sábado, 31 de outubro de 2009

quinta-feira, 29 de outubro de 2009

How did you learn to tell the time? Here's a new method...

We all have to learn to tell the time, and many of us probably can't remember how we ever managed to do so. What you might recall is how difficult it was, and this is something I've been reminded of in recent years as my children have started learning about clocks.

After all, it's hard to do things in 60s. It would all be so much easier if minutes were 100 seconds and hours were a hundred minutes. And all that big hand/little hand stuff is very complicated too. One minute we're saying that a hand on the one means one o'clock. The next we're saying it means five past the hour. How confusing....

Jamie Rugge-Price first thought about this when his children - who are now grown-up and have children of their own - were small. He also spoke to various teachers about it and realised that they found telling the time frustrating to teach. It took a while, but he finally decided to do something about it.

Aramazu "Telling the time is a basic life skill," he says. "It should be easy and fun, but it isn't. Then I had a Eureka moment. I thought 'what shape is an hour?' If it could be visualised, telling the time would be so much easier."

Jamie decided to come up with a concept for telling the time, and he called it a nonsense name (and acronym of his four daughters' names), Aramazu.

I shall briefly stop the story for a moment. I get sent a lot of things - books, teaching aids etc - and look at them all. Some impress me more than others. I have to admit that I was very impressed by Aramazu, and especially when my son, who's four, started to understand the concept of telling the time. He understood the hours and half pasts (seen in this method as time climbing a mountain) very quickly. The minutes were a bit more complicated, but he was still keen to learn more.

Jamie wrote about his method in a series of storybooks. The key to them is how visual they are - an hour is the shape of a mountain, and it takes 30 minutes to walk to the top of the hour or down to the half past. The hour hand is a finger, and the minute hand a foot.

Jamie tested the books and refined them. Then he tested them again. The results have been good; unsurprisingly he just wants more people to know about it.

Cheryl Hossle is a Year 1/2 teacher at a state school in the Forest of Dean. She has used the Aramazu method for teaching children to tell the time for the last two years and is very impressed. She also acts as an educational consultant to Jamie.

"Aramazu is not abstract," she says. "From the books the children can see why we need time, and how everything can go wrong if we don't have it. They can also work out how to use the feet and finger method. They make the connections."

Hossle says that this method works well for dyslexic children too, because it is so visual. "It addresses thinking skills and is humorous," she says. "I've been very pleased with the results we've had".

The Aramazu method (you can see a clock in the illustration) comes in different forms, for children of different ages. As I say, I am quite convinced by it, and would be interested to know what other people think. Or if anyone has any other brilliant ways to teach children how to tell the time.

As traduções da Mamã ;)


Jay ligou a Nádia na manhã seguinte.
— Olá — disse ela, alegremente.
— Como estás?
— Destroçado. É duro, isto de dar à luz.
— Bom trabalho. E mais?
— Um rapaz. Três quilos e novecentos, sadio, olhos azuis, cabelo preto. — E rematou:
— E uns tomates enormes.
Nádia riu-se. Não podia evitar, ele parecia perplexo.
— Ele depois cresce. Como se chama?
Daniel Anthony. Nasceu às onze horas. Tenho estado a ligar à família toda.
— Ainda bem que correu tudo bem. E a Belinda?
— Emocionada. Feliz. Jura que ele é a cara do Anthony, mas tu sabes como são os recém-nascidos. A mim só me parecem encarnados e amolgados.
Nádia quis ajudar:
— Isso é por seres homem.
(...)
Nádia fez chá e admirou as fotografias do bebé. Eram muitos os recém-nascidos que pareciam montinhos de carne, mas Daniel, felizmente, tinha umas sobrancelhas cheias de personalidade, olhos castanhos enormes e um tufo de cabelo como o Tintim.
— É lindo — disse Nádia, porque tinha de se dizer sempre isso de um bebé, mesmo que parecesse uma noz dentro de um fato de macaco. Mas aquele não. Daniel era bonito, com grandes pestanas, dedinhos delicados e um queixinho pontiagudo delicioso.
— Obrigado. Embora não seja meu — disse Jay.
(...)
— Desculpa, desculpa... as coisas pegajosas estavam sempre a colar-se às partes erradas... e depois percebi que a tinha posto ao contrário... entra, meu Deus, isto é mais difícil do que eu pensava. — Com ar aturdido mas contente por vê-la, Jay mandou-a entrar. Era evidente que ele também não tinha tido tempo de se pentear nem de pôr brilho nos lábios. O bebé, todo nu tirando uma fralda descartável pendurada num pezinho, queixava-se e agitava as perninhas contra o peito de Jay. Havia uma mancha muito suspeita na parte da frente da camisa de ganga. Evidentemente desagradado por se encontrar nas mãos de um amador daqueles, Daniel deu um pontapé que atirou a fralda pelo ar.
— Mary Poppins, presumo. — Apesar de tudo, Nádia não conseguia fazer cara séria. Desde que o conhecera, Jay sempre tivera tudo controlado, em todas as situações. Nada o abalava.
Excepto, como se estava a ver, as complexidades de pôr uma fralda descartável a um bebé.
— Deixa-me pegar-lhe. — Nádia estendeu os braços para o bebé e Jay passou-lho, sem esconder o alívio.
— Cuidado, ele parece a Fonte de Trevi. Quase me acertava no olho quando estava a mudá-lo. Não fazia ideia de que os bebés fazem chichi a cada dois minutos.
— Eu diria que tiveste sorte. Os bebés não fazem só chichi. — Os anos em que tomara conta de crianças para ajudar à faculdade davam vantagem a Nádia; deitou Daniel no trocador – branco com elefantinhos azuis – e pôs-lhe uma fralda limpa num instante. Remexeu no saco que estava no chão, encontrou um macaquinho limpo e vestiu-lho sem dificuldade. As molas entre as pernas deram um estalido de satisfação quando ela as apertou. O bebé estava com um ar quase desapontado, como se ela lhe tivesse ido estragar a brincadeira. Olhou à sua volta em busca de inspiração, e começou a balbuciar. Nádia viu o biberão de água na mesinha baixa, pegou nele e pô-lo na boca do bebé antes que este estivesse lançado.
— Foi fervida?
— Claro que foi fervida, não sou completamente incompetente.
(...)
Nádia sentiu a mãozinha pequenina de Daniel agarrar-se ao dedo indicador dela, certamente uma das melhores sensações de todos os tempos.
(...)
— Não é o único a quem tu fizeste esperar — observou Jay.
Nádia olhou para baixo e viu os olhos pestanudos de Daniel fecharem-se. Já não estava agarrado ao biberão. Cuidadosamente, deitou-o no sofá e rodeou-o de almofadas, e arrependeu-se quase de imediato. Daniel servira de escudo. Agora já não sabia o que fazer às mãos.
— Esse plano correu mal — disse Jay com um sorriso pesaroso.
— A ideia era abrir a porta com o Dan ao colo. Ele era para estar contente e sossegado, e tu ias ficar loucamente impressionada com a minha capacidade de lidar com ele, para não falar de deslumbrada pelo quadro espectacular que faríamos.
(...)
— Posso sempre tirar a casa do mercado, sabes. Não sou obrigado a sair de Bristol.
No sofá, romanticamente, Daniel escolheu a ocasião para soltar um punzinho de bebé a dormir.
Nádia desatou a rir.
(...)
Rrrrinnng.
— Raios, quem é? — Jay virou-se, siderado, quando a campainha guinchou.
Bem alto.
No sofá, os olhos castanhos de Daniel abriram-se, alarmados. Sacudido do sono, soltou um berro indignado e deu socos nas almofadas com as mãozinhas fechadas, a exigir que lhe pegassem.

Irresistível Tentação, de Jill Mansell, para as Edições Chá das Cinco

quarta-feira, 28 de outubro de 2009

Dragões!!!


THE FRUITS OF FAMILY TREES - Jonathan Safran Foer


When I was young, I would often spend the weekend at my grandmother’s house. On my way in, Friday night, she would lift me from the ground in one of her fire-smothering hugs. And on the way out, Sunday afternoon, I was again taken into the air. It wasn’t until years later that I realized she was weighing me.
(...)
“Grandma,” I said. “We have a baby.”

Her only phone is in the kitchen. She picked up halfway into the first ring. It was just after midnight. Had she been clipping coupons? Preparing chicken with carrots to freeze for someone else to eat at some future meal? I’d never once seen or heard her cry, but tears pushed through her words as she asked, “How much does it weigh?”

A few days after we came home from the hospital, I sent a letter to a friend, including a photo of my son and some first impressions of fatherhood. He responded, simply, “Everything is possible again.” It was the perfect thing to write, because that was exactly how it felt. The world itself had another chance.
(...)


Excerto do novo livro Eating Animals, NYT

terça-feira, 27 de outubro de 2009

domingo, 25 de outubro de 2009

How Fathers Grew Up ;)

Six months before the birth of his fourth son, Phil Hogan began writing the first-ever fatherhood column for the Observer. He looks back on 21 years of being a dad.

 n a week's time my eldest son, Baxter, will be 21. I'm not sure what his plans are, but then I don't expect to be involved in them these days, at least not in a non-pecuniary way.
In any case he is now safely back at university in Southampton after spending the summer here in "boring" Hertfordshire, eating us out of house and home in between roaring off to festivals and whooping it up in Brighton and London and elsewhere, with the vast diaspora of friends that young people have on their computers these days.

But has he earned the key of the door now that he doesn't need it so often? There are faint signs of him growing up. He did manage to get to Amsterdam and back this year without incident (in contrast to his first trip abroad in 2007 when he rang us from a Greek police cell requesting €200 to pay a "fine" for not leaving his hotel bed as intact as he found it), and I'm delighted that he has worked so hard in his first year at university that he has been invited back for a second. He can cook, in a scattergun kind of way, and can play a number of Johnny Cash songs on the ukulele. When not being a drain on one's emotional and financial resources, he is excellent company. Our youngest two boys are attracted to his natural daring and untameable sense of inappropriate fun, though Ryan – almost 19 and less given to displays of unnecessary jabber – has learnt to regard him with a wary eye.

A few Sundays ago, we all went out to lunch en famille – to mark our last time all together for a while and to raise a glass to our evolving circumstances: Ryan, too, was about to go off (and has now gone) to university, at Warwick; Jackson, 16, has started in the Lower Sixth, and Cameron, 12, is safely into Year 8. Everything is changing.

With the house a little emptier, it seems like the beginning of an end. Not a real end, of course – I didn't get my perma-frown by not realising that fatherhood is a job you can only get out of by going into a care home – but things have assumed a less frenzied rhythm. Having two children at home is easier than four, if not quite as easy as none. Recent holidays with our younger pair have been relaxed to the point of fun. It has always been a slight source of disappointment to my wife that I couldn't "enjoy" the children as much as she does and now, admittedly rather late in the game (and with no disrespect to our eldest two, who should by no means take this personally), I'm beginning to see how that might be possible.

It does help that they are all old enough to make their own fun. Even though I have almost done my first 21 years, I regret never having quite got the hang of being the father I would have ideally wanted for the little chaps. It goes without saying that I love them and cherish them and would happily jump into a lake of burning lava to protect them (though I can't imagine the exact circumstances in which this might be necessary), but watching other dads building sandcastles or Lego spaceships or putting up tents or being the life and soul of children's birthday parties or whipping up excitement on theme park rides, I always felt the sting of inauthenticity in my own paltry efforts.

But what grown man could actually enjoy Lego? Or children's books? I hated Harry Potter. I played Buckaroo through clenched teeth. I'm not one for getting wet or being turned upside down on a rollercoaster. The truth is, I have no inner child – a tragedy, you might say, for a man with so many outer ones.

But I don't think I've been a complete failure. It's not as if I haven't been any fun ever since 1988. I could always manage the more passive activities – encouraging the children to watch football on TV with me or taking them to the cinema, with its reliable promise of a short nap. And never let it be said that any of them has ever gone short of hugs (father-and-son hugging is, of course, the new wrestling).

