Wednesday, September 29, 2021

One Small Action

In March of this year the following photo, taken by Nandu Ks went viral. It showcased 69 year old N. S. Rajappon cleaning plastic trash from India's Meenachil River.

A victim of polio at the age of 5, N.S. is paralyzed, but daily he takes a sojourn into the waterways near his home in India to collect trash and clean the river. A boatload only earns about 17 cents (enough for a meal), but it makes a difference. 

 "Someone should remove the waste from water... I'm doing what is possible for me." ~N. S. Rajappon

Environmentally speaking, we can sometimes become so overwhelmed. "I'm only one person," we may say. But this viral image definitely highlights the power of one. What can you do today?

Image of N. S. Rajappan as taken by Nandu Ks from and Quote image from

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Buzz About Bees

Since the spring and the blooming flowers, the bees have been buzzing. Just because we are returning to school doesn't mean they are flying away quite yet. With the first day of fall hitting the calendar earlier this week, fall flowers bring about different reasons for the bees to keep flittering about! Those bees are still vital pollinators, on the move!

Here are some top notch resources sights to bring you the buzz about bees:

Pollinator Resources:

One of the most surprising places I found a wealth of pollinator resources was the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial commemorating 9/11. They have an entire tab dedicated to environmental education and the pollinators and the native birds that make the memorial their home. In addition to the 9 website resources they list to other sites, they also list two science-based Pollinator Curriculums: one for Kindergarten to Grade 2, and one for Grades 3-5. They also have a "Bee Reading List for Kindergarten to Grade 12."


Bee Hotels:

Want to build your own bee hotel? National Geographic to the rescue with a lesson plan for students in grades 3-11. Here's another detailed blue print and guide from Michigan State University's Extension Office if you need it.

Additionally the 1 Million Women Facebook page has a mini movie about bee hotels. It showcases how they are helping to save and protect bees, who in turn are helping us!


These two infographics are a great reminder of just how necessary bees are. Check out "The Bees Knees" and "Bee Conscious" at these links to get a better, closer look.

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 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:

Images created at

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

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.

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

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.