<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Southern California News - [NATL] Supporting Our Schools Supply Donations Drive]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/localen-usTue, 16 Jan 2018 09:50:16 -0800Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:50:16 -0800NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[How to Donate School Supplies to Local Boys & Girls Club]]>Fri, 28 Jul 2017 13:09:30 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/supporting-our-schools-640x424.jpg

NBC4 Southern California and Telemundo 52 are teaming up with the Los Angeles County Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs to launch Supporting Our Schools, a campaign aimed at providing school supplies to more than 100,000 youth in need before they embark on a new school year.

Click Here to Donate

From July 17 through July 29, join the effort and donate school supplies to your local Boys & Girls Club. Supplies received will support every child across more than 20 participating clubs throughout the region.

To find the nearest Club accepting supplies, see the map below or click here for a larger version of the map. To make a financial donation, visit www.greatfuturesla.org/support-our-schools.

"Every year, teachers pay for classroom supplies their students will need out of their own pocket while students and their families weigh the costs of paying for school supplies and other household financial needs," said Valarie Staab, President, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

To help address these needs, our NBC and Telemundo stations are hosting 'Supporting our Schools,' a month-long awareness campaign to help raise awareness about classroom needs and what communities can do to help local educators and school-bound children. Education is the key that unlocks the doors to endless opportunities and I’m proud that our local teams are stepping up to the plate to help their neighbors and strengthen their communities."

On Saturday, July 29 starting at 7 a.m. visit the Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena to donate school supplies and meet NBC4 Today in LA Reporter Annette Arreola, NBC4 Sports Anchor and Reporter Mario Solis, a Boys & Girls Club alumnus, as well as anchors from Telemundo 52 Los Angeles.

Boys & Girls Clubs assist youth ages 6 to 18 by providing after school resources and programs to help them prepare for college and reach their full potential.

Sean Myers/KNBC-TV

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[School Fundraisers Reach New Heights, But Inequality Remains]]>Thu, 27 Jul 2017 11:28:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/weirdstuff.jpg

Four tickets to a Yankee game. Golf for a dozen in the oceanside resort of Westhampton, New York, cocktails included. Even Lasik eye surgery.

All were prizes for Public School 116’s Spring Benefit Auction in May. Fundraising for the New York City elementary school has come a long way from bake sales and car washes.

The school’s PTA, through all of its efforts, contributed $243,000 to school supplies, programs and activities for the 2016 school year, and has an additional $88,000 to spend. But even that is pocket money compared to the $1 million or more routinely taken in by a cluster of public schools in Manhattan’s pricier neighborhoods.

Schools across the country use donations to pay for everything from musical instruments to computers, money officials say is needed given cuts in state and local funding. Rich and not-so-rich parents eager to ensure their children lack for nothing fill in the gaps.

“A lot of parents are very happy to help,” said Falu Shah, the vice president of external fundraising for P.S. 116’s PTA. “Everybody — at least for the final fundraiser, the auction -- a lot of parents who are not regularly in PTA — get involved. We want to encourage parents to do that because you don’t have to come regularly but at least for this one thing where our school depends on your funding.”

But what about schools in poorer neighborhoods where parents cannot afford such luxuries? What kind of divide is created when they cannot match their counterparts’ fundraising abilities?

“Schools can’t depend on handouts, whether it’s handouts from private foundations or from parents, to make up the shortfalls in what public funding is required to provide them,” said Jessica Wolff, the policy director at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City. It is unfair, inequitable and, in New York, unconstitutional, she said.

Wolff said that as much as she applauded parents who wanted to support their children’s schools, they were put in a terrible position when public funding falls short of what is needed even for such basics as paper and cleaning supplies.

A study from Indiana University in 2014 found that the number of nonprofits founded to benefit schools more than tripled between 1995 and 2010, from 3,475 to 11,453. The amount they raised quadrupled, from $197 million to $880 million, according to the study by Beth Gazley, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, an associate professor at the school. 

Rob Reich, a political science and education professor at Stanford University, said that private fundraising by parents, while well meaning, only exacerbates inequalities. Wealthy districts already spend more per pupil in public dollars, and the problem worsens when philanthropic dollars are added, he said.

He looked at dollars raised by schools in the San Francisco Bay area in 2013, comparing such wealthy communities as Menlo Park and Palo Alto with Oakland and San Jose, and found enormous differences in the amount contributed per pupil. Data showed parents in Oakland and San Francisco districts were able to raise less than $100 per child. By contrast, Menlo Park asked parents for $1,500 per child; Palo Alto, $800 per child; and the school foundation in tony Hillsborough, California, $2,300.

“So even though you’re supporting the public schools and in that respect your own kid in the public schools, you’re magnifying the existing funding inequalities between Palo Alto and Oakland,” said Reich, who wrote about the private fund raising in a New York Times op-ed in 2013.

Tax incentives for charitable donations ought to put weight on assistance to the disadvantaged, he said. Instead, charitable giving by wealthy parents not only lowers the taxes the donor has to pay but also cuts into tax revenues that would have been distributed equally to rich and poor schools.

He gave these possible solutions: Don’t treat donations to wealthy schools as a charitable contribution under the tax code or double the incentive to give to a school that primarily serves children who receive free- or reduced-priced lunches.

But the support has limits and others question how much impact donations can really have compared to public education funding on the whole. All charitable giving, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to a local PTA, contributed only about $2 billion to public schools each year, said Jay P. Greene, a professor of education and political science at the University of Arkansas.

That’s “buckets into the sea” compared to the $600 billion the United States spends on K-12 education each year, he said.

Because of the scale, private philanthropy cannot change public education with money alone, he said. Nor do foundations have enough political power to sustain changes over time if parents and others do not support them, he said. But foundations can change public policy if they leverage their money — convincing a state to adopt a law allowing charter schools, for example.

“They can help create a policy but then others have to benefit from that policy, become constituents and advocate for that policy on their own, independent of the foundation,” Greene said. “If that doesn’t happen, whatever policy change they attempt will die because it won’t have the enduring political support it needs to survive.”

Gazley and others note that even if public money dwarfs donations overall, the differences in private fund raising can matter to individual schools.

“When you view it case by case it is a problem because it makes people in those communities feel unequal in terms of the way is raised and also possibly get unequal services,” she said.

Some experts argue that there is not enough information about private money to show that it works to the advantage of rich schools. Corporations and organizations such as the Gates Foundation could even out inequalities by giving more to poor schools.

Wolff isn't convinced by the argument. 

“That doesn’t ring true to me at all,” she said.

