Wednesday, August 31, 2022

National Geography Education Resources

With that back-to-school brain swirling, I've noticed that National Geography Education has a lot of good finds lately. Here's just a few that might work for you:

  • Mapmaker Collection -- In their Mapmaker Collection Library, there are at least 40 lessons and activities using Mapmaker, their Geographic Informations Systems tool. Geared for grades 5-12, students can go in-depth and study a multitude of geography, anthropology, sociology, history subjects using this tool.

  • Blackline Maps -- With the national boundaries changing, sometimes those maps in our archaic file cabinet swiftly become out of date. Who better to know maps than NatGeo? You can fine-tune it to get the map you want, with the layers you want, both with and without labeled nations.
  • Resource Library -- Nearing 3000 different resources, there is definitely something here for everyone. Search by topic or check out the filters to find just about anything. Filtering by content type is one of my favorite ways to approach it. (I love a good infographic, and their's are spectacular!!)
  • Online Courses for Educators -- If you are the kind of person who just can't get enough, checking out these free, self-paced online courses might be just what you are looking for. The range of topics varies, and each one details fully the time-table required to take these course. Some are on demand, while others are time-specific paced cohorts. The 90 minute self-paced "Applying Geographic Thinking Skills With Your Learners" class has an amazing infographic you can download about the different geographic perspectives that I love that is open until January 1, 2023.
  • Explorer Classroom also has a wealth of past online events you can watch as well as interactives for your and your students. 
  • National Geographics Facebook Page -- If you like to curate your Facebook feed with inspirational resources, following this page is great. They often share many of their resources and you can learn new online curricular tools every day while scrolling through your FB feed. I love it!
There is a wealth for everyone, and it's easy to get caught up in all of these resources and lose yourself to learning!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Growing Together With Community Gardens

We've all come to know the saying, "It takes a village."

That seems to go with just about everything. 

Community gardens is another way to grow together and strengthen both relationships with your neighbors and work to build something together that benefits you all. The concept of urban gardens is not a new ideas, but like ideas--there's always a number of ways they can be created. They can be in a shared neighborhood lot, alleyway, or local area accessible to all. Many big cities have neighborhood lots dedicated to just this where it's tended together and the fruits of the labor are shared together. Not to mention, it can be very rewarding volunteering your time and energy on a shared project like this.

There's also the idea of yard sharing. The Food is Free Project details what this might look like:

The ideas of yard sharing could have a unique appeal, but of course there are always ideas to consider, including your local laws and municipalities or any HOA restrictions.  Not everyone is keen on the native yard look!

To learn more about how you can share the wealth of health and grow together as a community, check out these resources:

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

It's That Time of Year Again: Back to School

'Tis that time of year again! B2S. BTS. Back to School.

As the "first day of school" photos of friends across the country also started peppering across my Facebook feed, I ran across the following from motivational speaker Thomas C. Murray. I follow him along with many other educational leaders and organizations. In doing so, I have curated my own bit of inspirational, educational feed filled with this along with all things environment, edtech, technology, and innovation.

Along the way, I ran into this, posted by Thomas by Kelsey LaMar, which I think is the perfect send off to teachers this fall. Whether you are just beginning in schools, or returning back for your first, fifteenth, 31st year like me, or more, you are a great teacher. If you've been teyaching the last 3 years, you've been through a lot, but you've made it! You tackled a lot of challenges during the pandemic and growth as a teacher! Most importantly, you will do great things this year too!

Thank you Kelly LaMar (from her Aug 14th Facebook post), for speaking to me and to all of us! Your words mattered... a lot. May we all pass your words, and words of encouragement of our own, forward. Have a good year, my teacher friends!

