Showing posts from September 8, 2019

India's Little Librarian

Poor neighborhoods in India typically have low literacy rates because residents do not have the resources necessary to educate their children. 9-year-old Muskaan Ahirwar is working to change this in her impoverished neighborhood in Bhopal. In January 2016, she opened a library outside her house to give kids free access to books and a place to read. She started with just a few books and now has several hundred from around the world. Her library gets 25 visitors a day and the kids play knowledge games and hold competitions to see who can read the most. The library has given those kids who used to wander the streets a place to go and read regularly. "Whoever has the drive to learn, they should start their own library and start learning, and study like us and get ahead in life" says Muskaan.

The Hidden Benefit of Disagreeing About Politics

A new study suggests that political disagreements with our friends and family might help us make better voting decisions.

By Zaid Jilani

Most of us dislike arguing with our friends and family about politics. Sometimes, even simple disagreement can make us feel uncomfortable. That might be why Americans are increasingly segregating into like-minded communities. We are now choosing neighbors, friends, and spouses according to their political beliefs.

But what happens when we get out of the bubbles we have created for ourselves? A new study offers some insight.

To find out, a team of University of Minnesota researchers used surveys from the 2008 and 2012 elections to compare how people changed their minds about candidates in high-disagreement in-person social networks and in those with less political diversity.

Unsurprisingly, people in social networks with less disagreement about the elections tended to become increasingly rigid over time. They’d end up going with the group’s candidate even …

Life is Sweeter with Unlikely Friends

Think of the friends you hold dearest in life. Would you still support them the same way even if you didn’t speak the same language? Here’s a story that will remind you that friendship is far more than the things that divide us.

By Sam Burns

The Quality of Mercy

What is Mercy? In this essay offered by Lee Van Laer - we can see it from many perspectives. Shakespeare calls it an attribute to God himself, and according to the Sufi's mercy is God's greatest and most powerful quality. Van Laer points out that, "In practical terms, Mercy isn't just an idea or a concept; in its metaphysical and esoteric sense, it's a substance.That is to say, it's of a material nature, and we human beings have the potential to participate in the sensation of that tangible substance."

The True Life of the Forest

Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger, botanist, medical biochemist, writer and broadcaster, combines medical training with a love of botany. She is an expert on the medicinal, environmental and nutritional properties of trees, and author most recently of The Global Forest. When her parents died, she was raised by an uncle who taught her everything from physics to Buddhism and Gaelic poetry. She was one of only two women to graduate in science from University College Cork in 1963, where she had taken on a "crushing load of studies in classical botany, molecular biology, mathematics, and medical biochemistry". She shares more in this fascinating interview.

Happiness Doesn’t Make You Ignore Social Problems

A new study suggests that happy people—far from being self-centered or disengaged—are more willing to tackle social problems.

By Jill Suttie

There’s a stereotype about people seeking happiness—that all they care about is themselves. They look at the world through rose-colored glasses, and so they refuse to see suffering. If we want to motivate people to care about righting social wrongs, the thinking goes, then we must stoke people’s anger and fear.

Now a new study refutes that narrative. According to the study’s findings, happier people seem to be more likely to take social action than their less happy peers.

Researchers surveyed three different groups of people to see how generally happy they were, then gauged how much they cared about a particular social issue. They also had people report on actions they’d taken in response to the issue, their future plans to take action, and, in some cases, their willingness to sign up on the spot to participate in social action.

The first group consi…

Bone Up on Your Skeletal Health!

Every ten years your skeleton replaces itself! Our bones hold a world of fascinating secrets. Dive in with us to learn more!

By Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Did you know your skeleton regrows itself every 10 years? Sure you might be sentimental about your femur, but over the past decade, it’s been through an incredible process of growth and change you’ve been experiencing your entire life!

Bones aren’t something you think much about, particularly when you’re growing up. But, like so many parts of the human body, they are incredibly adapted to provide us with the strength and support we need while staying light and mobile.

A New Son Begets A New Mother

"I raised my daughter, Claire, to listen to her true self. She was an odd kid, unusually intelligent from a young age and socially awkward, sometimes lacking empathy and always coming at things from a different way than her peers. I had made it my practice as her mother to allow and defend her unique way of being in the world. But when she announced she was a man at age 15, she had gone too far even for this open-minded mom: this I could not support. Convinced that this was an impulsive teenage phase with no regard for the long and serious fight for the rights of her LGBT predecessors, I greeted her announcement with denial, anger, stonewalling and scorn." What follows is the moving account of one mother's journey with her child's gender transition.

--by Kim Morrow

Having grown up in California with a mom who was lesbian, I thought I was one of the most open-minded people around. I was liberal, well-educated, informed on social justice issues and accepting of…

How to Help Students with Learning Disabilities Focus on Their Strengths

We can empower students with learning disabilities with the language we use and the way we teach and guide them.

By Rebecca Branstetter

I sat across the table from Dawn, a wide-eyed eight-year-old girl in pigtails, bracing myself to tell her the news.

I have told students they have a learning disability hundreds of times over my 20 years as a school psychologist. But there was something about her earnest and expectant face that made me pause.

Was giving her an official label going to make her feel stigmatized and defeated?

Would the benefits of having access to more specialized services outweigh the cost to her academic self-esteem?

I carefully explained how her brain worked with a visual aid of her brain in pictures. I told her where she was strong and where she needed to do “brain pushups” to get stronger. And I told her that she had something called “dyslexia.”

And she jumped out of her chair, smiled ear to ear, screamed “YES!,” and did a move I’ve seen in sports celebrations many times…

Can the Photos You Share Really Make a Difference?

Do your shares on social media really mean anything? We’re taking a look in the history books to see how sharing photographs has changed the world before, and how you can have a hand in making a difference today!

By Sam Burns

Janwaar Castle: A Modern Skate Park in Rural India

When is a skatepark more than a skatepark? When it is Janwaar Castle, a local playground in Janwaar village. Between 50-60 children visit the park every day where they learn English, music, dance, painting, 3D modelling, and general life skills. It is a place where Adivasis and Yadavs, boys and girls, and all age groups play together.

There are two rules: no school no skating and girls first.

Since skateboarding is cool, the children will do anything to hang out there, including going to school. The park was conceptualized and created by Ulrike Reinhard, a German who fell in love with and moved to India after a trip there in 2012. Of skateboarding she says, "It teaches you to fall and rise, take risks and most importantly, maintain balance".

To Be Happier, Should You Focus on Yourself or Others?

A new study explores whether helping others or treating ourselves leads to greater well-being.

By Elizabeth Hopper

If we want to become happier, should we focus on ourselves or focus on others?

Prior research suggests that we may benefit more from helping and giving to others. But, at the same time, too much of a focus on others can sometimes lead to burnout and exhaustion. Now, new research suggests that we might want to pursue a mix of both strategies—each of which can boost our well-being in slightly different ways.

In a study published in the journal Emotion, 263 American participants received instructions on their smartphone daily for 10 days, to perform one of three activities. One group was assigned to engage in moral deeds (such as giving to charity or helping someone else), one group to think moral thoughts (such as thinking good things about someone else or hoping for someone else’s success), and one group to do something kind for themselves (such as relaxing or treating themsel…

Inner Preacher vs Inner Teacher

Between message and meaning, "Art is co-created by artist and audience, by writer and reader." In this Ursula K. Le Guin essay, Maria Popova explores the questions of where to find strength and hope, what is a writer's calling in this time and place, what work will make a difference, and how we might create a community of purpose. To each, Le Guin's answer is in trying to write well. Writing is not the "vehicle of a message." It is lines of words that try to express things that are true and important. Truths are not put there but revealed "out of the corner of (the reader's) eye." It is not preached, but taught in the "area of silence, that empty space, in which other and further truths and perceptions can form in other minds."

Artists as Hoarders

When does collecting material for prospective art projects cross over and become hoarding? When it takes up so much space it requires a warehouse? When the time to collect and sort and store it all amounts to your entire lifetime? And what kind of imagination plus dedication does it take to finally assemble all the bits and pieces into something qualifying as art? Mirka Knaster opens the portal into the fascinating world of artists around the globe who hoard their way to stunningly beautiful and creative pieces of art. Dive in and become amazed.