Blogs - 6/109 - Merit Educational Consultants

It seems that the best way to prevent getting COVID-19 or airborne viruses is to reduce the chance of breathing in the virus. So, wearing good quality masks and facial shields, a washing hands with sudsy soap are the first line of defense. Then, staying far away from people. And, filtering the air in your home or office with a HEPA filter. But, what about the air quality in your local grocery store, doctor’s offices, and other places you frequent?

Infectious disease experts at UCSF recommend using a CO2 monitor to determine the amount of air that is re-breathed in stores, restaurants, and offices. While we aren’t really concerned about the actual CO2 in the room, the monitor calculates the exchange of fresh air indoors.

I just purchased a CO2 monitor for under $50 and tested several places that I visit. First, I checked my house and was happy to see that it was fine at about 500 ppm. But my car was up to 1400 ppm. I checked the lab where I got some blood work done and was shocked that it was over 3000 ppm! I asked the receptionist when they would see me and told her that I’ll return at that time. Meanwhile, I quickly walked out and waited outside where the air was a healthy 450 ppm.

Seems to me that using CO2 monitors can help us make smart choices about where we go and how long we can stay. Restaurants, movie theaters, and schools would be wise to post their CO2 numbers to encourage rational re-opening of services.

For me, I’m planning on wearing my mask and face shield when interfacing with others in close quarters when I need to. I carry my CO2 monitor in my purse and use it every time I walk into an indoor space to make sure the numbers are in the 400-500 ppm range.

SOURCE:

CO2 Monitor:

January 23, 2021

How CO2 monitors can alert you to unsafe indoor ventilation

It seems that the best way to prevent getting COVID-19 or airborne viruses is to reduce the chance of breathing in the virus. So, wearing good quality masks and facial shields, a washing hands with sudsy soap are the first line of defense. Then, staying far away from people. And, filtering the air in your home or office with a HEPA filter. But, what about the air quality in your local grocery store, doctor’s offices, and other places you frequent?

Infectious disease experts at UCSF recommend using a CO2 monitor to determine the amount of air that is re-breathed in stores, restaurants, and offices. While we aren’t really concerned about the actual CO2 in the room, the monitor calculates the exchange of fresh air indoors.

I just purchased a CO2 monitor for under $50 and tested several places that I visit. First, I checked my house and was happy to see that it was fine at about 500 ppm. But my car was up to 1400 ppm. I checked the lab where I got some blood work done and was shocked that it was over 3000 ppm! I asked the receptionist when they would see me and told her that I’ll return at that time. Meanwhile, I quickly walked out and waited outside where the air was a healthy 450 ppm.

Seems to me that using CO2 monitors can help us make smart choices about where we go and how long we can stay. Restaurants, movie theaters, and schools would be wise to post their CO2 numbers to encourage rational re-opening of services.

For me, I’m planning on wearing my mask and face shield when interfacing with others in close quarters when I need to. I carry my CO2 monitor in my purse and use it every time I walk into an indoor space to make sure the numbers are in the 400-500 ppm range.

SOURCE:

CO2 Monitor:

January 21, 2021

No more SAT Subject tests and no more SAT essays!

The College Board just announced that it will no longer offer the SAT II Subject tests or essay portions of the SAT. Even pre-COVID, the nation was already moving towards reducing testing requirements by making the SAT and the ACT test optional. So how do colleges determine which students are the best and most prepared to excel at their institutions?

As always, grades are the most important criteria that admissions officers consider when reviewing college applications. They look at what courses are offered, and which courses the student has taken. Selective colleges prefer to see students taking the most rigorous courses offered and acing them. Those who take AP, IB, or community college courses demonstrate that they can handle and excel at a higher level than those who take regular high school courses.

So now the pressure is on getting that coveted “5” on the AP exams and taking more AP courses. Instead of studying for the SAT Subject tests, students will study for the AP exams. Hmm, they’re both owned by the College Board. AP courses are supposed to be college-level classes taught in high school but most agree that they cover only about 30% of the concepts that are taught in introductory college courses.

Students who take AP courses spend the entire school year preparing for the AP exams in May. Their teachers present information, give study guides, and hammer facts that will be on the big exam. By preparing students to ace the AP test, they give dozens of practice tests and require vast memorization of concepts. This doesn’t allow these teachers to have Socratic seminars and discussions, or to assign research or projects to delve into these subject areas. Student learn to regurgitate information under pressure with loads of mind-numbing assignments – and then, they forget it all a month later.

