Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

My wish for you Santa, and all of us this Christmas 2017

Buncee created by me:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Let it Snow... Faux Snow!

 The other day we had one of those Hallmark Christmas movie snows. But
it was real! Big flakes coming down, landing on you, dotting your sweater with lasting white polka-dots. Best part too... it was quite mild out and you could really be out with just a sweater or light coat.

For a minute I thought I was in Christmas, Montana... Evergreen, Vermont... or wherever it is that Hallmark/Lifetime movies take place.

But I was really and truly in my own Hometown, USA... where the snow was real, and Hallmark Christmas movies are a staple of the season here at our house, especially during present wrapping time. 'Tis the season for that!

Unfortunately, when you are generating fake snow for a movie, it's a little less ice crystal & a lot more fabrication.

To find yourself slipping down a collection of faux-snow and see the ins and outs of all that artificial white stuff, check out the links below:
  • There's always the eco-friendly company Snowcel, where you can buy your own, ready-made.
  • Apparently, "Snowbusiness" is a "world leader in snow and winter effects" (according to their webpage).  They have been in the faux snow business for 30+ years and have the ability to make 200 different kinds of pseudo snow. (Who knew there were that many!!) Paper and plastics seem to be the heart of the materials, along with some micro fireworks that create a "snowy ash"
  • CGI is always there for the win as well... as this video shows.

  • Then there's always this (shhh... no spoilers)!

Hopefully this season ahead, you find some real snow to make yourself holly, jolly, merry and bright!

Images from (Illustration © ├ćnigma);

videos from and

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Hour of Code 2017

Technically, the Hour of Code has come and gone, but as with most things, it's really truly never too late.

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. The 2017 Computer Science Education Week will be December 4-10, but you can host an Hour of Code all year round. Their newly featured coding module for the year is all about Minecraft.

It has been amazing to watch the explosive growth of both since its beginning in January 2013--just shy of 5 years ago. This year marks the fourth Hour of Code, as the first one was during Computer Science Education week, December 2013

To learn more about the Hour of Code, check out these videos below.  Then if you missed it & want to check it out--or if you simply need more of it--you might want to take advantage of the holiday break ahead to dive right in, getting your feet wet with coding. Check out the Hour of Code website to find the right level for you and a multitude of activities that will get you programming like a rock star.

Logo from and; videos from

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday Countdown Abounds!

Here on the 16th of December, we are on the 5th day of Hanukkah and progressing into the single digits of days toward Christmas.  While we are doing our counting and countdown-ing, here are some #edtechy ways to keep you busy!

Two Edtech bloggers out there have some countdowns going that are totally worth sharing! The first here is Eric Curtis' Control Alt Achieve: Transforming Education With Technology has his "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017.  Included in those are the following:

6 Googly Winter Activities"  includes....
  1. Build a Snowman with Google Slides
  2. Wintertime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings
  3. Holiday Greeting Cards with Google Drawings
  4. Pixel Art Ornaments with Google Sheets
  5. Wintertime Emoji Rebus Stories
  6. Holiday Lights Writing
There's a bunch of other goodies there, including (to date):
Over at EduTech4Teachers, you'll find the 12 Digital Days of Christmas for 2017 (Part VI).  Jamie Forshey created a ThingLink to touch on the clickable hot spots, making it a one-shot-stop to be able to link to her suggested holiday ideas/activities/apps. To date her "tech treasures" include:
  1. A Visit to
  2. Holiday Hideaways, a digital adventure 
  3. Sugar Sugar Christmas at
  4. How to make light up holiday cards using circuitry from Makerspaces,cin
  5. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at the iTunes app store
  6. Santa Paparazzi puzzle game at
  7. Adventure Elf at
For her previous 12 Digital Days of Christmas ThingLinks, click the captions below!
Click below to get there. Screenshot from

Click below to get there!  Screenshot from

Click below to get there!  Screenshot from

Click below to get there! Screenshot from

And one last find.... read John Spencer's article "10 Creative Alternatives to Showing Movies Before the Break." Here, you'll get some wonderful high tech, low tech, and no tech ideas for rounding out 2017 before winter break that are all definitely high on the creativity side!!

Coining Eric Curtis' phrase.... may it be a very "Tech-Mas" time of year for you!!  I think this could keep you quite busy until well into 2018!

Images from, screenshots from (as listed above); and

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What's Wrong With this Picture?

At my previous school, we had a morning assembly feature every now and then entitled "what's wrong with this picture." Our science teacher would share photographs of on-campus sights he'd seen. 

Usually the students would spot it immediately; and often times, the main offender would actually be a teacher! (This li'l nugget of information would typically only be known to those on the inside of the Green Team--mainly, myself and our science guy!)

Classic shots would include:

  • A half-eaten apple in the recycle bin versus the compost bin. (The container a foot away!)
  • A soda can in the trash can. (Again, with the recycle bin the container right next door)
  • An empty classroom with all the lights aglow on a sunny day.  (Many of our rooms had 2 walls of windows)

It was a great way of keeping the kids sharp with their eagle eyes on the lookout for making good recycling and environmental decisions.

In that classic's this week's trip to my grocery store. 
Can you tell what's wrong with this picture?

Riddle me this, Batman...

1. Why do peppers need to be individually-wrapped in plastic? They have an outer-covering which does a nice job of protecting it.

2. Looking closely at their shiny plastic outer-wear: these are organic peppers.  Why spend the time, money, effort, & nutritional value to grow organic peppers... to then spend the time, money, effort, and nutritional de-value to coat them in BPA plastic sheen?

I shake my head!

Photo from my camera, "What's Wrong With this Picture" illustration created at

Saturday, December 9, 2017

River Waste Flowing to Our Oceans

Pollution seems anywhere and everywhere.  When it comes to rivers, the gift keeps giving as the water (and pollution) just flows.  From Newshub's article "10 Rivers Causing 95% of Ocean Plastic Pollution," this list is a snapshot of the 10 worst rivers of 57 (and the seas they flow into)--not surprising, some of the largest and/or longest rivers in the world. It certainly causes you to take pause. Not surprising, the "mismanaged plastic waste" that hits many of these rivers come from being near high population centers... meaning a lot of people add a lot of waste and contribute to a lot of the problem!!
  1. Yangtze, East China Sea, Asia
  2. Indus, Arabian Sea, Asia
  3. Yellow River, Yellow Sea, Asia
  4. Hai He, Yellow Sea, Asia
  5. Nile, Mediterranean, Africa
  6. Meghna, Bay of Bengal, Asia
  7. Ganges, Bay of Bengal, Asia
  8. Amur, Sea of Okhotsk, Asia
  9. Niger, Gulf of Guinea, Africa
  10. Mekong, South China Sea, Asia
Here are 6 things you can do to help solve the problem where you are... may we all follow suit to help keep our waterways safe!
  1. Look to your hard outdoor surfaces to watch for stormwater runoff.
  2. Keep in mind--your toilet is anything but a trashcan. Don't flush away the nonessentials!
  3. Think before you sink... meaning: pay attention to what you are washing down the drain. It's not the place for chemicals or other waste.
  4. Don't let your puppy's poo get the best of you. Clean up after your pup.
  5. Keep your car maintenance in check so fluids don't improperly go down the drain.
  6. Donate your money and your time to river clean ups such as the National River Cleanup or Ocean Conservancy's: Fighting for Trash Free Seas.

Information & photos from; river clean up pic from

The Bad, Worse, & Ugly of Aspertame

I was a Diet Coke Girl.

I've talked about it here,
a time or two.

But now, I'm a changed woman.

I'm rounding out 9 months of being Diet-Coke-Free. Only Green Tea and water for me these days, Bay-bee!  (Well, yes, the occasional vino as well!)

And I really will say, regarding Diet Coke....I don't miss it. I thought I'd miss that zingy zip, but I really don't.  It might be because of the spicy Bigelow green tea that I love. (No fruity tea for me, thank you very much.)

They say recovering alcoholic are the worst in their attempted conversion. Same for smokers, over-eaters, & probably newly turned Vegans & more. Odds are high it's true for Aspartame addicts as well. I'm not trying to be in that category, yet I will say this video did strike me multiple times in my old Diet Coke department.

In the multiple episodes of Shawn Stevenson's Model Health Show I've listened to over the years, This is my go-to podcast! In it too, I've learned that food & intake are probably more important than exercise.

This video highlights that too. It also packs a punch with all of it's factual information. It's worth a watch!

video from no soda pic from;

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

NASA Shares 20 Years of Climate Change Impact

I've heard it said that as soon as astronauts hit outer space, they turned the cameras back on ourselves and our planet. I'd imagine, back in the day, being able to see what our giant blue planet looks like for the first time was probably pretty awe-inspiring.

December 7, 1972 was that first photo date. Our first planetary selfie. This now-famous photo was known as the "Blue Marble," and the Apollo 17 crew did a beautiful job with this snap shot.

