Web Site Teaches Parents How To Recession-Proof Their Children

Teaching Children About Money is a Web site dedicated to helping parents teach kids money to prepare them for any recession or downturn in the economy. The current recession has taken most parents by surprise and what concerns them is that they do not know how to deal with it. Through this course they will not only be helping their children, but they will learn tips and tricks for dealing with the current economic problems.

When parents teach their children early on about money, they will already know how to handle a recession should one hit in their generation. The Web site, http://www.teachingchildrenaboutmoney.com/, offers resources to help parents teach kids money using easy to follow, step by step instructions. Parents will also find themselves learning more about how to deal with the present recession while teaching these important rules to their children.

Many parents all over the world have been hit by this recession and are struggling financially. As a result, there is simply no better time for them to teach their kids money as they will see firsthand what difficult economic times are like. When parents have taught their children how to deal with a recession before it strikes they don’t have to worry about how they will deal with the next recession to occur in their lifetimes.

The Web site offers many internationally recognized ebooks which include "The Insider's Secrets to Raising a Future Millionaire", "50 Money Making Ideas for Kids", and "How Can You Raise a Kid Entrepreneur Without Giving Your Kid an Allowance." The company has grown a lot over the year it has been in business due to the personal attention they pay customers as well as the hands on customer service.

To learn more, visit http://www.teachingchildrenaboutmoney.com/

Call for Entries to the 2009-2010 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning, today announced a call for entries for the 2009-2010 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy.

The NSTA New Science Teacher Academy, co-founded by the Amgen Foundation, is a year-long professional development program established to help reduce the high attrition rate among science teachers new to the teaching profession. Intended for science educators entering their second or third year of teaching, the Academy is designed to help promote quality science teaching, enhance teacher confidence and classroom excellence and improve teacher content knowledge. Since its launch in 2007, the Academy has received more than 1,500 applications nationwide.

NSTA Fellows selected for the program receive a comprehensive membership package, online mentoring with trained mentors who teach in the same discipline, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of web-based professional development activities, including web seminars. In addition, each NSTA Fellow receives financial support to attend and participate in NSTA's 2010 National Conference on Science Education in Philadelphia.

Since its inception, the Academy has provided high-quality professional development to more than 350 science teachers nationwide, impacting nearly 15,000 students, approximately.

Science teachers located throughout the country who will be entering their second or third year of teaching and whose schedule is a minimum of 51 percent middle or high school science, can apply to become an NSTA Fellow. For more information about the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy or to learn how to apply to become a fellow, please visit www.nsta.org/academy. Applications must be submitted no later than June 1, 2009 to be considered.

Women Opt Out of Math/Science Careers Because of Family Demands

Women tend to choose non-math-intensive fields for their careers -- not because they lack mathematical ability, but because they want flexibility to raise children or prefer less math-intensive fields of science, reports a new Cornell study.

"A major reason explaining why women are underrepresented not only in math-intensive fields but also in senior leadership positions in most fields is that many women choose to have children, and the timing of child rearing coincides with the most demanding periods of their career, such as trying to get tenure or working exorbitant hours to get promoted," said lead author Stephen J. Ceci, professor of human development at Cornell.

Women with advanced math abilities choose non-math fields more often than men with similar abilities, he added.

Women also tend to drop out of scientific fields -- especially math and physical sciences -- at higher rates than do men, particularly as they advance, because of their need for greater flexibility and the demands of parenting and caregiving, said co-author Wendy M. Williams, Cornell professor of human development.

"These are choices that all women, but almost no men, are forced to make," she said.

The study, published in the March issue of the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin (135:2), is an integrative analysis of 35 years of research on sex differences in math. Ceci and his Cornell co-authors reviewed more than 400 articles and book chapters to better understand why women are underrepresented in such math-intensive science careers as computer science, physics, technology, engineering, chemistry and higher mathematics.

Women today comprise about 50 percent of medical school classes; yet women who enter academic medicine are less likely than men to be promoted or serve in leadership posts, the authors report. As of 2005, only 15 percent of full professors and 11 percent of department chairs were women. Non-math fields are also affected: For example, only 19 percent of the tenure-track faculty members in the top 20 philosophy departments are women.

