Sunday, September 30, 2012

A-Park Questing We Did Go

A-questing we will go!

These were the opening words for my first GTG post on MD Park Quest back on June 1, 2010.  It was then that I embarked on sharing some of the Park Quest adventures of "Team Dabrowka" (which during the next 2 seasons morphed into a better-named "Team Green Gators").  Season 3 was our first year of Park Questing. 
That was two years ago, and now yesterday Park Quest wrapped up it's fifth season, bigger and better than ever! Each year, the grand finale--the annual "Rendezvous"--is a special day o'quests for those families who completed at least 10 of the 24 quests. It is a day for the serious outdoorsy folks to shine. 
And boy oh boy, did we all shine, as bright and wonderfully as yesterday's sun!  Patapsco State Park hosted the day-long event of 20 mini-quests, including bike riding, fishing-rod casting, leaf rubbing, geo-caching, letter-boxing, tree-identifying, animal sighting, fact-finding, game playing, learning, and laughing.  All of us embracing the PQ motto:  "Where a family becomes a team!"

Maryland Park Superintendent Nita Settina, in her opening remarks, quoted the recent study about how "awe-inspiring moments in nature reduce stress."  Park Quest most certainly worked to weave in a multitude of those moments into this year's Rendezvous! Richard Louv, author of "The Last Child in the Woods" and "The Nature Principle" would delight in so many families taking aim against "Nature Deficit Disorder." 

In fact, during the ceremony, we learned some pretty fascinating facts as to just how many people were defying nature deficit disorder!
  • Combined this summer, over 4,000 quests were completed;
  • This year's Rendezvous was by far the largest of all five years;
  • 235 teams qualified for the rendezvous;
  • Over 1,100 people joined in the yesterday's fun;
  • Of the 1000 teams, approximately 2 dozen qualified as "Super Questers," completing all 24 quests (making our Team Green Gator's 10 quests feel kind of meager!!) 
With the sponsors numerous and well-known (REI, Diamondback Bicycles, and Deep Creek's WISP Resort, just to name a few), everyone was waiting excitedly to see if their lucky raffle ticket would be drawn. The prizes were many--from adventure trips, bikes, camping gear, and more.  It was made even extra exciting as former Baltimore Sun Outdoors writer Candy Thomson was pulling out tickets.  Piped as Park Quest's unofficial sponsor, Candy has written many times in the past about the beauty and glory of Park Quest.  Some of her most-treasured writings occurred during Season 3 and 4 when she wrote about her 24/7 experiences of hitting all 24 quest parks in a 7 day experience!  Candy also has written in the past from various Olympics, but her 24/7 feat alone makes her a true Park Quest Olympian!!

We all got the opportunity to be Olympians in our own ways, both during this year's Park Quest season and yesterday's Park Quest Rendezvous.  We faced challenges.  We battled the great outdoors.  We sometimes roughed the elements, meaning it wasn't always pretty. But, it always left you with a sense of great accomplishment.  Families came together, tackling a common goal by way of riddling through the quest questions and grabbing hold of new experiences.  Yes indeed:  Park Quest is where a family becomes a team!  That, right there, makes champions of us all!

Squirrel-shaped word cloud from Tagxedo, using text from my GTG 6/1/2010 Park Quest post, pics from the sights and scenes at 9/29/2012's Park Quest Rendezvous.  Park Quest T-shirt from Team Bay Boughey's PQ shirt they designed for this season!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oysters Ahoy!

Oysters are nature's bay-filters and water-cleaners.
Young PreK'ers to 5th graders carried oyster
Spat from truck to pier, to the edge of the Magothy River.
Totalling 2,600 lbs, these oysters found a temporary home in
Eagle Cove School's neighboring river on Sept. 7th, 2012.
Radical teamwork at it's finest! Working together to
Serve our community and help build a better Chesapeake Bay!

