Looking at the ‘scent of alphabets’ in the age of Twitter, Emoji, and AI.

Might humans have evolved a unique type of Alphabet pheromone? Researchers in the UK found that visual words can influence the perception of smells1. When we alter body-associated movements, we alter pheromone output (invisible communicators).  When we change our chemical output through remote, digitalized language vs active enactment, we ‘rechemicalize’ our human nature.

Through years of observing the spontaneous, active play behaviors of young children, we began to question if man-made alphabet tools may have influence the nature of human well-being. Is it possible that man’s communication tools inadvertently disrupted the natural integration of the human’s sensory-motor systems as they increasingly encoded nature’s pheromones into more scripted contexts? If we do not look more deeply into this dynamic, we may become increasingly challenged to raise children who are exposed to the sounds of language in the womb of a twittering or emoji-conversant Mom! Alphabet Fitness’ more active approach to alphabet education hopes to offer an option to the need for unraveling what could be considered ‘the increasingly isolating encryption of the alphabet species’.

 Articles of interest: Researchers in the UK have found that visual words can influence the perception of smells.(1.) https://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/05/20/10251.aspx

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/animal-reunions-about-preview-trailer/13972/

Scientists use AI to predict embryo quality. STAT: Morning Rounds [newsletter@statnews.com] 10-10-18

Scientists working to more accurately predict which embryos have the greatest potential for success are turning to a new tool: artificial intelligence. Fertility researchers in the U.S. and Australia are presenting their AI approaches at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s scientific meeting today. In the U.S., researchers used 18,000 images of embryos to train an algorithm to determine the quality, which it was 97 percent accurate at doing. And the scientists in Australia used time-lapse videos to analyze specific features of developing embryos. Then, they used that intel to train a system that can predict an embryo’s chance of resulting in a pregnancy with a fetal heartbeat.

Miss Spells sends letter to White House – Global Children request the U.S. respond to the UN Child’s Rights Treaty, Article 22 for Refugees

Key Links:
Article 22: UN Convention Rights of the Child In Child Friendly Language
Miss Spells Letter with Sample Translations

Why won’t the U.S. ratify the U.N.’s child rights treaty?

By Karen Attiah on November 21, 2014

Twenty five years ago this week, 190 member countries of United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a landmark agreement that stands as one of the most ratified human rights treaties in history. The CRC, which turned 25 years old on November 20th, follows the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and is the world’s most comprehensive framework for the protection of children’s rights. It includes the right to protection from discrimination based on their parent’s or legal guardian’s sex, race, religion, and a host of other identifiers. The convention supports protections for children from forced labor, child marriage, deprivation of a legal identity, and grants both able-bodied and disabled children the right to health care, education, and freedom of expression. It also has safeguards for parents to take care of their children, including parental leave.

Only three U.N. countries have not ratified the CRC: Somalia, South Sudan, and…the United States.

That’s right. The United States is part of an elite trio of non-ratifiers, along with Somalia, a country that is virtually in anarchy and consistently appears in the lowest ranks of countries in terms of human development, and South Sudan, the world’s newest country, which dealt with a fair share of civil conflict. Back in 2008, Obama said that it was “embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land.” And in all fairness to South Sudan, though the country is only three years old, it is actually in the process of ratification, having passed a bill last year to approve the CRC.

The U.S. signed the treaty under Bill Clinton in 1995, an essentially symbolic agreement with the principles set forth under the treaty. But ratification of any treaty in the United States requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to pass, and a number of Republican senators, claiming concerns about U.S. sovereignty, have consistently opposed ratification.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the treaty, the World Policy Analysis Center at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health launched an online resource bank of data on the progress of all 193 U.N. member nations in the way of protecting children’s rights on issues such as child labor, parental leave, minimum wage and education in the last 25 years since the introduction of the treaty.
So are children better off than they were a quarter of a century ago? Dr. Jody Heymann, the center’s founding director said, “In recent decades, we’ve halved the mortality rate. We’ve increased the number of children attending primary school…90 percent of the countries that have made the promise [to make primary schools free and compulsory] have done so, and we have seen increases in attendance. “ Global challenges still remain in the area of child marriage, and high tuition remains a barrier access to secondary school, especially for poor children and girls around the world.

