Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wands for Wildlife

One of the best ways to keep trash out of the landfill is to reuse. Often times, that's where people hit the
wall given some items just don't seem to have a natural way to reuse them.

Take plastic mascara applicator wands, for instance. However, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina has come up with a great reuse for these with their Wands for Wildlife program.


Twice a year, in October and February, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge accepts mailed-in collections of old mascara wands. The little bristles on the wand are perfect for removing fly eggs and larva from the fur or feathers of orphaned animals or birds that need rehabilitation. All they ask you to do is soak them in soapy water and dry to get off the mascara residue. They had to move it to only a twice-a-year acceptance policy due to their initial flood of donations. That's definitely a good problem to have!

To learn more about how to join the "Wandraiser," check out their website.



Video from https://youtu.be/enFEPuz36zU, image from https://www.waste360.com/business-operations/wands-wildlife-puts-discarded-mascara-wands-work

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Plastic Is Not Fantastic--Emily De Sousa's TEDxTalk


"9.1 billion tons of plastic created to date." How heavy is one plastic bag? Hardly anything! Emily De Sousa details what that weight means in visual terms in her TEDxKanata talk from last year.

Other statistical figures she presents:

♳  Half of the 8 million tons of that winds up in our oceans and waterways. 

♳  As for straws... she mentioned that 57,000,000 straws are used daily in Canada. 

♳  She also mentions major numbers regarding how much oceanic plastic we eat annually through seafood.

Emily, as the founder and owner of the sustainable travel blog "Airplanes and Avocados." In addition to sustainable travel, marine conservation issues is one of her topics of choice and she is an avid SCUBA diver. She promotes activism through digital storytelling and education in order to reach many via the masses through social media. She's certainly a #BlueMind advocate...without ever mentioning those words!

Through her TEDx Talk, she voices her love of our planet, lots of those statistics mentioned above (and many more), and the fact that we all need to be doing something for sustainability. There are so many simple things we can all do.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Winding Your Way Up Above The Trees

Trees have been a frequent theme this fall here at GTG. Along with images of Richard Powers' book The Overstory continuing to filter through my head, I've been:
Given all that, it's not a surprise that Denmark's Camp Adventure Forest Tower struck a chord with me.

Nestled about an hour's drive from Copenhagen, Camp Adventure boasts Northern Europe's longest zipline (at over 1,500 feet) as well as 10 ropes courses and an indoor climbing wall. While many of the ziplines careen through the trees, the Forest Tower takes you above them. The innovative structure created by EFFEKT Architects was purposefully created to provide an opportunity to soak in the surrounding nature while maintaining respect for the surrounding trees. The combination of corton steel hidden beneath oak beams provides strength and yet aesthetically coexists with natural beauty. The 650 meter ramp (= 2,100+ feet) takes you up 12 spirals to the top, putting you 45 meters (= 147 feet) above the ground. The views, no doubt, are phenomenal!

Camp Adventure was listed as one of the 100 places worth visiting in Time Magazine's World's 100 Greatest Places of 2019 issue.  Additionally, the Forest Tower received the First Place ICONIC Award 2017 for Visionary Architecture. Definitely makes you want to go!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Rising Water

I've been thinking a lot about climate change lately. It started recently when I ran across the Grist article by Miyo McGinn "When Teaching Kids About Climate Change, Don’t be a Downer." I've seen that in my own home through the years as my kids have lived with their eco-loving mama. My son has asked pretty hard questions that are fraught with concern. I watch what I say because doom & gloom gets you nowhere.

But concern heightened awareness does set in at times. The weekend of October 11-14th my husband and I were in Oxford, Md celebrating our anniversary at the very quaint, historic water-side inn (the Robert Morris Inn) for our anniversary this wkend. It was wonderful with it's small-town charm, and we loved being there and bopping over to St. Michaels by way of the oldest ferry, which was just a walk from the inn. I'd highly recommend it to anyone!

 But, between the waterside placard (see below) for an art installation just across from our inn... and the water flooding the streets (due in part, we’ve been told, to the trifecta of a full moon, high tide, waters rising from Tropical Storm Melissa on its way), my mind has been heavily pondering the rising water. I had walked the ferry dock the night before, and the next day they were submerged by 4-5 inches as in the picture below. (Granted, even the night before, the water was perilously close to coming up between the boards by only an inches or so.) Parking lots were pools, and some streets were completely undrivable.

