Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year's, PlanetPals' Style!

happy new year palsPlanetPals always has a plethora of green offerings for young and old alike!!  New Year's is no different!  If you are looking to add a little green to your calendar-changing-eve festivities, or if you are looking to "darken your shade of green" by way of a few resolutions, here are some great resources.

PlanetPals "Green New Year's" Page:
From do-it-yourself noise makers, to world-wide crafts, to Chinese New Year (& our upcoming "Year of the Snake"), to ideas what to do with your outdated calendars, or even how to throw a greener party... find a slew of goodies here.

The Planet Pal "One a Day" Pledge:
There are lots of resolution ideas here, including the pledge below. This is a great way to help you or your cherubs do little things daily to add up to big things over all!

one a day pladgeDo one thing, big or small
Just be green, it helps us all.

A little thing, a thing a day
Can change the world,
In a great big way.

PlanetPals pics and pledge from

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sending Snowy Seasonal Wishes Your Way

Sending you...
Marvelous merriment this Christmas Day.
Handfuls of happiness a bit ago on Hanukkah nights.
Fun-filled family times for Kwanzaa ahead.
And a Past November full of Diwali lights.

Sending you snowy seasonal greetings during this time of love.

You too can send snowflakes of love to Newtown, Connecticut to help welcome Sandy Hook Elementary students back to school this January. Help them create a wintery wonderland by sending your paper-made snowflakes (by January 12th, 2013) to:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 10, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Photo from my camera, a handful of snowflakes created by my 2 kids and their grandmother on Christmas Day for Sandy Hook using my mom's CriCut machine.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

In the Clouds In Costa Rica This Holiday Season

One of the things I love about my job is that there is always something in the works at Eagle Cove School [aka: "ECS"]!

On one of our last few days of school this December before break, there was more going on than just holiday parties, making ornaments as parent gifts, reading holiday stories, and an all-school sing-a-long. In between all of that, my 3rd graders managed to squeeze in a quick FaceTime iPad conference with our science teacher. This, in and of itself, isn't so unusual. But, the FaceTiming was a tad farther than just the other side of campus. It happens that way when Tim Decker, our science teacher, happens to be in Costa Rica!  [Rumor on the street, our 5th graders also FaceTimed Costa Rica and Mr. Decker as well.]

Christmas and Costa Rica don't normally go hand in hand in our neck of the woods... but they do this year. Using part of his Christmas break and the last few days before break, Tim Decker flew south to spend some time at The Cloud Forest School. The Cloud Forest school (el Centro de EducaciĆ³n Creativa) is an is an independent PreK--11th Grade school located on 100+ acres of cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

The reason for this mid-December visit? To foster an environmental & educational friendship with a like-minded school. When you look at their vision, it is easy to see the parallels to ECS, a Maryland "green" school since 2006. From the Cloud Forest School's website:
"Our vision is to help foster a sustainable future for the Earth by educating individuals to:  Love, respect and protect the natural environment;  Strive for justice and peace as well as academic excellence, and;  Work towards conserving biodiversity and enriching community life."
Like-minded indeed!

Additionally, while packing for Costa Rican warm-weather-wear during our typical Maryland winter season, Decker packed heavy for his trip down south.  He took a suitcase-full if needed school supplies that were brought in by ECS students & their families.

Once down in Costa Rica, Decker met with school leaders and teachers to brainstorm future collaborations between the two schools. He also shared a virtual tour of ECS that our 5th graders created with their 1:1 iPad program using the iMovie app. Plans are in the works between the two schools for future video-conferencing visits and student activities comparing and contrasting our riverside/wooded school campus with their Cloud Rainforest campus. Wheels of educational ideas are turning on both sides!

photo.JPGEagle Cove School's Parent Association funded Tim Decker's trip through the sales of special eco-Tshirts. First through fifth graders submitted designs centered around an environmental quote. The winning design (by one of our ECS 2nd graders) included a quote of her own creation.

As quoted in the December 2012 Bay Weekly, "'This project seems perfect for our students,' Decker says. "It brings together science, language, geology, culture, technology, and service.'" To learn more, be sure to check out Bay Weekly's link or go to the the 12/11/2012 article in The Arundel Patch.

Given the mutual environmental passion of both schools, it's easy to see the magnetic attraction. Additionally, given the lens of community stewardship and collaborative spirit of learning that are at play, the following quote seems to strike a chord:
"A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed...It feels an impulsion...this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons." ~ American author, Richard Bach
Mural in the works at The Cloud Forest School (photo taken & shared by Tim Decker)
White-faced monkey in the Costa Rican jungle (photo taken & shared by Tim Decker)

Classroom FaceTiming pic and Tshirt pic from my camera; map of Costa Rica from; Classroom pic of Tim Decker from

Friday, December 21, 2012

Greening Your Holiday Routines

I've said it before, and here I am saying it again--I am a big big fan of Pinterest.  Being a visual to the N-th degree, I find it appeals to the heart of both my learning and organizational style.  In this last week before Christmas, here are a few finds & links I've tucked away on both my Christmas Pinterest Board & my "Eco-Mania" P-Board.  Think of them sort of like goodies I'm now tucking in your stockings, as a way to add creativity AND sustainability to your holidays!!
Photo: Gift wrapping the green way
recycle christmas

Images from:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Healing the Hurt, #26Acts @ A Time

Looking at the calendar, we are less than a week away from Christmas.  Glancing at my December GTG posts I've written, I'm struck by their similarity, especially given what is on my mind today.  3 posts on an experiment on homelessness in addition to the horrific events of Newtown, CT last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary.  The dichotomy of sadness & difficulty in contrast to the Christmas season hasn't gone by unnoticed.

Our country right now, in the aftermath of Newtown, is raw with unbelievable pain for the loss of those 20 dear sweet children and their heroic teaching staff.  On so many levels it is still so difficult to wrap a mind around.

Yet a movement is floating in the wind.  A contagious flow of positive energy as a means of healing the hurt.  Inspired by Ann Curry across the twittersphere, a movement--one gaining momentum--has begun.  She explains her initial tweet in detail over at
"After the experience in Newtown. I thought, “What if? Imagine if everyone could commit to doing one act of kindness for every one of those children killed in Newtown.” So that’s what I tweeted. And guess what? People committed. I said in my tweet, “I’m in. RT if you’re in."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Following along on the hashtags #20acts and #26acts (which also includes the 6 teachers who died at Sandy Hook Elementary as well), you can definitely see that there are a lot of folks who are "in."  What an ideal way to counter the pain and help heal our nation and the anger over this.  I feel it's a wonderful way to renew both our faith in humankind, as well as the spirit and meaning of Christmas.

As I was reading of friends' and others' acts this morning, I had an overwhelming need to watch "Charlie Brown's Christmas," hearing the music of that traditional TV tale, and seeing that li'l scraggly tree all lit up with love at the end.  Love is what heals.  So too does taking that extra minute to reach out to someone who you wouldn't ordinarily.  Perhaps it happens in the surprise gift or two you send to a far away friend that will be quite unexpected.   It falls in the donation my family and I made on behalf of the teachers of our school to the Cloud Forest School in Costa Rica to help them get extra supplies.  It's the warmth of heart you get knowing you have donated gifts to Toys For Tots or a local Angel Tree.

I especially felt it today at Payless Shoes when I was buying a replacement pair of work shoes for me (as my old ones have been battered by the mulch on our school playground during recess duty).  After paying for my shoes, I bought an additional $5 gift card.  Right there at the cashier stand, I wrote: "To You, From Me.  This is in honor of the events in CT this past weekend in hopes that we can heal the hate as a nation.  Please pay it forward any way you can to help heal our country from this sad loss."

Girls SmartfitGirls' Toddler Glitter Ballet FlatI glanced around the store as I was ready to depart, and there in the li'l shoe aisle was a dad with his 4 year old blondie, trying on sparkly shoes.  I handed this gift card to him with a simple "This is for you," and a swelling warmth in my chest.  It reminded me of my own blondie daughter at that age and her delight in her own "ruby reds" (which is ironic now given her distaste now for anything that doesn't fall in the category of "Tomboy").  It nearly broke my heart thinking of all those lost sparkles in Connecticut.   But it made me feel good, that my little random act of kindness put a smile on that daddy-n-daughter duo's face.  It made me feel like I was helping perpetuate that positive energy--that feeling, that healing.

Given Ann Curry's inspiration, I now challenge you to go forth and do good.  How many Random Acts of Kindness are you in for?