The U.S. is falling behind on a number of children’s rights indicators:
Poverty: As of 2010, the U.S. ranked 30th out of 34 OECD countries in terms of child poverty. 21.2% of children in the United States live in poverty. The average for OECD countries is 13.3%. Only Chile, Turkey, Mexico and Israel had higher child poverty rates.

Maternal Leave: The U.S. is the only high-income country not to grant paid maternity leave.

Criminal Justice: The U.S. is also the one country in the world that sentences offenders under the age of 18 to life in prison without parole, which the Convention opposes.

“When the United States at first didn’t sign on to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we were concerned that this would have implications toward showing support for children around the world,” Dr. Heymann said. “But in fact, it didn’t get in the way of the fact that nearly other country did sign on and that there has been deep global commitment. But I think we have to worry a lot about what it means that we haven’t had focused attention on children in the United States.”

Michael P. Farris, is a constitutional lawyer and president of ParentalRights.org, an organization that has been actively campaigning against U.S. ratification of “dangerous U.N conventions that “threaten parental rights” such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The chief threat posed by the CRC is the denial of American self-government in accord with our constitutional processes,” said Farris in an email interview. “Our constitutional system gives the exclusive authority for the creation of law and policy on issues about families and children to state governments. Upon ratification, this nation would be making a binding promise in international law that we would obey the legal standards created by the U.N. CRC. American children and families are better served by constitutional democracy than international law.”

The group fears that ratifying the treaty would mean children could choose their own religion, that children would have a legally enforceable right to leisure, that nations would have to spend more on children’s welfare than national defense, and that a child’s “right to be heard” could trigger a governmental review of any decision a parent made that a child didn’t like.

But is the U.S.’s non-ratification of the CRC hypocritical when the U.S. lectures other countries on children’s rights? Farris says that the “United States demonstrates its commitment to human rights whenever it follows and enforces the Constitution of the United States, which is the greatest human rights instrument in all history.”

The currently all male-staff (Farris says the group has never focused on maternal leave as an issue) of ParentalRights.org and other opponents of the CRC overlook that protections for the rights of children are human rights. Protections of children with disabilities are protections for people with disabilities. Ending discrimination against children is ending discrimination against people. Ensuring paid parental leave, access to pre- and post-natal health care for women has been linked to better health outcomes for children and parents.

The United States can learn from other member nations on how to reduce poverty, ensure women’s rights, improve education and educational access, and healthy living conditions, for starters. What message does the U.S. send to the rest of the world when we endorse and support young activists like Malala Yousafzai, and her platform for girls’ rights to education, when the U.S. refuses to ratify an international treaty that promotes access to education for children?

It’s high time the U.S. takes steps towards joining the rest of the world and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After all, today’s healthy and well educated children are tomorrow’s healthy and well-educated adults.

Link to article here

Karen Attiah is The Washington Post’s Global Opinions editor. She writes on international affairs and social issues. Previously, she reported from Curacao, Ghana and Nigeria.

Header Photo: Hundreds of students dance during a “flashmob” in commemoration of the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child at a square in Havana on November 20, 2010. A flashmob is a sudden gathering of people where participants perform unsual acts and then disperse, usually arranged via social media. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

‘Weaving Stress Prevention Right into the ABCs’

The Founder of Wellness, Inc. and inventor of Alphabet Fitness® offers insight on a creative process used to advance child literacy.

By Jason Freeman, Work of Start
Boston, Massachusetts

Continuing my discovery of civic and community engagement in the New England region, I met Karen Voght, founder of Wellness, Inc., Boston, and inventor of Alphabet Fitness®. Having been recently recognized as a 2011 Literacy Champion by the Massachusetts Literacy Foundation [1], Karen’s passion is supporting children’s wellness by integrating physical activity and literacy. Over several discussions, Karen shared insight into the creative process of developing her innovative literacy tools since founding Wellness, Inc. in 1995.

