Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Blasts from the Pasts

Happy Halloween!  In honor of today's day of costumes, trick-or-treating, parties, haunted houses, candy bags and more, I thought it might be fun to take a little trek down memory lane!

Here are some blasts from the Past:

Going Green At Halloween

Blast from the Past:  October Green Team Gazettes

Sing A Sad Song of Plastic

Halloween in Retrospect

Bein' Green This Halloween

This Halloween: 1). Watch Out For Witches' Drawers, and 2). Don't Get Buried

And of course there's me, in my Capri Sun Dress, Halloween 2009!  I can't even tell you how heavy that was!  All juice pouches went to TerraCycle, and only a few safety pin stabs were mine!

Image from

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Crash Course Ecology

You can't beat a good movie....or 12! That's exactly what Crash Course Ecology is all about!!

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!!

Here are the goodies of Crash Course:

Images from and

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween 2015--A Week Away!

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!

Inhabit's "Green Halloween" Archives

Green America's: The Healthy, Eek-O-Friendly, & Fun Halloween Revolution

Green Halloween For Students, Parents, Schools

10 Green Halloween Tips from World Wildlife Fund

Forbes:  How Smart Companies Are Making Halloween Eco-Friendly

Green Halloween Ideas from Huffington Post

A Happy Green Halloween from A Green Initiative

Going Green from Kelowna Real Estate

Image from 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Make a Difference Day: October 24, 2015

  I have this quote magnet in my classroom:

This sentiment is at the very heart of Make A Difference Day.

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 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:
Be that stone thrown in the water of a pond: watch the ripples extend outward. You never know when or where your influence (like those ripples) will end.

Images from:  JFK quote:, ,,

Saturday, October 17, 2015

S.L.Y.M.I. (Sing Like You Mean It!)

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.

Linda has come to Kickstarter with a new to music education program: S.L.Y.M.I. (Sing Like You Mean It!). Her goal--to connect learning through song to capture concepts. 

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.

Other places you can find Linda Richards:
SLYMI on Facebook

You can also find her in my Green Team Gazette Archives:
What SLYMI offers:
  • assemblies & class visits, 
  • 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

Crowd image of Linda Richards from and a screenshot of her singing her video on

Stevie Wonder lyrics from

"You Can't Touch Music" quote from

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Tech Oasis at OESIS

Within the past week I was given two really spectacular gifts of personal realignment. My first one was a chance to reunite with nature on a field trip of canoeing & outdoor fun.  My second one was an opportunity to fly with 4 colleagues and meet up with our Head of School in Boston to attend a two-day educational technology conference. Given that being in tune with your inner-techie is newly "geek chic" this last decade or so, I was totally in my tech element at OESIS: The Online/Blended Education Symposium for Independent Schools. Add in, I was in good company with nearly 300 participants from 110 schools.

It's amazing how many sessions you can squeeze into a 2-day time period: 2-morning keynotes (comprised of 4 speakers each), 11 presentation sessions, a workshop or two during lunch, and 3 "Think Tank" sessions! My brain was serving as an extra-absorbent sponge! It's interesting to see how other schools are incorporating elements of flipped or blended classes, integrating online learning as a way to personalize and individualize the educational experiences to help students raise their own personal bar.  It's been interesting having discussions with people who are leaps and bounds ahead of us and how they are doing what they are in their schools; likewise, it's been interesting to see the ways in which we are ahead of the learning curve.

Along the way, during these two days, there has been a lot of talk about "change."  That (of course) serves more than #edtech.  "Change" is that one thing that is truly constant, and many of us fear.  Yet my favorite quote this week is:
One of my favorite slides showed how we are also in a state of changing technology--even 100 years ago.  Here's a modified version or that:

This image show a parallel place to where we are now.

As we move forward, it's only true that we wrestle a bit.  As you go forth, take note of where you are so you know where to go next.

Images from!t=1018,; Old-timey photo in the Motivation app, and pic from the Photo Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Chiropractic Realignment of Body & Spirit... By Way of the Great Outdoors

This week I was reminded of a few things... It was almost as if I went to the "mental chiropractor." I was "realigned" in body and spirit, in work and balance!

Yes, Virginia, there is more room in life than merely work (& grading papers).

[Is that spoken like a teacher or what?!]

Sad but true... I had forgotten about that "more to life" thing. I didn't feel like I had the luxury of slowing down right now.  For good reason--but still!
(My good reason: I took on a long-term, leave of absence, classroom teaching position in my school--mid-August, just two weeks before the start of back-to-school teacher meetings. Instead of my "regularly scheduled tech integrator position" I was gearing up for, I was back in the classroom... with all that goes with that in August. Crafting lesson plans and learning curriculum, I'm often still operating in a short-term punt of "creating it as I go." Not to mention, the beginning of the school year is never slow and dull anyway, for anyone!!)

So how does one step "away from the dark side" and "out from under the rock?"  By taking part in a well-timed grade-level eco-adventure field trip with 36 kids.  What makes it an eco-adventure?  We all went to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Merrill Center where we canoed, seined, and investigated the elements of "green" building-ness of the center. We spent the afternoon out on The Margarite, an educational vessel and an old friend (as I've ridden on her time and time again).  On it, we pulled up some oysters, checked out bay life by boat-ride binoculars, and did a little fishing to determine the biodiversity of the bay. It reminded me of my "eco-days" at a dear little place called Eagle Cove School, and my memories of the "best field trip ever!

What this trip also reminded me is how we can get lost in the minutia of everyday life.  Getting all those papers graded, getting all that laundry done.  All the while, losing a whole lot of yourself in the process.  From the vantage point of the inside of a canoe, seeing the still water, with a blue heron flying overhead, with a backdrop of red and rust-colored leaves peppering the trees--you have that "ah ha!" moment of remembrance. That's what I needed.

