Backcountry Skiing is the Best Skiing!

Well, I can say spring break was a complete success! I got 100% caught up on my grading, which feels amazing. Jonathan and I bought a washer and a dryer, which felt incredibly adult. We painted the hall three different colors (and didn’t like any of them) and I accidentally scrubbed the varnish off the wooden cabinets in the upstairs bathroom. Whoops…but they needed refinishing anyhow. As much fun as all that was (and I’m really not even being sarcastic about that!), it was definitely not even close to the best part.

On Thursday morning, Jonathan and I packed up the car and drove to Jackson, Wyoming. It’s only a four-hour drive! We hiked a bit in Grand Teton National Park, admiring the incredible mountains in the sunshine. We could also see the famous tram at Jackson Hole, and Jonathan pointed out the couloir that so many people try and fail to ski. It’s a twenty-foot drop into a chute, and it’s completely visible from the aforementioned tram! Then we stopped in town and rented me backcountry gear.

For those of you unfamiliar, like I was about a week ago, backcountry gear uses skis that are most similar to alpine skis but are designed to be lighter. It’s the boots and the bindings that are really different. The bindings lock your toe in place like an alpine binding but allow your heel to lift so you can walk more easily. The boots have divots for the pin lock on the toe and don’t have the lip that alpine boots do. The boots also have walk mode, which allows the cuff of the boot to rotate to make walking easier. You just have to remember to lock it back to ski mode before you try to ski!

The last piece of backcountry gear is the skins. They stick to the bottom of the ski with an intense glue, and the side facing the snow is sort of fuzzy. All the hairs go one direction so you can pet it one direction and it feels smooth, but the other direction feels rough. It’s a bit like shark skin if you’ve ever had the privilege of feeling that. Skins allow you to stick to the snow as you’re walking uphill.

Actually, that wasn’t the last piece of gear we borrowed. Even though the avalanche danger was super low due to the warm winter, I absolutely carried a beacon, probe, and shovel. It was worth the twenty bucks to rent it, carry it, and not need it.

Jonathan rented us a tiny house to stay in while we were there! It was called Fireside Resort, and it was amazing!

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On Friday, it was time for the grand adventure. We drove partway up Teton Pass and skied from Phillips Ridge Trailhead. I definitely had some moments of flailing as I tried to figure out how to use my new gear…

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And I had some moments where I felt like I was getting better at what I was doing!

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Unfortunately, this picture is taken at the moment when we took the left fork before the left fork happened. We followed some snowmobile tracks up this hill and then realized there were no more tracks!

As we curved around the side of the ridge, we found the trail near the bottom of the valley below us. We decided not to lose all our hard-won elevation by skiing back down, so we traversed across the hill through some lovely open spots and past big pines.

Well, the open spots were lovely until they made our skins all warm and wet and the colder drier snow next to the trees started sticking to the skins. This is called glomping, my friends, and it is terrible. Absolutely terrible. It can be six inches of snow along the entire ski, and it’s heavy and sticky and awful!

We crested the ridge and took the skins off our skis for a while to let them dry out and to eat a snack. We hadn’t made it very far, but we’d been working pretty hard!

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We decided at this point that it would be worth it to drop back down to the trail, despite the fact that we knew we’d have to climb the ridge again. So we put our skins in our backpacks and skied down! It was only ten turns or so, and the snow was baked and crusty, and I laughed the whole way down in delight!

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This is me at the bottom. I’m clearly not excited at all.

We made much better progress once we were back on the trail, and we did eventually make it to our destination of Ski Lake. There were some snowmobilers buzzing around the basin, so we skied back a little way to a knoll overlooking the whole Teton valley.

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Then Jonathan gave me this. And I said yes. Approximately fifty-three times.

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I could write a lot of words here, and they would all feel trite. I am deliriously, outrageously happy. I’m just going to leave it at that.

We skied back out; it is a glorious feeling to have earned your turns! We dropped off the trail back down to the highway and skied through the trees. The snow was still crusty and baked and it was still amazing.

And what better way to celebrate than with chicken tacos and a warm fire?

