Improving Your Health With Little Wealth

For those who are serious about improving your health, here are some of the best and most affordable health trends for 2014 that you could incorporate today into your daily regimen.

Mental Health

Limit Technology Usage: Technology is already playing a large role in our lives. We’ve entered an era where people cannot imagine their days without smartphones and virtual communication. With this in mind, learning to control and limit technology usage will be one of the hottest mind-wellness trends for 2014. Not only would monitoring the usage of technologies enable you to sleep better and think clearer but also spend more quality-time with your loved ones. Remember, quality-time with loved ones is one of the staples of health and fitness.

Mental Restoration: Another inexpensive hot trend for 2014 is mental restoration. Mental restoration gives you the tools to fight stress that includes a wide range of holistic practices, including meditation. Once you get in the habit of doing mental restoration, you’ll find that it’s a very inexpensive and effective strategy that you could practice on your own for improving your mental health.

Coaching: Having focus and knowing how to pursue your goals is incredibly important for mental health. In fact, many experts confirmed that people who have no specific goals tend to feel more depressed and anxious. Therefore, working with a personal or professional coach in 2014 will give you clarity and a course of action that you can follow to finally accomplish everything you’ve been dreaming of.

Physical Health

High-Intensity Interval Training: As the world of health and fitness evolves, you’ll find that this type of training will become extremely popular in 2014. Partly due to the fact that high-intensity training is quite affordable and available in numerous gyms globally. In essence, these routines involve short bursts of high-intensity exercises that’ll help you lose weight and improve your cardiovascular system.

Functional Fitness: This is another popular and innovative health and fitness trend that’ll pick up more momentum next year. Through functional fitness, your body becomes capable of performing everyday tasks and overcoming everyday challenges. Rather than isolating specific muscle groups, functional fitness focuses on working out your entire body.

Circuit Training: Circuit training gained popularity in 2013 and it is expected to continue being a top trend during the coming year. Circuit training delivers results similar to the ones achieved through high intensity interval training. The intensity, however, is lower and this is the characteristic that makes circuit training an exciting possibility for many people.

Spiritual Health

Meditation: While meditation is not a new trend, it’s still one of the most important and beneficial practices for achieving well-being and spiritual enlightenment. Overall, 5-10 minutes of mediation in the morning daily can help you achieve spiritual clarity and happiness. In reality, you could learn how to meditate on your own just by researching on search engines, thus making it a truly affordable option for spiritual health.

Personalized Wellness: Personalized wellness will keep gaining popularity for many years to come. Our spiritual enlightenment and wellness needs are becoming more and more specific and many businesses are realizing this. This is why many spas, including health centers, offer personalized programs that target a specific set of concerns, such as stress, anxiety, depression, etc.

Spiritual Fun For Family: In the past, spiritual enlightenment used to be for adults. Fortunately, this is changing and in the years to come, such practices will become more family-oriented. Reason being that having a spa day, or practicing yoga with your children, will give you happiness and an opportunity to bond as a family. Plus, children are getting an opportunity to participate in a wide range of spiritual wellness and enlightenment activities crucial for health and development.

Other Health & Fitness Trends For 2014:

Water and pH balance: Water comes with a range of pH readings. Opting for alkaline water has been known to improve one’s health. Therefore, you should strive for brands that provide information about the pH value. Don’t worry if you can’t find any information yet since this trend is quite new and only started gaining momentum.

Vegetarian Fast Food: Many fast food spots are arising that focuses on healthy meals. Make sure to try at least one vegetarian fast food spot. Not only is the food delicious but also a lot healthier than your traditional cheeseburger and fries.

Boot Camps: Boot camp training can deliver much faster results than going to the gym. It is incredibly intense and it happens outdoors, which is much more exciting than going to an indoor place filled with fitness equipment.

Spa Crazes: Many spa centers are evolving in an effort to improve on the services offered. In 2014, there’ll be some interesting opportunities that include trampoline workouts and even surfboard yoga.

Digital Monitoring: With the rapid advancement of technologies, many smartphones nowadays have apps that help you exercise more efficiently and effectively. Through these apps, you could control your calorie intake, choose healthier foods, monitor weight and blood-pressure, etc. The best part is that most of these apps are FREE to download and you could start using these apps today.