About the SAT essay — I believe that this was actually the fairest way to determine if a student has the writing skills to be successful in college. By giving them 25 minutes to write a coherent essay, all students across the US had the same prompt and wrote their essays without any help. Critics of the SAT essay argue that there are other ways to determine how well a student writes – suggesting that their college application essays would do just that. Colleges aren’t naïve enough to think that students’ personal statements and short essays actually represent their real writing skills. Instructions on college applications even suggest that students have others proof read their essays before submitting them. Most students get more support than just proof reading…

Even though many colleges are going test optional in the future, the best students will continue to take the SAT or ACT to give themselves an edge in the college admissions process. Beyond the fuss over SAT subject tests and writing requirements, my recommendation is for students to do stellar independent projects throughout high school. This is the best way to stand out and get in.

SOURCE: 

January 18, 2021

Tip on reducing racial stereotypes

I remember when I was a child, I was told not to stare at people in wheelchairs or homeless people sleeping on sidewalks. By not looking at them, I wouldn’t have to see a person who isn’t “normal.” Not sure if it was to protect me from seeing how many people live outside of my bubble or to make sure that I didn’t interact with those types of people because they might be violent or they might make me uncomfortable.

Either way, I quickly formed the stereotype, prejudice, and stigma about that person. While this was not to create a discriminatory bias, it did, however, on both a conscious and subconscious level. It dehumanized those people who were different from me. And today, this has become accepted social behavior.

One of my students is doing a project on how to reduce negative stereotypes in her plan to stop the hatred that fuels violence and discord in America. We’ve explored ways to break these stereotypes and recently came across a study done by Professor Alicia Nordstrom. She required her students to interview a person that they either didn’t like or belonged to a religious or ethnic group that they feared. Then, the students had to write a memoir about that person’s life.

While her students didn’t want to do the assignment at first, they all found that their interviewees were just “regular” people – like you and me. Nordstrom expanded her study to include people with mental health issues and physical disabilities. The results were the same: they found that their subjects were all normal, regular people, regardless of their disability and psychological issues.

So maybe if we could open doors to have conversations with people who don’t share our ideas or lifestyles, we might – just might – become more compassionate and understanding. Maybe we could find a way to create solutions to the many problems we ALL face.

SOURCE:

January 17, 2021

2nd semester grades down, again.

Wondering how college students fared during the 2nd semester of remote classes? 85% of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors reported that the pandemic has negatively affected their grades during Fall 2020. The survey included 232 public and private colleges.

Seems that students weren’t happy with the quality of virtual learning, and some even stated that free resources like Khan Academy were more helpful than remote classwork. Yikes! Others suffered from mental health issues around academic changes and coronavirus fears.

With all of the uncertainty with testing, vaccines, distancing requirements, and general safety precautions taken on college campuses, this is not surprising. Not sure what the new normal will be for college students on campuses in the near future, but I’m sure everyone is going to be much more aware of how viruses spread and what students will need to do to protect themselves.

SOURCE: 

January 16, 2021

Burn forests to save them?

After losing over 4 million acres of forests last year to wildfires in California – that’s 1/10th of our total forestland – we need to take a proactive approach to save the remaining 33 million acres. Native Americans have been doing prescribed burns for centuries, and now Cal Fire and the Federal Forest Service are planning to do just that.

The goal is to reduce fire risk on 1 million acres of forest and wildlands each year. They’ll do this by manually thinning overgrown forests and intentionally burning hundreds of thousands of acres annually. The federal government will handle the lion’s share of the forestland, while Cal Fire works with private landowners through the vegetation management program.

For the past 100 years, California has focused on suppressing all prescribed fires, and now we’re paying a huge price for that. Even though some residents oppose these burns due to increased air pollution, we need to reduce the possibilities of having more out-of-control wildland fires. I think we all can deal with a few smoky days while we create firebreaks and manage our forests so we don’t lose our homes, lives, and remaining forests.

SOURCE:

January 10, 2021

Should students live on campus beyond freshman year?

Both of my daughters lived on campus for 4 years while getting their undergraduate degrees at Stanford and Claremont McKenna College. As their mother, it gave me a sense of security knowing that they’d be on campus with other students and professors completely immersed in college life. Back when they were in college, very few colleges required students to live on campus for all 4 years, but now more colleges are requiring students to live on campus beyond freshman year.

By having all students on campus for 4 years, juniors and seniors mentor the frosh and sophomores. It gives students more opportunities to do research, get involved in campus activities, and well, just be a college student. When student rush to move off campus during their sophomore year, they don’t meet many new students after that. Instead, they socialize with their housemates off campus and they don’t participate in as many campus activities as they would if they were still living on campus.