Looking for resources and ideas of ways you can make someone's day?  Check out the Random Act of Kindness Website.  Likewise, there are many great books out there on the subject!, Picture page, Charilie Brown Christmas from, Payless gift card & shoes from Minor Myers, Jr. quote from

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wishing You Peace, In The Aftermath of Tragedy

Like many today, I am filled with a sadness over the horrific events of yesterday's December 14th shooting at Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.  

Being a teacher myself, I didn't find out about the horrible situation until almost the end of the day when it was revealed by way of family text messages on my phone .  My job in the classroom doesn't have me at the ready-watch of the TV, Internet news, or even a radio. Also, being a teacher, I couldn't help but imagine how awful it must have been for the students and staff of the school.  I found myself playing it through my mind as if it were my classroom, my colleagues, my students.  Saying it was a sickening sensation is completely understated.  As a parent, I found myself doing the same with my two children.  This is the reason why many of us in America--in the world--are crying today and holding our children a little bit closer!

My hearts is going out to all the families today.  The parents who learned of their loss after sending their children to the safest place they could imagine--school.  The brothers and sisters who have lost their sibling playmates.  The parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who have Christmas presents under trees for their li'l ones who are now lost to them.   Especially at Christmastime, it all feels doubly cruel--though unthinkable, it already is.  

Last night my husband and I took our children to a community train garden.  We were doubly privileged in that we got to see our kids' glee in the amazing Winter Wonderland Trainsville that surrounded them.  My heart is heavy for the families of the 26 victims of one man's wild rage, for they will no longer get to experience the innocence and joy I saw in my children's faces as they saw the magic that surrounded them.  

If you (or your children) are having a hard time dealing with the aftermath of all of this news and the tragic images so prevalent on the news/Internet, here are some amazing resources from The National Alliance for Grieving Children.

It is my wish that in the aftermath of such a terrible, unthinkable event that we all can be filled with peace, warmth, and comfort... and may these senseless crimes cease, being replaced with peace.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Info & Experimentation in Homelessness ~ Part 3

For those of you following along, this week I've been following a conversational path of homelessness as I have been following the 10-day path of voluntary true homelessness of Dean Wright.  Dean is the Executive Director of the Freeport Area Church Cooperative (FACC) in Freeport Illinois.  (You can go back and follow that conversational path at Part 1 & Part 2 to catch up.)

From November 26 to December 6, Dean lived the homeless life.  Here is his final video blog installment, entitled "The End or the Beginning," an eye opening view from him on his 10 day experience.  In it he includes some really key ways you can help the homelessness in your community, in both big and small ways.

[To watch the entire video blog series of Dean's experience, check out his FACC YouTube page.]

In thinking about homelessness these past 2 weeks--seeing it through Dean's eyes, it led me down this path of searching for more statistics.  Here are a few of the other resources I found, which are equally eye opening.  May it start a trek for you this holiday season, to do the right thing, and help out so many that need your help.  Thank you Dean for helping to open my eyes, and so many others!

⌂ Homelessness Mapped in the United States:  This 2009 map (the most recent I could easily locate) shows homeless estimates by state.  At the website, there is quite a bit of additional date and statistics on why people find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

⌂ The Living Wage Calculator:  Dean limited himself to a $6.50 daily food allotment.  By doing a little math, you can figure out what that would allot you for the year.  At the Living Wage Calculator, you can see what it costs in yours community, or any other in any of the other states.  This calculator indicates typical expenses for reaching the bottom level standards of living.  It also stretches it out based on your family's parameters (numbers of parents, number of kids).  Scary, how expensive it can be, and how easy it can be to tip low-wage job employees into economically-tight situations.

⌂ Homelessness & Hunger Infographic:  Freeport, Illinois is approximately 2 hours (or 120 miles) away from Chicago.  This infographic (below) depicts the "real picture" for Chicago.  Odds are high that it is similar for most major metropolitan areas.

Video from, Map from, Homelessness & Hunger infographic from

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Info & Experiments in Homelessness ~ Part 2

When we last left off... Last Friday my 3rd graders were making sandwiches for the homeless (something we do 3 times during the winter season).  They got to experience life last week through Dean Wright's eyes--a college friend who has currently been doing a living 10 day experiment in homelessness.  Why?  To bring an awareness to the plight of the homeless person in his hometown of Freeport, Illinois.

