Friday, July 18, 2014

Teacher Summer Camp

I just returned from a week-long professional development AP Summer Institute at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont! It...was...AMAZING!! I was in the US History seminar and learned so much about the newly revised APUSH exam as well as many quality social studies instructional strategies and lesson ideas. I met and connected with educators in a variety of disciplines from all over the country.

Each day the seminars ran from 8am-3pm during which the focus was on how best to teach an AP course as well as how best to prepare students for the AP exam. In the case of APUSH (AP US History), the exam format changed pretty significantly so there were many teachers in my seminar who have already taught APUSH but were there to learn about the new exam.

The institute was hosted by St. Johnsbury Academy, which is a small private prep school. The campus is adorable and the facilities are top-notch. We were housed in the dorms which were nice and brought back memories from college! I snapped this picture of one of the charming buildings on campus (I really loved the colors and architectural features)...

St. Johnsbury is a small, quaint little town in the mountains of Vermont...the surroundings are breathtaking!

(Main Street, St. cute are those buildings?)

After each day's work, we were offered a variety of afternoon and evening activities in which to participate that highlighted the region's geography and culture. The first activity I participated in was skeet shooting! I'm not really a 'gun person' or a hunter but I think it's important to try new activities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then! It was actually pretty fun and most of the people who participated in this outing were first-timers, too!

On Tuesday we went to the nearby Milarepa Tibetan Buddhist retreat center and had a lesson and Q & A session about Buddhism from a gentlemen who has been practicing the faith for over 30 years. It was informative and made me realize I need to practice more of 'quieting my mind'!

On Wednesday the weather cleared up, thankfully, and we went on a hike up to an old fire tower on the top of Burke Mountain. It was pretty steep but the views at the top were spectacular!

On the last afternoon I went on the excursion to Dunc's Mill, a local man's distillery, where he uses Vermont products, like maple, to infuse and produce rum. He gave us a tour and a run down of the basic distilling process, which the chemistry teachers in the group loved!! And the whole group loved the fact that he gave us samples of each kind of rum! Delicious!!

After we left the distillery we headed to a farmer's market where the rum and a variety of other local Vermont products were being sold. Fresh baked breads, cheeses, ice cream, and produce were among the goodies. I was able to pick up a beautiful bunch of sunflowers, which are brightening up my kitchen counter since my arrival back home!

On Thursday night there was a 'farewell' cookout complete with a DJ, dancing, and a bocce ball tournament. The cuisine being offered all week for every single meal was incredible. Steak tips, crab legs, omelets made to order, and dessert...dessert...dessert, among other culinary delights! I'm sure I've gained at least 5 lbs despite being pretty active all week!

Our APUSH seminar teacher, Jerry (with the baseball hat), was not only able to provide us with first-rate instruction all week during our sessions but is also apparently an expert balloon artist! He busted out the creations above during the farewell bash!

I just can't speak highly enough about this experience and the first rate facilities, cultural experiences, and instruction! It's really important for teachers to be able to participate in professional development opportunities to not only connect with other educators but to be able to take new instructional strategies and lessons back to their classrooms. I was really able to look at my current curriculum, and not just the honors/AP course but all of my courses, and find ways to introduce more analytical thinking skills and historical documents, both primary and secondary. I always feel refreshed and excited to get back into the classroom and practice what I've learned whenever I come back from a professional development conference! I HIGHLY recommend this particular AP institute as it was an incredible experience...teacher summer camp is awesome!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ruffled Nautical Tank Top Tutorial

Today I'm sharing a tutorial on how to turn a basic $5 tank into a nautical-inspired top by adding a simple ruffle detail! This is a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to add some fun to a basic tank!

ruffled tank top tutorial diy

nautical ruffled tank top tutorial diy

All you'll need for this top is a basic tank (mine was actually marked down to $3 at Walmart) and 1/3 of a yard of 44" wide fabric (I used a striped seersucker fabric). Here's how you make the tank:

Step 1:
Lay out your fabric (folded in half) and cut two strips that are each 5 1/2" wide (44" in length after you unfold each piece).

Step 2:
Open up each strip and sew them together, wrong sides facing, at one side of the short ends. Your are doing this in order to make a strip long enough to ruffle around the neckline of your tank as only one strip isn't long enough.

Step 3:
Take your long conjoined strip, lay it out flat and fold it in half, 'hog dog style', right sides facing in. You are going to sew down the length of the strip using a 1/4" inseam. Leave a small opening half way down the strip so that you can turn the strip right side out later on.

Step 4:
One each end of the strip, create a point by sewing two angled seams...this isn't a science...I just found the center of each end each sewed down from each side meeting the point. Cut the excess fabric around the angles, then turn your entire strip right side out (which is why you left a small section of the seam open). 

Step 5:
Now that your strip is right side out, you need to iron your strip flat...the seam should be in the middle of your strip as you iron, not to one side. The picture below shows where your seam should be but isn't entirely accurate because your raw edges should be inside your strip, FYI (but it was the only picture taken while I was ironing, ha!).

Step 6:
Now you are going to create a pleated ruffle around your tank. Lay the tank flat with the back side up. Start by matching the middle of your strip to the middle of the top of the tank, seam side down. You are going to fold the strip and create pleats that are about 1" wide (this is just approximate...the key is simply keeping whatever pleat size you use consistent all the way around) pinning each pleat as you go around. Work your way around and down to the front on one side of the tank only, then stop. Then start at the back again and work your way down to the front on the other side of the tank and stop when you reach the front (but make sure you pleats are all facing the same direction). You will leave space to tie the ends into a knot.

If you find that the ends are too long once you're done with the pleats, you can always adjust the size of your pleats to make the ends shorter (or vice versa). Just play around until you are happy with the placement.

Step 7:
Now it's time to sew! Start at the front bottom of one side of your ruffle and top stitch through the center of your ruffle, all the way around the neckline. Go slow and be VERY mindful of your pleats so that they remain flat and don't get caught as you sew. Back stitch at both ends of your stitching. Once you're done securing the ruffle, tie the ends into a knot and rock it!

 I paired my tank with some red skinnies...which is now my outfit for the 4th of July!!