Saturday, July 30, 2022

National Geographic Explorer Mindset


I love this graphic I found online, created by Caroline Little. I feel it encapsulates everything from environmental stewardship to innovation to global awareness. May we all adopt this.

For a printable, downloadable copy, click here.

Image from

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Minimizing Microfibers

All roads lately seem to keep coming back to the Plastic-cyclopedia post I wrote several weeks ago. Especially this Plastic Free July!

If you recall, microfibers were one of the five variations of microplastics. They are the shed that comes off in the washer and dryer from your fleece and polyester-blend clothing. They are essentially the furballs of our clothing that wash down our sinks and make their way to our waterways and ultimately our marine life, easily mistaken as phytoplankton or zooplankton....which then becomes circular (in completely the wrong way) and perhaps wind up in our seafood dinner.

Eco with Em (Australian author and illustrator Emily Ehlers) has posted some dynamic illustrated infographics on microfibers. May her art inspire you to take notes of your own shedding and furballs.

Art from 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Suzanne Simard's TED Talk: "How Trees Talk to Each Other"

Looking up at my backyard trees, sitting in the shade with the wind in my hair, I listened to Suzanne Simard's 2016 TED talk, "How Trees Talk to Each Other." Seemed a fitting environment to be absorbing her talk on the power of trees. It reminded me of my "Tree Talk" post from October 2019.
Interdependence between tree species and other plant species through their root connections was a large part of Simard's TED Talk. It also struck me in my reflections on how it's a parallel for how we are also interdependent with each other--humans to humans-- but also humans and nature. 
Trees, like us, learn and grow from each other on a cellular level. It adds to the resilience of forests. We too are networked together. Families. Neighborhoods. Communities. Countries. Internet connections. Human connections. Global connections. Complex systems. We need each other to learn, to grow. 

 Diversity of ideas is just like biodiversity: it makes the environment is healthier. 

To read more about Suzanne Simard, trees, and the forestry science, check out her book Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. Or, go check out her feature from June 26, 2020's NPR Radio Hour.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Rockhounds Abound

As a kid, I was a "rock star." Kind of! I wasn't into the traditional rock and roll music of the 1970s. (I was probably more of a fan of what's now called "Easy Listening" versus "Classic Rock.") But in 4th grade, I was definitely a fan of rocks. I knew them all and could tell you if they were igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. I'd hunt our rock bed that surrounded the shrubbery in the front yard and dig up some finds, then go talk rocks with my chemical engineer dad. I had a bit of a collection and I remember going to the gem and mineral shows every now and then on Saturday afternoon outings. 

Riverbeds by streams? My eyes still constantly search for the perfect rock skipping stone. My dad could skip them like a champ. My son is following in his footsteps well.

Yes, I was (and maybe still am) a bit of a rockhound.

In the vein of Plant Snap and Cornell's Merlin bird app, there are also apps out there for rock collectors. 

I ran across an advertisement for Rock Identifier: Stone ID and it brought back these memories. When I came here to write about it, I discovered upon looking it up that it seems like there's a few apps out there that satisfy the same need for rock identification. The Educational App Store has write ups for 6 apps (including the one I mentioned above) for you to find the one that best serves yours or your classroom needs. Their reviews include the following apps:
  • Stone Identifier Rock Scanner Rock Identifier
  • Rock Identifier: Stone ID
  • Geology Toolkit 
  • Minerals guide: Rocks, Crystals & Gemstones
  • Geology Rocks – Handbook of Rocks
  • Rockcheck
I also did run across this video analyzing some of the popular apps. This helps give some more details to those visual folks out there. I found it fascinating watching "Agate Ariel" and her predictions, and her expertise too. She has a follow up video to the one below that goes more old school and talks about how she identifies rocks (without an app). She has a pretty extensive YouTube channel (with 3.6K followers!) with other informative videos as well.

Whether you decide to use tech and an app mentioned above or go old school like Agate Ariel, what a great way to get outside, go on a quest, cure that nature deficit disorder, and do a bit of rockhounding yourself!

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Online Museum Resources for Educators

Every teacher I know loves to land on good resources. 

And every teacher I know, their wheels are always spinning, thinking creatively about their craft. Summers included!

All of this is probably why this Edutopia article jumped out at me. In the Edutopia June 16, 2022 article entitled "6 Museums With Exceptional Teacher Resources," Tanya Brown Merriman shares some digital archives, online lesson plans, virtual field trips, and professional development opportunities.  Not only do they list some great brain activating ideas to implement into the classroom, but these museums definitely are a visual feast and appeal to the lifelong learner! 

