Saturday, May 31, 2014

Be Out There, Get Out There! Nature, That Is!

The window is closing over at Eagle Cove School...we are in single digits counting down the school's closing.
 Every day closer we get to our last day (which is swiftly approaching), another layer of sadness falls.  Add in, we've now had almost exactly 5 months of sadness, knowing since the first week of January that it is coming.

I am a tech teacher, and my new job for the fall is largely related to how to incorporate technology in the classroom. I am going to love it, love teaching the kids with iPads, and love how to encourage teachers how to use technology in the classroom.  I am a major fan of my iPad, smartphone, laptop, and learning on all 3.  They all are vital tools for me in becoming a lifelong learner.

And yet....

As I mentioned the other day, I've been doing a lot of homework as of late, and of course I started with those eco things that are near and dear to my heart--which sometimes counter other things that are near and dear to my heart.  One of my first articles to review was “The Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, & Spirit through Outdoor Play”--a 12-page “fact sheet” embedded here & sponsored by the “Be Out There” Campaign of National Wildlife Federation. As the United States becomes a more “tech-centric” society, the information will only continue to be current.

By perusing the embedded document, you can see that the article begins by painting a picture of a typical day-in-the-life of the 2010 child: TV with breakfast, school with little/no recess, homework in front of the TV, texting or computer time squeezed in between activities, followed up with a less-than-healthy drive-thru dinner on the way to organized sports. Screen time (and planned time) has taken over childhood. Overtly missing are bike rides, dandelion picking, and dirt digging. Statistics from the article include:

  • “Children devote only 4-7 minutes a day of unstructured outdoor play.”
  •  “Only ¼ of children play outside daily compared to ¾ a generation ago.”
  • “Most [children] log an excess of 32 hours per week of TV time.”
  • “By the time most children attend kindergarten, they have watched more than 5, 000 hours of television.”
  • “In the last 20 years, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled.”
  • The CDC now estimates that 4.5 million children aged 5-17 have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.”

Given these statistics and the fact that children are highly out of shape, organizations such as the NWF, the Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program are trying to pair children more with nature (in an unstructured way) in order to increase children’s overall physical activity. This becomes increasingly important as more and more schools are reducing recess time (or eliminating it all together). Additionally, “indoor-only” kids have a higher risk of serious health problems including obesity, vision problems (more cases of myopia), vitamin D deficiency, and diabetes. By spending time outdoors, there are significant mind, body, and spirit benefits for children. By taking advantage of nature, children: have increased imagination, are better able to problem solve (and do better on standardized tests), more calm and able to cope with stress, have stronger social bonds, are more compassionate (and possibly happier), have stronger bones and immunity due to greater levels of Vitamin D, and overall healthier!

Of course, it does make me sad, as we at Eagle Cove School embody the page 5 quote by Sheila Franklin.  And yet, we're closing.

All that aside, tis Fact Sheet does an excellent job of providing some eye opening statistics (with too many to list here). Educators and parents should walk away from this article knowing what needs to be done—turn off the tech, and kick the kids outside!! Part of what makes a child ready for learning is a healthy mind brought about by a healthy body. Kids who don’t move (and particularly, it would seem, boys) end up having a higher percentage of behavior problems in school because they haven’t gotten their wiggles out enough to concentrate. Getting outdoors would help them have much higher level of achievement. Additionally, “outdoor kids” tend to see things differently than “indoor kids.” They suffer less incidences of nearsightedness (which has been on the rise over time, due perhaps to up-close screen reading. The other benefits are strong (see above). Additionally, with antidepressant medication on the rise for not only adults but also children (even preschool kids aged 0-5!), one could argue that getting outdoors and having access to free time could also help counter mental health problems. Two of the 12 pages of the Fact Sheet list ideas for caregivers, health care providers, community leaders, and educators as to how to incorporate outdoor activities into the lives of children. In addition to these resources, there are also listings of the numbers of calories burned for approximately 50 outdoor activities.

The Fact Sheet was ripe with a bounty of information for educators and parents, and it falls in the category of “Things Everyone In America Should Read!” There is no argument that there are many benefits in education with both television and technology, yet one should not overlook the ability to learn by what surrounds outdoors. Children today need to be trained how to find the balance. As parents and educators, it is our jobs to help show them how.

Back to me:  My new job ahead has a lot of potential and it will be a great organization to be a part of.  Yet, it has yet to become a Maryland "Green" School...almost hard to imagine when I am leaving an 8 year MD "Green" School.  I think I see some of my homework ahead--not only planning some amazing iPad activities for students & teachers alike, but I see a "Green" School certification needed for the future!!  And I refocus my vision, and "re-see" my own and my children's need to turn off the tech and get ourselves outsides!!

