seal  Purdue News

August 1, 2003

Back to School Tips

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A variety of Purdue experts can talk about back-to-school issues in K-12 and higher education.


Pets plus classroom equals learning

Classroom pets add to the educational experience, say two experts from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

"Many teachers believe that classroom learning is enhanced by pets," says Alan Beck, the center's director. "Teachers report that a classroom pet can help children learn about emotions and responsibility."

Beck and Anthony G. Rud, associate professor of educational studies in Purdue's School of Education, have studied the effects of pets in the classroom since the mid-1990s.

"Classroom pets can be instrumental in teachable moments in subjects such as economics," Rud says. "Children can practice their math skills as they account for the costs of feeding and caring for the pet. Classroom pets also can provide rich content for the narrative arts, such as fiction. Much imaginative literature deals with the humor that pets provide."

CONTACT Beck, (765) 494-0854,; Rud, (765) 494-7310,


Professor gives the third 'R' a makeover

With the increasing emphasis on school testing and accountability, one Purdue University professor is using real-world scenarios to improve math education.

Case Studies for Kids, developed by Richard Lesh, the Robert B. Kane Distinguished Professor of Education and associate dean of research and development in the School of Education, allows elementary and middle school students to work in groups on more elaborate problems such as they might encounter outside the classroom.

The problems, which students can sometimes work on for hours, combine different types of calculations with logic and problem-solving skills. Examples include dividing volleyball players with different skills into the best possible teams or designing quilt patterns.

"Outside of classrooms, math knowledge is not broken into equations and simple calculations," Lesh says. "Students need to understand how to arrive at a solution to a whole problem, not just a small piece of one."

The case studies approach is patterned after graduate education models at business schools. Lesh says preparing students with this type of education from an early age helps instill an awareness of mathematics that goes beyond arithmetic and equations.

"Calculation and rule-following only make up a small part of the big picture of what students need to know, but they are the easiest skills to assess and are what schools focus on," Lesh says. "A more holistic approach, like the case studies, go much further in positioning students to be successful."

CONTACT: Lesh, (765) 496-3673,


Youth violence expert talks about hazing

Cliques have always been a part of the high school experience for teenage girls, but are violent hazing incidents involving girls more common than thought?

A Purdue University sociologist who studies youth violence says incidents, such as the one in a Chicago suburb that left girls with broken bones and stitches last spring, are rare.

"Cliques are important for teenagers because they are a way to establish identities, and they are a universal feature of the fabric of high school," says Jack Spencer, a professor in the School of Liberal Arts. "Such violence is rare, but hazing is a big part of youth culture. Hazing is a ritualized way of marking entrance into higher status groups or cliques."

Spencer says the normal behavior in cliques differs wildly from what happened in Chicago.

"This incident resembles more mob behavior because of the number of people who participated in the violence and the relative anonymity or loss of individuality that those numbers afford," Spencer says. "In mobs and, in this instance, it would seem that individuals engage in behavior that they normally wouldn't because they get caught up in the behavior of the group."

CONTACT: Spencer, (765) 494-4677,


Starting new school can be trying

Parents should think about helping their children start school before the first day, says a child development expert.

"Whether a child is starting a new school because of a move or a change in grade, the transition can be difficult for some children, and even their parents," says Judith Myers-Walls, a specialist in human development at Purdue University.

Myers-Walls says parents need to know if their child enjoys new things and can adapt quickly to a new environment.

"If not, then plan to help your child adjust," Myers-Walls says. "Visit the school, speak with teachers, walk around and practice using the locker. Young children may need help learning about the bathrooms, lunch hour or bus pickup."

Myers-Walls also can talk about making the transition from summer to a new school year.

CONTACT: Myers-Walls, (765) 494-2959,



Changing regulations affect international students

The evolving visa application process for international students could deter some international students from studying at American universities, says a Purdue University expert.

"International students are adjusting well to most changes the federal government implemented as a result of 9/11," says Michael Brzezinski, director of International Students and Scholars. "However, we do see how the visa application process, which is more time-consuming with its security and background checks, may dissuade some international students from pursuing higher education in this country. Some of those students are now looking elsewhere for an education."

Brzezinski says the good news is that Purdue, which has the largest international student population at a public university, will experience fewer visa delays this year compared to last.

"We also are happy to see the State Department placing special emphasis on prioritizing student visa appointments," he says. "On or before Aug. 1 all non-immigrants will have to be interviewed during the visa application process.

"This includes many individuals, such as businessmen who never before had to be interviewed, so there is potential for a backlog. Fortunately our State Department has requested American embassies and consulates give priority to student visa applications."

Brzezinski also says that Purdue has met the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System's Aug. 1 deadline to enter all current international student data into the SEVIS database. SEVIS is the government's national database that stores information on international students, staff and faculty.

CONTACT: Brzezinski, (765) 494-7084,


Hearing care earning bad grades

More college students are walking around campus with old ears in their young bodies because they play their Discmans too loud and ride in cars with a thudding bass, says a Purdue University audiologist.

"Not many college students realize that wearing a headset with a portable sound system can be damaging to their hearing, and in turn, to their performance in the classroom," says Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology and associate department head in the School of Liberal Arts. "Their parents may have warned them to not play their stereo or Discman too loud, but either the students don't believe it, are truly unaware or don't care."

Novak says it is hard to judge what is too loud when wearing headphones because the volume is often increased to drown out environmental noises. He says users will know the music is too loud if their ears continue to ring when the music stops playing. Even though the music may be turned off during class, the ringing may distract students.

"Loud music may give a feeling of being transported or being absorbed into the sound, particularly with the addition of strong bass frequencies," Novak says. "It becomes a whole body experience rather than just a listening experience."

Novak says that experience can be misleading because the quality of loud music may sound worse since the ear distorts sound at high levels. Loud music also can cause pain.

CONTACT: Novak, (765) 494-1534,


Expert: Times scandal scars profession, classroom

The recent controversy at The New York Times will not only affect the journalism industry, but also will be felt at the academic level, according to a Purdue University journalism professor.

"The case at The Times will have industrywide ramifications," says Jane Natt, a professor in the School of Liberal Arts. "But we will start to see a huge impact in journalism education."

A young Times journalist, Jayson Blair, admitted last spring to plagiarizing or making up information for dozens of stories. He also claimed to be reporting in other countries and states while he was in his New York apartment.

Natt says the implications of Blair's actions will impact the way journalism is taught at the college level.

Most professors already are teaching students about journalism and research ethics, but Natt says if students are more comfortable and competent doing their own research and interviewing, they might be less tempted to plagiarize or fabricate.

"I am concerned about students borrowing information and lines from other stories," Natt says. "It's so easy to cut and paste from the Internet. Why do your own background when the work is already done and available on the Internet?"

CONTACT: Natt, (765) 494-3322,