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I wanted to share something from the Christian Science Monitor editor about about a reporter who died recently.

“David Clark Scott traveled the world: He roamed throughout Latin America as the Mexico City bureau chief and reached into Southeast Asia as Australia bureau chief. He supported and counseled dozens of Monitor reporters as international editor.

“When he wrote columns, his favorite stories were of people taking the time to help one another. He even produced an entire podcast.

In these times, when everyone is fixated on what went wrong, it’s important to look for what is going right, and sometimes, frankly, it needs to be at the top of the page.

“Dave passed on this week. On his last day of work, he pitched three stories, any one of which would have made a lovely column. But, he told me, he’d already ‘put a call in to the principal at the Nansemond Parkway Elementary School cuz, well, that’s the intro that tugs at my heart.’

“It did mine, too, so I wanted to share it with you.

“The Nansemond students in Suffolk, Virginia, have been learning a new language: sign language, so they can communicate with food nutrition service associate Leisa Duckwall, who is deaf. It started with a fourth grade teacher, Kari Maskelony, who has deaf family members and started teaching her class. This month it spread when Principal Janet Wright-Davis decided the whole school would learn a new sign every week in honor of Disabilities Awareness Month.

” ‘I don’t think [the students] saw it as a disability,’ Dr. Wright-Davis told me over the phone. It was just a new way to communicate. Her biggest surprise? ‘How much they want to learn it.’ Their favorite sign: pizza.

“The difference in the cafeteria is palpable, she says. Instead of pointing, as they used to, the students sign their requests. ‘She’s smiling and they’re smiling, and it’s just a different environment,’ says Dr. Wright-Davis.

“Ms. Duckwall has come to morning announcements to teach everyone new signs and has signed that day’s menu. Dr. Wright-Davis gets stopped in the hall by students signing good morning and wanting to show her what they’ve learned. Instead of stopping at the end of this month, the students are going to keep learning all year.

“The school had its Trunk or Treat event Thursday evening, and the children were signing as they celebrated Halloween. ‘One gentleman came out, and he was signing,’ Dr. Wright-Davis says. It made her realize the lessons wouldn’t be confined to the lunchroom or even the school. ‘They’re going to encounter someone, even if it’s just to say good morning, or please, or thank you. … Now they know a little bit more to show some gratitude.’

“There’s plenty to learn from Nansemond: Show some gratitude, look for ways to make people feel welcome, and seek out kindness and celebrate it when you find it. Dave always did.”

See the Monitor, here, and more at WAVY television, here. No firewalls.

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Photo: School on Wheels.
A student at School on Wheels’ Skid Row Learning Center works with staff member Emma Gersh.

All children need an education, but those experiencing homelessness get a spotty one at best. That’s a situation the nonprofit School on Wheels is aiming to rectify.

Magda Hernandez wrote about it at the Christian Science Monitor. “The little girl was 6 years old, and life hadn’t been kind to her. 

“When Catherine Meek walked into a homeless shelter for their tutoring session, she found the child hiding under a desk. 

“No questions asked, the volunteer joined her on the floor and began reading to her. For an hour a week, the session would allow the girl to be just a kid, getting the assistance she needed, and for at least a moment forgetting about the circumstances that put the girl educationally behind by about a grade. 

“The space remained their meeting spot for six sessions until, one day, Ms. Meek walked in to find the girl sitting at the desk waiting for her. 

“ ‘I had, I remember, the biggest smile on my face, and she did too,’ Ms. Meek says. ‘I think even at that young, vulnerable age she understood that something had changed, that there was a set level of trust, that she could trust me.’

“Ms. Meek lights up recalling that moment – one of her greatest success stories as a volunteer tutor for School on Wheels, a nonprofit addressing educational needs of children K-12 who are experiencing homelessness. She and the girl worked together for about two years until the child moved out of state and they lost touch. 

“Recently, Ms. Meek – now executive adviser to the organization – attended that no-longer-little-girl’s wedding after they reconnected through social media. 

“A brainchild of the late Agnes Stevens, a retired schoolteacher, School on Wheels began in 1993 when she started tutoring kids living in shelters on Skid Row, an area of Los Angeles known for its large homeless population. In the next few years, she formalized her efforts, recruited more volunteers, and grew the organization with the help of Ms. Meek, who joined in 1999. 

“ ‘She was the inspiration and teacher and had the education background, and I had the business and financial background,’ says Ms. Meek.

‘The need was there in 1993, and it’s just grown astronomically since then. One in 30 kids in California in a classroom is homeless.’

“The organization grew steadily, partnering with shelters, school districts, motels, libraries, anywhere homeless families could be – even reaching those living in cars, in foster homes, and on the streets. With year-round operations in six counties, prior to the pandemic, the organization reached more than 3,000 homeless children a year, and it recruited and trained more than 2,000 tutors annually. …

“ ‘Students experiencing homelessness move on average about three to four times a year, and with each move, it’s estimated that they fall behind four months academically,’ says Charles Evans, the organization’s executive director. …

“School on Wheels doesn’t get into the students’ backgrounds but focuses solely on assessing the kids’ educational needs – like a fourth grader who is two grades behind in reading or a 10th grader who’s struggling with pre-algebra and biology – and matching them with tutors. …

“Says Mr. Evans. ‘We don’t pry and try to figure out why a family became homeless.’

“The children are assessed every few weeks to make sure they’re improving. Ms. Meek says that in 2021, K-4 students improved their literacy skills by 21%; in the past six months, fifth through eighth grade students increased math skills by almost one grade level, and self-efficacy surveys showed a 40% increase in confidence in ninth through 12th graders. 

” ‘Before the pandemic, tutors would meet students wherever they were – motels, shelters, libraries. But tutoring sessions have been remote – via donated Chromebooks and laptops – in the past couple of years. The drastic change had benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, students could stay in touch with tutors even on the move. On the other, School on Wheels had to pivot from handing out backpacks and school supplies to figuring out how to get digital equipment into kids’ hands and making sure they had Wi-Fi access. … Now, the organization is returning to in-person sessions, particularly for younger kids. But it will keep the hybrid model. …

“Outside of tutoring, School on Wheels is out to erase the stigma of homelessness. Many of the families the organization works with found themselves homeless through no negligence of their own – victims of domestic violence or economic hardship, doing their best to get back on their feet.

“For example, one single mother in her 20s, who for security reasons asked not to be named, left an abusive relationship, and ended up in a shelter with her four young kids. When she noticed her children falling behind in school, she connected with School on Wheels.