The authors concluded that hormonal, brain and other biological sex differences were not primary factors in explaining why women were underrepresented in science careers, and that studies on social and cultural effects were inconsistent and inconclusive. They also reported that although "institutional barriers and discrimination exist, these influences still cannot explain why women are not entering or staying in STEM careers," said Ceci. "The evidence did not show that removal of these barriers would equalize the sexes in these fields, especially given that women's career preferences and lifestyle choices tilt them toward other careers such as medicine and biology over mathematics, computer science, physics and engineering."

The analysis, which also was conducted with Susan Barnett, Ph.D. '04, a visiting scholar at Cornell, also found that "Women would comprise 33 percent of the professorships in math-intensive fields if it was based solely on being in the top 1 percent of math ability, but they currently comprise less than 10 percent," Ceci said.

Science, technology, engineering and math are not the only professions affected by women's career choices, said the authors. Women are still underrepresented in the top positions of such fields as medicine, law, biology, psychology, dentistry and veterinary science.

The authors recommended that universities and companies create options for women with math talents who want to pursue math-intensive careers. These could include deferred start-up of tenure-track positions and part-time work that segues to full-time tenure-track work for women who are raising children, and courtesy appointments for women unable to work full time but who would benefit from use of university resources (e-mail, library resources, grant support) to continue their research from home.

The BE BIG Fund to award $50,000 In Community Grants

Scholastic Media announced today, in celebration of National Volunteer Week, the "Be Big In Your Community Contest" as part of its ongoing Clifford The Big Red Dog(R) BE BIG!(TM) campaign (www.scholastic.com/cliffordbebig) to support civic engagement. The national contest invites kids of all ages, teachers, parents and community leaders to submit a BIG idea that demonstrates Clifford's Big Ideas (Share, Help Others, Be Kind, Be Responsible, Play Fair, Be a Good Friend, Believe in Yourself, Have Respect, Work Together and Be Truthful) to enter for a chance to win a community grant to be used towards implementing the winning proposals. One (1) grand prize entry will be honored with a $25,000 community grant and ten (10) runner up entries will each be honored with a $2,500 community grant (via HandsOn Network affiliate organizations or designees) from the Be Big Fund. (www.handsonnetwork.org) The mission of the Be Big Fund is to recognize and reward others for their BE BIG actions, catalyze change in local communities and provide resources to share BIG ideas.

"Be Big In Your Community Contest" submissions will be accepted on the Clifford BE BIG website (www.scholastic.com/cliffordbebig) or via standard mail today through June 26, 2009 and is open to all legal residents of the U.S. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges from Scholastic Inc. and HandsOn Network based on the following criteria: feasibility, creativity, sustainability and impact. Official Rules are available at www.scholastic.com/cliffordbebig/contestrules and at http://www.handsonnetwork.org/. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Parents Building Foundation for Success by Reading Daily to Their Children

Eighty-two percent of parents with children 8 years old and younger say they read a book out loud to them daily, according to a study commissioned by Hooked on Phonics(R).

"The research shows that parents understand that their involvement is critical to establishing a love of reading in children early in life so they're ready and willing to learn," said Judy L. Harris, CEO of Smarterville, the company that owns, creates, manufactures and distributes Hooked on Phonics(R).

The telephone survey of 694 parents nationwide was conducted to coincide with the National Education Association's annual Read Across America day. Now in its twelfth year, the program focuses on motivating children to read, in addition to helping them master basic skills. The nationwide reading program is held on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

The study also found that parents with children 8 years old and younger read more than eight books per week to their children. Fifty-five percent of those respondents said the mother is the primary reader and 24 percent said both parents are the primary readers.

"This is indisputable evidence that parents are the most important and influential people in a child's life, and they are in the best possible position to help children learn to read and love it," Harris said.

Among the parents who have children at least 5 years old, 66 percent say their child knew how to read when she or he started kindergarten; 75 percent of these parents say they or their spouse were the primary influence in helping their child learn to read.

Among all parents, 69 percent rate their level of pride when their oldest child learned to read at 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 means no feelings of pride to 10 means the proudest moment of their life).

"The ability to read well is the foundation for learning and for succeeding later on, whether in the workplace, in the home and in life," said Harris. "We are delighted in the tremendous difference these parents are making in their children's reading and their education."

Source: http://www.hookedonphonics.com/

Study Links Household Order to Children's Early Reading Abilities

Can organizing your home help your child to become a better reader? Maybe.

A new study on the effects of the home environment on early reading growth has found evidence of a link between the reading abilities of 5- and 6-year-old children, and the orderliness of their homes.

Researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Ohio State University found that household order, characterized by routines and cleanliness, was positively associated with a range of early reading abilities in a sample of 455 kindergarten and first-grade twins. However, this association only held for mothers whose own reading abilities were above the national average. When the sample was split by mother's reading level, household order explained reading growth among children of mothers with above average reading skills, while the child's interest in and enjoyment of reading explained reading growth among children of mothers with average reading ability.

Dr. Anne Martin, one of the researchers, noted that perhaps the same mothers who are above average readers are also those who are more likely to keep a tidy home and to implement daily household routines. So, mothers looking to enhance their child's early reading skills should be encouraged to grab their organizers and even their brooms, as keeping an orderly home may have an even greater impact on our children than we previously thought.

Experts have long advised parents that the best way to encourage children to read is to read to them. But, Martin says, "Encouraging child-directed activities such as making books available in the home and allowing children to amuse themselves with books may be equally important and effective approaches to improving early reading."

"Furthermore," Martin adds, "for mothers who are above-average readers but may not have the time or inclination to read aloud, there may be a new strategy that has been overlooked until now: keeping an orderly home."

For information about the study and the National Center for Children and Families, please go to: http://www.policyforchildren.org/orderinthehouse.html.

Putting the Stories Together - GW’s Prime Movers Media Program

In its fifth year, The George Washington University's Prime Movers Media Program pairs veteran and retired journalists from leading news media companies with students in elective media classes at Washington, D.C., high schools to help them create or strengthen student-run media.

High school journalism and English classes are often a student's first glimpse at what a career in writing, broadcast, or the media entails. The experiences they have in and out of the classroom can have a profound effect on their future careers. In its fifth year, The George Washington University's Prime Movers Media Program pairs veteran and retired journalists from leading news media companies with students in elective media classes at Washington, D.C., high schools to help them create or strengthen student-run media. Students and GW Prime Movers Media Program interns meet during school hours over the course of the academic year – several weeks of which are complemented with the expertise of professional journalists.

"The Prime Movers program gave me hands-on experience of what it is like to work as a broadcast journalist," said Chiron Hunt, a 2007 graduate of Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., and a three-year student participant in the program. "The professional mentors who came into my classroom brought real life experience that you can't get in a normal class."

Sam Ford, general assignment reporter with WJLA-TV (ABC-7) in Washington, D.C., and two-time professional mentor with the program, said, "The Prime Movers Program is not only good for journalists because it gets you back into the schools but helps you to get in touch with the lives of these students who live in Washington, D.C. The rewarding part is to see the switch turn on when these students put together their stories and really see how to do it."

Hunt added, "At first, I just took the course as an elective. After a while, I got a feel for what I was doing and started to feel comfortable on screen and was enjoying it. Now, I'm majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Nebraska and hope to someday work for ESPN as a sports broadcaster."

"Prime Movers Media is opening an ever-widening pathway for diverse high school students to work in the expanding ‘information highway' and creating a pipeline for ensuring racial diversity in the new media era," said Dorothy Gilliam, founder and director of GW's Prime Movers Media Program. "In addition to preparing the best and brightest for media careers, participating high school students also benefit from this program through enhancing their reading comprehension, graphic design skills, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership abilities, teamwork, and writing and oral communications. These skills will contribute to their development as media savvy news consumers and will better prepare them for competition in the global marketplace." Gilliam is a prize-winning journalist who retired from The Washington Post after 33 years to start the program at GW in 2003.

Undergraduates at The George Washington University also complete internships and work in the local high schools and, in turn, learn from the professional mentors and the students. Marie Zisa, a GW sophomore majoring in political communication and former two-time intern with the program, said, "The first semester I interned with Prime Movers, I was helping an advanced class, and I had had no prior camera experience. At times, the students were the ones teaching me, and we were able to work together and find a solution to the problem. What I most learned from Prime Movers is how rewarding stepping out of your comfort zone can be."

