Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Bye Bye Plastic Bags With Melati & Isabel Wijsen

Following up on my last post on National Geographic's Planet Or Plastic, this TED Talk from 2015 by Melati and Isabel Wijsen seems more timely than ever before.

Kudos to these two sisters, their 5 year mission, and their young leadership and innovation to create Bye Bye Plastic Bags. With their dedication, determination, and drive, they got the governor of Bali to promise to be plastic-free by 2018.

For two other important videos showing the "global wave of positive change" from Melati & Isabel, check out these two video links as well:

Video from, Wijsen sisters picture from, Logo from

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Summertime Is Around the Bend

Summer's a-coming! Nothing says that more than Memorial Day Weekend. This might be just the right time to get outdoors and start working on that summertime bucket list!

For a super printable of ideas for kids of all ages, check out this Summer Bucket List link and make sure your printer is right and ready!

Next stop... get yourself outside!

Image from

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Nat Geo's Planet Or Plastic Campaign

Just last week, National Geographics launched their latest magazine and newest multi-year campaign with a striking cover. Planet or Plastic?

When you put it that way, clearly we have to choose.
Which I think is their point! And, if we must choose, my hope would be for the former versus the

When roughly 9 million TONS of plastic end up in the ocean annually that's significant. Don't forget, plastics, especially single use plastics, are pretty light in weight!

Just like their paper version of the magazine, their online portal is ripe with information... including a pledge you can take to cut down on your plastic consumption and usage!

  • Plastics Explained, From A-Z by Elizabeth Atalay, Laura Parker, & Heidi Schulz
    • This has a lot of important environmental vocabulary, and lots of resources available through clickable links or embedded videos.


Their videos:
  • Plastics 101
  • A Brief History of How Plastic Has Changed Our World
  • How to Cleanse Your Beauty Regime of Microplastic
  • Students' Ice Pops Bring Plastic Pollution to (Unappetizing) Life
  • Manta Ray Swims in Trash
All images from National Geographics Planet or Plastic

Saturday, May 19, 2018

#StopSucking: Straws, That Is

I have to say... I try really hard to make my posts fairly rated G... but this one may be more PG-13... or perhaps even PG-10 in this day and age. The title should give you a hint to the language that crops up in the video below.

I've written about straws before. And, I write this statement while drinking my green tea out of my reusable Corkcicle with my stainless steel straw... for over a year now.

There's a new trend in town, though I've been talking about it for quite awhile, and we've had our stainless steel straws in this house for 3-4 years. But it's a trend I've been seeing in area restaurants, bars... and even recently in the Chicago airport while traveling.  This video is great... though eye-opening with it's remark that by 2050 we could potentially have more plastic marine debris in the ocean than actual fish. Ouch. That's within my lifetime. I don't like these statistics!

A number of awareness websites are cropping up. Check them out, here below. Then maybe order some stainless steel straws, and go about seeing what you can do to #StopSucking!

Video from; US Consumption image from; corkcicle and stainless steel straws image from my house!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reinventing Our Relationship With Styrofoam

Ask my son what my thoughts are on Styrofoam, and he'll let you know: Evil Styrofoam!

Styrofoam, a common name tho really a brand name for polystyrene foam, is everywhere: cups, plates coolers, and more. It's far from eco-friendly in that it never biodegrades. Never... as in not ever. Nor is it recyclable, despite the little recycle symbol with the #6 on the bottom--a common misconception among people who sometimes think if the symbol is there, then certainly it's recyclable.  Additionally, polystyrene is also one of the leading causes of marine debris.

Given that, it begs the question: why is it still even a thing in this day and age.

As time and awareness continue on, more innovation is on the way. Additionally, so are Styrofoam bans. Given that, I'm proud of nearby Baltimore, who's City Council voted unanimously this February 28th, 2018 to ban Styrofoam in restaurants. Violations could lead to a $1000 fine.
"We look at all the litter in our waterways. It's not biodegradable. It's not actually being recycled," said Councilman John Bullock, the lead sponsor of Bill 17-0117. "For the most part, it's ending up in landfills or being incinerated. In water, it breaks apart into small pieces, which makes it very difficult to clear up the water and dangerous for wildlife."
Check out Groundswell's 2014 map of all the areas in the United States that have banned Styrofoam. Likewise, you can find an incomplete listing (though huge in and of itself) updated to approximately 2016 (and self-advertised as not updating regularly at the bottom of their list), check out the list of Polystyrene Ordinances at

Additionally, this article from Story of Stuff has some interesting pointers on what you can do yourself!

But...what about all that Styrofoam stuff that's already out there? 

Well, some people have some ideas!

This Attn. video featured below summarizes Ashton Cofer's 6 minute TED Talk from December 2016... and his innovative plan with how we can repurpose Styrofoam. Additionally, Ashton does an exceptional job of highlighting the importance of the design process!

Cheers to the young leaders, innovators, and game changers who are out there making an environmental difference! May we all follow their lead!


Video from
Images from

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mother's Day: Spending It Outdoors & Modeling Environmentalism

My son recently went on a Middle School field trip where half of it was environmental stewardship in nature, and the other half was spent on the water doing stand up paddle boarding (aka "SUP"). He loved it. We're making plans to go sometime this summer, and if money were no object, he'd be buying a paddle board right this very minute!

The company he SUP'ed with is brilliant...they just sent forth a mother's day deal, where moms paddle board for free this Mother's Day. We'd be totally on board (pun intended) if it weren't an already-filled calendar with a mid-day lacrosse game and plans with the extended family, some of whom wouldn't be so into the paddle boarding.

Truth be told, I'd blow off the LAX game in a heartbeat, given kid sports on Mother's Day is not my personal favorite. We've fallen victim to that time and time again over the last dozen years, irking me from a sports scheduling standpoint, but I certainly digress. The spirit of a family bike ride, a water adventure, a hike in the woods, a visit to the park is far superior to that of an organized sport for both outdoor family fun and together on a holiday. It kind of reminds me of how wonderful our Father's Day camping trip was a few years ago.  (This year, it looks like we'll be at a Father's Day soccer tournament! Insert growl & more digression here.)

This year, whatever you do to celebrate Mother's Day, perhaps it will include some outdoor adventure.

These articles & websites may also help with the inspiration... and may they include a little education along the way:

  • Check out Hike It Baby, where their mission is to raise "a generation to love the outdoors" and change the world "one little hike at a time"
  • For some eye-opening stats, check out this 2016 Treehugger article "Children Spend less time Outside Than Prison Inmates."  If the title alone doesn't get you yearning to go outside, the "Free the Kids: Dirt is Good" video on the site will make you want to head outdoors (and make you count your blessings)!  You can also check out the Dirt Is Good website for other resources (including their Wild Explorers app) to help influence you and your kids of all ages to get outside.

Mother's Day outdoors photo from; paddleboarding image, Mother's Day quote image from

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Still Thinking About Earth Day

Even though Earth Day has come and gone for awhile now, it's still lingering around my brain space.

It struck me that the 2 of us, Earth Day and I, are basically the same age. I've got it beat by about 6 months, but we're both hanging out here in our 48th year.

It seems like we've both accomplished a lot in these 48 years... though this is where I think Earth Day has certainly gotten me beat.

I think in wake of the current political climate, we environmentalists have gotten a little distraught over the last couple years. We've become downtrodden by climate deniers getting equal footing to the 97% climate scientists who are concerned by the evidence of climate change. We're impassioned when we see budgetary cuts to the EPA under the leadership of Scott Pruitt and company. We can easily be disheartened as to what the future holds for our planet--the one and only one we have got.

But looking over this list in this updated 4-18-2018 National Geographics article ("48 Environmental Victories Since the First Earth Day" written by Brian Clark Howard) we all have a lot of wins of which we should be proud.

