Tips for parents and guardians

My last week’s column was about making sure that college students are learning, so the financial support from parents and relatives is well invested. But parents and relatives can play an even bigger role in their child’s learning at the primary grades and high school grades than in college, when the student is away from home, living in a dorm or in an off campus dwelling.

As for primary grades, most teachers in this area are under much pressure each day to instruct their students in a number of skills and material that keeps the students engaged through the school day. Some of this content requires reflection and getting used to, but the teachers must quickly move onto other material.

The children often bring home material that the parents/guardian are to look over and then sign as affirmation of their awareness of their child’s work. This is a great strategy if the adults in the family regularly spend time examining this material and sign it. But if this material is taken home and ignored by the adults, then a child may get the impression that if their efforts at school aren’t important to their parent/guardian, so why bother?

For primary grades, the best thing a parent can do is make sure that their child makes a weekly trip to the public library. I think our local libraries are the best use of our tax dollars; they have helpful staff, free computer use (with your library card), wonderful selection of children’s books, both fiction and non fiction, videos check outs (both VHS and DVD that are limited to one week), books on CD’s and a wider selection of magazines and newspapers than any family would likely subscribe to.

All you need is to get a library card so you can check out the books and media materials. If you find a great current magazine article, you can copy it with the copying machines (at 15 cents a copy) or if the article is in a recent issue, the entire magazine may be checked out. When you get your Allegany County library card you will receive a standard sized plastic card and a small card that can be attached to a key chain (like the supermarket cards).

If your child is having difficulty in math, science, history, etc., just check out a related book that both you and he/she can read together. In that way you can be learning too!

And of course, getting a daily newspaper at home is also very desirable, not just for sale ads but to keep up with sports, politics, world events, columns and the controversial letters to the editor! If you can’t afford the Times-News, find out if one of your neighbors subscribes and have them save it for you so you can still read it after they have finished with it. In exchange you can give them old copies of your magazines, etc.

For students in the upper middle school grades and high school grades, this is a crucial time for having the student think about a career. Having an interest in a particular field can give them a focus that will help them greatly in school. It is important not too be too specific, but to pick a general area. (For example, aspiring to be a heart surgeon is too narrow; instead, wanting to work in the health field (as nurse, nurse practitioner, hospital technician (respiratory, radiology, blood drawing), physician assistant, hospital administrator, medical researcher, drug salesman, doctor, medical transcriber) is not.)

If you can get to know a person in the field that you child is leaning towards, meet or correspond with them so your child can find out both the advantages and drawbacks of that area of work.

Allegany County has a superb Career and Technical Center in Cresaptown where high school students can learn key skills in automotive technology, welding, plumbing, electrical wiring, cosmetology, etc. Allegany College of Maryland offers excellent programs in nursing, dental hygiene and forestry, etc. that your child should be aware of. Check with these schools about their programs.

Evening star clusters

Now that the moon is in the morning sky, the fainter evening star sights are again in view.

Unlike our sun, most stars are in multiple star systems or star clusters. Star clusters are herds of stars that travel through space. The best known star cluster is the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster seen on fall and winter evenings. There are two kinds of star clusters, open star clusters (typically hundreds of stars) and globular clusters (highly concentrated with thousands to millions of stars). The open clusters are close by and some can be resolved (see the outer star members with binoculars) while the globular clusters are much farther away (seen as “furry stars” through binoculars).

For open clusters, look towards Cassiopeia, a zigzag star pattern (five moderately bright stars) low in the North Northeast.

There are a number of open star clusters seen with binoculars held steadily in and around Cassiopeia. For globular clusters, find the bright planet Jupiter, dominating the southern evening sky.

To the right of Jupiter is the star group Sagittarius, resembling an old fashioned tea kettle. Scan the tea kettle with binoculars to find several globular clusters, resembling tiny glowing moth balls.

Our public planetarium programs will resume on Sept. 7. There will be also tours of the Science Discovery Center in the nearby Compton building. To receive a bookmark featuring our Planetarium schedule, campus map and Discovery Center information, call (301) 687-7799 and leave your name and mailing address.

For questions or comments about this column, you are invited to send Bob Doyle an e-mail at .

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