Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
A Philadelphia first-grader, Zora Ball, has become the youngest-ever person to develop a mobile game app. Ball attends the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School, which is becoming renowned for training young, successful computer programmers and designers, including Ball’s old brother. More from The Philadelphia Tribune:
Ball has become the youngest individual to create a full version of a mobile application video game, which she unveiled last month in the University of Pennsylvania’s Bodek Lounge during the university’s “Bootstrap Expo.”
Seven-year-old Ball has also become a master of the Bootstrap programming language, and when asked, Ball was able to reconfigure her application on the fly using Bootstrap.
“We expect great things from Zora, as her older brother, Trace Ball, is a past STEM Scholar of the Year,” said Harambee Science Teacher Tariq Al-Nasir, who is also the founder of Harambee’s successful STEMnasium Learning Academy. “I am proud of all my students. Their dedication to this program is phenomenal, and they come to class every Saturday, including holiday breaks.”
Image: Smartphone, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Although parents have expressed vocal concern that a yoga program in place in five Encinitas, California schools are religiously inappropriate because of the practice’s Hindu roots, organizers of the program say the it will continue and expand to all nine of the city’s elementary schools. Proponents of the program say that it is part of an important physical education and healthy living program designed to help kids care for their bodies and regulate their emotions.
More from the local public radio station, KPBS.org:
Schools across the country are focusing more on teaching students to make healthy choices. Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird said yoga is just one part of the district’s physical education curriculum.
“We also have a nutrition program, we also have a life skills program where kids learn about perseverance and responsibility,” he said.
The whole wellness program is supported by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation. The Encinitas-based group promotes a kind of yoga called Ashtanga.
But, when Mary Eady visited a yoga class at her son’s Encinitas school last year, she saw much more than a fitness program.
“They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth,” she said, “and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercises.”
Those looked like religious teachings to Eady, so she opted her son out of the classes. The more she reads about the Jois Foundation and its founders’ beliefs in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga, the more convinced Eady is that it can’t be separated from its Hindu roots.
“It’s stated in the curriculum that it’s meant to shape the way that they view the world, it’s meant to shape the way that they make life decisions,” she said. “It’s meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves.”
Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.
“And then the question becomes – if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal,” he said. “I mean that’s the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program.”
Eady and the other parents want the classes made completely voluntary and moved to before or after the school day. They say school officials haven’t responded to their specific concerns.
Image: Child doing yoga, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 4th, 2013
Children who struggle with motor skills may be at higher risk for poor academic achievement when they reach adolescence, according to a new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The New York Times reports:
Scientists studied 8,061 Finnish children in a database that included weight, height, physical activity, parent-reported motor function at age 8 and academic achievement at 16.
Poor motor function, physical inactivity and obesity, the researchers found, contribute independently and in complex interrelationships to academic underachievement. Poor motor function, in other words, may set a child on the developmental track to poor grades.
The authors acknowledged that their data on motor function and physical activity relied on self-reports, which are not always reliable.
Image: Toddler climbing stacks of books, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Children who are the youngest in their school classes are more likely to score lower on standardized tests, and to receive medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). From The New York Times:
The findings suggest that in a given grade, students born at the end of the calendar year may be at a distinct disadvantage. Those perceived as having academic or behavioral problems may in fact be lagging simply as a result of being forced to compete with classmates almost a full year older than them. For a child as young as 5, a span of one year can account for 20 percent of the child’s age, potentially making him or her appear significantly less mature than older classmates.
The new study found that the lower the grade, the greater the disparity. For children in the fourth grade, the researchers found that those in the youngest third of their class had an 80 to 90 percent increased risk of scoring in the lowest decile on standardized tests. They were also 50 percent more likely than the oldest third of their classmates to be prescribed stimulants for A.D.H.D. The differences diminished somewhat over time, the researchers found, but continued at least through the seventh grade.
The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, used data from Iceland, where health and academic measures are tracked nationally and stimulant prescription rates are high and on par with rates in the United States. Previous studies carried out there and in other countries have shown similar patterns, even among college students.
Image: Girl with prescription drugs, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 19th, 2012
An 11-year-old California boy has been told he needs to transfer to a different public middle school because he carries the gene for–but does not have–the genetic disease cystic fibrosis. From MSNBC.com:
Colman Chadam, was told last week that he’d have to transfer from Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, Calif., to a school three miles away because he posed a risk to another student at school who does have the disease, according to TODAY.
“I was sad but at the same time I was mad because I understood that I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Colman told TODAY. He added: “It feels like I’m being bullied in a way that is not right.”
An inherited condition, cystic fibrosis causes the body to create a thick mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. About 30,000 American adults and children have the disease and patients have an average life expectancy in the late 30s.
While it is not contagious, doctors say people with cystic fibrosis can pose a danger to each other through bacterial cross-contamination if they are in close contact.
“In general, we would prefer that there not be more than one cystic fibrosis patient in a school,” Dr. Thomas Keens, the head of the cystic fibrosis center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, told TODAY.
The district’s assistant superintendent, Charles Young, told NBC News that officials relied on medical authorities who said “a literal physical distance must be maintained” between patients and that the “zero risk option” was to transfer Colman.
Colman’s parents are homeschooling him while they await a decision on the school situation. They emphasized to the media and to school officials that their son has never had a clinical diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.
Image: School bus, via Shutterstock
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