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Affluenza, book recommendations for kids, puppies, cigarettes, The Big History Project, IF … and ambitious students

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor

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Have you heard about the teen who will serve no jail time despite killing four people in a recent drunk driving accident because his lawyers claimed he is a victim of “affluenza”? His attorneys argued that he was so coddled and spoiled that his parents never taught him right from wrong. He had a blood alcohol level of .24 – triple the legal driving limit for an adult – and was on Valium when he crashed his truck, injuring 11 people and killing four. While intelligent, he was estimated to have the emotional age of a 12-year-old.

I was surprised to learn that even the most rigorous computer science courses do not currently count toward core high school graduation requirements in California and neither the UCs nor CSUs count computer science as fulfilling a mathematics or science requirement. As of right now, 14 states do count computer science as a math or a science, and hopefully California will soon follow. http://tinyurl.com/lr6o94p

Need book ideas for kids of all ages? Check out Amazon’s list of the top 20 most popular books in each category for readers of all ages: baby-age 2 | ages 3-5 | ages 6-8 | ages 9-12. You can see the full list in best-selling order at http://tinyurl.com/k3uw8cb

Along the same lines, greatschools.org released its list of the all-time best book series for kids, by grade level. Some of its top picks: “Maya & Ruby,” “The Elephant & Piggie,” “Peter & The Starcatchers,” “The Babysitters Club” and “Artemis Fowl.” Read the complete list here: http://tinyurl.com/n46nu4q

Students at Marin Academy had a new way to combat the stress of exam week this year. Last week, puppies from the Milo Foundation came to MA during lunch. I heard from a Sonoma student that the school’s student body president, Ari Goldstein, promised in his election speech that he would bring puppies during finals week. I’m not sure anyone believed him but after he was elected, he made some calls and the foundation agreed to bring the puppies as part of its adoption outreach efforts.

If you are worried that your teen is smoking cigarettes, I recommend you show him or her the images at http://tobaccobody.fi/n_en.php. It is an absolutely horrifying high-tech, high-def look at how each part of your body is affected by cigarette smoking. I am still cringing.

Santa Rosa Junior College has announced $52,500 in new scholarships for full-time students. The $350 scholarships will cover costs of attending SRJC other than tuition (health fees, parking, etc.) In order to be eligible, new or returning students must be enrolled full-time between Dec. 16, 2013, and Jan. 11, 2014. Students can enroll for classes at santarosa.edu/app/admissions/apply-online/. To apply for the scholarship, visit santarosa.edu/newscholarship Jan. 13 through 17.

If you can’t get enough of all things education, there is a list of the best-selling education books of 2013. The top five: 1. “America the Beautiful,” by Ben C. Carson; 2. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman; 3. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” by Thomas C. Foster; 4. “How Children Succeed,” by Paul Tough; 5. “The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch. My favorite is Paul Tough’s book. http://tinyurl.com/kxh4cs3

An app I have written about here more than once, Duolingo, was just named Apple’s choice for App of the Year. Considering how many apps are out there, that is quite an honor. Duolingo is free, and offers fun language instruction and practice in six languages – Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and Portuguese. The app is like a game and it uses images and your smartphone’s microphone to help you learn words, recite them and write them out. Duolingo.com

A study has found that listening to music can interfere with short-term memory and can be a terrible idea for students doing homework or studying for tests. Students were tested recalling a series of numbers, while listening to different kinds of background music. Interestingly, it didn’t matter if the student loved or hated the music being played. edutopia.org/blog/dont-listen-music-while-studying-david-cutler

I can’t wait to try The Big History Project. Pulled together by a tech guy and a historian, this free online initiative aims to challenge the way history is traditionally taught. Formerly only available to educators, the free game is now open to the public (and it is backed by Microsoft and Bill Gates). There is also a companion TV series on the History Channel. The goal? To bring the full story of humanity to life via a game by viewing history not as a straight line, but as a complex, interconnected web. bighistoryproject.com

Which colleges produce the most ambitious students? Inc. Magazine was curious. Using data from personality tests to gauge ambition, it decided that students from the following colleges are the most ambitious: UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, U. Penn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, London School of Economics, Oxford, University College London and Boston University. Kudos to laid-back California for having three of the top 10 schools. You can read the details here: http://tinyurl.com/ndm4s4m

The Sonoma Valley Regional Library is offering a “create-your-own-bleach-effect T-shirt” program at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 27. Afterwards, teens are invited to continue meeting from 3 to 4 p.m. with the library’s new Teen Leadership Council. Teens will brainstorm ideas about future library programs aimed at their age group.

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, the flamenco dance group, Cachito de Flamenco, will perform at the Sonoma Valley Library. This performing group incorporates music, dancing and singing to create an exciting show that is both family-friendly and free.

“IF…,” is a very unusual new online game that asks kids ages 6 to 12 to employ empathy and social-emotional skills in a game setting (helping cats and dogs in tribes to get along). The game will be available as a free iPad app in January and you can sign up to receive it when it goes live. A lot of attention is paid to the academic development of children, IF … will focus on the 20 or so specific related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships and decision-making. Ifyoucan.org/exsel-stats

It has been great to see so many grads around town, home for the holidays. If you get a chance, ask them how they are liking college or their fledgling careers and let me know if you think someone would make a good profile piece.