Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ringing In, Bringing In 2021


For many, this year has become synonymous with a 4-letter word. 

This week between Christmas and New Years is always the week where we hash over all of the wins and losses, the highs and lows of the year.

We started the year with Australian wildfires of enormous environmental impact. Also in January, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped down from the royal family and Kobe Bryant died in a tragic car accident. For many of us, that seems like it was eons ago.

Covid has been a defining factor of the year, as the United States saw its growth in February, its ultimate cause for national shutdown in March, and its horrific impact over the summer and growth again this fall. Meanwhile, in the middle of a very contention election season (which led to a controversial new presidency), we also had major racial injustice and strife following the death of George Floyd. On top of all of that, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away mid-September causing a quick replacement of that seat right before the election with Amy Coney Barrett. All the while, more wildfires raged in western United States as did more cases of Covid, which we as a country just could not kick.

When you look at all of this and think of it in terms of a movie plot, it'd all be way too much for one film. It wouldn't be believable. It wouldn't feel realistic. And yet, it has all been our reality.

For many, they were ready to wash their hands of 2020 months ago. 

The start of a new year always holds so much hope and promise. Many of us are a little gun-shy this year, saying silent prayers of "Please dear Lord, don't let it get worse. There are no more shoes to drop! We can't take any more."

In thinking over the passage of the year, I scrolled back to my New Year's 2019 GTG post. I hoped for a year of innovation and excitement. Innovation certainly was necessary as we all moved in and out of remote or hybrid learning; as we quarantined during pandemic and had to creatively stay in touch with loved ones; and as scientists developed Covid vaccines and medical personnel started to administer them.. I've said before, innovation will be the answer to all of our environmental issues. Health and education too, so we've seen. And far more excitement than we ever wanted. Yes, be careful what you ask for.

So 2021, we greet you. You are here. May you be kind to as and help us turn that corner on Covid. We are all collectively crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best. 

Images created by me on

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Simon Beck: Snow Drawings

'Tis the season for wintery wonderlands here in the week between Christmas & New Years, and snowy beauty was calling my name--perhaps because we don't have a lot of snow to show for it right here and now. Maybe soon. Fingers crossed for January.

Simon Beck's Snow Drawings can give you a flavor and feel for snow. He takes a total hands-on approach. Or rather, a feet-on approach. No machinery to make it happen--only rope, an anchor, snow shoes, a ski stick, some markers to organize the space, and probably a good winter coat. Pretty impressive when these snow drawings are the size of soccer fields when finished.. Also, it's no surprise that he's a former engineer with a background in cartography (mapmaking). I think you'd have to be in order to think of something on that grand of a scale and to have the vision of how to do it with such a precision-level outcome. 


I'd imagine that it'd be such a meditative moment, going out in the snowy, quiet world. The wintery wonderland actually is as quiet as it seems because the snow, which is porous due to the open spaces in the individual 6-sided, crystalized snowflakes. It's this porous-ness which absorbs the sound & surrounding sound waves. The world in this setting is literally blanketed in snowy silence. And there is Simon Beck, systematically moving about, mindfully creating his snow art. Some of his greater works of art can take up to 12 hours of outdoor trekking. 

Perhaps this could serve as inspiration for all of us to up our snowman or snow angel game! I'd imagine the step count would be pretty phenomenal on my Fitbit to create something like this! What a creative way to stay in shape in the winter!

To learn more about Simon Beck and see more of his his dynamic designs and snowy installations, check out the following:

Friday, December 25, 2020

Wishing You A Joyous Season

My typical Christmas greeting is always a simple wish of wellness to all to have a joyous season. 

After a hard year, may your holidays be filled with hope, health, and happiness.

As always, sending you my best during this time of year!

