Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Science 101: Plastics

As I was perusing my way through the National Geographics Resource Library, I found myself tumbling through so many amazing finds. I think of it much like the stereotypical story I tell my 5th graders about getting lost in the YouTube sea of crazy cat videos when we discuss digital citizenship and prepare them for their 1-to-1 iPads in Middle School. We've all done it. But NatGeo's are definitely more fascinating.

One I happened upon that really spoke to me is their Science 101: Plastics learning video. To watch, you'll need to click the link

In it you get a history of plastics, its merits and obvious overuse, but it also gives you some amazing graphics on how much plastic has shown up since its inception in the 1950s. (Spoiler alert: WOW!) Also, it takes about some new takes on plastic-eating microbes and bioplastics. It's 5 minutes and 45 seconds worth of watching to remind you to rethink your plastic usage.

Image screenshot from

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World

"Lazy" often times gets a bad wrap. It comes with a negative connotation and it makes us feel sub-par, like we're not doing all that we "should." 

However, we all feel a little lazy sometimes. And sometimes we NEED to be a little lazy. We can't be on the go all the time. We need time spent lounging in a hammock, taking an afternoon nap, reading a good book, watching entertaining shows, or just being a couch potato. 

What if there was a way to work on saving the planet while being a little bit lazy? It's an enticing thought. We can't all be 24-7 activists. And even those out there who are busy changing the world, they need time to sleep.

I think that's why the United Nations "Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World"appeals to me so much! It leaves me thinking, "Hey! I can do this!" Sometimes big things (like saving the planet or addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals) just feel too big!

The United Nations has created a fabulous website that creates a "can do" approach to help tack global issues. In the "Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World," the UN has broken action items of things you can do into 4 levels. Smaller always feels more doable than a huge monumental task. With bite-sized bits, we can begin to make a true difference. 

Here's an overview, but be sure to check out there website!
  • Level 1: Sofa Superstar - Things you can do from your couch
    • Ideas here include online versus paper statements, staying informed of the issues (and staying away from "alternative facts"), turning off lights that aren't in use, and more!
  • Level 2: Household Hero - Things You Can Do From Home
    • Ideas here include taking shorter showers, eat less meat, turning down your thermostat, and more!
  • Level 3: Neighborhood Nice Guy - Things You Can Do Outside Your Home
    • Ideas here include avoiding impulse buys, bringing a refillable water bottle, getting vaccinations, and more!
  • Level 4: Exceptional Employee - Things You Can Do at Work
    • Ideas here include mentoring younger folks in your field, carpooling when possible or take public transportation, reducing waste, and more!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Chasing Coral

As part of my son's summer homework for his AP Environmental Science class, he had to watch at least one of a selection of nature documentaries. One of the films was Chasing Coral, produced and directed byJeff Orlowski.

Knowing his mom is an eco-warrior, my son asked me if I wanted to watch it with him. Of course, that was an offer I couldn't refuse. We had just come back from a vacation in Puerto Vallarta where we had a lot of opportunities to snorkel. While we didn't see a lot of coral on those encounters, it did hit home in a harder way than usual.

With my son's permission, he's the guest writer on the following post, his summary on the film. 

Coral reefs are the rainforest of the sub-nautical ecosystem. These beautiful regions of aquatic space give way to a flurry of marine life and wonder. The documentary Chasing Coral, which was released in 2017, is based around said natural wonders and how we as a species are driving the world’s coral to extinction. When Chasing Coral starts, you are met by Richard Vevers who introduces the viewers to breathtaking reefs and the first sights of coral bleaching. The viewers are then told about the biology of the coral and sadly how (due to human interference) the coral is starting to bleach and die. After a lesson on how coral affects the oceans, we are led into the mission which Vevers and his team are dead-set on pursuing. This mission includes installing cameras in places where they can videotape coral. In doing so the crew hopes to collect time-lapsed footage of coral bleaching. After some trial and error as well as some hardships, the team eventually gains these videos and spreads them to the world. 

Over the course of the documentary, the viewers are keyed into many different aspects of the coral species and how they affect the world around them. It would be trivial to watch this documentary and not mention how extreme coral bleaching is being stressed. Coral bleaching occurs when the water temperature rises 2 degrees above the water's average. Bleaching is a stress response, almost like a fever in humans, that causes the coral to purge itself of the phytoplankton living in the coral. This will most likely result in its death. A fact that shook me to the core is that 50% of the Earth's coral had died in the thirty years before this documentary was released. The fact that hit me hardest though was how we are living in the era where we could see the last coral reef bleach. If we don’t act, it will. Chasing Coral puts into words just how close we are to the collapse of our maritime ecosystem. I believe Chasing Coral pushes the depressing and cautionary message that if we let this ecosystem fall, so too will the remaining terrestrial ecosystems. This will, in turn, lead to the downfall of Earth.

The producers of Chasing Coral all believe that the world is in desperate need of reefs which in turn means they have a shared bias; but, that does not mean that the message they push is flawed. The only other perspective that could be offered is one of indifference to the life of the ocean, and that in my opinion is immoral. As a person raised in science and who has gone to “green schools” his whole life, this documentary hit me hard. My whole life has been entangled with animals and for something as pivotal as coral to be going extinct sends a wave of apathy down my spine. Although the documentary saddened me to watch, I highly recommend it. This documentary should be watched by everyone because as a species we have to come together and look at the science in order to create a world where life can thrive. Earth is the only planet we know with life. As the dominant species, it is our duty to bring security to said life, from the terrestrial to the sub-nautical.

To learn more about this film, check out the Chasing Coral website. They have a "For Schools" tab with additional resources such as lesson plans, short clips, a 6 minute virtual reality opportunity, and an Ocean Portal for school. They also have a "Taking Action" tab with several ideas if you feel like you need to do more.

You can watch it in it's entirety on Netflix or on their YouTube channel.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Internet of Nature Podcast: Richard Louv & Hybrid Minds

Podcasts are what's playing in my car if I'm on any kind of drive-around-time. It's not surprising that I gravitate to a lot of subjects that intersect here, with GTG.

A rather new-to-me podcast I landed on is called The Internet of Nature. The podcast, created by Netherland-born and Canadian-raised ecological engineer Dr. Nadina Galle, has this overview:

"Can nature and technology—long viewed as opposing forces—work together to stabilize our climate, sustain our urban environments, and benefit our health? Dr. Nadina Galle is an ecological engineer on a mission to find out. Join her every Wednesday as she interviews top CEOs & innovators on their technologies for building greener, healthier, and smarter communities. Each episode contains powerful stories behind the entrepreneur, delves into questions usually shied away from, and explores where the internet and nature converge."

It's definitely a philosophy that strikes close to my heart too. I've long-thought (and often circle-back to) the idea that technology is the innovative solution to our environmental challenges!

Nadine Galle's Season 4 Episode 10 of The Internet of Nature is called "The More High-Tech Our Lives Become, The More Nature We Need with Richard Louv of the Children and Nature Network." There is A LOT packed into that title alone! One of the biggest parts is the episode's guest: Richard Louv. Author of ten books, Richard Louv's most notable one (which he mentions in the podcast led to his calling) is his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Originally published in 2005, Last Child is where he introduced the concept of "nature deficit disorder." He was one of the first to pull together scientific research on the benefit of nature on our health and well-being. Richard Louv also is one of the co-founders of the Children and Nature Network, a website created in 2006 as a way to reconnect people with nature. The resources on their website alone could have me reading for days, reminding me to get outside 

It's no surprise that nature deficit disorder was a large part of the podcast discussion between Richard and Nadina in this episode. Despite his book being 17 years old, we need nature more than ever. Richard discussed the idea of "hybrid mind." While he is often times called "anti-tech," he truly is not--he sees the need and advancements that tech brings. But as with everything, it should be one of those "all things in moderation" issues. Along with the benefits of tech... there is a point of oversaturation. We need to counter it. Nature is that perfect foil. Hence the hybrid mind: the more we are connected to tech, the more important and vital nature is for us! Naturally (pun intended), the more "tech-i-fied" we become, the more we need to be outside. 

If we learned anything with how Covid impacted us in 2020, we certainly learned that we are tech-centric bodies in motion. Sometimes, too much so. Zoom school helped us continue learning, yet it was not ideal nor as impactful as in-person educations. Boundaries and borderlines overlap between home and work. 24-7 news, emails, texts, is too much. It gives the illusion of being constantly available while we're constantly connected... and often bosses and businesses take advantage of that. It definitely creates a digital anxiety in the stress of all this wired-connection without enough human or environmental connection.

We are collectively getting fried, and we need nature to help rescue our hybrid minds.

Along those lines, Nadina and Richard's conversation turned slightly to politics... but only in the sense that "politics should keep its hands off nature." So many issues in the world have been made binary in an "us-them,""good-bad," "blue-red" mentality. When did being stewards of the environment become partisan... and more importantly, why?! One's love for nature should not be at all associated along political party lines. We ALL share the planet. We ALL need nature. Whether we all know it or not!!!

 Clearly, the podcast interview gave me a lot of food for thought and has stayed with me for awhile. I definitely recommend taking a little time out to go have a sit and listen. Whether it's in your car, or out in nature!

Podcast cover image from, Hybrid Mind image created using

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Favorite Recent Finds from Free Technology for Teachers

I've mentioned before that I'm a frequent fan of Free Technology For Teachers website created by Richard Byrne. Over the last several months I've been stockpiling some of my favorites and wanted to share them here with you. The thing I like the best is that they are short and easy to read, he often adds a video which highlights the best parts of hhis finds, and he just finds so many amazing things out on the internet. If you are an EdTech coach, following him is a must! 

Here are a few of my favorites posts of his from the last 6 months.


A Good Place to Find Free Images and Music for Classroom Projects

How to Use Custom Fonts in Google Forms to Improve Readability

Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment with BookWidgets

My Big Playlist of Canva Tutorials

Try Canva's New Whiteboard Templates With Timers

Language Arts & Geography

Geo Artwork - A Fun Game About Geography and Art

Ten Good Templates for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Activities

Amazing! This Interactive Story Building Lesson Still Works!

Five Google Earth Activities to Get Kids Interested in the Outdoors

Visual Dictionaries for Kids

Ten Fun Things for Students to Map

Eco & Science & Math

Climate Kids Helps Kids Learn About Climate Change

A TED-Ed Lesson for Every Element on the Periodic Table

Five Fun Science Games for Kids

Five Concepts You Can Teach Through Geocaching

Science Friday is a Must-bookmark for Science Teachers

Electric Lessons - Energy 101

My Favorite Fall Video Project

NOAA Sea to Sky - 1000+ Resources for Science Teachers

Roller Coaster Physics

PhET Virtual Workshops for Teachers (Math & Science)

Image from

Saturday, September 10, 2022

NatGeog Explorer Mindset Framework

I think I have NatGeo on the brain lately, because all roads keep pointing back to here. I recently shared some excellent learning resources from there (link) and a bit earlier in the summer I shared this infographic which highlights the Explorer Mindset.

What I should have realize was the graphic organizer was built from a pretty solid and empowering framework. I love that it "is a guide to developing the Explorer Mindset in the next generation of planetary stewards."

In this video from National Geographics' Explorer Mindset Framework page, marine ecologist/geospacial analyst Whitney Goodell discusses the importance of her work to our planet...which also details an explorer mindset in action.

The Explorer Mindset Framework is built from the Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge [ = ASK] that is at the heart of an explorer. Here is slide 1 of their 8 slides details the qualities that make up the framework. You will want to download it all as it is an excellent resource!!

Additionally, be sure to check out this downloadable resrouce: The Explorers Mindset Toolkit. It is dated from last year's school year, however it is a valuable resource for elementary school teachers.

Here is a shorter video showing the Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge in action: 

As I watch these videos, and look at the framework, my wheels in my brain start to spin about ways to employ these skills in the classroom. We definitely want our students to be risk takers, full of curiosity, working together, being empowered, solving problems based on our observations. 

