Learn about Martha Graham

Dancer’s Journal: Learning to Perform the Dances of Martha Graham by ArtsEdge lets you pretend you’re peeking into the locker and scrapbook items of a dancer learning dances of Martha Graham. Hear music and see video clips, including Graham herself performing movements from “Lamentation.” Other featured works include “Appalachian Spring,” “Diversion of Angels,” and “Errand into the Maze.” It takes a little time to load, but I hope you’ll find it worthwhile!

While I’m on the topic of dance, last Friday I meant to mention that May 25 is National Tap Dance Day, which honors Tap as a uniquely American art form. Hope you had a chance to celebrate!

Richard Louv’s PBS Q&A

Sorry to be a little late noticing this, but in April Richard Louv did a Q&A on connecting kids and nature (see last week’s post) for the PBS Parents website. While he is eminent in this field through so many other arenas, dare I wonder if my citing Louv’s work in the Notes to Parents: Outdoors and Exercise for PBS Parents Guide to Creativity in August 2005 helped bring this wonderful author to PBS’s attention? And if so, to be fair, I must thank my friend Ingrid Chalufour for introducing his work to me before that. Ingrid’s books offer a great deal of early learning experiences, designed for easy and practical use by teachers.

“Green” Fridays & Walk-to-School Days

Following up to May 23rd’s post, Janie Katz-Christy, the mother of one of my daughter’s soccer teammates, told me about an initiative she and a friend started last year. They wanted a monthly, rather than annual, event to draw attention to environmental needs. So the last Friday of every month they ask folks to 1. wear green; and 2. walk or ride public transit to work or school. You can read more about their initiative and see a list of local business sponsors at the GreenStreets blog.

In addition to several Massachusetts towns, you’ll find mention of Ithaca, NY, Chicago and even Madras, India. Of course car ownership is not so ubiquitous in other parts of the world.

Regarding the colored clothing, I have also recently heard that some people want to wear red on Fridays to support our troops. Obviously there will be at least three and sometimes four other Fridays a month to do that. Personally I think going green is also supportive and for other Fridays I might express my support in blue :-). But I digress…


Wire&Twine (www.wireandtwine.com) is a cool little outfit (read: online store) with some neat stuff. Check out the Momemergency Kit while you’re there. The thing that’s got me gaga is their line of Smart-Tees for kids. It looks like there are just four designs so far – simple designs, really – a cow, dinosaur, fairy, and train design.

What’s cool is that in addition to the elegantly simple graphic at the center of the t-shirt, they’ve printed the alphabet at the bottom of the shirt upside-down, so that the child can read it, with the letters contained within the word of the graphic highlighted. View the pictures on the shirt description page to see what I mean.

How do you foster children’s attachment to Nature? (Post your answer in a comment, below)

In the book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn asserts that modern culture’s biggest flaw lies in seeing humans as outside of the laws of Nature. With summer around the corner, it seems fitting to mention a couple of books on keeping children in close contact with Nature. Rather than full-fledged reviews, I’ll just briefly pull out a few benefits mentioned in each book. In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv explores how children’s play has changed over the century and why we need to reunite children (and possibly ourselves) with Nature. Textbooks and television shows foster an abstract dissociation from the topic, but continual hands-on engagement fosters a love, care, respect and understanding that our environment desperately needs from us and future generations.

My children’s school has a small garden, established in partnership with Groundwork Somerville. Louv says research has shown that in paved and climbing-structure play areas, children establish social hierarchy based on physical competence whereas in “vegetative” play spaces, children’s social standing reflects more value on language skills, creativity, and inventiveness. I venture to wonder if a better balance of types of play spaces could ameliorate some bullying issues? As Louv asks on p. 88, “What happens when creative children can no longer choose a green space in which to be creative?” Louv also cites research evidence that children can concentrate better in natural environments and quotes physicians who have noticed that ADHD symptoms are ameliorated with extended free play outdoors (more so than with organized physical activity or sports).

In addition to the garden, I am grateful my daughters will each have two very worthwhile opportunities to attend Nature’s Classroom through their school, but in his 2004 book Place-based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities, David Sobel notes that one week away seems less effective than an ongoing nature study near school grounds.

Louv calls David Sobel one of the most important thinkers in the realm of nature and education. His slim volume describes several models of educational programs for connecting students to the places we live–both neighborhoods and ecologies–with interesting and far-reaching benefits. In Denmark and Sweden, a new kind of preschool program that has children outdoors 60 to 80 percent of the school day documented 80 percent fewer infectious diseases (colds, ear infections, sore throats, coughs) than children in conventional indoor programs. Sobel also cites study of elementary students in Texas which found that only those in an environmentally based program could transfer learning across vastly different contexts (far transfer), showing that they had acquired higher order cognitive skills rather than just fragmented sets of facts. Interestingly a rural Texas high school, where 91% of students’ parents have not finished high school, uses place-based education and sends 65% of its students to college, include elite institutions like Brown, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. Place-based education is not a new idea. It used to happen naturally of course, and a hundred years ago John Dewey in The School and Society: The Child and the Curriculum suggested that “All studies arise from aspects of the one earth and the one life lived upon it.”

Attachment to Nature is the first prerequisite so in addition to any Audubon camps your children may attend, just have fun outdoors: go to the beach, take a hike, rent a canoe, plant a garden…whatever! Leave a comment sharing your family’s favorite way to connect with Nature!

War vs. Food and Schooling

Since today’s the day of the National Summit on America’s Children, I found it very interesting when Boston.com (the website of the Boston Globe) offered a slide show yesterday of all the things $456 billion–the estimated cost of the current war until September–could buy. Here was number 9: “According to World Bank estimates, $54 billion a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015, while $30 billion would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth.

At the upper range of those estimates, the $456 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world’s poor for five and a half years.”

The Encyclopedia of Life

The Encyclopedia of Life is a web project undertaken by the global scientific community (among others) to catalog in one place all the species sof animals in the world. In my opinion, this sort of positive, purposeful, beneficial collaboration is just about the coolest thing ever and why the internet exists.

The intention of those behind this project is to open the Encyclopedia of Life to the public sometime in 2008 with a ten year goal for completion. Let’s watch this evolve!

Practical Uses of Math and Science

NASA offers lots of real-life examples of the practical uses of math and science topics that are taught in elementary school. They also accept your one-page submissions of new examples. So next time you wonder why in the world anybody has to learn such-and-such you just might find an answer here.
Topics include clouds (why they float), social security benefits (algebra), Pythagorean theorem (cabinet corners), ice sheets and sea level, logarithms, matching birthdays (statistics), natural selection and a scavenger hunt, photons, traffic signals (probability), seasons (causes), volcanic clouds, wind chill (algebra), and more.