May 2008


And no, I don’t just mean by recycling their coke cans! I still don’t like science much, but this story’s pretty cool:

Teen Finds Way to Decompose Plastic Bags in Just 3 Months!

by Kenny Luna, North Babylon, NY

turtle-plastic-bag-photo.jpg

If ordinary plastic bags would rot away like banana peels there’s no doubt a host of environmental problems would be solved, the fate of the turtle above included. And one 11th grader from Canada set out to make that dream come true as part of his school science project. A wildly successful endeavor he figures will make them decompose in just 3 months.

But how did this extraordinary young scientist named Daniel Burd pull it off?

Well, he decided the fact that they do, eventually, decompose after 1,000 years on their own meant there must be something out there causing it, and postulated that it might well be naturally occurring microorganisms behind it.

So he set about with the good old-fashioned scientific method as his guide, searching for the microorganisms, rarely found in nature, that actually do make plastic decompose.

Ultimately, he identified two strains of bacteria that work together to pull it off, with Sphingomonas serving as the primary decomposer with help from Pseudomonas.

And according to Burd, industrial application should be easy, “All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags.”

As many folks know, the simplest solutions are usually the ones that work best. And this kid has clearly come up with a potentially world changing idea.

So congrats from all of us here at TreeHugger, where we are inspired by your creativity!

See also:

The TH Interview with America’s Top Young Scientist of the Year!

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girl suspended for highlights in her hair

One of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog was about dress codes. At the time, in Dress codes at school and at work, I asked people’s opinions about dress codes and was fairly comfortable with my school’s policy. I wrote about it again when a student (and her family) sued her school about Tigger and Winnie the Pooh socks.

Now I am glad that my school isn’t as restrictive as Desert Wind School in Socorro, TX. There, an 8th grader is missing prom and graduation because of highlights in her hair. Not purple highlights. Not 5 foot long extensions. Just highlights. And I think she looks pretty cute!

This is from a TV station in El Paso:

Desert Wind School student Denise Guerrero, 14, knew it was against school policy to highlight her hair and she also knew the consequences: if she didn’t remove the highlights, she would miss out on her prom, class field trip, graduation ceremony and soccer games.

“Because I couldn’t be with my friends. I missed out on a lot of things,” said Guerrero.As KFOX reported, Guerrero was assigned to in-school suspension or SAC a month before the end of the school year because she has blond highlights in her hair. She was also told she couldn’t participate in any school activities.Her parents filed a grievance with the Socorro Independent School District. They disagree with the school’s policy and they state other students and teachers color or highlight their hair at Desert Wind School.

But her family disagrees:

“According to their policy, highlights are a distraction. Why isn’t it a distraction by teachers, only by the students,” said Rafael Magallanes, Guerrero’s stepfather.

The principal responded to the grievance and echoed what district officials had told KFOX before. They say the dress code only applies to students and it is applied equally, fairly and thoroughly for all students.Just one week before the end of year activities at Desert Wind, Guerrero discovered the school would not amend the policy. She was told her hair had to go back to her natural color if she wanted to participate in school events. Guerrero said she stood her ground because she felt the policy is not fair. She knew she would be sacrificing events and memories she will never relive.”Soccer, my favorite sport, which I couldn’t get in because of a policy which couldn’t be changed, that’s what hurt me the most,” said Guerrero.Guerrero’s parents could have continued with the grievance process but this year was Denise’s last. Previous Stories:

Slideshow: Eighth Grader Suspended For Hair Color

But the point is, what’s too much restriction for a public school? Banning profanity is one thing. Banning blond is just stupid.  It could be worse.  She could have hair like THIS:

I wish my friends and I had thought of this! Maybe next year. Time to kill the tests from the grassroots, and that means us in our classrooms. And I hope that the teacher gets OUT of trouble.

New York 8th-Graders Boycott Practice Exam But Teacher May Get Ax

by Juan Gonzalez

Students at a South Bronx middle school have pulled off a stunning boycott against standardized testing.

More than 160 students in six different classes at Intermediate School 318 in the South Bronx – virtually the entire eighth grade – refused to take last Wednesday’s three-hour practice exam for next month’s statewide social studies test.

Instead, the students handed in blank exams.

Then they submitted signed petitions with a list of grievances to school Principal Maria Lopez and the Department of Education.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of these diagnostic tests all year,” Tatiana Nelson, 13, one of the protest leaders, said Tuesday outside the school. “They don’t even count toward our grades. The school system’s just treating us like test dummies for the companies that make the exams.”

According to the petition, they are sick and tired of the “constant, excessive and stressful testing” that causes them to “lose valuable instructional time with our teachers.”

School administrators blamed the boycott on a 30-year-old probationary social studies teacher, Douglas Avella.

The afternoon of the protest, the principal ordered Avella out of the classroom, reassigned him to an empty room in the school and ordered him to have no further contact with students.

A few days later, in a reprimand letter, Lopez accused Avella of initiating the boycott and taking “actions [that] caused a riot at the school.”

The students say their protest was entirely peaceful. In only one class, they say, was there some loud clapping after one exam proctor reacted angrily to their boycott.

This week, Lopez notified Avella in writing that he was to attend a meeting today for “your end of the year rating and my possible recommendation for the discontinuance of your probationary service.”

“They’re saying Mr. Avella made us do this,” said Johnny Cruz, 15, another boycott leader. “They don’t think we have brains of our own, like we’re robots. We students wanted to make this statement. The school is oppressing us too much with all these tests.”

Two days after the boycott, the students say, the principal held a meeting with all the students to find out how their protest was organized.

Avella on Tuesday denied that he urged the students to boycott tests.

Yes, he holds liberal views and is critical of the school system’s increased emphasis on standardized tests, Avella said, but the students decided to organize the protest after weeks of complaining about all the diagnostic tests the school was making them take.

“My students know they are welcome in my class to have open discussions,” Avella said. “I teach them critical thinking.”

“Some teachers implied our graduation ceremony would be in danger, that we didn’t have the right to protest against the test,” said Tia Rivera, 14. “Well, we did it.”

Lopez did not return calls for comment.

“This guy was far over the line in a lot of the ways he was running his classroom,” said Department of Education spokesman David Cantor. “He was pulled because he was inappropriate with the kids. He was giving them messages that were inappropriate.”

Several students defended Avella. They say he had made social studies an exciting subject for them.

“Now they’ve taken away the teacher we love only a few weeks before our real state exam for social studies,” Tatiana Nelson said. “How does that help us?”

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

0522 03 1

Not thinking much about politics right now. Mostly focused on final exams, earning money, and my brother’s wedding. BUT …. a friend sent these cute pix, so enjoy and stay tuned till I have time to work on something of substance.

Cassie

Cool! You can upload a lot of pix at once in the new version of wordpress.

I am sure that the legislators in Texas know that needle exchanges are much safer for drug addicts and for the public, but they’d rather act all judgmental towards addicts and the people who live near them. Sometimes I hate Texas! What is it like to live in a state that cares about the people?

Texas’ 1st needle-exchange program foiled by legal opinion

Bexar County officials will not move forward with what would have been the first legally sanctioned syringe-exchange program for drug addicts in Texas.

SAN ANTONIO — In the wake of a long-awaited opinion issued Monday by Attorney General Greg Abbott, Bexar County officials will not move forward with what would have been the first legally sanctioned syringe-exchange program for drug addicts in Texas.

The opinion essentially supports the view of District Attorney Susan Reed, who argued that the bill creating the local pilot program didn’t trump state drug laws and would leave county workers open to prosecution. The opinion left such prosecution to Reed’s discretion.

“We were hoping the attorney general would see the value of operating the sterile needle exchange in toto, which included the distribution of sterile needles,” said Aurora Sanchez, who as the county’s executive director of community and development programs is overseeing the pilot program. “But since it doesn’t do that, it appears to me we have to wait until the legislation is changed in 2009.”

Here is more from the article:

“Based on the previous approach she’s taken, I expect her to say she’s going to exercise her discretion to prosecute these wholly good-hearted people. That’s an unfortunate result,” said Neel Lane, an attorney with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which is representing the coalition at no cost.

“I think that the attorney general has reached an absurd conclusion that, in passing a law creating and funding a pilot needle exchange program, that the Legislature may nevertheless intended to prosecute those who carried out the program it funded,” Lane continued. “The practical effect of the opinion is to tell the Bexar County DA that she has the discretion to veto laws passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Perry.”

And this really helpful part! ***sarcasm***

Sanchez said the county would continue to provide educational materials to addicts to prevent the spread of disease.

to cheat at writing an honor code?

Students Plagiarized Honor Code

800px-cheating.jpg

This is just funny:

Their goal was an honor code that discouraged cheating and plagiarizing.

However, the wording in a draft by students at the University of Texas at San Antonio appears to match another school’s code — without proper attribution.

The student currently in charge of the honor code project said it was an oversight, but cheating experts say it illustrates a sloppiness among Internet-era students who don’t know how to cite sources properly and think of their computers as cut-and-paste machines.

Link