Created on

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

December 23rd: Christmas Eve Eve

When I was little, growing up in the Midwest, our Christmas holiday season had a definite routine and rhythm, and it became a 3-day Christmas Festivus every year:

December 23: Christmas Eve Eve
That night, after dressing up in our finest Christmas fashion-wear and having a wonderful home- dressy dinner at the decked out dining room table, we opened gifts my original family of 4 with my mom, dad, and brother. We went around the circle one at a time opening gifts, with it being a full magical, memorable event of savoring everyone's presents to each other. We'd chuckle over the silly names we'd put on the package tags. Sometimes the names would hold clues about what was inside, and sometimes they were silly like "Mickey Mouse,""Snoopy," or "Holly Hobby." Sometimes the gifts would involve antics like boxes inside of boxes, or cans of corn or bricks that were wrapped to add additional weight and humor and disguise. (Some of those traditions have migrated into my own family now that I'm an adult.) With the gifts being from our nuclear family, often these were the best gifts of our entire Christmas!!

December 24 Christmas Eve: 
That morning of the 24th would be filled with loads of excitement because that was the morning Santa visited. It made perfect sense to our young minds that Santa needed to come to our house a day early because he had such a heavy job load the next evening--we were helping him out by being available the morning of Christmas Eve. That afternoon we'd usually travel the 45 minutes to my maternal grandparents so that we could have Christmas with them. Dinner was always chili because it was quick and easy and ultimately tradition. My grandpa, a Methodist minister, had a pretty busy evening that night or the next morning with Christmas services (up until he retired). We'd go to church, then often stay the night at my grandparents, opening gifts at night with the lights all a-glow, and laughter would usually ensue with all with my uncles, aunts, and 2 cousins.

December 25: Christmas Day
Christmas morning we'd ready ourselves to head the opposite direction about an hour and a half away to see my Dad's family (although every few years it'd be hosted at our house). Dad's family was bigger than Mom's, and with my grandparents being Lithuanian, we had a lot of ethnic and cultural flair in the air.  Dad's siblings (my aunts and uncles) would often talk to my grandparents in Lithuanian. We had more cousins on that side, so there was always a lot of rabble rousing at "the kids' table," the family togetherness, and all that comes with being part of a bigger family. Especially the annual family group photo by my one uncle--it was his self-appointed job. It was alway heavy with orchestration and getting us all in order, a lot of pomp and circumstance for photos I'm not sure any of us ever saw!

As an adult, the holiday season always has that wistful element of days and Christmas gone by and memories filtering around. Its' in the noticing the changes over time as grandparents and others passed away. Kids get older and eventually start our own families and family traditions. The timetables of fitting in everyone and everything had to become more flexible, especially since my family is still in the Midwest, but my husband's family and our now-nuclear family are both out East. So the timing of Christmas in my house has always been a little bit different every year now. In part, some of this contributes to Christmas as an adult not having the same magic as it once did due to things having an added layer of complication. 

And then there's this year. 2020.

The melodic tune of "Have Yourself a Covid Little Christmas" is ringing through my ears this year. PNC Banking, who for 37 years has been doing the true price of "The 12 Days of Christmas" is strikingly cheaper this year as the 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 ladies dancing, 9 lords a-leaping are all unavailable due to Covid cancelations of large group gatherings. As numbers climb, the recommended travel and extended family restrictions of Thanksgiving continue even moreso. Our plans have modified and we won't be doing our typical Christmas break trek to my Midwestern Mama, who I have now not seen in person since last Christmas--the two times we were planning to this past year, numbers started climbing and it once again felt unsafe. Of course, in retrospect, both times, the numbers were no where near this high. I'll be honest, it's wearing on me. But prudence and a sense of caution are what's navigating all this year. We have our family unit and our lights on our Christmas tree, and gifts have been mailed and will be opened while FaceTiming. Locally with the inlaws it's beginning to look like the only safe and comfortable option for all is a Christmas Day outdoor bonfire (with prayers for warmish winter days in our future).

I know this holiday season is going to be very different for a lot of people. It's of course bittersweet as many of us aren't going to be able to be with our loved ones in the same way we've traditionally been. But if you don't have health, you have nothing. My hope for the world is that we all have faith & respect in each other to take care of each other through these hard days of the pandemic. Likewise, I hope the vaccine distribution and administration will be swift and successful and bring us brighter, healthier days for everyone of us. These are the items on my Grown Up Christmas List.... right next to world peace, an end to climate change, a world with no pollution and hatred, and no one cold, hungry or homeless. 

