You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Educational Curriculum Development’ category.


Having never learned to read music as a young person, I always wished for a mnemonic system for reading music that made sense to me. The illustration above might look complex, but to me it’s simpler than memorizing a bunch of different mnemonics for each of the two staves (which look basically alike and are connected in one grand repeating pattern).

Maybe this won’t work for everyone (or even for me!), but I had to give it a try. I give you two all-purpose mnemonics that work for the both lines AND the spaces on the bass and treble staves. One for going up the staff – Fucking All Cows Eat Grass By Daylight – and one for descending – Found Dead Because Got Evil Cat And.

No matter where you start, on a line or a space, in the Bass Staff or the Treble, these two mnemonics provide quick reference for the ascending or descending lines or spaces.

For example, if you start at the F (F3) on the Bass Staff, (the line with the two dots of the Bass Clef symbol on each side) you should be able to name the lines, going upward or downward, using the appropriate mnemonic. (Fucking All Cows Eat Grass By Daylight goes up, Found Dead Because Got Evil Cat And goes down)

Or if you’ve memorized one or two note positions on each staff (I’m shooting for the B in the center of the Treble Clef and the D in the center of the Bass Clef) you would start in the middle of the mnemonic on whatever letter you’re at, and repeat as needed. (e.g. if counting downward from the D in the center of the Bass Staff, you’d think Dead Because Got Evil Cat And Found Dead…

Sorry about the profanity, but trying to learn to read music puts me in a profane mood.

My music vocabulary is pretty shaky, so feel free to correct me if you see a usage error or (heaven forbid) a mistake in my image.

I am working on some infographics for a client, so this is a practice one I made about music theory. (Thanks to Troy, whose generous post on provided the chord recipes that got me started.) If the introductory content I wrote isn’t entirely correct in terms of music vocabulary, sorry — I was an art major, not a music major! Maybe someone will clue me in if I’m sounding illiterate. I’m mainly testing this for resolution, legibility, and usefulness. (But also, hopefully some of these chord recipes will stick in my head in the process…)

I thought about including all the triad recipes as a bonus, but I figured that would take the fun out of figuring them out for yourself. (Or you can go and find them someplace, like here.)

What I learned so far: The first draft I created looked blurry on my ipad even though I had uploaded an ample 800 x 3012 pixel file. My live-in tech support guy figured out the problem: The ipad’s display limit is 2 million pixels, so it refused to display my 800×3012 image properly. I redid the graphic so that it’s just under 2 million pixels (800×2500), so now it looks crisp and lovely on my ipad.


I also made the recipe card as a separate graphic in case that’s useful for anyone.

NOTE: This is a free blog that WordPress monetizes through ad sales. They sell ads to people I DO NOT endorse, support or condone.


I suck at voting. Yet, I do it. So I decided to make some unauthorized educational PSAs about voting, for other people who suck like me.

I have a low tolerance for political shenanigans. I avoid network television and radio like disfiguring STDs. I rarely believe anything I see in advertising and I don’t have the stomach to watch candidates behave like idiots (even idiots who I hope will win). I don’t like being talked down to. I know that what politicians tell you doesn’t actually mean anything. The phoniness disgusts me. I know the candidates are just pushing the buttons of whatever audience they are targeting on a given day. It makes me feel like they really don’t care about special, special, ME. (Yet, their desperation makes me realize how important every vote is to them.)

Also, I don’t find voting enjoyable. I don’t enjoy doing things I don’t feel confident about, and it’s hard to find reliable, quick-read information to help me decide who to vote for. I don’t like that feeling of uncertainty, staring at a ballot full of candidates I know nothing about. Still — I do vote — because if I don’t, some loony who not only listens to, but believes what the politicians say, will do it for me.

Here’s the thing, though: As icky as I find politics, I’m aware that I don’t have to love the candidates and I don’t have to know everything to vote. 

It’s not a test. Even though you do have to color in little bubbles, it’s not like school, where somebody’s gonna grade you if you leave some of the bubbles blank. You can do a shitty job, and nobody cares. You can just vote on the candidates that you feel you know something about and leave the ones you’re clueless about blank, if you want.

Better yet, it’s okay (at least in terms of preparedness) to cheat! If you get an absentee ballot, voting is totally open-book. When you vote in the comfort of your own home, you can go to websites and look stuff up. You can search for news stories about the candidates and see if they’ve said anything that really chaps your butt. You can pore over your ballot for as long as you like. You can even call your friends for their opinions, or ask your granny who she supports, if you value her input. (And the state provides useful voter information handbooks online, by mail and at the polls.)

And again, nobody gives a damn if you decide you don’t want to vote on this or that thing that you’re not sure about. They’ll even give you a whole new ballot if you mess up and need to start over. The main thing is just to vote. Because if reasonable, smart-ish people don’t vote, there are plenty of unreasonable, not-so-smart people out there who are perfectly happy to make the decisions.

So here’s what I have to tell my non-voting readers, if there are any:
It’s okay to suck at voting! Just get your butt down to the county election office and do it!

Not registered? No big deal. Do it now. In Montana, (as of this Oct. 2016 re-posting) you can late register anytime after Oct. 8 at your county election office, all the way through Election Day — and even on the day of the election (although that is a bit inconsiderate to the nice people who do the registering, and you might have a long wait on Election Day, so it’s better to do it sooner.) You have to provide some I.D. and stuff, so read the info at the Montana Secretary of State’s website for details.


Everything you need to know about voting in Montana.

Anyhoo, these are my unauthorized educational PSA cartoons about voting in Montana. I tried to concentrate on the fears that might deter new voters from voting, and explain that it’s not really so hard. If you see misinformation that I need to correct, or you have an idea that you’d like to suggest as caption for another cartoon, drop me a comment!

If you share these images, it’s helpful it you include a link to Montana voter info at

The set of publications that I designed for Arizona 4-H were super fun to work on. The curriculum provides a series of activities to help people of all ages (but kids in particular) learn to enjoy the outdoors, starting right in their own neighborhood. The activities follow an experiential learning model, which people outside of the 4-H world might be surprised to learn is the basis of all 4-H curricula. Four-H projects are created by some pretty darned cool folks with some serious educational science under their belts.

Written by Suzanne Dhruv, Co-Director of  Ironwood Tree Experience, this curriculum, called “Backyards and Beyond” was spearheaded by Dr. Kirk A. Astroth, Director of Arizona 4-H Youth Development in partnership with 4-H National Headquarters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USA-National Phenology Network and Children & Nature Network.

My job was to help the curriculum developers present all that great content so it looks as cool as it is, while also making it as easy as possible to use. Kirk oversaw the project, but left it to Suzanne and me to come up with a style that matched the overall tone of the writing. Basically, Suzanne wanted the publications to look cool and outdoorsy, and to be inviting and inspiring. We wanted the publications to be attractive, but not to overshadow the overall goal: to get people to GO OUTSIDE.

I came up with some design ideas that were splashy enough to attract kids, but still relatively simple. After we had narrowed down from a few samples, I created a style sheet to give Suzanne and Kirk an idea of how I planned to treat the standing stylistic elements and pedagogical features throughout the books. After they approved the style sheet, I could start layout of the 200+ page curriculum without worrying that we were going to be revising half-way through. In the end, the project went smoothly because there weren’t any big surprises along the way!

What does outdoorsy look like? I guess it depends on which year’s outdoorsy catalog you’re looking in, but usually a combination of neutrals and pop colors seem to convey the outdoorsy idea for me. I really love gray (as anyone who has ever looked into my closet will tell you) especially combined with zippy accents, so I used a gray and brown backbone with bright green and tomato red as accent colors. Suzanne later had me add another pop color (I went with purple) but I stuck with the grey as a background color throughout.

The slide show below includes samples from the three publications. It gives you an idea of how I applied the style sheet to create a consistent look throughout the 4-H Backyards & Beyond Club Explorer Journal, Club Leader Curriculum, and Neighborhood Nature Club Community Organizational Guide and Toolkit. I think it’s going to be a popular curriculum and I can’t wait to hear how much kids enjoy it.

(Please note that the Backyards & Beyond logo is the work of another designer.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: