Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Comic Relief Here Between the Crazy Daze of Holidays

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.

Funny or Die's Koch Bros Climate Change video is just the one for you. The video does have some language, therefore it’s more for the snark-loving parents/environmental educators out there who need a little comic relief.

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."

It's  undeniably chuckle-worthy!

Video from from

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Cheers to you this holiday season.  
Sending my best!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hitting Home About Homelessness

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.

Homeless image from; two infographics the source is listed with them as modified for 11 year olds using the PicCollage app.
"Homeless Dean" Videos from: 
Showers on Wheels Video from
Dumpster Diving video from

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Climate Change Can Be Scary

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.
"The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."

And here are two videos that show yes, climate change can be scary
(to grown ups too), which is why it's important to make that
2 degree Celsius difference they are talking about with COP21.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Bag Monster, Revisited (Here during the Shopping Season!)

The Bag Monster is not new to me.  I wrote about him 3 years ago.

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.

 Video from

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Documentaries that Counter the "Shop 'Til You Drop" Phenomenon

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 ├╝ber-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).

Here's AJ+'s take on all that's #5:

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.

I've written many times before about Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff," materialism, & how shopping doesn't buy happiness--it's a proven fact.  I ran across this great article/list on Black Friday about videos compiled about consumerism (and the conundrum it creates) over at Films for Action (written by Tim Hjersted).

Here are a number of documentaries he shared. (I listed them here by date released, most recent first.):
Interesting: 18 years of still-topical documentaries. 18 years?!  With no real signs of the times based on Cyber Monday's stat's (see the AJ+ video above!)

He also has a nice list of shorts where you can get the condensed version & more on materialism. That's where I found The Center For A New American Dream's "The High Price of Materialism:"

Images from; videos from and

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Making the Most of the Maker Movement

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.

What Is The Maker Movement? from Vicki Dabrowka

Photos from my camera, Design process from powerpoint created collaboratively with my tech teachers at my school and uploaded to SLideshare: 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

CNN: Being 13

One of the most eye-opening things I've watched in awhile is the CNN Special Report:  "#Being13:  Inside the Secret World of Teens."  Anderson Cooper makes us all sit up and take notice.

The show reminds us all how of the power and seductivity of social media.  Particularly under the veil of anonymity.  A must-see for all parents in this edtech-ian word.

To go into greater depth than the show follow Anderson Cooper on the show's page at CNN.

video from, pic from