May you have a wonderful December 23rd & Christmas Eve Eve, steeped in memories and anticipation and seasonal glow, filled with love, laughter, good health, and family togetherness (even if it's via technology). 

Pictures created on

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Winter Solstice 2020

A few years ago a friend of mine shared Susan Cooper's poem "The Shortest Day" on Winter Solstice. Since I shared it on my Facebook page, it comes up every year, and it strikes me annually of its beauty. Last year, during Winter Solstice, we were in the mountains of Western Maryland and spent the day in winter wonderland, making it even more strikingly beautiful. In fact, this photo is the sunrise following up 2019's shortest day.

"The Shortest Day" 
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

For more about Susan Cooper, this interview with WTVF Virginia Public Radio from December 21, 2019 is very good. It details the poem she wrote in the 1970s, the inspiration of light versus dark, and the picture book it ultimately became in the fall of 2019.

Have a lovely Winter Solstice this December 21st.

Photo from my camera, book image from from 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Textile Recycling

Socks with holes?
Shirts with worn elbow spots or deepened stains?
Clothing remnants that won't serve as hand-me-downs?
What do you do with all of these? 

Luckily, our county has returned to Textile Recycling.

Old clothes don't need to live in the landfill, and they certainly can't be recycled in traditional recycling measures. But, they can be taken in if sorted by reusable & non-resusable items. Clothing that can be reworn is sent to developing countries for sale in open-air markets and bazaars as affordable clothing. This in turn opens up jobs. The non-reusable items can be used in a multitude of ways too. From the Mid-Atlantic Clothing Recycling LLC: "About 50% of the clothing collected is recycled as second-hand clothing. 20% is made into cleaning and polishing cloths for industrial use. 26% is recycled for use as fiber for insulation products, mattresses, fiberboard, upholstery, and even re-woven into new textiles."

So as you are readying up for the holidays ahead and bringing in new items by way of gifts this holiday season, think about doing some in-house clothing & textile recycling if your municipality allows for it! 

To learn more about our Clothing & Textile Recycling, check out this link.
Earth911 is another place to go to find out more about this type of recycling and use their recycling locator to find what specific services are available near you.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Cork Recycling

My husband and I are wine drinkers. 

I discovered today, we may also possibly be wine cork hoarders. We had a drawer-full of them. I went to go move them to our typical place we stockpile them, and it, too, was full and we needed to find another place to stash our surplus. Yes, we may be cork-hoarders.

My son, who was there for the cork-relocation-project, mentioned that there has got to be something we could do with them. Certainly, they are all there because I cannot bear to throw them away and add to the landfill. Yes, there are Pinterest pages dedicated to arts and crafts projects, but I don't see that happening over here. But, as a natural product, there has got to be some way to recycle corks. 

So, I started digging.

And what do you know. There is! More than one, in fact.

ReCork is North America's largest cork recycling program. They have a number of drop off and retail locations where you can recycle your corks in order to close the loop of waste. The corks they get back from you will get ground up to make new products, many of which you can buy from their website. This includes the shoe company SOLE and their cork soles. (Most of their drop off sites are closed currently due to Covid, there is a location finder on their website. However, you can also ship individually--however, they no longer provide shipping labels so you need to fund it yourself. In my mind, it's worth a few dollars when you consider the good it can do! To learn more, visit ReCork's website or read this article about them on SOLE's website.

Cork Forest Conservation Alliance also is involved in cork recycling through their Cork ReHarvest program. They too have cork collection boxes in multiple stores. (You can find their list here.) Part of their mission statement is to protect the cork forests in the Mediterranean area and promote the biodiversity of the area. They feel that it is through education and the promotion of sustainability that they can help make a difference.

If you are still looking for some way to repurpose them at home outside the arts and crafts arena, you could also do this, from Napa Recycling

Whatever you opt to do, I hope your corks just don't land in the landfill! 

Cheers! I'll drink to that!

Image from, ReCork screenshot taken on 11/15/2020 from their website showcasing the number of recycled corks to date, ReCork logo from, Cork ReHarvest from, Napa Recycling screenshot

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Patrick Dougherty Environmental Sculptures

When it comes to sculptures, we've all seen them created out of clay, stone, metal, plaster, glass, wood, even wax.

It's more rare to encounter one made out of sticks. But that is exactly the medium of choice of Patrick Dougherty, stick sculptor. His work will be showcased at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, Maryland May 3-21, 2021

A carpenter who loves nature, Patrick created his first piece, the Maple Body Wrap, in 1982. Since then, he has created over 300 large scale works which required truckloads of saplings on at least 3 continents.

From his website, between now and then (and for the remainder of 2021), here are the planned installations ahead. Sounds like they would be worth checking out if they are in your neighborhood: 
  • 01/2021 Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA
  • 02/2021 BRIT, Fort Worth, TX
  • 03/2021 Biltmore, Asheville, NC
  • 04/2021 Patterson School, Lenore, NC
  • 05/2021 Maryland Hall, Annapolis, MD
  • 06/2021 Sandhills Community College, Pinehurst, NC
  • 07/2021 The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY
  • 09/2021 Sidewalk Detroit, Detroit, MI
  • 10/2021 Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA
  • 11/2021 Naples Botanical Garden, Naples, FL
To learn more about Patrick Dougherty and see some of his stick sculptures, check out his website or watch the videos below. May his inspiration from nature help inspire creativity within you. Nature and art abound!! 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Nature Advent Calendar

I ran across a post on 1000 Hours Outside's Facebook page for a free outdoor Advent Calendar that I not only loved but it also got my creative juices stirring. Author Ginny Yurich created a post and beautiful cards for a month of outdoor adventures to take advantage of this December. I love her idea of cutting them up, placing them in envelopes, and doing one a day.

I started thinking about how this could become a creative digital, clickable advent calendar as well. It reminded me of the clickable Bitmoji boards that are all the rage this remote learning season, and I got the urge to put my edtech skills to work with Google Slides. 

I envisioned the traditional Advent calendars with windows that opened, but how with a nature Advent Calendar, you would open your doors to go outside--almost like reverse windows. Here's where my creativity led me: to the clickable calendar below. By clicking the windows, you will get a link to another slide within the presentation which will detail the advent event for your day. Whether you start the 12 days before Christmas or as a lead in to Winter Solstice (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), may you take time this season to embrace the beauty that surrounds, getting. yourself out there, unplugged, when you can. Additionally, may it bring you seasonal joy!

Clickable Nature Advent Calendar: (photos via Google Slides "from the web" photos)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Hacking Your YouTube Links

Teachers (whether full in school, in hybrid settings, or full-on remote) have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves to build interest and engagement. Interactives, games, music, breakout rooms, and asynchronous activities are many of the ways to do that. Another way is to share engaging videos. But, the videos with their advertisements and comments definitely get in the way. There's Video.Link (formerly SafeYoutube) and SafeShareTV, both of which people may have heard of, which help solve the problem

But this may just be the easiest way yet! I'm totally on board!

Screenshot of Seesaw's Twitter account with shoutout to both them (@Seesaw) and Heidi Neltner @heidinelt. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Go Find Some Place New

Last weekend, my son had an outdoor adventure with a buddy that took me to a regional area I don’t frequently go. It got me off my regular path, and given it was possibly one of the last nice days of before the weather shifts, I decided to find my way to a nearby nature park. 

My sights & senses included a multitude of scampering squirrels, crunchy leaves beneath my feet, the earth smell of wetlands, the color contrast of red berries on green vines against the mostly-barren trees at this point in the season. My trail led me beside a tidal marsh, a view of Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and barefoot in the sandy beach shore (where a few youngsters were building a sandcastle). Toe dipping in, the water of the Chesapeake Bay was certainly chilly!

While walking, I was also reflecting, ruminating, and pondering the last several months and the bulk of this past year. It reminded me how much I get from this nature connection, and how surprisingly infrequently I make time for these novel experiences... even in a year of novel coronavirus when calendars have opened to time I could spend this way, if I so choose. The hunkering down of quarantine doesn’t actually have to mean "hunker down." I think sometimes we forget that. We don’t just need to stay safe indoors. And this is coming from someone who has said it before: nature is the foil to all our technology. It’s our mental, spiritual, and emotional chiropractor. We just need to remember to go.

One observation from this year is that it’s the novelty of things is what seems to be missing thanks to Covid, where every day is Groundhog’s Day. There’s nothing new and different outside of possibly carryout and the different pair of sweatpants. But that’s what my meandering about showed me: that it's wrong. There is different everywhere. We just need to make the time to find it. Sometimes that seems to take energy and creativity, and when stretched to our bandwidth, those are hard to access. But what trekking the trail showed me, it was really just a matter of turning the car down a different road. Maybe surprise adventures like a day in a different park are the exact thing necessary for opening our creative and expanding our bandwidth.

Don’t be your own worst indoor enemy. Go find some new place to go—preferably outdoors. May just be the best thing to do this Thanksgiving weekend!

Photos from my camera at Terrapin Beach Park.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

With another holiday here in a pandemic year, things might be a tad different from your typical Turkey Day Traditions. 

Regardless of how Thanksgiving finds you this year, take time to connect with your loved ones, friends, and family as creatively as you can. Take time to be grateful for all that's in your life, even if it seems hard to find during difficult times. 

Here's some turkey tidbits and Thanksgiving fun facts to enjoy this holiday season. (And, if you need a smile, feel free to flashback to my GTG Thanksgiving tribute & annual tradition that I posted last year.)

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Videos from and, Image from is an excellent article as well in helping you revisit the importance of perspective!)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

School Decisions in the Time of Covid

This week—midweek—for a multitude of reasons including a few Covid cases, our Head of School & the Board of Trustees decided that yesterday (the Friday before Thanksgiving) we would “put a pause” on our hybrid school schedule. We have been in hybrid since the beginning of the school year, which has looked like this:

- Preschool to Grade 1 have been fully in session with the exception of a handful of families that opted to go remote. 

- Grade 2-5 have been in either as  Monday-Wednesday cohorts or Tuesday-Thursday cohorts, with every-other-Fridays (again, with some opting to go full remote)

- Grade 6-12 have been strict every-other-day cohorts of A & B in addition to the few full-remote-ers.

My colleagues and I (along with much of America) have been watching the Covid curve and the counts. Many of us educators who have been "going in" daily gave a little “hallelujah” when the decision was made--mainly because we are slightly "Covid-creeped out." Additionally, our few positive Covid cases combined with the contract tracing has really hit our teacher coverage hard, as some teachers were forced into quarantine along with students. Looking at the curve/case count now versus where we were in March  when everything shut down, our country has frighteningly surpassed where we were in lockdown by at least three-fold!

I will admit in my house, we are a science-following family & we “trend cautious” when it comes to Covid, mask wearing, distancing, & the like. Thanksgiving is less than a week away. (Mind-boggling!) As a family, we have already canceled our traditional, larger FamFest gathering due to the numbers & the late-breaking regional restrictions which are calling for indoor gatherings of less than 10. 

As I was leaving school both Thursday (with one of our Lower School hybrid cohorts) and Friday (with the other), knowing that Friday would be our last in-house day for awhile, I was struck in many ways. I glanced at my wall calendar, reminded of how it felt to walk in this August and see my wall calendar still welcoming March. As students were leaving both days this week, I wondered when they truly would be returning. As faculty and staff, we have been scurrying the last two days to prep the kids with all of those last minute tech skills and send the kids home with copious learning packets, ready for the unknown.

As teachers, we will be using our two pre-Thanksgiving days as planning for full-time remote, and (as of now) we are planning to be remote for the week following Turkey Day. Sadly, with Covid and the jadedness that comes with age, I have become a cynic. I do not trust people to do the right thing at Thanksgiving.... just as my social media thread has shown me “they” didn’t do the right thing at Halloween. I predict we will be in remote learning longer than just that week. I feel the Covid numbers in general will grow--in the same way we saw our local cases crop up following Halloween, largely due to rumored out-of-school events, often unmasked. Luckily, I have remained “quarantine-free”—though some of my colleagues who had to enter their second bout of quarantine based solely on the behavior of others to whom they were exposed. For some, the late timing of their "quarantine sentence" has now affected their own personal, family Thanksgiving.

This fall has already been so hard, exhausting, and often very much up in the air for teachers. For those of us physically in school, we were juggling our students zooming in from home with those masked in class around us--all while feeling like we were in the middle of a hot zone. My heart goes out to our health care professionals who are facing a similar situation as essential workers, though made more difficult to matters being ones of  life and death. As a very divided country where mask wearing has become political, it’s frustrating to those of us who are following every rule carefully to flatten the curve. But not everyone is. I found it is especially striking recently while discussing the Bill of Rights with our fourth graders. We looked at those first 10 Amendments through the relevant lens of recent news... including mask wearing in the time of Covid. 

I'm reminded of our transition to the remote learning of the spring, when it was so hard then. And yet, now we see, hybrid teaching is even harder, and we have chuckled upon that realization--who would have  thought in March we would ever have said anything could be harder! Now, 8 months later, at the end of our Fall trimester, we realize how lucky (and surprised) we have been to have made it to this point of the school year--making it all the way to Thanksgiving! We managed to stay in session with our hybrid format and our protocols far longer than many of us ever thought we could. Many schools were not able to open in person to any degree this fall. THAT certainly garners some gratitude. 

I pray for grace for us all for the winter ahead with Covid and its germs looming here in the middle of cold and flu season. May the verminous germs stay at bay. And, may we collectively make decisions that take us all into account, helping us all take care of each other until the vaccine goes into effect!

Stay safe out there!

Crossroads meme created at, mask cartoon, Covid curve, mask from

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Planning For a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Food waste in America accounts for approximately 30-40% of our food supply. With Thanksgiving ahead and while you are planning your feast for 1 to 21, here are some great thoughts for shooting for a zero waste Thanksgiving this year.

For more ideas on this, check out my GTG post from 2 years ago.

An additional note on Thanksgiving:
In many communities, Covid cases are at record levels (as they are for us in America as a nation). In my local area, our county council has limited indoor events to 10 or under (outdoor events to 25) due to Covid counts. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, please go forward as safe as possible. Masks, distancing, and maybe even rethinking your typical traditions to follow suit to your own local restrictions. Let's go forward thinking about our over-saturated hospitals overloaded with too many Covid cases and weighing down our health care workers. Let's do it thinking about our loved ones, who hopefully we can see at Christmas rather than risking them. Part of Thanksgiving is being grateful for all we have--let's be thankful for our freedoms while also taking caring of each other. That's what our Veterans, who we just celebrated last week, would do.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Pixton EDU

Bitmoji classrooms have been all the rage since the start of remote learning this spring. 

From there, teachers started looking into avatar-izing their students to create more digital fun for everyone. But, Bitmoji, with it's tie in to SnapChat, creates some issues with teachers of the under-13-year-old set. That's where Pixton comes in for the rescue. Not only is it a great way to have students build their own avatars, but it also opens up the creation of a comic classroom or digital storytelling. 

Might be a fun way to have students create a digital citizenship comics, illustrate their writing, make visual signs of your classroom, or more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day 2020

Veterans Day is always a big deal at our school. My previous one as well.

This year with the Covid, we are in hybrid mode at my school, and numbers are restricted to have the typical Veterans Day Assembly. Therefore, our fifth graders who typically run that assembly, moved to creating a green screen video. All 36 of our students individually spoke their lines in our Maker Lab (with the exception of students who opted at the beginning of the year to be our full time remote learners). 

Included in our script: background about the history of the day, the military branches, how our school has ties to the military, and the Cheryl Dyson poem "Veterans Day," which I have included below. We placed historic headlines, Armistice Day &Veterans Day photos, and flags as the backdrops behind the students to fill the green of the green screen. The compiled film will be shared with our school community on Veteran's Day to honor and pay tribute to all veterans. Additionally, our 5th graders wrote letters to veterans who have touched or been connected to our community. 

