Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More Money, Less Energy

By Rachel Amico, Fall 2011 Intern

When I was in high school, I remember the lights being on all the time, never shutting down the computers, and enduring sweltering temperatures through the whole winter. While this allowed my school to be bright, active, and warm, energy expenditure made up a large portion of the school’s budget.
But recently, according to the New York Times, schools are beginning to see the light—figuratively that is. With the growing momentum of “green” movements, schools are attempting to minimize their energy consumption through creative and efficient means. Turning lights off in unused classrooms, shutting off rooftop exhaust valves, evaluating the energy used in swimming pools and cafeteria ovens, replacing old fixtures with energy saving models, using solar panels, and—in the case of Mount Sinai School District on Long Island, NY—appointing an “Official Energy Manager” to police the halls of the schools, are all methods working wonders for the budget and the environment.
The appointing of an Energy Manager has reduced Mount Sinai’s utility costs by 30% since 2007, and simply keeping an eye on expenditure in New Jersey’s Holmdel Township has cut gas and electric by about half since 2009, saving $1 million annually. In addition to cutting costs, the benefits to the environment are equally impressive. The Holmdel Township schools use 3.5 million fewer kilowatts of power, and 240,000 less therms of heat annually.
Recognizing the benefits these practices create for schools, the Bloomberg administration in New York City created a month-long competition in which the schools that voluntarily decreased energy usage were awarded $100,000.
By being more energy-conscious, large schools can save, and occasionally earn, money to be better spent on improving class materials and quality of education for students while also helping reduce the energy consumption that affects global warming. Because schools are comprised of large buildings that foster hundreds of people at a time, their positive impact—especially when united—can be great.
If more schools around the country (and other large establishments) begin to monitor their energy following the examples of Mount Sinai and Holmdel Township, everyone—including students, administrators, and our ever-so-fragile atmosphere—will benefit immensely.
If you’re passionate about the environment and want to try “greening up” your school or school district, check out The Green Schools Alliance. The organization provides a “toolkit” of ideas and suggestions on how to improve energy conservation, while also hosting competitions and events for schools across the country to participate in.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recess for Everyone!

By Tracy Brickman, Fall 2011 Intern

I may no longer be able to recite the Gettysburg Address from memory and I doubt I still remember the finer details of Lewis and Clark’s great expedition, but one important lesson I do remember from my elementary school days is the proper strategy for picking team members for a game of Red Rover. And I bet I’m not the only one! Recess was an important part of my school day not only because I got to spend time having fun with my friends, but also because it allowed me to get outside and, though I was unaware of it at the time, experience the many benefits of physical activity. For that very reason, today some Chicago public schools, starting at the preschool level, are working towards re-introducing recess into their school day.
Over a decade ago, Chicago public schools removed recess from their day, in favor of a 20-minute lunch period for students and lunch at the end of the day for teachers. Now, however, along with the Chicago Department of Public Health’s push to have students spend less time in front of a screen and more time being active, parents and advocacy groups are working to include a 90-minute recess period in students’ days. Starting in November, only 60 minutes or less out of the school day can be spent on computers or watching TV, while at least 60 minutes will be spent in physical activity.
At the moment, this push for a longer recess period is only occurring at the preschool level. However, the hope is that encouraging children to be active early on will have a positive impact later in students’ lives. Like so many other areas across the country, Chicago is a city riddled with childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases, and parents and teachers alike hope that measures taken now will help reinforce and promote healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to lengthening recess, many schools will not serve milk that has more than a 1% fat content and will only serve 100% juice. 
Although not every school or district may be too keen on the idea of taking away from active learning time, this incentive is something that schools should seriously consider. In light of the obesity epidemic troubling Americans of all ages, schools need to start teaching healthy lifestyle choices to their students, and promoting more physical activity during recess is a great place to start. Not only will students get moving, reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, but also they’ll have fun and expand upon their social skills in doing so.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bestselling, Brand-Name Authors

By Kaitlin Loss, Editorial Assistant

My mother loves to read Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel novels. They’re all pretty much the same in terms of plot and I’m not entirely sure how she keeps track of which ones she’s read as opposed to which ones she hasn’t. But every time I’m with her in a bookstore, she always picks up the latest one and scans the jacket before claiming that it sounds good.
Authors such as Roberts and Steel—not to mention bestseller list mainstays like Stephen King and James Patterson—have made a pretty good living churning out books that sell millions of copies, almost despite what their content matter is. People flock to booksellers to pick up the latest novel by their favorite author often before they even know what the book is about.
And it’s not just contemporary adult authors either. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d read anything J.K. Rowling writes, even if it was on a subject I wasn’t terribly interested in. She, like King, Patterson, Steel, and others, has become more of a brand than a writer. She will sell books solely because of her name.
Sure, these authors are brands for a reason: people enjoy their work enough to keep coming back for more. And while this is true in other forms of entertainment, it seems to be more pronounced with books. The New York Times bestsellers list often looks the same from week to week, with the same names always appearing, even with different titles attached. Readers find an author—or brand—that they like, and they stick with him or her no matter what, the same way people have their favorite brand of shampoo or coffee.
Just like the movie industry needs big-name stars for their feature films, the publishing industry needs these brand-name authors for their bestselling books. After all, how are we supposed to have the great debate over who will be the next J.K. Rowling if there is no J.K. Rowling in the first place?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writing From Beyond the Grave

By Jorge Cortes, Publishing Intern

Have you ever wondered if you continued to read Harry Potter because it was a novel written by J.K. Rowling or because it was a Harry Potter novel? What if she had been forced to stop writing while the series was still ongoing and gave her blessing to another author to continue her work? Would you still read it?
While that didn’t happen to Rowling, for other authors the answer has been a resounding “yes.” There has been a trend developing in which new authors, known as continuators, take over an ongoing series when the original author dies or becomes otherwise unable to continue writing. And while some critics are against the idea, it appears that most fans continue to buy the books. For example, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is a very popular fantasy series with a very devoted fan base. When Jordan passed away in 2007—as he was writing the final book of the series—it seemed as if it would be left incomplete.
Enter Brandon Sanderson. A longtime fan of the series and fellow author, Sanderson was asked by Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, to finish what her late husband started. And what Jordan intended to be the final book ended up becoming three. And how did Jordan’s devoted fans react? The last six books in the series have all reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestsellers list. Two of those books are considered to have been cowritten by Sanderson and Jordan.
Obviously not all continuators are so successful. Many of them have a difficult time trying to respect the author’s wishes and adapt the characters to be their own. Despite these potential struggles, it seems as though different authors are continuing more series. Ian Fleming’s James Bond is set to appear in a new novel this year called Carte Blanche. Jeffery Deaver will become the second American to act as a continuator for the series. And perhaps one of the most famous continuators, Eric Van Lustbader, continues his work on Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series with the July release of The Bourne Dominion.
And we may be seeing more of this trend in the future. Stieg Larsson, author of the bestselling Millenium trilogy, left behind an almost-completed rough draft for a fourth book—and maybe even enough material for a fifth or sixth—when he died in 2004. His life partner may own the computer files that contain the partial manuscript, but it’s anyone’s guess if Lisbeth Salander will appear in a new book and continue to live on alongside James Bond and Jason Bourne.