It's easy to forget, too – with today's lifestyle supplements packed with gurning fathers in striped aprons teaching their tousled kids how to ice cakes – that the male parent has not always been so fully alive to the pleasures of child-rearing.

At least I was up there with the "new" men of 1988, attending antenatal classes and helping to choose a buggy (the new word for pushchair) at Mothercare. We found ourselves bandying terms like "amniocentesis" and "dilation". We learnt that a pregnant woman might dine on liver and Guinness (I'm not sure if this is still the advice of doctors) and worked at the secrets of controlled breathing and lumbar massage. We were given our lists of things to take to the hospital – sandwiches, a drink, a crossword – to help pass the hours while our wives or girlfriends rehearsed the primal groaning that would grow more and more unearthly towards the final push.

Baxter was born after 14 hours of labour followed by a frantic emergency caesarean that forged a lasting sense of what he thinks parents are for – waiting, worrying, cleaning up the mess. I got the first look at him – his mallet head and tuft of hair, his indented jaw where his foot had been, his little crispy-bacon ears – and took him in my arms, wandering up and down the hospital corridor, cooing at him like the happiest fool, until my wife woke up and took over. Walking back home down a deserted Tottenham High Road as that bright October dawn broke seemed just the best thing.

On 26 March 1955 my father delivered me at home with his own bare hands in the time it took (as my mum tells it) for the kettle to boil. He had run down to the public phone box to call the midwife and when he got back he carried my mother upstairs like the hero in a black-and-white film. But this drama was over in seconds. "You popped out straight into his arms," she says. "He was laughing and crying at the same time."

It was 30 years before men were routinely turning up and affecting to "help" at the births of their children. In 1986 a black-and-white poster of a half-naked man holding a newborn child appeared in Athena stores, and went on to sell 5m copies. Men are sensitive too, it seemed to say, though the model hired to take his shirt off for the picture reputedly slept with 3,000 women on the back of it. Couldn't they tell he wasn't real? Did they care?

Not everyone was up to speed with the latest thinking. I remember being jeered at by builders one morning as I hurried along to the childminder's with Baxter in his sling. And it was 1990 before GQ magazine plucked up the courage to ask: "Are You Man Enough to Change a Nappy?" Underneath, it read: "The great challenge for modern man is to get to know his children better." Our time had come, whether we liked it or not.

It is one of the great marvels of evolution, of course, that the worst thing a man can be hard-wired to imagine about parenthood is changing a nappy. In fact, in the annals of known hells, not getting a proper night's sleep for months on end is indescribably worse. Certainly there are moments when you would trade a lifetime of faecal matter up your fingernails for just five minutes in the land of nod.

But even this is missing the point. What no one tells you is that parenthood isn't about babies at all. Well, yes, you have babies, but the moment you start thinking you know babies they're already mutating into something else – into toddlers, three-year-olds, 10-year-olds, teenagers, entire new genres of children that need knowing all over again. I realise that this isn't an exact analogy, but if you imagine your first 10-year-old as bird flu, the second, on reaching that age, might easily materialise as rabies, the third amoebic dysentery, and so on – and here's you thinking you can treat them all with the same old medicine. Who says God has no sense of humour?

It's that realisation, as a father, that you're really just making it up as you go along that runs through the column I started to write for the Observer magazine in the autumn of 1996, a few weeks after my vasectomy and six months before the birth of our fourth son. I remember my editor at the time describing it as "a woman's column written by a man" – though that had ceased to be a novelty by the time I stopped writing it a decade later. By then home and family wasn't exclusively a woman's province, just as going out and drinking yourself insensible was no longer purely a job for a man.

And didn't there come a point in all this when children started to be hailed as fashionable accessories? Women, far from disguising their pregnancies in dungarees or a traditional small marquee, followed such starry exemplars of the day as Demi Moore and Geri Halliwell and the girl who married Liam Gallagher, baring their maternal bumps with shameless pride. New dads – whose new daddism sat oddly with the new laddism of the Loaded generation – watched open-mouthed as David Beckham had the names of his children tattooed into his suntan. Chelsea's John Terry took to raising his son to the heavens – surely the ultimate trophy child – at cup final victories. Smart metropolitan couples loaded their kids in front-facing rucksacks and took them out to restaurants, to swish private views, to the office. How Mediterranean we were – how enlightened and relaxed!

One wonders, had men not been required to take an interest in children, whether we would have seen such a groundswell of kiddie-based enthusiasm – the "What to do with your brood in the hols" spreads, the mother-and-child parking, the baby-changing facilities in the gents, family-friendly pubs, the way the vocabulary and imagery of IVF and adoption and "biological clocks" infiltrated the common consciousness. Paternity leave was deemed crucial to men's new central role in parenting. Aggrieved excluded fathers in Batman costumes scaled public buildings to draw attention to their pain, while elsewhere sperm donors were told they now needed to stand up and be counted. Children became a national anxiety: what they ate, who they talked to online, whether mobile phones and video games were frying their young brains. While feral teens roamed inner-city estates, TV gave us Supernanny and Honey We're Killing the Kids.

I doubt many people bringing up children particularly felt they were riding the zeitgeist. Flicking through those old columns (or rather those old columns collected into one convenient volume to keep with your contraceptives, Parenting Made Difficult – now unaccountably out of print), I was struck by how much of our lives was taken up by dismal rain-swept excursions in the car – to farms, museums, bird sanctuaries, "historic" towns, flower shows, agricultural fairs, the Millennium Dome. But I suppose that's what we did. Driving our small herd round those places was not only a way of escaping the chaos and fatigue of being trapped in the house with four under-nines but it gave us the illusion of being in control. A typical piece begins: "It seems ages since we last made the children despise us by forcing them to do something gratuitously uninteresting…"

And although all that stuff – the outings, the struggles with putting up curtain rails and light fittings, and being hopeless at cracking eggs, and failing to deal with algebra or diarrhoea or Lara Croft – was magnified for comic intent, it still holds a sort of cumulative reality. Notwithstanding the great times we had (and I realise I may have given the impression that there weren't any), bringing up kids – for all its profounder pleasures – can be a hard, wearying business. It's a long haul. But just as those early years often seemed unending, the last few have rather whizzed by. Teenagers bring a more extreme set of challenges, but at least their unreasonable behaviour is functional, in that it hastens the inevitable break and makes their departure an occasion that everyone appreciates must happen. Yes, one chooses family life and finds joy in this warm bosom of one's own making, but (and I hate to get all Charles Darwin here) isn't the point of having babies to provide fresh new adults to man the coalmines and universities? And if, at the end of the process, one is never sure of one's exact part in their accomplishments or otherwise, it seems natural – salutary – to kiss them, say goodbye, good luck and see you when you bring your laundry home at half-term.

Job done. Or very nearly.

I have come to this understanding more easily than my wife, who though our nest is still half full has begun to imagine it empty. Her gaze falls sadly on our 12-year-old, seeing the next six years whizzing by, too. But think of the freedom, I say, mentally dusting off our old priorities involving just the two of us – swanning off to the pub at the drop of a hat, seeing friends, attending art exhibitions, having sex on the stairs. Weekends in Rome or Paris! Yes, says my wife, who has been – and still is – the best mother a child could wish for, even though it has meant sacrificing a life that she might have selflessly devoted to me alone.

Of course I will miss them too. But she senses we are not fully united in this. Perhaps it's a man-woman thing. I put my arm round her (recalling how tearful she was last week, loading Ryan and his baggage and DVDs and guitars and newly bought wok into his student accommodation) and say that everything will be fine. Just quieter. Just different.

sábado, 24 de outubro de 2009

Em Beirute


Two girls pick books from the children's section during the opening of the annual Francophone Book Fair in Beirut on October 22, 2009. The 16th edition of the Salon du livre francophone de Beyrouth, will be on till November 1st including several cultural events around it with Beirut being the World Book Capital for this year. AFP PHOTO/RAMZI HAIDAR (Photo credit should read RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images).

via Jezebel :)

sexta-feira, 23 de outubro de 2009

Vegetarianos? ;)






Telegraph Gallery

Fatiotas para o Halloween


E viva o consumo! Mais uma festa para os petizes se divertirem :)



In Fashion Kids

quinta-feira, 22 de outubro de 2009

Communicating with children using smells


Sofia’s world is largely a dark and silent one. As a blind and deaf child of 9, her sense of smell is one of the few means by which she can interpret the landscape.And what she is smelling today, on a small, laminated square, is the seaside. The ozonic scent of salty air, wet sand, seaweed and ocean spray has been replicated and impregnated on to a scrap of paper.

Alongside her, Harrison, 4, is rolling his head back and smiling deliriously. The aroma infused on to his card is that of a farm yard. Horses, hay, manure, cows, green fields — incredibly all this has been distilled on to an inch of cardboard. Another smell that has been created in readiness for November 5 is the bouquet of Bonfire Night.

The children are among pupils aged between 2 and 19 at the Seashell Trust School, in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, formerly known as the Royal School for the Deaf, where a soap and shampoo firm has been enlisted to help severely disabled children to communicate for the first time via olfaction.

PZ Cussons, the company behind Imperial Leather and Carex, which has an innovation centre in nearby Salford, has seconded its creative perfumer Kate Williams to work with the school to help children with varying levels of multisensory impairment to make choices about what they eat and drink, the activities on offer and to help them to put the environment in context.

It may involve using smell to tell a carer whether they want chocolate or strawberry milkshake or it may be, as Anne Gough, who runs the school’s sensory unit, says, that the staff use smells simply for comfort, pleasure or to calm. A marshmallow scent is good for this. Vanilla is apparently the universal smell of happiness. Most children will respond positively to something that smells sweet.

The Seashell Trust is both a day and residential, co-educational, non-maintained special school, offering specialist provision for pupils who have severe and complex disabilities, combined with communication difficulties.

One boy, whenever he goes to the park, sniffs the metallic chains that hold the swings. Kate has therefore recreated that unique, ferrous smell and this is a way of telling him that he is about to go to the park. For most people it is almost impossible to imagine such levels of disability, such sensory limitations, but Anne, whose inspirational skills last year won her the Special Needs Teacher of the Year award, believes that we must not underestimate such children’s capabilities. “People will be amazed at what these children can achieve,” she says. “Some people have low expectations of them and I think this is wrong.”

Indeed, one of the hardest things for sensory-impaired people to understand is concept and representation. But by using the smell-card, one child with partial vision has learnt to recognise pictures and words — a remarkable achievement. A further development in progress to help children to recognise classmates or members of staff is to create unique scents for staff, and thus enable them to distinguish between teachers. Plug-in fragrances are already used to help children to understand days of the week. Monday smells of lemon, for instance, and Tuesday of lavender.

Sofia’s ability to read the world around her is limited even further by her physical handicap. Her hands make involuntary movements and thus she cannot even rely on her fingers to relay information and navigate her surroundings. “If Sofia was being taken to the farm, she would just arrive there and that would be it,” says Kate. “But if you have introduced the idea beforehand by smell it helps to put it in context.” Similarly, since she is fed by a gastric tube, presenting the smell of milk communicates to her what is about to happen.

“Eighty per cent of your learning is visual and 15 per cent is aural so that only leaves \ these children with 5 per cent. This is why it’s so important to give them a medium,” says Anne. “What Kate has done is incredible. These aren’t smells that you can buy in a shop; she has had to break down the smell into individual elements and recreate it in her lab.”

The Seashell Trust changed its name last year to emphasise working with students rather than providing things for them. Children who are deaf are usually educated within mainstream schools.

The Seashell thus offers facilities for pupils with multisensory impairment and with multiple learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders and physical and medical conditions. All children are taught on a one-to-one basis which makes it an expensive place to run.

While fragrance may not seem like a major breakthrough, to these children it provides a language. Simply being able to communicate to a teacher — whether it’s with a smile or a gesture — what they do or don’t want to eat while out on a day trip empowers them by giving them choice.

Kate says that creating a fragrance is like creating music. A single note may be orange oil or lemon oil and chords are created when things are put together. “When we gave the fragrances to one child, it was like we spoke to him in a different language, one that he understood,” she says. “If you can create a fragrance to help the children learn they just run with it.”

