This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land…

Disclaimer. I love my planet. I am a tree-hugging, pollinator-loving, native plant-growing woman.  But, sometimes, I forget to tell my waiter to hold the plastic straw, and I have been known to forget my reusable bag in my car at the grocery store. I am not perfect, but I try.

I am also someone who wants to try and do better for our Earth. I have been increasingly discouraged about what we humans have been putting our planet through.  It seems like Mother Earth is getting tired of all of our pestering too–increasing temperatures, extinctions of species at an alarming rate, landscapes changed in the name of “progress.”  What can one person do?

It turns out, one person can do quite a bit. I am continuing my education through Project Dragonfly housed at Miami University.  There is a program called the Global Field Program where students travel to conservation hotspots throughout the world to learn how to support conservation efforts. This past summer, I embarked on my first Earth Expedition to Baja California, Mexico. Baja California is unique with the desert ecosystem on the peninsula and a vibrant marine environment in the seas. I began to learn first hand how others were able to grow environmental stewardship one person at a time. It is now my turn to take the fight for a healthier planet to  both my local and global communities.

My biggest take-away this summer was how the power of one, multiplied by many can make a difference.  It was easy to see how stewardship has played a role in Bahia de los Angeles. Overfishing by local fisherman has shifted to ecotourism by these same men. The bay is gorgeous and charismatic megafauna abound in the sea. One by one, more people within the community are policing themselves while taking tourists out to swim with whale sharks or watching dolphins soar past.

But what about other locales? While in the heart of the Vizcaino Desert at Rancho San Gregorio, I still noticed how important the land was to the community. While the bay was all movement and colors, the ranch was subtle and serene… but no less beautiful. It was humbling to learn how the plants played such a significant role in supporting the family’s livelihood. Whether it be for food, shelter or medicinal purposes, the flora of the area were vital members of the community.

Recently, this area has been designated as the Valle de los Cirios Biological Reserve. This ecological distinction happened because one man had a dream. Then, it was soon discovered, a second man did too. Slowly, their dreams inspired the protection and education of the area for years to come.  

Bramston, Pretty, and Zammit (2010) put into words what I noticed helped to motivate others to protect their local ecosystems in Baja California.   First, there was a sense of belonging to the area they were trying to protect. Second, there was education within the community to increase their personal learning about why it would be beneficial to protect certain aspects of the environment.  Finally, this developed a need to be a caretaker of the environment.


My journey into Baja California showed me how a community can embrace environmental stewardship. I am now home in Saint Peters, Missouri where we have a thriving Conservation Department and a variety of environmentally conscious groups. Not only have I joined my voice with theirs, I want to encourage others to come join me. Our planet won’t heal simply because we wish it could happen and talk about it. The time for action is here.



My current favorite quote says,

“One person can only do so much!”


Do not be discouraged.

Join me in helping our home to heal.



Take Action in Saint Louis, Missouri!

Global Field Program

Advanced Inquiry Program through the Missouri Botanical Gardens

Missouri Master Naturalists

Missouri Prairie Foundation

Missourians for Monarchs


Bramston, P., Pretty, G., & Zammit, C. (2010). Assessing Environmental Stewardship

          Motivation. Environment and Behavior,43(6), 776-788. doi:10.1177/001391651038287

Exploring the New Google Earth

If you haven’t heard by now, Google has launched a new Google Earth that is Browser-based. You can access it using Chrome and it is a lot more user friendly.  I wanted to share a quick lesson idea on how to get your students familiar with some of the new features.

Step 1: Explore Google Earth

As with any new tool, one of the best things to do is give students 5-10 minutes just to click buttons and see what features they find.  When you feel the time is right, have the class come together and ask students to share a cool feature or tip on navigating the site.

Step 2: Student Modeling of Tools.

Some things I tried to make sure were mentioned include each of the icons on the main screen.

  • Fly to My Location.
  • Peg Man-How to drop him onto Street View
  • Toggle Between 3D and 2D so students can see the difference.
  • We look at what happens when they click the compass.
  • I have the students practice clicking the shift + right click to alter the angle of the view. That will take some practice with middle schoolers.

Step Three: Going on a Voyage

One of the most intriguing new features in Google Earth is the Voyager Icon. There are “stories” centered around four themes: Travel, Nature, Culture and History.  For this lesson, I asked students to focus on one particular story: Reading the ABC’s From Space. This gave students the opportunity to learn how to Navigate a Voyager Story as well as see some cool geologic features found throughout the world.

