Wonders All Around

Learning Alongside My 5th Grade Wonders


#SOL – Pockets

“Why are you wearing your jacket?” a student asks me as I walk up to a group playing on the climber. It’s a good question—after all, it’s about 80° on this radiant spring day—with a simple answer: “My dress doesn’t have any pockets.” My jacket has pockets, though, and these are stuffed with my phone so I know when it’s time to come in, a walkie-talkie in case the office needs to get ahold of me when I’m outside, and an electronic whistle so my class knows when it’s time to come in. Clearly, I need packets!

It’s a problem that I don’t really understand. Just put pockets on our clothing! We need pockets, and not fake pockets or the ones that are too small to even hold a credit card. I’ve returned many a pair of pants to the rack after trying them on because they don’t have pockets. I mean, even leggings can be made with substantial-sized pockets these days!

I have one friend who agrees with me 100% about this. If I show up at work with a new dress, right after she comments, “Cute dress,” she quickly adds, “Does it have pockets?”

I love it when I can answer her with a smile, “Yes, yes it does!”



#SOL21 – Day 31 – Finale

I like to have little visual reminders of some of my favorite experiences, so I decided to create and print this word cloud using my words from this month’s Slices.


Thank you to the entire SOL community! I will see you again.


#SOL21 – Day 30 – Being a Maker

Being a Maker runs in my blood. My paternal grandmother, Grandma Sell, and her mother, Great-grandma Burkhardt, were always creating things, and I learned alongside them when I was growing up.

Great-grandma Burkhardt had display cases filled with Fabergé-style goose eggs. She was also very skilled with a needle: sewing, needlepoint, cross stitch, and quilting. I remember her helping me perfect—well, improve—my French knot when I was about 10 years old. I made a lot of potholders with the loom that she kept in her front closet. When I pulled out the Pringles can of knitting needles from that same closet, she tried to teach me how to knit, but I didn’t really get the hang of it at the time.

Grandma Sell painted and fired ceramic ornaments and mugs for us every Christmas. She was also into needlepoint and cross stitching, and she sewed her own round dancing dresses. Later, she bought an embroidery machine and used that to embellish clothing, towels, and quilts. When I was about 12 years old, I spent a week with her sewing outfits for the Cabbage Patch Kids that my sister and I had. The remnants of fabric she had from her dresses really came in handy. Other times when we visited, I would take a latch hook project out of the round side table next to her recliner and help her complete a few more rows.

I’m a maker, too. Some of the things I create would look very familiar to Grandma Sell and Great-grandma Burkhardt, like the crocheted dishcloths and the knitted—yes, I finally learned—scarves. I use my sewing machine to make masks and repair clothing, sometimes to make a sleeping bag for an American Girl doll. I’ve even machined-pieced a few quilts. I have a large stash of embroidery thread from past cross stitch projects.

This past year, when spending all of my time at home during the pandemic, I purchased an electronic cutting machine and started making cards and helping my daughter add iron-on embellishments to her shirts. Most recently, I borrowed the 3D printer from school and I’ve printed nose clips and cord locks for the new masks I’ve sewed.

Oh, and I write. That’s definitely making, too!


#SOL21 – Day 29 – Desserts

“This or that?” I text to my sister along with two photographs of roll cakes from a food blog. The rainbow-striped cake is what caught my eye on a Facebook ad, but when I followed the link to the blog, the rainbow sprinkles-covered cake grabs my attention, too. My sister, who has mentioned more than once that she would run a bakery in another life, will help me with this dilemma.

As the three dots linger on my phone screen, I almost add, “Or a 3rd option if you’ve come across something good lately,” but her reply comes through just then.

“What’s the occasion? Just for fun or for Easter?”

I tell her that it’s for Easter and that we’ll be spending it with Mom and Dad. “This,” she promptly answers. That would be the rainbow-striped cake. “Looks fun. And nothing crunchy in your baked goods.” I knew she’d help me decide.

I could have left it at that, but I have this lingering worries about this cake. Will the colors from the batter stay vibrant, or will they dull as the cake cooks? Will I be able to remove the cake from the pan without breaking it? Will I be able to roll it without it cracking into pieces? I can probably do it, but I’m just not sure. “That’s what I was leaning toward. I may chicken out, though,” I reply.

