Friday, February 26, 2010

A Penny for Your Thoughts...

As part of my general office cleaning today I cleaned all the pennies out of my change jar. When you see pennies, what do you think? It seems sad to me, but many kids today think "worthless", "trash", or "why bother?" I often find pennies lying on the ground. I know it is only worth one cent, but I usually stoop and pick up the penny. After all, the voice in my head reminds me,
See a penny,
Pick it up,
All the day,
Have good luck!

See a penny,
Let it lay,
All the day,
You will pay.
So, what do I think of besides that rhyme when I see a penny? I think of penny candy stores with glass cases filled with Mary Janes and Root Beer Barrels for just a penny. I think of the Franklin Mint here in Philadelphia and tossing them on Ben Franklin's grave outside. I think of wishing wells and fountains. I think of Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln Memorial. I even think of math manipulatives. That is where these particular pennies are heading. To my classroom to help students figure out fraction of problems.
So, what do YOU think of when you see a penny?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Between the Storm and the Storm

I haven't been able to get around to the south side of my house for weeks now because of the high mounds of snow. After a few warm (in the 40s) days. Enough snow had finally melted so that I could make my way with calf high books to the back. Previously I would have needed waders of some kind.
I was dismayed to see my beautiful crepe myrtle broken and battered. About a third of the tree is down, presumably due to the weight of the snow. While I know that we are a little north for a crepe myrtle, I had thought that it was sheltered enough in the corner between the shed and the house. In a normal Pennsylvania winter, this was sufficient protection. This winter however is far from normal. This evening's weathercast said that we have received almost 80 inches of snow so far this winter!! This is by far a new record. In addition, the amount of snow in February would rank 5th for the snowiest season!
Many people are feeling desperate with talk of another possible snow storm next week. I can't say this too loudly, but I have to admit that I am gleefully hoping for one or two more big storms before spring.

Controversy and Conversation

Of all the sessions I presented, this by far was my favorite. Using the premise of teacher liability and internet safety for our students, I facilitated a discussion among teachers, IT professionals and administrators. We looked at CIPA and COPPA and attempted to determine what truly is legal and illegal and the ensuing implications for our classrooms. The presentation generated a lot of great conversations and questions for further consideration. We left agreeing that this conversation MUST go on and educators need to be at that table. Internet use and education requires input and discussion with legislators, educators, and administrators. All sides need to be included. What are YOU doing to become involved? Contact your state or national representatives and demand a voice. Start small, or go big. But, in the words of NIKE, "Just do it!"

Sir Ken Robinson

Monday's Keynote speaker at PETE&C was Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He spoke about his new book, The Element. According to Robinson, the element is "the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels." He argues that being good at something or having talent is not enough. To truly be creative and at our best we must also love what we do.
Robinson makes an excellent case for following our own star.

DEN Preconference PETE&C 2010

No, "THE" Mythbusters weren't really there, but I don't think they could have made the preconference any better anyway! Discovery Education and the DEN (Discovery Educator Network) arranged an amazing day of professional development. Science tips, technology tools, Social Studies strategies, and Math answers were shared by Discovery STARS. In addition, Lodge McCammon (of FIZZ) led two great sessions where participants collaborated to create and publish two different types of videos using surface area rules as the topic.
Check out the PA blog for session materials.

Googly Eyes

Saturday night after a great afternoon setting up for the DEN preconference and an awesome dinner in the Hershey Lodge Forebay restaurant, my roommate and I returned to our room to be greeted by - googly eyes. It was an anonymous reference to the Saturday Night Live skit
called "Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who's Very Scared of Plants" starring a deadpan Christopher Walken. He puts googly eyes on all his plants from cacti to ferns so they aren't so "scary". We still aren't sure how the eyes got there, but we have our "eye"deas.

Pennsylvania Turnpike

After a day with a stomach virus I left home to head north to Hershey for PETE&C 2010. While driving along the PA Turnpike I spotted many deer grazing along the side of the road. It was interesting how blase` they seemed with 18 wheel trucks rumbling by. I pulled off at a safe spot and grabbed my camera. Luckily I usually keep it handy anymore. I was able to notice that the deer's coats seemed unusually full and bushy. With all the snow we have had this year, I am not surprised.

Monday, February 15, 2010


This winter I have noticed two themes to my pictures. The first theme, for obvious reasons, has been snow photos. This year has been the snowiest year on record inn the Philadelphia area which has led to giddy weathermen and grumpy citizens. I love the snow and am thrilled that we have had so much. I am secretly, well not so secretly anymore, wishing for even more snow.

The other theme of many pictures is birds. Perhaps the juxtaposition of the birds against the snowy backdrop has caught my eye. Or, perhaps it has been the cold, windy weather and the seemingly delicate, fragile nature of the birds. Whatever the reason, I have been drawn to the scenes of birds in the snow.

Birthday Brunch

To celebrate my MIL's 80th birthday we took her and a friend to brunch. Here are my two sons walking out to the car with her. I am so proud of my boys and how they help her with shoveling, yard work, and other chores. She is lucky to have them...and so am I!

