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, 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