1 teacher. 1 world. Eco-friendly. EdTech-friendly. Classroom-friendly.Teacher-friendly. Kid-friendly. Parent-friendly. Planet-friendly. Sustainability. Innovation. What can we do to increase the likelihood that this one li'l world will be here eons from now? Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or just someone who firmly believes that every tiny bit helps, let's all be part of the solution rather than adding to the problem, knowing that innovation along the way is the way to make that happen!
At this point, if you celebrate Christmas, you are at the midpoint... that sweet spot halfway between Christmas Crazies and New Year's Festivities. While all the pre-holiday stress of shopping is over, there still might be holiday company, travel, cooking, cleaning, and de-Christmasing still ahead.
If that's the case, you might need a bit of sarcastic cheer to help you de-stress.
Beau Bridges does a nice job of playing both David & Charles Koch. Add in, there's a musical element singing "The Climate Change Deniers' Anthem." You'll hear Darren Criss, Jenette McCurdy, Estelle, Emily Osment, Ed Weeks & more.
My favorite line: "NASA’s wrong, rivers aren’t rising."
As part of our literature study the last few weeks, we have split our upper elementary students into two groups, reading two books on the same theme. The books:Both dynamic: Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli. The theme: Homelessness
Secondary themes: Identity, naivety, prejudice/discrimination, needs versus wants, empathy. All very poignant here in the holiday season of wishlist making and hoping for gifts under the tree. The class conversations: Amazing. The changes in attitudes and awareness: Remarkable.
To help build empathy and really change misconceptions about what it means to be homeless, we've been studying infographics, and checking out some of the videos below. Through all of this, they've had some eye-opening reality checks that being homeless isn't what they initially thought.
One of the most powerful videos to open the eyes of our 11 year olds has been to visit with "Homeless Dean." I know Homeless Dean--for real. I've written about him before. A couple times in fact. (See part 2 & part 3.) Dean Wright was the boyfriend (and now husband) of one of my college roommates. In 2012, Dean voluntarily went homeless for 10 days [from Nov. 26th--Dec. 6th] in chilly Illinois temperatures. As the Executive Director for the Freeport Area Church Cooperative (FACC), he did it to help raise awareness of homelessness in his community. Along those lines, while keeping his day job, he restricted himself to a $6.50 amount for food. He videocast his experience and set up a YouTube channel with multiple videos he created to document his experience.
While watching these videos, my students started to change their perceptions. To a degree, I think it was hard for some of them to wrap their heads around the idea of someone literally putting themselves in a homeless person's shoes to experience it for themselves. Dean gave my kids someone to associate with. Given that, prepubescent humor sort of frittered away on this subject.
Many of the videos are eye-opening. Day 1 of course details Dean's vision and plan. Day 2 is here below, in which Dean talks about his first night in 20 degree weather. The kids noticed in watching several along the way (here at that same time of year) how even just a few days of sleeplessness and exposure to the night time elements affected Dean. Two of my favorites are his "Let's Do Something" (where he spoke about having passion and taking action) and "The End or The Beginning."
As we all are approaching the upcoming holidays, may you think about your community. The needs of the people around you. Every community everywhere has its share of people who need your help. Take time to be grateful for what you have, and see how you can help others (whether they are homeless or afflicted with something else that is important to you). By helping others, and by taking action, you will indeed find the true meaning of the season.
Here are some final inspirational videos to help raise your awareness on issues that homeless people face.
Last weekend we had some remarkable weather for December in the DC-Baltimore area. Upper 60s & even 70 degrees on Sunday, Dec. 13th. Given the delightful temperature, we had a park playdate set up my son with several of his pals from his old school. It was a fun day all around.
Despite that though, perspectives changed at bedtime--at least for one 10-year old full-hearted, angst-ridden, tender-hearted/tender-souled boy. My son began repeating the morning mantra of his, and he was terribly troubled at bedtime. In his mind, Sunday was "the worst day ever." Why? BECAUSE of that unseasonably warm 70-degrees temperature.... all of which he knew was the result of the big bad guy: Climate Change.
