Saturday, August 31, 2019

From Milkweed to Monarch

Backyards and gardens are a science experiment we create daily.

Well I don't, but my husband does--he's the one in the family with the green thumb! His latest addition that's taken off this year was nurturing and adding to the milkweed he planted last year. It didn't do much last year, but this year it really took off, and we got a chance to witness the transition from milkweed to monarchs.

We were struck by the many chunky caterpillars that nibbled, and grew, then each one aligned him or herself along our fencing to create its own unique, individual chrysalis. At one time we had at least 8 chrysalis lined up on our fence--one crawling all the way to the protective corner quite a ways down. We also hoped and assumed that some of the caterpillars crawled to our neighbor's side of the fence. These are all pictures from our backyard, creating a montage of the lifecycle. My favorite is seeing the caterpillar curl into chrysalis formation.

Upon sharing it on Facebook, former Eagle Cove colleague Lindsay Moore shared her video of one of her classroom caterpillars transforming into a chrysalis and gave me permission to share it here. With the help of iMovie, I created the full video shown here. Watching that caterpillar, it's amazing what can happen in 5 minutes.

What also was neat, was while in Illinois, visiting my mom, we found these two signs during our local zoo visit.

For more butterfly inspiration, read Orion Magazine's Biking with Butterflies by Sara Dykman.

Video from; photo collage from my backyard, sign photos taken at Scovill Zoo.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Welcome Back to School, Teachers

We head back to school this week. It will be the start of my 27th year of teaching.

Given I have a 20th anniversary around the corner, AND a rather big decade birthday. I'm not sure how I'm able to speak in such large numbers! Sometimes it feels like I've been teaching forever, and sometimes it feels as if it should only be my 3rd or 4th year of teaching. Time, can indeed, be mind-blowing!

It seems as if the  I've been seeing those Facebook back-to-school pictures of my friends' kids during the whole month of August. Some parts of the country go early, some go late. It makes our near-Labor Day back-to-school season seemingly late and fortunate. (I know my kids are grateful for the fact that its this week versus a few weeks before!) But I also know folks who don't go back until the last Labor Day hurrah.

Between my own back-to-school meetings, I've been listening to copious amounts of Vicki Davis' "10 Minute Teacher Podcast."My episodes had been stockpiling! I love this podcast as it's daily but only bite-sized bits of inspiration and new ideas. It's a quick listen, and there's always a great take away. It's been good at getting me mentally prepped fro the school year ahead. It always is a little melancholy, saying goodbye to summer. This year, I was doubly in need of mental prep as I have had to take a 2 week hiatus from my backyard pool (aka my backyard Zen place) right before heading back to school due to a minor dermatology procedure. [I've got another week until the stitches come out and I can go back in. I am indeed giddy with anticipation!] My biggest hope is that the water stays warm and I can squeeze in as many days as possible here in the month ahead before fall fully settles in.

Ergo... I've been soaking up Vicki Davis' podcast instead of my pool lately. I was struck by one episode where Vicki talks about how summer is a healing time after our school year--akin to birthing a baby. We've spent the 9 months prior to summer doing essentially the same thing--birthing a classroom community of learners where we take on their troubles, their celebrations, and their academic, social, and emotional triumphs and struggles as well. Just like new mothers, we need our bodies (and minds) to rest and recuperate. We need to sleep while the "baby" is sleeping. For teachers, that's our summer. We don't expect new mothers to bounce right back after giving birth. Teaching is exhaustive in a different way from other professions due to the degree and times we open our hearts and give to others on a daily basis. It's different from other professions. Not better, not worse, just different in a way many don't understand, unless they know, love, or are a teacher!

My hope (here at the end of August) is that you teachers out there have had a restorative summer and are ready to bound into an exciting and adventurous school year ahead. That you worked through the decompression session right after getting out of school (it takes a bit to shift into summer mode), that you got all your appointments in, and that you tackled the items you never can quite get done during the school year (especially around the house). But again, to quote Vicki Davis, "we are human beings, not human doings," so I hope you had time to just chill out, have fun, laugh, sleep, get away, connect with those important to you, read books, spend time in nature, and just "be." All of these things are vital to carve out time for during the school year too--and not just on weekends.

