Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year 2019

As the New Year is upon you, may these quotes help to shape your year!

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist 
and putting them together in a new way.” 
–Tom Freston

“What good is an idea if it remains an idea? 
Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.” 
– Simon Sinek

“There’s a way to do it better—find it.” 
–Thomas Edison

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” 
–Jonathan Swift

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” 
–Nelson Mandela

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” 
–Henry David Thoreau

“The world is a book and those who do not travel
read only one page.” 
– St. Augustine

“When the winds of change blow, 
some people build walls and others build windmills.” 
–Chinese Proverb

“If you’re not failing every now and again, 
it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” 
–Woody Allen

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Eco New Year's Resolutions

The week between Christmas and New Years is often a week off work for many of us--or at least a few extra days off in there. It serves as a good time to make sure you get a chance to see all your family and friends, and get in all of your celebrating.

It's also a good time to reflect on your year, and make plans for the year ahead.

It might also be a good week to get a jump start on forming your New Years resolutions. Here are some great eco-resolutions to consider.
  • Clean your closet and donate clothes you no longer want or wear to a donation center or homeless shelter.
  • Watch a eco-documentary once a month.
  • Up your recycling or composting game.
  • Shop with your reusable bags.
  • Buy less bottled water--BYO reusable water bottle or coffee mugs.
  • Upgrade your diet--go flexitarian, vegetarian, or Meatless Mondays.
  • Shop more sustainably--cotton products require a lot of chemicals and water!
  • Buy fair trade coffee and chocolate
  • Walk (or ride your bike) more and drive less. Or, consider public transportation or carpooling.
  • Grow your own garden--that's as organic as it gets!
  • Switch to greener cleaners for your home.
  • Take a pass on the straws... or go with a non-plastic alternative.
  • Go with eco-friendly and energy efficient home products.
  • Become an activist--take part in local campaigns, spread the word about the growing impact of humans on climate change, take part in park or stream clean ups. Barack Obama tweeted of this a day or so ago: "find something you want to change in your community and take the first step toward changing it." Always good advice!!

For more, check out these websites, which served as my inspiration for this post.

2018 Sustainable New Year's Resolutions You Need To Make, According To The Biggest Eco Names

Eco Talk: Environmentally-Friendly New Year's Resolutions

11 Green New Year's Resolutions That Put The Planet First

10 Easy, Green New Year's Resolutions (Even If You're a Slacker)

Ten Simple Green New Year's Resolutions

8 Simple Eco New Year's Resolutions for 2018

10 Green New Years Revolutions

Image created at

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tidings of Joy, Peace & Love this Season

May your seasonal celebrations be filled with all the gifts that are really important: kindness, joy, peace, hope, friends, family, love, and laughter.

Image created at

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Art of Stone Balancing

This is just downright beautiful... and watching it makes me want to go out and try this in the spring when the weather (and water) turns warmer.

But just watching him build gives me a sense of calm. True Zen. Maybe I'll be sure to revisit this video every time it feels a tad stressful the last few days of holiday prep!


Video from

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Books to Grow On

Disclaimer: I have a junior in high school living in my house.

Yes, she's my kid.  Given that, thoughts of college are swirling in our house.

When I went to Stanford this summer on my CA Tech Tour, we got the backlot tour from a former high school buddy of mine. She talked in admiration about knowing Julie Lythcott Haims. Little did I know at the time that she was going to be a speaker at our school this spring. I hadn't connected the dots, either, with her connection to one of our 4 summer reads: Real Americans, a biography about her experience as a biracial woman in America. Also, being another dot I was connecting: the day before going to Stanford, I had been a bookstore in San Jose and had taken a snapshot of Haim's book How To Raise An Adult. I didn't buy it at the time (hence the snapshot), but I knew it was something I should read.

Having now bought and read it, everyone with high schoolers, should read it! Even those with tweens and just plain growing kids should also read it in order to miss the inevitable parenting potholes along the way!

Julie Lythcott Haims was the Freshman Dean at Stanford for a long time...until that book-tour-thing got in the way. But she wrote about her experience...with GenX'ers like me sending our kids off to college. More and more, those kids are helicopter parented kids. In reading it, I'm proud to say that I didn't totally fall into that parenting category. Maybe it's because I'm a teacher, or from the Midwest, or maybe a bit of an anomaly. I don't know. But before I get too busy patting myself on the back, I did also see shimmering glimmers of me in there too in other ways. I do have my kids do chores, we do have expectations, and we sometimes parent with a smidge of sarcasm...but we've also been a tad over-protective, we check their online grades, we keep the family calendar, and probably have micromanaged a time or two.

