The Cornell Research Program for Self-Injury Recovery is pleased to announce a unique set of evidence-informed and web-based education and training courses for individuals interested in understanding non-suicidal self-injury (also sometimes referred to as “cutting”) in youth. The courses are ideal for professionals who work directly with youth in schools or other community-based settings but will also be useful for clinicians and parents.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury 101 (NSSI 101) was designed especially for professionals who work in schools or other youth-serving settings. Based on current, cutting-edge science, this training includes detailed information on the who, what, where, when and why of self-injury as well as evidence-informed strategies for detecting, intervening, treating and preventing. It also includes strategies for supporting the development of protocols for managing self-injury in school and other institutional settings.

This can be taken for continuing education credits (CEUs) from Cornell University or from the National Association of Social Workers. It is available as a self-paced course or as a 3-week facilitated course.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury 101: A Web-Based Training

NSSI 101 can be taken as a self-paced or instructor-led course, is designed for individuals who need to know a significant amount about what self-injury is, where it comes from, what it is clinically associated with, how to respond individually and institutionally, and best practices in intervention and prevention.

There are two versions of the full 8-11 hour NSSI 101 course: a self-paced version and an instructor-led version. Both versions include videos, audio segments from well-known self-injury researchers and treatment specialists assignments and quizzes. The course will take between 8 and 11 hours, depending on the format you choose. There are discounts for students, groups, and parents. Scroll down for more information on discounts.

The content for the course is the same regardless of format but the facilitated version:

  • Offers a higher number of CEUs
  • Will allow discussion and strategies exchange with other students and with the instructor, an expert in NSSI
  • Allows for international participation and exchange
  • Increases the likelihood of course completion, since there are expectations about progress over the 3 week period.

Please note that we are working with Cornell’s premier e-education service provider, e-Cornell, to make this offering possible so you will be asked to sign up for an account at e-Cornell when you register.

What’s covered?
The course is designed to provide participants with broad grounding in non-suicidal self-injury, particularly as it shows up in adolescence and young adulthood. It contains material related to:

  • Adolescent development: Although a review for some of you, this section focuses on the features of brain, body, and identity development that affect self-injury onset, maintenance and recovery in the adolescent and young adult years. Since self-injury is most common during this time, understanding the way they are linked is useful.
  • Non-suicidal self-injury basics: In this section we get into the who, what, where, when and why of self-injury. We also discuss the important but poorly understood relationship between non-suicidal self-injury and suicide thoughts and behaviors, common myths, and factors that influence contagion.
  • Detection and intervention: Here we cover what you need to know about effective detection and responding, managing contagion, and common treatment approaches. There are also dedicated sections on effective intervention strategies and on and the nuts and bolts of developing protocols for handing self-injury in institutional settings.
  • Recovery: This section focuses primarily on how and why self-injury ends, what to expect as recovery happens, how you can best support the recovery process, and how self-injury can open opportunities for psychological growth.
  • Prevention: The final section covers prevention of self-injury behavior.

Are you a NYS Cornell cooperative extension educator?

All versions of Non-suicidal self-injury 101 are free to NYS Cornell cooperative extension educators. If you are an educator interested in enrolling in the course, please call (607) 255-6179 or e-mail us at self-injury@cornell.edu.

 

Valerie Reyna

Dr. Valerie Reyna is a member of National Academies' Committee on Pain Management and Regulatory Strategies To Address Prescription Opioid Abuse.

Drug overdose, driven largely by overdose related to the use of opioids, is now the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. The ongoing opioid crisis lies at the intersection of two public health challenges: reducing the burden of suffering from pain and containing the rising toll of the harms that can arise from the use of opioid medications. Chronic pain and opioid use disorder both represent complex human conditions affecting millions of Americans and causing untold disability and loss of function. In the context of the growing opioid problem, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an Opioids Action Plan in early 2016. As part of this plan, the FDA asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to convene a committee to update the state of the  science on pain research, care, and education and to identify actions the FDA and others can take to respond to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on informing FDA’s development of a formal method for incorporating individual and societal considerations into its risk-benefit framework for opioid approval and monitoring.

Click to download a copy of the report.

This is an important report. Both untreated pain and the epidemic of opioid use are serious problems requiring urgent solutions. Somehow the balance must be found to both manage the increasing problem of pain in the aging US population, while regulating more effectively the diversion of prescription opioids into the broader population. This report represents the best thinking about how the balance might be made more effectively, while acknowledging the social determinants of opioid diversion and use in depressed communities.