He nearly couldn't go to bed due to his own consternation on the weather, the climate-implications, the "wrongness" of 70 degree weather for mid-December. I couldn't talk him off the ledge until I did two things:
1. I showed him the 15 day forecast on The Weather Channel to show him that the temperature wasn't on the daily rise, heading for planetary implosion. The forecasted temperature drops predicted for the next two weeks went miles for easing his angst.
2. We went online and looked into information about the Paris Climate Cop21 Talks on Climate Change that took place the week prior. When we spoke of that and the fact that world leaders were working to make a difference and change legislation, he settled.
The world sure can be difficult for a 10-year old.
Yes, he's the kid of an "EcoWarrior" who has invited him to watch Bill Nye and other climate-outspoken-peeps. But still... he seriously was losing sleep on it. Literally and completely.
These are the things that worry a mom.
It led me to the conclusion that despite your leanings, we need to do something. The projection is worrisome. Even if you are still on the climate change conceptual fence about whether or not to buy in or deny it. Worse case scenario: we work to do good on this planet of ours, and we work to eliminate pollution/problems/such... If we do all of that, no question: we are ahead. That is not partisan. That is leaving the world a better place than we found it. THAT is what we ALL should focus on.
To Learn more....
Click here to visit the outcomes of the COP21 talks in Paris on
December 12th, 2015 between 195 nations.
But, even though he's been around the block a time or two, he's good to become reacquainted with.
This is what 500 plastic bags look like...especially if you wear them. And the Bag Monster wears them as only he can. Just watch Bag It, where the Bag Monster made his debut, and learn even more!
Then think of a few ways during your Christmas shopping days to save a bag or two.
By this point in the Holiday Season, you probably fall into one of the following 5 camps:
1. It's not December 20th yet, so you haven't even thought about starting.
2. You are like me, you've toe-dipped in (mainly through online ventures since you can't stomach "real" shopping), but are still waiting on some wish lists because you want it to be right & your money well-spent on the best deal you can find.
3. You're a DIY-Pinterest-kind-of-peep who has been busy crafting for months.
4. You are über-organized and shop all year long, and are nearly (if not completely) done--perhaps with even presents wrapped under your already-decorated tree.
5. You shopped 'til you dropped over Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend and you are done, or darn-near close (clearly with more stamina than this girl will ever have to endure the crowded craziness of guerrilla shopping at that level).
Regardless of the type of shopper, you probably have some kind of shopping list, some kind of budget, and some kind of despair of getting the "just right" gift for those you love. Stress is usually involved in one way or another.
At the beginning of the year, we had a team-building activity to move 6 red cups to a different layout without ever touching them.
When parents of my 5th grade class came to see what we do during the school day during a Parent Coffee this fall, we had teams of parents and students trying to construct the tallest marshmallow-topped spaghetti tower they could. (The vast array of approaches was intriguing!)
During Earth Day last year, we had a Family Maker Night, where the students invented something at home out of recyclables and through repurposing. We had an evening of invention and creation for parents and kids alike!
Why? The answer for all of these: to highlight the importance of the "design process." Because that's what we all do, all the time, to be creative problem solvers.
It's a philosophy we have embraced as part of the school culture. It's not much different that what we do when we ask students to create, craft, revise, edit, and transform a story from a draft in language arts/writing workshop. It's no different that the "guess, test, and revise" math problem solving strategy where we work to make an educated guess and work from our trials to land on the final answer. It's not much different that what you try to do when you are working through any real life problem solving problem where plan A, possibly plan B, and sometimes plan C don't pan out.
You identify the problem, brainstorm, design, build, test/evaluate, redesign, rebuild, keep testing until you have something to share.
As part of an group I belong to outside of school of current and retired educators, this year our meetings are focusing on trends of education. I started talking to them about the things our Tech Director does with the 3D printer and some of his Maker Lab projects for the 1st through 5th graders (as well as the general philosophy of the school)...and I swiftly put on the docket of group speakers to talk about the Maker Movement trend. That presentation is here below--answering the question of "what is the maker movement" and how does it benefit our students today midst a world of trying to soak in 21st Century skills.