As this year's Veterans Day passes and we can see our own personal sacrifices that we have paid this year of quarantine and pandemic, may it mean even more to us as we realize and remember the supreme sacrifices our military has endured as a way to honor and protect our country throughout time.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet

Sir David Attenborough has a voice like no other. It's richness and distinction have become the voice of animal activism and environmentalism. 

At 94 years old, he has dedicated the majority of his life as the voice of environmentalism. He's at it again with both a new documentary on Netflix: "A Life On Our Planet." Likewise, he has a new book out earlier this month by the same name with the subtitle: "My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future."

Here is the trailer for his Netflix documentary, where he shows the depth of importance humans need to put on our planet--now: 

I haven't watched it yet, but after watching the trailer and his September 28th, 2020 sixteen minute interview with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes," it's definitely on my list. 
“We can once again become a species in balance with nature and restore the rich, healthy and wonderful world that we inherited... We’ve come this far because we are the smartest creatures that ever lived. But to continue, we require more than intelligence. We require wisdom.” ~ Sir David Attenborough

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Snarky Tea For Me

About 3 weeks into the new school year, when pandemic-style hybrid back-to-school teaching this fall felt like running triage, a girlfriend of mine sent over the exact perfect gift for both my mood and that moment. 

It was the Sassy Sampler from Snarky Tea. (Language warning ahead!)

I'd recently run across their Facebook advertisement prior to this...perhaps the algorithm had discovered that "snarky" is indeed one of my favorite words. 

Aside from the well-timed and much-needed comic relief, it also spoke to my 3+ years of caffeine-infused tea-addiction as I had moved on from a lifetime of Diet Coke drinking. It was indeed a perfect back-to-school teacher gift, and precisely suited for 2020!

As I made my way through the sampler, putting an extra smirk behind my daily-masked-self, my day had a little extra "oomph" to it during tough times. Amazing how far a smirk and a smile can take you, especially with each sip of tea from my stainless steel straw.

The sad part of a sampler pack is that eventually you land on that last one, a dozen days later. So of course, it led me to their website with the desire to order more. Who knows, it might also make it to my Christmas gift-giving list down the line. 

As I was perusing their site, I came on some extra love when I learned that their lovely little tea sachets are also environmentally friendly. They are 100% biodegradable, made from SOILON, a corn starch and plastic free material that actually allows for excellent water flow through the tea leaves, which totally benefits your tastebuds. It has been startling to learn along my tea journey that this is not the case for many teabags (including high end brands) because a majority of tea companies "use polypropylene, a sealing plastic, to keep their tea bags from falling apart. This plastic is not recyclable or biodegradable."

Snark AND great taste AND comic relief AND environmentally friendly tea?!? Yes, this is nirvana! Not to mention, the company has a great "girl power" vibe behind the entire company. Can't argue with female empowerment! 

I happen to like their "Profani-tea" series shown above in their Sassy Sampler, but they also have wellness and cold brew teas, as well as a pumpkin spice tea just in time for fall and a pepperminty one for the December holidays ahead, all available at their shop. 

As their tagline succinctly puts it: "Health. Humor. Happiness." That's all you need! That and maybe a cup of tea!

Photo from my camera of my very own Sassy Sampler from Snarky Tea:

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween 2020

Viruses don't tend to consult the calendar when it comes to best timing of when to show up. They also don't take leave near soon enough--as 2020 has show us. Covid in particular doesn't seem to care that Halloween is this weekend. 

In light of all of that, here are some safe ways to enjoy Halloween for you and your kids, so there's still holiday fun for every one.

  • The CDC's Holiday Celebration Page (which also includes thoughts for Día de los Muertos [Day of the Dead], and Thanksgiving, including activity risk assessment for all)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Show Up. Vote.

I've been watching a lot of The West Wing lately. For whatever reason at the time, I never did watch it first go around (now 2 decades later). It certainly seems better than watching the news most days. I've always remembered the abrasive cacophony of political clamor in the weeks prior to election, but the last few presidential elections have seen noisier (and more divisive) than ever before. The one silver lining is that at least it seems to have raised everyone's interest in civic involvement.

