Nonprofit Organization Launches Scholarships For Young, Queer Black Men Attending HBCUs


Morehouse College freshman Jauan Durbin may not have been able to pursue his degree if not for the mentorship he received from Black, Gifted and Whole, a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to the empowerment of young, queer black men.

Its most recent extension of this initiative is the launch of the Ambassador Program, which awards partial scholarships to black queer men attending historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. Last September, Durbin became the program’s first scholarship recipient. But he won’t be its last.

BGW co-founders Guy Anthony and George Johnson told The Huffington Post that while Durbin was their inspiration for the program, they also recognized that young, black queer men attending HBCUs don’t receive much support on campus. Each school year, the program will award up to five scholarships.

“Being gay is not considered much of a ‘norm,’ especially on HBCU campuses,” Johnson said.

According to a report by the University of Pennsylvania,only 21 of the 105 HBCUs in the U.S. have LGBTQ organizations.

“Dealing with living as an openly gay person, in addition to problems we deal with in the black church around homophobia and masculinity issues can create an environment that isn’t very conducive to learning, growth and nurturing for these men,” Johnson continued.

Students with the Ambassador Program will receive support and mentorship from BGW throughout their college experience. Johnson and Anthony raise money for the scholarships through GoFundMe campaigns, private donors, galas and grant submissions.

“Our goal is to ensure that these young men know that they don’t have to live their lives in pieces and can truly embody the essence of what it means to be black, gifted and whole,” Johnson said.

Durbin himself dealt with homophobia in school. As the first male cheerleader at School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., he was bullied by his peers. When he applied to Morehouse, he was initially denied because of a low GPA. But with the help of Johnson and Anthony, he successfully appealed and was accepted into the college.

In a statement sent to HuffPost, Durbin said that since attending Morehouse, he has worked to make his HBCU campus more inclusive of the LGBTQ community. He was even elected a freshman class senator in his first semester. In this position, he began an effort to make the school’s constitution more inclusive by advocating for the implementation of non-binary pronouns.

“I am blossoming into the black queer man that I was destined to be at the institution that I was destined to help change,” Durbin said.

Some helpful tips on creating an appropriate musical library for your child


A Library of Variety
Whether they’re singing along with Curious George’s theme song or asking you to turn up a popular song on the car radio, children love music. But what kind of music should kids listen to at a young age? Here are some helpful tips on creating an appropriate musical library for your child.

Not Just for Listening
Before you pick the songs, keep in mind that your child benefits from doing more than just listening. To get the full benefits of music, children need to sing, clap and dance along with the tunes. Singing and moving to music tells the brain to make meaning of it, a cognitive process called audiation, explains Lili Levinowitz, cofounder of Music Together and professor of music education at Rowan University of New Jersey.

Audiation in music is like thinking in language. We learn by practicing it, making sounds and essentially training our brains. The brain can only develop its musical comprehension if we tell it to through voicing and dancing, not through simply listening. “We’re isolating ourselves with the earbud,” she says. “My research shows that 50 percent of children enter kindergarten without knowing the difference between singing and speaking.”

As you start to build your child’s music library, focus on interaction with the music that’ll help train your child’s musical ear. Peggy Durbin, a music educator at Kindermusik in Columbia, Md., suggests using bought or homemade instruments to play along. Help your child make music, not just listen to it.

The best musical library for your child includes a wide variety—a mixture of genres you like and music they like. Levinowitz compares music you play to the foods you serve: you don’t want your child eating only mac and cheese, or similarly, listening to the same CD all the time. “Create an ear food buffet,” she says. Your musical menu should consist of songs from your culture and those around the world, as well as music that you love.

“In addition to playing multiple genres of music, parents should play music that they enjoy,” says Eric Rasmussen, chair of early childhood music at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. “I emphasize classical and jazz especially (that’s my taste), but there is no bad type of music. It’s harder to find appropriate music in some styles than others.”

In order to challenge your child musically, aim for a variety of rhythms and tonalities, or songs that are in different keys. “Play adult quality music,” adds Rasmussen. “It is also best to play music that does not have strident tone quality, that is, music that changes its sound frequently. Orchestral music is best for this. By contrast, most thrash metal bands usually don’t have much contrast from one song to the next, let alone within a song.”

Variety exposes children to more styles, but more important, musical variety may help them learn better. “Children learn through the juxtaposition of difference,” Levinowitz says. “They should be singing those songs in unusual tonalities. Other beneficial actions include singing along or chanting to songs that are in asymmetric meters and not necessarily inherent in the culture.”