Wolff agreed that there was too little accountability for private funding of schools, and that poor schools got federal money that wealthier schools did not. But none of the private donations are enough to make up for what is not being provided in public funding, she said.

Meanwhile, at P.S. 116, a school in the Kips Bay neighborhood on the East Side of Manhattan, parents are paying for professional development for the faculty, enrichment programs for the children and books and materials for all of the classrooms. 

Shah said she had never felt pressure to donate. 

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Our principal, Jane Hsu, is absolutely fantastic. She has never asked us once. We do it because we want to support the school.”

The most recent data on the school provided by the New York City Department of Education shows that 92 percent of parents thought their children's instruction was rigorous. Sixty-six percent of students meet New York state standards on the state's English test; 58 percent on the math test. The pass rate of the school's former fifth-graders in their sixth-grade math, English, social studies and science classes is 95 percent.  

Kips Bay has long been popular with young New Yorkers who work at the United Nations and the major hospitals on First Avenue but more families are moving in. 

Shah said that the moment parents get involved with the PTA, they start thinking about ways to raise money, Shah said. Everyone comes together to help in any way they can, she said.

“Because our school is superb,” she said. “P.S. 116 is just out of this box. The teachers are so amazing. Even the teachers donate.”

<![CDATA[Rapper Common Surprises Students at NY School, Donates Money]]>Mon, 24 Jul 2017 06:52:54 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_17201549067087-common.jpg

Oscar and Grammy winner Common surprised a group of New York students by donating $10,000 to help their teachers buy supplies like calculators and science kits.

The rapper-actor partnered with the nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org and Burlington Stores to give Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem the funds on Thursday. Students cheered loudly after they learned the musician was at their school.

Common was on-site with his mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, an educator and member of the Chicago Board of Education. She said she remembered spending her own money to buy essential materials for her classroom.

Common encouraged the students to keep their grades up and to persevere — in school and in life.

Burlington has been raising money from its 599 stores to help other schools, asking customers to donate $1 or more.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Some Look to VR for the Future of Classroom Learning]]>Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:42:33 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/VR-classroom.jpg

Instead of reading about cell biology, or even watching a very cool video on cell biology, imagine you could shrink down small enough to go inside a cell and observe biochemical reactions up close.

And what if you could use your own hands to smash molecules together, just to see what happens?

That’s what Connor Smith envisions when he considers the future of classroom learning. Using virtual reality technology to improve education is something the University of California, San Diego senior thinks about a lot, in fact, and he’s already created a VR application that replicates the inside of the human body.

"I’ve never seen kids so interested in cell biology in my life as when they tried out Cell VR," Smith said. He cites this as one example of how "VR can really get people passionate" about learning, without realizing they're learning.

"It’s kind of like 'Magic School Bus'-esque: It can take you and make you smaller; it can take you across time," Smith said.

But virtual reality has yet to go mainstream. It’s still a wild west of tech: an environment where anything is possible. The issue facing educators interested in bringing VR tech to their classrooms, though, isn't whether it's possible, but whether it's feasible. Although mobile VR only requires a headset — Google’s Cardboard headset costs as little as $15 — and a smartphone, those costs can still be the limiting factor for classrooms on tight budgets.

And as Kevin Krewett writes in a July Forbes article, another crucial factor keeping VR from ubiquity is that smartphones are not optimized to run “continuous, graphics-intensive” VR applications. Even for the early-adopter gamer set, Krewett says, issues like a lack of an established social community around VR and even motion sickness have helped keep the tech near the fringes.

Those obstacles aren’t keeping innovative developers from trying, though. In addition to Cell VR, Smith also designed an application that replicates a high school chemistry lab.

Replacing a real-world lab with a virtual version, he said, has the potential to cut down on both the risks and the expense of maintaining a functional chemistry lab used by hundreds of students.

In the team's virtual lab, a student can move around just as she would in any real-life chem lab. But the student can’t scald herself. She won’t break an expensive beaker. She won’t cause a devastating explosion if she mixes the wrong amounts of the wrong chemicals.

"Chem lab activities are very kinesthetic activities. Students are involved in the lab; they’re learning by doing, and that’s fantastic. But it’s expensive, and sometimes intimidating," Smith said.

Learning within a particular place or context helps students not only find solutions to problems at hand, but to develop new ways of thinking, said Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington.

"You remember cognitively very differently when you’re in the situation, directly experiencing something," Popovic said.

Smith is part of a UCSD virtual reality club, which has visited local schools to demonstrate the tech to middle and high school students.

Dr. Susan Domanico teaches high school science courses at La Jolla Country Day School, a private school in San Diego, and her students' interest in potential applications of VR technology prompted her to invite Smith and other members of UCSD's Virtual Club to put on a classroom demo.

"As I've learned more about VR over the course of this year, I see it fitting in different ways in different classes," Domanico says. She thinks it would work as a great supplementary learning tool in her neuroscience and biology classes, helping students "grasp many of the complex concepts we explore in biology."

Access is still an obstacle for getting VR into classrooms; virtual reality headsets like the Oculus or the Google Cardboard require the use of smartphones. As Popovic points out, "most affluent kids get phones in middle school, but for the majority of the student population, it's pretty much a luxury. It's not going to happen if everyone doesn't have access to the tech."

The tech may be cost prohibitive at this point; then again, for many public schools, so are new textbooks, Bunsen burners and field trips to working farms or planetariums or national monuments.

Zachary Korth has taken classroom VR at least one step further: He had his Portland, Oregon, middle school engineering and computer science students come up with and build virtual reality applications, including one that recreated the inside of their school building. The application, the students reasoned, would be useful for a new student, who could use it before their first day to learn how to navigate unfamiliar surroundings.

Korth said he bought the six Cardboard headsets his class used with his own money, and he loaned his smartphone to students who didn't have their own to use in class.

Still, he and his students faced technological roadblocks in trying to bring their ideas to full fruition.

"Some of the trouble, the reason why some of these didn't come to fruition, was because of the lack of technology," Korth said. "I will say that in my school, we had a lot of technology — it just didn't have the right technology."

Korth explained that his school was equipped with tablets, but for students to build functional VR worlds they'd need PCs with certain amounts of memory and processing speeds.

"We tapped into an interest of theirs that could have gone so many places. It just didn't, because we didn't have the technology available," he said.

Smith thinks there's more to schools' hesitancy in adopting the tech than just the cost.

"Even if a school would get just a single VR system students could use, long-term that would be much cheaper than a science lab, for example," he said. "But right now it’s still very much in that early adopter phase."

