Category: Education

Head Start Program really does help obese kids

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Head Start preschool programs had a positive effect on the body mass index (BMI) for obese and overweight children over the course of an academic year. Both obese and overweight children who participated in Head Start saw a greater decline in BMI z score during their first academic year than their counterparts in comparison groups, according to a new study to be published in the February issue of Pediatrics…

Julie Lumeng said that Head Start is a valuable intervention for clinicians concerned about the health and well-being of their low-income patients. “Practically speaking, if you’re a pediatrician or family medicine doctor who’s working with children and you’re concerned about their weight, if those children are low-income, meaning they would be eligible for the Head Start preschool program, just suggesting to the parent that they sign them up for Head Start might actually help them achieve a healthier weight,” she concluded…

The study may also have implications for the overall population health of children. “By looking at adopting not just developmental and educational policies, but also implementing strategies or evidence around food or playtime, it proves there’s a benefit to this when you compare it to fairly similar populations,” said Stephen Cook, MD, MPH…at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York…

One of the most important limitations of the study may be the study design, which Lumeng calls “second best” compared with a randomized, controlled trial. However, she says a randomized controlled trial would be extremely unethical for this particular population. “You couldn’t enroll a family in a study and say ‘Well, I’m going to flip a coin basically and decide if your child’s going to get preschool or not’ when they’re living in poverty,” said Lumeng…

Cook sees this study as a jumping off point for further data collection, possibly involving Head Start providers, as well as the siblings and parents of the children involved. He hypothesized there might be a “halo effect” with kids’ healthier eating habits and greater physical activity having a positive impact on the adults in their lives.

Head Start is a federally funded preschool program that is free to 3- to 5-year-old US children living in poverty. Head Start program regulations mandate nutritional and health services, adequate time and space for active play, and parental involvement.

Republicans hate it.

Obama offers plan for free community colleges


“Show us the Republican plan!”

President Obama will call on Congress to pass legislation making the first two years of community college free for students.

The federal government would cover three-quarters of the cost, with states kicking in the final 25 percent…

The program is likely to be dead on arrival in Congress, but it’s the administration’s first major college affordability proposal in some time.

As much as Republicans like Governor Susana here in New Mexico like to blather about their support for education, their concern for better education – they don’t offer a single positive and programmatic step forward. Their agitprop is meaningless when it comes to actually doing something that helps workingclass folks.

Obama is proposing two years of free community college for students who attend at least half-time and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5. That wouldn’t cover the entire cost for most students — students who finish community college in two years are rare — but the White House estimates it would save 9 million students around $3,800 per year in tuition if every state chose to participate.

The White House said details will be in the president’s 2016 budget request but declined to offer specifics on how much the program would cost. It’s not clear how the program would work, how the grants to states would be structured, or how the federal money would interact with the Pell Grant, federal aid for low-income students that about 38 percent of all community college students receive.

Other states and cities, including Tennessee and Chicago, have proposed programs that cover any remaining tuition and fees after other grants and scholarships are applied…

Obama has praised Tennessee’s program, the Tennessee Promise, which begins with this year’s high school class and offers two years of free community college tuition. About 50,000 high school seniors completed the initial sign-up — more than three-quarters of all high school seniors in the state.

That’s one effect free college programs can have: they can make college seem possible for everybody, even students who didn’t think they could afford to go…

The total amount of student debt in the US has more than tripled in the past 10 years, from $363 billion in 2005 to more than $1.2 trillion today. It’s increasing for a few reasons: More students are going to college than they used to, a higher proportion are taking out loans, and they’re borrowing more than students did in the past…

Republicans love that part. Anything that offers profits for money-lenders is OK with conservatives.

RTFA. It wastes the required amount of space on beancounter arguments, offers up some of the pet sophistry from pretend-liberals who think such programs favor middle-class students over poor. Mail me a penny postcard when patent leather populists actually show up to work in a chile patch in Hatch, NM or sign on as a laborer building the newest Walmart for some cheap-ass contruction company.

It does dot most i’s, cross the t’s. The article is clear about Republican lies. You might be able to find one or two conservative politicians in the GOUSA who actually deliver on promises to aid education for workingclass kids. That’s like the proverbial stopped clock that has the time right for 2 seconds a day.

Republicans walked away from any progressive agenda a couple of days past the end of the Civil War..

Really interesting list of scientific breakthroughs in 2014


#1 of 10

In 2007, archaeologists examining fossilized seashells in a museum collection stumbled upon a detail other scientists had somehow missed: deliberate engravings of abstract patterns. These shells were dated to over 500,000 years ago, and were found amongst other shells that had been carefully crafted into specialized tools, at the same site where the first fossils of Homo erectus, our hominin ancestor, had been discovered, in 1890.

Taken together, these discoveries suggest that Homo erectus was far more sophisticated than previously believed and capable of symbolic thought…The discovery “raises the possibility that the development of human cognition — human culture — was a very long process. It was not a sudden development…”


#3 of 10

In late September, for the first time ever, a woman gave birth to a baby after receiving a womb transplant. The mother and child offer hope to women the world over with missing or non-functional uteruses, who desire to carry their own children to term.

