Saturday, February 25, 2017

Design Process & 3D Printing & Tinkercad....Oh My!

It. Is Hard!

And I have to teach this stuff!!

Playing around in Tinkercad, working on designing my first item for the 3D printer.... Playing is serious business!

The same can be said about swirling around the design process.

I am finding that I am really hitting the wall with my spatially-inept self. This is not one of my innate talents! My 9th grader and my 5th grader were totally running laps around me as I was showing them my Tinkercad-antics. Simultaneously, they were teaching me.

I think it's the same thing that makes me feel seasick when I watch them play & build & navigate Minecraft. I don't have "that" vision.  I was always the Algebra Gal, not the Geometry Girl. It's playing out here and now as I'm trying to take shapes and turn into real pictures.

I feel topsy, turvy, and all over.  Especially when I flip it around, feeling upside down, trying to get my shapes to all land on the same plane.

Yet, eventually--remarkably--they did! Right there in the middle of feeling like a complete failure at this technology, All of a sudden, my own personal lightbulb went on.  I'm doing it! I feel kind of like a rock star (while simultaneously about ready to pull out my hair!!)

There's merit in learning new skills and doing, making, tinkering, & innovating. 

The challenge and frustration is part of the process. The glee of tackling a challenge is just right on the other side.

From here, I have a few weeks to practice and wrap my head around designing in 3D in order to get it under my belt enough to teach 2nd and 3rd graders. I can do this. Yes! I can do this, and it feels pretty good! Not to mention... it builds my awareness of how challenging it can be to learn new tasks. That lesson of empathy might be the most important thing to learn yet--for teachers and, well, just plain everyone!

Tinkercad logo from; "EcoLeader" image from my creation on; Design Process poster from PBS's Design Squad

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

10 Timely TED Talks to Insire You About Nature

Over the last couple years, I've become a mega-fan of podcasts. They are the perfect thing to listen to in the car, on the move, while doing never-ending laundry.

But in my pursuit of podcasts, I've lost sight of another true love:  TED Talks.

As a person who likes to soak up information like a sponge--sometimes there's just not enough hours in the day for all!

These 10 TED Talks speak to me on the beauty and glory of nature.

In this era of change for the EPA with Scott Pruitt's confirmation as Head within the Trump Administration, these 10 talks remind you of the importance, magic, promise, and meaning of nature. As Thomas Peschak said in his talk , "You can't love something and become a champion for it if you don't know it exists."

Watch (in any order), and embrace the awe of what exists, and then go forth and be a champion for nature and our planet:
  1. Emma Marris: Nature Is Everywhere, We Just Need to Learn To
  2. Franx Lanting: Photos That Give Voice to the Animal Kingdom
  3. Deepika Kurup: A Young Scientist's Quest for Clean Water
  4. Suzanne Simard: How Trees Talk to Each Other
  5. Elora Hardy: Magical Houses Made of Bamboo
  6. Zaria Forman: Drawings That Show the Beauty and Fragility of Earth
  7. Thomas Peschak: Dive Into An Ocean Photographer's World
  8. Francesco Sauro: Deep Under the Earth's Surphace, Discovering Beauty & Science
  9. Mac Stone: Stunning Photos of the Endangered Everglades
  10. Stephen Ritz: A Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx
PS... These are just a small handful from TED.  Be sure to go and search for your own meaning there!

TED Talks logo from; David Suzuki quote from

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Tiffany Diamonds Aren't Just for Valentine's Day

Tiffany & Co.'s diamond's aren't just for Valentine's Day.  You could possibly argue they are for Earth Day as well! Or maybe just plain every day, in an eco sort of way!

"Transparency" is a very common word these days in the news.

Tiffany & Co. take transparentcy to a new level as it relates to sustainability.... and "a girl's best friend." (They say "diamonds" are that best friend--well at least Marilyn Monroe and Carol Channing have been known to say that!)

Tiffany & Co., a company that relies on mining to obtain their product, has strong feelings on both sustainability, responsible practices, and the environment. These two videos add a new layer of sparkle to an already-shiny name that is synonymous with jewelry. Perhaps these are why they are leading their industry.

You can learn more about their dedication toward mining responsibility on their very detailed Sustainability portal on their website. In it, they include their plans for a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future, a Social Accountability program, energy efficiency, commitment to reducing their environmental footprint and more!

videos from and; Images from's_Best_Friend and

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day 2017

Nothing says "I love you" like a little time and celebration.  Whether you have a sweetheart this year, young snuggle bunnies of your own at home, college kids to commemorate... or even if you are your own favorite valentine, take time to honor those you love. That includes you! 

Here are 11 eco-friendly ideas to help you sprinkle a little love your way.

To make it even a little more hands-on this Valentine's Day (in a Maker Movement kind of way)... go for a little STEM action! Check out the STEM Activities for Kids website for 4 heart-centered STEM activities that kids (and adults) willl love!):

💝 Catapults & Flying Hearts
💝 Candy Grabber
💝Valentine's Frogs
💝 Heart Rate Math

Buncee created by me & inspired from the article "21 Eco-Friendly & Romantic Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day," from the Team, Feb 1, 2013; STEM Activities  pic from

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mark the Map with a Wanderer Bracelet

For Christmas, a good friend of mine gave me a bracelet. Good friends do things like that
However, this wasn't just any ole bracelet. It was a Wanderer bracelet.

No, not because I'm a "wanderer," but because of what the company Wanderer Bracelets does. They employ artisans in Bali who do handiwork in their homes. The pendants are carved, repurposed water buffalo bone of animals that die naturally--the same domesticated animals that help farmers plow family rice fields. The bracelets are individually handmade, not mass-produced, and all made of natural materials. These artisans create so they can make a life for themselves and their families. All of these things speak volumes to me. Buddies & pals know these things.

 Among the many symbols among their product lines, they have a custom coordinate-style bracelet.  Here's where the magic of this bracelet lies:
"There's one dot on the map that holds more of your deepest memories than any other place. It's where you fell in love, found your tribe or risked it all. It's where you were born - or maybe, it's where you were reborn into a braver, stronger version of you.Where's your place? Keep it close to you with a bracelet engraved with your favorite coordinates." ~ From their website
For me, my coordinates are where I found my tribe.
My good buddy knew that place for me, and hence this bracelet.

My "dot on the map" was where I became a passionate environmentalist, and it was where this blog was born. It's a place where friendships were formed and unbreakable bonds were built. Despite the fact that I no longer "live" there on a daily basis, it lives on in my heart...and now my wrist.

Learn more about the origins of Wanderer Bracelets from the video clip below, then check out their collections at their website.  May you find your symbol or commemorate your own "dot on the map."

Rice Terraces Ubud from Wanderer Bracelets on Vimeo.

Images from my camera; videos from and

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Repurposing Oceanic Debris to New Products

With an annual estimate of  "14 billion pounds of trash" finding its way to the ocean each year, that's a lot of UNnatural resources and pollution.

But sometimes you need to think outside the box, especially if you are an innovator.  In doing so, you might land on a solution or two.

B the Change's December 14th, 2016 article entitled "5 Products Made From Recycled Ocean Waste" by Matt Clough focuses on 5 companies and their products that take innovation by storm by mining the ocean for these UNnatural resources--then turning that plastic debris into something greater than it was before.

Clough's article focuses on these 5 products pictured above & their manufacturing companies.

Ahi Performance Cruiser Skateboard  

From Bureo
This Los Angeles company takes discarded fishing nets and transitions them into skateboards.  Approximately 30 square feet of recycled nets are washed, melted into small pellets, then formed into these $195 skateboards.

Kayu Sunglasses
From Karün
Now a partner with Bureo, but even before that nature always served as inspiration for Karün's sunglasses. Their Ocean collection is made from Bureo-sourced fishing nets in a process similar to how Bureo makes their skateboards. Additionally, part of their profits from their $139 sunglasses go for education programs in plastic pollution-affected fishing communities.

River Bank Backpack
From Fishpond
This outdoor lifestyle/travel adventure company of Colorado lines their River Bank Backpack with a material called "Cyclepond." Again, recycled commercial fishing net is at play.  Additionally, it's a type of material that uses less natural resources in its production that water-consuming fabrics like cotton. At $149.95, you can have a sturdy backpack lined with a fabric that helps cut down on greenhouse gasses.

Graphic Tee Collection
From United By Blue
This company that makes a variety of fashionwear for both men and women doesn't make their nature-themed T-shirts from oceanic plastic debris, yet they are heavily committed to the environment.  With each purchase of their $36 T-shirts (and other products), United By Blue works to eliminate a pound of trash from the ocean.  They pride themselves in hosting over 170 cleanups and removing over 360,000 pounds of trash.

Ocean Plastic 2-in-1 Dish & Hand Soap
From Method
This is a company you may have heard about as their products are in many local grocery/department stores. The plastic for their $3.99 bottles is collected from Hawaiian beaches. The soap itself is biodegradable to further spread the message of environmental sustainability.

Images above compiled from into a collage created at PicMonkey.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

#FETC & My Top 5 Finds (x 3)

Sometimes you just need a break from it all: the daily grind, the political noise, your home, & your day job. Being in Orlando at the Future of Education Technology Conference (or #FETC) was just the answer last week!

It wasn't just being in Orlando (rather than Maryland) at the end of January. (Yes, that was a delightful dose of Vitamin D and warmth mid-winter.)

It also wasn't just about reuniting with a former teaching colleague and soulmate. (That perhaps was even warmer than the sun!)

It was about being immersed in the latest and greatest current educational trends and being surrounded by educators as far as Canada and Alaska (and everywhere in between).

Makerspaces, coding, 3D printers, oh my!

It was the perfect venue for teachers who want to continue to hone their craft, stay current with the ever-changing field of technology, and learn of new and innovative ways to activate learning.

Between workshops & sessions, and a plethora of vendors and projects in the Expo Hall, my wheels were in overdrive. I've got new apps I want to try, new digital tools &websites to investigate, and a lot of notes to reread, absorb, & reflect on.

It's amazing what you can pack into 3 days! Given that, here's the short list of my
Top 5 Favorite Finds from #FETC:

1. Powtoons--a video tool that will help you make fun, animated videos. Perfect for storytelling. (I created he above video with Powtoons.)

2. Buncee--an online creation tool where you can add visual elements and animations to inspire student voice and make learning fun.

3. PicMonkey--a photo editing tool with tons of free features. This could be helpful in teaching visual literacy and tone or moods in addition with using to create dynamic visual designs.

4. PhotoFunia--another fun photo tool with a lot of elements that could be used to integrate with literature, character analysis, thematic studies, and more

5. Aurasma--an augmented reality iPad app that create 3D images when viewed through the app, making stationary pictures come to life.

But wait! There's more! 

Also being at #FETC reminded me of 5 At-Home Favorites that I already knew about, but can't wait to go back and reuse in greater depth:

1. Kahoot--an interactive iPad quizzing game that could make for great reviews.

2. Seesaw--a digital portfolio platform that is kid-friendly and parent-adored, making it easy to bring the parents into seeing all the magic that happens in the classroom.

3. Chatterpix--a super way to animate student drawings by giving their pictures their own voice...straight from the the image's own mouth!

4. Tellegami--a place to make an talking avatar and an animated video!

5. Do Ink-- a green screen app that could literally help transport your students in their videos "out of this world!"

But wait! There's still more! 

Here are my Top 5 "Hands On, Minds on" Tools that teachers are using in their schools to make learning and computer programming come to life: (Click the green "hot spot" links on the Thing Link to learn more)
  1. Little Bits                                 (We have these at my school.)
  2. BeeBots & BlueBots                   (We have these at my school.)
  3. Sphero
  4. Bloxel
  5. Osmo

But of course, a visit with Moby (of BrainPop fame), made my whole #FETC experience even richer and more memorable!

Powtoon video from; STEAM Buncee from

Thinglink picture ( created in PicMonkey with images from

All other photos from my camera from my 2017 #FETC experience!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Costa Rica: #1 on the Happy Planet Index

There might be a very strong connection between "being green" and "being happy."  At least that's Happy Planet Index.  (Not only that, Costa Rica also ranks high overall when it comes to measurements of quality of life.)
how it works for Costa Rica, which is #1 on the

Check out this informational mini movie from National Geographics entitled, "The Greenest and Happiest Country in the World."

Additionally, check out the Happy Planet Index website to see where your country rates, and compare it with others on the map. You can also investigate the ecological footprint, life expectancy, well-being, and inequality measure of different countries. The interactive data will keep you busy there for awhile!

Happy Planet logo from; video from