Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Love of Books... And Jane Goodall

This summer, a children's library that was very dear to me closed its doors. Outside of the public system, the books from this library were in need of finding a new home.  Over 1000 books were now homeless.

Books, like people, need someone to love them.

We all know: we protect what we love.  Given that, I pushed hard against my natural instinct to grab them all and run.  (Let's be real: my overstuffed, doubled stacked bookshelf at home already has maxed its limit. That's what happens when you move from a 3rd grade teaching position to that of technology specialist, with an office versus a classroom. There was no way I could accommodate 1000 old friends.)  

Luckily, there were many other book lovers (& lovers of this library), so the majority of the books found new places to live. Classrooms. Gifts for grandchildren. Bookshelves in family homes. A library for a Boys and Girls Club was going to be born from some of these books.  These books were going forth to make a difference in the lives of students, children, teachers, & more.

That is what is called the silver lining in the aftermath of loss.

Within the 5 bags I brought home (3 for another teacher friend and 2 for me), I found some old friends. One book in there was a gem of memories indeed. An autographed copy, in fact. The book: With Love by Jane Goodall. 

With love, indeed.

I was fortunate enough to see this champion of the environment speak at my former school in the Spring of 2008. Dr. Jane Goodall's passion and purpose are unrivaled.  This video speaks volumes of both of those, and points us the direction to go forth and make a difference.

A tribute to Dr. Jane Goodall  
(Song: "Why Shouldn't We?" by Mary Chapin Carpenter)

The video and book also can serve as a spring board to learn more about this amazing woman who followed her dreams and broke barriers as a woman as well as a human going forward in the animal world. It serves as a good example that if this solitary woman can live in this chimpanzee world, communicating and hearing each other, then certainly shouldn't we be able to do that with our fellow humans?

To immerse yourself or your class in Jane Goodall's amazing world, check out the following:

Virtual Tours:
Other Sites to Investigate:
  • The Jane Goodall Institute is always a great place to go to stay current with Jane's adventures
  • Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees site has a number of downloadable classroom activities and lesson plans.
  • BrainPop not only has as movie for Jane Goodall, but some educator resources as well.
  • Core Knowledge has a detailed, multi-day lesson plan for Kindergarten, with a bounty of books and additional resources.
  • Since this is what led me to reflect on Dr. Jane Goodall, this is a good place to circle back to. For a complete listing of books on all levels about Jane Goodall, as well as books she has written, this list at is a good place to go.

Autograph from my book and my camera, Book image from; Video from

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School ~ Back in Business ~ Back to the Monumental Task at Hand

'Tis the season. Today's the day. It's official. Back to school. Back in business.

That annual time has come once again--we are here at end of Phineas & Ferb's "There's 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it." I didn't count, though I'm pretty sure it did NOT feel like 104 days. It's universal: summer is officially over on that day when backpacks are on backs. That first "photo-worthy" day when kids are back to school.

Summer is over. Sigh.

Luckily for my children, they aren't there yet. Their fateful day is still a week away. But as a teacher, today's the day I head back.  No, no backpack, but my car is packed with goodies collected over the summer that need to go to school.

This back-to-school day is a bittersweet moment, as I already miss the luxury of summer. Pool days. Sleeping in. Reading books. Running around. Adventures. Vacations. Change of pace.

Instead, I know I'm in store for a day of meetings today.

But, there's also energy ahead. I know that today I'll be reuniting with my colleagues. We sit at the cusp of a blank slate, a brand new school year. Electricity is the flip side of that freshness. New ideas & new plans get set into motion. This fervor is what sparks our imagination which leads to inspiration.

As much as I hate to say goodbye to that open schedule of summer, there's something to that "back in business" feel. It's a vitality of that only teachers "get."

As classroom teachers, specials teachers, administrators & others who work with students, we always have a lot on our plates. Though we know the answer to Taylor Mali's ultimate question: "what do teachers make?"  We make a difference.  

Making a difference is quite a challenge...but so worth it!  It feels pretty good when you see "your" kids get it. A pride like no other  And they do "get it!"  I know, because we, as teachers, are rooting for them, pushing them, encouraging them, urging them, and guiding them to "get it."

Back to school. Back to business. Back to the monumental task at hand.

Cheers to all of you educators out there.  Have one heck of a school year.

Images:  Phineas & Ferb pic from, Teacher quote from video from

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Water, AJ+, & Their "Running Dry Playlist" @YouTube

We've all heard it before:  "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink."

Fitting for this oceanic planet of ours where 71% of the earth's surface is covered in the wet stuff. Additionally, according to USGS, the oceans hold approximately 96.5% of that blue liquid gold. But, no one is going to go out and grab a glass-full or a garden-full of oceanic salt water for survival. 

Hence why these stats (though interesting) are less-than-helpful at solving the drought problem.