Given that, this seemed like the best post I could post one week prior to Election Day. If you haven't taken part in early voting or mail-in voting (we did the latter, dropping our ballots off at the Board of Elections) or making a game plan to go in person, do so. Vote. Take advantage of making your voice heard. Take part in your civic duty. Make a plan. Vote.

Don't take it from me, take it from the folks at The West Wing. Both here below and in their HBO Max "A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote." This remake (done in play-style with a lion share of the same actors, here 17 years later) of Season 3: Episode 15 "Hartsfield Landing" was part of a special to bring more voters to the booths. Special cameos include former First Lady Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton,  & Lin-Manuel Miranda. It did not disappoint!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Netflix's Documentary: The Social Dilemma

Several health podcasts I've been listening to lately have referenced the Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma," calling it one of the most important documentaries of our time to watch. Hearing that in multiple places, that's what you tend to do. 

Poignant phrases in the trailer alone include: "Using your psychology against you." along with "This is checkmate on humanity." This is especially powerful here in an election year--particularly THIS election year during THIS pandemic.

Watch the trailer here....then get to Netflix and watch the documentary in full! It will open your eyes and cause you to take a long pause in your parenting and your lifestyle choices.... Not to mention your ability to be so easily manipulated by the powers that be and that mobile device in your hand.

This documentary serves as an interesting companion to follow up Dig Cit Week and to the current book I'm reading by Vivek H. Murthy (the former Surgeon General under President Obama) entitled Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. All of the above certainly leaves this girl pondering a lot both personally (as I can be far more tech-connected than I should be) and professionally (as my Lower School Technology Specialist, in an increasingly more tech-centric world with Zoom School and more).

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

DigCit Week: October 19--23, 2020

Students at my elementary school this year have become familiar with the often-attributed Superman quote "With great power comes great responsibility." I've been using that as the umbrella of digital citizenship this year of hybrid & remote learning with increased tech time via zoom (& zoom chatting), emails, learning management system, shared Google documents, Seesaw assignments, and more. Every session we stress the importance of being safe, being respectful, and being responsible. Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) have been signed by students and parents alike. 

With Digital Citizenship (or DigCit) Week upon us this week (October 19th--23rd), after 6-8 weeks of school, it's somewhat the perfect time to revisit and remind now that we're all in our "new normal" routines.

Common Sense Media, the go-to for digital citizenship, puts it simply: "This year more than ever, we are all digital citizens."

I turned two of my favorite videos of Common Sense Media into Seesaw activities, encouraging them to reflect on how we all need to be Tech Superheroes. This, along with my Superman quote, resonated with all students, kindergarten to grade 5.

During this week, take some time to help your students find their inner DigCit hero. With the more we are on tech at all ages, the more safe and responsible tech use needs to be a focus and a priority.

Here are some resources geared explicitly for Digital Citizenship Week! 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Falling for Fall

I was traveling to Western Maryland and West Virginia the first weekend of October. The drive was gorgeous as colors started popping up in the growing three-dimensional-drive as I went from relatively flat to rolling hills to the mountains. Still heavy on green, but more colors kept popping the further pest I traveled. The sky was the crispest of blues. With podcasts streaming through my stereo along the drive, I was certainly in my happy place.

Along my travels, I landed at Cooper's Rock outside of Morgantown, WV.  

Fall is beautiful...though I will say that Spring is still my favorite season with it's awakening and being a season of hope after the cold cloistered winter. Fall brings me back to school, but also to a layer of melancholy that we are circling back round that seasonal cycle again with winter ahead. But it circles me back to the beauty and brilliance of color too.

As I was basking in the shock of golden hues and red leaves amongst the greenery, I was marveling at how with every tomorrow it will look a little tad differently. Next weekend and the weekend after this, the vista will be vastly varied from today's view. 

This all had me thinking about these two Free Tech For Teacher's posts by Richard Byrne:

The wind is whipping a bit around me today as I write this--a sunny yet cooling day. A shower of colorful leaves drifts downward, bristling about, like autumnal confetti. I think that means Fall is here.

Photos from my camera from the weekend of October 3-4 in West Virginia.