By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - Some 20 years ago, when Troy Gunter was a new band director, he had the crazy idea that his high school students should someday march in the Rose Parade.
It’s a lofty goal for any band. The annual march through Pasadena began in 1890 and evolved into a New Year’s Day spectacle of music, flowers and football watched by 700,000 along the route and 39 million more on TV.
Gunter's school, Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, grew from a few hundred kids to more than a thousand. The private school's marching band ballooned to about 150 students and evolved into the school's Conservatory of the Arts. Over the years, the marching band took on more competitions, longer parades and overseas travel.
A few years ago, when Gunter and the band returned from a trip to Cambodia, an idea struck: Why not apply to the Rose Parade now, with an international partner?
Problem was, they didn’t really know any overseas bands. They weren’t sure how they could practice together, let alone organize for the grandest stage a high school marching band can reach.
With the 2013 parade deadline looming, they got in touch with Beijing’s No. 57 High School. The band’s director, Lu Jin, was familiar with the Rose Parade, and his band had played a few major events, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Through a contact of a contact of a contact, we got together,” Gunter said. “It was like a blind date.”
Without ever meeting, Gunter, who doesn’t speak Chinese, and Lu Jin, who doesn’t speak English, agreed to go for it.
By David Houle, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David Houle is a futurist and author of the blog Evolution Shift. He is the author of “The Shift Age”, "Shift Ed: A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education" and "Entering the Shift Age." He has been a contributor to Oprah.com. Houle is futurist-in- residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Florida.
(CNN) - When people find out that I am a futurist, they ask me what that means. In speaking and writing, I act as a catalyst to get people, the market and the world to think about the future, then facilitate a conversation about it.
There’s one area that’s desperately in need of that conversation: education.
In the next decade, there will be more transformation at all levels of education than in any 10-, 20-, or perhaps 50-year period in history. Generational forces at play will accelerate these changes. The aging baby boomers - who I call the “bridge generation,” as they have bridged education from the middle of the 20th century to now - are retiring in ever increasing numbers. They have held on to the legacy thinking about education, remembering how they were taught. Their retirement opens up the discussion about transformation.
At the same time, we have the rising digital natives as the students of tomorrow. This generation, born since 1997, is the first that was likely to grow up with a computer in the house, high-speed Internet, parents with cell phones and often a touch screen app phone as their first phone. They are the first generation of the 21th century with no memory of the 20th. They are the first generation born into the information-overloaded world; for them, that’s simply the way it is. The digital natives are different than prior generations and need new models for education.
Let’s take a quick look for all levels of education to see what some major transformations will be:
A child born in 2009 is one of the younger digital natives. In upper-middle class households, they are the first children for whom all content can be found on screens. They are using touch screen and other interactive computing devices starting as early as 2, and therefore walk into the first day of preschool or nursery school with a level of digital skills. This will spark greater use of digital devices and interactive learning at this first level of education. Classrooms will increasingly have interactive touch screen devices.
(CNN) - Arizona's attorney general proposed arming one principal or employee at each school to defend against attacks such as the recent Connecticut school massacre.
"The ideal solution would be to have an armed police officer in each school," Attorney General Tom Horne said in a news release Wednesday. But budget cuts have limited the number of Arizona schools with "school resource officers" on campus, he said.
The "next best solution," Horne said, "is to have one person in the school trained to handle firearms, to handle emergency situations, and possessing a firearm in a secure location."
A shooter, armed with a semiautomatic rifle and two other guns, on December 14 killed 26 people - including six faculty members and 20 young students - at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.
Horne compared the plan to the FAA's program adopted after the September 11, 2001, attacks to arm airline pilots.
A school would be invited to send the principal "or another designee" to "training in the use of firearms and how to handle emergencies such as that which occurred in Newtown," Horne's release said. Horne's office would oversee the free training with help from sheriffs, he said.
"The designated individual (no more than one per school) would then be authorized to keep a firearm locked in a secure place, and would have adequate communication to be alerted to an emergency in any part of the school," the release said.
By Faith Karimi, CNN
(CNN) - His journey started in Nigeria, a taunted teenager with large tumors on his face, driven into deep despair.
Eleven years later, Victor Chukwueke has undergone numerous surgeries and is a step closer to achieving his dream of becoming a doctor.
In a rare act, the United States Congress passed a private bill last week granting Chukwueke permanent residency after years of his living in Michigan on an expired visa. The bill is awaiting President Barack Obama's signature.
The bill would allow the Wayne State University graduate to attend medical school at the University of Toledo in Ohio, which requires him to have permanent residency.
"The day Congress passed the bill was one of the happiest days of my life," said Chukwueke, who left Nigeria as a teen in 2001 to get treatment for the tumors.
Private bills - which only apply to one person and mostly focus on immigration - seldom pass. His is the only private bill to pass in Congress in two years.
"I was overwhelmed with joy; it was nothing less than a miracle," the 26-year-old said. "Only in this country can so many miraculous and wonderful things happen to someone like me."
Before coming to the United States at age 15, Chukwueke lived in the southeastern Nigeria town of Ovim.
He suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes massive life-threatening tumors on his face.
Treated as an outcast because of his deformed face, he was depressed and humiliated, he said. His family abandoned him at an orphanage.
Nuns from the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy rescued him from the orphanage more than a decade ago and arranged for a Michigan doctor to perform surgery on him.
He says he considers himself lucky to have developed the tumors.
"Without them, I would not have met the nun, left Nigeria, arrived in the U.S. and had the miracle to attend medical school," he says.
By Miriam Gamoran Sherin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Miriam Gamoran Sherin, a public voices fellow with the OpEd Project, is professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University and mother of three.
(CNN) - In the past several weeks, middle and high school students across the country brought home their first-quarter report cards. Many make a push to improve scores and grades before the holidays, and over winter break, some will study for final exams, knowing those results are a major component of their semester class ranks.
For many families, report cards serve as the key measure of a child’s success in school. They're assigned so much importance, grades can be the source of conflict and tension at a time when parents and their children could be celebrating the winter holidays peacefully.
But what if the report card itself is not so valuable? What do grades actually tell us about our children’s learning?
Not as much as we think.
Grades are one measure of our children’s success, but perhaps not the most important one. The level of learning is what matters.
My 12-year-old daughter is getting a B in her seventh-grade math class, and learning much more than last year, when she was getting an A. Her sixth-grade math class focused on rote computation with study guides that were almost identical to the following day’s test. This year, her class focuses on mathematical problem-solving. The tests challenge students to apply what they know.
By Laurel Bongiorno, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Laurel Bongiorno is director of the master’s degree program in early childhood education at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. She is working on a book on the value of play in early childhood development.
(CNN) - Parents want to buy the best toys for their children - the educational toys that will make them grow faster, read earlier and solve math problems faster.
Toy manufacturers often market high-priced toys that play by themselves (no child needed!), are connected to movies and television shows (no imagination needed!) or have just one purpose in mind. Once played with, they go in the closet.
On this last weekend before the Christmas gift-giving commences, parents should go back to basics when toy shopping for their young children from birth to age 8. Children are complex people who need holistic opportunities for development, learning, health and happiness.
Blocks, dramatic play clothes, art supplies, messy play opportunities, books and games are the stuff they need for the holidays. And, parents don’t have to break the bank to afford them. The local dollar stores and thrift stores have many of these materials.
Consider a 4-year-old building a highway with the blocks. She sorts, sequences, maps, plans, predicts, estimates, counts and compares. The 7-year-old might create bridges and ramps, using basic physics concepts. Blocks are open-ended materials that the children don’t tire of and retire to the closet when they are done. Parents can add to block-building fun by supplying play props such as cars, dinosaurs, animals and many other options. Math isn’t the only benefit derived from blocks; children use their small motor skills, build their vocabulary, play cooperatively with others and gain self-control and patience.
By John Martin, CNN
(CNN) - Years ago, maybe years upon years ago, you probably sat in a classroom and learned how chemicals combine to form new substances. You watched your teacher write on the board, drew a few pictures and completed a worksheet. Maybe you read the textbook at home and studied images of electrons being shared and transferred to form chemical bonds.
If you step into a high school chemistry class late next year, the students might be learning the same thing. But they could be manipulating foam or paper mache models to show how bonds are made, or moving electrons around on a computer screen, testing what happens when a transfer occurs.
Science classrooms in America will begin to change next year, when 26 states are expected to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards. How those students learn will often differ from the education their parents, or even their older siblings, had.
Twenty-six states helped develop new science standards.
Whatever they're doing, they won't just be reading science translated into kid-speak by adults. They'll be making models, solving problems and getting messy, the standards developers said. They're expecting the next generation to gain an understanding of science and engineering that makes them competitive on a global scale.
“The Next Generation Science Standards… could potentially have a profound change on how we teach science,” said Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teacher Association. “Parents need to know it’s a different kind of classroom their child's going to see.”
So exactly what will change?
By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN
(CNN) - An 11-year-old from Michigan said he was really going to wow his schoolmates with the "coolest" show-and-tell item anyone's ever brought to the sixth grade.
After all, it's not every day you get to show off a 13,000-year-old mastodon bone you and your cousin found in a stream behind your backyard.
"I thought it was a rock at first, but a couple minutes later I looked more at it, and I didn't think it was a dinosaur bone, but I wasn't sure," Eric Stamatin of Shelby Township Michigan told CNN on Thursday.
He and Andrew Gainariu, 11, from Troy, Michigan, were hunting for crayfish in the stream that extends from the middle branch of the Clinton River, as they often did, when they "got bored" and decided to build a dam.
They made an extraordinary discovery that June day.
John Zawiskie, a geologist and paleontologist at the Cranbrook Institute of Science confirmed in early November that what the "kids just being kids outside" discovered was not a rock at all, but an axis, a specialized second vertebrae behind the skull in the spinal column of an American mastodon.
"These animals have been extinct for 10,000 years," Zawiskie told CNN.
By LZ Granderson, CNN contributor
Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs
Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) - I wish I were surprised that Texas Gov. Rick Perry doesn't see a problem with concealed weapons in schools, but after watching his failed bid for the presidency, the truth is there's very little that man can say that will truly surprise me.
"If you have been duly back-grounded and trained and you are a concealed handgun license-carrying individual, you should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state," Perry said at a tea party event held on Monday.
It seems his line of reasoning is in line with some of his gun-loving brethren who believe if teachers and principals are armed, tragedies like the one in Newtown would go away.
It's as if he thinks "Rambo" is a documentary.
In a country with fewer than 350 million people but more than 310 million guns, we don't need more of them. We need fewer. And when it comes to our schools, we don't need guns at all.
So it's very fortunate that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder had the good sense to veto Michigan Senate Bill 59 on Tuesday. The proposed law would have allowed people with permits to carry concealed weapons and with extra training, to bring their guns to traditional "gun-free" zones such as day care centers and schools. And by "extra training," the bill called for an additional eight hours and another 94 rounds on the firing range.
It was approved the day before the shootings in Newtown.
On Monday - while Perry was encouraging guns in schools - a letter signed by all 21 superintendents in my county was sent to Gov. Snyder asking him to veto the bill because, unlike the gun-happy politicians who rammed the legislation through in a lame duck session, educators do not believe guns in schools are a good thing.
I have yet to hear a teacher who has survived a massacre advocate for guns in schools.
By William J. Bennett, CNN contributor
Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.
(CNN) - On NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday, I was asked how we can make our schools safer and prevent another massacre like Sandy Hook from happening again. I suggested that if one person in the school had been armed and trained to handle a firearm, it might have prevented or minimized the massacre.
"And I'm not so sure - and I'm sure I'll get mail for this - I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," I said. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. Has to be someone who's trained. Has to be someone who's responsible."
Well, I sure did get mail. Many people agreed with me and sent me examples of their son or daughter's school that had armed security guards, police officers or school employees on the premises. Many others vehemently disagreed with me, and one dissenter even wrote that the blood of the Connecticut victims was ultimately on the hands of pro-gun rights advocates.
To that person I would ask: Suppose the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary who was killed lunging at the gunman was instead holding a firearm and was well trained to use it. Would the result have been different? Or suppose you had been in that school when the killer entered, would you have preferred to be armed?
Evidence and common sense suggest yes.
In 1997, high school student Luke Woodham stabbed his mother to death and then drove to Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, and shot and killed two people. He then got back in his car to drive to Pearl Junior High to continue his killings, but Joel Myrick, the assistant principal, ran to his truck and grabbed his pistol, aimed it at Woodham and made him surrender.
These are but a few of many examples that the best deterrent of crime when it is occurring is effective self-defense. And the best self-defense against a gunman has proved to be a firearm.