While solving the drought problem is a doozy, we can begin to tackle it with information.  Here's where my newly-discovered li'l info-gem of AJ+ enters.  AJ+ is a news medium that has made it their mission to change the way we look at news.  Gearing it toward the video-and-visually-minded, social media-oriented consumer, AJ+ tells the news through video stacks, and an active social media presence at YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.  There's also an app for that (both on iTunes & for Android).

Their vision:  
"AJ+ is a global news community for the connected generation. We highlight human struggles and achievements, empower impassioned voices, and challenge the status quo. We bring you the stories that are shaping our world. Do you ever laugh, cry, get angry or inspired? You’ll fit right in." ~ From AJ+'s About Page on Facebook

This month of August, AJ+ is dedicated to the drought and bringing about awareness of water scarcity.
At YouTube, they have created their "Running Dry Playlist" which currently has 12 videos. Some are entertaining--all are informative.  (In fact, the Drought Hack of Lawn Painting was one that came up in the GTG conversation not too long ago.) 

My favorite 2 from the 12 (which was hard to narrow down, as they are all good--I mean, who doesn't want to learn about Water Wars with stop-motion LEGO animation?):

Perhaps if we flood all avenues with this type of environmental conversation, more people will start opening their eyes while simultaneously starting to make a difference! 

Planet Earth pic from; All AJ+ images from and AJ+'s Youbtube channel; Videos from and

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Road Tripping: Celebrating Our Country's Beauty

Every summer I take a semi-cross country driving trip, crossing several state lines to visit my family and my original hometown. [Perhaps a rarity in today's world: to be able return home to the same house that my folks lived in when I was born.] It's like an annual Jack Kerouacian solo trek to the motherland,...though different with two (non-driving) kids in tow. As I get older, the trip does feel longer--did someone put more states in there??  But, luckily, as the kids get older, technology helps take them to their own little backseat nirvana, as I drive the 12-13 hours--all the way as the lone driver.
This year, after 10 days in the heartland, we got back in the car, and turned south. A triangular trip was made. Our destination was Nashville, Tennessee to meet up with Daddio for a family vacation. The Grand Ole Opry, The Nashville Zoo, and the historic sites of Franklin, TN were some of the high points we hit before hitting the road again for home. The long way was well worth it--scenery and memories both combined.

As it always happens, the driving creates a lot of time to think.  It opens up a perspective as you consider the time, captive in car.  During the drive we had silence but we also had random conversations.  We played every car game you know. We also bellowed out show tunes & 80s music and air-guitared to Billy Joel music.

Equally as good, we got to see some of the amazing sights of our country.  You witness the landscape changing along the way:
  • Mountain vistas on the horizon. 
  • Rolling hills that eventually flatten the further west into the Midwest you go, then start rolling again when we head back east.
  • The lucky lushness brought on by a summer of rain (as opposed to the brown drought-stricken news scenes of California).
  • Corn tassels blowing in the wind.
  • City skylines of state capitals like Indianapolis, Columbus, & Nashville.
  • Wind farms that would make Don Quixote proud.
With all those sights, there always comes emotions, memories, & new realizations.

It really reminds you how beautiful this country is...which of course circles us back to music:

There is so much day-to-day that we take for granted. Out of the ordinary experiences like all-day driving trips and videos (like the one above) help build perspective. That realization of how small we truly are on this planet makes it really valuable.

May you take time to open your eyes and really see all that is around you today!

[I've written about my road trip experience & associated landscape awe before.  Click here to see that blast from the past.]

Pictures from my camera in a LiPix Pro app picture collage; Video of "America, The Beautiful,"performed by the US Navy Band & Sea Changers from

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Clif Bar: Advertising for Adventure & the Great Outdoors

In today's world, everything has a "brand." It's the logo and the name that stand out and speak volumes with just an image, a tagline, a presences.

We all know it & we can't help but see it on the TV, in advertisements, in radio jingles, and on street billboards.  It's no surprise nor secret:

Companies need marketing departments. 
Actors and actresses need agents.
Politicians need platforms.  

Given all of that, "the environment" is sort of left high and dry:
     -No Vice President of Marketing
     -No advertising campaign or agent to run it.
     -No multi-million dollar budget.
     -No voice amidst the noise.

(Well, there is the Lorax, but the lone Lorax may not be enough these days for all the noise that's out there these days!)

Luckily, "the environment" has Clif Bars on its side. From the look of their ad campaign, it looks as if the Clif Bars company has decided to be the power that empowers us all to embrace the environment. Their message in combination with the power of Vitamin "N" (aka, Nature), Clif Bars does a good job of harnessing the importance of caring for our environment and jumping on outdoor adventure, as these two videos show!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Go Virtually Anywhere On a Virtual Field Trip

Summer and professional development go hand in hand for us teachers.  As I've mentioned before, I've been busy in the PD arena:  reading books, listening to podcasts, and attending workshops (even teach a few). Yes, I've also been toe-dipping in the pool, but it is pretty interesting: those mental gears don't stop spinning & planning.

