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    • EARTH DAY: Spring fever means students and educators are helping the land and water

      Pictured above: A sampling of student posters from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's "Conserve and Protect Our Water" contest. See all of the poster contest winners: https://www.dec.ny.gov/education/106423.html


      Listen to the pipes of the peepers singing like a choir beyond the houses, by the trees, and you’ll know its spring. The peepers come out of the mud, where they’ve been buried all winter, and give a shout out to the world. The males court the females: it’s all tree frog allure. Their voice is their cologne, their buffed shoes. They remind us: Wake up! The earth needs care and attention!

      A SUNY Fredonia chemistry professor who’s been studying plastic in the Great Lakes has some simple and strong ideas on how to change the world — ideas that will make an impact long after Earth Day on April 22.

      Stop using single-use plastic. Don’t use plastic bags to carry purchases from any store. Don’t buy products heavily packaged in plastic. Don’t buy bottled water. Use a mug or thermos. Stop using plastic straws — they are incredibly harmful to animals. And use real utensils at picnics, or ask people to each bring their own.

      “We are the problem when it comes to plastic pollution…. we are also the solution,” said Sherri “Sam” Mason, professor of chemistry and environmental science at SUNY Fredonia, speaking at a TED talk on why plastic is so toxic and how people can use less.

      Mason is a member of United University Professions, the SUNY higher education union, an affiliate of NYSUT. Her research work on the Great Lakes Plastic Pollution Survey has been reported widely in hundreds of media, including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and on National Public Radio.

      "When we go looking for life on other planets, what do we look for? Water... because to our knowledge there is no life without water. Clean water is fundamental to life sustaining itself. As our society has developed, especially since the adage of 'better living through chemistry', we have continued to utilize this life-sustaining fluid as a garbage bin. We cannot continue to do so," Mason told NYSUT.

      SUNY Fredonia, like many of the state’s colleges and universities, works hard to earn a place on Earth Day. Projects around the state include school gardens, recycling events, guest speakers, and field trips to environmental centers, classroom lessons, composting, and much more. An abundance of environmental and Earth Day-themed lessons can be found on Share My Lesson, a site sponsored by American Federation of Teachers featuring free lesson plans from around the country.

      At Fredonia, Mason’s activism and the work of many other committed faculty members has taught students about the need for increased personal responsibility, and environmental awareness. This week, SUNY Fredonia students and faculty are taking part in ‘No Impact Week’ in which they will do a “carbon cleanse” to reduce their environmental impact.

      Tracy Marafiote, a communications professor and member of UUP, started using the No Impact idea on campus six years ago — initially for her environmental communication students, and then for the entire campus. This year, 85 people have pledged to take on the challenge. Each day focuses on a different aspect: day one is consumption: how much we buy but don’t really need. The challenge is not to buy. The second day theme is trash and consumption: consider the waste you generate. Third: What are the choices you are making when you travel? Could you carpool, ride the bus, walk, ride a bike?

      “I live a mile away and typically ride my bike,” Marafiote said — noting she’ll even do so in winter if the roads are dry.

      Marafiote recalled that English professor Christina Jarvis and Mason helped form a sustainability committee, and noted that ever since, the college has remained committed to environmental action.

      “It set a very strong foundation,” Marafiote said.

      Fredonia now uses environmental friendly substance instead of salt on winter roads; nontoxic floor cleaners, and has recycling bins in every room on campus, including the bathroom where wet paper towels are recycled. An annual electronics- recycling day is also held on campus; this year it is April 21.

      As for Mason’s groundbreaking research, it involved sailing the Great Lakes — the largest freshwater ecosystem in the entire world. Her team conducted the first investigation into microplastic pollution in Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan, and found plastic particles in each lake, ranging from an average of 7,000 plastic particles per square kilometer, to 46,000.

      In a section flowing into the northern Atlantic, they found a quarter of a million plastic particles per square kilometer – rivaling the most polluted parts of the ocean, Mason said.

      Plastic contains flame-retardants and other toxic materials that can leach out. And, because plastic is lightweight, easily carried, and durable, it doesn’t biodegrade. It doesn’t get turned into soil like natural materials. The polymers that make up the chemistry of plastic don’t break down, even when in small pieces. Microplastics, too, are found in cleaners and personal hygiene products such as body wash, shampoo.