Step Four: What’s In a Name

Finally, I wanted students to have a final product that allowed them to continue exploring the tools and features of the new Google Earth.  Students were tasked with creating their name. Each letter had to come from a place that was important to them in some way.

I gave the example of my last name SALLEE.  The “S” was created by a bend in the Missouri River where I grew up.  The “A” is from the Eiffel Tower–a place I hope to visit some day.  The first “L” was found in Yellowstone National Park, where I get to visit this summer.

Students made screenshots of the “letters” they found and then used a Google Slide to piece their names together.  The lesson rolled into a Sponge Activity students could work on when other assignments were completed early.

The activity helped get my students familiar with Google Earth. All students were comfortable navigating around the site.  I look forward to using this activity again in the fall. I would love to hear how you have introduced Google Earth!

Link to Several Google Earth Name Examples









Making Memories with Maps

I have a confession.  I love maps.  New ones, old ones, paper ones and those on my phone! I love to see how different types of maps can elicit different stories and emotions.

Today, I want to tell a tale about a map you can walk, crawl.. and even lay upon.

Heizer students exploring New Mexico’s Giant Map.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to develop lessons for a Giant State Traveling Map.  The maps were a gift from The National Geographic Society to each of the Geographic Alliances in every state.  They are a whopping 16 feet by 20 feet! Each state had someone create state-specific lessons to help students understand things such as the key features and locations found on a map. One thing that makes these Giant Maps so amazing is students can physically manipulate their bodies to orient themselves spatially.

I want to point out that not only is the map an educational tool, it can also evoke emotions that I honestly don’t believe a map hanging on the wall could do.

Recently, I took the New Mexico Giant State Map to the Western Heritage Museum during a Dinosaur Fossil Family Day event. People of all ages were there to explore a Visiting Collection of Dinosaur Fossils from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. I created an activity where we placed cones around the map showing where the dinosaur fossils had been found.

Terri Sallee (me!) placing placards on the New Mexico Map.


The location of most fossils in the exhibit were found in the northwest corner of the state.

Maggie Johnson talking to a young girl about Hobbs, NM.









Kids as young as 3 were able to make inferences as to where scientists would probably go to dig up more fossils. We also discussed why certain areas probably held a greater variety of fossils.

The most powerful moment of the day did not come from any lesson or activity that was scripted. It came when a middle-aged woman came and walked up to the map with her mother and they slowly walked around the edge of it.  They returned here:

The Navajo Nation Reservation


The ladies quietly walked around the Navajo Nation Reservation. Next, they began telling me their story. When the family was young, her dad had worked construction as highways and passes were built through the mountains. The family had moved often as the job took her father where ever the highways go.  She had many fond memories of her time on the Reservation.

Time passed, and the two ladies left and I continued on helping the younger students locate the fossil dig sites. About 30 minutes later, I looked up and the two ladies had returned, with several more middle-aged siblings. They all stood in a half-circle around the Reservation, linking arms and swaying… Next, they all broke out in a song that they remembered from their time with the Navajo.

The entire room was silent except for this family.  This map… This family… This opportunity to relive a memory.

I am proud to be able to use the Giant Map to touch not only the future but to reconnect others to their past.

If you are an educator, please know that every state has a Giant State Map housed with your State Alliance. I encourage you to find ways to use it in your schools and communities.


It’s For the Birds!

I have a confession.

We were on a lovely hike (when were we NOT on a lovely hike!) in a boreal forest at the end of Tysfjorden.  A gentleman became really excited and exclaimed, “There’s a dipper in the stream!”

A hike along a stream near Tysfjorden led to this lesson.

A hike along a stream near Tysfjorden led to some amazing learning.

I laughed. The only dippers I know wear no clothes… as in skinny dippers.

He frowned. He apparently knows a lot more about dippers.

Turns out, the dipper in question is the national bird of Norway.  And the dipper was, in fact, dipping in and out of the stream up in front of me. The brownish blob you see in this picture below quickly became a source of amazement as I watched it go under water for extended periods of time searching for food. Up and down… up and down…


A dipper is seen perched on a rock in the upper right corner of this photo taken at a stream running into Tysfjorden.


No, not oops. Oh no! I was embarrassed! How did I not know what a dipper was? I had zero background knowledge about birding and it showed. But then, I started thinking about my students. This must be what they feel like when I introduce an unfamiliar topic in class. Clueless.


I could develop a lesson that would introduce them to the world of birding. Who knows, perhaps this could be a start of a life-long hobby for some!?!  At the very least, students would be learning an important concept for my life-science-based course—how are living things classified? This is a standard I address every year.

I generally start the year asking how students know if something is alive. We have a lot of discussion and research to finally land on several characteristics. Students then research their living thing (organism name drawn from a hat) and diagram how it moves, respires, reproduces, etc…


2014-15 Examples of Characteristics of Living Things.

2014-15 Examples of Characteristics of Living Things.

What students don’t know is, this school year, I’ve made sure their organisms will fit into a variety of food webs across all  biomes by the end of the year. We’ll also tag where they could be found on our World Map. Right now in the learning process, all students will know is I want student experts on all kinds of living things… since that is what we study throughout the year.

Students will therefore have some knowledge about why organisms are considered alive and a few will be “experts” on a variety of birds per class. We’ll build on this background as we classify birds as belonging to the kingdom, Animalia (Animals), Phylum Chordata (Animals with a Backbone), and the Class for birds is Aves.

But how do we decide what bird is what?

We’ll start the lesson with a bit of engagement. Here is a video my colleague, Leslie Wiles, took while we were touring Bear Island.

Know what I saw the first time?  Birds. Lots of Birds. Lots of Black and white birds!

What did you see? I will share this video a couple of times to get input about the behavior of a variety of birds.

Next, I’ll show this clip, also shot by Leslie Wiles of… you guessed it… more black and white birds!

I hope students notice this trend of black and white coloration as we will use this as a discussion point later when discussing adaptations and camouflage.

For now, I want students to understand that birds can at first appear very similar but there may be differences based on where they live and what they want to eat.

Below is a set of images that I have gathered from friends on the expedition as well as through Creative Commons Licensed images on Flickr. If anyone reading this has better or other images of Norway’s birds that they would like to share for this lesson, I would be delighted!

My plan is to actually print out sets of birds (4 x 6 Prints) and give a set of 4 birds per group. That way, I can differentiate my instruction. If I know one set of students has struggling learners, I can make sure they have a couple of easily identifiable birds. Other groups with gifted learners may have a more challenging set to identify.

I’ll first put up one picture.

Arctic Ptarmigan found at the Polar Museum in Tromsø.

Arctic Ptarmigan found at the Polar Museum in Tromsø.

As a class, we will look at specific characteristics… Its beak, its coloring, its size, to make a guess as to what bird we might be seeing.  That way, all students have experience with using the field guide and success in identifying a bird of Norway. I believe this Arctic Ptarmigan will do nicely.

Next, students will be given a set time to use the Field Guides to see if they can identify their birds. We’ll hold a class discussion and see if we can group birds that appear similar (such as the song birds vs the gulls).

Students will be given “homework” for the week to find and take photos of other living things we can find around Hobbs, New Mexico. This will springboard into extending this learning as we discuss other ways living things are classified and introduce other Field Guides and Dichotomous Keys for us to practice identifying the plants, animals, and fungi around our home.

We’ll be doing this activity in September of 2015. I would love to have other classrooms do a similar activity where we can learn with each other.  Anyone?

Let the Journey Begin!

As many of you know, I was recently aboard the National Geographic Explorer learning about Norway’s fjords and  the Arctic Svalbard. It was an amazing adventure that I just wanted to grab and hold on to forever!

Tromsø, Norway

Like, seriously… How do you take an experience like this and keep it with you? How do you connect it with your everyday life? How do you make the memories into something memorable?

You see, I was selected to go on this expedition as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow in the hopes that I would develop activities to take back into the classroom. Initially, I updated my blog chronicling my daily activities.  However, the internet was sketchy, and I honestly wanted to spend more time being in the moment! And so, after Day 3, I stopped updating.  (Can you blame me?)


I had the best kayaking partners! Here, Gary and I were paddling around Nordfjord…which is a branch off the north side of the larger Melfjord. We discovered sea stars and sea urchins! I also climbed up the boulders earlier in the day! #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Instead, I switched to an old school journal.  I honestly think my students will enjoy reading it and checking out my illustrations… as it is similar to the science notebooking they will be doing over the course of the next school year.










Now that I have returned from Norway, my blog will resume. Instead of  “Blog-a-Day” postings, I have developed a series of posts based on how my Arctic Adventure will be translated into a year-long study of exploring our world.

Let’s start with the physical space. I can’t make my classroom into an ice-class ship of National Geographic Explorer caliber… But I can do some amazing things, such as add a few flags!

The Polar Bear Flag flaps in the air as we cruise passed the bird cliffs of Kapp Fanshawe.

The Polar Bear Flag flaps in the air as we cruise past the bird cliffs of Kapp Fanshawe.

Polar Bear flag created by the same person as the one that adorns the ship.

Polar Bear flag created by the same person as the one that adorns the ship.









Guests aboard the ship (Diane and Dennis Roberts) made sure we would have maps and books of the locations we traveled. Thank you!!! I will also use the National Geographic Mapmaker’s Kit to add a Giant World Map to our wall. As we learn about events and living things throughout the year, we will color-code and add these details to our World Map.

Maps of Norway and Svalbard.

Maps of Norway and Svalbard.

Finally, the Naturalists. The staff were an amazing resource to all of us on board. Let the flag serve as a reminder of their knowledge base.  (And may Skype bring a few to New Mexico!)

Eric Guth, Naturalist, discussing the plant life in the fjords.

Eric Guth, Naturalist, discussing the plant life in the fjords.

Peter Wilson, Naturalist, working aboard the ship.

Peter Wilson, Naturalist, working aboard the ship.

Vinnie Butler, historian, discussing the pictographs at Leiknes.

Vinnie Butler, historian, discussing the pictographs at Leiknes.


Norway Flag including signatures of Naturalists and staff on our expedition.

Norway Flag including signatures of Naturalists and staff on our expedition.

Please check back as I share a variety of lessons developed during the expedition.

Let the journey begin!  Won’t you join me?

Day 3-Smøla

Using the Zodiac to reach Smøla.

Using the Zodiac to reach Smøla.

Today, I visited an island that is called Smøla. I believe there are several islands that make up the location with three major villages. Around 2000 people life here, although the population has been declining as their primary industry—fishing—is in decline in the area.

How did we get over there? I am so glad you asked! By Zodiac!
So, so fun getting in the inflatable boat to get to the island.

And, what did I do when I got there?

I went for a hike.

In the wind.

In the cold.

In the rain.

And I loved every minute of it!


Hiking around the island of Smøla.

This ole trail runner had a blast stomping around the area. Our hike combined the old with the new. We hiked through bogs and spruce trees, down around lakes, up a small peak, and through fields of heather. We also walked across a golf course and a around several turning wind turbines.


As we walked across the golf course on Smøla, we could see the wind turbines up ahead.

I started collecting sounds as well as photos today. I am looking forward to seeing who can guess what things are when I return.  I hope my students enjoy it as well!

We haven’t gotten to an area where there is a ton of wildlife yet.  We did see an eagle being chased by a smaller bird and a snow hare during the hike. There are lots of sea birds and I am trying to learn the names of different ones. I know I’ve seen a gannet and a colony of birds on a cliff of kittiwake. I keep my binoculars near me just in case.

For those wondering about my back, I used a trekking pole and am so thankful I did. It helped me put some weight on the pole as well as have greater stability. My sciatica is still hurting (sad face), but it is manageable. There is a doctor on board who also has asked how I am feeling.

I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment. A local group, called “The Gubbliners” will be playing for us.  And as I was typing this, they headed through the library lost. I helped them and know the music will be extra special now.

I believe I have caught up on my sleep now.  The sounds and the gentle rocking of the boat make it so easy to just nod off!

I am looking forward to the events to come!

Day 2- Nordfjord

When I woke up this morning and went out on deck, I just giggled. The view on all sides of our ship was simply breathtaking.

The view in Olden

The view in Olden

While we were sleeping, the National Geographic Explorer docked at the village of Olden at the very end of the Nordfjord. Thank you, National Geographic Explorer.

After breakfast we boarded coaches and traveled about 16 miles to see a small arm off the main Jostedalbreen Glacier (Europe’s largest mainland glacier.)

When we got to the Park with the Glacier, I had about a 2-3 mile hike to reach the location. I walked up, up, up the winding path. Of course, I had to stop to check out waterfalls, and brooks, and rocks, and birds… I have no idea how long it actually took me to reach it.

The Briksdal Glacier

The Briksdal Glacier

Along the path were signs.  This is where the glacier was in 1920.  Here was the location in 1970, Here in 2010.  It is so disturbing to see the glacier melting at such a fast pace. I am not sure you will be able to access the glacier with the trail we used within the next twenty years.

I spend some time, wading my fingers in the water of the lake formed by the melting glacier. I hiked around some more.

And then, it was time for my return trip back down the path. This time around, I walked about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile and then got in an electric cart. It zipped me down the hill taking a different path. I felt like I was at an amusement park, just with better scenery!

We had a nice mid-morning tea at the restaurant at the base of the glacier and I got to sit and visit with some of the guests on the ship. Everyone is so interesting! For my science teacher friends, I visited with the guy who started the JASON Project. I have also met a number of teachers!  What are we doing wrong?  Ha!

I love the opportunities to shoot images. I have so many to choose from… Another of my favorites from today is of Olden Lake.


Our evening consisted of a Captain’s Welcome Cocktails and the a Welcome Dinner was served. The food here is amazing! There is open seating so every meal time, I go sit with someone new. I wish we could convince our students of the value of visiting with new people often. You can learn so much about the world just by eating a meal.

Day 1- Arriving in Bergen, Norway

Somebody pinch me!

Bergen, a place to shop.

Bergen, a place to shop.

IMG_4924 IMG_4964

Seriously.  I cannot believe I am on such an incredible adventure. Today, my plane touched down in Bergen, Norway and we were immediately greeted by Lindblad Staff picking up our luggage off the conveyor belts. I didn’t have to worry about my luggage from then on out!

A tour bus took us to a central location where we had about an hour to sight-see on our own.  Leslie and I toured the local shops, enjoying a quick moment to spend some money.  It was also interesting seeing wares that are not as common back in Hobbs, New Mexico. For example, one shop sold animal pelts and skins.  There were stacks of seal skins, arctic fox pelts, Whale skins… even polar bear pelts! I am assuming these were caught in a sustainable way, but it gave me pause.

We quickly discovered a few items about Norway:

Tourism is a huge source of income.

You can purchase a cool sweater at almost every shop.

Trolls are an important part of the history and culture.

As are polar bears and walruses!

After picking up a few souvenirs, we wandered around the fish market sampling a few items. I am pretty sure the guide later in the afternoon said this market had been established in the 1500s. Amazing.

Next, we ate an incredible buffet lunch at the Hotel and were off on a guided bus tour around town. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable. We toured a famous composer’s house. One of the roofs was covered in grass! I wonder what the significance of that is?

Finally, we made it to the dock and boarded the National Geographic Explorer. Our cabin is tiny. We are constantly having to excuse each other as we move from one side to another. However, we are rarely in our rooms to sleep.  The beds are so comfortable! Or, maybe it is the sound of the water lapping along the boat that puts me to sleep immediately. Maybe the jet lag?  For whatever reasons, the room is perfect!

Day One Equals Flying


Not gonna lie… I love to fly!

I started my journey this morning at 6:30am flying out of Hobbs, New Mexico. I arrived in Houston in time to find my next gate and stand in line… I never sat down!

From Houston, I flew to Newark, New Jersey. Currently waiting to fly to Copenhagen. Everything is grand except for the humidity…and my Fellow companion is flying out of Dulles Airport.

A better update will happen tomorrow. Right now, I need to read my Norway books. Have fun stateside!

I am a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow!

Waterproof gloves?


Waterproof pants?


Winter Parka in June?

And Check!

I can’t believe I forgot to SHOUT this from the mountaintops, but I have been selected as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow for National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions! What does this mean?  It means that out of over 2700 applicants, I was selected as one of only thirty-five teachers to experience a one-in-a-lifetime professional development opportunity.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 9.05.40 PM

Tomorrow, yes, TOMORROW, I will be joining an expedition where we will learn more about Norway’s Fjords and the Arctic Svalbard! With around 150 guests, a myriad of staff and crew, and my compadre Leslie–a 2nd grade teacher from Kitty Hawk, we are about to embark on an epic journey. We will experience fjords, glaciers, amazing wildlife and adventures galore!

So, please keep following this blog as I will be updating it as often as possible over the next 17 days.

Bon voyage to us!

terri and leslie

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