When The Season Offers Challenges

“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.’” – Brené Brown

Finally! These Are What I Call Standards.

12 Girls Created a Solar-Powered Tent to Tackle Homelessness


They didn’t know how to sew. They didn’t know how to code. They didn’t know how to solder. And they had never used a 3-D printer before. But 12 girls at San Fernando High School taught themselves all these skills — and more — to create a solar-powered tent for homeless people.

It’s a feat of scientific ingenuity that shows how much potential is squandered every day when girls aren’t encouraged to pursue STEM careers as much as boys traditionally have been. And it shows the astonishing imaginative reach of young people.

The girls had been invited by a teacher to come up with a science project to participate in the Lemelson-MIT Program, a highly competitive science fair for high schoolers. Most of them weren’t friends beforehand. But they all had common backgrounds and when they got together they knew they wanted to do something about the rising problem of homelessness in San Fernando, according to a profile in Mashable. Homelessness grew by 36% in the San Fernando Valley last year and many of the girls witness the suffering caused by this daily.

“Because we live here, we see it growing constantly,” Maggie Mejia, a student on the team, told Mashable. “If your parents miss X amount of bills, you can fall into homelessness, too.”

They tossed around ideas such as tackling pollution and water quality, but ultimately agreed that creating tents with power sources was the best solution.

Then DIY Girls, a nonprofit dedicated to unlocking the scientific potential of girls, began guiding them through the process of applying for grants.

After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program, the team got to work figuring out how to create a solar-powered tent and what that means exactly.

Starting from scratch was a struggle, but the team depended on early insights from DIY girls and soon realized that tutorials could be found online.

They learned how to sew, code, operate 3-D printers, and more through youtube videos, Google searches, and other platforms.

“You’re learning new things you’ve never even heard of or even thought of,” Chelly Chavez, a student on the team who learned coding languages for the tent’s technical aspects, told Mashable.

A hashtag was developed that captured their enterprising spirit: #wegetitdone.

Soon a prototype was developed and after working for a year, the team has a finished product that they’ll present at MIT in a competition with 14 other teams.

They were able to raise the funds for traveling to MIT through a Go Fund Me.

The solar-powered tent has button-powered lights, USB ports, and a sanitizing UVC light. It features insulated fabric and has a safety locking system. Taking into account the vagrant experiences of most homeless people, the tent even collapses into a backpack that can be rolled around or worn with straps.

For the entire team, the experience has been transformative. Many will be the first in their families to go to college. They learned valuable skills. And all of them will be challenging a status quo that routinely denies STEM opportunities to women.

“Me and her, we’re the only two junior girls in our AP calculus class, which has way more guys than girls,” Paola Valtierra told Mashable. “But we’re gonna change that.”

Amazing! These girls created a way to address the problem of homelessness in their community. These girls will inspire other girls to take on challenges in the sciences. These girls demonstrate what real national standards for learning should be.

Let’s throw out the those minimalist Common Core Standards and make these the new standards:

  1. Being informed about societal, political, and environmental needs.
  2. Posing and shaping questions
  3. Accessing one’s own imagination
  4. Demonstrating innovative thinking and ingenuity
  5. Conducting research to explore one’s own questions
  6. Collaborating with diverse thinkers
  7. Thinking critically
  8. Constructing new knowledge
  9. Acquiring technology skills
  10. Demonstrating effective oral and written communication
  11. Learning from one’s own failures

These are the standards with the power to make students into learners and thinkers. These are the standards worth insisting upon.  These are the standards that will transform the world.

For Young Children: Age Matters

How can it be that children born in a certain month are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than other children? Was it the weather in the month of their birth? Was it their astrological sign? Was it just bad luck?  And why did it happen in only some states and not in others?

The answer lies in knowing the kids.

 In a study, released in November 2018, Harvard Medical School researchers examined data from 18 states in which children who turn five by September 1 are enrolled in kindergarten. Children, therefore, born in August are almost a year younger than their classmates who were born the previous September.  The study concluded that a significant number of August babies were  being diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication for it simply because they were younger than their classmates.

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that students born in August had a 34 percent higher rate of ADHD diagnosis than their older classmates born in September.

Essentially, that means the youngest children in school are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Furthermore, younger students are more prone to receiving longer, more intensive medical treatments for ADHD than older classmates. That especially surprised the study’s main author, Timothy Layton, an assistant professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.

“Our assumption was that, for those cases, there would be fewer prescriptions and less intensive treatment,” Layton said. “We found the opposite. They’re not getting mild diagnosis and treatment for ADHD. They’re being treated intensively, which is more concerning.”

According to a 2016 CDC report, nearly one in 10 children between 2 and 17 years of age — over 6.1 million total — have been diagnosed with ADHD across the nation. And the rates of ADHD diagnosis have increased by more than 40 percent over the past two decades.

But Layton believes normal maturity differences between younger students versus their older classmates are being overlooked as a factor in ADHD diagnoses, especially among young students.

“The difference in normal behavior between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old is actually quite large,” Layton explained. “But that’s probably not something [teachers] are really thinking about. They just observe that they have a class of children who are about the same age, and they may attribute frequent misbehavior to ADHD rather than to normal variation in child behavior based on age.”

“Our work definitely shows that the diagnosis of ADHD is far from an exact science,” he says. “We have more objective ways to diagnose this condition especially because this condition is so often tied to drug treatment.”

Layton hoped this data will encourage doctors, parents and teachers to view child behaviors with more context.

“My hope is that when parents come in and say ‘my kid’s teacher says he has symptoms condition consistent with ADHD,’ that the physician pauses,” Layton said. “And if that child had a summer birthday, they say, ‘Wait a minute. Let’s consider the child’s age relative to their cohort.'”

This is a serious situation for those August babies who are being misdiagnosed with ADHD and put on intense medication for their childhood years. It is also a serious situation for all children who are younger than others in their grade if they are being judged by behavioral and intellectual standards for children a year older than they are. The younger students can develop a negative self-image as learners and thinkers if they are made to feel less adequate than their older classmates who can sit still longer and have greater focus than they do.

One size does not fit all. Context matters. And for children in the beginning years of school, age is a vital part of their context. Recognizing that as parents and educators is our job.



English Teacher Humor

This is the tee shirt I wear in December. Maybe I am desperate for some levity in these grim times in our national life so have a low bar, but this sentence cracks me up. Doesn’t take much.

Stable Genius?

Only two of the following statements can be true. Choose your two.

  1. Students learn best when they interact with other students. Collaboration is a learning strategy that encourages students to grow as thinkers. When students  read the same book and come to class with their own individual responses, individual questions, and individual choices about the most important lines in that book, the discussion is a lively one in which each person becomes a better thinker because the ideas he or she came to class with are challenged, expanded, or affirmed by the diverse thinking of others.
  2.  The workplace is most productive when those in it interact with one another. Tony Wagner of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, who is an expert in the future of work in our complex world, identifies Seven Survival Skills for the world of work now and in the future. One of those seven is “Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence”. He advocates that those in the workplace ask provocative questions and offer individual perspectives for problem solving as they interact with a broad diversity of thinkers so that problems are best solved and innovations created.
  3. The President of the United States does not need to consult with anyone because he knows more than anyone else. He is a “stable genius”.  He needs no one, including those who research and write about the issues at hand and those with whom he could meet and discuss those issues. He is right when he says, “I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.” And it was a good move for him to not talk with knowledgeable people in our government before meeting with the Chinese president to discuss trade negotiations because our president is right when he says,  “I know it better than anybody knows it, and my gut has always been right.”

Answer: With #1 and #2, the group dynamic insures that the best thinking will come forward.  With #3, we are in big trouble. Trump’s approach insures insular, myopic thinking, which benefits no one. In short, we are screwed.

The Measure Of A Nation: How It Treats The Weak

Donald Trump
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Pediatricians ‘stunned and shaken’ as Trump uses tear gas on infants

The American Academy of Pediatrics officially opposes using tear gas on infants and toddlers, in a rebuke of the Trump administration. Pediatricians slammed the Trump administration for their “inhumane treatment” of infants and toddlers after news reports of tear gas being used against children and families.


“Immigrant children are still children, and they deserve our compassion and assistance,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in a statement. “We will continue to speak out against their inhumane treatment and advocate for their safety.”

The AAP represents 67,000 pediatricians dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. The group was “stunned and shaken” at images of families with young children, many of whom are seeking asylum, on the receiving end of U.S.-launched tear gas.

Using chemical weapons against infants and toddlers in diapers “goes against evidence-based recommendations, and threatens their short and long-term health,” the group says.

Children are smaller and breathe more rapidly than adults, which combines to “magnif[y] the harm of agents such as tear gas,” the AAP says, explaining the science behind their objection to the Trump administration’s attack on children.

In addition to the physical harm, the AAP is worried about the psychological ramifications of Trump’s xenophobic anti-immigrant stance.

“Many of these children are fleeing conditions that threaten their health and safety; they have taken harrowing journeys to seek refuge in our country,” the group says. “Our government must take extra precautions when it comes to children.”

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has shown a callous disregard for the well-being of children.

Over the summer, Trump’s anti-immigrant deterrence plan consisted of ripping children away from their families for weeks and even months. Even though the administration knew of the potential harms, Trump pressed forward with the family separation policy anyway.

Unlike the Trump administration, the AAP “recommends that all immigrant children and families seeking safe haven are treated with dignity and respect to protect their health and well-being.”

Using tear gas on children shocks the conscience, and Trump’s regime needs to listen to pleas of pediatricians and stop these inhumane activities.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

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