Home Grown Honey

Home Grown Honey

I am getting hooked on locally home-grown honey! In the past month, I have been lucky enough on two occasions to get some samples!  The first was from Five Hands Farm out of Minnesota. The owner was in the booth next to mine at a local art show in February. She had honey, in cute little bottles, of which I purchased two for 4 oz. total. Thick, sweet, and slightly flowery in taste, I have been adding it sparingly to one cup a day of my hot tea, with a little fresh lemon squeezed into the steaming, brown, comforting liquid as well. I used the last of it last night. Delicious!


But, just in the nick of time, yesterday afternoon I was given a whole pint of home-made honey from a teacher-friend of mine. I have been cleaning out bookcases in our home and put word out through social media that I had some to give away. In an effort to have some reading/activity options for overnighting grandchildren, she took some of the books. I got honey in return! Yum!

Bees are fascinating! Last year, for the first time in thirteen years, I did a unit on bees for my garden cub students. I learned some important facts. One of which was that there are solitary bees and social bees. Honey bees are social bees, meaning they live in a hive, each contributing to the hive community by performing different jobs. Then, there are solitary bees. These bees include species like the mason bee. Mason bees are highly efficient pollinators, especially for fruit trees. And, unbeknownst to most, are better pollinators than honey bees!  Since we have a home fruit orchard, I purchased a couple of mason bee houses to place in the orchard. I hope they get more action this year than last. Unlike honey bees, mason bees do not produce honey and do not perform a specific job. They do not live in a hive. Instead, they use hollowed out sticks to make cells for reproducing and carrying on the life cycle.

One hears different things about beekeeping. Some say it is difficult, others say it is easy. One friend had her hives collapse and another has been successful. I am spread pretty thin considering the number of hobbies I already have. So, for now, I’ll just admire those who are keeping bees. And, I am always pleased to be the beneficiary of some honey! Thank you bees and friends!

 I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers.       Thank you for sponsoring a wonderful community of writers!


Videotaped! A Garden Club Lesson

Videotaped! A Garden Club Lesson

Yesterday, I led my new group of garden club students through a lesson in which they had to videotape me. One of my graduate courses is requiring that I be recorded while conducting a micro lesson on place as part of an assignment. The course is Place Based Education – Strategies for Teaching. For the last 14 years, I have conducted my lessons using Place Based Education. I was so looking forward to actually having a course on something I felt I knew and was already doing. Unfortunately, the course has been more of a chore than a source of enlightenment. One credit packed into four weeks. I considered dropping it more than once. But, now we are in week three and last week, as I struggled to complete another assignment, I decided I just should finish the course and be done with it.

The final assignment is to create a micro lesson using place based education, implement the lesson, and be taped doing so. Many ideas for my lesson have come and gone. I even reserved a room at our public library thinking I could conduct a session on one of our local natural treasures like the sand prairie, our grasslands, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, or even the buildings in our rapidly growing town. But, I realized I was blowing the assignment up to be much larger than it had to be. I needed to scale down.

When I considered all things, I settled on our own garden beds at the internationally themed elementary school where I am the garden club advisor. Along with plants representing France, Germany, Russia, China, Norway, and others, we have a certified Monarch Way Station. We have common milkweed. This is a plant native to our area of the country and one about which I am very knowledgable. Since I was new to this school in October, I was unsure as to how much knowledge the students at this school have about the large gardens that grace over 200 feet along one side of the building. I knew that I was unsure about what plants were in the gardens and why they were there. I was given a folder of “garden information” when I was hired. There were maps of the garden beds but they are 10 years old – the original renderings.  I thought that having the children measure and map the beds with me would be a good activity to start our place based lesson.  I could have one of the students record me. I sought permission from all the students’ parents for the taping.  And then,  it snowed. I mean, really snowed! We got at least six inches over night – more snowfall from one storm than we’ve had in a while!

My lesson changed. As I made adjustments to it yesterday, I decided to focus on the milkweed as a native prairie plant.  I had milkweed seeds. We planted them. We talked about the gardens at our school. As I thought, the students did not know much about them, nor had they spent a great deal of time in the garden. Still, they acknowledged its importance. At the end, I gave an assignment for them each to research one plant I know to be in the gardens at this school. I saw the plants I assigned growing in the gardens this fall. The major piece of information to be gleaned, was not growing requirements, but nativity. I have two third graders, a second grader, and two fifth graders in the group this year. It will be interesting to see how they do with the assignment.

As far as my place based lesson, it went fine. It was not ideal, and nowhere near my best.  I will be able to reflect on that as part of my assignment. But, today I am looking forward to checking out how they did as videographers.  They all enjoyed it and demanded to have a turn.  I am sure I will laugh as I look at myself through a rare lens – that of the camera.