“ ‘It’s been the best thing ever, because my kids love their tutors,’ says the young woman, who works and goes to school. She now gets reports from school that her kids are doing much better: ‘The teacher did see a lot of improvement in [my daughter’s] math and her spelling.’ That motivates her to do better herself, says the mother.”

Read at the Monitor, here, about Angela Sanchez and how she got math help from a rocket scientist. No firewall.

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Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Images.
“There are 17 vine ladders on the 800-metre-high way home, but the most dangerous part is a path on the cliff without a vine ladder.In 2016, the Guardian reported this story on children as young as six going to school from Atuler village in Sichuan.

In one of the online English classes where I volunteer, the teacher likes to provide unusual news stories for our adult students to practice their reading on. Recently she gave the class an article from 2016 that astounded us all. After class, I searched online for a follow-up.

In 2016, Tom Phillips wrote at the Guardian, “To attend class, backpack-carrying pupils from Atuler village in Sichuan province must take on an 800-metre rock face, scrambling down rickety ladders and clawing their way over bare rocks as they go.

“Images of their terrifying and potentially deadly 90-minute descent went viral on the Chinese internet [after] they were published in a Beijing newspaper. The photographs were taken by Chen Jie, an award-winning Beijing News photographer. …

“Chen used his WeChat account to describe the moment he first witnessed the village’s 15 school children, aged between six and 15, scaling the cliff. ‘There is no doubt I was shocked.’ … Chen, who spent three days visiting the impoverished community, said the perilous trek, which he undertook three times, was not for the faint of heart.

‘It is very dangerous. You have to be 100% careful,’ he told the Guardian. ‘If you have any kind of accident, you will fall straight into the abyss.’

“So steep was the climb that Zhang Li, a reporter from China’s state broadcaster CCTV who was also dispatched to the mountain, burst into tears as she attempted to reach Atuler village. ‘Do we have to go this way?’ the journalist said as her team edged its way up the cliff face. ‘I don’t want to go.’

“Api Jiti, the head of the 72-family farming community which produces peppers and walnuts, told Beijing News there had been insufficient room to build a school for local children on the mountaintop.

“But the perils were evident. The villager chief told the Beijing News that ‘seven or eight’ villagers had [died] after losing their grip during the climb while many more had been injured. He had once nearly fallen from the mountain himself.

“The trek to school is now considered so grueling that the children have been forced to board, only returning to their mountaintop homes to see their families twice a month.

“Villager Chen Jigu told reporters the wooden ladders used to move up and down the mountain were, like the village, hundreds of years old. ‘We replace a ladder with a new one when we find one of them is rotten,’ he said.”

In the Insider follow-up story, we learn that the government came to the rescue, although not everyone agreed to move. Michelle Mark wrote, “The Chinese government has resettled 84 households who once lived in a remote village at the top of a 2,624-foot cliff.

“The village made international headlines in 2016, after harrowing photos showed young children climbing down the cliff to go to school, descending rickety ladders made of vines and scaling narrow paths without any guardrails or safety devices.

“The villagers have since been moved into apartment buildings near the town center of Zhaojue County in the province of Sichuan, according to the state-run broadcaster CGTN.

“The broadcaster quoted one villager who said Atule’er residents drew lots for their new homes — [the villager] said he was allowed a 1,076-square-foot dwelling because there are five people in his family, and that he was looking forward to accessing services in the new area that were previously unavailable to him. …

“The resettlement of the Atule’er villagers is reportedly part of a broader campaign to house impoverished families in remote villages. The Zhaojue County site is expected to soon house more than 18,000 residents from 4,057 households, according to CGTN.

“Despite the efforts, not all Atule’er villagers were willing to leave their homes. CNN reported that 30 households intended to stay in their clifftop homes, partly due to a newfound tourist economy. Roughly 100,000 people visited Atule’er in 2019, creating some $140,000 in revenue for the village”!

More at the Guardian, here, and at Insider, here.

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Ad from a gadget company: SAF Aranet4 Home: Wireless Indoor Air Quality Monitor for Home, Office or School [CO2, Temperature, Humidity and More] Portable, Battery Powered.”

Trust anxious parents to come up with an extra level of protection for their school-age children! Something different is going in lunch boxes now.

Emily Anthes reports at the New York Times, “When Lizzie Rothwell, an architect in Philadelphia, sent her son to third grade this fall, she stocked his blue L.L. Bean backpack with pencils, wide-ruled paper — and a portable carbon dioxide monitor.

“The device gave her a quick way to assess how much fresh air was flowing through the school. Low levels of CO2 would indicate that it was well-ventilated, reducing her son’s odds of catching the coronavirus.

“But she quickly discovered that during lunch, CO2 levels in the cafeteria rose to nearly double those recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She shared what she’d learned with the principal and asked if students could eat outside instead.

“ ‘He expressed surprise that I had any data at all,’ she said.

“Ms. Rothwell is one of a growing number of parents who are sneaking CO2 monitors into schools in a clandestine effort to make sure their children’s classrooms are safe. Aranet, which makes a monitor popular with parents, says orders have doubled since the new school year began.

“Some school systems have made the monitors part of their official pandemic precautions. New York City has distributed the devices to every public school, and the British government has announced plans to do likewise.

“But elsewhere, parents are taking matters into their own hands, sneaking in the monitors — which can cost a hundred dollars or more — in their children’s backpacks or pants pockets.

“Although the devices, which can be set to take readings every few minutes, work best when exposed to the open air, they can generate informative data as long as they are not completely sealed away, said Dr. Alex Huffman, an aerosol scientist [who] has sent the monitors to school with his children. …

“Some school officials have frowned upon these guerrilla air-monitoring efforts, but parents say the devices have armed them with data to advocate for their children. …

“The coronavirus spreads through tiny, airborne droplets known as aerosols. Improving indoor ventilation reduces the concentration of these aerosols and the risk of infection in an indoor space, but there is no easy way for members of the public to measure the ventilation rate — let alone the accumulation of viral aerosols — in shared spaces.

“ ‘Ideally there’d be some machine that cost $100 and it starts beeping if the virus is in the air,’ said Jose-Luis Jimenez, an aerosol scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, who is sending a carbon dioxide monitor to school with his son. But in the absence of such a device, he said, ‘CO2 is something that provides an affordable and very meaningful shortcut.’

