Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nature-Starved? It's Not too Late to Get Thee Outside

David Suzuki recently wrote a great blog post entitled "A Term for that 'I Need Time in Nature' Feeling."  In it, he invited readers to write in their thoughts on what that term would be.  As David posed, if "hangry" is "hungry & angry" then what might be the right term when you are nature starved?

All of this got me thinking about my last two weeks.  I was struck by the fact that a majority of it has been sponsored by the great outdoors.  These are the perks of summertime--the freedom of schedule to be able to go out and about to do these things.   I've found myself...

Beach combing for shark's teeth in Chesapeake Beach:
Sunset sailing in Annapolis on the Windward Schooner (followed up by walking about downtown, ice cream cones in hand!):
 Hiking the Billy Goat trail in Great Falls:
Swimming in our backyard pool:
Even hanging out with Billy Joel, moving and grooving to some of my favorite songs during his outdoor arena concert.

And let's not forget:  mowing the yard, pulling weeds, biking the neighborhood, reading under the trees, & dining al fresco after dinnertime grilling.

If you still need a little encouragement, watch this Clif Kids video

So are if you are indoor-i-fried, "denatured," or feeling overly AC'ed, it's not too late to get out there, troops.  There's still plenty of summer ahead, and many opportunities to get outdoors.

What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate the great outdoors this summer?

Images from my camera & Video from

Saturday, July 25, 2015

EPIC! For Educators eReader App--Bringing A Bounty of Books To Your Young Readers

Kindle.  Nook.  Kobo.  Sony. 
Stand-alone eReaders, and apps on iPads & Androids alike. eReaders are here, there, and everywhere. 

eReaders make it possible to carry a bounty of books wherever you go. It's revolutionizing the book publishing industry and the way many of us read.

With them, you can carry a stack of books in your hand (on your tablet), saving trees-worth of paper. eReaders are not only a techy alternative, but an environmental one as well!!  Especially if your kids eat books for breakfast like mine!

As youngsters are embarking on the eReader route, teachers are finding them to be a classroom treasure as well.  The EPIC! app is one of my latest #EdTech discoveries that puts an endless number of books in your child or student's hands.  My favorite feature is that they have opened up their entire library for free to educators. Yet, even at the parent subscription of $4.99 per month, it's still a great economic deal for book lovers!  Check out my screencast movie below to help you learn just how epic the EPIC! app is for Educators.

A short synopsis on the merits of EPIC! for Educators 
(an iPad book reader app for teachers and students up to 12 years old)

EPIC! image from; Vimeo video from (created using The Explain Everything app, iMovie, GarageBand, & Pic Collage)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eco Leaders: Starting Young & Leading the Way

It's never too early to start making a difference.

Just take notice of these 12 young men & women.
They know that, and have led the way in environmental activism:

I came to learn about this dynamic dozen in my son's 3rd grade class this past year. Moving away from researching historic leaders like Theodore Roosevelt or Leonardo da Vinci (who are great and important leaders), the teachers compiled a list of 30 contemporary young leaders. Kids and teens who followed their passion to make a difference.  Social & environmental leaders who were struck with inspiration, then made a major decision to do something to take action & engage others.

The enthusiasm about these young leaders was "sparktastic" within my son's class.  The students compiled their internet research and were abuzz about the TED talks they watched the GoFundMe pages some of them visited. They researched, wrote, presented, and created amazing 3D structures to showcase their Leader.  They then shared it all out to parents and students by way of their class-created Leadership Museum.

The interactive infographic above will introduce you to 12 of the 30 young environmentalists my son's classmates studied.  Kids, teens, & young adults who followed their passions, making a difference.  But 12 is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the Kids Are Heroes website to be inspired by a slew of other young people who are indeed heroes, leading the way!!

If kids can do it, so can we!
Big or small, it all counts.