Karen VoghtInspired initially by her own children’s inherent capacity to discover by interacting with their environment, Karen began to seek ways to unlock the creative energy of children by engaging both mind and body in the learning process. Her innovations include developing the Alphabet Fitness workout in which the letters of the alphabet are formed by imitating a playful chimpanzee character and building a letter’s shape with the body. The letter “P” can be formed, for instance, by standing straight with arms in a half-circle and imitating the ‘Chimp P’ font letter. Karen describes this activity as “getting their muscles into the alphabet” and does not believe that our understanding of the letter “A” should be strictly limited to a left pinky typing on a keyboard.

Being “boxed in by tools” that are rigid in nature can be stifling to a child’s ability to learn, warns Karen, stating that children are naturally built to develop understanding through fun and play. She believes that each child’s individual process for learning is part of what makes them wonderfully unique and by allowing a child to be creative while developing literacy skills offers the opportunity for having fun. After excitedly expressing the cutting-edge research of various groups on related topics including ‘cross lateralization in the brain’ and children’s ‘neuromuscular development,’ Karen works to distill down for me the work of Alphabet Fitness as attempting to create “flexibility of the mind and body.”

Karen also emphasizes the importance of developing partnerships in fostering the creative process. These partnerships, as expected, include collaboration with researchers, thought leaders, and organizations focused on supporting literacy, but Karen also highlights the importance of not limiting collaborative partners to one area of expertise. Karen goes on to describe her involvement in civic organizations such as Rotary International as an example of an opportunity to collaborate creatively with people maintaining a passion for service but not necessarily expertise in child literacy.

Understanding the importance of partnerships is attributed by Karen to working for thirty years in the Real Estate Industry prior to her current work in promoting children’s wellness. She also credits a deeper understanding of the negative effects that stress can have on wellness to lessons learned in the Real Estate industry—being a home developer taught Karen how important it is to “build an environment that is safe, secure, and stimulating.” In a similar fashion, Karen aspired to promote children’s wellness through creating a safe learning environment using Alphabet Fitness by actively “weaving stress prevention right into the ABCs.”

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

** Please note that the Work of Start founder interviews will now be published quarterly instead of monthly in order to accommodate the historic start articles.  **


1. Acquired from Massachusetts Literacy Foundation website – MassLiteracy.org

Alphabet Fitness joins Massachusetts health and wellness thought leaders.

Karen Voght, developer of Alphabet Fitness for Kids, is excited to be joining John Ratey, Mary Catherine Bateson, and other health and wellness thought leaders at Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Women Explore Spring Forums.  Her The Body in Motion workshop innovatively navigates the vital role our body’s motor movements play in permiting us to mold and remold human health, empathy, language, love, laughter, creative expression, and physical and cognitive memory …starting in utero and extending throughout the life span.

http://www.womenexplore.org/

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Playfully Exercising the ABCs ‘Positions’ Kids Bodies to Read, Write, Spell, and bee well!

Hello from Boston!

We at Wellness, Inc. wanted to share this recent article by Boston’s Children’s Museum on the importance of childhood play for healthy language development of young children.

The Power of Play and Language Development

http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/power-of-play

Right from the beginning, play fosters language development. When we play Peekaboo, or imitate a baby’s sounds and smiles, or ask a silly question and wait for the baby’s response, we teach the basics of communication and conversation. And the more we talk, especially in engaging, playful ways that encourage responses, the more language babies learn! Soon, they will not only be understanding and babbling, but saying words!

For toddlers who are beginning to talk, play creates opportunities to learn new words. Silly songs and movement games teach words and concepts such as body parts and opposites. Active play can involve naming places and actions. Simple pretend play, like feeding a baby doll or playing with a doctor kit or toy farm, lets children repeat what a parent, doctor, or farmer might say.

The mastery of the basics of language, which usually occurs between the ages of two and three and a half, heralds a flowering of creativity. Children build and play in imaginary worlds. They use language to pretend, be silly, ask questions, and figure things out. Their wordplay, songs, and storytelling build foundations for reading.

As preschoolers and kindergartners, children whose language is strong are likely to be popular playmates. They tell stories that are fun to play out, and can keep conversation going. They ask interesting questions, and they can use their words to solve problems, explain their ideas, and compromise. As they play together, children build on each other’s ideas and learn new words from each other.

At every age, adults can enhance the language-building power of play. Without taking over the child’s play or turning it into a lesson, adults can build on children’s ideas. They can supply words for what children are doing and ask questions that provoke thinking. They can extend a back-and-forth conversation, playing with sounds, words, or ideas. They can take on a role and play it with humor and gusto. They can add “juicy words” – specific, interesting words like “excavator,” ”camouflage,” or “scrumptious” – that are fun to say and make play more fun.

In line with this article, we are happy to contribute programs such as Alphabet Fitness’s body-facilitated ABCs for linguistic well-being into early childhood education. Feel free to share your experiences with Boston Children’s Museum.

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Is today’s Barbie doll increasingly molding minds & bodies by remote, unknown knowledge sources?

As the goal of Wellness, Inc. is to enable young children to discover their ‘own’ creative brains, bodies, and individual voices before we entrust their learning skills to a machine encoded, non-human, plastic Botox-like skin and relatively tone-deaf playmate – with anatomically adjustable ankles so she can wear flat shoes for the first time – we decided to post the following article FYI:

This link was forwarded to us by CCFC, Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. CCFC works for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom for parents to raise them—without being undermined by commercial interests. They advocate for policies to protect children from harmful marketing, and promote commercial-free time and space for kids.

Please feel free to read more about CCFC, and to contact them regarding any questions or comments you may have regarding this article. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/

ccfcOur campaign to stop Mattel’s “Hello Barbie” is off to an incredible start. Already, our concerns have been featured on Good Morning America, The Washington Post, the front page of USA Today, CNN, Fox News, Mashable and hundreds of other publications around the world. The creepy doll that records and analyzes children’s conversations is the talk of social media.

Imagine your children playing with a doll that records everything they say and transmits it all to a corporation which analyzes every word to learn “all of [your child’s] likes and dislikes.” That’s exactly what Mattel’s eavesdropping “Hello Barbie” does. Unless we take action, it will be in toy stores this autumn.

Kids using “Hello Barbie”‘ aren’t only talking to a doll, they are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It creates a host of dangers for children and families.

The Wi-Fi-connected “Hello Barbie” uses an embedded microphone to record children’s voices—and other nearby conversations—before sending them over the Internet to cloud servers. From there, Mattel’s technology partner ToyTalk processes the audio with voice-recognition software.[1] During its Toy Fair 2015 product demonstration, Mattel said it will use this information to “push data” back to children through Barbie’s built-in speaker.[2]

Any talking toy diminishes opportunities for truly creative play. But “Hello Barbie’s” eavesdropping capabilities take technology to an even more troubling level.

Children naturally reveal a lot about themselves when they play. In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that encourage kids to share information about their interests, their families, and more—all of which could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children.

“Hello Barbie” ensures that Mattel—not the child—is driving the play and the relationship. It’s being marketed as a toy that will “deepen that relationship girls have with [Barbie].” The goal is to have the child and Barbie “become the best of friends.”[3] But children need relationships with real friends—not corporate computer generated messages created after listening in on anyone within range of Mattel’s microphones.

Thanks for caring about children and families!
Dr. Susan Linn
Executive Director

[1] The Register, “Hello Barbie: Hang on, this Wi-Fi doll records your child’s voice? What could possibly go wrong?” by Iain Thomson. Posted 19 Feb 2015 at 07:39. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/19/hello_barbie/
[2] http://youtu.be/RJMvmVCwoNM
[3] http://youtu.be/6LH9ChHoSpw

Alphabet Fitness Gets Kids OXYGENATING Brain & Body While Learning Their ABCs!

John Medina, author of Brain Rules will be the keynote for the 2015 SHAPE National Convention, Seattle, WA (Mar. 17-21)

We are thrilled that his very 1st Brain Rule confirms the need to move to oxygenize the brain…increasing neuron creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.

Excerpt from his Book: http://brainrules.net/exercise

BRAIN RULE RUNDOWN

Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.

The human brain evolved under conditions of almost constant motion. From this, one might predict that the optimal environment for processing information would include motion. That is exactly what one finds. Indeed, the best business meeting would have everyone walking at about 1.8 miles per hour.