Every time we exhale, we expel not just aerosols but also carbon dioxide; the worse the ventilation, the more carbon dioxide builds up in an occupied room. …

“Jeanne Norris, who lives in the St. Louis area, said that she bought her monitor after losing confidence in officials in her son’s school district.

“ ‘They just hadn’t been very transparent about their ventilation,’ she said. ‘They say that it’s fine and that they did their own testing but then they wouldn’t share that data with me.’

“Ms. Norris and her husband are both science teachers, and so far their data suggest that the ventilation is excellent in both of their classrooms. But CO2 levels in her son’s classroom sometimes surpass 1300 parts per million. The C.D.C. recommends that indoor carbon dioxide levels remain below 800 p.p.m. After she collects more data, she plans to take her findings to school officials and ask them to improve the ventilation. …

“Some parents have gotten results. When Jeremy Chrysler, of Conway, Ark., sent a monitor in with his 13-year-old daughter, this fall, the CO2 readings were a sky-high 4,000 p.p.m.

“He brought his findings to district officials, who discovered that two components of the school’s HVAC system were not working properly. After the units were fixed, CO2 levels plummeted.

“ ‘What my measurements showed was, hey, measuring CO2 can identify problems and sometimes those problems are easy to fix,’ he said.”

More at the Times, here.

Wish I had one of these monitors the other day when I was worried enough about air quality to risk asking someone if she was vaccinated!

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Photo: Alex Robinson/Unsplash.
A single mom in Nashville offered her hair-braiding skills for free to families that couldn’t afford it. Braids can last for one to two months.

What goes ’round, comes ’round. When a family friend of Brittany Starks spontaneously provided her kids with school supplies and clothes, Starks was moved to use her skills to help other single mothers.

Sydney Page has the story at the Washington Post, “Yulanda Norton was in a bind. Her youngest daughter asked to get her hair braided before the start of school, but Norton couldn’t afford it.

“Norton, who is a nursing assistant in Nashville, lost her job during the coronavirus pandemic, and has been out of work for months. She didn’t have the skills herself to create the hair style, which often costs hundreds of dollars at a salon. But she hoped to have her daughter’s hair braided, as it can last for months and is a huge timesaver in the mornings. …

“Her daughter Janae, 12, who just started sixth grade, yearned for the confidence boost the braids would provide. … Fortunately for Norton, she stumbled upon a Facebook post in a local group from a woman she did not know, offering to braid children’s hair free.

“ ‘Anyone know single parents who can’t afford to get their child’s hair done for school? I will braid it for free! Please DM me,’ Brittany Starks wrote on Aug. 4

“Starks, 29, is familiar with the financial strain of being a single mother. She works three jobs to support her two children, Cayden, 7 and Ceniyah, 9.

“She was compelled to offer her hair braiding services after a family friend spontaneously delivered backpacks full of school supplies, clothing and shoes for Cayden and Ceniyah in early August. …

“The unexpected gift made a big difference to Starks and her children, and it propelled her to pay it forward. Starks, who works two receptionist jobs, also braids hair part-time. Knowing how expensive the service can be — and that it dramatically reduces styling time — she decided to offer her skills to single mothers who were struggling to get their children primed for school. …

“When she wrote the Facebook post, she assumed only a handful of people would reach out, but before she knew it, she had 35 appointments booked. … Her Facebook inbox was suddenly full of messages from single parents, whose stories of hardship and financial challenges mirrored her own.

“ ‘I could really relate to a lot of the women who reached out, and it made me realize that what I was doing was truly important,’ said Starks, who has struggled with homelessness and health challenges.

“Given the overwhelming demand, Starks knew she needed to enlist help.

“Hair braiding takes four to six hours per child, she said, and since there was less than two weeks before the start of school, Starks decided to recruit volunteers to ensure that all 35 children could get their hair done in time for the first day of classes.

“She updated her original Facebook post to ask for helpers. When Donna Garcia, 32, saw Starks’s plea, she immediately offered to assist.

“ ‘She can’t do it alone, she’s only got two hands,’ said Garcia, a mother of four who also braids hair professionally. ‘I let her know I’m willing to help.’ …

‘I like to give back to anyone that needs help,’ Garcia said. When a child gets their hair done, ‘they just feel like a brand-new person, which makes me feel good inside.’ …

“The hair-braiding process involves washing, blow-drying, detangling and finally dividing the hair into small sections and braiding it, Starks explained. The results last one to two months.

“Braiding hair is ‘not an easy task,’ Starks said, adding that it also requires numerous supplies — including combs, brushes, shampoo and conditioner, detangler, mousse, hair jam and additional pieces of hair to weave in — which she paid for out of pocket. …

“When Janae Norton’s hair was finally braided and she looked in the mirror, ‘I felt cute,’ she said. …

“On a recent afternoon, ‘my daughter just yelled out: “Mommy, I’m so proud of you,” ‘ Starks said. ‘The tears were just pouring down. Those words meant everything to me.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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Photo: Andrea Pyenson.
In this 2019 photo, a student harvested lettuce at the Rivers School’s Freight Farm.

Are we all too disconnected from the wisdom and skills of our ancestors? At the Rivers School and other Massachusetts schools, students have been getting hands-on insight into growing food — but a bit differently from how our ancestors grew it.

Boston Globe correspondent Andrea Pyenson reported on the hydroponic initiative in a January 2020 article.

“Inside the big white shipping container parked behind a classroom building on the campus of the Rivers School in Weston, it smells like a verdant field on a warm spring day, with a degree of humidity that is completely at odds with the cold, dry air outside. A variety of lettuces, herbs, and a smattering of other vegetables grow on vertical towers in adjustable rows. The sixth-grade students who maintain the school’s Freight Farm cycle through in groups of four to reap the bounty of work they started at the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year. The first harvest day was in late October.

“ ‘They all love to come in here,’ says Emily Poland, who teaches eighth-grade science and is the farm director at this independent school for grades 6 through 12. The Freight Farm and related projects are built in to the sixth-grade curriculum, incorporating humanities, social justice, and science, among other subjects. Students spend time there once a week planting, cleaning, and harvesting. Farming is a club activity for the school’s high school students, who can go in during their free time.

“Based in Boston, Freight Farms manufactures technologically advanced hydroponic farming systems. In 320-square-foot, climate-controlled shipping containers, users can grow up to 13,000 plants at a time, vertically, without soil. The company was founded in 2010 by Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman. Several area schools, among them Rivers, Boston Latin School, and Worcester State University, are using the farms to grow food for their own communities, for their neighbors, and as educational tools.

“For Poland, managing the farm was a natural extension of her teaching. ‘I like to create curriculum. I care about food. I like to be outside,’ she says. One of the sixth-graders’ annual activities, which combines academics with community service, is cooking a meal for the Natick Open Door at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. These are hosted every week and attended primarily by seniors. Poland explains that planning the meal incorporates math skills because the students have to scale recipes to feed up to 45 people. And naturally they use their own greens in the salads. …

“Boston Latin, a public exam school for grades seven through 12, acquired its farm in 2013 after students in the Youth Climate Action Network won the $75,000 prize in the Global Green Schools Makeover Competition. Farming is a student-run after-school activity here, under the guidance of eighth-grade history and civics teacher Cate Arnold. …

“Addy Krom, a junior, notes of the farm, ‘You can come in, it’s a whole different environment. All the stress from school [goes] away.’ Adds sophomore Azalea Thompson, ‘This makes locally grown food more accessible to the city.’ The students give the food they grow to faculty members, bring some home, and are working to create a CSA. With Arnold’s help they are also trying to reestablish a more consistent connection to a food pantry in Jamaica Plain, where a former Boston Latin parent, recently deceased, used to deliver their greens.

“At Worcester State, Mark Murphy, associate director of dining services, oversees the Freight Farm, which sits outside of Sheehan Hall, the school’s newest dormitory and site of its main cafeteria. Rich Perna, former director of dining, made the decision to purchase the farm five years ago, says Murphy, ‘to bring hyperlocal produce to the campus.’

“Murphy has been responsible for the farm for the last two years. An employee of Chartwells, which has the contract for all of the school’s food services, he grows almost all of the greens for the cafeteria, as well as for alumni catering events. …

“At full capacity, Murphy explains, the farm produces about two acres’ worth of crops. He is constantly looking for different varieties of lettuce that will appeal to the students and is currently ‘trying to figure out a gourmet mix.’ In addition to three varieties of lettuce, he grows kale, rainbow Swiss chard, parsley, and basil. He coordinates with the cafeteria’s cooks, telling them what he is growing so they can plan menus to incorporate the farm’s production. …

“Through a partnership with the Worcester Public Schools and its program that helps young adults with differences transition from school to the workforce Murphy has three part-time helper/trainees. Once a week three students, who have completed high school with a certificate, come (often with a job coach from the program) to seed, plant, harvest, and clean. Murphy is in the process of hiring one of the students, who has aged out of the program. She ‘has a lot of passion for the farm,’ he says.”

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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Photo: Slum2School.
Slum2School volunteers in Nigeria come from all walks of life and help coordinate enrichment activities for children.

One precept that the pandemic underscored for us all is that children need to be in school. We know how hard the year was for American children who couldn’t go in person, but just imagine what it was like for kids in a poor Nigerian neighborhood with no computers! In fact, the children in today’s article are lucky to have school at all. An idealistic young Nigerian man made it happen.

Shola Lawal writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “It was one of the few times Otto Orondaam was ever tempted to quit.

“The year was 2012 and Mr. Orondaam’s passion project, Slum2School, was off to a bumpy start. Here in Makoko, a low-income neighborhood on the Lagos Lagoon, many fishing families need children to stay home and help with their trade. His brand-new nonprofit aimed to get those kids into school, and for weeks, he’d planned an event, hounding a medical company for mosquito nets to hand out as an incentive.

“But just minutes before, the company called – it could not deliver the nets.

“ ‘I cried horribly,’ the young reformer recalls, laughing, sitting in a well-lit office and sporting a deep-blue turtleneck. ‘The parents were waiting and this was going to be the highlight of the event, the only thing they could take home, but there were no nets. It was a heartbreaking moment for me.’

“But Mr. Orondaam’s upbeat personality soon took over. He quickly called up friends, asking for donations. Two hours later, he zoomed in and out of a market, purchasing and distributing 200 mosquito nets – and ended up enrolling 114 children in existing public primary and high schools that the organization partnered with.

“Fast-forward to 2021, and Slum2School says it has directly sponsored almost 2,000 children. Many are still from Makoko – including Hamdalat Hussein’s grandson, Abdulmalik.

‘What Slum2School is doing for us here is good,’ she says in the local Yoruba language. … ‘I am praying to see him become somebody after he finishes school.’

“Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of out-of-school children, according to UNICEF – around one-third – although primary education is free and compulsory. Learning during pandemic shutdowns has been especially challenging, since only around half the population has internet access. … When the pandemic struck, Slum2School launched a virtual class for high schoolers, after distributing hundreds of tablets.

“ ‘I was able to teach myself graphics design and many things like how to make logos and flyers,’ says Habeebat Olatunde. Her siblings had skipped around her, fascinated, as she joined hundreds of children in class from their home in Iwaya, another low-income neighborhood bordering Makoko. Now in her final year of high school, Habeebat says she wants to be a human rights lawyer and fight for vulnerable teenage girls. …

“On a recent afternoon, Mr. Orondaam sat in Slum2School’s headquarters in the upscale Lekki area of Lagos, with outer walls shaped like colorful crayons. He flicked through old photos and chuckled at one of himself, thin and sunburned – one of the first times he went to Makoko, standing beside smiling parents holding nets, with the neighborhood’s wooden shacks as a backdrop.

“Growing up in Port Harcourt, a city in southern Nigeria, Mr. Orondaam studied to be a doctor but pivoted to social work, influenced by his parents. His father was the first doctor from his village and would offer free services. His mother was basically ‘everyone’s mother,’ he says. ‘Our classmates would not have sandals, and my mum would come and take yours and give them. The things I picked up from that was devotion to service, serving with your heart.’ …

“He first encountered Makoko through a documentary. … He felt compelled to visit while completing his National Youth Service Corps in Lagos – a mandatory one-year program for Nigerian university graduates.

“ ‘It was the first time I was seeing that kind of community,’ Mr. Orondaam remembers. ‘There were kids there who had never been in school and had no plans to go. I loved the energy. I knew they were happy, but I thought, “You can be happier with education; if you have an education, you can make better choices.” ‘

“He resigned from his stifling bank job and started weekly visits to Makoko, updating friends via a blog. When he came up with the idea to send 100 children to school, they supported him.” 

Read what happened next at CSM, here.

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Photo: Max Tapogna
As a way to overcome resource challenges, Lisa Adams has taught students at her Portland, Oregon, elementary school how to make their own instruments.

I’ve been learning recently, both from my daughter-in-law and online, that parents frustrated with the imperfections of pandemic school are complaining about the problems to teachers even though it’s mostly not something teachers can control.

Meanwhile, teachers adapt. They’ve been going beyond the extra mile to make everything work. An ESL teacher I work with often spends long, unpaid hours solving technical problems, and my husband’s orchestra-teacher niece in North Carolina rarely finishes her day before 10:30 pm.

Max Tapogna writes at Oregon Artswatch about what arts teachers in his state are doing with limited resources for remote instruction.

“One by one, students pop into the classroom, each in a respective Zoom window. Trisha Todd, a drama teacher at Portland’s Grant High School, waits a few minutes until everyone in her Beginning Theatre class has arrived. Todd is teaching from her office at Grant, which is full of theater tchotchkes: a turquoise folding screen, a poster for Sarah Ruhl’s play Orlando, and what looks like poor Yorick’s skull. Todd’s students, however, are scattered around the city. …

“Class begins, inconspicuously, with a warmup. First some stretching. Then Todd asks the students to go around and share the musical artists they’ve been listening to recently. More than one student mentions Billie Eilish; another says he’s been blasting a lot of classic rock.

“ ‘I’m doing whatever I can to keep them engaged,’ Todd says. ‘We’re just hoping to keep them with us until they get back.’ …

“When classrooms were shuttered due to the coronavirus. Arts educators, especially those with subjects in the performing arts, were forced to grapple with ways to reach students from a distance.

“ ‘It was really hard,’ says Lisa Adams, a music teacher at Duniway Elementary School. … ‘Participation was not required. There wasn’t a unified way that every school was handling it.’

“ ‘Spring was very doomy gloomy,’ says Laura Arthur, a music teacher on special assignment for the district. ‘I feel like the fall is the second, third stage of grief. We’ve reached acceptance and solutions.’ …

“Mary Renaur, a visual arts teacher at Mt. Tabor Middle School … created online tutorials on how to make art supplies at home, like glue and paint, from materials that could be found in a kitchen or recycling bin. …

“Similarly, Adams has taught her students at Duniway to craft their own instruments from household objects, like a ‘guitar’ made from a berry container and rubber bands. One student, Adams says, filled a paper towel tube with beans and fixed tape to the edges. …

“Of course, the technology comes with its complications. On the day I spoke with Renaur, she described how a student’s Chromebook unexpectedly had stopped working.

When she learned the computer wasn’t working, Renaur hopped in her car and drove to school, picked up a new computer, dropped it off at the student’s home, and drove back to her house in time for her next class.

“ ‘Between classes, I had forty-five minutes,’ Renaur says. …

“Other adjustments have been less stressful. Chris Meade, who teaches drama and music at Lent K-8, says, ‘I did a whole assignment on taking silly selfies just to get students used to using a camera.’

“At the beginning of the school year, Meade surveyed his students to get a sense of their preferences for learning music virtually. ‘The majority of my kids were really uncomfortable singing by themselves into a computer,’ Meade says. …

“Instead, Meade shifted his focus to emphasizing music appreciation and literacy. This fall, for example, students are learning about the various musics of Latin America. District-wide, arts classes are now structured around themes like emotional resilience and racial equity. That change, Meade says, has been welcome.

“He says, ‘It’s nice to [explore] all these other aspects of music that kind of get glossed over during the regular school year.’

“For theater, Todd says her goal is less forcing her old curriculum into a new format than tailoring her subject to online learning. ‘We can look at history, we can look at Shakespeare, we can look at the Greeks,’ Todd says. ‘We could just read plays for a semester.’

“Instead of directing a fall play, Todd is organizing a 24-hour devised theater piece. The festival will showcase a play written, directed, and acted entirely by students. ‘It’s supposed to happen really quickly,’ says Todd. ‘You go with your instinct. You don’t have set limitations. You create them.’ ”

Read at Oregon Artswatch, here, how the typical isolation of arts teachers has been altered by pandemic isolation, which in at least one district has led to a collaborative way of working that will likely outlast lockdowns.

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Photo: Library of Congress
In the early 1900s, people knew ventilation was essential to stop the spread of tuberculosis. Above, an open-air classroom in Chicago.

Now is the time we start to learn which of the many approaches to conducting school during a respiratory pandemic works best — and where. An outdoor version of school might work better in the South than the North.

Or maybe not. New England once held school outdoors, right through the winter. People in those days knew that ventilation was essential to slowing the spread of tuberculosis. The attitude to science was different then.

Dustin Waters writes at the Washington Post, “Nine schoolchildren sat at their desks wrapped in chunky layers of flannel, their feet resting on heated soapstones as the frigid New England air stung their faces. In January 1908, amid a tuberculosis epidemic, these Rhode Island students were part of a unique experiment to combat the infectious disease: America’s first open-air school. …

“In the early 1900s, it was estimated that as many as 30 percent of school-age children in Providence carried tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that often attacked the lungs. Although many of the infected children showed no outward symptoms, the infection could lie dormant for years and ultimately contribute to death in adulthood. To combat this, medical experts urged the importance of plenty of sunshine and fresh air.

“Tuberculosis specialist Mary Packard — one of the first women to graduate from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine — wrote to the Rhode Island state medical examiner in August of 1907 to propose a plan. Along with fellow Hopkins-educated physician Ellen Stone, Packard had overseen an open-air summer camp for tubercular children. The students who attended the camp were set to return to their cramped classrooms in the city at the start of the school year. The doctors feared that any progress that had been made over the summer would be lost. They suggested the creation of a new type of classroom.

“Work soon began on an unused schoolhouse on Providence’s East Side. The large, open classroom on the second floor was painted a soft shade of green, save for the wall facing south. This was demolished and replaced with a row of large windows operated by pulleys. Despite the harsh winter temperatures, these windows remained open during class — filling the room with fresh air and sunlight. …

“The school’s pupils varied in age and grade level, but they did share a similar set of characteristics: They were all underweight, anemic and weak. For some in attendance, it was their first opportunity to participate in an actual classroom due to a lifetime of poor health. Some had recently lost parents to tuberculosis. Each child was weighed and examined by a physician after arriving to class.

Then the children would be wrapped in large flannel sacks lined with paper and cotton, many of which were donated by a local church’s sewing circle.

“Each student’s desk sat atop a movable platform that allowed for the pupils to be easily shuffled around during the day to chase the rays of direct sunlight. Students were led in breathing exercises and singing practice to strengthen their lungs. Owing to its former use as a cooking school, the classroom was outfitted with a cavernous oven that served as a source of warmth.