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There are a million questions I don’t have an answer to right now about such things like, you know, weddings. And that’s ok for right now. I have a school year to finish out and a job to find and a move to make. And I’m still kind of in awe and disbelief that something so magical could happen in real life, to be totally honest.

Your homework (yes, you get homework, my students in class today did too, even after they pulled the “but you’re engaged and really happy and won’t really make us do homework, right?” card): What’s something you’ve always longed to do but haven’t been brave enough to do? I’ve watched people ski off Berthoud Pass here in Colorado my whole life, and I’d never been backcountry before.

Also, this seems like a good time to tell you to go find someone awesome and tell them you love them. Share the happiness!

Hej då,

Jamie

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Spring Break!

Weeeeeeeee did it!

I can say with certainty that my students and I were very, very ready to not be in school for a little bit. I know I was flagging! My piles of grading stared at me, I stared at them, and not a lot got graded. Take that idea and apply it to the rest of everything school-related, and that’s about how it was going. To quote the lovely Anne Shirley of Green Gables (and yes, I’m rereading them all again this spring!):

Studies palled just a wee bit then; [the students] looked wistfully out of the windows and discovered that Latin verbs and French exercises had somehow lost the tang and zest they had possessed in the crisp winter months. Even Anne and Gilbert lagged and grew indifferent. Teacher and taught were alike glad when the term was ended and the glad vacation days stretched rosily before them.

And now I’m on spring break! It’s not quite the end of the term yet, so I gave every student a very serious injunction to SLEEP over break, and to do something fun. We won’t have another day when we get back – we go straight through all the way to graduation. I wanted my students to come back refreshed and ready for the last six weeks of content.

And as for me? I’ll be refreshed too. I’m spending my break in Utah with Jonathan, going back and forth between playing, catching up on aforementioned stacks of grading, and acting like an adult.

I’ll start with the adult bit; Jonathan and I have a HOUSE. In the four days I’ve been here we’ve made two trips to Lowe’s and one to Home Depot and we’ll go back again tomorrow I’m sure. We’ve been spackling walls and painting and scrubbing and replacing handles and putting up blinds. I really like painting! And I’m good at scrubbing, which is incredibly satisfying. Of course, we’ve done a tiny fraction of the things that could be done or the things I want to do, but I really am finding myself to be very excited to work on all these projects.

I’ve also been playing a lot too. I’ve been skiing at Snowbasin, the site of the Olympic downhills in 2002. Both times it was snowing, which made it feel a little more like winter. The slush at the bottom, however, paired with all the green grass, made it feel a whole lot more like spring. Either way, it was lots of fun to explore a new hill, whether I was skiing by feel through fog or sailing through heavy crusty powder behind a gate or tooling around on the groomers.

And on Saturday, Jonathan surprised me by taking me to Salt Lake for dinner and a show. He took me to see Audra McDonald, backed by the Utah Symphony, sing her way through the history of American musical theater. It was so much fun! Audra played the wardrobe in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, as well as having played in multiple shows on Broadway. It was really different than anything we normally do, but it was great fun.

So now it’s Monday, and I am finally tackling the grading from…pretty much the entire month of March. Sorry to all my lovely wonderful students – I know feedback is better immediately! I’m excited to say that I’m finally out from underneath several major projects. My licensure application for my Utah teaching license is in the mail and my job applications are nearly finished (for the moment, of course). I successfully TD’d all of my three races, and once this stack of grading is taken care of I’ll be on the path to just finish teaching the year strong. I have to say, it’s a really exciting prospect.

In a little bit. There’s still a lot of spring break left to enjoy!

Your homework: How do you refresh?

Hej då,

Jamie

NABT!

Last week, on Wednesday, I sadly explained to my students that I was going to be missing Thursday and, for the second week in a row, Friday. I had missed November 3rd to go to Chicago for the fall Knowles meeting. Needless to say, my students were not pleased. Finally one asked, “where are you going this time?”

“It’s the National Association of Biology Teachers annual conference!” I exclaimed. “It’s 700-800 biology teachers from all across the nation, getting together to talk about biology and teaching and teaching biology…it’s pretty much the best nerd-fest on the planet!”

Depending on the student, this was met with varying levels of groans, eye rolls, laughter, and a little genuine excitement. My tiny class of fifteen demanded to know why we weren’t going on a field trip! “Well, bring us back something good,” one finally called. And indeed, I think I did.

It’s hard to describe exactly how meaningful NABT is to biology educators. It’s like going to an intensive class, going home to see family, and having a sleepover with your friends, all at the same time. Even though I sleep far less at the conference than I would like, I come home reinvigorated and ready to start again in my profession.

This is the third time I’ve been to NABT, and it was a particularly special trip for me because my mom and I co-presented one of the sessions! I was completely honored to be chosen to present, and it was so much fun to present with Mom. Everyone tells us we sound the same, and it was very easy to bounce back and forth as we presented. We presented about a project we worked on together last spring called STeLLA, or science teachers learning through lesson analysis. (Because everything in education must have an acronym…)

STeLLA is a project that focuses on using video analysis to help teachers analyze their practice through two frameworks. The first framework is about having a content story line through the lesson and throughout the year, and the second framework is about making student thinking visible so the teacher knows where the students are in their understanding. I was filmed twice last spring as a model teacher, using three of the strategies about making student thinking visible. The three strategies I focused on were questioning strategies. Elicit questions are designed to bring lots of student thinking out onto the floor, probe questions are designed to deepen student thinking or make it more specific, and challenge questions are designed to change student thinking or help them make connections to other ideas.

Our presentation at NABT focused on these three questioning strategies and their impact on me as an early-career teacher. We were shocked and honored by the number of people who came – forty-eight! – and the positive responses we got. Could we have done some things better? Absolutely. But overall, I’ll call that experience a success!

I also attended some amazing sessions. The University of Utah puts out incredible education materials, and I spent all day on Friday stalking their sessions. I learned a new way to connect the story about genetics – to go from biochemistry to DNA to molecular genetics to Mendelian genetics to natural selection – and experienced some really cool new apps about the neuroscience of senses! They’re still somewhat in development, and mostly are only available on iPads right now, but they’re called “See Neuroscience,” “Touch Neuroscience,” “Smell Neuroscience,” “Taste Neuroscience,” and “Hear Neuroscience.”

A highlight of every NABT is HHMI’s movie night. HHMI is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and their collection of resources at BioInteractive is one of my favorite sources of good science stories ever. I’ve presented for BioInteractive before and I will again this Friday at the Colorado Science Conference. At movie night, they preview their newest short film (sometimes several of them) and invite the scientists to talk about their work. This year we watched two videos with Ed Yong based on his book I Contain Multitudes, and the new release of a video called Gene Doctor. This movie tells the story of how gene therapy research, over the course of thirty or so years, was successful in treating a congenital blindness.

But NABT isn’t all about nerd-vana. The last night, many of us went on a field trip (yes, we actually call it a field trip) to the City Museum in St. Louis. If you ever get the chance to go, DO IT. I seriously cannot recommend this place highly enough! It’s an old shoe factory building that’s eleven stories high. Everything is built of reclaimed or recycled materials, and it’s basically the biggest adult playground I’ve ever seen! You can climb on everything, sometimes many stories in the air. There’s a Ferris wheel on the roof, two ten-story slides, and so many nooks and crannies that after four hours, I still feel like we saw a fraction of the place. Beyond that, everything is incredibly beautiful and detailed. It many ways, it reminded me of the style of Gaudí, the Spanish architect who designed La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, among other things.

And most importantly, going to NABT is about seeing the friends and the people who support me in this crazy profession. It’s about being surrounded by people who care as much as I do, who are as unabashedly nerdy as I am, and who are the people who are changing biology education for the better. NABT erases the feeling of being powerless in a system that fails kids and reminds me that the work we do every day matters.

Your homework: What rejuvenates you? What community do you turn to to support you?

Hej då,

Jamie

 

The Joy of Airports

Well everyone, before I go into my joy in airports (which is not sarcastic at all, actually), I have something to tell you. Facebook gave me one of those “one year ago today you posted” things this morning, and turns out that exactly a year ago was my very first blog post.

Given that I generally write somewhere just under a thousand words each time I write to you, and that there’s fifty-two weeks in a year, I’ve officially written you all an actual novel! Turns out that when you do something regularly, it adds up. (Remember also, though, that I didn’t do any of the revising or editing that would normally go with a novel…but the word count is pretty cool!)

So before I say anything else, thank you. Thanks for reading along, for bugging me when I’m late to post, for challenging my thinking, for sharing your stories. This blog has brought me more joy and connections with people than it is possible to explain. I have learned so much from writing and from talking with you all. I’m glad you joined me on my journey, and here’s to another fifty-two blog posts!

And now for the airports. A lot of people in airports are stressed and late and annoyed with security and the weather and jet lagged and in general, not very joyful. I’ve definitely gotten stressed in airports before, and so have the people I’ve traveled with. It’s hard not to when you’re afraid you aren’t going to get home and the person behind the desk isn’t being very helpful.

One of my favorite airport stress stories goes something like this. I was fifteen and coming home from spring break in Hawaii with my family. Mom and Dad and Jeff and I were taking the 10pm flight home, to land on Sunday morning, in order to go back to school on Monday. We’d been staying in Hana, a little town on Maui with no connectivity. We had no cell service and no internet (and it was AWESOME). When we arrived at the airport at 7:30, the self-service check in machine told us we were too late to check our bags. Confused, we proceeded to the desk.

Turns out the airline had bumped us to the 7:45 flight for some unknown reason that had to do with the fact that we were all flying on frequent flier miles. They’d sent us an email (which Dad never got) and expected us to be on time. Needless to say, this did not go over well with Dad, who flew so often he was some silver or gold or platinum status. The more the guy behind the desk was obtuse, the more annoyed Dad got.

This was definitely a little stressful, especially for Mom who had to teach on Monday. But Jeff and I found a reason to laugh throughout the whole episode. The more Dad got annoyed, the more he leaned forward. He had his foot on the scale for weighing bags, and the longer the conversation went on, the higher the weight got. Jeff and I stood behind Mom and bet each other what the max weight would be, giggling the whole time.

In the end, we got back on our flight and made it home just fine. And rather than remembering the stress of the moment, I remember laughing with my brother.

Mom and I have bolted through Dulles to catch a trans-Atlantic. The whole family’s spent seven hours reading in DIA because of a delayed flight. I’ve missed connections and gotten put in a hotel overnight and slept on benches because of bad layovers. My bag’s been lost (and then found!). If you fly a lot, these things inevitably happen. And you know what? I don’t mind.

Getting on a plane and feeling it lift into the air means I’m going on an adventure! I’m going to go find a friend or a new place and have an experience I’m going to remember. In part, I think I learned this because my family was fortunate to get to go on lots of adventures when I was little. I don’t associate flying with work or boring meetings or anything like that.

The other thing I love about planes is that it’s disconnected. I was really quite annoyed when on-board WiFi became a possibility, actually. I read actual books on planes. I write on actual paper instead of typing. I love the chance to get off a screen for a while and take a break from the rest of the world.

But sitting in the airport is its own fun game. My favorite thing to do is to watch the people around me and guess where they’re from and where they’re going. Especially if they’re sitting near me, I can make up whole life stories for them. Sometimes it’s obvious – this last weekend I few to Chicago with a high school boy’s hockey team, all with their team jerseys on. Sometimes it’s not at all. But it’s a good way to exercise my imagination.

And when things go wrong? I learned a long time ago that I can’t make the transportation move any faster. I actually figured this out on chairlifts. When you’re late for your start at a ski race, the chair’s going to go the same speed no matter how much I bounce around. I deal with the things I can control – I strip my pants and check my ponytail and tuck my pass inside my speed suit and buckle my boots – and then I sit tight and wait. When I get stuck at an airport, I let the people on the other end know and I buy a book. (Actually, I should buy books more often so I don’t hope for flights to be delayed!) I’ll get on a flight eventually, or I won’t.

Your homework: What’s one way to enjoy something that could be stressful? Where’s your favorite place to exercise your imagination?

Hej då,

Jamie

Trying the Thing I Can’t Do

Hello everyone! I’ll start by apologizing for my absence last week. We’ll just call it my by-week for the year and move on. School got me a little busy at the beginning of the year!

This is the first week of September and everyone I know is out saying goodbye to summer. I’m writing to you this week from Wyoming, where I’ve been camping and biking and scrambling up lots of rocks. I’m camping in a place called Happy Jack, which is just east of Laramie. At the moment I’m sitting next to a reservoir contemplating the first streaks on my shins, courtesy of a very technical bike ride I went on this afternoon.

Jonathan, who went to school at the University  of Wyoming, spent many weekends up here and delighted in showing me all his favorite spots. The trails here are dry and a little sandy, and there are lots of sandstone obstacles. Normally the trails I ride in Steamboat are smooth and flowy and altogether very different than this!

At first I was nervous about getting up and over some of these rocks, or dropping off them. But I have a tendency to follow the person in front of me off of things that I wouldn’t normally ride by myself, and I found myself riding over all sorts of things that were initially scary but actually totally within my skill range. Jonathan is a much better rider than I am, and he’s also very good at letting me know when he thinks I might want to look at before I ride them. I learned a lot about what my bike was capable today, and I only fell over once!

Off of the trail we were riding were several “play areas” which were quite a bit more technical than the trail. They were short loops that linked back into the trail, so riders could choose to try them or not. Jonathan and I rode the first and second play area, and it was really fun! There were lots of things I couldn’t ride, but there were lots of things I thought I couldn’t ride that I did, and I learned from watching the other riders in the area. As my mom says, there is no hill so steep I cannot push my bike up  (or down) it.

The thing I loved about this was that I was in a no-pressure situation. I was riding with someone I trust a lot, and we had no schedule. Our only goal was to have a good time (and to limit any blood loss). This allowed me to try new things that I otherwise would have been afraid of trying. I also very much enjoyed the fact that the obstacles on the trail were far enough apart that I still felt like I could ride my bike successfully.

There are lots of potential applications of all of this to other parts of my life, particularly my classroom. But for this weekend, I promised myself Saturday and Sunday would be school-free days. It’s part of the balance I’m working on.

Your homework this week is to create a situation where you feel safe trying something you don’t think you can do.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Hej då,
Jamie

Two Very Different Adventures

I think all the traveling I did this summer finally got to my brain, and I completely forgot to write or post yesterday. Sorry dear readers! I’ll try to make it up to you with some really awesome photos.

Today is one of those interesting fifth Sundays (this happens way more frequently than I thought it would…or perhaps this year is just particularly odd…). But rather than exploring a combination of the parts of me or philosophizing, I’m just going to straight up tell you an adventure story. Two adventure stories, in fact! Next week I’ll get a little more philosophical about adventuring and being stubborn, and when that’s potentially good or potentially bad.

In the last couple of blogs I’ve made quick references to my two biggest trips in July: the eight days I spent in and around Yosemite National Park and the Knowles Summer Meeting, which happened in Philadelphia. Today is the day I finally tell you about them!

Adventure Part 1: Learning, Hiking, and More Learning in Yosemite National Park

This year I was honored to participate in the California Institute for Biodiversity’s Sierra Institute and Yosemite Field Institute. The two programs were run back-to-back, meaning that participants could choose to do one or the other, or to go all out and do both (which is what I did). Seriously, teacher friends; this is one PD not to miss. The dates for next summer will likely go up on this website, so sometime in mid-winter check in and see if you can make it!

The Sierra Institute took place at the Jack L. Boyd outdoor school just south of the actual park. It felt a lot like summer camp – sleeping in bunk beds in large cabins and eating in a dining hall. We spent most of our time learning how to synthesize several teaching structures together into a coherent classroom plan called an activity guide. As it was defined for this training, an activity guide is a framework for around two weeks’ worth of lessons. It begins with a phenomenon and allows students to question and engage in the processes of science. In creating an activity guide, we pulled together the NGSS framework, the 5E lesson model from BSCS, HHMI BioInteractive resources, growth mindset, the Understanding Global Change Framework (website in progress at the moment, but if you Google Jessica Bean you can get an idea of it, and the other resources put out by Berkeley), naturalism and teaching nature journaling, and probably several other things I’m forgetting at the moment. It was a lot of brainpower to try to weave all those things together, but it was an incredible mental exercise and I cannot wait to try out the activity guide my group wrote!

The second institute took place entirely within the park; we camped at Crane Flats campground and hiked all around the valley. With us (for both institutes, actually) was a freelance naturalist named David Lukas. I’m not an Instagram person, but I’ve been told he posts absolutely beautiful photos along with very short stories of the natural world. His knowledge was incredible, and he could tell stories as we hiked about anything from fungi in the soil to the natural history of the fish in the lakes to the geology of the glaciers that helped form the valley.

The most iconic hike we did was the Mist Trail. All of the trails we were on were incredibly crafted, but the Mist Trail takes the cake. It’s chiseled into a rock face next to Vernal Falls – you absolutely get soaked by the mist! You can also see a lot of cool geology on the back of Half Dome and Liberty Dome.

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We continued to hike above Vernal Falls to connect to the John Muir trail, so this is looking back down at the falls. You can’t see the trail from this angle because it’s back behind the rock on the far right of the photo.

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This is Nevada Falls, slightly upriver from Vernal Falls, and Liberty Dome. The water was incredibly high this year because of the massive amount of snow California received this winter. Mammoth Ski Area is closing TOMORROW!

Yosemite is one of those parks where you hear about the crazy crowds, the traffic, the impossibility of getting a campsite or a parking spot. Yep. All true. But this is also one of those places where the crowds exist because it really is that special. Someday I’m going to drag my whole family out there to experience it!

Adventure Part 2: Walking miles and miles in New York City

I was home in Boulder for a whole five days before I set off on my next adventure, which was a little bit different than the first.

Most of my adventures involve lots of time outside walking. But usually I’m doing that in the mountains, traversing meadows and winding through forests. Not this particular adventure. I had never been to New York City before, so I took advantage of the Knowles Summer Meeting being in Philadelphia to go out a little early and stay with Rebecca, a teacher from the fellowship who grew up there! She lives in the north part of the Bronx, teaches in South Bronx, and went to high school in Manhattan. We had a blast riding the Staten Island Ferry, seeing the Lincoln center lit up at night, visiting her favorite Hungarian pastry shop, wandering through Central Park, and just generally exploring. We went to see the 9/11 museum and memorial, which is incredibly well-done and very much worth a visit. I ate bagels and pizza and cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (I had no idea this was famous until I got there).

But the crowning experience of the whole thing involved entering a dozen lotteries, running around from building to building around Times Square, and finally gambling on standing room tickets, which were 100% worth it.

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Oh yes. That happened. I got to see my very first Broadway show. And it was beyond belief!!!!

I could go on and on about this experience. It was Rebecca’s sixth time seeing it, and she spent most of the time watching my reactions and laughing at me. I’ve seen the movie a million times if I’ve seen it once, so I wasn’t ever really surprised, per say. But the movie in no way compares to seeing the show. When they turn the lights on in the chandelier and the organ strikes that first chord in D minor…chills.

I think the the thing that sets Broadway apart (aside from the fantastic amounts of talent on stage and in the orchestra pit) is the sets. I was extremely fortunate to see If/Then in Denver with six of the eight Broadway leads, including Idina Menzel! But the Denver Center for Performing Arts has one main theater, and shows typically don’t run that awfully long. I’m always impressed by how they do build the sets there – they have to be able to change them so quickly between shows. But Broadway spans a ton of theaters (which I didn’t realize until I got there) and each theater is dedicated to one show. They can build so much more, and it truly makes the show that much more magical.

I also got to see Miss Saigon, which is a heartbreaking love story set during the Vietnam War. It was a very different, but still totally amazing, experience – I know the music from Phantom by heart but Miss Saigon was a completely new show to me.

As Rebecca and I drove back towards Philadelphia for our meeting, she asked me to sum up my New York City experience. I told her everything is bigger, brighter, completely overdone, and it’s a great adventure. I can’t wait to go back to visit again; I’m also very glad I don’t actually live there!

My summer is coming to a close, so my travels will also be more limited, at least until next summer. But I think I did a pretty good job seeking wonderful adventures. Thanks to everyone who hosted me, hiked with me, and put up with me talking way too fast while showing you pictures!

Your homework: What’s your favorite part about going somewhere new? Do you seek adventures that are “in your wheelhouse” or do you go for something completely different?

Hej då,

Jamie

Knitting at the Campfire

Hello everyone, and sorry for the late posting this week! I’ve just returned home from a sixteen-day multi-part adventure in which connectivity services were somewhat limited. Let me catch you up on some of the craziness.

On June 30th, my dad picked me up and drove me to Steamboat. I spent two days enjoying being lazy and hanging out on the porch, and then my brother gave me a very special birthday present. He took me backpacking in the Zirkel Wilderness Area north of Steamboat for two nights! This is especially nice of him because he carries all the heavy stuff for me. We hiked five miles in to Gilpin Lake and spent the first night there. We didn’t anticipate how much snow was left, that’s for sure! Our original plan was to continue past Gilpin to Gold Creek Lake and complete an 11.5 mile loop, but we decided climbing the snowfield between the Gilpin and the nearly 11,000 feet high ridge line with packs did not sound like a ton of fun. Instead we stayed both nights at Gilpin. Jeff even packed in a cupcake for me!

We packed out on July fourth, and returned home for some frantic showering, unpacking, and repacking. I was trading my backpacking set up for car camping stuff, which required just enough overlap and just enough difference to be really confusing! After dinner Jeff drove me down to his house and I slept on his floor before heading to the airport early on the morning of the fifth. I spent the next eight days in California, learning about the natural history, biology, and geology of Yosemite National Park. I also learned how to tie together citizen science, NGSS standards, growth mindset, outdoor lessons, and the 5E lesson planning model in fascinating new ways.

This was A LOT of adventuring, and also a lot of being really nerdy. Only at a teacher training will you find twenty-two adults laying on their bellies on a chunk of granite, exclaiming about the striations in the rock and other evidence of glaciation! It was tons of fun and I went through lots of sunscreen and pages in my notebook.

But the gist of my birthday goals was about balance. Where was my hobbit self?

Despite the overwhelming emphasis on adventurer and nerd these last two weeks, I made sure to tuck a ball of pink and purple and grey yarn into my duffle bag (right between my tent and my camp chair…). And in the evenings when people were roasting marshmallows for s’mores and getting out ukuleles, I pulled out my knitting.

I was impressed by the amount of conversation it generated, actually. Everyone wanted to know what I was making, which I expected. But the conversation didn’t end there. By sharing my own project, people wanted to tell me about their experiences with crochet or cross-stitch, or their favorite something that someone special had knitted for them. Lost of people agreed that it seemed meditative, and thought it was a cool thing to do for someone.

There were a lot of things I appreciated about knitting in this situation. It opened up conversation, which reflected to me that people were totally cool with my knitting. Often I get insecure about the hobbit parts of myself – what hard core adventurer knits? But no one else seemed to think it was weird at all. I also liked how it allowed me to be doing something with my hands and still participate in the conversation around me. It was a nice balance between having something I like to do and being social.

What exactly was I knitting? A baby blanket for a little girl named Macy. Her mom is one of my colleagues at Longmont High School, so this project has been in the back of my head for a while now. It’s a really simple pattern – I cast on 150 stitches on my size 9 circular needles. I knit garter stitch for the first ten rows, and then for the majority of the blanket I knit garter for the ten stitches on either end and stockinette stitch in the middle. I’ll finish this one with ten rows of garter. I like the garter stitch border because it prevents the stockinette from curling up so much! And I like simple patterns like this when I’m using a variegated yarn.

The blanket definitely smells like campfire smoke now, nor is it anywhere close to done. But I think I learned something valuable by sneaking in a couple of rows here and there; these things are more compatible than I could have expected. I don’t necessarily need big chunks of time to be an adventurer or a hobbit or a nerd. I can sprinkle them throughout.

This next week will be the longest stretch of time I’ll be in Boulder since graduation (five whole days!) so I hope to indulge my hobbit a little bit more. I’m enjoying the quiet of my house and the time to get some of those nagging adult things done (renewing my passport, for example). And then I’m off on a whole different adventure – I’m visiting some friends in New York City and Philadelphia before going to the Knowles summer meeting.

Your homework: When was the last time you mixed two seemingly contradictory things? If it’s been a while, try it out! What happens?

Hej då,

Jamie