25 June 2015

Hiking Upper Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs Colorado

Fish Creek Falls
Amazing sites and a steep hike topped our day yesterday as we hiked Upper Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Our hike started off easy with a 1/4 mile hike to an overlook for viewing the beautiful Fish Creek Falls where we snapped photos and stood in awe of the 300 foot waterfall. Refreshed, happy, and at ease with the start of our hike, five of us continued on with the next section of the hike to the first bridge about a 1/2 mile in on a gravel trail. We stopped to look at signs about the various trails and determined that we would hike above the falls, taking us slightly closer to the Continental Divide Trail (since reading about people thru-hiking the trail last year, I've been curious about how close we could get when we ventured to Colorado).

This also provided an opportune learning time for my sons to ask about the Continental Divide. What better way to learn this aspect of geography than hiking within miles of the Great Divide of North America?

From there we began our hike upward on a moderate to difficult hike slowly and steadily gaining elevation. After another 1/2 mile, two members of our group of five decided to turn back because the incline takes a toll on unacclimated lungs. My sons, however, were determined to move forward, and I, too, wanted to challenge myself with a more rigorous heart pumping hike, so we pressed onward with the climb. After approximately 2 more miles of hiking up, we came to another bridge with more incredible views of the water and forest.
Rocky path near the top

From the second bridge we had about another 1/2 mile traverse of rocks to make it to the top of Upper Fish Creek Falls. At times, we climbed using our hands to keep us steady. Making it to the top with my sons was exhilarating (and exhausting). We spent only 10 minutes at the top before climbing back down the rocks and heading the path to the bridge and foot path to the bottom of the falls.
Climbing with our hands
The hike down took us much less time, and my oldest son, a cross-country runner, enjoyed taking the lead and hiking solo to the bottom to meet my husband and his brother who awaited us. Ever the runner and lover of outdoors, he made it to the bottom and came back up to find my younger son and me carefully working our way down the rocky pathway. Seeing him made us smile, knowing we were that much closer to the finish.
The cross-country runner taking a break to wait for us
We experienced feelings of joy, happiness, and accomplishment upon making it back to the first bridge and the bottom of the falls. Elated for the heart pumping and view inspiring experience with my sons, we walked the 1/2 mile back up hill to the parking lot. 3 1/2 hours start to finish. Total elevation 8,770 feet.
Three of us at the top

At the top

23 June 2015

Re-Imagining Public Education: Thoughts on Creative Schools

Nearly three and a half years ago I began this blog with an intense passion about re-imagining public education. During this time, I have continued to learn, encourage, advocate, and speak out about ideas for making school a more enjoyable place for students to learn.

Early posts included Stop Squashing Creativity in Education, written after I saw Sir Ken Robinson speak at NCTE and after I viewed his TED Talk. I offered five ideas for intentional teaching and many of my other posts elaborated on these ideas.

After finishing Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education, Sir Ken Robinson's newest book, I find myself hopeful and eager to continue the conversations about schooling and transforming the system. While many would say the whole system needs an overhaul, I am interested in Robinson's statement that "it's also essential to make changes within the system as it is." An idea like this means we can begin now, wherever we are.

We can begin changing the conversations, practices, and emphasis we place on test-preparation as a primary means of teaching. We can begin (or continue) listening to students and empowering them to own their learning by providing them choices in what and how they learn. We can involve families and communities in making decisions in our schools to ensure the goals in the schools represent the goals of the larger community. We can redesign school schedules to allow teachers time to collaborate, plan, and create learning experiences for students.

Three of my favorite quotes from the book 

"The fundamental work of schools is not to increase test results but to facilitate learning."
"To transform any situation you need three forms of understanding: a critique of the way things are, a vision of how they should be, and a theory of change for how to move from one to the other."
"Making education personal has implications for the curriculum, for teaching, and for assessment. It involves a transformation in the culture of schools. What does that look like in practice?"
I selected these three quotes to share here because they are the three ideas I've been exploring through blogging for the past several years. 

Since I prefer to be solutions oriented, I suggested that we read up, team up, and speak up. In another post, I suggested that we change the conversation and work toward making schools intellectually engaging and curiosity promoting places where students want to be. Most heart-wrenching in my posts about testing was this post written when my youngest son finished his first year of required state testing and asked me if he could chicken out of testing.

My promise is threefold. I will continue offering a critique of the parts of the public education system not working well for all children. I will continue sharing my vision for change, and I will think more throughly about my theory of change. 