Interactive infographic made with the Pic Collage App & Thing Link; snapshop at the Leadership Museum from my camera.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Embarking in Infographics 101: Presentation Station

I kicked off the summer in "presentation mode."  There was certainly a level of "no rest for the weary" with that game plan!  But the good thing about starting the summer that way is that relaxation follows along with the bulk of the summer.  As I ponder that (from a pool floaty), I'm pretty happy with the timing!
As I mentioned before, my school offers an optional "Summer Institute" to it's PS--12th grade faculty and staff during the summer.  A place to come, to learn, to build & enhance our craft as educators, to strengthen our teaching skills while following the trends of current education.  As we pursue the "love of learning" and the "pursuit of knowledge," our teachers are our colleagues, and in turn they become both our mentors and our learning mates.

This summer, I got the opportunity to co-teach the Summer Institute class "iMovie for iPads" and solo-teach "Infographics" the first week of this summer. As I prepared for my "Infographics 101" class, I got the chance to massively grow my infographics Pinterest board, investigate 5 online infographic creators along with the iPad app "Pic Collage." I also got to be energized by my learning colleagues in class.  One day (6.5 hours) and I got to witness so many great ideas, so much electric energy and enthusiasm!

Along the way, I found a slew of environmental (and other) infographics to share my message. There's a lot you can do in your classroom, both teaching with infographics, as well as creating your own. I look forward to sharing them with you!

Check out my presentation below or at Slideshare.

Slideshare "Infographics 101" presentation created by me, at; image from

Saturday, July 11, 2015

#10 Reasons (+11 More) Why LEGOs Are Eco Awesome

If you are a parent of builders, or a builder yourself, you don't have to be convinced of the magic of LEGOs. But in case you do, here are #10 reasons (+11 more) why LEGOs most certainly are awesome! Eco & otherwise!

1. Lego is Pursuing a Move Away from Plastic:  
At the tune of $150 million, LEGO is hot on the pursuit of a sustainable, bio-based material to replace of the iconic plastic block.  After 65+ years of parents stepping on carpet-hidden plastic blocks, it's hard to imagine LEGO stepping away from the 6,000 tons of plastic they use annually in production. Their goal is to make this move by 2030.

2.  Female Scientists Make the Mini figure List:
For the 2nd year in a row, female scientists have made the roster of notable minis.  This year's biggie on the list honors oceanographer Sylvia Earle.  Other key female players include veterinarians, aerospace engineers, mechanics, & members of a pit crew.  In 2013, the first female lab scientist surfaced; and in 2014 a female paleontologist, astronomer, & chemist cropped up.  More female kits and sets are in the works (including a proposed Jane Goodall)! 

3.  "Big Bang Theory" makes the LEGO Set & Mini figure List:
Additionally, there's an August 1st release next month of the cast/set of Big Bang Theory.  In addition to Sheldon & Leonard [the male theoretical physicists], Raj [astrophysicist], & Wolowitz [aerospace engineer], there's also some pretty sharp ladies in the mix.  There's Penny [who has risen from actress/waitress to pharmaceutical salesperson], microbiologist Bernadette, & neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler.  Bazinga!

4.  LEGO Says Adios to Shell Oil:
Greenpeace put the pressure on with their 2014 video showing a plasticized Lego arctic being buried under oil.  This outrage against the continued Shell Oil drilling of the arctic is what cause LEGO to quit their long-time ties with Shell.

5.  LEGO Rental & Reuse Sites Are On the Rise:
Sites such as Pley and Rebrickable are on the forefront of acknowledging that LEGOs, though great, aren't cheap.  So, rather the purchase them all at a minor mint, these rental & reuse sites bring about the green cycle of "reduce, reuse, recycle."
6.  There's a LEGO world out there, possibly bigger than LegoLand: is a major LEGO fan community."MOC" (or "My Own Creation") pages is where you can go to record images of what you have made via your LEGOs, and it serves as a great digital show and tell. Founded by LEGO artist & aficionado, Sean Kenney, it's a free community, available to and for all.

7.  LEGO Itself Knows How to Do Education:
Where MOCpages is not affiliated with LEGO, this LEGO Education portal is.  Here you can find the most recent online catalog, any late breaking news & events, check out LEGO education, and also dive into LEGO Education Global. Find also grade level resources, specialty kits, after school programs and more.