Museum resources to check out in Tanya Brown Merriman's article, where you can get an in-depth glance at all these museums have to offer. She includes a resource spotlight and classroom activities as well as a link to each of the following museums :
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
  • Indianapolis Chidlren's Museum (Indianapolis, IN)
  • The Museum of Memory & Human Rights (Santiago, Chile)
  • The American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
  • The Columbus Museum of Art (Columbus, OH)
  • The Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC
And people think teachers just lounge around all summer, eating bon bons! Not quite!!

Image created on

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Biodegradable Mushroom Packaging

I find that mushrooms are one of those things most people have strong feelings about--they either love them or they hate them. I personally have had a lifelong NOT love affair with them. It's a texture thing, I don't like them at all, and as my mother (a mushroom fan) will attest--I never did!

But, I think I might have found my favorite use of them yet. They are being used more and more in biodegradable packaging. As a person who has an equal detest for packaging, this may be my personal equivalent of 2 "wrongs" that do indeed make a "right." It can replace those big evil styrofoam blocks we find in hundreds of products we buy. Styrofoam, which is the branded [but more known] name for polystyrene foam, is made of plastic which comes from the limited resource of petroleum. We all know how hard that resource is hitting us at the gas pumps these days!

Using mycelium (a fungus--which, of course, is plant based--and is the root structure of mushrooms) with hemp hurd (a byproduct of the hemp fiber industry), companies such as Ecovative Design can create molds for packaging. Several years ago IKEA made a commitment to biodegradable mushroom packagingIKEA has a deep commitment to environmental sustainability, so it should be no surprise that this is one of their initiatives. But, IKEA is not alone in in using this type of biodegradable packaging. Dell and Crate and Barrel are also on the mushroom bandwagon. Here is a video from Ecovative Design that shows the making of these mycelium molds.

When the mushroom-packed product gets to your house, you can break apart the packaging and put it out in your yard, compost, or garden and it will decompose in a few short weeks. Additionally, it adds nutrients to your soil. Styrofoam, which takes 500+ years to biodegrade and is a carcinogen, certainly can't do that.

This type of packaging being around for more than a decade. Given that, we should be seeing more of it than we do. But the good news, according to Ecovative Design's blog, they are growing (not to mention, they earned $60 million in 2021), which means it is becoming more and more commonplace. I "root" for more mushrooms than ever before! (Pun intended!😊)

Videos from and and picture from

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Revisiting the Plastic-cyclopedia

After brushing up on our vocabulary a week ago with the Plastic-cyclopedia post, this mockumentary "commercial" post about "plastic soup" felt like the perfect follow up. Especially since it's Plastic Free July.

Yum, who doesn't want a bowl of that! 🙄

I've been doing some digging for an upcoming one day summer class I am teaching with a coworker: "Building Global & Environmental Citizens in Our Classrooms" where we are doing a deep dive into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (more on that in a future post). Along the way with that research and also while I was doing a deep dive into plastic vernacular from my previous post, I landed on this article by Maria Westerbos (Founder & Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation): "How the Sustainable Development Goals Can Help Fight ‘Plastic Soup’-- 3 Actions Key to Curbing Plastic Pollution Around the World. In it, she noted show fighting oceanic plastic hits the following goals indirectly:

  • #3: Good health and well-being--Our sea life won't be consuming toxic materials, which creates healthier food for humans.
  • #6: Clean water and sanitation--Just take a look at that Plastic Soup video again for verification on this one!
  • #11: Sustainable cities and communities--The lack of pollution will help eliminate toxic environments.
  • #12: Responsible consumption and production--Eliminating a throw away mindset leads to the betterment of the planet.
  • #13: Climate action--Plans for addressing climate change lead to a healthier planet.
  • #14: Life below water--Plastic is detrimental to sea life.
  • #15: Life on land--Smarter decisions regarding litter and plastic consumption overall will help create a cleaner environment.
Thin plastic (such as bags) could potentially photodegrade in a year in sunlight....but especially in a landfill, it could take upwards of of 500 years or more to decompose. One plastic cup could certainly become a multi-generational problem given those statistics. As I think of my fridge alone, I see plastic everywhere I look: the dreaded individually wrapped cheese (which I hate to buy but sometimes have no other options), milk containers, salad dressing jars, mustard containers, and more.

As Ms. Westerbos recommends in her article, the three things we need to do our best to do is:
  • Keep plastic from entering our environment (what I like to call "refuse" -- the 4th of the 3 R's);
  • Avoid health risks such as plastic products leaching into foods, beverages, and even the soil;
  • Reduce comes before reuse which comes before recycle in the 3 R's.
Some of this starts with better waste management. (Recycling should be too much easier! Each municipality has its own rules based on its own sorting equipment, and often times it's as clear as mud, making me wonder if we are all wishcycling!!!) 

