Local middle school team encourages community to be #allweatheractive

On a Wednesday afternoon, seven middle schoolers are in a classroom at DeWitt Middle School using arts and crafts tools to create a set for their presentation, and creatively thinking about solutions to challenges their team leader gives them.

These students are members of the local Destination Imagination team, known as “The Flaming Fries”.

Destination Imagination is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage students to be innovative thinkers, through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Fine Arts and Mathematics) activities.

“We encourage the teams to use the creative process in their problem solving,” Abby Goldman, regional director of Central NY DI, said. “Once the team has decided on a solution and begins to work on it, they inevitably hit some stumbling blocks and have to figure out how to modify their plans and accommodate changes to their original plans.”

The idea of encouraging students to actively make choices, make mistakes and learn from them, is one of the reasons mom and team manager Lauren Loiacono decided to start up “The Flaming Fries”.

After learning about the organization at a local STEM night presentation from DI, Loiacono decided to ask around at Dewitt Middle School and Caroline Elementary to see if students would be interested in joining.

Currently the team is working on a service learning challenge for their regional showcase in which they are inspiring the community through social media to be “all weather active”.

Emma Loiacono, a sixth grader from Dewitt and member of “The Flaming Fries”, said the group came up with their idea after meeting with the mayor of Ithaca, Svante Myrick, and the superintendent of the school district, Dr. Luvelle Brown.

“We asked them about a problem a problem that was specific to Ithaca,” Loiacono said. “We decided that people are less active in the winter or when it’s rainy outside, so we met up with people from around the community and filmed videos with them being active.

Starting on February 22, the team has been posting these videos on their social media platforms, encouraging their followers to share videos of themselves using the #allweatheractive.

“It’s #allweatheractive because no matter what the weather is, you can find a way to move around,” Loiacono said.

Loiacono has the right idea according to President and CEO of the Medical Fitness Association, Bob Boone.

Any movement is beneficial, even just standing up from time to time is good for the circulation,” Boone said. “And, exercise should be fun, so whatever people like to do and video [like what The Flaming Fries have produced] should be a great motivator to others who watch it.”

“The Flaming Fries” aren’t the first to endeavor into using technology to encourage physical activity in people. Since the 1990s the MFA has been try to incorporate technology into their campaigns for exercise and Boone said recent technologies like FitBits and mobile phone pedometer apps are making it easier for people to be more conscious of their physical activity.

“The mobile technology now available has 2 primary motivation purposes in my opinion: The device provides instant feedback so the individual gets immediate reinforcement,” he said. “Many of the devices also allow what once many people saw as mundane exercise to be gamified… We have found this to be highly motivational as well as these types of activity add fun to the otherwise routine activities of exercise – particularly in the winter months.”

After the regional showcase in March, the team will advance to a state competition in April and potentially make another appearance at the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee.

What about a gap year?

Here at Ithaca College, we are at the double-digit countdown to graduation which basically means seniors like myself are currently applying for “real-life” jobs while also questioning every choice they’ve made over the past four years.

After a fantastic, eye-opening experience studying abroad in Fall 2014, I’m often left to question whether or not I should have taken a gap year between high school and college so I could have made these revelations a little sooner.

Gap years have recently become all the rage, with data from the American Gap Association suggesting that there has been an intense increase in interest in the past 4 years. So what are they, and are they actually beneficial to one’s future?

History of the Gap Year

A gap year, according to Gap360, originated in post-WWII Britain as a theory gave in to the belief that “giving young people the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures, there would be a greater chance at achieving world peace as new generations gained understanding of each other cultures and ways of life.”

The site also says gap years are reminiscent of “Grand Tours,” or year long trips the young bourgeois used to take before beginning their careers.

The Debate of the Gap Year

Signet Education, a tutoring and academic consultation organization, hosts a pro/con list on their website of whether or not you should go on a gap year.

While many worry that their will lose their motivation to go back to school after a year off of academics and worrying that they won’t have peers their age, the site insists taking a gap year will give a student time to mature and self-reflect.

A contributing writer for Forbes magazine writes also how a student can explain a gap year to their future employers: “Potential employers may view it as a vacation, so put thought into how it’s described in your resume and CV.”

On the other hand, Randye Hoder, writer for TIME, highly advises high school seniors to take a gap year. And Hoder writes that more colleges and universities are supporting the idea of the gap year:

“a handful of colleges—Princeton and the University of North Carolina, among them—offer scholarships and fellowships to incoming freshmen who take a gap year. Harvard has long encouraged the practice. And in February, Tufts University launched its 1+4 bridge program, which, starting in fall 2015, will offer gap-year opportunities for national and international service regardless of a student’s ability to pay.”

So should you take a gap year?

I think it’s all about personal choice in this respect, but being fully aware of all of your options after high school never hurts.

Education ’16: The issue not talked about

As the campaigns for the presidential elections continue, education has been one of the least discussed topics that the candidates have been debating.

In the middle of January 2016, Slate featured the article, “Why Don’t the Presidential Candidates Want to Talk About Education?”. In the article, journalist and education blogger Laura Moser, writes education seems to be at the bottom of all candidates’ agendas.

