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The Learning Project that could Save Your Life –and help your students thrive.

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools, Home | 0
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Remember when the biggest fears of going back to school was whether your classroom was organized or your child had all the right supplies?   This year the questions are tougher:

Will returning to school sicken or kill you, your students, their parents or grandparents?

 If we don’t return, will our students lose the social interactions, safety, nutrition and learning which they need to grow?

If our goal as educators is to help protect and nurture our children, (and not die), we need to redesign how we engage our students.  We have to stop teaching subjects and start helping students solve problems.  As we switched to distance learning, some teachers joined together to create fabulous online lessons and projects for their students.  Some teachers have found ways to engage their students in social interactions, stress reduction, and ensured that they received food, computers and internet connections.   But way too many teachers have simply been trying to simply replicate their old classroom lessons online.  And way too many students are simply not showing up.

For years, we have talked about the benefits of student projects which span multiple subjects, of teaching to the whole child, of improving the health of our children because these things help our children thrive.  These were great ideas before COVID-19, they are absolutely vital now.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the ultimate breakout room exercise.  We have to solve a myriad of complex problems to be able to escape to safety.   No need to pay hundreds of dollars to get locked in a room with your team needing to solve problems–we are already in lock down.   

Been searching for an authentic learning project for our children and for educators?  How’s this one?

How can we improve our health and safety and thrive as learners and problem solvers?

During distance learning, here are steps that can help you and your students thrive.

  • Engage students in talking about their needs and wants during the pandemic.  What type of services, learning and contacts do they need? 
  • Create a dialogue and charting for a variety of success factors for students.  Nutrition, sleep, exercise, social contacts, volunteering.   By focusing on the factors that determine student performance, we will set up students for lifetime health and success.  Healthy students and teachers are less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19 and far less likely to die if they do contract it. 
  •  Engage students in learning how to improve the health and learning conditions at their homes. Baltimore’s childhood asthma rate is nearly twice the state average.  Learning how to improve the home air quality, how to create a study schedule, and how to create an effective study space can help students succeed.
  • Engage students in learning and communicating proper health behaviors to their peers.  Students more likely conform to a social norm from their peers than a rule by a school official. 
  • Share information on social and emotional resources: food, medical services, COVID-19 testing, where those with COVID-19 can go to isolate from their families.
  • Create teacher teams to produce the best lessons and the best social/ emotional support for students.  Frankly, some teachers are great at presenting material, and some are better at nurturing, guiding and supporting their students.  Distance learning enables teachers to work in the roles where they are most successful.
  • Engage students in teams to increase social interactions and learning as they study and solve complex problems together.
  • Engage students in talent and show and tell performances for their peers. 
  • Engage students in peer tutoring and knowledge exchange. 
  • Engage students and experts in health, building engineering and operations, data science, and social policy in understanding and improving factors that influence their health, safety and success.  (i.e. technology equity, resources, transportation and health care).
  • Collaborate with these same experts and students in developing a plan to reopen schools with safe behaviors and operations.  Students would prepare a plan for safe transportation, social distancing, disinfection of touch points, air ventilation and air flow, and alternative outdoor classes when appropriate.  Students and teachers would learn how to monitor health and safety factors for their school environment and operations. 

As schools reopen, students would monitor the health and safety factors at their schools and collaborate with school officials to offer suggestions and innovations to increase health and safety for students and school staff.

Let me know if you would like some help in doing this.

Shan 

410-336-8239

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The Yin and Yang of COVID-19

posted in: Blog, Home | 0

The “No” Hypothesis

 “I don’t think it will work”.  was neatly printed across the answer box, under the word, hypothesis. I looked up from her worksheet, bent my eyebrows into a question mark and punctuated it with a “huh?” The student shrugged a shoulder, but her face was sure and solid. “ I don’t think it will work.” “Nothing is going to happen.”  Her tone wasn’t angry, or even disappointed.  Just calling it the way she saw it.  Seemed like she’d seen a lot of “nothing is going to happen,” and this just seemed like the next one in line. We’ve been working in her class to help students study and improve the conditions in their school. We’ve talked about things students wanted to change at their school and how we can study them, and innovate to create improvements.  One group of students wants to make school lunches better.  Another group wants to find a way to control the temperatures in their classrooms.  A third group wants to reduce asthma triggers and asthma attacks. This student had noticed that the bathrooms were a mess.  Some of the sinks didn’t work. The toilets were often plugged up, and toilet paper could be missing.  Sometimes there wasn’t even a bathroom monitor around to open the door. Her project was to check the bathrooms and report on their condition to the janitor and the bathroom monitor.  But “nobody’s gonna do anything.”, she said.  Matter of fact. Science is supposed to be calculating and methodical. Just the facts, based on what we know.   Based on a long line of “nobody’s gonna do anything,” her hypothesis that “It won’t work” is a likely outcome. But the soul of science and innovation is hope—that we can find ways to make things better.                         Poor health and learning conditions in our schools steal from our children. When students swelter through heat waves and shiver in the winter; when poor ventilation and asthma triggers sap the energy and health of students, there are no sirens that alert us to this theft.  No data is collected to show us the loss of potential caused by these conditions.  In the city with the highest asthma rates in the state, we don’t even track absences due to asthma at our schools. When these poor conditions become the expected norm, it breaks the hope which is fundamental to science and education.   If nothing’s going to happen, why try? I don’t know which hypothesis is more likely to prove true.  But whether students can create their own improvements and hope in Baltimore schools—that’s a very important experiment.  Science teachers, consider trying it with your students.

How can Students Learn Science Without Doing Science?

posted in: Blog, STEM | 0

The experiment we are running in most science classes is whether students can learn science without doing science.

And this experiment is failing our students.

Yes, you can get students to memorize the periodic table and fill in the bubbles on biology tests by studying books and doing worksheets. If you push them hard, you might get a slight bump over last years test.

But how does that teach students to observe, form a testable hypothesis, and then design and perform an experiment to discover a solution to a problem?
It doesn’t.  

No coach would train their teams by giving up all their practice sessions so their players could read books about the Superbowl or fill out worksheets about the NBA. They know that practice is key to performance. It is how we learn.

Real science is about learning to observe, think, and innovate across a variety of disciplines. It is about curiosity and solving things. This is what the Next Generation Science Standards are expecting students do.
But like football, it takes practice to learn these key skills. And our students are not getting much practice.

Of course, students should read and learn about the scientific discoveries others have made. But they should also conduct their own experiments and make their own discoveries. This is the spark, soul, and hope of science.
This is where eyes light up and the Ah Ha moments start dancing about. Real science connects students to the joy and challenge of discovery. It teaches students that they are powerful, that they can create and improve.

Textbook science is boring and it alienates students.  So it’s no surprise that most students in Baltimore City Public Schools consistently score very poorly on math and science tests. This effectively excludes them from rewarding STEM careers in the center of a STEM economy.

We have to break free of our dependence on text book science if our students are going to have a chance to participate in STEM fields and careers. We have nothing to lose and a world of inventions and innovations to win.  Let’s start practicing.

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Experiment US

posted in: Blog, Multimedia | 0

The US of America by . Cool Green Schools runs the Experiment You project to help students study and improve their health and learning.

America has been running the Experiment US project since 1776, offering citizens the right to study their choices and choose a path forward.  Today offers us another chance to make decisions that can make our country, our communities and our world better.  Each of us has the opportunity to guide our country, to make our mark on history.  Enjoy your choices and our freedom to make them together.

 

Learning to Live In Baltimore

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools | 0

 

How schools can improve the health of students and their communities

The 2017 Neighborhood Health Report by the Baltimore City Health Department is hard to read.                               It spells out the stark disparities and desperation in our city with a clarity that is hard to confront.                           We don’t want the details about homicides, increasing overdoses, and low life expectancy to be about our city–but they are.   

It is no secret that death comes easy in Baltimore.  Average life expectancy here is 73.6 years, about five years less than the national average of 78.8 and six years less than the Maryland state average of 79.5.  This is disturbing, but when we compare life expectancy of our neighborhoods, the disparities are glaring.   

The Clifton-Berea (94.9% African American, median income $25,738) has a life expectancy of 66.9 years while Cross-Country/Cheswolde (72.9% White, median income $54,868) has a life expectancy of 87.1 years.   

This is a 20-year difference between life expectancy in a predominantly white, middle income neighborhood and a black, lower income neighborhood. We know that our neighborhoods have long been divided along    racial and economic lines, but this gap isn’t just the shadow of our segregated history, it’s the misery of life in poor, segregated neighborhoods today.

Chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity are the leading causes of death in Baltimore and the nation.  In 2014, approximately one third of Baltimore City residents were obese.  Obesity is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Drugs and alcohol overdose deaths increased 56.6% from 2015 to 2016 when 694 people died.   Homicides, most related to drugs, add to this total of drug related deaths. There were 318 Homicides in 2016.   On the 300th day of 2017, 291 homicides have been recorded, a rate of nearly one a day. 

How long will we allow this misery to exist?                                                                                                          What will we do now to change these brutal statistics in the years ahead?

If our schools are truly preparing children for life, we need to ensure that they won’t suffer the same chronic diseases, addictions, and violence a few years into the future. 

Growing the mind, body and spirit of our children, their families, and their community should be the primary goal of our schools.   This is a key shift in how we now view the mission and role of schools.  

 

Here is a quick checklist.  How is your school doing?

  • Is every child getting good nutrition and learning to create healthy meals?
  • Is every child getting an hour of exercise every day?
  • Is every child getting regular medical, dental, and vision checkups?
  • Is every child offered mental health services?
  • Is every child offered meditation or yoga training to relieve stress?
  • Is every child connected to trusted adult mentors?
  • Is every child offered time to learn and play in nature?
  • Is every child learning conflict resolution and peer conflict mediation?            
  • Is every child taking health information home to their families on health access, addiction treatment programs, jobs and social services?
  • Is your school free from asthma triggers like mice, cockroaches, dust, bus idling, air fresheners and toxic cleaning materials?
  • Are classroom temperatures between 65 and 78 degrees?
  • Do students have free access to water and bathrooms?

                                      

Some of this is happening now. 

Some schools have yoga and meditation centers; some are improving their nutrition and outdoor education programs; some are instituting peer conflict mediation programs; some have health suites and vision care for students.  Some schools are involved with THREAD, which provides mentors for at risk students.

 

Some is not enough. 

Every school needs to meet the human needs of every child. This isn’t easy, and schools are already overwhelmed. Expanding out of school programs, integrating community programs, and bringing in more volunteers from the community can help create this change.

If we realign education to the needs of our students, they will do better in school–and in life. They will be ready to reclaim Baltimore and the years of life which are rightfully theirs.                                                  -shan

 

 

Want to learn more about health in Baltimore City? 

Here is a link to the 2017 health report on Baltimore City as a whole. 

https://health.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/NHP%202017%20-%2000%20Baltimore%20City%20(overall)%20(rev%206-22-17).pdf

 

Here is the link to download the individual neighborhood profiles:

https://health.baltimorecity.gov/neighborhoods/neighborhood-health-profile-reports

 

Here are links to a variety of health maps.

 

2013 life expectancy:

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c85a6d5b958496d863e738234373934

Teen birth rate

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c85a6d5b958496d863e738234373934

Violent crime 2013

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c85a6d5b958496d863e738234373934

Avertable deaths 2011

http://health.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/Map_Healthy%20Baltimore%20-%20Avertable%20Deaths.pdf

2015 homicide epidemic

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=995f2e81bd664b478a9039741c62ea3a

Students Test Their Schools

Students Test their Schools

Students at Patterson High School and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute are about to get new science and environmental health laboratories: their schools.

Johns Hopkins and Cool Green Schools are partnering on a community research grant to provide three classes of high school students with mentors, testing equipment, and funding so they can study and improve the health and learning conditions in their school environments. 

Students will work with Keith Madigan, a building engineer, to collect data on environmental conditions which affect their health and learning. They will monitor several conditions including: temperature, humidity, acoustics, lighting, asthma triggers, VOC’s, 2.5ppm and Co2.

Two public health students from Johns Hopkins, Arshdeep Kaur and Madison Dutson, will introduce students to environmental health research, demonstrate an environmental health study, and mentor students.

The high school students will propose and conduct their own research projects.  The grant provides students with testing equipment, $4,000 dollars to study and improve their school environments, and $1,000 dollars to communicate their findings.

This student research project will offer innovative STEM learning opportunities for students, but school facility staff, researchers and educators may learn important lessons from this project as well.  

Stay tuned, we will post updates on this project as it evolves.

Shan