Former professional mentors with GW's Prime Movers Media Program include Bruce Horowitz, USA Today; Felix Contreras, National Public Radio; Seth Stern, Congressional Quarterly; and Pat Wingert, Newsweek. Current professional mentors include Don Hecker, The New York Times, and Tamara Jones, Yvonne Lamb and Sylvia Moreno, The Washington Post (retired).

For more information about The George Washington University's Prime Movers
Media Program, visit http://www.gwu.edu/~primemovers.

Improving Primary Grade Writing Instruction

New research from Vanderbilt University's Peabody College offers guidance for teachers to help them improve writing instruction in the primary grades and develop stronger student writers.

The two new studies by Steve Graham, professor, and Curry Ingram, Chair in Special Education, were recently published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

"The primary purpose of both articles is to inform teachers about writing practices that work with a wide variety of students," Graham said. "We're hoping to help give teachers the opportunity to creatively incorporate effective writing strategies in the classroom to improve the writing of their students."

The National Commission on Writing has stated that writing should be placed at the center of the school agenda.

In "A Meta-Analysis of Single Subject Design Writing Intervention Research," Graham and Leslie Rogers, a current Vanderbilt University doctoral student in special education, identified effective writing practices for all students including students who struggle within the classroom. This research focuses on the current writing practices in grades 1 through 12, including some suggestions for improvement.

"Among the more important findings is the need for students to be taught how to plan, revise and set clear and specific goals for their writing," Graham said. "Students also need to be taught the skills to write clear and effective paragraphs."

Graham's other paper, "Primary Grade Writing Instruction: A National Survey," co-authored with Laura Cutler, a graduate student in Special Education at the University of Maryland when the research was conducted and currently a teacher in Florida, provides more direct recommendations to improve classroom writing practices.

"Primary grade teachers need to focus on increasing the time spent writing, balancing the time spent writing with the time spent learning how to write, boosting their students' motivation for writing, making computers a more integral part of their writing curriculum, and improving their own preparation for teaching writing," Graham said. "These recommendations offer educators the opportunity to focus on their weakest areas to improve instruction and the quality of student writers produced in our classrooms."

Source: Vanderbilt's Peabody College of education and human development

Low Literacy Can Lead To Food "Portion Distortion"

How big is a serving of spaghetti or a cup of cranberry juice? Correctly estimating the size of a food serving is important for maintaining a healthy weight, but a new study suggests people with lower literacy levels might have a more difficult time sizing up the foods they eat.

People with high literacy levels are twice as likely as those with low literacy test scores are to dole out a single-sized portion of pasta, pineapple, ground beef and other common foods, according to the study in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Yet, people with higher literacy levels have troubles estimating portion sizes, too, said Johns Hopkins researcher Mary Margaret Huizinga, M.D., who led the study while at Vanderbilt University. When combining serving data for all the foods in the study, only 62 percent of study participants could serve a specific amount of food accurately when asked, she and colleagues discovered.

For individual foods, "accuracy ranged from 30 percent for beef to 53 percent for juice," Huizinga said.

"The current super-sizing of many foods may lead Americans to overestimate what a normal portion should be," she said, "and the overestimation of portion size may lead to overeating and contribute to obesity."

In their study of 164 patients at a primary care clinic, the researchers tested the participants' verbal and written literacy as well as their understanding of numerical information. They then measured how well the patients were able to estimate a single serving or a specified amount of a variety of foods, using guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a standard.

The participants' food preferences, or even how often they ate a particular food, did not seem to affect how well they estimated serving sizes, Huizinga and colleagues noted.

Ballooning portion sizes in restaurants is one factor that prompts people to see large portions as normal, but the same kind of "portion distortion" can happen at home, said Jennifer Fisher, Ph.D., an associate professor of public health at Temple University.

In her studies of how much children eat when faced with normal or super-sized entrees, Fisher found that a family's social and cultural perceptions of "how much is enough" also influenced the portions dished out to children.

"Seeing a large amount of food in front of you can lead you to believe that someone decided this portion was the right amount to eat," she said.

Huizinga MM, et al. Literacy, numeracy, and portion-size estimation skills. Am J Prev Med 36(4), 2009.

Source: http://www.hbns.org/

Super Stars Literacy, Inc. Starts 2009 with Strong Community Support

Super Stars Literacy, Inc., the East Bay non-profit that builds literacy skills for primary grade children in communities with limited resources, has earned recognition for its work from two leading community foundations. The San Francisco Foundation (SFF) awarded a $20,000 grant for the 2008-09 year "to support [Super Stars Literacy's] comprehensive academic and social development daily after-school program to improve the academic and social development of elementary school children with challenging life circumstances."

Also, following on the heels of its recent grant of $15,000, the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) has now profiled Super Stars Literacy in EBCF's 2008 annual report as an organization well-positioned to advance EBCF's new strategic focus on preparing young people at both preschool and school-age levels to succeed. Super Stars Literacy is one of only two nonprofits highlighted in this report.

According to Mike Mowery, Super Stars Literacy's Executive Director, "This back-to-back recognition by the two preeminent community foundations on each side of the Bay further validates our success in building critically-needed early literacy and social development skills for our at-risk students. We greatly appreciate the ongoing support of both the East Bay Community Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation as we seek to improve opportunities for academic success for more and more Bay Area students."

Super Stars Literacy's comprehensive five-day-a-week after-school program is a direct response to studies suggesting children, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds who are not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade, are at serious risk of never developing strong academic skills or graduating high school. Since its founding in 2002, the program has achieved outstanding results in meeting, and often exceeding, its goal of having 80 percent of its students read at grade-level as they enter the third grade.

About The East Bay Community Foundation

The East Bay Community Foundation (http://www.eastbaycf.org/) connects community needs in Alameda and Contra Costa counties with individuals, families and organizations interested in charitable giving - and acts as a catalyst for change through leading initiatives, through advocacy, and through partnerships with business, government, and private foundations.

About The San Francisco Foundation

As one of the nation's largest community foundations with more than $1 billion in assets, The San Francisco Foundation (http://www.sff.org/) addresses community needs by supporting innovative ideas and strengthening existing nonprofit organizations that lack sufficient resources or infrastructure. They focus on the areas of arts and culture, community development, community health, education, the environment, and social justice.

About Super Stars Literacy, Inc.

Dedicated to building early literacy skills in primary grade children in communities with limited resources, Super Stars Literacy (http://www.superstarsliteracy.org/) currently serves 270 students at six Oakland, Calif., elementary schools: Hoover Elementary, Parker Elementary, Think College Now, International Community School, EnCompass Academy and East Oakland Pride. The program was originally founded in 2002 as a program of the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay, Inc., and earned independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in 2008.

Many First Grade Teachers Provide Inadequate Instructional Support

A nationwide study of first grade classrooms finds that while many teachers create positive social environments in the classroom, most provide inadequate instructional support. The report is published in the March issue of The Elementary School Journal.

Authors Megan Stuhlman and Robert Pianta (University of Virginia) used direct observations to assess the social and instructional quality of interactions between teachers and students in 820 first grade classrooms. Previous studies have indicated that the quality of such interactions can have a significant impact on student learning, especially in early grades.

The researchers found 23 percent of classrooms to be of "high overall quality," with teachers getting high marks for creating a positive social climate in the classroom and for providing strong instructional support to students. Twenty-eight percent of classrooms were deemed "mediocre," with teachers scoring just below the sample mean on all study measures. Seventeen percent were "low overall quality."

A fourth category of classrooms characterized by "positive emotional climate, low academic demand" accounted for 31 percent of classrooms—the largest category in the sample. In these classrooms, Stuhlman explains, teachers are warm and do not discipline using threats, but they tend not to give constructive feedback that helps students understand concepts.

"We found that quality, particularly instructional features of teacher behavior, was rather low across the sample," Pianta says. "In other studies we have demonstrated the connection between these observed teacher-child interactions and student learning gains. So what we are seeing here may influence the extent to which children can perform at standards consistent with accountability frameworks such as No Child Left Behind."

The study also casts doubt on traditional assumptions about the factors that influence educational quality. Class size and teacher credentials, for example, had little impact on quality. And in a finding that may come as a surprise to advocates of private school vouchers, public school classrooms actually fared a bit better than private school classes.

