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When Schools Offer Free Laundry Services, Attendance Goes Up

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Many factors can contribute to a child's chronic absence from school, from problems at home to anxiety about school itself. To tackle this complicated issue, some schools are using an unexpected strategy: They've installed on-campus laundry machines that are free for all students.

By the end of this year, Whirlpool will have donated washers and dryers to dozens of schools with poor attendance numbers since launching the Care Counts program in 2015, Fast Company reports. The schools that Whirlpool selects are often located in low-income neighborhoods where throwing a dirty school uniform into the washing machine after coming home isn't an option for many students. Without access to laundry facilities where they live, some kids choose to skip class rather than go to school in their unwashed clothes.

But when washing machines are made available to children at school, the results are clear. The first year the Care Counts program was implemented in schools in St. Louis, Missouri, and Fairfield, California, average attendance rates rose by two days per chronically absent student. On top of that, teachers saw a 95 percent boost in class and extracurricular participation from students who'd previously missed more than 10 school days a year. And there's no need for schools to worry about the machines posing a distraction: Laundry is washed either by parents or school staff members and returned before the final bell. Each student who participates has around 50 loads of laundry washed at school in a year.

After finding success with the program in over 35 schools in six cities, Whirlpool is teaming up with Teach for America to bring it to 60 more schools in 10 cities across the U.S. About 1000 schools have expressed interest in receiving laundry appliances of their own, and Whirlpool hopes to eventually make that happen by gradually increasing their reach.

Care Counts isn't the only program with the mission of giving kids the basics they may not find at home. Some schools, like Washington High in Washington, North Carolina, offer free pantries that students can visit discreetly. The organization Catie's Closet provides a similar resource, but with free clothes instead of food. Looking for your own way to help kids who are struggling? Call a school in your community to see if there are any lunch debts you can help pay off.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
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As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Why Are So Many Blackboards Green?
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Though the term blackboard has a color right there in its name, most of them aren’t actually black. While we still use the term more or less interchangeably with chalkboards, blackboards tend to be green. Why the difference? Why call a surface a blackboard if it's green?

Because 200 years ago, blackboards were black. According to author Lewis Buzbee’s Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom, large boards of connected slates that teachers could write on for the whole class to see didn’t come around until the early 1800s, and the name blackboard wasn’t used until 1815. They were made with slate, or in rural areas, they were often just wooden boards painted dark with egg whites mixed with the remains of charred potatoes. Later, they were also made of wood darkened with a commercially made porcelain-based ink. They were, true to their name, black.

And the relatively affordable, ubiquitous technology was a huge success, changing education forever. By the mid-19th century, even the most rural schools had a blackboard.

As an 1841 teaching manual, The Blackboard in the Primary School, put it: “The inventor or introducer of the black-board system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind.”

In the 20th century, blackboards began to look a little different, though the idea was the same. In the 1930s, manufacturers began to make chalkboards using a green, porcelain enameled paint on a steel base. By the 1960s, the green chalkboard trend was in full swing. Teachers had discovered that a different colored paint was a lot more comfortable to stare at all day, because green porcelain paint cut down on glare. By and large, many blackboards were slowly replaced by their green brethren. (Apparently, greenboards wasn’t quite as catchy of a name, though, so the term blackboard stuck.)

But today, many school children might not be familiar with either blackboards or "greenboards." In the 1990s, schools began converting their classrooms to whiteboards, which produce less dust (and eliminate that terrible screeching noise). According to The Atlantic, at the turn of the millennium, whiteboards were outselling chalkboards by a 4-to-1 ratio.

You can still find the occasional blackboard in a classroom, though—even if it’s just decorative. And some schools are rediscovering blackboards, literally. In the summer of 2015, construction workers renovating an Oklahoma school for smart whiteboards found two historic slate blackboards that still bore drawings from almost 100 years ago.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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