Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Patrick Dougherty's Latest & Local Environmental Creation

Beautiful environmental sculptures in basically your backyard are rare and exceptional treats. 

That's exactly how I felt as I meandered through Patrick Dougherty's latest installation at Maryland Hall in Annapolis entitled "Old Home Place." It was an additional delight for me to be in the middle of one of Patrick's works given I had researched and written about him in December 2020

Meandering through the structure made of sticks and saplings at the base of an already full and lush tree, I felt instant peace in the little hidey-hole structures surrounding the trunk of the tree. I'd love to bring in a book and curl up inside. It's a total dream treehouse to my inner child, and took me back to the little hidden getaway I had as a child underneath two tall twin evergreen trees in our yard. I remember having picnics, secret meetings, and just enjoying life in that hideaway. It was the same feeling I had while wandering in the little "huts" here.

In order to make this structure, it took four truckloads of local sycamore, sweet gum, and willow branches collected from Maryland's Eastern Shore in early May. Depending on the weather, this environmental art is slated to last for 1-3 years. 
A panoramic view from inside one of the "huts."
A selfie inside
Thank you to Patrick Dougherty for sharing his work with us here in Annapolis. "Old Home Place" is now part of his amazing body of work which includes over 300+ pieces he's created worldwide! So wonderful to have this special spot so close to home. It's a perfect place to go, unwind, and unplug!

To learn more, check out these Capital Gazette articles about Patrick Dougherty creating this installation:

Pictures taken from my camera at Maryland Hall. Title picture created at

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Blue Mind Revisited

My first official day of summer was last week. No more school days. No more post-planning teacher meetings. Just full on summer after what might be the longest school year ever. 

Thinking back to the speeches our 5th graders wrote for their promotion as they ready themselves for their next step of middle school, I was hit by how much they had been through. 

How much we all had been through with our hybrid school every other day, several weeks in the middle needing to go full remote, then coming back fully on campus. 

Sitting at the cusp of summer right at the very beginning, seeing the hope and beauty of all the sunny days ahead--it's a beautiful sight. 

It also just so happened to be coincide with the first day our pool was open and ready for me for my maiden day of entry. That blue water was calling me, and boy oh boy did it feel restorative and like coming home. 

This year more than ever.

It also seemed like the perfect day to start rereading Wallace J. Nichol's book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.

After the school year I've had and after 15 months of a pandemic, rereading one of my favorite books about one of my favorite places seemed like what I needed to do. I am definitely in need of a little #BlueMind.

In thinking about that, I was inspired to take some of the quotes that Wallace J. Nichols includes in the book and bring them to life with some visuals.

To dive back into my previous comments about this amazing book and the power of water, check out my past posts:

Images created at

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Slew of Summer Fun Ideas

Summer is here, both in spirit and by way of Summer Solstice, this year on June 20th. The longest day of the year marks the official seasonal start of summer--though many of us mark it unofficially by either Memorial Day or the end of the school year.

So now that summer's here, there's that Phineas and Ferb question and answer of "I know what we're going to do today, Ferb" here in the "104 days of summer vacation."

The obvious things always pop up. Pool days. Maybe a trip to the beach or a boat ride. A picnic or hike in a park. Taking in a ball game. Maybe a bike ride. But sometimes you just need a little inspiration to come up with a few other ideas to get you off your beaten path.

Here's a few lists to help you fill your 104 days of summer which would make Phineas and Ferb proud.

So....."As you can see
There's a whole lot of stuff to do 
Before school starts this fall! (Come on Perry!)" 

If you are bored this summer, it's your own darn fault!! Consult your inner Phineas & Ferb, and go have some fun. Pronto!!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

When Father's Day, Civil War, & the Environment All Intersect

Father's Day, Civil War, and the Environment are not the typical trio. Not by a long shot. Yet it's funny how this year, in my world, they all seem to intersect. I'll admit it, it's a bit of a weird convergence, yet it illustrates my Father's Day 2021. 

As part of an extended family adventure, my husband and his dad, both sizable Civil War history buffs, along with a handful of the rest of our family clan, are embarking on a 4-hour historic battle field tour as part of our plans for our Father's Day/Juneteenth weekend. While I'm not the history fanatic the rest of them are, I'm excited that the weather is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, which will make our outdoor adventure even better!

With the Civil War on my brain as we were gearing up to go, I started googling these 3 terms just to see what it would bring up. Apparently, a lot. 

One of the many things I ran across was a book entitled "An Environmental History of the Civil War" by Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver. I never really considered environmental issues under the veil of the topic of the Civil War, but of course, it makes sense. Wars are fought outdoors--especially back in 1861. The land governed how those battles were fought. Civil War battles in the North were named according landforms and bodies of water. [The South typically named the battles based on the nearby town.] The four years of the Civil War brought a direct connection between the natural world and humans given the disease brought about by ailing, weakened soldiers and animals. But from reviews of the book, post-Civil War was also a time which brought about the conservation movement and the beginning of our national park systems.

Another book along the same lines is Kathryn Shively Meier's Nature's Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia. Its description places Nature as the common enemy and an equal opponent to both Confederate and Yankee soldiers. "Man versus Nature" has always been a common theme in literature class... and reality! 

In fact, if you google "environmentalism and Civil War," you come up with even more articles if you still have a desire to delve deeper online into this connection. 

Another interesting find on my pursuit of tie-ins to Civil War and Father's Day led me to this headline on by David Roos fro 2018: "The Man Who Inspired Father’s Day Was a Single Dad and a Civil War Vet." The man in question: William Jackson Smart. William was married and widowed twice in his lifetime. He was the father of 6 from his first marriage and 14 children total after his second marriage and second wife died. A Civil War Veteran, William served as the inspiration to one of his daughters who dedicated herself toward the creation of the first Father's Day. 

This daughter--Sonora Smart Dodd--was 16 years old when her mother Ellen (William's first wife) died in childbirth. Years later, Sonora was attending one of the first Mother's Day events at her church in Spokane, Washington in 1909 when it struck her--if we have a day for our moms, why not our dads? In David Roos' article, he has several quotes from Sonora on the dedication she saw her father give her family and siblings. She brought forth her first petition to the Spokane Ministerial Alliance for Father's Day in 1910, wanting Father's Day to be held on June 5th, her father's birthday. Due to timing, they opted for a later date--June 19th. The 3rd Sunday in June. From that first Father's Day in Spokane Washington, Sonora went forward for 60 years (long after her father died in 1919), working towards getting Father's Day to become a national holiday. 

Sonora's dad, William Jackson Smart, was born in Arkansas. Records show he ultimately fought for both the North and the South in the Civil War. Starting as part of the Confederate troops, he was captured in 1862 and opted to join the Union rather than be relegated to a prisoner in a war camp. After the war ended, William ultimately ended up with his family in Washington state. It was here, after her mother died and later William's second wife died, where Sonora saw her father working hard to protect and love his kids as a single father. 

Pursuit pays off, but it was a long time in coming. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Congressional resolution placing Fataher's Day on the 3rd Sunday in June. Sonora Smart Dodd, who by this time had achieved success as a poet, artist, children's book author, funeral home director, and civic leader in Spokane, was 90 years old. She died at the age of 96, seeing her lifelong dream come to fruition.

As you approach this Father's Day, may your personal history meet up with you as you celebrate the important fathers in your life. Your day probably won't tie in to the Civil War or entail a battlefield like my Father's Day plans do this year, but maybe some time spent outdoors on a beautiful Sunday may be a great way to celebrate.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Mount Recyclemore At G-7

20,000 pieces of electronic waste all in one place is sizable to begin with. 

Put those pieces together in an artistic installation--it causes people to take notice. 

Put them into the faces of 7 world leaders AND put them on the beach across the Carbis Bay Hotel in St. Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom where the G7 Summit is taking place--it makes national news.

Welcome to Mount Recyclemore!

Reminds me a bit about Mount Trashmore!

Mount Recyclemore was created by artist Joe Rush & musicMagpie (a second hand electronics store) with the help of 15 artists over the course of 6 weeks. It was first created in Rush's south London studio scrapyard then shipped to Cornwall to be erected in time for last week's G7 Summit. The G7 is the "Group of Seven" organization of leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and the Summit was held during the 3 days of June 11-13, 2021. 

The reason behind this creation: to spotlight electronic waste, its harm to the environment, and the need for it to be more easily recyclable and reusable. It is especially true given that some of the worst e-waste heavy hitters being developed nations. E-waste leaches chemicals into the soil or water if sent to landfills, or becomes hazardous air pollution if burned. Both of these are major contributors to environmental destruction and climate change. Additionally, materials in phones, laptops, monitors, and other tech waste include precious materials from limited resources where the extraction process adds major impact to our planet. Especially when e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream right now.

Taking the lead from South Dakota's Mount Rushmore's 4 presidential faces, this structure highlights the following seven leader's faces (in order from left to right):
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga
  • French President Emmanuel Macron
  • Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • U.S. President Joe Biden
With climate change and Covid-19 being two of the top issues of the Summit, Mount Trashmore as a creation of discarded tech becomes an important symbol for the environment. 

After the Summit's end on Sunday, June 13th, the plan is to move Mount Recyclemore to musicMagpie’s headquarters in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Packed Padlet Full of Culturally Responsive Resources

As the diversity of our classrooms grows and branches out, and as the news headlines continues to crop up with stories of racial, religious, gender, and sexual identity injustices, it is our role as educators to continue to educate both ourselves ourselves and our students. Some people might argue "political issues" are too political for an environmental education, edtech, & innovation blog, but social justice is indeed a climate and environmental justice issue. 

It is from this vantage point that the teacher in me argues what all of this really is: it is an "empathy issue." Our job as teachers is to help our students see things from other perspectives, analyze situations, think critically, and explore other cultures. By understanding where someone else is coming from, we can learn about and better understand their experiences. Just like a habitat is healthier when there is a lot of biodiversity in that environment, so too is our global, human experience!

For several years now, I have adored Padlet as one of my favorite edtech tools for compilation, curation, and collaboration. I love it even more when people use it to collect resources with the sole purpsoe to share. This Padlet here came from a Diversity-Inclusivity-Equity [DEI] workshop that a colleague of mine attended. It is an expansive resource of many culturally responsive books, texts, articles, and videos for all ages. The goal of the Padlet: to help broaden the perspectives on variety of DEI topics. My always GTG goal: to share digital resources!

May we all continue to grow and learn more about our friends, our neighbors, our students, our community members, and other people across our planet so we can widen our understanding of others' cultures and their struggles & successes. By learning more about others, we ultimately learn more about ourselves.

Scroll through the Padlet embedded here (both horizontally and vertically), then click the links of the resources you are interested in. You can also access the Padlet on its own webpage here.

Made with Padlet

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Matchmakers For the Environment

Dating apps are all the craze and have been for years. I know a number of people who have met their future spouse through these--whether it's one of the "swipe right or left" variety or another kind.

Would you swipe right or swipe left for a cleaner environment to help reduce and repurpose waste?

Maayke Aimée Damen brings about an interesting and innovative parallel to dating apps with the work she does at Excess Materials Exchange [EME]. Maayke is one of the co-founders of this Amsterdam-based digital platform. Since 2017, EME has worked to help create a global circular loop by reusing materials and exchanging them with other companies that need these materials as raw products. In doing this, it helps repurpose what was potentially seen as waste and funnel it to some one else who needs it--which in turn helps create a much smaller ecological footprint for all parties involved. Classic case of "supply & demand" meets "one man's trash is literally another's treasure. 

Maayke speaks about it here in her 2020 TED Talk. She describes how they are   basically "materials matchmakers," helping to find the best environmental fit for other companies. 

To learn more, check out the visual below and investigate Excess Materials Exchange's website.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Pondering Pandemic School As Summer Approaches & The World Opens Back Up

As I'm approaching the last remaining days of school, I'm struck in that sandwich time between end of the year craziness and summer bliss ahead. That's usually just about the right time for reflection in a normal school year. However, we all know this year was about as far away from normal as you can get. In fact, when you factor in the nuances of the Covid craziness of this pandemic, hybrid, remote, upside down teaching (where the "nuances" were far more nerve-racking than subtle), "reflecting" this year goes to new heights.

Add in, two weeks ago I actually was able to sneak away on my first trip "home"--a solo trip to the heartland to my folks' house. Being several states away, it's never a simple nor a quick trip since it involves either a long drive or a flight. In fact, in this Covid craziness, it has been since Christmas 2019 that I'd been there (or vice versa). 

Not only did I get to sneak in a little end of the year flight and multi-day getaway, but I also got to sleep in my old bed in the house I grew up in, breathing in the homeland and seeing all the old familiar sites of my childhood. In short: I got to go HOME for the first time in 17 months (almost to the day) since Christmas 2019. 2019: Back when there wasn't even a glimmer of an idea of a pandemic and how topsy turvy it would ultimately be. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like seeing my mom sitting in the waiting room inside our small regional airport while I was taxi-ing in, sitting on the plane. Window to window. Best memory ever and an even better hug in person. A hug that was17 months in waiting--long overdue--with double doses of vaccines on both sides, a multitude of masks these many months, all following nationwide quarantines & FaceTimes & Covid-school. Oh my!

My go-to saying this past year has been that hybrid teaching is like juggling knives with the simultaneous task of addressing the "roomers" and the "zoomers." While remote learning was maniacally difficult, in retrospect it was almost a piece of cake in comparison to hybrid learning. Back in March last year, none of us would have believed that it was possible for something to be harder than remote teaching! 

Teaching at an independent school, we were able to start the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid setting due to our ability to spread everyone out. We were hybrid for about 6 and a half months where kids came essentially every other day (except for those who opted to be full-time remote students). Right about the time our area public schools ventured into the hybrid world in March of this year, we transitioned back into full-time, in-school teaching--with plexiglass, masks, air scrubbers, distancing, outdoor lunches, and more. Over time, the full-time remote students started trickling back in. We're ending the school year this next week with almost our entire population fully back in session. 

Along those many months, we re-crafted the art of teaching first for fully remote then for hybrid. Our elementary students have far exceeded previous years in their technology skills and abilities. We've all honed our problem solving abilities, patience, senses of flexibility (and hopefully humor), and creativity. It's been a long, long road to get here. Many of us teachers are TIRED!

The vaccine roll out has been a gift of science the last five months, and our nation as a whole is starting to open up. Elementary students are still waiting their turn, but with the vaccines now being able to be administered to anyone 12 years old and up, "normalcy" (both in schools and beyond) is starting to return. For many of us who have been "Covid cautious" throughout, there's a little bit of PTSD that comes with that. For one, it's hard to get past the staggering numbers of deaths our nation and our world have faced due to this silent virus. Secondarily, the initial fear of the unknown really packed a powerful punch. I remember the "old days" in the early part of the pandemic where we wiped down our mail & delivered groceries and hoped we didn't run out of Clorox wipes. Man, does that feel like eons ago!

As we have moved through the various stages of the pandemic [which included a contentious election as well as a lot of televised racial injustice for which we were a captive audience], we have finally made it through to what's feeling like "the other side." The world is opening back up. Slowly for some (& perhaps with PTSD) and exuberantly for others. I see it strikingly and with raw emotion as I take note of the proms and graduations that are happening this year in ways that were impossible last year. I witnessed it first hand at the crowded airport from my trip two weeks ago. Not only was it weird because it was the first time I'd flown in at least 2 years, but let me tell you: there were a lot of people! Too many people for this kid! That person seated next to me on the plane was not 3 feet away! It was definitely a strange dichotomy given I've become a pro at reminding students at school to stay distanced and monitoring myself & my family to steer clear of crowded settings. 

The more life opens up, the more I'm slowly becoming accustomed to letting go of all the rules and protocols that we've been governed by for the last 15 months. It's hard to let go of though, especially since  I've been teaching in masks, eating lunch in a room by myself behind a closed door, and virtually bathing in hand soap and sanitizer at school. It's taking a little bit to settle into the vaccinated safety and take comfort in the reduction in the number of cases and to trust that things are getting better.

So with summer nearly upon us, I'm eager to retire my mask and bask in my backyard for a bit. To breathe in the fresh air, To settle in my summer happy place of the pool. To go on an adventure or two. To catch up on sleep, read books, watch some shows, and just work on anything but "work." That is of course one of the all-time beauties of being a teacher. This year, more than ever before!

Photos either from my camera or created at

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Kid Legend Book Series

Two of my recent reads were from the Kid Legend Series by David Stabler and Robin Stevenson. This 7-book series focuses on a series of "greats" within the title topic and focuses on what these folks were like as kids who ultimately became champions in their fields. 

Best part of it, the recommendation for the book series came from one of my 3rd grade students in Technology when we were talking about Computer History and she recognized some of the names I mentioned based on having just read Kid Innovators.

Based on the nature of teaching technology and my investigation for curricular connections with a leadership unit ahead, I ordered Kid Activists: True Tales of Childhood from Champions of Change & Kid Innovators: True Tales of Childhood from Inventors and Trailblazers (both written by Robin Stevenson). Quick reads of course for an adult, but I found the stories fascinating as I learned the stories of the childhood of these activists and innovators. The two I read were excellent books for our young readers who enjoy biographies.

Other books in the series all by David Stabler that I'm sure are equally as good:

Kid Activists Image created at cover from; Individual pictures all taken the the activist's page except for Autumn Peltier, who's picture was from 

Kid Innovators Image created at Cover from;  Individual pictures all taken the the activist's page except for William Kamkwamba who's picture was from and the Wright Brothers, who's picture is from