---------------------410-539-1395 • 707 Park Avenue • Baltimore • MD 21201 • facebook e-mail

September 13, 2013

How to Make School Better for Boys

Start by acknowledging that boys are languishing while girls are succeeding.

As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become the cornerstone of lifelong success.

Women are adapting; men are not.

Yet the education establishment and federal government are, with some notable exceptions, looking the other way.

Boys in all ethnic groups and social classes are far less likely than their sisters to feel connected to school, to earn good grades, or to have high academic aspirations...

Kirtland Peterson

Learning cursive in the first grade helps students

Learning to write in cursive also has the advantage of encouraging students to respect linguistic constraints from the outset. “Children who learn to print tend to treat letters like pictures and often write them backwards." This approach slows down the integration of what specialists call "stroke grammar,” i.e., the sequencing of gestures to produce optimal letters.

When students write directly in cursive, they are forced to follow a kind of path determined by the direction of the strokes. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to join the letters,” says Montésinos-Gelet. “So, there are no backwards letters.”

Furthermore, children who write in cursive do not at all have the problem of spacing between letters and words.

They understand the concept of word more quickly than the others do and therefore tend to have better graphic-motor skills related to language processing, which helps them in terms of syntax and spelling,” says the researcher.

Kirtland Peterson

September 12, 2013

No Child Left Untableted

Amplify has tested preliminary versions of its tablets and curriculum in a dozen small pilot programs, but Guilford County is its first paying customer.

By next fall the company intends to have its products in middle schools across the country, with high schools and perhaps elementary schools to follow.

Competition for this market is growing more intense.

Major competitors — like Apple’s iPad — are scrambling to get in on the sales bonanza created by what educators call “1:1 technology programs,” those that provide a device to every student and teacher.

And so potential customers — 99,000 K-12 schools spend $17 billion annually on instructional materials and technology — will be looking closely at Guilford County, a district with a modest budget and a mix of urban, suburban and rural sections that makes it a plausible proxy for school systems nationwide.

They will want to see teachers’ enthusiasm for the tablets, as well as increased “time on task” and other signs of students’ greater engagement.

Most important, of course, they’ll be looking for higher test scores in two or three years.

Kirtland Peterson

Private tuition provides little help

Around one sixth of school children in German-speaking Switzerland receive private tutoring. Mostly they seek assistance with mathematics.

In contrast to the perceptions of those tutored, tutoring rarely results in any improvement in their marks.

This has been demonstrated by a representative study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Kirtland Peterson

September 11, 2013

Aerobic Fitness Boosts Learning, Memory in 9-10-Year-Old Children

"Reducing or eliminating physical education in schools, as is often done in tight financial times, may not be the best way to ensure educational success among our young people."

Physical fitness can boost learning and memory in children, particularly when initial learning on a task is more challenging, according to research published September 11 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Lauren Raine and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kirtland Peterson

Read with Your Children, Not to Them

Research has found that reading with young children and engaging them can make a positive impact on the child’s future and their family.

Bradford Wiles is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in early childhood development at Kansas State University.  For most of his career, Wiles’ research has focused around building resilience in vulnerable families.

His current research is focused on emergent literacy and the effect of parents reading with their children ages 3 to 5 years old.

Children start learning to read long before they can ever say words or form sentences,” said Wiles. “My focus is on helping parents read with their children and extending what happens when you read with them and they become engaged in the story.”

The developmental process, known as emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool and kindergarten years.  This time in children’s lives is critical for learning important preliteracy skills.

Kirtland Peterson

September 9, 2013

Positive Interactions Vital to Pre-K Learning

Positive interactions in a pre-kindergarten classroom may be equally or more important to the future academic development of 4-year-olds than learning letters and numbers, according to Dale Farran, senior associate director of the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College for education and human development.

There are two take-away main points:

First, there is a direct relationship between what goes on in classrooms and how much gain children make in self-regulation measures,” Farran said. “We haven’t known whether self-regulation was actually environmentally influenced or whether it just happened naturally with age.

Second, these data show which experiences children have in 4-year-old classrooms that affect development of those particular skills.”

Kirtland Peterson

September 4, 2013

Why Energy Drinks Are Harming Children, Adolescents

Parents beware. If your tots and teens get their hands on your energy drinks, they could experience seizures, heart palpitations or other problems that drive them to the hospital emergency room.
Children most at risk appear to be those who regularly consume the increasingly popular caffeine-laden energy drinks or gulp down a relatively large amount of the liquid in a short span, according to Rutgers University’s poison control experts.

“These drinks are made for adults. When young children drink them, they consume a large quantity of caffeine for their body mass.

"At the minimum, they become wired – just as an adult would – and it might be difficult for parents to console them or calm them down,” says Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education for the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System (NJPIES) at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark.

“Children also might have trouble falling asleep or experience tremors, anxiety, agitation, heart palpitations, nausea or vomiting. Of more concern, they may experience a rapid heart rate or seizures.

“Parents need to be aware of the risks and treat these drinks as they would a medication. Store them on a high shelf, away from view. If they have teenagers, they should monitor their exposure,” Ruck adds.

Kirtland Peterson

Children with behavioral problems more at risk of inflammation

"This new research shows for the first time that having behavioral problems in childhood can put children on the path to ill health much earlier than we previously realized.

"The important message for healthcare professionals is that they need to monitor the physical health as well as the mental health of children with behavioral problems in order to identify those at risk as early as possible."

Kirtland Peterson

September 3, 2013

Why Parenting Can Never Have a Rule Book: Children's Genetics Significantly Affect How They Are Parented

Any parent will tell you that there is no simple recipe for raising a child.

Being a parent means getting hefty doses of advice – often unsolicited – from others.

But such advice often fails to consider a critical factor: the child.

A new review of dozens of studies involving more than 14,600 pairs of twins shows that children's genetics significantly affect how they are parented.

"There is a lot of pressure on parents these days to produce children that excel in everything, socially and academically," says Reut Avinun of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Since children are not born tabula rasa, I felt it was important to explore their side of the story, to show how they can affect their environment, and specifically parental behavior."

Most studies of parenting look at only the reverse, how parents affect their children's experiences.

To explore the flip side, Avinun and Ariel Knafo looked to twins. They reasoned that if parents treat identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, more similarly than non-identical twins, who share on average 50 percent of their genes, then it suggests that the child's genes shape parenting.

Indeed, across 32 studies of twins, they found that children's genetically-influenced characteristics do affect parental behavior... For example, a child that is antisocial is more likely to elicit harsh discipline from parents than a more social child.

In one recent study, Knafo's research group found that boys with less self-control are more likely to experience lower levels of positive maternal behavior.

