Monthly Archives: November 2010

Global Weirding

“Avoid the term “global warming.” I prefer the term “global weirding,” because that is what actually happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. The weather gets weird. The hots are expected to get hotter, the wets wetter, the dries drier and the most violent storms more numerous. ”

“Even if climate change proves less catastrophic than some fear, in a world that is forecast to grow from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion people between now and 2050, more and more of whom will live like Americans, demand for renewable energy and clean water is going to soar. It is obviously going to be the next great global industry. ”

Thomas Friedman, 2/17/2010

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What would Yoky Matsuoka say about Sudbury Valley School?

Growing up in Japan, Yoky Matsuoka was on her way to becoming a world-class tennis player. When injuries ended her tennis dreams, she turned to another early interest: robotics. Twenty years later Matsuoka is now a leader in the emerging field of neurobotics, hard at work creating robot technology that can help disabled persons.



“RODNEY BROOKS: Yoky used to always surprise me, because she would go into a field [an area of robotics] where she knew nothing, really, and within three or four weeks, she’d be knowing everything about it and making contributions there. ”

“YOKY MATSUOKA: I am the first generation who is openly having this dual life and saying, “You know what? I’m not going to wait ’til tenure. I’m going to start having my kids.” And it’s really exciting, but it’s really, really hard. ”

“I really wanted to be somebody who sticks out, be different, have an attitude. If people say, “Hey, you have an attitude,” I think, to me, that’s a compliment.”

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Filed under profiles, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Cheating in Science, Part II: School is a Breeding Ground for Cheaters

This article (link below) isn’t directly about SVS but it is related since there is no testing or evaluation at SVS unless it is initiated and asked for by the student (the enrollee). I can’t imagine what purpose cheating would have in such a situation. Interesting are the comments at this article which include people who cheated a lot in school but don’t anymore now that they are out of that environment.

Cheating in Science, Part II: School is a Breeding Ground for Cheaters
“One of the tragedies of our system of schooling is that it deflects students from discovering what they truly love and find worth doing for its own sake. Instead, it teaches them that life is a series of hoops that one must get through, by one means or another, and that success lies in others’ judgments rather than in real, self-satisfying accomplishments.”

From: Freedom to Learn
The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning
a blog by Peter Gray

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Filed under alternative education, science, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Creativity and… Sudbury Valley School

Interesting article on the decline of creativity in the US (from Newsweek recently…)

“Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers. Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently reanalyzed Torrance’s data. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.”

“When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.”

“highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites. ”

“highly creative adults frequently grew up with hardship”

“those high in creative self-efficacy had more confidence about their future and ability to succeed. They were sure that their ability to come up with alternatives would aid them, no matter what problems would arise.”

“A lifetime of consistent habits gradually changes the neurological pattern.”

“Since [1990], creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.””

LINK: The Creativity Crisis (Newsweek)

Wow. Of course I see everything with Sudbury Valley School tinted glasses, so yes, this last quote tells me it is even more important to get your kids to SVS or another Sudbury Valley School on the double when they are still in elementary school. No need to wait until they are getting progressively more miserable in Middle School/Junior High/High School.

Suggested is a “creativity class” because of the studies showing that creativity can be “taught”. But I’m not sure why a class since all it seemed to really say is that very accomplished people in any field or sport are able to improvise better.

Also suggested are “team projects”. But what if you are not interested in working on a proposal for how to reduce noise in the library (an example from the article). Too bad! I guess that’s why I like SVS over other alternatives like project-based curriculum. You are free to do as you wish. Not free within a pre-set outline of acceptable topics or things to be doing. Really free. Sounds like a good breeding ground for creativity to me!

That said, in the end I think one’s family situation has a lot to do with this stuff. I don’t expect schools to raise kids, and as found in the article, family circumstances and environments had a definite impact.

OK, that’s all I wanted to say. Interesting article.

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Filed under alternative education, creativity, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Just look how people talk about children

“Another translator [at an evening lecture we were attending] prefaced a question about the effectiveness of correcting linguistic “mistakes,” by saying: “If my 15-year-old son had his way, he would spend his whole life lazing in front of the computer and television,” which elicited a room full of nods and sighs of agreement. Perry [14 years old] and I rolled our eyes at each other and clenched our teeth, as if to say: “Just look how people talk about children.”

“From the first grade Perry has been attending Sudbury Jerusalem, where students are not divided by age and mix freely with each other and with the staff. They are free to pursue whatever interests they have at a given time with whatever means available: play, books, the Internet, but primarily conversation with other children or adults. Maybe it is because of this upbringing that Perry has never internalized a hierarchy of subjects of interest and activities, rating them as childish/adult, work/play, serious/frivolous, cool/geeky. He has always flowed with his interests, at times devoting intense attention to one thing and then moving on to another.”
— Shoshana London Sappir


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Filed under contrarian, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, thinking

The wonder drug that works wonders!

Aspirin? I’m thinking of something else… “Imagine if today, scientists discovered a drug that could save 13 per cent of all the babies who currently die. Now imagine that drug also made your baby cleverer – and dramatically slashed her chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, leukaemia, asthma or obesity as an adult. Oh: and imagine it was free. The “drug” exists. It is called breast milk.”

“How do we change that [poor breastfeeding rates]? For clues, look at the country where breastfeeding rates are still 90 per cent at six months: Norway. They give mothers a year off with 80 per cent pay.”


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Build Tight. Ventilate Right.

When we built our house we decided to have an Energy Star rater calculate the HERS score for the house (11 was it? 12? Not that I verified that they used the right numbers for our insulation, etc, but OK, not bad.) And part of the Energy Star Homes process is that a blower-door test is done to determine how leaky the house is. Since that’s the other way one can lose heat/coolth from the house. Not just thru walls and windows and doors, but from actual airflow thru all the cracks.

Well anyway, our house is quite tight. It was 200 CFM50 which works out to

200 CFM50 * 60 min/hr / (2310 sqft * 8.2 ft/floor) = 0.63 ACH50 (air changes per hour at 50 pascals)

I don’t know if I’m using quite the right volume for the house (that’s 2310 including basement) but if so, that is JUST shy of the 0.60 ACH50 needed for Passive House certification. Nice. We’re probably a bit worse than this, but really, I can’t complain given we are using mostly double hung windows and double hungs don’t seal up as nicely as casements.

It was the tightest house the Energy Star person had tested in 10 years or so of blower-door testing. I believe our house is apparently what is called a “Tier 3” / “Tier III” certified home for Energy Star Homes.

In New England, I reckon we are one of about a few dozen or so such energy efficient homes. Something like that.
Here’s a list I am compiling. More at the Green Buildings Tour website I am sure.

Ventilate Right

The idea of Building Tight is that it is actually better for
– durability
– indoor air quality
– saving money

Durability: fewer mositure/mildew/rot problems because there is little concern with
1) moist summer air driven from outside to in
2) most winter air (since outside is very dry) being driven from inside to out.

Indoor Air Quality: Instead of relying on leaks in a closed up house (in winter or summer) to provide fresh air, one can bring in exactly the right amount! And filter it to your heart’s content! And put it right where you want it!

Saving Money: The idea is this… in the winter for example: instead of 68F air exiting the house and 25F air coming in…. thru leaks… one can instead use an HRV (heat recovery ventilator) which is essentially a fancy air-to-air heat exchanger. The incoming and exhausting air cross paths in a fancy cross-woven area and 60 or 70% of the heat that would be normally lost is recovered and plunked into the incoming air. Clever! One has to factor in the cost of installation and running the fan, but the fan costs almost nothing, and the control over the IAQ and durability is worth it.

Some others recommend slightly different approaches:
– not building QUITE as tight (but still 10x tighter than a typical house)
– using Panasonic Whispergreen bathroom fans on timers or humidistats or CO2 monitors to do “exhaust only” ventilation.

Lots more on this topic over at — free blogs and Q&A sections. I sound like an advertisement I know. Sorry, it’s a very helpful site!

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Filed under erik-green, house, passive house, superinsulation, zero energy home