Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Stars at Night....

...certainly aren't what they were on those long summer nights over on Elm Street.  Not that I have any notion of what the Texas night sky looked like over River City back when Hank Williams died, for that is stretching the old long-term memory about as far as these few remaining brain cells can take.  Back along that track, I do remember the one old lone street light; naked bulb hanging beneath a rippled metal shade that was dark green on top and white underneath.  It cast a kind of eerie yellowish light, scarcely bright enough to cast a shadow of its own pole.  With such wimpy excuses for lighting back then, the cloudless night skies had to be lousy with stars!

Mr. Beano--bad ass Beano who had a fit and went after Bob cat and got us both tossed out to The Cave--and I sat out from dusk to straight up dark last night.  First time since Annie and I moved onto this place last December that I've just sat out to watch and listen to the night settle in.  No, the mosquitoes aren't bad.  One of the few-and-far-between positive side effects of a drought!

The stars, on the other hand, are pitiful!  Just pitiful!

The fault, of course, lies not with the stars but with our way of doing urban communal living.  We so fill the night with our artificial lights that the natural lights of the sky are a wash.  None but the biggest and brightest get through, and our old familiar constellations are losing points.  Mankind's first stories are written in those myriad points of light.

 Stargazers who also are into Facebook might want to check out Star and Sky


Monday, June 27, 2011

Renovating the One-room Schoolhouse

At first glance the door seems bare-boned and sparse, something like a middle American refrigerator door with sundry notes, reminders and yesterdays' art projects neatly posted. Could this really be the front door to "America's largest classroom"?

The largest, most unpronounceable, acronyms in American media--PBS, WGBH, WNET, KET--have combined resources with the National Archives,  the Library of Congress, NPR, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Education to produce and launch  PBS LearningMedia, a free service for all teachers, students and families nationwide.

As America’s largest classroom, PBS and our local stations are helping to re-imagine classroom learning and are partnering with our producers and teachers to engage students to accelerate academic achievement,” said Paula Kerger, PBS President and CEO. “PBS LearningMedia is a key part of the solution to one of the nation’s biggest challenges – improving student progress to build our future workforce.”

My Mom began her formal education in a one-room schoolhouse on the Rolling Plains, and to this day she is one of the smartest women I know.  PBS LearningMedia today provides something akin to the solid integration of that old one-room schoolhouse in a truly global environment.  This is one giant step toward accessible, quality education for every boy, girl and undeclared in this country today.  And who knows, we so-called grown-ups might learn something from it, too, considering what Sesame Street did to and for us!

I cracked open that door to take a peek inside.  Check out what  Wynton Marsalis and his band are telling the kids about "collective improvisation".