Researchers studied two elderly populations that had led different lifestyles, one sedentary and one active. Cognitive scores were profoundly influenced. Exercise positively affected executive function, spatial tasks, reaction times and quantitative skills.

So researchers asked: If the sedentary populations become active, will their cognitive scores go up? Yes, it turns out, if the exercise is aerobic. In four months, executive functions vastly improve; longer, and memory scores improve as well.

Exercise improves cognition for two reasons:

  • Exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, which reduces brain-bound free radicals. One of the most interesting findings of the past few decades is that an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness.
  • Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.

http://brainrules.net/exercise

Alphabet Fitness Activities give kids a jump on the benefits of physical activity while in the classroom!


Why does physical activity during childhood matter?

Date:
December 2, 2014
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development

Over the past thirty years, physical activity among children has declined markedly. The public health implications of this decline include a growing prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. A new issue of Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development expands the focus to ask whether physical activity is also related to children’s brain and cognitive development and achievement in school. Scholarly articles published by over 20 researchers in Monographs, titled “The Relation of Childhood Physical Activity to Brain Health, Cognition and Scholastic Achievement” indicate that while physical activity in schools has diminished in part because of a growing emphasis on student performance and academic testing, decreased physical activity is actually related to decreased academic performance.

Approximately 55.5 million children are enrolled in pre-kindergarten — 12th grade in the United States in a given academic year. According to research presented in Monographs, while there is variation across states and schools, overall, opportunities to engage in physical activity have diminished. Current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines call for children to have a minimum of 60 minutes of intermittent physical activity per day. However, in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 30 percent of children attended a school in which they were offered physical education daily. The majority of students do not engage in any form of planned physical activity during the school week.

Yet physically active children tend to outperform their inactive peers in the classroom and on tests of achievement. The research presented in the monograph helps to make clear why. When compared to their less fit peers, those who engage in more physical activity have larger brain volumes in the basal ganglia and hippocampus, areas associated with cognitive control and memory. Cognitive control refers to the control of thought, action, behavior, and decision-making.

Physically active children also have increased concentration and enhanced attention spans when compared to their less active peers. The authors find that fitness is related to the ability to inhibit attention to competing stimuli during a task, an ability that can help children stay focused and persevere to complete an assignment. The findings on attention encompass children with special needs as well as typically developing children. The authors also report on physical activity as a non-pharmaceutical intervention for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and children with autism spectrum disorders, with positive results.

According to Dr. Charles Hillman, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and lead author on this issue of Monographs, “these results point to the important potential of approaches focusing on physical activity for strengthening children’s brain health and educational attainment. It is important for state governments and school administrators to consider this evidence and promote physical activity in the school setting, which is where children spend much of their time.”

Hillman also notes that the findings in the monograph come not only from studies looking at variation in physical activity and fitness level as they occur spontaneously among children, but also from studies in which children are randomly assigned to physical activity interventions or to continue their ongoing activity levels. This helps to assure that the links between physical activity, brain development and achievement are actually caused by the differences in activity rather than reflecting the characteristics of the children who choose to be more or less physically active.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Charles H. Hillman, Neal J. Cohen, Arthur F. Kramer. III. THE IMPORTANCE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND AEROBIC FITNESS FOR COGNITIVE CONTROL AND MEMORY IN CHILDREN. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 2014; 79 (4): 25 DOI: 10.1111/mono.12129

Our Alphabet Fitness CrossWord Puzzles hit the Boston News Papers!!

Our founder, Karen Voght, has just begun the 1st Alphabet Fitness Cross Word Puzzles for children, their friends, and families. This is an exciting format for synchronizing language and fitness and we wanted to share it with you all.

ENJOY, and email us with themes you might like us to post into our puzzle formats on the website for Mass Reads & Succeeds, a Mass Literacy newspaper series featured in the Boston Herald dedicated to the people and organizations whose efforts in literacy make Massachusetts a great place to live and learn. – Find more at: http://www.massliteracy.org

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To print out the puzzle, click here:
MassReads11-6-14.pdf