Earth Day

earth dayOK, so I’m a few days behind, but I didn’t want to neglect Earth Day. There are too many awesome lessons that it can teach children. As the cliche goes, “Why not make every day Earth Day?”

One of the things I like to do, both on my own, and with kids (my own AND preschoolers), is go for a walk, and carry a plastic shopping bag… as we go, we pick up garbage that we see laying around. This time of year, there is a lot of garbage everywhere! Other times, we’ll walk around picking up pop cans… a couple times a year, we bring all our cans to the recycling center anyway, so we just add them to our stash. Making things look better all around us just feels good!

Another fun and simple activity for Earth Day, is to do “recycle art.” Use bottle caps, scraps of paper, scraps of ribbon, etc. Children can glue the “recycled materials” to cardboard to create a collage, or stick them into play dough for a sculpture.

As a teacher, it’s natural to use books to help teach lessons… Here are a few that I use:

I found a book in the Scholastic Book Order from Mercer Mayer called “It’s Earth Day.” I like his books, so I decided to get it. At first glance, it’s a bit wordier than his other books, but I’ve found that even the 2 1/2 year olds were interested in the story! The Little Critter famous in so many of Mayer’s stories is at school. He learns that the glaciers are melting, and he’s worried about the polar bears. Little Critter learns different things he can do to help save the polar bears. Together, he and his dad talk about saving energy by doing things like turning off the computer at night. He and his sister discover they can save water by turning it off while brushing their teeth. Little Critter and all his friends help out by picking up recyclable materials (bottles, newspapers, and cans) and turn it all in. They then donate the money they receive to a charity to save the polar bears. I have had some great conversations with children after reading this book, they were able to come up with all sorts of things they could do to help save energy and water!

Another great book (appropriate for probably 4 years old and up) is Earth Day Hooray by Stuart J. Murphy. A group of children clean up a local park, and decide they want to plant flowers to make it even prettier. They decide to recycle cans to raise money for the flowers. They start a can drive at school, go around the town, etc. It’s not only a book with a great message about working together to make a difference, there’s a math lesson too (as they try to reach 5,000 cans to recycle).

The final book in my Earth Day collection, is Michael Recycle, by Ellie Bethel. I had to buy this book, because my son’s name is Michael, of course! I actually love this book, as does Michael, and pretty much any preschooler/kindergartner I have read it to. Michael Recycle is a super hero that saves a dirty, dingy town from being buried in their trash. He teaches them all about cleaning up their town, recycling and more, then disappears to help another town! It has a bit of a Dr. Suess-ish feel with lots of rhyming words to add to the fun!

You don’t need to wait for April 22nd to make efforts to clean up the outdoors or make the simple little changes to conserve energy and water.

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It’s All About Community

A friend of ours from Nashville was in the Twin Cities this past weekend for kettlebell training. She invited Jason and I to dinner with her and her friends from the RKC/Kettlebell Community. What was interesting to me was that at our table of 11, were 2 “big wigs” – the trainers, an assistant who appeared to be pretty well respected, 6 people who had just gone through some pretty intensive training, and then there was Jason and I, both who know nothing about kettlebell. Sitting at that table though, we were all equals (though, there was definitely a sense of awe towards the trainers). It was kind of cool… The two trainers talked a lot about their experiences, as did everyone else at the table. The trainers then asked everyone who was planning on becoming trainers themselves. No one raised their hand. Our friend Christina said maybe part time in the future, but not any time soon. They seemed shocked, and asked why they would go through this training if they weren’t going to use it to do training themselves? Everyone talked about the personal challenges, their personal fitness goals, and becoming more involved in the Community. It was interesting to listen to them talk… I got to thinking about “community.”

What IS Community?

When I typed “community” into my browser, the Wikipedia definition came up first (of course). “In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.” Hmm… sounds about right… Here are a couple communities I have been a part of:

Partylite: Back a few years ago, I sold Partylite candles. Every year, I would go to our National Conference held in various parts of the US. I loved it! Being around other people who did the same thing I did, learning their tips on generating sales, different ways to do shows, etc. But, on top of all the training, the best part was the people. Even the “big wigs” who were at the top of the candle-selling game, would sit and have dinner with us, go out for drinks, even tear it up on the dance floor with us! To the rest of us, they were like Rock Stars, but they were just regular people who happened to be really good at what they do. They wanted to network with people just like we did!

SQL: Last year, I attended my very first SQL Saturday event. I am NOT a technical person, but I was along to hang out in a different city with my boyfriend (we weren’t yet engaged) and some people I didn’t know. I always have enjoyed meeting new people, so I figured why not? What I had no idea about, was how tight the SQL Server Community seems to be. By the end of that weekend, I had new friends.

My new friends from all over the midwest all were avid Twitter users. At that point, I was not on Twitter at all! Some time after that, I set up a Twitter account (@Dancem0m) in order to keep tabs on my daughter who had set one up to follow Justin Bieber. I started talking to a few of the SQL connections I had made, but not very regularly.

The next SQL Sat event I tagged along with, was to Nashville. Here, I met a bunch more cool people. The night before the event, was the speaker dinner. It was held at someone’s house (that someone was Kevin Kline (blog|twitter). Here we were, on a deck full of MVP’s (including my fiance, @StrateSQL). Even as a non-techie, I was in awe! Guys sitting around talking about books they had written… people I had heard of, but had never met. They were all Rockstars in their own right, but they were all people, just like me. Saturday night, after the “after party”, we were all sitting around having drinks together. Then, most of us went to explore the night life in Nashville. What a great time we all had!! We were even hanging out with people from the PASS organization. One of the awesome women we met in Chicago, Christina invited Jason and I out on her boat with her and her husband. All day Sunday, we hung out on an amazing boat in 90 degree water.

Let me tell you, these SQL people, they know how to network!!! I have never once felt like an outsider around them!! In fact, the more I have gotten to know them, the more I feel like I’m part of their community, even though I know nothing about SQL Server! My use of twitter increased greatly after the Nashville trip.

The third trip I followed along on was probably the most awesome from a networking standpoint. Many of the people I had met and spent time with in both Chicago and Nashville were in Iowa. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and have them welcome me again as if I were part of their community. After sitting in the lobby area chatting all day with different people (and getting picked on for writing a blog post on paper – “so oldschool”), I sat in on the Women in Technology luncheon. It was super cool, and I blogged about it. This post had my highest views ever in a one week period. SQL peeps were tweeting it and linking it like crazy! I was shocked, and honored. After Iowa, I became a pretty avid tweeter, and an “honorary member” of the SQL Community. Of my 123 followers on Twitter, probably 90% of them are SQL people, many of whom I have yet to meet. I am looking forward to attending (and hopefully volunteering at) the PASS Summit this fall. People think it’s a little weird that the first week of our honeymoon will be spent at a professional convention. I don’t think so at all, it’s a GREAT way to hang out with friends who live all over the country, and to meet new ones. I’m WAY excited!

The SQL Community is not only awesome in that there are a lot of really cool people that share similar interests, network like crazy, and help each other out with DBA-related topics. There are tons of people trying to meet different fitness goals, and we are all encouraging and supporting each other! Most of my donations for the 3-Day Walk have come from SQL people. My friend Jes just ran her first half marathon, Yanni (who I have yet to meet) is training to climb a mountain to raise money for the American Lung Association, Jen (who I also have yet to meet in person) is trying to lose weight. Jen has started a blog party for people who want to help make their fitness/weight loss goals public in order to hold each other accountable. There really are too many people to list them all in the group of people encouraging and supporting each others’ goals, mainly via twitter. We’ve got runners, swimmers, walkers, hikers, dieters, dancers (and dance parents)… the support is pure awesomesauce!!!