Start with the Familiar
When determining how to introduce your child to music, consider the songs you sang growing up and start there. Durbin suggests starting with nursery rhymes put to music before gradually moving into folk songs and classical numbers as the children reach preschool age.

When in doubt, consult the experts. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME, formerly MENC) created a list of 42 songs every American should be able to sing in hopes of uniting more people and communities through song (see below). The list was created in 1995 and has since been expanded; it is a great starting point for a family musical library.

“For ages two to nine, most of these songs are sophisticated,” says Elizabeth Lasko, assistant executive director of NAfME. “Little kids can sing ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad’ with ease, but they may have more trouble singing ‘Blue Skies’ by Irving Berlin. The list imitates book form, making it a resource for kids to start with and potentially master by the time they are teenagers.” Parents can also learn these songs with their children, making it a bonding activity to do together.
Rasmussen has a list of songs (see below), some of which are also on the NAFME list, that he uses to teach young children melody and harmony.

As you expand your child’s library, consider adding classical music—especially if the piece tells a story or teaches them about instrumentation. You can try Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens or Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, both of which use instruments to represent different animals and characters. The children can learn about specific instruments while learning a story. “A programmed classical piece is going to help children feel comfortable with classical music and get the story at the same time,” Durbin says.

Rasmussen suggests avoiding very long orchestral music, and instead listening to short pieces about four to five minutes in length. He also says that string quartets or other pieces that rely on only one class of instruments are not the best for young children because they may not demand as much of the child’s attention.

“Any music that has strident timbre (or tonal color) will not distract children to listen to it as much as music that shifts in tonal color more frequently,” he says. “String quartets are wonderful, but it is all strings and doesn’t distract a child’s listening as much as an orchestra that has more variety of instruments. The same would go for brass or woodwind groups.”

What Should Be Off Limits?
While many music educators believe there is no such thing as too much music, it’s up to you to decide what, when and how your child will listen to it. Some music educators caution against purchasing mainly “children’s music,” which may be more about the lyrics than the tune, and instead aim for child-friendly music.

“Kids’ CDs that are geared toward children are not necessarily very healthy music for children to be listening to,” Rasmussen says. “They are often poorly produced, sung by children singing as if they are adults, and in major keys only,” he says. Follow this rule: If you think it’s bad, it probably is.
“Music with inappropriate lyrical content should be avoided,” Rasmussen says. “There is no bad style, it’s just harder to find hip hop that is high musical quality and also has appropriate lyrics.”

Parental Guidance Suggested
Although your child may be an expert with your iPod, you may want to be nearby to guide him. “Until you think your child can make good selections, I would recommend supervising what they are listening to,” Durbin says. Sit with your child at the computer and go through iTunes or Pandora to find new songs to add to your developing collection. “As children get older, encourage them to be more independent with their selection of music. In the car, give them a choice of CDs or stations,” Rasmussen says. Then take turns playing music you like. Also, remember to turn off the music and give children the opportunity to sing on their own and practice the songs.

Sharing Music Time
Your child may not like your passion for Pink Floyd, no matter how loudly you sing along, and that’s okay. The point is to give them time with the music they like, and then bring your own music into play. Take them to an outdoor concert so they can see the music in action. The more they hear different types of music, the more expansive their tastes and respect for artists and genres will inevitably be.

“They may find something they like that is particularly awful,” Rasmussen says. When Rasmussen’s daughter discovered a popular music show with kids that was musically horrendous, he allowed her to watch it, but “Daddy and Mommy music time” followed. “I was also open with her at four years old that I didn’t like the show, but that it’s perfectly acceptable for her to like it; I validated her taste, but also told her she might not like some of my music.”

Whether it’s your choice or hers, remember above all to model your love for music. Sing, hum, dance or air guitar to your favorite songs, even if your child doesn’t like them. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing in tune or dance well, because you are showing them the joy of music.

NAfME List:
Amazing Grace
America the Beautiful
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Blue Skies
De Colores
Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Dona Nobis Pacem
Down by the Riverside
Frere Jacques
Give My Regards to Broadway
God Bless America
God Bless the U.S.A.
Green, Green Grass of Home
Havah Nagilah
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Home on the Range
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)
Let There Be Peace on Earth
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
Music Alone Shall Live
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’
Oh! Susanna
Over My Head
Puff the Magic Dragon
Rock-a My Soul
Shalom Chaverim
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Simple Gifts
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
Star-Spangled Banner
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
This Land Is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine

Rasmussen’s List:
All the Pretty Little Horses
Amazing Grace
Ants Go Marching
Aunt Rhody
Bei mir bist du schoen
Comin’ Around the Mountain
Don Gato
Down by the Bay
Erie Canal
Fire Fighter
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Jingle Bells
Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho
London Bridge
Mary Had a Little Lamb
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Old MacDonald
On Top of Spaghetti
Patsy Ory Ory Aye
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Silent Night
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
There Was an Old Woman All Skin and Bones
This Land Is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine
This Old Man
This Old Hammer (John Henry)
Twinkle Twinkle
Two Little Kitty Cats
When the Saints Go Marching In
Yankee Doodle
You Are My Sunshine

One simple trick to raising curious kids pay attention to their questions


Young children are naturally curious. They have an itch to explore their world and figure out how things work. And parents have compelling reasons to foster this inherent inquisitiveness.
Curiosity is tied to academic achievement, with research showing “unequivocally that when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better.” According to one study, children whose parents encouraged them to ask questions were more likely to succeed in science. Curiosity also drives creativity, or as writer Elizabeth Gilbert notes, creativity is the natural byproduct of a “curiosity-driven life.”

Here’s one simple trick to raising curious kids: pay attention to their questions.

A one-year-old child’s first question is usually: “What’s that?”—or as my kids pronounced it, “Dat?” They want help naming their world—what they see, hear, taste, smell and feel. From there, the questioning steadily evolves.

For example, like most four-year-olds, my daughter is fascinated with “Why?” Yesterday, as an experiment, I wrote down each of her questions. Here is a small sampling:

Why can’t I drink water and breathe at the same time?
Why do slugs make slime?
Why do walruses have tusks?
Why are they called hot dogs if they aren’t made from dogs?
Why does the sun go to bed later in the springtime?
And then there are the unspoken questions that can sometimes seem like misbehavior. My curious two-year-old spends much of his time asking himself, “What will happen if . . . ?” In the last few days, he has wondered:

What will happen if I drop this egg on the floor?
What will happen if I press this button?
What will happen if I put a ukulele on top of my block tower?
What will happen if I flush Mommy’s toothbrush down the toilet?
For parents, children’s unending questions can challenge our knowledge—and our patience. But if we want to nurture their curiosity, perhaps the best response we can give is simply this: “Good question. Let’s find out.”

Here’s how that might look:

Let’s explore: Rather than squelching toddlers’ and preschoolers’ curiosity, redirect it if necessary: “You can’t do that, but you can do this!” If they want to know what happens when they turn the juice carton upside down, let them play outside with cups and a jug of water. If they want to know what it’s like to draw on walls, make some bathtub paint and set them loose in the tub. Take kids on nature walks and follow their pace—as they stop to dig in the dirt, look at bugs, pick up leaves and hunt for “treasure.”
Here’s another reason to give children space to explore their world: explicit directions about how to play make children less likely to make their own discoveries. For example, when you show children exactly how to use a toy, they are more likely to play with it one way: the way you demonstrated! But if you let them explore independently—particularly with open-ended toys such as blocks and “make believe” materials—they get curious and are more likely to find new, creative ways to play.
Let’s look it up: In the information age, the answer to many “Why?” questions is in our pocket. When kids stump you—as mine regularly do me—it’s easier than ever to say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up!” But before going online or to the bookshelf, first ask your child, “What do you think?”
For example, when my daughter asked me over breakfast why walruses have tusks, she followed up with, “Let’s look it up on your phone, Mommy!” She guessed that walruses use tusks to protect themselves and was delighted to discover she was right—but we were both intrigued to learn that they also use them to pull their bodies onshore and to cut breathing holes in the ice.
Let’s ask an expert: Help your curious child see that we are surrounded by experts who are willing to share their knowledge. Curiosity can drive connections. Start by thinking about your network of friends and family—and how they might be able to share their skills, hobbies, and life experiences with your kids.Recently, when my four-year-old was peppering me with questions about farm life, I suddenly remembered that we had an expert in the family: Grandma grew up on a ranch! Through FaceTime, Grandma gamely fielded questions about milking cows, gathering eggs, and riding horses. Both were delighted by the exchange, and my daughter found a new resource for satisfying her (hopefully unending) curiosity.

6 Secrets To Digging And Bring Up Your Child’s Talent


Could your child be the next American Idol? The next American president? Just maybe.

Daniel Coyle, author of the bestselling book, The Talent Code, says you can up a child’s chances immensely by understanding one key thing: greatness isn’t born, it’s grown.

Coyle spent two years bouncing between nine of the world’s greatest talent hotbeds—tiny, magical places that produce huge numbers of world-class performers in sports, art, music, and math. And what he found is that parents have been sold an incorrect picture as to how genius happens. Immense talent isn’t written into kids’ DNA, Coyle says, it’s the result of a distinctive and powerful pattern, a pattern that combines three elemental forces: targeted methods of practicing, specific methods of motivating, and coaching.

How kids practice, how they deal with failure, how they get praised, and how they are criticized, all play a part in the likelihood of achieving greatness. “Of course, not everyone grows up to be a Michelangelo or a Michael Jordan,” Coyle says, but understanding that genius is not an accident, but the result of a distinctive and powerful pattern, helps parents unlock the neurophysiology of learning.

Whether he was on a crummy tennis court in Russia that produced more top-20 players than the entire United States, or thousands of miles away at a classical musical academy in the Adirondacks, coaches in talent hotbeds “would speak with the same kind of rhythm, give the same kinds of instructions, and look at their students with the same kind of gaze. The practices would feature similar methods, like slowing things down to unbelievably slow speeds, or compressing the practice into a tiny space and speeding it up,” Coyle says.

He found that what was most striking about the talent hotbeds was “how amazingly similar” they all were. Want to create your own hotbed at home? Here are Coyle’s six strategies for unlocking kids’ talents:

Watch for tiny, powerful moments of ignition. It’s not easy to practice deeply—it requires passion, motivation, persistence, and the emotional fuel we call love. New research is showing us that when it comes to motivation, we are all born with the neurological equivalent of hair triggers. When a child’s identity becomes intertwined with a goal, the trigger fires, and a tsunami of unconscious motivational energy is released. Coyle points to a study done with a set of young musicians in which young musicians who foresaw themselves as adult musicians learned 400 percent faster than kids who did not. “It’s not genes that made these kids succeed, it’s the fuel contained inside a tiny idea: I want to be like them,” Coyle says.

Understand that all practice is not created equal—not by a long shot. The talent hotbeds have long known a crucial fact that science is just discovering: skill-acquisition skyrockets when we operate on the edge of our abilities, making errors and correcting them—a state called “deep practice.” The takeaway: mistakes aren’t verdicts; they’re information we use to build fast, fluent skill circuits. Kids who are able to see errors as fuel for learning, rather than setbacks, are the ones that eventually become geniuses.

Recognize that slow practice is productive practice. This technique is common to virtually every talent hotbed, from tennis to cello to math. The reason it works: when you go slow, you can sense and fix more errors—coach yourself to build a better skill circuit. At Meadowmount, a classical-music school whose alumni include Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, the rule is, you should play slow enough that a passer-by can’t recognize the song. As one coach puts it, “It’s not how fast you do it. It’s how slow you can do it correctly.”

Praise effort, not natural ability. When we praise a child’s intelligence, we’re telling her that status is the name of the game, and she reacts by taking fewer risks. When we praise effort, however, kids become more inclined to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them—the essence of deep practice and learning. It’s no coincidence that talent hotbeds use effort-based language: The Russian tennis players I met don’t “play” tennis – the word is borot’sya – to struggle.

Encourage mimicry. Copying is a neurological shortcut to skill. Vividly imagining yourself perfecting a skill is a great first step to actually doing it, whether you’re writing or dancing. Tim Gallwey, the author/tennis instructor, teaches beginner students to play a passable game in twenty minutes through mimicry—all without uttering a single word of instruction.

Stand back. The kind of deep practice that grows skill circuits can only come from within the kid, not from the parent, no matter how well-meaning. As Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck puts it, all parental advice can be distilled into two essential points: 1) pay attention to what your child stares at; 2) praise them for their effort. In other words, notice when they fall in love, and help them to use the energy of that love wisely.

When you start thinking about talent as a process—when you see the power of certain forms of practice, when you look for inner passion, when you tune into the teaching signals you can send—life changes, Coyle says. Like most big changes, it shows itself in small ways. “For our family, it’s when our son has a tough new song on the piano, and my wife encourages him to try just the first bar, or just the first five notes over and over, doing it in baby steps until it starts to click. Or when our daughters are skiing, and they excitedly inform us that they fell a bunch of times, which must be a sign that they are getting better,” Coyle says. (A concept that works better with skiing than it will with learning to drive a car).

Mostly, though, teaching kids that talent is built, not born, allows them to look at failure in a completely new way. Failure is not a verdict, it’s a path forward. And mistakes are not something to be embarrassed about, they’re steps on the path to success. Without them, greatness is not possible.

How Gardening with Kids Affects Your Child’s Brain, Body and Soul


For parents struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, gardening can be an important tool. Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. Gardening doesn’t require a perfectly level, large or sunny backyard. Try planting in a small raised bed or growing a few edibles in existing landscaping. Lean a trellis against an outside wall to grow beans or other edible vines. If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, a few containers and soil in a sunny spot can be an easy way to grow herbs or some sweet cherry tomatoes that kids won’t be able to resist. Plants like zucchini, radishes and herbs are fairly easy to grow without a lot of fuss, making them a great return on your investment. The much bigger return is how planting a garden can affect not only your child’s body but also their brain and soul.
How gardening can affect the BRAIN:

There is a myriad of scientific concepts you can discuss with your kids when planting and tending to a garden. One study showed that children who participated in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement than those who did not. The wonder of seeing a garden grow may spark your kids to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? Soon you will be talking about soil composition, photosynthesis and more! Add a little math while gardening by measuring how much plants are growing from week to week or counting the flowers on each plant. Supplement the experience of gardening with books about plants, trips to a botanical garden, or a photo journal of the plants that you are growing.

Once you harvest your produce, think of all the brain-building vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your kids will be eating and how that will continue to boost brain development. Foods like spinach, garlic and beets (which are all easy to grow) have been show to help with cognitive function and can give your kids an advantage in their growth and development. Even if kids may not love the foods they grow at first, teach them to keep tasting and trying and to train their taste buds to enjoy the bounty of their garden.

How gardening can affect the BODY:

When children participate in gardening, the fruits and vegetables that they are inspired to eat will no doubt have a positive effect on their body. But the act of gardening itself can also promote a healthy body. Kids LOVE to get their hands and feet in the dirt, which can run counter to the modern parenting style of compulsively keeping hands and surfaces cleaned and sanitized. However, consider the “hygiene hypothesis,” a theory that a lack of childhood exposure to germs actually increases a child’s susceptibility to diseases like asthma, allergies and autoimmune conditions by suppressing the development of the immune system. So getting dirty while gardening may actually strengthen a child’s immunity and overall health.

These days all kids could benefit from a little more physical activity and sunshine they’ll get while gardening. Activities like moving soil, carrying a heavy watering can, digging in the dirt and pushing a wheelbarrow can promote gross motor skills and overall strength for a more fit body. Plus, these activities, known as “heavy work,” have been shown to help kids stay calm and focused.

How gardening can affect the SOUL:

In this electronic age, kids need time for meaningful family connection. Time in the garden allows for team building and promotes communication skills. Planning a garden, planting the seeds and watching them grow give kids a sense of purpose and responsibility. Making sure that the plants get enough fertilizer, water and sun fosters mindfulness. The concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and responsibility for taking care of our planet.

In addition, studies show that when children have contact with soil during activities like digging and planting, they have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety. Most important, the self-esteem a child gets from eating a perfect cucumber that he grew himself is priceless.


Do Some Simple But Great Summer Science Games


Summer has just arrived, and like you, we’ve been looking for new ways to get outside and do some great science. With both an eight-and-a-half-year-old and a five-year-old in the house, the question this summer is, how can we (and you) get your youngest children thinking like a scientist and engage different age levels at the same time? We turn to an old classic game and add a few twists: “I Spy.”

Observation is the very heart of science. The “Oxford English Dictionary” defines the scientific method as: “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Observation and measurement can be utilized in many ways and can easily be adapted to many age ranges. When you play “I Spy,” you can vary the object in different ways—you can spy a color or a size (bring a tape measure and spy something one foot long, for example). You can also spy something distant like the sun or moon. We also play “I Hear with My Little Ear”—ask your children to sit or stand still and see what different things you can pick out of the background noise. You can easily vary what you are listening for to suit your location or needs. You can find a quiet spot to listen to birds and compare the pleasant songs of a cardinal to the not so nice sound of crows or catbirds. When animals call, what are they saying to each other? Or listen for patterns—a rhythmic drip from a gutter after a rain or the sound of a passing car or bike. Be as specific as your ages will allow, and again, ask for something unexpected. Ask for a soft sound or a grating sound—maybe the sound of a rake reaching concrete. What are all the ways that you can categorize sounds?
Take a brown paper bag outside and play “I Feel”—same rules, only no peeking! Pick three or four different leaves off of nearby trees and see if you can identify them just by feeling them. There should be clear rules about what goes in the bag: nothing sharp or dangerous, no bugs or animals. But there is really no limit to what can go inside—a cotton ball, an acorn, a flower petal. Ask them to describe the difference between a flower petal and a leaf. Why are flowers smoother and softer than leaves? Or why are sedimentary rocks smoother than other rocks?

