Preparing, Potting, Planting, & Perseverance

Summer is upon us!

All summer I have been tending to my outdoor garden: petunias, gerbera daisies, coral bells, turf lilies, kale, lettuce, and more! Those plants have been growing relatively well all summer. Despite my love for plants, I have never fared well with indoor plants… Just ask my principal about my classroom grow labs! Regardless, I am loving my terrarium plants, quite a bit, already!

Before updating you on the progress of my terrariums, I would like to show you an easy way to showcase your budding green thumb–Try making a mason jar terrarium!

How to Make a Mason Jar Terrarium

In the video below I will show you how to make a simple mason jar terrarium.

What you need: A mason jar, indoor potting soil, activated carbon, river pebbles, and a small plant of your choice that is suitable for living indoors. I would suggest a succulent or cactus for the easiest care possible!

Update on My Terrarium Project

So for my personal project this summer, I am building a terrarium. I outlined my project plan in a previous post. Since then, I have made a lot of progress with my little terrarium project!

I started out going to the store and buying the pebbles, activated charcoal, potting soil, and a variety of plants. For plants, I bought some rainbow cacti, an aloe vera plant, various succulents, an orchid, and even a little bonsai tree. 

This brings me to my first issue. Long story short, I needed to do better research about which specific plants to buy. I accidentally purchased many plants which I found to be incompatible with the open terrarium environment, all of which (but one) I had to return to the store.

One word of advice: Do your research, and be patient with planning!

Looking back, I was a little over-eager with my project, so I bought a lot of plants because I was planning on building my first terrarium in an unused fish tank I had lying around my house. I wound up regretting these quick purchases, as I didn’t give myself much time to shop around and see which plants I had access to locally, or which plants would even grow well in the environment I created.

When I first put together the fish tank terrarium, it included an orchid and an aloe vera plant. However, as I continued doing my research, I realized having an orchid in the terrarium may be problematic as orchids should not have their soil changed, which was a mistake I initially made. I also ran into a problem with the aloe vera plant in that it kept falling over or leaning onto other, smaller plants in the terrarium. 


My terrarium after removing the orchid.


My terrarium after removing the aloe and the orchid. I also adjusted the levels of some plants and rearranged them.

To solve these two problems, I removed both plants from the terrarium and replaced them/rearranged the other plants in the terrarium.

Looking back, I could have avoided the mess of planting, removing, and repotting these plants had a been a bit more patient with the research and planning phase of my project. I was so excited to get started, I didn’t give myself enough time to thoroughly research the plants available near me or if they would do well living together in the environment I created. Note taken: Spend more time doing thorough research before going plant shopping! Next time, it may be smart to make a list of plants available at the store, go home and do more research, then return to the store to make some purchases. You live, you learn!

Making Mini-Terrariums!

I also went a bit further and began exploring smaller and hanging terrariums. Although hanging terrariums are really cute, they are a bit more difficult to construct than larger ones. The main issue with small, hanging terrariums is that it is difficult to firmly plant anything inside, as it is difficult to stick your hands/fingers in to press things down.

The best resource for me throughout this entire process has been which has provided me with information on which plants to use, how to build different types of terrariums, and how to design different types of terrariums. This website was useful in that it also helped me discover which plants I should buy or keep, and which plants would do well together. It also had blog posts about common mistakes people make with terrariums, and how to avoid them–Definitely worth the read! I would definitely recommend this site to anybody else looking for some help with their green-thumb! 

The Spruce has a ton of posts regarding terrariums, and different types. Something I found particularly interesting is a post about creating mason jar terrariums, similar to the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this post. However, the mason jar terrariums they describe, are closed terrariums with a more delicate environment. This makes me wonder, maybe I should start with a tiny mason jar enclosed terrarium, rather than another huge terrarium project? Again, I have more research to do!

Although The Spruce was my major source of information, I also received a lot of inspiration simply through looking at completed terrariums. Buzzfeed curated a pretty great list of awesome, simple, do-it-yourself terrariums from across the web. Simply looking at what others had done gave me some ideas for what I wanted to do with my own terrarium project.

In considering how my process of trial and error has played out with my terrariums, it harkens back to learning about the design cycle, and how often a product/project may require many iterations before completion (A. Bulte, K. Klaassen, A. Pilot, & H. B. Westbroek (2010). No doubt, I have gone through multiple iterations of my terrarium as I observed and learned what was working and what wasn’t.

Overall, I am really happy with my large terrarium and small, hanging ones so far. All are doing well, minus one that my cat got to… 

Looking Forward

Looking forward I would like to find a container in which I can build an enclosed terrarium. I would like to do this because I have a tropical plant I bought which requires a different environment than the plants in my current terrarium.

