Why does Mr. Snuffleupagus snuffle?

Sesame Street is trying to teach nature, math, science and engineering ideas to preschoolers, reports the New York Times.

. . . (A cow) made it up the stairs to the beauty parlor but now, her bouffant piled high, she’s stuck. Cows can go up stairs, she moans, but not down.

Enter Super Grover 2.0. Out from his bottomless “utility sock” comes an enormous ramp, which, as the cow cheerily notes before clomping on down, is “a sloping surface that goes from high to low.”

It’s not about the letter C or the number 7  any more. Now Sesame Street is tackling “topics like how a pulley works or how to go about investigating what’s making Mr. Snuffleupagus sneeze,” reports the Times.

Zach Hyman

Murray Monster, shown here attending Robo Fun School, appears in science-focused segments with children.

Super Grover 2.0 “uses magnets, springs and ‘superpowers’ of investigation, observation and reporting to solve problems through trial and error. Before settling on a ramp for the stuck cow, for instance, he tries a trampoline.”

Last season, Elmo began starring in a daily musical that incorporates math.

On Sept. 24, Sesame Workshop will launch “Little Discoverers: Big Fun With Science, Math and More” on the web site. “In one game, little fingers manipulate a virtual spring to launch pieces of trash into Oscar the Grouch’s trash can, a Sesame Street version of ‘Angry Birds’.”

How green are Millennials? Not very

Green? Schmean.  Young Americans are less interested in environmental issues than baby boomers and Gen Xers were at the same age, concludes a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Over the last four decades, in young people have lost trust in others and interest in government; they spend less time thinking about social problems. And they’re not all that keen on green, notes AP.

Researchers found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Gen Xers—and 21 percent of Millennials—said the same.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.

Young baby boomers and Gen Xers were much more likely than Millennials to say they’ve tried to conserve electricity and fuel used to heat their homes.

One professor says the younger generation has less contact with “unpaved” nature.

At Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, Biology Professor  Richard Niesenbaum estimates 5 to 10 percent of students are environmentalists, 5 percent are hostile to environmentalism and 85 to 90 percent are OK with protecting the environment and conserving resources, but not interested in being “seriously inconvenienced or paying a cost to do so.”

Perhaps Millennials are burned out on green.

Field trip: Rocks, flies and no cabs

Ms. Cyanococcus at Biology and Blueberries took her high school students on a field trip to a local nature outreach center.

My kids visited three different ecosystems — a forest, a meadow, and a pond — and learned about the different adaptations that animals have in order to survive in their environments.

I thought the field trip was great. My outdoors-challenged students thought otherwise. Here are some of their comments throughout the day:

“Yo, I be thirsty. Where’s the water fountain?”

“I just tripped over two rocks. If I trip over another one, I’m suing.”

“Ewwww, there’s a fly.” “Oh my god!” “That jawn tryin’ to land on me!”

“Where the frogs?” “They got ‘em at Petco.”

“Do we got an elevator or escalator comin’ up this hill?” “Can I call a cab?”

Here’s a quote for the day.

Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and recess

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, say researchers. And Jack will concentrate better with some down time in the natural world. A Pediatrics study found children 8 and 9 years old behaved better in class if they had more than 15 minutes of recess a day. From the New York Times:

Although disadvantaged children were more likely to be denied recess, the association between better behavior and recess time held up even after researchers controlled for a number of variables, including sex, ethnicity, public or private school and class size.

Thirty percent of elementary students have little or no daily recess time, the study found.

A small study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder last year found that walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests of attention and concentration. Notably, children who took walks in natural settings did better than those who walked in urban areas, according to the report, published online in August in The Journal of Attention Disorders. The researchers found that a dose of nature worked as well as a dose of medication to improve concentration, or even better.

I visited two schools that let children with autism or hyperactivity issues take an exercise break to calm themselves.

Parents are trying too hard

Mom and Dad are spending more time caring for their kids, writes economist Bryan Caplan in Chronicle of Higher Education.  But is it worth it?

Time-diary studies show fathers and mothers spend more time caring for their kids than they did 40 years ago.

But the benefits of parental attention wear off as children grow up, Caplan argues.  In the long run, nature beats nurture.  And parents who do too much may burn out, which isn’t much fun for children or parents.


One notable study by Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute found that while most parents believe their children want more face time, only a tiny minority of children actually do. In contrast, about a third of children wish their parents were less stressed and tired. What kids seem to want from their parents isn’t more time; it’s a better attitude.

In other words: Take it easy, Mom and Dad. Your kids will be fine.

Hmm. I’m not convinced that parents have so little lasting effect on their children. On the other hand, neglectful parents probably aren’t reading the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Via Division of Labor.