Saturday, April 26, 2014

Earth Week Day 3: Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, there was a little school on the shores of the Magothy River, with a great view of the Chesapeake Bay. Although, in reality, it was a little white and gray school yet it truly was seen more as a little green school.  A Maryland "Green" School.  And, during one week in April (a week, in fact, right around Earth Day), it  becomes greener than ever, for a week.  A week we like to call "Earth Week."  It is during this week that we hang out with "green" authors, sing "green" songs, do a plethora of "green" activities, and even put on a "green" show.  This year, Eagle Cove School's last year, is no difference. The creative genius of our science teacher and our music teacher were at it again for this sixth (and final) theatrical season.

This year's play centered on around 3 somewhat fractured fairy tales, that got a very green slant.  3 familiar stories, each with dashing young princes and "fair" fairy princesses to be rescued.  Each story centered around 3 familiar environmental themes:  reduce, reuse, recycle.  

Since you couldn't be there, and it seems like the "made for TV movie" might not be happening for awhile, here are the run downs:

Act 1, Scene 1:  Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger in the royal forest on some royally gross trash that has been left lying about. After consulting the Big Book of Fairy Tales, there are only 2 solutions:  a kiss from a royal prince, or (when reading the fine print--everybody loves fine print) "disposing of the enchanted glass properly."  The Prince goes off in quest to find out what exactly that means, and runs into 2 merchants at a crossroads:  one is the manager of the local dump, and one is the manager of the nearby recycling center.  The two explain what their version of "disposal" means, and The Prince opts for Door #2:  The blue bin and recycling.  This breaks the spell cast by the enchanted pollution, and the forest is cleaned.  Long live recycling!  (Insert royal trumpets here.)

Act 2, Scene 1:  Rapunzel
Rapunzel is high up in the forest tower when Prince #2 comes dashingly walking by.  Rapunzel shares her sad, sorrowful tale of being dropped in the tower by the wicked witch, who daily brings her lunch in plastic grocery bags that Rapunzel pulls up on a little drop rope with a hook.  So all that's left for poor Rapunzel is a towerful of bags.  The Prince has a flash of brilliance and recommends that Rapunzel braids the bags into a rope so he can come up and rescue her from her prison.  So, she builds a rope, drops it, and is about to be rescued when the witch re-arrives, seeing the near escape.  Foiled for another day, Rapunzel and The Prince plan to save up bags and set the plan back in action.  Which is all very good... until the Witch comes back the next day with....oh no!  A reusable bag!!  Rapunzel didn't see that one coming, and the Witch leaves stating "Even The Witch gets to win sometimes!"   Long live reusing!  (Insert royal trumpets here.)

Act 3, Scene 1:  Snow White
We enter into the castle seeing Snow White under a royal spell, surrounded by two poor distraught dwarfs,  Happy & Grumpy.  We also see that Snow White has quite a thing for her electronics:  TV is on, music is a-playing, lights are a-blazing.  It's a technology wonderland!  Prince #3 comes into the scene and surveys the very bright yet somber situation, and the Big Book of Fairy Tales comes back out.  Again, there are 2 possible situations for breaking the spell:  that kissing business, or "do something to save energy."  Again, the Prince opts for door #2 and goes off on a quest for how to save energy.  Well, the light bulb clicks on for The Prince (with a little help from the Fairy Green Father), and he heads back and starts flicking off switches.  This promptly awakens Snow White...which makes both Happy and Grumpy a bit happier.  Unfortunately, it is much to Snow White's chagrin, who feels she looks much better in bright light and needs all her "stuff" on.  So, in her dash to go turn it all on, she finds herself right back under the spell, down and out and in the same predicament.  Happy & Grumpy shrug it off, coming to the conclusion that perhaps it's better having Snow White in this state after, given her personality.  Long live reducing energy!  (Insert royal trumpets here.)

To take a little peek at some of the past ECS Earth Week productions of Decker-Vernon, click where you can below.  Past play remixes include:  
"The Lorax," 2010

Pics from our ECS Play, center picture our play program created by two of our 5th graders (with a slight homonymal oversight).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earth Week Day 2: Animals Abound!