Elaine Wethington

- Professor Elaine Wethington, Professor, Department of Human Development, Department of Sociology, and Gerontology in Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine

FEATURES

The Rhythms of Sign Language

Daniel Casasanto, a new member of the HD faculty, heads an NSF investigation of brain areas activated by hand movements when communicating through ASL.


Range of good feelings key to healthy aging

In a new study led by Anthony Ong, people who experienced the widest range of positive emotions had the lowest levels of inflammation throughout their bodies.


NYC-based research finds interaction with kids is key

Marianella Casasola is working with Head Start Centers and day schools in New York City to promote development of spatial skills and language acquisition in preschoolers.


Seeing eye expressions help us read the mental state of others

New research by Adam Anderson reveals why the eyes offer a window into the soul.


STUDENTS IN THE NEWS

Simulation workshops teach youth about concussion risks

Students in Valerie Reyna's Laboratory for Rational Decision Making welcome the Ithaca Youth Bureau's College Discovery Program for workshops on neuroscience and concussion risks.


The vegetarian identity - it's not just eating vegetables

Daniel Rosenfeld '18 and his adviser Anthony Burrow, have developed a new way of thinking about what it is to be a vegetarian.


2017 CCE Summer Intern Elizabeth David: Child development in an outdoor classroom

Elizabeth Cavic '18 was a 2017 College of Human Ecology CCE Summer Intern working on the project "Enhancing Children’s Play and Parent’s Knowledge in Suffolk County" under the direction of Dr. Marianella Casasola. Read about her internship experience.


MULTIMEDIA

NPR's Science Friday discusses risky decisions and the teenage brain

 


 

The National Science Foundation's blog, Discovery. July 14, 2017

by Stanley Dambroski and Madeline Beal

From an outside perspective, understanding a spoken language versus a signed language seems like it might involve entirely different brain processes. One process involves your ears and the other your eyes, and scientists have long known that different parts of the brain process these different sensory inputs.

To scientists at the University of Chicago interested in the role rhythm plays in how humans understand language, the differences between these inputs provided an opportunity for experimentation. The resulting study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps explain that rhythm is important for processing language whether spoken or signed.

Previous studies have shown the rhythm of speech changes the rhythm of neural activity involved in understanding spoken language. When humans listen to spoken language, the brain's auditory cortex activity adjusts to follow the rhythms of sentences. This phenomenon is known as entrainment.

But even after researchers identified entrainment, understanding the role of rhythm in language comprehension remained difficult. Neural activity changes when a person is listening to spoken language -- but the brain also locks onto random, meaningless bursts of sound in a very similar way and at a similar frequency.

That's where the University of Chicago team saw an experimental opportunity involving sign language. While the natural rhythms in spoken language are similar to what might be considered the preferred frequency for the auditory cortex, this is not true for sign language and the visual cortex. The rhythms from the hand movements in ASL are substantially slower than that of spoken language.

The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to record the brain activity of participants as they watched videos of stories told in American Sign Language (ASL). One group was made up of participants who were fluent in ASL, while the other was made up of non-signers. The researchers then analyzed the rhythms of activity in different regions of the participants' brains.

The brain activity rhythms in the visual cortex followed the rhythms of sign language. Importantly, the researchers observed entrainment at the low frequencies that carry meaningful information in sign language, not at the high frequencies usually seen in visual activity.

Daniel Casasanto

"By looking at sign, we've learned something about how the brain processes language more generally," said principal investigator Daniel Casasanto, Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago (now Professor of Human Development at Cornell University). "We've solved a mystery we couldn't crack by studying speech alone."

While the ASL-fluent and non-signer groups demonstrated entrainment, it was stronger in the frontal cortex for ASL-fluent participants, compared to non-signers. The frontal cortex is the area of the brain that controls cognitive skills. The authors postulate that frontal entrainment may be stronger in the fluent signers because they are more able to predict the movements involved and therefore more able to predict and entrain to the rhythms they see.

"This study highlights the importance of rhythm to processing language, even when it is visual. Studies like this are core to the National Science Foundation's Understanding the Brain Initiative, which seeks to understand the brain in action and in context," said Betty Tuller, a program manager for NSF's Perception, Action, and Cognition Program. "Knowledge of the fundamentals of how the brain processes language has the potential to improve how we educate children, treat language disorders, train military personnel, and may have implications for the study of learning and memory."

Time, June 22, 2017

By Amanda MacMillan

Happiness isn't the only emotion that can help you stay healthy as you age. How excited, amused, proud, strong and cheerful you feel on a regular basis matters, too. In a new study, people who experienced the widest range of positive emotions had the lowest levels of inflammation throughout their bodies. Lower inflammation may translate to a reduced risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Past research has shown that positive emotions may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, but the new study, published in the journal Emotion, looks at whether the range and variety of those feelings play a role as well. Evolution suggests that they would; drawing on the evolutionary advantages of ecosystems with plenty of biodiversity, researchers from the United States and Germany wondered if similar perks may exist for variety within the human emotional experience. Such a range may improve physical and mental health by “preventing an overabundance or prolonging of any one emotion from dominating an individuals’ emotional life," they write.

The researchers asked 175 middle-age adults to keep a daily log of their emotional experiences for a month by recording how often and how strongly they experienced each of 32 different emotions: 16 positive (like being enthusiastic, interested and at ease) and 16 negative (such as being scared, upset, jittery and tired). Six months later, scientists tested their blood samples for markers of systemic inflammation, a known risk factor for many chronic health conditions and for early death.

Anthony Ong

Overall, people who reported a wide range of positive emotions on a day-to-day basis had less inflammation than people who reported a smaller range—even if their overall frequencies of positive emotions were similar. That was true even after researchers controlled for traits like extraversion and neuroticism, body mass index, medication use, medical conditions and demographics. (Surprisingly, a similar effect was not observed for the other end of the spectrum. It didn't seem to matter for inflammation whether people regularly experienced many or only a few variations of negative emotions.)

Lead author Anthony Ong, professor of human development at Cornell University, suspects that people may be able to maximize these benefits by more closely examining their emotions. “When it comes to infusing more diverse positive emotions into our lives, it may turn out to be a simple daily practice of labeling and categorizing positive emotions in discrete terms,” he says. “Pay attention to your inner emotions and be able to mentally recognize situations that make you feel calm versus, say, excited.”

The Cornell Chronicle, August 1, 2017.

By Stephen D'Angelo

Cornell researchers are working with Head Start Centers and day schools in New York City on early-intervention work to promote development of spatial skills and language acquisition in preschoolers.

Marianella Casasola

Marianella Casasola, associate professor of human development and a faculty fellow of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, said studies show those with better spatial skills are more likely to flourish in STEM fields.

“Working with children at Head Start in Harlem and through a partnership with the Audrey Johnson Day Care Learning Center in Brooklyn allows us to focus on families from a variety of demographics and backgrounds, and to target research on environmental factors within populations of various socioeconomic status,” Casasola said.

Casasola is examining the benefits of constructive play – using blocks, puzzles and shapes – and how language through narration of activities affects cognitive development and spatial skills. She hopes her research findings will inform early-education programs and lead to creation of ideal environments to develop children’s cognitive skills, no matter their demographic background.

“Our goal is to not only understand how early spatial and language skills develop, but also how best to promote their development both at home and in the classroom,” she said. “Designed for preschoolers from low-income families, these programs would be constructed to establish environments for the early development of these skills and promote parent interaction within day-to-day activities, such as counting, simple math and reading.”

Casasola and her team of students are collaborating with the Clinical and Translational Science Center at Weill Cornell Medicine to discover effective approaches to translate such findings for families. She and her students design and host monthly parent training workshops at Brooklyn’s Audrey Johnson day school.

“Children who both interacted and were narrated to saw at least a 30 percent increase in spatial gains over the group that still interacted with the same sorts of activities and games, but did not have language incorporated into their play by an adult,” she said. “Both groups improved, but those who heard items being labeled and actions described showed significantly greater gains.”

The hope is to integrate such development practices into the busyness of day-to-day life and positively impact a child’s language and learning development.

“Many people are surprised to hear that talking to infants really matters,” Casasola said. “The simple message is, remember to talk to your child. And have fun even for only a few minutes of play.”

The Cornell Chronicle, April 13, 2017.

By Stephen D'Angelo

Adam Anderson

New research by Adam Anderson, professor of human development at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, reveals why the eyes offer a window into the soul.

According to the recent study, published in Psychological Science Feb. 1, Anderson found that we interpret a person’s emotions by analyzing the expression in their eyes – a process that began as a universal reaction to environmental stimuli and evolved to communicate our deepest emotions.

For example, people in the study consistently associated narrowed eyes – which enhance our visual discrimination by blocking light and sharpening focus – with emotions related to discrimination, such as disgust and suspicion. In contrast, people linked open eyes – which expand our field of vision – with emotions related to sensitivity, like fear and awe.

“When looking at the face, the eyes dominate emotional communication,” Anderson said. “The eyes are windows to the soul likely because they are first conduits for sight. Emotional expressive changes around the eye influence how we see, and in turn, this communicates to others how we think and feel.”

This work builds on Anderson’s research from 2013, which demonstrated that human facial expressions, such as raising one’s eyebrows, arose from universal, adaptive reactions to one’s environment and did not originally signal social communication.

Both studies support Charles Darwin’s 19th-century theories on the evolution of emotion, which hypothesized that our expressions originated for sensory function rather than social communication.

“What our work is beginning to unravel,” said Anderson, “are the details of what Darwin theorized: why certain expressions look the way they do, how that helps the person perceive the world, and how others use those expressions to read our innermost emotions and intentions.”

Anderson and his co-author, Daniel H. Lee, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder, created models of six expressions – sadness, disgust, anger, joy, fear and surprise – using photos of faces in widely used databases. Study participants were shown a pair of eyes demonstrating one of the six expressions and one of 50 words describing a specific mental state, such as discriminating, curious, bored, etc. Participants then rated the extent to which the word described the eye expression. Each participant completed 600 trials.

Participants consistently matched the eye expressions with the corresponding basic emotion, accurately discerning all six basic emotions from the eyes alone.

Anderson then analyzed how these perceptions of mental states related to specific eye features. Those features included the openness of the eye, the distance from the eyebrow to the eye, the slope and curve of the eyebrow, and wrinkles around the nose, the temple and below the eye.

The study found that the openness of the eye was most closely related to our ability to read others’ mental states based on their eye expressions. Narrow-eyed expressions reflected mental states related to enhanced visual discrimination, such as suspicion and disapproval, while open-eyed expressions related to visual sensitivity, such as curiosity. Other features around the eye also communicated whether a mental state is positive or negative.

Further, he ran more studies comparing how well study participants could read emotions from the eye region to how well they could read emotions in other areas of the face, such as the nose or mouth. Those studies found the eyes offered more robust indications of emotions.

This study, said Anderson, was the next step in Darwin’s theory, asking how expressions for sensory function ended up being used for communication function of complex mental states.

“The eyes evolved over 500 million years ago for the purposes of sight but now are essential for interpersonal insight,” Anderson said.

by David Garavito and Allison M. Hermann

Junior and senior high school students from Ithaca Youth Bureau’s College Discovery Program visited the Department of Human Development to learn about college, research, and concussions from members of Dr. Valerie Reyna's Laboratory for Rational Decision Making (LRDM).

gelatin brain used for concussion simulation

The middle schoolers attended a concussion and the brain workshop on July 17th at the LRDM lab in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall led by David Garavito (JD/PhD) and Joseph DeTello '18. The group participated in a research project on concussions and decision-making and then took part in an interactive program about concussions. Students shook eggs to demonstrate how you don’t need to crack a shell (their skulls) to damage a yoke (their brains). Then they compressed and stretched gelatin brains to see how diffuse damage to neural fibers (axons) in the brain can occur after the impact of a concussion.

Allison Franz '18 and middle schoolers from Ithaca Youth Bureau

Allison Franz '18 got the group moving with a game of “blob tag". In this game, a group of students form a “blob” and try to tag other students without letting go of each others’ hands. The tagged students then became part of the blob. As the blob grew and people pulled in different directions, the blob would break apart and lose the tagged players. This is similar to what occurs when there is a blow to the skull and the skull comes to a fast stop - the brain moves in different directions and the neural fibers break resulting in diffuse damage to the neuronal axons.

The high school students attended the second brain and concussion workshop in the LRDM lab on August 16th. They participated in the concussion and decision-making project followed by a hands-on demonstration of concussion risks even when wearing helmets. The students loved creating their own "helmets” to protect eggs which were dropped from a great height. They learned that not only did they need to protect the egg from hitting the ground, they also needed to slow the momentum of the egg. This is a very important lesson to learn, as there is often a false sense of security when wearing a helmet in sports like football. Although the skull may be protected by a helmet, an abrupt momentum shift causes the brain to keep moving, resulting in the brain hitting the skull and a concussion.

James Jones-Rounds, HEP lab, and high school students from the Ithaca Youth Bureau

The group also visited the HD EEG and Psychophysiology (HEP) Laboratory. James Jones-Rounds, HEP manager, the lab equipment used for gathering data about electrical activity of the brain, electrical characteristics of the skin, and measurement of eye activity. Many of the students volunteered to be in the demonstration - one student even tried on the mobile EEG headset and managed to move a box on a computer screen using her mind!

We gratefully acknowledge Engaged Cornell for funding the Engaged Risky Decision Making project which supports our research and outreach with adolescents on the risks of sports-related concussions.

The Cornell Chronicle, April 20, 2017.

By Susan Kelley

Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Vertumnus, 1590.

They say you are what you eat.

But that may not be true for vegetarians.

A Cornell undergraduate and his academic adviser have come up with a new way to think about vegetarians. And it’s not just about what’s on their plates.

The new theory proposes that vegetarianism is an identity, not just a series of decisions about what to eat. Choosing a plant-based diet – and a wide variety of ways that people think, feel and behave in relation to that choice – provides vegetarians with a sense of self, the researchers said, just as race, religion, gender or sexual orientation can provide an identity for others. The paper was published Jan. 18 in Appetite.

“It might seem that vegetarianism is just a diet,” said Daniel Rosenfeld ’18, co-author of the paper. “But for a lot of people, it can have a large impact on how they feel about themselves and how they reflect on who they are. Following a plant-based diet is really a core part of their identity.”

Eating a vegetarian diet and identifying as vegetarian are two different things, the authors said. For example, a 2012 survey found that 5 percent of adults in the United States considered themselves vegetarian. But only 3 percent actually ate a plant-based diet. And some who avoid animal products may not consider themselves vegetarian at all, according to the paper.

Rosenfeld, a human development major, came up with the idea of a vegetarian identity when he was taking a class on racial and ethnic identity with his co-author, Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology.

Learning about theoretical perspectives on race as identity, Rosenfeld began to see similarities between how people speak about vegetarianism and race. “Race and vegetarianism seem so different,” he said. “But when we look through a psychological lens at how any behavior or self-attribute can define who we are, it becomes very clear that people who identify with a racial group or with this plant-based diet group can both be thought of through identity frameworks.”

Drawing on several psychological theories, the Rosenfeld and Burrows’ Unified Model of Vegetarian Identity describes 10 measurable “dimensions,” or aspects, of a vegetarian identity.

The first three aspects – historical embeddedness, timing and duration – involve the social contexts that shape how someone sees themselves as an eater. For example, the time and place in which we live can affect expectations about how and what we eat; moving to a city with lots of vegetarians may influence someone to adopt a more vegetarian diet and maybe even change how they self-identify.

Other dimensions include how people incorporate their food choices into their sense of self. Salience and centrality, for example, involve the extent to which being vegetarian is a defining feature of one’s identity.

Motivation also plays a role. A notable finding is that vegetarians have different dietary motivations than people who eat just a small amount of meat but aren’t fully vegetarian. While only 21 percent of those in the low meat-eating group were motivated by animal welfare concerns, this figure was a whopping 71 percent among vegetarians, Rosenfeld said.

“These results suggest that having ethical motivations about animal welfare is more strongly associated with going full-on vegetarian, rather than just decreasing one’s meat intake,” he said.

Some dimensions refer to how positively or negatively a person feels about vegetarians and omnivores. For example, a vegetarian may feel disgust, anger or resentment when she sees someone wearing a fur coat or leather jacket; those feelings are part of what Rosenfeld and Burrow call “low omnivorous regard.”

Of course, food choice is also a factor. The dimension of “strictness” measures how closely one adheres to a plant-based diet, while the dimension dietary pattern refers to the foods one avoids, such as eggs, dairy or fish.

Dietary strictness has caused some methodological inconsistencies across studies, Rosenfeld points out.

“If a participant identifies as vegetarian but eats meat occasionally, should a researcher label them as a vegetarian?” he said. “It’s these intricacies that make studying vegetarianism so exciting. Going forward, I hope our identity model can provide a new perspective for making sense of what seems nonsensical.”

Elizabeth Cavic

Elizabeth Cavic is a rising senior in the Department of Human Development and was a 2017 College of Human Ecology CCE Summer Intern working on the project "Enhancing Children’s Play and Parent’s Knowledge in Suffolk County" under the direction of Dr. Marianella Casasola and the CCE partners, Suffolk County Family and Health and Wellness Program, and Suffolk County Farm and Education Center. She created the following e-journal of her internship experience.

 

Week 1!

This week was my first (almost) full week with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (herein called "CCE"). I arrived on Memorial Day (Monday evening) around 10 PM and started work Tuesday. For the 6 weeks that I will be interning with CCE, I will be splitting my time between the Riverhead office and the Farm and Education Center (located in Yaphank). For the most part, I will be working in Riverhead Tuesdays and Wednesdays and in Yaphank on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

This first week was largely an orientation week for me. Several of my supervisors showed me around the farm and Riverhead office, I was given my duties and workspaces, and I just generally oriented myself to my new surroundings! I enjoyed my time at the office a lot, as I'm surrounded by people who are experts in all their respective fields (all somehow relating to Family Health and Wellness). My time at the farm, however, was also super incredible. Growing up in upstate New York, I was always surrounded by long stretches of countryside and there was always a farm no more than 15 minutes or so in any direction. However, this did give me the opportunity to get up close and personal with some things I haven't seen in a long time (namely lambs and roosters), which I really enjoyed!

Of course, my job there is not to hang out with the adorable sheep and lambs, but to develop a design that helps parents understand how critical play is to development. For example, the Outdoor Explore classroom contains an element that is intended for children to paint on (with water). Essentially, there are three pieces of slate (pictured left). Each piece of slate has a bucket attached, each bucket full of water and a couple paintbrushes. Water can be used to "paint" on these slates. While children may not look as though they are doing much during their painting sessions, the large sweeping motions that can be seen are critical to gross motor development in preschoolers.

Gross motor development (being able to control and manipulate the muscles in the shoulder and upper arm) is, then, absolutely imperative to the development of fine motor skills (manipulation of the hands and fingers). Of course, looking at a child fooling around with a bucket, and paintbrush, and a few pieces of slate may seem useless to parents who have little to no background in Human (specifically, Child) Development. That's where I come in. Of course, it's week 1, so I'm not quite sure yet how I come in, but I know that I definitely will! Until next week!

Week 2!

This week has flown by! Today marks the end of my first full week working for CCE of Suffolk County. This has been an extremely full week, complete with field trips, tours around preschools and other outdoor classrooms, a lot of statistics, graphs, charts, powerpoint presentations, and photos! Last week, largely an orientation week, was spent brainstorming ideas, as was much of this week.

The schedule for the duration of my internship is as follows: two weeks researching and brainstorming, two weeks implementing changes in the Outdoor Explore Classroom, and two weeks tweaking my adjustments. One of the final steps in my first two weeks was to visit other outdoor classrooms in the area. Our first stop was at Play Groups School in East Setauket. This school was an absolute blast to visit - the classrooms were incredible, the instructors were all so professional and so warm (the perfect mix for preschool teachers), and all the children were playing with developmentally appropriate materials. This little flower-filled shoe (left) was used during their recycling/Earth day project, in which children planted flowers in their old shoes. Because of this, there were dozens of little flower-filled shoes sitting around the outdoor classroom which nearly brought me to tears.

So much of the dialogue surrounding preschool education in the United States today is littered with talk of "didactic" learning or "academic- oriented preschools". However, the children of this preschool (and preschools across the country) were thriving with very simple (and age- appropriate) play materials! In fact, when walking in, I was a bit taken aback by the amount of material the children had at their disposal - water tables, dress up clothes, easels, fish tanks, huge playhouses inside the building, blocks, and countless other materials. It was, by all counts, incredible. The children were actively engaged in what they were doing and were learning new things with every move they made. Their outdoor classroom was equally impressive - between the water feature (right), the spot for bird-watching, the stage, the regular playground, and the block station, it was even difficult for me to stay professional.

Next, we visited the Long Island Children's Museum (LICM). One of their most interesting features was the Strawberry Maze (left). The black material was a "composting sock," filled with compost material on which the strawberry plants were growing. Children went into the maze, completed it, and ate strawberries along the way. The museum also contained a beautiful water feature (with dams, rivers, a water wheel, etc.). This inspired me to continue working on the farm's future water feature.