Images from 
Blue boat picture of our campus from my campus, my phone, & InstaFramePro
MD Green School:
NWF logo from
Let's Move logo:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Plastic Just Continues to Rear It's Ugly Head

Here at the end of the school year, we are beginning to close up shop. 2014 definitely has been weird with the knowledge that our school is closing at the end of the school year (which is really coming up), months of job hunting (and finally landing), taking 2 continuing education classes for my reinstating my teaching certificate...all the while still doing the day job (and the home job).

One of the jobs in my college-level classes has been to do 2 article reviews on issues of health, safety, and nutrition for the young child.  Of course, where would this girl go?  The environmental route.  
[Playful aside:  The 4th grade teacher told me last week that one of her fellas--who I had last year--wrote in his ECS memoirs: "In 3rd grade I had Mrs. D. She was a good teacher and I learned a lot. She was a tad more eco-friendly than my liking, but I learned to cope."  But, if you've been following along with Green Team Gazette for any period of time, you already knew that, and have already learned to cope with that yourself!  ]
The article “Plastics & Plastic Toys” is from a June 2012 Eco-Healthy Child Care® publication. Eco-Healthy Child Care is part of the Children’s Environmental Health Network and is concerned with helping to create environments that are not only eco-friendly but also health-focused. They are particularly interested in reducing every child’s exposure to toxic and harmful chemicals. The focus on this 2-page info sheet is the health effects for children exposed to plastics in toys, bottles, teething rings, etc. 

The gyst:  This article discusses the negative impacts of plastics: particularly phthalate and Bisphenol A (BPA) which are two toxic ingredients in plastics. Given that children’s young and still-developing bodies are so small, the effects (of even minimal amounts of these substances) have a greater impact on young children than adults—yet the two are toxic to adults as well. Additionally, children have a very “hand to mouth” nature, further increasing the chance of ingesting these chemicals. Phthalates are found in soft plastics (including PVC), and they are added to the fragrances, solvents, or fixatives in many bathroom products/beauty items. They can be inhaled through usage, absorbed through skin, ingested when chewing on toys/bottles. Research has shown they can be responsible for “hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive problems, asthma, preterm birth, low sperm count, undescended testes, genital malformations, premature puberty, and development of some cancers.” 

 BPA also disrupts hormones, and it is used more when making hard clear plastic items (baby bottles, canned food liners, water bottles). Exposure comes in many of the same ways as phthalates, as well as from eating food housed in these types of containers. Negative health effects “include prostate cancer, breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, early puberty, low sperm count, hyperactivity and aggressiveness.” The article goes on to discuss how important it is to look at the recycling codes, and to definitely avoid any plastics listed with #3, #6, and #7 as these are the most harmful types of plastics of any of the coded plastic types.
One of the statistics in the article was eye-opening: “Traces of BPA can be found in more than 90% of the U.S. population.” Given this statistic, it would seem our country is slowly plasticizing itself through the current fast food, pre-packaged dining society. It is valuable for parents to be aware that convenience does not always equate to healthiness. The article lists three additional websites that are good resources to learn more about the toxicity of plastics. It also has a list of ten tips for safer use of plastics. If all parents, teachers, child care providers had access to this list on their refrigerator, people would be able to make healthier food-related choices when it comes to plastic.
Through its evolution through time, plastics have been known to be very helpful to our world: medically, economically, and also for convenience. Yet, as more research is being done since the inception of Tupperware, there are also many findings that there are severe health risks hidden in the clear veneer of plastic. Susan Freinkel’s book “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story” would be a good read for anyone who wanted to take an in-depth look on how plastics have worked wonders in the medical field, yet our over-reliance on it in the house could be leading to a plastic-saturated nation. Based on newer data than the Eco-Health Child Care article, scientists are beginning to find that even non-BPA or PVC-free plastic wraps may be equally as bad for you. By discarding any plastic food containers with scratches (which indicates the plastic is leaching off the container), eating fresh produce, and not microwaving food/drinks/baby bottles in any plastic containers, people can begin to improve their own health and that of their children. Likewise, as parents, let your purchases (and dollars) being a sign of what you (as a consumer) value. By doing that, product availability and production may change.

Pics from:

Screen Shot of the Plastics & Plastic Toys article from

Sunday, May 25, 2014

3rd Graders "Paint" the Bay Bridge

It could be almost akin to a sensory taste sensation better than the Doublemint Twins or a Recess Peanut Butter Cup.  Last week we had a 2-day field trip-palooza with our 3rd graders.  First we had the Oyster Release trip on Tuesday, then on Wednesday we had our annual trip to Sandy Point State Park to "paint" the Chesapeake Bay Bridge--complete with beach clean up.  (No kids were injured during the painting of the bridge, rest assured!)   Here's a li'l iMovie montage of the pics of the day!

ECS 3rd Graders "Paint" The Bridge from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo.

2 great annual field trips that we've taken the last 7 years. Boy oh boy, I'll miss them next year.  Although this beach is always pretty freshly combed and clean, I did notice that this year we found far more trash than ever before (plastic little straws, lids, cheese wrappers and more).  A telling tale of the times.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Celebrating Rachel Carson Through her eBooks

Rachel Carson was a woman ahead of her time.  An environmentalist who's voice started being heard in the late 1930's for the next quarter of a century.  As a writer, scientist, and nature-lover, Rachel wrote several articles and then later books. She is perhaps most known from her 1962 book Silent Spring.  This book became an ecological pivotal point for how harmful pesticides were for our planet.  Here is a brief video created by Open Road Media honoring Rachel Carson.

Three of Rachel's books are at the forefront of an environmental movement this week:  May 20th--27th.  The 3 books are:  Under the Sea-wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1952), and The Sense of Wonder (1964).  With the partnership between EarthDay Network and Open Road Media, you can purchase one of these 3 eBooks by Rachel Carson.  In doing so between May 20th and 27th, 2014, Earth Day Network will donate $1 to continue Rachel Carson's efforts.  EBooks can be purchased through, iTunes, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble.  Click here for more information

Unfortunately, Rachel Carson died at only 57 years old, yet her words can still teach.  To learn more about Rachel Carson, check out her website or more about her from Open Road Media.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Save the Oyster, Save the Bay, Save the Memories

As the middle of May starts making its way to the end of the month, it's traditional for some super culminating trips to make their way into my 3rd Grade, Eagle Cove School calendar.   

Chesapeake Bay Foundation - Saving a National TreasureThis week, as luck and the calendar would have it, two of our eco-favorite trips landed right back to back. Here's an iMovie musical montage of our class' pictures our from Tuesday's Oyster Release trip with Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  Captain Foster & Miss Tiffany treated us to an educational day on the Magothy River.  Like old friends, they come right up to the dock each year with their boat, The Maurguerite.  From there, we take off on our floating classroom to return the oyster spat (that we have been raising all year) to the perfect spot in the river--one with the proper oxygen levels, clarity, salination, and more for our oysters to survive and thrive.  

Every year, it ranks in my mind as "best trip ev-ah!"  This year did not disappoint.  It was made extra special and bittersweet as I was on the boat, thinking about this as being our last trip, given the school's closing this June.  When you realize that something wonderful is going away, you take a little extra time to cherish it.  That's what I did, midst idyllic weather on Tuesday, snapping pictures galore to lock it in.  May the movie help my memory, and delight yours.

ECS Oyster Release on the Magothy River 5/20/2014 from Vicki Dabrowka on Vimeo.

Video created in iMovie, uploaded to Vimeo, using my snapshots of the day.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation logo from

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blast From the Past: May Green Team Gazette Newsletters

A triumvirate of May Day specials with the May Green Team Gazettes from 2009, 2010, 2011.  Some eco facts and figures are always in bloom and always in season, no matter what year it is!!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mothers out there (whether you are biological moms, adopted moms, moms-to-be, moms-by-heart, role mom-models, aunts, coaches, teachers, neighbors, sisters, caregivers, or friends)... May your day be as special & beautiful as you are!

To our planetary mom, Mother Nature, this one is for you, made with the Haiku app from "Read Write Think."

Pic from my camera of the Chesapeake Bay; Haiku formate created with the Haiku iPad app.

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Annual Tradition's not the running of the bulls.

Nope...not the NFL Draft (though that HAS over-taken my television tonight).

Not the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, the Kentucky Derby, Thanksgiving, OR Christmas.

But it is one of my favorite annual traditions, in the season of many favorite traditions.

'Tis the season for the Earth Heroes to appear. For the 4th Season in a row, Eco Heroes have been read about, studied, researched,written about, and creatively reinvented. This year the stories were written on the iPad App Scribble Press.

It's the time of the year that my kids come to know what people like David Suzuki, Jacques Cousteau, David Suzuki, Wangari Maathai and Eugenie Clark all have in common. They are Earth Heroes.  And it helps to build stronger 3rd grade Earth Heroes every year we study them!

Photo collage using InstaFrame Pro app and pics of my students' creations.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Speaking for Nature Through the Camera's Lens

It's a "Pictures Speak 1000 Words" kind of I'll let the pictures do what the pictures do.

Pictures of my past week out in the outdoors:


Pictures from my vantage point this week.