Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The World Is Your Oyster: Marylanders Grow Oysters Program

There's a saying that goes like this: "The world is your oyster." 

It means you can go anywhere and do anything, you've got opportunity galore ahead.

It's interesting, because oysters do just that for the Chesapeake Bay. They are pretty remarkable and powerhouses on their own accord. This infographic gives a quick visual overview:

About a week and a half ago, I got to be a part of some oyster opportunity in the making. As one of the Board of Directors of Maryland Yacht Club Maritime Foundation (MYCMF), I got to see some environmental stewardship in action. The vision of MYCMF is to "inspire and motivate communities to connect with waterways through interactive life experiences." Our mission:

Taking part in the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, Maryland Yacht Club was the staging center on Thursday, September 17th for a giant drop off of nearly 100 bags of oysters, with MYCMF members keeping it running like a well-oiled ship. With the help of a local school and their battalion of 5th graders, these bags of oysters were deposited into the waters of Rock Creek off the Patapsco River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. I was not there that day, but it stirred up memories as a delightful throwback to my days at Eagle Cove School when we got to see the kid-side of our oyster crew, with them in action.

Two days later on Saturday, the oysters were again "on the move" on a sunny, windy, feeling-like-fall kind of day. These baby oysters were destined to exchange their 2-day home in the creek at Maryland Yacht Club for their home for the year ahead. Marylanders who wish to donate their time, effort, and their docks sign up to be part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program. Currently, over 1,500 volunteers who own water-front property hang oyster cages from their docks to help grow these baby oysters. This protected aquatic environment is vital for their first year of life. In June, these oysters will be relocated to oyster sanctuaries.

We were the oyster pick-up point for folks who live on Stoney Creek, Nabbs Creek, and Rock Creek who signed up to harvest the baby oysters. Really, a small cog in the wheel of the whole program for the entire state of Maryland. For about an hour and a half during the 4 hour Saturday pick-up block, I was there to lend a helping hand if needed. However, I must say, it was a pretty smooth process, already underway! 

Fun Facts from the day:
  • Baby oysters are called spat once the oyster larvae has attached to empty, cleaned reclaimed oyster shells. Several oyster spat can attach to the same shell.
  • One bag of oysters is the equivalent of 3 oyster cages.
  • One cage holds approximately 150 oyster spat.
  • Once they have been harvested for the year, the spat will be approximately 1 inch in diameter. They will be planted in local oyster sanctuaries (often called oyster beds or reefs) where they will go to work filtering the tributaries and becoming home to many marine species. 
  • Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.
  • Numbers from the day:
    • Stoney & Nabbs Creek had 26 oyster growers with 82 cages hanging from their piers.
    • Rock Creek had 71 oyster growers with 197 pier-hanging cages.
    • Come June, that means we will plant approximately 42,000 oysters on the Ft. Carroll reef (the "forever home" of these li'l guys.)
  • Speaking of guys, oysters begin as males, but can change their gender as needed over their lifetime.

May the world be your oyster... and thanks to the 97 area folks who are helping to grow oysters locally, taking that opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves. Such gratitude for these environmental stewards who are raising oysters which will filter the bay. By volunteering like this to do something bigger than themselves, they have made it possible for all of us to go forward and enjoy the beauty and benefits of the Chesapeake Bay.

The world is our oyster, indeed!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Climate Change, Coronavirus, & Katherine Hayhoe

There's a line from the 1996 movie "Jerry Maguire" where RenĂ©e Zellweger's character says, "You had me at hello."

Much in that same way, climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe (who I've written about before) had me at "Global Weirding." Truly, what could be better terminology than that for both global warming and climate change.

Here are two pieces she did at the end of March 2020 when the pandemic started growing exponentially five months ago.  In the first video, she shows how climate change is not a causation of Coronavirus but but certainly a contributing factor connecting the two as a threat multiplier.

Her second video shows how the pandemic is affecting carbon emissions and air pollution. 

