Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Those Chasing Arrows On Plastic Items

I remember being a newbie to the world of recycling and environmentalism. Seeing those chasing arrows recycling symbols with the numbers in the middles led me to believe all those things that these symbols are on were recyclable. 

Turns out they're not, and I learned that early in my environmental pursuit. 

Not all plastics are created equally...nor do they all recycle easily (and some, at all.) Plastics fall in the following categories, and usually the number inside those chasing arrows has a lot of meaning (as the infographic below shows):

♻️1-- polyethylene terephthalate (PETE)
♻️2 -- high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
♻️3 -- polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
♻️4 -- low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
♻️5 -- polypropylene (PP)
♻️6 -- polystyrene (PS) [What I like to refer as "evil styrofoam."]
♻️7 -- other (which can include polycarbonate resins, acrylic, polyactic fibers, nylon, fiberglass, etc.)



The ♻️1 and ♻️2 are more widely recyclable....after that it has always gotten fuzzy when it comes to recycling. [Another good infographic on this is here.]

At one point here in my local municipality, they were keen on you erring on the side of overly optimistic. If you weren't sure, put it in and they'd decide. They must have had a bad case of "be careful what you ask for," because they've since changed their tune and that went away. 

It's all so freaking confusing. Some could even argue misleading!

Well...that may change. I ran across the following article on Grist.org entitled "California Wants to Ban Misleading Recycling Labels. Plastic Companies Don’t." California Senate Bill 343 passed the CA State Assembly September 8, 2021 and the State Senate on September 9, 2021 and was enrolled and presented to CA Governor Gavin Newsom on September 17th. This Bill bans companies from putting that recycling symbol on items that aren't routinely recycled in California and turned into a new item. It's a demand for "truth in advertising." The senators who promoted the bills are strong proponents in the concept that "labels should mean something." 

According to the article, one 9% of plastic waste has ever gotten recycled. We may be all "wishcycling" like happy little eco club members, yet it winds up floating on the wind, landing in waterways or the side of the road, or deposited in dumps and landfills. Things aren't as recyclable as we think, which in turn messes up the whole process, sometimes landing a lot of items that could be recycled into the dump because we have contaminated them by over-including non-recyclables. 

Why does this happen? Companies have greenwashed us into having more faith in the recycling system than it can handle. Back to that truth in advertising that is tied up in those chasing arrows.

The Plastics Industry Association likes to point out that the chasing arrows were not supposed to be a message about an item's recyclability, but instead they are more an indication of what the item is made of. A grading system, if you will. Yet, that message certainly has gotten muddied over all the years we've seen those li'l number-filled ♻️.

California's bill will go into effect January 2024, which is all well and good, but companies will have to deal with California's restrictions and requirements AND the national ones (which still allow and accept the numbered ♻️ stamps in a less restrictive way. Clearly some bumps are ahead. Hopefully California can be a state leader for America. But, as we've seen the last few years, our country tends to wrestle when it comes to state versus national issues. 

Maine and Oregon have are passed laws for making producers more responsible for their own waste. New York State has also presented labeling laws similar to California's.

For our more visual friends, here's a great CBS video news segment on this.

Maybe this will serve as role model legislation, moving us more toward sustainability and labels we can trust. Fingers crossed. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Reading via Paper or Digital Device?

With my goal of reading 52 books this year (which I officially surpassed on August 11th, and am now working toward my stretch goal of 75), the lion share of what I've been reading has been on my Kindle*. More specifically, the Kindle app on my phone as I don’t own a physical Kindle or e-reader (who needs yet another device). It's via the app, via the cloud, via my phone. My husband finds it humorous that I tend to opt for my phone versus my iPad. Years ago when I read Alison Weir's 643 page book Six Wives of Henry VIII, and he inquired it the book was 5000 swipes with 8 words per page. (It wasn’t.)

I’ve gone back and forth between “real” books and e-books.  For a long time, I needed print books because I allowed myself to get too distracted by emails, texts, Facebook, and more when I was reading online. But I've ebbed back and now this year, I’ve almost exclusively been reading books digitally on my phone. In some ways, the more I read, the more it has actually kept me off social media**. That's the beauty of a good book!

With the Kindle app, I’ve gotten used to my percentage indicator while tracking my book progress. I love that I can change the size of the font--a great accessibility feature! The portability is an amazing bonus as my phone is lighter than a book or 3--not to mention books add extra weight in my bag which means more weight on my knees (which is already a problem, let me tell you). I can easily pull my phone out my bag at a coffee shop, in the car while waiting at the carpool line, or even in a store line that’s winding on forever. I'm also a big highlighter and note taker when I read. That feature plus the built-in dictionary makes it very easy to bop back and forth between my books and notable notes. Additionally, I do like the ease of reading a chapter or two in the dark by dimly lit phone when I'm awake at 3 am, which happens more often than I'd like.

As a tech teacher, I often get Amazon gift cards, and they primarily to digital books--fiction and nonfiction both. I find it a good escape and a worthy hobby, so I chalk up the expense to that. 

But it all has led me to ponder…which is better for our environment? Print or digital? It's a pretty hot topic.

There are strong arguments that print books give your eyes a break from screens and the blue light and the fact that you process information more critically and slowly when reading print. We tend to skim more on devices (think texts, emails, and Facebook posts), so the content makes its way more into your memory when reading it on paper. The conversation broadens when you consider platforms such as Audible too, but that's a bigger topic than for here right now.

