This small-town school didn't have money for a science fair. So parents made their own.
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Teaching kids about science can have amazing benefits, but it costs money — which is what one small town in Ohio didn't have.

The city of Springboro operates their schools on a shoestring budget. With a per-pupil cost well below the state average, extracurricular activities in the district have had to be scaled back — including those related to STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Springboro High School. Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.


In fact, budget cuts to STEM education are a nationwide problem, and education cuts have a disproportionate effect on middle- and low-income families. All of which will contribute to the United States falling even further behind in STEM careers worldwide.

Luckily, a group of moms in Springboro decided to take matters into their own hands.

They started STEMfest — an annual science and technology festival run entirely by volunteers and funded completely by donations.

"[Parents could see] the limits of the school district in terms of both human resources and capital," says Karen DeRosa, a STEMfest volunteer and former communications director for Springboro schools. "They really wanted to bring more STEM programs to students."

Springboro STEMfest. Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

The event, sort of a cross between a career day and a science fair, was put together in seven weeks from conception to execution and was a bigger success than anyone could have predicted.

"At first they wanted one large room, thinking they may have 10 or 15 exhibits," DeRosa recalls. "But they kept calling me and saying they needed more space ... they grew to nearly 30 exhibits their first year."

STEMfest, now in its second year, is officially a local phenomenon.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

Exhibitors fill the high school gym and parking lot with interactive stations related to a wide range of science fields and geared toward students of any age.

"They can focus on activities for young students; we could have very complicated high school level, college level things; and we can have everything in between," DeRosa says. "It's really kind of a great family event."

From building with Legos to advanced robotics, music to finger-painting, STEMfest has something for everyone.

All of it is free and not for profit, and DeRosa says that seeing the community engaged with science and tech is a reward in and of itself. "When the organizers look around and see the place is full ... it's exciting."

The event also offers kids the invaluable opportunity to get hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology.

At one station, kids got to work with 3D printers making small handheld objects. At another, they learned to program basic robots. Since 3D printing and automation are industries on the rise, kids at STEMfest are engaging with the jobs of the future. And since STEM industries in general are some of the fastest growing in the United States, getting to work directly with industry-leading technology is a huge advantage.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

According to Education Week, you can't start STEM education early enough — children are naturally curious scientists and engineers, and nurturing that curiosity has a direct connection to kids pursuing the vital science and technology careers of the future.

Karen DeRosa agrees. "We think that natural curiosity is so vital to tap into," she says. "And the traditional classroom and traditional curriculum can’t always reach everyone with the same level of interest or activity. STEMfest gives that opportunity."

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

Most of all, STEMfest shows how powerful a community can be when they're driven to inspire.

Springboro had to overcome a dire lack of funding to pull off STEMfest, and they did it because they worked together as a community. Parents, teachers, students, and anyone else who could spare money or time came together to create a uniquely engaging and inspiring event.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

When an absence of federal money leaves gaps in education, communities have the ability to step up and fill those gaps. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to inspire them and help shape them into the leaders of the future.

That's exactly what Springboro is doing.

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This year more than ever, many families are anticipating an empty dinner table. Shawn Kaplan lived this experience when his father passed away, leaving his mother who struggled to provide food for her two children. Shawn is now a dedicated volunteer and donor with Second Harvest Food Bank in Middle Tennessee and encourages everyone to give back this holiday season with Amazon.

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Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

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A 2015 survey conducted by the National Union of Students found that 60% of respondents turned to porn to fill in the gaps in sex education. While 40% of those people said they learned a little, 75% of respondents said they felt porn created unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex. Some of the unrealistic expectations from porn can be dangerous. A study found that 88% of porn contained violence, and another study found that those who consumed porn were more likely to become sexually aggressive.

But now the thing that breaks those unrealistic expectations… might also be porn? Pornhub has launched a sex education section.

The adult website's first series is simply titled, "Pornhub Sex Ed" and contains 11 videos and is accessible through the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center. The section also contains articles, some showing real anatomy and examples in order to bust myths people may have picked up on other portions of the website.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

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While many of us have understandably let the challenges of 2020 get under our skin and bring us down, a young man from Florida was securing his place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full triathlon.

For the majority of people, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride or a 26.2 mile run would be difficult on its own. The Ironman competition requires participants to complete them all in one grueling race. In a statement, Special Olympics Florida President and CEO Sherry Wheelock called Chris "an inspiration to all of us." She continued, "We are incredibly proud of Chris and the work he has put in to achieve this monumental goal. He's become a hero to athletes, fans, and people across Florida and around the world."

Nikic's journey to become an Ironman started off as a challenge far less lofty. He and his father, Nik, created the "1 percent better challenge." The idea was to keep Chris motivated during the pandemic and beyond. According to The Washington Post, the idea was for Chris to improve his workouts by one percent each day because he "doesn't like pain" but loves "food, videos games and my couch." The plan was to keep building strength and stamina while keeping his eye on the grand prize of completing a triathlon. Nik told the Panama City News Herald, "I was concerned because after high school and after graduation a lot of kids with Down syndrome become isolated and just start living a life of isolation. I said, 'Look, let's go find him something to get him back into the world and get him involved,' so we started looking around and we were fortunate that at the same time Special Olympics Florida started this triathlon program, and I thought, 'What a great way to get him started, get him in shape and get him to make some friends.'"


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