8.  LEGO Artists & Sculpturists Showcase the Magic of Making
Nathan Sawaya & Sean Kenney are a mere two who prove that LEGO's aren't just for kids anymore.  These two artists have taken LEGOs to new heights, taking designing and LEGO artistic engineering to new heights. I wrote about Nathan Sawaya this past Earth Day when I used his Philadelphia Franklin Institute Exhibit "Art of the Brick" to a kindergarten LEGO activity with our Earth Day Maker Night & iPads. Sean Kenney also has internationally touring exhibits, 8 best-selling children's books, & many original designs for sale. His "Nature Connects" series (currently at a number of arena's in North America) puts 1.6 million LEGO's to work creating life sized nature-oriented sculptures, many life-sized or larger, bringing "nature's beauty & whimsy to life."

9.  And in Honor of the 4th of July...
... and through this September, you can see Old Glory, waving her LEGOs & her red, white, and blue.  At the Smithsonian American History Museum in DC, our American flag is being built from the ground up.  Super-sized.  I wonder how many people can actually walk by and NOT take part!

10. The 2015 Academy Awards
It's not often you see not only a LEGO animated movie, but a live-actioned replica of the movie.  But that's exactly what the Academy Awards did during their Oscar's presentation.  "Tegan & Sara" sang their "Everything Is Awesome" LEGO Movie theme song, with real life singers and dancers bringing the music and Movie to life.  Add in that Nathan Sawaya created golden LEGO Oscar Statuettes.  Outstanding!

#11--21.  But Wait! There's More!
+11 Awesome LEGO Facts That Will Make You Want to Break Out the Bricks Again from The Huffington Post.

Do you have a favorite way LEGO has made your day--
eco-wise, or any other way?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Time Is Professional Development Time

Anyone who is a teacher knows two things:

1.  Summer is a long awaited gift.  A time of decompression, reflection, & rejuvenation.

2.  Summer in NOT totally relaxation & time off.  Minds are a-whirling for the year ahead almost before decompression truly sets in.

It is in that gift of summertime (where 12 months have been jammed packed into 9-10 months of late night paper grading and weekend lesson planning) that a bounty of professional development can occur. Likewise, some amazing summer opportunities of workshops, conferences, continuing education classes, professional development, and books on bed stands or in Kindles, waiting to be read.

At my school, each summer we have a "Summer Institute" of optional all day professional development educational opportunities, with a complete course selection set up throughout the summer.  The main reason is to help PS--12th grade teachers at our school grow in our craft and stay in touch with educational trends.  (More on that later!)

Here's some of the #EdTech professional greats that have been happening out there already this summer.  Even if you missed them on the front end, you can catch up on the learning that happened here:

When & where was it:  June 23rd--25th at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas
Ways to learn, after-the-fact:
     --iPadPalooza Presenter Resource Page
     --Creativity is Key" post at ZigZagging Through Education & Technology
     --Check out @iPadpalooza or #iplza15 on Twitter

ISTE 2015:
When & where was it:  June 27th--July 1st in Philadelphia, PA
Ways to learn, after-the-fact:
     --Google Doc of Session Notes
          (tons of links!)
     --#NotAtISTE2015 Livebinder 
          (again, tons of curated content)
     --TeacherCast video of ISTE 2015
           Pre-Show Podcast
     --Check out #ISTE2015 and
           #NotAtISTE2015 on Twitter

EdCamps 2015:
When & where:  ongoing in many locations, just check the website of upcoming free one-day camps to find one near you.

Educational Trend Websites:
     --Mindshift  (Future of Learning)
     --Edutopia  (K-12 Tips & Strategies)
     --The Learning Network (from NY Times)
     --Educdemic  (Connecting Education & Technology)
     --Education Closet  (Arts Integration & STEAM)
     --Education World  (Ed resources spanning the disciplines)
     --Make Magazine  (Maker Movement)
     --Brain Pickings  (Cross Disciplinary Treasure Trove)

Podcasts & Webcasts:
      --TeacherCast University
      --Michael Hyatt (not related to #EdTech, but more to leadership,
           and fabulous with every listen!)

What are some of your favorite summertime professional development offerings?

Images:  Summertime: pic from my camera, created using the Motivational Poster app; ISTE by Numbers infographic from

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Freedoms, Flags, & the Fourth

No, I'm not bellowing "Braveheart's" iconic sound byte: "Freeeeeeeeedom!"