Moser goes on in the article to quote research published in  Ed Week surrounding the noticeable absence. Rick Hess, the researcher, found that education has continually dropped as a issue in importance to the voters: “Overall, in just six of the 21 surveys did even 5% of respondents name education as the nation’s top problem…Since May … it’s been seventh or lower in 14 of 16 polls. Of the eight polls conducted after Labor Day, it ranked tenth or lower six times.”

Since the issue is not talked about often in the media or by the candidates themselves, this is a compilation of the general thoughts and policies each running candidate has on education:

Hillary Clinton (D): Clinton has, since her 2008 election run, been in favor of universal pre-k, higher teacher salaries and the lowering of tuition costs for colleges and universities. Her views on public schools versus charter schools has been called into question, as she recently changed her opinions of them.

Bernie Sanders (D/I): This candidate has proposed for the federal government to spend more on state grants in order to allow public universities to cut their fees.

Jeb Bush (R): Bush seems to be a proponent for giving control of education back to states and local districts. He published an editorial in January that discussed his view on education.

Ben Carson (R): Carson believes in local power being given back to school districts, as well as “school choice”. He also has said that the payment for higher education should be of higher responsibility.

Ted Cruz (R): Since 2014, Cruz has been a supporter of school choice.

John Kasich (R): In his action plan, Kasich wrote that he wants to reduce the power of the Department of Education, as well as its size. Kasich, also an advocate for local control and school choice, supports performance-based pay systems for teachers.

Marco Rubio (R): Rubio supports the decrease in funds that go towards the Department of Education. He also wants to fight the strategies behind the Common Core and adopt free online courses for college students.

Donald Trump (R): Another supporter of local control in education, Trump has been quoted calling for the end of the Common Core curriculum.

This information was gathered from multiples sites including: Medill On the Hill, Ballotpedia, and each candidates respective websites. 

IC alum Aaron Edwards: Journalism Careers

On Monday afternoon, Aaron Edwards, skyped into our Mobile and Social Media Journalism class at the Park School to talk about our major, and to give us a clue of what we have to look forward to in our careers.

The mobile editor for Buzzfeed News, Edwards is someone who knows where journalism and where it is going in the near future, and for future graduates like me, his words were bible.

  1. Find a niche.
  2. Always be the first to raise your hand.
  3. Don’t be afraid to move on in your career.
  4. Have some personality in your social media.
  5. Have fun.

Each token of advice that he offered he could back up in his own actions.

  1. Edwards, a double major in journalism and theatre while at Ithaca College, is known for his interest in the arts and entertainment.
  2. He has always offered to help others’ with their work projects or to test out a new idea.
  3. For having graduated in 2012, Edwards has made big steps in his career, trying out new opportunities whenever they arise. He was a James Reston Reporting Fellow for the New York Times, a national news producer for Digital First Media, an associate editor for Breaking News and is currently the editor for mobile news at Buzzfeed.
  4. If you go on to Edwards’ Twitter profile, what you will see is a mix of Beyonce memes and lyrics, news updates and fun jokes. Though he contended that to perhaps keep it more professional until you have a career, Edwards said it is quite plausible to have some personality online for your followers.
  5. Finally, something Edwards said in his final minutes with the class was we as journalists need to understand that there is a balance of fun, more feature-y items and hard-hitting news. We, as journalists, don’t have to choose being professional all the time or being taken as a joke, we can be individuals in our careers.

I hope this words will guide me and inspire me as I continue to look for a career in the social media world, because all serious, all the time would lead me to wanting a different career.

Common Core changes in NYS

Earlier this month, the New York State Education Department announced they would be reviewing and changing the state tests following a statement of need from teachers’ unions in the state.

The New York State United Teachers told the state the test was too long, too stressful and many students, with their parents permissions, were opting out of taking the tests all together. In fact, the NYSED said in 2014 almost 20 percent of third through eighth grade students in the state opted out of the test-taking.

What is the Common Core?

The Common Core tests were developed in 2009 by 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, and were made with the goal of creating a set standard of education across the nation. The standards were published and adopted by 42 of the participating states in the summer of 2010, and have since risen to mixed reviews across the board.

The Mixed Reviews

The group Parents for Public Schools released a pro/con chart on the Common Core that pinpointed the biggest issues many have with the standards. In their chart, the group counts a pro  as professional development for teachers becoming the same across the board because they will be teaching for the same standards, but list the expensive implementation of the program as the biggest con for most school districts.

Pauline Hawkins, a former English teacher, and blogger for The Huffington Post, published an article in 2014 that discussed her reasons for exiting the teaching profession. Her resignation letter, which gained her national attention said,

“I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems,

help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common

Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our

teachers and stress and anxiety to our students…”

This sentiment has been the biggest criticism of education standards in the country. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development describes the phrase “teaching to the test” as preparing solely for the standardized test instead of including the items of test into the curriculum.

In an editorial from the L.A. Times, a reporter suggests in order for the “teaching to the test” education to end, the Common Core needs to put less of an emphasis on test scores as a measure of success.