Natural Alternatives: The goal is to find the best natural alternatives to “bad” foods. As the market for alternative nutrition grows, people now have other options for bad foods, such as sugar, salt, and even white flour. In 2014, you should opt for agave syrup, stevia, Himalayan salt and almond flour. These are just some of the healthy alternatives already available and that are becoming more affordable every single day.

In the end, everyone has the capability to improve their health regardless of their financial situation. You owe it to yourself, your family and friends, and even to your country. After all, Winston Churchill wisely stated that “healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”

Astrology Predictions for 2014-2015

As we can see, there have been huge world changes since then.

Let me outline just a few of them:

– The Central Banks have more power than ever before
– The Federal Reserve brought down interest rates to almost 0%
– Quantitative Easing or money-printing has become the new norm
– Disputes over taxes and tax reforms have escalated
– Movements to unseat leaders continue, including the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the stepping down of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya
– Cyber-spying is rampant with the revelations that the NSA has been regularly unlawfully spying on its citizens
– We’ve seen earth changes escalate with earthquakes and tsunamis causing whole continents to shift

What does the future look like as we near the end of the Cardinal Climax?

I see two diametrically opposed scenarios playing out:
– Worldwide debt reaches its limit, the financial system panics and the stock market crashes
– Governments shut down and default on their debts
OR
– Leaders in business, banking and government start to behave with transparency instead of secrecy, working hard to restore peoples’ trust in them
– Political leaders make compromises to reduce debt levels
– Businesses are rewarded for hiring people and not penalized

It could go either way. There could be a turnaround from the oppressive economic activities of the last 6 years or an escalation of the same practices.
With 3 planets going retrograde one after the other from the beginning of 2014, (Venus retrograde during January, Mercury retrograde in February, and Mars retrograde from March until May), I am anticipating leaders will change their minds quickly, bankers will change their policies unexpectedly, markets will reverse because of greater uncertainty.

President Obama
As I predicted last year, with transiting Neptune square to his natal Moon, there is the possibility of scandal, deception and misleading behaviour and his trustworthiness could be put into question. There could be damage to his reputation and he needs to make sure that he does everything above board.

This aspect is a hard one because the Moon represents his public image. Not just Americans feel betrayed by him, but also Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, to name but a few, by his reversals and failure to communicate with them.

Transiting Jupiter will be conjunct his Sun in September 2014. This could be a high point in his career, but it could also mean that he goes to extremes. His reputation could be severely tarnished especially when Saturn is opposite his natal Moon and square to natal Pluto in 2015.

The main thing is that he needs to be honest. If he can do this, he will be able to salvage his reputation. If not, he will fall from grace and leave office with his reputation in tatters.

Stock Market
I predicted that the stock market would crash in 2013 and I was wrong. I had failed to understand the powerful impact of Pluto in Capricorn on Central Banking intervention in the financial markets. I didn’t realise it would distort the markets to such a degree. I had no idea how far and how deeply the powers that be could manipulate the markets. With the strong influence of Pluto in Capricorn in mutual reception to Saturn in Scorpio, this had led to the infinite printing of money out of thin air. This looks set to continue at least for the next year or so indicating that the stock markets are set to rise for the foreseeable future.

What to invest in and what to avoid:
Jupiter moves back and forth between Cancer and Leo in 2014. The sign Jupiter is in shows the stock sectors more likely to outperform the general market.

Jupiter in Cancer until July 16th, 2014 indicates the stock sectors that are likely to benefit are: housing, hotels, motels, restaurants, anything connected with families and homes, food, drink, caretaking.

Jupiter in Leo from July 17th 2014 until August 11th 2015 favours children’s games and toys, games, gaming companies, leisure, entertainment industry, gambling, anything connected to children, gold mining, romance, love and the dating industry.
The position of Saturn tends to show those sectors that will decline in price. With Saturn in Scorpio until almost the end of 2014, the sectors most likely to be affected by declines are: banks, insurance companies, investment companies, security companies, waste management, funeral services, oil and gas companies, medical and surgical suppliers.

As long as the Fed continues to intervene in financial markets, stock prices will increase. I doubt they will stop QE in the foreseeable future, so stocks are likely to continue rising. If the Dow Jones Index falls below 13000, this could mark a bearish shift in the market.

Gold and Silver
The Federal Reserve may taper its bond and securities purchases, thus pushing up interest rates and resulting in the falling of the price of gold.

If, however, we see increasing political upheaval and a greater social unrest, which I am anticipating, this would support a rise in the price of gold.

