Current obsessions: October 2016

current-obsessions-10-16 Don't you just love fall? I know it's the cliche favorite season for everyone ever, but I can't help loving it. Some things I'm currently obsessed with during this beautiful autumn:

I finally started a (somewhat) regular meditation practice! I've been doing lots of reading on how to use mindfulness in the classroom, and everything I read suggests that the teacher needs to practice mindfulness before she can teach it to her students... So I decided I would try to get in the habit of meditating for ten minutes when I get home from school. So far so good! It's a reasonable amount of time, I only make myself do it on the weekdays, and I've started to really look forward to it. After a crazy-busy day at school, it's pretty nice to just sit around for ten minutes doing nothing but breathing. I use the app called Heartfulness, and I did splurge a few months ago and buy a meditation cushion. (It's really just a pretty floor cushion from Pier One.)

On a similar note, I discovered some new podcasts that teach about mindfulness, meditation and the like: Tara Brach's podcast, Zencast, and The Mindful Podcast. My favorite is Tara Brach - her voice practically puts me to sleep it's so peaceful, and I love her talks about life and happiness and Buddhist philosophy.

In my teaching life, I've been trying to figure out how to have a more meaningful choice/play time for my kindergarteners. Technically I'm not even supposed to have play time in the schedule. There's no room for it in our master schedule, which we're expected to comply with except on special occasions like field trip days. How awful is that? Kids should be allowed to play just for play's sake. But I figure if I can make play time a demonstrably productive learning time, it'll be easier to convince administration of its importance. After all, kids really do learn a lot while they play - but I want to make it seem obvious that free play time is a meaningful part of the day. I heard about this book and got super excited because it seems like it was written just for my predicament -- Choice Time: How to Deepen Learning through Inquiry and Play by Renee Dinnerstein. I follow her blog, which is all about the importance of play and choice in the early grades, and can't wait to start reading the book.

A couple song obsessions this season: I'm on Fire by Town Mountain, Midnight on the Interstate by Trampled by Turtles, and Buckets of Rain by Bob Dylan (happy Nobel prize!)

I'm also slightly obsessed with the artist/author Dallas Clayton lately. I first heard him interviewed on the Real Talk Radio podcast (Play, Art and Power of Encouraging Others), and loved everything he said. Now I'm following him on Instagram for a daily dose of inspirational art.

Book study! Starting with Science: Strategies for Introducing Young Children to Inquiry

It's been a long time since I've written! The start of the school year has come and gone, and now we are back from winter break {although today was a bonus break day, due to extreme cold in the midwest}. I've been neglecting the blog for many reasons, including having too many hobbies and prioritizing spending time with some pretty awesome people. I've also been doing lots of reading of teacher books. For the most part, I have been reading all kinds of stuff on teaching science! good_posters_science_web_1While I love teaching science, I definitely don't think I'm good at it. I want to be a super-duper science teacher who writes all her units from scratch based on the kids' interests, and knows exactly how to guide her students to finding the most interesting science facts in the world. I basically want to be a Bill Nye for kindergarten.

But I hesitate to steer away from our (boring) (scripted) science curriculum, because I haven't been taught how to teach good science without it! I know many teachers share my hesitation. It's pretty shameful how little science is emphasized in teacher education programs. When I was in college, we had one science methods course in the entire five semester program. It was a wonderful, rigorous course that taught me to love teaching science - but it wasn't enough. Now that I am in the classroom, it's clear how little science is valued in school districts. We don't get professional development in it. It's all literacy and math all the time. So no wonder I hesitate to say I'm good at teaching science! And I am known as one of those "science people" at my school!

Anyway, I decided to take matters into my own hands several years ago, when I realized how little schools are helping teachers become better at teaching science. If they weren't going to teach me, I would teach myself. Since then, I have read tons of books, attended workshops, and even quit teaching in the school system in order to teach environmental education. (That only lasted a few years - it was so much fun, but I missed being in the classroom.) I continue to talk to other science teachers, participate in committees, and find good science resources. And my new goal for 2015 is to share my findings here, on my little corner of the internet!

This is me, reading all the science teacher books:

There are so many to choose from!