Paper books also give you a visceral experience affecting the senses: holding, page turning, and even the smell of the book! This all can add to remembering the content. And I will say, one of my favorite places in life is a bookstore. You can't browse in the same way in an online forum as you can in a brick and mortar bookstore. An additional perk of paper/printed books include if the book is printed on recycled paper. This, in turn helps to save not only the resource of new paper but the energy, water, and chemicals (and ultimately pollution) involved in creating new, virgin paper. Another con of paper books is the shipping that is involved in the process to get it to the store (and then to your house if you purchase it online). However, physical books can be passed along after reading, saving money, saving resources, and sharing ideas--all part of the 3 R's: reducing, reusing, and recycling. If you have nowhere to pass it along to, consider donating books to libraries, senior centers, or neighborhood Little Free Libraries.

Going digital eliminates the environmental issues of paper mill pollution and paper production's taking of trees, glues, and inks. The carbon footprint is better in those ways, however there is the cloud storage (not to mention creation) which requires computers, electricity, and environmental impact. Of course, these days too, computers are involved in print books too. I've seen this quote a few places: "If the internet was a country, it'd be the world's 6th largest polluter." Plus there's the materials (sometimes toxic) involved in the creation of these digital e-readers (phones included). Devices also need batteries and use electricity to be charged. One could argue that we have the phones anyway (as in my case where I'm reading off of my phone), but still the impact is there, especially when it comes time for disposal.  

For specifics on numbers related to the environmental impact of digital publishing at this article at CCCB LAB with the same name, written byMarta Escamilla Monelland Jordi Panyella Carbonell published in May 2021

Additionally, New Scientist's February 2021 post by Mike Berners-Lee entitled "Is It Better For The Planet To Read Online or In a Paper Format?" has some interesting points--including this quote which indicates a cost-analysis based on how much you read, which for me leads to digital.
"A typical paperback book has a climate impact similar to that of watching 6 hours of TV, at around 1 kilogram of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This unit is a measure of carbon footprint, expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same impact over a 100-year period.

E-readers are slightly better than paper books, as long as you use them many times. In my book How Bad Are Bananas?, I estimate their carbon footprint to be about 36 kg CO2e, so you have to read the equivalent of at least 36 paperback books (bought new, then recycled)in e-book format before the paper saving outweighs the emissions embodied in the device." ***
The moral of the story as stated elsewhere in the New Scientist article: "Reading books is a low-carbon activity, however you go about it." You can't be doing anything else (like driving or watching TV) while you are doing it. The library, used bookstores, and book swaps with friends are probably the best way to lower your environmental impact. My opinion too is to go with whatever format works best for you to read as much as you can.

So, whichever way you go about it, just read! For information, for new ideas, for the love of a good story, or just plain for fun!

*Yes, there are other e-readers like Nook or Kobo, but I'm going with my experience with Kindle. Additionally, for the purposes here, I'm lumping all e-readers together.

**At one point, I had taken social media off my phone, but between the 2020 election news and noise, Covid, pandemic, associated pandemonium, and more, I brought it back due to the plight of being human and requiring escapism in the midst of insanity.

***The following resource states the offset is 22.5 books per year. Additionally it quotes "Audiobooks may have a lighter environmental footprint, since readers generally listen on their smart phones with no additional device required." (This pairs with what I do--using an existing device and app to read your books: https://booksmakeadifference.com/green-books/

Images created at canva.com

Tips for Taking Care of Our Hiking Trails

Back in February I shared my friend
Holly's Hiking Manifesto. She's been embarking on the 52 Hike Challenge this past year. She had some stunning realizations on one of her recent hikes--Hike 32 that she's allowing me to share here. May her words inspire you to make good decisions while out hiking to help protect the lands as you move through the end of summer & the autumn. Have your hiking adventures keep you and our planet in good shape!

#Hike32 last week was beautiful but also made me very, very sad. 

The state park I have frequented often over the last 2 years has been one of my favorite places to hike when I just want to do a short hike close to home. I've hiked there regularly, and I know the trails there better than I know my way around my neighborhood!
 
But since I started hiking there, I've seen how the trails have changed--especially with increased traffic during the pandemic while people have flocked to outdoor spaces. Each time I visit, the damage and erosion has gotten exponentially worse. It's not that I want to discourage people from getting outside, but I also don't want to contribute to the abuse that some of these areas suffer from with the overcrowding.

If you are recreating outside, please remember if it has rained recently to stick to paved trails when possible. Also, please. please, please stay on the blazed trails! When you stray from the marked paths, you are contributing to the damage and erosion I mentioned earlier! I hiked the same trail I did last week only a month ago, and there were parts of it this trip that were almost unrecognizable because of obvious heavy traffic and people not staying on the path (after just a month!)

If there are faster hikers that you want to allow to pass you, try to step to the side in an area that isn't too fragile. And just step to the side and STOP - don't keep frolicking through the forest off of the path! And if you are the one doing the passing, please avoid just traipsing through the forest on unmarked paths to do it! Wait for the people in front of you to step aside! It's also totally fine and appropriate to ask nicely if you can pass. We're actually all totally capable of sharing the trails in a respectful and responsible way! 

Anyway, for now I think I'll be seeking some less trafficked trails but I will still be making every effort to take care of every trail I set foot on! 

Happy hiking!

Special thanks to my friend Holly for once again sharing your wit and wisdom and love of hiking and the great outdoors. The picture credit goes to Holly! The title photo created at www.canva.com.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Annual #NatureFix & #BlueMind Summer Analysis

For 4 years now, I've been keeping track of my hours outside during the summer. The idea came from the concept of 1000 hours outside being optimal over a year. Seasonally, that accounts for 250 for a summer (1/4 of the year), which fits nicely into a teacher's lifestyle of June, July, and August. 

In addition to notating my hours outdoors for 4 years, I've been accounting and measuring my days of planned, intentional days near/in water for 3 years (aka: #BlueMind). Both of which have now officially become an annual traditions. 

This summer, I've been keeping track daily in my digital calendar (Artful Agenda) in a daily section I titled "Self Care." and I totaled it in a list page in my calendar for the entire summer. Doing it digitally is a new thing for me as I've always been very paper-centric in the past with my planners. 

Here are my stats for Summer 2021:

My Goals...250 hours outdoors and 65 days in/near the water. Looking at my numbers--pretty happy with the outcome!

This summer, I hit my "grand prize win" with 64 #BlueMind days and water-oriented activities, and I hit my 2nd highest summer for hours outside with 297 hours. (If I would have counted Labor Day weekend, which apparently I have done some years in the past, I would have topped 300.)

Here are my stats for the past:

2019 was my big win of hours outside during my summer months with 326 hours--but it did include the first two days of September due to Labor Day weekend.  Close second with my 61 #BlueMind days of being in the water. 

2018 (when I was only measuring hours outside), I clocked in with 269, putting it at my 3rd place stance.

2020 I wasn't far behind with 258 and 56 days of water-centric focus. Kind of surprising given it was smack dab in the middle of a pandemic--I would have expected more...but sometimes air conditioning is for the win!

But, in view of the goal of 1000 hours of outdoors time over the course of the year, I'm pretty darn proud of myself for topping 250 for the season of summer--1/4 of the year. 

The takeaway: I feel more centered when outdoors and/or in the water. A lot of times, that's my backyard pool when it comes to water. Of course, there is the overlap between the two, but no matter what, it helps to keep me more centered.

I'm always more pulled to those indoor activities of work once school starts. But every year I continue to do this, I'm shown the value and downright necessity of equilibrium that comes from being either outdoors or experiencing water. It's more than just what feels good. Yes, certainly it is that. But it is always science. And it is what helps to keep me running on all cylinders. 

These are the things that are wholeheartedly important to keep in mind...because they are the things that keep me going!!

Image screenshots from my calendar. Promo code, should you choose to dive into Artful Agenda (which I love), is RV272257.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The 20th Anniversary of 9/11

As I said at the start of my 9/11 post in 2019: "Today is September 11. Of course your calendar tells you that, but so too does your heart for anyone who was around on September 11, 2001. It's one of those dates you remember where you were and what you were doing. Life changed to where it's remembered "before 9/11" and "after 9/11." I said some similar things last year in my 2020 post as well--including the importance of September 12, 2001.

This year, with the final withdrawal of our troops in Afganistan a month ago and now here on the 20th anniversary of 2001, it certainly is felt in a stronger way than ever. 

The "Flight 93 National Memorial" Facebook page has been posting some resources to learn more about the history of 9/11. In addition, they are planning to do a live 20th Anniversary Observance at 9:30 on their site. 

Here are some of the resources they have posted as well as some additional ones I have found to help ensure that we certainly "never forget."

  • The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial website has a wealth of educational resources. You can search by keywords, grade level bands (from PreK to adults), academic subject, and resource type. Additionally there is other information about the lives of those lost at the Pentagon, ways to explore the memorial virtually on the interactive map, information about the Visitor Education Center, and more. 
  • The 9/11 Day's website's mission is to annually create the September 11 National Day of Service & Remembrance as a tribute to those who where hurt, helped, or those periled on 9/11/2001. They have a 20th Anniversary video entitled "Our State of Unitedness" as well as lesson plans for grades K-8. 
  • PBS Newshour recently posted this article "The 9/11 Anniversary in the Classroom" along with accompanying lessons. In it they have detailed 9/11/2001 as well as the events from this past month.
  • Looking for even more? We Are Teachers website has a recent article entitled "22 Websites and Books to Teach Kids About 9/11" by Jeanne Croteau and published on August 23, 2021. Included Is a BrainPop video which could be suitable for 5th grade (possibly 4th) and up. It does have a disclaimer at the start of it (and lists it as "sensitive subject"), which suggests to kids to watch and discuss with an adult.

Whether for yourself, your own children, or your classroom, may these sites help you unravel the history, meaning, heartache, sacrifice, perspective, and importance of this day, 2 decades ago. Long may we remember.


Photo from my camera, and my GTG 9-11-2019 and 9-12-2020 posts. This 9/11 monument was constructed from steel beams retrieved from the World Trade Center site from September 11th, 2001. https://www.greenteamgazette.com/2019/09/remembering-911.html

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Vaccine Vials Repurposed to Shed Light During a Dark Year

 I'm always a fan of repurposing objects to turn them into something useful or something beautiful. 

A nurse in Colorado did just that.

As reported by CNN's Lauren M. Johnson in her September 5th, 2021 article "Colorado Nurse Transforms Covid Vaccine Vials Into a Work of Art to Show Appreciation for Health Care Workers," retired nurse Lauren Weiss converted numerous Moderna glass Covid-19 vaccine vials into a a stunning chandelier. Not only did she want to see the vials not go to waste, but wanted to create something of meaning. Weiss purposely wanted to create something to bring about light, hope, and beuaty during a dark pandemic-filled year. Additionally, Weiss hopes it serves as a tribute to the healthcare workers who have done so much for all during the last 18 months.

May it shed some light onto the power, hope, and health that the vaccines have brought us all in fighting Covid-19 and its variants during this pandemic.


