Saturday, March 22, 2008

National Board Crunch Time

As the National Board deadline approaches candidates everywhere are hopefully wrapping up their four entries, and going through the arduous process of packing up their years-worth of work to be sent out for judgment. And then we shall all hold our breath until next November.

So where am I in this funny business?
Teaching a Major Idea Over Time: Done!
Active Scientific Inquiry: 10% of the writing is written, but I am filming on Monday!
Whole Class Discussion: Done!
Documented Accomplishments: 97% done ~ I have to decide on the most effect artifacts to send in to document my accomplishments.

Even with basically one whole entry to go, I'm feeling pretty satisfied, pretty chill about the whole thing... at least compared to last week, when Teaching a Major Idea and Whole Class Discussion weren't quite done.

It might just take me a whole week to package it!

Monday, March 17, 2008

We're In the Test Tube!

So the other day I found this video after I felt a need to explain to a student that global "warming" was not the actual concern, but rather global "climate destabilization".

This guy makes me think a lot of things, not limited to:
a) You're probably a really great teacher and I wish I could take your class
b) Either your a Christian or a Philosophy buff, cause who else would know about Pascal's Wager?
c) What a geek! ~ said the pot to the kettle.
d) well done, dude, well done.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Legislative Action This Session? Wow. Dang. :)

The exciting news of the day comes to us through Rep. Dave Sharpe from Addison County. I'm sorry Dave that I did not ask your permission ahead of time to publish this, but it's just so exciting:

Hi Gang,

Well it's crunch time. The Senate finance committee is looking at S.350 with an idea that they could do something to help the VESI project. Senator Ayer has asked me what in particular you would like and I have indicated three possibilities. 1) subsidize or otherwise create incentives for a pellet manufacturing facility 2) use LIHEAP funds to install some pellet stoves. 3) Use LIHEAP funds to purchase pellets. She suggested that possibly a grant to UVM to study the issues and plan a course of action.

What do you think? and what suggestions would you make?

Rep. Dave Sharpe

It's SO great to know that in this small state our representatives are so willing to listen and move on our behalf. I'm feeling pretty good about democracy right now.

Meanwhile, I am also shocked that we may actually get some movement during this legislative session. We had mentally put the legislature on the backburner since there wasn't much time left, and usually bills like this take at least two sessions anyway. But here we are with a legislator proposing our ideas THIS FREAKING SESSION! :D Probably that's because we acted early. Now we've just got to get it passed ~ and hopefully without a veto :P We'll see!

Monday, March 10, 2008

SERG and VT Interfaith Power and Light

As for the weatherization/biomass heating fuel non-profit, Bart my bus buddy recommended I get in touch with two organizations Sustainable Energy Resource Group (SERG) and Vermont Interfaith Power and Light.

Apparently SERG hosts weatherization workshops! So this already exists ~ we just need to jump on board. I think I'll contact them and hopefully set up a training day in Burlington, VT for a collaboration of churches.

Vermont Interfaith Power and Light does energy audits for churches, synagogues, etc. and teaches the congregants what they can do to save energy and money. Maybe I'll invite them to come to St. Andrew's.

All this on the day that the Southern Baptist convention decided that they do in fact care about global climate change... and it's our moral obligation to do something about it. Well, dang, let's move this mountain! (God specializes in the impossible, no?)

New England Grassroots Environment Fund and VSHI

Today on the bus I got to talk with my bus buddy Bart from Holland. I was telling him all about the latest news with the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative. When I got to the part about an outreach to middle to upper income folks, he asked, "How do you plan to reach them?" To which I said, "Ummmmmm... no clue." Well, I did have some ideas, mainly posters and flyers, but I don't really think those are that effective.

He said, "Why not have a table at a farmer's market? Then you could have a sign up sheet, which could then be considered your 'market'. And you could email them when you want to have an informational meeting".

"Yes, but doesn't it cost money to have a table at a farmer's market?"

"It does, but NEGEF would be able to help with outreach". (Bart from Holland works for the New England Grassroots Environment Fund aka NEGEF)

Dude. I'm pumped right now. The deadline is May 1st, and then we could have farmer's market space in the summer ... possibly. We've got to act fast, but VSHI is a fast-acting kind of group!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Homeowner Education and Non-Profit Collaboration

Today the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative met in Richmond and my (utterly exhausted) two cents were that I am tired of publicity and I'm hungry for action. We've got these "demo projects" we'd like to make into a reality, but we're so far from a solid plan that it's hard to know where to go next. Specifically the demo project ideas are to
1) start farmers growing pelletizable crops on underutilized agricultural land (so as not to reduce the food supply)
2) pelletize said crops (ideally one industrial size universal pelletizer per county) and
3) work with LIHEAP to get pellet lots of 500 stoves per county into low income houses.

We'd need a business plan, and funding and a collegiate consortium-run research facility to answer questions like "what specific blend of prairie grasses is best?" "How do pellet stoves work in a mobile home?"

But this was (in my mind) too big. We needed something easier to chew on. LIHEAP is good, but it's middle to upper class folks with capital who need to know that this technology is reliable, financially viable, and eco-friendly. Homeowners would seriously jump for this if they only knew!

So that's where I proposed we start. We hold educational meetings in Bristol, Montpelier, and Burlington (in that order) directly aimed at middle-upper class homeowners. If we can get a critical mass of homeowners in one town to agree to purchase pellet stoves, then we can hook them up with cheaper bulk purchases of pellets from local suppliers. That would be the main focus of the meeting.

Meanwhile we're planning to talk to Hal Colston of Good News Garage and NeighborKeepers about cooperating with his newest project: Wood for the Common Good (maybe we can adapt that to Grasses for the Masses?). The rumor is that hasn't taken off quite as planned, but we've got a huge force and energy to put into it, but we'd want to adapt the program to include high-density perennial pellets, and possibly set up a carbon offset program (I may talk them out of that plan). My job is to talk to Hal Colston, and set up a meeting with him and the rest of the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative.

(Gosh, I can't believe I'm trying to do all this and get National Board Certification simultaneously!)

On Being a Knowles Science Teaching Fellow

(This is my Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) cohort at our very first meeting in Colorado. I'm the one with braids.)

This weekend I was asked to be a "candidate mother" at KSTF's annual selection meeting. Knowles thought it would be good to have current fellows there to answer the questions (and calm the nerves) of the interviewees. There were four of us fellows there and our job was basically to talk to the candidates all day, which was wonderful and exhausting. There were some really amazing people there, and I've got my fingers crossed for some of them (including my student teacher). We'll find out in April who made it! There were 24 science, 18 math, and 12 biology candidates (if my memory serves).

Those who are offered fellowships will be required to participate in an online discussion board with other fellows, create a portfolio of their progress for each year of the fellowship (renewable for up to five years), participate in professional development during the summer, attend three fellows meetings per year, and either pursue their licensure in education or hold a full-time teaching position. In return, the foundation gives the fellows a stipend in the summer, financial support for a mentor of their choosing, membership in a professional association like NSTA, funding for academic year and summertime professional development
as well as the three fellows meetings, mini-grants for classroom materials, and they give each fellow copies of the best science or math curricula available (like ASU's Modeling Curriculum, or Physics by Inquiry, or Living By Science).

There are so many things I'm leaving out here (like funding for National Board Certification, and professional observation, and Lesson Study)... but the point, anyway, is that if you know any soon-to-be science or math teachers you should totally tell them to apply.

As cheesy as it sounds, this fellowship has made me into the teacher I am today.

Race to a Sustainable State Capital

The other day I was in a meeting with the Montpelier City Planner and she mentioned two rumors to me, which I am blatantly going to spread.
1) It sounds like Olympia, Washington and Montpelier, Vermont are going to begin a friendly competition to see which can be the first sustainable state capital.
2) Supposedly Google has plans to announce an extremely large grant to address sustainability needs in state capitals. Like seven or eight figures big. Yea.

... ok, it is just a rumor, but it's fun to imagine what we could do with eight figures specified just for sustainability. Also, who gets to make the rules for the Montpelier vs. Olympia competition? Who knows - but that's not the point, is it?

What does it mean for Montpelier to be sustainable? There are so many facets to sustainability that it's hard to imagine a truly complete picture of it. But that is just what UVM professor Diane Gayer, her class of students, and a number of my students intend to look at. We're collaborating on a city planning project that will hopefully sketch out a more sustainable Montpelier. We'll start with our own ideas and then this collaboration of college and high school students (plus Diane, Gwen Hallsmith, and I) will host a city-wide meeting to invite the ideas of residents. We start March 26th, and the city-wide meeting will be April 12th, so I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Story of Stuff video and Fair Trade Shoes

A friend of mine sent me this link today, and the video is realy well done. Simple. Clear. Enlightening. I think I may use it in my classroom.

The Story of Stuff

Check it out. Really well done.

In other news, my trusty black shoes have sprung a leak... well, several leaks actually (planned obsolescence perhaps?). So I decided that my next pair would be fair trade. So I bought some here and I'm very excited about them. Now if only I could just consume less.... :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Carbon Credits aka Environmental Indulgences

In December of last year I wrote a little about Carbon Offsets and how wonderful I thought they were from the perspective of Environmental Reciprocity (giving back what you take). But the more time I spend thinking about them, the less I like them.

Here is a short play on the topic:

A Vermonter, a Priest, a Buddhist, and a Car Enthusiast are all chatting online. Here's their conversation.

Vermonter: I drive my car a lot, and well, I feel guilty about that. Every time I turn on a car, I feel a little twitch in my soul that wishes there was a less polluting solution. But there is no bus, train, or horse-drawn buggy to Higher Ground in South Burlington. What should I do?

Car Enthusiast (CE): Just go to the show and buy some carbon credits or offsets later. Native Energy is a local Carbon Offset company - you should check them out.

Buddhist: Carbon credits are like good karma, you just need to be in balance. It would be better if you remained at home and did not increase the entropy of the universe, but if you must take this trip then offset the emissions so that you may maintain your balance. For all that is bad there must be something good done to regain equilibrium in the universe. Above all, though, I also recommend re-evaluating your attachment to this show at Higher Ground. Do you really need to go?

Vermonter: Well, I'd really like to go - I think it'd be fun!

CE: Check it out, carbon credits are pretty cheap ~ $15 for a whole ton of carbon!

Priest: This reminds me of a rather dark period of the church. Carbon credits are a modern version of Medieval Indulgences. Are you familiar with that idea? They're extremely similar. My Buddhist friend, I agree that it would be best to stay home and enjoy life there rather than polluting, but your idea of Karma creates a false equation. If you help your one brother, and punch your other brother, the reality is your healthy relationship with the one does not redeem the broken relationship with the other. That relationship is still broken and needs to be healed. One does not make up for the other.

And ultimately karma, like Indulgences, functions as a license - even though we both know that's not what they're intended for. You said, 'For all that is bad there must be something good done to regain equilibrium in the universe', but people run that equation the other direction. For everything good done in the universe, you are allowed that much bad to maintain equilibrium in the universe.

Vermonter: I get it. That's like when I ate that bag of Cheetos yesterday. I knew they were bad for me, but I figured I'd eaten mainly tofu and organic carrot sticks all day. So I felt entitled to that bag of junk food... But then I felt like my stomach had exploded. Ugh!

CE: Mmmmm, Cheetos. I can't believe you like Tofu, that stuff is so bland and nasty. Hey, don't worry about this trip ~ I just bought 33,000 miles worth of carbon credits for $120 - I'll pick you up and drive you to Burlington. Where do you live? I'm coming from Grand Isle, pretty far, I know, but don't sweat it - I've already paid for that pollution.

Priest: Are you familiar with the phrase 'Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound?'

CE: no. Why?

Priest: Never mind. You know, while you're working on paying for the pollution from your car, why not pay for the pollution from your parents' cars? They didn't have carbon offset programs 50 years ago. And man, those were gas guzzlers! How about your dead uncle's pollution? He certainly can't pay for those from the grave. Or how about Lucy who lives in poverty next door. She can barely afford her car, let alone paying for emissions. Looks like you've got a lot of polluted conscience to buy off. Where do you work, anyway?

CE: Ah, leave it, you killjoy! I've bought my way out of hell and condemnation and a guilty conscience, so I'll go on ahead and do whatever I damn well please.

Vermonter: Um... can I still get that ride?