To learn more about Eagle Cove School's involvement with the Magothy Rivery Association and Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, check out the September 18th article in the Pasadena Voice Newspaper:  Eagle Cove School Students Place 2,600 Pounds Of Oysters In Magothy


Pictures from my Camera @ Eagle Cove School, Friday, Sept. 7th, 2012.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wedded Bliss & Blissful Recovery à la Nature

In our clan, we are coming off a full-family, whirlwind wedding weekend of rehearsal parties, bridal party beautification, and a gorgeous ceremony of two people that literally shine of life and laughter. Two people who I am thrilled to call "family" (by way of in-laws,"outlaws," and upside-downs)! We followed up the wedding by hosting a late night after-hours at our house, and we followed that up with an all-day after-wedding pool party at friends so the family times and fun could continue.

It was a full weekend!!

So today, was our first day out, post-festivities; a non-event day of recovery before the reality hits us full-force tomorrow. Given that, I spent all day outside after an early morn at church followed by a fabulous brunch at a local Irish pub. With the average temp today somewhere in a the idyllic range of low to mid 70s, my lounge chair was a true and total nirvana. The rustling of leaves in the breeze, the squawking of birds arguing over the bird feeder, and the warmth of the sun on my face.  A snooze here and there, a phone chat with Mom, and the sounds of nature surrounding me--pure and utter bliss!!

I feel that the full nature of my own personal "festivity recovery" lies in "nature" itself. I have felt myself having a "What Would Richard Louv Do?" kind-of-day. Louv, author of The Nature Principle and creator of the concept "Nature Deficit Disorder" is a big proponent of finding your way outdoors in order to find yourself.  One of my favorite quotes from his book was on page 28, where Louv detailed a 9-year study (started in the 1970s) by environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan:
"Furthermore they have found that the natural world is a particularly effective place for the human brain to overcome mental fatigue, to be restored .... Nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind."
That's what I needed today after a very full weekend, and I'm glad I made the time, outside, to find it.

With the lasting effects of the Irish pub brunch on my mind, and the vision of the groom's Celtic-style ring, it reminded me of two wonderful, and very fitting Irish blessing that are often used in weddings, and that seemed just made for the day, as a follow-up to my wedding weekend:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

May the longtime sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide you on your way
Akal, Akal, infinity....

Akal, Akal, no end.

Photos from my camera, and Irish blessings from

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Back in the Business of Being at School

We have been in school a whopping 9 days here in the post-Labor Day 2012 era. (Yes, I do consider myself luckier than most in that I know a number teaching-buddies nationwide who have had very early August start dates.)

At day #9, we are still newbies this year.  We have barely scratched the surface.  Yet, on behalf of seasoned-teachers, I know that in only 9 days, we know a lot.  We can see a lot of academic, social, and behavior strengths, and we already have the wheels a-turning on how to shape or polish anything we might see cropping up.

I look at my own personal 9 days, at my own li'l "green" school... and I'm a bit amazed at the items we've both tackled and accomplished here in this "4-day-week-topped-with-a-5-dayer."  In addition to getting into the groove, figuring out class routines and expectations, and building stamina (the teacher's!!), we're already hitting the academic regime with gusto!

I am proud to say, that in these first 9 days, I've already done a nice job of hitting both the #edtech and the #eco side of life.  My 3rd graders have learned the difference between asking if they can "play" on the iPads or "learn" on them. (There IS only ONE right answer!)  They've used the iPads for building their math facts, and building a motivational poster (using the Motivational Poster app--which I love) for our school-wide first quarter theme of "Kindness."  They've been busy on the computer taking the Scholastic Reading Inventory to discover their Lexile.  They've created both a "word tapestry" using Wordle and a personal Timeline using "Teach-nology." They've watched (and begged for more) the animated video of the Bayeux Tapestry on YouTube.  I've given learning style assessments and reading assessments.  We've counted classroom collections of Capri Suns as part of our weekly upcycling program with Terracycle. We've sent our class compost to the 5th graders who weigh and carry it to our campus compost heap.  We've gone outside more than just recess--we've gone on outdoor scavenger hunts (or "Campus Quests," similar to the many Maryland Park Quests my family has done throughout the years) to work on team-building.  And, we've taken part as a school for the 4th year in a row to haul oyster spat to our neighboring Magothy River as a future pick-up spot for the Marylanders Grow Oysters project. 