With Jupiter in Cancer and in Leo, which represent silver and gold respectively, and with Mars going into Scorpio from July 25th until September 13th, 2014, this could be a time of a strong rally for precious metals since Mars in Scorpio is a good predictor of a surge in the price of gold and silver.

In the long run, however, gold and silver prices will soar. As to exactly when, depends on how long the manipulators can control the markets. Once there is a breakdown in trust and a market panic, everyone will turn to gold. Right now it is a bargain. If you have any spare money, buy a small amount of both gold and silver. Keep buying more each time the price dips. At some point, I am still confident that gold will trade above $3000 USD an ounce and silver will be at $100 per ounce.

Weather Changes
I predicted last year that with so many planets in water signs that we would see flooding, heavy rains, tornadoes, and great destruction from water. We saw flooding in so many places around the world: in Colorado, throughout much of Europe, in Canada, the devastating floods in Jakarta, Indonesia, in Thailand, and more recently, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to name but a few.

With Jupiter in Cancer for almost 7 months of the year, Saturn still in Scorpio and Neptune in Pisces, I am anticipating more issues around water and flooding again this year.

With Jupiter in Leo from July 16th, especially with the square to Saturn in Scorpio, I think this could result in extreme heat, widespread fires, and heat in areas where it is least expected.

With Uranus playing such a central role in Aries triggering the Cardinal Cross, I anticipate extreme temperature changes, earthquakes, tsunamis, power outages and general weather and earth changes.

During Mars Retrograde from March 2nd until May 20th is not the best time to start something new e.g. a job, a house move.
It is not a good time to initiate a dispute as the person who is the aggressor usually loses.
Mars rules surgery so if you have any elective surgery, try to schedule it before or after the Mars retrograde.
This will be a wonderful time for people in the repair business, especially anything connected with mechanical or technical breakdowns. So many people’s systems will break down at this time and their services will be in great demand.

Summary of Predictions for 2014:

Economy and Government:
Continued economic stagnation
More riots and protests
Bailout after bailout continues
Higher unemployment
More failures of large insurance companies
Rising food and power costs
Gold and silver very volatile but going upwards by the end of the year
Mobile money will continue to grow
Adoption of more crypto-currencies like Bitcoin
Print publications continue to die off
More whistleblowers come forward like Edward Snowden
Attempted crackdown on Internet freedoms by various governments

Medical:
Improvements in stem cell therapy
Breakthroughs in cancer research and treatments
Great progress in genome sequencing
Mobile fitness device market growing
Growth of Health Apps e.g. Diabetes UK for blood glucose, Healthsome for blood pressure
People becoming more actively involved in their own healthcare

Housing and living:
Passive housing becoming a growing market
Sustainable cities becoming more prevalent
Growth in use and application of Green Technology
Cities getting smarter as sensors connect transportation, health care, lighting e.g. sensors to help you find a parting spot, safety, security, earthquake detection

Technology:
Wearable devices will proliferate
Google Glass to be launched into mainstream
Apple iWatch coming this year
Ipads and tablets growing use in education globally
Improvements in battery technology e.g. mobile phones which can be recharged from flat in just 10 minutes and will stay charged for at least a week
More space travel and exploration
Robots being used for daily activities
3D printing becoming mainstream
Smarter devices for tracking where we are, what we are doing and how they can help us
More time travel experiments
Space explorations increase with research into other universes
New technology and social media helping people to find work e.g. Backr, Networking for Work which trains jobseekers how to use social media to find work
Using technology so that we can all find meaningful work

Weather:
Extreme patterns worldwide
More earthquakes than usual
Greater extremes of hot and cold
Flooding and water problems
Discovery of new lands emerging from the sea
Power outages
Necessity of survival kits and backup for power, food and water
Breakthroughs in our understanding of the sea

Spiritual:
An awakening of consciousness becoming more and more widespread
People connecting with their ‘tribes’
Movements of large numbers of people to safer places where they can be more self-sufficient and connect with like-minded people

Conclusion
During these tumultuous times of the Cardinal Climax we have a unique opportunity to bring about personal and global changes that will change our world for the better.
These difficult aspects can help to bring about much-needed changes as we cannot continue to destroy our planet as we have been doing. The trine between Jupiter, Neptune and Saturn is still in play, giving us a window of opportunity to create the kind of world where love and peace prevail.

