Archive for July, 2014

Savoring Summer

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

childrenonbeachwithsparkler  If your family is anything like mine, summer is anything but lazy. It’s not even half over and we’ve fit in two family visits, a   wedding, a whole swim team season, student internships and a few classes. In between that, we are trying our hand at growing our own vegetables, walking more and just relaxing.

When it moves so fast, how do you savor it? It can be as simple as making sure we have dinner outside. We have a very casual checklist that makes us feel like we’ve indulged and savored summer; its includes but is not limited to picking our favorite wild berries, hunting for fossilized sharks teeth at a nearby beach, enjoying local silver queen corn on the cob, and stopping by the seasonal Snowie’s Snow Cone stand. Sure the days are longer in the summer, but it seems like time flies by faster. There’s no scientific evidence that summer goes faster but it seems like we never fit in everything we have planned. So make a pact with yourself and with your family to enjoy every lightning bug, every chirping cicada, and a good ear of corn. Make homemade jelly, create some personalized garden stones, make a creative display with swim team/soccer/baseball ribbons.

Savor every minute of summer that remains.  Share an ice cream cone with someone you love.  dog-eating-ice-cream

A Ratings Ploy? Or Media Literacy Lesson?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

It was Science Channel’s “most-watched series of 2013.” And now it’s back for a second season. unexplained-files

The Unexplained Files returns this week with 12 new episodes. The series looks at “mind-boggling” incidents from around the world – things that are strange and unexplained.  Yes, the show delves into UFO territory, specifically looking at military personnel in the U.S., U.K. and Russia who claim to have  seen UFOs over nuclear installations. And, yes, the show looks at a “large, underwater creature” in Lake Labynkyr in Siberia, Russia.

Have you talked about such things in your house? The Loch Ness monster? Yeti or The Abominable Snowman? Alien life?

One of Discovery Channel’s most popular – and controversial – specials was a 2011 “documentary” about mermaids.  It came under fire for being staged. Discovery’s defense was that it was exploring the “what if” behind  the idea of mermaids to see if their existence was “really so far-fetched.”  But it was presented as a serious documentary.

Have you talked about such things in your house? The Loch Ness monster? Yeti or The Abominable Snowman? Alien life? In our family, we like to try to de-bunk the “evidence,” try to come up with our own explanations for things.  And if we can’t, should be open to the possibility these things might be real? If you dismiss these sorts of legends as a hokum, you likely won’t want to gather the family ‘round the television to check out The Unexplained Files.

debunk tv

And if  you do tune in, it’s a good lesson in media viewing. Is it all hogwash? How so? And do you feel when you’ve been duped by a TV show? Definitely a good topic for discussion.






Following History

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

They say those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  375px-Undergroundrailroadsmall2

But there are many people who make it a point to relive at least a small part of our nation’s past by spending their vacation celebrating it. History takes on a new meaning when you follow the path of those who have come before us, from the path of the Underground Railroad (at right) or the battlefields of the Revolutionary War. Granted, Sacajawea didn’t get to take a break from all of the hiking with a good soak and a night’s rest at the Comfort Inn, but by following the trial of Lewis & Clark, even by car, you get a sense of manifest destiny. History is far more than words in a text book. Feeling the breeze, smelling the air, imagining the chutzpah it took to brave the unknown—that is something to remember.

fenway-park“Historical” sites can be open to broad interpretation. There are folks who make it a goal to visit every baseball stadium in the United States, making note of the players and barriers broken at each field. The Tenement Museum and Ellis Island can be a very personal historical journey for those whose own relatives braved the unknown to come to America. Sure, places like Washington, DC and Williamsburg, Virginia, are great history vacations; our friends at Family Circle magazine have compiled a list of 15 best historic sites for kids. The National Museum of Play has a treasure trove of the toys and games that have treated generations to play.

But if you were going to follow the footsteps of history, what trail would you take?

The One Show to Watch this Summer

Monday, July 21st, 2014

If you tune in to one show this summer, make it Brain Games. brain-games

National Geographic Channel’s Emmy-nominated series started a new 10-episode run of the incredibly fun and interesting episodes last week.

Whether you are the youngest schoolkid in the family or oldest great-grandparent in the house, you’ll get a kick out of challenging yourself as you watch passionate – and very cool – host Jason Silva go through a variety of segments exploring different brain functions, perceptions and abilities.

Watch and play along as Silva tests participants on the show, explaining how the brain tends to work – and how we think and view – different situations and tasks. The results are always amusing, fascinating and surprising. Topics coming up include: compassion, addiction, anger, superstitions and food. One segment involving lightbulbs had us smiling, as it proved an “experienced” brain is actually not such a bad thing!

New episodes air Mondays at 9 p.m. on the Nat Geo Channel. And if you want to play more real “brain games” and real more about how the brain works, check out the informative pages on the Nat Geo website.


The Children of Invention

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Often making the news today are some of the coolest, most life-changing ideas. You may think only scientists or researchers are the ones who invent these kinds of things. But some of the neatest inventions, or life hacks, come from the minds of kids and teens. Frank Epperson was 11 years old when he came up with the idea of the Popsicle in 1905. Parents may secretly curse George Nissen, the young gymnast who invented the trampoline from junk parts in 1930, but today kids are coming up with ingenious inventions that solve big world problems.Popsicle

Jack Andraka is a Maryland high school student who at age 15 created a novel paper sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer in 5 minutes for as little as 3 cents. And 19-year-old Brittany Wenger of Sarasota, Florida, devised a way to make breast cancer diagnosis cost-effective, less invasive and more accurate by using artificial intelligence.

Two teens invented a bomb detection system in the war-torn region of ERBIL, Kurdistan. Eman Abdul-Razzaq Ibrahim and Dastan Othman Hassan, 18-year-old high school students, disrupted from their own studies by the threat of car bombs, sought for a more efficient way to detect them. Using the physics of light, they came up with a model where night vision cameras hidden in trash cans and speed bumps could detect threats and alert authorities.

Ocean pollution has plagued the planet for centuries, but at just 17 years old, Boyan Slat came up with an idea that worked with natural tides to clean up plastic and debris. Not only does his idea collect trash, it is safe for wildlife.

Andrew Pelham not only created a life-saving device, but is sharing the plans for it for free. The 11-year-old Nashville boy created a simple tool to help busy parents to check the back seat before exiting a hot car. His created his E-Z Baby Saver, after reading about kids accidentally left behind in hot cars.

The next time your kid wants to create the world’s longest straw, or see what happens when she mixes baking soda and vinegar, remember, from small packages come great gifts.