TimesOnline

quarta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2009

(because Daddy does it ;) Learning to juggle grows brain networks for good


Juggling boosts the connections between different parts of the brain by tweaking the architecture of the brain's "white matter" – a finding that could lead to new therapies for people with brain injuries.
White matter describes all areas of the brain that contain mostly axons – outgrowths of nerve cells that connect different cells. It might be expected that learning a new, complex task such as juggling should strengthen these connections, but previous work looking for changes in the brains of people who had learned how to juggle had only studied increases in grey matter, which contains the nerve cells' bodies.
Now Jan Scholz and his colleagues at the University of Oxford have discovered that juggling changes white matter, too. They gave 24 young men and women training packs for juggling and had them practise for half an hour a day for six weeks. Before and after this training period, the researchers scanned the brains of the jugglers along with those of 24 people who didn't do any juggling, using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging that reveals the structure of white matter.
They found that there was no change in the brains of the non-jugglers, but the jugglers grew more white matter in a part of the parietal lobe – an area involved in connecting what we see to how we move.
The same transformation was seen in all the jugglers, regardless of how well they could perform. This suggests that it's the learning process itself that is important for brain development, not how good you are.

Learning matters

Arne May of the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, who led the previous work on juggling and grey matter, finds this result "fascinating". "It suggests that learning a skill is more important than exercising what you are good at already – the brain wants to be puzzled and learn something new," he says.
Like May, Scholz's group found increases in grey matter, but differences in the size and timing of the grey- and white-matter changes suggest they are independent. Nevertheless, both are probably necessary to learn how to juggle, argues Scholz.
"More white matter on its own might mean you can move more quickly, but you'd need the grey matter to make sure your hands were in the right place," he says.

Don't use it, don't lose it

The group scanned the jugglers' brains again after four weeks without juggling. They found that the new white matter had stayed put and the amount of grey matter had even increased. This could be why, when we learn a new skill, we retain some ability, no matter how long ago we last practised.
"It's like riding a bike," Scholz says. "Either you can juggle or you can't. It takes a lot of training to learn, but once it clicks, you don't forget it."
Scholz also hopes that it might be possible to develop juggling-based training programmes to help people with brain injuries, or that further study of how juggling changes the architecture of the brain may lead to the discovery of drugs that could boost this plasticity. "If we could use training or drugs to help stroke patients regenerate damaged parts of their brains, that would be fantastic," he says.

terça-feira, 20 de outubro de 2009

Roald Dahl characters still dominate children's favourites



An eclectic mix of classic titles, television spin-offs, modern favourites and fairy stories emerged when books charity Booktrust asked 1,318 children aged between five and 12 to pick their favourite literary characters. The list was, inevitably, topped by bespectacled wizard Harry Potter, but Dahl was the author to collect the most mentions from children, with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Charlie coming in 10th, Matilda 15th, Fantastic Mr Fox 16th and the BFG 20th.
"Roald Dahl's books are like modern fairy tales. The books still resonate because they sparkle with his genius," said Katherine Solomon at Booktrust. "It is no wonder that he is still so appealing: his books have such a vibrant and vivid mixture of grotesque dark characters filled with a wicked humour and unbelievable energy."
Francesca Simon's mop-haired rascal Horrid Henry was second favourite, followed by Jacqueline Wilson's Tracy Beaker in third. The likes of Hannah Montana, Ben 10 and Doctor Who also muscled in on the top 10, relegating Peter Pan and Cinderella into joint 11th place, but Winnie the Pooh managed to sneak into the top 10 in eighth place, ahead of Dav Pilkey's creation Captain Underpants.
The research also found that the most powerful ingredient for attracting children to a particular book was character, with 51% citing that as their reason for reading a title, ahead of plot at 43%. Thirty eight percent were attracted to a book if was based on a television show, and 32% if it was based on a film, while just 5% said they would read a book if a celebrity such as David Walliams or Madonna had written it.
The top 20 in full:
1. Harry Potter
2. Horrid Henry
3. Tracy Beaker
4. Biff, Chip and Kipper (school reading scheme characters)
5. Hannah Montana
6. Doctor Who
7. Ben 10
8. Winnie the Pooh
9. Captain Underpants
10. Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
11= Cinderella
11= Gruffalo
11= Peter Pan
11= Charlie and Lola
15. Matilda
16= Alex Rider
16= Fantastic Mr Fox
16= Spiderman
19. Thomas The Tank Engine
20. BFG


The Guardian

segunda-feira, 19 de outubro de 2009

4 por 6 - Refeições para 4 Pessoas por 6 euros - que desafio!


«O objectivo do 4 por 6 é apresentar refeições completas, para 4 pessoas, por 6 euros. Tentaremos mostrar que mesmo com pouco dinheiro se pode comer bem, diversificar nos sabores e na apresentação e, sobretudo, ter prazer no que se cozinha e no que se come. Assim, três vezes por semana, haverá uma sugestão 4 por 6 num dos blogues acima mencionados. Esses posts serão assinalados pelo logotipo que a talentosa Mrs. Pickles criou para nós.»

Participantes:;
Caos na Cozinha

Elvira's Bistrot (que também nos dá a Tasca da Elvira em francês, e que eu ia jurar nos deu a Tabacaria ;)

Three Fat Ladies

Gourmets Amadores

Tachos de Ensaio (cujo subtítulo é Ensaios sobre a lucidez de cozinhar e a cegueira de saborear ;)

Cinco Quartos de Laranja

Is sleeping with your baby dangerous?


Far from seeking to demonise parents, advice to always put sleeping infants in their cots is a lifesaver

To sleep with your baby? Or not to sleep with your baby? That is the question facing about 300,000 households across the UK after research suggested that sleeping with a parent increases the risk of cot death. 

The study, which found that just over half of cot deaths occurred when a child was sleeping with a parent, has sparked concern from some quarters that it demonises the parental bed. But that is not what the researchers intended. 

The study was led by the world’s greatest authority on cot death, Professor Peter Fleming from the University of Bristol. It was his team that in 1991 introduced the Back to Sleep campaign — where parents were urged to put their babies to sleep on their backs — which has been credited with saving the lives of as many as half a million babies worldwide.

Since the campaign was launched in the UK, the number of babies dying from cot death has plummeted by more than 75 per cent to about 300 babies a year. That is still 300 too many, but thanks to Fleming’s team there are probably 20,000 children and young people alive today who would not have been here had sleeping practices remained unchanged. So when they publish new findings we should listen. 

A couple of things are immediately clear from this latest study. First, sleeping with your baby if you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol is a recipe for disaster. And second, sleeping anywhere but the bedroom is particularly hazardous — snoozing with your baby on a chair, bean-bag or sofa may be tempting for a tired parent but should be avoided, even if you haven’t had a drink or taken any drugs. But what about in bed?

The parental bed may be safer than the sofa but is still more dangerous than having baby in his or her own cot. Accidents can happen to the most abstemious of parents and their young baby can overheat or suffocate. And if you do get into the habit of sleeping with your baby, will you always remember to put him or her in a cot when you have been out for a few drinks with friends, or after a dinner party at home? Probably not, which is one reason why the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) suggests that the safest option is always to have them in a cot beside you instead.

No one is trying to demonise the parental bed, but the evidence shows that baby is safer in a cot.
But all this is only guidance; individual practice will eventually come down to parental choice. Healthcare professionals and the FSID are not trying to alarm parents (cot death is rare) or to be dictatorial, but are trying to ensure that the final choice is an informed one.
Here is a summary of the latest recommendations: 

1 Put your baby to sleep on his or her back.
2 Give up smoking and don’t let anyone smoke in your house. If both parents smoke, their baby is five times more likely to succumb to cot death.
3 Consider a dummy (research suggests that it can halve the risk of cot death) at night and when baby is napping during the day. Don’t force your baby to take it and don’t worry if it falls out when he or she goes to sleep. If your child is breastfed, don’t offer a dummy until he or she is four weeks old, by which time breastfeeding should be well established. Use the dummy until the child is six months old, when the risk of cot death recedes.
4 Don’t overdress your baby: no more than two light layers of nightclothes. Use a sheet and blanket and tuck both in firmly at the foot of the cot, making sure that baby’s head remains uncovered.
5 Place your baby with his or her feet at the bottom of the cot in a bedroom that is 16-20C (61-68F).
6 Ideally, he or she should sleep in a cot in the same room as you for the first six months. Do not share your bed with your baby if he or she was born prematurely, if either of you smoke, if you have been drinking or taking drugs that make you drowsy, or if you feel very tired (that is every night for most parents).
7 Avoid sleeping, however briefly, with a baby in a sofa or armchair.
8 If a young baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly.
One unintended consequence of the Back to Sleep campaign has been an increase in the number of babies with “flat head syndrome”. Pressure on a malleable skull from lying in the same position can cause flattening of the back or side of the head, and US research suggests that about half of all babies are now affected to some degree. Most cases are trivial and of minor cosmetic concern only but parents still worry about it, and few are given advice on how to minimise flattening. These tips should help, particularly for the critical first six months of life when the growing skull is most susceptible to external pressures.
1 Continue to put your baby to sleep on his or her back to reduce the risk of cot death. Ensure that he or she spends plenty of time on his/her front during the daytime.
2 Never leave your baby in a car seat in the house. Put him or her on the floor instead.
3 Alter your baby’s position so that he or she is not always lying or looking in the same direction.
4 Alternate between arms when feeding your baby (natural for breastfeeding mums but not for bottle-feeders).
5 Seek advice from your GP or midwife if you are worried. Skull deformities that need aggressive intervention are rare.


domingo, 18 de outubro de 2009

Wishlist (tinha de ser): Oscar and the Mooncats



Oscar loves his boy.
He also loves stinky cat food for breakfast and crunchy cat food for dinner.
He loves his catnip mouse and his red pillow by the window. Maybe more than anything else, though, he loves to jump up on top of things and watch . . . everything.
Oscar loves his boy. But is love enough to get him home again?

Goblin Farm, the author's website
Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli ;)

A arte de Nicoletta Ceccoli







E a generosidade de ter as imagens disponíveis no sítio para eu as homenagear e divulgar aqui :)
Graças ao Jardim Assombrado

sexta-feira, 16 de outubro de 2009

quinta-feira, 15 de outubro de 2009

Do we really need another parenting book?

Don’t we humans come pre-programmed with all the instinctual knowledge necessary to help our kids become bright, well-adjusted members of society? Ok, I’ll wait for those of you with kids to stop laughing before I continue…
Obviously, there are a lot of times when parents have to admit: I have no idea what I’m doing. That state of mind is “nurture shock.” We just muddle through with a combination of common sense, things we learned (positive and negative) from our own parents, and various other bits of knowledge that we’ve cobbled together.
I know I’ve read a number of parenting books and magazines myself: about teaching kids to read, or how to discipline them, or making a decision about home-schooling. The problem is that if you read enough, you’ll soon realize that basically you’re the one who has to decide which advice to follow, because for any given topic you’ll probably find support on both sides. From the amount of TV they watch to whether thumb-sucking is okay to when and how you should potty-train them, you get a buffet of options on each subject, with entire books devoted to them. It’s often very easy to be convinced by somebody’s anecdotal arguments on something, and then be equally convinced by the opposite side.
What sets NurtureShock apart is the science.
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman didn’t set out to write a book about parenting, but sort of stumbled across it while researching a story for Time Magazine. They found that, at least when it comes to praising our kids, our instincts appear to be completely wrong. And they wondered: what else have we gotten wrong? Digging deeper, they found piles of scientific studies done about children, and spent three years investigating what really works and what doesn’t. The results are often counterintuitive and (unfortunately) completely opposite of what we do by “instinct.”
I can’t really do the book justice in one article because there’s just so much information. I could throw out some random statistics but it’s really all the research and background that makes it especially convincing for me. Bronson and Merryman hit a lot of critical topics: self-esteem, sleep habits, race, sibling rivalry, gifted kids, self-control, and language acquisition. Each chapter had at least one thing that surprised me; most had several. There are definitely several areas where I’m actively trying to change the way I raise my kids because of this book, and a couple where I’ve finally gotten some real confirmation that I’m doing the right thing.
Just to give you a small taste, I’ll share something from the second chapter, “The Lost Hour.” Worldwide, children are sleeping about an hour less than their counterparts thirty years ago. Bronson and Merryman tie this to poor performance in school, depression, and even obesity. They point out that, according to some scholars, “many hallmark traits of modern adolescence—moodiness, impulsiveness, disengagement—are also symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.” For younger kids, an hour of sleep can be equivalent to losing two years worth of development. For older kids, lack of sleep can actually make you unable to recall positive memories.
Also, to give you an idea of the evidence backing up Bronson and Merryman’s writing, consider this: the actual text of the book is about 239 pages long. It’s followed by nearly twenty pages of endnotes, and then about forty more pages of references and sources (which are in addition to the many interviews they did). We’re not talking about the latest “science du jour,” as the authors put it. This is solid stuff.
I had only one significant complaint. In a few of the chapters, I felt like I was left unsure about what to do with the information. For example, in “Plays Well With Others,” which addresses bullying and other “antisocial” behavior, Bronson and Merryman show that it’s not just the rejected kids who resort to aggressive behavior—in fact, many of the most popular kids use relational aggression much more often. Teaching kids not to bully is, in fact, detrimental to their social status. But what they don’t say is is whether that’s a bad thing or not. Do I want my kid to have a lot of friends? Or is it preferable to let them be picked on? Is there a third option?
I know this stems from Bronson and Merryman’s desire not to create a “paint-by-numbers” parenting book. They would prefer to present the evidence and then allow us to decide for ourselves on a course of action. But there were a few cases where I wished they had given just a little more explanation or guidance. Most of the chapters were a little less ambiguous about what’s good for kids and what isn’t, but there were a few in which the answers were not so easily defined. Perhaps, then, my complaint isn’t necessarily about the book so much as it is that kids are variable creatures.
Since I started reading NurtureShock, I haven’t been able to shut up about it. I’m planning to pass it along to several parents and teachers, and I’ve been recommending it to my friends who have kids. I help select books at our local library, and I’ll be requesting that they purchase a copy right away. If you have kids or work with kids, you really ought to check this one out.
This is the sort of book that is covered with blurbs like “one of the most important books you will read this year,” “Alarming,” and “I feel like I’ve been smacked between the eyes with a two-by-four…” But now, having read NurtureShock, I’m sold. This is probably the most important book I’ve read this year. I’ll continue to read other books, and I’ll continue to recommend things that I like, but if you only read one thing I review on GeekDad this year, please make it this one. Before I was even through the first two chapters, I already had the urge to call a meeting with our school board to discuss it.
As a footnote, I learned about the publisher, Twelve Books, when I was looking up information on NurtureShock. It’s an interesting company, publishing no more than one book a month and seeking out quality material. They state that their goal is to publish books that “explain our culture; that illuminate, inspire, provoke, and entertain.” It’s admirable (and I’m sure very challenging), and while I haven’t read any of their other offerings yet, I certainly believe NurtureShock achieves that goal. Under full disclosure, Twelve Books sent me a free copy to review, but it was after I contacted them and requested one—if they had turned me down I was considering purchasing a copy anyway. As it is, this is a book I’ll probably buy a couple copies myself to give away.

Website dedicated to the book




quarta-feira, 14 de outubro de 2009

The International Children's Digital Library

A Library for the World's Children, Books from around the world ;)

Those in Portuguese are from Brazil


Sementes de Música para Bebés e Crianças


Os autores querem proporcionar o contacto com rimas infantis que integram diferentes elementos musicais, com canções que embalam ou que contam uma história, com jogos de ritmo e de interacção. O CD que acompanha o livro contém música gravada para escutar, dançar ou imaginar, com sons de instrumentos, com ambientes de ontem, de hoje e de sempre. 

Ilustradora: Madalena Matoso 


terça-feira, 13 de outubro de 2009

Catching the Wind in rural Malawi

From the blustery plains of Texas to the Danish island of Samsø, wind power—and the giant, bladed towers that generate it—is all the rage in a warming world searching for cleaner sources of energy. Fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba had never heard of windmills, or climate change, for that matter, when he stumbled across a photograph one day and it changed his life forever.

Now 22, Kamkwamba has become something of an international DIY celebrity: He’s spoken at the World Economic Forum, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and at TED Global—twice. He’s chatted with Al Gore, Bono, and Larry Page. A documentary about his life is currently in the works. But Kamkwamba’s story isn’t really about stardom: It’s about the grit, resourcefulness, and audacity of a young engineer who built a windmill from scrap in his native Malawi and brought power to his home—and eventually lit up every house in the village. It’s told in brilliant detail in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (out now from William Morris), co-authored with journalist Bryan Mealer. Seed editor Maywa Montenegro spoke with Kamkwamba while he was in New York City kicking off a US book tour.

Seed: How did you first get the idea to build a windmill?
William Kamkwamba: In 2001, there was drought in Malawi so many people didn’t have enough food. Starting in November, people began starving to death. It was the same year I was supposed to start high school, but in Malawi you pay school fees. My parents couldn’t manage to pay the fees so I was forced to drop out.

In order to keep up with my friends who were going to school, I decided to start reading books at the library. When I was reading, I came across a book that had a picture of a windmill. I thought maybe if I try to build one of these machines, I will be able to pump water for irrigation and then my family would no longer have to go through this hunger problem.


Seed: So the library book provided the design instructions?

WK: The book did not explain how to build the windmill. It just said a windmill could pump water and generate electricity. I had to form my own design. I had a basic idea of how electromagnets work, in terms of a radio motor and a bicycle dynamo—a small generator that attaches to a bicycle wheel. When somebody pedals and rotates the wheel, it generates electricity.

Also, when I was much younger, I used to play with pinwheels. So when I saw the windmill in the book, the idea of the pinwheel suddenly connected with the bicycle dynamo. I said, I think I can build a big pinwheel to generate electricity.


Seed: Can you describe the basic assembly? Where, for instance, did you manage to find windmill parts and construction tools?
WK: My former secondary school used to be a garage; when the garage people left, they gave the place to the minister of education, who turned it into a school. The junkyard is still there, though, so I went there to collect materials. For instance, I discovered a tractor fan and decided it was good for my rotor. A shock absorber was perfect for my shaft. And for blades, I used the plastic pipe from my aunt’s bathhouse. I cut it down the center with a bow saw and held it over a small fire until it melted. Before it cooled, I pressed it flat. For the frame, I used my father’s old bicycle.

As for tools, I didn’t have proper tools or the money to buy them. So for hammers, I used pieces of metal I found at the scrap yard or my father’s spanner—what you call a wrench. For a drill, I had to heat a big nail over a fire and push it through the plastic blades. Drilling through wood took many hours. I also had no washers, so I used beer bottle caps I found outside the Ofesi Boozing Center in Wimbe and poked a hole through them, then pounded them flat.



Diagram courtesy of WORKSHOP NYC for Moving Windmills Project


Essentially, the windmill operated the same as a bicycle: The blades were like pedals, but instead of a person pedaling them, it was done by the wind. When the blades spun, it turned the sprocket and chain on the bike, which turned the back tire. There, I’d attached a small bicycle dynamo that worked as my generator. A wire leads from the dynamo down to a small bulb in my roof.

Seed: What did the other villagers think you were doing with this scrap yard junk?

WK: When I started working on the windmill, people were laughing at me; they thought I was going crazy. It wasn’t normal for somebody to build a machine—especially a machine that people from my area don’t recognize. Also, I was going to a junkyard, collecting material. People put these two things together and thought that maybe I was smoking marijuana.

But once I managed to make the windmill I was very happy. It proved to people that what I was doing wasn’t something crazy—it was something useful. The same people started to appreciate what I did: They came with their mobile phones to charge them at my windmill.


Seed: What were the first things you did with this new electricity?
WK: I put a light bulb in my room. It was such a great experience—I didn’t sleep! Normally I went to bed around 7 pm, but I stayed up late, just looking at my light bulb, lighting up everything. I thought, Wow. I am living like people in urban areas, where they have electricity. The next step was to put light bulbs in my parent’s house.

Seed: That’s incredible. So suddenly instead of going to bed at dusk, you could actually be productive—read and study—in the evening. Were you eventually able to return to school?

WK: I stayed home for four years. At the library, I continued checking out Using Energy—the book with the picture of the windmill. One day when I went to check it out, the librarian asked me, “Why are you always checking out the same book?” I explained to her that it was helping me build a windmill. She was interested and said she would come to my place to see it for herself. After she came and saw the windmill, she said she was going to tell her bosses—people from the Malawi Teacher Training Activity (MTTA). They were also interested, and after they came to see it, they said, “We are going to come again with some journalists.” And then the journalists wrote an article about the windmill and about me.

Then many things happened at once. The people of the MTTA started organizing to put me back in school. That was tough—no school wanted to place me on account of my old age and number of years I had been a drop out. But finally I was accepted at Madisi Secondary, a public boarding school an hour from my home. Though it wasn’t one of the science-oriented schools I had been hoping for, I was very happy to return to my studies.

Then someone in the capital city of Malawi saw the newspaper article and put it on his blog. When he did that, Emeka Okufar—who works at TED and was inviting people to attend the TED conference—saw it. Mr. Okafur tracked me down and invited me to attend TED Global in Arusha.

At the same conference, I met the founder of the African Leadership Academy, a school in Johannesburg. I applied and was accepted to his school. That’s where I am right now.

Seed: Your trip to Arusha for TED Global brought a lot of “firsts.”

WK: It was the first time I saw the internet, the first time I flew in an airplane, the first time I slept in a hotel—everything was the first time. When Tom Rielly, the community director of TED, showed me Google, the first thing I did was search “windmills.” I found more than 1 million designs and any kind of information I could have needed to build my windmill! I thought, wow, this is the big source for everything. If I had had this, I could have built my windmill much more easily.

Seed: But instead you did it with just a picture, some scrap yard junk, and a big idea. Which makes me think about an article I’ve just read: In the Guardian, John Vidal wrote: “Kamkwamba is presented to the west as the ‘humble hero,’ an extraordinary Malawian who has overcome everything to improve his family’s situation, but the reality is that most of Africa, India, and the developing world depends on equally innovative and inventive people coming up with ways to make a living with no cash and next to no resources.” Do you think poverty might have an ironic upside in that it forces ingenuity?

WK: If you have everything you need, like water and electricity, there’s no reason to go looking through garbage heaps like I did. Still, I don’t think that wealthier people are lazy; it’s just they have never had to survive. Having this problem makes you very creative.

Seed: Where do you plan to take your creativity in the future?
WK: Right now I just want to finish my education. From there, I will see about jobs. I know I want to continue working on renewable energy. Apart from this, I’m also planning to design a machine that drills boreholes. Most people in my area have no access to clean water. There is water in the ground, but they lack a means of getting it. So I’m designing the machinery to drill boreholes, and I plan to use the power from the windmill to pump the water. Then people can start irrigation and have access to clean drinking water.

Seed: Have you visited any of the large wind projects in the US?

WK: Yes. I went to Palm Springs to see the big commercial windmills. It was amazing when I found out they were generating—about 600 megawatts. That’s more power than we use in all of Malawi.

Seed: Now that you have traveled around the world seeing giant wind farms, giant cities, and giant celebrities, is it hard to readjust to life in your home village?

WK: Yes…but not too bad. I’m in South Africa at school all the time and that’s a pretty modern place with internet and soccer games on television. Of course, I always like being home, but it’s impossible to compare America or the UK to my village. They are so different, and that’s why I love them. But I’m missing my home right now, especially my mother’s nsima and fish. My mother is a very good cook.


Read William Kamkwamba’s blog, see photos and videos of the windmill on Flickr, and follow him on Twitter at wkamkwamba. Front page photograph of windmill detail by Tom Rielly.