(These things are also all the same things I need to remember mid-October when enmeshed in all the craziness of school and calendars and kid sporting events and more!)

Here are some of my favorite 10 Minute Teacher Podcast episodes--may the help to inspire you to make the most of your first month (and more) of school. Likewise, may they be a welcome listen on those hard days we all have! Cheers to your new year and all that you will birth and build--in yourself, your students, your schools, and your home.

Images from and and

Saturday, August 24, 2019

When Recycling, Art, & Environmental Education Meet

The White Tailed Deer. I was about 10 when the state of Illinois children voted for the white tailed deer as the state animal in 1980. I still remember that! (I don't, however, remember what else was in the running or on the ballot!)

I was reminded of that as I happened on this wire recycling-encased white tailed deer art installation and combined environmental education this past summer. This intriguing art-eco education piece is located at Outdoor Adventure, a mini golf-ropes courses-batting cages center in my hometown Decatur, Illinois. Clearly the art speaks for itself and definitely makes you think twice before tossing your trash about. We need more of these in all of our communities to raise awareness about how each one of us can definitely make a difference!

I loved too how the recycling-encaged deer was surrounded by these raingardens, a natural landscaping element designed to tackle stormwater runoff.

To take a peek Decatur's unusual space-saving Outlook Adventure's rope's course, check out this video:

Photos from my camera. Video from

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Community In Action: Restoring a Creek

It's always good seeing community in action, coming together for a common good.

Here's a local neighborhood and their environmental stewardship at Cattail Creek and the restoration work they did. The 7 minute video (produced by Underwood & Associates) highlights some environmental education along with showing some pretty amazing before and after shots.

The Underwood & Associates' YouTube page has some other phenomenal videos of other environmental restoration projects they have been involved in. It's very heartwarming to see people and their positive eco-pursuits in action!

Video from; Art created using

Saturday, August 17, 2019


In our tech-centric, social media world, #FOMO is a thing we've all come to understand. For those who don't know what FOMO is, it's "Fear of Missing Out." We all seen (and probably fallen victim to) the sanitized & sometimes scripted social media posts of fun, adventure, excitement, or the perfect moment. It makes you want to be there, and it puts you in a position of comparison, often times feeling like you aren't measuring up. A definite downside of social media.

But what if... WHAT IF... there's a flip side to the FOMO coin? A possible cure for the anxiety-producing FOMO What about #JOMO? A not-so-common hashtag, and perhaps an unfamiliar term. What is JOMO?
The Joy of Missing Out!
It's the FOMO foil--the counter side of the coin. It's a perspective shift, centered in a mindful approach of being right exactly where you are. It puts you in YOUR moment. Here's the JOMO manifesto, as created by Christina Crook and you can learn more on her JOMO website:

It's a purposeful way of unplugging, of being more in the moment and less connected to our phones first. It's a way of connecting more with real people, with nature and being more mindful -- both generally & digitally mindful! It's a way to truly be alive and with the ones you love. It's also an escape of FOMO, because you aren't even engaging in that comparison-style way of thinking.

Sounds to me like a more purposeful and pleasant way to be. It also sounds like gratitude is a good way to get you there. May we all have more JOMO in our lives, especially here in our last sweet days of summer!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

E-STEM = Eco Education + STEM

In the world of innovation, it only makes sense that STEM and environmentalism pair together in the classroom. Sometimes called E-STEM, this pairing of eco-education and the science, technology, engineering, and math fields fits just as nicely as STEAM (A = Art) or STEEM (The additional E is Entrepreneurship). Given the breadth of environmentalism, it's more than just the "science." It's going to be the innovation that "stems" from the all the STEM subjects combined that will solve our world's problems!