      “They become like little poison pills” that can be ingested by organisms and then up the food chain to people, Mason said, adding that if plastic is “in the water, it’s in us.”

      An abundance of Earth Day lessons and events

      Whether the conversation is plastic or pollution, many preK-to-college classes are hosting Earth Day events to draw student eyes and ears to environmental awareness.

      For example, SUNY Fredonia suggestions for Earth Month 2018 — such as advocating for the use of rechargeable batteries — are actually ones that can be applied year-round.

      Meanwhile, in some schools, teachers run clubs to introduce students to environmental topics including wildlife, aquatics, forestry, and soil to help them compete in Envirothon, an outdoor competitive event. Winners on the state level can compete in North American competitions.

      School gardens, including organic gardens, have become starring attractions at many schools, where produce is used in the cafeteria, donated to soup kitchens, or sent home with students.

      For teachers who want to explore Earth Day with students but may not have time to create a lesson, check out Share My Lesson. There is a school science project science where students color and design brown bags with Earth Day art and principles, and then distribute them at local grocery stores. There are lesson plans on recycling; Earth-Day themed alphabet and numbers cards; a PowerPoint on the earth, sun and moon. Another lesson provides worksheets on how to use a small globe and flashlights to track day and night, cycles and seasons. One lesson shows students how to investigate just how scientists learn about Earth’s interior using meteorites, density and the magnetic field.

      The Department of Environmental Conservation is hosting Earth Day events this week at outdoor nature centers around the state, ranging from “Bed Time” at Rogers Environmental Center in Sherburne – preparing garden beds—to hazardous waste recycling day in Utica or an Amazing Earth Day Race at Five Rivers Environmental Center in Delmar. There will be a seedling give-away in Queens. For more information, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/public/101395.html.

      Student winners of the DEC’s Recycle Poster Contest 2018 can be found at https://www.dec.ny.gov/education/69418.html. Student winners of the DEC’s 2018 Preserve and Protect Our Waters poster contest are at https://www.dec.ny.gov/education/106423.html.

      A car-free Earth Day will take place Saturday, April 21 on 30 blocks of Broadway from Times Square to Union Square, where environmental programming will be showcased to promote education and action on climate change, sustainability and other topics.

    • Problems with state tests? Share your story with SED and the Regents.

      This year's tests are a disaster!

      For months, NYSUT has raised strong concerns and questions about SED's rush to implement computer-based testing. After a data breach earlier this year, NYSUT wrote a detailed letter to the State Education Department (SED) and Board of Regents, calling on them to put the brakes on computer-based testing. NYSUT has been expressing concerns about inequity for low-wealth districts; a lack of infrastructure and poor Internet capability in some schools, and whether computer-based testing accurately measures student learning — or just how well students can maneuver around a keyboard.

      Notwithstanding NYSUT's warnings and concerns, students in nearly 300 schools sat down to their computers last Wednesday to test-drive the new English Language Arts computer-based tests in grades 3-8. Widespread reports of technology failures from teachers detailing disastrous system crashes; log-in failures and nonsensical answers for questions on the tests came flooding into NYSUT, news outlets and across social media.

      Email the Commissioner and the Regents and share your experience with this year's first round of state testing.

      Teachers in Victor, Saranac Lake, Shenendehowa and Spencerport, for example, reported some schools were unable to administer the computer-based tests properly because of technological failures. In at least one fourth-grade class in the Capital Region, students' entire tests were wiped out by malfunctioning computers. In Yonkers, some students "lost" their tests, while others attempting to answer multiple choice questions reportedly could only choose between four answers — all of which said “system error.”

      While SED tried to call it a "glitch," NYSUT called last week's rush to computer-based testing nothing short of disaster! If children are going to sit for state standardized tests and are prepared to do their very best, SED must be able to guarantee that the tests are fair and accurate, and they don't leave kids anxious and rattled.

      Last week's disastrous foray into computer testing, coupled with ongoing concerns about the benchmarks and developmental appropriateness of the tests, left children frustrated and teachers angry that their warnings were ignored. If SED wants to restore the trust and confidence of parents in its testing system, this isn't the way to do it.

      Email the Commissioner and the Regents and share your experience with this year's first round of state testing.

      Concerned about state testing? Get the facts! Know your rights on opt-out.

      In solidarity,

      Andrew Pallotta
      NYSUT President


      P.S.: Whether this testing disaster affected you or not, get the facts about opting out at www.nysut.org/optout.


      Problems with Computer-Based Testing?

    LTA Blog

    Stand Up For What All Kids Need

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    Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget for 2015-2016 lays out a punishing anti-public education agenda that attacks teachers and hurts students.

    Rather than provide what all kids need, the governor is pushing a Billionaires' Agenda that would decimate the state's public schools. His "my-way-or-the-highway" budget would:

    • hold school aid increases hostage;
    • woefully underfund the state's K-12 and higher education systems;
    • more than double the weight of standardized tests;
    • make permanent an undemocratic tax cap that has wreaked financial havoc on school communities;
    • eliminate funding for teacher training;
    • launch a back-door voucher plan that would siphon funding away from schools most in need;
    • underfund public higher education by tying funding to campus "performance" rather than enrollment;
    • smooth the way for the privatization of SUNY's five hospitals;
    • destroy prep programs for future teachers;
    • and fail to fully address the student debt crisis.

    Simply put, Gov. Cuomo's proposed budget - which serves the interests of his billionaire backers - is an attack on public education that fails to address what all students need.

    Things you can do right now to fight back.

    Every NYSUT member is needed to defend public education and the teaching profession from Gov. Cuomo's Billionaires' Agenda.

    Tell the governor to stop scapegoating... stop teacher bashing and focus on what #AllKidsNeed.

    Here's your to-do list.

    Take action on this week's campaigns.

    The latest actions will always be right here in the No. 1 spot.

    Call your state senator. Now.

    • Stop what you're doing and call your state senator with this message: stand up to the Governor's "Bigfoot" tactics and defend our outstanding New York public schools!
    • You can look up the number at the NYSUT Member Action Center.

    Sign up for MAC text alerts!

    Take 10 seconds and sign up for MAC text alerts on your phone!

    Here's how: Text the word "NYSUT" to the contact number 38470.

    Sign the petitions.

    Call out the governor.

    • Invite the governor to visit your class to learn what #AllKidsNeed. Tweet out an invite directly at him and be sure to include his Twitter handle @NYGovCuomo and the hashtag #InviteCuomo if you want your tweet to be seen and heard.
    • Not on Twitter? See step 8.

    Get connected to the MAC.

    • BY TEXT. Get real-time text messages about urgent news and actions by texting the word NYSUT to the number 38470.
    • BY EMAIL. Subscribe to the NYSUT Member Action Center email alerts for updates on this campaign. If you're registered via email as a NYSUT MAC e-activist you'll also be the first to know about upcoming rallies, protests and more.
    • BY APP. Download the NYSUT MAC App for your iPhone or for your Android phone. Be sure notifications are enabled to receive alerts on new action items.

    Get connected on Facebook.

    Get connected on Twitter.

    • Join Twitter and follow @NYSUT to be part of the social media army.
    • Once a day (or as often as possible) tweet your thoughts on what #AllKidsNeed - more science labs, music and art classes, school libraries, smaller class sizes and more. We're reminding the governor to focus on what matters! Follow the conversation in real-time for some great examples from parents and educators.

    Share the poster.

    Wear the button.

    Take part in community forums.

    • Keep an eye on nysut.org/allkidsneed for information on upcoming NYSUT-sponsored Community Forums to Save Public Education in every region of the state.

    Talk it up.

    • Get the conversation going - online and offline. Read "Where We Stand" and use it to craft social media messages, send letters to the editor, and brief friends and colleagues.
    • Circulate and share print materials and videos.

    Support "Take Action Tuesday."

    • Mark your calendar to support NYSUT's "Take Action Tuesday" every week. Be on the lookout for updates.

    Learn more at www.nysut.org/allkidsneed.

     

    Last Updated (Tuesday, 03 March 2015 16:10)

     

    Member Alert Program

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    There are so many member benefits, that it can be hard to keep track of them all.
    The NYSUT Member Benefits MAP (Member Alert Program) email blast service keeps you informed through a brief email message every three weeks.
    You can join MAP on the NYSUT website, at http://www.nysut.org/49.htm

    Last Updated (Friday, 15 November 2013 16:58)

     

    Nysut Action Center Mobile App

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    NYSUT action center now has an app for smartphones that makes it very easy to take action. It is available in the app store for free.



    Last Updated (Friday, 15 November 2013 16:38)

     
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