Global Weirding logo from

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been heavy on my heart and mind since her passing last Friday night. She really has become such an American icon over her 87 years. It's been inspiring seeing the tributes to her on both social and mainstream media. 

A friend of mine went to lay flowers at the Supreme Court to honor both RBG and to dedicate a flower to special women in her life. I was touched to be one of the women she chose to include in that. 

When I think of the powerhouse that RBG was, I am a bit in awe. Another friend posted this list on social media, along with the comment that no matter which side of politics you are on, all women owe a lot to the trailblazer we call Justice Ginsburg. 

Looking at this list, I'm reminded of the many times, even now in 2020, women still struggle for true equality, despite how far we have come. What comes to mind are the number of times I've called about some account for our family, however the account happens to be in my husband's name. On those calls, I can't tell you the number of times I've heard "Since the account is in his name, can you put him on the phone so we have him verify that we can speak to you?" I get the idea of account verification and appreciate it to a degree, but it frustrates me and makes me feel like a second class citizen every time... especially since they seem to have no problem cashing the checks when I write and send them in! 

I grew up in the '70s & '80s and saw my own mom as a trailblazing working mom, ahead of her time. I recall times she talked about getting criticized for that and the rise in her position which she worked hard to achieve. 

I remember when I just had my first born and was looking for a "mommy and me" group, and some chastising I heard from stay at home moms about being a working mom myself. I remember thinking, "Parenting is hard, shouldn't we all just be on the same team?"

Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for all of that. And much much more. We thank her for her many years of service to our country and all of us for her time on the Supreme Court and every fight that she fought to allow us our human rights and privileges!

For my teacher friends out there, here are some digital resources if you are wanting to honor the legacy of RBG in your classroom.
A final word: It's been overwhelming and disheartening to see how quickly our loss of "The Notorious RBG" has become a political conversation given her passing & ultimate replacement so close to the election. To that, I say the best way to honor her is this:

RBG quote created by @Eco With Em at has a very poignant and insightful post about the loss of RBG on her Facebook page from September 20th, equating the current times with the Australian wildfires from January and how perhaps we all have the seeds of change inside us that take so much upset to have them come to grow. It was a powerful nature metaphor for dealing with difficult times & can be found at, Screenshot list from unknown, Letter block photo credit @Ann Mooradian

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Blue Mind Days & Hours Outside, Summer 2020

This is my 3rd summer counting up hours outside, and my 2nd summer monitoring my "Blue Mind Days."  

The former is pretty straight forward, and it stems from a website promoting 1000 hours outside during the course of the year--so 250 seemed like a reasonable goal with a straight seasonal division by 4. 

My "blue mind" days are days I've purposefully spent by or in water. Sitting just next to my backyard pool doesn't count--I have to be in with that. Bathtubs and kitchen sinks also don't count. 

Summer seems optimum for this little personal experiment because time opens up in different ways during the teaching days of the school year.

Both numbers for me were down this summer, due in large part to orchestrating a lot of tech PD and set up for this Covid-centric school year that we're embarking on. Many weeks were 9-20 hour work weeks during my "summer off." (Already a misnomer for teachers!) Add in, it was pretty steamy midsummer, making my outdoor work habits an indoor activity. But, I was surprised to see how respectable they were in comparison to the last two years (check out the two links above). 

I know for me (as I was outside almost the entirety of the 3 days of Labor Day weekend just last week) are the great equalizers for me. The breeze in the air, the vibrancy of color, the scampering and fluttering of wildlife, and the buoyancy and reflectiveness of the water do all the things that physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally they are supposed to do. It's always a sad goodbye when temperatures start to drop because I haven't transitioned the magic of all of that into the mindset of winter quite yet. But lucky for me, we've got a lovely fall days ahead. With these Covid classroom teaching days, I plan to be outside as much as possible!

Photo compilation created with my photos of my calendar tallies & the PicCollage app.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wildfires & Hurricanes: Two Devastating Side Effects of A Warming Planet

Wildfires are burning everywhere it seems right now--especially everywhere west of the Rockies. At least that's how it feels when you go to the U.S. Wildfire Map or the Global Forest Watch Map. Glowing orange skies in California and reports for friends in Colorado and Oregon are not comforting. I'd imagine their air quality isn't comforting to them either! As if we don't have enough reasons to wear masks with Covid 19!

The wildfires in the West Coast with overly-dry land is about as comforting as hitting the peak of hurricane season on September 10th when there were there were 7 active systems in the Atlantic Ocean. Only 2 were named at the time, though the other 5 had potential of moving beyond "tropical disturbances." Thus far for the 2020 Hurricane system, at this writing we had hit 17 named storms. Annual average is 11-12 storms. There's even a potential (if we keep going this year) of hitting Hurricane or Tropical Storm Vicky (yours truly, though spelled differently). Of course, if we judge 2020 by memes, we're of course destined to get lucky and land there! There's some other speculation that we will use up the 21 storm-slated names, causing us to have to use the Greek alphabet. The only other time we had to do that was in 2005.

Hurricanes & wildfires are two of the major effects of climate change and warming global temperatures. 

For fires, the problem is visible in this visual (from the Union of Concerned Scientist "Infographic: Wilfires & Climate Change: Visualizing the Connection in 5 Sets of Photos & Charts"):

The Union of Concerned Scientists also have some thoughts on hurricanes in their "Hurricanes & Climate Change" report published July 16, 2008 and updated June 25, 2019. Factors that have intensified hurricanes with time include:
  • rising ocean temperatures
  • rising sea levels
  • increased melting of ice-coverage over land
All of which create greater coastal storm surges, causing water to go further inland. Greater population density over time in coastal areas doesn't help.... especially with approx. 40% of the U.S. population living in these coastal areas. 

When you look at the United States map under the layer of impact of both wildfires and hurricanes, we're at a great environmental impact. With our bandwidth not only stretched but maxed right now in 2020 with the pandemic, environmental issues seem to slip to the bottom of the list. One could argue that is really doing us a large disservice--especially as Covid 19, wildfires, and hurricanes may potentially all be vying for FEMA money (Federal Emergency Management Agency) down the line.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it's that you never know what lies ahead. Here's hoping that we have already seen the worst!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

September 12th

The "Memories" piece of Facebook is always interesting. It is a 1/365 daily slice of what you did last year, or 4 years ago, or sometimes even 10 or 11 years ago is really an interesting little time capsule. (Sometimes it surprises me just how long I have been on Facebook!) It's touching to see those endearing pictures of my kids when they were far smaller than they are now, the witticisms that I posted solely to make myself laugh, or the wise words I needed that one day 5 years ago that really still resonate today.

Facebook memories can be poignant as well. Take yesterday, September 11th. We all know the horrific tragedy that took place 19 years ago in New York City, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania when terrorists weaponized our airplanes without thought to the lives onboard. We all can instantly go back to "where we were" that day, and feel those same emotions on a guttural level. 

My Facebook memories yesterday shared with me my thoughts and comments from 8 years ago:

Think most of us today will be thinking about the date, of exactly where we were 11 years ago (as if it were yesterday), and looking to the skies with trepidation as well as gratitude. May a circle of unity and cohesiveness embrace us all today, just like it did in the aftermath of 9-11 back in 2001.

