Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year



I took the picture of our public library after members of the library board spent one warm fall morning decorating for the Christmas season. The log structure was built by the WPA in 1939. The building originally housed the City Hall and a voting precinct room until 1980, when a new community building was built. Community members visit the library to check out books and movies or spend time using the computers for personal research.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Writing

I found a website at www.750words.com. I love this site. I have been writing at least 750 words for 3 days now.  I realize I am just getting started but I've found the process to be cathartic. I started writing about my early childhood because I did not want to forget. Since my Mom and Dad have both passed, I have no one to share the memories.  I feel in this way others will read about growing up in Southeast Missouri as a sharecropper family. Dad and I used to talk about our life in the early days, so I miss that connection with him. Our life is similar to reading the book, "Painted House" by John Grisham. I am trying to write the small stories that stand out in my memory. Right now I am typing as fast as I can and achieving the goal of 750 words in about 30 minutes. The site has statistics about the writing that include how many words per minute you have written, emotions you might be feeling, your mindset, your concerns (mine have been about work and family), the tense you are writing in, and the most frequently used words.

If you want to start writing, I encourage you to check out this site. You can earn points and badges in addition to getting your story on paper.

 http://750words.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Polliwog on Safari: Top 10 Ways to Promote Science Inquiry

Polliwog on Safari: Top 10 Ways to Promote Science Inquiry

Michelle Cusolito compiled an amazing list that will encourage you to lead children in outside investigations. She has provided great tips for every teacher.  A recommendation is given for you to recognize when you need to research for additional information. I want to add, as the leader, you do not need to know the answers and give an explanation for every question. It is ok for children to understand that sometimes we must look for answers too. Your passion to observe and seek knowledge will spark children to begin to think like scientists.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pre-school Learning



I spent the morning with a group of 4 year old children at a pre-school. Their routine was fun and interesting. I forgot how much they have to learn. They lined up to walk inside and once coats were hung, said the Pledge of Allegiance. I was surprised they recited the pledge in unison, it was more difficult to get them to use the correct hand to cover their hearts.

Two boys were assigned the job of dressing the frog on the bulletin board for the day's weather. The class then chose words that describe the day. Because they had spent some time outside they decided the weather was cold. After looking out the window they agreed the day was sunny.  They counted how many days before Thanksgiving or Turkey Day as most of them called it.

The boys and girls were learning to raise their hands to respond to the teacher. I observed this occur approximately 10 times, with about half of the students raising their hand to be called on. They were learning to sit in their chairs and sit in a circle when appropriate. Some students were reluctant when required to change positions from sitting at the table to sitting in a circle. They were allowed to lag, be distracted and then encouraged to join the group.

Feathers and feet from a wild turkey were on display and I read them a story about the life cycle of turkeys. They knew quite a lot about turkeys: turkeys eat bugs and nuts, people hunt them to eat, turkeys come from eggs, and turkeys taste good. They listened intently to my story and were quite ready for snack time.

I also forgot how literal young children can be. When it was time to put on coats to go outside, one student commented, "I don't have a coat, I have a jacket."

Again they practiced forming a line to go outside. They offered suggestions about which activity they chose to participate. As they left, each said a goodbye with "Happy Thanksgiving."

I think I learned as much as they did today. I enjoyed their energy and excitement and found getting back to the basics refreshing.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Highlight your Magical Teaching Moment

Goal #2 in the Teacher Reboot Camp 30 goals challenge for the educator.

Highlight a Magical Teaching Moment

Sometimes I forget to honor the special moments in the daily interactions with students. Thinking back to the different classes I've taken and taught brings me nice memories. I wish I had written about them as they happened.

I still remember the best piece of advice given to me by the teacher for my Education Psychology class, Mr. McElroy said, "Treat every child as if he or she was the mayor's child". It is a simple way to conduct yourself and I really believe that type of respect is the minimum each person deserves. When I became a teacher and later principal I worked to impart the leadership required to apply his sage advice.

I remember many students who made a deep impact upon my interactions with them. So many elementary students simply needed a supportive family unit and our classroom sometimes substituted for that family. Jenna was the oldest of five children. She loved to take a book from the classroom home to read to her younger siblings. I always used my teacher points to order extra books so I would have one to give her to keep at home. I watched her grow and become a serious academic student. As she left elementary and transitioned to junior high school she still contacted me for advice or a friendly chat.

Through the years I have had so many positive interactions with students that have enriched my life.  During the time I spent as junior high school principal, it seemed the negative interactions remained much stronger than any positive ones, therefore I was pleasantly surprised when I encountered a mother and daughter who shared a story with me. I had long forgotten but Karen had never forgotten because it helped her thrive in school each day. Sometime during most every day in junior high, to her dismay Karen was sent to my office so I could judge the length of her shorts or skirt. She told me I would read the note from the teacher, tell her the clothing was fine, answer the note and send her back to class. I don't remember that small action but it meant a lot to her. I thanked her for sharing that with me and told her she brightened my outlook.

I hope this story encourages readers to share a positive interaction with a former teacher or administrator. You, too, can make a difference by sharing your sentiment.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tribute Poem

As I read the post about creating a Tribute Poem by Two Writing Teachers, I was inspired to write a tribute poem about my Dad. It was near the first anniversary of his passing and I realize I still miss him every day.

For Dad I remember . . .

Your smile and laugh when greeting a friend or loved-one
Your deep voice and wide hands reaching to hug us
The care you expressed for others 

The interest you took in your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
The support and love we felt from you
Your honest opinion and commentaries on the world.

Words . . .
 Farmer
Father
Traveler

 Things . . .
Songs
Cowboy Boots
Tractors

Stories . . .
 Working in the field
Funny jokes
Growing up in a large family

And how you would rattle your ice tea glass when you needed more tea
You kept a light by Mom’s grave so she wouldn’t be lonely
How you never met a stranger

And told us we were no better but as good as any other person
Your rugged individualism, determined to make it on your own
Yet, you would be the first one to offer help to your brothers and sisters

 We miss you, Dad, I will always love you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Me Manifesto

Wordle: Me Manifesto I created this Wordle to explain my "Me Manifesto" about education. It describes my beliefs about learning. This is the first challenge in the list of 30 Goals for 2012, from Teacher Reboot Camp at this website: A lot has changed since I first began my teaching career. I've written several papers in an attempt to develop, identify and revise my personal educational philosophy during the 35+ years. This was the simplest format I have ever completed. Next I may try to create a short video in "Storybird" or "Animoto". There are so many new challenges in the world today, I wonder how anyone can tire of learning. I've always thought learning was a lifelong journey. To be successful in the attempt I think the learner must be an active participant. Find a passion and let it direct the journey. Don't be reluctant to strive to find answers to your questions. Learn from and with others, learning really explodes when it becomes a social, collaborative activity.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sedge

Sedges have edges!


You will find sedges in most wetland habitats. I was walking in my field with my Golden Retriever when I saw this particular one. I was reminded of a question by Aldo Leopold, "Who is more thoroughly acquainted with the world in which he lives, the wild things that live there or the person who owns the land?" I know in my instance the wildlife knows much more about the land than I.

I wanted to know the Carex family this plant belonged so I thought a picture would be good enough for me to identify the kind of sedge it is. Now that I'm inside and looking in my plant field guide, I find I need more information to identify it. I should have taken a close up picture of the stem. There are so many questions to answer before I could know the identify. I would have to be satisfied with knowing it is a sedge because I didn't want to collect it. I wanted to leave it for future growth.  Maybe next spring I will encounter more of these plants on my walks with my dog.


Thursday, September 20, 2012


Dragonfly over the pond
I've always enjoyed seeing a dragonfly zip past. When I was young and dragonfly landed near us while fishing, my Grandpa called them snake doctors. I thought that was an odd name which caused me to fear their secretive power. More recently I have learned to distinguish a few species. A citizen science project, Dragonfly Pond Watch encouraged people to get a picture of the Saddleback. Have you ever tried to take a picture of a dragon fly? They dart up and down and zip around, in and out. Having water close by helped me get a picture because they seem to pause over the water.  I was not lucky enough to find a Saddleback but did get a few great shots of more common dragonflys. The Dragonfly woman (http://thedragonflywoman.com) posts comments about swarms and I became more interested as I witnessed a swarm at my house.  I plan to keep trying to get great pictures of a dragonfly in action.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Springs in MO

Blue Springs




















This spring is one of many in Missouri. Even in a year of drought, the spot where I photographed this spring is deep enough to cover the Statue of Liberty. It's difficult to take a picture that showcases all the beauty, but I think one can see the depth by the color change of the water in the photo.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Collard Lizards

Male Collard Lizard
Female Collard Lizard


I was so excited to get photographs of these two Ozark Mountain Boomers or Eastern Collard Lizards. They like to bask on the exposed rocks in the glades of the St. Francois Mountains. I've been to the glade several times but this was my first opportunity to see these colorful lizards. The first one I saw was a male, easy to identify because of the blueish or greenish color. He displayed typical mating behavior of bobbing his head up and down. Later, close to the spot where the male was seen I photographed a female with yellowish tan coloring.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reflection

For so many years beginnings and endings in my life have been set by a school year rather than the calendar year. I find I'm still influenced by the close of another school year even though I work year round. The end of another school year calls for reflection. It's time to remember the challenges, successes and failures of the year. Time for decisions about modifications or improvements in actions. Time to use the learning experience and focus on the next opportunity. It is time to mark progress and set new goals. I started this post a couple of weeks ago, then read a similar post by Two Writing Teachers. They answered these reflections: I learned... I was stretched by... I'm excited about... I'm beginning to realize... I used their starters and wrote the following: I learned that I enjoy getting teachers and students to start a journal. I was stretched by learning to use Twitter and starting a blog. I'm excited about using technology to connect with many teachers. I'm beginning to realize it's not the technology but the teacher that creates the lesson. One goal I have for next year is to demonstrate conservation education lessons in the classrooms. A couple of personal goals I have are to write every day and make a trip to the beach. I plan to try the suggestion from Ted Talks and try to write every day for the next 30 days. http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cecropia Moth

Cecropia or Robin Moth

I was so excited to find this beautiful but dead moth on the ground. It was a very windy day so I grabbed the moth before the wind could blow it away. The next thing I did was place it between two layers of bubble wrap and cardboard. I wanted to pin it so I could use to show students. The fragile feathery antenna were already breaking off. That is a good way to classify the insect as a moth rather than a butterfly. Most butterflies have long, slender antenna and moths have antenna that resembles a fine feather. 

