Slice of Life #31-Definitely a Fox

Today I drove down to Island Beach State Park to do some birding, enjoy the salt air, and look for a fox. Island Beach State Park is a 10-mile long barrier island preserved as a maritime forest and thicket.

The fox population at Island Beach State Park is habituated to humans because too many people feed them illegally.  However, there’s no predicting when or if you will see them, so I was crossing my fingers when I drove onto the island today.  As soon as you drive in you see signs like the one above.  There’s only one road on the island and it’s surrounded on both sides by dunes and thick thickets.  The foxes live in the thickets and sometimes come out to frolic or hunt during the day.
  Today I was lucky!  About 1.5 miles into my drive I caught a glimpse of a fox along the side of the road.  He or she quickly disappeared into the trees before I could get my camera out but I was still excited. I continued driving and parked at the end of the island.  I ended up hiking almost all of the trails and saw my first yellow-rumped warbler of the year, a northern harrier, and lots of crows and gulls.  In the bay I saw some brant and red-breasted mergansers.

As I drove back towards the entrance this pretty lady trotted out of the thicket.  I pulled over (frowned upon on the island) and snapped a few pictures through the window.  Then I noticed a parking lot a few hundred feet ahead so I pulled into a space and the fox followed me.  I wasn’t sure how she would react if I got out of the car but I figured it was worth a shot.  Well, she was not very worried about me!  She circled me and my car, probably looking for a handout, and came within about 15 feet of me.  I just kept snapping pictures.  After about 5 minutes she realized I wasn’t going to feed her so she trotted off down the road.

  I hiked on the bay side of the island and the ocean side.  It was windy and cold but it was perfect.  I’m a beach girl, born and raised on the shore.  But I hate the beach in the summer.  It’s hot, it’s crowded, and it’s crawling with bugs.  The beach is best experienced during the off-season. By the end of my 2.5 hour tour of the park my lips tasted like salt, my hair was windblown, and my skin was covered with a thin layer of salt.
  The osprey were back and I watched two of them enjoying their lunch on a platform.  They each had a huge fish and spent about 25 minutes ripping it into shreds.  A few other osprey were already sitting on their nesting platforms like the one above.   The tide was coming in by the time I left and this staircase to nowhere on the bay side was one of my favorite places.  The wind was whipping around and the waves were lapping at the bottom step and it was perfect.



Slice of Life #30- Sneak Preview


I’ve spent the last 2 days working on homework for my grad school program.  Yesterday I wrote twenty pages, today I wrote 3, and over the last two days I’ve started a new blog.  Yup, a new blog!

Instead of a thesis paper at the end of degree the program requires students to work on a “master plan”.  (Isn’t that a fun name?)  My master plan focuses on getting teenagers to feel more connected to their local ecosystem/environment.  One of the ways I plan to do this is to have English teachers embrace nature writing, nature reading, and nature in general.  Because I know how powerful a platform blogging can be I’ve decided to start a new blog focused on ways that English teachers can bring nature into their classroom.  The blog isn’t ready to go public yet but you can see a sneak peek here.

Slice of Life #29


When you spend 75% of your day working on a homework assignment only to realize it’s not actually due until April 17th.

What you should have been doing is working on the assignment that is due tomorrow.  TOMORROW.


Poor planning?

Too many spring breaks.  That’s the problem.  This week is my spring break.  Last week was my grad school’s spring break.  This week is spring break for one of my online classes.  This week and next week is spring break for my other online class.  It’s like it’s break without actually being break!

Good news, though.  I finished the draft that’s due tomorrow.  Twenty pages including the appendices!

Slice of Life #28



Happy spring break!  Today I did some car shopping online (cars are ridiculously expensive), talked to some dealers on the phone, cleaned my car, rented the carpet cleaner, cleaned my carpets, walked the dogs, and dropped Chris’ car off at the mechanics.

It was a productive day.  But tomorrow I am stranded at home (Chris will have my car at work) and I plan to do some homework, read, and catch up on some TV.  And man am I looking forward to it!

Slice of Life #27


Today we celebrated Easter.  Chris woke up early to go running at the reservoir (he’s training for a half Ironman) and I slept in.  He came home and then ran back out to the movies to see Batman vs. Superman (I wasn’t interested).

While he did his stuff I took the dogs for a walk.  First we went to Prospertown Lake to see if the eagles were fishing.  I think we missed them but I’ll be sure to try again later this week.  It’s pretty amazing at bald eagles are becoming almost commonplace here in NJ.  As a kid I never saw an eagle; now there are 3 mating pairs within a 10-20 minute drive in each direction.

There weren’t any trails at the lake so we only managed to get a quick half mile in by walking along the shore.  Then I headed back home and stopped at the park across the street to get another mile in.

Once Chris and I finished our plans for the day we headed to my family’s house for Easter dinner.  It is also my brother’s birthday so after dinner we had cake and cupcakes to celebrate.  It was a great day and I don’t have to go to work tomorrow!  I love having Easter Monday off (it rarely happens).

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Slice of Life #26

Today we went to the beach in search of the seals that have been hauling out in Skeleton Hill Island. 

There were no seals today but the dogs had a lot of fun! They swam, ran, and rolled in the sand. On the way home we visited my sister at the ice cream shop where she works and she gave the dogs some free ice cream treats. A great day for them!
And finally, on the way home I got the great news that a dog I’ve been working on getting pulled by a rescue was pulled yesterday! 

Slice of Life #25- Another Hamilton Post

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If you haven’t checked out The New York Times Learning Network’s Hamilton lesson plan you should stop reading and go do it right now.  Come back in 30 minutes when you are done.  It’s long and intense and AWESOME.  I’m thrilled that I was able to be a part of it!

While helping with the lesson plan I came up with a lot of ideas for using Hamilton in the classroom.  Not all of them made it into the final post so I have decided to share them here.  Are you teaching with Hamilton?  Let me know how you are using it!

A Few More Ways to teach with Hamilton

  • Annotation:  Recently I have been experimenting with digital annotation. I love how tools like allow students to discuss texts and contribute to a larger conversation. it allows students to interact with a text.  Hamilton has taken on a life of its own at Genius, the annotation website.  Even the composer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has contributed to the annotations!  Have students create their own annotations and then compare them to the annotations on Genius.  (See more ideas for using annotation in this post).


  • Write Your own Literary Figure Poem/Rap: Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton while reading Ron Chernow’s lengthy biography of the same name.  He has said that he immediately saw parallels between Hamilton’s life and the lives of some of his favorite hip-hop and rap stars.  Miranda first planned to create a hip-hop concept album about Alexander Hamilton and he performed the opening number at a White House event in 2009.  You can see his performance, where he plays Aaron Burr, on Youtube. After watching the performance, challenge students to use Miranda’s song as a mentor text as they compose their own poem/rap about a character in the novel they are reading.    


  • Concise writing: Composer Lin-Manuel Miranda is a prolific user of Twitter and one of his most famous social media moves is to frequently change his Twitter biography.  As a result, his bios are often quirky and his followers try to draw out the meaning behind them.  Use this Skills Practice | Concise Writing lesson to help students create their own Twitter biographies.  After creating their own, challenge them to create a biography for a historical or literary figure.  Lin-Manuel Miranda has said Alexander Hamilton probably would have been a Twitter user, so what would his biography have looked like?  What would Julius Caesar’s look like?  What about Oliver Twist or Katniss Everdeen?


  • For the love of a book: In a 2015 Artsbeat blog entry, Lin-Manuel Miranda is quoted as saying, “I’m going to keep it really simple today. The whole thing started because I picked up a book and fell in love,”  before reading aloud the first five paragraphs from the prologue of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton. This 832-page tome is not what many people might view as inspirational.  But that’s the magic of books; what inspires one person to take action and change the world around them might have little effect on another reader.  Ask students to think about the book or books that have changed their outlook, viewpoint, or even lives.  Have them share their reading history with each other through infographics, essays, or posters.  

I hope these ideas inspire you!  If you have not yet listened to the cast recording or checked out the recorded performances available online I think you should drop everything you are doing and start listening now.  It’s fantastic and many of my students are as obsessed as I am!  I’m slowly working my way through the Chernow biography (I’ve switched to the audiobook, which is working better for me).  What’s even cooler is that I have a few 9th grade students who are also reading Chernow’s book after being introduced to Miranda’s music!  It’s pretty incredible and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share this experience with my students.


Slice of Life #24- What I Learned Driving from NJ to the Bronx

I love and adore my grad school program.  I’m working towards my master’s in biology through Miami Ohio University/Project Dragonfly’s Advanced Inquiry Program. It’s a hybrid program and classes are split between an online component and in-person class meetings at my master institution.  My master institution is the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City so most of my classes are at the Bronx Zoo.

I had class tonight and while sitting in traffic I started thinking of all of the non-academic things I’ve learned while driving back and forth from NJ to the Bronx.  Enjoy my slightly facetious and sarcastic list!

  • The Hamilton cast recording is the perfect length to get me through the whole trip.
  • Related, I can play all of the parts in when performing it in my car.  Still working on Daveed Digg’s ridiculous rap in”Guns and Ships”, though.
  • I hate traffic.  There’s a reason my work commute is 25 minutes through rural-suburban towns.
  • The commute to the zoo can take anywhere from 1 hour and 20 minutes to 3 hours.  Tonight it took almost 2 and a half hours.
  • The George Washington Bridge is ridiculously long.
  • I can drive in the Bronx.
  • I can drive in Fort Lee.
  • I can hold my own with crazy New York drivers.
  • There is a distinct lack of public transportation options between NJ and anywhere that is not Manhattan.
  • None of the March Madness games are broadcast on the radio.
  • Hamilton by Ron Chernow is a great audiobook to listen to while commuting.
  • I’d rather take the long way up the Henry Hudson Parkway than suffer through the hell that is the Cross Bronx Expressway.
  • I can identify most of the gorillas in Congo (exhibit) by sight.
  • It’s pretty cool walking through the dark, empty zoo.  Lots of animals make noise at night when there are no visitors!

These are just a few of the things I came up with while driving home tonight.  Thankfully, the ride home only took an hour and thirty minutes!

I love this program and I learn so much every time we have class.  But man do I dread the commute!



Slice of Life #23

One day more. One more day. 

Spring break can not come fast enough. I’ve graded thousands of papers in the past few weeks, written many responses for my own classes, attended way too many meetings, and been otherwise stressed out. 

One more wake up. One more wake up. One more wake up. We can do it! The kids are ready, the teachers are ready, everyone is ready. Come on, spring break!