You Talked to Who????

Wow have things changed since I started teaching! I often take for granted the advances that have made my life more enjoyable in the classroom. Yesterday, I was hit full force with just awe. When I started my career, we had no computers at all. I think the secretary may have had one. Now, I carry everything I need either on my phone or my iPad. It would not be unusual to see me working on three devices at once. I did not have a phone in my classroom. I used to have to go to the office and wait for a line out (of which we had two). I didn’t think about it was just the way it was.

Yesterday, we Skyped Alaska. I am in Connecticut. Actually, we didn’t Skype. Because they are so remote, they facebook video chatted with us (thank goodness for the young teacher in Alaska who could walk me through that). Can you imagine?! Children from Alaska and children from Connecticut looking at each other and talking. Asking questions and finding out about each other. It was awesome!

We learned that yesterday in Alaska it was 7 degrees outside. Many of the children were wearing hats in the classroom. The coldest it has gotten in 50 degrees below zero. We also learned that they can get a foot of snow a day and they go to school no matter what. They laughed at us that we miss school if there is too much snow. There are 20 children in the third grade class and that was their entire town of grade three students. What hit my class was that it was 12:40 in CT and our new friends in Alaska had just gotten to school because it was 8:40 am there. Their students also asked in anyone hunted or trapped animals. They said their houses are usually made by hand and out of wood and trees.

I don’t know if my class totally understood how amazing this was. For them, Skyping has become something that we do. We definitely discussed it after. We talked about how their lives are different than ours and how wonderful is that that we get to see that first hand. We can read all about these states, but to actually talk to children from there..priceless!

I will forever be grateful for the technology that brings these fabulous programs to my students. My 21 year old, first year teacher self, could never have imagine in my wildest dreams what happened yesterday! So, I think my not 21 year old self is going to sit back and enjoy this moment..(until I find the next cool thing)


Bringing the World To Us

I have seen many changes in education in the past 30 years.  Some good, some not so good.  Over all the changes I have seen, the best one, the one I feel has impacted learning the most has been technology.  When I first started, there were no computers.  Hard to imagine that!


Yesterday was one of those amazing days. That you look back and are glad that you were apart of it.  It started with my daughter Kelsey FaceTiming in to our class from South Africa.  She spends Thursdays at University of Cape Town and uses their WiFi to connect.  The students were able to ask “in person” their questions about her bungee jumping, lion meeting and other adventures.  She showed them her university and then turned the camera around and showed them the mountains.  You know she has been making a difference when one student said, “Oh, I see Table Mountain.”

The second exciting thing to happen was because of Wonder .  We have been reading the chapter book and I stumbled across a Facebook Group of teachers reading it.  Through that group, Megan Brown contacted me and said she was willing to Skype from Washington with my class to discuss her life as someone who has craniofacial issues.  D5AC6B69-904C-408F-BC71-ABF2EB88DCD7Megan presented to my class for about 15 minutes about her life and then my students asked her questions.

Also part of the day, which I didn’t think about until after because it is becoming so common place (which is crazy) is we checked Twitter. On Twitter our friend Carl DeStefano from Australia had tweeted pictures of his alpaca at us.  I then told the kids a story that Carl was tell me that morning in a twitter chat and we tweet back to him.  We have been corresponding with Carl all year, but how crazy is that?! My students saw alpaca pics from Australia?!

In one day, my students traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, Washington State and Australia.  Wow!  Just Wow!

Maybe because 30 years ago I could never imagine even talking on the phone during the day to South Africa or Washington let alone Skype and FaceTime, but yesterday was one of those magical, special days. It is one of those days that make me feel lucky to be able to do what I do and keeps my faith that I have the greatest job in the world.

Robots (well maybe)

This week we started the Global Read Aloud.  The Global Read Aloud is one book that is read aloud to students around the world.  There are a few


books to choose from.  The choices change every year.  This is my fifth year participating and it is one of my favorite global projects.  Over 2 million, yes, million children participate.

This year, I am reading the Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  It is a delightful story of a robot who gets stranded on a deserted island.  We are only in our first week, so we are not that far into the book. However, we did have to make our own robots because how can you read a book about robots and not make one?

Here is what they came up with.  How cute are they, right?!  The only directions were that they had to be shorter than 18 inches and had to stand. They were given 1 hour.  Materials could be used from the classroom or brought from home.  I had robot dogs, cats, heads

IMG_1051[1]and even a dinosaur.

What the picture doesn’t show is the hard work that went into these creations.  There was a lot of trial and error happening for sure!  There was also a lot of cooperation and sharing.  There was even squeals of delight when their creation stood up, like they wanted it to.

After we finished our creations, we snuck into my teaching buddy’s 5th grade classroom to get a look at hers.  What a difference a couple years make.  Hers all looked like robots.  Some moved, one was even voice activated!  They were amazing!

I chuckled that I did not have any “robot looking” robots at all.  But what I did have was children being children.  Simply delighted in the idea of creating something.  Using amazing problem solving skill.  Cooperation.  Kindness. Pride.  What I did have was a morning filled with smiles and giggles. It was a time to remind me that they are still children.

Third Grade Questions for South Africa

Why did you go to South Africa?  How long are you going to stay there?

I went to South Africa to study abroad. That means during a period of time during college, you live in a different country and take classes at their school. I could choose between Cape Town or London, but chose Cape Town because when else will I be in Africa?

I arrived at the end of August and will be leaving December 10th! But I won’t be back in the United States until December 11 because the flight takes so long.

What does your school look like?  What is it made out of?  Is there Chrome books?  Why is there so many kids in a class?

The school looks different than yours because there aren’t any hallways! To get from one classroom to another, you walk outside. Besides that, the classrooms look the same, with desks and chairs, posters, papers and pens. There’s a lot of bricks.

The technology that they use aren’t Chrome books, instead they have desktop computers (like the one my mom uses). There’s just the computer lab, not laptops that travel around. I don’t think they have computers in the classroom either.

There are so many kids in a class because there aren’t that many teachers and SO many kids. Compared to other classes that have 50 or more students, 30 isn’t that many!


Is South Africa near the equator?

It’s actually not. South Africa, specifically Cape Town, is the southern-most country in Africa. Here’s a map. South Africa is green! The bottom most coast is where I live (on the left-hand side).

Why is there poor and not poor sections?

In South Africa, there’s a history called “apartheid,” when people were separated by the color of their skin. The white people in charge were very mean to the black people and forced them to move out of their homes into a poor area called the “Cape Flats.” The black families only had a few hours to get as many of their things as they could before they had to move to those small houses I showed you before. Even though this period of time has ended, there are still poor and wealthy sections.

Why didn’t the tigers and monkeys attack?  Where they trained?  What about the elephants?  Are they trained?  Why were their tusks small?  Were they not grown or had someone cut it?

These tigers and monkeys were rescued by humans and have spent the majority of their lives in the sanctuary, so they are used to people walking by their cages and also the workers coming into their cages to feed them. So they were never actually trained but “domesticated,” meaning that they’re used to being around people.

And believe it or not, but a lion did actually charge at the fence when we were watching him! Our tour guide thought it was because we were near him while he was eating and thought we were going to steal his food!

The elephants are actually trained. They take about two years to be fully trained. They use treats, just like dogs. They look like bunny pellets. I got to feed my elephant, Jabu, a handful (or trunkful) of them! Elephants also love pumpkin, we fed them that too! One of the elephants, Tante, never grew her trunks. This is because of poachers, or bad people who kill elephants for their ivory trunks. So in order to stay alive, the elephants changed the way they grow so a very small percentage don’t even grow their tusks. The other two elephants, Jabu and Marula, don’t have their full trunks. The elephant trainers aren’t really sure why they’re like that, but they think it’s because another thing elephants can get killed for are strong trunks!



International Dot Day

September 15ish is International Dot Day.  What is exactly is that?  It is a day set aside to honor the amazing book the Dot by Peter Reynolds.  If you haven’t read it, you can watch it here The Dot  The Dot is a story about a Vashi who feels she cannot draw.  The message is to “Make a mark and see where it takes you.”  I am a big fan of Peter Reynolds’ books.  They are all fabulous with a great message in each.  While they are picture books, the lessons in each book apply to humans of all ages. The illustrations are just as amazing. Read just one and you will love them as much as I do.