As soon as I got inside, I went straight to look up the insect in a resource guide. It was easy to spot in the moth section of the field guide. I found that it is a Cecropia or Robin Moth that feeds on more than 20 different species of Missouri trees and shrubs. Some common trees and shrubs that I have in my yard include willow, plum, box elder, soft maple and lilac. These moths are usually found from April to June and range in size from 3.75 to 6 inches. This one measured 6 1/2 inches!

The female is the largest Lepidoptera in North America. The life span is two weeks or less. From 3:00 am to sunrise, the female releases pheromones to attract a mate. This species will overwinter in the pupa stage. 

I'm not sure which task was more difficult: to get a good photo with my camera or to create a watercolor. Both require skill and talent, as you can see, I am an unskilled beginner at both tasks. I've been an amateur photographer for years, but recently bought a complicated DLSR camera. I have much to learn. I also love children's art so I wanted to attempt the project. It was a good starting place for me. 


Watercolor

Monday, May 7, 2012

Birding

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
Do you have a life list of birds you have seen? I don't, but maybe I should start one.

Recently I was privileged to host a group of Master Naturalists on Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. We started early one morning on the hunt for migratory birds. Serious birders can identify these songbirds by their songs and calls. I have learned to recognize a few by listening to the song.  I heard "ee o lay"  and knew it was the melodic sound of the Wood Thrush.  Later I heard a familiar call, "drink your tee" from the  Eastern Towhee.

During a lunch break one member of the group asked how to improve the skill of birding by ear. It helps if you can begin to recognize a bird you are sure to see in your area. Purchase a field guide and look for the range map of a songbird. Apps are available to help you hear the call and see pictures of birds. Audubon and others make cds that help you become familiar with the calls of songbirds. Going with birders to listen on a early morning walk can be a great way to get started. Don't be overwhelmed, start with a couple birds and add others as you become comfortable in your knowledge.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Box Turtles are on the move.

In my travels today I encountered lots of the turtles trying to cross the road. Some were successful while others were not. Turtles can be difficult to avoid with busy traffic. Remember to be aware and watch out for them. When I returned home, I read in the May, 2012, Missouri Conservationist magazine that male turtles are on the move because they are looking for food, water and courtship. Turtles are creatures of habit and comfortable in their home range. If you try to help a turtle get across the road, make sure you place it in its direction of travel because the turtle is determined to stay within its home range.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sense of Wonder

What influences someone to become a lifelong learner? I think it requires being a bit curious about your environment. Interest in the bigger world seems to influence what we notice and learn about. Can this interest be developed? I think it can. Asking questions and looking for answers can be an established pattern in children. Toward this goal we should look for opportunities to explore and ask questions. Outdoors is such a great place to begin. Rachel Carson wrote about developing the sense of wonder in children. Simply put, take children outside and begin to notice what is occurring all around. Be observant and curious.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Using light in photography



I'm learning about using light in photographs. I took this picture to show how light coming from the side can affect the picture. I love seeing the rough trunk highlighted.  

Monday, April 23, 2012


April 22, 1970, was the first celebrated Earth Day. 

Even though one day has been named to honor our earth, our daily actions should include the best of intentions for planet earth every day of the year. Taking care of our planet depends on the helpful actions of everyone. From the individual act of throwing trash in a receptacle to the leadership needed for mobilizing a group to promote environmental education, every action makes a difference. Your level of involvement depends on you. Start simple, do something you enjoy. Your individual actions can influence others. You can find information about activities at these web sites:





Friday, April 20, 2012

Elephant Rocks State Park, Ironton, MO


If you've looking for a unique place to spend time outside with your family, check out the link below. 


You will marvel that Missouri has these giant boulders. Children may think they are visiting places where dinosaurs once roamed. The park is a great place to hike the trails and see the sights. Take along a picnic lunch and plenty of water to quench your thirst. Look for the farkleberry bush growing in the crevices.

Thursday, April 19, 2012




The Tulip Poplar in my yard is blooming and the bees are buzzing! Our grown son planted this tree when he was in fourth grade. It did not bloom for several years. Now, it provides great habitat for bluebirds and insects. We enjoy the sights, sounds and shade the tree offers.

Next week I'm helping a few Boy Scouts plant some pine and cypress trees on their schoolyard for others to enjoy.

Find time to take children outside and enjoy the nature around you.

The 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest