I’m Hosting a #DisneySide @Home Celebration!




Disclaimer:  I received free products in order to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Thank you to Disney Parks (Leanne Jakubowski, Jamie Longdon and the entire Disney Parks team!) and MomSelect (Maria Bailey!) for this wonderful opportunity!


I was super excited to learn that I will have the opportunity to throw another #DisneySide @Home Celebration!  Last year I hosted one for my son’s 1st birthday party and it was so fun!  What is a Disney Side @Home Celebration?  It’s a chance for influencers to pull out all of the stops and integrate Disney Magic in a celebration of any level!  This can be a birthday party, anniversary, bon voyage, or even just a reason to get together and share your Disney love with each other.

This year, I plan on hosting my Disney Side party for my son’s 2nd birthday.  I was able to request a Disney Cars themed celebration kit and I’m so excited to share what I received!  It’s EVERYTHING you need for a party!  If you are thinking of hosting a Disney Cars themed party for your child, here are some great ideas!


This probably only covers the tip of the iceberg in Disney Cars themed partyware!  In the kit I got Cars themed plates, cups, napkins, decorations, a cupcake stand, treat holders, table cloth, place mats, and sandwich bags!  I also got a Mickey Mouse head cake mold and Duff Tie-Dye cake mix!




Disney-themed partyware isn’t the only way to implement the Disney Magic into your party.  I also received Disney Side party invitations, a pin the mouth on Mickey party game, and a Disney Parks Bingo game (all available for printing yourself at the Disney Side Celebrations site.  I also got great Disney giveaways/favors for my guests including Disney luggage tag sets, hp Create Memories You Keep (CMYK) photo card paper packs, Disney kids’ chore charts, and Beyond Beef Tacos coupons.



There were also several treats in the kit that I plan on using for prizes for the birthday games including a Disney Cars watch, sticker pad, Jake and the Neverland Pirates coloring book, crayons, a Disney puzzle, and a Disney Cars Bingo game.



Finally, there were a few treats for the hostess that I”m so thankful for!  I got some Crunchmaster Grammy Crisps (which are certified gluten-free and peanut free!), All detergent pods, Twinings assorted herbal teas, Wisk Deep Clean sample, and Snuggle fabric softener sample!

Hope this has given you some ideas to plan a Disney-themed party.  This is just what is in the kit.  There are a multitude of Disney-inspired recipes and activities (including printables!) on the Disney Side Celebrations site that I plan on using to take my party to the next level!  Stay tuned for my wrap-up post on how the party went!  I’ll be hosting it in a few weeks!

Disclaimer:  I received free products in order to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  Thank you to Disney Parks (Leanne Jakubowski, Jamie Longdon and the entire Disney Parks team!) and MomSelect (Maria Bailey!) for this wonderful opportunity!

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Recap: Discovery Education’s Future@Now-A New Math Experience



Earlier this month, Discovery Education held a live event Future@Now-A New Math Experience which featured panelists of experts from education, business, and government to discuss the future of math instruction, the challenges, and the needs to improve math achievement in the United States.   If you are a parent, teacher, or are concerned about the future productivity outlook of the U.S., this event was an eye-opener to the direction that not only math education should take, but also the direction current K-12 students need to consider about their future career aspirations.  The event also included the formal launch of Discovery Education’s newest product, the Math Techbook, which is set to revolutionize the digital textbook experience in math instruction.

Hall Davidson, Senior Director of Global Learning Initiatives for Discovery Education, facilitated the event and opened by introducing the first speaker of the event, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.  Mr. Perez who stated a major concern that 70% of the current entry-level professionals do not have the skills to have the jobs today or tomorrow.  To ensure we meet these needs, he highlighted the 4 “P’s” that are critical for figuring out the best ways to serve students and teachers in the area of math:

  • Partnership-Bringing everyone together.  Starting from birth, we need to build pathways to opportunities with others.
  • Practical experience-Learning by doing; Internships and apprenticeships are opportunities to give on the job experience.  It’s a way to prepare the pipeline to career success and repair those leaks.
  • Pipeline-Foster and provide multiple pathways to success to serve the diverse needs of students
  • Possibilities-Allow teachers the opportunity to have flexibility and creativity to explore and teach the rigor of the math curriculum.  Be open of nurturing females and minorities in STEM subjects and careers.

He emphasized that we need to solidify in our mindset that every child in this country is gifted and talented.  The challenge is to show these students what is out there.  Not only should students learn STEM principles and concepts, but they also need to be exposed to the endless possibilities that come with it.  A striking note that he made that resonated deeply with me is his statement:

There is no more important job in America than the job of a school teacher.

In 2014, the U.S. experienced the highest job growth after a decade of recession and productivity decline.  We have an opportunity born out of this success, but now we need to fill it.  Insourcing is a reality vs. the customary outsourcing we have come to know for years.  We need to equip students with the skills to succeed today and tomorrow.   The most important consequence of it all?  Preparing students successfully for the future will build, grow, and sustain the middle class of America.

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County further discussed why are we at a tipping point with math in the country.

We assume that students can’t get it if they don’t get it immediately. We tend to think the top group will be good at math.  We don’t assume all students can understand math applies to everything we do in life.

If we don’t change this mindset immediately as a nation, we won’t be able to capitalize on the job momentum and opportunity that exists.

The conversation then turned to a distinguished panel that explored the question, “Math, What does it mean to win?”  Rather than focusing on why our students are failing, the panel sought to target the opportunities for improvement and identify what success actually looks like with math learning and instruction.  The panel included:

  • Michele Weslander-Quaid-Chief Innovation evangelist at Google
  • Skip Fennell-Prof of Education at McDaniel College in Maryland, key leadership roles in NCTM
  • Portia Wu, Asst Sec in Employment and Training at Dept of Labor
  • Mark Edwards, Superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, NC, pioneer in 1:1 computing
  • Danica McKellar-actress, mathematician, award-winning author

Highlights of the panel discussion to consider:

  • Only 25% seniors are performing sufficiently in math.
  • Key factors for successful math learning include changing how we deliver math content and changing the culture of how we view math.  We need to end stereotypes of what math means.
  • Consider that kids need different paths than what we needed in the past.  The times are different.  Kids are growing up on digital devices.
  • We need to position ourselves to take kids that are so different from previous generations so that we can provide the different routes to value the subject of math.
  • Critical thinking/decision making skills are needed in life no matter what you choose to do.  These skills are inherent in learning math!
  • Listen to the inner dialogue students have when he/she can’t figure out a problem.  We need to value the challenge of something.  The harder you work at something, the more you will gain.  Studying math is the best way to sharpen your brain.
  • Don’t unteach what is natural for them.  Kids naturally use and understand math in basic ways (kids know fair division of candy, cookies, etc), but somehow we are making math irrelevant to kids.  It’s a language and tool we are using every day, but this point hasn’t been articulated to them for decades.
  • We are educating today’s students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.  Build tenacity in the students.  Sometimes you go further than you could because someone believed in you.
  •  The US is currently projecting an additional 1 million STEM jobs in the next 10 years.  However, this number will most likely change as technology is advancing so rapidly and exponentially. Right now STEM jobs pay twice as much as others.  We are not ready to fill those needs and US needs to get ahead again in innovation.


Finally, Discovery Education’s new Math Techbook was showcased.  Designed for middle and high school use, the Math Techbook joins its predecessors in science and social studies.  The Math Techbook seeks to level digital technology to create a learning environment that is interesting and interactive.  It makes math relevant, based on real-world examples woven throughout the entire content of the Techbook

The Math Techbook was developed based on 3 Pillars of Rigor (which align with the Common Core Standards)

  • Conceptual understanding-Discover through a series of investigations on each concepts
  • Procedural skill and fluency-Practice includes Coach and Play areas including formal assessments and independent practice with gamification
  • Application-Apply problem solving skills through digital whiteboards, graphing calculators and tools, and other manipulatives to explore critical thinking

You can register for an exclusive trial of the Math Techbook here.  A full archive of the event can be viewed here.  Follow the conversation through #ExperienceMath.

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White House State of STEM (#SoSTEM) Recap

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Whether you are a student (of any level), a parent, or a teacher, you probably have been hearing about the importance of STEM within your respective schools, media and communities.  If you have an interest in STEM careers, issues, and innovaions, today the White House delivered  it’s third annual “State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” event which featured special guests and officials from NASA, the federal government, and STEM industries.  Students ranging from elementary school to high school made up the local audience, asking questions and engaging in conversation, with STEM professionals to discuss the latest in innovations in STEM!  Speakers included senior officials with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA, and a Women in STEM panel.  The core message from the multiple speakers and dignitaries was the need to inspire and motivate students to pursue STEM passions and careers.  You can watch the entire event here:

Here is a recap of some of the notable key points of the live event:

Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Megan Smith, opened the event by recollecting how she ended up becoming an engineer.  Ms. Smith worked previously as the Vice President for Google and was one of the individuals responsible for developing Google Earth.  She explained that when she was a child, Jimmy Carter was President and the nation was battling the concerns of energy crisis.  President Carter wanted to reduce our dependence on oil over time and put solar collectors on the White House.   This intrigued Ms. Smith and was the start in her interest in the applications of science and technology for the future.  Her current work has much to do about climate change and studying sea level rise.

Big Takeaway: When learning STEM, you have to start somewhere.  It takes small steps.  You have to crawl first, walk, then run.  Go out and try science.  Do sites like code.org and expose yourself to different interests in STEM.  It may be your passion!


Chief Scientist and Adminstrator from NASA, Charles Bolden, gave a welcome address to introduce the first panel for the event.  A former NASA astronaut himself, Mr. Bolden urged students to get interested and fired up in STEM.  On the day after President Obama’s State of the UnionAddress, he explained to students that exciting things are happening in the nation.  This includes the success of Orion and the plans and progress for getting people to Mars.

Big Takeaway:  What motivates you when things go wrong?  The knowledge that we can change things when things don’t go right.

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NASA Astronauts Barry E. “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts, and Italian Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti  served as a live panel and spoke via satellite directly from the International Space Station.  Here are highlights from the Q&A session they did with the students!

Is life in space hard or easy?  Depends on what you are doing!  We are well trained and prepared for all different aspects…launching, science, protocols, and reentry.  Days are long and filled with many tasks.  Keeping mentally tied in all the time can be tiring.  Great environment to work in, fun, floor is ceiling and vice versa.

What is your favorite thing in space? It’s so cool floating!  After a few weeks, you get used to floating and being weightless.  Takes no effort to flip.  (Butch)

What do you have to do to become an astronaut?  There are many paths to becoming an astronaut-military pilots, scientists, engineering, medicine, etc..  The most important thing is to work hard and do well in school.  Choose a career before you become an astronaut that you really love.  It will make you a good candidate.

I heard you all 3D printed a tool?  Did you use it yet?  Yes we did!  We made several items via 3D printing.  They printed the same items on Earth (including a ratchet wrench) as we printed out here.  Everything is bagged up and will be studied.

How is it like being in a space suit when you are outside of the ship?  When you get in a space-walking suit, it is a one-man space ship.  It circulates cold water and oxygen.  It doesn’t have food, but it has a water bag.  The view through the vacuum of space is so clear.  You always send 2 people out at a time and you are never alone.

Before you first went out in space, what intimidated you the most and how did you overcome that?  I had to prepare astronauts to go out into space in suits.  I had their lives in my hands at stake.  It is a very detailed process.  You are in the suit for 5 hours prior to going outside.  The biggest tasks are with the person preparing you to go out.

What kind of work/research are you doing up in space?  We are studying materials science-measuring how materials as they cool they become course and how the molecules change as they solidfy.  We are growing and harvesting plants, and conducting fruit fly experiments.  We have worms that we fed bacteria (salmonella and ecoli) and are studying how the immune system is affected by the disease.

Big takeaway:   Find something you can be passionate about and follow it!


Dr. Jo Handlesman, Assoc Director for Science, discussed the latest in microbiology research studies.  She noted that only a few small number of organisms in the world will actually grow in the lab.  For every one we can grow in the lab and study, there are 100 others that we can’t grow.  How can we study bacterium, fungus, without being able to grow it on a petri dish?  We need current students to figure it out for the future!  We have also have 10 times more bacteria in our human body than we do cells. Some make us sick, and some help us.  It took us about 100 years to realize that most bacteria are good for us.

Big takeaway:  If people tell you girls can’t do science, don’t believe them.  Find people who encourage you (mentors, advisors, friends, relatives, heros) that tell you that you can do this.


NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan led a panel with members of OSTP leadership for a discussion on women in STEM.  The panel featured Lynne Murdock, Kathy Pham, Rachel Harrison-Gordon, Nicole Hernandez Hammer who represented multiple professions including park ranger, planetary geologist, computer science, mechanical engineering, and interdisciplinary scientist for climate change.  They discussed their motivations for pursuing science-from a love of Legos to a love of being outside.  Latest trends in technology that they urged students to consider pursuing for the future included healthcare data and climate change.  Ms. Stofan and Hammer articulated that we need to research how to deal with the effect that the sea level will rise and how are we going to adapt to new environments.  Ms. Stofan also emphasized how research in climate change includes heavy involvement with Mars studies!

Big takeaway:  Don’t let politics get you down.


You can find additional information on the event here and by following #SoSTEM.



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