"It wasn’t the text I was expecting as I pulled into the parking lot on my first day back at work. And yet, there it was. 
It was short and simple. To the point. Sent to me by a principal that I haven’t worked for in over three years. 
“I hope you have a wonderful year. You are an amazing teacher. Your school and your students are so lucky to have you.” 
It was exactly what I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. 
Cue the tears. 
Over the next few days, friends that I’ve worked with over the years received texts also. We’re spread across the country now. Many of us haven’t worked together in years. But yet, we were remembered. We were encouraged. We were seen. 
Here we were. Veteran teachers. Reduced to tears. 
We joked that our old administrator was out to single-handedly end the teacher shortage and burnout. 
It was a joke, but it got me thinking that maybe there was a little truth to it. 
Now hear me out. I’m not saying an encouraging text will end our problems.
It won’t end low, unsustainable pay rates. It won’t end the hours and hours of unpaid work expected of us. It won’t end the overfilling classrooms. It won’t end the mental load we all carry. It won’t end the lack of resources. It won’t end the behavioral problems that worsen every year. It won’t end the classes we are required to cover during our plan time. It won’t end the lack of substitute teachers.
It won’t. 
But maybe, just maybe, our words really are our most powerful weapon. 
Maybe, weary after years of teaching on the proverbial front lines, all we needed to know was that we were doing a good job. Our work was valued. 
When you enter my classroom, you’ll see notes pinned above my desk. Letters I’ve received over the years from administrators, coworkers, and parents. Little messages that remind me on the hardest days that my work is important. That my talents are recognized. That I am loved. 
This text? It was a reminder that I have the power to make someone’s day. To remind them of why they love this job so much. To look at them and see the immense value that they bring to their students and schools. To speak life into their weary hearts. 
So friends, today I encourage you to do the same. 
When you see the beauty in a student interaction. When you see the enthusiasm brought to a lesson. When you see the grace given where it wasn’t deserved. When you see the classroom that exudes peace and joy. 
Speak up. Tell them. It may be just what they needed to hear at the moment they needed to hear it.
And friend? In case you haven’t heard it in awhile, you’re an amazing teacher. Your students and your schools are lucky to have you." ~ Kelly LaMar


Kelly LaMar text from her Facebook page: , image created at using my Bitmoji.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Major US Climate Steps Through the Inflation Reduction Act

Amidst the cacophony of new cycle clutter this week, something happened that isn't getting the media recognition that it should. (Which sadly sometimes happens in given the noisiness of partisan politics here in the USA.):

This week in the United States, some monumental steps went forward with Congress passing the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act [IRA] which President Biden signed it into law. Not only is it the biggest climate action we've taken as a country, it also serves as the largest US federal investment in clean energy. Finally, it's a move towards taking action and addressing the climate crisis
  • Electric vehicles will be cheaper, as will solar panels.
  • We finally have a united push to cut greenhouse gases by 2030.
  • Tax credits will be available to individual for using energy efficient technology.
  • There are incentives in place that will potentially influence companies and corporations to push clean options over polluting ones. 
  • The same is true for innovative entreprenuers to push to creating new companies, new techonologies, and new jobs
  • Environmental justice is factored in by protecting those who live in impoverished areas and who typically get the brunt of ecological injustice.
More than that too, it will feel real in our pockets as it caps out-of-pocket Medicare drug costs and reduces other health care costs, it closes tax loopholes used by the wealthy, and it also financially protects small business owners.

That's just a quick snapshot, but for a better one, check out this one-page Democratic fact sheet summary of the IRA.

Additionally, here are some great articles to learn more of how we are finally moving in the right direction climate-wise through the passing of this act:
  • President Biden's 8/16/2022 tweet and the one minute video in it (make sure to watch it!):
The climate provisions I sign into law today are a big deal. Let me explain why:
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 16, 2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Turning Industrial Waste into Art Installations

Making trash into treasure is a frequent favorite of mine. This video highlights the art of 7 Egyptian artists have created art installations entirely from factory waste materials such as scrap wood, iron, and plastic. The challenge was to create a display out of things that are typically not noticed. Upcycling these items to draw attention to sustainability through art was part of the artists' mission. These are on display at the Alamein Art Festival from the end of July 2022 through August.

Video from

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Doomsday Vaults and Genetic Seed Banks

I first learned of Doomsday vaults a few years ago and had it in my list of things to write about one day here on GTG. At the time I first heard of it, I felt like I was living under a rock. Who knew this was "a thing." It sounded more like some subplot of the latest Zombie Apocolypse movie. 

But it and seed banks came up again when I was watching Zac Efron's Netflix series Down to Earth. In Episode 5, set in Lima, Peru, Zac and Darin Olien visited the International Potato Center where they have collected the largest number of potato strains in the world. Not just because they are crazy potato-lovin' people, but in order to collect and preserve the genetic informations of potatoes for biodiversity purposes if there's ever a great potato famine that endangers or causes strains of potatoes to become extinct.

In watching the show, I learned that there actually are a lot of doomsday vaults all over the world. Not just the biggie created in 2008: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway... and the Peruvian International Potato Center (founded in 1971). About 11 minutes into this episode of Down to Earth there is a great map posted showing some of many of the different vaults and seed banks that are protecting plant life in case of an all encompassing wipe out or "super disaster. The map showed these vaults (however there are over 1,700 in the world):
  • Forestry in Indonesia
  • Fish in Malaysia
  • Water management in Sri Lankna
  • Semi-arid agriculture in India
  • Agro forestry in Kenya
  • Livestock in Ethiopia
  • Potato in Peru
  • Biodiversity in Italy
  • Arid agriculture in Lebanon
  • Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria (Africa) and Columbia (South America)
  • Rice in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Food research in USA
  • Corn in Mexico
It kind of leaves you wondering why on Earth we need a place on earth that has all of this. However genetic back up is essential in case something does happen where the these "back ups" are necessary. That could include a myriad of events such as war, natural disasters, fires, global temperature change. As they mentioned it in the Down to Earth episode, it's like having photos backed up in the cloud. At all of these centers, not only is the safety and security of what we do have important, it is also a place where vital research is happening now in order to get the genetic code of our existing variations. Likewise, they are also important centers to help create strains that are more resilient--especially in the event of global temperature rising a few degrees...which we do seem to be on record for doing so.

All this agro-biodiversity brainstorming comes from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations where they have an International Plant Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Again, who knew? The purpose is to save and conserve what plant resources we do have on the planet and to share the seeds to ensure food security around the world.  Its one of the many ways through the United Nations that we can collaborate with the many countries of the world for the common good of our planet,

Seed Vaults are just one of the many ways we preserve plant genetics. This graphic shows all the ways in which we do:

In situ means they are conserved in their natural habitats. These tend to be those conservation places that come to mind.

The other sites (the ex situ) are for the "just in case" situations. They're the equivalent of cloud computing back up and all I've been talking about here. Botanical gardens are similar to field collections where they are designed to recreate the natural habitats. Seed banks or vaults tend to use a combination of the in vitro storage and cryopreservation, where they are frozen in time and cold temperatures. Great detail can be found about each of these terms here.

To learn more about these high security plant preservation systems, check out the following:

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

But Wait! There's More Binging to Be Done

Needing a post all of its own, this is a natural nature documentary follow-up to my last post on binge-watching. 

Another amazing nature documentary on Netflix is "Our Great Natural Parks." With former President Barack Obama's narrating voice, wit, and wisdom peppered in, you will again see the world and its creatures in new and different ways. You see the awe that fills our world...and how some of it is on a dangerous precipice due to human impact.

The five episodes take you to worldwide national parks from Africa to Japan to the Great Barrier Reef to Patagonia to Kenya to Monterey Bay and finally to Indonesia. Another feast for the eyes and the arm-chair traveler!

Video from, image from

Saturday, August 6, 2022

A Binge-Watching We Shall Go: Down to Earth!

As I've mentioned in my last post, I'm a bit laid up right now. So in my "wintering" this summer, I'm reading a lot of books and binging a lot of shows. 

  • Bridgerton
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Heartstopper
  • Virgin River
  • The Gilded Age
  • Working Moms

Those are just a few of my latest favorites. 

There's almost a science in finding the next bingeworthy watch. It's nearly a mathematical equation where you factor the number of seasons versus the episodes per season, Enough to get into, yet not so many that it feels like you'll never make it to the end.

Once again, it feels very "pandemic quarantine-like" in this time and space for me. In part given that, I decided my next binge adventure would involve some adventure and armchair traveling. 

My latest bingeworthy discovery: Down to Earth With Zac Efron on Netflix.

