Saturday, June 27, 2020

Face Masks for a Cause

Once you start looking up some product, it's amazing how your Facebook feed starts giving you all sorts advertisements of items in that category. With the coronavirus still lurking out there and masks & hand washing coming up as definite deterrents, building my "cute face mask collection" has been one of my recent quests. And, with the potential of a vaccine still being a ways away, face masks are going to be with us for awhile.

Given all of that, it's obvious that more and more places are finding their footing in the face mask market. Here are a few companies I've been particularly impressed with as they are not only making masks, but they are doing it for a cause.

These two I have happened upon given my own personal exploration and recommendations from friends:

Cotopaxi: Named after an active "stratovolcano" in the Andes in Ecuador, Cotopaxi's founder Davis Smith wanted to pay tribute to the poverty he saw while growing up in Latin America. Every Cotopaxi purchase gives 1% to support poverty and community development. They also have a grant program where they promote multiple organization to help improve living communities as well expecting ethical work environments from their suppliers. Their company creed: "Do Good." The have a significant environmental philosophy and use recycled items when possible--and scrap fabric is the basis of their mask making efforts. Also, when you buy in bulk, they give the same amount of face masks to those in. need.

Mango & Main: An Annapolis-based store (though the e-commerce came first), Mango & Main is part of the Fair Trade Federation and supports "artisan entrepreneurs" from 23 countries across the globe. Their business values center around making a positive impact, creating opportunities, promoting fair wages & safe working conditions, respecting cultural identity, cultivating environmental stewardship, and ensuring the rights of women & children. Given it's Maryland store, I literally can shop locally and globally simultaneously.

But wait, there's more: These 48 others clearly show me that it's a very good business model that a lot of companies are adopting!  Check out: Who What Wear's "48 Face Masks to Buy From Brands That Are Giving Back"

Logos from and; Mask images from and

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Summertime & Remote Learning Reflections

It's officially summer, and boy oh boy does it feel good. For teachers, 'tis the season for decompression and reflection.

One of my favorite days is that last day of post-planning meetings, when it all wraps up (with or without the nice tidy bow), and we walk out to summer, with the glory of all that is ahead. [For us, that was now almost 2 weeks ago, but due to time-specific GTG postings (like Father's Day & Summer Solstice), this post got bumped a little later in the line up.] Part of the walking out into summer business on that last day is the soundtrack playing in my brain all day long: Alice Cooper's "School's Out for Summer!"🎼🎸I can't write it without singing it. And yes, some air guitar usually also happens day at random points, delighting my kids, no doubt!😎

But this year it's different and definitely weird after having done remote learning for 3 very long months. I'm already home & I've been at home, so that part isn't all that different. But ahead, we now have 3 (probably too-quick) months of summer. How will summer this year be really truly different from the home time we've had, especially since Covid hasn't truly gone away? Yes, our state curve is looking better, and things are opening up, but it's still a weirdly "safer at home" time period, and it still feels odd to me to be out in the world even with masks, soap, sanitizer, and all. 

I guess the true nature of how it will be different now that it's summer is yet to be seen, though I definitely am looking forward to many zoom-free, carefree days ahead!!!!!

That all piggy backs on the reflection piece we were asked to write for our school's virtual time capsule. Our very own primary documents in a historic time period of unprecedented quarantine and remote learning. After rereading what I wrote, it really serves not only as my story, but a tribute to all of the hard-working teachers who had to turn on a dime from in-school teaching to remote learning. Some, over the course of a weekend! Although all our stories and situations and remote learning settings were different due to platforms, school wide device availability, community internet capability, synchronous versus asynchronous teaching, and more, teachers have shown such an ability to do what they can for the best of their students. That is what teachers do.

Here is my remote learning reflection:

There's the dichotomy of both the good and the bad to the coronavirus quarantine hitting right at the cusp of our Spring Break. Foreseeing the potential need to go into remote learning, a team of people on campus spent first 2 weeks in March furiously making a game plan. Being in Lower School Tech, I was pulled into all school planning meetings with IT, Division Heads, and the School Head, along with Lower School specific meetings as well. We scurried furiously to make a systemic plan using Seesaw as our main mode of student/parent communication since our younger students have far less learning management pieces in place than our Middle and Upper School students do. Luckily, we had all 8 grade levels PS-5th using Seesaw as a digital portfolio to share in-school student work with parents, with 100% family participation.) We managed to get some in-house Lower School training on both our plan and on Zoom right under the wire of Governor Hogan declaration to shut down school right before our Spring Break. That was certainly the "good" part--that and the fact that the sheltering in place would coincide with our Spring Break. 

However, a 2 week Spring Break also gets zapped when you are still working out all of the details, especially if you are in Technology. My 2nd week was a very full and busy work week! [And yes, there's a lot of gratitude in being at a school that has the rare benefit of a 2 week spring break to begin with!!]

