children, education, environment, learning, nature

This just in: Send me your pictures of kids enjoying time in nature

Nature matters
Nature matters

“Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.” ~Thomas Berry

Alright friends, I know you take AMAZING photos of the kids in your life. Do you have pics of them enjoying time in nature? I want these kinds of photos to decorate my ed tech company’s office. They will serve as a reminder of why we’re embarking on this venture to help kids realize that the natural world we live in has so much to teach all of us and deserves to be protected.

I’m looking for nature photos in which kids are truly interacting with nature and exploring it. Please send any photos like this to me at and we will gladly credit you in the print!

action, change, education, imagination, work

This just in: A Mister Rogers Kind of Work Day

Mister Rogers costume change
Mister Rogers costume change

When I was a kid, I loved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I loved that he spent his day making people smile and using his imagination to help them learn. I especially loved that he transitioned his wardrobe when he got to work and before he went home.

It occurred to me that I do similar things with my job. I walk from my home through Rock Creek Park to my office in about 40 minutes. It’s a walking meditation really. I use the time to plan the day ahead and transition into work mode. I’m usually the first person there, and the first thing I do is put on my sweater and change into my work shoes. I spend the day with a fantastic team doing imaginative work to help children make the most of their potential.

Then when the day is done, I put my sweater away, change into my walking shoes, grab my backpack, and walk back home the way I came. I use the walk home to think about what I learned that day and to give thanks for the opportunity to do work that matters so much.

Mister Rogers taught me well. There’s something to be said for transition time, for having a dedicated place for work and play. I missed that time and space when I worked primarily from home. I’m grateful to have it back.

books, child, childhood, children, education

This just in: An education is for the good of the many, and the one

Goal: a high-quality education for every child everywhere

I recently read a quote that books (and thereby, learning and education) can’t solve everything. They don’t fill an empty belly, stop violence, or provide much-needed healthcare. And I beg to differ. I’ve felt hungry, afraid in an unstable environment, and sick without healthcare. Books helped me, and continue to help me, take the long view. They help me to believe in a better, brighter tomorrow, and they empower me to build that tomorrow with my own two hands, and my mind, and my heart. Books make me powerful.

In my saddest and darkest hours, my education literally saved me. It helped me to keep looking up, and to keep trying, when it seemed like all of my efforts were in vain. No, maintaining our grit and determination in the face of adversity isn’t easy, and yes, it’s tempting to take a shortcut and go off the tracks and give up. But if we will go just one more day, no matter how difficult or embarrassing or discouraging, the light at the end of the tunnel is there and it is ours as much as it is anyone else’s. It was there for me, and it’s there for every child who can find a way to keep going.

We have within our power, in one generation, to make that happen for every child, everywhere. It will be expensive, though not nearly as expensive as not doing it. Think of how we could change the world if we could educate every child.An education is for the good of the many, and the one. That’s not just an idea, that’s a revolution. That’s a movement.

children, education, learning

This just in: I made the choice to have millions of kids

All the children of the world are my kids.
All the children of the world are my kids.

“Christa, why aren’t you having kids?” I get this question a lot, and not without a fair bit of judgement. And here’s the reason: by not having kids of my own, all the children of the world are my full-time concern. I’m extremely passionate about public education and the wellbeing of children. It’s the main reason I took a job as Product Manager at ed tech startup STEAM Engine, Inc. Improving all of their lives through learning is my goal.

I’ve read many autobiographies of people who transformed their corners of the world, and I aspire to be one of those people who makes an enormous impact that lasts far beyond my own lifetime. One thing that every single one of these people mentions is that their mission to change the world required them to spend less time with their families, and specifically their children, than they would have liked to spend.

They reasoned that many other people, particularly those who are most vulnerable, needed them more than their own children needed them. I’m not going to debate whether or not that’s true. It’s how they feel. It’s a conscious choice they made and had the courage to tell the world about.

Of course it’s absolutely possible to have kids of our own and have a full career, too. So many people have shown us that and I tip my hat to every single one of them. Many of my friends are the most incredible parents and highly successful in their careers. I’m in awe of them. The great balancing act and sacrifices they manage isn’t something I could do gracefully; I know my limits. So, I realized I had to make a choice, a very personal choice that is right for me. And I decided, for me, I wanted to devote everything I have to the pursuit to help all kids through my career.

I mean to use the 24 hours I have every day to make a high-quality education for every child everywhere a birthright. It’s not a luxury or a nice-to-have service. It’s not something that should only be given to those of good fortune. It’s as vital as breathing, eating, and sleeping. We are all given this tremendously complex, wondrous piece of machinery called the human brain. It’s the greatest invention ever made, and I feel physical pain from the idea that some children, by simple luck of the draw, don’t get the chance to develop their full mental potential. It’s unacceptable and intolerable, and I’ve got to do something about it.

So, am I having kids? I already have kids. Millions of them. They need me, and I plan to use my career, time, and energy to be there for them. All of them.

career, choices, education, environment, health, job

This just in: The career you choose impacts the state of the world

Build a better world by building a better career
Build a better world by building a better career

This week I’m in the midst of many big and heady discussions about industries that demand rapid and radical transformation: healthcare, education, and the state of the planet for starters. We cannot close our eyes to the enormous problems we face as individuals and as a society. The good news is that we have everything we need to change our fortune—technology, know-how, and our imaginations. The trick is to find ways to unleash and connect them on a massive, actionable scale. And that scale lies within all of us building meaningful and impactful careers.

It’s easy to develop a solution that solves part of a problem. We’ll help some people and manage the costs with a relative degree of effectiveness. For a while, the band-aid will hold. We could almost fool ourselves into thinking this is okay, that it’s the best we can do with what we’ve got. Mediocrity is ours for the taking and my suggestion is to shun it with every ounce of strength we’ve got. We can and must do better starting now.

We could watch the news about California’s austerity measures in the face of the most horrible drought in its history and say, “That has nothing to do with me. I live thousands of miles away and I have plenty of water where I am.” The truth is that California is the canary in the coal mine.California will be everyone’s realty if we don’t take action to reverse course now. Think of all that’s been wasted there sustaining thirsty lawns in the middle of a desert for the sake of aesthetics. I actually feel a pain in my heart thinking about it. What have we done? What are we continuing to do by just going through the motions of life as usual? And if we think we have war now, imagine what will happen when we’re fighting over water rights that literally draw the line between life and death. Without water, debates about nukes are irrelevant.

These same kinds of scenarios are also true in education and healthcare. Our public education stats are appalling because we have failed to engage students and care for all of their needs from having enough food to eat to living in a safe neighborhood to nurturing their imaginations. We may be experiencing the rise of a lost generation of talent and potential because of the state of public education, and we can’t afford that. In healthcare, we discard our elders, dismiss patient concerns, and believe that quantity, churn, and lowering costs take precedence over patient experience and compassionate care. How we treat the sick, the young, and the old says a lot about who we are as a society. And I want us to be better because I know we’re capable of it right now.

Let’s stop making excuses and start doing and making things that matter for the long haul. We’ve got all of the technology and know-how we need. We each possess the most marvelous machine ever created – the human mind. Let’s join them and use them to develop career that are callings, callings to build a better, healthier, happier world.

adventure, decision-making, education, learning, writing

Inspired: Give your brain a break and your heart a chance to be heard

Set the heart free
Set the heart free

“The only good thing about pounding your head against a wall is when you stop.” Robert Spekman, my marketing professor in my Darden MBA program, said this during one of our classes almost 10 years ago. I repeat this line to myself almost daily because I like messy, complex challenges without clear answers. I guess it’s the adventuress in me.

Author Ray Bradbury once said, “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.” We can’t force realization.

Once I’ve gone ’round the mulberry bush to the point of dizziness, I do anything but sit down and try to reason through the challenge at-hand.Take a walk. Write. Paint a picture. Do a jigsaw puzzle. The sooner I do that, the sooner I find the answer I need. The older I get the more I understand that the answers I really need are those that start in the heart. What the heart speaks, the head eventually understands.

change, children, community, education

Inspired: We need a Common Core education curriculum based in compassion, empathy, kindness, and peace

The world I want
The world I want

The news out of Ferguson, New York City, and Charlottesville, made me shake my fists at the ceiling and ask, “Why? Why have we been taught to value institutions, however corrupt, over human life? Why does our society continue to glorify violence over justice, kindness, and respect?” I have no answers to these questions, but I do know this: it must stop and change starts with us.

I understand that teaching our children Common Core concepts has merit, but what about the common core of compassion, mindfulness, and nonviolence? I know there is value in math, science, and the proper use of the English language, but they are worthless unless we first learn to treat one another with respect and decency.

What we need are new standards, standards that aren’t measured by a state administered exam on a specific day, but by our own daily actions. When I was a student at UVA’s Darden School, we had to write and sign an oath at the end of every exam that stated the work that we did was ours and ours alone. I want to see everyone, everywhere, accept an Honor Code that includes conduct that goes far beyond UVA’s oath against lying, cheating, and stealing. I want an Honor Code that elevates humanity and denounces violence in all its ugly forms.

Reflecting on today’s news, I’m reminded of the quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.” Collectively, we have within our power, in our lifetimes, to create a tidal shift in how we treat one another. And of course, how we treat others is how our world is shaped.

We have the chance now to create a better and more peaceful world for our children and future generations. But we have to raise our voices in unison and in the name of all people everywhere. It is time for goodness to have its reign, and it starts in each of our mirrors. It’s time for us to put aside all the titles we carry around—where we work, where we live, where we came from, how much money we have, what gender, race, and religion we are—and recognize the one thing that binds us together forever: we’re all on Team Human. Let’s act like it.

community, education, safety

Inspired: Making the University of Virginia safe for all students

Raise your voice“I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.” ~Bill Gates

Despite Thanksgiving, last week’s news was dominated by tough, complicated stories that won’t be quickly nor easily solved. Sexual assault on the grounds of UVA, where I went to the Darden School for my MBA, was one of those stories. My friend, Alex, and I banded together with other UVA and Darden School alumni to place an ad in the Cavalier Daily, the newspaper at UVA, to support students who have been victims of violence on UVA’s grounds and to raise our voices to demand a safe environment for all UVA students. We raised almost $1000 in a short amount of time (and over a holiday weekend!) That money paid for the half-page ad and the balance will be donated to UVA’s Women’s Center where students receive counseling and support.

We can’t change the past but together we can build a better and brighter future. Thank you to the alumni who gave so generously. UVA will be a better place because of you. Donations will be accepted through tonight via to

career, education, media, movie, story, technology

Inspired: Big Hero 6 will motivate you to take up computer science and become a maker

Big Hero 6I saw the movie Big Hero 6 yesterday. The powerful storyline is an incredible motivator for kids and adults to go into computer science and get involved in the making community. While many of the tech stories we hear today involve pricey acquisitions and the latest greatest photo sharing app, the movie shows that a career (or even just a hobby) in technology can and does yield incredible results.

We are standing on the precipice of many difficult decisions as a society—health and wellness, climate change, energy consumption, food distribution, and the list goes on. Technology won’t solve them all, but it can certainly put a hefty dent in any of them. While we can throw stats and doomsday scenarios at people in an attempt to get them to care about these issues, storytelling like that in Big Hero 6 may be the most powerful weapon we have to scare up the resource we need in greatest abundance—human care and concern for the future.

education, film, teaching, television

Beautiful: Finally a Reality Show that Celebrates Real Heroes – Teachers

_MG_0785bOn Friday night, I caught the airing of Teach, the new documentary by Davis Guggenheim. It gave me chills, in a very good way. As someone who was saved, literally, by my education, I know that it is a gift that can turn a life around, that can take someone in an entirely new direction beyond their wildest dreams.

Bravo to CBS for putting such an incredible piece of filmmaking on prime time TV. Kate O’Hare of did a wonderful write up of the show:

“The actions of teachers unions – whether protecting bad teachers, protesting against politicians (or marching for them), and promoting education “reforms” that often seem more about social issues than the three Rs — often capture the interest of the media, overshadowing the day-to-day work of teachers trying to do the best job they can.

In 2010, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim directed and co-wrote“Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that took a frank look at the failures of the American educational system as it showed parents trying to get their children in charter schools.

Much of the media attention for the film focused on a segment that showed how teachers unions fiercely protect political alliances and policies and teachers’ job security, often at the expense of needed financial overhauls.

In a two-hour special called “Teach,”airing Friday, Sept. 6, on CBS, Guggenheim puts the focus back on exceptional teachers, following four public-school instructors through the 2012-2013 school year.

The special also kicks off an 18-month campaign by production company Participant Media, in partnership with, to urge students and recent graduates to go into teaching.

“I believe teachers are heroes and have the ability to make an incredible impact in the long-term future of our kids,” says Guggenheim in a statement. “The airing of ‘Teach’ on CBS is another milestone in Participant’s long-term commitment to raise the visibility of the teaching profession and support efforts to recruit the next generation of great educators.”

•The teachers profiled are: Matt Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at McGlone Elementary School in Denver; Shelby Harris, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math at Kuna Middle School in Kuna, Idaho; 10th-grade AP world-history teacher Joel Laguna at Garfield High in Los Angeles; and Lindsay Chinn, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at MLK Early College, Denver.

•All the educators featured strive for excellence, using conventional and unconventional methods.
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