Monday, 25 November 2013

Music training in childhood boosts the brain in adulthood

If you have to endure hours of squeaky tunes while your child practices their music, take heart. A new study has shown that even a little musical training in early childhood has a lasting, positive effect on how the brain processes sound.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

We cannot afford to get science education wrong

Kids need to know that curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Julien Behal/PA

Science gives young people the tools to understand the world around us and the ability to engage with contemporary and future issues, such as medical advances and climate change. That is why science should be taught to students up until the age of 16. However, Ofsted’s recent report on the state of school science reports worrying trends in the way science is being taught.

A particular worry is the status of practical science in our schools. Studying science without experiments is like studying literature without books. Experiments are an inherent part of science and are vital for further study and employment. They bring theory to life, nurturing pupils' natural curiosity, teaching them to ask questions and helping them to understand phenomena such as magnetism, acidity and cell division. Practical work gives them valuable skills and abilities, such as precise measurement and careful observation.

How to teach… music

Whether you are a non-specialist focussing on music for the festive season or an experienced music teacher, we have teaching resources and ideas to inspire.
From now until the end of term the singing isn't going to stop, these resources will help you make the best of music in school. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/Alamy

Like it or not, Christmas spirit comes early to schools – so this is the time of year when even non-specialist teachers find themselves devoting inordinate amount of times to music and festive singing.
We have some inspiring music teaching resources to share which will uplift non-specialists and experienced music teachers alike.
We start off with some excellent resources shared by Jackie Schneider, a teacher on a mission to help fellow primary teachers teach music. Find Jackie's useful presentation on teaching primary music as a non-specialist dealing with such desperate questions as: "But I'm not musical, how can I teach music?" There are lots of generous music teachers who like nothing better than to share if you know where to look: I need some help to teach music is a handy guide to online inspiration.

Science in Action Winner for 2013: Elif Bilgin

Elif Bilgin, winner of the 2013 Science in Action award, a $50,000 prize sponsored by Scientific American as part of the Google Science Fair. Credit: Elif Bilgin

“Genius,” Thomas Edison famously said, “is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” He would have found a kindred spirit in Elif Bilgin, 16, of Istanbul, Turkey, winner of the 2013 $50,000 Science in Action award, part of the third annual Google Science Fair. The award honors a project that can make a practical difference by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge; it should be innovative, easy to put into action and reproducible in other communities.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Coping with change: teaching adaptability will help kids grow

Moderating your behaviour, emotions and thinking in the face of change is not easy – but can it be taught? Emotion image from

Across a student’s lifetime, their world will change and change again. They’re likely to see industry reshaped, medical advancements, and huge changes to technology.

In their own life too, they will begin school, transition to further education or work, move out of home, begin or end relationships, maybe have children, and retire from work.

To navigate this ever-shifting world, young people will need to be adaptable. But is this something you can teach? And what kind of difference can being more adaptable make?

International Children's Day

Kenya, 2011 (Photo: Brett Hahn)

Since so often children of the world are taken advantage of, used for labor, malnourished, abused, impoverished, homeless, and voiceless, those who can must speak up for them. Children are the future of the world yet many of them are living in less than desirable conditions. How will you show your appreciation and support for children on November 20th, International Children’s Day?

All children have the following rights (

Saturday, 16 November 2013

90 Seconds of Tolerance and Respect

This Saturday - November 16 - is International Day for Tolerance, declared by UNESCO in 1995 to foster appreciation of the rich variety of cultures and ways of being human across the world. This clip was made by US high school students to mark the annual day in 2011, taking a stand against bullying - powerful stuff.

Beyond the Higgs boson: five reasons physics is still interesting

Only physics can burn a hole through the sky. European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Would physics be “far more interesting” if the Higgs boson had not been found? Stephen Hawking thinks so. He made this bold claim, possibly with his tongue slightly in his cheek, at the opening of a new exhibition at the Science Museum in London that celebrates particle physics.