International Dot Day was the first Global Project that I participated in (5 years ago) and it hooked me in a big way.  Over a million people participate in over 169 countries.  This whole day was the brainchild of teacher Terry Shay in 2009 and has grown to a wonderful day of creativity and exploration.  We have already read and discussed the book.  We marked down some of the countries that are participating on individual maps and looked how far they are from us on a globe.

On Friday, we will also be making our own mark by decorating a dot and using an app called Quiver to make it 3D.  We will be doing science activities with water dots (drops). We will be playing math games with dots (dice). We will also be having our first Mystery Skype of the year.  Finally, we will cap off our day by watching a live stream of Dot Day with Terry Shay and Peter Reynolds.  Isn’t technology fabulous?!

I love this day.  The Dot and Ish (another gem of Peter Reynolds) are wonderful books for adding to our growth mindset work we have been doing.  I am excited and I know I will be rocking dots on Friday.  What about you? IMG_0016.PNG

We Had Ourselves a Day

As a teacher, as a student, as a learner, as a college graduate, as a human being, there are days where you just have days.

There’s no other way to describe it except just by saying that Monday was one of those incredible, unreal, wow-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here, kind of days. We went on a field trip to Eco Park Diamante to see up-close and personal the animals the second graders had been studying for their last big project of the year.

(Side note: one of our earlier posts was talking about field trips and how both Mom/I kind of dread them, but this one really changed my view of them to be completely honest.)

I’m not sure how else to describe the experience except through pictures, to see what I saw.

We started with an hour and a half bus ride, playing iSpy, Cheesey Touch, and eating snacks.

Once we got to the Eco Park, we had to take another bus to the visitors’ center, and another to the actual animal sanctuary. IMG_6408 (1).JPG









Here we are waiting at the welcome center, looking at a map and organizing our plan of attack for seeing all the animals. IMG_6414 (1).JPG

I also couldn’t resist getting a picture of these awesome kiddos waiting zip-liners and “The White House” (which is actually just a popular resort).

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Can you tell we were excited??


The first animal we saw was the chestnut-chested toucan. The best part about the big birds were that we actually got to hold them!IMG_6432.JPG









Then it was off to the snakes, then big cats! (Here we are peering into the margay cage.)IMG_6442 (1).JPG

The jaguars were playing around when we got there. When we went back later in the day, Nico (one of the jaguars) was sleeping.






Monkeys!! They actually climbed on over to us too. This one had a baby on its back that I didn’t even notice until one of my kiddos pointed and shouted with awe, “look, a baby!”

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Then we said “hello” to a crocodile, which was amusing since we know a song “Never Smile at a Crocodile!” You can’t see him in this picture, but he was basically right below where the kids are standing. IMG_6460.JPG


Found the iguana doppleganger of this little nugget and just had to take a picture. (He’s in the middle right. They both have red tops and the iguana was basically the size of this guy.)




In the butterfly exhibit we got to hold butterflies on our hands. I’m holding a blue morpho, which is one of the biggest butterflies in the whole world!IMG_6515.JPG


The worker in the butterfly area also let us set a newly emerged butterfly into the sanctuary! However, the butterfly didn’t want to leave us, so we thought blowing on it would be a good idea (update: it didn’t work).



My favorite animal was the sloth!! We got to see it during feeding time. Not only are they too lazy to eat, they’re also so lazy and slow that they don’t even need cages. IMG_6493.JPG

We rejoined as a whole class and explored the butterfly exhibit again. Everyone wanted their picture with the butterfly they were holding. And I, of course, obliged (happily).


Finally, on our way out, I snuck away with this little nug to say goodbye to his favorite animal, the jaguar. IMG_6514.JPG

Best field trip I’ve ever been on that’s for sure. It was amazing to see all of these animals in rehabilitation homes and then to see the pure joy on my students’ faces when they saw the animals they had been studying.

Times like these make me never want to leave and make me incredibly happy and confident of the profession I chose.