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The Argument For Cursive Handwriting and Clearer Thinking

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Just as in fashion, trends in education come and go. An average school day might no longer contain Latin, compulsory religious studies, or home economics, and it may not even include that old staple of primary education: cursive. As old-fashioned handwriting lessons make way for courses in keyboard skills, graphic design, and coding, some research suggests that this trend isn't necessarily for the best.

The proponents of a cursive-less classroom have some strong arguments on their side. There are only so many hours in the day, and certain skills need to be prioritized in an increasingly digital age. This kind of thinking is evident in the current federal Common Core standards for public education, which quietly exclude any form of handwriting instruction.  Some states, including California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Tennessee, have passed their own legislation to combat this development, and they have some research to back this up.

A classic study by George H. Early, published in the Journal of Academic Therapy in 1976, notes a connection between first-grade students' instruction in cursive handwriting and their aptitude for reading and spelling. The hypothesis was that so-called "joined-up writing" led to a sort of joined-up thinking, in which the "continuous line in writing a word provides kinesthetic feedback about the shape of the words as a whole, which is absent in manuscript writing." Cursive, in Early's view, promoted words, rather than single letters, as complete units of thought—much more reflective of the way human brains need to process language for comprehension.

For those who dismiss Early's study as a quaint relic of a pre-computer age, Dr. Virginia Berninger, educational psychology professor at the University of Washington, insists that his assertions remain valid. "Cursive helps you connect things," she says. Berninger is quoted in a policy brief published by the National Association of State Boards of Education, which has come out strongly in support of cursive [PDF]. The brief argues that unlike typing, cursive's combined requirements of cognitive and motor skills necessitate formal instruction—keyboards are intuitive, but writing by hand is not.

While cursive handwriting may never regain the dominance it once saw in lesson plans, there's still some worth in all those curlicues and flourishes.

[h/t Mic]

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Kyle Ely
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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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