Facebook revealed that Annapolis too was mired in flooding streets--which used to be seen as a "100 year event" that has been happening every year or so. Ironic that the streets were flooding in Annapolis during a boat show weekend.

Sunday was way better than this
Saturday picture!
The next day, the flood waters in Oxford were down--and even more so the day after. We biked around and saw we were able to travel streets we couldn't the day before, but a restaurant we were planning to visit was still closed due to water in the kitchen. I was somewhat comforted when a shop owner said that this is not a typical high tide experience, but they did have a previous problem in September during the last big storm event. Luckily, the flood waters hadn't been this high since Hurricane Isabel in September of 2003, with a close second with Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012.

The news of Oxford's flooding events being storm-related helped comfort me. But it led to a lot of contemplation about how the rising water of climate change is going to affect a lot of people worldwide--both local to my coastal Maryland and on a bigger global scale.  It didn't help that an article in the Baltimore Sun that same weekend referencing the rising sea levels could force the Naval Academy to relocate. It took me back to Jeff Goodell's book "The Water Will Come." It felt like the foreshadowing of things to come--like the trailer to a movie I don't want to see.

This is the point where I hope a lot of our leaders get their head out of the sand--especially when the sand is getting buried!

Pictures from my camera or screenshot from Google Maps. Collage created using Pic Edu.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Steve Trash! To The Rescue!!

Ahhh... to be known as a "rockin' eco hero," a comedian, and a magician. It might just be the trifecta.

Steve Trash holds this triangular title, and has been in action since 1984 spreading the message of recycling, sustainability, and being an environmental steward.



He's taken his show on the road just about everywhere: North America, Europe, Asia, multiple news channels, PBS, and issue of Weekly Reader, and more. He's got a YouTube channel with well over 250 videos. He has 2 albums and music videos along with his Trash TV series and more. He has a blog he's maintained since 2008.  He even has a bank of solar panels in his front yard. He's all in, and all about ecology, science, STEM-STEAM, and even some videos on character development like manners, bullying, taking responsibility, empathy, being a good friend, digital literacy, and more.

He's everything you'd want an environmental educator to be! Definitely check out the plethora of resources he has on his website and YouTube channel when you are wanting to bring a little zip to your classroom eco unit!

Video from https://youtu.be/LMypY08YWqA, photo from http://www.stevetrash.com/bio

Saturday, October 26, 2019

#SaveQuiet


As the recent host of a slumber party with seven 14 year old boys in my house, I know loud. These were perhaps some of the loudest people in America (or so it seemed on that Saturday night). But they were having clean, wholesome fun so how bad can that be.

Just as "loud" has a place in our world, so does "quiet." More often than not, though, quiet is quite the commodity. Background noises such as binge-watched television, show streaming, or catching a half-dozen Youtube videos is what more and more of us are gravitating toward in our free time. Or music--often with headphones (that would be my two teens at home--though back in the day a generation or so ago, it was loud music blasted from the stereo). Even social media these days is more often in video versus visual form with snaps, Insta-stories, or other videos. When my students get overly chatty at school, I discuss how we need to cut back on the "noise pollution," and we have enough pollution as it is!

As mindfulness is on the rise, so too is the move to #SaveQuiet. This is a hashtag started by Quiet Parks International. From their "About" page, looks like I might be onto something with this "noise pollution" thing. Much like animals, "quiet" is becoming an endangered species. With air zones overhead, highways near by, city sounds surrounding, noise is everywhere. A startling statistic from this page: "90% of children will not experience natural quiet during their lifetime." Yikes! That makes my ears hurt just writing this!

Even more startling from their page is the effect of noise on our health. It can lead to "cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep disturbance, annoyance, cognitive impairment, hearing impairment and tinnitus, and reduces quality of life, well being and mental health."

Like I said, sounds an awful lot like mindfulness, where the benefits are equally as high.

So Quiet Parks International is on a mission... a mission to quiet things down. They are working to create "a set of classifications, standards, testing methods, and management guidelines for the certification of the world’s pristine and endangered quiet places. Quiet Parks International has established the world’s first Wilderness Quiet Park and developed a list of over 262 potential sites around the globe that should be certified and preserved."

Not only do they certify quiet locations, they also have a list on their websites of the following:
Quiet finds nearby may just be a click away!



Screenshot from https://www.quietparks.org/about; video from https://vimeo.com/328582149, Rumi quote from https://wisdomquotes.com/silence-quotes/


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pursuing EcoTourism in the Classroom



I co-lead an twice-a-week elective for 4th and 5th graders called "Funtography." It's a combination of photography and digital design. The photography side (run by my colleague) ultimately feeds the yearbook by building digital photography skills. On my digital design side, we talk about all sorts of graphic design elements (like color, typography, and layout). In both halves, there's a lot of opportunity for student exploration and creativity.

This year, we're going with a "going green" theme, which ties to playing with color, and delving into some environmental pursuits including a green screen project. That green screen project will be for my students to make an eco-tourism commercial.

I began by compiling a Wakelet board. Wakelet is a website that allows you to curate everything you want to share with students (or any other group of people). The best part is that with a QR code, link or an embed code, it's one-stop-shopping to all the resources I need for my students to have for the entire project, with the exception of doing their own research. Here's my Eco-Tourism Wakelet board, which details everything from resources to assignment for their green screen activity. I can't wait to see what they come up with!




Videos from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcbzb3uUfpc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDIfFTs9V1A; Wakelet board from https://wke.lt/w/s/gSA3_c,

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Tree Talk

Communicating conifers? Chatting chestnuts? Talking teaks? Expressive elms? Broadcasting birch trees? You bet!

After writing about Richard Powers' The Overstory, this seemed like the natural next step. One of the characters in Powers' book was deep into the science of how trees communicate with each other. In the book, this character was initially scoffed at by others based on her sentiments--which isn't surprising as it does sound rather odd. Yet there is actual science behind this line of thought.

These two videos from BBC and National Geographic do an excellent job of explaining the conceptual phenomenon of talking trees and the "Wood Wide Web."

.



Given the fact that intra-forest communication comes from the tallest, eldest trees, it definitely speaks (pun intended) of making sure we don't take down the oldest trees among us--even if reforesting plans are in place by planting new, younger trees. This, in turn, conveys the importance of maintaining those threes in order to maintain the resiliency and longevity of the forest.

So up until we can understand their language, we're still going to need the Lorax to speak to us for the trees!



Videos from https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-44643177/how-trees-secretly-talk-to-each-other and https://youtu.be/7kHZ0a_6TxY; Lorax photo from https://i.pinimg.com/originals/eb/02/46/eb0246c50d15813b81cce20ce7f9c3e3.jpg and tree banner from https://louisvilleky.gov/government/jefferson-memorial-forest/contact-us

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Eco Read: "The Overstory" by Richards Powers

I recently read Richard Powers' Pulizer Prize winning book "The Overstory." The title was poignant for multiple reasons--it's terminology refers to a layer of foliage in the trees--a common thread in how the book was divided into sections all based on tree terminology: Roots, Trunk, Crown, Seeds. But more than that was the over-arching story, the "over story" of how trees were vital to each of the 9 main character. Additionally, the trees themselves were one of its greatest characters in the book.

I will say, my favorite character was in fact a tree--the American Chestnut. I enjoyed learning about both its true history and how that tree's history was woven into the fictional life of one of the main characters. As the characters came together, the initial part of the eco-activism storyline reminded me of my own time last summer in California's redwood forest and of Julia Butterfly Hill. An added piece of connection--I read much of the 500-page tome outside, under the trees of my own backyard.

These two book reviews and Richard Powers' website are great places to learn more.




Saturday, October 12, 2019

#DigCitCommit

Digital Citizenship Week, mid-October, has been an annual "event" for the last several years. This year, it falls October 14-18.

Of course, some argue that in today's day and age, is it "digital citizenship" or just plain "citizenship" as the only difference is the device. As parents and educators, we want to be encouraging our kids to be good people out in the world no matter what--both online and off. And, in a world where sometimes this is lacking, the importance is stronger than ever before.