Not to mention, my daughter accompanied her 4th and 5th grade peers to Echo Hill Outdoor School for a 3-day outdoor education/community building annual field trip.  Tonight, she couldn't wait to show us how she had learned to build a fire, all on her own!!  Not a "fake fire" (as she called it, with lighter fluid), but a "real fire" (with "timber, kindling, and true fuel.") And what a "real fire" it was!!

Day 9?!  In some ways, it's hard to believe, when you look at all we've done. Yet, I think that is the beauty as a 21st Century Teacher.  Even more so, when you are given the autonomy to do what you need to do with your class of visual/hands-on learners, who are largely "Nature Smart" (as determined on a Multiple Intelligence inventory that I have the kids do during their first week of homework). 

As teachers, every year we are reminded that our students come to us from many different places, at many different levels, with many different sets of expertise, and many different needs.  It is up to us to take that ball and to run with it.  Teaching through the environment, and teaching through technology are two great ways to capture that momentum, and show our students what a true love of learning is all about!!

All photos from my camera.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Saving the Earth: One Step at a Time

On the flip side of a full week, the FIRST week of school, I've got that deep kind of tired that seems only applicable to teachers on the tail end of their first full week of school.  Given that, an infographic seemed to be just what the doctor ordered on a Friday night.  This is a great one to help yourself darken your own shade of green!

Pinned Image

Infographic from

Monday, September 3, 2012

On the Cusp--A New School Year On the Horizon

It's funny the realizations that crop up at the mere posting of a Facebook Status.

I was writing about my back-to-school brood that is nestled safely in bed for the start of school tomorrow, the day after Labor Day.   My comment:

"We're on the cusp of 3 F's: First, Fifth, and my twentyFirst year of teaching."
It was then that it hit me... this would probably be the final year of all 3 of us being in the same school. Middle School next year for my daughter, which is then a short commute to High School, then College, and Beyond.  My last year of classroom "Spy Cam" for two (which is what I call it when I do a  classroom "drive by" solely to peek in one of their classrooms.  My last year of personally knowing both of my kids' teachers on an intimate professional level of being fellow teachers with them.  My girl will be doing all of those things you do when you "rule the school" at the top of the class: 5th grade class trips, taking out compost (never a 5th grade favorite), being the school leaders, and graduation speeches.

If I know anything about time after all of these years, it's that it goes faster every no doubt, this one shall fly.  Ready or not, here it comes.  Moral of the story:  not sure I'm ready... but ready or not, here it comes.

I remember starting here at my "green" school, 6 years ago, with such a great pressure because it wasn't just for me, but it was to become the "home away from home" for my then-kindergartner and my then-2 year old who would follow in the backpack-path of his sister.   I chose right--for both myself and my peeps.  I have enjoyed seeing them embrace nature, science, friends, and academic-wonderland here at my "green" school.  I have found my personal teaching niche, and teacher friends I adore.  My kids--and my family--have done the same.

Yes, I am on the cusp.

On the cusp of a new school year, my last year of Spy Cam.

On the horizon of the Magothy River!

Insert big "kid hug" here!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Make It an Outdoor, Unplugged Kind of Labor Day!

As I was kicking my kids outside (and off the electronics) this morning, I was pondering how this is our last weekend of "freedom"--our last weekend before school starts.  Brought to mind this infographic!!  May you have an outdoor, active, and unplugged Labor Day!!

Infographic from,-Outside,-%26-Unplugged-Infographic.html