Add in the reminder of days gone by of "my old (less harried) self," I was struck by how much I missed me.

Proving the point that despite doing the good job of teaching the youth of America, you have to do the self-persevering thing.  It's what they tell you on the plane while going through the pre-flight reminders: put your own life mask on first. This 3 day weekend ahead, I intend to do just that!

What do you intend to do for "you" this weekend ahead?

Pictures from my camera!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Revisited

Probably my one "closest to my heart" environmental issues is plastic waste, particularly as it gets blown to the wind and makes its way to becoming marine debris. Over the last 7 years of Green Team Gazette, I've written about this many times. I'm particularly bothered by the oceanic gyres of plastic trash that pollute all of our oceans; however, the largest one is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I first learned of it on the Earth Day Oprah Show, years ago, and was amazed that this was the first time I'd ever heard of it. Unfortunately, that was years ago... and we're still hearing about it!

Here is a litany of links to gain greater awareness of the plastic trash that surrounds us all... still.

TED-ED Lesson:  "What Really Happens to the Plastic You Throw Away?" by Emma Bryce:

VIDEO: Whitby’s Jaime Rae Reels in $1,000 Prize for Video on Plastic Pollution in Oceans by Jillian Follert:

"What You Didn’t Know About Microplastics" by Lisa Feldkamp.  Find out all the things that you didn't know!

"World’s First Wrench 3D-Printed with Recycled Ocean Plastic Wins Innovation Award" by Colin Payne.  This article highlights Plastic Bank and the idea of "social plastic." The idea is backed with entrepreneurialism and promotes recycling to better communities.

"This Solar Powered ‘Water-Wheel’ Will Clean 23 Metric Tons of Trash From The Ocean Every Day" by John Vibes.  In nearby Baltimore, MD this 'debris raking system' is currently being used.

Boaters Mapping Floating Garbage Patch In North Pacific Return To San Francisco from San Francisco CBS/AP.  At this link you'll find a video worth watching to see what they are trying to do over in San Francisco.

Adidas Wants To Turn Ocean Plastic Into Sportswear by Lorraine Chow.  New textiles are being created using recycled plastic as the key ingredient.

A Plastic Problem in the Chesapeake by Jeff Corbin from the EPA Connect: The Official Blog of the EPA Leadership

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
See the trailer here:

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Trailer from Angela Sun on Vimeo.

"These Artists Turn Ocean Trash into Really Classy Art by Amelia Urry
Here's an example of one of the pieces of art by Mandy Barker

Now that you know what you maybe didn't know before, 
what are you going to do with all that plastic that is around you?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

4th Graders: Get Your Free National Parks Pass This School Year

Judy Blume knew it way back in the '70s when she wrote her book "Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing:" 4th Grade is THE BEST.  It's an age of major growth for kids, as connections spark left and right.  4th graders have a huge sense of justice (just check out any recess playground at a nearby school!).  They also are very curious, eager, experimental, and fun-loving.  (To learn more about typical child development for the 4th grade stage, check out this article.)

One could argue kids at all ages are "all of the above," but there's another reason that "4th Graders Rock" this year.  They are the chosen ones.

With President Obama's proclamation and the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative, every 4th grade student nationwide is entitled to free entry in any of the 2,000+ National Parks of the United States.  This is effected for any fourth grade student from Sept 1st, 2015 to August 31st, 2016.

If that doesn't elicit a hoot and a holler, I don't know what does.

So what is it about 4th grade?  Given it's an age of connection for kids (who, can't drive, by the way), this is the perfect age to get kids and their families outdoors.  From the Every Kid in a Park website & media kit, doing this now (at this age) serves as a:
"nationwide call to action action to build the next generation of outdoor stewards of our country’s spectacular and diverse federal lands and waters. Connecting our nation’s youth to the great outdoors is even more important at a time when 80 percent of American families live in cities and most children spend more time on computers and smartphones than exploring nature. The initiative is slated to continue with each year’s group of fourth graders to inspire successive generations to become responsible stewards of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage. Every Kid in a Park invites children of all backgrounds to discover their public lands and all they offer, including opportunities to be active and spend time with friends and family. As living classrooms, these outdoor places and historic sites also provide hands-on, real-world opportunities to develop critical skills and learn about the natural world."
Likewise, here are some other reasons why 4th grade was the chosen age:
  • 4th graders in many states focus on their state history.
  • The National Park System has 4th-grade-specific programs in place.
  • 4th graders are just before the age of 11, which has been noted as the age by which the window of "outdoor connection with nature" closes.  After this age, if kids haven't connected with nature, it might be too late.  As with anything:  the earlier, the better!
So here we are at the start of October.  If you didn't realize it last month, there's still a whole 11 months to go. You can go to the Every Kid in a Park website and have your 4th grader do an activity to get a paper pass to print.  That pass will get you free entrance into the parks and exchange it for a plastic park.  The Every Kid in a Park pass not only gets your 4th grader in, but anyone else in the vehicle (no buses, please!) who is accompanying them (up to 3 adults).  The website also has an educator portal with a lesson plans/activities to download and free passes to anyone who teaches 4th grade.  Likewise, teachers can print class sets of passes, each with their own unique identification code.

To get you excited and wanting to start your own "Tales of a 4th Grade National Park Adventurer," check out this PSA for the National Park Service.  Then head over to the Every Kid in a Park Website!

Which National Park would you want to visit first, 
to share your pictures on social media with #FindYourPark?  
Please leave a comment below as to where you'd want to go!  
I'd love to hear about it!

Images from; "4th Grade Rocks" image from, video