Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Looking Up, Living Differently

In the lazy, hazy, heated, days of quarantined summer as August falls upon us, an inspirational quote felt like the place I needed to land. What if... what if we all were here: outside, looking up, living differently. Maybe in the middle of a little moonlit mindfulness we could definitely take notice of those stars outside!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Go Outside

Some days it seems like you are just knee deep in the middle of triage. This week has been kind of like that as we are still trying to figure out what the fall has in store for schools, near and far. Sometimes the uncertainty gets hard to manage. Perhaps this is why this image from 1000 Hours Outside really struck me!

Looking at it again, I think it's time for me to go outside! 
I suggest we all do the same! Pronto!

Image from

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Blues and Greens of West Virginia

For a week, we were immersed in a spectrum of blues and greens. With some pent up pandemic-centric cabin fever, we decided to hit the road for a change of scenery and a strategically-planned socially-distanced vacation. Original plans for the summer had been a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, but for every reason we chose that place (aka: a lot to do), it was every reason we decided to bow out. Especially thankful after we saw the rise of some 36 states with their Covid cases.

Instead we decided to head to Nowhere, West Virginia... more exactly Lansing/Fayetteville and the New River Gorges area. Perfect place for a socially-distanced vacation. Packing our bikes, helmets, and paddleboards, we traversed about 5 hours from home. We had a week of outdoor adventure. Biking (yikes the hills of West Virginia!!). Water sights and scenes. Time on and in the water by way of inflatable kayaks, paddleboards, stream-exploring, and swimming. We got to see the breathtaking sites of New River Gorges Bridge, Summerville Lake, paddling by once-boom town Hinton, hiking amidst the ghost railroad town of Thurmond, and a whole lot of windy mountain roads in between.

More than once, surveying the landscapes: the blues (periwinkle, sky, cornflower, robin egg, azure, cerulean, denim, indigo, Prussian) dotted with clouds or birds, or dazzling in its aquatic sparkling reflections. The greens (moss, asparagus, lime, emerald, shamrock, viridian, hunter, pine, forest), where you could focus on each individual leaf to the sum total of those leaves per tree and those collection of trees into forested walls. Rock formations and the height of the mountains. The depth of the green & blue hues. The vitality and beauty. The richness and the vastness. The healthiness of it in a world that seems more than just “pandemically sick.”

In gazing about, I took great comfort in feeling small amidst the immensity of the world that surrounded and encompassed me. Humbled by its greatness. Perspectivized. (Yes, a word of my own concoction, but a word that fits.)

Rest, relaxation, rejuvenation... surrounded with Vitamin N, forest bathing, and blue mind... and just plain not long enough!!

Pictures from my camera, compiled in the Pic Edu App.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Sailing the Seas of Citizen Science

In the 3rd and final part of my series following some of the 2019-2020 Severn School Van Eney Fellows Projects, activism and advocacy continue as senior (now graduate) Baillie McNitt merged her love marine biology, citizen science, and global health initiatives to to a deep dive into microplastics. Her project involved constructing a Low-impact Aquatic Debris Instrument, or LADI trawl, which came to be known as True the Trawl. Additionally, she created a YouTube channel to curate & document her beach clean up and more.

Using her LADI trawl, she also analyzed and classified her microplastics findings into 5 groups to determine the original source of plastics: fragments, fibers, foams, nurdles, and microbeads. By having this level of research, Baillie was better able to make the connection to the item--which ultimately helps keep marine debris out of our waterways. From there, she created a set of guidelines to help people reduce their use of plastic.

Here is Baillie's 6 minute "TED Talk" style explanation of her project.
Van Eney '09 Fellows: Bailey McNitt '20 from Severn School on Vimeo.

To learn more about Baillie's design process and project, check out her Fellows website. Of particular interest, check out her video page on her website. My personal favorite: "Seven Household Products that Contribute to Micropollution."

Going forward, even though there will be college life after Severn, you can't take the environmentalist out of Baillie. She has plans to share some information from of her Fellows project with Severn's Surfrider Instagram page to promote reducing marine debris.

As you go forward, think about the big and little things you can do in your house to minimize your plastic use. If you don't use it, it certainly won't wind up in our waterways!

Video from, Compilation image created at using pictures from Baillie's website: and micro plastic image from

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Student Advocacy: Zero-Waste Lifestyle

In Part 2 of my series following some of the 2019-2020 Severn School Van Eney Fellows Projects, activism moves away from a documentary on activism and takes a look at living a zero/low-waste lifestyle. Environmentally-minded high school seniors (now graduates) Maddi Meyer & Solana Page did a deep dive into what taking on a zero-waste lifestyle would look like, living that life for the better part of a year.

Secondarily, they turned their own personal activism into advocacy by creating a guide for other folks to follow in their footsteps. Their pursuits had them in search of environmentally-friendly shops that promote zero-waste that use reusable containers and locally-sourced items. They looked at more natural products to replace common items such as dryer sheets or toiletries. Some of their finds included reusable snack bags, wool dryer balls, cellulose sponges, and bamboo scrub brushes. They visited the landfill to see where our waste ultimately lands.

Their guidebook plan shifted from a coffee table-style book (with plans to have it printed on recycled paper and with soy ink) to an eBook when the coronavirus quarantine shut down their publishing plan. That eBook guide can be found on their Fellows website, with distinct ways to reduce waste in your bathroom & kitchen, and at the grocery store, restaurant, beach, and with your school supplies.

Here is a brief 6 minute TED Talk style video explanation of their process and product.

Van Eney '09 Fellows: Maddi Meyer' 20 and Solana Page '20 from Severn School on Vimeo.

May their dedication on this project serve as inspiration for you to think through what you are using (and perhaps ultimately wasting) at home.

As Maddi said in their video: "Small changes can have big impacts."

Video from, image created at using pictures from Maddi & Solana's website:

Saturday, July 11, 2020

From Adolescence to Advocacy: The Documentary

We have all seen a major shift in educational thinking this spring as schools flipped on a dime to remote learning due to the global pandemic. It has caused major conversations in educational circles about best ways to provide engaging education.

I recently read Prepared: What Kids Need For a Fulfilled Life by Diane Tavenner, cofounder of the innovative Summit Public Schools network of 15 middle and high schools in California and Washington state. Some of the principles of Summit are far different than many schools out there (including mine), but I found a striking similarity that aligns with my school, especially in the area of student-directed pursuits of passion projects.

Last summer, when I shared the student-created documentary "STEMinism," I described the Severn School Van Eney Fellows Program that our school has sponsored annually since 2009. High School Seniors are invited to present a project proposal of which they are passionate about, in hopes of being selected to take on this individual, in-depth, year-long project. The Fellows Program has inspired over a decade's worth of students to do a deeper dive on a personal pursuit. Much like Google's 20% Time or the educational trend of Genius Hour, the purpose is to "expand intellectual curiosity." Of the 11 projects developed this year, the focus of this post and my next two will be on 3 of these student-created Fellows Projects.

"From Adolescence to Advocacy" is the one hour documentary from Mackenzie Boughey. During her high school career, Mackenzie became deeply empowered, impassioned, and enraged by the number of mass shootings striking our nation--particularly in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. As a result, in 2018 she founded March for Our Lives: Annapolis, MD. Through her work raising awareness for common-sense gun legislation via town hall meetings and community marches, she got a first-and, inside look at activism. This led to her desire to learn more. Her documentary showcases both thoughts from student activists and governmental officials (from the 1960s to present) by way of interviews. Social movements she includes are Civil Rights/racial relations, anti-Vietnam War sentiment, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental protections, and common-sense gun reform.

Here is a brief 6 minute TED Talk style video explanation of her documentary.

Van Eney '09 Fellows: Mackenzie Boughey '20 from Severn School on Vimeo.

To view the "From Adolescence to Advocacy" documentary in its entirety, watch it here or go here for an online screening and question & answer panel on July 15th at 7pm, hosted by the Arundel Patriot. You can learn more about this screening via Arundel Patriot's Facebook Event.

Additionally, you can learn more about Mackenzie's process from her Fellows website.

In looking at all the conversation and controversy of racial relations currently in American, Mackenzie certainly had her finger on the pulse of activism given the number of racial protests we have seen this spring. May Mackenzie and her documentary inspire you to stand up for what you believe in... and may it inspire you to vote!

Images from:, "Adolescence to Advocacy" image created on using images from Mackenzie Boughey's website:, and; and, Video from

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

MAEOE's Cavalcade of Collected Resources

I love collective nouns. Those unique words that describe a bunch of something.
An atlas of maps.
A cache of jewels.
A quiver of arrows.
A blush of robins.
A charm of hummingbirds.
A wonder of stars.
A kaleidoscope of butterflies.

When it comes to a knowledge base, I like to think of it a a "cavalcade of collected resources." If you are looking for a wealth of nature-based info, Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education [MAEOE] is the place to go. Given their dedication to environmental education & green schools, it's no surprise!

This summer, they are creating weekly newsletters entitled: "Engaging With Nature: Weekly Ideas for Parents & Caregivers Newsletter." Here they have a collection of outdoor, nature-centric ideas to connect you with nature in a variety of no tech, low tech, and high tech activities, camps for kids, and adult inspiration. At this writing they have Summer Edition 1 (June 19) & Edition 2 (June 26).

In addition to their Resource Library, they have another page of a multitude of resources dedicated to providing parents & educators loads of links. Their Home-Based Environmental Education Resources (Teachers, Parents and Guardians) page has links to resources on all of these:
  • 50th Anniversary of Earth Day resources
  • Bay Backpack Resouces
  • National Wildlife Federation Resources
  • Project Learning Tree 
  • Green Center Partners
  • Virtual Field Trips & Tours
  • Spanish Reosurces
  • Climate Education Tools
  • Community Science Tools
  • MAEOE Video lunches
  • Professional Development & Webinars
  • Activities
  • Videos 
    • Wednesday Lunch and Shares--A google drive folder filled with all of their weekly lunch recorded events since April 1st
      • April 1, 2020: Taking a Purposeful Pause
      • April 8, 2020: Share ideas for connecting families with nature nearby or inside
      • April 15, 2020: Climate Change and COVID-19
      • April 22, 2020: Earth Day and Citizen Science
      • April 29, 2020: Climate Education and Art Online
      • May 6, 2020: Online Portals and Virtual Learning
      • May 13, 2020: Engaging With Volunteers During COVID-19
      • May 20, 2020: What's the Buzz: All About Native Bees
      • May 27, 2020: Conservation and Agriculture
      • June 3, 2020: Environmental Forums and Virtual Green Team Meetings
      • June 10, 2020: Virtual Encounters with Live Animals
      • June 17, 2020: Agricultural and Virtual Education Resources
    • Environmental Educators Collaboration Meetings:
      • March 30, 2020: Working Collaboratively Together
      • April 14, 2020: Equity and Inclusion
      • April 27, 2020: Place-Based Learning
      • May 11, 2020: Aligning Virtual Resources to Standards
      • May 26, 2020: Engaging in Nature this Summer & Communication Strategies
      • June 8, 2020: Continuation of May 26, 2020 Meeting (Engaging in Nature this Summer & Communication Strategies)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

4th of July Flags

When it comes to the 4th of July, in America, one of the first things that comes to mind is the flag. It is the symbol of our nation and an icon for what we stand for.

I typically see the 4th of July as the halfway point of the year. Our nation's birthday happens near the start of the 7th month and the 2nd half of the year. And what a year 2020 has been.

Thinking back on the first half of this year, I'm struck that there are other flags of honor to celebrate this country that I love and care about. Flags that take our defining American ideals and values of freedom, liberty, equality, democracy, unity, & diversity. These are what stand at the base of who we are. In this time when we've seen so much loss due to the coronavirus, it's certainly a time to take hold of what is important.

As you celebrate Independence Day, think about the flags that come to your mind. Here are some of mine. I envision them waving proudly in the air, alongside our American flag, giving us all strength, courage, hope, gratitude, perseverance, faith, resilience, and community. Happy 4th of July!

Images created at from their photos and also these sites:,,,

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Maryland Green Schools

I've written about our Maryland Green School recertification process a time or two. Given the process parameters of what you need to do, it's certainly a daunting task. It was one I spent hours upon hours on, and that was with a committee of folks working alongside of me to help gather our 4 years of data, checking boxes as we went.

But in the category of "great success comes from the feeling of accomplishment from hard work," it was a significant triumph indeed when we were awarded our recertification designation  on June 3rd.

This video from Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education was a nice tribute to our school and the many others that did the hard work.

Video from