Image from https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/05/us/nurse-creates-chandelier-moderna-vaccine-vials-trnd/index.html

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Tips & Takeaways from "Teaching Boldly"

In the myriad of books I'm reading for my goal to read 52 books this year, one that I read this summer was Teach Boldly: UsingEdTeach For Social Good by Jennifer Williams. It definitely is one that is rising to the top of my list as one of the most poignant reads of both the year and the summer. There are so many things in this book that speak to me...I see the potential  makings of a few posts inspired by this book.

Published by ISTE [International Society for Technology in Education] in 2019, Teach Boldly integrates technology standards for educators and students. The things I love about this book are the reasons I write this blog: 

  • it incorporates innovation and the design process;
  • the importance of empathy and teaching for social good both in your classroom culture and on a global scale for building multiple perspectives and viewpoints;
  • edtech as tools for being creating rather than solely consuming by way of digital storytelling and creating a natural application for digital citizenship.
The irony of this book is that it was published prior to the pandemic, however it talks about innovative teaching styles we used during the pandemic: synchronous, asynchronous, and remote learning. It talks about bias, diversity, perspective, and a sense of belonging, which have become more and more a part of our educational conversation. It embraces choices and creativity as offerings for our students. It discusses the importance of taking action, being change makers who make a positive difference, making an impact through meaningful project based learning, and taking time to reflect. It is through the debriefing that everyone can discover what went well, what was missed, and what were the challenges.

It's a book for our time!

My first recommendation: read the book.

My second recommendation: Check out some of these resources she mentions in her book:

General Online Resources:
Frameworks for inspiring lessons and promoting projects for social change:

Museums focused around social good that are good for a virtual visit:

Social Media folks to follow:

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Cicadas & Social Justice: A Surprising Combination

Now that it's August, the end of summer sounds of locusts and cicadas are the musical backdrop of your typical late summer soundtrack. A far more subtle and different cry from the cicada symphony that Brood X cicadas brought this past spring.

Even this spring, depending on where I went , the sound of the cicadas differed. By my school, it was a complete roar that I didn't even recognize the first time I'd heard it. From my backyard, a significantly quieter buzz. Reports from friends in both Eastern Shore Maryland and downtown Baltimore indicated that cicada sounds were actually nonexistent.The reasons were many and they all make sense: 

  • sandier soil on the Eastern Shore was not a good place to dig deep and call home for 17 years; 
  • construction dug up the earth, destroying cicada nesting spots; 
  • the concrete jungle doesn't make for good digging and hibernating.
But Ronak Shah's article in Chalkbeat made things make even more sense. Entitled "When Students Ask Why They Haven’t Seen Cicadas, We Need to Talk About Environmental Racism," this article brought about some "ah ha" moments. Ronak, a 7th grade teacher in Indianapolis, also noticed that not everyone was experiencing the sounds or signs of cicadas. Having grown up in the Midwest, I know it's not because of sandy soil. And, while Indianapolis could be considered a concrete city jungle with more streets than trees, he points out in the article that neighborhoods within the same city experienced different volumes of cicada songs (from loud to non-existent). Clearly there's more to it than being an urban, suburban, or rural thing. He notes that the cicada's presence seemed to land on historical lines: those dating back to desecration of schools which in turn led to the white flight of folks to mid-to-upper echelon neighborhoods. All of this really just perpetuates segregation in communities based on economics and how the schools are districted. This, in turn, ultimately creates the proverbial "right side of the tracks" versus "the wrong side," delineated by socio-economic status--which often times is also associated with race.

Intersectionism: where systemic racism and environmentalism and social justice collide. Case and point, this quote from Ronak's article:
"One of the lasting impacts of segregation is environmental injustice, and it impacts humans and cicadas alike. Most of our city’s toxic brownfields are located in Center Township south of 38th Street and along the northern Mass Ave corridor, another line of segregation. The lingering arsenic, mercury, and lead in water and soil impacts human health while also sickening or killing cicadas gestating underground. These lands are often paved over to become asphalt deserts, and the compacted, rubble-filled soil that drives flood water into people’s homes also makes it harder for cicadas to burrow, let alone emerge. Trees are scarce, and greenhouse gases are abundant, creating urban heat islands that confuse the bugs and leave little room for cicada breeding, all while contributing to disproportionately higher asthma rates in people. Redlined housing practices forced a higher population density into racially segregated areas, which means less available land for cicadas to hatch."
The fact that scientific data on Brood X dates back to historical data and timellines of Indianapolis is striking because it goes to show how tied and interrelated things are. It goes to show how much information (in other fields of study) has historical roots. It reminds me of Spanish philosopher George Santayana's quote that often pops into my mind (guess I must be an educator): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"... or Winston Churchill's version:“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It is our duty as educators to teach history. All of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the uncomfortable. Whether it's about cicadas or just about anything else.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Blue Mind, Concert Style

About 3 weeks ago we went to the Jimmy Buffett concert in Northern Virginia. My husband and his buddy have a long history of Jimmy Buffett concerts, so by marriage, of course, I too am a Parrothead, longing for Margaritaville.

Not only was it amazing to be back at a concert after the long sequester of Covid (and possibly before the next Delta-induced sequester), but it was wonderful to be soaking up the sweet sounds of familiar songs in the outdoor arena. During several of Jimmy's songs, he had a bounty of #bluemind scenes of as the backdrop on the Jumbotron.With a slight wind in the arena, breeze in my hair, and tropical tunes in my ears, I seriously had a blue mind moment with all of these pictures. A serious sense of peace. 

I compiled just a few of the photos from the concert here, to share the wealth of that #BlueMindMoment.