It's been eye opening, and I have found myself assuming the role of "video blog stalker each day," eager to see Dean's epiphanies, tribulations, trials, & triumphs along a journey many of us wouldn't eager invite.  I found his Day 8 bonus feature yesterday enlightening & invigorating.  "Yagottawanna" watch it... To quote/paraphrase Dean:  
Ya gotta wanna be in the game.
Ya gotta wanna take action
You gotta wanna make change. ...
Life is a contact sport.  It involves that we're in in it.  
Get in the game.  Do something!

Sending kudos & cheers to Dean as he faces his last 2 nights!

Chalk drawing from (interestingly, about feeding the homeless); Dean's video from

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Info & Experiments in Homelessness ~ Part 1

228. Not a batting average, but a sandwich count.

45. No, again, not a batting average. (Could it even be a batting average? I haven't a clue.)  Rather, it is the amount of time it took 13 third graders to compile 228 sandwiches given a school's worth of bread, cheese, and lunch meat donations.

The purpose--one of 3 wintertime sandwich making sessions for Happy Helpers for he Homeless, started in 1983 by 10 yr old Amber Coffman.  Eagle Cove School has been connected with Happy Helpers for 16 years.  In the 6 years that I have been at ECS, my class as been making sandwiches, averaging about 600 a year.  That's a good 3,600 sandwiches in my tenure alone! That's something that certainly feels good to be a part of!
an organization

This year, homelessness had a face--that of Dean Wright, my college roomie's husband.

No, Carrie did not kick him to the curb.  Dean is the Executive Director for the Freeport Area Church Cooperative (FACC).  As a plan to to bring awareness to the homelessness situation, he has voluntarily embarked on a 10 night adventure of homelessness in his Illinois hometown.  He embarked on this quest this past Monday, November 26, planning to continue through December the 6th.  He is doing 3-10 minute video web-logs telling of his experiences.  Here's his video following his first night out in the 20 degree frigid Illinois temperatures.

This became an excellent way for me to share the meaning of our sandwich making with my 8 and 9 year olds.  (Especially once they came to terms with the fact that one, he is not truly homeless; two, he is doing this voluntarily; and three, no, homeless people probably don't have a Facebook page.).  So we made our 228 Maryland sandwiches in honor of "Illinois Dean," who would be sleeping out int he world tonight.

Watching the videos, I find it fascinating (not only because I know Dean), but by the way his experience has of course led him to think about things.  It also becomes such an eye opening experience for anyone watching him candidly speak about it.  There's a true perspective shift that occurs, on so many topics:
  • What truly is important in life?  
  • How much do we each take for granted? (Like the toasty comfort of one's bed or the ability to get a glass of water when you are thirsty in the middle of the night!!)
  • How do we treat people, based on perceptions alone?
Parallel that out with the upcoming holiday season, it really, truly, completely makes you think!

One of my favorite "episodes" so far of Dean's has been the morning of Day 4, when he said:
"You know what I was thinking?  Everyone should be passionate about something. Anything. It may not be homeless people.  It may be something else. That's okay. Things don't get done when people don't have passion about things. ... Sometime I just don't see some of the passion that I think think we need to see in our community.  When people have passion, and they're a motivated leader--whatever they're doing, things get done.  They get done!...  I want to inspire and try to motivate people today. If helping homeless people is not your gig, that's okay. Find what your gig is. Go out there and passionately pursue it for the sake of your community.  Just for the sake of your own heart. I think we could use a lot more that everywhere.  I guess that's just what I will leave you with here today."
So now it is like the latest soap opera.  We can't miss an episode.  We need to see what Dean is up to, and how he survived the latest night.  Funny, this "addiction," as I am not keen on reality TV shows of any sort.  But this IS reality... and truly an eye opening experience.  This IS what's worth watching.

To see more news about Dean Wright's Homelessness Experience, check out this news article or Dean's web-log videos.

For a list of ideas of things to donate to your nearby homeless shelters (including wool socks), check out the Homelessness Shelter Directory.

For a list of 35 ways you can help the homeless, check out

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'll share some interesting infographics and calculators on the subject. 

Dean’s web-log videos from photos from and