There are memes galore showing the dichotomy of the spending craziness of Black Friday as the follow up to the themes of Thanksgiving: appreciation, family, plenty.
If you live like I do, you try to focus on one holiday season at a time. Let's face it: Corporate America doesn't! Christmas Ornaments typically compete for shelf real estate at the same time as Halloween decorations are up in department stores & novelty shops. The rule in our house & my car (much to the chagrin of my teen) is no Christmas music or movies until after Thanksgiving. Well here we are, on the other side of Thanksgiving, and it's all open. Black Friday marks the unofficial start to the shopping extravaganza called Christmas. According to the song, it's "the most wonderful time of the year." Or rather, the most "spending-est" time of the year. Black Friday sales followed up by Cyber Monday...and jingle sales, jingle sales, jingle all the way. Which leads to the next parody song: "Just Another Manic Spending Spree."
In the spirit of Thanksgiving and all things First World, I look around, and what do I need? I truly have enough. Sure, the bank account could be padded more, we could go back to the days when the cleaning lady came (cut to provide for other priorities right now), maybe a massage, and a nice tropical vacation could certainly be calling my name. But what do I need? Black trouser socks. That's really about it. But, that won't cut it on the Christmas list.
Then there's the kids' Christmas lists. Ei yie yie: holy guacamole!
It's the time-old-trouble of teaching needs versus wants versus "enoughs." Plus, there's a lot of people who love my darling duo, so they need lists too. Next thing you know, a glazed look comes over the kids as they scour the Internet for things they feel they surely can't live without. I swear their pupils turn into dollar signs. Or probably those are little pupil-sized gift wrapped boxes in their eyes instead. Lots of them. I mean, they're kids. They love Christmas. It's a magical time. I get it. They don't have a full concept of money, and the greed thing just naturally comes to play when TV MarketLand is on the move, and all the techified whirly-gigs and gizmos cost a boatload each.
But, it ultimately becomes "just more stuff." By mid-January, the newness always wears off. I think about the biggies that my kids wanted last year. When was the last time they even played with that stuff? At that point, there's just more "stuff" to manage.
Even though the Christmas Season is officially on us, and we can now say "Black Friday be gone" as it has now passed, there's still plenty of time this holiday season ahead to focus on a few questions that deserve contemplation and answers:
What is truly important to you?
What is the true price of the price you are paying for your "stuff" (Christmastime and all the time)?
What do you really need?
Can money even buy that?
If not, what does? (Typically that answer is "time and togetherness.")
Cheers to each and every one of us for an intentional Christmas Season ahead.
Thanksgiving is a time of appreciation, gratitude, and generosity. It's about pausing and saying thank your for all the pieces in the puzzle that makes up your life. The messy ones, the beloved ones, the random ones...they all fit together to make the beautiful mosaic that is your life.
In that same sort of way,
it makes me think of stones,
and one of my favorite poems. Yes, I'm mixing metaphors, but I feel both are what's tied to the heart & meaning of Thanksgiving:
"Drop a Pebble in the Water" ~by James W. Foley
"Drop a pebble in the water:
just a splash, and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center,
flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling
where the end is going to be.
Drop a pebble in the water:
in a minute you forget,
But there's little waves a-flowing,
and there's ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing
to a great big wave have grown;
You've disturbed a mighty river
just by dropping in a stone.
Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading
from the center as they go,
And there is no way to stop them,
once you've started them to flow.
Drop an unkind word, or careless:
in a minute you forget;
But there's little waves a-flowing,
and there's ripples circling yet,
And perhaps in some sad heart
a mighty wave of tears you've stirred,
And disturbed a life was happy
ere you dropped that unkind word.
Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
just a flash and it is gone;
But there's half-a-hundred ripples
circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort
on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn't believe the volume
of the one kind word you gave.