To begin with, I picked up a new book called Starting with Science: Strategies for Introducing Young Children to Inquiry. "Inquiry-based science" has long been an elusive term for me. Everyone says it's the best way to teach science for all ages, but I never quite knew what it meant, and what made "inquiry science" different from hands-on science, or lab science, or environmental science. When this book came to my attention, it seemed like the perfect start! I teach kindergarten, and teaching science to young children can be an extra challenge. So this book, which is geared towards preK-3 teachers, will hopefully speak to those challenges as well.

Book Study Teach Run Eat

I plan to read a chapter each week, and post what I learn here on the blog. I'll also include links to helpful resources that are mentioned in the book or that I come across on my own. I'm excited to share, as I love reading book studies by other teacher bloggers! If you'd like to join me, you can purchase the book here or here.

Happy reading!

Inspiration for the weekend.


Some links that helped me find calm/beauty/inspiration this weekend:

New beautiful food blog: Love and Lemons. I'm sure her butternut squash burrito bowl will turn out delicious when I make it tomorrow.

The NYTimes magazine's Food Issue is out today! I want to read all the articles, especially Getting Your Kids to Eat (or At Least Try) Everything and How School Lunch Became the Latest Political Battleground.

Jack Kerouac on kindness. He's my fave.

I made crockpot apple butter, and it was so easy!

Young children should observe. everything.

What if every person treated trees as if they symbolize life?

New research finds a link between eating fruits and vegetables, and finding a greater sense of meaning in life. When encouraging someone to eat more vegetables, I feel like this isn't the biggest thing you should emphasize. But it's an intriguing find.

New blog design!

I finally took the plunge and updated my blog design! This lovely template is from Ashley over at Dinosaur Stew Graphic Design. She did an awesome job and was so helpful with all my questions! Now there are convenient links to my Pinterest and my Teachers Pay Teachers account over there on the left, and the whole site is so much prettier! Now that the blog is updated, my plan is to create some TPT products for bringing wonder, curiosity and inquiry-based science into the classroom. I'm also attending the Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability at Shelburne Farms next week, and will be sharing lots from what I learn there. So stay tuned!

Inspiration for the (long) weekend.

hemingwayYou probably have too much stuff. Choosing the "healthiest" sugar...when really, all sugars are sugars.

Teaching kids kindness by having a Kindness Jar in the classroom.

Delicious eats: Spring green risotto with peas and asparagus / Cauliflower and roasted chickpeas / Rhubarb oat quick bread

I'm always looking for blogs and articles to further educate myself on social justice issues. Here's one from NPR's "Code Switch," about race, culture and ethnicity in America.

Inspiration for the weekend.

Go running

I have the picture above as my computer desktop. It's so hard to get motivated to run when it's this freaking cold. So I'm doing all I can to inspire myself. Here's some more inspiration that I've found lately:

The winter abundance bowl from My New Roots. Beautiful recipe that I make so frequently.

Advice to us all: Stop reading this blog post and go do stuff.

The truth is that everyone can do yoga.

The banjo player I am currently obsessed with.

A new favorite recipe blog (aka food porn).

Countdown until spring.

Teacher books I want:

And last but not least, my newest resource for teaching inspiration. This book seriously got me motivated to change how I structure my classroom to make it more full of wonder and curiosity. And it's free to download! Cultivating Joy & Wonder: Educating for Sustainability in Early Childhood through Nature, Food and Community

Recipe of the Week: Wheat Berries with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts & Butternut Squash

It's been a long time since I posted! I got a new teaching job, which has taken up all of my time, but I keep coming across delicious recipes that I want to share. So I decided I had to at least start up with the Recipes of the Week again. This one comes from a new cookbook I got for my birthday (thanks Erin!).   I love new cookbooks, and this one has an entire chapter on my favorite type of meal: Grains + Veggies for One-Dish Dinners. That's basically all I eat lately. So this recipe is a good one. I modified it a bit from the cookbook, including adding butternut squash and doubling the amount of cranberries. 

Wheat Berries with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts & Butternut Squash 

  • 3/4 cup wheat berries (winter or hard red) 
  • salt
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes
  • olive oil
  • 2 T orange juice
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t finely grated lemon zest [I used lemon juice and it was just fine]
  • 2 T cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts [just chop them up and put them in the oven on broil for 2-3 minutes]
  • 3 T chopped fresh parsley
In a large sauce pot, combine the wheat berries, a pinch of salt, and enough water to cover the berries with an extra two inches over the top of them. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer (or low boil) and cook, partially covered, until the wheat berries are tender. For me it took 60 minutes. It could take as short as 50 or as long as 90 minutes. Just taste them from time to time, until they are nicely chewy.
Preheat the oven to 475. Toss the brussels sprouts and butternut squash with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread them out on a 13x9 pan or baking dish. Roast in the over until brown and tender, for 18 minutes.
Combine the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and lemon zest or juice in a small pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Then take the pan off the burner and mix in the butter, two chunks at a time. Whisk the mixture until the butter melts, then add the next chunks. 
Combine all you've done in a bowl, add the cranberries and walnuts, and parsley on top! I also added more salt. So good, and filling too!

Easy gardening idea: Lettuce beds from scrap wood

It's been a while since I posted! I'm currently working on a schedule for posts that is more predictable and organized. More on that later. For now, I have a fun project to share. Springtime is upon us, and my partner Dustin and I have been trying to figure out what foods we would like to grow this year. Two weeks ago, we planted peas, kale, beets, and a few other spring crops in his workplace community garden (in the picture at right).

We're very lucky to have this space, and I know most people don't have yards or property that allow them to have a full garden. So, I wanted to share this easy and cheap way to grow salad greens anywhere! All you need is some scrap wood, a few tools, and a sunny place to store the lettuce beds. We got the idea from Grow It Organically, which has a lot of great gardening resources. For more specific instructions on building the beds, visit their website. I'll give a few details here, so you can get an idea of how easy it is!

First, you need some wood. No need to buy expensive wood at the hardware store. We called the feed store down the street and asked if they had any leftover wooden pallets (like the one below). Sure enough, they had plenty stocked in back of their store, and let us come take one free of charge.

Dustin used a hammer to pry apart the boards, so he ended up with loose wood. We then borrowed our neighbor's saw and cut them to the right size. For one lettuce bed, you'll need two one-foot boards and two 18-inch boards. Use nails to hold the boards together. You'll end up with something like this:
There are a few more steps on the website that you need to follow, including adding hardware cloth to the bottom of the frame, then laying window screen on the bottom of the tray to form a base. Then, pour in some soil and plant your lettuce seeds!
After a while, you'll have some beautiful greens growing in your backyard. We planted spinach and a variety of lettuce seeds. Total cost for this project was less than $20, and we'll have salad all summer long.
After two weeks
After a month

Delicious! do we live a healthy life?

So, the year is 2005. I'm in college, and it's my first year without my mother or the dorm kitchen to cook my food. My meal of choice is macaroni and cheese, occasionally with freezer-burned chicken nuggets on the side. The only vegetables I tolerate are corn and green beans, which, when coming from a can, hardly count as vegetables. I don't exercise, besides a quick stroll across the street to the building where my classes are held. After two years of eating processed and fatty foods in the dorms, I'm not in good shape.

Fast forward to today -- while I still have a long way to go, health is much higher on my priority list. I'm now an avid vegetable fan, I've run two half marathons, and I practice yoga pretty regularly. I spent a year teaching about healthy eating in Chicago, and I continue to teach about it at my school in New York. I've lost 15 pounds since my lazy days in college, and I've also learned to cook a thing or two.

I couldn't have done it, however, without some inspiration. Inspiration from my mom (who quit smoking after thirty years), from books, from cooking blogs, from online articles, from friends who patiently taught me to cook.

My goal with this blog is to be a source of inspiration, or motivation; a place to go when you need a little push to get outside and run, or cook a vegetable-based meal, or kick an unhealthy habit. To clarify, I'm not limiting this to any one person's idea of "healthy living." We all have different ideas about what health is, and I think part of this blog will be exploring how wide of a net this idea of health can cast. I'm open to posts about anything, from tiny tips on exercising, to fad diets, to feeling good no matter what your weight. 

With any luck, this will be a blog filled with resources, favorite recipes, meal planners, websites for eating and exercising, community events to join, and inspirational ideas. Living a healthy life in today's society is complicated and challenging. Check back whenever you can, to hear from people who are all struggling with the same thing you are: When our days are filled with fast food, comfortable cars, and busy schedules, how do we live a healthy life?