Do we have enough? Too much? What is enough?

How much is enough?  Author and Psychologist Barry Schwartz addresses this topic head on.  What are your thoughts?  What is enough for you?  What can you eliminate to have more?

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by on the TED home page.


Do children benefit educationally from being outside?

Caroline Carr, founder of the Outdoor Learning Consultancy will be visiting the AAS this week. She and Clare Ward will be leading a parent forest walk and talk on Friday April 21st. She spoke to the Eco Green Committee about her work bringing children closer to the environment, and the educational and behavioral results this brings.

Why do we need outdoor learning consultants for our children?

Caroline Carr: My degree is a combined teacher training with outdoor education. A lot of the activities we did were about taking children outside and connecting with nature and the environment. After my degree, I went to work in South America for a company that had a big focus on educating people on caring for the environment. Then, I taught in a primary school for 15 years. I just found we weren’t taking the children outside enough and getting them connected with the environment. When I left, I thought about how I could make learning more interactive and practical, more hands-on and link it to the environment. That’s where the Outdoor Learning Consultancy came from. Ideas like taking literacy outside; being inspired by real trees, nature and the environment. Rather than just looking at pictures in a book or on a whiteboard. Through that, I am interested in how children engage more with learning and how they are more interested in learning because being outside makes you feel better than being inside.


What are the skills that children can learn while outdoors? Or is it more about the benefits of experiencing nature and being outside?

Caroline Carr: One of the things we do in the outdoor learning school is understanding how children feel about things and their understanding about the world around them. The idea is to learn about others and how to work with one another, through working outdoors. It might be about building a fire together, about team work and just interacting in a different way to what you would do in a classroom.

In England, the focus is on testing and grammar and punctuation – in other words lots of individual skills. We have lost some of the teamwork skills. Even with the smaller children, it’s about choosing what clothes to wear when they go out. Or making the decision about taking your jacket off when you are too hot – very personal decisions about themselves that are linked to the environment they are in. This also links to creating sparks of interest so that children can go out and find out more about things they are interested in. Whether it’s about nature or different things they can use for making a fire or whether it’s being creative.

Some six-year-olds wrote amazing poems after being outside as they had real life experiences they could connect to. That links to better quality writing and better quality language. They have experienced something real, rather than looking at a book or hearing a description. The final thing is learning and understanding more about the environment.

Do you have research to back up the idea that spending time outdoors benefits students in terms of school results and behavior?

Caroline Carr: Yes, certainly for behavior and attitudes to learning there is research in the forest schools where they have worked with target groups that were struggling with either behavior or learning in school. Through being outside, they have become more engaged with the learning and have built better connections with teachers and staff and with each other. The other thing is that there is a lot of research about health and well-being and mental health and the links to how being outside helps.

I was working with six-year-olds and we made an outside classroom where we did math and writing. The sun was out. One little girl gave a sigh and remarked on how lovely it was. You could see that she felt better about herself for being outside. Of course, she got on with doing her work. It was just a different feeling to being inside.

What is your view on children and electronics?  What is the right age, if any, for children to start using computers/iPad/iPhone?

Caroline Carr: There is a lot of research about screen time taking over children’s lives. I am going to be discussing this in my talk. We are very much a technological society now. With the outdoors, it’s about how you can work alongside each other. I had a seven-year-old doing a floating and sinking experiment outside and they recorded the results using an iPad. There is a place to meld technology and the outside. In addition, technology is useful for researching and finding out information. There is so much information at their fingertips these days. I do think there must be a balance between using electronics and the outside. I don’t know how we manage that.

What are the essential things that children should be doing outside on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

Caroline Carr: Playing. Again, different countries have different cultures as to being out and playing. Where we are in England, there are a lot of children who don’t get to go out and play in the trees or even in the garden. The key is having the opportunity to be outside: playing by yourself or with others, having interactions with families. The important thing is being outside, in the fresh air – whether you are involved in an organized game, free flowing on the beach, or making up your own game.

‘Art can come from anywhere’ – Recycling goes wild and beautiful

img_0326Megan Pendleton, MS Art Teacher, is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and joined AAS this year after living in Seoul, South Korea, where, she says, ‘recycling was a huge deal.’


Ms. Pendleton has brought her passion for recycling to her MS Art students, saying that recycled materials were a key component of the latest MS Art project, which was based around the work of Louise Nevelson, a recycled sculpture artist who worked in New York City in the 1930s and 40s.

‘The recycling at the back of my building in Seoul had over 18 options for distribution, including cooked and uncooked compost and we had to sort every piece of paper and glass. I’ve loved Moscow, but that was one of the major shockers, it hurts my heart to know all this is going into a landfill.’


‘Louise Nevelson would go trash to trash and pick up old pieces of wood to create gorgeous, huge sculptures taking up entire walls. The kids could see there were many different pieces, almost little worlds within a big world. As a result, I wanted them to understand how to use recycled materials, put them together, and how to create as part of a whole their individual little cosmos and create a work that they compiled as one, as a class,’ she says.

‘I also wanted them to understand that art can come from anywhere. Sometimes you can come up with things you would never dream of unless you had these recyclable materials.’


She says it was not hard inspiring students to create art with reused materials. ‘I keep a recycled sculpture shelf where there are all kinds of things I collect, and others bring me, that could be useful. In general, we were talking about the principles of art; we were talking about balance, symmetry, emphasis, movement, rhythm, and as a result they were able to use the shapes in their piece to abstractly understand how works of art are put together,’ she says.

‘The way they placed objects in the box determined whether it was a symmetrical or asymmetrical sculpture. They had to balance using their repeated shapes over and over, bottle caps for instance,’ she added.

Does she plan to use recycled materials again in future MS Art projects?

‘I’m a huge fan of recycling. It really hurts that I can’t do it personally here. What I do is bring in things from home – plastics, glass, aluminum – all my recycling from home is brought in here to be used or I distribute it to be used by other classrooms for other uses.’

‘We are about to launch our “fantastical beasts” project and students will again be using recycled materials as the basis of their sculptures. It’s something that seems to work hand-in-hand, automatically, in the MS Art Room. When you’re unsure how to put something together, using a massive water bottle or an aluminum can is a really great starting point.’


The MS Art project is currently exhibited in the MS hallway.


A Beautiful Planet: explore the Earth in a film showing in Moscow

For a information on film showtimes in Moscow click here.

A Beautiful Planet
US | 2016 | Cert. U | 43 mins
Director: Toni Myers
Jennifer Lawrence narrates this
documentary which looks at life on the
International Space Station (ISS) as well
as exploring our ever-changing planet
from a remarkable distance. Onboard
the ISS, we observe a number of teams
of astronauts embarking on missions.
This footage is intercut with spectacular
views of Earth as we bear witness to the
extraordinary effects the environment
has on our planet.

Discussion prompts

Talk about it
What do you imagine life as an astronaut to be like?
There are seven continents of the world. How many can you name?
How many countries do you think exist on planet Earth?
Discussion points
• What did you think of the visuals in A Beautiful Planet? Have
you seen images like this in a film previously? How would you
describe how Earth looked from this distance?
• What impact did the inside and outside scenes have on you as a
viewer? How do you think the filmmakers wanted the audience
to feel?
• Make a list of the different skills required to be an astronaut
based on the range of activities that they undertook in the film.
• The documentary doesn’t follow any particular story – what
did you make of this approach? Is there any element which you
would have liked to see more of?
• What’s the difference between natural and man-made
environmental events? Consider moments in the film such as
thunderstorms, droughts and light pollution. What category
would these fall into?
• What is global warming? Can you think of examples of global
warming in everyday life?
Write about it
Bring your ideas together in a review and share it on our Into Film
clubs’ website. You could include a summary of the story, mention
other films that it’s similar to, describe what you particularly liked or
disliked and give it your star rating.
Extension Activities
Discuss in groups what actions we can all take, as individuals and
communities, in order to better care for the environment. What
obstacles are there? How can these be overcome?

Cut Palm Oil, Not Rainforests

Palm fruit ready to be taken to the mill.

Palm fruit ready to be taken to the mill.

What is palm oil?

Grown only in the tropics, the oil palm tree produces high-quality oil used primarily for cooking in developing countries. It is also used in food products, detergents, cosmetics and, to a small extent, biofuel. Palm oil is a small ingredient in the U.S. diet, but more than half of all packaged products Americans consume contain palm oil—it’s found in lipstick, soaps, detergents and even ice cream.

Palm oil is a very productive crop. It offers a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils. Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. Plantations are spreading across Asia, Africa and Latin America. But such expansion comes at the expense of tropical forests—which form critical habitats for many endangered species and a lifeline for some human communities.

For more info from WWF click here.

Are Your Cookies Causing Orangutan Extinction?

Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations. This clearing has destroyed critical habitat for many endangered species—including rhinos, elephants and tigers.

Scientists warn that orangutans, gentle and intelligent animals among humankind’s closest kin, could become extinct within our lifetime if their rainforest homes continue to be destroyed for palm oil plantations. But the primary threat pushing them toward extinction lies much closer to home than you may think: you’ll find it hidden in the snack food aisle of your local grocery store, and likely in your own shopping cart.

When you eat food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are you are eating palm oil. It is added to chocolate, turned into fry oil, and snuck into snacks of all sorts—in fact, it can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. This palm oil comes at a terrible human and environmental cost. Skyrocketing demand has driven massive, industrial palm oil plantations into millions of acres of formerly lush rainforest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia, worsening climate change and causing widespread human rights violations.

For more information from Rainforest Action Network click here.

What can you do to make a difference?

Become aware of palm oil. Read the ingredients lists of the foods you buy.

Watch this video and send it to your friends to watch


The Rainforest Action Network has a Palm Oil Action Team. Find out more information here.

Meet Wendall – AAS’s Adopted Whale Shark


As a result of the AAS Eco Green Committee’s #LoveNotesForWhaleSharks Auction, we  raised enough funds for the adoption of a whale shark, who has been nicknamed “Wendall”.

Wendall is likely a pregnant female whale shark, and she may live 60-120 years. First sighted in 2014, Wendall has been sighted eight times in the Philippines and is likely to be a regular visitor there in the future. Anyone going to the Philippines this summer, be on the lookout for Wendall!

Wendall is an ambassador for the species, and our support of over 100 researchers and volunteers across the globe collaborating through Wildbook for Whale Sharks will help us learn more about the lifecycle of this rare species and find ways to better protect them. For example, birth and mating have never been witnessed. Data from pregnant females like Wendall may help identify critical whale shark nurseries for protection.

You can always see everything we know about Wendall by clicking here.

Whale sharks are the world’s biggest fish! Whale sharks are currently listed as a vulnerable species; however, they continue to be hunted in some parts of the world for fin soup!
The Wildbook for Whale Sharks is a photo-identification database of whale sharks. The Wildbook uses cutting-edge software and photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark, and any scars, to distinguish between individual animals.

The Eco Green Committee will receive updates whenever Wendall is resighted in the future.