Once Teased For Her Love Of Bugs, 8-Year-Old Co-Authors Scientific Paper
Sophia Spencer and Morgan Jackson co-wrote a scientific paper on Twitter, entomology and women in science, after a tweet about Sophia's love for bugs went viral. Courtesy of Nicole Spencer

Sophia Spencer and Morgan Jackson co-wrote a scientific paper on Twitter, entomology and women in science, after a tweet about Sophia's love for bugs went viral.

Courtesy of Nicole Spencer

Sophia Spencer, 8, loves bugs — especially grasshoppers. She's an expert on insects, and likes to give her littlest friends an occasional ride on her shoulder.

That used to earn her mockery from her peers. But now it's earned her a massive outpouring of support — and a byline in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Everything changed after Sophia's mom, Nicole Spencer, reached out to scientists for support last year.

She wrote to the Entomological Society of Canada and explained the dilemma. Her daughter wanted to know if she could learn more about bugs as a job, but her mom wasn't sure how to encourage her. And she wanted to reassure her that her entomological enthusiasm wasn't weird.

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shan palmer
Can American soil be brought back to life?
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A new idea: If we revive the tiny creatures that make dirt healthy, we can bring back the great American topsoil. But farming culture — and government — aren't making it easy.

Four generations of Jonathan Cobb’s family tended the same farm in Rogers, Texas, growing row upon row of corn and cotton on 3,000 acres. But by 2011, Cobb wasn’t feeling nostalgic. Farming was becoming rote and joyless; the main change from one year to the next was intensively planting more and more acres of corn and soy, churning up the soil and using ever more chemical fertilizers and herbicides to try and turn a profit.

“I’d already had the difficult conversation with my dad that he would be the last generation on the farm,” Cobb said.

While looking for a new job, Cobb stopped into a local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pick up some paperwork. That day, the staff was doing a training session on soil health. He stayed to watch and was struck by a demonstration showing a side-by-side comparison of healthy and unhealthy soils.

A clump of soil from a heavily tilled and cropped field was dropped into a wire mesh basket at the top of a glass cylinder filled with water. At the same time, a clump of soil from a pasture that grew a variety of plants and grasses and hadn’t been disturbed for years was dropped into another wire mesh basket in an identical glass cylinder. The tilled soil–similar to the dry, brown soil on Cobb’s farm—dissolved in water like dust. The soil from the pasture stayed together in a clump, keeping its structure and soaking up the water like a sponge. Cobb realized he wasn't just seeing an agricultural scientist show off a chunk of soil: He was seeing a potential new philosophy of farming.

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shan palmer
Roots and Chutes
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In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall traveled from England to what is now Tanzania, Africa and ventured into the little-known world of wild chimpanzees.

Equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars, and her fascination with wildlife, Jane braved a realm of unknowns to give the world a remarkable window into humankind's closets living relatives. Through more than 50 years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Jane has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction; she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment. Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things the the planet we share.

Dr. Jane believes that every individual can make a difference and that today's young people are some of the most compassionate, creative, solutionaries our world has seen. She founded Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots in order to empower and encourage youth of all ages to pursue their passion, mobilize their peers, and become the leaders our world needs in order to ensure a better future for people, animals, and the environment.

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shan palmer
MRS + Teton Science Schools 5 day workshop

Over the last 5 days our brains have been completely saturated with the wealth of knowledge and experience of Nate McClennen from Teton Science Schools. We delved deep into Place Based Education and so much more.... We are looking forward to continued work with Nate throughout the year and to see all of our planning and ideas become action during the school year!

a lot of great (and sometimes messy) thinking

a lot of great (and sometimes messy) thinking

shan palmer
Wyoming Area grad’s speech cut short following critical remarks

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The valedictorian and class president of Wyoming Area’s Class of 2017 had his microphone silenced mid-speech during Friday’s graduation ceremony when he started to criticize school administrators.

Villanova University-bound Peter Butera had just started to criticize what he considers an overly authoritarian administration when the plug got pulled on his speech and he was approached by Principal Dr. Jon Pollard to leave the stage at Sobieski Stadium.

“I don’t think it could have gone any better,” Butera, 18, said Sunday. “I got my point across and them cutting the microphone proved my point to be true.”

According to Butera’s post, this is what he would have said after his microphone was cut: “Hopefully for the sake of future students, more people of authority within this school will prioritize the empowering of students as well as preparing them to further their educations. Because, at the end of the day, it is not what we have done as Wyoming Area students or athletes that will define our lives, but what we will go on to do as Wyoming Area alumni. And I hope that every one of my fellow classmates here today, as well as myself, will go on to do great things in this world and find true happiness and success. Thank you all for coming out to this great celebration today.”

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shan palmer
South Burlington School Bans Homework, Urges Kids to Play

Students who hoped for an end to homework got their wish at Orchard Elementary School in South Burlington. 

“It’s true,” confirmed principal Mark Trifilio. “We just went to being a homework-free school this year.” 

Trifilio announced the no-homework policy in a newsletter to parents last Friday. The school enrolls almost 400 children in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. South Burlington has three elementary schools, and so far Orchard is the only one to go homework-free. 

Teachers voted to ban homework for the year at a training shortly before school opened, with Trifilio’s approval. The superintendent of schools also OK’d the change.

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shan palmer