Before we knew it, we were "back to school" (yet of course, still at home) after break. Monday and Tuesday were days of giving and receiving last minute tech training. We were jumping in with both feet on Wednesday, April 1st. (The irony was quite apparent!)

Life as a member of the Tech Help email group can only be described as "maniacal" during the first 2 weeks of our Remote Learning term. Teacher, parent, and Middle & Upper School student emails were coming in fast and furious to Tech Help. Additionally, there were texts from teachers and phone calls to my phone. Our Lower School students and parents trying to send their urgent comments via Seesaw's teacher posts. (Everyone soon learned that was indeed the slowest way to get tech help, as it was not a constantly monitored forum.) Sometimes in those first days of set up and trouble shooting, I would be in the middle of problem solving one situation, and about 6-10 new emails and a teacher text or two would pop over by the time I finished writing just one tech support email. This was the same for every member on that tech team. Those days were long, computer-filled days during those first two weeks. Luckily after everyone got into the groove of the "new normal," tech troubles died down. Phsew! There is no way that pace would not have been sustainable over time!

Remote Learning settled into a daily version of the movie "Groundhog's Day." Lather, rinse, repeat. Zoom, tech help, repeat. I was so thankful that my own children were old enough to be on autopilot. It certainly made our houseful of 4 Zooming-homeworkers workable. My heart goes out to my colleagues who have "little littles." For our elementary students, we had homeroom teachers doing 2 zooms daily with their students, and then the students had 1-3 specials a day as well. Given the time on screens, we did not hold additional Technology classes--everything was Tech these days! But we did give weekly assignments--mostly short keyboarding assignments and maker activities using the design process. Most of those Specials asynchronous assignments shifted to optional over time due to Zoom fatigue being a real thing. Given all of that, my role shifted away from teaching students and was split between tech support and teaching teachers. Helping them with the Zoom tools and a variety of websites, restructuring our report cards to best accommodate this term, or creating online materials for our teachers--things that are certainly not central to our style of PS-5th grade classrooms. Remote Learning was a brand new animal in the elementary school setting--especially for our youngest Preschool and Prekindergarten students.

As I wrap up this writing on our last official day of school for our students, it seems hard to believe this "new normal" is how we spent the last 2.5 months of this school year. I miss seeing my colleagues in the hall and chatting with them at lunch. Yes, we can get together by Zoom, but it is so not the same thing. Likewise, I am not accustomed to full days of sitting as my role as technology specialist typically has me "zooming" around school in a far different way: on my feet, not my computer camera! Most of all though, I miss my students. Having been more "tech help" than "tech teacher," I only get to occasionally pop in on classes to solve problems, rather than doing what I have been trained to do--teach children. I did not get the end of the year closure with students, nor did I get to see their smiling faces as they bound out the door to summer. I know they have grown so much over these last few months, especially with their tech savviness, but I miss that human connection.

As we enter into summer, we have no idea what the fall holds when it comes to school. Will it be full in session in the classrooms, back to learning and teaching remotely from home, or some hybrid combination? Time will tell. We all have resilience and will do the best with the situation, but it certainly makes you appreciate things in a new way. As teachers, we have grown in our flexibility, our creativity, and our ability to learn to teach in new ways. As a result, we are stronger and better off for it... but we are tired! Summer will feel so good in order to have time to step away, decompress, reflect, and then rebound.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day

Mother Nature certainly is a fan of these famous fathers in nature--
animal species who have doting dads that take part in the rearing of their young.

To see some fabulous furred, feathered, or other animal fathers, check out these links to get a nature-centric, animal kingdom tribute to dads:
Which all reminds me of one of my favorite books: Mr. Seahorse by Eric Carle.

Happy Father's Day weekend to all you dynamic dads out there who do so much for your family!

Do something joyous together as a family.

Even better if it's outside!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Stonehenge & Summer Solstice 2020

Symbolically fitting, June 20, 2020 marks this year's Summer Solstice, the "longest day" of the year (in that it is the day of the most hours of sunlight). It also is the official seasonal start to summer, despite the warming temperatures many people find in May and early June.

Traditionally summer solstice has many ties with Stonehenge in England, due to its layout and how it has been found to align with the sunrise on both summer and winter solstice. Dating back to it's start 5000 years ago and it's completion in 2500 BC, Stonehenge has been known as a mystically sacred and spiritual place. Its history has ties to the Druids, Celtic beliefs, and Danish kings, and it serves as transcendental spot for both New Age and earth-centric religions as well. Annual events are common for summer solstice, where people flock to experience the twice annual event of the sun aligning through the rocks, and which reverse their position for winter solstice.

With the restrictions on gathering places, this year the English Heritage organization (the managing entity of Stonehenge) is not opening for the sunrise celebration and is asking people to not visit. But fear not, as a grander opportunity for all of us awaits, making it not necessary to travel to this historic location. Instead, the sunrise will be live streamed on English Heritage's Facebook page and their other social media accounts the morning of June 20th, making it possible for anyone world wide to witness this experience. Mark your calendar!

To learn more, check out these sites:

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Why We Need Environmental Education

It seems forever ago, but this past February I shared some in-house professional development with a group of colleagues at school. The first 5-10 minutes of my presentation (entitled "Infusing Environmental Education Into the Classroom" detailed some statistics and the health benefits of nature, and is here below. The remainder of the hour was spent detailing a multitude of classroom activities.

Given the numbers, percentages, what nature lowers, and what it improves, it's a strong statement of how important it is to get ourselves outside a lot more often. What are you going to do outdoors today?

(Much of the research I included here came from sessions I attended early February at Maryland's Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education's annual conference.)

Link to my presentation:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Cleo Wade's TED Talk "Want To Change The World, Start By Being Brave Enough To Care

As a follow-up to my "Rooting for Each Other" post, here is Cleo Wade's TED Talk "Want To Change The World, Start By Being Brave Enough To Care." In it, she voices the long held idea that big change comes from small actions. We are all activists--whether through refusing the plastic bags or straws, or standing up for a friend, or closing down a racial joke. We do it in the daily choices we make, the way we parent our children, every time we vote, and all the times we choose to take a stand.

Today's a good day to make an impact on our world: "Be good to as many people as possible."

Video from

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Sunday Drive

Last week I went for a Sunday drive. Well, actually, it was a solo bike ride on a beautiful day.

But much like that old image of the Sunday drive to nowhere that I remember my granddad or mom telling me about, it had the same feel. Actually, it also is reminiscent of some of my solo ventures in my Mom's car after getting my driver's license. Just being out in the world, with no where to go, just seeing the sights. Time was a non-entity!

As I was meandering down neighborhoods I'd not ever been to on my 11 mile bike ride, I was reminded of simpler days. Days of my childhood. A time before bike helmets, when the wind whipped through my hair. When I had free reign to bike all over the place to go to my friends' houses. I can see in my mind's eye the stack of bikes that landed in my friends' yards as we ran all around the neighborhoods, jaunting down secret sidewalks, prancing in the sprinkler, or going inside for popsicles and air-conditioning. A time when we were all "unplugged."

It has an overwhelming body-feeling of both summertime and "freedom."

Sadly my kids don't have that kind of neighborhood to freely ride about in. We're a small 2 street neighborhood that backs into some crowded roads. As they're older, they can navigate this better, or we just throw the bikes in the truck and go to a park with trails and that satisfies the biking bill well. But the freedom isn't the same.

But, I guess the times aren't the same either. Which is both good and bad... and definitely worth pondering on a bike ride.

Speaking of which, the wind is blowing through my hair as I write this outside on a gorgeous day. I think I hear my bike calling me. I think that means it's time to close my computer and head for a Sunday drive, here on a Saturday!

Images from and Kennedy quote created at

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Rooting For Each Other

2020 has been a year.

As everyone is still reeling from the quarantines and shelter in place from Covid-19, and navigating the reopening of the country and the "safer at home" rulings, our nation is swept with visuals of George Floyd's murder. This happening on video and at the hands of law enforcement officers has sent people into a tail spin. As I'm writing this (on Sunday, May 31st), riots are happening in a number of cities, and social media is blowing up.

The nature and purpose of GTG is not to get political. However, over the past decade of writing it, I've been struck that seemingly apolitical, non-partisan concepts (like environmentalism) have indeed become political issues. Yet, it was upon my social media scroll that I found two things that have struck me that I feel compelled to share.

One was my daily read of political historian Heather Cox Richardson, who makes it her job to look at the political news of the day through a historical lens. One thing she said was that while the riots are occurring, we only have a window into the events. We don't actually know who is rioting nor what their agenda is in many of these cities. The riots might stem from angered African American citizens who feel their voices have not been heard any other way. It could be extremist groups (from either the radical left ANTIFA or the radical right white supremacists) going in to make their point or counterpoint. It even could be opportunists taking advantage of the mayhem. In some areas, journalists are even being attacked by local authority. It certainly could be a combination of any and all of the above. We do not yet have the full picture or the full perspective--a vital point. But it shows the context certainly changes given the perspective. Time will indeed tell.

The other thing I happened on was this photo in a post from Hands Free Revolution's Facebook page. It is what served as the ultimate inspiration for this post. I think it also speaks to those of us who both believe in God or the overarching spiritualness of nature/Mother Earth.

This is where my heart is in this situation, and leads me to want to delve into learning more about Cleo Wade and her writing. You can find more of her inspiration on her websiteher Instagram, or her books "Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life" or "Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World."

If we have learned nothing in this quarantine, it should be that we are here for each other, and we are better with each other. We all need to be rooting for each other, supporting each other, and standing up for each other. In doing so we have a healthier garden, community, nation, world, and planet. Perhaps too, a more just world.

May we all do something today, to support each other--on either the small or the large scale.

Photos from and