That's why he feels it is important for he and his fellow VR developers and enthusiasts to visit classrooms to give students, and teachers, the chance to become familiar with the technology.

"I don’t think it’s something that is going to 'disrupt' the classroom," Smith said.

He thinks it's likely VR will continue to supplement students' more traditional textbook- or tablet-based learning. In fact, he envisions textbooks coming with supplemental VR applications, written by the same authors, so students can combine two- and three-dimensional learning.

"Three-dimensional learning is just what we do in real life," he said. "We pick things up with our hands. And we look at them."

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Make a Small Contribution to Help Underserved Students]]>Mon, 24 Jul 2017 17:26:29 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Make_a_Small_Contribution_to_Helps_Underserved_Students.jpg

KNBC has partnered with the Los Angeles County Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs to raise community donations of school supplies and cash. Annette Arreola reports for the NBC4 News at 5 on Monday, July 24, 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[NBC4, Telemundo 52 Team Up to Support Our Schools]]>Mon, 24 Jul 2017 17:33:03 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Supporting+Our+School+Logo+2017_IAAV.jpg

To 10-year-old Shirley Freeman, the Boys & Girls Club is more than an after-school program, it's a second home.

Freeman is spending her fifth summer at the club in Monterey Park and is heavily immersed in its STEM Program. For Freeman and many other students who frequent Boys & Girls Clubs across Southern California, the program allows them access to support and extra resources that their public schools may not provide.

"We serve a lot of underrepresented minorities, so they don't get this type of teaching or get to use these type of projects," said Priscilla Alfaro, a club alumna who now heads the STEM program.

And with a new partnership, the Boys & Girls Club may soon have more to give to underserved students. 

NBC4 and Telemundo 52 are now teaming up with the Los Angeles County Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs to collect school supplies for kids.

Beginning on July 17, the public can make a donation of popular school supplies at participating Boys & Girls Clubs across more than 20 locations.

The public may also make a financial contribution to provide much-needed supplies to underserved youth.

The LA County Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs relies on donations. The staff puts in work year-round to keep its grants afloat, its corporate sponsorships intact and the community involved.

It all falls in line with a mission of keeping kids active engaged and interested by providing them with a safe place to learn.

Whether cash or supplies, the club uses whatever is donated to "pay it forward."

"We don't want the parent to stress out about having to give them a backpack for back-to-school or school supplies," Alfaro said.

The Supporting Our Schools initiative is a national effort led by the NBC and Telemundo-owned stations located in 20 markets across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, that seeks to raise awareness about classroom needs and what communities can do to help students.

For more information visit NBCLA.com/SupportingOurSchools or Telemundo52.com/ApoyandoANuestrasEscuelas.

<![CDATA['Back to School' Sales Starting Early Summer for Retailers]]>Mon, 17 Jul 2017 15:36:00 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_schooldaze07172017_1500x845.jpg

Forget buying your children's school supplies in late August - retailers like Wal-Mart are starting sales in late June and early July this summer.]]>
<![CDATA[NBC4 is Supporting Our Schools]]>Mon, 17 Jul 2017 07:40:27 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/KNBC_SOS.JPG

NBC4 and Telemundo 52 are joining forces with the Boys & Girls Club to help students get the back to school supplies they need to succeed.]]>
<![CDATA[Retro School Supplies You Used to Use in Class]]>Mon, 17 Jul 2017 02:35:32 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Scented_Markers.jpgJust like calculus and art theory, there are some things you probably don't bring with you once school ends. Take a trip back to school with these retro supplies you might've once begged mom or dad to buy.

Photo Credit: Newell Brands]]>
<![CDATA[NBC4, Telemundo52 Partner to Support Schools]]>Mon, 17 Jul 2017 21:34:07 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/KNBC_SOS.JPG

More than 100,000 kids will be better prepared for school this fall through a partnership with the Los Angeles County Alliance for Boys and Girls Clubs. Michael Brownlee reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, July 17, 2017.]]>
<![CDATA[How Ongoing 'Toxic Stress' Can Affect a Child's Brain]]>Wed, 12 Jul 2017 04:06:22 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_17192441853371-Toxic-Stress.jpg

A quiet, unsmiling little girl with big brown eyes crawls inside a carpeted cubicle, hugs a stuffed teddy bear tight, and turns her head away from the noisy classroom.

The safe spaces, quiet times and breathing exercises for her and the other preschoolers at the Verner Center for Early Learning are designed to help kids cope with intense stress so they can learn. But experts hope there's an even bigger benefit — protecting young bodies and brains from stress so persistent that it becomes toxic.

It's no secret that growing up in tough circumstances can be hard on kids and lead to behavior and learning problems. But researchers are discovering something different. Many believe that ongoing stress during early childhood — from grinding poverty, neglect, parents' substance abuse and other adversity — can smolder beneath the skin, harming kids' brains and other body systems. And research suggests that can lead to some of the major causes of death and disease in adulthood, including heart attacks and diabetes.

"The damage that happens to kids from the infectious disease of toxic stress is as severe as the damage from meningitis or polio or pertussis," says Dr. Tina Hahn, a pediatrician in rural Caro, Michigan. She says her No. 1 goal as a physician is to prevent toxic stress. Hahn routinely questions families about stresses at home, educates them about the risks and helps them find ways to manage.

Mounting research on potential biological dangers of toxic stress is prompting a new public health approach to identifying and treating the effects of poverty, neglect, abuse and other adversity. While some in the medical community dispute that research, pediatricians, mental health specialists, educators and community leaders are increasingly adopting what is called "trauma-informed" care.

The approach starts with the premise that extreme stress or trauma can cause brain changes that may interfere with learning, explain troubling behavior, and endanger health. The goal is to identify affected children and families and provide services to treat or prevent continued stress. This can include parenting classes, addiction treatment for parents, school and police-based programs and psychotherapy.

Many preschoolers who mental health specialist Laura Martin works with at the Verner Center have been in and out of foster homes or they live with parents struggling to make ends meet or dealing with drug and alcohol problems, depression or domestic violence.

They come to school in "fight or flight" mode, unfocused and withdrawn or aggressive, sometimes kicking and screaming at their classmates. Instead of adding to that stress with aggressive discipline, the goal is to take stress away.

"We know that if they don't feel safe then they can't learn," Martin said. By creating a safe space, one goal of programs like Verner's is to make kids' bodies more resilient to biological damage from toxic stress, she said.