Next, we headed to the Middle Country Library. This library was so impressive for a whole multitude of reasons (some, but definitely not all of which, had to do with its outdoor explore classroom). This place was incredible:

  • The men's bathroom had a changing table, which shouldn't be such a big deal but, even in 2017, is not a super common occurrence and any public organization where that occurs is, in my opinion, way ahead of the game!
  • The outside of the building is - beyond being incredibly aesthetically pleasing - covered with what look like "fish scales". Very fitting for a library out in Long Island.
  • They had a "I read 1000 books before Kindergarten" feature - there were 100 clear backpacks on the shelves, each of which contained 10 picture -- or very short chapter -- books. A child could take out a backpack, bring it home, read the 10 books, return the backpack, and there would be 99 more waiting for the child. When the child completed all 100 of the backpacks (and consequently 1000 books), he/she/they got their face on a wall of the other children who had completed it. No lie, this bulletin board made me tear up it was so adorable.

- back to the classroom - it was absolutely incredible. It had places for building, places for reading, performing, digging, etc. (and SO SO many caterpillars)... The photo above (of the brick and my then-soaking-wet-from-walking-through-the-damp-grass-all- day espadrilles) was part of a fundraiser that the library did to fund the outdoor classroom. Each brick contained a title of a children's book (the book referenced in this brick can be found here) and a sponsor could "buy" a brick for $100 prior to the building of the classroom. I found it to be so heartwarming looking through the books that people held close to their hearts.

With all this work, I have (obviously) been very busy! However, there is always time to head down to the beach to put my feet in the water (it's still too chilly down here for a good swim - today is the best day thus far and it's only 75). As usual, I'm enjoying myself at work and in my spare time. I'm trying to read a book a week this summer and this week, the book that I have chosen is called "The Color of Water" by James McBride. So far so good. And for those of you who care or are curious, last week was "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. Equally wonderful and a super interesting non-fiction read. I'll make sure to keep you all updated on my progress (both personally and professionally) for the remainder of my internship. Until next week!

Week 3!

This week was so busy, I almost forgot to publish my post for this week (sorry about that, folks). This week started out on Monday with me finishing up preparations for my project - including making a supply list and merging that with my budget, researching how to implement a QR code for an audio tour the farm will be adding to the Nature Explore Classroom, and finalizing my list of projects that I'm going to work on!

After several long weeks of preparation, I finally started doing a project! This began on Sunday when my friend Marissa and I went to Southold Town beach and collected 360+ nicely-sized rocks!

Surprisingly, that only took us 20-30 minutes (and I got to watch a super beautiful sunset on the water right afterwards, so I definitely was not complaining about having to be at the beach). On Monday, I brought my rocks to the farm and washed them off and then pre-sketched all the letters onto the rocks so they could be painted the following day that I was at the farm.

On Thursday morning, I scoured the farm for acrylic paints that we may have already had and began painting some of the rocks with that (below). Unfortunately, we only had 3 good colors (and of course, I'm a color addict, so I really wanted more than that for this project). Fortunately, one of my field supervisors (Katie) was super understanding about the fact that I needed more paint and we took a trip to Michaels to get supplies for the rocks (paints, paintbrushes, sealer, etc.) and a few of my other upcoming projects.

After returning to the farm, I finally got to start painting the bulk of them!

Now, I never really knew how to conceptualize 360 rocks before today, but now I know that that means literally an eight-hour day of just painting rocks.

I've added this photo (right) so that you all can begin to conceptualize how many rocks 360 really is! A ton! Regardless, I got it done and was really pleased with the final results. Next week, I will be sealing them so that they can be outside safely and will not chip or blister, etc. From here, I think that my next project will be the ribbon chandeliers. I don't foresee those taking too long, but I'm hoping that sometime soon I can get started on the mud kitchen!

International Mud Day is coming faster than I had expected (it's this coming Saturday at 10 AM at the farm!) and I am not as prepared as I'd like to be, but still truckin' along! I think the implementation of that project will be a real game-changer for the Nature Explore Classroom (or at least I hope it will - I know I would've loved a mud kitchen as a kid). But anyway, I hope you all are having as great a summer as I am! Until next week.

Week 4!

I cannot believe that it's already my fourth week! As I write this (on Sunday actually - past my deadline), I am in shock that I only have 9 days left of my internship! This coming week, I will work Monday - Friday, and then the following week will be a four-day week, with July 4th on Tuesday.

Anyway, this week was absolutely crazy! I (of course) got my weekly dose of run-ins with the farm cats (my favorite of which is pictured to the left), I got time at the Riverhead office, and yesterday (Saturday) was our celebration for international mud day! International mud day is actually June 29th, but for the sake of having a good turn out, we celebrated it the weekend before. For those who don't know know, mud day is literally just a day in which kids and adults come to the farm and play in mud (the entire time).

