Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Tale of An Environmental Teacher

Once upon a time,....
there was a girl who taught at a very "green" school where they recycled, composted, built rain gardens, had green roofs, raised oysters, grew butterfly gardens, had an entire week dedicated to Earth Day, hosted Earth Hour events, and much much more.

She taught there for a very good long time. There, she was quite in her element, integrating curricular topics on the side of sustainability.  Her students were mesmerized by books like Operation Redwood. They graphed light usage and how long it took different items to biodegrade.  They did biographies on environmentalists such as Jacques Cousteau, Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall, and John Muir. Her students weekly cleaned and counted Capri Suns to send back to Terracycle to reduce landfill waste. She was even rumored to have a majestic dress made entirely out of Capri Suns. Oh yes! They all ate and breathed the "green" scene.

Until one day....this wonderfully special school closed.

It was at this point the the friends/teachers/colleagues/families/students were quite saddened that they had to scatter like seeds in the wind.  Scatter they did.  They all landed well and started their next phase of happily ever after at brand new schools, public and independent, spread all over the community.

As would not be surprising, our one, same teacher gal also found a new school to call home. Here she got to embark on being the "iPad Lady," bringing new and innovative ideas to classroom teachers at her new school, helping her colleagues find ways to integrate technology and the curriculum.  And all was very good for her first new year at a new elementary school.  Not as "green" as where she'd been, but a good place to land all the same.

Then one summer day about 2 weeks before school started before her 2nd year there, our teacher was asked to do a favor. Would she kindly take on a homeroom classroom due to an unexpected leave of absence by a teacher on staff. This was quite a surprise, but of course she said yes. She embarked on both the hurry and scurry of setting up shop for the incoming students, as well as the "hurry and worry" on mentally getting her game on. She had to switch gears and go into classroom teaching mode versus just teaching tech with an office and classroom visits. It was supposed to be a short-term fill, but as often happens in this tale called "Life," more unexpected things happened, and she stayed in this spot for the whole school year.

There, with her students, she did what she knows how to do best.  She shared the importance of caring for our planet through student-driven tech investigations. She shared the concern of marine debris through mockumentaries and ocean cartoons. She read some of those same books as read-alouds that she had always read in the past. She embarked on a journey with a team of 3 other teachers to help the school become a Maryland "Green" School.  They triumphed and the designation was awarded!

Of course, as happens, the school year came to a close.  In addition to all of those eco-things, our girl helped her students prepare for the next step, write their end of the year speeches, and wrap up the year.  In return, her students surprised her with a very remarkable gift.  Based on her love on the environment, and their love for her, she was given a sizable donation in her name to a local environmental charity, promoted to conserving the Chesapeake Bay.  A gift was given that will keep on giving. The donations will continue forward to help further more environmental programs.

As her son once said in Kindergarten:  "Mom, it's all physics.  The world loves a circle."

A circle indeed. Those seeds that scattered to the wind with the closing of a school, had been sown. More environmental stewards had been grown. The circle of conservationism and environmental sustainability continued to grow outwards.

A circle indeed.  For the love shared and the love spread was more touching than I can describe.   I should know.  I know that girl, that teacher, very very well.

Thank You! Which, of course, is a most delightful way to "End."

GTG logo from; Capri Sun dress from; Michael Recycle costume image from; CBF image attributes noted above & from

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Nemo Nursery

AJ+ is a mecca of informative, fun, insightful videos.  This latest video of theirs struck a chord as the natural follow-up to may last post "Finding, Not Buying, Dory." In it, I was moved by the phrase in the following AJ+ video "Nemo Nursery."

No, not this:

...which you can apparently get for $170 through Disney Baby.
But rather, baby clownfish breeding center.  THAT kind of nursery. And the best part, it's in a school in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, where the primary students are doing the hard work. It's literally a school raising a school (of fish)! How neat is that--especially given it certainly is a one of a kind school and unique learning opportunity for these children.

Students of Belgian Gardens State School are learning some real world education and the importance of being stewards for their environment.  Their proximity to the Great Barrier Reef no doubt helps strengthen their commitment and sense of responsibility.  In 2015 alone, students raised 100 clownfish.  The school has been doing this as a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's Reef Guardian Program for the past 6 years.  Why are they doing it?  To minimize the number of clownfish taken from the Reef every year.

These are the lessons of school that will stay with these students for a lifetime!

I love the way the AJ+ video ends:  "WWDD:  What Would Dory Do?"
I think we all know the answer to that!

Video from , images from,  kids and clownfish image from 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding, Not Buying, Dory

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the long-awaited sequel to "Finding Nemo" came out this past Friday.  That movie sequel, 13 years in the making, was of course called "Finding Dory."  We were away camping opening weekend, so we are still behind the times.... but we are so ready to see it!  Especially given we used to have a dog named Nemo, and due to that fact "Finding Nemo" was the first movie we took our daughter to go see, then still wee. Given that, this movie is truly on our bucket list.

After the first four days, "Finding Dory" made $154 million, which is far from chump change! Given that and it's frenzied fans who have been eager to see this blockbuster for years, Dory is going to be swimming in some cash--or at least her human producers and participants are.  With anything like this, the desire to own exotics goes up, crafting a dangerous imbalance on the delicate species.

Likewise is the same for the blue tang that Dory is.  Here's a great mini-clip on why we all should "watch" Dory, rather than "buy" her.  Don't let your desire to grab hold of nature put this li'l gal and her family in a perilous state.  Maybe that's where you need to "just keep swimming" and make more realistic choices for your fish tank!  For more help in finding a "just-right-fish" for you, check out the info page over at Disney's "Finding Dory" website to help you select the perfect fish for you.

"Watch Dory, Don't Buy Her" video from, image from

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Hallmarks of a Good Father's Day

Step into the Hallmark Store at this time of the year and you will find the Father's Day cards sandwiched between graduation and all the other special occasion cards.

The cards fall in a variety of emotions, but often feature dad as the handyman, the grill master, the rugged outdoors man, the sports enthusiast.

With our li'l family of 4, we welcomed our Father's Day weekend in the woods. A-camping we did go. True tent camping, for the first time in years. For 4 days & 3 nights we were riverside in the woods of Harper's Ferry, WV.  3/4 of our long weekend, the weather couldn't be more ideal. Even better, we survived the torrential downpour of the first night, staying dry and with a good sense of adventure all hunkered down inside our tent.

Falling right after my teacher meetings ended, this weekend was a symbolic kickoff to summer--not to mention, a great way to decompress. A way to be sure to slow down, appreciate all that surrounded us. A way to breathe a little easier, take time more in stride and on its own time table. A way to gasp in the sunrises and embrace the sunsets over the camp-side Potomac river. We got lost in the flames of the campfire (& a good book or two), got absorbed in the fun of the conversation, while basking in the beauty and green all around.

I got a great dose of Vitamin N.  Nature!

I also got to see the my husband, my kid's dad, in his Hallmark Card element:
• He was the handyman who took the lead in prepping our campground with protective tarps both above and below our tent to keep us dry from the rain we knew was coming.  He patiently showed the kids how to hammer the stakes, creating quite the trio of tent builders.
• He was the grill master at work, baking bacon first thing in the morning to start our day with the tasty yumminess and sustenance that only bacon (or steak) can bring.  Watching him guide my daughter in flipping burgers to perfection made me smile, and thankful that he was tackling all the cooking.
• He was the rugged outdoors man who built our fires, trekked the trails, and 4-wheel-drove us down the rocky hillside to our campsite.  He romped in the river with the kids to splashing about with them.  Their giggles crossed over to where I was sitting, and I found my heart filling with love for my family.
• He was the sports enthusiast who spurred us on to try new and different things, encouraging family fun and bravery while zip-lining and white water rafting. He helped us all step outside of ourselves to try something new, but was also playfully pushing me out of the raft in flat water, but also grabbing hold of my son when he almost flipped out as we hit a wave hard.
In addition to seeing my husband in these "Hallmark" moments, I also had many memories this weekend of my own father, who passed away 5 years ago. We never went camping together when I was a kid, but my family always went on adventures and annual vacations. Some exotic, some rustic, and many of them were ones where the mini grill often came out of the trunk for a hotel side cookouts. There were playful times together including outdoor outings with a bit of hiking and some stream investigations where Dad and I would skip stone after stone. Where love, laughter, good times, and togetherness are all a part of the memories in the making.

These are all the hallmarks of a good father... 
and the hallmarks of making good memories.  

May you make some wonderful memories with your father today and children today, 
or celebrate the memories made in the past 
with your dad in days gone by.  

Happy Father's Day.   

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Collection of Commencement Speeches

Today was my first official day of summer after all of the end of year events with kids--from the annual field trip to Hershey Park with my 5th graders to the final 5th grade promotion speeches as they gear up to move ahead to the middle school.  We had our days of meetings to wrap up and time set aside to pack up. Moving from one classroom to another, I did a lot of overhauling of things hidden away in closet boxes where they had lived a long time.  So files are now tidy, the closet is ready for its new recipient, and my new space is now ready for me to return in the fall.  We finished up with the end of year faculty luncheon where everyone celebrated accomplishments then bid adieu for the summer.

In this season of wrapping up, it becomes exhausting and overwhelming at times, but it brings about a good sense of closure and accomplishment. Like tying up the year, a package with a bow. 

In this season of speeches, I wrote one of my own to serve as inspiration to my students that we all had something to say, here at the end of the year.  As my students delivered their speeches on that last day of school, I found myself grinning to such a degree that by the end, my cheeks hurt from smiling! 

Given all of that, I think I've become more aware of all the viral commencement speeches that swirl about on social media.  I've found myself collecting them, much like someone would collect precious stones, commemorative stamps, or beautiful shells.  I've already shared Matt Damon's 2016 speech he delivered at MIT.  Here are my 3 other favorites this season.  May they fill you with wisdom, and may they make you think!

Historian & Documentarian Ken Burns:

Harvard's Dean James Ryan:

Mike Rowe's Practical Advice
(a different slant than the typical commencement speech!):

Pictures from my promotion &, Videos from,, and

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Our Hearts Break Once Again: Not Another Mass Shooting.

I'm saddened, hugely so, by the news du jour.

Orlando, I am soo, soo sorry.  For your pain, for your loss, for being here once again.

It just isn't right.  And there aren't words enough.  It is just. plain. wrong.

My heart goes out to all of you who were at the Pulse and witnessed this first hand. My heart aches for the family members who were struck with middle-of-the-night fear and fled to the scene of the club or the hospital to find your people. I hope you were in the 5/6 that found your people alive.  Life is meant to be filled with love, not this.  Why are we still judging people because they find safety, security, and comfort in a place that welcomes LGBTQI? Everyone, no matter who, should have a place they can go where they feel comfortable.

End of story.

I find it all so horrific, so sad, so pointless. All this hatred. I'm so sorry we are witnessing yet another perilous public crime that has dramatically & brutally changed the lives of so many and their loved ones.

I don't like to get political (more than eco-political, I should say), but today I am urged, nudged, spurred to go there.

There is not a word "enough" to describe the sickening feeling I get for this. "Horrific," which I have used in my own world, isn't even enough. Slate posted video with Chris Leinonen's mother who was still awaiting the news on her son earlier today: was he hurt? injured? or elsewhere with a dead phone, unable to connect?  On the original Slate post on Facebook that I saw, a few people were slandering this mom and Slate for theatrics. ??!! Really?!? Anyone who is a parent, anyone who has the wherewithal to put themselves in another person's shoes would never EVER say such an idiotic thing. What is wrong with people in this nation?!!?

Add in, I predicted to my husband that people would start coming out saying its Obama's fault. An hour later, true to point, I saw on Twitter that Trump thought Obama should resign on this. Because hate crimes only happen on certain party's watch!?! No. Hate is hate. And unfortunately these mass slayings have been happening more and more, not just over the last 7 years. A trend over the last 20+ years. All parties considered. All partied connected. All parties implicated. It's not just a "party" thing or a "Democrat" thing. It's a sad thing that is completely out of control due to assault weapons, mental illness, and more. We need to come together in this pain. For the 50 who died tragically due to one person's evil and the 50+ who are injured. Pointing fingers, name calling and more are pointless and get us nowhere.

There are so many who are saddened here by the events and the new reality in their personal lives.  When, in the midst of tragedy, will be the turning point?!

To visit the GoFundMe page to donate & help today's tragedy, click here.

Video from; Images from; Pulse ribbon:; Meme from

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Learning Through The Launch Cycle

'Tis the season of graduations... I've lived through a few of my own this week!  Between hearing the speeches of my many 5th grade students, and feeling the pride watching my own daughter walk across her 8th grade stage, graduation reflection is all over my mind:

Students are launching into that next step in their journey. Thinking about it, you can almost envision the Life Launch Cycle, as students jump through the hoops of growth and graduation, making their way through all the important milestones:  Kindergarten graduation, 5th grade graduation, 8th grade graduation, high school graduation, college commencement, to weddings, parenthood, and then their kid's own personal achievements.  And the circle continues on.

Since life certainly seems to have a synchronicity, it seems just the right time to happen upon The Launch Cycle, a book by John Spencer and AJ Juliani about the Design Cycle in the K-12 classroom.  On their website on the Books & Resource Tab, they have other videos like the one below, which are tied to chapters of the book.
"Something happens in students when they define themselves as makers and inventors and creators. They discover powerful skills-problem-solving, critical thinking, and imagination-that will help them shape the world's future ... our future." ~From The Launch Cycle Website

For some great ways to "launch" into some of your own design projects (or to fill that summer slump of bored kids in your own house), check out the Global Day of Design's Website.  (As an aside, this year's Global Day of Design was April 26, 2016.  Stay tuned as next year's may very well next April!)