Drop a word of cheer and kindness:
in a minute you forget;
But there's gladness still a-swelling,
and there's joy circling yet,
And you've rolled a wave of comfort
whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water
just by dropping one kind word."
Here's a lovely musical montage tied to this same sentiment:
May your Thanksgiving this year be a mosaic of memories,
Using SparksPeople's article "Why Getting Outside is So Good for You," this is the word cloud you get. The words that crop up are evident: outside, vitamin, natural, health, benefit, green, outdoors, and more! These are the words that were vital and apparent in this article, and the ones that "stand out" because they are the ones that are "outstanding" in the article.
What does your LIFE "word cloud" look like? Where do you spend your time? What words are going to be bigger in the spectrum of your world? Where does your emphasis lie?
Indoors? Outdoors? Or upside down?
When I hit the wall, stress-wise, emotional-wise, fretting-wise, I check in with myself. What does my word cloud look like?
Dry! Dull! Dud!
Overworked. Overtired. Overwrought. Overyuck!
Not at all like the above.
Note to self! Get thee outside this fall! It makes all the difference!
Maybe you need to check into the no wifi zone. Do it more than once!
I'm not really sure how that happened--this passage of time thing. Didn't school just start?!? Shouldn't it only be like the end of September? How is it nearly the end of November? Sometimes that's what happens to us teachers. Running like mad, racing the clock, with our heads down lesson planning and grading papers, looking up to see exactly how much time has indeed passed!
If you are like me with Thanksgiving sneaking up on you, you might find yourself scrambling like a turkey on the move from Farmer Joe. If that's the case, here are some resources that might make your late-breaking planning a little smoother. In turn, that might open up some time for you to investigate the items in your life for which you are thankful.
Get your kids shaking their tail-feathers with the Turkey Dance:
Turn Into A Turkey Poster Set
No, you're not turning into true turkey's, but Digital Divide & Conquer over at Teachers Pay Teachers has come up with a 6-word, character-driven acrostic of the true meaning of the season. There's a free "lite" version and a full, paid version, depending on your teaching needs.
NEA Thanksgiving Lessons
With a multitude of categories, and even more links, the National Education Association website has a slew of resources for you and your K-5 classroom.
Scholastic's Thanksgiving Lessons
Scholastic is always a go-to place for many curricular contents. There are lessons geared to PreK-2nd grade, as well as 3rd-5th grade lessons.
A Change in Perspective: Looking at Life from the Turkey's Point of View
If you want to investigate what Thanksgiving looks like from the turkey's feathers, here are two places to investigate. Check out the Thanksgiving Goodies at Classsroom Magic to get some ideas using the book "Pardon That Turkey" by Susan Sloate. There's also some fun things over at Teachers Pay Teachers including Stephanie Stewart's "Don't Eat The Turkey." Get your students doing some persuasive writing, petitioning for another major dining feast other than our feathered friend.
An Attitude of Gratitude Looking to gear your Thanksgiving studies more toward attitudes of gratitude? Check out these 3 links for a wealth of activities for many age groups, complete with both student and teacher resources.
Slated half way between Halloween and Thanksgiving, today marks an awareness day: World Diabetes Day. In fact, November is Diabetes Awareness Month.
I wonder if that was by accident. I know I've added an unwanted pound or two the last few weeks as I raid my kids' candy cache from trick or treating. And I know that the tryptophan. carbo-loading, feast-fest Day o'Thanks' menu is in the making.
Here's a startling quote from Diabetesatlas.org (which is an excellent place to go for fact sheets and interactives)
"415 million adults have diabetes. By 2040 this will rise to 642 million."
Wow! Those numbers are staggering.
Clearly there is a need for a little awareness so we can try to turn those numbers around. I've written about our sugar-saturated & overly-obese society before. When I look at the dates of my posts, the conversation hasn't changed much over the last five years.
World Diabetes Day is a global awareness campaign that is spear-housed by the International Diabetes Federation. Last year, over 100 countries had dedicated events to raising awareness in both the dietary and hereditary causes of diabetes, and how to handle life if you are afflicted with this chronic condition. This year, 323 events are scheduled in 76 countries. The first World Diabetes Day was in 2007.
