Monday, April 07, 2014

Enter the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge by April 22, 2014

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge
It's been a while since I posted a look-back post, but this one is especially fun, at least for me. Back on March 31, 2011, I posted about a fun science competition for kids, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a cool competition in which a child in grades 5-8 can win $25,000, a cool trip, and the title of America's Top Young Scientist.

Today, I'm proud to count this competition among my clients!

I'm working with the folks from the challenge to spread the word about the competition. It's an easy entry only requiring a 1-2 minute video outlining out a problem they encounter in every day life and a solution to that problem; click for full details.

And don't delay! The entry deadline is April 22, 2014.

The Young Scientist Challenge is also sponsoring the April #STEMchat. Join in me, @DE3MYSC and a great group of Sci-friendly folks on Twitter on Tuesday evening, April 8 from 9-10 PM Eastern as we talk about "Raising America's Top Young Scientist." Share and learn tips for helping children develop their scientific sensibilities! Follow along with the hashtag or start off by following my stream; I'm @KimMolofsky.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

That Time I Nearly Kidnapped a Girl at the Library

Yesterday after dropping one of my boys off at the Code Phreaks meeting, I headed into the library where I planned to write while my son participated in the meet-up. A small family captured my attention as I tried to settle and jot down a few notes. A mom trying to do some work on her computer, a dad trying to search the want ads (for a job? a car? who knows?), a fussy baby and an occasionally jittery preschooler.

Tempers weren't flaring, but tensions did seem to be rising as the parents struggled to do what they were trying to do while making sure the needs of their girls were met.

Perhaps it was my procrastination speaking, or maybe it was the desperate screams of my ovaries as they're shriveling up in my aging innards, but I thought, "Oh, I'd totally give that baby her bottle and they could do their thing."

Of course, not every baby is cool being whisked into the arms of a random stranger, so I'm not sure that would even work. At any rate, I sketched out ideas for my column as the kids squirmed as kids will while I sensed the parents resigning themselves to the fact that they were not going to accomplish much that morning.

Been there, done that.

So (and this is the kind of thing I like to imagine myself doing, but typically only manage to do so in my mind) I approached their table and offered to read with their preschooler. They looked at me like I was crazy. Did it matter that we're not the same race? Really, I think it was more the shock of a random person coming up and offering to spend time with their child.

"My son is in a program here for another hour. He's older and I never get to read stories to him anymore." I explained.

I still got kind of a quizzical look.

"We'll just sit right over there, so you can see us."

I'm not sure the mom so much agreed as simply looked at her girl and then I looked at the girl and said, "Do you want me to read books with you?"

She nodded and I said, "Let's go to the corner." She brought her books over and we plopped down on the floor, effectively destroying every Stranger Danger lesson she's ever had. (I didn't think about this until later. In retrospect, I'm not even sure if I had their full consent. I was just like- let's do this.)

At any rate, just a few feet away from her family, we read an alphabet book about Illinois, talking about Abe Lincoln and our state bird, the cardinal, and other fun facts. She told me that she's five and headed to kindergarten in the fall. When we got to the letter W, she surprised me by reading the sentences all by herself. When we opened the next alphabet book, this one with a music theme, we took turns reading and naming the instruments we saw.

Alas, her baby sister had reached her limit and broke into a full cry. They needed to leave before we even made it past K.

We hastily packed up the books and I returned her to her parents. The mom tried to clarify what I was doing as a lone adult* in the children's section, but in a friendly way. "How old is your son? What is he doing?"

"A computer club that meets here on Saturdays. He's a teenager. I never get to do this kind of thing anymore." I have to admit it was a lot of fun. Once I put out of my mind the awful, obnoxious tantrums my boys had as 3-year-olds, I have to say that 3-5, the preschool years, was my favorite time with them. Kids that age are cute and curious, they have good language skills, keen observations, and vivid imaginations that flow with uncensored ideas.

I told her mom what a good reader the girl was and that I was sure she would do well in kindergarten--but also cautioned her to make sure the girl's teachers challenge her and don't just ignore her because she's quiet type who can already read. I didn't think to ask if she's headed to a magnet school or anything.

