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Why Do Students Get Summers Off?

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It’s commonly believed that school kids started taking summers off in the 19th century so they’d have time to work on the farm. Nice as that story is, it isn’t true. Summer vacation has little to do with tilling fields and more to do with sweaty, rich city kids playing hooky and their sweaty, rich parents.

Before the Civil War, farm kids never had summers off. They went to school during the hottest and coldest months and stayed home during the spring and fall, when crops needed to be planted and harvested. Meanwhile, city kids hit the books all year long—summers included. In 1842, Detroit’s academic year lasted 260 days! 

But as cities got denser, they got hotter. Endless lanes of brick and concrete transformed urban blocks into kilns, thanks to the “urban heat island effect.” That’s when America’s swelling middle and upper class families started hightailing it to the cooler countryside. And that caused a problem. School attendance wasn’t mandatory back then, and classrooms were being left half-empty each summer. Something had to give. 

Legislators, in one of those if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em moments, started arguing that kids should get summers off anyway. It helped that, culturally, leisure time was becoming more important. With the dawn of labor unions and the eight-hour workday, working adults were getting more time to themselves than ever before. Advocates for vacation time also argued (incorrectly) that the brain was a muscle, and like any muscle, it could suffer injuries if overused. From there, they argued that students shouldn’t go to school year-round because it could strain their brains. To top it off, air conditioning was decades away, and city schools during summertime were miserable, half-empty ovens.

So by the turn of the century, urban districts had managed to cut about 60 schooldays from the most sweltering part of the year. Rural schools soon adopted the same pattern so they wouldn’t fall behind. Business folks obviously saw an opportunity here. The summer vacation biz soon ballooned into what is now one of the country’s largest billion-dollar industries. 

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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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Hot Tips To Keep Your Pack Lunch Cool
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With students beginning school around the country, the number of brown-bagged lunches will tick up exponentially. Whether you’re preparing a sandwich for your kid or making your own midday lunch, there are a few food safety tips to keep in mind.

According to a recent Inquirer.net report, temperature control is key. Foods that are stored in the “danger zone” of 40°F to 140°F have a markedly better chance of harvesting bacteria than food stored below or above those temperatures. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be setting up a catering-style open flame for hot foods, make sure your meals are being refrigerated with either the paper bag or lunchbox left open to allow for better air circulation.

If you don’t have a fridge and have prepared perishable items like eggs or cheese, you can opt for an insulated box or double-thickness soft bag—avoid paper, a poor insulator—and use a frozen juice carton or ice pack to keep meals chilled. If you’re opting for hot foods like stews or chili, you can pour boiling water into a thermos and then empty it; the residual heat should keep the liquid warm until lunchtime. You could also buy a double-walled stainless steel container like this one, which will keep foods hot (or cold) for up to three hours.

Got leftovers? Toss them. It becomes harder to regulate temperature as the day goes on and foods may begin to slip into that illness-causing “danger zone” when left unattended.

For more food safety tips, check out the handy USDA infographic below.

A USDA food safety infographic
USDA, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

[h/t Inquirer.net]

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