Happy New Year!

5 Tips to Stay in Shape During the Festive Season

We all know how difficult it is to eat well and train at this time of year. Sometimes family and friends just don’t understand your fitness and nutrition goals and let’s face it, the short, cold and wet days are not very appealing and there’s an awful lot going on indoors to distract us!

To help you through the festive season holiday period, here are 5 great tips to help you to maintain some sort of form in the face of the many challenges that you are undoubtedly going to face:

1. Check your attitude. If you go into the holiday period thinking that you deserve to indulge a little (or a lot!) there is a real danger of blowing everything. Remember your goals for 2014 – whether they are weight-loss, fitness, wellness or sporting goals – and you will be less inclined to undo all of the good work that has brought you this far.

2. Make “trade-offs”. Whilst enjoying a balanced diet is the key to long-term health and fitness, there may be times when you are going to have to over-indulge. (Like when your partner’s Mum insists that you have extra helpings of her delicious home-made mince pies – with cream!) Those extra calories cannot be ignored; cut back elsewhere to make room for them. It doesn’t matter if you cut back in advance or address the surplus afterwards, but don’t ignore it!

3. Cut back on your training volume. If you don’t feel that you have the time to get out and train for an hour, do 45, 30 or even 20 minutes. Anything is nearly always better than nothing; and, while regular training becomes a good habit, not training can very quickly become a very bad one.

4. Increase your training intensity and train less often. If you can see that family and social commitments are going to make it impossible to train on certain days, enjoy the rest on those days and train harder on others. Go faster, go further or lift more.

5. Get support from your training partners and your most inspirational friends. You may all have different plans for the holidays, but you can support each other by phone and email. Before you go your separate ways, you could even promise each other that you will definitely make it for certain training sessions, whether you are going to train together or not.

A Quick-Start Incubator Model for Hybrid Math and Science Programs in Kentucky’s School Systems

Abstract

An educational program “incubator” is comparable to a business incubator in that it is a start-up program that may be implemented on a larger scale if it is deemed successful. “Success” may be measured by a number of parameters: the participating students’ standardized test scores, end of course exam scores, ACT/SAT scores, number of students meeting college acceptance criteria, and/or the general perception of the program within the school district/community. A more subjective measure of success, but no less important, is the sustained interest of students (with a focus on young women) in the sciences throughout their primary/middle/and high school years. It is this subjective measure of success that led to the development of this particular “incubator” model’s concepts and strategies.

Introduction

The “incubator” model that I present is not from the perspective of a life-long educator, but from the perspective of a career scientist, an application specialist, an operations manager, and a middle school/high school science teacher for only the past seven (7) years. I readily admit that I am not an expert on pedagogy. However, I believe I have mastered thinking out-of-the-box and applying those revelations to systems that may require a different approach to achieve mandated outcomes. I do not believe the system of education in Kentucky is broken, far from it; there are many great minds and passionate, dedicated people in all levels of Kentucky’s educational system. Nevertheless, I do believe that any company/industry/system that does not embrace an investment in research and development is destined to stagnate. As we have seen with the United States’ status in math & science education in comparison to say that of Finland’s, I believe an evaluation of alternative concepts is in order.

Target Audience

This three (3) year incubator targets a student population from 8th grade through 10th grade – providing accelerated online curriculum, college affiliated dual-credit coursework, water quality and biodiversity fieldwork, science-themed monthly public presentations, and student mentoring at local elementary schools. Students would have the option at the end of year three (3) to start taking college courses full-time in year four (4), having earned enough credits to graduate from high school. The other options available to students in Kentucky would be attending the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University, or returning to their home school and take AP level coursework plus electives (ideal for athletes with 2 years of eligibility remaining).

Student Selection Reasoning: The eighth grade student population selection is based on the following reasoning: in Kentucky, an eighth grade student’s science exposure is minimal at best. Since science is not tested in Kentucky’s middle schools at the eighth grade level, some middle schools do not offer science classes in order to double up on social studies which is tested in eighth grade. By incorporating these students into an incubator, it provides greater continuity for science students and a focus on retaining young women’s enthusiasm for the sciences.

Budget

The initial funding required for this incubator model is dependent upon the availability of resources: classroom access, classroom amenities (calculators, chairs, computer workstations, lab workstations, SMART Boards or tablets, tables, white boards), curriculum, laboratory supplies, teacher salaries, and transportation. If existing teachers are used to staff the model and a location for the program already exists then initial start-up cost may be 50-75K dollars. Annual costs, if just for resupply of used equipment and materials, are approximately 25k-40k per year.

Staffing

Full-time teaching positions: This incubator uses a POD concept. The POD concept is a middle school team model using four (4) Highly Qualified designated instructors (these are the strongest in Language Arts/Math/Science/Social Studies pedagogy and content knowledge available, regardless of certification (high school/middle school)). Project SCALE-UP is designed to support ninety (90) students within a classroom, in this model a cohort, therefore each of the four (4) facilitators will mentor fifteen (15) students per session during the school day.

Location

Location(s) for this incubator could be: an Alternative school campus, or one (or more) of the existing high schools. The selected location(s) should have sufficient space for two large classrooms with multiple electrical outlets and internet access (wireless or LAN). The classroom need to have multiple large-volume printer/scan/fax devices to support student work. One of the classrooms will be used for laboratory activities, so extra water/gas access points will be needed as well.

Transportation

Transportation to and from Incubator Site: Transportation of students will be defined by the decision for the location of the incubator site. If the site selected is on the campus of the district’s alternative school program(s) or a separate magnet school facility, then consider the transportation plan 1.

Transportation Plan 1: In the morning, students are taken to their home high school, where they are transferred to the incubator site in a second bus – arriving at the incubator site prior to the incubator school day starting time. In the afternoon, students will need to end their school day early, in order to catch the transfer bus back to their home high schools prior to the end of the normal high school day. Students will then take the normal bus route home from each high school. Depending on the number of high schools in the district, additional transportation costs will be the costs for running the transfers to and from each site. School day hours for the incubator site will need to be adjusted to allow transportation of students to and from their home high schools.

Incubator located within the High school locations: If the incubator site(s) are located in the existing high schools, then consider transportation plan 2.

Transportation Plan 2: Students will follow the normal transportation routes to their home high schools in the mornings and in the afternoon. There are no additional transportation costs and no changes to the hours for the incubator’s school day required in this model.

i. Program Transportation Needs

Depending upon the size of the school district, and the number of students included in the program, there are a number of options for program transportation.

Option 1 – Dedicated School Buses (Eminence Independent School District Model): The model employed by the Eminence Independent School District is ideal for a Project SCALE-UP design program with cohort sizes of up to 90 students. In this model, two (2) school buses equipped with A/C and WiFi capability are dedicated to transport program students to all activities during the school day; the buses are used in normal district transportation be- fore school and after school. This concept provides flexibility in transporting program students to field work activities, on-campus college courses, and student mentoring activities, with WiFi access for coursework and research during transportation and on-site. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the vision of the leaders in this district; the simplicity and versatility of their program is exemplary.

Option 2 – Using School Vans (Bullitt County Model): The model employed by Bullitt County’s Advanced Math and Science Program is ideal for cohort sizes of 24 or less students. School vans, in this case 8 passenger vans, where used to transport students to research sites, other schools for mentoring, and to local museums/college campuses for presentations. Use of vans requires that one or all of the instructor’s undergoes driver certification every two (2) years, and there is competition for the use of the van with fall/winter/spring sports and other school groups. If all 24 students where to attend an offsite program or event, then a school bus would be required.

ii. Other Considerations

School programs, student testing and extracurricular activities: It is necessary to plan to transport students to their home schools for events such as concerts, pep rallies, and state exams. This may be as simple as transporting the students one-way, either to home school from the program site or from the home school to the program site. School buses will be required for this transportation.

Sports/Band: Students who participate in sports and/or band require special consideration. It is extremely important that these students do not feel like they must decide between participation in the program vs. participation in sports or band. Although, these students may find as they continue in the program that academic success may be inversely proportional to participation in extracurricular activities. Participation in marching band will require some creativity in scheduling, however since most high achieving students participate in band, I would address that reality early.

Curriculum

Online Curriculum: My teaching experience in the disciplines on math and science have left one indelible impression, printed curriculum is the weakest link in our system of education. From that point in time which it is printed and then distributed to the classrooms, it is out of date. Our foundation of knowledge changes too rapidly during the three to five year textbook selection cycle for the curriculum to ever be relevant. Online curriculum, with yearly cycles of content review is the best option we have at this point.