But, that being said, the 4th of July is upon us, and it brings about thoughts of our freedoms.

It's been a week and change here in the grand ole U.S. of A. A week+ OF change!  "Freedom" has taken new heights.  Unless you have been living under a rock the last 7--10 days, the Supreme Court has aok'ed and authorized gay marriage in all 50 of the United States.  Rainbow flags are a-flying.  As they should be.  Let's vote in honor of "happy."  ALL people are entitled to the right to be happy! We all deserve to be happy, especially as life is hard enough.

There's also the counter-flags, the ones that are NOT a-flying. The move to bring down the Confederate flags in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre is a good one.  President Obama excelled as an orator during his eulogy at Rev. Clementa Pickney's funeral.
"It's true, the flag did not cause these murders... but we all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now....By taking down that flag, we express God's grace." ~Pres. Obama
There's even the new freedom to take pics at the White House.

Then, there's the "green" flag that was flown symbolically by way of The Pope's Encyclical!!  Way to go, Pope Francis, defender of our planet!

Yes, freedoms abound.  
And with that comes responsibility.

As a long-time liberal, I have always been in favor of "happy." I see the "freedom of happy" as extensive.  I think of conversations I've had with people who feel others "should" & "could" be doing things differently--for reason A, B, C, X, Y, Z. Given the very recent history of the US, it causes me to ponder: "Why do we all care what others are doing or what others are caring about?  Does it matter to us?"

The answer is no--others' lives are theirs. Our business is ours.  

We all have the right to be free, to go forth, and to...
  • love one another,
  • love ourselves,
  • help our planet,
  • refuse,
  • reduce,
  • reuse,
  • recycle,
  • take responsibility,
  • take action,
  • make a move, 
  • make a motion,
  • fight for what we believe in,
  • share what's good,
  • not get sucked into the vortex,
  • turn on our minds,
  • turn off the social media influences,
  • fill ourselves with the power of good versus the power of evil,
  • make healthy choices,
  • share our messages,
  • pursue happiness,
  • take part in incremental change,
  • learn something new,
  • be true to our friends, family, and selves,
  • be innovative, be creative, be inspiring, and be connected.
This 4th....go forth & be happy.  
Embrace love, embrace each other, embrace what surrounds you.  

What makes you happy, and what freedoms inspire you?!

Freedom Wordle: ;  flags:; freedom & happiness:, Sparkler heart:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Say It Loud, Say it Proud: Plastic Bag Free Day 7/3/2015

'Tis the season, in good ole USA to be readying for that red-white-and-blue day, Independence Day. A day of well as festivities, BBQ's, pool time & picnics, fun, frivolity, and fireworks. Hamburgers, hotdogs, & apple pie.

In order to plan for such yummy kind of fun, you need to go shopping.  Grocery stores do well, no doubt, here in this week before the 4th of July.  Think about your 4th fun prep, or even your last supermarket run.  If you are like me, you came home with a bunch of bags of food and a sundry of other household goods.

Ask yourself:  Are you a paper, plastic, or reusable bag kind of person?

Well, the push this week, especially Friday, July 3rd, to go plastic bag free.  Grab your reusable bags and get thee to the store, loaded and ready to go shopping.  Why?  The reasons are numerous (many of which are detailed in the infographic below, as well over at the International Bag Free Day website.  My favorite plastic bag fact happens to be that plastic bags, which take potentially 1000 years to biodegrade, have a typical life span of about 25 minutes of use--from store to door.  That's a lot of lifetime of waste for the minutes of convenience they provide.

For more resources, check out Plastic Bag Free's Resources.

So your challenge:  can you embrace the freedom of the Fourth of July, and go plastic bag free this holiday?  I think you can!  So, armed with knowledge, your next stop should be your grocery store.  Shop 'til you drop for your Independence Day extravaganza, bringing in your own bags, so you can come out without the additional plastic waste!  Then picnic and party on in style!

For more resources as to how to have an additionally eco-friendly 4th of July, check out Sprout's 2014 post on the subject.

Images from:;; infographic from; Bag Free World Logo