Winter Breakfasts

Lately I have been interested in eating warm, comforting breakfasts. Things like pancakes, french toast, and oatmeal. On Saturday morning my DH made pancakes - cranberry ones for me and peach ones for himself. They wee just what I needed.


Today we celebrated, as it were, the holiday of Valentine's Day. Celebrations today seem so much less that what I remember from my elementary days.

Today, we aren't really allowed to have a "party." We may have a small celebration with an exchange of cards. I make sure that my students know that IF they choose to participate, they must bring a card for everyone. In addition, there may be no special cards or gifts for anyone distributed in school. So, our celebration is the distribution and opening of cards and a small treat.

I do however fondly remember the school celebrations of my youth. Valentine's parties with shoebox mailboxes decorated with heart doilies and stickers. Washington's birthday with cardboard hatchet boxes and hard candy cherries. St. Patrick's Day with irish potato candies and shamrocks. Yes, some of our celebrations seem less today than in the past.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Day After

Walking around town today I saw a few snowmen, igloos, and forts. This by far was one of my favorites. Perhaps the American flag and the fort like structure appealed to me.

Anyway, while it was heart-warming to see evidence of childhood fun and play, I was disappointed to not see more. In all, I probably saw three snowmen, a couple of igloos, and a fort or two.

Why are children not playing outside? Is it a lack of adult supervision? Would they rather be inside watchinh tv and playing video games? I think I am going to survey my class tomorrow to see how many built a snowman or dis some other type of outdoor activities. I'll let you know tomorrow. And those of you with young children, what do your children do on snow days?

Snow, Snow, Snow!

We certainly got what the forecasters predicted - approximately two feet. Which was on top of the foot or so from Saturday. It snowed all night and most of today.
Thank goodness for neighbors with snow blowers!

Tuesday 2-9

The calm before the storm, literally. We has a snow storm this past weekend which left about a foot or so of snow. It was on the weekend so nothing much was disturbed. No school closings, no traffic tie-ups. Tonight however, we are supposed to get a massive storm. Words like snowmageddon and snowcoplypse are being bandies about. I know that not everyone likes snow. And for some people it truly does make life more difficult. But, all things considered, I do love the snow - in the winter.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sledding Hill

This morning on my way in to work a talk radio host was bemoaning the end of the multi-letter high school athletes. His commentary was in response to a local 12 year old having a verbal commitment to play football for USC in 7 or so years. For whatever good or bad of that particular story, it led to a discussion concerning the one sport athlete so prevalent today.

No longer can a boy play football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring. All sports have their season of course. But in the off season there are camps and league plays. Indoor soccer, fall baseball, coaching sessions are the norm in my area. I know that this isn't new. My 24 year old had to choose between trying out for the baseball all-stars or attending his travel soccer spring game when he was about 11 years old! It just seems that it is worse.

Children today are so scheduled and never seem to have any free time. No longer do they arrange a game amongst themselves. Sledding seems to be off limits as well, unless there are parents present. Today, a beautiful sunny afternoon, less than two days after a BIG snowstorm, there was NO ONE sledding on the local hill. The elementary schools had dismissed. It wasn't that cold. There was plenty of snow. I had thought that there would be plenty of sledders. Wrong! Not a single child was out sledding. I guess they all had other obligations - religious school, music lessons, team practices, etc. What a shame!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Day Part II

I had intended to go out to the sledding hill today and take some pictures. Dogs and I trudged through the deep snow and drifts only to find that camera battery was dead! I know the cold zaps a battery sooner, but I thought I would have more time. Oh well, I got so many nice pictures from yesterday that I will use one of those.

This is one of my favorites. DH, dogs, and I had just returned from our walk and I was making a cup of tea when I spied this beautiful cardinal perched atop our clothesline. I gingerly opened our sliding door just enough for the lens of my camera. He loos so pretty and his bright red is such a nice contrast to the weathered wood and snow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

THE way to get Around Today!

This time all the weather prognosticators and seers were correct. We got walloped! Snow started falling last night about 9:00. It fell lightly at first. We awoke to a snow covered world. I love the description of a friend, "It feels like I am inside a snow globe."

We leashed up the dogs, I grabbed my camera, and we headed for town. Most roads had been plowed at least once, and we saw quite a few plows on our walk. Not many cars were out at all. Although we saw people walking, a few four-wheelers, and one man enjoying a rare chance to use his cross-country skis on our town's Main Street. The world seemed to be fast asleep and truly exhibited the sound of silent. Everything was clean and pristine.

I know that not everyone enjoys the snow as I do. I have to say that the news of another possible snow storm this week made me shout, "Yes!" Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

February 5

February 5th, 2010, a Friday, the day of or day before (depending upon your location) of the storm to come. I cam down this morning and spied this "vignette" in my living room. The plant, I have no idea what kind, seems to be highlighted from the window and the morning sun reflecting off the snow.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Setting a Course

The school year amazingly enough is more than half way. I can't believe that we are in the third marking period. It seems like only yesterday I was meeting these quiet, timid third graders who would become fourth graders in the fall.

They have grown so much in the last 100+ days. They have become confident, inquisitive, and determined. Determined to master division, five-paragraph essays, and so much more!

Explorers are a large part of our Social Studies curriculum. We start with indigenous Americans (North & South), move on to explorers, and finally end in Colonial Times, just before the Revolution. I find that fourth graders love this topic and really "get" the ideas of "discovery" vs "discovering", savage vs civilized, and ideas of ownership.

As part of our year, I ask my students to explorer themselves, what kind of learner they are, what they want to improve upon, and what they do well. Every quarter, we reflect upon those goals and re-chart our course. While we may not "discover" new continents or gold, I am certain we will all discover riches and experience new wonders.

Pictured is our bulletin board where we write a goal on our telescopes and draw a picture of it in the lens.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ANOTHER Snowy Morning

It has been an unusual winter so far. Where we would normally get two, maybe three storms of a few inches, this year we have gotten three or four nuisance storms already. A few of them have come in the very early morning hours which leads to delayed school openings and tricky driving.

The benefit of these storms is the beauty. In the early morning grey light, everything looks so peaceful and serene. It is almost as if Mother Nature has applied on of those special camera filters to the world. It is quiet and hushed and everything looks clean.
Forecast says more snow Friday night into Saturday. I am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Stitch in Nine...

There are so many things in life that I enjoy yet there never seems to be enough time to truly do it all. Part of accepting that time is limited, for me, is making sure to do what I like at least sometimes. One of those things I enjoy doing, but don't get to do much - especially during the school year - is knitting.
So, every Monday night, my husband and I DVR "24" and watch it about 15 minutes later. That way, we can zap through the commercials. During that time, I sit in my husband's den with him and the dogs, watch TV, and work on my latest project. Right now I am working on a shrug type shawl for yoga. Now I just have to get back to yoga!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Full Moon A'Rising

Saturday in Philadelphia brought more cold and another surprise snow storm. Actually, the weather folks had predicted that it might come by or it might head south. Anyway, I was safely warm inside the Science Leadership Academy by 8:30 in the morning so although the weather outside was frightful, the learning inside was delightful. (With apologies to Sammy Cahn.)

A full day of learning conversations left my brain full. After many hours spent discussing changing pedagogy in the 21st century, managing on-line and off-line lives, and science inquiry to name a few I was ready for a relaxing dip in a hot tub and bed. But, one of the great things about EduCon is the people. People truly come from all over. I had the opportunity to reconnect with so many friends. Additionally, I got to meet some of my on-line friends for the first time. And of course, I met some wonderful new friends. So, instead of relaxing, five of us headed to Sang Kee in Chinatown. It was a wonderful Chinese restaurant and I understand why so many locals eat there. Over Peking Duck, tea, and way more food than we could ever finish, we continued our conversations from the day.

The evening ended with more conversations at Rembrandt's. Do you sense a pattern here? As I felt myself fading, and knowing that the next day held more of the same, I caught a taxi with a few friends and headed back to the hotel for SNL. On my way back I snapped this picture of a beautiful full moon on a crisp winter's night.

Friday Night Lights

Picture taken from my hotel balcony overlooking Philadelphia City Hall on a cold night.

Friday night in Philadelphia marked the beginning (for me) of EduCon 2.2. Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia held its annual education conference. I rushed out of school Friday afternoon and sped (while maintaining a legal speed) south to Philadelphia. After checking in my hotel, I quickly hoofed it over for the evening panel discussion at The Franklin Institute on "What is Smart?"

Dr. Frederic Bertley moderated as five distinguished panelists offered their opinion on what is smart. Gardner's Multiple Intelligences were referenced as well as passion. Nature and/or nurture was considered as well. Can one be smart in one area of their life (Tiger Woods in golf) and not so smart in an other area? Discussion flowed as the 300 plus audience tweeted observations and questions. The one topic that seemed conspicuously discarded in the discussion was one's Intelligence Quotient, or IQ.

I did learn that the IQ test, originally developed by Alfred Binet, was to identify students in the French school system that were struggling academically, and give them help to catch them up with their peers. Perhaps a good idea at the time, but one that has surely been misused and perverted over the years.

Thursday January 28

Freak snow squall this morning paralyzed traffic for hours. This morning an unanticipated, unannounced and unplanned for snow "storm" dumped 1-2 inches of the slippery white stuff on local roads. Normally, we have accu-weather and Doppler Dan warning us days ahead of any and all possible snow events. The road crews are out to brine the roads and at the sighting of the first flake flitting to the ground, plows are dispensed.

Apparently all these advance preparations have left us completely unable to handle a surprise snow - even of two inches! Traffic was snarled, accidents were all over the place , and many people were late for work. What would we do without the news to keep us informed and tell us how to react! Geez!