Maybe it's an occupational hazard for teachers!

My latest PD trip has been has been about trips. Virtual field trips.

With the Internet a click away, it's amazing how you can be, literally, virtually anywhere!  

Here are some good links to pursue if you are in search of somewhere to go... without ever leaving your classroom!

A Symbaloo webmix of 80+ places to investigate.

Get Outta Class With Virtual Field Trips
EducationWorld has a handful of good links and great advice of where to go and how to create your own.

A blog post from Kennedy Schultz from the Kid World Citizen blog (where this VFT image is from!)

Online collections of images, artifacts, videos, map views and more curated from Google on art projects, historic monuments, world wonders, and more.

3D models of museum artifacts and more, with printing plans for 3D printers.

360 views and images using Google Maps & Street Views of places all over this world.

Archived trips a

Article full of ideas and implementation from Young Children, November 2011

This of course is just a smidgen on the map of what's out there in the arena of virtual field trips.  If you are finding yourself landlocked or budget-stuck when it comes to trip planning this year ahead, grab a computer and head someplace exotic with your students.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Doozy of a Drought & What You Can Do About It

It's been a doozy of a summer for California and many other places plagued with drought.
Even despite a record rainfall July 20th of this year, California is hurting.  Tends to work that way when you are 4 years into a drought. Especially when it's perhaps the worst one California has had to date. According to NASA, megadroughts such as these aren't going to go away.

Drought brings about a wealth of other secondary issues (many of which can create critical and emergency situations):
  • increases in wildfires
  • diminished agriculture yields (which effects national, state, local, & personal economics)
  • increased food/water costs
  • loss/destruction of animal habitat
  • diminished water supplies for home/commercial use & drinkable water
  • soil erosion &/or poor soil quality
  • increased health issues due to poor air quality
  • a rise in stress-related distress due to all of the above
The cause? If you ask me (and perhaps the vast majority of climate scientists out there), all fingers point to climate change. Yet, some states aren't even allowed to use those words.  But I digress....

So what do you do if this is where you call home?  Clearly, you conserve water! Additionally you make some different landscaping choices [called "greenscaping"] to remove the heavy need for your front lawn to gulp down massive amounts of water. Here are some effective & even some innovative ways to go about doing that.

What do you do to conserve water where you live?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hop on the H20 & Hydrate

It's summer time, and it's no surprise to anyone--it's hot out there.  What's the best thing you can do when you're overheated?  Hydrate!

Since Spring Break, I've been trying to do just that. Largely, my initial quest was for a healthier alternative to my major Diet Coke vice.  Word on the street is that my beloved Diet Coke is filled with all sorts of yucky stuff for you. Additionally, given that my main source of caffeine comes from that (and I'm not a morning girl nor a coffee drinker), that's been a hard cut to get down to just one a day! But I did (although I'm still not ready to go cold turkey yet).

Water boosts your energy. A majority of us are dehydrated (75% according to the infographic below). Often times we eat when our body is really telling us we are thirsty rather than hungry.  Here are two great infographics that might lead you to upping your intake too.  (Note to self: Grab from the tap rather than the mega "Big Water" industry of plastic-wasting, single-use bottled water!)

If competition is what gets going, you might want to check out 30 Day Water Challenge.  At that link you can get more details & some great accountability tools to document your water intake. I'm going rogue (though I could update my intake in my Fitbit), and just trying to travel with a class of water in hand!

How is water working for you?

Do you have any creative approaches to get that healthy H2O into your system?

Images from; "Miracle that is Water" infographic from, "Drink More Water" from; 30 Day Water Challenge pic from

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nature-Starved, AKA Nature Deficit Disorder

Two words have been haunting me since my last post: "nature-starved."

I think there are many people out there who are afflicted lack of time outdoors, communing with nature.

Some might call it a "disorder."  In fact, "disorder" is exactly what Richard Louv, champion creator of  the concept "Nature Deficit Disorder" would call it.  He's written about it in two books:
And I've written about Richard Louv & Nature Deficit Disorder a number of times here at GTG.

Looking at the publication dates of Richard Louv's books, you'd think we all should know well by now that "Vitamin N" (aka, Nature) is the cure that magically could soothe our disconnected souls. Yet, we are all still here in this same disconnected place, years later in 2015.  Articles continue to be written on the topic, as tech addiction and waist lines continue to grow.

If you haven't read either of Richard Louv's books, you really should.  I'd recommend starting with Last Child in the Woods, perhaps because it's my favorite of the two (& my first read of them both).  If a book isn't your style, here are some other good places to start.

May these sources inspire yourself to get out and about and get your daily dose of Vitamin N.  It's easy to start small. Go take a walk. Read a book outdoors. Sip something refreshing on your back patio and soak it all in.  Write a blog post outdoors while sitting outdoors. (Oh wait! That's what I'm doing right now!)  Go out in the world to explore & have an adventure.

Let me know what it is that you are doing!

Images from,; video from