KIDLANDIA: Trash Talkin’ with Kids by Julianna M. Cruz

No, it’s not what you think. Last week I was walking to my classroom, with my little charges following behind, and we walked right into a teachable moment. There was trash all over the lawn and in the hallway. I stopped everyone and said, “Oh, my heart is breaking! Please help me save the Earth!” I bent over to pick up a piece of trash and most of the kids automatically joined me. Before we even walked into the classroom our lesson for the day had begun. I take great pride in teaching by example, so as we walked in we sorted the trash by putting recyclables into our blue recycling tub and other trash into the trash can. I thanked my students and assured them that they had personally made a difference in the world that day. That got me thinking about a lesson I had written (and taught many times over the years), and I vowed to get going on it the very next week. Now, most of you are probably thinking, “When am I going to squeeze in another lesson?—especially one that is not already in my long-range plans!” My answer is, find the time—steal it if you have to! This is paramount! Anyone who would like a copy of the lesson plan and student/parent data collection sheets can feel free to leave your email address in the comments and I will send it to you.

Here’s what we are doing. Next week I’m going to introduce my students to the Scientific Method by conducting an experiment about how much trash we generate. Students will learn about the Giant Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean (just one of five) and discuss how they can keep from contributing to that mess. Then, they will predict how much trash they will generate in a 3-day period, and sort them into solid waste and recyclables. They will weigh the trash, and learn how to collect and record data by using a simple table. We will be using some math that’s a little advanced for the second grade, but it’s never too soon to introduce them to higher level math, with support—especially if it’s purposeful math. Hopefully after seeing how much of their trash can be recycled, they will think about waste management more responsibly. They may even look around and take responsibility for cleaning up, even if it’s not their mess—because it’s the right thing to do. If you are a parent and would like to help, please come in on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to help weigh and sort. Please bring a bathroom scale and a calculator—we can do this experiment with the materials we already have!

Here’s a video of the North Pacific Gyre. Warning: do not show this video to your elementary class—they might cry—perhaps junior high or high school students would respond better to the video.

If you don’t find success with the link above, look up the Pacific Trash Gyre.

For younger students, I suggest Bill Nye’s Garbage video.

Thanks for helping me and all of our children make a difference.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.


KIDLANDIA: Trout in the Classroom Time, Again!

I’m writing a little early again because tomorrow morning I’ll be helping teachers learn how to raise trout in their classrooms. Yes, I said trout. As some of you already know, my students and I have been raising trout in the classroom for close to fifteen years now. We have had a blast learning about the life cycle of trout, what their environmental needs are as they grow and change, and how we affect their environment. As students learn to care for and observe the trout they also learn to be good stewards of the earth. The Trout in The Classroom program has been developed by the Department of Fish and Game, locals to the Inland Empire, brought to teachers by the Deep Creek Fly Fishers Club. If you are interested in learning more about the program you can visit the Deep Creek Fly Fishers site. If you are a teacher who would like to be part of the Trout in the Classroom program, please come to the Isaac Walton House at Fairmount Park, Riverside, CA 92501 tomorrow,  Sunday September 14, from 8am to 1pm and ask about how you can get trained.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

KIDLANDIA: Six Degrees of Separation

It always amazes me when I meet someone who I think is a stranger and it ends up we are related in some way. I’m sure this has happened to you too. Well as weird as it sounds, it keeps happening to me. But not just with people—with situations, and even with food! Let me explain. I’ve been living with the belief that everything happens for a reason—whether that reason is divine intervention, or merely the choices one has made—one thing definitely leads to another. So, with that said, for the last month or so I have been having very powerful bouts of déjà vu. This déjà vu seems to be strongest with food, but situations in which I am meeting people are also strong. I wonder: am I really experiencing this again, or am I so focused on what I want to happen that everything is just falling into place? Let me make clear that things can’t just fall into place if you haven’t already created a place for things to land—usually through hard work and preparation. I know sounds like a philosophical ramble, but bear with me–you’ll see how it all falls into place.

For the last year, my incredibly talented husband, Curtis Cruz, has been attending the Riverside Community College Culinary Arts Academy. He left his teaching position at Redlands High School in order to pursue his passion, first he saved a year’s worth of wages  in order to go without working. He recently graduated, with medals in Hot and Cold Food competitions, and the Outstanding Baking and Pastry Award. To say the least, I am very proud. So what is he doing now? That’s where I get that strange feeling about how I fit into the whole plan. You see, over the summer, I met a distant cousin, Mitzi, and she and I formed a fast connection. During a visit to her home and business in Redlands she introduced me to a friend, who sells olive oil at a shop in Redlands, and like I said before, things started falling into place. Energy just keeps flowing in the right direction—it’s amazing, and a little scary.

Curtis and I will be sharing her booth at the Redlands Farmers’ Market next Thursday night. Look for My Goodness, Artisan Breads together with Stone Wheel Olive Oil Co. next Thursday night. What a natural pairing of two great flavors! I hope that when you let that olive oil soaked sourdough touch your tongue that your eyes close involuntarily and you let out a little sigh of pleasure. Then, and only then, will you know that feeling that I’ve been having.

Hoping to see you all again.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.