Earth Day Tuesday had some nice "eco" treats at Eagle Cove School for Earth Week--of the animal kind.  For my 3rd graders, it started out with Animal Rehabilitator Kathy Woods and "The Critter Dude" Walter Massey.  Both work as animal rescuers (or rehabilitators) for the Phoenix Wildlife Center, Inc in Phoenix, Maryland. They brought some of their rescue friends to share with our ECS friends.

In addition to seeing boxed turtles, a toad, and a Great Horned Owl (with some of the younger students seeing even a few more critters), Mr. Walt and Ms. Kathy taught us some interesting Earth Day animal facts. (I was furiously typing away in the Notes app on my phone to get them all!):

  • You can tell the difference between male and female box turtles in 2 ways--their eyes and their shell bottom.  Males have red eyes and a dented bottom shell, females have brown eyes & a flat shell bottom.  The song "Brown Eyed Girl" can help you remember that one!
  • Boxed turtles can live to 100--125 years old...yet another reason why they won't make good pets by bringing them in out of nature (one, it's not where they're meant to live, and secondly: they'll outlive you!)
  • Turtles can indeed flip themselves over if they get stuck on their back.  (They literally "use their head!")
  • Toads can be distinguished from frogs because they live on land (not near water), are bumpy (not smooth), and hop (versus jump longer distances).  
  • When you listen to toads, you can hear the gender in that the females are quiet and the boys make noise.  Additionally, the males have black (not white chins)
  • Toads push food down their throat with their eyeballs (so you can actually "see" them swallow).
  • Great Horned Owls don't build a next but time share with hawk.  The one they brought had to be rehabilitated because it had "metabolic bone disease" due to it's owner feeding it hamburger, which doesn't have near the nutrients the owl needed.  
  • The Great Horned Owl they brought with them weighed 4-5 pounds.
  • Owls make no sound when they fly due to having serrated feathers.
  • An owl can hear a mouse two feet under the snow (without even seeing it).
  • A person can turn their head 90 degrees, whereas an owl can turn their head 270 degrees (not quite full circle!)
  • Owl eyes can't move like ours, but they can dilate their eyes separately.
  • Due to its 70% binocular vision, an owl can't always see what's next to him.  Therefore, when a person throws an apple core out the window (thinking it is biodegradable, so why not), it's still dangerous because a mouse might go for that, and then an owl will zoom in on the mouse--without seeing the oncoming vehicle.  Many owls that wind up in rehabilitation centers do so because of this very situation and getting hit by a car.
  • Owls are "nocturnal" since they are nighttime hunters.  Day time hunters are called "diurnal."

The second half of our morning was with an annual ECS Earth Week friend:  children's book author Jennifer Keats Curtis.  As a Maryland-native, Jennifer loves writing about the animals and environment of her home state.  As she was sharing some of her latest projects and books (see the photo below for 12 of her picture books she's written), and some of her experiences, we learned some goodies:
  • The Baltimore Checkerspot, a butterfly, is our state insect, in part because it resembles our state flag.  Unfortunately it is endangered due to the decreasing numbers of what it eats (turtle head).
  • Salamanders lay eggs in vernal pools (which are temporary ponds left behind from heavy rains).  Looking like a jelly-like glob in hand, pictures showed us that under the microscope you could see the baby salamanders hatching out one at a time out of each little egg when the timing was right.
  • Since fishing line is so dangerous to marine life, Berkley Fishing line has a strong conservation division where you can order recycle kits to safely get rid of your own fishing line.
  • Kathy Woods (mentioned above) is her hero, and the inspiration behind her "Animal Helpers" series.
  • In Jennifer's eyes, an animal rehabilitator is part-animal helper, part detective.  Not surprising when they need 6 years of schooling and numerous licenses to do the job they do.  You need to know a lot about a lot of critters--especially since they come to animal rescuers at all ages and stages of their life!!

All our visitors were amazing, and obviously eager to come to visit schools.  If you are in the Maryland area and want to learn more about having any of these 3 individuals come to your school, check out the following links:

Photos from our day, with the exception of the books & the oval circle picture of Jennifer Keats Curtis, which were from her website (see above link).  (Collage made using the InstaFrame Pro app)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day: #GlobalSelfie Style

Today was a full day on every side, so I will have to share all of my goodies for our Eagle Cove School "Tuesday of Earth Week" tomorrow.  But, as an environmental education blogger, you can't really let Earth Day go by with a tribute.

Here are 2 of our backyard #GlobalSelfie pics taken for NASA's Earth Day mosaic they are going to create.

To download your own #EarthDay "selfie sign," go to NASA's #GlobalSelfie website. It's also a great place to learn even more!!

To see a brief overview, here's the info from the NASA site:
"What's a #GlobalSelfie?  NASA astronauts brought home the first ever images of the whole planet from space. Now NASA satellites capture new images of Earth every second. For Earth Day we are trying to create an image of Earth from the ground up while also fostering a collection of portraits of the people of Earth. Once those pictures stream around the world on Earth Day, the individual pictures tagged #GlobalSelfie will be used to create a mosaic image of Earth -- a new "Blue Marble" built bit by bit with your photos."
"Need an idea of what kind of picture to take? Get outside and show us mountains, parks, the sky, rivers, lakes -- wherever you are, there's your picture. Tell us where you are in a sign, words written in the sand, spelled out with rocks -- or by using the printable signs we've created...The Earth mosaic image itself and a video using the images will be put together and released in May....We'll be monitoring photos posted to five social media sites: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Flickr.   Post your photo to Twitter, Instagram or Google+ using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie, or post it to the #GlobalSelfie event page on Facebook or the #GlobalSelfie group on Flickr. You can also join the #GlobalSelfie Google+ event page."

Pictures from my camera & embellished with the InstaFrame Pro app

Monday, April 21, 2014

Let Earth Week Begin!

The post-noon day sun shining down made for an idyllic spring day at the ole Eagle Cove School today. Yet, despite 1 of the first few beautiful spring days we have had this season, that was not the focus. The focus was more on the near-cloud-free day....& what that would mean to create perfect conditions for the 3rd Annual ECS Solar Car Races. The kick off to this year's "ECS Earth Week 2014.”

After 7 years now for me (& many years before), ECS's Earth Week is an annual tradition at our Maryland "Green" School. Perhaps more special this year, given our announcement from our board of trustees (just this past January) that ECS will be closing at the end of this school year. Nothing makes an annual tradition more poinyant than knowing that it will be coming to the end.

3 years ago, Solar Energy World came to ECS for an assembly, showing us all the importance of solar energy...and challenging us to decorate the plastic chassis of a solar powered car. With each class doing do, it leads to the classes facing off against each other in good, clean-energy fun! Last year and this year alike, our classes let go of the pre-formed chassis in order to construct a car using the wheels and solar motor, but then combining it with a recyclable to design a more unique vehicle per grade level. The results? Cars made out of Dove soap boxes, Q-Tip Containers, egg-filled Easter baskets made out of recycled boxes, and more!

In the end: It was a great day at the races. Kindergarten (& their "Kindergarten Car") won the K--2nd grade heat. (It was a close call, as all cars went out-of-bounds on the first shot. But, 2nd grade was nearly the clear winner up until a foot from the finish line that first round... yet, Kindergarten came out as the clear-cut champ the 2nd time). My 3rd grade class and their "3rd Grade NRG" car (made out of a Crystal Light container [sound out those letters:  NRG]) won the 3rd--5th grade heat. A photo finish of the final heat between Kindergarten & 3rd grade revealed....duh duh duh (insert dramatic music here):  3rd grade to be the 2014 ECS Solar Car winners.  Never more proud has a class and teacher been!

How does one follow-up a solar car race and all of the excitement?! The wrap up for the day was a school-viewing of the 45-minute version of "Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?” "Bag It" is a documentary on the pervasive nature of the plastic bag and plastic bottle. Even the youngest in the bunch was drawn in, and the teachers couldn't help but shake their heads at the wasteful statistic revealed. At the end, a Kindergartener was heard announcing: "I am never going to use plastic again!" (If only it were that easy.)  But it is telling when the youngsters in the bunch see it.

