Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Tackling Invasive Plants

I've written before about how my kids' quest for community service hours have led us out on environmental adventures. (Check out here and here for a trip down memory lane from last summer). Summer is certainly a great time to try to nail out those hours... and often time it becomes a family affair. We've tackled a few different types of community service this summer including sandwich making for the homeless and taking part in Operation Welcome Home for returning military. 
I will say, the biggest, physically hardest, and certainly sweatiest thing we have done was at a local park where we spent the morning tackling the invasive Japanese Wisteria & Oriental Bittersweet. The information sheet below is from the park about how to spot Japanese Wisteria. Use it to see if you have this strangulating plant is in your backyard. As for the Oriental Bittersweet, think thorny vining rose branch, twisting through the plants! Ouch! Luckily we heeded the request to wear long pants and bring work gloves, despite the 90+ degree heat and all the sweat that ensued! 

It was startling to learn that the park had been overrun with the Japanese Wisteria after just one plant was planted (and went to seed)--over 25 years ago! Equally startling, after the 2 and a half hours of clearing the vines & filling bags of the remnants (along with a dozen or more other volunteers), we really only attacked one small part of the trail. Remarkable to think of the man power that would be needed to cover the miles of trail throughout the park.

Despite the achy muscles the next day, it actually did feel good to get outside, work up a lot of sweat equity, and get out some aggression on these nasty space invaders. It's worth watching your local parks to see what kinds of volunteer opportunities are available in your community! I'd love to hear about it!

Info sheets from Downs Park and pictures compiled using the Pic Collage app and our family photos.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

STEMinism: The Documentary

Earlier this spring, I had the opportunity to view a dynamic documentary created by 2 high school seniors: Annie Bennett & Caroline Krall. Their film: STEMinism. It was presented along with 2 other amazing student-created fellowship films that night.

The infancy of Annie & Caroline's film came as a by-product of the Severn School Fellows Program and their senior Fellows project. This is a program that has inspired a decade's worth of students to do a deeper dive about a topic individuals are passionate about. Much like Google's 20% Time or the educational trend of Genius Hour, the purpose is to "expand intellectual curiosity."

STEMinism is a short documentary "about the causes, realities, and effects of the modern divide between men and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics." Watching the 36 minute movie, you see the issues women face--not only in the STEM field, but also in the workforce in general.

The women interviewed range from a High School Chemistry Teacher/Department Chair, Founder/Owner of a Tech Company, National Cancer Institute Program Director and former Epidemiology & Biostatistics Professor, Aerospace Engineer, Genetic Toxicology/Cytogenetics expert & current Chief of Intramural Diversity Workforce Branch at National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health Community & Scientific Programs expert, Program Executive & Space Technologist/Engineer at NASA, retired Astronomer from the United States Naval Academy, and NASA Climate Scientist. It's a pretty impressive and powerful panel of experts!

Watching their video, you are struck by the inequity between genders within the STEM field. You are hit with how stereotypes affect school subjects & stress levels, especially for girls during their education--both historically and even today. You are able to picture "the girl aisle" and "the boy aisle" in your local toystore and the need for gender-neutral toys. You are reminded how the wage gap is still at play. You are also a bit blown away that this was created by two talented women during their senior year of high school!

To learn more:
  • Click the link see a photo gallery of inspirational women in STEM from Annie & Caroline's website. 
  • Visit Caroline & Annie's STEMinism website where they documented their purpose, process, planning, and end goals. 
"What If..." image from, photos image created with using Annie Bennett & Caroline Krall's photos from their "About Us" page from their website:; Video from (and also their website)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Common Sense Media's Designing Our Futures Conference

The Common Sense Media conversation on technology continued on May 29th in Silicon Valley--at the Computer History Museum, as a matter of fact. The Designing Our Futures Conference served as the companion piece to their April 4th Digital Well Being Conference in Washington, DC.

Here is their Opening Video:


The agenda for the day was as follows:

The idea of building a "healthier technology ecosystem" is one that has captured my interest for some time now. It clearly reaches beyond our homes, schools, and communities. By having the first conference in our nations' capital (where laws are created) and this companion piece held in Silicon Valley (where the technology is created), the message has been sent to both industry and leaders that it's time to take a look at the changing family culture in order "to identify solutions that could move us closer to a digital world that works better for all of us."

For Common Sense Media's entire playlist of 10 videos based on their agenda above, live-streamed from the day, click here.

Video from; Screenshot & Agenda copied and pasted into a word document and screenshot to include here from

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Repurpose. Repreve

Recently got together with my brother--no easy feat given we live about 7 states away. But he and his son were on a guys trip filled with baseball & battlefield (and a couple other boy stops along they way), and made their way to Gettysburg for a day trip (which isn't far from us). As he is want to do, he often passes forward eco-finds for me, because he knows I have this here li'l eco blog.

His latest find one came by way of his wardrobe, as he handed over the following 2 tags (front and back):

This, of course, let me to a little bit of research and digging, because I wanted to find out more about this very cool brand.