Our kids need the experience of failing (often) as kids so they can grow to be resilient, capable adults. Adults who embrace a growth mindset. By trying to overprotect them from this, we set them up for longterm failure and the inability to cope. That's the opposite of what our job is as parents. We need to give them both roots and wings.

My follow-up read was far from a light read. Jean M. Twenge's iGen certainly does not fall in that category! Our Head of School started our opening faculty meetings talking about this book. He also spoke about it at the Back to School Parent Night for all 3 divisions (Lower, Middle, and Upper School). Anyone who is wondering about how the tech is going in your own house should read this book. Anyone with kids under the age of 25 should read this book. As the Technology Specialist, I certainly needed to read it. And, as a Tech Specialist, it's sometimes an occupational hazard--especially when the people in your own house love tech, video games, YouTube, online books, social media and more.

iGen was a hard one to read.

It's often hard to read something when you see your own self-reflection. Not 100%, but enough to open your eyes a tad wider. It's through that, too, where you start reanalyzing the habits in your homes. The statistics alone in the first several chapters are daunting regarding how the boom of rampant tech usage (via smart phones) mirrors the decline in mental health. A perfect quote from the book (page 78):
"If you were goin to give advice for a happy life based on this graph [based on 8th graders' tech usage], it would be straightforward: put down the phone, turn off the computer or iPad, and do something--anything--that does not involve a screen."
That's pretty powerful. There were nuggets of wisdom like almost with every page turn--ones my highlighter often found while I was reading this book.

Both books fall in the category of "must reads"... and I will say they were the perfect companion pieces for each other, soften proving each other's point. (In fact, iGen referenced How to Raise An Adult more than once.) They can be hard and haunting...and somewhat daunting... but important information is sometimes like that. Both books are definitive "signs of our times." And, just like in Thomas Friedman's Thank You For Being Late (another of our school summer reads), the one thing we can count on in this "age of acceleration" is change. It's happening, whether we're ready or not. It up to use to really see what's in front of us, and reimagine innovative solutions to help us tackle the problems! In our world, our community, and in our homes.

Maybe it's not too late to put these books on your holiday wish list!

Book images from

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The High Cost Of The 12 Days Of Christmas

Every year with my 4th Graders I have them calculate the true cost of the song "The 12 Days of Christmas." PNC annually updates their website, The PNC Christmas Price Index, with the current year's pricing. They've done this every year for the last 35 years. They have  kept track of the going rate for a partridge in a pair tree, as well as 8 maids a milking (dismally low), the 12 drummers drumming, and everything in between. The graphics are always quaint and entertaining--as are the fun facts of whether it's up or down from the year before.

For my 4th graders, it gives them a grand opportunity to try out their math skills--especially when they start adding it up progressively over the 12 days! Additionally, they complete the activity on the iPads in Pages--giving them the opportunity to complete a table & a preview for when they are on 1-1 iPads in 6th grade.

We also have a companion piece to this activity where I have the same group of kids do a comparison shopping for Hanukkah prep: from menorah to candles to dreidels and the making of potato latkes.

Math skills--Check! Internet navigation--check!

PNC image from; all other images: I created in Pages

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Thirsty for More

I've been haunted the last month or so by charity:water and Scott Harrison's new book Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, & A Mission To Bring Clean Water to the World.

Haunted--in a good way. In a gratitude-sort-of-way.

I got the book for my birthday, made sure to go through the steps to have the book purchase donated to charity: water. The book was an amazing read--of Scott's own mother's environmental health struggles, his dive into NYC nightlight, and then his inspiration to climb out and give a charitable year of his life to Mercy Ships...which ultimately led to his realization of our global problem of over 600 million people worldwide not having access to clean water. This, in turn, led to his life mission and the creation of charity:water 11 years ago.

It's inspired me to give the book as a gift, and it also inspired me to share Scott's 20 minute video "The Spring" with my family. This then inspired us to be a part of the solution for the global water crisis. We joined The Spring, becoming monthly donors to charity:water.