NASA's still taking pictures of our planet, nearly 45 years later. This time, in video form. A pretty amazing 5 minutes and change.

This video is a compilation from NASA of nearly half of those 45 photo years.  This data visualization & compilation was released mid-November.  In it, you see:

  • The polar ice caps waxing and waning with the seasons...and shrinking over time
  • Oceanic colors that showcase the life that is (and is not) under the ocean's surface.
  • The green-ness moving further north, taking the place of where ice should be covering land.
Close analysis also shows algae blooms, a shrinking Lake Erie, and evidence of warmer temperatures further north.

In a world where climate change has become a partisan issue, perhaps data such as these will help open the eyes of policy makers so that our big "Blue Marble" continues to breathe, thrive, and survive.

To read more about this, check out this article.

NASA logo from; "Blue Marble" photo from National Geographic: 
Video from

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age

I wrestle with my phone.

It's nearly always attached and it is the "remote control" to my world (I am a Tech Specialist by day, after all). It's my phone, my email, my camera, my calendar (though I will admit, my paper calendar is my #1 event planning place), my Internet, my Seesaw digital portfolio monitor, my "Words With Friends" portal, and my place to text, connect, troll Facebook, and sometimes even write this blog.

I wrestle with my phone because I live a connected life. It's a true love-hate relationship. I research lessons for school, read (& sometimes grimace at) the news, and stay in touch with the #edtech and #eco trends and information out there.

I don't always set the best example to my children. And I definitely wrestle with that.

A decade or 2 ago, I was the first to make fun of smart phones and crack a joke about "the CrackBerry" (errrr... I mean, BlackBerry, mobile-phone-wise versus fruit, that is). And now I'm living life on TechCrack.

A few months ago, we had Sameer Hinduja at our school talking to all levels about Digital Citizenship, good choices, bullying, and empathy. He was excellent. Today I landed on this video trailer which feels like a good revisit and "part 2" to the conversation.

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age is a documentary by Dr. Delaney Ruston. In it, she details our diminishing attention spans, our thoughts that we can actually multi-task (we can't), and the fact that teens spend (on average) 6.5 hours on screen per day. She discusses how tech affects us all and how we can achieve balance.

I've not seen the movie, but the trailer alone has sucked me in.

SCREENAGERS Movie Trailer from lisa tabb on Vimeo.

Screentime has a wealth of resources on their site:
My plan--to find a place to see this or inspire my school to host a screening. What's your plan?

Screenagers Trailer video from; image from; phone handcuff pictures from

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cows to the Climate Rescue

Cows have frequently gotten a bad wrap when it comes to the environment because they are well-known as methane producers. (Methane is 100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases are responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere, causing ultimate rises in temperature, which contributes to climate change).

In classic philosophical logic, we could say the following is true:

cows are gassy animals 
bovine gastrointestinal distress causes methane
methane leads to raised greenhouse gas
higher greenhouse gasses lead to climate change

therefore: cows → climate change

What if the inverse was true:

If we could eliminate cows having gastrointestinal distress
we could diminish methane
we could diminish greenhouse gases
we could lower our risk of growing climate change!!

There seems to a way we in fact can do that. Dried seaweed seems to be the this cow problem and a couple others! Cheers once again to science and innovation!

Video from; graph from; cow meme from

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Have a #DeviceFreeDinner This Thanksgiving

Common Sense Media is the king of all things kid-friendly and tech-healthy!

Make your Thanksgiving Season one that's balance, safe, & tech-free by taking a pledge and making a commitment to going device free while feasting!

For some more festive and fun plans for your holiday season, check out the following links:

Image created using;

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Greatest Pumpkin Revisited

I love STEM/Design challenges, because you never know what you are going to get as they are so dependent on the individuals creating them. No two outcomes are ever the same.

Right before Halloween this year, I put duos to work facing the “Great Pumpkin” Design Challenge." The goal of this challeng: to create a transport system made of Legos to carry a mini pumpkin to the center of town, as led by their Playmobile guy. The designs were fabulous.

It is with activities such as these where you see curiosity, perseverance, thinking, engagement, and excitement all at play.

These are the elements that makes teaching elementary school one of the best jobs out there!

Photos from my students' cameras as recorded in their Seesaw digital portfolios; the designs are theirs as well!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Cup Monster Cometh

What is that eerie and looming creature over there? 
Is the Demogorgon or Shadow Monster from "Stranger Things?"
A meta-human from "The Flash?" The The Loch Ness Monster, perhaps? 

Some might call it even worse.  It's the Cup Monster!!

(Insert scary music here!)

In October, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson (as he was kicking off the 2017 GeekWire Summit in Seattle) was greeted with "Grounds"... the "Cup Monster" pictured above.  Created by the Bellingham, Washington group, Grounds was meant to be a major statement in his looming and eerie-ness.

Made of 500 used Starbucks coffee cups and sporting bloodshot eyes, Grounds was meant to pressure Starbucks to move to "100 percent recycled or tree-free cups."  This campaign (also known as the "Better Cup" campaign) stems from the 2008 Starbucks promise that by 2015 it would go to 100% recyclables or even reusable mugs. But here in 2017, we're not there yet. In fact,  The Better Cup Campaign claims that 1.5 million trees (in the form of 8000+ cups) are still being sacrificed and trashed for cups. The added problem is the plastic coating on the inside of the cup, which helps keep that coffee nice and piping hot, but makes it less likely to be recyclable in some areas.

If this is a campaign you support, you can show that by going to the Better Cup website and sign the petition to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.

Starbucks cup & "We Call on Starbucks to:" images are screenshots from; Cup Monster pic from

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Honoring Our Veterans 2017

This week I’ve been doing a lot of compiling & editing videos created by our 5th Graders for our Veterans Day Assembly at school on Monday. In the videos, 5th Graders are interviewing a Veteran: their uncle, grandpa, dad, mom, or friend of the family.

In watching these & hearing the experiences & memories of so many our Military men and women...and in watching the interactions between the youngsters and their elders, this year’s Veterans Day is particularly meaningful and heartfelt! Thank you to all who have served on our behalf! 

For more on my thoughts on Veterans Day, go to my 2015 post.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

41 Green Ways to Save Some Green $$

We've all heard the phrase, "Put your money where your mouth is."

Unless you are made of unlimited funds, saving money is one thing we all tend to talk about. This list helps to not only save a bit of green cashola, but it also helps show some green environmental actions as well. (Plus, when it comes to the food options, a lot are definitely healthier alternatives!)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Bee's Wrap: Sustainable Food Storage

The buzzzz is all around...there's a new kind of food storage in town. It's from Bee's Wrap, a company created by Sarah Kaeck in 2012. And indeed, these new eco food wraps are made from organic cotton infused with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. It could be a game changer for plastic wrap as it can be washed, reused, and composted--3 things plastic wrap cannot be!

If that's not "the bee's knees," I'm not sure what is! These two videos give you an even closer look to the magic of Bee's Wrap.


For a more indepth story about how Bee's Wrap started, check out Sarah's video from her "About Us" page... then check out her website and consider doing some shopping!

Bee's Wrap® - Our Story from Sarah on Vimeo.

Video #1 from; Video #2 from; logo from; other image from

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tackling Ocean Conservation, One Comic Strip at a Time

I was a product of the 80s, which means I was a child in the 70s. The shark soundtrack of “Jaws” still brings me back to that 1975 movie, raising the hairs on my skin to prickle level. It made for 7 years of adult living in Tampa and Clearwater (or trips to Ocean City, Maryland or any Caribbean vacation) ones where I was scanning the shoreline on beach days, looking for dorsal fins, and hearing that “Jaws” music in my mind.

I’ve never seen one. 
But the music continues in my mind in certain circumstances.

I had a degree of that music serenading me on my drive to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, MD. The reason for my Tuesday night trek… I was off to see Jim Toomey, cartoonist, conservationalist, and creator of Sherman the Shark (from his “Sherman’s Lagoon”) speak at SERC. This struck a particular thrill in me as I’ve written about Toomey before

During his humor-filled evening of frank conversation on cartooning and caring for our planet, he shared with us some of the regulars that are a part of “Sherman’s Lagoon,” the cartoon strip he’s been writing since 1997:
  • Sherman, of course. A shark who is “not quite well-adapted to the real world…. The Lucy of “The Lucile Ball Show” or “Homer Simpson with fins.”)
  • Sherman’s wife Megan. Again, a shark who is “very no-nonsense… the Desi of Desi and Lucy. The one who brings everyone back down to earth.”
  • Hawthorne, the crab. “Always cranky and complaining… I think a lot of people can relate to someone like that.”
  • Filmore, the sea turtle. “He’s the philosopher” and part of the comedic pairing as “the straight guy” to Sherman’s more dramatic side.