Here is an infographic with some more eye-opening statistics:
Picture 5 soldiers, standing straight and tall, in a line, side beside. One tall representative for each branch of the 5 branches of military: Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force. Standing at attention, honoring all of those who have come before them to fight for our freedoms, and honoring all of those who are yet to come,
In a way, Anthem Veterans Memorial in Anthem Community Park in Anthem, AZ is like that line of attentive soldiers. However, something environmentally magical happens on 11-11 at 11:11 am. That's November 11th: Veterans Day. The placement of the five pillars align in the most perfectly planned way. It was engineered so that the sun would directly align on a mosaic of the United States' Great Seal through the precision-cut elipses within and throughout the marvelously metallic pillars. Military environmental and engineering magic indeed!
41703 N. Gavilan Peak Pkwy.
And then there are the bricks. Each paver in the ground has names of men and women who have been in the service. The red if the bricks, the gleaming white if the 5 pillars, and the backdrop of a blue sky further commemorate the day in patriotic color.
After attending the OESIS Conference (the Online & Blended Education Symposium for Independent Schools) with five colleagues a month ago, inspiration hit. A baby was born. That baby's name was "Sharing Our Planet," an environmental issues showcase for the students in our grade level.
It is based in the Google Idea of 80-20 or "Genius Hour," a growing trend in education for kids to use "their hour of power" (=1 hour a week) toward something they are passionate about. Rather than give them an open realm, we centered it around environmental issues. Eight weeks seemed like a natural time period to "drive this car." Integrating technology, research, writing skills and creativity, this collaborative multi-media projects will have its debut sometime mid-December.
To help guide students, I took screen shots of the S'more and created this hand book to help lead them through the process and the project (see below). Given the multi-steps associated, I knew the guidance would come in handy.
We are currently only about one-third of the way through the process right now in our classroom. The kids are knee-deep in researching their inquiry questions. I'm eager to see how the projects will grow and develop. The kids were ecstatic and ready to dive right in the moment they heard "project" and "choice!" Overfishing, marine debris, deforestation, and loss of habitats are just a few of the topics my young friends are eagerly researching. They are trying to decide if they will be filming documentaries, teaching the skills to another class, making power points or public service announcements. These are just a few of the ideas--yet the sky is the limit!
My class actually booed when the end-of-the-day-announcements happened the other day and and it was time to go home! Signal of student excitement & teacher success indeed!
I will keep you posted as the creativity continues with our Share Our Planet Showcase. I'm sure the excitement will only continue to grow as the showcase approaches!!! (For students & teachers alike!)
This past Sunday night (November 1st), over at the National Geographic Channel, you could find Bill Nye lying on a couch. He was stretched back on his therapist's couch, bemoaning how he was feeling with the angst & grief of his planet. His therapist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, told him that what he is facing is "climate change grief." Arnold told him (as only "Ahr-nold" can do) that he's going through the 5 stages of mourning about climate change:
It is from the couch of the therapist's office that Sunday night's "Meltdown" began, from National Geographics' Channel's show Explorer.
Although the show is a little humorous in places, it certainly isn't humorous about the loss, potential future loss, & subsequent grief we will face if we continue on the trajectory we are currently on. The stunning quote from NatGeo's own web news article by Michael Greshko states:
Hank Green, brother of author John Green (who also does a number of his own online info shows), leads us all into greater understanding of ecology. His 8--13 minute videos pack a punch with a lot of good food for thought (with a dash of well-placed humor along the way). Add in they are affiliated with Khan Academy, who can be anti-Crash Course Ecology!!
One week to go....the final countdown is on! Halloween costumes are getting gathered, candy bowls are being stocked and readied for Trick or Treating, and the leaves continue to turn colors, readying the world for All Hallow's Eve!
While all of you are getting your gear in gear, it's not too late to go green this Halloween! Here are some sites to set your sights upon to help you accomplish your sustainable goals this Halloween!