In addition to this, after finishing the book, I needed more. I found Scott on The Good Life Project Podcast. I've visited a number of the videos on charity:water's website, and ran across this video here, in particular. I like the simplicity in its illustrated nature, finding it a very kid-friendly resource.

May watching this video cause you to take pause this holiday season, grateful for what you have (definitely a theme for my season this year), and may it inspire you to be a part of something bigger than yourself--whether it is this cause or another one that speaks near and dear to your heart.

Logo & book cover from; video from

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Lego STEM Advent Calendar

Advent Calendars are great at holding the mystery of the Christmas season--all behind little doors. For years, we would get the chocolate filled ones. One year, we found a Lego one where you got a little build kit behind each door. That was neat, but it was a bit pricy. I saw a great Harry Potter one this season (as I'm a 27 year teacher who only first encountered the books and the movies here in 2018, I'm a new HP fanatic)...but talk about pricy! So several years ago, I got my own wooden advent calendar at the art store that I painted and decorated myself.

But, I ran across this idea, which I think speaks volumes to our builders and future engineers of America.  This is a build your own Lego advent calendar, with doors on hinges and drawers that pull out--perfect to hide the yummies behind. 

Frugal Fun for Boys & Girls's website created an instruction list last year of how to go about creating your own. Best part about this, it's not year-specific, and the making it is just as much fun (if not more) than the daily discoveries all December long! Additionally, they encourage you to tweak it to make it your own!  

Another great thing about this post--at the bottom, it gives you some gift ideas for the Lego Lover in your house, as well as 4 additional Holiday projects you can dive into! It's a great way to reuse and repurpose some of those Legos in your house.

Go build yourself and your kids (or class) some holiday fun!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Coding, Coding, & More Coding This Hour of Code Week

This fall I attended two coding workshops, both run by our Independent School Association.  One
was on Coding & Literacy and the other was entitled "Infusing Making and Coding in the Elementary Classroom."

Both of them did what a good workshop should do: they got my mental gears spinning and inspired me to take some of the new ideas and put them into practice into my classroom. It also inspired me to do a little shopping, and I purchased the 2 follow up books to Hello Ruby (and write my November 10th post!)

Here are 2 of my coding inspirations. Perhaps they'll serve to inspire you this Hour of Code & Computer Science Education Week (December 3-9th, 2018):

1. For my 3rd Graders and their Colonial Times Unit, I had them use ScratchJr to create a 4 slide animation showing a variety of movement for the early colonists.  Here are a few sample screenshots that I used to show the class. (I purposely didn't add any coding for my last slide so as not to give everything away for my students!)

2.  For my 1st Graders, I used Seesaw Learning Journal's Activity feature to create a 2 part Thanksgiving coding activity. First, they illustrated the following poem via Seesaw with emojis and drawings, then they accessed the map activity to label the code. I have become a huge fan of Seesaw's Activity Library this year, both in searching new ideas, and creating my own to share out with the Seesaw community. If you use Seesaw, definitely be sure to check out the Activity Library--there's a wealth of activities there on any subject you'd want!

Wrapping up... a visit with Linda Liukas, creator of Hello Ruby, is a great place to land during Hour of Code & Computer Science Education Week. Here is her TEDtalk on coding as a language may her energy and enthusiasm inspire you this week!

Scratch Jr & Seesaw screenshots from my iPad, Linda Liukas video from, Computer Science Education Week image from

Saturday, December 1, 2018

'Tis the Season

It's officially December, so you know what that means: 'Tis the Season! (which for many, started on Black Friday...and for others began as soon as Halloween got over!)

I have a complicated relationship with Christmas. It an amalgamation of packed wish lists and added "to do's." Trying to make everyone happy while battling the question of "do we really need more 'stuff'?" Transportation issues to try to figure out who we can see and when...especially when state lines and long distances are at play. Memories of Christmas past and people who have passed. But there's also the lights, the love, the joy in people's faces, and the deeper meaning of the season.

My guess is that I'm not alone in this holiday sleigh...regardless of whether it's Hanukkah or another holiday that's people are celebrating.

Regardless of the holiday that speaks to your heart, customs, and traditions, may this message be the one that centers you and brings you back this year and helps you embrace the season ahead with simplicity and gratitude.

"Tis the Season" image created at; To-Do List from