Not surprisingly, this original season came out in summer of 2020...when we all were actually arm-chair, "pandemicking," and glued to the television bingewatching any and everything. Together, Zac Efron & wellness guru Darin Olien traveled to 8 global locations (typically one per episode) to discover eco-innovation, healthy, and sustainable ways to live regarding to food, water, and greener energy. Iceland, France, Costa Rica, Sardina, Peru, Puerto Rico, New York City & London, and the Amazon Rainforest. Gorgeous scenery, environmental enlightenment, some amazing looking food, the ability to live  vicariously and see the world.... What's not to love! 

A second season, set primarily in Australia, is set to come out later this year.

Images from,, Video from

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Wintering This Summer

Every summer, our school has an all faculty read that unites us together during one of our first pre-planning, back to school meeting days. This practice is not uncommon throughout schools nationwide.

Some years we have one book that we all read and have central focuses around. We did that in years past with the books Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner, Making it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, and others.

Some years, we have a collection of 3 or 4 books to choose from so that we can find something that is more specific to our own needs and interests. This is often the preferred summer read simply because of the power of choice. (A good reminder to us teachers the power of that in our own classrooms too.) When we are back to school, we divide ourselves by book and discuss certain tenants of the book. A back to school book club.

This year, was a year of choice, and our 4 our book titles were:
I chose Wintering to read this summer. One of the reasons I chose this book is because I had already read both Lisa Delpit's book and Clint Smith's book. (Both of which I highly recommend!)

Two, after the now-three years of Covid, pandemic, quarantine, and "re-entry," it certainly felt like we all had been through a collective "wintering" worldwide. And we are emerging at different rates. The end of the past two school years has felt for me like an exhausted crawl to the finish line. Rest is necessary.

Thirdly, summer for teachers is always a bit of a wintering season. Recovery, recouping, rejuvenating, and definitely resting. It's a far more exhausting profession than many people think. One certainly made more difficult with Covid.

But lastly and most personally, I knew that mid-July I was going to have a total knee replacement--with a second one still ahead on the horizon based on x-rays and deterioration alone, I knew this would mean I would certainly have a summer like no other. No pool (my most favorite place) from surgery day until the incision heal (4-6 full weeks). I'd be living with limited mobility while I regained my strength. I knew it was inevitable that I'd be wrestling with pain and that lack of feeling in control--both of which I don't do well with! I would need to slowing down and let my body lead the way. This summer was going to need to be a needed season of rest and healing. Perhaps the book Wintering would help me get into the proper mindset to work my way to healing: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

The book is part biographical as Katherine May explains some different times in her life that she has had "seasons of wintering." Some truly due to her current geographical location where winter is winter. Some were due to life occurrences where rest and repair was necessary in one way or another. My favorite part of the book was the first chapter where she sets the stage and explains the purpose. Everyone "winters" at some point--or many points. Life takes us through difficult seasons, and it is a normal and natural part of life. Try as we might, we can't escape it; but, just like the world, we flourish after this remote season, yet it is also a season leading to rebirth. 

This quote in chapter one particularly spoke to me, particularly when it comes to healing. Healing from Covid and the loss that quarantining and the pandemic brought. Healing of my knee, now titanium and strengthening daily to move me beyond the restrictive arthritis that was hitting (in my personal opinion) wayyy too early and has limited me more and more over the past 5 years. 

"Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible. Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you. It’s one of the most important choices you’ll ever make." (Wintering, page 14)

I will say, that even though I am indeed wintering this summer, if I'm authorized to return to school in time for these back to school book club meetings, I think my plan is to actually jump groups by rereading "Teaching When the World Is On Fire" and going to that book talk. That book has spoken to me in so many ways over the past years and sometimes with current events still seems very relevant to both myself and our students, But, I definitely am taking the lessons of wintering and trying to really connect with what I need--more water, a nap, ice, sitting outside,  a bit of walking about, a physical therapy session, or time to just sit and watch a good show or read an great book. And with hope, I'll be stronger, wiser, and more centered and sustainable on the flip side....ready to winter again when it comes time to tackle that other knee of mine. It is completely cliché but equally true: if you don't have your health, you have nothing.

Photos created at Book title pictures from images from per title.