To which, I wrote this yesterday, while I shared those same sentiments from 8 years prior:

8 years ago and yet still rings so true here at Year 19. We came together then as a country, united in collective mourning and resilience. Standing up together in love and support, as one nation. Sadly it took that immense tragedy to get us there. Looking back at those moments and our solidarity against the common enemy, let’s use some of that same fortitude and conviction of the heart as we look at all the turmoil we have been wrestling with this year: the incredible loss of life & normalcy due to Covid, the devastation of California’s wildfires, and the racial injustice that has caused a tsunami across our country. Now, like then, is the time to come together with love, strength, & support of each other, our fellow Americans. 
I remember in 2001, my folks were traveling throughout New England, Canada, and Newfoundland shortly after 9-11 on a five week "Follow the Fall Foliage" adventure. They have story after story of the amazing people they met along the way, especially when in Canada, who were wholeheartedly supportive of them, my parents, as Americans, and for what we endured as a country. The world was so giving and so genuine with each other. Americans were so giving and genuine with each other in the aftermath. 

These stories of my folks, and my own experiences from September and the Fall of 2001 when I was living in Tampa, stay with me. 

Maybe too, it's because of those, I was particularly struck by this article a good friend of mine shared, written by Scott Saxe just yesterday entitled "Spare Me the Hypocrisy, America." It mirrors my morning thoughts as I shared my Facebook memory.  We are all part of the collective American family. We are enduring some hard times right now. We need to be there for each other. We need every day to be "September 12th" in every way.

THAT is the true meaning of #NeverForget.

Facebook Memory, screenshot from my Facebook Memory feed. Photo from my camera, and my GTG 9-11-2019 post, detailing how this 9-11 monument was constructed of steel beams from the original World Trade Center site from September 11th, 2001.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Backyard Butterflies

This is our second summer of harvest of Asclepias syriaca...that's common milkweed to you and me. My husband doubled our plot this summer. Despite the fact that we're about 3-4 weeks later in seeing any visitors than we did last year, we finally have been recognized on the monarch mapping system as a safe place to land. We are now reaping the bounty of that harvest with the whole variety of life stages of Danaus plexippus: The Monarch butterfly.


Yesterday's count showed me 35 chrysalis at various places in our back yard & 5 caterpillars on a very stripped patch of milkweed. Those little 5 are going to have a hard go of it as there are no milkweeds left! Seriously, my photo dates show fully blossomed and leafy milkweed from just two weeks ago! Amazing how much they chowed down in that two week time period!

What also has really struck me is the great distance some of them have gone to set up their chrysalis shop. A couple even scurried quite a ways to create their chrysalis on the netting of our backyard lacrosse goal. Not your safest spot, li'l guys!!

It all struck me by Barbara Kingsolver's book Flight Behavior, which I read earlier in the summer. It's the fictional tale all about monarchs and their surprisingly northern migration resting spot due to the warming result of climate change. 
Along the way, I ran across this Native Pollinator lesson plan from National Wildlife Federation. It has more than just monarchs, but is a great resource. 

I have a feeling, next year our Milkweed & Monarch plot will be even bigger. It's been wonderful being a part of putting beauty into the yard by way of my backyard.

photos & video from my backyard.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Back to School Stats

School, hybrid style, started on Wednesday. 

Stats felt like the way to start reflecting back over the week: 

  • 28,218 step, mostly at school, 2 days of which were over 10K (and this is from a girl who wrestled with a raging new case of sciatica this August, on top of 2 bad knees)
  • Wednesday I taught sixteen 15-minute tech lessons to 8 classes (8 in the morning to the hybrid half that came, 8 in the afternoon to the other half) covering how to find our "hybrid home-day" zoom links (which for us are on Bitmoji Boards) and also how to login to Clever (a single sign on platform that allows for "1 stop shopping").
  • Thursday, I taught ten 35-minute tech lessons to our 1st-- 5th graders with computers so they could practice logging into Clever, their Zoom links, and either Seesaw or our learning management system which we are newly using for upper elementary. Add in wiping 5-9 computers between each session to thoroughly disinfect.
  • Friday, I repeated my Thursday schedule for the other half of the children in this hybrid situation.
  • Total number of lessons taught in 3 days: 36
  • Parent Zooms for new remote-only parents: 1 (approx. 1 hour in length)
  • Number of emails to the tech help desk (which I am a part of): Too many to count
  • Number of days it took me to completely lose my voice: 3 (although, by the end of 2, it already was on the major decline toward being highly hoarse)
  • Add in, our Swivls have just arrived on campus. (Goodness, at least 25 or so.) These will help bring our at home remote learners into our class alongside with the half of the class that is on campus every other day--so there's teacher training ahead too. 
In this Covid-new-reality world, sometimes it feels like a race against the clock. We are working like the dickens to try to get our students fully acclimated to all the portals and platforms so they know what they are doing for the "if/when we go remote." Hopefully it's at least after we all know which end is up and what we are doing. (Kids & teachers alike!!)

This certainly is a school year like no other. I'm certainly glad I have the 3-day weekend ahead to physically, mentally, emotionally, and vocally recover. Especially since more tech training days for students are ahead and scheduled for next week. Luckily not quite so progressively packed, but it'll make for another full week again. The joys of being a technology teacher (which I do really love, but I do sorely miss the good ole days prior to 2020 teaching)!

For all the teachers and students out there (and the parents who are navigating their children's learning as well).... Give yourself some grace this fall, and just know, we all know how hard each and everyone of you are working to do this all with masks on, with the aroma of soap and hand sanitizer in the air, trying to socially distance while also helping yourself, your students, and your colleagues in this new time of learning. 

I'm ending with an image I made for my homeroom teachers and shared with them the night before school started--was that only 4 days ago?

Images: Back to School Statistics created at using the graph from First Day of School Bitmoji Board created using the Bitmoji app and Google Slides.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Let the Games Begin

Today (Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020) this week is when we "let the games begin."

All systems go.

Ready or not, here it comes.

Wednesday (today!) is the day I officially go back to school, starting my 28th year of teaching. (Man, that's a longggg time! I can still remember that first year of teaching, 28 years ago, in great detail!)

The start of school look so different to everyone this year. For us, we are going back partially--in a hybrid fashion (aka: every-other day). We will be full on "in" for our first graders and younger. We will go alternating days for our 2nd through 12th graders. Teachers will be in-house 5 days a week. All divisions have a 5-day remote learning option, if parents opt in for that. All divisions have someone (or 5+ someones) taking advantage of that remote option.

It goes without saying that this will be by far the most different--and perhaps difficult--year of teaching ever. 

In the age of Covid, we send our 18 year olds out to college, hoping that the school stays safe and healthy, responsible, and in session. We hope they can miraculously sustain the entire semester.

Yet as elementary teachers, we are uncertain when it comes times to receiving our wards via the school/school system. We see it as a tough situations with germs abounding, with the littlest ones wrestling with keeping their masks on their face and knowing what 6 weeks of social distancing even looks like. Schools are a little scary right now. But as educators, we go forth. Hoping and praying that we all stay healthy, and we all can do our best for our students.

As I head back to school, knowing teachers are uncertain of their future, we embrace hope. Sometimes, hope is all we have. It certainly beats embracing fear factor or burying our heads in the sand. As educators, what we do is take care of others. We love our students, and would do anything for them. We miss them and our classrooms--and it's been a long time (since March) for most of us  Let's hope we can get back to the business of teaching, staying sane, safe, and healthy. It certainly will be "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" ahead this school year.

In the immortal words of Moira, Johnny, David, & Alexis Rose, I found this tribute from the cast of "Schitt's Creek" (which was created for our 2020 spring graduates) highly fitting as a tribute to all teachers out there. [Schitt's Creek was my go-to binge show this summer. I "Loved me those 6 seasons" (which I maybe watched in a whopping 2 weeks)!!] The Roses make me smile every time!

Teachers, regardless of your format as you re-enter school, be strong, be tough, and be downright awesome. It's going to be a year that you won't ever forget...and a year of patience, creativity, fortitude, grit, work, compassion, innovation, intensity, and empathy. Mask up, sanitize, and don't ever forget to breathe. You can do this--we can do this--and we all will rock it!