My World and Welcome to It!

These are my thoughts and opinions about life in general. I also get daily prompts from DSP which inspire me to write. If I throw in some scrapbook pages I've done, photos I've taken, and stories about me, you will have an idea about my loony life!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Carnival Dream 12/11/10 (Week 2)

Here is another slight diversion from Education. This is about our past week on the Carnival Dream where we visited Cozumel (Mexico), Belize, Roatan (Honduras), and Costa Maya (Mexico).

For more pictures, click HERE.


We were back on the ship by 9:45. Jan and Mike from dinner were also staying on the ship so we visited with them until lunch time. Our cabin was ready about 10:30 so I ran down there and unpacked. Jan and Mike had seen a manatee the week before so we went to the back of the ship to look for manatees but we never found any. We rested in our cabin about an hour before the safety drill and it really felt nice not to be rushed or feel like we had to go and see everything. After the safety drill we went out to the deck to watch us pull out of the pier but it was so cold we finally went inside. By then it was time to get ready for dinner. We are sitting at the same table with the same dining room servers which are wonderful because we really like them. Mike and Jan are sitting with us again too. Our new dinner mates are Rocky and his wife Joyce and their sister in law, Wanda from Southwest Virginia. Then Bob and Dot and their son Mark are from central Florida.

Day 1 Sea Day

007My whole day revolved around eating! I was up early and had an omelet made for me on the Lido deck. When Don joined me around 9am, we went to the dining room where I had a poached egg, sausage, and hash browns. After breakfast we sat out on the deck and listened to the music. By then it was lunch so we tried the salads on the Lido deck before I tried the slot tournament. After the tournament we went to the dining room for lunch. After lunch, it was time for my second try in the slot tournament and each time I seemed to do worse. We walked around the ship before deciding to take an afternoon nap and ended up watching Oliver Twist on TV. Before long, we dressed to meet Captain Quierolo before dinner. We have sailed with him and Pierre the hotel director a couple of times before. After dinner we walked around and had an early night. The ship was rocking pretty good all day and night which is unusual because it is such a big ship.

039Day 2 Cozumel

We were supposed to go snorkeling today but it was cancelled because the water was too rough and the winds were too strong. I’m glad they watch out for safety that way. Plus it was kind of cool outside so I was glad we didn’t have to go snorkeling. Next time we are here though, we won’t book a shore excursion because when we walked the 3 miles into downtown, we saw the place we would have gone. It was only about a 10 minute walk from the ship so next time we will go there on our own. We had a really nice leisurely walk into town and stopped at their 2 department/grocery stores and looked for yarn but really didn’t see any. I guess in the tropics, they don’t knit very much. Then we visited our favorite bar which is called Ambar and saw the old man that remembered us too. His jewelry store moved down the street instead of across the street from the bar, but he came to see us and talk with us. After drinking a couple of beers (coronas were $1 each), and eating Mexican burritos (one plate for $6.50 was enough for 2 of us), we shopped some more. When I had to use the restroom, the only one we found was a pay toilet so we headed back to the bar and had 2 more beers. I figured if I had to pay, I might as well get a beer for it! By then we were tired of walking and headed back to the ship but we took a taxi ($7 total for both of us). We had time for about an hour rest until we had to get ready for dinner. When dinner started, we left Cozumel. After dinner we walked around the ship and watched a break dancing show before heading back to our cabin for the night.

Day 3 Belize

Belize is our least favorite port and if we can avoid this port we will. Of course it is the fifth time we have been here so we sometimes have to be here whether we like it or not. We had to tender into Belize and it takes about a 15 minute boat ride because the ship anchors about 6 miles out from Belize. The only reason we got off the ship was so I could take a picture of Kaeli’s picture in Belize. We walked around the port shops and some of the stuff was higher than the prices on the ship. I noticed that in Cozumel too. Once we tried to walk out of the port area but the people started harassing us as soon as we stepped out. When Don told this guy about 5 times, “no thank you” and the guy kept harassing him, we decided to turn around and go back in the port. Then I saw a wood carver and I wanted to take a picture of him but didn’t want to interrupt him while he was in the middle of carving. He looked up and then I asked if I could take a picture and he started accusing me of taking one before asking and then wanted to argue with me. I just thought he was plain rude! So, I never took a picture and by then, I didn’t even want one. We decided it was time to return to the ship and I never spent a penny in Belize! When we got back, it was time for lunch and then we walked 4 miles around the track before going to the coed sauna. By then it was just enough time to relax before getting ready for dinner. After dinner we watched the movie The Clash of the Titans.

Day 4 Roatan, Honduras

We had a wonderful day in Roatan! At first, it was really cold. After breakfast we walked outside to watch us pull in the port around 9:15am but it was so cold that we put on long pants and a jacket. It was disheartening because we had paid for shore excursion to the Tabyana Beach. When we got ready to get off the ship though, it had warmed up and the wind died down so we went back to our cabin and changed back into shorts. Our ship docked at Mahogany Bay which is different than the last time we came because last time we docked in the town. Mahogany Beach was right within walking distance of the ship so I was sorry I paid $37 per person for Tabyana Beach. When we got off the ship we boarded a bus that took us on a 45 minute drive to the beach and it was a very nice ride. We drove through town and around the island so it was like getting a tour in addition to the beach. The beach was nice and we got lounge chairs which was included in our tour. We sat and enjoyed the beach and then decided to walk down the beach. On our walk, I 043looked down and saw something that had just washed up in the wave and was wiggling. It was a tiny seahorse! Don picked it up and showed children around us and other adults before putting it back in the water and saving its life. After that we ended up getting a “bucket” of beer (which was really a bag of ice and 6 local beers in the ice) for $20. Later when I got hungry, I bought 2 hotdogs for us at $3 each. We also bought another “bucket” and since they ended up running out of bags, they brought the 6 beers to us in ice but it was in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator! About 3pm, we headed back to the ship and had time to explore Mahogany Beach. It seemed really nice and would not have cost us anything except chair rentals so next time, we will head to this beach. Some people paid for the chair lift but it was an easy walking distance for us over the bridge. We got back in time to get ready for dinner and then after dinner, we went to the magic show with Mike and Jan. The magic show was terrific and we all enjoyed it. Mike and Jan went to it last week and we didn’t but since they said it was so good, we wanted to see it. It was truly a wonderful day!

Day 5 Costa Maya041

We arrived in Costa Maya at 7am but we didn’t get off the ship until 9:30. We decided to walk around the port shops before taking a cab to Mahahual. It was $3 per person on the way there but $2 per person for the ride back. The wind was really blowing hard enough that I put on a long shirt t-shirt. We walked up and down the small fishing village about twice before Don got up enough nerve to get a back massage. It was $20 for an hour and he said it was wonderful. I sat beside them and got a lot of knitting done. After the message we stopped at one place and had a couple of beers (Corona for $2 each) before returning to the ship. When we got back to the ship we had lunch and showered and by then we could watch the ship pull out of the port. We ended up on the Serenity deck (adults only and really nice cushioned lounge chairs) where Mike and Jan were. We spent the whole time visiting until it was time to get ready for the past guest party but we ended up skipping it because I went last week and it is the same thing every ship. Dinner was really nice but I’m kind of getting tired of all this rich food and I’m to the point that I’m not eating everything on my plate (which is actually a good thing since I gained so much weight). We skipped the show since we saw it last week and watched TV in our cabin. It was a better day than I expected because I’m not really fond of Costa Maya but I’m glad Don finally got the massage that he has talked about getting for years when we come here. The only bad thing that happened was that Don got hives on his back again and we think it may have come from the pressure of the massage. I hope they are gone in the morning.

Day 6 At Sea

Today we had a day at sea and didn’t do anything special. Don got up for breakfast and then went back to bed while I sat out on the deck and enjoyed the sunshine while I knit. Unfortunately the pressure of the massage caused his hives to appear on his back and shoulders so I think he was miserable. By the time he got up, he was better and it was time for lunch so we went to the dining room where I met curriculum specialist. I love meeting new people and finding those in education! After lunch we packed which really didn’t take long at all and then we both entered the slot tournament. But neither of us got into the finals. So, we went to the coed sauna again and just relaxed most of the day. Dinner was sad because it was the last night. We really enjoyed our dinner mates and servers. We gave our cabin steward (Bong) a box of SC tea as a thank you gift. After dinner we came back to the cabin and put our suitcases out in the hall and then watched the movie How to Train A Dragon.


First of all, we will never ever (I hope) book a cabin on the back of the ship on the 1st floor ever again! As they prepared for the arrival to the port, the noise was terrible and we were up most of the night. Throughout the trip, it was pretty noisy. It was so noisy that we had a hard time hearing the TV. Of course, when you book it last minute, you get what is left but next time, we will probably leave this alone. We will try to stay in the middle or the front. We went to breakfast by 6am and then went to the Crimson Lounge where we were told to meet. Since we were Platinum members, we were allowed to leave right after the self assist people so by 7am, we were off the ship. I like claiming my luggage because it is like the airport conveyer belts so we quickly got our luggage and was on our shuttle to the hotel by 7:30. Our car awaited us at the Hampton Inn safe and sound. We really had a great deal by staying there because our room was $119 and the ride to and from the ship was free plus it included free 2 weeks of parking. We saved a lot of money doing that!

This week was a lovely week and for I’m glad the weather was sunnier than the previous week. I think we will try smaller ships from now on though because the lines were too long on the Lido deck at lunches and sometimes it was hard to find a table. The smaller ships seem more personal too. We hope in the future to try some Celebrity and Princess ships. I think we would also like to sail on the Carnival Legend which is one we haven’t done yet.

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Pictures by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gift

giftFrom the Fall Blog Challenge by Melanie Holtsman, this week’s topic is the gift.

Challenge: If you could give one gift, who would you give it to and what would you choose?

If I could give one gift, it would be a cure for lupus and I would give it to my sister. She has suffered from this for over thirty years. This disease ended up killing my oldest sister and my mother died with it also. I feel so bad when I hear of all the medical stuff my sister has to go through but I’m glad it has kept her alive all these years. She is involved in the Lupus Foundation and walks every year to raise money so a cure can be found. My blood was even given to a research group to find out why I did not get lupus and if it could help in finding a cure. If a cure could be found and it would help her, that would be the greatest gift for both of us!

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'ready for the holiday' by: Sarah Parrott

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Understanding The Military and Special Education

militaryRecently we held our Passport to Success 2010 which is an event filled day of activities enabling students to receive information which will assist them in transitioning from high school to post secondary training or post school employment. I think it is a wonderful event which brings agencies and businesses together for the students and parents in one venue. In fact, I was thrilled to see some parents attend and get involved.

It was my job to invite vendors to the event and was thrilled that in our economic situation, that about 25 vendors decided to attend. The US Army Recruiting Office was one of those that sent a confirmation that they would attend. I was so excited to have them present because so many of our students ask about going into the military.

Yet on that day, two nice recruiters arrived to talk to me and said that if any of these students had “special education” in their records anywhere, the military would not accept them. I tried to explain that not all of the students in special education are developmentally disabled or physically disabled and that some may have minor disabilities that still enable them to attend college. They said that they understand that but that the military doesn’t offer any accommodations like the education system offers and would not take any student who received special education services. Of course, they asked me not to “kill the messenger” because they were just relaying what they were told to do. Then they politely left.

I can understand not wanting to have someone developmentally disabled or unable to control their behavior having a gun in their hands. I understand not wanting to have someone who can’t read or write or understand basic instructions because it would be too dangerous. But that is not everyone who receives special education services! Is this not discrimination?

What I don’t understand is who is lying? I know some students who received special education services that are serving in the military right now. I know their permanent records showed special education services because I have seen those records. I also know that they are performing well and in fact, moving up in ranks. Many current students know these people also and are getting mixed messages here. They don’t understand when some people are saying they can’t join and then others show they can by their actions. I’m not sure even I understand the right story.

I have had former special education students who are able to hunt and even provide food for their families. They have worked construction jobs and some have even worked on their own houses to provide shelter for their families. Some of my students are even quite adept at using computers and repairing them. For most of their jobs, they are required to prove competence and no one cares if they received special education services when they were in school. If they are incompetent, they lose their jobs and that is fair.

How can we deny these students the right to serve our country? Many people complain about our young people not appreciating our own country and then we treat the ones that do in this manner. I also look at the statistics and see how many people in our country have some kind of disability or another. Where will the military draw the line? Yesterday they were accepted but today they are not and tomorrow they might be?

I also think this is setting a precedent for students and parents to refuse the help that a school can provide. I think that many can struggle and possibly survive the school system without help but is that the best we can do for our students? I know that I have taught my students to find out what they need and what works best for them so they can apply it to their lives after they leave my classroom. Could this not also work if they chose the military path? What is the military so afraid of? I know the military came to our school and gave the ASVAB test so wouldn’t that rule out many who couldn’t pass the test? I believe that some of my special education students would be able to surpass some of the general education students in a physical test. Everyone who enters the military goes to basic training which would be one more level for students to show competence.

Is this a way to discourage students and parents from seeking special education services? It is hard enough for the students to face the stigma of having a disability but to me, this is just another insult. I spend hours and days telling my students that they have nothing to be ashamed of because a disability is not their fault. Yet, I feel that it is my responsibility to share this information with parents and students when they are considering special education services. Parents and students need to be given the whole picture and not find out until it is too late.

What do you think? Should this information be shared with parents and students or not? How do we prepare students who want the military to be an option when they graduate? Please share your thoughts.

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'The Drill Instructor' by: Randy Robertson

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Carnival Dream 12/4/10

015Last week we cruised on the Carnival Dream. We went to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Here is my journal about our week on the ship. To see more pictures, click here.


We left on the Carnival Dream today. Embarkation went very smoothly. We arrived at the port by 10:30 on the shuttle and left our car behind at the Hampton Inn. I only hope that it is still there when we return. We were on the ship by 11am and eating lunch. While waiting for our cabin to open, we stopped for a bucket of bear (4 for $21.54). Our muster drill station was in the Encore Lounge and we didn’t need our life jackets but it was really hot in the lounge. After the drill we went up to the Lido Aft Bar but I didn’t see any of my cruise critic friends and we just watched our ship leave out of the Florida. It is always fascinating to watch us pull out of the port as the sun is setting.

Dinner was at 6 and we sat with 2 other very nice couples. Mike and Jan are from Minnesota and Don and Melissa are from the Villages in Florida (but originally from TN- Nashville area). After dinner we walked around the ship and enjoyed the music.

I am surprised how run down this fairly new ship looks already and the service has really gone downhill. We had always loved cruising on Carnival but now we are rethinking this. I think because the economy is down that they have had so many cutbacks that it is affecting the running of the ship. As a Platinum guest, I should be treated special when I am in line for things but basically I’m ignored and treated like any other guest. The stationery that they give Platinum guests used to be nice shiny paper and now it is cheap regular paper. Our cabin steward never did turn down our bed last night which is the first time that has ever happened. As we walked around the ship we saw lots of rust and disrepair. I’m wondering if we will see more ship breakdowns in the future. We are hoping we will not be sorry we booked this ship as a back to back because now we feel stuck on this ship where the service is not very good and it is looking in rough shape.

Day 1 Nassau009

It was a really nice day. I was on the Lido deck and played on my computer before going back to the cabin to get my knitting and book. About 8am, Don joined me but I had already had an everything omelet. At 9am, we decided to go eat in the dining room so I had a second breakfast of French Toast (thank goodness it was a very small portion). I am trying to use the stairs in order to burn these extra calories I’m consuming but I’m not sure it is helping. I do know my calves are really sore and they say no pain no gain, so it must be helping! After breakfast we walked around the track and then used the coed sauna before finally laying under an umbrella until lunch time. After lunch we sat around the pool under an umbrella again so I did get some knitting done. We also went to a trivia game and walked around the ship. The Captain’s celebration was at 5pm and we met the Captain. We have sailed with him and the hotel director Pierre before. At dinner another new couple, Bruce and Pat joined us. We really have a great mix at dinner. We went to the “Get Ready” show after dinner and I was pleasantly surprised because it was better than I expected. We have been to so many shows that were the same thing but this one was different. The sets were different than we had seen and the dancers and singers were really good in this show. We will probably go to more after seeing this. Then we walked around the deck after the show but it was pretty windy so we ended up back in our room for the night.

Day 2 Sea Day008

Another day in Paradise. Today we went to the Chef’s cooking demo which included big sample of the mushroom cappuccino, spinach salad with mushrooms, a chicken dish, and tiramisu. I also entered the slot tournament but didn’t even get a huge score. During the day the top of my right foot became so painful that I could hardly walk on it. At first I thought I might have a stress fracture but later when my left toes started cramping, I hoped it was just cramping. In the afternoon we went to the sauna and then I elevated my foot and took some aspirin so by dinner time, it was feeling much better. At dinner there were just four of us (Mike and Jan from Minnesota) and we had a nice evening. It ended with the juggling show in the encore theater which was very entertaining.

Day 3 St. Thomas001

It was a relaxing day. Since it was overcast and showery, we did not go to the beach or snorkel. Instead, we walked around the mall right near the ship and then came back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we walked around the shops some more and found a cute bar that had a bucket of beers for $10 so we had a couple of buckets before coming back to the ship for dinner. The show was called Dancing in the Street which involved break dancing and some acrobatics which I enjoyed.

Day 4 St. Maarten008

Since it was still overcast and showery, we didn’t go to the beach like we usually do. We decided to take a tour around the island. Near the ships were lots of taxis and the posted rates were $90 for 1-2 people so we asked a cab driver to take us. He tried to talk us into going with a bigger crowd for less money but we didn’t want other people with us so he tried to find someone else to do it. Don and I both got a bad feeling about this like we would be ripped off so we told him to forget about it. So, we took the water taxi into town ($6 all day long) and found a cab driver (Ramona) who took us on a private tour for $80. We had a wonderful time and she said she even preferred private tours because they were easier. After the tour we found our favorite bar on the beach called Caribbean Blend and had a bucket of coronas for $12. While we were there, Mike and Jan came by and joined us for a little while. Then we walked around town before coming back for a couple of beers. We ended up having the last 2 coronas they had. Then we took the water taxi back to the ship and met up with Don and Melissa. At 5pm, we got back on the ship and it was already dark. I think that is the latest we have ever returned to a ship because when we went out to look where we were after our showers, we were already moving away from the dock. We didn’t go to the show because I was exhausted so we had an early night.

Day 5 At Sea004

We had a relaxing day and really didn’t do much at all. I entered the slot tournament again but had another really low score. I did get to finish knitting my second sock and I was really happy about that. Dinner was really nice again and it was formal night. We also had our laundry done today.

Day 6 At Sea004

Today was the last full day on the ship. We went to the sauna again and that was nice. It was nice that it was coed and Don and I could go in together because I don’t like being alone in there by myself. The ship was really rocking today. In fact, for the first time, I saw barf bags available at each elevator. We packed our bags pretty early in the day and it was fast and easy because we know we will just be switching cabins. We didn’t even have to put our luggage outside of our cabin because our cabin steward would be coming in the morning to move them to our new cabin. After dinner, we stood around and had a nice visit with Bruce and Pat (from Maryland).

Day 7 Debarkation

We were up around 6am to gather our last stuff together and the cabin steward arrived at 6:30am to move our luggage. Then we spent most of the morning on the Lido deck waiting until 9:30 when we would meet the group of back to back cruisers and find out what we needed to do. At that time, Winston (a crew member) took us off the ship as a group and through customs. Then we went back up the escalator and back on the ship. This process took about 5 minutes.

All in all it was a nice cruise and turned out to be much better than it started which is a relief. It makes us not so anxious about the next week.

Monday, December 06, 2010

My DirecTV experience

(Warning: Rant in progress!)

frustrationEvery year I start my vacation on a bad note with DirecTV. I have been a loyal customer since 2006¸ paying almost $140 per month for this service. Keep in mind, I enjoy DirecTV and the programming we get with it but it is a luxury and not a necessity. When I called DirecTV to put a vacation suspension on my service, they say I need to have a zero balance to put this hold on my service. I just paid my bill in full on 11/19 and do not feel that I should have to pay the full amount in advance on 12/3 just to put a hold on my service. I feel this is a terrible way to treat loyal customers! It is not like I’m trying to get out of paying my bill because I pay my bill in full every month.

The first girl told me that it was impossible to do and got me her supervisor, Vanessa when I asked for her. She also told me it was impossible to do without paying the whole amount so I asked for my service to be cancelled. So, Vanessa passes me on to Solomon. We go through the same song and dance and I still feel that I am treated pretty shabbily when all I want to do is put a vacation hold on my service. I finally ask for the company president’s address and an email to file a complaint. Solomon gave me an address and told me to address to the attention of the “Office of the President” but would not give me a name (which I found out by looking at their website is Michael White, Chairman, President & CEO).

When I asked for an email address, he told me that he couldn’t give me a specific email address but told me to go through the following steps: Go to “”, click on “About Us,” Click on “Our Company,” click on “Executive Team,” click on Executive Customer Care Contact,” then click on “Ellen Filipiak, Sr. VP of Customer Care.” Why did he have to go spend all that time when he could have just given me that final person’s name and email? I believe they hoped that I would be fed up and give up without cancelling my service! You would think that a company that can turn my service on and off by the touch of a computer should be able to handle this quickly and efficiently.

After all that, when I asked Solomon if he cancelled my service, he acted surprised, like he didn’t know that I still wanted to cancel my service. Finally, twenty minutes after I began this ordeal, Solomon says that he will put a vacation hold on my service but this is a onetime deal only. Again, I feel this is a terrible way to treat a long term customer and should not be made to feel like I’m begging for something that isn’t due to me.

I have to go through this ordeal every year when I want to put a hold on my service. Why do I need to have this aggravation when I start a vacation? I should not have to threaten to cancel my service in order to get good service.

When we return home, we plan to look seriously at this situation to decide if we want to continue with DirecTV. If they don’t value long term, loyal customers, there may a company out there that does want our business. Please let me know if you have a company you have had a lot of trouble with so we don’t put it on our list to consider.

Now it’s time to put this horrible experience on the back burner and go enjoy my vacation!

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Day 15--Frustration' by: Brandy

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Years as a Student

studentFrom the Fall Blog Challenge by Melanie Holtsman, this week’s topic is thankfulness.

Challenge: Our students and colleagues never knew us as children. What were you like at the grade you teach? What were your interests? Did you like school? Share a photo if possible.

I taught high school for most of my career so I will talk about my high school years.

During grades 7-9, I attended a junior high and high school did not start until 10th grade. My oldest sister had died that summer and we were very close so this was a traumatic time for me. I was going to a high school out of my attendance area because my assigned school was so large that they had to hold 2 shifts at one school. Knowing that education was the only way out for me, I begged my parents to let me go to the school where my sister and her family lived which was about 5 miles away from us. I was able to take the public bus from my corner right to the high school and did that for 3 years. I know it was wrong to use my sister’s address but I was desperate. The school in my area was overcrowded and over run with gangs and drugs so I needed to get away from there.

It was very scary starting the first day at a new school but I was glad to see some people that I knew from my church youth group. They immediately took me under their wings and made my life so much easier. I ended up having a best friend, Bunny, who stuck with me all three years. Never one for cliques, I had many different friends from many different groups. I also became very involved in the drama club and worked backstage for every production that was done over the three years. And I remember being a “mathlete” and was part of a math competition team for our high school.

For some reason I had gotten further ahead of everyone and ended up taking all AP classes during my senior year. I took AP Calculus, AP English, AP Biology, and AP French and then was given an early dismissal since there was nothing else I could take. Since I planned on going to an out of state private college, I knew those AP courses would save me a ton of money so I studied furiously and passed all my tests with flying colors.

I felt very overprotected by my family since I was the youngest and was very determined to leave home and go very far away. I think I was so focused on studying and leaving town that I didn’t make a lot of deep friendships during high school. Even though I had many friends who were acquaintances, the only friend I stayed in touch with after high school was Bunny. Now that I look back, I guess I was in the group that would be labeled Nerds today. I wasn’t part of the popular group or any special group and stayed more to myself or on the edge of a lot of different groups.

I think that is why I understand students who don’t fit in with a crowd or are different. I remember being that student and how I felt. I hope my experience during those times can help a student who is going through the same thing.

Do you feel your experiences as a student made a difference in your actions as a teacher? If so, please share.

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'the professor is six minutes late' by: Jonathan Pobre

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

thanksToday is Thanksgiving Day!

I am thankful for so many things and that includes you (my readers) and I appreciate all your support and comments. Enjoy your day and remember to be thankful for all the good things that are in your life, no matter how small they may be.

Original image: 'Thanks for My Flickr Friends!' by: John

Thursday, November 18, 2010


curiosityFrom the Fall Blog Challenge by Melanie Holtsman, this week’s topic is thankfulness.

Challenge: During this time of the year everyone is taking time to be thankful. What is one thing you are thankful for and why?

I thought about this topic for awhile and wanted to write something interesting but something that I was truly thankful for. Over the years I have written the usual stuff because I am so thankful for my husband, my family, and my health. I thought this time that I focus on being thankful for something different (even though I am still truly thankful for the things I mentioned).

I am thankful for my curious nature. Of course this leads me to learning new things. Sometimes I am cautious to start something new but eventually my curiosity gets the better of me and gives me courage to take that first step. I tend to think about what is the worst thing that could happen to me if I try and usually the consequences are minimal.

During this year I learned how to:

1. Make collards and black eyed peas from scratch (Heard how homemade was better than canned)

2. Make a triangular lace shawl (I saw someone else do it and wanted to try)

3. Join and help in a community garden (My friend was involved and kept talking about it on facebook)

4. Make chocolate zucchini bread (Bought a huge zucchini at the farmer’s market and the lady gave me the recipe)

5. Spin my own yarn (I watched a friend do this in my knitting group and thought it looked fun)

6. Be a Master Naturalist (met a friend while we were hiking who told us about the program and how interesting it was)

I’m thankful that I’m curious or I never would have tried any of these things. I look forward to new adventures that curiosity will take me on in the future.

I believe we encourage students to be careful so much that we make them scared to try. When my children were growing up, I would tell them, “No.” “Don’t do that. You might get hurt.” “Be careful. You don’t know what might happen.” What if I stifled their curiosity and kept them from learning? I notice that as I get older, I give in to my curiosity more often. I wonder if it is because I have more experience in life and realize that being curious is okay, as long as I don’t put myself in dangerous positions. Maybe that is part of growing up. Maybe that is the real message that I need to share with my students.

What is one thing that you are thankful for?

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'curious roy' by: Stefano Mortellaro

Monday, November 08, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 12

GroupBirdHat(For pictures, click HERE. Look for the totem pole picture!)

This was our last day of class and it ended at the SC Botanical Gardens. We started off the morning with Lisa Wagner, Education Director for the gardens. Then she took us on a tour around the gardens and even though it was raining, everything looked so green and fresh. Along the path we saw holly, gingko tree, ducks, camellia sinensis (used for tea), big leaf magnolia, sculpture over an old spring, cavities in a poplar tree, hardy cyclamen, In the classroom Lisa showed us seed pods and other plants. She also shared with us volunteer opportunities in the garden.

Then we had lunch provided by the Upstate Master Naturalist Association. The food and drink were awesome! After lunch we graduated and each one of us received a certificate and a wooden name tag. Then our leaders were given gifts of appreciation and filled the room with lots of laughter.

After graduation, we drove to the Cherokee garden where Karen explained the different parts and meanings to it. It was a great way to end the day.

I really enjoyed these 12 weeks of classes and will miss getting together with this group. All of my classmates were wonderful to get to know and I hope to see them at other gatherings and volunteer events. I am thankful for the leaders and organizers of the program who put in lots of hard work and time to make this program meaningful.

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original picture: Group Leaders by Pat Hensley

Monday, November 01, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 11

003(For pictures, click HERE)

Hi! I’m Herbie the hiking boot and today we went to the Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve. It is a really cool place in Traveler’s Rest, SC and I never knew it was here. This preserve is 178.7 acres and is the habitat for the Bunched Arrowhead, an endangered plant because of the loss of habitat for it to grow in. While we walked around, we had to watch where we stepped because there were lots of poop around (dog and coyote that we know of) and who knows what else! I sure hate when that stuff gets on me because it sure stinks. And usually the hiker doesn’t smell it because his nose is further away than my nose is!

As we stood there and listened to Ranger Tim, we overlooked a meadow area, sometimes called a prairie or early succession field or old field succession. There will be a lot of mineral soil if it was plowed a lot. First there will be herbaceous stuff like asters and goldenrods. Lots of spiders will mean prey there.

We saw a thin legged wolf spider with an egg sac. We also saw tons of grasshoppers. The pictures will show many things that we saw such as morning glory, partridge pea (yellow flower), mulberry, staghorn sumac, black walnut, wild plum, rabbit tobacco, Queen Anne’s Lace (seeds feed mice and other small mammals. They are white multiple flowers and in the centers are a deep red which looks like where Queen Anne’s head would be with lace around the neck. Queen Anne had been beheaded.), Mullen (very medicinal plant, used as an antiseptic for wounds), sycamores, persimmon, sweet gum, honey locust (big thorns, birds can use these to store and spear prey), devil’s walking stick, maypop, verbena, and ferns.

I learned that sweet gum trees attract songbirds so I guess they are useful, even though I hate walking on those darn balls! The balls are actually the female part of the plant. They have actually developed some sweet gums that are all males but research shows that areas with these trees have high rates of asthma due to all the pollen they generate.

It was really cool when we came across a newborn box turtle. We think we saw the hole that it must have come out. If you look at their bottom shell, females are flat and males have a concave indentation on them which is necessary for mating.

After lunch, we went into the forest and learned how to identify ferns using a key. Good keys use reproductive structures and physical characteristic because you might be looking at a fern when the reproductive structures are not evident. I learned the following terms:

1. Frond is the whole fern leaf.

2. Blade is the leafy part of the frond.

3. Stalk or Stipe is below the blade.

4. Bipinnate means that it is like a leaf on a compound leaf.

5. Pinnatifid means the leaves are not individual and are lobed like an oak leaf; not divided.

We broke into small groups and had to identify five different ferns which were: Club Moss, Netted Chain Fern, Christmas Fern, Ebony Spleenwort, and Southern Lady Fern. There are over 800 ferns in the world and 34 are found in Mountain Bridge Wilderness.

Two books that Ranger Tim recommended were Peterson’s Guide to Ferns and Fern and Fern Allies of North America (Smithsonian Press) by David Lellenger.

Then we went to the piedmont seepage area where we saw the Bunched Arrowhead. They were in the water and not blooming at this time but they bloom in the spring. We had to crawl under the barbwire fence to get to them. I guess that fence is too keep people away and I’m glad that no one used me to step on the fence so people could get through.

As we walked around, we saw lots of bluebird boxes and we saw one at lunch on a power line. Did you know that bluebirds can have five broods a year? Each time they have less and less eggs but usually have five or six eggs the first time. European starlings like their boxes too. Boy, if I saw a starling in a bluebird box, I would probably nudge it with my toe and scare them away!

We walked to the area where DNR holds controlled burns. It was filled with many different grasses. On the way back we walked over an earthen dam and looked down on the bladderwort in the water.

Then everyone saw a red shouldered hawk but I didn’t because I was too low on the ground and by the time I looked up, it was gone. But I did see the “black knot” on the tree which looks like dog poop on a branch. I will remember this because when they tried to identify the verbena, someone said it was “verbena on a stick.”

Well, it was a full day and by the time we got back to the cars, my feet were tired. I’m just glad my laces stayed tied (most of the time). Sometimes when they get tired, they tend to act up!

(Here is another example of using creative writing to share facts that are learned. Students can choose the item or you can assign an item. It would be interesting to have different items tell the same story because then you can talk about perspectives. Maybe a hiking stick or binoculars might tell a different story than the hiking boot did. Have you ever done this? Did it work? If so, please share your experiences.)

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Picture: Bunched Arrowhead by Pat Hensley

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lentil Soup

My lentil soup was a hit! Hubby and I had three helpings.

LentilSoup Ingredients

  • 5/8 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/8 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/8 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup dry lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • Diced yellow squash
  • Diced zucchini squash
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste


1. In a large soup pot, stir in lentils, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 8

(For pictures, click HERE)

Natural Wildlife Trivia Game

Welcome! I’m Olivia Owl, the host of Natural Wildlife Trivia Game. Today our two contestants are Penny the Possum and Wilbur the Woodpecker. Each question is worth one point and each contestant will have a chance to answer the question. If they miss the answer, the other one has a chance to answer it. The winner wins a month’s supply of winter food (their choice). Now we did a coin toss and Penny will be going first.

003Olivia: What spider lives in a home that has an opening with a hinge and usually found in the side of road beds?

Penny: A trapdoor spider.

Olivia: Great! That’s one point.

Olivia: What is the largest conservation tract in South Carolina?

Wilbur: The Clemson Experimental Forest

Olivia: Another point!

Olivia: What yellowish stalk is a flower and indicates that beech trees are growing near?

Penny: ummmm, Daisies?

Olivia: I’m sorry, that is not the correct answer. Wilbur?

Wilbur: Beechdrops!

Olivia: That is correct. Now Wilbur it is your turn.

Olivia: What are considered the giants of the forest?

Wilbur: Beech trees

Olivia: One more point.

Olivia: Penny, what is an evergreen ground cover with small red berries.

Penny: Partridgeberry.

Olivia: Good, one point.

Olivia: Wilbur, what is considered the rarest type of habitat?

Wilbur: oak hickory forest?

Olivia: No, I’m sorry that isn’t correct. Penny?

Penny: a meadow!

Olivia: Okay, one point for Penny.

Olivia: What 3 purposes does the Clemson Experimental Forest serve?

Penny: conservation, education, and recreation

Olivia: Great! One point.

Olivia: What kind of pine is good for paper and lumber?

Wilbur: Loblolly

Olivia: Okay, another point.

Olivia: What is the difference between white oak acorns and red oak acorns?

Penny: Red oak acorns have more tannin, more nutritious and are on the ground longer. White oak acorns have less tannin, less carbohydrates, but not as bitter as red oak acorns. Bears love the white oak ones much better.

Olivia: Another point for Penny.

Olivia: The Clemson Experimental Forest was 26,000 acres. Now it is only 17, 500 acres. What happened to the missing acreage?

Wilbur: It is under Lake Hartwell.

Olivia: Another point for Wilbur.

Olivia: The Clemson Forest is broken up into how many parts?

Penny: 2 parts – The North part and the South part.

Olivia: one point for Penny

Olivia: Pine needles grow in bundles called what?

Wilbur: Fascicles

Olivia: one point for Wilbur.

Olivia: Name species that are making a comeback?

Penny: Bald eagle, wild turkey, white tailed deer, beaver, river otter, and black bears

Olivia: Great job! One point.

Olivia: How much were turkeys sold to other states?

Wilbur: $500 for each turkey

Olivia: Great! I wish I had turkeys to sell!

Olivia: What are some common characteristics of an old home site in forests?

Penny: rock piles (usually from the chimney or the footing of the house), daffodils, in the winter, it looks like a mowed lawn, and black walnuts.

Olivia: Good. One point.

Olivia: Why did people plant black walnuts?

Wilbur: For food and dye. And the chemicals in the walnut trees poisoned the area so no other trees could grow.

Olivia: Good.

Olivia: What is the Firewise Program?

Penny: a program to educate homeowners how to prepare for and prevent wildfires in their communities.

Olivia: Good!

Olivia: How many freshwater fish species are there in SC?

Wilbur: 150

Olivia: Great!

Olivia: How many species of crayfish are there?

Penny: 36 and 9 of them are found exclusively in SC.

Olivia: Wonderful!

Olivia: What book did the Stream Team recommend to their audience?

Wilbur: Freshwater Fishes of SC.

Olivia: Good.

pumpkinsseedsunfishOlivia: Well, that ends our game. It seems that we have a tie and we need to have a tiebreaker. Whoever buzzes in first, and answers the question correctly, wins our game and a month’s supply of winter food. What fish is on the forty five cent US postage stamp?

Wilbur: (buzzes in first) The Pumpkinseed Sunfish!!

Olivia: Wilbur wins! Congratulations Wilbur!

Hope you enjoyed our nature trivia game. Hope to see you next time!

(I think putting facts and information in a game form really helps students learn the material. If the facts and information is just given in a list, many students will become bored with the information. Students can be individual contestants or you can put them in teams. I think that many students are naturally competitive and will help their team members learn the material so they can win. You can have a trivia contest like this. Or put the answers on a bingo card and then ask the questions. If they have the right answer, they mark out the answer. There are many ways to play games in order to review information given. If you have any other suggestions for games, please share!)

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Photo credits:

Original Picture by Pat Hensley

US Postage stamp of Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Monday, October 04, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 7

(For pictures, click here.)

LAKE EDUCATION – An acrostic poem


Look at fish in the lake like threadfin shad, shellcracker, blue gill, warmouth, sunfish, bass, catfish, carp

Animals like beavers chew up many of the trees so protection like drain tiles were put around the trunks.

Know Grimes Stress/Disturbance Model for Plant Distribution (handout)

Erosion of sapprolite is faster than compacted clay.


Elderberry, silky dogwood, buttonbush, willow are good for live staking. Cut off at least 3 nodes, push 2 nodes in soft soil with one node out.

Dendritic – arms that come in on a linear form; tributaries come into the reservoir. Man made lakes are dendritic.

Understand how storm water affects our water supply; run off may have pesticides, fecal matter, automotive oils, fertilizer, trash that pollutes our water

Cove gets sandy as points are grinding down; eventually smooth out and become straight but not in our life time; greener shores

A trench is dug, filter fabric laid and rip rap is put down to help stop the waves from eroding the shoreline.

The DNR stocks the lake with hybrids and stripers for recreational purposes.

Invasive species like Japanese honeysuckle can take over.

Open water distance that wind can blow is called fetch; where wind hits there is more erosion and waves cut into the toes of upland soils; eventually causes caves to form.

Native plants, switchgrass, maidencane, buttonbush, river birch, meadow beauty, bald cypress, alders, sedge willow, elderberry, silky dogwood, native hibiscus, tupelo tree were seen along the shoreline.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nature’s Villains and Heroes

033 (For pictures: click HERE. For video of Ranger Tim talking about turkey vultures: click HERE.)

Hello everyone. I’m Olivia the Owl coming to you from National Wildlife Radio. If you missed our weekly show last night, I’m posting the transcript of the interviews that took place. I had a wonderful time interviewing many villains and heroes that you might encounter in nature. I hope you enjoy them. Stay tuned next week because I will have another great show!


Olivia: Welcome to the National Wildlife Radio. Tonight I will be interviewing a lot of interesting guests who have an impact on the world around us. Our first villain tonight is Wilma the Wooly Adelgid. Welcome Wilma!

Wilma: Thank you Olivia for having me here tonight. You picked a great time actually because I had just finished some tasty hemlock when you called me.

Olivia: Hmmm. Yes, well, Wilma, please tell us more about the wooly adelgid and your life. Our guests are very interested in why you are destroying their forests.

Wilma: Well, I don’t really consider it destroying because I see it as my way of life. I don’t mean to be the villain because I can’t help it if I love those hemlocks! First of all, let me tell you how we arrived here. My ancestors arrived in the 1950s in the Shenandoah Valley on ornamental hemlocks from Asia. They loved it here so much that they headed north and spread out. Of course, they didn’t get really established and noticed until the 1980s when we started cleaning out all of the hemlocks in our path. We lay eggs in this wooly waxy stuff to protect them. If something tries to eat them, they will spit them out. We can lay two generations of eggs in five months around March to May. In June and July the eggs are laid but stay in hibernation. By the end of November, those developed from larva become adult and start feeding. Temperature drops, light changes, moisture changes are signals to become adults and begin feeding so more eggs can be laid in March.

Olivia: How do you move from tree to tree?

Wilma: We move on small mammals or catch a ride on the wind or raindrops. Sometimes birds will give us a lift without knowing it too. Of course we don’t let them know we are catching a ride because we are usually eating away their home.

Olivia: So, you think that you cannot be stopped. Is that true?

Wilma: Yes. Scientists are introducing some beetle from Japan that will take us out but we will find ways to outmaneuver them. Our families are banding together to find a way to wage war against them and no one will know how we will do that.

Olivia: Well, thank you Wilma for coming on our show. Hopefully one of our staff will show you out. (whispers: And hopefully that beetle from Japan is waiting for you outside that door!) Our next villain is Cindy the centipede. Welcome Cindy!

Cindy: Thanks Olivia. I’m glad to be here.

Olivia: Tell us about your day yesterday. You had some excitement?

Cindy: Oh yes. Ranger Tim brought a group of students out to find invertebrates on the forest floor. They sifted through the leaf stuff on the ground and found lots of interesting things such as ants, spiders, millipedes, snails, slugs, worms, red velvet mites, yellow jackets (and their nest), and earwigs.

Olivia: It sounds wonderful. Now, would you tell us the difference between you and a millipede? You both look so much alike to me.

Cindy: Well, centipedes are venomous and we kill our prey. Plus we have one leg per segment. Millipedes are poisonous and have 2 legs per segment.

Olivia: Well, thanks Cindy for being here today. One of the staff will show you the way out. And please don’t kill Millie the Millipede. She is quite frightened of you. Now our next guest is a good friend Teddy the Turkey Vulture. Some people think he is a villain and others think he is a hero. Hello Teddy!

Teddy: Thank you Olivia. I’m so glad to be here. Yes, some people feel that I’m a villain because I’m not as pretty as other birds and because I find eating dead stuff delightful! Hmm, is that a dead rat over there in the corner?! Oh, sorry, I get so easily distracted.

Olivia: Ummm, oh yes, well Teddy, let’s leave lunch for later, okay? Will you share with us some information about the area where you live?

Teddy: I live in the Blue Ridge Escarpment which is an abrupt change in elevation from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the piedmont. As the temperature changes, so does the flora and fauna. Moisture increases. Right now in the fall you will see a lot of blooming asters including White Snakeroot, New England Asters and Goldenrod.

Olivia: It seems like there are a lot of visitors at Caesar’s Head State Park right now. Can you tell us why they are there?

Teddy: Yes, they are there to see the Hawk Migration and many are volunteers to count how many hawks go through here.

Olivia: And how do you feel about this hawk migration?

Teddy: Well, a lot of us local birds have mixed opinions. Many feel aggravated because these hawks come in and take over the best homes and eat a lot of the food that is available. In fact, some may even bully the locals and eat them for dinner. The songbirds usually fly about early in the morning before the hawks get lively so they don’t get eaten. Others like me are just used to this happening and don’t let it bother us. Usually during this time, I find lots of extra food and even invite the relatives to visit to help eat on the buffet.

Olivia: Why do these hawks come here and how do they know where to go?

Teddy: This area is famous for the thermals that occur and make it easy for birds to get lift in order to fly longer distances. In fact, this area is well advertised in many of our aviary travel magazines! It is kind of nice to live in a tourist attraction I guess. Now, when migrating, the hawks have an internal compass, use the sun and light, as well as follow their buddies so they know which direction to go. Of course the ones that are too old, too sick, get lost, or give up and die become dinner for me! Yummy.

Olivia: Well, we appreciate the information you gave us Teddy and we hope to see you again soon (but hopefully not as dinner). Now our last guess is Penny the Praying Mantis. Hello Penny. Where did you encounter a group yesterday?

Penny: Hi Olivia. The same group that Cindy saw came over to Bald Rock Heritage Preserve to look at the area. I guess I surprised them when I hopped on Ranger Tim’s shoulder to get a better look at what he was talking about.

Olivia: Oh, and what did he share with the group?

Penny: He showed them different types of lichens (crustose, foliose, fruiticose, squamulose), citrus grass, and Appalachian Fame Flower. The group seemed very interested in the things they saw here. Of course some were fascinated by seeing me even though I’m not native to this area. Ranger Tim was glad that I wasn’t choosing him for a mate since I’d have to kill him! LOL

Olivia: Yes, I’m glad you didn’t have to kill the ranger Penny. Rangers are our friends and seem to understand our role in nature. I’m sorry to say we have run out of time for this show. I want to thank all of our villains and heroes for joining us. And until next time, have a great week!

(Having students act out different characters is a great way to learn information. Writing the character’s script would be a great way to improve reading and writing as well as integrating content. Have you ever done this with students? If so, how did it work? What advice would you give?)

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, September 20, 2010

From the Diary of Darren the Daddy Long Legs

006 For pictures, click here.

What a day I had today! I saw Ranger Tim heading down the trail with another group of “students” and I knew today would be interesting. I love when he brings groups here to Jones Gap because I get so learn so much from him. Of course my mom and dad worry about my adventures but they don’t mind when I come back and tell them how much I learned. When I get back home, my mom makes me write down everything in my diary so I won’t forget. They are just afraid that someone will decide I’m dangerous and step on me. So, today, I hitched a ride on Ranger Tim’s clothes because I knew he wouldn’t hurt me.

Here is what I learned today:

1. Private citizens formed the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Naturaland Trust was a big part of this.

2. From 1931 -1963 trout were raised here.

3. Before then, this was the major thoroughfare from Greenville to North Carolina and it was the Solomon Jones toll road. Carriage with two horses paid a dollar but pedestrians paid a penny. Folklore says that Solomon Jones let Suzy the pig loose at the bottom so he would find the easiest way to home and food. That is how he knew how to make the road.

4. The Blue Ridge Escarpment is in NC, SC, and GA.

5. Jones Gap is in the top 5 ecological hotspots on the planet according to the Nature Conservancy.

6. Islands in the sky refer to the tops of mountains; certain organisms can’t survive in warmer climates so they move up in elevation.

7. Greatest diversity of salamanders in Appalachian Mountains because of islands in the sky.

8. A cove is surrounded on 3 sides by mountains; one way in and one way out.

9. The overlapping communities are what give the diversity.

10. The weather station behind the building is part of a microclimate study.

11. Jones Gap has an east west orientation. It has the same climate as Pennsylvania. Northern species growing right beside southern species.

12. Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004 and toppled trees on one side of the cove.

13. Beechdrops (Epifagus) – feeds on roots of beech trees

14. Beech trees are near water and have coppery leaves in the winter.

15. Pines and evergreens cause the soil to be too acidic for salamanders.

16. Green salamanders love beech trees because smooth trunk allows lichens and mosses to grow.

17. Holes in rocks due to drills for blasting. Due to erosion, soil is lower than the rocks.

18. Broad beech fern grows near beech trees; one stem and triangular in shape.

19. 5 distinct layers in this forest: canopy, understory or subcanopy, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, and forest floor.

20. Canopy gaps allow sunlight to reach forest floor.

21. Jones Gap is a young forest because a lot of the timber was used in the 1940s.

22. Fraser Magnolia or mountain magnolia – lobed on the bottom.

23. Deciduous magnolias – Tulip Poplar, Cucumber Magnolia, and Fraser magnolia

24. Maple Leaf viburnum – has a maple leaf and several stems and is not a tree

25. Sweet shrub – repeating pattern, opposite leaves, drip tip, entire seed pod stays on most of the year, mice feed on seed pod, shiny leaf (aka boobybush; blooms same time as service berry)

26. Saprolite is chemically weathered rock. This is where we get our sand from and why it is not the fine sand found on beaches like FL.

27. Bears – like tree cavities; dens that are tight and not wet.

28. SC black bears do not hibernate. Females that are giving birth will den and if it is cold, males will den.

29. Copper Button – terrestrial snail and are left handed

30. Chestnut Oak has white meat acorns. Red oak has red or orange acorns due to the tannic acid

Oh, now Ranger Tim is talking about me! He mentioned about how I like to use my 2 legs as sensory tools to check out my environment. I’m so glad he told the people that I was not poisonous because then they would get sick if they touched me. Then people think I’m venomous but that isn’t true either because I eat dead stuff. What would I use the venom for? I hate carrying stuff that isn’t any use to me, so I’m not dragging venom around with me, that’s for sure! I also don’t build a web but I harvest my food. And I do bite so you might feel me nibble on you a bit.

Okay, now back to my notes…

31. Jones Gap is a natural cold water habitat.

32. There are 4 major watersheds: Savannah, Santee, Pee Dee, and Ace Basin

33. Jones Gap is the water shed for the Middle Saluda.

34. Santee is the largest watershed in SC.

35. Santee Delta is the largest delta on the eastern seaboard.

Now it was time for the water fun. Ranger Tim pulled out the minnow traps and some fish to show the group. There were the 2 most common minnows: Yellow fin Shiner (males have red fins; during spawning, males are bright pink) and Blue headed chubs (builds the rock nests that the shiners use; black spot on back fin, clear tubes by eyes, during spawning, slate colored heads). The mouth shape indicates where they feed so bigger lower jaw means they eat above them and bigger upper jaw means they eat below them. He also showed a crayfish which has gills near its abdomen, pink due to iodine.

Then I got to watch the groups of people play in the water. They were looking for some of my friends under rocks to look at under the microscope. Others were testing the temperature and the turbidity.

When everyone returned to the lab, Ranger Tim put my friends under the microscope so the class could see them better. They were like TV stars as they showed up on the HDTV screen. The class saw a water penny, mayfly nymph, stonefly nymph, gilled snail, caddisfly larvae, caddisfly case and a crayfish and it was so cool to see everyone up close and personal! I can’t wait to tell my friends that I saw them on TV but I wish they could see this too. Of course, I’m sure they were scared because they didn’t know what was happening to them and they were afraid they wouldn’t get to see home again. But I could have told them that Ranger Tim would take care of them and not hurt them.

After that I had to leave so I wouldn’t be late for dinner. I also wanted to rush out before the class so no one would accidentally step on me. It was a lot of fun and I learned so much. Next week they will go to Caesar’s Head State Park. I wish I could go with them.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Visiting Boris the Bat

Welcome ladies and gentlemen. My name is Boris and I want to welcome you to my humble abode, the Stumphouse Tunnel in South Carolina.

I have lived here for a few years with many of my family and friends. As you can see, it isn’t very fancy but we love it here. It stays a pretty constant temperature here and protects us during the winter. I’m so glad someone put up that gate even though you may find it frustrating. It was really upsetting to us when we kept having uninvited guests who just walked into our homes uninvited and thought we should stop our regular routine and entertain them! Now we usually go in and out the back door where people can’t disturb us.

I would like to share with you some information that is scaring me and the others who live here. Just like in your world, you worry about cancer and AIDS¸ we have something called White Nose Syndrome or WNS. My wife Natasha was diagnosed with it. First we saw white stuff on her nose, then ears and then wings. She started to drive us crazy because she wanted to fly outside in the daylight instead of sleeping with the rest of us. When she left, she would whoop and holler so the rest of us would wake up. I don’t know when she became such a party animal but it was sad. Instead of resting in the winter when we were supposed to hibernate, she wanted to go out and party. Those that do that rarely lived long. She lost more and more body fat until she couldn’t survive any longer and we lost her last year. We had hoped to have another child this year but then she became afflicted with this disease. My son and I miss her very much even though we had only been together for two years.

We appreciate all the researchers trying to find out what is causing WNS and trying to help keep it from spreading. We hope that they don’t give up on us. They have come up with some ways to hopefully keep the disease from spreading. Since they aren’t exactly sure how it is spreading, they are asking anyone who visits a cave, not to bring anything in it that has been in another cave in the past five years. One lady today had paper booties on to cover her shoes (wasn’t she thoughtful!). All of the people had the flashlights in Ziploc bags so they could throw them away when they left. Their clothes could be washed and disinfected. According to some government paper, they found some chemical products that kill the spores such as:

“1. Lysol® IC Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner (0.3% quaternary ammonium compound minimum) - 1 part concentrate to 128 parts water or 1 ounce of concentrate per gallon of water;

2. Lysol® All-purpose Professional Cleaner (0.3% quaternary ammonium compound minimum);

3.Formula 409® Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner (0.3% quaternary ammonium compound minimum);

4. A 10% solution of household bleach - 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (an estimate of 1:9 is insufficient);

5. Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes; or

6. Boil submersible gear in water for 15 minutes”

There is an organization that seems to be helping bats called Bat Conservation International that has some interesting information. You can also google “white nose syndrome” if you want to know more. Unfortunately we don’t have any computers here in the tunnel but we hear about these when there are educational groups brought into the tunnel. You see, my ears pick up on lots of neat stuff since we use echolocation to get around. So, if you have any secrets you don’t want bats to know, don’t say it anywhere near them. But at least we don’t go spreading any gossip!

I hope you enjoyed your visit to my home. Please spread the word to your friends about our cause. Explain to them that we love to have them visit and learn more about us but we would appreciate if they could take whatever precautions are necessary to ensure our survival. On this earth, we all have a specific purpose and we need each other. Thank you!

(If I did this lesson, I would have some kind of stuffed animal or prop that is a bat to talk to the class. Sometimes students are more motivated in hearing facts and information this way rather than just a dry lecture. I actually found a pattern to knit a bat for this kind of lesson: Boo the Bat and Flippy the Bat. It would be a great lesson to use in October.)

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Little Brown Bat by Gare and Kitty

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 4 Part 2

For pictures, click HERE.

(This is part 2 of last week’s class. Check out yesterday’s post for Part 1)

037After lunch, Dr. Rob Bixler (PRT professor at Clemson University) met with us. He helped us learn how to be an effective interpreter.

Interpretation – make things clear.

We have a recreation and leisure activity which is more of an experience rather than a program.

We need to create wonder about every day nature.

Get kids out being observant.

Early times, nature was very important and part of the curriculum. It was the dominant aspect into the curriculum until the 1930s.

Then cultural decay began because it wasn’t being reinforced any more.

Rachel Carson – mother of the modern environmental movement.

Environmental issues and studies became more important than nature study.

Decline in membership of conservation organizations.

Fewer students interested in natural resource careers

Public programs – self selected; people choose to come to these.

Don’t think too scientifically. Figure out ways to connect science to history or culture or pop culture or humanities.

Bring in special people.

Look for humor.

Use poems or music lyrics.

Sensory analysis is important (hearing, smell, touch, see – don’t use taste with young children)

Demonstrations are memorable


Look at other cultures.

Go to a local history society for more information.

Look for old, old books

Go to internet forums

Find famous people connected to your topic.

Interpretation does not mean interpret-torture!

People’s time is precious. They are taking a risk to come to a public program.

Vogel State Park has an “Ask a Naturalist” program

Encourage audience participation. They can identify with the information and feel good about adding to it.

Be early, clean and neat, start on time. Start off with general information, getting to know others for the first 5 minutes in case anyone is late.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

· Make sure they are comfortable. Make sure they know what to expect.

· Check safety and security. Make sure they are appropriately dressed for the activity.

· Develop a rapport.

· Recognize someone’s contribution.

Have a Theme statement.

The program does not need to be long and can be informal.

Mechanics of leading a hike

1. Walk past key thing and stop group, then walk back to it so you and key thing is in the middle.

2. End with conclusion; restate theme and subthemes.

3. Don’t end in view of the parking lot.

4. Make yourself available for informal interactions after program ends.

Questioning: Use open ended questions; only ask recall questions about information that you spoke about

Planning is essential! We were given a worksheet and we wrote down a topic and theme. Then we looked at different ways to promote the theme. These include alliteration, exclamation, metaphor/simile, limerick, rhyme, word picture. Don’t do more than one or it will be annoying.

Work with other people. Share ideas.

Look at YouTube videos: search for Piaget + conservation

Young children do not understand cause and effect; multiple relationships. They are very sensory oriented. They need to see, touch, hear and smell. They have trouble with zero.

If you can’t directly experience it, do not talk about it.

Young children do not understand how to ask questions; keep it concrete, simple, and sensory rich.

Group size – 1st through 3rd grade is usually best to have no more than 6 with a parent.

You need a finale! You want to get people back. You want them to be talking about this at home. Every program needs to end with a “what next.”

Sharing nature with other people is important to do!

Many of these techniques are ones that should be used in the classroom also. Planning is important because you need to make it worthwhile for people to invest their time in an activity that you do. It is important to engage the audience. If the audience is engaged, there will be less opportunity for misbehavior. Of course we want to tempt them so they want to learn more. I have attended many ranger led activities where I was wishing this person would have a “part 2” of their talk because they were so interesting. Whether you are in a classroom or leading an interpretive experience, the same should apply.

For our next class we will be at Jones Gap State Park and do some water activities. I’m really looking forward to this!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 4 Part 1

For pictures, click HERE.

I took so many notes for the last class that I am actually going to make this a two part blog post. This is part one and part two will be posted tomorrow. I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with all this information so I felt it would be better to split it all instead of putting you to sleep. Hope you enjoy it.

014First we met at Stumphouse Tunnel where we met Mary Bunch, the wildlife biologist with DNR. She suggested that we take this picture and turn it upside down so we look like bats.

Here are some bat facts that I learned:

1. White Nose Syndrome (WNS) – could be killing the bats, yet it is not invasive, not getting in external organs.

2. Afflicted bats cannot break down chitin (exoskeleton of insects)

3. WNS optimal growth 5°C - 10°C; marginal growth 15°C, and upper growth 20°C

4. Bats need 3°C-14°C

5. Southern bats live longer because they have shorter hibernation, warmer temperatures, more insects

6. Little brown bat – mountains are the southern most range for these

7. Extinction of little brown bat due to WNS in 16 years

8. Disease is spreading faster than research can happen.

9. Predominant species in Piedmont: Tricolored bats, big brown bat, Evening bats, free tailed bats (found in artificial structures in SC)

10. First 3 species in list given are not colonial cavity roosters

11. Bats swarm

12. In winter, tree bats are in the leaf litter.

13. Red bats are common in the Piedmont, won’t use a bat box

14. WNS is easily detected in early spring but no treatment. Look for flying in the cold and daylight, and bats dying.

15. Lifespan of a bat is 10-15 years.

16. Bats are slow to reproduce and only have pups once a year. They don’t usually mate the first year.

17. Female mortality rate is higher.

18. Bats in Europe are not dying from WNS.

19. Gray bats are expected to become the first species to become extinct; already endangered; go in caves for breeding and wintering.

20. Bats are true hibernators. They can delay ovulation and implantation. Bats can delay pregnancy.

21. No fruit eating bats in SC; SC bats only eat insects.

22. Big brown bats are great for eating agricultural pests.

23. Predators of bats include snakes, owls, bluejays

24. Check out website of Bat Conservation International

25. Recommended Book: Rocky Road to Nowhere (about the Stumphouse Tunnel)

Next Bill Dillard came to talk to us about Stumphouse Tunnel and the history of it. He was in the first master naturalist class.

Bill was the descendent of William Welch who was a contractor/engineer of Stumphouse Tunnel.

Prior to the Civil War, South Carolina was the wealthiest state in the nation. The railroad made a huge impact on the economy.

The tunnel never was finished.

I know that students in the classroom would really enjoy learning about bats. Students of all ages are fascinated by them. I think having a speaker like we did would really help bring this topic to life in a classroom and being able to visit their habitat makes it even more real. Of course, no one can guarantee that you would find any bats because it wasn’t our lucky day. We didn’t get to see any this time because it wasn’t cold enough for the bats to see shelter in the tunnel.

(Please check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my notes)

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Thursday, September 09, 2010

From The Salamander’s Point of View

(Today is a guest post by the Salamander we saw at Kings Creek Falls. Hope you enjoy it!)

salamander Hey, what are all these people doing here? Where did they come from? I was having a great day just hanging out here in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and all of a sudden this humongous group appears out of nowhere. Gee, it is fun to watch them cross that log! Maybe I will get to see someone fall in the water.

I see a group over on the side looking at the rocks. Hi there! That’s my friend Sammy the Snail that you are looking at. He likes when things are wet. I hope no one picks him up because he gets really scared when people do that. I bet he thought no one would come here so it would be safe to explore that rock.

That ranger over there is saying this is a spray cliff community. I didn’t know my subdivision had a name. Now I can tell people where to come visit me! Oh wait, that isn’t the name of my subdivision. I think that is the name of the type of place where I live; like some people live in the desert and some live in the mountains. I live in a spray cliff community! It sounds pretty impressive and I can’t wait to tell my friends.

I love where I live. There is plenty of cool running water. I also have lots of cool places to hide. There are different sizes of rocks and logs to hide under. I have to stay hidden so I don’t get eaten by all those things that think I’m a tasty morsel for dinner.

I peeked out at one time and these people were looking at the rocks right near me. One lady said that the rock they were looking at was feldspar with mica in it. Wow, I can’t wait to tell my friends what I know. They will think I’m so smart! I wonder if there is gold around me. Well, it wouldn’t matter because I couldn’t get rich from it and it would only bring in tons of people who would disturb my home. They would probably want to develop the area and really mess up the neighborhood.

There is another group over there looking at all the flowers. They like the alumroot, hemlock, and lobelia. I love when the flowers bloom around my home because I feel like I live in a fairyland. My favorite is the Joe Pye Weed because my friends the butterflies come to visit when it is blooming. Usually when they show up, we have a big party.

Whoa. Now this guy just put me in this plastic box! At least he put some water in it so I don’t get all dried out. Hey lady, be careful how you hold this box! Did you know I can see up your nose when you get this close. Man, you have big eyes!

No, I’m not the Geico gecko. I am a salamander! I'm a northern dusky salamander to be exact! (That isn't a picture of me but I thought it looked better than I do. I mean, haven't you ever wanted to use a picture of Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt instead of yourself?) I hate when people get me confused with that gecko though and think I’m in those stupid TV ads. Now, of course, I wouldn’t mind the perks and prestige so if you gave me an offer, I’d be glad to talk with you about it.

Well, after they passed me around and looked at me, that ranger guy decided to put me back in the water. What a relief! I was so afraid that someone would decide that they needed to take me home. I really didn’t want to relocate at this time and especially since no one had consulted me. I think I need to do a better job of hiding so this doesn’t happen to me again. Next time I might not be so lucky!

Well, it is time for me to go find my friends and share this all with them. They won’t believe the adventure that I had today!

(I had to write this post since my classmates and I had discussed what the salamander’s point of view would be. I thought it would be a great exercise in writing. I also think this would be a great writing exercise for our students. What if they wrote a conversation from the perspective of a tennis shoe, or a laptop, or their book bag, or their bathroom mirror? Or even better, let the students come up with an idea. This was just a thought for motivating writing skills. I think the students would like doing this because I know I did! What do you think?)

crossposted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Red Eft, P6020048' by: Anita