“News of the school quickly spread, with newspapers across the country running an identical report shortly after the school opened: ‘Little faces that were sallow and pinched a few weeks ago have a healthy flush, and children who were too tired to play are beginning to show some interest in life. All of this … is what the fresh-air school has accomplished.’ …

“Wrote historian Richard Meckel in a 1995 article in Rhode Island History. ‘Virtually all the children attending the school had gained weight and improved in general health, and even a few had been able to return to normal classrooms.’ …

“[In today’s pandemic,] members of the Providence Teachers Union are worried that some classrooms are not safe. One of the concerns, according to the Providence Journal, is ventilation and classroom windows that are unable to open.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

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Few things equal the joy of dancing, as I keep learning from my 5-year-old granddaughter and the videos Suzanne and Erik send of her living-room performances. They make me want to get up and boogie, too.

A teacher in Africa who loves ballet thought, Why not? There may be no ballet in Nigeria, but kids need to dance.

As Noor Brara explains at the New York Times, “In June, a minute-long video featuring a young ballet student dancing in the rain began circulating on the internet. As the rain falls, forming puddles between the uneven slabs of concrete on which he dances, Anthony Mmesoma Madu, 11, turns pirouette after pirouette.

“Though the conditions for such dancing are all wrong — dangerous, even — he twirls on, flying barefoot into an arabesque and landing it. …

“The wide reach of the video — it has been seen more than 20 million times on social media platforms — has turned a spotlight on the unlikely story of a ballet school in a poor suburb of Lagos, Nigeria: the Leap of Dance Academy.

“Founded in 2017, the academy has transformed the lives of its students, affording them a place to dance and to dream. And in the last few months, it has inspired influential people in ballet to lend a hand. Seemingly overnight, a world of opportunity has opened up: for the students, scholarships and invitations to attend prestigious schools and companies overseas; and for the school, sizable donations, which will allow for building a proper space, outfitted with a real dance floor.

“For now, the Leap of Dance Academy is housed at the home of its founder, Daniel Owoseni Ajala, in Ajangbadi, Ojo, on the western outskirts of Lagos. Every day after school, Mr. Ajala’s 12 students walk to his apartment, where he pushes aside his furniture and spreads a thin vinyl sheet over the concrete floor for class, throwing open the doors and windows to let in the light. …

“Much of this is filmed and posted to the school’s Instagram feed, where the students’ joy is evident in each video, their movements precise and praiseworthy — as the comments, hearts and trembling star emojis left by their fans attest. …

” ‘In the beginning, people kept saying, “What are they doing?!” ‘ Mr. Ajala said. ‘I had to convince them that ballet wasn’t a bad or indecent dance, but actually something that requires a lot of discipline that would have positive effects on the lives of their children outside the classroom. I always say, it’s not only about the dance itself — it’s about the value of dance education.’

“When Mr. Ajala, 29, founded Leap of Dance three years ago, he was a self-taught recreational dancer with a dream: to open a ballet school for students who were serious about learning the art form and possibly pursuing it professionally one day. …

“As a child, Mr. Ajala became obsessed with ballet after watching “Save the Last Dance,” the 2001 movie about a lapsed ballet dancer (Julia Stiles) who moves to the South Side of Chicago after her mother dies …

“Mr. Ajala said he was captivated by the movement he saw onscreen and, perhaps even more, by the discipline and sacrifice that was evidently required to master it. Ballet appealed to him for another reason, too: It wasn’t widely taught or practiced in Nigeria. ‘I wanted to be different,’ he said. …

“Mr. Ajala’s role in the lives of his students goes beyond dance; he is invested in their whole development. One day a week class is dedicated solely to academics; the students come to the academy with their homework, with Mr. Ajala providing one-on-one tutoring as needed. They practice speaking, reading and writing in English together. And between lessons, which run from mid afternoon to early evening, he cooks them a meal. …

“Recently, too, the students have begun learning conversational Spanish, Italian and Chinese from their ballet teachers abroad, like [Thalema Williams, in St. Croix, and Mary Hubbs, in Brooklyn, Mich., who gave him lessons online to improve his technique]. ‘I want the kids to be able to relate to people internationally,’ Mr. Ajala said.”

At the Times, here, you can read how he manages to keep the ballet classes free. Very inspiring story.

Photo: Stephen Tayo for the New York Times
Anthony Mmesoma Madu, left, with fellow students from the Leap of Dance Academy, in Ajangbadi, Ojo, Nigeria.

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Photo: Library of Congress.
A New York City school around the time of the flu pandemic. History shows it’s possible to hold classes outdoors when the safety of breathing indoors is uncertain.

Photos taken in the 1918 flu pandemic show some schools holding classes with all the windows open or even outdoors. Could we do that today? Reporter Nate Berg at Fast Company looked into the question.

“Sharon Danks has been working for more than 20 years to get schoolkids outdoors,” he writes. “As a trained landscape architect and urban planner, she says too many schools across the country ignore the educational and health benefits offered by the outdoor spaces of their campuses. This is something she’s been trying to change through her nonprofit Green Schoolyards America, based in Berkeley, California. …

“In April, Danks began having conversations about reopening local schools with three other organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. … In early June, the organizations cohosted a webinar on responding to COVID-19 by using outdoor spaces for education. More than 1,000 people from 40 states and eight countries registered.

“[The organizations then] created the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative, an effort to create guidelines schools can follow to use their outdoor spaces more effectively in order to bring back face-to-face learning. Volunteers from across the country are now participating in 10 working groups focused on different aspects of moving classes outdoors, from funding to safety to the physical infrastructure needed to seat and teach students outside.

‘The central problem that we were looking at is that none of our schools were built to be able to accommodate kids 6 feet apart inside the building,’ Danks says.

“But what most schools are equipped with is outdoor space and playgrounds — spaces that can be adapted for outdoor learning. Through the use of physical objects such as shade structures and weatherproof seating and adjusted lesson plans that reduce teachers’ reliance on computer screens and overhead projectors, outdoor classrooms can allow classes to continue with the space and fresh air that epidemiologists believe prevents transmission of the virus.

“Outdoor learning can move all students outdoors, or at least shift enough of the student population outside to make indoor classrooms safe with smaller class sizes. Distance learning, with its inherent difficulties, inequities, and access challenges, may become just a rainy day backup plan. …

“In 2017, the San Mateo County Office of Education started an Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative that focuses on increasing knowledge about environmental issues. It does so partly by integrating natural and outdoor spaces into school curricula. Andra Yeghoian, the initiative’s coordinator, says the program has been working to ensure that students at every grade level in its roughly 270 schools have daily access to outdoor learning and play spaces. … ‘Now COVID-19 has really flipped that to be that every kid at every grade level in every subject area can do the majority of their learning outside.’ …

“Danks estimates that only about 15% to 20% of schools in the U.S. have these kinds of facilities. ‘The other 80%, 85% of schools have probably never taken a class outside to do hands-on learning on their own site,’ she says.

“This is where the initiative’s working groups come in. Each is developing a set of two-page recommendations that will provide simple instructions for dealing with common outdoor complications like cold and hot weather, spatially distanced seating arrangements, dust, and insects. Eventually, the recommendations will be published as a free online guidebook. …

“Claire Latané is an assistant professor in Cal Poly Pomona’s landscape architecture department and is leading a group of volunteer landscape architects who are working directly with school officials to identify optimal spaces and sizes of outdoor classrooms. She says about 100 designers have signed up to help, and the first teams are using aerial imagery of campuses to find places with adequate shade, either under trees or carports, and ensuring any changes to school grounds comply with local fire and accessibility codes. They’re also advising on how the locations of outdoor classrooms can address weather concerns. …

“Three case studies have been published on Green Schoolyards America’s website, and offer suggestions for schools in different climates. … At a low cost of just a few thousand dollars, schools use only their existing outdoor shade and tree-covered areas, augmented with affordable seating such as hay bales and additional clothing for unexpected cold or wet weather. …

“The whole process of transitioning to outdoor education doesn’t have to be tortuous, Danks says.

‘In the last pandemic in 1918 to 1920, with tuberculosis and the Spanish flu, schools around the world went outside … even just moved their desks right outside their buildings,’ Danks says. ‘They didn’t overthink it, they just moved their space to where the air was fresher.’ ”

More at Fast Company, here.  Hat tip: ArtsJournal.

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Photo: Wing. 
A Virginia school district has been using Wing, a drone service owned by the parent company of Google, to deliver books to students during the pandemic.

I love stories about the determination of librarians to get books to people no matter what the odds. You may have read my bicycle-library post, camel-library post, library-on-horseback post, or the 2020 post about a book bus in Kabul, here. You can’t keep a good librarian down.

The story today is about book delivery by drone. Marie Fazio writes at the New York Times, “Last week, Deanna Robertson and her two sons stood on their front lawn in western Virginia scanning the sky for a drone they could hear humming from almost a mile away.

“When it finally arrived, hovering above their heads, the boys rushed forward to take what it offered: a copy of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ required summer reading and possibly the first library book delivered by drone in history.

“With students unable to make it to the library because of the coronavirus, the Montgomery County Public School district has partnered with Wing, the drone-delivery unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to deliver books to their homes. One week into the project, there have been more than 35 successful deliveries, said Kelly Passek, a middle-school librarian and the mastermind of the project. …

“Students living in Wing’s four-mile delivery zone in Christiansburg can use a Google form to request a specific book or ask Ms. Passek to choose one she thinks they would like. Around 600 Montgomery County students live within the delivery footprint.

After pulling a book from the library shelf and making sure it weighs less than three pounds, Ms. Passek packages the book and brings it to Wing’s office in Christiansburg. The drone takes over from there.

“It flies to a delivery site, lowers the book on a cable and releases the grip as it hits the ground.

“The students can borrow multiple books and do not have to return them until they go back to school in the fall. …

“Keith Heyde, the head of Virginia operations for Wing, said the company had completed thousands of deliveries for requests like Walgreens over-the-counter medications and cold brew from local coffee shops. The drones, which have a wingspan of 3.3 feet and weigh 10.6 lbs., can carry packages around three pounds up to speeds approaching 70 miles per hour, according to the company. They can fly 12 miles round trip.

“Ms. Passek was one of the first Christiansburg residents to receive a drone delivery when Wing began the program. Her first order, a Walgreens cough and cold care package, made her think of other uses for drones in the community, namely library books. She raised the idea with Mr. Heyde last fall, and revisited it with him when the coronavirus hit the United States.

“Book requests have been a mix of required summer reading and books of a student’s choice, Ms. Passek said. While Ms. Robertson’s 14-year-old son, Brendan, was assigned ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ [Camden], 11, ordered John Grisham’s ‘Theodore Boon: Kid Lawyer’ to read for fun. …

“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, drones have been used in novel ways all over the world. In Britain, the police used drones to enforce social distancing. In Fairfield, Conn., they were used to monitor beach and parkgoers. An eager drone user in Queens broadcast a coronavirus safety message on his drone’s speakers as it flew over the streets of New York City. …

“Cold-brew coffees from a local coffee shop are particularly popular, Mr. Heyde said. Since the coronavirus, there has been a substantial increase per month in sign-ups for drone delivery, he said, but he believes the virus accelerated a pre-existing trend. … To the best of his knowledge, this is the first library book program by drone in history.

“ ‘If we can provide even one or two students with a resource they wouldn’t have access to otherwise because they wouldn’t be able to go to the library, that’s a win,’ he said.”

More here.

 

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Photos: Mahmud Hossain Opu for NPR
The nonprofit group Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has a fleet of 23 school boats in Bangladesh. The boats pick up kids along the river, then pull over into the marshy riverbank to hold class.

Kids complain about school when school is a given, but what about when it is hard to access? I have been reading about a fire-ravaged county in California that has no schools right now (story here). California is sure to get it together before long, but what about poor countries with drastic education challenges?

Jason Beaubien reports about Bangladesh at National Public Radio (NPR). “On the Atrai River in the northwest of Bangladesh, a small beige boat is tied up in tall grass that lines the riverbank. The interior of the boat is packed with narrow benches which in turn are jammed with children.

“There are 29 students in this third-grade class and it would be hard to fit any more into the narrow vessel. The kids sit shoulder-to-shoulder facing a blackboard at the back of the boat.

“When the teacher asks for a volunteer to recite a multiplication table, 8-year-old Nila Khatun’s hand shoots straight toward the unpainted ceiling.

“She leads the class in a chant that begins with ‘6 times 1 equals 6’ in Bengali. They end with ‘6 times 9 equals 54.’

“Educators in Bangladesh have a problem. Not only do they face many of the same challenges as teachers in other resource-poor countries — funding constraints, outdated textbooks, overcrowded classrooms — they also have to worry about monsoon rains. Flooding is so common in Bangladesh that students often can’t get to the classroom.

“So one local charity has decided to take the classrooms to the students in the form of schools on boats.

“This boat is one of 23 floating year-round schools in this part of Bangladesh run by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a local nonprofit group. …

“Mohammed Rezwan, the founder of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, grew up in this part of Bangladesh.

” ‘If you visit these areas you’ll find that during the monsoon season they get isolated,’ he says. ‘It becomes very difficult to have the normal life.’ …

” ‘In the rural areas. the parents are mostly concerned with the safety of the girls,’ he says. ‘If they [girls] have to travel a long way to go to school, then the parents would not let them go to school.’ …

“That’s true for the family of third-grader Nila. Her mother Musa Khatun says that if it wasn’t for the floating school, Nila probably wouldn’t be in school at all. …

“Khatun says that during the monsoons the village is only accessible by boat. Their family primarily survives by raising jute in the nearby plains. The long, fibrous plant is used to make burlap bags. Nila’s mother, however, sees a different future for Nila. She says Nila is the smart one of the family. No one in their family has ever gone to college, yet Khatun insists her daughter is going to be a doctor.

“And Nila nods her head enthusiastically.”

More here, including eleven wonderful pictures.

When class is done for the day, the boat putters along the river to drop off its students. 

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Photo: MFA Boston
The results of a study on school field trips surprised the Brookings Institution researchers.

One of the messages I take from this Brookings report on student field trips is the importance of conducting research with both an open mind and a willingness to follow up on unexpected results. Another takeaway: researchers prefer to study things for which there are a lot of data available; worthwhile questions that don’t have a lot of data to work with often don’t get studied.

Jay P. Greene writes, “Most education research focuses on math and reading outcomes or educational attainment because those are the measures that the state collects and are readily available to us. Less is known about how students are doing in other subjects and whether their progress in those areas has important benefits for them and society. …

“A new experiment … examines long-term effects of students receiving multiple field trips to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. The Woodruff Arts Center houses the High Art Museum, Alliance Theater, and Atlanta Symphony, all on one campus.

“We randomly assigned 4th and 5th grade school groups to get three field trips per year – one to each of Woodruff’s arts organizations – or to a control condition in which students received a single field trip. …

“The surprising result is that students who received multiple field trips experienced significantly greater gains on their standardized test scores after the first year than did the control students. …

“The reason these results are so surprising is that previous research had suggested that arts instruction tended not to ‘transfer’ into gains in other subjects. …

“When we conducted the analysis on the effects of treatment on test scores, we expected to find no statistically significant effects, just like almost all previous rigorous research. …

“We still do not believe that arts instruction and experiences have a direct effect on math or ELA ability. We think this because the bulk of prior research tells us so, and because it is simply implausible that two extra field trips to an arts organization conveyed a significant amount of math and ELA knowledge.

“Our best guess is that test scores may have risen because the extra arts activities increased student interest and engagement in school. … Maybe arts-focused field trips do not teach math or reading, but they do make students more interested in their school that does teach math and reading. But this is just a guess. …

“The odd thing about trying to write a paper with these results to present at conferences and submit to a journal is that there is strong pressure for us to pretend like we expected our findings all along. Discussants and reviewers generally don’t want to hear that you found something you didn’t expect and don’t really know why. They want to hear a clean story about how your results make sense and follow from your theory and literature review. In short, social science favors the false appearance of confidence.”

Ah, yes. When I was at the Fed, I often wondered about such things, but as a non-economist, I knew I was out of my depth.

Read about how the researchers intend to unpack the meaning of their unexpected results with future studies, here.

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Photo: Don Lyman
Threatened Blanding’s turtles have been parceled out to Massachusetts teachers and students to protect until big enough for the Grassroots Wildlife Conservation to return them to the wild.

I’m increasingly impressed with the science projects that schools are pursuing these days. My kindergarten grandchild, for example, brings home interesting science kits regularly — the latest involving batteries, wires, and electricity.

In Carlisle, Massachusetts, students are giving a leg up to tiny Blanding’s turtles, as Don Lyman, of the radio show Living on Earth (LOE), reports. The edited transcript follows.

“Lyman: On a clear but cold February day, snow from a recent storm blanketed the outdoor basketball courts at the Carlisle School. But inside the tank where two young turtles lived [Tsunami and Squirtle], it was a balmy 80 degrees or so, and the classroom itself teemed with excitement. I found myself among perhaps the only people with more questions than journalists: fifth graders. …

“Chris Denaro’s students grilled Emilie Schuler, the Director of Programs and Operations at Grassroots Wildlife Conservation, about everything from how many turtles are left in the world, to potential hazards the littlest ones face. …

“The kids were in the midst of a yearlong project to take care of two baby turtles, to give the hatchlings a head start in life, so they’d have a much better chance of surviving to adulthood and boosting the threatened species’ numbers when they’re released in the spring. … The kids were pros at feeding the turtles, giving them fresh water and weighing them, but they still had lots to learn about some amazing things the hatchlings – which they’d named Tsunami and Squirtle — could do. …

“Schuler: Can a turtle’s body – is it okay for a turtle, for its body to be 33 degrees? … That’s the really cool thing. It’s like kind of a superpower of turtles and of reptiles that they can have their body so, so cold. They can drop their body temperature like that and still be fine.

“Lyman: In order to still be okay with such a low body temperature, Blanding’s turtles have to slow down. Wa-a-ay down.

“Schuler: They’ve measured turtles that are this cold, and their heart was beating only one time every ten minutes. … Turtles have the ability to hold their breath for a really, really, really long time. Scientists have even done studies where they’ve purposely put turtles in water where they’ve bubbled out all the oxygen. Those turtles stayed under the water super-chilled for five months. …

“Your Blanding’s turtle cousins that are outside … in the winter right now … even if they were the same age as Tsunami, come April or May, when it starts getting warmer and they come out – what’s the size difference gonna be between Tsunami and their cousins?

“Lyman: The answer: around 7 or 8 times the weight! That’s the main reason why the headstart program is proving so valuable for boosting Blanding’s turtle population numbers. In just eight months, the kids make the baby turtles look like four-year olds. So they’re less attractive to predators like raccoons, herons, and bullfrogs, and much more likely to make it out in the wild.”

When I was in fifth grade, the teacher let a praying mantis egg case hatch in the classroom (and all over the school). That was certainly memorable, but I think the contemporary science projects involve more learning.

More at Living on Earth, here.

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