     Whether you've read Creative Schools or not, how do you imagine public education changing? What critique do you offer? What is your vision for change? Your theory of change?


My friend, 
Gwyn, also writes and speaks about creativity in schools. After she read my Stop Squashing Creativity post, we exchanged emails and determined that we share many ideas about the education all students deserve, so I asked Gwyn to guest blog. Her two part post continues to be one of the most read posts at Learning to Muse. Read her two part post here and here


07 June 2015

Sunday Salon: What I Read Online May 2015

Another busy month, but I've also been taking more weekend time to relax and enjoy my family, so my blogging has fallen slightly behind. Anyway, here's some of what I read online in May.


Margaret Hamilton, The Engineer Who Took Apollo to the Moon serves as a reminder of women in STEM.

With so much of the tech world focused on men, a fun and important post to read is Women of Silicon Valley is an Even Cooler 'Humans of New York'

Women in Leadership: Gender Bias and the Confidence Gap by Jennifer Abrams on Peter DeWitt's blog featuring 18 women all K-12 educators should know.

50 Motivational Quotes from Disruptive, Trailblazing, Inspiring Women Leaders

Working with people most interested in preserving the status quo? If so, check out this article titled Thinking Big from Cake & Whiskey's Sip & Slice blog.


Jessica Lahey continues to be one of my favorite authors writing about parenting issues. Check out her post titled: For a Child With Learning Differences, Making Home a Safe Harbor.

Shared with me by my 14-year old son, this video argues video games improve your reaction time.

Reading is Fundamental Combats Summer Slide, another article by Jessica Lahey. This one is relevant to me as a mom and an educator. Plus, I have two friends from the eastern part of our state who both maintain the Book Mobile turned them into readers.

School's Out Forever, a father writes about his views on public education. Worth reading, for sure.

A totally relatable article 40 Things You Should Never Ever Say to Your Teen.

What's Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of Doing Nothing.

Books and Reading

My book review at Cake & Whiskey. A review of Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis.

Top Favorites by progressive educator, Nicolas Meier, offers suggestions of professional books to read and includes a few of my own favorites.

47 Books Every College Grad Should Read on Buzzfeed Books offers a few titles you may or may not have on your won reading list.

Ali Smith wins Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for the book titled How to Be Both. Sounds like an interesting read worth adding to my book a week reading list.

Re-imagining school

When magazines such as Wired begin featuring articles about education, you know we've reached a new era in public education. Check out the article Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save  Education.

Common Assignment: An Opportunity to Learn From Collaboration and Researched Practice by Brison Harvey explores what happens when teachers are provided time and resources needed to collaborate in designing lessons for students.

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you won't be surprised that this article made my list. Prioritizing the Arts Over Test Prep.

How Not to Get Fired Implementing Next Gen Learning by Tom Vander Ark is well worth your time if you are interested in new ways of teaching and learning.

Students Need Social Studies Now More Than Ever  by Brison Harvey is one of a few social studies posts I read this month, and I'm still working to curate a few since one of the recent #kyedchat conversations focused on social studies.

The CEO of the organization where I work wrote a blog post in honor and appreciation of teachers during teacher appreciation week. Working with someone who values effective teachers is a bonus in my world.

The Kentucky state education commissioner wrote a letter warning my district of state action if they don't improve assistance to low-performing schools, including the school where I used to teach. I'm still working on a blog post on this article because I'm fearful of the actions the district will take as a reaction to the letter.

177 Days encapsulates the reflection and thinking of a thoughtful mathematics teacher, Brooke Powers.

In Big New Idea: Next Generation Instructional Design, Susan Weston shares her thoughts on the newest project I'm leading.

Politicizing AP US History by Daisy Martin argues in favor of comprehensive social studies instruction to continue the importance of helping students know and understand why we should be involved citizens and why we should learn from the past.


Kindergarten Can Wait. Meet Buddy Backpacker the five-year old Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

Dean Potter Lived Life on the Edge was a never before published article about the late hiker and climber who inspired many before losing his life this spring.

What to do if you see a bear (not really).

Scott Jurek is attempting to beat the current record for the fastest thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.


NC Bill Could Send Teachers to Jail for Wearing a Red Shirt.

Chinese Billionaire takes 6,400 staff on holiday to Paris.

The Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers Earn More than All the Kindergarten Teachers in the United States.

An Eleven Year Old Graduated from College with Three Different Degrees.

Authorities File Charges Against Family Members Over Loud Cheering at Mississippi Graduation.