sealPurdue Education and Careers Briefs

December 1997

Dean on homework: How much and how meaningful?

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When it comes to homework, quantity does not always equal quality, says the dean of Purdue University's School of Education.

"I believe that parents should insist that their child's school experience include meaningful homework," says Marilyn Haring, who is also a professor of counseling and development at Purdue. "Meaningful homework helps a student achieve mastery by practicing new skills, and parents should be prepared to participate in it."

Haring has heard it all when it comes to parental concerns about homework. Some complain their children aren't given enough of it and therefore don't spend additional time on important educational tasks outside the classroom. Others contend that assignments brought home are frequently "busy work" that doesn't stretch young minds. Once in awhile, a parent will even suggest that a particular teacher requires too much homework, especially for those students who are involved in extracurricular activities or have part-time jobs.

So how much homework should your child be required to do? Haring says for young children, 20 minutes to an hour three to four times a week is just about right. Older students in middle school and high school can profit from meaningful assignments in the one- to two-hour range. But even then it need not be every night.

"I think homework may be even more effective if it is given on a flexible schedule and only when it truly enhances learning in the classroom," Haring explains. "Important lessons in time management can be learned if students receive assignments ahead of time and are given a specific date for completion."

But Haring stresses that all homework should be meaningful to the child.

"In the elementary school years, meaningful homework could include reading with a parent and discussing new vocabulary words," Haring says. "As students get older, it might also mean connecting classroom learning to the child's immediate environment, such as observing science concepts at work in the home."

A group of researchers at Johns Hopkins University is now promoting a concept called "interactive homework," which makes parents become even more involved in assignments. A typical language arts assignment might have students interviewing their parents about the hairstyles of their youth, and then writing a paragraph about it. So far, the idea is a hit with students.

"In a study reported this year, 82 percent of the 400 middle school students participating felt the program gave them a way to show their parents what they were learning in class," Haring says. "And 70 percent of the students recommended that the school continue to use interactive homework next year."

Many schools have adopted a middle ground, providing homework hotlines for students and parents to obtain assignments -- and sometimes assistance -- from teachers by telephone or computer. Haring says these hotlines are more than just a convenience; they give parents an opportunity to be directly involved in "after hours" learning with their children.

"The role of parents is not to teach school subjects or to assume homework responsibilities for their children," Haring emphasizes. "Parents should use homework as a way to monitor progress and interact with and support their children. The bottom line for me is that homework assignments that are carefully crafted by a skilled teacher can be a boon for adding to students' learning and achievement, and this is what educational reform is all about."

Haring says there are a number of ways parents can be proactive when it comes to homework. It starts with an appointment to speak with your child's teacher in person.

"Tell the teacher you want to talk about ways the two of you can work together to extend your child's learning experience beyond school hours," Haring suggests. "Let the teacher know that you support homework that's challenging and interesting. But also remember that parents need to be partners with the teacher in engaging the youngster in learning."

CONTACT: Haring, (765) 494-2336; e-mail,

Entrepreneurial competitions offer 'real-life' experience

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: B-roll of the Burton Morgan competition is available. Contact Grady Jones, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079; e-mail,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Business owners of tomorrow are getting their first crack at entrepreneurship through college competitions.

Purdue University's annual Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition is one of several contests around the country that allow students to test the validity of original business plans and earn cash awards for their efforts.

Purdue is not alone in the encouragement and development of tomorrow's entrepreneurs. Arnold C. Cooper, the Louis A. Weil Jr. Professor of Management in the School of Management, says entrepreneurship is a hot topic in today's business schools.

"Enrollment in entrepreneurship courses is burgeoning all over the country," he says. "Several universities have developed centers and designed entire curriculums around the subject."

He says interuniversity competitions are growing in popularity and have become a year-round commitment for the students who participate. In recent years, Purdue students have entered entrepreneurial contests at Indiana University, the University of Nebraska and the University of Texas.

The preliminary round for Purdue's 1998 Burton D. Morgan competition was held at the end of November. Of the 20 teams entered, 10 qualified for the final competition in February. But first all 10 teams will have a chance to test their ideas at the Midwestern Business Plan Contest at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis on Jan. 30.

Students must develop plans that include everything necessary to start and maintain a small business. Marketing plans and strategies, manufacturing designs and processes, industry analysis, and financial considerations are just a few of the areas judges focus on.

A plan to let health-conscious grocery shoppers create custom breakfast cereals took top honors in the 1997 Burton D. Morgan contest.

The winning plan, "YourWay Cereals," earned a first prize of $4,000 for Edward Maurer, a master's student in the Krannert Graduate School of Management from Latrobe, Pa. His plan used a bulk food stand containing cereal flakes, fruit and nuts. Consumers could select their own preferred combination of flakes, fruit and nuts to design their own cereals.

The winning entry was selected by a panel of judges after 25-minute oral presentations from 10 finalists. The contest is open to all Purdue students.

The yearly competition is sponsored by Purdue alumnus Burton D. Morgan, founder of six corporations and president of Basic Service Co., an idea-development company. The competition is designed to develop student appreciation of the free market system and the role of the entrepreneur in a market economy.

CONTACTS: Tamyra Gibson, public relations, School of Management, (765) 494-4392; Cooper, (765) 494-4401.

4-H aims to raise prize kids, not prize livestock

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Color photo available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096. It shows 4-H'er Shannon Grimes of Columbus, Ind., with two little children during Pre-Schooler Day at the Bartholomew County Fair. The photo is called "Blume/4-Hkids."

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The familiar green four-leaf clover may look the same, but 4-H, both nationally and in Indiana, has come a long way from its roots as a club for farm kids.

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Like its signature emblem, 4-H's mission has remained virtually the same since the early 1900s: to develop youth as individuals and as responsible and productive citizens. But the way this is accomplished has been in transition over the years. By necessity 4-H has undergone some subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle shifts to accommodate each passing generation and to adjust to the changing face of American youth.

4-H also is the subject of a multimillion dollar Advertising Council campaign promoting youth community service that debuted nationally this fall. The campaign features 4-H kids playing on a basketball court they have recently cleaned up, with the tag line "Are You Into It?" Kids who call the toll-free number will be contacted by local 4-H members who will help get them involved in community service projects. The National 4-H Council expects $27 million in donated media time and space alone.

Some 4-H professionals look to the campaign to help break down old stereotypes.

As Maurice Kramer, recently retired head of Purdue University's Department of 4-H/Youth, pointed out, "We're not in the business of raising prize livestock; we're in the business of raising prize youth."

Still, if you ask what image 4-H conjures up, the answer you'd more than likely receive would be that of a county fair. But the 4-H program that reaches the most youngsters today isn't at the fairgrounds -- it's in the classroom.

In 1996, more than 3 million U.S. schoolchildren -- nearly 153,000 in Indiana -- were involved in a 4-H-sponsored curriculum. In fact, a 4-H nutrition curriculum is one of only two programs approved by the Indiana Department of Education to teach nutrition in the state's public schools.

In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced the Food Guide Pyramid, which revised the basic four food groups guidelines. Schools scrambled to find new materials to replace textbooks, which were immediately out-of-date. Purdue Extension specialists created Exploring the Food Pyramid, a health and nutrition curriculum for grades 1-9 that had proven effective in pilot testing.

"It has a lot of hands-on activities, and teachers don't have to have a nutrition background to teach it," says Alice Blume, Purdue Extension specialist in 4-H. "It offered schools a ready-made package complete with lesson plans, activity sheets and displays, and it provided in-service training and tech support for teachers -- all at a fraction of the cost of textbooks."

The success of Exploring the Food Pyramid has spread throughout the nation and even internationally. It has been adopted in all 50 states and is used in South America to prepare Peace Corps volunteers to teach nutrition.

All in all, more than a dozen different 4-H curricula are taught in classrooms. Some focus on national initiatives such as improving science and math skills in elementary students, while others teach lessons in citizenship. Proving what 4-H officials and participants have known for a long time now: it's not just for farm kids anymore.

CONTACT: Blume, (765) 494-8430; e-mail,

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,


4-H'er Shannon Grimes of Columbus, Ind., gives a guiding hand to A.J. Sherman (middle) and Alison Turner during Pre-Schooler Day at the Bartholomew County Fair. (Ag Communication Photo by Mike Kerper)

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Blume/4-Hkids
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