In fact, I didn't even think to introduce myself! Maybe we'll run into each other again in a few weeks. In the meantime, perhaps I should sign on as a volunteer reading budding at our local library this summer.

*I was in the children's section looking up books for my article.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Baby's First College Visit

Welcome to college! This sign was in just about every building.
At the urging of the high school counseling staff (It's never too early to start looking at colleges! Don't miss a chance to visit potential schools!) My almost-16-year-old-and-no-longer-a-baby eldest child and I took a day out of Spring Break chillaxing to visit a small college close to our home.

My son, a sophomore, has stepped foot on a handful of university and community college campuses thanks to events like Science Olympiad, but he's still pretty clueless about where and what type of school he'd like to attend. I don't think I had any ideas at that age, either. So I figure we'll take advantage of our location and plan some preliminary visits. We can see urban schools and suburban ones, small and medium-size schools, highly selective and not.

First up was a small school not that far from Chicago, but, in the middle of a small, quiet suburb. I believe the college has fewer students than my son's high school, so it was an interesting contrast for him. Instead of 1400 or so students packing into one building, this one had several dorms, a freestanding library, etc. and was spread out over dozens of acres.

Our visit included an official campus tour, as well as a meeting with a professor and an admissions officer. Everyone was very nice and I think he did great during the meetings, which were fortunately laid-back.

#ProTip: before you head off on this kind of visit, help your child prepare an elevator speech to explain who they are, their talents and educational/career ambitions. I totally did not think to do this. He still did fine, but lacked the confidence of an experienced interviewee.

I was welcome to sit in on the meetings, so I did, but I suppose when he's older and interviewing more seriously he'll go on his own. Yes?

But like I said, it all went well and we both got a sense of what to expect on these types of college visits.

My college visits involved heading down to a few schools with friends and staying with people we knew (or friends of friends) from high school. I only recall one formal interview (which did not go well) and, hmm, no official tours. No parents were involved! Nowadays, at least what I gather from the high school and my friends, parents are expected to be highly involved with the college search. When you're looking at a 4-year degree costing $60 - $150 thousand dollars, I guess it makes sense.

Looking for more information on the college selection and college admissions process? Watch or listen to this archived conversation I had with my friend Jen Hajer and admissions consultant Susan Goodkin about getting into highly selective schools.

We had so much fun we're doing it again. During our next chat on April 10 we'll talk the SAT, twice-exceptional students, and whatever else we can fit into about 30 minutes. To follow along live, "circle" me on Google+ or find an archived version on my YouTube channel.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Houston, I Think We Have a Ballet (This Weekend in Chicago!)

Houston Ballet's Aladdin at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre
The Houston Ballet is coming to Chicago this weekend, March 22 and 23, with their production of Aladdin at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress Parkway.

This will be the fist time the Houston Ballet will present a show at the Auditorium Theatre. Additionally, it will be my first time seeing the ballet version of what is now "a Disney Classic." I received an invitation to attend the show and will be joined by my husband, but its an ideal ballet for families, too.

Before Disney did it's thing Aladdin was best know as one of the stories of the Arabian Nights. It's the tale of a young boy tricked into retrieving a magic lamp from a hidden cave. He soon realizes that the lamp is the home of a magical genie, and it grants the boy riches beyond his imagination. The now-wealthy boy falls in love with the emperor's daughter, but then is exposed by the emperor's assistant. Calamity and magic carpet rides ensue.

I look forward to seeing a classic tale retold in a non-Disney, not to mention ballet, form. I don't think I've seen a dance performance featuring dancers over the age of 10 in as many years.

The show is this Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 2:00. Tickets $32 -$92 are available online at ticketmaster or by calling 1-800-982-ARTS.

Click to read a full schedule of the Auditorium Theatre's performances. (Hey, I just realized Amy Schumer will be there Friday March 28. She's really funny. Off to check my calendar...)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Three Future Food Trends

Yes, I'm calling these three food trends, but because I'm so far ahead of my time, I don't expect them to be thangs for another 3-5 years. Still, I want to get these down so Future Kim will be able to gloat, "I called it back in 2014!" Of course if all goes according to plan, Future Kim's children will be off at college in five years and left with an agreeable dog (and without eye-rolling teens around) she may no longer feel the need to prove that she sometimes Gets. Things. Right.

Three Food Trends that are Going To Make It Big

1. Probiotics
Some might argue that this is already a thing, but I think Americans are only at the beginning of our love affair with probiotics. As science reveals more about microbes and the importance the little bugs in our gut (and on our skin, etc.), this category will explode.

2. Kefir for Dogs
Yes, kefir is a probiotic food, but no, I'm not cheating. People can and do give their dogs yogurt and kefir, but according to Google no one is marketing a kefir (or yogurt) just for dogs yet. This could be big, but perhaps not for the first one to market. It makes the most sense as an offshoot of the brand(s) that already have refrigerated products in the pet store. I suspect these cool sections will grow in size and number over time.

3. Actual Bugs
The thought of eating creepy crawly critters may give the average American jitters, but within 20 years, we'll join the rest of the world* and incorporate insect proteins into our diet (people with shellfish allergies beware). Compared to our typical sources of animal protein- chickens, cows, and pigs- insects are easy to farm and are less damaging to the earth. Now, I think we're more than 20 years away from sitting down to eat a big old bowl of earthworms, but people will warm to flours and other forms that make the insects less obvious, ahem. Chocolate chirp ice cream and bugelach for dessert, anyone?

*Just one of the fun facts I've learned as this year's Entomology coach for Science Olympiad.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Counting Down the Days Until Skokie's Spring Greening: April 6, 2014

Skokie's Spring Greening is one of those things I heard about through a well-timed Facebook update. DH and stopped over with a few of our difficult-to-recycle items and bid them adieu in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. This green event provides area residents with a chance to safely dispose of  tires, batteries, electronic waste, and more. We been piling up those items since last May ready for this year's event on April 6. Alas, I just read they won't take old paint, so now I need to figure out what to do with that...

The Spring Greening also features a Green Fair highlighting civic groups, a high school "trashy fashion show" and local utilities. As I recall we also picked up a few seedlings for our garden from The Talking Farm, though it's hard to imagine a garden growing any time soon--and I'm not sure how we're going to keep our veggie-loving dog out of it when we do.

Whether you've got old batteries in the basement or an old prom dress in the back closet, there's no better place to recycle them than Skokie's Spring Greening.

The Spring Greening will take place on Sunday, April 6, 2104 from 10 - 2 at Niles North High School in Skokie.

Friday, February 14, 2014

I'm headed to Washington, DC this weekend. Follow along!

I'm headed to Washington, DC this weekend as part of my work with DiscoverE, a 24/7 resource for engineering information, resources and inspiration. I'll be reporting from the national finals of their middle school engineering competition, Future City.

On Sunday the 16th I'll be sharing live updates through social media, highlighting the young participants and showcasing their efforts. In related news, I finally joined Instagram! Follow me there @KimMoldofsky. (And let me know if I should be following you.)

I'll be joined by a few of my old blogging besties on Sunday afternoon as they come by (with their kids!) to share in the fun.
Leticia from Tech Savvy Mama
Amy from Teach Mama
Stacey from Justice Fergie
Thien Kim from I'm Not the Nanny
Jill from Musings from Me
Sandie from Teen Lit Rocks

This year's Future City theme is transportation. How does the city of the future make transportation safe, sustainable, efficient and reliable? I don't know, but I'm certain these kids will have a lot of great ideas.

As someone who likes to be in the know about STEM competitions, I'm eager to get to see Future City up close. One especially intriguing bit is that it only costs $25 per organization to enter. Which is to say that a school can have one, five (or more) teams and they still only pay the one $25 fee. Which is to say: amazeballs. Each team incurs an additional cost in building their Future City model, but they are supposed to use recycled materials and top their budget at $100. Check these out. Teams can get pretty creative with their budgets.

With an eye toward finding solutions to the year's challenge, teams also make virtual models with SimCity software, complete a research paper and create a narrative "sell sheet" on their cities. They also prepare a presentation. That's a whole lotta technical and soft skills wrapped up in one competition. (And in even more STEAM, I'm told some teams make costumes for their presentations.)

Follow along with me this weekend and who knows? Maybe you'll be in line when registration opens in March for the 2014-15 competition year.

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