"[M]ore public schools were categorized as high overall quality than would be expected by chance," the authors write. "Moreover, equal proportions of public and private schools were in the lowest rated classroom type."

The results suggest that educational opportunity will not be improved simply by shipping students to private schools, Pianta says. "Instead, strong, instructionally-focused, and effective professional development for a large number of teachers is perhaps the most important next step."

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Celebrate the Wonder of Reading with "Fly With Us. Read With Kids"

US Airways (LCC) has joined with Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) for a second year to celebrate the wonder of reading through the "Fly with US. Read with Kids.(R)" campaign. It features the online Read with Kids Challenge and supports RIF programs serving children across the nation.

This year, the challenge is climbing to new heights with a goal of collectively logging 5 million minutes spent reading with children from April 1-June 30. Participants can register and log their minutes online at www.RIF.org/readwithkids.

Registrants can join individually, or new for this year, create a team of three or more adults. All participants will be entered to win a grand prize drawing of a Walt Disney World(R); Resort vacation package from US Airways Vacations, US Airways gift cards, and other great prizes. The team determined by random drawing will win the opportunity to select a featured RIF program, as well as a school in their community, to receive a special children's book collection.

US Airways -- the official airline of RIF -- is also encouraging customers, employees, and readers nationwide to support children's literacy by making a donation to RIF. Donors can receive a special edition of Off You Go, Maisy! -- a children's book by best-selling author Lucy Cousins -- and be eligible to receive up to 5,000 US Airways Dividend Miles.

US Airways' campaign with RIF, the nation's oldest and largest children and families' literacy nonprofit organization, also provides books and literacy services to children served by RIF programs throughout the country. US Airways' employee volunteer corps, the Do Crew, will participate in RIF book distributions and reading rallies in communities where the airline has a large concentration of employees and passengers: Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; New York City; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; and Washington, D.C.

For more information, and to access reading resources, visit RIF's website at http://www.rif.org/.

Barnes & Noble Highlights Literacy and Family Fun During National "Turnoff Week" April 20th - 26th

Barnes & Noble, Inc. will celebrate national "Turnoff Week," April 20th through April 26th, with activities offering alternatives for people to television, the Internet, electronic games and other screen related activities and spend real time with family and friends.

Turnoff Week is a primary program of the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness, an international nonprofit organization, providing tools for people to live healthier lives in functional families and vibrant communities by taking control of the electronic media in their lives and not allowing it to control them. Turnoff Week is supported by national organizations including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, and President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Since 1994, more than 50 million people have participated in Turnoff Week.

"As local community centers, Barnes & Noble stores are centered on literacy and togetherness," said Sarah DiFrancesco, director of community relations for Barnes & Noble, Inc. "We believe Turnoff Week is an important way to highlight storytelling, reading and family - the cornerstones of our business."

Barnes & Noble is joining the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness, the promoters of Turnoff Week, and ensuring that everyone has a place to go and something to do that is just right for the entire family. Among the events being offered at many Barnes & Noble stores across the country are family Storytimes, Family Fun nights, game nights, book clubs, bookfair fundraisers, crafts, scavenger hunts, and poetry readings.

It is expected that 20 million people across the USA will turnoff the recreational use of screens for one week. They will read, play games, spend time with family and friends, venture outdoors and spend time with real people in real time. "Barnes & Noble is the new village green" said Robert Kesten, executive director of Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness. "These stores offer people a public living room, where books, newspapers, music and families come together, what could be better than that?"

To find a Turnoff Week event at a store near you please visit the Barnes & Noble store locator at http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/. For more information on Turnoff Week, visit http://www.screentime.org/.

Are You Feeding Your Child's Inner Artist?

When children start pre-school, they bring art work home nearly every day and we proudly plaster it across the refrigerator.

But once they start elementary school, the flow of masterpieces slows to a trickle. Thanks to shrinking budgets, many school systems have drastically reduced art instruction. So, if your child isn't taking art in school, how can you be sure their inner artist doesn't waste away?

According to Americans for the Arts, students who participate in three hours of arts, three days a week for at least one year are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

Jason Dobkin and Erika Gragg, co-creators of the new children's book "Snobbles the Great: A Snooze Patch Story," (Grabkin Creatives, LLC http://www.snobbles.com/) credit their love of art as their inspiration behind the book. Snobbles is a fruit-eating snake who is ridiculed by the other snakes in the Snooze Patch where they all live.

"I was making little clay animals and Erika would place them in plants or other settings and photograph them," says Dobkin. "That's how Snobbles came to life. We wanted to create a fantastical new world for kids so we combined the normal aspects of children's books with painting, sculpture, photography, stage design, lighting, and cinematography to make a hyper-real experience."

Dobkin and Gragg hope parents will find ways to incorporate creativity into daily activities.

"If kids don't have the opportunity to be creative when they're young, it's not going to dawn on them to start thinking in new ways when they're older," says Gragg. "Put children who don't do well academically in a dance class or give them a paint brush and they connect with it. Suddenly, everything clicks. They start understanding math or English better because their brain interprets those subjects in new ways."

Better grades, problem-solving skills and confidence are very strong incentives to make sure you encourage your child's inner artist to come out and play on a very frequent basis.

Illinois Arts Council Seeks Applicants for Artstour Program Artists Roster

The Illinois Arts Council seeks qualified applicants for the 2009-2011 Artstour Program Artists Roster and the 2009-2011 Arts-In-Education Program Artists Roster. Artists rosters are updated every two years and are available on the agency website. Inclusion in these rosters provides artists with increased visibility, job opportunity, and networking support. Artists may apply for inclusion in both or either of the rosters.

Artstour Program Artists Roster: Artstour is the Illinois Arts Council's fee support grants program linking arts presenters with Illinois' wealth of touring artists, companies, and ensembles. The Artstour Program is designed to provide a variety of high-quality touring performances and exhibitions in various price ranges to all Illinois communities throughout the year. In order to be considered for the Artstour Program, artists/companies and ensembles must apply for inclusion in the Artstour Program Artists Roster.

Arts-In-Education (AIE) Program Artists Roster: The Illinois Arts Council AIE Residency Program provides support to primary and secondary educational institutions, community colleges, and not-for-profit local arts and community organizations to work with an individual artist from one month to six months. Residencies involving performing arts companies range from two weeks to six months. In order to be considered for the AIE Residency Program artists must apply for inclusion in the AIE Residency Program Artists Roster.

Guidelines, application materials, and a full IAC Staff list are now available on the Illinois Arts Council website: (www.state.il.us/agency/iac).

Is Storytelling to Kids a Lost Social Activity?

With families always on the go go go, time for sharing stories with your children is going, going, almost gone! But the experience doesn't have to be lost, thanks to the PlainTales series, which offers classic stories on CDs that can be played on any player, any time (goodbye long, boring trips this spring break!). The series is now expanding with the release of new collections, PlainTales First Tales and PlainTales Explorers.

PlainTales, created by writer, entrepreneur and father Brian Keairns, was started with the mission of providing great audio stories for children and their parents, believing that hearing the world's best stories read aloud is a great way for youngsters to develop language and thinking skills, all while being thoroughly entertained. Fables, fairy tales and original stories inspire, educate and encourage creative thinking, and the ones featured in the PlainTales series are chosen for their rich language, cultural significance and pure enjoyment, allowing families to share something special, together.

The PlainTales First Tales collection includes:

-- "The Gingerbread Boy and Other First Tales" -- Perfect for the
littlest listener. R/T: 48 minutes.

-- "Paul Bunyan and Other American Tall Tales" -- Three rib-tickling
stories. R/T: 60 min.

The PlainTales Explorers collection includes:

-- "Animal Tales: Raccoon, Bear and Coyote" -- These stories about
fictional friends are rich with detail about real animal behaviors. R/T: 48

-- "Johnny Appleseed and Other American Legends" -- Fascinating stories
of national treasures. R/T: 67 minutes

Previous releases in the PlainTales collection of celebrated storytelling CDs include PlainTales Classics, Fantasy Classics, Literary Classics and Adventure Classics. PlainTales storytelling CDs are recommended for ages 4-10 and are available for $12.95 each. Website: www.plaintales.com

New resource for teachers, public on how to recognize science when you see it

A new University of California, Berkeley, Web site called "Understanding Science" (http://undsci.berkeley.edu/) paints an entirely new picture of what science is and how science is done, showing it to be a dynamic and creative process rather than the linear – and frequently boring – process depicted in most textbooks.

Funded by the National Science Foundation as a resource for teachers and the public, the material was vetted by historians and philosophers of science as well as by K-12 teachers and scientists.

"Through this collaborative project, we hope to overturn the paradigm of how science is presented in our classrooms," said Roy Caldwell, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology who led the project along with colleague David Lindberg. "The Web site presents, not the rigid scientific method, but how science really works, including its creative and often unpredictable nature, which is more engaging to students and far less intimidating to those teachers who are less secure in their science."

"Part of the fun of science is lost when you present it as a linear thing," said Natalie Kuldell, an instructor in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and one of 18 scientific advisors for the project. While the five-step process described in textbooks – ask a question, form an hypothesis, conduct an experiment, collect data and draw a conclusion – isn't wrong, "it is an oversimplification," she said.

The core idea, said Judy Scotchmoor, assistant director of the UC Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley and coordinator of Understanding Science, is that science is about exploring, asking questions and testing ideas. The site provides a Science Checklist that can be used to determine just how "scientific" particular activities are.

Scotchmoor will discuss the Understanding Science approach at a Friday, Feb. 13, session celebrating the Year of Science 2009. The session is from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Columbus EF room of the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

"The goal was to present (the concept) that testable ideas are right at the center of science, and if you don't generate testable ideas, then you are really not doing science," Kuldell said.

Testing, however, is intertwined with exploration and discovery -- the "cowboy" aspect of science, in the words of one project advisor -- review of hypotheses and theories by skeptical peers, and actual application of the science to real world problems.

Within the Web site, personal stories contributed by top scientists around the country illustrate the interplay of exploration, peer review and outcomes, and demonstrate the different pathways to discovery taken in different fields of science, from biology to cosmology.

Scotchmoor hopes that the site will show students and the public that "science really is an adventure. There are certain rules that you need to follow, but really you can't predict where questions will take you."

The Web site premiered on Jan. 5 during the launch of Year of Science 2009, and received rave reviews from New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer, who referred to it in his blog as "a guided tour through the basic questions of what science is and how it works." He particularly praised the Process of Science flowchart illustrating how science works. A set of four interlocking circles represent the interplay between hypothesis testing and the ways scientists generate these hypotheses, while multiple arrows connect the circles to illustrate the roundabout way scientists make their discoveries.

"At best, I think, stories about science can only be snapshots of small patches of science's cycles within cycles," Zimmer wrote of the flowchart. "It (story telling) uses the one-dimensional medium of language to gesture towards science's mind-boggling multidimensionality. This picture from Understanding Science will help me remember to make that gesture, long after the Year of Science is over."

Four years ago, Scotchmoor, Caldwell and Lindberg created a Web site called Understanding Evolution that now provides a much-needed resource for teachers and the public.

"We discovered, however, that there was a lot of confusion about what science is and isn't," Scotchmoor said.

"Teachers had misconceptions, such as what a theory is or whether creationism is science," Caldwell said. "Many even thought science wasn't creative, in part because of cookbook labs, in part because of the emphasis on testing factual knowledge, not process."

With advice and input from historians, philosophers, teachers and scientists, Scotchmoor, Caldwell and Lindberg constructed the Web site from scratch, modeling it after Understanding Evolution. Understanding Science has been endorsed by the California Science Teacher's Association and the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and will be part of the next edition of a popular high school biology textbook, "Biology" (Prentice Hall), by Ken Miller and Joe Levine.

Kuldell uses it in her second- and third-year college lab courses to "set the expectations of my students, (to show them) that science is iterative and messy and doesn't always make a clean story – and that that should be expected. You work and then you rework, you get feedback, you rethink your ideas, and then retest. Science isn't quite as neat as people wish it were and think it should be."

The Web site will continue to grow, with personal profiles of scientists and their research, each accompanied by a flow chart showing how they proceeded from ideas to discovery.

"We hope these cool stories will draw people in," Scotchmoor said.