Tag Archives: appreciation

Thank You, Earth

Gratitude and appreciation are essential elements in raising children to be naturalists and environmental stewards. We take care of what we love. Throughout the school year I have made an effort to integrate environmental literature and learning wherever I could across the curriculum. We participated in #writeout with the National Writing Project in October, doing wonder walks and exploring acorns. We made posters and wrote 6 words for the environment, advocating for the Earth. We learned about Ansel Adams and dandelions and made wishes that we hope will disperse like seeds–resilient and gritty–growing where they land, like dandelions themselves, making the Earth a better place. Last week we read Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre, a beautiful book that combines photographs and descriptive language to express appreciation for all that nature has to offer. This became the inspiration for our own letters of gratitude to the Earth in the form of zines.

We made zines earlier in the school year, so it seems like perfect timing to come back full circle especially since students have made so much progress as writers and readers. To push their composition and zine making skills, this time we created a plan before launching into the zine itself. Students planned their front and back covers and the six interior pages before creating the actual zine. They were encouraged to stretch their ideas, adding detail and description for each page.

What I love the most is that students had so many ideas about what they are grateful for in nature. They love trees and clouds and rainbows. Animals (both cute and feisty according to one student), the ocean, and flowers were prevalent topics. Pollinators and water, and of course, constellations also were featured. In each of their zines, I can see traces of my teaching…about writing and art and the environment. Here’s a student reading her zine.

I am hopeful that these young students will grow up to be advocates for our planet, for healthy environments for everyone, for sustainable practices and clean energy. Finding spaces for students to learn about the challenges we face on our planet, about the importance of conservation, and about ways to stand up and voice both their appreciation and their concerns for the future are important and easily combined with the reading, writing, science, and art that are already the typical parts of school curriculum when you plan carefully.

Students’ notes of gratitude to the Earth will be on display for Open House next week, spreading their appreciation and awe of the natural world to their families and others who peek into our classroom. How might you construct and spread your message of gratitude to the Earth? I am looking forward to hearing your ideas.

It’s the Small Things: SOL22 Day 27

Some days it’s all about the small things.

Not setting the alarm clock and sleeping in on Sunday morning. (Or at least not getting out of bed when you wake up even though there is no alarm going off.)

A walk on the beach with my sister who is visiting from the northern part of the state. And the sun even decided to come out to play after two days of thick, gray marine layer over the coast.

Dinner cooked by my husband (that part is not unusual) for my mom, my sister, and me–complete with a from scratch chocolate cake dessert. He manages to cook with love and care, even at a moment’s notice. He’s definitely a keeper!

Trader Joe’s flowers: tulips and daffodils to bring spring inside. And because I am planning an art project with my students tomorrow that features tulips, I wanted to bring the real thing into the classroom.

So I indulged and bought both tulips and daffodils. Last week we read a poem that included daffodils and my students didn’t seem familiar with them–so I was on the lookout for those inexpensive bunches that are around every spring at Trader Joes. And I had to have the tulips, even though they were only available in the larger bunch that was a bit pricier than I wanted. But…I have enough of each type of flower to bring some in the classroom and leave myself the bright beauty of spring on the dining room table!

Any small things bring you joy and appreciation today?

Saturday Satisfactions: SOLC #27

I figured a listicle would be in my future sometime during 31 consecutive days of writing for the Slice of Life Challenge. And today is the day. So the following is my short list of satisfactions from this Saturday in particular.

  • Sleeping in. Somehow my body hasn’t quite adjusted to the “spring forward” command from weeks ago. I keep wanting to go to bed early each night and then find myself awake before my alarm clock. Even with no alarm clock set today, I found myself awake before my usual 5:30am wake up time. But it was Saturday, so after scrolling through some news on my phone I cuddled back under the covers and went back to sleep for a while. It felt heavenly!
  • Breakfast…with love. Most days I grab a yogurt, sprinkle a few berries and some granola on top, and voila, that’s breakfast! But today my husband made french toast–not the toaster kind–the real kind dipped in an egg mixture and topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of bacon and fresh grapefruit. Definitely a Saturday Satisfaction!
  • An egret sighting on the low-tide beach. I love an egret sighting anytime. I didn’t think it was going to happen today. I was more than halfway back when I noticed an egret fly in for a snack. I picked my way across the slick reef, trying to get close enough for an interesting photo. It didn’t stay long…there were too many people exploring the tide pools today…but I did get this straight on shot!
  • The exuberance of young people. I love watching young people on the beach. I am reminded of the verve and energy that teens bring to life…which reminds me of the importance of diving in, following my own passions, and embracing each day as it comes.
  • Living close enough to have the beach be my daily happy place. While I don’t go quite every day, knowing that I can access the beach with a short drive is a gift. When our beaches closed last year during the pandemic, I was heartbroken. It was hard to stay away, hard to see the ocean from a distance but not with my feet on the sand, and hard to find joy in my replacement neighborhood walks. Each day I revel in the wonders of living near the sea–and try hard not to take it for granted.

What satisfactions would you list this Saturday?

SOLC Day 18: Looking for the Silver Lining

I’m tired of rain, I’m tired of the corona virus, I’m tired of endless breaking news with more stories of closures, infection, and dire economic consequences.

So…I’m making a list of those things I am appreciating today.

In no particular order:

I appreciate all the book suggestions from slicers in response to my blog yesterday. They have curated an awesome list for me to chose from…now I just need to pick one and get reading!

I’m thrilled that my mom has decided to stay with us for the time being. While my dad is in Yuma (really, a snowbird from San Diego?), it’s good to have her here rather than isolated 30 minutes away.

I’m lucky to teach in a place where parents are involved and care so much. I can see the evidence of parents following up with their children in response to the learning activities I post daily on Google Classroom during the school closures.

I’m grateful for Flipgrid. The daily prompts I’ve been giving my students lets me see their precious faces and hear their voices each day. And I’ve been enjoying making my own as an invitation to them. The challenge–a new prompt each day. We’ve shared favorite stuffies, how we stay active and healthy, our current book, and tomorrow…how we spend a rainy day. Anyone have ideas for additional prompts? I definitely need more–especially since our school closure just got extended by two weeks! (And that is likely optimistic)

And…I managed to squeeze in a between-the-raindrops beach walk with my husband! It was cool and breezy…and blissfully empty. I power walked my usual distance and still got back home in time for the scheduled Zoom call on my calendar.

Okay…I feel better already now that I spent some time thinking about the silver lining to today’s frustrations. And I’m looking forward to your Flipgrid prompt ideas for my students!

SOLC Day 16: Appreciating Unexpected Gifts

In this upside down world where nothing feels normal, a walk on the beach feels like a treat. Hearing that others in our state are getting directions to “shelter in place” makes me feel like my open air walks may be a thing of the past very soon. I worry about going stir-crazy with no outlet for exploring the natural world!

I did get my beach walk in today…an extra long one since rain is expected later tonight. But my real treat came later…in the most unexpected way.

If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram (@kd0602) you might know that I’m pretty obsessed with egrets and herons. I’ve written about them here and here and here. Now that both my husband and I are working from home, every invitation to go outside the house is a welcome one. So when he asked if I wanted to walk down the street to check the mail, I jumped at the chance. We headed out–the skies were gray and the wind was kicking up in advance of the storm forecasted for tonight–walking down the hill on the sidewalk in the neighborhood. And we saw it…that distinctive shape, pure white, landing on the deck of a neighbor’s house. A great egret. Perched on the deck wall, we had a perfect view from afar.

I never see egrets in my neighborhood, but like on the beach, I crept closer feeling lucky my phone was in my pocket and not in the house. When photographing birds I know to take many shots, increasing my odds of a good photo. As it took flight, I continued to press the shutter…

and then follow it as it landed across the street near the park and our mailboxes. Unlike the snowy egrets I see on my beach walks, the great egret does not have bright yellow feet. But it does have a yellow beak where the snowy’s beak is black.

It seems a bit strange to have an egret visitor in the neighborhood today, but what an unexpected gift it was! I love getting close enough to see the texture of the feathers, especially as they were ruffled by the wind. On days and weeks like these, I’m learning to appreciate the little things…like a neighborhood visit by an egret.

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.


I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.


With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.


Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.


With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.


And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)


My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciation

It’s so easy to get busy and overlook the bounty of everyday life.  School started this week for me so I’ve been totally immersed in the classroom over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve had to make an effort to take my camera out and find an interesting shot each day.  Lucky for me, a focus on appreciating small details has helped in so many way.  It has reminded me just how fortunate I am, pushing me to take a positive view even when I am feeling tired and overwhelmed with all there is to get done.  And I am actively searching for ways to document my appreciation, letting an image represent a bigger idea.

At the end of the first week of school, Geoff and I decided even though Fridays are the day we feel exhausted, that we would take the time to watch the sunset and go out to dinner.  There is something healing about watching the sky transform from blue to pinks and oranges.  And the bubble man was out again too, creating kid-sized bubbles and coaching kids to run inside of them, trying to keep it from popping too soon.  The kids delight in this game…and who can resist, especially when combined with the soothing feel of salt water on your feet?


Earlier in the week, one of my students came into the room with these beautiful flowers clutched in her fist.  “They’re dahlias, Mrs. Douillard,” she announced.  I love the geometry of these lovely blooms, my eye returns to them throughout the day as I notice new details.


I often complain about the gray of the marine layer we experience here on the coast.  The clouds seem to flatten my photos, making everything feel drab and dull.  This week, with a heatwave in our region–many areas of our county experience temperatures in the triple digits–I am appreciating the thick gray dampness that blankets the sky.  Without air conditioning in our school, the fog has kept things a bit cooler and more bearable.  I watched these seabirds frolic in the gray as I walked the beach on my way home from work the other day.


Getting home last night, after our late dinner following our sunset expedition, I got out of the car and looked up.  Through that one tree that grows along the side of our driveway, I caught a glimpse of the moon shining through.  My camera was in my bag, so I pulled out my phone, framed my view through the branches of the tree and clicked the shutter.  I appreciate the reflected glow of this celestial orb and the way it lights up the night.  And my tree created a perfect, interesting frame to look through.


So, what are you appreciating this week?  Take a look around for the little details that make a difference in your life or in the life of others.  And as I consider life’s bounty, I also realize that people are suffering, dealing with natural disasters like hurricane Harvey, illness and death, war and conflict.  Appreciation helps to keep me grounded and hopeful, and ready to reach out and help others in the ways that I can.

Share your #appreciation this week, maybe your photos will boost someone’s spirits or inspire them to take positive action.  You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #appreciation.

Take a moment to reflect on small details and appreciate how they contribute to life’s bounty for you.  Grab your camera and capture that appreciation in a photo.  I look forward to seeing appreciation through your lens this week.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciating the Ordinary

Some weeks just don’t lend themselves to extraordinary photography. Now I’m not complaining about my week–it’s been fun and busy, with lots of writing and thinking as we complete week two of our 4-week SDAWP Summer Institute.

Sunsets are not always a sure thing here on the coast–night and morning low clouds can interfere with sun sightings.  Last weekend, we decided to risk it and headed to the beach near sunset.  We were treated to some pretty orange as the sun dipped low.  If you look closely you might noticed the pelicans in the upper left corner flying through the frame.


It’s not unusual to see these flying billboards–banners attached to small planes that buzz the coastline mostly advertising alcoholic beverages.  I noticed these two different planes flying by and saw that they would cross paths right overhead.  They were not dangerously close, but I’m glad they were paying attention to each other!


We’re pretty fortunate that the beach we frequent is mostly free of garbage in spite of the heavy usage, especially in the summer.  Balloon trash is pervasive though.  This balloon looks to have been around for awhile–with most of the words worn off.  The #Litterati movement (and my friend Janis) reminds us to pick up trash where we find it and dispose of it properly.  I love the sky and the sea in this unfiltered photo, there’s something about the clouds and the sea foam of the waves that creates a texture and an echo.


The walk from the parking lot to the building where the SI takes place each day can be both ordinary and interesting.  I noticed these two small orange birds as they perched on the sign near the sidewalk where I walk. Using the app Colorsplash, I turned the photo to black and white and then allowed the bird color to remain in my hopes of highlighting them.


I was reminded of the power of nature…even just a tree in a parking lot…to affect my mood.  Rachel Carson’s quote captures the jolt of strength and sense of oasis that I experience when I look up through the leaves of the tree.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson


The practice of noticing makes an incredible difference in my life.  The photos I take capture only a fraction of what I notice, and noticing helps me appreciate the little things in the ordinariness of my life. So take a look around, how might you view the ordinary in new and more appreciative ways?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #ordinary for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What will you find when you pause to appreciate the ordinary?  I can’t wait to find out!


In Appreciation: November’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

It’s so easy to take the beauty, the generosity, and the wonder around us for granted–or let them go unnoticed and unappreciated.  Like the service that this car carrier ship provides.  I’ve never needed my car to be shipped via a car carrier, but as I visited Catalina Island (26 miles off the southern California coast), I wondered how they managed to get cars to the island (there is no car ferry).  I did learn that they depend on barges rather than car carriers–but I noticed this car carrier in the Long Beach harbor as I headed out toward Catalina. (Notice the seagull flying overhead!)


Then there is the inexplicable connection that happens when people are playing.  This couple was in full costume for the Halloween festivities in Avalon.  They were just walking along until they saw me with my camera…and then they stopped and posed, making eye contact, so I could snap a photo of them in character!


And there is so much to appreciate about the almost invisible efforts of those who take care of our public outdoor spaces.  I arrived at the beach last week to find this tractor driver hard at work scooping up sand and creating a berm to protect the beach behind it (and maybe preserve the sand too).  The added bonus was the beautiful sky and ocean in the background!


I love this unexpected birthday “treat” from one of my students to her classmates to celebrate turning 8.  Instead of cupcakes or trinkets, she gave each of her classmates a milkweed “bomb” to plant to hopefully grow into a milkweed plant–the host for the monarch butterflies we have been learning about and working to help in our classroom.  What a delightful treat!


Sometimes I have to work on my own patience and persistence, and appreciate the outcome when my fascination with this pelican resulted in the snap of my camera shutter just as it took flight!


It takes a community to make sure our water is healthy and safe.  These often unappreciated signs on our storm drains are reminders that the water that runs down our roads and into our drains ends up in the ocean.  My students have been singing a song called Storm Drain (by the Earthworms), making me even more alert to the dangers we can impose on the ocean if we are not paying attention.


And a visit to the local water treatment plant the week before made us all aware of the work that goes into the water infrastructure we often take for granted (you can read more about it here).  We learned all about how the water is cleaned and the bio wastes are trucked out to be used as fertilizer for non-food crops.


So this month, let’s spend some time being thankful and appreciative by taking photos to document our appreciation.  And to get you started thinking, here’s some prompts to consider:

  1. Nature
  2. Gifts
  3. Energy
  4. Light
  5. Texture
  6. Sound
  7. Friendship
  8. Innovation
  9. Color
  10. Effort
  11. Service
  12. Ordinary
  13. People
  14. Connection
  15. Unexpected
  16. Music
  17. Growth
  18. Water
  19. Place
  20. Travel
  21. Wonder
  22. Home
  23. Health
  24. Kindness
  25. Warmth
  26. Family
  27. Relax
  28. Persistence
  29. Empathy
  30. Love

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you pay attention to your world and think about all that you appreciate.  You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Let November be the month to document and share your appreciation through your photos!  I can’t wait to see all that you appreciate…and to share my thankfulness with you too.