With the boson in the can, the Nobel gongs handed out, and the particle collider where it was discovered offline for a two-year upgrade, why are we still doing physics? Here are five possible reasons:

Thursday, 14 November 2013

PEN American Center presents: A TRIBUTE TO C. P. CAVAFY

Theatrical Evening Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Influential Greek Poet’s Birth with Olympia Dukakis, Orhan Pamuk, Kathleen Turner, Michael Cunningham, Daniel Mendelsohn, and others .
Artwork by David Hockney Based On His 1961 Cavafy-Inspired Etchings

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Stephen Hawking: physics would be 'more interesting' if Higgs boson hadn't been found

World-famous cosmologist admits to losing bet as a result of particle's discovery.

Physics would have been "far more interesting" if scientists had been unable to find the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, according to Stephen Hawking.

The cosmologist was speaking at an event to mark the launch of a new exhibit about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the Science Museum in London and discussing the unanswered questions at the edges of modern physics as part of a history of his own work in the field.

Though the Higgs boson was predicted by theory in the early 1960s, not everyone believed it would be found. If it had not been, physicists would have had to go back to the drawing board and rethink many of their fundamental ideas about the nature of particles and forces – an exciting prospect for some scientists.

"Physics would be far more interesting if it had not been found," said Hawking. "A few weeks ago, Peter Higgs and François Englert shared the Nobel prize for their work on the boson and they richly deserved it.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

“Van Gogh Shadow” by Luca Agnani

This curious experiment by Luca Agnani adds movement and lighting effects to thirteen paintings by Vincent van Gogh. You can judge for yourself whether it’s an improvement on van Gogh’s originals.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Constantine Cavafy

Constantine Cavafy (as he wanted the family name to be spelled in English) was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1863.

The “Alexandrian” (as he is known in Greece) is one of the greatest Greek poets. However, at first, his work didn’t receive the recognition one would expect, mainly because his style was so much different from the – then – mainstream Greek poetry.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Disappearing lives: the world's threatened tribes – in pictures

Photographer Jimmy Nelson spent nearly three years visiting 31 remote and unique tribes and cultures around the world, witnessing their rituals and capturing their traditional dresses, jewellery, weapons and symbols in a series of beautiful portraits. His book, Before They Pass Away, is published by teNeus.
Maasai, Kenya and Tanzania: The semi-nomadic Maasai people of east Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the semi-arid and arid lands of the Great Rift Valley. The Maasai occupy a total land area of 160,000 km2, with a population between half a million and a million people. To be a Maasai is to be born into one of the world’s last great warrior cultures. From boyhood to adulthood, young Maasai begin to learn the responsibilities of being a man and a warrior. The Maasai are famous for their jumping dance (adumu), performed by the men of the village, who leap into the air to show their strength and stamina as tribal warriors. Photograph: Jimmy Nelson

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sensory stories: reading with five senses

Joanna Grace explains how sensory stories can boost learning and communication skills for all students, not just those with special educational needs.
Using sensory stimuli – such as touch – can enhance students' learning experiences. Photograph: Alamy
I first encountered sensory stories when I was a teacher at a school for students with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). They are stories told through a combination of text and sensory stimuli. For example, a drop of water can be trickled down a student's face to give meaning to a piece of text that talks about someone crying.

A Plea for Catholic Schools to Ignore New Guidelines


A group of Roman Catholic scholars has called on Catholic schools to ignore the new educational standards known as the Common Core, a set of guidelines on what students should know and be able to do from kindergarten through 12th grade, opening a front with parallels to the fight over using the guidelines in public schools.

In a letter to the nation’s bishops last month, the group, including more than 100 professors and university administrators, argued that the Common Core would actually lower standards, that it would move parochial schools away from their grounding in the church, and that its emphasis on increased nonfiction reading across many subjects would translate into less focus on literary and philosophical classics, and moral teaching.

With more than half of the nation’s dioceses saying that their schools will adopt curriculum informed by the Common Core, the critics asked bishops to repudiate the guidelines.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

How to teach … photography

The Guardian Teacher Network this week has all the resources you need to get your students taking great photographs.
Emily Drabble
Homelessness by Nancy Cofie, from Charter school in south London, last year's winner of the upper secondary and lower sixth-form category of the Amnesty Young Human Rights Photographer of the Year award. Photograph: Nancy Cofie

Students of all ages are fascinated by taking photos – and, now photography has gone digital, it is easy and cheap to get your students snapping. The Guardian Teacher Network has resources to help schools harness the potential of photography and use it as a really powerful cross-curricular tool.

Thanks to Photovoice, a participatory photography charity that runs projects in 23 countries, for sharing its resources. The charity was set up to provide people, especially young people, with a way of expressing themselves through photography.

A great start is Photovoice's introduction to composition, which introduces key concepts in composition of photos and will help students to make decisions about how they frame and represent subjects.

This photo treasure hunt is a simple and accessible way to introduce creative exploration of an environment or subject with digital photographs. This handout gives basic tips (known as the "Four Fs") and camera-care guidelines that will instantly allow all ages to take more successful photos on any model of digital camera, and most mobile phone cameras. Also check out this Four Fs video.

American Girls Hitting Puberty Earlier Than Ever

Image Credit: Lonny Garris / Shutterstock 

Sometimes it seems like today’s children are growing up faster than ever, and a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that American girls are indeed entering puberty earlier than ever before. The study also found a strong connection between female childhood obesity and the early onset of puberty.

“The impact of earlier maturation in girls has important clinical implications involving psychosocial and biologic outcomes,” said Dr. Frank Biro, author of the new study and a physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The current study suggests clinicians may need to redefine the ages for both early and late maturation in girls.”

Monday, 4 November 2013

Solar eclipse darkens sky over Africa

Port-Gentil, Gabon: Despite rain and overcast skies residents of southern Gabon got a glimpse of a total eclipse of the sun, a rare phenomenon also visible in eastern Africa.

"I saw a black disc progressively cover the sun. It's magnificent," said Clarence Diledou, who lives of the port town of Port-Gentil.

"But unfortunately the bad weather spoiled the party a bit."

The moon blocks the sun seconds before a total solar eclipse at the remote Sibiloi National Park on the shore of Lake Turkana. Photo: Reuters

The west African nation got peak viewing of the total eclipse as it swept over a path nearly 60km wide.

At its peak over land in central Gabon, the sun was blocked out for about a minute.
Weather permitting, partial phases of the eclipse were also visible in southern Europe and in the eastern United States.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Forget your jumper, this thermoelectric wristband can heat or cool your entire body

A wrist-mounted heat-sink reacts to ambient and skin temperatures, pumping out "thermal pulses" to maintain overall body temperature.

Heating and cooling buildings is an expensive business. Recent rises in energy prices in the UK mean that the average cost of keeping our homes warm is around £610 annually (up from £360 in 2008) whilst in the US they have the opposite problem with air conditioning accounting for a massive 16.5 per cent of the country’s entire energy bill.

A team of scientists and engineers from MIT have attempted to tackle this problem by asking one simple and radical question: what if we focus on the temperature of the individual instead of the temperature of the building?

Animal jokes

- What fish only swims at night?

- A starfish!

- Why did the chicken cross the road?

- To show everyone he wasn’t chicken.

- Why are cats good at video games?

- Because they have nine lives!

Health Check: does brain training make you smarter?

No one disputes that extensive training on a specific task will improve performance on that task. Paul Boxley

No one who has kept their head out of the sand over the past several years needs to be told “brain training” is a hot topic. And it’s big business too, with advocates using claims such as “personal training design by scientists” to market their wares.

Decades of studies in both laboratory animals and humans have demonstrated the capacity of the brain for some degree of plasticity. This can be extremely beneficial; after someone suffers a stroke, for instance, and has to relearn some basic abilities.

But is there any evidence that specific “brain training” can improve overall performance? Or is it all hype and hyperbole?
For many, not one.