Video created at canva.com from photos from the August 7, 2021 Jimmy Buffett Concert in Northern Virginia.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Welcome Back to School

School starts for me (by way of teacher meetingsI) today. Official school for our students starts next week, but first day photos on Facebook show me that schools have started back in action almost up to a month ago in some areas.

This year, school starts with some trepidation. Remote learning, hybrid school, and the pandemic the last 18 months have sent all of us spinning a bit. Variants are on the rise after we've all tasted the sweet elixir of freedom in June--it's leaving my colleagues and I wondering what the future holds. Mask? Zoom? Quarantines? Covid cases? Or are we all back to normal? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, let's all take a deep breath, muster our strength and stamina, pray for good wifi if we need it, and hope for the best for a good school year ahead, connecting with our students. In the last 18 months, students and teachers have learned to be flexible, to pivot when needed, and to be creative problem solvers. We can do this. May the rejuvenation of the summer stay with you, and may you always be a good trouble shooter with a good sense of humor. Stay healthy, stay strong, and have a great school year ahead! Cheers!


Image created at canvas.com using my Bitmoji.com.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Rainy Days

Lyrics from an old Karen Carpenter song are melodically meandering in my brain: 🎶"Rainy days and Mondays always get me down."🎶 I’ve always enjoyed that tune—truthfully more for the sweet sounds of Karen Carpenter versus the lyrics. But, when one of your last days of summer freedom (insert another pop culture icon: Mel Gibson from "Dances with Wolves”), the rainy day initially got me down. Sitting outside on a bench in the sun to read for awhile or a last ditch pool day soaking up the sun were my main agenda. Sadly, there’s no sun to be had, no idyllic day.

Being out and about fairly early after dropping off my son at sports, I found myself pondering what to do with this now-rainy-day. Clearly not Plan A. 

So Plan B started with getting my hot green tea (“with honey and 10 ice cubes, please”--much to my husband's chagrin) at the local mom & pop coffee shop.  Then, assessing the rain, I decided to sit outside under the awning of my coffee shop and watch it rain. In doing so, I get my #NatureFix of being outside (which is really more street-and-parking-lot-view rather than a green one, but still a refreshingly cool breeze and some nature sights in the vista of the my view). I also got the #BlueMind aspect in the rain of this rainy day--gazing out at the forming puddles, the steady sight and sound of it coming down, and the mist hitting me as the wind shifted. 

Being outdoors (especially when indoors and delta variants and Covid are all a creeping concern) was therapeutic. Time was mine. Rain was fine. Perfect way to be present to read, think, observe, and literally soak it in.

Not to shabby, all in all, and not too far from my original game plan. I’ll take it. Better yet, I’ll embrace it.

Image from my camera from where I sat.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Cycling Spots, Part Deux

My last post got my biking juices spinning and searching for more. 

Not far from Belgium's "Cycling Through the Trees Path" is "Cycling Through Water" in Bokrijk, Limberg, Belgium. Passing through the water on a path built below the water's surface, you can get more than a bird's eye view. It's more of a water level's view where you can put yourself right in the middle of the watery habitat.


Odds are if you are inspired by either of these 2 biking paths in Belgium, you may be itching for more. This Fast Company find might be just for you: "These 15 Mind-Blowing Bike Projects Will Make You Hate Your Regular Bike Lane." These global bike sites are the pictures of modern architecture and engineering.

For some a little closer (perhaps) to home (if you live in the US), here is a short video of the 10 best car-free bike paths in the United States. Some might be near you.


Rail-trails are my favorite, as previously mentioned, as I like the defined, smooth terrain. To find a rail-trail near you, check out the Rails-To-Trail Conservancy.


Makes me want to go pump up my tires, check the chains, and head out for a bike ride. May it inspire you to go jump out and take a spin yourself.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Biking In the Tree Tops

I love a good bike path. And I'll admit, I'm not talking "dirt trail bike path." I'm talking smooth and paved and navigationally easy. That's the way I roll...quite literally.

Ever have that desire to be at the tip and top of the trees? Might take a little to get to, but you have that opportunity on the "Cycling Through the Trees" path in Limberg, Belgium along its cirular path taking you to the tops of the trees. It may take a suitcase and a plane to get there, but you don't have to pack your bike--you can rent one there.


To learn more about what it's like to bike at canopy level, check out Fast Company's article "This Treetop Bike Path Takes Uou 30 Feet Up Into the Canopy of a Forest" or go to Limberg's tourism site "Cycling Through the Trees in Bosland."


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Running the Waves Inside the River of Grass

Vacations are for expanding your horizons and trying out new experiences. The activities and events stick with us. And, it is through these adventures that we all grow. Not to mention, I keep finding my mind heading back there--especially the closer school keeps coming!

It might also have something to do with the fact that #BlueMind has been heavily on my mind this summer!

One of our new experiences on our Outer Banks vacation in July was taking a wave runner tour on the waters of the Curritick Sound, seeing Duck and Corolla from the water side. It was more than just "driving to drive." It was an hour and a half game of "follow the leader" outside the partitioned areas to really see some of the surroundings and learn a bit of history along the way. 

Now, out of full disclosure, I'll start by saying this. I do a lot of things well. Driving a wave runner is NOT one of them. I tried, I really did, and it didn't go well. I over-compensated with my steering. I was riding far too cautious to keep up with the group. Mostly, I couldn't get past the fear factor of impending doom and possible death. Luckily everyone else in my family are bigger adrenaline junkies than I am, so I could switch places with my teenage son and let him take over. That just left me holding on and getting to take in the scenery, fully enjoying the wind in my hair and the water spray on my face. A definite win-win for everyone!

So driving in and between the grass beds, past old abandoned duck blinds (where only the birds have taken up residency), past old hunting clubs, and even seeing Corolla's Curritick Beach Lighthouse in the distance, we got a chance to change our perspective. We saw the Sound from the inside out versus from the barrier islands looking in. We got to be one with the water, running those waves. We got to see from a vantage point we would have missed. We got to breathe it all in and experience life in a new way. We got to see this bird sanctuary from the bird's eye view, flying on the water, riding the waves, and running in the space between the grass. 

No wonder that #BlueMind vision is still riding my heart. 

Photos of our trip compiled in the PicCollage app, Travel quote created at canva.com



Saturday, August 7, 2021

Blue Marble Project

When I was a kid, I had this jar of marbles. One of those really old fashioned jars with a wire-closing lids that lock in place. I have no idea where I got it (maybe my grandparents). Playing marbles wasn't really "a thing" when I was a kid in the '70s, as that was more the generation prior to me (or even prior to that one). I don't really remember what it's purpose was, other than decoration and fascination. Back before technology, looking at cool marbles on a summer day and sorting it, and pondering them as currency or whatever was just the thing to do.

Having run across this concept of Wallace J. Nichol's "blue marble" (which started in 2009), it reminded me of my marble jar. I'm definitely going to have to dig around my childhood bedroom to see if I can find that marble jar. Maybe in a box somewhere, or maybe it's just plain in the land of the lost (like so many of our childhood "things."). Maybe it once was part of my classroom "stuff" when I was a "marble jar" teacher, rewarding collective good behavior. Bottom line, I haven't a clue where it could be now.

But, it's got me thinking. Did I have any blue marble in there? Law of averages says yes.

But the bigger question is: What is the Blue Marble Project? The blue marble at arm's length represents the view of our blue planet Earth from space. Here's Wallace J. Nichol's to tell you all about it:

Still curious and want to learn more? Check out these resources. Maybe it'll encourage you to get a bundle of blues and start sharing it forward as a li'l random act of blue kindness to spread 'round the world. When we care about something, that's when we want to protect it!

Image found at https://www.coachmyrna.org/coachmyrna-blog/marble-jar-friends, video from https://youtu.be/NufUn2SPeHw

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

EdTech Resources for News Literacy

Words have always fascinated me. In fact, back in the pre-Internet era, one of my most used high school graduation gifts and favorite books was a hard cover Roget's Thesaurus. I still have it, though thesaurus.com is where I tend to go more often these days than to my bookshelf. 

Words have meaning and importance. Our lexicon has meaning, and we are always adding new words as ones come to fashion. Many, as of late, stem from the onslaught of political discord, partisanship, divisiveness, 24-7 news....all of which show us the need for news literacy. For example:
  • Fake news--Added to the OED in 2019, yet even though it gained traction during the 2016 election season, it strikingly it's been around since 1890. 


A whole lot of other words fall in the category of synonyms for "fake news" and further point the finger to the need of news literacy. None of them are new, but their definitions are distinctive:

Misinformation (noun): "incorrect or misleading information"

Disinformation (noun): "false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth"

Propaganda (noun): "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause"

Conspiracy theory (noun):" a theory asserting that a secret of great importance is being kept from the public"

Gaslight (verb): "to attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation)"

Of course there are more and we could go on.

So yes, I am a lover of linguistics and the precision of language, but this is not just a semantic conversation nor is it a political conversation. It's all part of news literacy. As teachers, it is our duty to help our students develop the critical thinking skills necessary to discern between fact & fiction, and muddle through all the uncertainties & confusion to help them (and us) get to the truth by way of research and verification.

Luckily there are some great online resources out there which I was lucky enough to acquire in one of my toe-dips into "school stuff" this summer at a one-day workshop at school led by one of my colleagues. She shared some amazing resources on how to navigate the crazy world of news literacy in today's world. These are definitely worth checking out!

A smattering of specific lessons:

Good fact checking websites:

Along my own pursuit of information in the mis- & dis-information field, I ran across the fact that there's an International Fact Checking Day. The irony was not lost on me that this is annually on April 2nd, right after April Fool's Day. There are some great resources there on their website too.

News Literacy is vital for all citizens of all ages. The more our youth is presented with information on social media and more, the more important it is. It's about focusing our critical thinking skills. It is NOT a partisan activity but rather a pursuit for the truth in the middle of a lot of messages. By being news literate, we can navigate the noise and land on the news. Possibly one of our most important duties yet and a form of activism that we cannot overlook!


Fake news definition image from this OED tweet: https://twitter.com/OED/status/1181991604170694658, All other images created at canva.com



Saturday, July 31, 2021

Summer PD: A Walk on the Wild Side

I mentioned in my toe-dipping into back to school ideas that I've been attending a series of one-day summer institute professional development days at school. They're run in-house and on a completely optional basis (though paid!) and cover a variety of subjects. One of the nicest parts is that you can gear it toward your own professional learning and interests. Additionally, it is a great way to meet up with a variety of our preschool to grade 12 colleagues and get to know them better. Classes run from from anywhere to 6-20 "students" (aka other teachers), so a quick connection builds and the discussions can become quite rich--both on topic during class and off topic during lunch.

Like most teachers, I love learning new things. I also often teach a class or two in the summer. This year, I co-taught a class called "Walk on the Wild Side: Integrating Environmental Education in Your Classroom" with an Upper School Science teacher. We taught it in Summer of 2019, and rebooted it this year. One of the fun perks is that we have all of the participants bring their bikes and we bike the 2+ miles between campuses on the community bike trail and picnic and geocache about halfway along the way. 

In addition to discussing  Florence Williams' book Nature Fix and the health benefits of why we need to get outside, we incorporated some tools such as scavenger hunts and nature observations which can help teachers get in touch with the outdoors. 

One of our activities was to inspire our participants to come up with a setting outdoors for a 2 inch Playmobil figurine using only natural items. (My kids loved these when they were little and we have a ton of them. They make the perfect teaching tool!) The neat thing about this activity is the curricular connections: it could serve as inspiration for a story students would then write;it could be to build and showcase a chapter in a book; or it could be a maker activity putting the design process to work solving a problem. Our adult creations and backstories were phenomenal. Plus, it got the juices flowing for other ways teachers could modify these (and other) activities in class.

Along with afternoon work time for teachers to think of their own ways to infuse the outdoors in their classes, we invited participants to add to the growing document of ideas that we started, that grew in 2019, and grew even more this year. The list is housed in a professional development part of our online portal and available to all. Here are some of the inspirational and collective ideas from our teachers to you! We broke them down into time periods so anyone could find something that fits with whatever time block they have available!

5-10 Minute "Walk On The Wild Side" Classroom Activities to get kids outdoors--Many at this time period could be"brain break" events:
  • Hide and seek with objects or people -- especially in foreign language classes
  • Pato pato ganso (Duck Duck Goose in Spanish) or on hot days, drip drip drop or tie in with new vocabulary (example: noun, noun, adjective)
  • Numbers freeze dance on playground using sidewalk chalk and music
  • Compare our weather to weather in target country
  • Sidewalk chalk recording and illustrating the themes in the book as an anticipation strategy prior to reading
  • An inside activity, but daily: tally the number of days or hours you DON’T need to turn on lights due to lights coming into the room.

10-20 Minute Activities
  • Scavenger hunt with nature vocabulary, team building, or tie to concepts and bring it outdoors
  • Bury magnetic letters in sandbox and have preschoolers dig out and identify letter
  • Book Club Activity based on a novel about survival/nature
  • How many triangles can you make with 9 sticks?
  • Practice writing letters using water and paintbrushes
  • Play season detective and scour the schoolyard for all the signs of the given season 
  • Use sidewalk chalk to create a grid where kids can count and sort objects
  • Build a nature structure using “found nature” items outside for a “character” (Lego or Playmobile figure). Put a time period on it. Photo and share (or annotate), museum walk, etc. Put on parameters about how tall, wide, the perimeter, etc.

20-30 Minute Activities
  • Maximizing the exploding can (hydrogen coffee can experiment)
  • Bohr Model of the Atom Amphitheater
  • Build a Structure for Lego person and calculate “you size” (scale/dimensional analysis?)
  • Soccer with language immersion (foreign language)
  • Collect flowers and leaves and do leaf rubbings with crayons (younger students)
  • Novel read aloud at outdoors- have the kids “act out” different characters and add stage directions to the text 
  • Shape walk, followed by sketching and labeling what you saw
  • Write math problems on the blacktop with chalk and have students find pinecones, rocks, etc., to represent the answer.
  • Build a model of a topographic map with natural items

30-45 Minute Activities
  • “Escape Room” that takes place/incorporates outdoor space 
  • Have students chalk compass directions onto the blacktop and take note of what they see in each direction. 
  • Form adjective list, then go on a walk or on schoolyard nature trail and try to find an object that matches each descriptive word.

45-60 Minute Activities
  • Kite flying (and making) for the Breadwinner chapter book unit
  • Book-themed party hosted outdoors w outdoor challenges/activities 
  • Scavenger hunt from PD Day 
  • Solar Ovens/Wind Turbines
  • Water Quality in pond or stream
  • Carbon sequestration (tree diameters)

An Hour-long + Activities

Apps & Other Goodies

Art from my camera or created on canvas.com

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Canva For Education

In my last post, I mentioned toe-dipping into some edtech tools this summer. It left me with needing to put Canva in a post of its own!

Canva has long been a go-to website for me for creating digital signage and imagery. I've used it frequently here at GTG, always referencing when I do. They've made some additions with their Canva For Education which make it a teacher's dream! No doubt it's one of the many edtech shifts that have come out of remote and hybrid teaching during the pandemic, making it easier for students and teachers to connect.

The perks of Canva for Education:

  • It's free to K-12 teacher's and their students--sign up just entails a teacher login on your school domain and verification.
  • Teachers can invite students to their Canva classroom to assign and manage class activities.
  • It works seamlessly with Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, and more.
  • It opens up pro features including fonts, icons, and images.
  • The templates!! A wealth of customizable templates on every subject including social-emotional learning. Insert 3 thumbs up here!! Some of the broader category of school-specific templates include:
    • Class Posters
    • Schedules
    • Graphic organizers & mind maps
    • Lesson Plans
    • Certificates
    • Bookmarks
    • Certificates
    • Class Decor Kits
  • Not to mention all the templates they already had which could be adapted to the classroom: 
    • Integrating Bitmoji's (just discovered that one!)
    • Presentations
    • Infographics
    • Business Cards
    • Brochures
    • Newsletters
    • Resumes
    • Invitations
    • Even fun stuff like T-shirts, menus, postcards, and logos. Just think of the literature extension ideas you could use by assigning creative activities like these.
The possibilities are endless, both from the teacher productivity standpoint and the "create and write" standpoint for your students! 