Additionally, in a world where the price of gasoline is downright ridiculous right now, what are we doing using so much petroleum on useless, single-use plastic?!

The Plastic Health Coalition is a good place to turn--companies dedicated to helping fight for the solution to our planetary plastic problem! Research and innovation to help solve the problem is always a good place to start! Likewise, it reminds me of this quote and how we each need to be starting individually--in our homes, places of work, communities, local and national governments!

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Plastic Free July

When I was creating my July post of holidays, one actually slipped under the radar and missed mention: Plastic Free July.

Dating back to 2011 in Perth, Australia, Plastic Free July and the Plastic Free Foundation have gone global as a committed force to reduce plastic waste. It's estimated that 140 million people participated last year from 190 countries. [Go Australia--the country that also started the very first Earth Hour in 2007!]

From their "About Us" page on their website:
"We’re proud of how this impact addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 11, 12, 14 and 15 (sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, life below water, and life on land)."

Best part too: it doesn't just have to be a "July thing."

To challenge yourself, take their "Pesky Plastics Quiz."

Check out the UN Sustainable Development Goals -- especially #11, #12, #14, & #15.

Watch Rebecca Prince-Ruiz's TEDx Talk "How A Global Movement Started in a Kitchen."

Get inspired by what you can do with their "Get Involved: What Can You Do" page.

Small changes ALWAYS make big differences!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

July Holidays Ahead

July marks the official "halfway through the calendar" time of year. In some ways, the 4th of July marks that "halfway through summer" place (especially for students and teachers, where the summer goes too fast to begin with!)

Here at the cusp of the 4th of July weekend, while you are celebrating your patriotic pride and the lazy, hazy days of summertime, here are a few other holidays on the horizon this month. I found the fun facts and dates on festive website with serious and silly holidays and it can definitely take you down the rabbit hole of marking your calendar with some good ones! Each holiday has a detailed timeline graphic to give you the history of how it came to be (along with some important milestones per holiday)  : 

American Independence Day is July 4th annually. But, did you know that July 2nd is Made in the USA Day. Makes sense given the theme of the holiday weekend and putting our shopping dollars into purchasing American-made items. The day was created by Joel Joseph of the Made in the USA Foundation and first celebrated in 1989. That's also when the "Made in the USA" label started to appear on products.

National Clean Beaches Week falls during the first week of July on the 1st through the 7th. Since beaches are often are the place where folks land for the 4th of July, it makes sense. Sadly too, it makes sense that a lot of people often come with a lot of litter. So definitely a time to spruce up our shorelines, especially to keep that waste from becoming polluting marine debris. This annual event started in 2003 and has the support of many coastal communities to keep beaches, shores, and marine animals healthy!

July 11th is World Population Day. Overpopulation is the cause of many of our environmental issues. The more people we have, the more resources we use. That impacts gender equality, human rights concern, poverty, food, energy, and more. It was named Five Billion Day in 1987 (when the global population hit that number). From there, the United Nations Development Program established world Population Day in 1989, and it was officially voted as a UNDP day December 1990. Here in 2022 at this writing, we are very near 8 million, a number that changes literally by the second. You can discover the exact count by checking out World Population Clock, which shows you that second-by-second count.

World Nature Conservation Day falls annually on July 28. The emphasis on the day is making sure to maintain and preserve healthy environments and take care of our planetary natural resources. Not only does this take care of the flora and fauna, but all of that impacts clean soil, water, and air--and human health! Industrialization, deforestation, and other human impacts diminish our natural resources and biodiversity and impact the effects of climate change. 

July 29th marks International Tiger Day. Our largest of the "big cats," tigers also are faced with habitat loss, hunting, and poaching, and invading human impact, numbers are on a high decline. This day was created in 2010 when numbers revealed that 97% of all wild tigers population had depleted over the previous 100 years, leaving approximately 3000 tigers in the wild and tigers at the risk of extinction.

By noting these dates on our calendar, we can help raise awareness, funds, and potential solutions to these "environmental" holidays.

All banner icons created at

Friday, July 1, 2022

SCOTUS’ Latest Environmental Ruling

The United States Supreme Court has had a wingding of a week. (Insert eye roll here! 🙄🙄)

I defer to our 44th president for his grace and wisdom. And hope somewhere along the way we, as a country, wise up.  This is where individuals and companies and communities need to take the lead! 

Barack Obama’s quote from his June 30, 2022 Facebook page: