The Cactus Who Wanted to Be a Christmas Tree

Katie loves Christmastime. Getting presents is nice, and playing in the snow with her friends is fun, but what she likes best are all the pretty decorations...

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Sunny and Victor: Best Friends Forever

Bears and rabbits are not supposed to be friends, but the story of how Sunny Bunny and Victor Bear became “best friends forever” is a tale of friendship...

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Some Poems About Life

(30 Actually) Gems of Wit & Wisdom

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Reaching Autistic Children

There is a lot we don’t know about autism.   I’ve been in classrooms with autistic kids many times and an as clueless as anyone. But every once in a while there’s a breakthrough story that gives us hope.  One such story is Life, Animated, a documentary movie about Ron Suskind and his son Owen.  At

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Remembering Tiananmen Square

The Writer’s Almanac reminded me that what is remembered as the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened on June 4, 1989.  On that day, Chinese troops stormed the square to end demonstrations that had actually begun months earlier.   Thousands of supporters from three dozen universities staged hunger strikes and sit-ins in the name of democracy.  The Chinese

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You and Your Gut Bacteria

Did you ever think about how many of our common expressions involve our stomachs?  We occasionally talk about “gut-wrenching decisions” and “butterflies in the stomach.” These thoughts are so prevalent that some are beginning to wonder if there isn’t a link between our guts — specifically the trillions of tiny organisms that live there —

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A Novel Way To Feed The Homeless

Have you ever heard of the EAT Café?  The clue is EAT stands for Everyone At the Table.  This is a non-profit collaboration of organizations in West Philadelphia, PA, that operates a “pay-what-you-can café that nourishes, educates, and unites community in a welcoming environment.”  Here the bill is a shock of a different sort —

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Xenophobia — We’ve Been There Before

With the current concern about the security risks of immigrants and refugees, this is a good time to remind everyone that episodes of xenophobia (fear of foreigners) have happened periodically throughout our history. One example — when I was visiting Boston in April, I learned about NINA.  It’s an acronym that means “No Irish Need

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One Person Can Make a Difference

Have you ever heard of Henrietta Lacks?  In many respects, she was an ordinary woman.  Born on August 1, 1920, she gave birth to five children, but only lived 31 years.  But she had a profound effect on modern science and, at least indirectly, has saved many lives. The remarkable part of her story began

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Happy Birthday Dorothea Lange

May 26th, 1895 was the birthday of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange.   She was born Dorothea Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1895, and is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration.  Her most famous photo was “Migrant Mother” (left) in 1936, but took many more that were just as hauntingly beautiful. 

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What Are You Reading?

I guess we’re all supposed to read something this summer.  I know it’s pretty much a given that high school students will have a summer reading list, but several of the news programs and publications I follow have been coming out with reading lists of their own.  They must assume everyone gets a vacation with

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Another Way to Help Mother Nature

This is a story about how an educator thought outside the box. Each year, Katie Martin-Meurer, an art instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, saw something that disturbed her.  The students in her three-dimensional design course would simply toss their projects into the trash after they had been graded.  What a waste! Her first

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How Babies Develop a Sense of Time

Families with newborns know babies follow their own schedule.  But after a while, about the time a baby starts to smile, a rhythm develops. So babies do develop a sense of time.  Research suggests this happens about the one-month mark.  For example, in a 1972 study, researchers placed month-old infants in a dark room.  A

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