One thing is certain and it is that we need to utilize the gardens at this internationally themed elementary school more than they are now. Yes, they are very pretty. But, they need to be useful too. The students need to know more about the plants, the themes, and how to care for the space. One of my goals is to make that happen.



Inefficiency in High School Scheduling

Inefficiency in High School Scheduling

The high school schedule during the last two weeks has been extremely frustrating. While the cancellation and rescheduling of things like our Spring athletic code meeting, an early release and a late start all due to weather are understandable, the seemingly continual changes made to class schedules are not.

A state bound wrestling team, term two recognition ceremony, winter sports recognition, guest speakers on school culture, character development, the monthly early release day for staff development, and more all contribute to schedule changes that mean shortened classes for students and less time for instruction.

Last year, a daily advisory period  was instituted. Although I might get some argument, I liken this to a homeroom period (which we do not have now). Previously, homeroom was held about once a month or whenever there was a need to conduct something with the masses. As I understand it, due to the increased need for students to have a period in the day when visits to teachers for extra help or to retake a test could be scheduled, as well as any “mass” filling out of forms, character instruction, or entire study body assembly attendance, the daily advisory period was born. Let me be clear, I think it is good to have this period. However, I do not think it is being used as intended. It has become a catch-all for whatever non-academic student event is dreamed of. There have been so many such events in the last two weeks, that my sophomore, who needs to retake a AP Calculus AB chapter exam has yet to be able to schedule it. He and the teacher have agreed a number of times on a day, using the advisory period, only to have it be impossible for him to attend due to some required time in advisory – for a non-academic reason.

If the advisory period is to help students get extra help, see a teacher for clarification, run to the library for a book, extra reference, or to print an assignment, or meet with other students to work on projects, it is failing miserably. The only thing it is succeeding at is interrupting the school day with non-essential assemblies, and form completion. I do not even think it is succeeding at the character development because the students (my students) are so resentful of the time they need to give up, many of the well-intended messages do not get through.

I find my students studying for tests thinking they will take them in advisory, only to find out their efforts to go over previous work, learn it better or more thoroughly and schedule the time with the teacher doesn’t pay off because they are told they “need” to stay in advisory. This was the case yesterday for my sophomore.  He was not released by his advisory teacher to go and re-take the calculus exam because he had to stay for some forum. I do not even know what it was about, it just angered me.  We are sending the wrong message to our students and it is this: academics come last. Every speaker, every assembly, every form, every sports team recognition, and every character building activity comes before academics. It is wrong!

Last week, our juniors all took the ACT test. The state of Wisconsin now pays for that test for all juniors. It is given during the school day.  No longer do students follow a prescribed freshman, sophomore, junior, senior course load. Students of all grades are in all classes from AP all the way through the tech labs like CAD.  The classes are mixed, as students choose what they take to fill their schedule. This creates a problem when the junior class is “out of commission” for a day or two to take a mass administered exam.

The same day the sophomores had field trips scheduled to visit various area college campuses. And, from what I heard, the freshmen had a different field trip that day. That left our senior class with an altered schedule that turned out to be worthless. Lessons on mindfulness, college prep, and movie watching is what was offered. It was really a waste for those students (of which I had one) and poorly orchestrated.  So much more could have been done with that time. It seems to me that the senior class got overlooked. Teaching could not take place because many of the classes were missing so many students due to testing and field trips that covering any new curriculum was a complete impossibility.  What really bothered me was that the night before this happened, we attended parent-teacher conferences, and no one mentioned this at all! It took our senior telling us about the crazily altered schedule later that night.

I think our administration feels it is doing a good job. But, it is all these little things – and the ever-increasing altered schedules, loss of instructional time, and building resentment among students and parents that proves otherwise. School is a lot of things, and rapidly becoming a place to try to instill too many things, but formal schooling is for learning. Currently, there are many missed opportunities to allow our students to be successful at the one thing they supposed to attend school to attain: an education.

The last time I wrote a post expressing my opinion about my own experience, it landed me in trouble with some district staff. I realize it could happen again. But, you know, I stand for the students and what is going on is not of benefit to them.

I am participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by TwoWritingTeachers. For 31 days in March, participants blog a “slice” from their life and share it. It is my second year of participation in this challenge that includes a wonderfully supportive community of writers. Thank you for the opportunity, TwoWritingTeachers

A Dutch Licorice Treat

A Dutch Licorice Treat

When I return to The Netherlands someday, I know where I am going. One place will be the tulip fields – I just have to time my trip right. And the other place will be a candy shop!  Although I did visit a chocolate shop in the shopping district of The Hague during my trip there in 2016, I came away with chocolate, not my preferred sweet treat of licorice!

Since returning home, I learned (by accident) that there is a shop in Ames Iowa, Chocolaterie Stam, that is filled with European Chocolates and Dutch Licorice! I believe I have visited it four times now! Set in a Boutique type atmosphere are rows and rows of handmade chocolates. The licorice, my guilty pleasure, is housed in clear jars behind the counter near the register. When I was in Ames last week, Chocolaterie Stam is one of the first places I visited. I ordered a latte and a half pound of licorice drops. The young man  who waited on me asked cautiously if I had tried the licorice before because what I asked for is also referred to as single salt licorice. It has a taste that needs to have been acquired to be enjoyed fully. “Yes,” I laughed, I knew what I was ordering. But, then I added, “I know they are unusual. I tried them before along with the double salted licorice and that is hard on the palate! ”

“That is so true,” came his reply.

The licorice sold at STAM is dutch licorice and what I bought is commonly referred to as drops in Holland. If you want to know more there is an article linked here by Dutch Review Magazine.   And and here, by Awesome Amsterdam.


The article refers to the taste of the drops being anything but ordinary – even for the licorice lover. You either love them or hate them. I have decided that I love them. They are sweet but slightly salty and almost tangy. Hard in texture, somewhat difficult to chew, but tasty.  I really cannot figure out why I like them so much other than they remind me of a wonderful trip and a new store where I can have a taste of  something that represents travel to me.

So,  I sipped my latte, read my textbook and saved my drops in my backpack. Now that I am home, I hoard them away in my closet and treat myself every once and awhile to a few Dutch Licorice Drops from Chocolatarie Stam and savor a taste of The Netherlands.


The View Out My Window

The View Out My Window

Gray – Grey.

The sky is grey today.

Heavy, Opaque, Still.

A glimmer of peach at the horizon

can be seen if you look for it.

It says there is more light somewhere, today.


Tiny white ice crystals knocked on my window

and fell to the deck below, covering it with a speckled veil

of whiteness. It you look closely, you can see there is an icy

mist falling, ever so quietly now. Barely noticeable.  Raining icy crystals

coming down straight now so as not to hit the window, make noise, and alert me

to their presence unless I look for them in the still gray air.


A train blows its whistle in the distance, alerting towns to

its passing. Loud bursts cut through the still winter morning air.

A constant din of movement, almost white noise in quality,

becoming less and less, as the train moves past our communities.

It is gone now. Until a train travels past again. Somehow it is comforting

to hear the train.


Two large maple trees with gnarly crowns stand guard in the yard.

Void of any color but brown. Waiting. Waiting for longer, warmer, sunnier days.

Brown knobs I know really to be buds are waiting for spring.

The leafing out will come, turning my world green, and blotting out the drab.


Yes. I see the lightness of peach on the horizon.



I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers.  Thank you for sponsoring a wonderful community of writers!

My First Kahoot

My First Kahoot

Last month I prepared my first Kahoot for a presentation on Carnivorous plants. As a newly hired garden club advisor for a near-by school district, I agreed to do a limited amount of in-classroom presentations for teachers on topics related to the environment and/or gardening. So as not to create a great deal of extra work for myself, I decided to try and make the presentations on the topic that our garden club meeting was on for that particular month.

For example, in early December, garden club students studied the Poinsettia. We took a close look at this tropical plant that we bring into many of our homes each holiday season. We learned about its cultural history, horticultural requirements and peculiarities, and the legends behind this plant. Then, a couple of weeks later, I spend a half hour in each of five classrooms, ranging from 2nd-5th grade, making a similar, but abbreviated presentation on poinsettias. All the presentations seemed to go well and be appreciated.

The December presentations were the first set of four in-classroom sessions planned for the remainder of this school year. I like to keep things fresh, so for the January presentations, I made a Kahoot on carnivorous plants. My carnivorous plant unit is one that has been very popular with students in the past at my “old” school where I held a garden club for 13 years.  I wanted a way to engage the students in the topic without having time for a “hands-on” lesson and less that my usual time for the club presentation.

I found Kahoot easy to use. However, my first time around I did make a few mistakes. I put it in jumble mode not realizing that this was more for sequencing questions. So, unable to switch the content to the traditional mode. I had to retype (not rewrite) my fifteen questions.  This was not a problem, just part of the learning curve one expects when using a software.

Two weeks ago, I presented in three classrooms on Carnivorous Plants. In he first class – a combination of two third grades – the lead teacher and I decided not to use the Kahoot due to her students never having used one before. I had a back up plan and made a presentation with interactive discussion and two brief – two minute video clips. It went well.

The second class was a combined 4/5 Spanish Immersion classroom. The kids enjoyed the Kahoot and most of them answered the content questions accurately. But, there were enough inaccurate perceptions to allow me to give some new information to the students and enlighten their thinking on these unusual plants.

