August 17th, 2012
04:16 AM ET

How to shoulder a backpack

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) – Pediatric orthopedist Dr. David Marshall is concerned about the weight that students shoulder from their backpacks.

"We're starting to see more and more back pain complaints in the doctors' and the sports medicine offices, and the question is:  Is there a correlation between backpacks and back pain?"

It's true that they're a campus standard when it comes to carrying books, notebooks, computers, papers and pencils around.  But experts say a backpack's weight should be limited to about 10 – 15% of a student's body weight.

If a traditional backpack exceeds that, you may want to consider a rolling backpack (the kind that looks like luggage).

Those who do carry their school supplies on their shoulders can take a few steps to better distribute the weight.

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Filed under: College • Elementary school • High school • Middle school • Safety
June 7th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Keeping students sharp through summer

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN)  Call it the summer slide, the seasonal slump, the brain drain or the summer slowdown.  Just don’t call it new:  The two-month period when students lose some of their academic edge has been observed for over a century.  The good news here is that experts and parents have come up with a number of ways to keep kids sharp through the summer, and we’re sharing some of them with you here.

Learn something new

“We would all expect an athlete’s or a musician’s performance to suffer if they took a long break from practice, and the same is true for our nation’s young people,” says Ron Fairchild, founder of the Smarter Learning Group.

One way to keep your student’s brain in shape is to keep the learning going.  It doesn’t have to be out of a textbook.  Swimming or SCUBA or horseback riding lessons, practicing a language while driving to your vacation destination – it all counts.

In a summer camp – particularly an outdoor one – kids take part in activities they might not otherwise do.  Some learn how to build a fire; some learn to paddle a canoe; some team up to complete a rope course.  (And even if students learn they can’t actually trust others in a “trust fall,” they’ve still learned something, right?)

Picking up a new instrument can also help keep kids engaged with learning, and there are many studies linking music with mathematics.  So if your child has always wanted to play guitar or drums (heaven help you), summer may be the perfect time to do it.

May 14th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

Math whiz Chad Qian on winning

Eighth grader Chad Qian of Indiana took the top prize in the Raytheon MATHCOUNTS national competition which included an $8000 scholarship.

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Filed under: Math • Middle school • On air • video
It only takes a minute to change a student’s life
May 10th, 2012
11:06 AM ET

It only takes a minute to change a student’s life

Courtesy Scott BurkeyBy Scott Burkey, CNN

Editor’s Note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this week, we’re asking our colleagues at CNN to share their stories of teachers who have inspired them. Scott Burkey is a senior project manager at CNN.

(CNN) - We moved several times when I was in junior high and high school. Each time was more difficult than before. The first time we moved I was 12 and I remember the process of “checking out” of school in the middle of the day before we moved. What happened to me on that one day when I was 12 has had such an impact on me that I’m still talking about it three decades later.

One of the teachers at my junior high school was a geography teacher named Bill Wheaton. I thought it was cool that Mr. Wheaton was missing part of one of his fingers. I imagined it to have been lost in a grizzly battle in Vietnam or in a knife fight with a vicious street gang. I spent many classes daydreaming about how Mr. Wheaton had defended a whole town against invading forces and lost part of his finger in the bloody battle that ensued. It’s silly now to think back about it. But it’s okay because I’m not an overly-serious person.

What Mr. Wheaton did for me wasn’t just in providing daydream material but it was a decision he made on my last day in that small junior high school in the early 1980’s. He made a decision that took him two minutes to make and that impacted my life for many years.

My seventh-grade teacher taught me to believe in myself
May 9th, 2012
12:45 PM ET

My seventh-grade teacher taught me to believe in myself

Courtesy Laura PriceBy Simit Shah, CNN

Editor’s Note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this week, we’re asking our colleagues at CNN to share their stories of teachers who have inspired them. Simit Shah is a technical consultant at CNN.

When you’re 12 years old, you do what you’re told, and you pretty much believe what you’re told.

From the point where I could start writing complete sentences in elementary school, I was told that I wasn’t especially good at it. While I loved to read, especially anything involving the Hardy Boys or the sports section in the morning newspaper, my talents clearly resided in the realm of math and science.

So I came to accept this as fact with little to no power to change my path in life. I never questioned or challenged it; some people are good writers, and I wasn’t one of those people.

All that changed my first day of Mrs. Sallie Rainwater’s seventh grade English class at Marietta (Georgia) Junior High. I was fully prepared to accept that I’d muddle through another year of the standard book reports, spelling quizzes and sentence diagrams.

However, Mrs. Rainwater instead announced that we’d spend an entire year focused on writing – letters, short stories, poems. My heart sunk when I heard this, thinking that my chances at squeaking out an "A" were now slim to none.

I plotted ways to weasel out of this predicament, even requesting to switch to a traditional class, but Mrs. Rainwater would have none of that. As the year progressed, she pushed, prodded and challenged me to overcome my fears.

April 10th, 2012
02:02 PM ET

Kid saves busload as driver faints

by Stephen Walsh, CNN

Take a busload of kids. Add speed, an unconscious driver, adrenaline and panic. Normally you’d have a recipe for disaster, but not this time. It happened Monday morning as students were being driven to Surprise Lake Middle School in Milton, Washington. Seventh-grader Jeremy Wuitschick saw the driver lose consciousness and sprang into action.

The News Tribune newspaper reports the driver is listed in grave condition at a Tacoma-area hospital.

Watch the video to see surveillance video of the entire incident and hear Wuitschick explain how he was able to guide the bus to safety.

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Filed under: Middle school • Practice • video
March 11th, 2012
01:40 PM ET

Minnesota girl alleges school privacy invasion

(CNN) - A Minnesota middle school student, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing her school district over a search of her Facebook and e-mail accounts by school employees.

The 12-year-old sixth grade student, identified in court documents only as R.S., was on two occasions punished for statements she made on her Facebook account, and was also pressured to divulge her password to school officials, the complaint states.

"R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room" as she watched a counselor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.

The lawsuit claims that her First Amendment rights were violated by employees at Minnewaska Area Middle School, in west-central Minnesota, as well as her Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure.

The Minnewaska School District denies any wrongdoing.

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Filed under: Legal issues • Middle school • Policy • Technology
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