#DigCitCommit is a partnership between 17 major technology and edtech companies urging all to commit to digital citizenship. Their focus is on 5 major strands that encourage all (students and adults alike) to be inclusive, informed, engaged, balanced, and alert. By focusing on these 5 competencies, we build future leaders:

Check out this treasure trove of resources:
Definitely good for parents and educators alike so we can all become responsible & healthy citizens!

#DigCitCommit Partners 
Video from https://youtu.be/15zvAiGeW_E; #DigCitCommit partners pic screenshot from https://digcitcommit.org, THINK image from https://puzzlepeace.ca/event/digital-citizenship-week/2019-10-18/, & the other image from http://ohekidstech.blogspot.com/2014/10/its-digital-citizenship-week-5th.html?m=1

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

3 Decades of Time, On Either Side.

The year now is 2019. The month, October. Meaning we are almost at 2020.

30 years ago, when we do that rounding up, it was nearly 1990.
I was in college.
Yes, I'm showing my age.
30 years from now, it's going to be roughly 2050. By then, hopefully, I'll be really old (because it certainly beats the alternative!)

30 years of difference--3 decades--on either side. Two environmental resources I've run across really nailed that piece home. One was Time Magazine's September 12th issue, which was entirely dedicated to Climate Change: "2050: How Earth Survived." The other was The Years Project Video: "Thirsty World" video, prophesizing on where we'll be if we aren't careful. It's not pretty. Population growth is not going to stop or reverse. In fact, the expected population by 2050 is 9.8 billion (compared to our current 7.7 billion). Yikes!


Circling back to Time Magazine, the symmetrical math mirror of 30 years was even more striking because they went back to their issue 30 years prior where they named "Endangered Earth" as "Planet of the Year" (as opposed to "Man of the Year") due to the environmental crisis that was afoot then. 30 YEARS AGO. (Yes, I felt the need to yell a little bit.) 

Begs the question--why are we still here? They mention a 30-year wake up call/reality check. It is from this vantage point that details why they dedicated this entire issue to climate change (only the fifth time in their 96-year history they've dedicated entire issues to one subject.) I like how they are clear that they are convinced in the unquestioning science backing climate change, and no climate skeptics are featured in the issue.

Featured in the issue is their "Voices" section, where they take some of the climate thought leaders who write their thoughts on the subject. There are too many good ones to list, so click here to click through and read them all. If you only have time for a few, my favorites are Jane Goodall's, Al Gore's, and Gra├ža Machel's.

There's also a great multimedia 3D piece entitled "The Dying Rainforest" narrated by Jane Goodall on the perils the Amazon Rainforest is facing. Add in, articles on the following:
Bottom line--there's a lot here!! All of which is excellent reading. Imagine the world if we all read and absorbed this issue!

3 decades of time on either side. It makes you wonder, where will we all be 30 years down the line in 2050. Hope and optimism are two of my governing traits, so I pray it is NOT where The Years Project projected! May we all follow the lead of so many mentioned here, and the young activists like Greta Thunberg who were leading the way this past September!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Creative Uses for Cardboard

As the Technology Specialist who talks a lot about the Design Process at school--both in and out of our Maker Lab, these images from the Bioconstruccion's Facebook page show some amazing and massive cardboard construction projects. Now granted, these are not small projects, but they might serve as creative inspiration for your students!! Check out the pictures below!






What a super way to repurpose--especially with the glut in the recycling industry where cardboard sometimes does get recycled in some communities. Add in, in today's age of a lot of Amazon.com and other delivery boxes that come right to your door, cardboard as a building material is pretty easy to come by! 

For more inspiration, watch this and check out the following links of ideas & watch this video:


photos from https://www.facebook.com/pg/ColorworldEntertainment/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1185946768234631&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARBObzaU5MOGmc0ed8iqkyx2JJG0kugIcdSDx4bfiBpsEJQ29HwaKmHBercjCz6S0-g3qqXWrhTwKsJ6fHQVaYK67qX_11hI8uT1Uh-PpEBO9GSN08iRxsi7N63MllmeUgkTCWc2kxhVrFm9BbsHpJqfGnBvY2R7EVjFARljL1ZWRs-2OixtIwBiomTAx-WbJAvcMdl4UIZISbyvumeJpW9T1QrKjF_gl0Wp9ZrFlQ6NMPnsax96mn_vDbFsW3cPB370r4LAPNZLnWbdrTvKwYJDpTH_6sW0lxcIfuwRSwcjK59sXbDLpdqxvHKeaW51qj1mr5s1T59u7LXTeIJgu2HN7uLo&__tn__=-UC-R; video from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RGfnBlaHIQ

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Climate Optimism

In the wacky world of today, we all need a li'l bit o'love... and a whole lot of optimism. Like love, I think it makes the world go 'round.

This video "140 Seconds of Optimism" from Climate Optimist follows suit with the sentiments I wrote about earlier in the month in my post "Handling the Emotions of a Rough August," plus it ties with the "Climate Change Solutions Quiz."


To learn more about how to be a Climate Optimist, check out there website. While there...
  • The "Good News" stories--things that are happening world wide to help solve climate change and move the needle forward.
  • Read the Climate Optimist Manifesto. (My favorite line: "Because hope beats fear. It’s the attitude that inspires progress.... And when we succeed this time, we’ll solve more than climate change. Renewable energy means jobs. Solar energy can help free people from poverty. Cutting pollution benefits our health.")
  • Learn ways to take action.
  • See Climate Optimist's Proof Point sources.
  • Discover their other resources.
It can become easy to be fatalistic, hopeless, or fear-filled. but why? Optimism is a much more pro-active, energized, and positive way to go. What can you do to begin to make a difference?

Photo screenshot from https://www.climateoptimist.org/resources/; Video from https://vimeo.com/234337443

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Digging Into the Design Process

Several articles I've recently read discussed how the design process was often a staple in the high schools, but not always in the elementary schools. That's almost downright silly, as PK-5th grade is the perfect age for making and inventing. The illustration here highlights the design process we use with our elementary students, one we've been using for over 6 years. It's a key part of our MakerLab activities and something I've written about before.

Teaching about the Innovation Mindset, you come to see the importance of problem solving, brainstorming, planning, testing, creating prototypes, retesting, redesigning & iterating, then finally sharing. We discuss the key feature of "failing forward" (and I often refer to "fail" as "First Attempt In Learning.") It governed us as we learned to walk, ride a bike, and do many new things in our lives. We can only get better by trying and retrying something, modifying as we go. As Lily Barnett wrote in Peninsula Press' "Design-Thinking Trickling Into Elementary School Classrooms," it's a key feature in Carol Dweck's growth mindset. It builds confidence through the creation and ability to tackle challenges.

Empathy too is an important part, because it helps with the tie-in of real world problems. By trying to take on the vantage point of another, students can see the importance of trying to solve a problem that serves the needs of others. Empathy is a piece that is significantly missing in today's world. Just check out social media or today's partisan politics!

As Rikke Dam & Teo Siang wrote in Interaction Design Foundation's "Design Thinking: New Innovative Thinking for New Problems," it is through new ways of thinking that problems are solved. We need to be able to think outside the box. As educators, we need to help shape our students to be the next generation of people to bring about better solutions to our global problems. It becomes the merging of both logic and imagination, science and creativity, empathy and analysis. Usually collaboration and critical thinking are also woven in there as well. All the essential skills future employers will want from our current students--even those that are still very young. The power of play in the elementary school environment is not all that different from what innovative companies like Google or Apple are doing to craft a creative workspace.

But as Megan Collins points out in her Edsurge article "Design Thinking Is a Challenge to Teach — and That’s a Good Thing," the design process is not set in stone. It's a framework that works for big and small classroom projects. Reflection after the fact to discuss how the process progressed is also key. Being able to see where you could or would do things differently next time is a valuable skill. This might mean teachers need to shift their own thinking and teaching along the way to also "include growth, reflection and failure. They [too] become designers” of both their curriculum and a classroom of creativity.


So for my teacher friends out there who are designing both lessons and students: here's a list of engineering challenges & resources for grades K-12. I made sure to curate this list with both general engineering challenges and also design challenges with a "green lean!"



Video from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxJWin195kU, design process diagram from http://slideplayer.com/slide/9058715/ and https://youtu.be/MAhpfFt_mWM, Think Outside the Box image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/artjonak/6250513028

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

1000 Hours Outside & #BlueMind, 2019 Edition

Last summer I decided to do a little outdoor accounting of the number of hours I spent outside after learning about the blog 1000 Hours Outside. You can read more about that personal challenge here and then read about my results (here). I was delighted to surpass my goal of 200 hours outdoors and get 269 hours...which also was more than the seasonal math (given 100 hours) of 250 hours for the summer.

Well as we all know, summer 2019 has come, the days are starting to cool, and fall is officially here (at least by the calendar date).

Traveling back to the end of May 2019, I was once again inspired to carve a corner of my monthly calendar into a tally section, trying to see if I could do it again. Having read Nature Fix and being reminded of the neurological and emotional effects of nature on people, I was certainly up for it. Additionally, having read Blue Mind, I decided to add an extra layer, counting my #BlueMind Days to see how many days I could be in water (usually my pool) or near water like a stream, fountain, river, lake, or the Chesapeake Bay (which is in our neck of the woods).

My results:
Over the 94 days of summer (which was the 3 summer months plus September 1 & 2 due to it being Labor Day weekend--you can see the separation line in my August calendar), I totaled 326 hours outside and 61 days (2/3 of my summer) with some time in or near major water. I'm rather proud of those numbers and the benefits I gleaned from them.

My takeaways: 
  • I am a girl who craves and thrives when I have bulk time in the outdoors. Reading out there, or writing, basking, sitting, being in the pool, hiking, biking, or more. I had a hard time getting back into the "back to school" routine of being back indoors. (I'm reminded I had that bit of culture shock last year as well.) The first week of school meetings and then starting back with students had me going through a little Vitamin N & solar withdrawal. There just weren't enough hours in the day for me once school started back in session to get in my full daily desire!
  • The pool is my meditation and exercise space. I read in the pool, exercise our crazy canine there, and it's one of my favorite places to watch the wildlife that visit the backyard or the bird feeder.
  • A tropical family vacation in Punta Cana definitely was significant to my July numbers!
  • As much as I like my backyard critters, mosquitoes got in my way! I'm one of those people they love to chow on. Bug spray alone wasn't always enough, and after awhile, around dusk or so, I'd be forced indoors after feeling like I was their "feast de la resistance!" If the world had no mosquitoes, I'd have been outside even more!!
  • "BlueMind days" could have been "my everyday" if I went to stand next to my backyard pool. However, I didn't feel that alone counted. It had to be meaningful water--either me in it, on it, or going out of my way to be near it. It did get tricky when visiting my mom in the Midwest--but I found the lake, a fountain, or a duckpond to help me satisfy my quest. It got doubly tricky when I had a minor dermatology procedure that left me with stitches on my ankle for two weeks right before school started. Stitches should NOT be allowed in the summer time!
  • The difference (both in my ability to notate the numbers AND get outside) does shift dramatically when I'm working versus when I'm not. I kind of hate that. It has made me make sure to approach my evening and weekends more consciously, using the gifts of the beautiful outdoors in every way I can.
  • It's an experiment everyone should embark upon!!
Photos from my phone!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Outdoor Adventures: Punta Cana's Scape Park


 This summer we went to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a family vacation. In addition to it being a fabulous way to spend every day outdoors, we went on a breathtaking excursion that was adventures and memories packed all in one! It was also a great way to get both my Vitamin N & my #BlueMind satisfied, all in one!
Scape Park at Cap Cana is an outdoor playground of ziplines and waterholes (and sometimes the two were combined) in the Dominican Republic rain forest. We had an 8 hour packed day, but we certainly couldn't do everything! Here's a sneak peak at all of their offerings:


Their attractions that we did take advantage of (as there just wasn't time for the beach, horseback riding, and all that we did):

  • Visiting Monkey Island, Parrot Island, and Iguanaland to see all of these amazing creatures
  • Doing 8-10 ziplines along their ecotour--the last of which landed in water! 
  • Trekking the Cultural Route--a rebuilt village of the Tainos Indians with historical boards detailing Christopher Columbus' invasion.
  • Splashing about under a waterfall.
  • Swimming in a crysaline underground cave, a treat all to ourselves.
  • Jumping into Hoya Azul, a ceynote (which is a sink hole that filled with water).
  • Visiting the True Bat Cave: Iguabonita Cave--with helmets on to protect us from the bat droppings!
It was a remarkable way to spend 8 hours outdoors.  Here's a peek at some of our favorite memories of the day.