Check out these E-STEM resources for a wealth of learning ideas to marry this dynamic duo:
Image created at

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Flittering Fireflies

I'm sitting outside on my patio (a frequent writing spot), pondering nature, summertime, and the start of dusk. Given the time of evening, memories flood back of being a barefoot kid in Illinois, running through the soft grass of the back yard, with a lidded glass jar in hand. That lid had a good 8-10 holes punched in it with an ice pick. (I don't even have an ice pick as an adult.) My jar had a bed of that grass at a bottom, sometimes an additional stick, or a rock, or a cap full of water at the bottom to serve as a little watering trough. Things to make it home-y.

The intended apartment dwellers for this little glass suite?  Fireflies.

Quintessential childhood at its best! My kids right now are too old to take too much pleasure in this childhood classic, but they've had their fair share of firefly hunting in the past. Probably not as much over the years as I had back in the day, being a product of the '70s. Sadly these days, probably more kids trade in nature's flittering firefly lights for flashing lights on handheld devices. But the magic is still there in those little night-lighting lightning bugs.

At least for a little bit. Firefly numbers are indeed flittering and are on the decline. Between light pollution (which gets in the way of natural darkness/best canvas to see these little guys AND gets in the way of how they communicate with each other). Additionally, the decline in the health of their environments & habitats hasn't helped. Water pollutants affect the water health where the lighting bug lifecycle starts. Plus, growing cities interfere with the availability of natural space. From the Fireflyers International Network website:
"Fireflies are bio-indicators of the health of the environment and are declining across the world as a result of degradation and loss of suitable habitat, pollution of river and water systems, increased use of pesticides in agro-ecosystems, non-regulated commercial harvesting and increased ecological light pollution in areas of human habitation. The decline of fireflies is a cause for concern and reflects the global trend of increasing biodiversity loss."
Check out the following for some more firefly facts:
Unfortunately my timing on lightning bugs is late this year, given we missed the 2nd annual World Firefly Day this year: July 6-7 (overnight, for obvious illuminating reasons!).

Who knew! But that just means there's time to mark the calendar and plan ahead for next year!!

In the meantime, maybe it's time to go catch (or count) a few fireflies!!

Image from and; screenshot from

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Forest Bathing

One day this summer, I team-taught a class to a half-dozen of my colleagues entitled "A Walk On the Wild Side." The purpose? To encourage teachers to look for classroom cures for nature deficit disorder by creating ways to use the outdoors as a curricular tie in.

We started at the Upper School campus with some activities along the nature trail as well as sharing some different ways to engage kids outdoors, then biked the trail the 3 miles to Lower School--picnic lunching and geocaching along the way, and ended with an outdoor scavenger hunt and work times at the Lower School.

We started by sharing Florence Williams' book Nature Fix and this video trailer for the book:

One of the concepts we briefly discussed was also in the Nature Fix book: Forest Bathing. No, it's not a soak in the tub, but rather a different kind of immersion. By placing yourself purposefully in the middle of the woods, therapeutic effects abound. And it's science backed, by Japanese doctor, researcher, & forest medicine specialist Qing Li. He's also written the book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Forest bathing (or Shinrin-Yoku) is quite popular in Japan, where Dr. Li lives. It's not a new concept either, having been around since the early 1980s.

To learn even more about forest bathing, I'd suggest checking out these resources--but most of all, I'd encourage a good old fashioned walk in the woods!

Video from; "Walk on the Wild Side" art created at, "May the Forest Be With You" from, & other pics from my phone from the outdoor education workshop I taught.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Minimalism Meets Environmentalism

Minimalism, like mindfulness, are on the move and trending a lot over the last several years. I just recently watched the Netflix show "Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things." It was striking. Here's the trailer:

Both minimalism and mindfulness make so much sense in our over-busy, over-filled, over-tech, over-stuff world! It's not a surprise to see them trending. Don't we all want to declutter--both our brains and our homes? For our homes, you certainly can see the general environmental benefits.

Shortly after watching this documentary, I ran across this video from The Whole Happy Life which pairs minimalism and the environments. It gives you some good ideas of minimalistic ways to save some money, cut down on your spending, and help the environment along the way! Makes sense for so many reasons!

What are you going to minimalism on this month?

videos from and