Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Child Left Inside Forum

Yesterday, despite getting only two hours of sleep for various reasons, I went to Concord to go to the 'No Child Left Inside' forum - which featured Richard Louv as the keynote speaker, a panel discussion, and then workgroups to try and create action items to address the problem of kids losing their connection to nature. If you don't recognize the name Louv, he is the one who wrote the book entitled, "Last Child in the Woods : Saving Children from Nature Deficit Disorder" which I applauded earlier.

First of all, I can't express how lucky and happy I was to be able to attend this workshop. I was one of about 200 educators and scientists and important people there that I got to meet. It would be the equivalent of Al Gore coming to your hometown to teach you about global warming personally. I wore my favorite important-looking-suit-outfit which was a long black jacket, a long white shirt and nice pants that came with the jacket. I also put contacts in and makeup on, and wore my boots. I wanted to look professional, and I certainly did.

The keynote address was amazing. Louv talked about his own childhood, and then shifted to why such experiences in nature are so important. He quoted studies which showed that children who have time in nature have less stress, are healthier, have lessened or no symptoms of ADD, score better on their standardized testing in science and take fewer medication than those that don't. He also talked about the reasons why parents don't allow their children outside, including fears of mosquito-borne illness, random stranger kidnappings. and other fears. "Whatever the reason," Louv said," it is too easy to blame this on video games, too easy to find demons." He wanted us to move past the discussion of where we went wrong, and leap to the next step which was action. "The future should be seen as a great opportunity," he said. He compared the last 20 years to a 'creative depression' and that we should be on the dawn of the most creative period that we've ever had. What's important is that we should get the next generation to carry nature in their hearts.

One of the most memorable things he said was that we have to leave the culture of despair behind. We won't be turning around to the 1950s anytime soon, but we can affect change if we try to. People always ask him, "Will we ever be able to go back to the way that it was?" and he responds, "We should be asking: How can we make life better than it ever was?"

Louv said that he's been doing these talks for a while now, and he's seen the awareness of the issue grow, but he was optimistic that New Hampshire, because of its unique attitudes and beliefs, could really be the first one to cross the line into action. He seemed genuinely hopeful that, starting with this extraordinary group of people, we could make this change for future children. We just have to figure out how - which is actually what the workshops in the afternoon are for. I was enthralled by this. My one thing about environmental education so far that I've been worried about is that its easy to point out the way things should be, its not easy to point out how to get there next.

Following his address, they had a panel of speakers, including Louv, an Antioch Environmental Education Director (David Sobel), the NH Dept. of Health Epidemiologist (Dr. Jose T. Montero), The National Youth Education Director for the Sierra Club (Martin LeBlanc), the Science Curriculum and Assessment Consultant (Jan Mclaughlin), and a sustainable developer, Steven Whitman. They got to answer moderated questions, followed by audience questions and comments. I thought that the moderating could have been done a little more smoothly, but overall the discussion was interesting. What was frustrating was that the moderator always directed the question to one panelist, instead of letting them decide who wanted to answer the question. I think that the most lively panelist was Jan McLaughlin, who was the only teacher person there -and since she develops curricula for schools, she really knows the ins and outs of how NH Public schools work, and where change can be made.

At lunch, I got Louv to sign a copy of his book for me. I told him that I was a grad student in environmental education, and he signed my book as follows. If you can't read it, it says, "To Carla, a 'natural' leader" which, is, well, AWESOME.

Because of a lot of different reasons, Louv's book and perspective has now created a movement, and I am behind it 100%. I have a million ideas as to how to implement this, and I really think that I can contribute to this solution and change the world. I'll talk more about the working sessions later - I'm just so excited to be a part of this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Recycled art

It snowed today, and I was feeling creative. I decided to peruse online and I found a few artists selling their own unique stuff, and also a few websites that use recycled or sustainable materials.

Debby Arem Designs (her shop is on - I came across Debby's gallery while browsing some Etsy shops. She makes jewelry, clipboards, clocks (see left) and everything else out of recycled circuitry and recycled materials. I am very impressed with the quality and creativity here. If you have any technophiles on your Christmas list, or anyone who appreciates something unique, go check it out.

Mandinka Designs (also on - Another outside of the box thinker, this artists uses men's suits to create purses and christmas stockings. They have a really retro feel.

Keys and Memories (on - This one appeals to me a lot! Found art is fantastic, which you have such rich and interesting pieces to work with like old typewriter keys. These are great gifts for anyone who's interested in writing, history, reading - great teacher's gift.

Uncommon Goods
- This is the first site I came across a few years ago. They have a lot of featured artists on their site. I especially like their jewelry, but they have home goods, glassware, gifts, and new artists are featured monthly. Very neat site, easy to get lost in. Again, most are from recycled materials.

Sites and artists like these may be an answer to the excessive consumerism of the Christmas season. We're not creating more waste, we're learning how to use what's already there, and save some stuff from a landfill instead of creating more to put there. A big set of kudos to these creative individuals and companies.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

prisms and sampling and systems oh my!

I have to admit that this grad school thing isn't all happiness and light. This week has been a tough one to get through, and as I write this, I'm in the UNH Library at 10pm trying to finish a rough draft of a paper on PCBs for my class tomorrow morning.

I'm currently working on 4 group projects:
  • The PCB paper, which is really more individual than anything else, but is big.
  • The Plot sampling project (which we took data for on Sunday) which involves a lot of data calculation, and a group-written paper.
  • The Prism sampling project (which we took data for on Monday) which involves a lot of data calculation and a group presentation.
  • The State of The Systems Project on the Long Island Sound, which has 3 papers, 2 presentations and a whole lotta work.
I have to admit that I don't really like group projects, so having four to tackle at once has been a... learning experience. I am getting a hang of the research methods that I will need to use, and the program which organizes all of those references, called RefWorks is my best friend as of late. But I still don't like communicating only over email, and being unclear about what direction we should be heading in.

I'm behind this week because of the data collection for the plot/prism sampling taking 2 days instead of one. I spent all day today and yesterday trying to catch up with my other assignments, but I think I will still end up having work to finish on Thursday night. I need to finish this draft this evening though, because it is due tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Something tells me

Last Thursday, I didn't stay up with Glickin & Caroline as usual. I was feeling somehow that I wanted to go home. The sky was clouding over and getting colder, and I had been very tired all day. I needed my own warm bed for a nap. I decided to use the gas to go home anyway, since it had been a very long day.

On the way back, as the sun was setting a beautiful crimson behind me, I looked ahead at a pink sky being lit up by sunset. To my shock, on a pink background, there was a rainbow.

Every once and a while I stop to think about the possibility of having a sixth sense, or the possibility that I can be in the right place at the right time so often.

Mike, who was also on his way back home, missed this sight completely, by only 5 or 10 minutes. While it was probably not the safest thing in the world to do, I had to take a picture of this, because I have *never* seen a rainbow and a sunset at the same time. Beautiful.

This is, however, the second rainbow I've seen since coming to Antioch. Every once and a while I get reminded that I am doing the right thing.

The rainbow and the nap were definitely worth the gas.


Disease is something that every history class learns about sooner or later. The Plague, the Great Flu Epidemic, Malaria, Yellow Fever and the like. Each pose significant risk, especially during the time period in which they ravaged the populations.

Tree diseases are similar in that some every person studying history should have heard of at least once; like Dutch Elm Disease.

My Community Ecology teacher pointed an American Elm tree out to us on one of our first field trips to putney. It had a trunk diameter of about 12" and was about 70% healthy. "This," he said, "Is actually an American Elm - but it is rare to see one without disease present. They were once the dominant hardwood around here, but were almost completely destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease."

Dutch Elm Disease is a fungal disease that was accidentally introduced to the United States in 1931, carried over in shipments of Elm from England to be used in furniture factories. The Elm Beetle picks up the fungus and spreads it to other trees, and ajacent trees can spread it to others by their shared roots. This once majestic tree was almost wiped out from our want of pretty furniture.

What's interesting is that I never thought I'd see another Elm that wasn't in a park or on a city street. But today when we did our prism sampling for community ecology, we found two - LARGE ones!

Our immediate first thought was, "What on earth kind of tree is that?!" followed by, "That can't be an elm... can it?"

Silly how delightful I felt knowing that we just found a rare species in the middle of the woods, in its natural habitat - but it was also that they were still hanging on, healthy, and that they would probably come back, despite our meddling. Awesome.