The third classroom was a disaster! It was a third grade. We used the Kahoot. The teacher assured me her students were familiar with it. In both this classroom and the 4/5 classroom, students used iPads as their 1:1 devices on which to play the “game.”  The difference in this third classroom was two-fold. 1) Once the Kahoot started – controlled on the classroom teacher’s computer – it ran fast and continuously! Unlike the 4/5 classroom, during which we paused after each question to discuss the answers, this time the Kahoot jumped right to the next question! I found myself having to explain too quickly or be cut off by the new question. This, of course, led to a raucous environment in the classroom. 2) As a “guest”, non-formal educator, I expect the classroom teacher to take the responsibility of her student’s behavior. But, nothing was done! So, I found myself having to jump in and reprimand a bunch of students I had never seen before in my life. The content of the Kahoot sped on and the presentation ended slightly before it was supposed to! No wonder!

I am not sure exactly what happened in this classroom. My first experience with using a Kahoot was variable. However, I was not in a classroom space of my own and I was not the one controlling the technology (computer). I learned from this experience and while I enjoyed the Kahoot, as did the older class of fourth and fifth grade students, I will not go out of my way to make another one any time soon. And, I know if I decide to use one again, I will either control the computer myself or be very clear with the classroom teacher that we need to stop (pause) the game after each question to discuss the answer. I thought I was clear on this point. But, obviously having it work that way in only 50% of my presentations last month, I need to be clearer with the educator who has invited me into their class.

What is your experience with Kahoot?

Do your students become rambunctious when playing?

I’d love to hear your experience! Thanks!

This post is for Day #2 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by the TwoWritingTeachers Blog.

Share Your World (SYW) 1/23/18 for a Slice of Life (SOL#18) Post

Share Your World (SYW) 1/23/18 for a Slice of Life (SOL#18) Post

Blogging Challenges, Prompts, and Patterns

During the last eleven months of blogging almost daily, I began to participate in some blogging challenges as well as set a pattern to some of my blogging posts.  One pattern that seemed firmly established until this week was my Silent Sunday posts, within which I only post photograph based on a theme of my choosing. These posts have been some of my most popular and I look forward to creating them. However, sometimes sifting back through thousands of digital files is sometimes both daunting and time-consuming. Some of my favorites of the past year are Sunrise, Sunset and Favorite Places.

The blogging challenges I participated in included The Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge, again based on theme, but of The Daily Post’s choosing. Again, I have enjoyed these and my participation has definitely garnered more followers for my blog. Ping-backs are encouraged, as you link your post to the page offering the challenge. These are primarily offered mid-week.  Examples of my submissions for the words “waiting” and “layered” can be seen by clicking on each. I love words, photography, creativity, and interpretation. So, these challenges are a great fit for me!

And, the challenge you are all familiar with is the challenge that started my blogging journey; The Slice of Life Challenge of last year. March 2017 still ranks my highest month of readership, according to my WordPress Insight page. I continued to offer a slice on Tuesday where sometimes I have comments and sometimes I do not (we are supposed to comment on three other blogs.) Still, I consider Tuesday’s as a special day during the week to connect with other bloggers invested in the world of education. Participation information for this year’s challenge can be found on the TwoWritingTeachers.org blog.

A New Challenge: Share Your World

Yesterday, I found a new challenge offered on a blog that usually offers daily photo challenges. This was called Share Your World. The author, Cee’s Photography, proposes several questions one may use as prompts to enable other bloggers to share their world.  I decided to participate. Here are my responses to the 1/22 SYW Challenge:

List two things you are happy about: 

#1 – It snowed today! It is winter after all and if it is going to be cold, I would like to have some of the “white stuff” around!  The world looks so pretty after a freshly fallen snow!

#2 – My boys seem to have recovered from a bout of this year’s flu! Luckily, it seemed to take only 3 days to get over most of the respiratory symptoms, leaving only some residual headaches. Maybe those doses of Tamiflu helped.

Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

Absolutely! I had a whole set of “rocks” from a science kit when I was young – there was pyrite (a favorite due to its glitteriness), limestone, agate, malachite, jasper, lava, sandstone, obsidian, and a geode!  They each had little identification cards that described their “hardness” and other attributes (whether they were igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.  I loved science as a kid and still do!

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? 

I am a hugger to other huggers! Does this make sense? I just mean that I am aware of the people I greet and if I know them to be huggers, I hug. I think I have grown into being a hugger.  We have friends that upon meeting us for the first time, hugged us! They are definitely huggers. We hug them in return, to say both hello and good-bye. However, we have other friends, known to us for sometime that we have never hugged.  It is strange. You can just get the feeling that they want to preserve their “space.” It is important to realize this if you are a hugger. Some people just do not like to be hugged!

What inspired me this week? 

Glorious Sunrises. Almost each day this week, we experienced a burst of early morning color in the Eastern sky, just before sunrise. The days are getting longer!

January Sunrise 18

Inspiration is also due to: Cee’s Photography  and Slice of Life Tuesday for 1/23/18