After we each toss out a couple of simpler suggestions, she posts a link to a Neapolitan pound cake. The picture looks elegant, I know I can handle a pound cake, and this option includes chocolate! That’s the cake I need to make.

Then, for some reason, I start looking at pies. And icebox cakes. And even a chocolate chip pizza cookie decorated with mini Cadbury eggs. Oh, boy! We only need one dessert.

Or do we?




#SOL21 – Day 28 – Dear Squirrel

Dear Squirrel,

We see you stretching from the tree branch to the bird feeder. It’s impressive that you can anchor yourself to the tree with just one of your back paws while grabbing seed from the feeder with your front. We’re amazed that you hang upside-down while eating what you have swiped from the birds. It would be far less exciting for us if you chose to eat the nuts and seeds from the platform feeder on the opposite branch. Thank you for the entertainment.

The Wegrzyns and their cats


#SOL21 – Day 27 – Storytime

Last spring was rough with the stay-home orders and all of the uncertainty of life during a pandemic, but we tried to create routines, and there were a few little things that I actually looked forward to. My favorite thing was storytime.

It started at the end of March, after having spent two weeks at home, only going out for essentials and not knowing when all of this would end. I came across a post on Facebook telling that Kwame Alexander was going to read on Instagram from The Crossover each weekday morning at 10:30 for a week. I wasn’t on IG at that point, so I signed up for an account and started following him. Unfortunately, when the time came on Monday morning, I didn’t know how to find IG Live, and I missed the reading he did that day. It seems I wasn’t the only one because more detailed instructions, complete with a screenshot of where to click, were posted later that day. I successfully joined on day 2, and it was magical! Kwame’s smooth voice pulled me out of my living room, and the comments and hearts flying up the screen instantly connected me with thousands of book lovers. I knew I would be back for more.

I listened to Kwame all that week. After that, we joined Jacqueline Woodson in her backyard to listen to Brown Girl Dreaming. Next, we were treated to Jason Reynolds reading chapters from Look Both Ways and then Grace Lin sharing from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The week after that, the final week, different picture book authors read from their books each day. This time was so special that I wrote it on my calendar each day.

I found so many ways to listen to authors and connect with fellow readers. Last spring is when I discovered LeVar Burton Reads and Scholastic Book Fairs’s BookJoy Live with John Schu, two things that I still listen to when I can. Reading has always been a favorite way to spend my time, but storytime truly helped me get through the early days of the pandemic.


#SOL21 – Day 26 – Divertida en la Escuela/Fun at School

Es muy buena a hacer en la escuela con mis estudiantes de quinto grado, pero es todavía difícil. Puedemos halbar juntas, pero tenemos que estar a sies pies de distancia. Puedemos jugamos juntas en el recreo, per no puedemos compartir juguetos. Puedemos crear proyectos, pero necesitamos trabajar en nuestras escritorios.

Ayer, decedí necesitamos algo diversión, así para la ciencia usamos linternas. Luego fuimos a caminar en el bosque al lado de nuestra escuela. Un estudiante gríto, “¡Sí! Me encanta esa escuela!”

Era justo que todos necesitabamos.


It is very nice being back at school with my 5th graders, but it is still difficult. We can talk together, but we have to be six feet apart. We can play together at recess, but we cannot share toys. We can create projects, but we have to work at our desks.

Yesterday, I decided that we needed some fun, so for science, we used flashlights. Then we went for a walk in the woods next to our school. One student shouted, “Yes! I love this school!”

It was just what we needed.


#SOL21 – Day 25 – Finally Waking Up

I usually wake up before my alarm, enjoying a few quiet minutes under the covers before pushing them back and starting my day. Today is not like that. It takes me a few moments to register what the sounds coming from my phone even mean. I turn off the alarm and close my eyes. I can tell that if I don’t get up right now, I’m going to fall back asleep, and who knows when I’ll wake up next.

The whole morning is a blur. I had two cups of tea, but I’m still dragging. I spoke to the kids before they left to catch the bus, talked to my husband about our dinner and evening plans, and scooped the cat litter boxes. I briefly entertained the idea of streaming a yoga class, but sitting on the couch and working word puzzles won out. A cat joined me, resting his paws on my thigh and getting cozy. He clearly approves of this slow morning, too.

