Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A Plastic-cyclopedia to Ponder

Marine debris. Microplastics. Pyroplastics. Plasticrust. Plastiglomerate. Anthropoquina. Plastic soup.

Plastic pollution comes in all sorts of new names and sizes. As plastic use continues over time, we get a new idea of how it breaks down and what kind of plastic waste it leaves behind. It's seemingly becoming a whole new level of plasticized geology, that needs to come with its own glossary to define this new vocabulary, some of which sounds a bit like a foreign language:

Marine debris:
We've known about marine debris for a long time and it is the most synonymous with oceanic and waterway pollution. It it is not limited specifically to plastic, and can include aluminum soda cans, fishing gear, even abandoned boats It' typically is anything solid and of any size that winds up in a waterway. It can break down over time from the water or the sun. We often see it wash up on the shores, and it can travel from streams to rivers to lakes or oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (along with these gyres in all other oceans as well) wind up being the dumping ground for such objects.

Microplastics: Microplastics are any kind of plastic that is smaller than 5 millimeters. Due to their small size, they can be ingested by marine organisms when they get washed through our water systems and waterways. There are 5 different types
  • Fibers: These largely come from fleece or poly-blend clothing, diapers, and cigarettes. Most of them enter our waterways through our washing machines. Given they come from materials that are not natural, they do not biodegrade and they are not filtered out of wastewater treatment plants.
  • Microbeads: These tiny items are less than a millimeter in diameter. They are often found in cosmetics, lotions, or face creams as exfoliants and easily drain down the sink. They are often mistaken as food by marine animals one they get into our waterways. They are not fully digestible and are often toxic.
  • Fragments: These are small pieces of plastic that break off larger items. Typically they come from single-use items like plastic cups, silverware, lids, toys, or a myriad of other items. The sun continues to photodegrade them into smaller items. These too can be mistaken as food by smaller animals.
  • Nurdles: Nurdles are small plastic pellets purposely made by companies in order to create bigger, plastic-created items such as storage bins and lids, garbage cans, and more. Depending on how they are handled in a facility by humans or weather-related situations, these can get into the waterways and become a hazard to other animals as they look like food.
  • Foam: Styrofoam breaks apart easily from weather or sun, and small particles remain given the substance itself is not degradable. Not only can the chemicals from styrofoam leach into the drinks or food (if they are cups or plates), but they also can become small fragments in the water, harming marine creatures.

: Pyroplastics are small plastic remnants that look like rocks or pebbles (though weigh much less, and they float).They often are formed by melted plastic, either from being burned on a ship or thrown into the water. Analysis of them often indicate that they are eroded over time from other plastic trash. These are difficult to identify at a glance and there may be far more out there than predicted.

Plastiglomerate: Just like it sounds, plasticglomerate is the combination of plastic and conglomerates, making it like a combination-style sedimentary rock. It is formed by mixing and merging plastic with something like coral, cooled lava, or shells. It can be considered a subset of pyroplastics.

: A subset of plastiglomerate, plasticrust is when plastic melts onto rocks of shorelines.This is going to be consumed more by land animals versus sea life. These are created by sea waves depositing the plastic on the shore and it melting onto rocks.

Anthropoquina: This is also similar to plastiglomerates in that it is a mix with plastic and other materials, resulting in a technofossil of both man-made items and natural items. They too are naturally created by sea waves and the sun molding things together.

Plastic soup: Plastic soup is considered the mix and mingle of all of the above. The term was coined by Captain Charles Moore in 1997 during a sailing trip from Hawaii to California. It refers to the plastic floating on the water surface, sinking to the bottom, and all the tiny pieces between. 

Neopelagic communities: When plastic trash hits the waterway, they can become a habitat for organisms. Often time, marine debris lands on a coastline. But, if it goes out into the open shore due to currents or weather systems (or other reasons), they become a raft-like habitat. It is not uncommon for some coastal creatures such as anemones, hydroids, and shrimp-like creatures to hop a ride and make themselves at home on floating marine plastic. As long as the creatures have food source, they may have found themselves their own little floating plastic house boat. This in turn can take coastal species to other areas where they are not native. At that point they have the potential to become an invasive species, threatening others around them. Additionally, it could take them to environments where these creatures are not suited for survival.

Now that we have a new and improved vocabulary...seems like our plastic habits need a definite step up. In this plasticized world, makes you rethink every plastic item you touch. Like I ask my own children and my students: do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Intersectionality of Women’s Rights

I’m not going to say much, other than I’m highly disappointed with the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that turned upside down women’s rights in America. As with many social justice issues, there’s an intersection which relates to socio-economics, race, location, and more. Personal matters are always harder for those with less access and resources. 

I believe that the late Supreme Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said it best in this graphic I have seen multiple times in the last 24 hours on social media (original source unknown). Clearly taking action, peaceful protesting, and voting are the best ways to address this miscarriage of justice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Summer Solstice 2022

Today is Tuesday, June 21, 2022... Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year. The shortest night. The first day of summer. The pinnacle for summer, sunlight loving people. 

Here in this season of summer solstice and highlighted sunlight, I share this blessing and beautiful art from Stephanie Laird. May well-being and peace be yours.

Buy Art Online

Art from and shared with the embed code from this website.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Father's Day 2022

This Father's Day, may the world slow down for you so you can share it with those who mean everything to they your fathers, your children, your grandfathers, your uncles, your coaches, your neighbors,  your mentors, your mothers who are filling the roles of fathers in your world, and more. 

Image from

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Summer Break 2022 Is On!

Today marks my last day of school meetings and events...ergo, my first official day of summer. This date has been out there, shining like a lighthouse lamp, a beacon of freedom and the succulence of summer as the days grow closer. 

I love teaching, and I love my job, but the last few years have been hard. Pandemic, remote, hybrid, masks, vaccines and boosters yet climbing numbers. It's been a hard wear and tear on my body (knee replacement surgery a month from now) and on my collective soul and mind. 

If you know any teachers, you know they are tired. The demands these last few years have been harder than ever, and the exhaustion is real. It has been by far more than "just regular school," and it certainly doesn't help when there are not enough bus drivers for public schools and substitutes for every school. A lot of teachers are doing double duty on top of dealing with their own and their student's emotional and mental health, parental stress, and the demands of teaching a wider than ever range of abilities in the classroom. 

For me personally with my deteriorating knees, I've seen how physically demanding elementary school is (and the running around the building I do as a Technology Specialist)... and how you don't realize how important health is until you don't have it!

For my fellow teachers out there--I see you and I know how hard we all have been working. I tip my hat to all that you have encountered and accomplished this year. I know the sweet victory of the making it to summer. Please take time to enjoy, to recuperate, to rest, to remind yourself what fun there is as you step away from lesson planning and paper grading these next several sensational weeks of summer. We have certainly earned it!

Images from Images from and (the latter which was written in 2018--showing you how tiring teaching is in "normal" years. It's been 10x harder since March 2020!)

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Fighting Flygskam

It's no surprise to anyone what an impact air travel has on the collective, planetary carbon footprint. It's come to have a name: flygskam. This Swedish word, which popped up in 2017 but gained popularity  shortly before the pandemic began means "flying shame." It is defined as climate guilt from flying, and is a term that came into being during Greta Thunberg's activism and refusal to fly due to the fact that flights can be extremely hard on our environment and contribute to high rates of greenhouse gasses. Additionally, many Europeans especially can take high speed trains at a much lower impact. Their choices reduced the amount of air travel right before the pandemic, double hitting the aviation industry.

Clearly it's a problem that needs to be solved as our world becomes more global and there is a greater need for people to be in other parts of the world. How can we do it responsibly? It is going to take innovation to help solve the problems of climate change and other environmental issues.

Board Now is just one of the many innovative plans trying to work on this solution. Board Now is a program that has partnered many organizations to build a coalition to reduce emissions through sustainable aviation fuel.  This Fues would be "made from sustainable feedstocks such as waste oils from biological origin, agri resides or non-fossil CO2." By having companies buy into the program, more refineries that produce sustainable aviation fuel can be built, which over time will lower the cost of this type of fuel. When companies affiliate with Board Now, they make a commitment to the planet to reduce overall emissions and their own carbon footprint while also helping to make this a more sustainable alternative overall in the field of aviation. 

To learn more about Board Now, check out their website. Also, be sure to check out some of the members and partners that are affiliated and on board with Board Now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Bill Nye The Science Guy

A bit ago (perfectly timed about a week before Earth Day) the Baltimore Speaker Series had their final speaker of the season: Bill Nye. To me, he'll always be known as "Bill Nye, The Science Guy" (because I'm in that age group that knew him as such.) It was a sweet li'l moment of nirvana to be in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, basking in the presence of his wit, humor, and intelligence, talking about science and our planet during Earth Day season!

Being foremost a scientist as well as an engineer, an author, speaker, inventor, he knows a lot about a lot. Clearly he believes in science and wants us all to know that it's important. The whole evening, and now as I reflect back, I'm struck by this quote that hangs in my office which is from Neil Degrasse Tyson [who is a good friend of Bill Nye's, by the way]:

I love Bill Nye's approach to everything. He makes you think. He makes you laugh. He makes you think some more. It seems a lot more of us in the world need to adopt that approach! A big part of his conversation was that the denial of climate change is NOT going to change anything. The science is real. 2010 to 2020 was the hottest decade on record. There is science in ice core samples, tree rings, fossils, shrinking glaciers in Greenland, and more that backs up the fact that rising historic temperatures all point to human impact. 

Bill Nye made reference to the Earthrise picture of the planet (taken by Bill Anders from space December 24, 1968). This reminded me of my recent Amanda Gorman post. Their messages of both were the same. We have a shared reality here on planet Earth. No political boundaries. One place. One people.

He also made reference to the 2022 Oscars Night/Will Smith slap that was heard around the world. Of course by now, that news has died down a bit, but media in the instant aftermath was highly abuzz about it. Bill Nye said if we all were talking about climate change in the same way and to the same extent that everyone was talking about Hollywood news, we'd be "getting it done." His messages: 
  1. We indeed need to be talking about climate change and science as much as possible. 
  2. Secondarily, we need to be voting (with the environment in mind when we do) or basically shut up and get out of the way.
His third message, which I found a mirror to what I always say, is that it's going to take big ideas and innovation to solve the climate crisis, which he deemed one of the greatest problems we are facing. Because we all share this world--we all share the air--everything we do affects everyone else. We can't say "fire" in a movie theater without consequences. We all need to work together to figure "it" all out. No one is coming to save us --it's up to us to figure this out.

Bill Nye also commented about Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S Constitution and how one of Congress' roles is to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Useful arts is engineering and innovation. He stressed that it is in the Constitution to go forward with our big ideas and be problems solvers using innovation! It is our job to "create the future we want." Not surprisingly, this is the motto and mission of The Solutions Project, where Bill Nye is one of the 40 funders. Their goals? 

  • To celebrate those leaders in the forefront of climate awareness and justice. 
  • To push for 100% clean energy by 2050. Not only would this significantly help our planet, but it could generate 3 million jobs in renewables.
  • To offer grants and support to those out there making a difference through climate innovation.

Bill Nye left that evening with an inspirational call for action--to go forth and change the world. It's going to take us, people! Let's do this! 

Neil Degrasse Tyson quote created at; Final picture from my camera. Earthrise pic from, Bill Nye photo quote from

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Nathan Sawaya: LEGO Artist for the Earth

Nathan Sawaya's story fascinates me. Not many people go from lawyer to LEGO artist with a traveling art exhibit of his own, but Nathan did in 2007. I was in awe years ago when I saw his Art of the Brick exhibit (then in Philadelphia). It's amazing to see what he can do with buckets full of LEGOs. Sharing his story becomes a favorite for both my kindergarten students and me as I share this video and inspire them all to use the design process to become creators and LEGO innovators.

For the last year, Nathan has a new element to his Art of the Brick exhibit. Working with Australian-born photographer Dean West, they created the PERNiCiEM Collection. PERNiCiEM is Latin for extinction. This part of the Art of the Brick exhibit highlights endangered species with a mix of Nathan's LEGOs and Dean's photography. They feature fascinating facts about 18 animals in 19 exhibits. Included are where on the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species these animals are and why their numbers have diminished. (Spoiler alert--human threat to habitation or humans themselves are often the cause.)
The message in their collective art is that it is imperative to work to save our planet from climate change, deforestation, declining sea ice, polluted waters, and loss of species and biodiversity--for if we don't and these animals become extinct, only the plastic, LEGO-fied versions of these animals will be left. Reality will cease to be that, instead going more toward an artificial reality where we can only see these animals in their natural habitats through art, photography, or a digitized version of our world. 
The showcased animals in PERNiCiEM were created by Nathan, then they were taken to their natural oceanic, forest, grassland or arctic habitats and photographed by Dean.  The included animals:
  • African Elephant
  • Arctic fox
  • Beluga whale
  • Chilean flamingo 
  • Cheetah
  • Giraffe
  • Hawksbill turtle
  • Humpback whale
  • Malayan tiger
  • Military macaw
  • Northern white rhinoceros 
  • Orca
  • Polar bear
  • Reef shark
  • Sumatran orangutan
  • Vaquita
  • Western lowland gorilla
  • Whale shark
This is not the first time that Dean West & Nathan Sawaya have worked together. They are also featured in the "In Pieces" exhibits marrying Dean's photography with Nathan's LEGO creations in a series of several works of art.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Chef José Andrés & World Central Kitchen For The Win... Again!

Middle of last year ago (in the middle of the pandemic and hybrid teaching), I landed on an amazing book entitled Immigrant Innovators: 30 Entrepreneurs Who Made a Difference by Samantha Chagollan. The book, written for 8-12 year olds, was one of those books I read in one sitting... then I went to one of my 4th grade colleagues with zeal and excitement as it was a perfect book to use with their 4th grade Immigration unit. Being a fellow bibliophile and information junkie, she too was tickled pink alongside me. 

Finding 4th grade-level resources for students to do specific biography research can be difficult. The book would perfectly suit our needs with it's kid-friendly, 4-page spread of 30 biographies of famous, current, modern-day immigrants. Plus, it tied to my tech-nature and love of innovation... and with a biography visual report activity we have done (some years on the iPad and some years in Google slides).

One of the 30 individuals mentioned in the book was Spanish-born Chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen (and a multitude of other restaurants spanning at least ten cities). Shortly after assigning the biography study with the entrepreneurs from the book, I saw an article where José Andrés was giving out gift certificates to restaurant patrons in DC if they showed proof of vaccination. He was doing this to encourage more people to get vaccinated from the Covid-19 virus. That connection to our study had me excited, as we could bring this real world connection to our students.

José Andrés was in the news again earlier this year when he went to Poland with World Central Kitchen to help feed Ukrainian refugees after Putin and Russia's invasion into Ukraine. It was once again timed perfectly with our 4th graders' Immigration study. Additionally, for the past 3 years we have used the UNHCR [United Nations Refugee Agency's] website to teach the about the differences between refugees, migrants, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, returnees and more. The connections students were making to the news were incredibly strong. Additionally, it showed the value and importance of taking action to solve a global problem.

So it goes without saying, that once again, in difficult times, we look to the helpers. In the aftermath of the horrific Uvalde, Texas shootings,  Chef José Andrés is once again a helper. World Central Kitchen set up shop in Uvalde to feed the hurting community. Just as they have done time and time again with hurricane relief, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, families impacted by the climate crisis, and more.

Looking at the dedication of José Andrés and World Central Kitchen, you see the power of his humanitarian efforts

"World Central Kitchen started with a simple idea at home with my wife Patricia: when people are hungry, send in cooks. Not tomorrow, today.... You see, food relief is not just a meal that keeps hunger away. It’s a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere, cares about you...This is the real meaning of comfort food. It’s why we make the effort to cook in a crisis.... After a disaster, food is the fastest way to rebuild our sense of community. We can put people back to work preparing it, and we can put lives back together by fighting hunger. Cooking and eating together is what makes us human." ~ Chef José Andrés

It makes me think of the UN Sustainable Goals. José Andrés has worked hard to knock at least 7 of the 17 goals out of the ball park. These are the things that give us all hope.

To learn more about José Andrés, check out these links:

Images from:, UN Goals from and modified by highlighting 7 of the boxes and adding a note, and; quote graphic created at, Video from