sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

August 1996

Parents and teachers differ in defining school readiness

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Douglas Powell may be reached for additional comments beginning Aug. 5. Copies of the 80-page publication are available for $6 by contacting the American Educational Research Association, Publication Sales, at (202) 223-9485.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Determining when a child is ready to start kindergarten differs between parents and teachers and from school to school, says the head of the Purdue University Department of Child Development and Family Studies.

"Readiness entails more than a set of skills, knowledge and attitudes that a child brings to school," says Douglas Powell, author of a publication for the American Educational Research Association called "Enabling Young Children to Succeed in School." He says research shows that early childhood programs, schools and families are key influences on school success. Community support for health and physical development and family well being also are considered important.

Powell says parents tend to view academic skills, like knowing how to count and recite the alphabet, as important prerequisites for entrance to kindergarten -- more so than teachers. For instance, in a study based on a national survey, 59 percent of parents compared to 7 percent of kindergarten teachers thought that it was essential for a child entering kindergarten to be able to count to 20 or more.

Assessment tests also are a poor means of determining school readiness. He says young children are not used to taking tests, they lose interest quickly and can undergo rapid changes in development.

Age also has proven fruitless in predicting later school success. "Research has not identified an ideal age for entering kindergarten, because there is considerable variability in children's development and in the expectations of kindergarten classrooms," Powell says.

Factors that have proven successful in determining the success of a child in school include participation in high-quality early childhood programs; schools that provide diverse rather than homogeneous learning experiences; parents who provide support and proper child-rearing behaviors; and communities where adequate health-care, nutrition and other support services are available.

CONTACT: Powell, (765) 494-9511; Internet:

Wean your yard off pesticides

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Not unlike duct tape, pesticides have become a quick fix for some homeowners. Purdue University entomologist Cliff Sadof says weaning your yard off chemicals starts with learning other, less toxic ways to reach the same end -- a yard you can be proud of.

Determining your tolerance of pests will guide how you manage your yard. "Some people might think they want all the bugs dead, but what they really want is a healthy and attractive plant," Sadof says. "Your plant will survive a few pests. The more pests you can tolerate, the less pesticides you use."

Cutting out preventative sprays helps a lot. "You can reduce pesticide use by 90 percent if you only spray when and where you know you have a problem," he says.

Sadof and other Purdue researchers are developing alternatives to chemical pest control, looking at natural enemies, pest-resistant plants and new ways of plant management that frustrate insects, weeds and disease.

Cultural control, which refers to how you do things, takes several forms. It can mean selecting plants best suited for your yard conditions and the climate, because healthy plants are their own best defense. Cultural controls also include mechanical methods such as tilling the soil to disrupt weeds.

Biological control is the use of organisms such as bacteria, viruses and insects to attack target pests. The best method of biological control, Sadof says, is nurturing and encouraging the natural enemies already found in your yard. Ladybugs like many of the pests you don't. Reducing the use of pesticides allows ladybugs and other beneficial insects to take over your pest management chores.

Control by exclusion means simply keeping pests at bay. Fences that keep rabbits out of vegetable gardens are one example. Netting also can safeguard plants from birds and insects.

A major tenet of pest management is scouting -- inspecting your yard and garden regularly for the first signs of insects and disease. Early identification of a pest is critical, because most pesticide alternatives work better on small, young pest populations.

Keep records of what you saw, what you did and what worked. Next year you'll be able to make better decisions based on your own experience.

CONTACT: Cliff Sadof, (765) 494-5983; Internet,

To receive the full text of a news release about inegrated pest management, send an e-mail message that says "send punews 9604f15" to

Computers outnumber VCRs in students' rooms

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The computer age has come to university residence halls, with personal computers in about half of all student rooms and computer workrooms becoming as prevalent as television lounges.

At Purdue University, there were 4,261 computers in 6,500 student rooms last year, says Lanny Wilson, associate director of residence halls. Ten years earlier, there were 683 computers in student rooms. Now student computers are more prevalent than video cassette recorders, answering machines or microwave ovens.

Other colleges and universities throughout North America are seeing similar growth in student computer ownership, says Mike Kinney of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International. Kinney says other universities, including Clemson, Maine and Massachusetts, also are reporting large increases in the number of students bringing their own computers to campus.

Any new student residence hall construction has to take computer connectivity into account, Wilson says. Purdue's Hillenbrand Hall, which opened in 1993, was built to provide high-speed Internet access to student computers. Most Purdue students can connect their personal computers to the universitywide network from their rooms by renting a data-over-voice device that allows their computer to use the telephone lines but does not interfere with telephone calls and is eight times faster than most modems.

CONTACTS: Wilson, (765) 494-1000; Internet,
Kinney, (614) 292-0099

Elderly need better access to pets, says Purdue expert

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Elderly people who have pets are happier and healthier, but society has erected roadblocks that often keep animals away from the elderly, says a Purdue University authority on the bond between people and animals.

"Denying older adults the right to own a pet is part of the whole pattern of injustice foisted on them," says Professor Alan Beck, director of Purdue's Center for Applied Ethology and Human-Animal Interaction. "We owe it to the elderly to develop laws and guidelines that will prolong their days and improve the quality of their daily lives.

"In part, pets are moderators for life's stresses. Animals can permit the elderly person to be alone, but without being lonely."

Although various studies have built support for protecting the right of pet ownership among older adults, Beck says, urban areas in particular have a long history of laws and traditions that prohibit animals. For example, landlords often prohibit pets; others charge a hefty security deposit and extra rent per month to allow pets, Beck says.

Many nursing homes have come to realize the value of pet companionship. The first pet-visiting programs used animals from local humane societies, Beck says. The trend now is to recruit private volunteers who bring their own pets to the homes.

"There's also a growing interest among institutions to maintain their own animals to enhance the therapy program," Beck says. Cats and dogs can be accommodated in nursing homes, but small pets such as fish and birds can provide the same therapeutic effects.

Because less than 5 percent of the elderly live in institutional settings at any one time, housing developments that let older people have contact with animals need to be planned as well, Beck says.

"Housing facilities for the elderly should provide areas where dogs can be walked without posing a special burden to the owner or the neighborhood," Beck says. "Planning for companion animals should be as much a part of environmental design as wheelchair ramps and proper lighting."

CONTACT: Beck, (765) 494-0854; Internet,

To receive the full text of a news release about the elderly and pets, send an e-mail message that says "send punews 9605f30" to

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; Internet:
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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