When I can’t put it off any longer, I get up and do all the things to get ready that I normally would have done an hour ago. As I finish my morning routine, I open the dining room curtains and glance out at our backyard. Instead of moving on to the next job, I pause because I see that the maple tree outside the window has buds! I smile and think about how even nature needs to rest. That thought perks me up a bit.

A few minutes later, I close the front door and walk to my car. Amid the wood chips and dead stalks from last season, I see crocus pushing their way toward the sun. I smile and capture the sight with my camera. I’m feeling a bit more awake, too.


#SOL21 – Day 24 – It Was Bound to Happen At Some Point (Day In a Sentence)

As I sit in the semi-dark of the dining room, reading Slices and sipping coffee, my morning calm is interrupted by a teenager bursting through the front door, stomping to the entry table, grabbing a face mask, slamming the door shut, and trying to not seem in too much of a hurry to make it back to the bus stop.

(A Day in a Sentence Slice)


#SOL21 – Day 23 – Math Problem

Stephan has a piece of wood that measures 18 inches long and 12 inches wide. He wants to make a tray with sides 2 inches high. Maurice says that he can make a tray that has a base measuring 10-1/2 inches by 10-1/2 inches. Is he correct? Explain.

The last problem on today’s 6th grade math test was a doozie! At least half of the kids called me over just to make sense of it. “Is the tray supposed to have two sides or four?” “How thick is the wood?” “Do the sides go on top of the base or on the edges of it?” One kid stared at the paper and finally wrote, “I have no clue!”

According to the answer key, students were supposed to compare the area of the board (18 x 12″ = 216 in²) to the area of the base (10.5″ x 10.5″ = 110.25 in²) plus the area of the four sides (4″ x 2″ x 10.5″ = 84 in²). Since 216 in² > 194.25 in², Maurice is correct.

Well, I’ve followed enough sewing patterns in my life to know that you can’t just calculate the surface area and call it good, so I made a sketch of the piece of wood. I found that after you cut out the 10.5″ x 10.5″ square, you’re left with an L-shaped piece. From that, you can cut three 2-inch pieces, but the scraps that are left are 1.5″ wide. That means that there’s not a section wide enough to actually cut out the last 2-inch side!

I decided to take this home to my family and see how each of them would solve it. It was hilarious to compare the different approaches! The 7th grader had an answer within seconds. She didn’t even need a piece of paper. “No, he can’t do it,” she said.

“I’m going to need more proof than that.”

“Fine. The base is 10-1/2 inches, so you can’t cut any 2″ pieces off the 12″ side, but there’s 7-1/2″ on the other side, so you can only cut three pieces from there.” Boom.

The 11th grader who’s on the fabrication subgroup for the high school robotics teams went off to work in the other room with a piece of paper. We kept overhearing mutterings of, “This is hard!” and “How thick is the wood?” and “Is this supposed to be shaped like a plus?”

In the meantime, the 9th grader disagreed with his younger sister. “Yah, he can do it. Look, you cut the base, and then you cut three sides. You make the last side by cutting out these two pieces and sticking them together.” With that, both he and his sister left to go hang out in their bedrooms.

Finally, the 11th grader came back down with the answer that it couldn’t be done. When I asked how he figured it out he said, “I made a CAD drawing. There isn’t a wide enough strip left to cut out the final side.”

“Well, what if you joined two smaller pieces together to make the last side?” I asked.

He wrinkled up his face like I was asking him to put pickle juice on his ice cream. “I guess you could…if you want your tray to fall apart.”

My husband, the same one who created the cake pop stand out of Lego a couple of days ago, then showed his drawing. “You can actually cut out these two staircase-like shapes. When you shift them and join them, you’ll have your 10-1/2 inch square base and still have the right-sized scraps to cut out the four 2″ sides.”

My son and I exchanged a look silently acknowledging that that was a clever solution. “By the way, this was on the 6th grade test my students took today,” I said.

“What?!?” replied the 11th grader.

I can’t wait to discuss this problem in class tomorrow!



Skip to toolbar