!  Use the technology only after the written scripts are done first to help create a smooth product.

Clearly, EdCamp Philly left me with a lot on my mind.  I have a whole list of "Personal Fav's," both iPad apps and websites, but I'm thinking that's going to have to make its way to another post, a "Part Deux!"  As you can imagine, there are oodles and bunches!  So stay tuned!!

Images from:
EdCamp Philly logo from, EdCamp graph from, EdCamp Philly 2012 schedule = screenshot from my camera of the Google Doc the EdCamp Philly folks created to show the day's events; Pic of me (winning a door prize) taken by Kevin Jarrett, found on the EdCamp Philly Flickr page:; Tweet Pic from Pine Glen Room 209's Diane Marcus of Bill Krawkower's Skype session. This was a photo taken from a screenshot of her tweet from my phone.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oyster Release: An Annual Tradition

 I'm not sure how it is that a week has gone by already since we had our Triple Crown Week o'Eco-Trips.  Each trip (in and of itself) was amazing.  The sum total was downright incredible!

[Note to self:  Track back with me to see our art/bridge study trip at the Chesapeake Bay & our outdoor adventures with Grace Episcopal Day School.]

Trip #3 involved a school-side dock pick up, a boat arrival and departure, and gathering up our containers of oyster spat that my class has been raising all year in science.  Our day-long chariot was a Chesapeake Bay Foundation vessel captained by Bart and First Mate Tiffany, who also served as our onboard educators.  Bart & Tiffany helped us find the necessary elements for our baby oysters so we could find a safe home to release them into the river, so they could do their job of filtering the bay.

We trekked down the Magothy River to discover the location of the hidden oyster sanctuary, somewhere beneath us in a watery world. 

We charted maps. 

 We used the depth finder to monitor what lie beneath us.  We measured salinity (which, by the way, is measured in "parts per thousandths" [ppt].

We collected some fish....and we had to "heave" and "hoe" and literally tote the line to pull them in.  We studied them, held them, even kissed a fish or two before it was time to send them back to the sea.

And then the moment we'd been waiting for:  we released the oysters. 

We said our fond good byes, named the li'l fellas (or fillies),
and sent them off to their new homes, overboard!
 As we were trekking back to school, sun warm on our faces, it was also like a trip down memory lane for me.  Each year, our crop of oyster spat and my crop of third graders is new and ever-changing; but, for me, it's like coming home to a warm and familiar place.

Mmmm, yes...feel that warmth! 
To take that trip with me, revisiting a history of ECS/GTG oyster releases, take some time to meander down memory lane here:

~ Tippy Canoe & Oysters Too ~ June 6, 2011

~ The World Is Our Oyster ~ March 29, 2010

Images a la moi, from our May 11th sea adventure!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Group of Friends With the Same Dream

Last week in my li'l Eagle Cove School Eco-world, it was like "Part 2"...or perhaps even more a "Yin Yang" kind of week in many ways.
It was "Earth Week Revisited" as my students had the triple crown of field trips:

1.  A trip to "paint" the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Sandy Point State Park as part of a combined social studies-art field trip; 

2.  A trip with our 1st--3rd graders to Kensington, Maryland's Grace Episcopal Day School [GEDS] to continue our friendship which started during our original Earth Day Earth Week, where 1st--5th graders trekked up to ECS to spend the day outdoors with us on our turf;

3. Our annual 3rd grade boat trip to return our oyster spat we've been raising all year long (more on that on another day).

Like I was a "Part 2" kind of week, where the parallels were plentiful...especially with our continuation of our relationship with GEDS:

--They had outdoor adventures at our school, and we had outdoor adventures at the nearby creek in Rock Creek Park and on the nature trail at their school. 

--We showed them a play with humorous, musical interludes ("Jack & the GreenStalk"), and they performed the musical comedy "The Truth About George" (about a medieval village, knights, maidens, and a vegetarian dragon).

--Both days involved a lot of neat stations, hands on activities, eco-art, outdoor picnic lunch and making new friends (although this time, we returned to some fast friends we'd made last time).

--Plus our trip to GEDS was topped off with trips to their two "Bay Rooms" where they'd compiled loads of long-term learning about the Chesapeake Bay.

An amazingly fun time!  And pretty darn neat to see a "soul mate" kind of school, who not only is similar in size, philosophy, and environmental focus on our Chesapeake Bay. 

Given the Casablanca quote I used when writing about our previous ECS/GEDS adventure, I started looking up movie quotes, thinking that "Play it again, Sam" (also from Casablanca) would be a good one for today.  However, I learned that it is actually a misquote often attributed with that movie.  So a more fitting one surfaced, coming from a much different movie; yet, a favorite all the same, and fitting indeed!  Add a lens of environmentalism and shared vision to the quote, and I think it ties extraordinarily well--especially given this sentiment of soul mates:

"I have a dream too, but it's about singing and dancing and making people happy.  It's the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with.  And I found a whole group of friends who have the same dream, and that makes us sort of like a family." 
~The Muppet Movie

Cheers to our dear friends at Grace Episcopal!!

Yin Yang Tree Card Image from; All other pictures from my camera

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Picture Says 1000 Words

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words....Here are my words.  And my pictures. 

And... our annual art trip where we head to Sandy Point State Park, Maryland to "paint" the Chesapeake Bay Bridge using watercolor techniques while discussing all of our bridge vocabulary.  We wrap up the trip discussing the importance of maintaining clean waterways, then participating in a beach clean-up of shore-side marine debris. 

For a blast from the past...come hang with me the last two years:

Annual Bridge/Art Trip 2010

Imagees from my camera ~ great field trip or what?!