The unidentified 36-year-old woman was born without a womb…and is one of nine Swedish women who received a uterine transplant from live donors between 2012 and 2013. Some of those women received wombs from family members (including their own mothers), but this particular uterus was reportedly donated by a 61-year-old “family friend” who had undergone menopause 7-years prior to the 2013 surgery.

Lists like these are often throwaway crap, filler from an editor or editors with a writing staff on holiday.

This batch reminds me – once again – to add io9.com to my morning reads. Give it a thorough trial. They produce interesting reads on a consistent basis.

And wander through all 10 of these offerings. Some have already been noted in eideard.com and I’ve read most of the rest as they were published. But, it’s always worth being reminded of increases in our knowledge base and to check in on further progress from time to time.

Thanks, Ursarodinia — GMTA

Do you care about the level of violence in your kid’s cartoons?

Principal cartoon characters are more than twice as likely to be killed off as their counterparts in films for adults released in the same year, reveals research from the University of Ottawa and University College London, published in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal.

The findings prompt the authors to describe children’s cartoons as “rife with death and destruction,” with content akin to the “rampant horrors” of popular films for adults given restrictive age ratings.

“Rather than being innocuous and gentler alternatives to typical horror or drama films, children’s animated films are, in fact, hotbeds or murder and mayhem” say the study leaders Dr Ian Colman and Dr James Kirkbride…

On-screen death and violence can be particularly traumatic for young children, and the impact can be intense and long lasting. Because of this many parents will not let their children see the “endemic gore and carnage” typical of films aimed at adult audiences, say the Canadian and UK researchers.

In a bid to assess the amount of violence young children might be exposed to, they analysed the length of time it takes for key characters to die in the 45 top-grossing children’s cartoons, released between 1937 (Snow White) and 2013 (Frozen), and rated either as suitable for a general audience (G) or with parental guidance suggested (PG).

They also looked at whether the first on-screen death was a murder or involved a main character’s parent.

The study found that two thirds of the cartoons depicted the death of an important character compared with half of the adult films.

After taking account of total run-time and years since release, children’s main cartoon characters were 2.5 times as likely to die as their counterparts in films for adults, and almost three times as likely to be murdered.

Yes, I know the automatic excuse of most “moral” censorship is that “we have to protect the children”. I don’t think these researchers are engaged so much in protecting children as trying to understand how we educate children.

I think it probably is useful to teach kids that a violent death isn’t necessarily the solution of choice for life’s problems. Even if one of those problem is Rumpelstiltskin.

New teaching model may be a game changer

Hundreds of students have just completed new courses in Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Active Learning Initiative (ALI), part of a strategic effort by the college to embrace engaged learning models and emerging technologies…

ALI uses a “flipped classroom” approach: Knowledge transfer happens before class, through assigned reading material or videos. Class time is then used for “deliberate practice,” applying the new knowledge via problem-solving and reasoning to give students experience making and testing predictions and solving problems. Studies have shown that the deliberate practice model is the quickest path to expert-level mastery of a given skill set.

“Because the College of Arts and Sciences teaches foundational courses that all undergraduate students throughout the university take, we have the unique opportunity to impact undergraduate education throughout Cornell with this initiative,” says Gretchen Ritter… “We’re harnessing the passion and commitment from both faculty and alumni to institute these initiatives and expand our efforts to other foundational courses throughout the college.”

Physics and biology, the pilot departments for ALI, each converted large course sequences to the new model and reach almost 3,000 students. Jed Sparks, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and ALI project lead for biology, said the initiative is “not fixing bad or broken classes but ones that are well-received – making something that works well work even better.”

Advanced students in ALI courses benefit from the deeper level at which the courses operate beyond basic knowledge transfer; midrange students have more opportunity to develop expert-level skills through greater exposure to more material; and the least prepared students benefit from improved opportunities to engage the course material, develop and practice skills, and close achievement gaps more quickly…

Developing the curricula for the pilot classes requires re-examining lecture objectives and what material should be covered, says Sparks. “For the active learning model to be successful, the teacher must have very clearly in mind what the teaching objectives for the class are. It requires them to teach in a more deliberate and intentional way. It’s transformative.”

The new learning model expects more of students as well as teachers, says Arias. “They must have the discipline to do their preparation before class, but by doing so, we can take them further and deeper than we could before…”

Another benefit of response technologies is direct, frequent pedagogical assessment, says Lisa Sanfilippo, a teaching support specialist for the biology initiative. “Ongoing assessment is a key element of active learning,” she says.

RTFA for notes of methods and tech used not only for assessment of the teaching; but, students to self-evaluate, peer-evaluation. Both ends of the dialectic utilizing not only purpose-designed devices/systems like iClicker; but, with any smart device.

Sounds fascinating. Sounds like something I would have enjoyed BITD – and still may.

As ever, my first concern will be to examine how well any portion of this new system can be translated down to younger age groups, public schools not funded as well as Cornell, students from a broader demographic than folks who end up at one of the primo universities in the country. Every class needs a better education.

Death from malaria has been diminished by half

Global efforts have halved the number of people dying from malaria – a tremendous achievement, the World Health Organization says…It says between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million deaths were averted, 3.9 million of which were children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year, more people are being reached with life-saving malaria interventions, the WHO says.

In 2004, 3% of those at risk had access to mosquito nets, but now 50% do.

There has been a scaling up of diagnostic testing, and more people now are able to receive medicines to treat the parasitic infection, which is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

An increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination.

In 2013, two countries – Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka – reported zero indigenous cases for the first time, and 11 others (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) succeeded in maintaining zero cases.

In Africa, where 90% of all malaria deaths occur, infections have decreased significantly.

Here, the number of people infected has fallen by a quarter – from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013. This is despite a 43% increase in the African population living in malaria transmission areas.

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: “These tremendous achievements are the result of improved tools, increased political commitment, the burgeoning of regional initiatives, and a major increase in international and domestic financing.”

But she added: “We must not be complacent. Most malaria-endemic countries are still far from achieving universal coverage with life-saving malaria interventions.”

Based on current trends, 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria by the end of this year.

One portion of my personal efforts to get Americans to think beyond their family, their community, is the larger community that is our world. Just as we are affected by the loss of young people who may have grown up in the poverty and illness afflicting life that we see around us – there is an even larger community outside the comparative wealth of this nation that fights the same negatives to stay alive – times 10 or 100.

As a species we all lose every time we suffer a young death from disease or war. Someone who might have grown up to discover a way to a better, longer life for us all – never had a chance to achieve any contribution to humanity. We’re all moved to a new place of potential achievement by the simple opportunity of life extended to those who would have missed that chance a decade ago, a century ago.

We have to realize the human family really is a global family.

Off-grid primary school built using shipping containers


Louver walls of local masonry inserted to encourage natural ventilation

Shipping container-based buildings can suffer – indeed, usually do suffer – from significant insulation issues. But Johannesburg-based firm Architecture for a change (A4AC) recently built a community center and school in Malawi from shipping containers that aims to mitigate this with an open design. The firm also installed rainwater harvesting and solar power to allow the school to operate off-grid.

The Legson Kayira Community Center and Primary School is a simple structure, both inside and out. It measures 4,090 sq ft and comprises two classrooms, a large central courtyard, and some bleachers. The building is primarily used to teach children, but also serves as an adult training center, weekend market, and community center.

The school was manufactured at A4AC’s workshop in South Africa, before being transported to Malawi. During construction, the firm used a number of shipping containers as a basic building material and added a lightweight steel supporting frame and roof. A4AC also removed sections of the containers and installed louvered walls to encourage natural ventilation.

In addition, large sections of the classroom walls can be opened on a hinge in order to turn the interior into a semi-outdoor space, and shade netting helps block out the sun. The roofs are angled to channel rainwater into gutters which then feed water storage tanks. The roofs also sport solar panels which provide power for the interior lighting and a laptop and projector, which is used to show movies and soccer games.

On-site construction took just eight weeks. My favorite building blocks – remaindered, disused shipping containers – served the purpose admirably. Structural steel is durable, needs little more than paint not only to form a lasting structure; but, with a little talent, to be changed and re-purposed.

Marijuana revenue helping schools on projects political hacks won’t fund

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As marijuana revenues trickle into the state, slow to meet projections, a few Colorado school districts are among the first to see some impact from the state’s new funds.

The state Department of Education’s program to fund capital projects — known as Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, grants — had received more than $1.1 million from marijuana taxes in May when it made the annual award recommendations.

The state also is readying another $2.5 million from pot taxes so interested schools can hire health professionals.

The additional capital project money has been welcomed as the state fund for the BEST grants has been declining and the program reached a cap for the financed grants it could issue through bonds…

The marijuana excise tax — which is 15 percent on unprocessed recreational pot sales on its first sale – — netted about $3 million from January through June 30. The education department receives the funds monthly and will dole out the awards recommendations every May.

Next year, officials estimate the pot contribution to the BEST grants will be about $10 million. But some school officials say there’s a misconception about where the pot money is going.

“I feel like the word on the streets is marijuana funding is going to schools, but certainly it’s not going to schools for operating costs,” said Ryan Elarton, director of business services for the Pueblo district. “And not every district gets it.”

Besides the new marijuana funds, BEST grants have been funded by sources including money from the state land trust and spillover from Powerball profits after funding the Great Outdoors Colorado fund…

From other marijuana revenue appropriated by the legislature, $2.5 million has been set aside to increase the presence of health professionals in schools.

Schools that apply for those grants and win could have that money by January.

It’s hilarious that schools may get back some of the necessities cut by conservative politicians — and they’ll be getting it from profits generated by legal ganja.

The sad part remains that folks trapped in the two-party belief system can’t get any results from simply going to the polls on election day. Frankly, issues like school safety, healthcare for the student population, reasonable curricula dedicated to learning and all that entails — are a natural for independent political organizing. Yes, just like legalizing marijuana.

Then, you’re not required to shove a natural local response to problems into a cookie cutter mold designed by seventeen lobbyists employed by a Congressional action committee.