A closed terrarium is good for plants that require more moisture or humidity. The plants in my open terrarium require very little water, about a tablespoon once a week. If I were to plant ferns or any other humidity loving plants into a closed terrarium, they will require more water. I would like to include moss as well. This will allow for a slightly more verdant, colorful environment. I think this would also be much smaller.

What will I need to create an enclosed terrarium?

  • A medium sized enclosed glass container
  • Sheet moss
  • Humidity loving plants, like ferns
  • Soil (Have it!)
  • River pebbles (Have it!)
  • Activated charcoal (Have it!)


A. Bulte, K. Klaassen, A. Pilot, & H. B. Westbroek (2010). Providing Students with a Sense of Purpose by Adapting a Professional Practice. International Journal of Science Education, Vol. 32 (5), 603-624, retrieved from

All images and media belong to Guadalupe Bryan unless otherwise stated.



Are you curious about the maker movement? Are Maker Faires something that stir-up immediate anxiety?

Well, read on.

I was curious, yet absurdly apprehensive about the whole maker movement just a few weeks ago…

That brings me to this past week. I helped organize a mini Maker Faire with my lovely cohort as part of the Master’s of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University.

What is a Maker Faire? Good Question.

If you’re sitting there asking yourself, “What the WHAT is a Maker Faire?” worry not! Most of my cohort, including myself, were also wondering this question… and we only had a week to put this thing together! To get a little insight as to what the maker movement is all about, I would suggest viewing the talk “Why We Make” by Adam Savage, yes, of Mythbusters fame.


To prepare for the faire, the eight of us split into four groups of two. My partner and I decided to create a booth where participants could make a paper circuit with a LED light on the back of a name tag, which they could decorate. If you are interested in seeing the full plan of our booth and detailed instructions, you may view a PDF file here.

Screenshot 2017-07-22 at 2.53.18 PM

My examples of a lit name tag. Please notice the kitty with star-eyes!

Overall, I believe the Greater Lansing Mini-Maker Faire, #GLMakers on Twitter, went well, including our booth! Two groups, including my own, had booths which involved circuits. The other two groups involved different types of building challenges, using objects including items such as paper, tape, spaghetti, and marshmallows.

Our booth set out with a few different objectives, including:

  • Broad Objective: Participants will become inspired through their experience and generate thoughts towards circuitry/science.
  • Learning Objectives: Participants will understand how a circuit works, or more loosely how the parts of the circuit interact with each other: The copper tape as a conductor, the battery as energy, and the LED light, with its positive and negative charges.
  • Making Objectives: Participants will be able to create circuits by using a limited amount of supplies. Within the Star booth, participants will be able to create name tags using materials provided.
    • This reflects the do-it-yourself, or DIY, aspects of the maker movement: With limited help and instructions, makers at the booth will have to rely on each other to help complete the project. Although we were there to help, participants should be mostly self-reliant in terms of constructing their circuits with aid from visual examples and peers.

As an incentive for our younger participants, we provided guests with a card they could get stamped at each station, like a Maker Faire passport, and they could return it at the end of their visit for a reward. This incentive wound up being quite popular with many of our younger guests. I would definitely recommend some type of incentive for participants to visit as many booths as possible.


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Tips When Planning a (Mini) Maker Faire

  • Pay attention to advertising your event!
    • Get the word out as soon as possible and as effectively as you can! I would say a general flyer/website with basic information should begin circulating as soon as you know the date, time, and location of the faire. We only had a week to plan, so the more time you have, the easier it can be.

      The flyer we created for the event.

    • Use social media to your advantage.
    • Use your personal learning network to your advantage with help spreading the word.
  • Reach out to get volunteers for the event, and provide each volunteer with a clear role before the event.
  • Have multiple modes of presenting information, especially step-by-step help for participants requiring more guidance. I made a step-by-step Slides presentation you can view in my Maker Faire Plan.
  • Be sure you are a master at your specific booth activity. It is difficult to help participants if you are confused yourself!
  • Have an incentive for participants to stick around and visit as many stations/booths as possible.
  • Seek out help online and through individuals you may know with experiences with the maker movement.

The Maker Movement and Education

Through learning about the maker movement, as well as planning/participating in a Maker Faire, I learned about how the maker movement and its core principles can be incorporated into education, kindergarten through high school and beyond.


Basic visualization of the TPACK Model. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

First off, the maker movement clearly can be connected to not only the TPACK (Technological Pedagogy and Content Knowledge) model but also more broadly to a constructivist approach to education. Constructivism suggests individuals create their own knowledge through experience (Chen & Lui, 2010). This is reflected in maker spaces as participants are often forced to learn through hands-on trial and error. 

For example, at our booth, participants were building a paper circuit with their own hands, and with limited help available, minus that of their peers. Participants would build a circuit, try their light, and if it didn’t work, try again. Through this sequence of events, participants are forced to reflect on their learning in order to alter their products to make a working circuit.

As I reflected on the question of how maker kits could be used in my 7th grade ELA class, my mind raced toward informational writing. Groups could play and create tiny technologies out of the kits. Then groups could create a set of instructions on how to build their design, and trade it with another group. Not only would this meet ELA CCSS, but students would also be doing some cross-curricular work in the process.


I think that through this process, students would fail at many points, but it would lead to questioning the approaches they’re taking with the problem at hand. They will then likely test out many of the different scenarios or solutions that come to mind. This would be an example of taking their questions and turning them into action.

This was a mindset and thought process discussed at length throughout A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger (2016), often referred to as the Why/What If/How sequence. By reframing our questions and our approach to them in a way that leads to productive action, if not a solution, leads the questioner down a path of inquiry. We already know that as the world becomes increasingly complex, the value of asking good questions will increase (Werner, 2016). With this in mind, it’s difficult to reject the assertion that the maker movement provides its participants with the necessary skills to tackle the world of tomorrow.

I hope you consider the benefits of embracing the maker movement, inside of your classroom or out. If nothing else, I would recommend you attend a Maker Faire or maker space near you! Trust me when I say that seeing your own maker potential is not only a ton of fun but also brings you a sense of playful pride.

Make On,



Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Chen, C. & Lui, C.C. (2010). Evolution of Constructivism. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (April 2010), pp. 62-66. Retrieved from

All images belong to Guadalupe Bryan unless otherwise stated.

This Genius Needs Genius Hour!

Do you ever hear somebody talk about what’s happening in their classroom and instantly feel a mixture of good-hearted envy and eagerness swell up inside of you? Well, that’s what exactly happened to me recently.

After attending the talk, “Voice, Choice, & Airplanes” by educators Katie Bielecki and Kristin Hundt at a local conference in Lansing, STEAMLab17,  I became immediately inspired to look into genius hour. I wasted no time and sent a text to the other seventh grade English teacher, teeming with excitement.

Screenshot 2017-07-21 at 8.32.33 AM

Screenshot of the conversation I absolutely couldn’t wait to start with my colleague.

During their talk, Bielecki and Hundt spoke at length about the importance of curiosity, imagination, passion, and choice within their classrooms. They referred to these classroom mindsets as habitudes, taken from Classroom Habitudes Teaching Habits for 21st Century Learning by Angela Maiers (Note to self: ORDER THIS BOOK).  Naturally, these mindsets were something I readily agreed with. This talk about students’ habitudes led to the discussion of what those mindsets fostered in their classrooms–Massive undertakings, like genius hour.

Genius hour was originally inspired by Google’s 20% initiative which lets their employees use 20% of their work time to pursue personal ideas. In schools, this typically looks like one hour a week, where students come up with individual passion projects, do their own research, and share their ideas and conclusions (Grinberg, 2014).

Until recently, I didn’t know that genius hour was inspired by Google, but it doesn’t surprise me. In the book, A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger, he asserts that the current world “[…] demands citizens who are self-learners; who are creative and resourceful; who can adjust and adapt to constant change” (2016, p. 49). The ideal citizen described here exhibits the same habitudes described by Bielecki and Hundt during their talk, no coincidence. These mindsets are not only valuable in the classroom, but in all areas of life.  

Throughout A More Beautiful Question, Berger describes how innovators at top companies, like Google and Amazon, are creative, curious questioners who are not afraid of failure (2016). I think there is a clear connection to embracing those mindsets within a classroom through the implementation of a genius hour alongside classroom habitudes.

By students guiding their own learning, driven by their individual interests, it not only increases student engagement but also teaches students that failure is an option. This mindset helps students become risk-takers (Grinberg, 2014).  Being a risk-taker is a skill important outside the classroom as well, shown throughout A More Beautiful Question. Berger describes anecdotes of innovative questioners who don’t stop after failing to answer a complicated question. Rather, the best questioners come up with better questions and improvements/solutions to the problem at hand (Berger, 2016, p. 33).

Similarly, in a classroom with the right mindsets and genius hour, students are free to question the world around them and become global thinkers. Students don’t simply wonder, for example, how to help kids in Haiti have access to more books. Instead, students pose the question and begin working towards a solution. Bielecki and Hundt described one student doing just this, and working towards this goal and action for the entire school year.

As I have said before, I work at an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. Not only is inquiry at the heart of IB, but curiosity and risk taking are also important pillars. Through genius hour, I think I will be able to help my students take their questions and curiosities about the world and turn them into action. They will be able to fail and try again. They will be able to seek help from peers and mentors. Students will be enthusiastic and in charge of their learning. And THAT thought gets me excited.

Finally, in A More Beautiful Question, Berger describes how schools with inquiry-based learning share core principles of letting students explore, be in charge of their own learning and work on projects instead of test-taking (2016, p. 54). Again, this emphasis on inquiry aligns perfectly with my school’s vision and those of our district. Not only that, but I think students will find power as they begin to explore their individualized line of inquiry.


Me, with my new BFF book!

I’m having visions of my classroom teeming with active, engaged students, eagerly researching their individual projects. I am also having visions that it may be a bit chaotic at first… But if I’m not willing to take a risk by giving it a shot, what right do I have to I ask my students to be risk-takers?

I hope you look into the book I reflected on throughout this post, A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. I am all kinds of excited after reading it, and even more so after attending the talk on genius hour this past week. 

Let me know if you have any tips or if you have used genius hour at the secondary level–I’d love to pick your brain!

Looking forward to hearing from you and for what is to come,



Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Grinberg, E. (2014, March 10). ‘Genius hour’: Students, what would you like to learn today? Retrieved July 20, 2017, from

Images: All images belong to Guadalupe Bryan.

Cacti, and Succulents, and a Terrarium… Oh My: Planning for a Terrarium

Hi, everybody!

What will I learn for my little summer project?

For my Networked Learning Project, I have decided to pursue building a terrarium… or two. A terrarium is basically an enclosed, miniature garden, typically with succulent plants, cacti, or ferns. They are usually kept inside to help brighten/liven up spaces like desks and offices. Terrariums are credited with helping decrease the doom and gloom associated with seasonal depression and help decrease the stress in a home or workplace by adding some life (Ranawake, 2014)! To help you imagine this, think of a small fish tank, filled with rocks, soil, and plants. 

As I began looking into terrariums, I noticed a couple major things I had to look into. First, I had to figure out what I was going to use to build a terrarium– I have both a medium sized, rounded out glass vase and an empty fish tank. Knowing which container I am going to use is important because it helps me figure out whether or not my terrarium will be open or closed. Figuring out whether an open or closed terrarium is best for me became important after I did some reading online.

I know that I want an open terrarium (no lid) rather than a closed one. Because of that, I know I need some succulent plants, soil, river rocks for effective drainage, activated charcoal, potting soil, and sheet moss (Norris, 2013).



The plants I choose to keep in my terrarium are dependent on whether my terrarium is open or closed to air and water. I know I want an open terrarium because I have no lids for my enclosures and it seems lower maintenance. Because of this, I know I will gravitate towards succulent plants.

I found a ton of blogs with information about how to care for an open/closed terrarium, how to built the terrarium, and which plants are best for a terrarium.

What are my goals and prior knowledge?

As a gardener, I know the gist of how to take care of plants in-ground. When planting flowers outside, I am attentive to how much sun and water each plant requires. Now that I am considering a terrarium, I need to educate myself about how succulents thrive. How much water and light do they require?

I already have the container. My plan is to first try a small terrarium within my empty, transparent glass vase before trying the entire fish tank. After looking at images of different types of terrariums I may experiment with a closed terrarium, a hanging terrarium, and mason jar mini-terrariums. I think I will consider these depending on what materials I can find and the cost of the different plants.

Buzzfeed came up with a list of some really cute ideas for simple D.I.Y. terrariums which are great for inspiration! Look at the series here.

My list of materials:

  • Succulent plants
  • Potting soil
  • Rocks for drainage
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil
  • Sheet Moss
  • Open container (Michaels, 2017)



Questions going forward:

Reflections on Learning & Engagement

Reflecting on aspects of engagement in education, primarily thinking of Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question (2016), I can already feel myself becoming more engaged in my learning because it is self-directed.

For this assignment in my Masters level class, I am able to direct my own learning by choosing a personal project that interests me. Much like my post on genius hour, I think this is essentially a genius hour type of thing, but for graduate students. I would like to think that if this approach to learning is working for me, it would totally work for my students!

I am so excited, and perhaps a bit over eager. It may be difficult to pace myself with this one. Being excited about learning is a good thing, right?


Lupe, Future Terrarium Mom!


Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Michaels, K. (2017, April 6). Common Terrarium Mistakes [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Michaels, K. (2017, January 22). How To Make Terrariums [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Michaels, K. (2017, April 11). 10 Great Terrarium Plants [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Norris, A. (2013, October 12). How to create a simple DIY terrarium [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Peterson, J. (2015, December 2). Terrariums Grow a Micro-Ecosystem in a Jar [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Ranawake, S. (2014, June 5). Terrariums Are Back! How There Mini Gardens Can Help Boost Your Health And Mood! Retrieved July 15, 2017. Retrieved from

Wang, P. (2012, July 9). 21 Simple Ideas For Adorable DIY Terrariums. Retrieved July 17, 2017. Retrieved from

Images: All photographs were taken by Guadalupe Bryan.

**Header image courtesy of Flickr user, Terraria. Retrieved from

Blog Post 1: Learning & Understanding

The learning processes of experts and novices greatly differ, but each is influenced by the teaching methods encountered throughout the learning process. Inquiry based instruction, metacognitive approaches, along with deep understanding are all proven to improve learning for both expert and novices, as shown throughout How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). However, since the publication of this text, there have been immense advancements in technology and an increase of technology’s role in education. With this in mind, it is important to examine how technology can be used to further learning while keeping in mind the most effective teaching methods available.

 The school I work at is an International Baccalaureate school. Because of this, all of our units of instruction should be inquiry based. Before this school, I had little experience with inquiry based instruction. However, over the past few years, the benefits of inquiry has been made clear to me through talks with my colleagues, administrators, and education literature.

As asserted here, assessments can (and should) be, “… less a test than an indicator of where inquiry and instruction should focus” (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 25). This reminds me that I should be using my assessments, whether formative or summative, to help guide authentic inquiry within my classroom. Both expert and novice learners would benefit from deepening their inquiry into a given topic or concept, leading to overall deeper understanding (Bransford et al., 2000).

Screenshot 2017-07-17 at 9.58.39 AM

Photo from my classroom (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Given that my students each have their own Chromebook in my class, they have access to limitless information through the internet available at their fingertips. If I were better able to get students invested in an inquiry cycle, it would likely increase their own interest in the work. As students deepen their inquiry, metacognitive approaches to learning would help students monitor their own growth, and this would allow students to deepen their understanding of whatever concepts we are addressing in class.

Metacognitive approaches allow students to check in with their progress and understanding, and these strategies should be taught in classrooms related directly to content (Bransford et al., 2000). In my classroom, I teach metacognitive strategies to monitor progress with reading and writing. The most obvious examples of this would be with reading goals. Students set goals for the amount of reading they will do within the school year and each marking period. I conference with students to check in with all of these. Additionally, students receive rewards/incentives for exceeding their reading goals in a marking period or semester. Students come up with the rewards, create a Google poll, and vote on it.

Screenshot 2017-07-17 at 9.44.27 AM

Screen shot from Goodreads of my 2017 reading goal (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

This year, some students began to use at my suggestion. I am thinking that next year I will use Goodreads for students to set a school year long reading goal and track it there. I also would like to create a group for all students to join so we will be able to see each other’s progress towards our goals, mine included!  I do believe having clear, monitorable goals helps students stay motivated.

My school has recently implemented the Lucy Calkins writing program for middle school, and I am in charge of organizing the lessons for the seventh grade. Though the units are very in depth, I feel that students feel bored with some of them. One benefit of Calkins is that the lessons, and especially the checklists, really enforce metacognition which I immediately appreciated. Ideally, if I could find a way to add more inquiry and student choice with writing, while still adhering to Lucy Calkins, I would be better able to promote an inquiry-based mindset.

As for writing, I was interested in the resource we were introduced to in class, If I could use WriteAbout alongside our new Lucy Calkins lessons, I’d be able to increase metacognition, especially when it comes to writing and research. Metacognition can greatly enhance students’ success in their process of inquiry and understanding–all of which leads them to a deeper understanding of key concepts in my grade seven ELA curriculum (Bransford et al., 2000).

Ultimately, I have a lot to re-examine, especially authentic inquiry within my classroom to deepen understanding. Also, I know I must teach more metacognitive strategies throughout the year, and revisit them. I think I am not doing enough right now. I know I will try harder to use our classroom technology for purposeful learning, rather than an inch deep, mile wide approach, which is far from best practice.


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind,  Experience, and School. Retrieved from

Images: All images were taken by Guadalupe Bryan.