For boys, but not for girls, a particular genotype – a polymorphic region in the gene that codes for the serotonin transporter – predicted mothers' levels of positive parenting and the boys' level of self-control.

"In other words, boys' genetically influenced level of self-control affected the behavior of their mothers toward them," Avinun says.

Avinun and Knafo also found that children's shared environment – socioeconomics, cultural exposure, etc. – accounts for 43 percent of parenting differences. And the non-shared environment – different schools, friends, etc. – accounts for 34 percent of the differences. Importantly, the study's findings support the idea that parenting does not necessarily affect children in the same family similarly.

Several factors affect the extent to which genetics influence parenting.

Avinun and Knafo found, for example, that age was important, supporting the argument that the child's genetic influence on parenting increases with age. "As children become increasingly autonomous, their genetic tendencies are more likely to be able to affect their behavior, which in turn influences parental behavior," Avinun says.

The research in total, Avinun says, "means that parenting should not be viewed solely as a characteristic of the parent, but as something that results from both parental and child attributes."

Therefore, any interventions or treatments to help parenting should consider both the parents and children, and could vary even within a family.

"The discussion of 'nature vs. nurture' has transformed into 'nature and nurture.' We now understand that most characteristics are determined by the interplay between genetic and environmental influences," Avinun says.

Because children are born differently, there never can be a general rule book for raising children, she explains.

"There isn't one style of ideal parenting. Each child requires a different environment to excel.

So parents should not invest a lot of effort in trying to treat their children similarly, but instead, be aware of the variation in their children's attributes and nurture them accordingly."

Kirtland Peterson
Press release | Study (free PDF)

'Making music may improve young children's behaviour'

Making music can improve both pro-social behaviour (voluntary behaviour intended to benefit another) and the problem solving skills of young children according to a new study.

Building on existing research (Kirschner and Tomasello in 20102) which found that making music significantly improves pro-social behaviour in young children) the current study investigated not only the potential effects of music making (singing or playing an instrument) on pro-sociability but also its effects on problem-solving and whether there was a difference between boys and girls.

Kirtland Peterson

Mindfulness training improves attention in children

A short training course in mindfulness improves children’s ability to ignore distractions and concentrate better.

These are the findings of a study carried out by Dominic Crehan and Dr Michelle Ellefson at the University of Cambridge being presented today, 6 September 2013, at the British Psychological Society’s Cognitive Developmental Psychology Annual Conference at the University of Reading.

Dominic explained: “Mindfulness involves paying attention in a particular way - on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. It has been shown to reduce levels of stress and depression, and to improve feelings of well-being, but to date researchers have not established a link between mindfulness and attention skills in children.”

Kirtland Peterson

Remember toddler privacy online!

Research finds there is an emerging trend for very young children (toddlers and pre-schoolers) to use internet connected devices, especially touchscreen tablets and smartphones.

This is likely to result in an increasing number of very young children having access to the internet, along with a probable increase in exposure to risks associated with such internet use, including risk generated by parents.

The new report critically reviews recent research to understand the internet use, and emerging policy priorities, regarding children from birth to eight years old.

Researchers find a substantial increase in usage by very young children.

Unfortunately this has not yet been matched by research exploring the benefits and risks of their online engagement, so there are many gaps in our knowledge.

Kirtland Peterson

Milestones in Science Education

“Though we live in a thoroughly modern scientific world, our science education structure is now 120 years old.” The debate is nothing new, either; here and elsewhere in this issue are some historic highlights.

  • 1860s-1870s — Teaching With Toys 
  • 1893 — Classes for Changing Times
  • 1940s — Science on the Home Front
  • 1957 — The Sputnik Challenge

September 2, 2013

Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.

If you could make one change to improve science education in the United States, what would it be?

Science Times asked that question of 19 Americans — scientists, educators, students — with a stake in the answer.

Their responses follow...

A few (isolated) quotes:

  • "K-12 students need to know the nature of science, how scientists work and the domains and limits of science."

  • "If I could change one thing about engineering education — well, actually, all education — it would be to center it around solving real problems and making things."

  • "If I could do one thing, I’d get real mathematicians who are math types to become math teachers. K-12 students need someone there with a real feel for the subject matter."

  • "We need to create opportunities to excite students about how math and science connect to real life."

  • "Science requires immersion."

  • "If I could change one thing, it would be to have the kids work in small groups more than they do now and get to apply their STEM learning to projects that benefit their community."

  • "I’d like to bring graduate students in science, engineering and mathematics into the elementary, middle and senior high schools to teach the science to these K-12 students."

  • "I’d like more hands-on projects where I would learn something about what I’m doing instead of just memorizing things from a textbook."

  • "I’d love to see a once-a-week day in K-12 devoted to invention — an “Idea Day.”"

  • "We’ve known for decades that family involvement is key to learning success for our nation’s children. So to me the answer is clear: We need to make it easy for families to have fun with science — to ask questions about how the world works, and to explore the answers together."

Kirtland Peterson

Chinese Educators Look to American Classrooms

“When American high school students are discussing the latest models of airplanes, satellites and submarines, China’s smartest students are buried in homework and examination papers,” said Ni Minjing a physics teacher who is the director of the Shanghai Education Commission’s basic education department, according to Shanghai Daily, an English-language newspaper.

“Students also have few chances to do scientific experiments and exercise independent thinking.”

That message appears to be getting through to Chinese education officials, who are moving toward the American model of hands-on science learning. This summer, the Ministry of Education launched the latest in a series of campaigns aimed at shifting the focus away from standardized testing.

The ministry said the systemic fixation with testing “severely hampers student development as a whole person, stunts their healthy growth, and limits opportunities to cultivate social responsibilities, creative spirit, and practical abilities in students.”

Kirtland Peterson

Robotic therapy aids kids’ handwriting skills

Researchers from Leeds and Bradford are working with colleagues from the United States to develop an exciting new robotic device that helps children to practice and improve their manual (hand) coordination.

The device has already been tested in a study in the United States, results showing that the increased feedback it provides particularly aids children who have underlying movement problems, providing them with the extra support they need whilst trying to learn everyday tasks they typically have great difficulty with (e.g. handwriting, using cutlery and dressing themselves).

How does it work?

Kirtland Peterson

American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids. Here’s How.

[In] 2013, even as the United States faces pressure to “win the future,” the American education system has swung... toward the commodified data-driven ideas promoted by Frederick Winslow Taylor, who at the turn of the century did time-motion studies of laborers carrying bricks to figure out how people worked most efficiently.

Borrowing Taylor’s ideas, school was not designed then to foster free thinkers.

Nor is it now, thanks to how teacher pay and job security have been tied to student performance on standardized tests.

What we’re teaching today is obedience, conformity, following orders,” says the education historian Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

“We’re certainly not teaching kids to think outside the box.” The motto of the so-called school-reform movement is: No Excuses.

“The message is: It’s up to you. Grit means it’s your problem. Just bear down and do what you have to do.”

Kirtland Peterson

Guesses and Hype Give Way to Data in Study of Education

What works in science and math education? 

Until recently, there had been few solid answers — just guesses and hunches, marketing hype and extrapolations from small pilot studies.

 But now, a little-known office in the Education Department is starting to get some real data, using a method that has transformed medicine: the randomized clinical trial, in which groups of subjects are randomly assigned to get either an experimental therapy, the standard therapy, a placebo or nothing.

The findings could be transformative...

Kirtland Peterson

With Common Core, Fewer Topics Covered More Rigorously

If the new mathematics standards adopted by New York and 44 other states work as intended, then children, especially in the lower elementary grades, will learn less math this year.

But by cutting back on a hodgepodge of topics and delving deeper into central concepts, the hope is that the children will understand it better.

Kirtland Peterson

‘Sesame Street’ Widens Its Focus

On “Sesame Street,” a distressed cow has a big problem. She made it up the stairs to the beauty parlor but now, her bouffant piled high, she’s stuck. Cows can go up stairs, she moans, but not down.

Enter Super Grover 2.0. Out from his bottomless “utility sock” comes an enormous ramp, which, as the cow cheerily notes before clomping on down, is “a sloping surface that goes from high to low.”

Simple ABCs and 123s? So old school.

In the last four years, “Sesame Street” has set itself a much larger goal: teaching nature, math, science and engineering concepts and problem-solving to a preschool audience — with topics like how a pulley works or how to go about investigating what’s making Mr. Snuffleupagus sneeze.

Kirtland Peterson

Field-Testing the Math Apps

Rising concern about the foundations of math education has helped fuel this hunger for apps.

Educational apps have been booming in the six years since the arrival of the iPhone’s touch screen, despite the warnings of some educators that children will spend too much time with devices and too little time exploring the physical world.

The iTunes store offers more than 95,000 educational apps, many of them free.

Nearly three-quarters are aimed at preschoolers and grade schoolers, according to a 2012 report by Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a research organization affiliated with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit producer of “Sesame Street.”

A coming survey of members of the National Association for the Education of Young Children shows that nearly 3 in 10 classrooms have an iPad or other tablet...

Kirtland Peterson

August 30, 2013

FOR KIDS: Home on the moon

The first confirmation of alien life might come not from a distant planet, but from a far-flung moon.

Planet hunters have identified hundreds of exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. So far, none seem to support life as we know it.

Most of those worlds are too big and too hot; some are too cold. But many would likely have moons. And just the right moon could be a cradle of alien life, concludes a pair of astronomers.

René Heller of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, and Rory Barnes of the University of Washington in Seattle created a checklist of what would make a moon livable.

They published the list in the January Astrobiology. No exomoons have been found yet. But when they are, the checklist will help identify which ones E.T. might call home.

Kirtland Peterson

Music Lessons Enhance the Quality of School Life

FINLAND: A new study, published in Music Education Research, examined whether an extended music education had an impact on pupils' experienced satisfaction with the school.

Nearly a thousand pupils at ten Finnish schools with extended music classes and comparison classes participated on a survey that measured the quality of school life at Year 3 and Year 6.

According to the results, the differences between the extended music classes and the comparison classes were significant in majority of factors at Year 6, namely general satisfaction, opportunities and achievement, identity in the class and the classroom climate.

Kirtland Peterson

Striking Patterns: Skill for Forming Tools and Words Evolved Together

Unlike ancient bones and stone tools, language does not fossilize.

Researchers have to guess about its origins based on proxy indicators.

Does painting cave walls indicate the capacity for language? How about the ability to make a fancy tool?

Yet, in recent years, scientists have made some progress.

A series of brain imaging studies by Dietrich Stout, an archaeologist at Emory University in Atlanta, and Thierry Chaminade, a cognitive neuroscientist at Aix-Marseille University in France, have shown that toolmaking and language use similar parts of the brain, including regions involved in manual manipulations and speech production. Moreover, the overlap is greater the more sophisticated the toolmaking techniques are.

Kirtland Peterson

Spatial Training Boosts Math Skills

Training young children in spatial reasoning can improve their math performance, according to a groundbreaking study from Michigan State University education scholars.

The researchers trained 6- to 8-year-olds in mental rotation, a spatial ability, and found their scores on addition and subtraction problems improved significantly. The mental rotation training involved imagining how two halves of an object would come together to make a whole, when the halves have been turned at an angle (see example).

Past research has found a link between spatial reasoning and math, but the MSU study is the first to provide direct evidence of a causal connection – that when children are trained in one ability, improvement is seen in the other.

Kirtland Peterson

August 28, 2013

Learning a New Language Alters Brain Development

Scientists at The Neuro find important time factor in second-language acquisition

The age at which children learn a second language can have a significant bearing on the structure of their adult brain, according to a new joint study by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital - The Neuro at McGill University and Oxford University.

The majority of people in the world learn to speak more than one language during their lifetime. Many do so with great proficiency particularly if the languages are learned simultaneously or from early in development.

The study concludes that the pattern of brain development is similar if you learn one or two language from birth. However, learning a second language later on in childhood after gaining proficiency in the first (native) language does in fact modify the brain’s structure, specifically the brain’s inferior frontal cortex.

The left inferior frontal cortex became thicker and the right inferior frontal cortex became thinner. The cortex is a multi-layered mass of neurons that plays a major role in cognitive functions such as thought, language, consciousness and memory.

Kirtland Peterson

UK children less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD

New research suggests that children are far less likely to be diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the UK than they are in the USA.

However, the same study, led by the University of Exeter Medical School, suggests that autism diagnosis is still rising.

ADHD is thought to be the most common disorder of childhood.

A 2009 study in the USA found that 6.3 per cent of children aged 5-9 were diagnosed with ADHD.

In contrast, just 1.5 per cent of parents in the UK reported a diagnosis of ADHD in children aged between 6-8.

The team looked at figures from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which is a sample of more than 19,000 children, representative of the UK population.

Kirtland Peterson

Mindfulness Training Can Help Reduce Teacher Stress and Burnout

While teachers play a critical role in nurturing children's well-being, progress in addressing teacher stress has been elusive.

Stress and burnout among teachers is a major concern for school districts nationwide, affecting the quality of education and incurring increased costs in recruiting and sustaining teachers.

Teachers who practice "mindfulness" are better able to reduce their own levels of stress and prevent burnout, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at UW-Madison's Waisman Center.
Kirtland Peterson

A Digital Back-to-School Checklist

At one time, preparing children for school required buying new clothes and a fresh set of pencils. These days, your child is likely to need Internet access and a laptop even more than a composition notebook.

For parents, the choices can be overwhelming — and expensive. Here are some tips to get started.

First, you need to prepare your home. Make sure you have robust Internet access. Much homework these days requires children to do research on the Internet, even in elementary school.

Kirtland Peterson

Autistic Children Can Outgrow Difficulty Understanding Visual Cues and Sounds

Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have shown that high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children appear to outgrow a critical social communication disability.

Younger children with ASD have trouble integrating the auditory and visual cues associated with speech, but the researchers found that the problem clears up in adolescence.

This is an extremely hopeful finding,”

Kirtland Peterson

August 27, 2013

Fractions gain traction with concrete models

If 3 is greater than 2, then ⅓ must be bigger than ½ ­— right? Wrong.

As thousands of students head back to school next week, many will use exactly that kind of thinking when faced with fractions for the first time.

New research from Concordia University shows that for children to understand math, teachers must constantly make the connection between abstract numbers and real world examples.

Kirtland Peterson

August 26, 2013

Video games do not make vulnerable teens more violent

Study finds no evidence that violent video games increase antisocial behavior in youths with pre-existing psychological conditions

Do violent video games such as ‘Mortal Kombat,’ ‘Halo’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto’ trigger teenagers with symptoms of depression or attention deficit disorder to become aggressive bullies or delinquents?

No, according to Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University and independent researcher Cheryl Olson from the US in a study published in Springer’s Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

On the contrary, the researchers found that the playing of such games actually had a very slight calming effect on youths with attention deficit symptoms and helped to reduce their aggressive and bullying behavior.

Kirtland Peterson

Preschoolers who stutter do just fine emotionally and socially

Stuttering may be more common than previously thought, but preschool stutterers fair better than first thought, a study by The University of Melbourne, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and The University of Sydney has found.

A study of over 1600 children, which followed the children from infancy to four years old, found the cumulative incidence of stuttering by four years old was 11 per cent, more than twice what has previously been reported.

Kirtland Peterson

August 21, 2013

Playing Video Games Can Boost Brain Power

“Our paper shows that cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and improved using fun learning tools like gaming."

"Cognitive flexibility varies across people and at different ages.

For example, a fictional character like Sherlock Holmes has the ability to simultaneously engage in multiple aspects of thought and mentally shift in response to changing goals and environmental conditions.

Creative problem solving and ‘thinking outside the box’ require cognitive flexibility.

Perhaps in contrast to the repetitive nature of work in past centuries, the modern knowledge economy places a premium on cognitive flexibility.”

Kirtland Peterson

Learning to Read, With the Help of a Tablet

I learned long ago that the iPad’s game and video apps cast a magical spell over my children, but this summer I’ve also been pleased by how much they have learned while using their tablets.

This is important, as my 4-year-old is going to “real” school for the first time. His reading skills, in particular, have been helped by some great apps.

These have helped him move from knowing shapes and sounds of letters to actually reading words.

Kirtland Peterson

Human Brains Are Hardwired for Empathy, Friendship

Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us – friends, spouses, lovers – with our very selves.

With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves,” said James Coan, a U.Va. psychology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves.

“Our self comes to include the people we feel close to,” Coan said.

In other words, our self-identity is largely based on whom we know and empathize with.

Kirtland Peterson

August 19, 2013

Giving Preschoolers Choice Increases Sharing Behavior

Getting kids to share their toys is a never-ending battle, and compelling them to do so never seems to help.

New research suggests that allowing children to make a choice to sacrifice their own toys in order to share with someone else makes them share more in the future.

These experiments, conducted by psychological scientists Nadia Chernyak and Tamar Kushnir of Cornell University, suggest that sharing when given a difficult choice leads children to see themselves in a new, more beneficent light.

Perceiving themselves as people who like to share makes them more likely to act in a prosocial manner in the future.

Kirtland Peterson

SCIENCE FOR KIDS: Sleepyheads prefer junk food

Pulling an all-nighter does a number on the brain, a new study finds.

People who lost a night of sleep also lost much of their willpower to eat right.

This connection could help explain why people who don’t regularly get a good night’s sleep are more likely to be obese.

Kirtland Peterson

Far from Being Harmless, the Effects of Bullying Last Long Into Adulthood

A new study shows that serious illness, struggling to hold down a regular job, and poor social relationships are just some of the adverse outcomes in adulthood faced by those exposed to bullying in childhood.

It has long been acknowledged that bullying at a young age presents a problem for schools, parents and public policy makers alike.

The results of the new study... highlight the extent to which the risk of problems related to health, poverty, and social relationships are heightened by exposure to bullying.

The study is notable because it looks into many factors that go beyond health-related outcomes.

August 14, 2013

Preschoolers Inability to Estimate Quantity Relates to Later Math Difficulty

Preschool children who showed less ability to estimate the number of objects in a group were 2.4 times more likely to have a later mathematical learning disability than other young people, according to a team of University of Missouri psychologists.

Parents may be able to help their children develop their skills at approximating group sizes by emphasizing numerals while interacting with young children.

“Lacking skill at estimating group size may impede a child’s ability to learn the concept of how numerals symbolize quantities and how those quantities relate to each other,” said study co-author David Geary, professor of psychological sciences at MU.

“Not understanding the values numbers symbolize then leads to difficulties in math and problems in school, which our previous studies suggest may be related to later difficulties with employment.”

Kirtland Peterson

August 13, 2013

Brain Scans May Help Diagnose Dyslexia

Differences in a key language structure can be seen even before children start learning to read.

About 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from dyslexia, a condition that makes learning to read difficult. Dyslexia is usually diagnosed around second grade, but the results of a new study from MIT could help identify those children before they even begin reading, so they can be given extra help earlier.

The study, done with researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, found a correlation between poor pre-reading skills in kindergartners and the size of a brain structure that connects two language-processing areas.

Kirtland Peterson
Read more

August 12, 2013

How Books Can Have a Positive Impact On a Child's Social Struggles

A new study out of the University of Cincinnati not only finds that parents feel responsible about taking action when their children struggle with social issues, but also that parents are influenced by their own childhood memories.

Bowman’s study examined parents’ use of what’s called bibliotherapy – using books as interventions for children who experience social struggles that may arise from disabilities such as autism or Down Syndrome.

Kirtland Peterson

August 8, 2013

How Parents See Themselves May Affect Their Child's Brain and Stress Level

Self-perceived social status predicts hippocampal function and stress hormones

A mother's perceived social status predicts her child's brain development and stress indicators, finds a study at Boston Children's Hospital. While previous studies going back to the 1950s have linked objective socioeconomic factors -- such as parental income or education -- to child health, achievement and brain function, the new study is the first to link brain function to maternal self-perception.

In the study, children whose mothers saw themselves as having a low social status were more likely to have increased cortisol levels, an indicator of stress, and less activation of their hippocampus, a structure in the brain responsible for long-term memory formation (required for learning) and reducing stress responses.

Kirtland Peterson

August 7, 2013

An Extra Hour of TV Beyond Recommendations Diminishes Toddlers’ Kindergarten Chances

Every hourly increase in daily television watching at 29 months of age is associated with diminished vocabulary and math skills, classroom engagement (which is largely determined by attention skills), victimization by classmates, and physical prowess at kindergarten, according to Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital.

“This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates,” Pagani said.

“These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2.

"It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence.”

Kirtland Peterson

Why Kids Should Not be Allowed on Trampolines

“A trampoline puts a child at risk for serious injuries... Kids sustain broken arms, legs and even break their necks which can lead to paralysis.

"Just as you would not let your child jump into a shallow swimming pool, you should not let them jump on a trampoline.”

[A] policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)... says safety measures such as enclosure nets and padding have not substantially reduced the risk.

“Therefore, the home use of trampolines is strongly discouraged,” the Academy statement said.

Kirtland Peterson
Read more

August 6, 2013

Let's Have Lunch! Teachers Eating With Their Students Provides Nutrition Education Opportunities

How you "have lunch" could be important in enhancing these opportunities.

Much attention has focused on school meals, both in the United States and across the globe.

Researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden, evaluated teachers eating lunch with the school children.

In Sweden, this practice is referred to as "pedagogic meals" because it offers the opportunity of having children learn by modeling adults.

The researchers wanted to observe how the teachers interacted with the children during meals in order to better understand how to interpret results of this practice.

Kirtland Peterson
Read more

Children Who Overestimate Their Popularity Less Likely to Be Bullies

Children who overestimate their popularity are less likely to be bullies than those who underestimate or hold more accurate assessments of their social standing, finds new research to be presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The more kids overestimated their popularity, the less aggression they displayed,” said Jennifer Watling Neal, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “This means that kids who were more accurate in their assessment of their number of friends or who underestimated their quantity of friends compared to peer report were more aggressive.”

Kirtland Peterson

FOR KIDS: Nature resets body’s clock

A short camping trip could help people rise and shine, researchers report.

After a week living in tents in Colorado’s Rockies, campers’ internal clocks shifted about two hours earlier.

It transformed even night owls into early birds.

“It’s a clever study, and it makes a dramatic point,” says Katherine Sharkey. A sleep researcher and physician at Brown University in Providence, R.I., she did not work on the new study.

People get much more light outside than they do indoors, she notes. And that can reset their internal body clocks.

A master clock in the brain controls the release of melatonin. This hormone prepares the body for sleep. Melatonin levels rise in the early evening and then taper off in the morning before a person wakes up.

Kirtland Peterson

August 5, 2013

Centers Throughout the Brain Work Together to Make Reading Possible

A combination of brain scans and reading tests has revealed that several regions in the brain are responsible for allowing humans to read.

The findings open up the possibility that individuals who have difficulty reading may only need additional training for specific parts of the brain — targeted therapies that could more directly address their individual weaknesses.

“Reading is a complex task. No single part of the brain can do all the work,” said Qinghua He, postdoctoral research associate at the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, based at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences...

Kirtland Peterson

August 2, 2013

Video games boost visual attention but reduce impulse control

A person playing a first-person shooter video game like Halo or Unreal Tournament must make decisions quickly.

That fast-paced decision-making, it turns out, boosts the player's visual skills but comes at a cost, according to new research: reducing the person's ability to inhibit impulsive behavior. This reduction in what is called "proactive executive control" appears to be yet another way that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior.

"We believe that any game that requires the same type of rapid responding as in most first-person shooters may produce similar effects on proactive executive control, regardless of violent content," says Craig Anderson, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University.

"However, this is quite speculative," he warns. But what is not so speculative is the growing body of research that links violent video games -- and to a certain extent, total screen time -- to attention-related problems and, ultimately, to aggression.

People's ability to override aggressive impulses is dependent in large part on good executive control capacity, as will be presented at a symposium at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual meeting in Honolulu.

And social psychologists are looking how a variety of factors – including media exposure, anger, and alcohol -- affect that capability.

Two types of cognitive control processes play a large role: proactive and reactive. "Proactive cognitive control involves keeping information active in short-term memory for use in later judgments, a kind of task preparation," Anderson explains. "Reactive control is more of a just-in-time type of decision resolution."

Kirtland Peterson

August 1, 2013

Being Bullied Throughout Childhood and Teens May Lead to More Arrests, Convictions, Prison Time

People who were repeatedly bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to go to prison than individuals who did not suffer repeated bullying, according to a new analysis presented at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention.

Almost 14 percent of those who reported being bullied repeatedly from childhood through their teens ended up in prison as adults, compared to 6 percent of non-victims, 9 percent of childhood-only victims and 7 percent of teen-only victims, the study found.

When comparing rates of convictions, more than 20 percent of those who endured chronic bullying were convicted of crimes, compared to 11 percent of non-victims, 16 percent of childhood victims, and 13 percent of teen victims. Compared to nonwhite childhood victims, white childhood victims faced significantly greater odds of going to prison, according to the study.

"Previous research has examined bullying during specific time periods, whereas this study is the first to look at individuals’ reports of bullying that lasted throughout their childhood and teen years, and the legal consequences they faced in late adolescence and as adults"...

Kirtland Peterson

July 26, 2013

Give Them a Hand: Gesturing Children Perform Well On Cognitive Tasks

 In the first study of its kind, SF State researchers have shown that younger children who use gestures outperform their peers in a problem-solving task.

The task itself is relatively simple -- sorting cards printed with colored shapes first by color, and then by shape. But the switch from color to shape can be tricky for children younger than 5, says Professor of Psychology Patricia Miller.

In a new study due to be published in the August, 2013 issue of Developmental Psychology, Miller and SF State graduate student Gina O'Neill found that young children who gesture are more likely to make the mental switch and group the shapes accurately.

In fact, gesturing seemed to trump age when it came to the sorting performance of the children, who ranged from 2 and a half years old to 5 years old. In the color versus shape task, as well as one that asked children to sort pictures based on size and spatial orientation, younger children who gestured often were more accurate in their choices than older children who gestured less. The children's gestures included rotating their hands to show the orientation of a card or using their hands to illustrate the image on the card, for example gesturing the shape of rabbits' ears for a card depicting a rabbit.

"Gina and I were surprised by the strength of the effect. Still, the findings are consistent with a growing body of research showing that mind and body work closely together in early cognitive development," Miller said.

Kirtland Peterson

Ability to Learn New Words Based On Efficient Communication Between Brain Areas That Control Movement and Hearing

For the first time scientists have identified how a pathway in the brain which is unique to humans allows us to learn new words.

The average adult's vocabulary consists of about 30,000 words. This ability seems unique to humans as even the species closest to us - chimps - manage to learn no more than 100.

It has long been believed that language learning depends on the integration of hearing and repeating words but the neural mechanisms behind learning new words remained unclear.

Previous studies have shown that this may be related to a pathway in the brain only found in humans and that humans can learn only words that they can articulate.

Kirtland Peterson

July 18, 2013

Singing helps students tune into a foreign language

Study provides the first experimental evidence that a listen-and-repeat singing method can support foreign language learning

Singing in a foreign language can significantly improve learning how to speak it, according to a new study published in Springer's journal Memory & Cognition.

Adults who listened to short Hungarian phrases and then sang them back performed better than those who spoke the phrases, researchers at the University of Edinburgh's Reid School of Music found.

People who sang the phrases back also fared better than those who repeated the phrases by speaking them rhythmically.

Kirtland Peterson

July 16, 2013

Taste Rules for Kids and Healthy Food Choices

Sweet and salty flavors, repeat exposure, serving size and parental behavior are the key drivers in children’s food choices.

“Children’s decision making has few dimensions,” explained Dr. Adam Drewnowski (CQ), director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle.

Not surprisingly, children lean toward sweets like cookies, chocolate, fruits and juices as well as salty foods that make them feel full like French fries and pizza.

But environment, peer groups, family, and exposure to a variety of menu items play a key role in children’s food choices.

Kirtland Peterson

July 15, 2013

How to Keep Kids Engaged with Educational Games

If you want teams of students to stay engaged while playing educational games, you might want them to switch seats pretty often.

That’s one finding from a pilot study that evaluated how well middle school students were able to pay attention to game-based learning tasks.

Students at a Raleigh, N.C., middle school were divided into two-person teams for the pilot study.

Researchers from North Carolina State University then had each team test gaming concepts for an educational game called “Engage,” which allows only one student at a time to control gameplay.

The researchers were trying to determine how effective educational gaming tasks were at teaching computer science concepts, but were also monitoring how engaged each student was.

The researchers found that, for each team, the student actively performing the game tasks was much more likely to stay engaged – but that the second student would often lose focus.

“This is a very useful finding, because..."

Kirtland Peterson

Educators Explore Innovative "Theater" as a Way to Learn Physics

In a study released last week, education researchers found that personifying energy allowed students to grapple with difficult ideas about how energy works.

Contrasted with more traditional lectures and graphs, this innovative instructional technique may be useful for teaching about other ideas in physical science, which commonly deals with things that change form over time.

Energy is a very important concept across many fields of science, and is a key focus of the new national science standards.

Energy is also a central player in several global issues, such as climate change and fuel economy.

However, energy is a challenging concept to fully understand.

Kirtland Peterson

Bilingual Children Have a Two-Tracked Mind

Adults learning a foreign language often need flash cards, tapes, and practice, practice, practice.

Children, on the other hand, seem to pick up their native language out of thin air.

The learning process is even more remarkable when two languages are involved.

In a study examining how bilingual children learn the two different sound systems of languages they are acquiring simultaneously, Ithaca College faculty member Skott Freedman has discovered insights that indicate children can learn two native languages as easily as they can learn one.

Kirtland Peterson

July 9, 2013

Dip, Dip, Hooray -- Kids Eat More Veggies With Flavored Dips

Many parents have a difficult time persuading their preschool-aged children to try vegetables, let alone eat them regularly.

Food and nutrition researchers have found that by offering a dip flavored with spices, children were more likely to try vegetables -- including those they had previously rejected.

"Less than 10 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds consume the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) recommended daily servings of vegetables," said Jennifer S. Savage, associate director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Penn State. "

Even more striking is that over one-third of children consume no servings of vegetables on a typical day. We wanted to figure out a way to increase vegetable consumption."

Kirtland Peterson

July 1, 2013

Place Matters in Analyzing Students’ Performance

Where a child lives makes a difference in how demographics and other factors influence algebra performance, and policies should take into account local variation, research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests.
Kirtland Peterson

Head Start children and parents show robust gains in new intervention

An eight-week intervention involving 141 preschoolers in a Head Start program and their parents produced significant improvements in the children's behavior and brain functions supporting attention and reduced levels of parental stress that, in turn, improved the families' quality of life.

The findings — from the first phase of a long-term research project by University of Oregon neuroscientists that will monitor the families over time — appear this week online in advance of regular publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kirtland Peterson

June 25, 2013

Kids’ Reading Success Boosted by Long-Term Individualized Instruction

Students who consistently receive individualized reading instruction from first through third grade become better readers than those who don’t, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

These findings come after a three-year study that followed several hundred Floridian students, who received varying amounts of individualized instruction, from first to third grade.

Our results show that children need sustained, effective instruction from first through third grade if they are going to become proficient readers,” said psychological scientist Carol McDonald Connor of Arizona State University, who led the research team.

Kirtland Peterson

Language Intervention Levels Playing Field for English Language Learners

A new approach to teaching pre-kindergarten could take a bite out of the achievement gap and level the playing field for America’s growing population of English language learners, according to a recently published study by researchers at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development.

“We are excited that we have helped teachers develop ways of teaching that result in such remarkable gains among children,” David K. Dickinson, professor of education and one of the project's leaders, said.

“Our teachers are committed to continuing using the approaches that are working, which means that many more children will benefit from being in their classrooms.”

Kirtland Peterson

June 24, 2013

Giving children non-verbal clues about words boosts vocabularies

The clues that parents give toddlers about words can make a big difference in how deep their vocabularies are when they enter school, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

By using words to reference objects in the visual environment, parents can help young children learn new words, according to the research.

It also explores the difficult-to-measure quality of non-verbal clues to word meaning during interactions between parents and children learning to speak.

For example, saying, “There goes the zebra” while visiting the zoo helps a child learn the word “zebra” faster than saying, “Let’s go to see the zebra.”

Differences in the quality of parents’ non-verbal clues to toddlers (what children can see when their parents are talking) explain about a quarter (22 percent) of the differences in those same children’s vocabularies when they enter kindergarten, researchers found.

Kirtland Peterson

June 20, 2013

Student Engagement More Complex, Changeable Than Thought

Pitt research paves way toward giving educators tools to recognize, correct disengagement among students

“Enhancing student engagement has been identified as the key to addressing problems of low achievement, high levels of student misbehavior, alienation, and high dropout rates.” – Pitt professor Ming-Te Wang

A student who shows up on time for school and listens respectfully in class might appear fully engaged to outside observers, including teachers.

But other measures of student engagement, including the student’s emotional and cognitive involvement with the course material, may tell a different story—one that could help teachers recognize students who are becoming less invested in their studies, according to a new study coauthored by a University of Pittsburgh researcher.

Kirtland Peterson

Narrowing the achievement gap: parents are the key

Schools know how important it is to engage parents in their child’s learning – and that this is not always easy.

A new study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Oxford University Press (OUP) aims to help schools with this perennial challenge by highlighting the latest evidence on what makes for successful home-school relationships.

Evidence shows that parental engagement in education can improve academic performance among disadvantaged youngsters and that schools can contribute significantly to enabling this.

The most effective approaches take into account parents’ gender, cultural, linguistic or socio-economic background, and see schools working closely with other support agencies and experts to effect positive change for whole families such as improvements in literacy and employment opportunities.

Kirtland Peterson

June 19, 2013

Mindfulness can increase wellbeing and reduce stress in school children

Mental training could reduce symptoms of stress and depression and promote wellbeing among school children...

Mindfulness – a mental training that develops sustained attention that can change the ways people think, act and feel – could reduce symptoms of stress and depression and promote wellbeing among school children, according to a new study published online by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

With the summer exam season in full swing, school children are currently experiencing higher levels of stress than at any other time of year.

The research showed that interventions to reduce stress in children have the biggest impact at this time of year.

There is growing evidence that mindfulness-based approaches for adults are effective at enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

However, very few controlled trials have evaluated their effectiveness among young people.

Kirtland Peterson

June 18, 2013

Not All Reading Disabilities Are Dyslexia: Lesser-Known Reading Disorder Can Be Easily Missed

A common reading disorder goes undiagnosed until it becomes problematic, according to the results of five years of study by researchers at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development in collaboration with the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dyslexia, a reading disorder in which a child confuses letters and struggles with sounding out words, has been the focus of much reading research.

But that’s not the case with the lesser known disorder Specific Reading Comprehension Deficits or S-RCD, in which a child reads successfully but does not sufficiently comprehend the meaning of the words, according to lead investigator Laurie Cutting, Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair at Peabody.

Kirtland Peterson

June 17, 2013

Fiber-optic pen helps see inside brains of children with learning disabilities

For less than $100, University of Washington researchers have designed a computer-interfaced drawing pad that helps scientists see inside the brains of children with learning disabilities while they read and write.

The device and research using it to study the brain patterns of children will be presented June 18 at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping meeting in Seattle.

A paper describing the tool, developed by the UW’s Center on Human Development and Disability, was published this spring in Sensors, an online open-access journal.

Scientists needed a tool that allows them to see in real time what a person is writing while the scanning is going on in the brain,” said Thomas Lewis, director of the center’s Instrument Development Laboratory.

“We knew that fiber optics were an appropriate tool. The question was, how can you use a fiber-optic device to track handwriting?”

Kirtland Peterson

June 14, 2013

From the mouths of babes: The truth about toddler talk

The sound of small children chattering away as they learn to talk has always been considered cute – but not particularly sophisticated.

However, research by a Newcastle University expert has shown that toddlers’ speech is far more advanced than previously understood.

Dr Cristina Dye, a lecturer in child language development, found that two to three- year-olds are using grammar far sooner than expected.

Kirtland Peterson

June 13, 2013

Yale researchers unravel genetics of dyslexia and language impairment

In previous studies, Gruen and his team found that dopamine-related genes ANKK1 and DRD2 are involved in language processing.

In further non-genetic studies, they found that prenatal exposure to nicotine has a strong negative affect on both reading and language processing. They had also previously found that a gene called DCDC2 was linked to dyslexia.

In this new study, Gruen and colleagues looked deeper within the DCDC2 gene to pinpoint the specific parts of the gene that are responsible for dyslexia and language impairment.

They found that some variants of a gene regulator called READ1 (regulatory element associated with dyslexia1) within the DCDC2 gene are associated with problems in reading performance while other variants are strongly associated with problems in verbal language performance.

Kirtland Peterson

June 12, 2013

An evaluation of Poetry Train

Key Findings:

Student teachers who participated in Poetry Train demonstrated significantly greater improvement in knowledge of and enthusiasm for poetry, confidence in teaching poetry, and acquisition of teaching skills than a comparison group.

Key factors in the effectiveness of the programme were: the poet educators, who motivated and inspired the student teachers with creative ways to teach poetry; and the timetabled opportunities for students to share ideas and experiences.

The findings from the pupil survey (Poetry Train students’ pupils) suggested they had benefited from and enjoyed learning about poetry.

Kirtland Peterson

June 6, 2013

Brain Imaging Study Eliminates Differences in Visual Function as a Cause of Dyslexia

A new brain imaging study of dyslexia shows that differences in the visual system do not cause the disorder, but instead are likely a consequence.

The findings... provide important insights into the cause of this common reading disorder and address a long-standing debate about the role of visual symptoms observed in developmental dyslexia.

Dyslexia is the most prevalent of all learning disabilities, affecting about 12 percent of the U.S. population.

Beyond the primarily observed reading deficits, individuals with dyslexia often also exhibit subtle weaknesses in processing visual stimuli. Scientists have speculated whether these deficits represent the primary cause of dyslexia, with visual dysfunction directly impacting the ability to learn to read. The current study demonstrates that they do not.

Kirtland Peterson

June 5, 2013

Teacher Collaboration, Professional Communities Improve Many Elementary School Students' Math Scores

Many elementary students' math performance improves when their teachers collaborate, work in professional learning communities or do both, yet most students don't spend all of their elementary school years in these settings, a new study by UNC Charlotte researchers shows. The U.S. Department of Education funded the study, which the journal Sociology of Education recently published.

As school districts work to improve math scores and narrow racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, many schools may have overlooked the impact of teacher collaboration and professional community on student success.

Collaboration involves teachers working together to promote student achievement.

A professional community exists when teachers feel a sense of belonging to a school, take pride in the school, understand and accept the school’s mission, and are constantly learning strategies to improve student achievement.

The research shows that some schools have developed strong professional communities that strive to help students succeed but have not fostered an environment where teachers are constantly collaborating, or working together, to plan their lessons and discuss student needs.
Kirtland Peterson

May 28, 2013

Picking Up a Second Language Is Predicted by Ability to Learn Patterns

Some people seem to pick up a second language with relative ease, while others have a much more difficult time.

Now, a new study suggests that learning to understand and read a second language may be driven, at least in part, by our ability to pick up on statistical regularities.

Some research suggests that learning a second language draws on capacities that are language-specific, while other research suggests that it reflects a more general capacity for learning patterns.

According to psychological scientist and lead researcher Ram Frost of Hebrew University, the data from the new study clearly point to the latter:

“These new results suggest that learning a second language is determined to a large extent by an individual ability that is not at all linguistic,” says Frost.

Kirtland Peterson

May 27, 2013

Language is in our biology

A good working memory is perhaps the brain’s most important system when it comes to learning a new language.

But it appears that working memory is first and foremost determined by our genes.

Whether you struggle to learn a new language, or find it relatively easy to learn, may be largely determined by “nature.”

That’s the conclusion of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), who have studied language skills in Norwegian elementary school students.

Kirtland Peterson

May 23, 2013

Schools Should Provide Opportunities for 60 Minutes of Daily Physical Activity to All Students

Given the implications for the overall health, development, and academic success of children, schools should play a primary role in ensuring that all students have opportunities to engage in at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

Recent estimates suggest that only about half of school-age children meet this evidence-based guideline for promoting better health and development.

The report recommends that most daily physical activity occur during regular school hours in physical education classes, recess or breaks, and classroom exercises, with additional opportunities available through active commutes to and from school, before- and after-school programs, and participation in intramural or varsity sports.

Kirtland Peterson
Full report (free)

May 22, 2013

“Boys will be boys” in U.S., but not in Asia

A new study shows there is a gender gap when it comes to behavior and self-control in American young children – one that does not appear to exist in children in Asia.

In the United States, girls had higher levels of self-regulation than boys.

Self-regulation is defined as children’s ability to control their behavior and impulses, follow directions, and persist on a task. It has been linked to academic performance and college completion, in past studies by Oregon State University researchers.

In three Asian countries, the gender gap in the United States was not found when researchers directly assessed the self-regulation of 3-6 year olds.

“These findings suggest that although we often expect girls to be more self-regulated than boys, this may not be the case for Asian children,” said Shannon Wanless, lead author of the study.

Kirtland Peterson

May 16, 2013

Most Math Being Taught in Kindergarten Is Old News to Students

Kindergarten teachers report spending much of their math instructional time teaching students basic counting skills and how to recognize geometric shapes—skills the students have already mastered before ever setting foot in the kindergarten classroom, new research finds.

The findings reveal a misalignment between what the students are being taught and what they already know.

“This study is one of the first to raise the question: Is the content that teachers report teaching in kindergarten meeting the needs of the majority of their students?

Kirtland Peterson

May 8, 2013

Brain Anatomy of Dyslexia Is Not the Same in Men and Women, Boys and Girls

Using MRI, neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center found significant differences in brain anatomy when comparing men and women with dyslexia to their non-dyslexic control groups, suggesting that the disorder may have a different brain-based manifestation based on sex.

Their study, investigating dyslexia in both males and females, is the first to directly compare brain anatomy of females with and without dyslexia (in children and adults). Their findings were published online in the journal Brain Structure and Function.

Because dyslexia is two to three times more prevalent in males compared with females, “females have been overlooked,” says senior author Guinevere Eden, PhD, director for the Center for the Study of Learning and past-president of the International Dyslexia Association.

“It has been assumed that results of studies conducted in men are generalizable to both sexes. But our research suggests that researchers need to tackle dyslexia in each sex separately to address questions about its origin and potentially, treatment,” Eden says.

Read more

May 7, 2013

Look! Something Shiny! How Some Textbook Visuals can Hurt Learning

Adding captivating visuals to a textbook lesson to attract children’s interest may sometimes make it harder for them to learn, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that 6- to 8-year-old children best learned how to read simple bar graphs when the graphs were plain and a single color.

Children who were taught using graphs with images (like shoes or flowers) on the bars didn’t learn the lesson as well and sometimes tried counting the images rather than relying on the height of the bars.

“Graphs with pictures may be more visually appealing and engaging to children than those without pictures. However, engagement in the task does not guarantee that children are focusing their attention on the information and procedures they need to learn. Instead, they may be focusing on superficial features"...

Kirtland Peterson

May 1, 2013

Outdoor recess time can reduce the risk of nearsightedness in children

Two new studies add to the growing evidence that spending time outdoors may help prevent or minimize nearsightedness in children.

A study conducted in Taiwan, which is the first to use an educational policy as a public vision health intervention, finds that when children are required to spend recess time outdoors, their risk of nearsightedness is reduced.

A separate study in Danish children is the first to show a direct correlation between seasonal fluctuations in daylight, eye growth and the rate of nearsightedness progression. The research was published in the May issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Nearsightedness in childhood is correctable, but is also linked to development of severe forms of this eye disorder in adulthood, which increases risks for potentially blinding diseases such as glaucoma and retinal detachment.

Research on nearsightedness, also called myopia, is intensifying as the condition nears epidemic status in Asia and other regions, primarily in developed countries. In the United States nearsightedness has increased by more than 65 percent since 1970. Though myopia is often inherited, researchers are now assessing environmental factors to help explain why myopia rates are rising so rapidly in some populations.
Kirtland Peterson

April 19, 2013

Learning disabilities affect up to 10 per cent of children

Up to 10 per cent of the population are affected by specific learning disabilities (SLDs), such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and autism, translating to 2 or 3 pupils in every classroom according to a new study.

The study – by academics at UCL and Goldsmiths - also indicates that children are frequently affected by more than one learning disability.

The research, published today in Science, helps to clarify the underlying causes of learning disabilities and the best way to tailor individual teaching and learning for affected individuals and education professionals.

Kirtland Peterson

April 18, 2013

Child's Counting Comprehension May Depend On Objects Counted

Concrete objects — such as toys, tiles and blocks — that students can touch and move around, called manipulatives, have been used to teach basic math skills since the 1980s.

Use of manipulatives is based on the long-held belief that young children’s thinking is strictly concrete in nature, so concrete objects are assumed to help them learn math concepts.

However, new research from the University of Notre Dame suggests that not all manipulatives are equal.

The types of manipulatives may make a difference in how effectively a child learns basic counting and other basic math concepts.

Kirtland Peterson