When it comes to traveling and/or outdoor adventure, do it. Just the mere fact of encountering something different is what life is all about. It widens your perspective and gives you new experiences. Some of those may include a glimpse at other cultures. When. you can see the wider world outside of yourself, it it builds perspective, empathy, and even more when some of those experiences are outside!

Video from https://youtu.be/BeRtUozhb8E; My pics & videos compiled in Adobe Spark https://spark.adobe.com/video/Y4g7M66ijqDPY

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Climate Change Solutions Quiz

A good online quiz is quite satisfying. Here's one that won't name your Hogwarts house or which Friends character you're most like, but it will teach you a thing or two about how to be the best planetary protector you can be!


CNN's Climate Change Solutions Quiz was created by Drew Kann, Will Houp, Judson Jones, and Sean O'Key (April 19, 2019). Created in coordination with the group Project Drawdown and their rankings of effective climate change solutions, it has 8 questions based on the following categories:
  • Our food
  • How we move goods & people
  • Our homes & cities
  • How we use our land
  • Electricity use
  • Materials & waste management
  • Empowering women
  • Can you rank the top 5
For each category, the quiz challenges you rearrange the 3-5 options in the order of greatest to least impact to cut down on climate change. Once you answer each question, it rearranges your choices (if necessary), shows you your choice order versus the real order, and it gives answers in the following format: "This would be similar to taking ___ million cars off the road." Then it provides vital information explaining the data, and it labels the actions by whether they are ones that can be tackled by individuals, companies, or policy makers.

Having read the book Drawdown (edited by Paul Hawken) last year, I thought for sure I'd ace this quiz. Let's just say, this served as an excellent (and necessary) refresher course.

Go forth, check out CNN's Climate Change Solution quiz, learn along the way, and then see what you can do to start making a difference.



Saturday, September 14, 2019

Thinkport's "Bait to Plate"

As a Maryland girl (by relocation versus birth), this gem from Thinkport was worth a visit. In "Bait To Plate: An Inside Look At Maryland's Crab Industry."

The Teacher Resources indicate that this online module was created for 4th-8th graders, and two 45-minute sessions should be enough to work your way through all 11 sections. It's a wonderful way (for students and adults alike) to learn more about the importance of Maryland crabs--both to the local industry and to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.






Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Remembering 9/11

Today is September 11. Of course your calendar tells you that, but so too does your heart for anyone who was around on September 11, 2001. It's one of those dates you remember where you were and what you were doing. Life changed to where it's remembered "before 9/11" and "after 9/11."

Today, let us all pause to remember that day in American history. In world history.

This picture is from my hometown this summer. It was a monument I had never seen. I was moved at the memorial. Even more so when I later learned that the steel beams were from the World Trade Center site. 

Yes, let us never forget.



Image from my camera.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

TED-ED's Series & Collections

I recently got reintroduced to TED-Ed at a one-day summer "Tech Tools" workshop I attended. In addition to being able to build lessons around a TED talk or animation, you can also use ones that others have created or customize it yourself. I like how the depth of investigation and questioning you can build in is structured around their "Watch - Think - Dig Deeper - Discuss" format.

Upon all my investigations of all TED-ED has to offer, I ran across their series, and the following are just some of their offerings--all of these have some great environmental education connections that are perfect for back to school season. I've included the number of videos in that series at the time of writing in parentheses following the series names. There are some overlaps between series.


And a fun last one--Periodic Videos, which has the periodic table as a graphic, with each element being a link to a TED-ED video.

Of course this is just a fraction of what's available over at TED-ED. For a wealth of more on a many more subjects, be sure to click their "Discover" button for both series and lessons!

Images from: "Watch - Think - Dig Deeper - Discuss" Screenshot from one of TED-ED's lessons and https://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/10/04/lead-a-ted-ed-professional-development-workshop-designed-for-teachers-by-teachers/

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Handling the Emotions of a Rough August

August has been a hard environmental month. The start of September hasn't been any better with Hurricane Dorian rearing its ugly this past weekend, dumping copious amounts of water and destruction over the Bahamas, and now moving along the East Coast with its ultimate landing yet to be determined.

What makes it both maddening, saddening, and worse: all of the events of the last month have essentially come at human hands, emphasizing the perils we pose to the planet. A brief synopsis:

1. Iceland's Glacial Funeral
Funerals are always hard. No one likes seeing the passing of someone (or something) important. The same holds true when glaciers cease to exist, all because of a warming that should not be.



2.  The Wildfires of the Amazon
My son was highly perturbed by the lack of news about the fires in the Amazon rainforest. In fact, he brought it to my attention days before it came on the national news front (having seen it along social media). Sadly, the news cycles in a way to show our priorities, and sadly climate change and planetary problems often fall lower on the news hierarchy than a lot of other published pieces.

3. But wait, there's more!
These are the other climate events that have occurred this past summer. Ones that didn't get quite as much news coverage. I ran across them in the August 28th WGBH article "Flooding, Melting And On Fire: 6 Stories That Show The Dramatic Impact Of Climate Change Now" by Emily Judem. In it, along with mentioning the Amazon fires, Judem details 5 other news-worthy climate events this past August. Everyone of them ultimately came about at the hands of humans, over time. Listed here are the main stories Judem shared (but you should read her whole article linked above):
Judem also mentioned some other "minor," even less-publicized incidences such as home-destroying rains and floods in Freetown, Sierra Leone and destructive wildfires in Indonesia, the Canary Island, Greece, Turkey, and France.

All of this follows NOAA's announcement that July 2019 was the hottest month on record. Hottest. Month. Ever. It's still early in September, so time will tell where August 2019 falls in the record books. And just like the August events listed above, July also had its own climate anomalies.

*Sigh*  It's heavy. And disheartening. And a whole lot of bad news.

* * *

As I was pondering all of this, I was sharing my concerns with a very dear and equally die-hard environmental friend. While we were commiserating via email this past weekend about the weight of it all, I shared with her a text from my middle-school son. Last week he texted me at work asking me if it was true that we only have around 17 months to fix our planet before it's past fixable. That's a lot of weight for someone so young. I answered him as best as I could, but it left me wondering what to do with all of this weight, other than bury my head in the sand or curl up in the fetal position due to the fatigue of such fatalistic news.

Ironically, in the exchange with my friend, we both landed upon the same conclusion--simultaneously, while separate. When we continued our conversation, we discovered that we were (again) of like minds. She stated it so much more succinctly than I did:
"I saw a scientist on NPR last week who was giving all kinds of climate change information, but he was so optimistic. He didn't talk about 'we missed our chance' or 'if we don't do it by this amount of time...' or anything like that. So I got to thinking: why not be optimistic? Anything we do will help to make it less worse. What's the alternative? Why not be optimistic? Not ostrich optimistic. We have to travel through this life until we die. I don't want to spend my time being fearful, regretful, and defeated. We have to keep caring and pushing and doing. And voting."
Yes. I came to that same place of optimism as I was staring at my trees from the happy place of my pool this Labor Day, and again later as I was biking through a local park. We can't get consumed by the doom and gloom--as easy as it feels to land there. We have to embrace the hopeful variety of optimism, because truly, what other choice is there. We have to fight for it by doing everything we can. We need to get outdoors and encourage our loved ones (both our young ones and our older ones) to get outside, to appreciate the beauty and magnitude of our planet. By loving it, we will protect it. By becoming stewards and by building young stewards, we can make a positive benefit. We can create the next generation that may actually be able to show us all how change happens. Perhaps it's in feeling the potential loss that we can all actually reach out, grab it, and protect it like never before!

We owe it to ourselves, our future generations, and our planet itself!


Emily Judem's article which was heavily referenced here: https://www.wgbh.org/news/international-news/2019/08/28/flooding-melting-and-on-fire-6-stories-that-show-the-dramatic-impact-of-climate-change-now;  Video from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrTzejIAsh8
Images from https://climatechange.lta.org/february-2019-ranked-fifth-hottest/ and https://www.cnn.com/americas/live-news/amazon-wildfire-august-2019/index.html and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/the-power-hope and https://maycalendar.net/august-2019-calendar/