Many of these kids "never know what's going to come next" at home. But at school, square cards taped at kids' eye level remind them in words and pictures that lunch is followed by quiet time, then a snack, then hand-washing and a nap. Breathing exercises have kids roar like a lion or hiss like a snake to calm them. A peace table helps angry kids work out conflicts with their classmates.

The brain and disease-fighting immune system are not fully formed at birth and are potentially vulnerable to damage from childhood adversity, recent studies have shown. The first three years are thought to be the most critical, and children lacking nurturing parents or other close relatives to help them cope with adversity are most at risk.

Under normal stress situations — for a young child that could be getting a shot or hearing a loud thunderstorm — the stress response kicks in, briefly raising heart rate and levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. When stress is severe and ongoing, those levels may remain elevated, putting kids in a persistent "fight or flight" mode, said Harvard University neuroscientist Charles Nelson.

Recent studies suggest that kind of stress changes the body's metabolism and contributes to internal inflammation, which can raise risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. In 2015, Brown University researchers reported finding elevated levels of inflammatory markers in saliva of children who had experienced abuse or other adversity.

Experiments in animals and humans also suggest persistent stress may alter brain structure in regions affecting emotions and regulating behavior. Nelson and others have done imaging studies showing these regions are smaller than usual in severely traumatized children.

Nelson's research on neglected children in Romanian orphanages suggests that early intervention might reverse damage from toxic stress. Orphans sent to live with nurturing foster families before age 2 had imaging scans several years later showing their brains looked similar to those of kids who were never institutionalized. By contrast, children sent to foster care at later ages had less gray matter and their brains looked more like those of children still in orphanages.

Toxic stress is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a distinct mental condition that can result from an extremely traumatic event, including combat, violence or sexual abuse. Experts say it can occur in adults and children who live with persistent toxic stress, including children in war-torn countries, urban kids who've been shot or live in violence-plagued neighborhoods, and those who have been physically or sexually abused.

The toxic stress theory has become mainstream, but there are skeptics, including Tulane University psychiatrist Dr. Michael Scheeringa, an expert in childhood PTSD. Scheeringa says studies supporting the idea are weak, based mostly on observations, without evidence of how the brain looked before the trauma.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the theory and in 2012 issued recommendations urging pediatricians to educate parents and the public about the long-term consequences of toxic stress and to push for new policies and treatments to prevent it or reduce its effects.

In a 2016 policy noting a link between poverty and toxic stress, the academy urged pediatricians to routinely screen families for poverty and to help those affected find food pantries, homeless shelters and other resources.

"The science of how poverty actually gets under kids' skin and impacts a child has really been exploding," said Dr. Benard Dreyer, a former president of the academy.

Some pediatricians and schools routinely screen children and families for toxic stress, but it is not universal, said John Fairbank, co-director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. "That's certainly an aspiration. It would be a big step forward," said Fairbank, a Duke University psychiatry professor.

Much of the recent interest stems from landmark U.S. government-led research published in 1998 called the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. It found that adults exposed to neglect, poverty, violence, substance abuse, parents' mental illness and other domestic dysfunction were more likely than others to have heart problems, diabetes, depression and asthma.

A follow-up 2009 study found that adults with six or more adverse childhood experiences died nearly 20 years earlier than those with none.

Some children seem resistant to effects from toxic stress. Harvard's Nelson works with a research network based at Harvard's Center on the Developing Child that is seeking to find telltale biomarkers in kids who are affected — in saliva, blood or hair —that could perhaps be targets for drugs or other treatment to prevent or reduce stress-related damage.

That research is promising but results are likely years off, says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the center's director.

Alvin and Natalie Clarke brought their young grandchildren into their Cass City, Michigan home after their parents jailed on drug charges. The 6-year-old grandson hits, yells, breaks toys, misbehaves in school. His 4-year-old sister used to have nightmares and recoil in fear when her baby doll was left alone on the floor — signs her therapists say suggest memories of neglect.

The Clarkes had never heard the term "toxic stress" when they were granted guardianship in 2015. Now it's a frequent topic in a support group they've formed for other grandparent-guardians.

Their grandson's therapists say he has PTSD and behavior problems likely stemming from toxic stress. Around strangers he's sometimes quiet and polite but the Clarkes say he has frequent tantrums at home and school and threatens his sister. He gets frightened at night and worries people are coming to hurt him, Natalie Clarke said.

Weekly sessions with a trauma-focused therapist have led to small improvements in the boy. The Clarkes say he needs more help but that treatment is costly and his school isn't equipped to offer it.

The little girl has flourished with help from Early Head Start behavior specialists who have worked with her and the Clarkes at home and school.

"Thank God she doesn't remember much of it," Natalie Clarke said. "She's a happy, loving little girl now."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chuck Burton]]>
<![CDATA[10 Tools to Use in Your School Garden]]>Thu, 06 Jul 2017 05:22:02 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AdobeStock_142992771.jpgWhether you’re just breaking new ground on a school garden or are a seasoned pro looking to spend more class time outside, here are 10 tools that will help turn your garden into a fully equipped outdoor classroom.

Photo Credit: ewapee - stock.adobe.com]]>
<![CDATA[Revealed: The Best High School-Themed Movie Ever]]>Fri, 28 Jul 2017 08:50:57 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/highschoolmovies.jpg

After weeks of voting we have a winner. 

"Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...and an athlete...and a basket case...a princess...and a criminal.Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club."

One John Hughes classic "The Breakfast Club" defeated another Hughes classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to be crowned the best high school-themed film of all-time. (Or at least among those who voted.) 

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Schools Reviewing Meal-Debt Policies That Humiliate Kids]]>Wed, 05 Jul 2017 04:25:43 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/armus-school-lunch.jpg

Teaching assistant Kelvin Holt watched as a preschool student fell to the back of a cafeteria line during breakfast in Killeen, Texas, as if trying to hide.

"The cash register woman says to this 4-year-old girl, verbatim, 'You have no money,'" said Holt, describing the incident last year. A milk carton was taken away, and the girl's food was dumped in the trash. "She did not protest, other than to walk away in tears."

Holt has joined a chorus of outrage against lunchroom practices that can humiliate children as public school districts across the United States rethink how they cope with unpaid student lunch debts.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is requiring districts to adopt policies this month for addressing meal debts and to inform parents at the start of the academic year.

The agency is not specifically barring most of the embarrassing tactics, such as serving cheap sandwiches in place of hot meals or sending students home with conspicuous debt reminders, such as hand stamps. But it is encouraging schools to work more closely with parents to address delinquent accounts and ensure children don't go hungry.

"Rather than a hand stamp on a kid to say, 'I need lunch money,' send an email or a text message to the parent," said Tina Namian, who oversees the federal agency's school meals policy branch.

Meanwhile, some states are taking matters into their own hands, with New Mexico this year becoming the first to outlaw school meal shaming and several others weighing similar laws.

Free and reduced-price meals funded by the Agriculture Department's National School Lunch Program shield the nation's poorest children from so-called lunch shaming. Kids can eat for free if a family of four earns less than about $32,000 a year or at a discount if earnings are under $45,000.

It's households with slightly higher incomes that are more likely to struggle, experts on poverty and nutrition say.

Children often bear the brunt of unpaid meal accounts. A 2014 federal report found 39 percent of districts nationwide hand out cheap alternative meals with no nutritional requirements and up to 6 percent refuse to serve students with no money.

The debate over debts and child nutrition has spilled into state legislatures and reached Capitol Hill, as child advocacy groups question whether schools should be allowed to single out, in any way, a child whose family has not paid for meals.

"There's no limit to the bad behavior a school can have. They just have to put it in writing," said Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an advocacy group on poverty issues. "We live in a credit society. I think schools should handle debt like everybody else does: You don't take away food from children. You feed them and you settle the bill later."

Spurred by Appleseed and others, New Mexico in April passed its anti-meal-shaming law, which directs schools to work directly with parents to address payments and requires that children get a healthy, balanced meal regardless of whether debts are paid on time.

Elsewhere, the California Senate in May unanimously approved a bill that prevents schools from denying lunch if a parent or guardian has not paid.

Thresa Thomas, a Los Angeles Unified School District food service worker for students with severe physical and learning disabilities, grinds up complimentary cheese sandwiches in a food processor to serve through feeding tubes to students who don't bring lunch and whose parents have not paid.

"They're not able to complain too much," she said. "We should give them all the same food, and we should collect the money as much as possible."

Texas recently adopted a temporary grace period for students to keep eating cafeteria food while debt payments are negotiated with parents.

At the federal level, language has been proposed for next year's House appropriations bill that would set minimum standards to protect children from public embarrassment and leave them out of payment discussions.

New Mexico's Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights Act was ushered through the Statehouse by Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla, who was raised in foster homes and vividly recalls having to sweep and mop the lunchroom to earn meals at an Albuquerque public school.

"It's shouldn't be that way," Padilla said. "This should not have to be a thought for a child."

Federal cash subsidies feed two out of three students statewide — yet meals still go unpaid, school administrators say.

"The piece that is really different in this legislation is that you cannot turn a child away no matter what they owe," said Nancy Cathey, who oversees food services at Las Cruces Public Schools.

That provision is likely to drive up the district's unpaid meal accounts, which recently totaled $8,000, she said. The district previously declined to serve high school students who cannot pay and extended a $25 credit to middle-schoolers.

Most districts aim to keep meal costs close to $3.20, the typical federal reimbursement rate for free lunches.

The Albuquerque district is still weighing whether it can afford to serve the same hot meal to all students and do away with an alternative cold meal that has been nicknamed derisively the "cheese sandwich of shame."

Sian McCullough of Albuquerque said her stepdaughter was confronted in first grade with an alternative brown-bag lunch when their meal account went unpaid.

"The intent was, 'We do this because the kids will go home embarrassed and send the money,'" she said. "It just didn't sit well with me."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Mary Esch/AP Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Go Behind Celebrities' Ceremonial School Donation Checks]]>Thu, 13 Jul 2017 05:27:08 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000006463357.JPG

In May, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made headlines for donating $70,000 to support women’s athletics at six school districts across New England, including Boston’s.

At a ceremony commemorating the gift, Gronkowski doled out autographs and selfies to a crowd of female athletes gathered around him. “Give it up for our ladies right here,” he said, turning toward the cheering students.

Donating to public schools can be a great opportunity for celebrities to give back — while attracting positive publicity — but the process often requires more than simply cashing a check.

For Boston Public Schools, the novelty oversized check they received from the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation was merely ceremonial, since what was donated did not actually come in the form of cash.

“The portion of the donation designated for the Boston Public Schools is a product donation that will go toward the purchase of sports gear for female BPS athletes,” BPS Communications Director Richard Weir said in a statement.

While it’s not unusual for celebrities to center their charitable organizations around the causes that matter to them, it’s becoming more common for them to try and cater donations toward the needs of a particular school or district.

It can come publicly, as with Chance the Rapper's $1 million donation to Chicago Public Schools (matched by the Chicago Bulls), or more discreetly, like Nicki Minaj quietly sending funds to educate children in a small Indian village.

In some cases, schools must comply with the benefactor’s wishes in order to receive a donation, and even in situations where the school has a greater say in how the money is used, there are usually guidelines it must follow in order to prove the funds are being well spent.

“Most grants do come with terms and conditions and a written grant agreement,” said Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Donors “want to make sure that they have a legal, binding agreement in place so that if something goes wrong or it goes off the rails they can attempt to get the money back, or at least argue that they did everything they could to try and make sure that the money was used appropriately.”

That kind of agreement was important when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave a $40 million grant to Pittsburgh Public Schools in 2009.

Before the district was chosen, officials had to prepare an extensive proposal outlining how they would use the funds to improve teacher effectiveness. And once the grant was secured, the foundation maintained a great deal of oversight.

“Twice a year the district and the union would come together with the foundation,” said Tara Tucci, the district’s director of performance and management. “We would talk about any changes of course that might need to happen and communicate together about how the implementation was going.”

Disagreements between the teachers union and district officials in 2014 delayed the creation of improved criteria for evaluating teachers, which was one of the requirements for receiving the grant.

In response, the Gates Foundation issued a statement urging those involved to come to a resolution, leaving payments in jeopardy. Eventually the union and district obliged.

Among other things, the money has been used to create a bonus program that rewards outstanding teachers and established paid “career ladder” positions that allow instructors to take on leadership roles similar to those of an administrator while remaining in the classroom.

“It’s enabled us to create a culture where we’re providing feedback and there’s a continuous kind of growth and improvement,” Tucci said.

Another major donation to schools that hit some bumps in the road is the $100 million Mark Zuckerberg gave to Newark Public Schools in 2010.

Announced on “Oprah” and meant to transform the district, the donation came with no strings attached. But much of the money was squandered on unions and consultants, according to a 2015 book, “The Prize,” which chronicled the donation's implementation and found it left a mixed legacy.

The district’s superintendent, Chris Cerf, wrote an op-ed reviewing the book that said it was balanced, “shining a light on the maddening intractability of much that needs fixing in urban education” but also that it “caused some philanthropists to question additional investments in public education.”

Dorfman said mishaps like these are not unusual when dealing with public figures: “Celebrity philanthropy is less strategic, less thoughtful, more likely to be deployed improperly.”

One common mistake he’s seen among celebrity foundations — like the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, which did not return requests for comment — is “hiring family or friends to run their organizations.” In Dorfman’s eyes, hiring people with expertise in the field is crucial to success.

For those looking to circumvent the common roadblocks associated with philanthropy, crowdfunding websites like DonorsChoose.org have become a popular tool. DonorsChoose has raised a total of $548,504,503 and funded 927,733 projects since it was started in 2004, according to the website.

On DonorsChoose, educators can post grant requests for specific projects. When one is fulfilled, DonorsChoose uses the money to purchase the requested materials and send them to the schools.

“There’s no exchange of cash and the teachers don’t have the burden of going out and having to buy everything,” said Chris Pearsall, vice president for brand and communication at DonorsChoose.

(Disclosure: DonorsChoose.org is a partner in NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations’ Supporting Our Schools campaign.)

The site allowed Laura Simon, the STEM coordinator for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in Southern California, to take school supply matters into her own hands — and she likes that.

“I’m marketing myself and saying what we need and why we need it,” said Simon, who received a grant from actress Gwyneth Paltrow last year that enabled her to buy iPads.

She never met Paltrow, whose donation came as part of #BestSchoolDay, an annual day of giving in which celebrities and executives flash-fund pending projects in the state or district of their choice.

The idea came after Stephen Colbert, who is on the DonorsChoose Board of Directors, auctioned off his set from “The Colbert Report” and used some of the funds to pay for every project in his home state, South Carolina. Other participants have included Serena Williams, Ashton Kutcher, Elon Musk and Anna Kendrick.

“You can choose based on what’s important to you, what you believe in,” Kendrick told Colbert in a 2016 interview on “The Late Show.”

Dorfman said that crowdfunding sites like DonorsChoose can be helpful to those interested in supporting a cause because they have “the advantage of being very easy and open and accessible, [allowing] lots of small-dollar donors to get behind things that they care about."

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Famous People You Didn't Know Used to Be Teachers]]>Wed, 12 Jul 2017 05:48:48 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/BlurTeachersCeleb.jpgHave you ever had a really great teacher that you still remember years after you've graduated?
Well, some of these former teachers are extra-unforgettable — they're famous! Former President Barack Obama, actor Jesse Williams and writer J.K. Rowling used to spend their days educating young minds.
Check out more of these famous people who used to be teachers. Did you know about everyone on this list?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rihanna Urges World Leaders to #FundEducation]]>Tue, 27 Jun 2017 03:03:17 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rihanna20.jpg

Rihanna is known for calling people out on social media, but this time she’s doing it for a good cause.

Over the past week, the singer has been tweeting world leaders urging them to “#FundEducation” as part of her work with the Global Partnership for Education.

So far Rihanna has tweeted at French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Argentine president Mauricio Macri, and the press secretary for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Her goal is to get heads of state to commit $3.1 billion dollars to help educate children in developing nations.

The push comes ahead of the annual G20 summit, a meeting of the 20 major world economies. The forum will take place July 7-8, in Hamburg, Germany.

Rihanna also urged her fans to join her in reaching out to the G20 members. 

This is not the first time Rihanna has done philanthropic work for education. Last year, after being appointed as global ambassador to champion education for the Global Partnership for Education, she visited Malawi to help teach math and fundraise. She also started a scholarship to help international students coming to the United States for college.

Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[The Cost of School Supplies Is Rising, Fast: Survey]]>Fri, 30 Jun 2017 13:12:16 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/Generic-kids.jpg

The cost of raising a child has decreased slightly, but it's a different story for their school supplies. They've gotten steadily more expensive since 2007.

In the last decade, the price of supplies and extracurricular activities increased by 88 percent for elementary school students, 81 percent for middle school students and 68 percent for high school students, according to the latest Huntington Backpack Index, an annual survey of the cost of school supplies and other expenses compiled by The Huntington National Bank and school support nonprofit Communities in Schools.

For over ten years, the index tracks the costs of required classroom supplies and school fees that parents have to pay, in an effort to show that public school costs more than just what's assessed in taxes. It's one of the few figures that tracks the cost of school supplies.

(Disclosure: Communities in Schools is a partner of NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations' Supporting Our Schools campaign.)

The Backpack Index was just shy of $1,500 for high schoolers last year, the most recent year available. It was $1,001 for middle schoolers and $662 for elementary schoolers.

Meanwhile, raising a single child in the United States was projected to set parents back between between $12,350 and $13,900 annually, between food, housing, education and more. That figure is lower by several hundred dollars than two years before, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture "Cost of Raising a Child" reports.

Every school year, teachers send out a list of school supplies and fees that will cover the student for the year. Between 2007 and 2017, prices for school supplies rose by an estimated $10, according to the index. If a high school student plays more than one sport, that'll incur up to $375 in fees, an 87.5 percent leap from 2015.

One of every five school-age children was living below the federal poverty line in 2014, nearly 11 million children in all, according to U.S. Department of Education data. Many of the students struggle with the cost of basic school supplies, let alone the cost for school sports, clubs or activities.

"We designed the Backpack Index as a basket of goods," said George Mokrzan, director of economics for Huntington Bank in a press release. "As we assess the cost annually for the same supplies and fees, we see significant outpacing of inflation. While families can shop around and minimize the burden of buying supplies leveraging discount retailers, brands and personal networks, extracurricular fees for activities like sports and band come at a set price."

Huntington annually reviews classroom-supply lists from cross section of schools from eight states and the costs of the supplies are determined by selecting moderately priced items at online retailers.

“We need to be sure that every child in America comes to school equipped for success,” said Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities In Schools, in a press release. “But many students struggle with the cost of basic school supplies, let alone the cost for school sports, clubs or activities. That’s why we bring existing community resources inside schools to make sure that no student starts out behind on the very first day of school.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Olympians Remember Their Favorite School Supplies]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2017 19:20:51 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/SCHOOL+SUPPLIES+THUMB.jpg

For the "Supporting Our Schools" school supplies and donations drive, we asked Olympians to tell us about their favorite back-to-school items.]]>
<![CDATA[Classroom Gadgets: Supplies Go From Old School to High Tech]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2017 12:26:27 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/armus-smartboard.jpg

The days of notebooks, chalkboards and flour sack babies in schools across the country may be ending. Many of today’s schools are incorporating Chromebooks, Smart Boards, and even high-tech infant simulators that are taking the classroom into a highly digitized 21st century.

As tablets, laptops and apps have taken hold with consumers in recent years, they have also gained a steady following within schools, said Ellen Meier, a professor at Teachers’ College at Columbia University.

One influential addition in many classrooms is the Chromebook, a low-cost, simplified laptop, loaded with Google apps like an internet browser and word processor, that can work offline. Last year, Chromebooks made up 5.4 million of the devices sold for U.S. classrooms, or just under half of the total, according to the Associated Press.

Chicago Public Schools has spent about $33.5 million to provide Chromebooks for more than a third of its 381,000 students, The New York Times Magazine reported. “In less than 10 seconds, a student can grab a Chromebook and be off and running,” Rajen Sheth, who oversees Google’s Chromebook business, told the magazine.

With these basic laptops or tablets like iPads, schools can create virtual classroom hubs that let students view assignments, submit homework and talk to teachers online on platforms like Moodle and Blackboard.

Meier, who directs Columbia’s Center for Technology and School Change, said that schools are facing a growing impetus to make sure that more students have experience using keyboards because tests are increasingly being administered online.

Cassettes or CDs in foreign language classes, meanwhile, are getting competition from interactive language lessons apps like DuoLingo. It's being used by tens of thousands of students, according to the company.

“More and more technology is being used in classrooms for practicing math and reading skills,” Eric Cayton, vice president of merchandising at Staples, said in an email. “In order to do this work independently, headphones now often appear on [back-to-school] shopping lists for students in elementary school.”

But the digital revolution in the classroom isn’t just tied to the arrival of laptops and tablets. High-tech reinventions of traditional school supplies are starting to make older models obsolete.

The same way that classic chalkboards were phased out in favor of dry-erase boards in the late 1990s, the Smart Board — an interactive whiteboard/projector combo — is now the board of choice in many classrooms. Texas Instruments, meanwhile, has kept its monopoly on calculators with the TI-Nspire, a modern version of the company’s bulky devices from the 80s and 90s.

More than three million classrooms now use Smart Boards, whose latest model of touch TVs can hook up to Chromebooks, according to a Smart Board representative.

Benjamin Glazer, an editor at consumer shopping website DealNews, said he predicts that many traditional items on back-to-school lists may also receive a digital update soon.

“There’s a strong possibility you might see things like smart binders or smart notebooks where you can access calendars and schedules from a touch screen inside the notebook,” he said.

But what’s often more important than the technology itself is how it ends up being used in the classroom, researchers say.

“The Smart Boards have become well-known for replacing blackboards, but they have so many things that we often don’t prepare our teachers to do,” Meier said. “There’s going to be an ongoing parade of new devices, but devices are not the answer in terms of how we can use these tools for more thoughtful teaching and learning.”

In any case, the most basic supplies — like paper, pencils and erasers — won’t be going away anytime soon.

“Every year, we see massive price loads on those items,” Glazer said. “Retailers continue to treat them as doorbuster deals that will bring in customers.”

Photo Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[NBC4 Southern California and Telemundo 52 Team Up for 'Supporting Our Schools']]>Wed, 05 Jul 2017 15:26:55 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Supporting+Our+Schools+Map.jpg

NBC4 Southern California and Telemundo 52 are teaming up with the Los Angeles County Alliance for Boys & Girls Clubs to launch Supporting Our Schools, a campaign aimed at providing school supplies to more than 100,000 youth in need before they embark on a new school year.

Photo Credit: NBCUniversal ]]>
<![CDATA[School Librarians Embrace Technology — If the Budget Allows]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2017 19:54:08 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/burlesonfeuerherd.JPG

In a profession most readily associated with the printed word, school librarians have embraced what may seem like an unlikely tool.

Librarians in public schools across the country are mixing new technologies like iPads and the internet with old to teach their students fundamental skills, while also preparing them for the digital age. But their progress is threatened by a familiar problem in education: funding.

“Librarians are really embracing technology and integrating tech tools into their teaching in very meaningful and effective ways. The issue for school librarians is budget,” said Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor of the publication School Library Journal.

Librarians in schools that have robust support have seized the opportunity.

Todd Burleson, the school librarian at Hubbard Woods Elementary School in suburban Winnetka, Illinois, is running with technological innovation. In his library, technology isn't just used to consume information on a screen, it's used to create it, he said.

On an average day, his elementary school students may be producing their first book on an iPad, complete with self-shot photos, digitally-produced drawings and audio tracking. Or they may be using a green-screen iPad app to layer-separate animated sequences to produce videos.

But Burleson hasn’t shelved the hardcover books.

Children’s books offer stories that are written specifically for their reading level, something a Google search does not do.

“Books are one of the most valuable pieces of information that we can get,” he said.

Navigating this mix of technology and traditional media – “books and bytes,” as Burleson calls it – is, for him, why school librarians are so essential in the 21st century, and other school library advocates agree.

“Just because the children have that device in their hand, or have access to that essential information, does not mean they can find it efficiently and evaluate once they’ve found it,” said Audrey Church, president of the American Association of School Librarians. “I think we need librarians in schools now more than ever because of that teacher role they play in the area of information literacy and digital literacy.”

It’s now part of librarians’ jobs to teach students to be effective users of technology. This includes showing them how to identify appropriate online sources, condensing search results — even sniffing out fake news.

But training kids in new technology is not possible if the funds are not there.

In many cases, sheer cost puts libraries on the chopping block, said Christie Kaaland, a school library advocate and director of the library education program at Antioch University.

“A library is expensive. Print material is expensive. Technology is expensive,” Kaaland said.

Library funding is not equal across the United States. Certain states require a certified librarian to be on staff at every public school. Others do not.

In wealthier districts, librarians can rely on parent-teacher organizations to provide funds. In others, librarians often rely on grants to supplement the money budgeted for the purpose.

In some districts, tightening funds simply means fewer school libraries and certified librarians on staff.

In New York City, the largest school district in the country, the number of school libraries more than halved from 2005 to 2014, from 1,500 to about 700. In Philadelphia, another of the largest districts in the country, just eight full-time librarians are employed. 

Librarian and advocate Tracey Wong saw the effects of funding cuts firsthand at public elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods of the Bronx, New York.

Wong’s first librarian job at P.S. 63 in the Bronx evaporated when her principal pulled funding and shut down the school’s library, she said.

After that, she went to work at another low-income public school in the Bronx, where she secured just under $1 million in about three years through private grants. With the funds, she brought in laptops, computers, iPads, a smartboard, and transformed the once-decrepit library into a bustling media center.

The new tools paid off: One of her students won an academic contest and was selected as one of five kids in the country to meet billionaire businessman Warren Buffet. Another won $500 in a separate contest and was taken to City Hall to meet the mayor of New York.

But despite her successes, Wong’s library eventually went the way of P.S. 63.

“A new principal came on board,” Wong said. “So by my third year being a librarian, she decided to shut down the library and was going to make me a fifth grade teacher.”

Instead, Wong left the New York City school system to work as a librarian in neighboring Westchester County.

Wong’s experience, while disheartening, came as no surprise, she said.

From the time she was studying to become a certified librarian, Wong was told to expect job loss and funding cuts.

The reality made Wong an advocate for libraries from the start. She secured grants to fund technology for her schools; lobbied principals to reopen libraries that had been shut; and now tracks her professional experiences on her website and frequently writes about how educators can secure grants for their schools.

“Advocacy is something you have to work on early, it’s the most important part of your job,” Wong recalled being told while earning her degree. “If you don’t start to do it, you’re going to realize you should’ve been doing it, and by that time it’s going to be too late because they’re always cutting jobs.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Todd Burleson]]>
<![CDATA[As School Gardens Grow, So Do the Students Who Tend Them]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2017 13:03:06 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/IMG_03194.JPG

For Rebecca Lemos-Otero, the founder of a nonprofit that creates school gardens, plots of vegetables and flowers don't only offer new ways to teach science or math. And give kids opportunities to be outside and moving about. And show them that their neighborhoods can be green and beautiful.

School gardens also leave some students with a taste for much-maligned kale and other fruits and vegetables they've grown themselves, Lemos-Otero said.

"The expectation that kale is part of your meal, versus this exotic food that it felt like 10 years ago, it's amazing," Lemos-Otero said.

Some organizations gather school supplies like notebooks, pens and backpacks, but her organization, City Blossoms, works directly with a dozen schools, mostly in Washington D.C., to supply them with gardens and keep them going year after year.

The goal for the 10-year-old organization is to make gardening routine for the students, not a special event. Older students sell their produce at farmers markets or to their teachers in school-based community supported agriculture subscriptions.

"They become more comfortable with expecting to try different foods. They become much more comfortable with exploring the food that's put in front of them, especially if they have something to do with the preparation or the growing of it," Lemos-Otero said.

Edna Chirico of the nonprofit Real School Gardens said she has seen a similar change.

"It is amazing," she said. "If they grow it, if they take care of it, if someone shows them how to cook it, the students eat it 100 percent of the time."

Some of the gardens are quite elaborate.

Real School Gardens works with schools to develop deluxe gardens, which they call outdoor classrooms. In a three-year process, teachers, students and community members can submit design ideas for the space, which include things like whiteboards, student seating areas that are shaded from sun or protected from rain, a shed full of school supplies.

Those features are intended to eliminate the possibility that a teacher might say, "Well, we were going to go outside for class today, BUT..."

"Beyond just going outside and having fun, it's about learning. Every piece of that space is intentional and has a reason for being there," said April Martin, the group's Mid-Atlantic regional director.

Real School Gardens has partnered with schools across the country for these large-scale projects, which are available only to low-income schools that apply for the program and meet qualifying criteria. It also services schools that already have garden spaces or standing beds on their campuses but want to learn more about how to integrate garden projects into learning across subjects.

School gardens remain popular, despite all of the criticism of former first lady Michelle Obama's push for healthy school lunches and claims from school cafeterias of millions of dollars in food being discarding because students refused to eat. There were more than 7,000 across the country in 2015, according to a census done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The federal government — which built a "School Garden Army" during World War I and backed victory gardens at schools in World War II — encourages gardens through grants, guidance and support for food purchased from them, according to the USDA.

Today, City Blossoms and Real School Gardens are just two of many nonprofits working to get gardens up and running, in schools and elsewhere. Parents and others can contribute to the organizations or in some cases volunteer in the gardens. Groups also seek donations of plants and other supplies.

Even if the garden programs do not address school lunches directly, as Real School Gardens says, by transforming the outdoors into a space for structured open-air learning, students are able to spend more time outside, with dirt and earthworms, kale and potatoes, and to see how fresh foods grow.

That's important for children who know little about agriculture, especially those who live in cities. (Or adults for that matter: A recent survey by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy found that seven percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.)

"We really want them to be able to connect with where their food comes from," said Jenny Schrum, director of youth programming at City Green, which works with 80 schools in New Jersey.

"There's many children who did not know that vegetables come from the ground, so it's very eye-opening," she said.

One thing that school gardens aren't necessarily doing is growing food that students, well, eat. Which is understandable, given various practical restraints like how much and what can be grown on a particular plot. Even a fairly large school garden couldn't provide food on the mini-industrial scale necessary to feed hundreds of kids daily.

But some schools are trying to get a taste of what they've grown into the schools.

The 14 schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, that are partnered with Real School Gardens all focus on the same "big six" vegetables: broccoli, carrots, peas, cabbage, spinach and cauliflower — plus, a bonus seventh vegetable, the sweet potato. Having students grow the same foods that they see on their lunch trays, even if not the produce from their gardens, gives them the chance to make connections between food production and food consumption, the group says.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of City Blossoms]]>
<![CDATA[How Crayola Crayons Are Made]]>Sun, 25 Jun 2017 19:25:42 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DIT+CRAYOLA+CRAYONS+THUMB.jpg

Ever wondered how Crayola Crayons are made? We go through the entire process and share some surprising facts about how many crayons are made every year.]]>
<![CDATA[Back to Basics: Cost of Essential School Supplies and Fees]]>Mon, 26 Jun 2017 05:53:24 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/thumbnail-123454321.jpgFrom basic schools supplies to extracurricular activities, sending your child back to school can put serious financial strain on your family’s budget, even if you’re careful to look for sales and discounts. Take a look at the average cost of items your child will need when heading back to school, from cheapest to most expensive, based on 2015 and 2016 data compiled by The Huntington National Bank and nonprofit Communities in Schools.]]><![CDATA[From 'Potter' to 'Twilight,' 15 Years of Kids' Bestsellers]]>Mon, 26 Jun 2017 07:19:58 -0800https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-51550352.jpgChildren's literature is full of all kinds of stories, packed with wizards and vampires, adventure and love. Which ones topped the charts? Check out the best-selling kids' books of the last 15 years.

Photo Credit: RACHEL GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images]]>