An annual event of "doing good," Make A Difference Day is the 4th Saturday of Every October. That places this year's #MDDay this upcoming weekend: Saturday, October 24th. Perfect for Oct. 24th to be the 24th year of #MDDay, sponsored by USA TODAY, the Gannett Company, TEGNA, Inc, and Points of Light. Given it's still a few days away, it's not too late to make a plan to take an action stand and do something this upcoming Saturday.
One could argue, "Shouldn't these 'days' be EVERYday?
Yes, yes they should. But, in focusing one day (or weekend) around a common goal (in this case, of service), you can see how effective the force of good is. How powerful every one person is in coming together to do something outside of themselves and for the community.
A girlfriend of mine on Facebook wrote this:
"One of my favorite days of the year! Do a neighborhood drive for food, office supplies, animal shelter needs, bottled water, etc. Bring dinner to someone who just brought home a baby, is battling an illness or could use some company. Host a craft-making event and donate the goodies to hospitals or nursing homes to place on patient trays. It doesn't have to be huge...it just needs to make a difference."
Big or small, it doesn't matter at all, just do something to do good!
At our house, we are starting out by fixing a pasta casserole for our church, who delivers them to shelters every 4th Sunday of the month. We have our silver pan ready and waiting to be filled. From there, we'll see what else we can do to make a difference in our local community.
You can find a lot of resources at the Make A Difference Day website. There, you have an option of starting a community event or joining one... but of course, you could just go forth and do something on your own. Additionally, here are two great resources packets that will help you learn more, and even bring in into your classrooms:
Music is powerful. Just last night, walking into a restaurant, I heard the classic 1976 Stevie Wonder song "Sir Duke" playing. That's the song with these lyrics (which has always meant more to me than the song title itself):
Music is a world within itself With a language we all understand With an equal opportunity For all to sing, dance and clap their hands But just because a record has a groove Don't make it in the groove But you can tell right away at letter A When the people start to move They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people They can feel it all over They can feel it all over people
Hearing this song took me back instantly to my grandparents' house when I was probably 8 years old. I was staying there while my folks were on vacation for the week. Being a self-entertaining-unit, I played that song over and over again during that week, trying to work up some kind of dance routine--because that's what 8 year olds do!
Walking into dinner last night, I was transported to 8-year-old-me.
That is the power of music!
And that is the power of Music Education. Our kids need it as music is an enhancer, a connector, a brain activator, an enlightener, an energizer, and it can make learning more fun.
Luckily, there's an agent out there who is working to bring music to our classrooms. Her name is Linda Richards.
I've seen Linda in action--she's a powerhouse full of amazing!! For 6 years while I was teaching at Eagle Cove School in Pasadena, Maryland, she was a touchstone & annual tradition to our Earth Week. Visiting each class, Linda could get a group of kids (whether 1st or 5th graders) to whip up & perfect an eco-parody song in a half hour. The production at the end of the week was a magical, musical experience where students' self esteem soared while they performed their songs for the school community.
S.L.Y.M.S's Kickstarter funding deadline ends October 25th, meaning there is still time to jump on Linda's "music bandwagon" and be one of her backers. You can go there to donate to her cause, as well as to learn more and see her perform her program's philosophy in song.
opportunities to collaborate, create, write songs, & perform music,
concept building, raising social awareness, integrating curricular areas, connection making, & weaving in the wonderment of music.
"Children + Music = The Agent of Change...When I look into the future, I see this program growing thoughtful, spirited, socially aware, participatory musicians. Your support in this Kickstarter campaign will set those songs in motion sooner rather than later. The time for those songs is right now." ~ Linda Richards, from her S.L.Y.M.I. Kickstarter Campaign
The mission of Green Team Gazette is to environmentally educate, to promote positive examples of "green" living (both in & out of the classroom), to inspire its readers to pursue more sustainable choices, and to encourage teachers to embrace technology in their classrooms as a way of capturing student creativity, collaboration & innovation. It is through engaging teaching practices both inside and outside of the classroom that our future leaders will flourish.