"Head Back to School With Canva" art created at canvas.com; Graphic organizer image screenshot from https://www.canva.com/education/; Logo from canva.com

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Toe Dipping into EdTech Tools For the Fall

I think I've entered that "toe dip" season of the year. I'm not talking pool or beach or other water sports, which are all at full emersion! The "toe dip" of which I speak is that point in the summer where my mind is slowly going to thoughts for the new year. Slow. Bite sized. Bits. Then instantly jumping right back into the full emersion part of the pool! A slight visit, but then a swift return to make sure that I'm "wearing my summer well." It's an interesting evolution that happens for teachers. It's all part of the swirling healing process of closing out one school year and the recouping and readying for the next year.

I've had some mid-summer one-day professional days at school.We do these "Summer Institutes" every summer so our teachers can learn from our teachers on a myriad of topics. These become the perfect toe-dipper kind of days. Good time to rejuvenate and refocus, and learn new items, which in turn start those spinning wheels to start looking into other things. My next several posts will be on some of those workshops, and on some of my other toe dips along the way.

Today's toe-dips include some really cool online edtech resources I've run across that would benefit any teacher. They include timesavers as well as other inspirational finds. May you enjoy toe-dipping into them at your leisure:

  • Seesaw Connect, which is an online virtual global conference for Seesaw Teachers next week: July 26-30. Once you register (free!), you can can take a multitude of online, on-demand short courses to get your gears turning on how to incorporate Seesaw in many different ways. Access remains open until August 13th.
  • Education World has a slew of templates, diagrams, forms and charts all classroom-centric that you can print. Great resource!
Best part of toe-dipping....you can take one, try it out, then go right back into summer mode. You can investigate while you've got some of that free time on your hands and check out what's new out there. May this little list inspire a tidbit of toe dipping, then let you re-immerse yourself into whatever part of summer you wish. My favorite is always my pool!

Art created on Canva.com (my next-time toe-dip tool to share!)




Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Power of the Wind and the Weather

Two days prior to my wedding (in the wayyyy back machine), we had a "Hurricane Day" off of school (think "snow day") two days prior due to Hurricane Floyd. It rained and rained, and I gleefully tackled all those last minute bride things. Unfortunately though, our wedding venue had it's power knocked out, and we had to re-route the entire wedding in about 24 hours. We did--the day ended up being a beautiful day--and we are still in our "happily ever after."

Flash forward a handful of years.

We moved to Florida for my husband's job, where we lived about 6 years. During the first two weeks of our move there we had a tropical storm. I don't even think it had a name. The idea of it scared this Midwest girl to death. Unlike before when I was living in Maryland and it wasn't a direct hit, the intensity of Florida weather brought about more of a fear factor. All we got in my Hurricane Floyd experience was rain and power outages. Not necessarily direct hits. I was way more accustomed to the occasional weirdly-green sky that accompanies a tornado and the dash to the basement than any kind of water/ocean destruction. Other than anxiety, we clearly survived with the only fall out we had was a hyperspaz dog and watching the intensity of rain fall on us. 

Flash forward another handful of years.

After living in Florida, you find yourself saying seemingly-bizarre statements like "It's only a Category 1 hurricane" and "that 'cone of uncertainty' will shift and we'll be fine." It's funny how experience of "weathering the storms" gets you here. Yes, we boarded up our house a few times, and we also packed and left occasionally, to go to the other side of the state to avoid the brunt of it. But we were always fine. However, we also saw the destruction from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At one point earlier in its trajectory, Katrina had been tracking right to us. Luckily it shifted leaving us fine, but horrified for New Orleans. We counted our blessings on more than one occasion.

Flash forward 16 more years.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Elsa swept through our time while we were vacationing in Duck, NC a few weeks ago. We had a lovely day of massages in store--perfect for the rainy weather--and were surprised by the limited amount of rain we actually got. We had already preemptively "battened down the hatches" the night before at our rental house,  so we weren't really worried. Yes, there were white caps on the 2-3 foot deep Currtick Sound out our back window, but nothing more. Those comments came back to our kids: "It's only the tail end of a tropical storm." It made for a relaxing indoor day of books and games and comfort food. Until bedtime.  That's when the strongest band of weather came through. Being in a beach house and right on the water, we were more exposed than I had ever been in a weather situation. I've never felt a house shake like this. The wind was intense. I later discovered it was upwards of 25 mph with gusts up to 42 mph--all from 11 pm to 3 am. No wonder the house was shaking, the way these homes are built up--not fully on stilts, but with openness underneath.  I never got into full panic mode, but it was a level of angst I hadn't felt in awhile. I think some of the calming effects of the massage earlier that day had worn off.

But we weathered the storm and even slept some. In fact, the sun was out and skies were clear by 7 am the next morning. The only true evidence of a storm (other than the still-jitters in my stomach) was the debris line halfway up the yard showing how high the water rose.

Even the osprey nest next door looked like it had also weathered the storm quite well. Given that, I'm a bit in awe at their construction skills!

It definitely shows you the power of nature, and leads you to a reverence where you honor that power. It causes you to take pause as you watch the events and intensity on the rise and breaking records. And it certainly has you counting your blessings. 

"Tropical Storm Alert" image from https://www.chathamstartribune.com/image_0040049a-d587-11ea-b0c2-afda90ad2572.html, Hurricane Floyd weather map from https://www.weather.gov/ilm/Floyd, Category 1 hurricane chart from https://aerindustries.com/blog/2017/11/28/hurricane-categories-related-damage/, Wind Chart for Duck, NC from https://windalert.com/spot/40944, all other photos from my camera.