Besides learning academics, students make important connections by networking with students. When living on campus, students build bigger and stronger connections simply because it’s happening all around them. Colleges that require all students to live on campus give students this opportunity to build their networks and organize events to foster this philosophy.

Indiana Univ Center for Postsecondary Research shows that students who live on campus are more likely to complete their degrees than students who move off campus. Michigan State just announced that they are requiring both freshmen and sophomore students to live on campus. Some students are opposing this mandate stating that they want to be more independent and that it’s less expensive to live with friends off campus. Some even claim that the college is trying to put the burden on students to pay for additional housing and meal plans to make up for their losses caused by the pandemic.

Whatever the reason for keeping students on campus for more than freshman year, I support giving students the time to build those networks, immerse themselves in student activities, and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in a utopia of 18-to-22 year old students. They’ll get their independence and live in the “real” world soon enough.

SOURCE: 

December 21, 2020

Time to get serious about protecting one another — especially our docs and nurses!

My daughter sent this to me. Seriously, when will they understand that their actions are putting everyone at risk of getting COVID-19?

December 14, 2020

Making holiday gifts during the pandemic

Every year, I get together with my family to discuss what holiday gift we’ll make to give to our family and friends. This year we decided to make chili sunflower seeds – our favorite topping for salads, pastas, and eggs. It’s a time for us to make our lists, order ingredients, make the gifts, and then ship them out or deliver them. By working together during this busy time of year, we make time to be together.  Sometimes we create new things like shampoo bars or special recipe lip balms. Part of the fun – frustration – is getting the recipe right.

While COVID-19 has certainly put a damper on getting together and doing traditional things, we still created 250+ gift bags. This year, I did all the cooking but we still had to agree on labels, coordinate shipping that we did together through texts and calls. I sent photos with constant updates so everyone was still part of the process. While I missed the group activities and all the fuss that goes along with making our annual gifts, I’m glad that our family tradition continues even during a pandemic.

So stop on by to pick up your chili sunflower seeds!

December 13, 2020

Growing a variety of mushrooms from grain and sawdust spawn

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of growing mushrooms. They’re mysterious because they seem to pop up at random places yet I’ve heard they’re difficult to grow. So I hired one of our Merit Academy teachers to be my mentor. She helped me select spawn and all of the ingredients and equipment I needed. Yesterday, we put together a mini mushroom farm in my greenhouse, veggie garden, and oak grove.

I got a truck load of woodchips at Lewis Tree Service, 2 bags of sawdust at San Lorenzo Lumber, coffee grounds at Starbucks, and compost from my garden. We mixed up all of these ingredients to make the “food” for the mycelium (mushrooms). Then we layered the grain spawn on the woodchip mixture. It felt good to turn the soil and fill the planter boxes.

We also created mini totem poles and put the mycelium between each log. Two months ago, I drilled holes in an oak log to start mushroom plugs. There are so many ways to cultivate mushrooms!

Now we wait for the mushrooms to grow. We selected Pink Oyster, Blue Oyster, Almond Agaricus, Golden Oyster, Lion’s Mane and Pioppino mushrooms. Can’t wait for our first harvest! I’ll be able to get spawn from my mushrooms to grow in our lab. If all goes right, I should have huge bounties of mushrooms in 10 days that I can propagate forever. Well, I’m not good at growing things so this is a big experiment for me.

December 12, 2020

An easy way to know if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

Okay Californians – let’s stop the spread of COVID-19. Finally, there is an app (CA Notify) that tells you when you’ve been exposed without doing contact tracing. This system augments the contact tracing process by notifying people you’ve been in contact with – even those you don’t know. By using your cell phone (Android or iPhone), the app simply notifies people that an anonymous person they were in close contact with has tested positive for COVID-19. CA Notify doesn’t know the identities or contact information of the individuals.

If you were unknowingly exposed to COVID-19, this app will notify you. Your privacy remains intact because the app doesn’t know your identity or your contact information. It’s ideal for those who want to protect their privacy because your location is not tracked and they don’t have information about the people you meet. The best part, they contact people you don’t know – like a salesperson or receptionist that you talked to. It’s more efficient than contact tracing because you most likely don’t have names and phone numbers of every person you see.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they’ll receive an anonymous verification code. They’ll also receive resources to quickly get tested and the medical care needed to prevent exposing others to COVID-19. You won’t get the name of the person, the location, or any details.

This app is free and it’s available for teens (ages 13-17) and all adults. I just signed up for this because I want to know if I’ve been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This is an easy way for me to do my part to protect others, and myself.

Check it out: