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True Grit
August 2014

Why Persistence Counts

classroomSome educators believe that improvements in instruction, curriculum and school environments are not enough to raise the achievement levels of all students, especially disadvantaged children. Also necessary is a quality called “grit”, loosely defined as persistence over time to overcome challenges and accomplish big goals. Grit comprises a suite of traits and behaviors that include goal-directedness (knowing where to go and how to get there); motivation (having a strong will to achieve identified goals); self-control (avoiding distractions and focusing on the task at hand); and a positive mindset (embracing challenges and viewing failure as a learning opportunity).

A meta-study of 25 years of research by John Hattie and Helen Timperley, professors at the University of Aukland, New Zealand, has shown that giving students challenging goals encourages greater effort and persistence than providing vague or no direction. Students aren’t hardwired for these qualities, but grit can be developed through an emerging battery of evidence-based techniques that give educators a powerful new set of tools to support student success.

A famous example of the power of self-regulation was observed when preschoolers that were able to withstand the temptation of eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes to receive a second one were more successful in high school and scored about 210 points higher on their SATs later in life than those with less willpower (Tinyurl.com/StanfordMarshallowStudy).


Source: ascd.org.

 
Ginger and Turmeric Protect Skin from Sun
July 2014

Herbal Extracts Absorb UVB Rays

gingerScientists from Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University have found that extracts from ginger and turmeric may help prevent DNA damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, a leading cause of melanoma and other skin cancers.

Fifteen herbal extracts were created; each was applied to human keratinocytes, the predominant cell type in the outer layer of skin that can be damaged by the sun’s rays. The researchers measured the ability of each herb extract to absorb ultraviolet radiation and act as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals.

Turmeric and ginger extracts absorbed a significant amount of UVB rays before they could damage the skin, according to the results, published in Photochemistry and Photobiology. Each was found to stimulate the synthesis of thioredoxin 1, an antioxidant protein that appears to protect keratinocytes from DNA damage and toxicity to living cells.

 
Garden Gunk
July 2014

Sewage Can Lurk in Bagged Fertilizers

dirtBagged garden fertilizers help plants grow, but store-bought brands can be a scary mix of sewage sludge—treated human, industrial and hospital waste. No federal or state regulations require that sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, be listed on the label. Sludge can also be blended with more natural fertilizers without listing it as an ingredient.

Today’s testing requirements for waste sludge cover only 10 elements and two indicator bacteria; all other contaminants, pharmaceuticals and toxic chemicals that go down the drain of every home and business go right into the fertilizer.

Terms like “organic” and “natural” only apply to some food products, not compost or fertilizer. Arsenic and lead are both considered natural ingredients.

Toxins and heavy metals don’t disappear when exposed to sun or rain; they enter the soil or travel by wind and water runoff into yards and communities and can be absorbed in vegetables, plants and livestock. When we consume foods grown in sludge, we consume whatever the plant takes up from the soil. Also, elements like heavy metals collect in the meat, milk and fat of animals that are fed crops grown in sewage sludge.

To protect the family garden, call the fertilizer manufacturer before purchasing a product to verify ingredients. Ask the nursery or store for labeling that depicts which products are sludgefree and also insist on their use at area schools, parks and playgrounds.


For more information, visit USludgeFree.org.

 
Food Transparency
July 2014

Vermont Demands GMO Labeling

woman-shoppingVermont Senator David Zuckerman and Representative Carolyn Partridge spearheaded efforts for the state to pass the nation’s first unrestricted mandatory labeling bill for genetically modified organisms (GMO). The state legislature’s collective efforts, lasting more than a decade, led to an unprecedented, game-changing new law signed by Governor Peter Shumlin on April 23. Anticipating the current lawsuit by Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Vermont has set aside $10 million for legal fees. The Organic Manufacturers Association is working to expand funding behind Vermont’s defense because the outcome could affect all 50 states.

Unless legally overturned, starting July 1, 2016, products sold in Vermont that contain more than 0.9 percent GMO content contamination will require a statement on the label indicating that genetic engineering was used. Products that contain GMOs and are labeled cannot also label their products as “natural”. The bill, however, does not apply to labels for milk, eggs and meat from animals fed GMOs.


Donate to Vermont’s defense fund at Tinyurl.com/SupportGMOLabeling.

 
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