If you haven't seen that movie, do so. I stand by the idea that everyone, planet-wide should see this film. Non-negotiable. Were that to happen, perhaps we would be living in a more petroleum-reduced-use planet.

Pictures from my camera & embellished with the InstaFrame Pro app; "Bag It" Movie pic from

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Dandy of a Day at EdCamp MetroDC

It's always a good day for an EdCamp.  Today was no different.  The sunny day made for an easy drive down to Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for EdCampMetroDC.[Crown]-Keep-Calm-And-Edcamp-OnAs per usual, the "Rule of 2 Feet" and "Have fun" were 2 of the driving tenets of the day.  You go where you want and take away as possible.  If you aren't in the right session to do that, find the right one for you.  All participants find they all serve as experts in one way or another, and everyone has a day of mutual learning. All for the best-price-ever for professional development:  FREE!

One of the most useful tools of the day is the schedule, which you can find here.  Yes, it was helpful in getting you get where you want to go next on campus. But it's perhaps the most helpful at THIS part of the day...when you are at home on the couch.  When you are reflecting back, perusing the Google doc links that are listed in each schedule block.  All day long, the participants are free to add to the mix of information.  A wealth begins.  It's like the gift that keeps giving, and there are so many good finds.  Here's a peek...but it's only an image. You need to go to the schedule here to get the links.

Here's what my day looked like (not a bad session in the bunch):

Session 1: Teach from your iPad/iPad apps galore

Session 2:  "Things that suck, things that rock" (a unique whole body way of discussing education trends with colleagues by moving to the area of the room that matches your answer.  This could apply to any concept in any classroom--thoough with younger kids, the best plan might be to change the vocab a bit to "things that stink and things that rock."

Lunch, Networking, & Smackdown (which consists of a 2 minute shares per person of apps and websites you love! As you'll see from the schedule doc, there were 18 goodies shared today on a wealth of info.  My personal favorite for future investigation is the NPR Women in Tech series.

Session 3:  The flipped class for the elementary class

Session 4:  MakerSpaces & more

So, the price is right, the learning is good and goes beyond the 4 sessions, they usually feed you at lunchtime from gracious donors, you get to see old friends and meet new ones, AND there are door prizes.  That's a win from every which way!

If you haven't been to an EdCamp, you need to check out their master schedule and keep peeking back until you find one near you.  Then go and bask in the number of take-aways you can keep taking with you!

Logo from the EdCampMetroDC webpage:
"Keep Calm & Ed Camp On" from
Screenshot of schedule from
EdCamp:  Reclaim Professional development

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Happy 80th Bday Jane Goodall!!

Sometimes it's a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

Time:  Spring 2008  (April 4th, to be exact, a day after "her" 74th bday)

Situation:  My first year at Gibson Island Country School (Now Eagle Cove School thanks to a name change 3-4 years ago.  Irony: this is my LAST year at Eagle Cove School due to a January board decision to close us down due to low ##'s.  As an aside:  still quite saddened by this!!)

Event:  An Über-special Roots & Shoots Fair at MY school, with schools area-wide sending teacher and student representatives. How lucky am I to land HERE?!  I know if I shut my eyes, I can see her right there, nearly close enough to touch, while she speaks on her experiences with the chimpanzees in Africa.  I think, if I shut my eyes, I can still hear her "hoot-hoo-hoo" in a volume-expansive chimpanzee call!!!  To hear a semblance of it, click here and see it at 4 minutes and 26 seconds in.  It stays with you!!

So Jane Goodall, noted primatologist, is turning 80 this Thursday, April 3rd.  As someone who has studied chimpanzees, their habitat and environment, and been a beacon of conservationism for 50+ years, she's truly a remarkable woman.  She deserves 80,000 birthday wishes this 80th birthday!!!

Happy birthday, Ms. Goodall!  Thanks for all you have done and continue to do.

To learn more about the amazing icon we call Jane Goodall, check out some of these sites: