Free business cards

Many school districts are cutting back on "non-essentials."  I think you having a business card is essential and professional.

Click on a graphic below to create your free, customizable, color business cards. The only thing you pay for is shipping (around $6; US mailing addresses).  What's the catch?  Vistaprint puts a small Vistaprint logo on the back of each card.

Look how sweet this design is.....

How about this one?

Inappropriate for me?  I am more of a truck person.

Just think, if you order now, they'll be in before school begins in the fall.


Spring cleaning and new Facebook page

Look to the right side.   Do you see what I see?  I link to Upcycled Education's Facebook page.  Want to "like" it with me?

(Insert victory dance here)

Off to spring clean....the blog, that is.

Rainbow by little O; Blurry photography by her momma


Parting Words

It is Friday, the 13th.  Fitting and a touch creepy.

I always think of the horror movie, Friday the 13th, on days like today.  The only thing I personally admire about those movies is the element of surprise.

Ready for a surprise?

...keep reading.

Today is officially the last day of blogging for me.  How do I know?  Remember this post, where I committed myself to blogging for 15 weeks?  I'm actually five days past due.  I'm like a carton of milk that has expired.  Or Lactaid for more lactose-free, readers.

In celebration of our accomplishment, yes, I just included you, I thought I would share some parting words and updates related to our sweet blog, Upcycled Education.

  • We've had a handful of celebrity sightings on Upcycled Education.  The Graphics Fairy herself and Martin from the Icon Finder left comments on the blog.  Carol from Wolfram Alpha emailed to wittily say thank you for blogging about the coolness of Wolfram Alpha.  For my fellow craftucators, we landed on the Mod Podge Rocks tweet - thank you, Amy!
  • Remember I was getting shredded?  Well, let's just say there is a touch more work to be done to prepare for summer bathing suit weather and road bike season.
  • Did you read this post here about t-charts and t-shirts?  I've been dreaming about designing Upcycled Education t-shirts and bike jerseys. We might need hoodies, too. Any pre-orders?
  • (My birthday tee from P and little O; The Fat Cyclist blog cracks me up.)
  • I've re-examined my hatred of food in the classroom and my pessimistic classroom party philosophy.  If, and only if, educators are inclusionary with food (meaning:  no alienating students with food allergies, intolerances, celiac disease, etc.) AND educators aim to heighten students' awareness with regard to food quality, then I am OK with food in the classroom.  Otherwise, I stand by my mantra:  Keep-food-at-home.
  • Dedications:  With my daytime college students, I consistently dedicated my day and lessons to someone.  However, little O and I did not follow through on our joint daily dedications; we were playing too much in the morning and eating breakfast and getting ready for school.  Something's got to give, right?
  • "Glow and Grows" from this post is by far everyone's favorite feedback tool.  I concur.  Just saying the words, "glows and grows," brings me delight.  One of my career-changing-students who teaches fourth grade, used the Glows and Grows tool for parent-teacher conferences.  The tool was well received.
  • The Emotional Bank Account concept hit home with my parent-blog-readers.  I received numerous emails related to this helpful metaphor from Stephen Covey.  Have you made any emotional deposits today?
  • No, I never received my wish list from Crayola.  Maybe they are still packing my boxes as I type.
  • You know how I adore Montessori Education.  You remember this post, right?  Look what I found for you?  Scholarships to become a certified Montessori teacher!  Yes, you can thank me later.....maybe we could do a virtual latte together.

OK, ready for the surprise? 

I cannot stop blogging.  I just can't. I love this experience way too much and I still have more to say about education and life.  I have programs - yes, programs - I want to launch in the fall.  Fundraising I need to begin.  Mini-grants to award.  My mind is racing.

So, let's do this.  Meet me back here - on the blog - June 15th.  That will give me a full month to talk myself out of continuing and give me some R & R time, as well.  I can work on other projects like my new craft - metal stamped jewelry - and continue parenting little O my way.  I might throw in a couple of trips to freshen things up; new scenery and new sights inspire me.  Maybe I'll post some random photos just to prove I'm doing something.

Fabulous blog reader, thank you incredibly much for sticking with me on this Upcycled Education journey.  If you are still in school or teaching, enjoy the final weeks of your semester.

I will see you June 15th right here.  We can share that virtual latte then.

My absolute, absolute best,


Lara Lessons: Theories on Thursday

Who knew I'd like blogging so much that I am in my 15th week of Upcycled Education?  Actually, if my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Sparkman, knew there would one day be something called "blogging," I bet he would say I'd make a great blogger.  I do like to talk.  The gift of gab.