Finally, the truly adventurous can play “I Smell” or even “I Taste.” “I Smell” can be both good and bad—be prepared for some potty talk and to have your breath or hair analyzed. If you choose to play “I Taste,” make sure the rules are firmly established and think about fun. I remember playing this game when I was a kid and being given juice from a pickle jar to taste, which was not fun! But if you prepare three or four things and explain the range (one sweet, one salty, one sour, etc.), you can have a lot of fun without negative surprises.

A great way to tie them all together is to come up with a theme. Choose a basic and open theme, like the weather: what can you spy that says summer, but definitely does not say spring, fall or winter? Popsicles, lawn sprinklers, dogs with their tongues hanging out. … Similarly, there are sounds and smells and things to touch that only happen in summer weather. Does heat have a smell? Things get hot in the summer, but how does a cool breeze feel?

Remember to keep it fun, but focus on seeing (and hearing and smelling) things in new ways, and especially think of ways to observe like a scientist. Pick things that show the difference between the qualitative and quantitative, like an unusual flower, not in how it looks but in how many there are on a plant or stem. Slow down, look around, start observing like a scientist, and always follow up with questions that lead to more questions. You don’t have to answer all the questions—just help the kids form a good way to ask them. I spy with my little eye…little scientists having fun! And I hear with my little ear…the sound of little scientists laughing and having fun!

Vince Harriman is a contributor to—kids’ challenges with a twist—where he writes science activities for kids and is the author of the widely followed blog Kids Need Science. He is also known as Science Dad on NPR’s Science Friday blog. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with his two sons, who ask him “why” approximately 6,542 times a day.

Some helpful tips for beating the back-to-school blues.


There he was, our son, as sweet as a cinnamon bun, marching confidently into a new chapter of his life: his first day of preschool. We felt like celebrating—or at least doling out a healthy round of fist bumps watching him move into “big boy” status last fall. To be frankly, we were also relieved. Despite a small delay involving a slightly burnt piece of toast, we made it out of the house easily. No protests. No crying. No drama.

As we move toward kindergarten and grade school, I can only hope that heading back to school—after a summer of sun and fun—will always be so effortless. However, for many children, the start of the new school year means the end of fun and free time. If most kids had it their way, summer would last forever. But we already know that’s never going to happen, so instead, help them see that there’s a way to return to school buses, backpacks and books with a genuine smile—not a grimace—on their faces. Here are some helpful tips for beating the back-to-school blues.

Give them the 4-1-1.
If your child is starting at a new school—moving to kindergarten from day care or middle school from elementary—they may feel anxious about all the newness. It’s important to give them as much information as possible in advance, says Dr. Rochelle Harris, a psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. For example:

  1. “If you can, visit the school one week before, to help them learn the layout of the building,” she says.
  2. Get your kid’s class schedule ahead of time and walk through it with them. “You can decrease a lot of uncertainty and help them get familiar with all of the new components they’re facing.”
  3. Practice opening their lockers, especially if it’s a combination lock. “It can be a panicky thing for kids if their locker sticks and they can’t open it,” Dr. Harris says.
  4. Meet the teacher. “Make sure the teacher knows that your child is new to the school or the neighborhood,” she says. “Writing a letter to the teacher with basic tips and easy requests is a big help. “For instance, let the teacher know that you just moved there or that your child has never been to a school this size.”

Talk through anxieties.
Kids might feel ambivalent or anxious about returning to school for a number reasons. “Whatever the issue, talk about it, but don’t dwell on it,” says Dr. Harris. Also, listen closely to the content, she says. Kids tend to globalize things: I never have fun. School is always boring. “It’s that ‘all or nothing’ thinking that can lead children to feel depressed,” Dr. Harris says. Get them refocused, and challenge that negativity. Remind them about the fun that awaits them at school and on the weekends too. “The key is to normalize it for them and keep a positive spin: ‘Oh, yeah, I hear you, but also remember how much fun you had with your classmates last year. I’m sure this time will be like that.’”

Create a plan of action.
If your child has a legitimate issue that’s leaving them unenthusiastic about returning to school—maybe they struggled with a subject or were bullied—Dr. Harris strongly recommends creating a plan of action and explaining it to your child. “If your kid had trouble in math last year, tell him/her that you are going to start the process of getting them more support, and then follow through,” she says. Or in a bullying situation, let your child know that you will speak to the school and involve the necessary parties to ensure that it’s being looked into and handled.

Get reacquainted with old friends.
With summer camps and family vacations, sometimes your kids don’t see their school friends until that first day back. Dr. Harris recommends reconnecting with buddies a week or so beforehand to get reacquainted. Play dates or, for older children, an easy end-of-summer BBQ in the backyard are great ways to do this. “Suggest that your child call up a friend and coordinate a preschool meetup. Maybe they can arrange to walk into school at the same time on the first day,” she says. A phone call to a friend three or four days ahead can help calm your child’s concerns about going back to school.

Make a special purchase.
Sometimes getting your child excited about the new school year can be as simple as letting them pick out a special item when you’re doing back-to-school shopping. “If the latest backpack helps them feel included, and it works with your budget, just buy it,” Dr. Harris says. “It could make a world of difference.”

The Teacher Mixes Rap Songs Like ‘Bad And Boujee’ Into History Lessons


“You know, it’s your boy, honest Abe. Making this song to shut down the lames.”

This is how middle school history teacher David Yancey began a lesson on the Civil War at Edwards Middle School in Conyers, Georgia.

Yancey’s remake of Migos’ banger “Bad and Bougee” went viral on Sunday after a high school friend of his tweeted the historical spin on the song, titled “Mad and Losing.”

“The troops are mad and losing. Slowing them down is a doozy. Soldiers are ready and ruthless. With rifles and ironclads, too,” Yancey raps.
While the educator, who’s been using popular songs to create a unique curriculum for three years ― admitted to a lack of vocal talent in an interview with WSB-TV Atlanta ― that hasn’t hindered him in the least bit.

Yancey, who was awarded the school’s 2016 Teacher of the Year title, has also remixed Young MA’s “Ooouu,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and even Adele’s “Hello” to educate his students om everything from telegrams to Cherokee tribes.

“It’s not just random things that are being thrown together,” Yancey told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I’m very intentional … on what content I’m delivering. I’ll do the lesson and I’ll pull it all together in a song.”

But Yancey doesn’t just rely on the power of music to get the lesson across. The songs serve to emphasize lessons he’s just taught.

“I’m not Migos. I’m not Adele,” Yancey said to WBS. “I am an eighth-grade social studies teacher who is trying to reach them.”


Serving Up A Slice Of Einstein On Pi Day,Which Is Also Albert Einstein’s Birthday


It’s on this day each year that so many debate the merits of Dutch apple a la mode vs. lemon meringue pie.

It’s the day pie lovers embrace the (other) Pi (3.14…), transforming March 14th into a good reason to globally celebrate Pi with pie.

For those of us who celebrate fundamental scientific research every day, we raise our forkfuls for yet another reason: to celebrate the man who brought us theories about space and time that, among other things, make today’s GPS so accurate and our search for gravitational waves a reality. Yes, Pi Day is also Albert Einstein’s birthday.

Soon, I will have the honor of participating in this year’s World Science Festival in Australia, where so much of my involvement there is a reflection of science and technology that hinges on Einstein’s contributions and specifically his connection to the NSF-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

Einstein, the “poster child” for fundamental scientific research

It’s been a little over a year since the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the project it had funded for more than 40 years, LIGO, had detected gravitational waves resulting from two merging black holes 1.3 billion lightyears away.

Not only did Einstein theorize the existence of gravitational waves, his theories provided the tools to set up experiments, simulations and instrumentation that could realize his bold ideas. How did we know LIGO’s detection was two black holes merging? Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. Gravitational physicists from around the world had developed numerical codes that model black holes in this theory. This new discipline, called Numerical Relativity, is the one that provided the simulations that agree with the observations.

And these simulations, done on supercomputers, weren’t easy to achieve. Most of the breakthroughs in this area have been achieved by brilliant researchers in only the past 15 years, and by a large margin most of this work in the U.S. was funded by NSF.

But this is what we do. And the payoff is that NSF research, along with our national and international collaborators, has literally opened a new window to our universe. We have found a way to observe some of the most powerful cosmic phenomena that occur in the farthest reaches of our universe, without leaving our own planet, and we have achieved the means to understand it! It’s a feat that never ceases to amaze me. And one certainly worthy of quite a bit of pie!

When science gives you new windows…

I’m often asked why I became an astrophysicist, to which I reflect on the wonder I held even as a young girl, looking out at the stars. Today, that same sense of awe is coupled with a curiosity shared far beyond my scientific community. In much the same way one gets to know a school or neighborhood to its fullest extent, I believe collectively we share a desire to learn more about our universe. Only last month, an NSF-funded astronomer was among the cadre who discovered seven Earth-like exoplanets outside our solar system.

NSF has long invested in exploring our universe with ground-based approaches that exploit the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to gamma-rays. It has also funded observatories that detect high-energy particles of cosmic origins. Now, with the advent of LIGO, NSF also supports the observation of gravitational waves. In fact, as NSF leadership and our National Science Board distilled the broad range of science into “big ideas” that represent important questions for our future, we naturally determined one of them as “windows on the universe.”

I believe strongly that it’s our investment in fundamental research that will allow us not only to see and understand so much more of our universe, but develop understanding, tools and technology along the way that can also be important economic drivers and excite the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who test and prove theories and create new theories of their own.

What’s next for LIGO

NSF continues to invest in this project because we believe this is just the beginning for a whole new way to study our universe. The plan for Advanced LIGO is that it will run at three separate times, increasing sensitivity with each new “run” of the project’s two interferometers in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The hope was that with this second run that is ongoing, European collaborators would also jump into the observations with their Advanced VIRGO detector, and all of this would potentially increase and improve detections.

At this point, VIRGO is delayed because of technical issues, but the LIGO detectors will likely continue until the summer, and we still hope that VIRGO can join in. Our expectation is that potentially we could still see two to five detections. The third run will occur in 2018.

Additionally, we may hear from India on which location they have officially selected, and their plans for a third LIGO interferometer that could get up and running in 2024. That seems like a long time away, but a third LIGO interferometer would help triangulate signals and potentially allow researchers to pinpoint the origin of these cosmic phenomena more accurately.

These are big plans that potentially will provide big news about our universe. And that’s a win for all of us, anyway you slice it.

Some strategies to help you both cope when the going gets tough


No matter how hard you try, your child may struggle academically at some point in his school career. Here are some strategies to help you both cope when the going gets tough.

Let your kids get frustrated. When kids are having a hard time with homework or a school-related subject, they often explode with anger. And parents wonder “What did I do wrong?” “You didn’t necessarily do anything,” advises Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “Sometimes when kids feel misunderstood at school or frustrated by a subject, they get angry or provoke the parent — as a way of making you feel as helpless or angry as they feel. It’s almost like your child is saying, ‘would you hold my hopelessness for a while?’ Or ‘I need you to feel what I am going through, so I am going to make you angry.’”

Take a break. If your child says “I can’t do it!” and throws the pencil down, take a little break. Maybe she needs to rant and blow off a little steam. Come back in five minutes and start fresh.This also gives a child a chance to “save face” and start over, without even discussing the previous difficulty or outburst.

Don’t always try to have a rational conversation. When kids get very upset about school, the upset may get in the way of their being rational. So wait it out instead of arguing or grilling children about the situation. Once they cool down, you might be able to talk it through.

Let your child make his own mistakes. It’s hard not to correct a child’s homework, but most teachers ask you not to take over unless your child asks for your help or the teacher requests it. Teachers generally want to know what the child understands, not what the parent understands about the material.

Put a time limit on the work. Most teachers will not expect younger kids to work longer than a half-hour on homework from any particular subject, but ask your teacher for a time limit. If your child struggles (while actively trying) and exceeds the limit, write the teacher a note explaining that’s all that could get done.

Contact the school. If homework or a project is turning into a dreaded battle, talk with the school. Don’t wait for your next conference. It’s obviously time for some new insights and new strategies.

Help your child learn how to organize himself. This is a life-long skill that can be taught, but it can be challenging to do so. However you can help your child discover the organizational tricks that will work for him by sharing some of your own. “It’s very difficult to teach children to be organized if it is not in their nature (or yours),” says guidance counselor Linda Lendman, M.S.W. “Encourage your child to label everything. Develop strategies, like the ‘must-do list’ before you leave school (put math book in backpack). Schedule a weekly ‘clean out the backpack and clean off your desk’ time so papers don’t build up. Be patient, and try not to place blame.”

Recognize that school work will never be conflict-free. No one ever raised a child without a homework battle. “There is no conflict-free homework strategy for most kids,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “At times, kids will find it fun and fascinating. Other times, it may be something they just have to do, and you have to help them find the structure for getting it done.”