At the farm, that means two huge kiddie pools filled with topsoil are plopped on the ground, and water is added in the morning. Progressively, throughout the day, children play in the pools, carry the mud around, sit in it, step on it, throw it at each other (and their parents), scoop it up with kitchen utensils and shovels, put it in baking pans, etc. The aftermath is what you see (right). When the pools are picked up, there is a 4-inch layer of mud left on the ground everywhere except where the pools were stationed. As you can imagine, the clean up for this event took a substantial amount of time, even with several people helping to get everything de-muddied. In fact, I think there is mud so deeply embedded in my feet right now that I'm at least 3 sheets browner from ankle down (even after several hose- offs and a shower).

So, now to backtrack. This week I spent a lot of time prepping for International Mud Day. The biggest project that I worked on was making the mud kitchen (left)! This took several sketches and re-sketches, several trips to different stores, and a lot of help from Richard, the man who does maintenance work for the farm. It took a total of 7 hours, and by the end I couldn't feel my forearm (I used nails, not screws, ugh). However, I got my supplies on Thursday afternoon and it was finished by Friday and usable for Mud Day (which was the goal of this internship).

In total, the farm had about 2,000 people present for some portion of the festivities, a large number of those people being under the age of 5! I was super pleased to see people enjoying the mud kitchen during the day, especially little people (one of these little people pictured left). The concept was stemmed from my boss Allison and I (with a little help from pinterest) and the execution was mostly me (although my dad's insistence that I learn how to use power tools in middle and high school did come in handy).

Fortunately, my mud kitchen was a disaster by the end of Mud Day! Anything less would have meant that I did my job poorly. Luckily, however, it is really easy to clean again (just take the bowls out and hose it off) and it's back to usable condition! Overall, I would definitely recommend this project to any adult who has children or who works with children - little ones are so infrequently allowed to get dirty anymore and it is a critical part of childhood!

I was also lucky enough to have several of my other classroom additions ready in time for International Mud Day! Both my painted rocks and my scales were debuted that day (and from what I saw, kids were really enjoying them). Pictures of those can also be found below! I think there are a few things that I'd like to add or change, but overall I'm extremely pleased with the progress that I've made thus far. With a little under two weeks left, I'm signing off!

Week 5!

This week was, as usual, pretty hectic! I finished up several projects, including the water tables and my ribbon chandelier!

As you can see, my ribbon chandelier came out pretty cool! I was going for technicolor and really appealing to the eye (especially the young child's eye) and I think that's exactly how it came out! While I was securing it onto the gazebo, there was there this girl Marissa (who looked to be about two years old) with her parents and she kept coming up to me repeatedly saying, "there's a birthday party today!" because the ribbon chandelier looks like birthday streamers. Of course, her parents were rushing her along because her one-year-old brother was fussing, but what an incredible observation, connection, and conclusion on her part!

Finally, after it was hung up she got to go inside the hoop! As an added bonus, this was intended to a pretend play prop, which I believe it was for her. The entire time I was hanging this up, her hands were full of the letter rocks I painted, and she was putting them in the cupcake tins from Mud Day, calling them eggs she was using for "brownies" for the birthday that was happening! Very cool and imaginative little girl, indeed.

We were also fortunate enough to receive a donation from someone the other day of a whole set of painted wooden "blocks." They were really just a a 2" x 2" piece of wood cut into smaller pieces, but that's all blocks ever are anyway, and plus, they were a donation, so they were better than nothing and the person was generous to have brought them all the way over here when they could have thrown them out! Anyway! I upcycled them with some of the leftover acrylic paint from the letter rocks and now we have a really cool set of blocks that I'll be putting outside later today!

And finally I was able to somewhat finish my water tables! I still need some of the PVC pipe connectors for the actual base, but my frogs came in, so the inside of them is done, which is very cool! I added some beach rocks as well, making it a little more realistic looking (and the kids can take the beach rocks out, so that's an additional thing to get some tactile experience with). Overall, I would say that my projects are going well and I am looking forward to wrapping everything up next week though I truly cannot believe that 6 weeks went by so quickly. It really does feel like yesterday that I was proctoring the Human Bonding Exam in Barton Hall! Anyway, thanks all for reading. Until next week!