I readily admit I am not an expert in textbook funding, so I apologize for any wrong assumptions in this treatise. However, I am expert at the scientific analysis of issues and implementation of solutions, so it is from this perspective that I present the following for your consideration:

Research into textbook adoption for the students in Kentucky, yielded the following information: The budget, according to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), for FY2015 textbooks is $21,700,00.00; the number of high school students in the public schools in KY is approximately 400,000 – this number works well in this incubator model. This yields approximately $54.25 per student for FY2015 available to purchase curriculum. Based on my experience and relationships with the online curriculum vendors (Apex Learning, Edgenuity primarily) at a volume of 400,000 licenses the $54.25 per license is very reasonable. I feel very comfortable that a contract could be negotiated without issue. Please keep in mind that online curriculum would be for ALL disciplines – not just math and science.

Flexibility for course selection is a topic that requires a mention in this discussion. I personally found that an online offering of languages (Spanish, German, French, etc.) offered without dedicated instructors to be difficult for students to master. A district may consider offering the language component to the college/university partner to facilitate; also increasing the number of languages available as well.

An additional positive for the implementation of online curriculum, an A.P. certified teacher may not be required to teach their A.P. level courses. This is very beneficial, especially during the program design stage, when addressing the needs of Gifted and Talented students.

A final point for consideration is this: as school districts invest in technology for student use (iPads, laptops, and such) is the use of online curriculum not the next logical step in the evolution of our classrooms?

Project SCALE-UP: Project SCALE-UP [1, 2], initially introduced by Dr. Robert J. Beichner (North Carolina State University) as “Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs” and now renamed as “Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs”[1, 2], is the foundational model for this incubator program. Utilizing a cafeteria-style classroom, round tables seating anywhere from 6-9 students, up to 10 tables per classroom, upwards of 90 students can be accommodated at one time. Project SCALE-UP introduces the use of tangibles, ponderables, and concept inventories in the classroom along with large classrooms (in square footage) that accommodate lab activities and classroom activities in the same physical space. Combined with the aforementioned POD teaching concept, a unique synthesis in hands-on learning plus online curriculum and facilitation by the teachers can occur, and be very successful. And, may be easily adapted to fit the facility, even within an existing space at a high school.

“Flipped Classrooms”: Isn’t this just a model of a “Flipped Classroom”? The short answer is “no”; an explanation is required however. The “flipped classroom” concept revolves around the implementation and use of online curriculum in a standard classroom, usually with a student population equipped with iPads or laptops. Project SCALE-UP and in-turn this incubator takes the “flipped classroom” to the next level by surrounding the students with purposeful, targeted activities that exponentially increase the rigor and inquiry-based learning opportunities.

Suggested Curriculum Themes: As a vocal critic of too many disciplines (Astronomy, Astrobiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, etc., etc., etc.), I continue to seek thematic units that require students to master the Liberal Arts (Language Arts +Mathematics + Sciences + Social Sciences) to successfully complete the unit. There are three (3) that I have used (I’m sure there are others), that I offer for your consideration: Astronomy (recognized as a super-science), Pond/Stream Water Quality & Biodiversity studies, and Sustainability. These three (3) thematic units may be used individually as the subject for one school year’s study; incorporated into public speaking opportunities, science fair concepts, student fieldwork, and student mentoring activities.

Concept Inventories, Ponderables, and Tangibles: How to implement each in the classroom, I remember their implementation sequence in alphabetical order.

Concept Inventories [3], alphabetically leads the list and should lead-off the school year as a pre-assessment (an inventory) of a student’s prior knowledge of common sense concepts and ideas. For example: why are there four (4) seasons? – draw the relationship between the Earth and Sun to support your answer. It is through the implementation of concept inventories and the data obtained that I chose to redesign my incubator to include 8th grade students. Do not fret, one does not need to reinvent the wheel, there are a multitude of research-based concept inventories that may be accessed on the Internet. Concept inventories are traditionally multiple-choice format.

Ponderables [1, 2], teachers may be familiar with the term bell ringers or openers, however these two “concepts” do not meet the rigor of a “ponderable”. A “ponderable” is a pencil and paper thought exercise for students, no guidance for a solution is given and the rigor of the question is such that student-research is required to complete the activity. The timeframe for a “ponderable” may be 10-15 minutes, it measures a student’s ability to research, conceptual knowledge, creativity, and organizational skills. I’ve had success in the past creating “ponderable” questions by taking “missed” questions from a concept inventory and deleting the multiple-choice answers. “Ponderables” are more subjective than objective measurements of student abilities.

Tangibles [1, 2], consider a “ponderable” that is not a pencil and paper tool but a measurement tool for a student’s hands-on abilities and understanding of concepts. For example: using a single sheet of notebook paper, fashion the tallest, free-standing object possible. “Tangibles” gauge a student’s creativity, and application of concepts to a hands-on activity.

Suggestions – Student Laboratory Activities: Think college-level and career-oriented activities. The implementation of online curriculum in the classroom, specifically the science disciplines, comes complete with a set of “dry lab activities”. These activities are useful for the most part, however given the amount of lab time available, these were the first thing I scrapped. I am a firm believer that for students to be successful in college labs and in careers where lab proficiency is a necessity, you can never start too early. When developing start-up and operating budgets for your program, this is not the area to be conservative or short-sighted. Consider the industries in your area, possible collaborations, college/university special- ties, and latest trends in employment. My suggestion – think biotechnology (electrophoresis/PCR/DNA analysis), think instrumental chemistry (gas chromatography/polarimetry/melting point apparatus), think electronics (circuit boards/programming), and think robotics. Select lab benches and tables that give you the most flexibility and bang-for-your-buck. Consider electricity, gas, and water requirements; safety needs; and ventilation requirements. If you have funds left over, purchase a high quality reflecting telescope, a remote data transmitting weather station for the roof of the school, and lots of plasticware and consumables for the labs. Consider purchasing pre-packaged lab activities to avoid storage of large volumes of solvents and acids/bases, and they have readymade student activity outlines. Do not forget to research activities at NASA to incorporate as lab exercises as well, especially in your Astronomy unit. I am an experimentalist at heart so this is my passion.

Student Fieldwork – Collaborations and Topics: Arguably, students take-in and retain more information and master more skillsets outside the classroom than inside. I find that I can teach more, across all disciplines, in the field – especially “observation”. And, if those skillsets are applied to a curriculum that captures their attention and imagination then it is a no-brainer. I can provide two examples that were a tremendous success for our program in Bullitt County; I am sure that these can be replicated elsewhere.

During year one of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Dr. Mark Woorms, Claude Stephens, and Andrew Berry ) in Clermont, KY. The students in our program performed biodiversity studies, GPS mapping, and water monitoring studies (pH, temperature, conductivity, BOD, fecal coliforms, flow rate analysis) on a multitude of streams and ponds throughout the forest. Student’s developed databases for the information interfaced with GPS mapping software, and presented their data to parent and professional groups in our area. Students monitored the streams and ponds Fall, Winter, and Spring – it was never too cold or too wet to discourage participation.

During year three of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with the Kentucky Science Center (Andrew Spence) to allow our students to present science topic demonstrations to visitors at the Center. Our first experience with the students was “DNA Day” at the Kentucky Science Center where students from our program facilitated electrophoresis analysis of “pseudo-DNA” for 900 elementary, middle, and high school students. The student attendees inoculated their own gels, followed the migration patterns in the electrophoresis baths, and then made an educated interpretation of the results. Our students enjoyed themselves more than the attendees.

Scheduling

Hybrid school week plus hybrid school year: I am truly an advocate for changing how we look at the school week and the school year; having the tools mentioned in this article just allows for implementation of the changes more efficiently.

Hybrid School Week: Is there an advantage to mirroring a college weekly schedule? A resounding “YES”. Students leave the comfort of their homes and the familiarity they have with high school classes and curriculum to participate in an alien and at times overwhelming environment called college. If students are not prepared, armed with the study and coping skills necessary to succeed – I believe we are setting them up for failure. I encourage you to design your incubator in such a fashion as to gradually push students outside their comfort zone while they still have the support structure around them.

For example: establish class schedules that are Monday-Thursday, Tuesday- Friday with Wednesdays open for labs, fieldwork, and study halls. Assign work on Mondays that is due the following Thursday; Tuesday’s work to be submit- ted the next Friday. And, most importantly keep an updated syllabus for every class online and do NOT accept late work unless due to an excused absence. For labs, prepare a lab exercise manual listing all the labs to be completed that semester requiring completion and preparation of lab reports in the appropriate, documented format. Prepare your lab stations prior to the start of the semester, allow students to organize their time and efforts to complete all labs by the established deadline. Hold the students accountable for the submission of their work on time. You are in the classroom to facilitate their success, not to spoon-feed them knowledge.

Hybrid School Calendar: The advantage to using an online curriculum is the ability to prepare a syllabus that implements year-round school scheduling. An instructor can use the summer months to reinforce student weaknesses: reading and writing techniques, study skills, and the preparation research papers. Instructors may also schedule refresher courses to keep students on top of their games prior to returning in the Fall, especially math skills. I am also an advocate for utilizing discussion boards and cloud technology for students to submit commentaries on books in the reading lists I assign for the summer. This keeps students from writing the dreaded book reports that they procrastinate writing and I wish to avoid grading. The discussion boards’ generate conversations that I can monitor and contribute to in real-time.

Conclusion

This article addresses just the tip of the iceberg when considering the establishment of an “incubator” for a hybrid education program in your district or within a single school. Without a tremendous initial capital outlay and using existing teaching resources, an “incubator” could be established within an existing high school to determine the viability of such a program with your student demographic. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of faculty selection; the teachers must be facilitators of knowledge not merely instructors. Having access to online curriculum does not minimize the role of the teacher in the classroom, it enhances it. And, finally, always remember “transparency” is critical in the success of your program incubator. Your administration, parents, students, and teachers must have input. And by soliciting input you can, in the best of all world, ensure that you have buy-in from all groups. Establishing ownership at all levels of the program contributes to the success.

References

[1] “Beichner, R., Saul, J., Abbott, D., Morse, J., Deardorff, D., Al- lain, R., Bonham, S., Dancy, M., and Risley, J. (2006). Student- Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Pro- grams (SCALE-UP) project. In E. F. Redish and P. J. Cooney (Eds.), PER-Based Reform in University Physics. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers

[2] “R. Beichner, and J. Saul, Introduction to the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) Project. In Invention and Impact: Building Excellence in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education, proceedings of a conference by the Am. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, April 2004, Washington DC, 2005.

[3] “Development and Validation of Instruments to Measure Learning of Expert-Like Thinking.” W. K. Adams & C. E. Wieman, 2010. International Journal of Science Education, 1-24. iFirst, doi:10.1080/09500693.2010.512369

Kelly Cleavinger, Eruditio-Demutare.com

April 25, 2014

How to Build a Home Gym and Why

Building a home fitness center might not be as hard as you thought. Fitness equipment and home gyms are not bulky and room filling as they once were. Sure you can purchase a gigantic home gym if you want too. You will spend a lot of money and probably not use it much. People tend to look at something large and associate that with a lot of work and loose interest. Now days you can by weight benches, dumbbells, and exercise balls and do a variety of different routines. A lot of fitness equipment folds up or lays down flat for easy storage. Some people say ” I need a trainer to show me how.” well if your one of these people then you should get a TV and DVD player. There are many fitness trainers out there that have their own DVD’s to show you how.

You might ask why build a home gym? Well there are several answers to that question. What if you drive to the health club, now days gas is double if not triple the price, depending on where you live. Lets say you drive 5 miles to get to health club and gas is $3.70 a gallon. Your car goes 28 miles on a gallon of gas. To go there and get back is 10 miles. That is almost 2 gallons of gas for a 5 day a week routine. That’s $7.40 a week on gas and $380.00 a year. Then you factor in memberships. Now each club is different but most charge a monthly membership. Usually around $40.00 a month depending on what you want. Well at that price it is around $480.00 a year. Just those two factors alone cost around $860.00 a year. If you go for a couple years you just spent $1720.00. Now don’t forget that that is just single person, families are even more.

People with families should really think about building a home fitness center or fitness room in their house. Think of the benefit of your children seeing and learning how to stay fit right along with you. Now it has become a whole family routine. There was an article in the local paper that said by the year 2014 over 80% of America will be obese. That is a scary thought. Our children need to learn how to stay fit and you can’t always do that in a health club. Sometimes it has to be under your own roof.

Another reason is time, probably the most important reason of all. Now days, time is everything, there just is not enough. If you could do your exercise routine before work or after work at home, without spending the time to drive there, would it not be worth it. For mothers especially it would be worth it. Imagine doing your exercises at anytime during the day at the drop of a hat. That is always a problem at the health club, because how many times have you had to wait in line just to do a little cardio or get on a weight bench. A home gym provides you the time you need to get your workout done and not wasting your cardio time.