Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.

Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Do YOU use a Plastic Straw?

You are sitting in a restaurant and a server brings over a glass of water and drops a plastic straw next to the glass. Any idea how many plastic straws are thrown away in the USA every day? It is estimated the number is 500 million(yes, a day). Think 125 school buses filled with straws! Many of these straws find there way into our oceans. In 2015,  a video showed a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged into its nostril! Different groups are saying something should be done about these narrow pieces of plastic. Straws are one of the most common pieces of plastic found along our beaches.Think enough plastic straws to wrap around the Earth 2 1/2 times…that’s how many straws are used just in the USA every year!

The straw, first invented in 1888, was thought to be hygienic. It was felt that keeping your mouth off of the rim of a glass, someone else might take a sip, might keep you from getting sick. 

Interestingly, the straw actually has a long history. In a tomb of an ancient Sumerian(present day Iraq), dating back 3000 BCE, a very fancy straw was found. It was a gold tube inlaid with the precious blue stone lapis lazuli. Modern straws were made of paper, with plastic straws replacing paper, in the 1970s. 

McDonalds Corp, this month has changed to paper straws and only are given out if a customer asks for a straw.  Alternatives to paper include switching to bamboo straws. Miami, Seattle, Davis, San Louis Obispo, and Malibu are cities moving away from plastic straws being used in their cities. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom has banned straws as has Smithsonian Institution museums. Some national parks including the Grand Canyon have switched back to paper straws in dispensers. This week,Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to impose a plastic straw ban in restaurants starting next fall. Next year, Scotland plans to be rid of plastic straws. Taiwan is working on a ban, too.

Some people are concerned about banning plastic straws. Hot liquids can't be used with a paper straw. Some people with disabilities need the help that a straw provides.

Your Turn:
  1. Do you use a straw?
  2. What do you think about the banning of plastic straws?
  3. Next time, you are in a restaurant, will you use a plastic straw if given?

Fun Facts(perhaps 5-7)
Marvin Stone patented the paper straw in 1888.
National Drinking Straw Day is January 3rd, the day Stone patented his straw.
Refuse The Straw says plastic straws take over 200 years to break down.

Learn more:

Be Straw Free
Last Plastic Straw 
Straw Free

Illustration from:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

World Oceans Day is June 8th: Fun Facts About Our Oceans to Share with Kids!

Check out my latest article, "Art for the Sea", in the current issue of Highlights for Children. All of Angela Pozzi's amazing art sculptures were created from plastics that washed ashore along the cost of Oregon. This article would be a great introduction to a discussion on our oceans. World Oceans Day is June 8th.

Click here for the free worksheet:

Exploring the Ocean Blue: Fun Facts about the oceans of the Earth. Share some of these amazing facts with family and friends!

1. Coral has been used to repair bones in humans!

2. Blue Whales can weigh as much as 30 elephants and are as long as three Greyhound buses! Its heart is about the size of a Volkswagen! 

3. Basket Starfish has the most arms of any sea life... 80,000!
4. The highest wave ever recorded hit near Lituya Glacier in Alaska in 1958. It was 1740 ft. high!

5. Wondering how many marine species exist? According to World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), at least 212,906! 

6. Scientists say the jellyfish is older than the dinosaurs, dating back at least 650 million years ago!

7. Did you know that a dolphin sleeps with one eye open and with only half its brain.

8. The highest tides occur in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia,Canada, reaching 53 ft. high!

9. The Ring of Fire located in the Pacific Ocean is the largest zone of active volcanoes on the sea floor. 75% of the world's volcanoes are here!
10. There are 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean!
11. On April 17, 2013, a bottle washed up on the shores of a beach in the country of Croatia. It had been thrown into the sea in Nova Scotia, Canada....4000 miles away! Scientists say it probably traveled 5x that in its 28 years at sea!
12. Great Britain(2013) is building the world's largest wave farm. It will power about 30,000 homes.
13. A fish thought be be extinct for 60 million years was caught alive by fisherman off the southern coast of Africa in 1938. Called a coelacanth, the fish has been around for 300 million years.
14. If you measure the tallest mountain from the sea floor up, Mt. Everest isn't the record holder.! The highest mountain would be Mauna Kea, in Hawaii. It is 33,474 ft from the ocean floor but only 13, 680 ft. above sea level.
15. Need light? An electric eels can make enough electricity to run about 10 light bulbs!
16. The longest mountain range on Earth is found in the Atlantic Ocean,from Antarctica to Iceland!
17. There is so much salt in the ocean that if all the salt was dried and collect, it would cover all the continents with 5 ft. of salt!

18. There is enough gold in the world's oceans for each person on the planet to have almost nine pounds of gold!
19. You can see the world's largest reef, the Great Barrier Reef,in Australia,(1616 miles long) from outer space!
20. The earth has an estimated 315,000 miles of coastlines...that's enough miles to go 12 times around the Equator! 
Your Turn:
1. Illustrate one of the factoids. Write a sentence explaining your drawing.

2. What are three reasons the oceans of the world are important to us?

3. Scientists say there are FIVE oceans covering our planet. The Southern Ocean has been added. It is also known as the Antarctic Ocean. Name ONE fact about each of the other 4 oceans.

4. Have you ever visited an ocean?____________ Pretend you are at the ocean. Write a paragraph describing what you see, hear, smell and feel.

5. Why do you think there is a World Oceans Day?

Additional Links of Interest: (lots of information including reasons why oceans are important)

The ocean is a place which brings tranquility and so many great memories of growing up and going to the Jersey Shore for family vacations. I remember learning to surf(wasn't very good at it) and my sister and I could stay in the ocean for hours! My husband and I still enjoy getting a chance to visit the Jersey Shore and family members both at Long Beach Island and Cape May.

World Oceans Day is June 8th. Learn about the Oceans of the world with this web quest: Exploring the Ocean Blue: A Web quest, will introduce students to our oceans. There are nine informative web questions. Fun Facts, comprehension questions,extension activities and links are also provided as is the key. Can be used as part of a unit on oceans, for Earth Day, World Ocean Day or as an activity for a Friday, before a vacation break or as an end of the year activity. This can be a one day class resource or used for a couple of days depending on whether the activities(creative writing/art work/online simulation games, etc.) are used with the students:

I also have a Reader's Theater Script on Jacques Cousteau you may find of interest(part of my Ms. Bie Ografee Talk Show series of plays):

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Flag Day is Coming. Possible Interactive Notebook Activity!

Flag Day is coming, a day to honor the flag of the United States.Flag Day is June 14th. 

Use these Flag Facts with your students as a possible Interactive Notebook Activity:

Fun Flag Facts:
1. A vexillologist is someone that studies flags! 

2. Most flags have the colors red and white. 

3. Only Vatican City and the country of Switzerland have square flags.

4. Most world flags are rectangle in shape. The flag of the country of Nepal is the only one which is not rectangular or square in shape.

5. When Sir Edmond Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, summited Mt. Everest, the Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain, was placed.

6.The idea of a National Flag Day,a day to honor our flag, was started by Bernard J. Cigrand, in 1885.  

7. There are currently 6 American flags on the moon.  

8. The country of Bhutan has a white dragon on its flag.

9. “From Old Saxon," Fflaken" , meaning “to fly or to float in the air”, is where the word FLAG originated.

10.The largest American Flag is called the Superflag. It weighs 3000 pounds and is the size of 2.8 football fields.

11. A WHITE flag is the symbol of a truce or ceasefire.

12.The last of the 50 stars represents the state of Hawaii.

Extension Activities:
1. Take this Flag quiz

2. Pretend you are an American flag on the moon or in a town, or on a mountain top. What do you hear, see, feel, etc. as you wave in the air? Remember...on the moon, there is no atmosphere so the flag wouldn’t wave!

3. Write a haiku to describe the American flag. A haiku has 3 lines(5-7-5 syllables per line). Use descriptive words. Sentence structure isn’t necessary. To check syllables, place your hand under your chin. Each time the chin drops is a syllable. For example: elephant. Three drops = 3 syllables.

4. Illustrate one of the factoids. Write a sentence to go with your drawing.

5. Read about the history of Flag Day: Write a paragraph explaining the history of Flag Day, including 3 facts learned from the reading.

Learn about the History of the Star Spangled Banner and Francis Scott Key:


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Keep on Trying is the Message for Learning Anything out of your Comfort Zone!

I recently saw this story on the news and thought what an amazing young man!
Perhaps, you may find it of interest to use with your students as an Interactive Notebook Activity using the news.

Gerald Hodges, Arlington, Texas, was a good athlete. Basketball, football and even soccer came easy for him. But, when he saw there was a need on the school’s swim team, Gerald signed up. He was a freshman. There was just ONE problem. It was a large one. Gerald couldn’t swim, not at all.

During the tryouts, Gerald couldn’t even make it a couple of feet in the swimming pool. He just sank like a big rock. Because there were only four swimmers on the team and the coach needed members, he let Gerald join the team. Gerald continued to go back into the pool and tried is best. He gradually learned to swim. He wasn’t very good but eventually, he was able to finish a swim meet, even though long after others had raced. Gerald continued. The school’s swim team got a bit better and even finished with a couple of places. 

Now, a senior, Gerald recently (February/2018) raced in a 200 medley relay. The Sequin High School Swim Team was far behind, sixth place, and there was only about 50 yards to go. It was time for Gerald to jump into the pool and race. Only the top two teams would move on to the state competition. The young man that couldn’t swim when he joined the team, raced his heart out and overtook other teams to bring his team to second place and a spot in the swim state championships! 

When asked why he joined a team, in a sport he could not do, instead of joining a team in a sport he could play, Gerald said, “I felt like if I couldn't handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person.” 

  1. What are two things you think you are good at doing?______________ and ______________ How did you get successful at doing these things?_________________________
  2. What is ONE thing which you would say that you are NOT very good at doing?______________________
  3. How do you feel if you are doing something that you know you aren’t very good at doing?______________
  4. Do you think you would have done what Gerald did and try out for a sport and continue at it, when you weren’t very good at doing it? Why, why not?________________________________
  5. Can Failure be a GOOD thing? Why or why not?____________________
  6. What do you think Gerald meant by his quote, “I felt like if I couldn’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person?”_____________________________

* Photograph from:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

FAKE NEWS: Developing Digital Literacy

Seems like almost every day, this term is being used. Just WHAT is Fake News? Can you tell the difference between fake and real news?  

1. A cyclist in England snapped a photograph of some very unusual pigs. They looked like sheep with their wooly coats.  Do YOU this is a real photograph or fake? Why? How would you go about determining whether this is a real or fake story? ___________________________________________________

2. On April 20th, the planet Uranus will be moving into the moon’s origin and for ninety minutes, the moon would appear green. The very rare occurrence is known as a “green Moon”. The last time this scientific event has occurred was 420 years ago! The news story was posted on Facebook and people were encouraged to share the news. What do you think of this story? Real or Fake?

3. After a tragedy such as an earthquake or flooding, many people are homeless. Designed by architects in Poland, the Skyshelter may be helpful. An  accordion-like shelter, it can be airlifted easily to where temporary shelter is needed. Once on site, the “skyscraper” unfolds almost instantly and can be used as housing. There is a balloon inside which quickly can be filled with helium to raise the building. What do you think of this story? Could it be a real story or is it fake? ____________________________________________________

4. Did you know that when President Barack Obama was President, he signed an Executive Order banning the National Anthem at all sporting events in the United States? Do you think this is true or Fake news? Why?

5.Why do you think people create “fake news”? _______________________

6. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own set of facts,” said a famous lawmaker named Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. What do you think he was saying with this statement?________________________________________

For Teachers:

Great chart to help students learn how to determine FAKE and REAL News: 

This is part of my resource on FAKE NEWS, Developing Digital Critical Literacy with Kids(INA): Click here to learn more:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Arbor Day is Coming: What do you know about TREES?

* Feedback appreciated

Interactive Notebook Activity
Gail Skroback Hennessey

Arbor Day 2018 is April 27th. 
It’s a time to celebrate trees!

Can you think of THREE ways in which TREES are important to us?

Did You Know?

1. The Botanical Gardens Conservation International  announced that there are 60,065 different species of trees in the world.(2017)

2. The most endangered tree species according to the Botanical Gardens Conservation International is the karma gigs. Found in the country of Tanzania, there are only six trees left. Where in the world is Tanzania?

3. The tallest tree in the world is the Hyperion. The tree is 379.4 ft.(115.6m) tall and is located in California’s Redwood National and State Parks. The tree is taller than the Statue of Liberty (305.6ft or 93.1m) and the famous Big Ben(316 ft or 96 m) found in London, England.

4. The largest tree in the world is the General Sherman. The giant sequoia stands 275 ft.(or 83.8 m). Twenty people holding hands would be needed to circle the base of this tree!

5. For many years, the oldest individual tree in the world has been a bristlecone pine named Methuselah.It’s location is a secret but it is located in the White Mountains of California. It is estimated to be about 4,,848 years  old. In 2013, another bristlecone was found to be about 5,066 years old. This tree may now be the world’s oldest tree.The unnamed tree is located in the same forest. What would YOU name the tree?

6. There is clonal tree in the country of Norway which has a root system estimated to be about 9552 years old! It is called Old Tjikko. A clonal tree grows when their branches touch the ground and start new roots.

7. The beautiful cherry trees, found in  Washington, D.C., were a gift from the people of Japan. Back in 1912, 3000 trees were gifted by the mayor  of Japan. Interestingly, in 1981, the United States gifted cuttings of some of the cherry trees back to the people of Japan, after many of their trees were destroyed in a flood.

8. Did you know that Guinness World Records says the manchineel tree is the “most dangerous tree” in the world? Just getting the sap of the tree on your skin can cause blisters. Getting the sap in your eye could actually cause blindness! This tree is found in tropical regions of North and South America.  Can you name 2 countries found on North America? Can you name 2 countries found on South America

9. There is a tree called the Great Banyan Tree, found in the country of India that is called the “widest tree in the world”. If you look at the “tree” it looks like a forest as the “tree” covers 3.5 sq. acres of land in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden. Its branches reach the ground and sprout new growth. Is the Banyan tree a “clonal tree”?

10. Did you know that one tree can inhale about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year?

11. Some people like to grow trees in a small dish. Called bonsai, the word means “tree in tray”. Growing living trees in this way is an art form from Japan. China also developed a similar type of art,too.

Your turn:
1. What do you think these quotes mean? Illustrate on of the quotes.
A. “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”  Ralph Waldo Emerson
B.“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ” 
2. List 7 products we get from trees.
3. Write a diary entry about a day you took a walk into the woods. What did you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?
4. Draw a picture of a tree. Write three ways in which trees are important.

Teacher Page:
1. Have students learn about bonsai trees with this reading passage. Write 4 facts learned:
2. Show students the Great Banyan Tree:  Write a poem about the tree.
3. Have students illustrate one of the Did You Know? facts.
Links for additional information teachers:
Resources of Interest on this Topic:
1. Learn about the history of Arbor Day and all about trees with this web quest. There are 11 web questions, a Did You Know? section, comprehension questions and a teacher section with keys, additional links and lots(11 extension activities).This could also be something to use with EARTH DAY, when you are studying TREES and, of, course, for ARBOR DAY!
2. A Biologist and marine zoologist, Rachel Carson’s books shared her love of nature, especially the ocean and its inhabitants. Her book, Silent Spring, sparked concern in how chemical pesticides were harming our environment. Carson helped to start the environmental movement in our country, which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This Reader's Theater Script on Rachel Carson could be used as a STEM biography any time of year or especially during the time of Earth Day.

Illustration from