And "circling back" to graduation... isn't that what graduation is all about?  We go through life in a design cycle, coming to one end, which leads to a new beginning.  The proverbial "When one door closes, another one (or a window) opens." We go through personal design and redesign all the time.

Life IS the ultimate design process.

Video from; "LAUNCH" cycle image from; grad cap pic from

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Follow Matt Damon's MIT Advice: "Turn Toward the Problems You See"

It's commencement season, and all around speeches swirl. I've even written my own personal graduation speech in attempts to inspire my 5th graders in writing their promotion speeches, which they will eloquently deliver on Tuesday.

Matt Damon spoke Friday to 2016 graduates at MIT. He spoke as only Matt Damon can: with humor (at times self-deprecating), with environmental urging, with encouragement toward innovation, and with a lot of wise, thoughtful remarks.  He spoke of his experience at Water.Org, and he of the importance of "turning toward the problems you see."  Both the problems and the possibilities.

Here are two his most poignant quotes:
"Either way, what we do matters. What we do affects the outcome.... So either way, MIT, you’ve got to go out and do really interesting things. Important things. Inventive things. Because this world ... real or imagined ... this world has some problems we need you to drop everything and solve."
"What do you want to be a part of? What’s the problem you’ll try to solve? Whatever your answer, it’s not going to be easy. Sometimes your work will hit a dead-end. Sometimes your work will be measured in half-steps.... But for all of you here, your work starts today."
But what you really need to do is watch the 20 minute speech in its entirety below.  Then you need to go forward, turn toward the problem (your choice), and start working today.

Go here at MIT for a written transcript of Matt's speech.

Video from; image from

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summertime Cheers: Composting!

There are definite items for me that just scream "SUMMER!" (Maybe in the same way Mel Gibson in Braveheart screams "FREEDOM!"):

-No doubt, for me (& all teachers): The countdown to the last few days of school, & of course, the official last day of school. 

-Memorial Day Weekend = The Gateway to Summer.

-The opening of our backyard, pool--nothing extravagant, but mine!

-Heat! Sun! (Especially after an incredibly rainy Spring).

-Vegetables & fresher, cleaner eating.'

-Time!  (To cut all of those extra veggies! Not to mention, read books and do all those other things I can't quite fit into the school year.)

-Tank tops, shorts, bare feet, & breaking out the non-classroom summer wardrobe.

Today, I had one of those "Summer" moments mentioned above, where it definitively felt like we had arrived.  Chopping some vegetables for some folks who were coming over, I was collecting up the leafy ends of the celery and the centers of the peppers. I was chomping on the ugly carrots that weren't pretty enough to make the veggie tray display. And I was delighting in the fact that I could walk those leafy discards to our backyard compost.  As I told my 5th graders a few weeks ago, I'm the unusual one (the eco-warrior they'd come to know and love) that was tickled pink with the backyard composter that I got this year for Mother's Day.

After nearly 2 years away from the Fort Knox of Compost at my former school, I'd been missing it.

When you have had the 7-year experience of teaching at a mega "green" school where they compost daily... and where I had the infamous "Dabrowka Bucket" of compost that I brought to school weekly for six of those years... this compost-creation of soil had been a part of me.  It was summer salads that had initiated our compost bucket--a 5 gallon green camo bucket that became infamous at our school. I remember the sadness I felt when we learned that the school would be closing.  Yes, it was my home away from home, the safe haven of schooling for my own kids, my place with my people, and a spot where all of us had grown up and grown together. But a part of my melancholy in leaving was also in knowing I'd have to retire my li'l camo compost bucket, which was another huge part of that school & its history for me.

I'd been feeling the last 2 years that I'd been letting the planet down with all of those watermelon rinds and waste-food going to the live in the landfill.  It had pained me a little bit, every time I took another bag of "green" garbage to our trash can.  Paper towels I think were my worst guilty-inducing offender.

But now, thanks to Mother's Day love, I can just walk all that out the back door, deposit my veggie scraps, & smile.

It's the little things in life that make us happy.

Summertime cheers to my veggies, my composter, & the fact that my personal shade of green just got a li'l bit darker!

Images from[term]=braveheart%20freedom&filters[primary]=images; "Compost" lettering from pic from my own camera.