P, little O and Jen at a bike fundraising
event for autism research. 

My graduate class just ended.  Actually, my undergraduate classes just ended, too.  One of my star graduate students emailed a thank you to me.  She thanked me for my "joyful way of approaching the world...."  I was already emotional before her email arrived in my inbox.  Now, I think I've reread it over ten times.  I wonder if students know what impact they have on us, teachers.  Their words, their behaviors, their being.  Interesting to note, I never met my graduate students in person.  The class was entirely online.  Could she really "get" me without meeting me in person?   Do you, fabulous blog reader, get me from this blog?

Today is usually our Theories on Thursday day.  Since I've blogged about everyone else's theories, I thought I'd take a shot at my own. I shall dub my theory, though more philosophical, Lara LessonsIf you know someone at LARABAR, please ask them if they'd like to sponsor me.  I need sustenance on my bike rides ....and for blogging.

Lara Lesson #1:  I echo Dr. James Comer's famous quote from the 90s, "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship."  Teachers, work on your relationships with students first, no matter what the pacing guide says.

Lara Lesson #2:  I'm going to sound like a bumper sticker here:  Be the change you want to see in the world.  The attitude and way of life you project is the attitude and way of life your students emulate.  This is very FISH philosophy, no?

Lara Lesson #3:  Be like IKEA.  Unboring.  If you are slightly bored (let's say "x"), then your students are probably 10x.  That's about the extent of mathematics for this theory. 

Lara Lesson #4:  Find balance.  Too much sun and you get sunburned.  Too much water rots the roots.  "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.  Know when to walk away, know when to run...."  I just solidified my membership as a GenXer quoting Kenny Rogers.  Proud.  Teaching takes energy, fortitude and awareness.  Give of yourself, but make certain you save some of yourself - your time, energy and passion - for your non-school moments.  It's just like that announcement on the airplane, "Put on your oxygen mask first before assisting small children...."

Lara Lesson #5:  Remember E. Paul Torrance's work.  He studied creativity for decades at the University of Georgia.   His famous words, "....fall in love with something...."  Secret trick:  Let your students know about your something.  Passion is admirable and contagious.  I bet you can guess which topics I am passionate about from my blog posts.  Passion kindly brings joy.

Joy.  How grateful I am for this blog, my teaching experiences, P and little O, my supportive friends, family, students and colleagues, Photoshop (ha!) and you, fabulous blog reader.


Best of Show: Upcycled Education

Most of the blogs I read do a "best of" series at some point.  I thought I'd try my hand at one.  What's lovely about blogging on Blogger is Google keeps track of all sorts of statistics for me.  For example, I can see which posts are the most viewed, which search terms readers use to find Upcycled Education and from which countries viewers hail.

Did you know our sweet, lil blog Upcycled Education has viewers from over 20 different countries?  With the United States, Canada, India and UK readers heading the pack, the blog has also attracted readers from Germany, Taiwan, Australia, South Africa, Greece, Romania, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Denmark - to name a few.  Upcycled Education goes internationale - in spelling, too, apparently.

Ready to countdown the top five, most viewed blog posts on Upcycled Education?

I am seriously still addicted to this freebie font website.  Three case-in-points, the photos in this post.  See the cool fonts I used in all of them?  The tippy-top font used on the train track photo is "St. Andrew."  The middle script font used with little O modeling is "ChopinScript."  The last font used with the flowers is "Woodcut."  I literally keep a list of the fonts I download taped to the wall in my studio, so I remember the unique names of my favs.

On my to-do list next week is to make a couple of presents for friends using this post.  This summer, you could make your own artwork and have them ready to hang-up in your classroom just in time for back-to-school in the fall.

I am not surprised this post made it into the best of show.  Dr. Mitra is brilliant and his work can be applied to just about any educational setting.  If you didn't get a chance to watch the TED talk included in this post, treat yourself.  By the way, I have the TED phone app and it is the perfect way to watch TED talks on the go.  Actually, I headphone up sometimes while I am washing the dishes at home and listen/semi-watch a TED talk.  Not only am I tidying up the kitchen, but I also enter a state of flow.  Remember this post?

There may be two reasons this post ranked so high on Upcycled Education.  One, it was our first giveaway.  Two, because it rocks.  Check out Presenter Media when you want to snazzify your PowerPoint presentations.  Remember, they offer an educator's discount, since this is a pay, subscription service.

And the #1 top post, best of show on Upcycled Education.....

#1 - Montessori Education, Part II
I could cry.  You know how I love - wait, that needs more emphasis - L-O-V-E Montessori education.  If you haven't read this post or Part I of it, you must.  Ms. J and Ms. Z did a fantabulous, amazing job explaining Montessori education.  I have literally never received so many emails and thank yous about the post.  This shows the power of this "best in show" post - to demystify Dr. Montessori's classic and pure methodologies.

I'm off to celebrate the top five with an early morning road bike ride....

My best,


Web-based Tools for Tech Tuesday

Today for Tech Tuesday, let's share some free web-based tools we just didn't have time to get to in our first 14-weeks together.  If you are just joining our blog and do not understand the whole 15-week-blogging-thing, read this post here.

Ready for our final tech tools?  ...I need a tissue...weep, weep.  Blot, blot. UPDATE: The blog will continue!  Yahoo!  Get ready for fall!

AnswerGarden - This free web tool allows you to create a question and then, collect simple feedback or answers from your students or colleagues.  Most answers are limited to 20 characters of text and no log-ins are required.  Click on this example I created to tryout AnswerGarden.

Quizlet - Many students benefit from flashcard repetition and seeing information over and over and over again.  Check out Quizlet's flashcard database or create your own flashcards for your content area.  Better yet, assign students to make their own flashcard sets and then reuse their sets with future classes.  How efficient and brilliant!

Media Converter - I can't believe I almost didn't share this most useful, free web-based tool with you.  Basically, you can take any audio or video file and convert it to another file type.  For example, I often times use YouTube videos with my college students.  Sometimes, though, the YouTube video is hard to find or is deleted.  To solve this issue, I convert a YouTube video into an "mp4" file and save it to my flash drive.  Yep, you just heard me.  I save it to my flash drive and the file is now mine!  No Internet connection necessary anymore!  Of course, I always - for copyright compliance - share my source with students.  But, I don't have to mess around with YouTube, spotty Internet connections or security walls when I use Media Converter.  See what you think, media moguls.

Go forth and enjoy all the amazing tech tools out there, fabulous blog reader!  When you find new ones you think I'd enjoy, do email me at jen at

My tech best,

Drop caps how-to


id you see my pre-Mother's Day post on May 7th?  If not, scroll down to it.  Isn't the first letter fancy?  Hey, just like the "D" to the left is fancy in "Did?"

Aren't you wondering how I jazzed up my "D?"

Simply stuff, fabulous blog reader.  Just visit Daily Drop Cap, choose your letter and follow the instructions below each letter.  It does require copying and pasting HTML code, but its 2011, I am confident you can do that, yes?

This drop cap stuff is thoroughly entertaining to me. 

Grinning from ear-to-ear,


PS - Do you think I could use the drop cap letters to make more DIY artwork for my classroom?  Remember this post here?  My wheels are spinning.

Mother's Day Printable


ep, you can thank me later.  Actually, you can thank me and Amy Moss, the designer, later.  We just saved you from having to run to the store and purchase a Mother's Day card. 

Click on the image below to link to this free and sweet - like your mama - Mother's Day card.  It looks fantastic printed on white or ivory cardstock. 

Your mom is going to adore you.  Just like I do, fabulous blog reader.

Happy Mother's Day to all you (and your) amazing moms!


PS - If you like my fancy "Y" at the beginning of the post, check back next week and I will reveal my source and "how to."  Neat-o mosquito, huh?

Homeschooling: Theories on Thursday

An educational blog that doesn't discuss homeschooling is just not an educational blog, in my book.  With over 1.5 million students homeschooled each year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, how can we not discuss our homeschool brethren?  By the way, did you know in less than a ten year period, homeschooling increased by 74%?  Something magical is happening.

(House Heart Stamp from Romazone)

I've only dreamt of homeschooling little O; mainly because I love my position teaching teachers, but also when I dream of homeschooling, my little family and I are in my-soul-country-favorite-state-in-the-union, Colorado. Or we are traveling around the world on a life sabbatical.

I would take a life sabbatical with little O and P in a heartbeat.  I would world school little O.  Don't worry students.  I promise to return refreshed and energized.  Pinky swear.

Since I have not homeschooled myself, I thought I would bring in an expert.  Please welcome my dear friend and a homeschool parent, Mariah.

Take it away, Mariah....

"Our world is our classroom."

I did not plan to homeschool my children. Homeschooling was for really religious people. The socially awkward. Just the term suggested exclusion from society. A rejection of the mainstream. Those misfits.

I sit here this morning and look out at the impossibly blue sky. The trees have a fuzzy red aura as their spring buds swell. The grassy field is soft green and beckoning. My daughter is sleeping late after a family movie night. This day belongs to us.

I homeschool because it makes sense. When the weather is nice we stay outside. When it’s rainy we splash in puddles. We picnic and play in the creek. We get really muddy. Our activities include reading, writing, crafting, playing games, cooking, gardening, visiting friends, watching movies. Our world is our classroom. The learning part is easy. It doesn’t take long to learn something when you’re interested and ready.

"This day belongs to us."
I homeschool because I want to spend my days with my children, and I want to be the one with whom they’ve shared their days. I carried and snuggled them through babyhood and now I wish to cherish every moment of this magical childhood. I homeschool because I want to follow the natural rhythm of my family, and teach my children the value of finding and following their own rhythm. Homeschooling feels like a natural extension of parenting. I know my children intimately. I know when they need pushed and when they need to stand back.

I enjoy the freedom of not being part of the ‘system.’ This life we lead encourages questioning – a lot of questions arise when you don’t go with the flow. We don’t have to do things the way ‘everyone else does’ and are free to explore what’s truly best for us. We are not bound by many rules that are not directly relevant.
It’s hard sometimes. The ‘pressure’ of knowing that my children’s entire well being lies upon my shoulders can be heavy. I have no one else to blame if they don’t turn out right. But I think we’re doing okay together. It is intense at times, but I feel that it’s a worthwhile investment. Soon they will be grown and I will miss these days. I am the sculptor, molding the environment in which my children will roam, explore, play. They will succeed and they will fail. I want to be a part of it.

"...roam, explore, play."

Here are some details about homeschooling:
  • Homeschooling parents in most states are held accountable by the State.  In our county, someone from the Department of Education reviews my child’s portfolio each year. The portfolio should demonstrate the child has worked in each of the seven main subject areas – Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health, Art and PE. There are also private homeschooling groups authorized by the State to oversee home instruction. If you would like to see an example of state mandates in relation to homeschooling, click here.
  • Scared of being the physics teacher?  (Me too.) Homeschooling your kids doesn’t mean you personally have to do it all. Your homeschooler can seek outside help for the advanced courses. Community college classes would be a great option. Or find a local expert willing to offer an apprenticeship or be a mentor. People love to share their expertise. It’s amazing to watch how easily and quickly kids will learn something (even on their own) when they are motivated by interest and curiosity.
  • There are countless resources available to homeschooling families. Curricula of every style. Classes through private groups – guitar, woodworking, chess, and knitting. Classes in art, ballet, and gymnastics. Community college classes are available. There are social groups, study groups, book clubs, drama clubs, and field trips. If you'd like to see a digital resource for homeschoolers and "unschooling," click here.  For two other examples of homeschool resources, click here and here.
  • Think homeschooled kids are socially doomed? There is a big difference between social skills and socializing. Homeschooling offers many opportunities for valuable, authentic social experiences. Homeschooled kids are socializing all day. With family, with friends, and with people in the community. If an individual child does not have great social skills (or art skills, math skills, athletic ability, etc.), homeschooling is no more to blame than school would be.
Homeschooling is invigorating and exhausting, a relief and a burden. It is full of emotion and passion. With community support for inspiration and cozy nooks for recharging, I follow my heart and the excitement of my children.

"...easily and quickly kids will learn something...when they are motivated by interest or curiosity."

Thank you, Mariah, for sharing your homeschool perspective with Upcycled Education. 

If you have questions about homeschooling or would like to leave a comment, please use the comment link below.

I so adore choice in education.

The "Other" Jen

As you remember from my blog post here, there are over 1.4 million Jennifers in the world.  I'd like to think we are all created amazingly equal.

And so I will.

A decade ago while attending my first International Association for Experiential Education (AEE) Conference, I met another Jennifer - Jennifer Stanchfield.  She like me shared similar interests:  a passion for working with kids and adults, knowing learning experientially is powerful & rich and recognizing the AEE community is comprised of kindred spirits like us.  I've attended at least seven AEE conferences since meeting Jen.  We always embrace when we see each other.

Kindred Jens, we are.

The "Other" Jen has authored and co-authored books.  She leads numerous workshops and trainings around the country on topics such as creating classroom communities and differentiating instruction.  She has the neatest store with the perfect educational props.  Look at this unique Miniature Metaphors set.  Isn't it divine?  You know how I love metaphors Seriously, can this collection of miniatures be more engaging?

Did I mention Jen blogs?  Check out this blog post on starting off your lesson with style.  Then, you must read her inspiring post on using quotes in your classroom.  Click here to do so.

If you are like me and can't get enough of her creative ideas, then go visit Jen's blog or her website, Experiential Tools. 

Jen S. is making me proud to be a Jen, too.

Thanks, Jen. 


The "Other" Jen

Prezi for Tech Tuesday

For my educators (and assorted others) who are finding PowerPoint, well, pointless, see if you'd prefer Prezi.  Originally designed by an architect, Prezi is an engaging alternative to traditional PowerPoint presentations.  Not that I don't use PowerPoint all the time, but Prezi is just....refreshing.  If you don't over path it  - I will get to that in a moment - your presentation attendees won't get seasick, but instead will think you are a presentation genius.

Believe me, I've been known to fool my college students with my Prezi skills.

Basically with Prezi, you create presentations that can zoom in and out, follow interesting pathways and can holistically show connections between content material which can include text, images, hyperlinks and videos.  In the example below, my college student, Katrina, used Prezi to capture her main talking points about Diabetes.  Click on the image below to view Katrina's Prezi.  Once you link to Katrina's Prezi, click on the chunky gray arrow and enjoy how her Prezi moves along a set pathway that she defined.  You can also click anywhere on her Prezi to zoom in and out.  Thanks, Katrina, for sharing your Prezi with Upcycled Education.

Using Prezi is no more time consuming than using PowerPoint.  In fact, once you watch the three short "how to" videos, you will be on your way to Prezi-mastery.  If you are pressed for time, watch only videos one and two - the latter will show you tips and tricks so you don't move too quickly through the pathways you create.  If you move too quickly, you risk making your attendees seasick.

seasick + learning =  uncool

To sign-up for your free student or teacher's EDU license, click here.  You do need to use your school email address (versus a personal one) to sign-up for the free, upgraded EDU version of Prezi.  For my non-educator blog readers, don't you worry yourself; Prezi offers a free public version for you.  Click here for the non-EDU one.

To wow your students, try converting one of your old-school PowerPoints into a new-school Prezi.

Trust me.  Your amazing-coolest-teacher-factor will increase tenfold.


Mod Podge for Education

A perfect world:  Combining crafts and education into one.  Craftucation, I might call that.  Me?  I craftucator.


To bridge my two  three loves, I combined Mod Podge, some basic craft supplies and my trusty assistant, little O.  Our task:  To make something that is crafty and educational.

Hmmm...what to create?  How about a reflective tool?

At our local craft store, Jo-Ann, we located these fabulously, inexpensive wood blanks.  Jo-Ann had so many shapes and sizes.  I think we paid $.29 for each wood blank.

Next, little O and I painted them with acrylic paints we had around the house. 

Using leftover scraps of patterned paper, little O traced each shaped and I cut out the shapes.  We broke out a must-have, craft companion...Mod Podge!  Here you can see little O gluing on the patterned paper to the painted wood blanks.  Mod Podge is a craftucator's best friend.

After letting the Mod Podge dry (about 20 minutes), this is what they looked like.  Kind of fresh & engaging, no?

To help transform these gems into a reflective tool to be used in the classroom, little O traced more shapes for me.  This time, she used plain, colored paper.

I then cut out the traced shapes and wrote reflective prompts on them in black Sharpie marker.  The reflective prompts included:
  • Describe the main idea from today's lesson.
  • Describe something new you learned today.
  • Explain two new terms from today's lesson.
  • How can you apply today's lesson?
  • What other topics relate to today's lesson?
  • Why is today's lesson important to you?
  • How would you improve today's lesson?

Don't you love reflective questions?

The finished product, the reflective prompt side, looks like this......

To protect these Mod Podge, craftucation treasures, little O and I brushed on two layers of Mod Podge on each side.  We let the Mod Podge dry about 20 minutes between layers.  They are sealed and student-proof now!

Not that my college students are destructive, however, now they can happily risk a vanilla-soy-latte being spilled on them.

Oh, craftucation and happiness!

PS - I just used this reflective tool with my college students after teaching a lesson about identifiying gifted and talented students in preK-12 settings.  When I polled my college students about the tool they described the colorful prompts as "cool, fun, unique and playful."  More happiness.

PSS - Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!  I personally don't need a week because I appreciate you all the time.  True.