While “Sherman’s Lagoon” takes place in the ocean, Sherman does travel to other habits, and has been to the Chesapeake bay a few times. Here in the Chesapeake Bay area, the big issues tend to be “agricultural runoff, loss of coastal habitat, and invasive species.”

Some of the more global marine issues he mentioned he’s tackled in his 20-year stint of comic strip writing with a message include:

--More mindful choices when it comes to menu items (addressing demand and the ultimate oceanic cost);
--Shark-finning (one of his more heavy and difficult topics to cover);
--Ocean acidification of coral;
--Animal tagging;
--Climate change;
--Tracking a plastic bottle to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Toomey mentioned he felt we were in a “sweet spot in time.” With that comes optimism. He feels that there is a meeting of the technology, the data and the ability to go forward to teach and take action. Additionally, scientific facts stay measurable and hard to argue against. He sees us now as the first generation (especially with rate of technological change) who will be able to go forward now and into the next decade from now to be able to gather and make sense of all sorts of scientific data. With the media as it is—meaning we ARE the media during these social media days--we all are more able to talk to the power than in the past. That means we can share the message, and do something about it. This role of citizen scientists (and activists) aligns itself very closely to SERC’s main mission. 

He quoted Dana Meadows: 
“We have exactly enough time starting now.”

While he purposely mentioned he was not going to get political (because all roads these days do seem to end up there), he feels that we need to help people see that the vision of environmentalism is not just “old hippies.” We need to take note of our former environmental (and Republican) president Teddy Roosevelt is the one who began our National Park Service. It’s the poets and the painters out there who have always held an appreciation of nature. To really have your #eco message heard in this noisy world these days, you need to make it so that everyone has a stake. It shouldn’t be a “Left thing” or a “Right thing,” but something we all bring to the center, highlighting the importance to ourselves, our children, and our future. “Environentalism is really all about preserving things for future generations. It’s about sustainability, it’s about the precautionary principle, sustainable business—these are values I think both the left and the right can embrace.”

Getting everyone to the center can be a tricky thing to do, but that’s where Toomey is in the “sweet spot…” as humor has an amazing way of doing just that!

To see Jim Toomey in action…

Find his comics in books & newspapers
Quoted remarks either mentioned directly by Jim Toomey or from the informational sheet written by Kristen Minogue, given out that night at SERC: Tuesday, October, 17, 2017. Cartoon from the same informational sheet.  Photographs from my night at SERC. Jaws Movie Poster  "Sherman Lagoon" pic from Jim Toomey pic with cartoon characters from

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Great Pumpkin STEM Challenge

I've mentioned before that I teach an elective to 4th and 5th graders entitled “Digital Design Process.” It’s a remarkably fun class to teach, as I never know that I’m going to get from my students because creatively is uniquely wonderful and individual like that. In addition to talking to them about innovation, I’ve taught them how to be innovative with tools such as Buncee, Canva, Padlet, and more… and then we capture them in our digital portfolios with Seesaw—which adds a nice paper-free, environmental layer to the class.  Additionally, we also do some no-tech or low-tech STEM/Design challenges like “Trying to ReasonWith Hurricane Season.”

With Halloween around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time for another Design Challenge—this time regarding “The Great Pumpkin.” While I’m a major fan and grew up on “The Peanuts” cartoon strip by Charles Schwartz, the name stuck, but the direction of the cartoon didn’t fit with where my gears were turning.

But I was struck by a book I read lifetimes ago when I was teaching Kindergarten: “The Biggest Pumpkin Ever” by Steven Kroll. This delightful story has two little mice inadvertently giving the same pumpkin extra love, attention, and nutritional power, causing it to grow like gangbusters and be the greatest pumpkin ever. This led them on the need to transport their super-sized pumpkin to the center of town to be shared with their pumpkin-loving peers.

So the challenge for students: Create a transport system to carry a mini pumpkin, where the “you” in this situation is a 2 inch Playmobil character.  (As a mom of 2 kids, I had plenty of these guys.)  With odds and ends Legos (minus any wheels!), a collection of corks and craft sticks, a yard of string, and some rubber bands--and of course a mini pumpkin-- the stage is set for my designers to design, my creators to create, my builders to build, and my engineers to engineer!  Their li’l Playmobil guy (or gal) has to pull the pumpkin across the designated space to cross the finish line, with students only able to drag their guy (not the transportation system).

I can’t wait to put them into action this week! I’ll be sure to share pictures in a future post!

For more Halloween STEM Challenges: