Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Because we should always appreciate our small, furry friends.

*There are 365 species of squirrel. Maybe we should start a "Squirrel Species Appreciation Day" with a new species every day. It would make an awesome desk calendar.

*Once a female squirrel breeds with a male, she never breeds again with that male.

*Squirrels do not leave their nests at night.

*Squirrels sharpen their teeth by chewing on sticks.

*Squirrels laugh. They also use chirping sounds to indicate a wide range of emotion and alarm signals, in conjunction with tail movements. If a squirrel is chirping very fast and flicking their tail, it is laughing at you.

*When a squirrel finds a nut, they open it with their teeth, then rub it on their face. This applies a scent so they can find it later- even under a foot of snow.

*When a squirrel's nest becomes infested with fleas or other parasites, it will abandon it and build a new one.

*A squirrel's incisors grow 6 inches per year.

*Squirrels prefer to build their nursery nests in oak trees.

*The average life span for a wild squirrel is 3-5 years.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!

Did you know:

*Penguins have been around for about 40 million years. The earliest penguins appeared in the Paleocene period in New Zealand. They appear in Antarctica in the Eocene.

*Penguins mate for life.

*Penguins can swim up to 25 miles per hour, though 15 miles per hour is the average.

*There are 17 or 18 different species of penguin in the world. There is debate about whether Little Blue and Fairy penguins are separate species.

*The average penguin spends 75% of its life in the water.

*Early explorers of the Antarctic mistook penguins for fish (and classified them as fish). Penguins are birds.

*Large, dense colonies of penguins are called rookeries. Penguins gather in rookeries to breed.

*There are no natural penguin populations in the northern hemisphere.

*Penguin eyes are made for seeing underwater. They work better under the water than they do in the air. This adaptation is likely due to the fact that penguins feed in the water, hunting fish and krill.

*Most wild penguins live 15-20 years.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inclusion Attitude: Part of the Dream

"Inclusion is important because children with disabilities gain valuable social and academic skills by interacting with their non-disabled peers."

"It is important to include special education students in the regular education classroom, so they will have non-disabled role models."

"Inclusion helps children with disabilities, because they can interact with regular kids."

It's that little spark of abilism no one seems to notice. The language that hints at something deeper: a sort of slip, if you will. It is always to the advantage of the kids with disabilities to have inclusion programs. We forget there are also advantages to those "non-disabled peers."

A couple years ago now, we had a parent in one of Joey's classrooms complain that one of "those kids" was in their child's classroom. Special ed kids are seen as a burden, a drain on resources and attention for their "regular" and "normal" kid. It is an attitude that must be fought. Until everyone understands the advantage it is for everyone to have inclusion, it will remain a seething issue for the majority of families who do not have kids in special education, who do not understand what special education is or what it is for.

After all, what's in it for their kid?

I know why it is better for Joey to be around his non-disabled peers. Why is it good for those same peers to be around him?

They learn a lot about caring about others. Joey loves the world, and has genuine compassion for others, expressing that freely. If another kid gets hurt, Joey is right there to comfort them.

They learn about accepting differences. This is a vital social skill that often gets pushed aside, especially in middle school, when kids get that urge to be like everybody else. Teach them early. Teach them well. We are all unique, and that is a good thing.

They learn a lot about math. That's right. Remember academics? Joey even helps with academics!

I could go on, but the point is this: inclusion is about sharing strengths in order to meet challenges. Everyone has strengths to share. Everyone has challenges to meet. With inclusion, we all get those strengths, and learn to meet those challenges, often in ways no one expected. We strengthen the content of our characters.

Until everyone understands that, inclusion is under threat, because so many do not understand what inclusion is. They don't see how it is to their advantage, so they assume it is not. That assumption is backed up by media articles on inclusion, which stress the advantages of inclusion to people with disabilities, without noting the advantages to everyone. Inclusion isn't important because children with disabilities gain important social and academic skills. It is important because everyone gains important social and academic skills.