Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

At the end of April, I presented to one of our elementary schools on Forests as part of their Environmental Day celebration. Our forests are one, if not the, most important natural resource we have in the world today. The children heard an impassioned description of what the forest does for humans. The single most important function of our forests is to provide and clean the air we breathe. This is such an abstract concept for eight year olds!  Although, through our discussion, I realized that many of them do understand that without trees and our forests, human life, and most other life dependent on oxygen would perish from the earth.  After reminding the students of the very important role the forest plays in all of our lives, all over the world, the discussion then turned to what we can do for the forests!

You can imagine my surprise when less familiar to the students was the concept of “Leave No Trace.”  Life experience is short when you are 5-11 years of age. Therefore, I ended up explaining what this term meant for us and for the forests.  Just as the clean air and abundant oxygen provided to us by trees and the forest is invisible, we need to be sure we are not leaving something visible behind in the forest. Most adults realize what “Leave No Trace” means. You know that it means do not litter or do not leave anything behind that indicates you were there. It means what you carry into the forest, you must carry out.  This is a more concrete concept that of trees providing a gas that sustains our life on earth. It made me wonder why the children were not more familiar with “Leave No Trace.”

Perhaps we need another public service campaign like the very successful Smokey Bear media coverage of the 1970’s. Some might say we need talking trash cans, similar to those installed in popular amusement parks frequented by tourists.  I just think we need to visit the forest with our youth – our children and grandchildren – to begin to show appreciation for what the many trees provide. Studies have shown that the best way to protect a resource is to use it.  If you use something and enjoy it, you will be more likely to fight for it, if you need to. What’s more worth fighting for than the very air we breathe? Not much, I would say.

Forest behind Evergreen

So, as you visit the forests where you live – and you really should visit – it is healthy to do so. Talk to your children and family members about what it means to “Leave No Trace.”  We receive so much from the forest,  the least we can do is to take everything but our footprints with us.

Inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Trace

Daily Slice to Keep on Slicing

Daily Slice to Keep on Slicing

Since participating this past March in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers, I have continued to write daily, or pretty close to it.  I think I have only missed writing a handful of days. This has been despite a busy schedule of taking graduate courses,  attending three sports for two boys (Varsity Tennis, Varsity Track, and Summer Traveling Soccer League that starts in April),  starting yard work, running garden club, leading writer’s circle,  and more. I am busy but am sure to take the time to write. It is important to me. I have found the reflection to be healthy, assisting me in processing life events.

Although continuing to write daily is key to my improvement as a blogger, sometimes, my educational posts do not fall on Tuesdays anymore. For example, this past week I wrote about summer enrichment opportunities in mathematics for students,  a poem about garden club ending, a student’s gift, the music of memorial day, and a photo journal of the island of Kauai. All of these were or are slices of my life, past and present. Admittedly, some posts are more interesting that others, both to read and to write. Still, the feedback I have received helps me to push forward, putting more and more ideas into words, and words on the page.

The school year comes to a close here this week for my boys and just as it winds down for them, another graduate course has started for me. It will be fast and furious, three credits over five weeks, with a digital media project due on July 5th. Besides the class, there will be other topics to slice about as both my boys will be pursuing some work in math, one will attend summer camp for Badger Boys State, colleges will be visited, and, jobs will be done, both at home and at places of employment. The summer will end just as fast as it starts. I hope to keep slicing through it all.

The Simple Gifts of Memorial Day: A Day for Music & Remembering

The Simple Gifts of Memorial Day: A Day for Music & Remembering

Here in the United States, it is the Memorial Day Holiday. A day when we take pause to remember our veterans who serve and sacrifice to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. In our town, we have a very short parade consisting of service representatives who walk with our flag as part of the American Legion, the high school marching band, the middle school marching band, and the local boy scouts. It is a parade of patriotic music and acknowledgement for those who have given so much for our country, including their very lives, in many instances.  For many reasons, I  love Memorial Day.

This is the first year in ten that I do not have a student in either of the bands. Just as they march by us, time marches by as well. I missed seeing my boys in the bands, but I did not want to miss this parade. It is such a short, beautiful recognition of the best our country has to offer. Sacrifice, Love, Patriotism, Loyalty, and Music.

Thankful for the veterans in our family, my Dad, and my late mother-in-law and father-in-law, as well as all those who choose to serve in the armed forces, attending the parade is the least I can do. Each year, it fills me with pride and gratitude, a great way to start off the day and frankly, the rest of the summer season.

The parade also fills me with music. Music is something that can transport and transcend feelings. It has always been an important part of my life. Following the parade, upon returning home from the 15 minute walk that takes us to our main street, I immediately put in one of the two compact discs of patriotic music that I own. They are not new CD’s and the music is not new but it is beautiful and renewing. I am listening to it now.

patriotic music CD's

Songs like Shenandoah, Yankee Doodle, The Star Spangled Banner, Simple Gifts, My Country Tis of Thee, American Patrol, Washington Post, The Air Forces Song, The Marines’ Hymn, The Stars and Stripes Forever, Over There, God Bless America, You’re a Grand Old Flag, Fanfare for the Common Man, This Land is Your Land, and others will be listened to and sung with, as they carry me through today and the rest of the week to come.  Thank you Veterans and thank you composers and musicians for inspiring love for our country and countrymen.


Silent Sunday: Memories of Kauai

Silent Sunday: Memories of Kauai











A Student’s Heartfelt Gift

A Student’s Heartfelt Gift

I always wait with the students as parents arrive to pick them up from our garden club meetings. Invariably, there is a student, usually one of the younger ones, who becomes nervous that their adult will not arrive to take them home.  Pick up was from outside the school this week, as we planted the butterfly garden. And, this was the cause of concern for at least one of my students.  As dismissal time drew near, Lewis voiced his concern over his mom not knowing we were in the garden, not the library.  Intentional or not, this student also left his backpack inside the building, not following my direction to bring everything outside because we would dismiss from the garden. His concern grew as he realized he was the only one to have left something inside.  As more and more students were retrieved,  I told Lewis I would take him back into the library to pick up his backpack.

Just as we were headed up the hill, his mom appeared! I asked that she take him into the school to get his backpack and told him good-bye. It was our last garden club meeting. I could not bring myself to tell the students this. The twelve-year-old club has always been joined anew, each year, in the fall. So, I felt that emotions would be less close to the surface for both the students and I, if I chose not to let the students know the club was ending. To not tell, was a selfish decision, I know. But, one that I really felt was in the best interest of all.

Just as I was cleaning up, Lewis came running back to the garden. “Mrs. L., Mrs. L.,” he shouted, “wait!”  He ran up to me and immediately started digging in his backpack.

“I have something for you,” he said.

Digging, and more digging, in the bottom of the backpack. I started to wonder what it was that he had for me.  After a few minutes, he pulled out a penny, a dull, worn down, obviously used, penny.

“This is for you”, he said as he placed it in my hand. “This is for the future, so you can make a difference, and have people stop spraying pesticides. You can change the world.”

Wow! I really didn’t know what to say. These words of inspiration came from a third grader! He had listened to our lessons. He had synthesized the material.  He knew that the problem of habitat loss for monarchs or other species was a global problem. I smiled.

All I could say, was thank you. A big hug followed. But, the smile on my face told it all. The seed of environmental stewardship had been planted in at least one of my students. It was a great way to end our group. I always will treasure that penny and especially, the words that came with it.

What a heartfelt gift. While I never talked directly to the students about saving the world, it seems that is the message that was received. What a great idea! Yes, Lewis, save the world.


*The student’s name in this story has been changed to protect his identity.*

Summer Math Enrichment Suggestions

Summer Math Enrichment Suggestions

Wow! I do not know what happened to the last ten days! On May 15th, I posted some suggestions on how to help your child/teen/student ramp up their vocabulary during the summer months. At that time, a weekly post on specific enrichment activities you can do with your child was promised. It appears I missed posting one last week! I will try to be more regular! Stick with me, I am fairly new to the activity of blogging!

Math. Math is a subject I have come to really enjoy. This both surprises and pleases me.  I think if I had a different trigonometry teacher in high school, I might have gone on to take more math. It appeals to me because I have a very logical mind and I also like to problem solve. As an adult, I can see so many daily applications for math that I started to write math questions based on my garden club topics!  Soon, more of these will be available on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.

All three of my three boys were all accelerated in math, starting in elementary and middle school. This will be the subject of a future post because there are both positive and negative considerations when parents need to decide about acceleration in a specific subject area. I  have a great deal of experience in the actual and potential outcomes of acceleration that should be shared with others.

But, I digress. Summer. Over the last 15 years, I have always kept my boys engaged in math activities over the summer. For the most part, even though they moaned and groaned, they enjoyed it. I also think it solidified some of the learning they did during the prior school year and kept them fresh for the start of school in the fall.  I will admit, the extra work/challenge, of having your children do math over the summer is easier when they are younger. So start early! If it becomes part of a summer routine, you’ll have less of a fight later on, when they are older.

The activities or resources suggested are only those I actually used with my boys. There are many resources out there, be sure to look them over before you ask that your child do any of them. In my opinion, it is pointless to have them do an activity or lesson if there is not an answer page or demonstration of how the answer is obtained. Unless, of course, you are adept at math yourself, and want to perform the problems with them to check on their answers. Remember that process is as, or more, important than a right answer. Showing how answers are arrived at is almost universally demanded now in schools and the extra practice will solidify this expectation.  If you have a child that is keen as well as skilled at solving problems in their head, the extra time spent writing out solutions will be valuable once school resumes.

The internet offers many math enrichment sites. This post would be incomplete without mentioning some of them.  A few popular ones we have used are the following:

  1. Khan Academy – Some people in the math world love this site, others just tolerate it. All three of my boys (now aged 15, 17, and 22) have turned to Sal Khan’s site for practice, clarification, or enrichment. What is nice is that you can pick the topic and there are literally hundreds of videos and practice problems through which to work.  The site will also track progress for you, if you are interested. FREE.
  2.  IXL – This is a site that has subject matter categorized by grade level and then, topic.  It is easy to navigate and has shows the answers.  Great for extra practice, review or enrichment.  You can only do 10 problems without paying a subscription fee, however.  Depending on what you want to get out of it, the subscription fee is not too bad. I think it was $9.95 a month for one child. There are options for more than one child and also to add language arts practice. We did subscribe to this site for a while. It also tracks practice time and sends email updates to parents.  It also was very easy to stop the subscription whenever you want. FREE/PAID.
  3. Kuta Software – This site offers worksheets with answer sheets. No examples of how the work is completed. Offers algebra through calculus.  We used this site often for extra practice problems when not enough of one type of problem was offered in the text-book for pre-calculus.  Also used for Algebra II review work. FREE.  There is a disadvantage of the work not being shown, as far as how to get the answer.
  4. AAA Math – used in elementary school for extra practice. FREE

Of course there are many others, but these sites are the ones we tended to use the most.

One forgets that math is like another language. Getting used to the language of mathematics through relaxed, enjoyable activities can be a way to enrich mathematic skills with out the drill and kill approach, which now has fallen out of vogue. We need critical thinkers. Many activities offer a chance to problem solve and critically think,  augmenting future mathematic skills. Using real life skill building can be a way to practice math skills without kids even realizing it.

  • cooking and baking – using fractions and conversions, measuring spoons and cups, accurately. Cutting recipes in half or doubling recipes can be good practice.
  • Make juice or lemonade and measure volume
  • sewing – using fractions and conversions for yardage, seam allowances, and amounts
  • gardening – measuring a site for size, perimeter and area, distance between plantings. Square foot gardening has great applications for math.

Thinking skills can be enriched by learning a new game such as:

  • Chess
  • Monopoly or Life, to practice using money
  • Othello – online or the board game
  • Blockus

Patterns, sequencing, and geometry can be practiced with:

  • Origami – There will be a future post on the benefits of learning to fold paper. This is a highly recommended activity to help students visualize angles, shapes, and have fun while doing it. Start at the site linked here for some recommended patterns.
  • Matching Memory Games – We had stacks of these games. Dinosaurs, Careers, & others, that were played constantly when our boys were preschool and early elementary age.
  • Pattern or object recognition – Search and find books, We owned a ton of these. Great for travel.  A few examples are Where’s Waldo?, I Spy Books, and others.
  • Logic Puzzles
  • Tile Puzzles like the famous 15 puzzle like this one we have
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Magna Tiles – We had a set of these that got some but not a lot of use. They are fun for creating structures and also serve the same purpose as tangrams. A set can be pricey.
  • Tangrams – These are shapes that fit together to build bigger shapes, allowing the child to “see” how something like a hexagon might be made of triangles.
  • Geogebra – This is a relatively new site that has some awesome interactive lessons for the older math student. For the right person, it is great fun just to play with the tools on the site. For me, it is not intuitive as I need it to be to actually know what I am doing, but it could be a help to a more visual learner.  Here is a link to one of the  tools exploring normal distributionBy clicking the boxes at the right, it shows the results of that operation on the graph. FREE.

There are many ways to provide math enrichment over the summer.  Whether you have a kid that loves math and wants to do it or a kid that dislikes math and avoids it, the extra practice over the summer will not be a waste. Try it and see!

Life of a Garden Club, A Poem

Life of a Garden Club, A Poem

via Daily Prompt: Survive

Evergreen Garden Club.

Founded September 2004 – Concluded May 2017.

The Life of a Garden Club that is Evergreen,

Twelve is the times the Butterfly Garden has been planted by students unseen

The Monarch Way Station Sign is seen but not read, signaling a special precaution to

those who truly care:  Don’t spray this space, is what is implied,

it is here to offer hope for a another species to survive.

The milkweed has erupted, but lonely still

awaiting the visit leaving an egg on its leaf.

Perennials already tall, verdant is the color that comes to call.

In spots, overcrowded, in spots it is bare –

Just like my heart – laying open, if you care.

The winter plow has done its damage again, just like year upon previous year

with the side-walk remaining cracked and unfixed.

How long before it is mended? We’ll see. It obviously has taken its share of kicks.

Our old tree stump is joined by a healthy new tree,

adding another memory of loss and what was only to be.

The students still have awe and wonder in their eyes,

it is I who is tearing as I bid them good-bye.

It is time to move on, but the growth will not stop.

The students, the plants, and I will survive, even if

Evergreen Garden Club now only exists in our minds.


Inspired by Evergreen Garden Club and the Daily Prompt: Survive