These are all the skills that lead to innovation. As teachers, we have an enormous task to inspire our students to become lifelong learners. As I've said before, it is through all of these skills, attitudes, and knowledge that we will start to conquer some of the difficult problems we face in this world. 

May we all be the next generation of planetary stewards!

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Videos from and and can also be found on

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

"Design the Best School Year Yet With Canva"

And we're off and running and most teachers and students are back to school by Labor Day (if not before).

What is unique about teaching is that each school year is a brand new stand-alone. You can create it to be however you'd like. For veteran teachers, you get the decision to create your classroom culture. You can pull out the tried and true tricks from years past, or you can shake it up and create something new.

Digital design platform Canva for Education (which is supremely, wonderfully FREE to educators), can help you do whatever you want to create all school year long.

I've been a big fan of Canva for years, but I felt like I hit the jackpot when I ran across Kasey Bell's August 23rd [Episode 169] of her Shake Up Learning's podcast: "Design the Best School Year Yet With Canva!" I got really jazzed by all the untapped potential in Canva that was still out there. 

With canvas there's so many of the "Teacher-y" things you can create: name tags, classroom posters, class syllabus or schedule templates, newsletters etc. But you can also create mind maps, graphic organizers, presentations, awards, videos, whiteboard activities, feeling checkins...the list goes on. On top of that, you can also get your students creating--which sometimes is where the magic begins!

Kasey has a lot of creative ideas listed in her podcast
Additionally, here are a few more places you can investigate:
  • If you are teaching students younger than 13, you may want to be sure to cover your bases and send the Parents/Guardian Consent Form home to parents.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Environmental Justice Index

I love a good mapping tool and online interactive. The Environmental Justice Index is just that type of tool that can help communities become aware (and track) environmental risks. Using a combination of data from the US Census, EPA, CDC, and more, the Environmental Justice Index helps track a myriad of information.

From their Fact Sheet

"The Environmental Justice Index (EJI) is the first national, place-based tool designed to measure the cumulative impacts of environmental burden through the lens of human health and health equity. The EJI delivers a single score for each community so that public health officials can identify and map areas most at risk for the health impacts of environmental burden. Social factors such as poverty, race, and ethnicity, along with pre-existing health conditions may increase these impacts. This tool helps public health officials prioritize action for those communities most at need."

The Environmental Justice Index tracks the following Health Index Indicators (click here for the PDF & graphic organizer):
  • Social vulnerability
    • Racial/Ethnic Minority Status 
      • Minority Status
    • Socioeconomic Status
      • Poverty
      •  No High School Diploma
      • Unemployment
      • Housing Tenure
      • Housing Burdened Lower-Income Households
      • Lack of Health Insurance
      • Lack of Broadband Access
    • Household Characteristics
      • Age 65 and Older
      • Age 17 and Younger
      • Civilian with a Disability
      • Speaks English “Less than Well”
    • Housing Type
      • Group Quarters
      • Mobile Homes
  • Environmental Burden
    • Air Pollution
      • Ozone
      • PM2.5
      •  Diesel Particulate Matter
      • Air Toxics Cancer Risk
    • Potentially Hazardous and Toxic Sites
      • National Priority List Sites
      • Toxic Release Inventory Sites
      • Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Sites
      • Risk Management Plan Sites
      • Coal Mines
      • Lead Mines
    • Built Environment
      • Recreational Parks
      •  Houses Built Pre-1980
      • Walkability
    • Transportation Infrastructure
      •  High-Volume Roads
      • Railways
      • Airports
    • Water Pollution
      • Impaired Surface Water
  • Health Vulnerability 
    • Pre-existing Chronic Disease Burden 
      • Asthma
      • Cancer 
      • High Blood Pressure
      • Diabetes
      • Poor Mental Health
All of this definitely highlights the intersectionalism of all of these issues and why environmental justice is social justice.

The Environmental Justice Index Interactive itself allows you to put in a location and then zoom in to see where its overall index falls between high, moderate to high, low to moderate, low, and no data. I was able to zoom into both my hometown county and city. I was able to get a lot of data--down to how high the prevalence of blood pressure is (or any on the list above). It's a lot of data on one location!

Indented quote from, image from