picking out a book

What Constellations is Reading, Cooking, Listening To, and More While Quarantined

April 21, 2020
Communications Officer

Our team is hard at work helping our students and teachers succeed via online learning, but we wanted to take a moment and provide some recommendations of books, quotes, movies, and more that have been helping refuel us while we practice social distancing.

Sababu Chaka Barashango, Constellations Fellow

Favorite at-home CS activity: I love explaining arrays with an unplugged activity. All it takes are container and counters, or other elements. I like to use a Mancala game board and stones. Check out a video and instructions here.

What I miss the most about being in the classroom: Missing the warm interactions with colleagues, educators, and students.

Words of wisdom: "He who learns, teaches" - A life-long Ethiopian Proverb I've carried.  Well now, I'm learning and teaching the teachers to teach.

I’m reading: I wake up every day to a Bible verse delivered from the Bible app and I share it with my family for daily inspirational, spiritual and mental nourishment.

Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible

I’m watching: You can’t go wrong with a “Mission Impossible” marathon (all six movies with Tom Cruise, and Ving Rahmes as the technology genius.) Although, it might seem as if our mission of real equity in this country is impossible, it is not!  Therefore, despite challenges and what seems to be insurmountable odds stacked up against us, we have to remain laser-focused and vigilante, and continue to press onward towards our goal. 


Lien Diaz, Director of Educational Innovation and Leadership

Favorite at-home CS activity: I love Scratch music and music videos!

Words of wisdom: “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore,” - Cesar Chavez, United Farm Workers 

I’m reading: “How Schools Work – An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest Serving Secretaries of Education,” Arne Duncan (Audible)

The Last Lecture” by Jeffrey Zaslow, Randy Pausch. It’s the story of Randy Pausch a Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor and how he lived his life as he prepared for his last lecture (achieving your childhood dreams) after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

The Audacity of Hope Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” by Barack Obama

It’s eloquently written with an emphasis on moving beyond divisiveness to come together to solve the pressing problems that so many American families are facing (economic distress, inequalities in housing, health and education, and now this pandemic) – thus the audacity to hope that political consensus can actually serve all of America not just the top 1% who seemingly are so far removed from the realities that mid and low income people in our country face. 

Sal Si Puedes (Escape If You Can) Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution,” by Peter Matthiessen 

The author followed Cesar Chavez to learn about him. He describes the life Cesar Chavez lived and how his deeply rooted belief in non-violence protest/demonstration elevated the plight of farmworkers --- and his struggles are a reflection of systemic discrimination and injustices that still exist today with “blue collar” workers who ironically, but always have been, are now considered essential workers and sacrificing themselves to keep America going.   

Drink Cultura Chicanismo” by Jose Antonio Burciaga

I’ve read many books by this author. He depicts the Hispanic/Latino culture with familiar experiences of living in the southwest surrounded by Hispanic family and friends. The Chicanismo culture is unique and largely a regional reference but it also conveys a disconnect with the rest of America in many ways refusing to accept that being Hispanic or “Chicano” in America is American.

Also: “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert (especially the “eat” part). Self-explanatory.

I’m watching: “This Is Us”…because this-is-us.

Cast of This Is Us

I’m listening to: “Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction” with Dr. Sanjay Gupta (he is the smartest person in the world…maybe next to Dr. Fauci) J

In the Bubble” with Andy Slavitt


Allie McFadden, Communications Officer

Favorite at-home CS activity: I have been using Scratch to teach myself some basics over the years. As someone who has no prior coding experience and isn’t strong in typical STEM areas, I’ve found this one to be the most fun and encouraging, and it allows me to be creative.

What I miss the most about being in the classroom: I love visiting classrooms and seeing our students engaged and excited to show off their projects. Confidence is contagious and it’s fun to watch their hard work pay off.

Words of wisdom: “Let July be July. Let August be August. And let yourself just be even in the uncertainty. You don’t have to fix everything. You don’t have to solve everything. And you can still find peace and grow in the wild changing of things.” – Morgan Harper Nichols

“A flower doesn’t compare itself to the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

I’m reading: This is so hard. I love books so much, I recently started a bookstagram! I just finished “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and I can’t recommend it enough – especially the audiobook. Michelle’s story is so powerful and filled me with a new wave of inspiration to fight the injustices and inequities that so many people in our country suffer.

On a lighter note, “Daisy Jones and The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid and or “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens are wonderful books to get lost in.

I’m watching: “Parasite” or “Little Women” — both amazing stories by innovative filmmakers from underrepresented populations in film. You can also never go wrong with “The Parent Trap.”

I’m cooking: Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies by NYT Cooking. They are not kidding when they say they are giant. I’ve never seen cookies this big! It’s a fun recipe because you get to bang the cookie sheet on the counter multiple times and you get to eat cookie dough. What’s not to like?

giant crinkled chocolate chip cookies

I’m listening to: I have a whole schedule for my favorite podcasts, but some *favorite, favorite* podcasts are “The Daily,” “Office Ladies,” and “Tea Time.” “The Daily” has been an awesome resource for better understanding COVID-19, its impact on our world, and what we can do to help stop its spread.

“Office Ladies” is recapping episodes of “The Office” week-by-week. It’s fun to relive and learn more about one of my favorite shows and then go watch the episode.

“Tea Time” is how I love to end my week. It’s an entertaining trio of women who talk about pop culture and celebrity news. It’s silly but it never fails to make me smile and laugh, something we all need more than ever right now.


Terry Foster, Constellations Fellow

Favorite at-home CS activity:  I love doing the Tower of Hanoi for teaching algorithms and recursion along with a sample video. This activity is great because it teaches you to think computationally: a problem-solving skill that can be applied in all facets of life. It's a great introduction into sequencing, selection, and iteration...which are the key elements of algorithms

Words of wisdom: “You never know what you have until it’s gone. Toilet paper for instance.” I bought a sign with this quote on it last summer for our bathroom at home, but it’s sooo fitting right now. Sigh.

I’m reading: I’m re-reading “The Alchemist,” a book I haven’t read since high school but is very good.

I’m watching: My favorite shows currently are “Watchmen” and “Snowfall,” but the best show of all time is “Game of Thrones.”

I’m cooking: Sesame-Orange Beef and Wonton Noodles – this recipe is lit!

Sesame Orange Beef

La’Isla Emeruem, Senior Administrative Professional

Favorite at-home CS activity:  I’m new to CS so I think that this activity is great for beginners because it gives you a better understanding of a core concept of computing (binary coding). Here’s the link to the activity along with five others.

What I miss the most about being on campus:  I miss the personal interaction and coffee talk in the mornings with my colleagues. I’m a people person so the social distancing is a bit challenging for me.

Words of wisdom: I would like to encourage everyone to not let the quarantine get the best of you! Find fun and interesting things to do with your family, friends, significant other, etc. Break out the old board games, play cards, or brush up on some skills you’ve been wanting do fine tune or even learn a new skill. Use this time to be a better you!

I’m reading: I’m finally reading “Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being.” This book was written by Georgia Tech president Angel Cabrera’s wife, Dr. Beth Cabrera. I won this book at a staff engagement event on campus. I never got around to reading it but now I have the time to do so which is ironic because the book is about the work-life balance.

I’m watching: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or the “Ip Man” series. I’m a huge Kung Fu fan!

Still photo from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Yolanda Payne, Constellations Fellow

Favorite at-home CS activity: Raspberry Pi has a digital making at home guide for parents. They have weekly challenges that allows participants to show off their new skills.

What I miss the most about being in the classroom: I miss interacting with the students and teachers the most. They are what makes this job so fun and rewarding! On Georgia Tech’s campus, I miss being able to pop in and say hi to different people on our team and in our building.

Words of wisdom: “Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.” Benjamin Elijah Mays

"Let the beauty we love be what we do."-Rumi

I’m relieving stress by: Disney Parks has a “How to Draw” series in their animation studio that is amazing, especially for those of us who have limited art skills. They give step-by-step instructions and is easy to use.

How to draw Stitch from Lilo and Stitch

I’m watching: I love anything animated from Disney. “The Princess and the Frog” and “Beauty and the Beast” are some special favorites.