Surprisingly enough, you can't find much on Joseph Abboud's website about the "Joe: Just One Earth" Brand. (I love the symbolic nature of both the name, the acronym, and the logo.) This surprises me as I think he's want to put something like that on his website if he's going to have it on his tags. But I digress.

You do get more on the Men's Warehouse write ups with his clothing made by the Repreve fabric:
"This stylish sport shirt has a subtle check pattern. It's woven with Repreve®, a recycled polyester made from plastic bottles. Repreve® is one of the most certified, earth-friendly fibers available. High-quality, recycled polyester yarns are made from 100% recycled materials, including post-consumer plastic bottles, pre-consumer industrial waste or a hybrid blend of both. Help conserve energy and natural resources with recycling and the use of recycled products."
So, my brother's short sleeve button up shirt was made with approximately 5 up cycled plastic bottles. That's pretty cool.

Where it starts getting even more interesting is on the Repreve website. Their running tally board had swiftly moving counter with 16.6+ billion bottles recycled when I last looked. They have a pretty extensive sustainability commentary on their Discover page, including an excellent video that is not on their YouTube Channel (different from the one listed below).

Here's a little bit about how it works--and why it should incentivize all of us to make sure our recycled bottles are indeed RECYCLED!!

I was going to list the brands that use Repreve, but their alphabetical list is way too long. There's about 71 brands that use them, many you'll recognize!! Check it out yourself. We should all shop accordingly!  They also pride themselves in their Performance Technology. You can also shop directly on their website.

From their website alone, you can tell their commitment to sustainability, driven by innovation, to help make a "reprieve on the planet." Imagine the world we'd have if more companies followed suit! It gives you some inspirational hope for people out there, committing to solving problems!

Tag montage from my tag pics & created at; Logo from; video from

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Caring For Mother Nature--One Beach At A Time

As a teacher, I have all of these summer projects on my to-do list--many of them having to do with
home improvements. Anything from decluttering to downright overhaul. Most days, reading a good book, writing a blog post, hanging in the backyard pool, or binge watching the latest show get in the way. (Perhaps I need to work on my willpower and motivation!)

Certainly, here is an inspiration we all can take to heart. It will perhaps make you question "what are YOU doing?" Seventy-year-old Pat Smith, equal parts environmentalist and grandmother, took on a personal and planetary mission: to clean one beach a week for all of 2018. It's amazing what a difference one person can do!

This video gives both Pat Smith's story, showcasing her efforts, as well as helping to inspire


Her plan for 2019: spreading the word about the perils of plastic. Do we really need that plastic grocery bag or drinking straw? She's inspired some of her local eateries to move beyond the plastic straw.

Hats off to Pat Smith. What can you do today to follow in her footsteps at creating a cleaner community where you live?

Image from; video from

Saturday, July 13, 2019

5th Grade Digital Citizenship

In my role as Lower School Technology Specialist, I often think of myself akin to a grandparent. I go into each classroom, and I get to bring the goodies (the iPads or Chromebooks), impart some wisdom, offer some support (to both the teachers & students), and create a lot of engagement and fun along the way. I have a different relationship with students than their homeroom teachers... just like children have a different relationship with their grandparents than they do their mom or dad. It's an additional dedicated in-class"Tech Time," outside of our weekly 45 minute Technology Class [which I teach half the grades K-5, and my colleague, our Lower School IT guy, teaches the other].

With our Fifth Grade students, at some point during the last 4 years, we've done a focused 6-8 week digital citizenship unit. Largely, this is due to the fact that our 6th Grade program in the Middle School is a 1-1 iPad program. We want to help prepare our students given they will have a loaned device for their school work all year long. But, one does not simply have an iPad for schoolwork--texting and other parts of mobile lifestyle (aka social media) go with that as well. Likewise, by Middle School, many of our students also have phones, despite a growing trend of Wait Until Eighth [Grade]. Of course, many students in our population do seem to get mobile phones for their 5th grade promotion (if not before that age). Likewise, even without a phone, many of our 5th grade students also have access on family devices or iPods. Just as student acquisition has fallen earlier each year over my last 4 years as Tech Specialist, we found the need to do this unit earlier in the school year than in the Spring, where we have previously taught this unit.

One of our opening activities.
Below is the modified presentation I created for our Board of Trustees, detailing our Digital Citizenship 5th grade curriculum. Now, as a Common Sense Media Educator (and fervent learner & researcher digital mindfulness), sometimes it feels like all roads lead to digital citizenship. I certainly felt that during the Common Sense Media Digital Well Being Conference in DC this past April.

My plans for the upcoming fall is to continue on the presentation circuit (one I'm not always comfy with, but you grow in that discomfort, they always say). I plan to hold a Lower School parent forum on this subject. It certainly seems like this is a challenge to all of us parents these days--largely because technology is tricky for us to navigate too! I'll keep you posted how this plan materializes!

Grandparent image from; all others from my Digital Citizenship presentation:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Greta Thunburg

I saw this drawing on Facebook and I was haunted by it.
The artist: Rick Frausto and it is part of his Visual Activism series. He's got a number of drawings where he has included quotes that make you think. You can find and purchase many of his pieces from that series (as well as some of his other works) here

His philosophy: 
"My process is about change, growth, discovery, transformation, and continuously expanding my vision of what is possible. Through my work, I strive to contribute to a shift in consciousness that leans towards a more balanced, harmonious and awakened world."
This particular drawing of his, of Greta Thunberg, reminded me of another image: Time Magazine's May 27, 2019 cover of Greta.

This 16-year-old Swedish activist has become a quietly outspoken symbol, addressing the importance of climate change to the world. What started as her own personal Friday school strikes to share her message at the age of 15, which led to Fridays for Future, and ultimately brought about the mid-March Youth Climate March. It's estimated that 1.4 million people took park in that in well over 100 countries. She has spoken to the United Nations COP24 Climate Summit in December 2018, and she's a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She's somewhat reminiscent of 13-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki and her speech at the Rio Summit in 1992.

It's worth hearing from Greta in her own words, and crossing our fingers that she becomes the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner this October 11th!

Image from and
Videos from and

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Upcycled Dog Toys

We have a rowdy and rambunctious dog that lives with us. He's mouthy--both when it comes to noise (obnoxious barking) and chewing. At times he can be sweet--but that's usually when he's sleeping, or tired. We have a backyard pool that he loves (he is a Portuguese Water Dog) and is a major fan of chasing the tennis ball or some other toy. Those are about the 2 only ways we can wear him out.

I was at Target the other day and got him a little nylon floating Frisbee, thinking that this could make for extended fun, combining his love of fetch with his love of the pool.

That Frisbee seriously lasted less than 3 days. There may be a smidge of life left in it, but not much. Now I have another something that's going to wind up in a landfill.

Clearly, I ran across this resource from about 3 days late: do it yourself dogger toys. The material of choice: old T-shirts. It makes perfect sense. Who doesn't have an extra, old T-shirt (or 20) laying around? [It reminded me of the braided jump rope I made years ago out of "plarn" (aka: plastic yarn made out of plastic grocery bags).]

What I really liked about the 1Million Women article was their emphasis on how clothing waste "wears" on our environment (pun intended). Especially in the era where everyone is "Marie Kondo-ing" and clearing out all the clothing that is not "sparking joy" in their closets after decades of trying to stay with the fashion trends, fashion waste is a huge thing. Additionally, the water that's sucked into the creation of  cotton clothing makes huge demands on our water supply--especially when some areas are experiencing droughts while other areas struggle with clean drinking water. Makes you wonder if that water is being well-purposed. Upcycling also has a greater value than even donating those old clothes to charities. By repurposing your T-shirts or other clothing, not only have you given your pup a little bit of entertainment, you're saving yourself some money and keeping things from getting dumped.

To make your own dog toys, check out these two sites for directions--your fur-buddy will thank you for it:

All the pictures from my own trusty camera.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Footloose & Fancy Free--Sans Shoes

Ahh... freedom.
Not American nor patriotic freedom.
(Though so important for Independence Day!)
Not freedom of speech... or incarceration...
or religious freedom.

All of these are vital, American, human freedoms we all should have every single day. But, I'm talking about a different kind of freedom. I'm talking about kick-off-those-sneakers freedom. Free-from-the-bondage-of-high-heels kind of freedom. Lose your Cinderella slippers and get your toes in the sand or feel the softness of the grass underfoot.

(I think Zac Brown Band has a song that goes a little something like that.)

Those are all the summertime thoughts that swirled ahead when I ran across Mother Nature Network's article by Christian Cotroneo "Why Not Wearing Shoes Does a Body Good." He details Nature Journal's study about how calloused (or "well-seasoned") feet are better for you than your shoes, which truly have desensitized your feet while also changing the way we walk. Flashback here to having a gravel end to my driveway as a kid and how THAT feels... or the flash-forward from there as a parent walking over Legos hidden in the carpet. Ouch with a side of ouch! But, we lose a little bit of foot-to-brain communication with a life of shoes. Granted, we aren't needing that same level of environmental neural connection that we may have needed back in the cave days... but another way the evolution of man-made items have changed the man (and woman)!

Given it's summer time, it's certainly the season to try life barefooted sometimes. In fact, the concepts of grounding (or earthing) are becoming both an environmental, health/wellness, and personal energy trend. It's a way to induce calm and reduce stress. Not to mention, a good way to start working on both your rewilding and your nature deficit disorder!

Like I said, it's summer & the Fourth of July is upon us! What better time is there to celebrate freedoms! The timing couldn't be better! May your 4th be footloose & fancy free, no shoes needed. Use the freedom to build up that sensory experience and a callous or two along the way.

Freedom image from, screenshot from, quote image created on