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To Boldly Go: Youth Trekking and Learning in Central America

21 Dec

Many youth in America today have an exploring and pioneering spirit which remains untapped. There aren’t many places where that spirit can be let loose and trained. Fortunately, I have found one of those places: Exploration Nation [1].

Team XN

TEAM XN

Never heard of Exploration Nation? Here’s a quick background. Exploration Nation started out as Enzoology. It was a science program created by Pete Monfre and his son Enzo Monfre. The idea was all Enzo’s. His passion and love of science took a home school project and expanded it into a fun series of video enabled lesson plans for elementary and middle school. From there things took off to where now Enzo is part of a group of science and exploration loving kids learning and teaching other kids about the world around them.

What is Exploration Nation exactly? Described in their own words:

“Exploration Nation is a “plug-and-play” lesson program for elementary and middle school students that features engaging videos, complete lesson plans, activities and teacher’s materials aligned to standards. It’s easy to use, dovetails with curriculum requirements and saves time for busy educators. Our team of kid explorers travel the world doing real scientific research. We then create complete lesson programs based on these adventures.”

The desire to educate was passed on from Pete to Enzo and now Enzo is taking it a step further by passing it on to other kids. This passing of the torch is what is missing in our young people today.

Coming up in April of 2013 Exploration Nation is going on an expedition into Central America. The journey of the expedition team will:

“…travel to EARTH University in San Jose, Costa Rica to begin a 14 day series of scientific expeditions that will culminate in setting up a medical and surgical facility for the native people living in San Juan, Nicaragua. ”

Enzo gives Hillary daughter book

Enzo gives Hillary daughter book

This team of young explorers is going where few go, to do what few do and give back to people they have never met. All the while they will be learning and sharing the knowledge they gain with countless numbers of children. The goal for the team is quite simple:

“To show hundreds of thousands of kids that science education their path to raise the quality of life for all people.”

I highly encourage parents and teachers to take advantage of going along, via video, with this group of young explorers into areas they have likely never visited before. Ignite the minds of America’s youth to learn and go beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom by taking them on a virtual field trip across the globe. Click the link in the references section to get the full details of the expedition.

It’s people like Pete and Enzo Monfre who embody the spirit of this country. Doing something different, stepping out and exploring and sharing their experiences with those around them. My hat is off of them and their team. Keep the flame burning guys and gals.

 

References –

  1. Exploration Nation
  2. Team XN: Expedition Central America
  3. Contribute to the Cause
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Firm Grip: Gun “Control” Debate Needs Reframing.

18 Dec

The reactions on the events of December 14th started to get political almost immediately. Those wanting to create more restrictions via new laws and those wanting to expand gun rights took to the internet and airwaves to get their voices heard. The same general rhetoric was heard by both sides. Each getting responses from those stuck in the echo chamber of which belief system they fell under.

So far I’ve heard only one person start to really put things into perspective regarding the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school. What happened there is nothing less of heartbreaking. Parents sending their children off in the morning only to identify their lifeless bodies later is inconceivable to most people. Yet it is the reality of some of those parents. The talk has shifted to politicizing the tragedy. Rham Emanuel’s famous quote keeps ringing in my head:

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

What is being lost is the real perspective of this one event to public schools as a whole. We need to step back and ask ourselves this one question: How often are shootings like this happening in public schools kindergarten through high school? Some stats can be found on Wikipedia [1]. Once the colleges and universities are removed, the total number of school shootings total 77 since 1992. So in a 20 year span only 20 public grade school shootings have occurred, though none at the level of Sandy Hook. Of those 77, over half were at a high school with 50 incidents. There were 17 at middle schools and 10 at elementary schools. Until the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the largest number of injuries at an elementary school was the Amish school shooting in 2006 where 5 children were killed and the gunman killed himself.

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Mishandled: Principal in Trouble for Making Male Students Hold Hands

3 Dec
Students chose to alternate punishment of holding hands in public to in school suspension.

Students chose to alternate punishment of holding hands in public to in school suspension.

Public schools have their fair share of problems. Drugs, truancy and bad parents just to name a few. But when one principal tries to do something good and turn some kids around for their foolish mistake he gets reprimanded for a completely stupid reason.

Principal Tim Richard will be reprimanded because he tried something different to reach kids who were fighting. Public embarrassment is a great motivator to get people to stop or start doing things. Mr. Richard made two students who were fighting sit in chairs next to each other and hold hands. The students were given a choice of in school suspension or sitting together holding hands. They chose holding hands in front of other students.

Of course the spineless administrators had to make a statement saying they did not approve. Reports of the criticism range from emotional repercussions to offending gay students. To both of those I have three words: Get over it. Public embarrassment works.

This is not water-boarding or some type torture. This is embarrassment on a public scale. Does a punishment like this need to be monitored to make sure it doesn’t go overboard or get excessive? Absolutely. But that does not mean the punishment does not work. Even one of the students in the video admitted it worked, “CBS 5 News asked Crockett what he learned from the whole incident. ‘Don’t fight in school,’ he said.”

Now the know it all administration officials are showing and telling students all they, their parents or anyone has to do is complain even a little bit and those in authority will have their hands tied even more on useful punishments available to them. Administrations are the main problem with public schools today. Instead of supporting a principle who got a good result with no real “damage” to the students, the administrators are undercutting the efforts.

Parents support principal who let students hold hands as punishment

Parents support principal who let students hold hands as punishment

Even parents are in support of the principle. CBS 5 News reports they “found a sign in a front yard near the high school which reads, ‘Westwood neighborhood supports Principal Richard.'” Perhaps they school board should take notice, less they are voted out of a job next election.

Here’s a tip to school public school administrators nation wide, the degree you earned doesn’t mean you know it all. Try shutting up once and a while. You just might learn something.

Source –

Handy ID: Palm Scanners Approved for Use in Schools, Hospitals

26 Nov

Students at Cranberry Station Elementary School in Westminster, Md., use a palm-scanning device to pay for their school lunches. (Photo: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY)

As if forced RFID tracking in schools wasn’t bad enough, now forced biometric usage is coming down the pipe. According to an article in USA Today, children attending schools in Pinellas County, Florida, are now able to purchase their public school supplied lunches with a swipe of their hands.

While there is something to be said for the convenience factor there are privacy concerns as well.

How does the technology work? The article gives a partial answer:

Using the same near-infrared technology that comes in a TV remote control or Nintendo Wii video game, the device takes a super high-resolution infrared photograph of the vein pattern just below a person’s skin. That image, between 1.5 and 2.5 square inches, is recorded and digitized.

How the system works at the point of sale is not given. Whether the scanned palm is encrypted and the information sent along a hard wired connection or wireless connection (and how that connection may be secured) is unknown.

Not everyone is a fan of the scanners. The parent of one student in a Maryland school is opting his child out of the program. From the article, Michael Webb states:

“My son is not using the technology,” he says. “I’ll be honest, I think it’s horrible. It’s an intrusion into our children’s rights.”

“I understand taking an iris scan of a pilot at an airport, so you know it’s the right pilot flying the plane” he says. “This is that level of equipment they’re installing in a line that serves steamed corn. I don’t think it rises to the level of steamed corn.”

Mr. Webb makes the keen observation of the fact this technology is put into elementary schools begins the desensitization process. He is absolutely correct. The younger children are when exposed over and over again to something they more they accept it as a societal norm as they get older. This idea was said best by Abraham Lincoln,”The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government of the next.”

For now the palm scanners are optional in some areas and cash is still allowed as an alternative. There is no telling though how long it will be until all students and adults are forced to use their own palm, eye or other body part to access products or services. The world keeps getting “braver” every day.

Source –

Palm scanners get thumbs up in schools, hospitals – USA Today

Backpacker Tracker: San Antonio School District to Track Students with RFID

26 Nov

Big brother is bigger every day. Even in the freedom loving, independent minded state of Texas, government encroachment into peoples lives and privacy continues to grow. There are parents and students who are not fond of the idea having the government know every move their child is making. However, the  Northside school district in San Antonio is not the first to implement Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking. [1]

According to a Wired article [2] there have been previous cases of public schools implementing RFID tracking of the students (no word yet if the teachers are tracked as well). From the article:

“A federally funded preschool in Richmond, California, began embedding RFID chips in students’ clothing in 2010. And an elementary school outside of Sacramento, California, scrubbed a plan in 2005 amid a parental uproar. And a Houston, Texas, school district began using the chips to monitor students on 13 campuses in 2004.”

Even in a state as liberal as California, there is a lack of desire for students to be tracked with RFID technology. Many people have no idea what RFID is or does. A quick web search brings up the first link to the Wikipedia article[3] on RFIC which states it is “the use of a wireless non-contact system that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, for the purposes of automatic identification and tracking”.

As with any inanimate object, the use of this technology could be good or bad, depending on who is behind it, the purpose of its use and the execution. Why does a school district want to track students? It is a one word answer: money. Again, from the Wired article:

“If a student is not in his seat during morning roll call, the district doesn’t receive daily funding for that pupil, because the school has no way of knowing for sure if the student is there.

But with the RFID tracking, students not at their desk but tracked on campus are counted as being in school that day, and the district receives its daily allotment for that student.”

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