To see all 48 wins, read the article. But here are a handful of notables. We should definitely take note of the progress... which, in turn, opens the door to hope. We've come this far, we can continue to go in the right direction.
  • DDT banned in 1972
  • 1972 Clean Water Act
  • 1973 Endangered Species Act
  • 1974--1995 Phase-Out of Leaded Gasoline
  • 1987 CFC's Banned, leading to the healing of the hole in the Ozone layer
  • 1989 Phase-Out of Asbestos
  • 1993 Green Building Council was founded
  • 1995 Bald Eagle Recovery
  • 2006 Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth came out
  • Check out the article for the other 39!
If you, too, are in the "Earth Day's Over, Now What" Zone, here are some reads that might help you make your day, changing the focus from the problems to the solutions.
Earth Day starts as one day of awareness... but certainly it's up to you if it ends there. Think of the changes we can bring about if we all do a little something to make the world a better place each day, focusing on solutions.

Images from, and

Saturday, May 5, 2018

My 6 Fav Maker Activities

As a Technology Specialist and Maker Lab Teacher, we get to have a lot of fun in my K-5 classrooms.  Check out this clickable infographic (hover above the fingers to see the linked hot spots) and the blurbs below to see what some of my personal favorites are through the years! The links on the infographic will take you directly to websites of instructions, images, lesson plans, or examples.

Squishy Circuits
Following up our Valentine's Day Circuit Card Creations, we had loads of fun with some conductive and insulating dough. In addition to the clickable link above, this video and these instructions were helpful. We did the activity with 2nd and 3rd graders, but any elementary students would love it!

Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season
My 4th & 5th Grade elective class had fun with this hurricane-inspired STEAM activity--timely this fall when the hurricane reports cropped up. The "Emoji Guys" and ramping up the box fan to create different categories of major win added to the elements of excitement.

Lego Landmarks
For several years now I've tied the work to Lego sculpturist Nathan Sawaya into a Maker activity with my Kindergartners. I show them a plethora of natural landmarks and iconic structures. From there, they pick one to build using Legos and take several pictures along the way using iPads to detail their design process. From there, we revisit the activity another day where they each insert their pictures in order in the Timeline app on their individual iPad so each student can show off his/her design process chronologically. This activity, of course, could work for kids at any age.

Throughout the years, I've done a variety of artbot activities, but for my Kindergarteners this year, it was "Dollar Store electric toothbrushes and pool noodles for the win!" This simple and straightforward example was perfect for the age group and brought about delighted glee from all!

Henry "Box" Brown
Henry "Box" Brown was an enslaved man during the Civil War era who crated himself up and mailed himself to Northern freedom with the help of some abolitionists. As a natural extension within the 5th Grade Civil War Unit, after reading the picture book Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, students got into a large cardboard box to see what that would feel like. Then, using some measurement and ratios (based on both 3 inch Playmobil guys and the 6 foot height of an average adult man), kids were challenged to build a box their guy would fit in using craft sticks, tape, and heavy construction paper.

Zip Line Carrier
Everyone loves the concept of a zip line, especially when you are the one building it. Putting my Playmobil guys to use again (rather than building a Lego Creature), this STEAM activity ties really well with our 2nd graders' Business unit and their study of money. My favorite part of this too is the fact that students have to manage their budget by buying only the supplies they can afford.

For more great hands-on STEM/STEAM activities, be sure to check out the following:

Clicakable Infographic created using &

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mother Earth & Me: Celebrating Earth Day With Smithsonian's Discovery Theater

Last week we had the great pleasure of having the Smithsonian Discovery Theater come on location to our school and present "Mother Earth & Me: Celebrate Earth Day" during Earth Week. I was blown away by the message, meaning, presentation, and power of the 4 person troupe that came to our school.

The Synopsis from their website:
Mother Earth and Me (Celebrate Earth Day)
Available Tour Dates: April 16-25, 2018
Recommended for Kindergarten-5th Grade
The magic of earth science takes center stage in this fun, interactive Discovery Theater original as we explore the origins of our planet, the water cycle, and our important role in protecting the ecosystem, as well as folklore about the “big blue marble” we call home. Kick off Earth Month by pledging to become an Earth Warrior—and find out some great ways to start right away!
The level of engagement for all, Preschool to 5th grade was high for the entire duration of their 45-60 minute presentation. We all left giving our oaths to our Mother Earth, because like a good mother she takes good care of it's our job to take good care of her!

Click here to see their learning guide for this specific production.

Additionally, if you ever get an opportunity to see any of Discovery Theater's production, make sure you do!

Discovery Theater banner from; pictures from my camera.