Tag Archives: back to school

What’s cool for back to school? A fresh look at the gear

For kids of all ages, one big thing helps soften the blow of summer turning into fall: fresh and fun back-to-school gear.

Supplies with popular licensed characters from movies, TV shows and books always make a splash among younger kids, while older students contemplate design and functionality for everything from lockers to dorm rooms to smartphone cases.

For phone-toting high school and college students with an eye for smart design, NewerTech NuGuard KX cases for the iPhone promise protection and a much better fit in the palm of a kid’s hand than other heavy-duty cases on the market.

The NuGuard KX cases for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use state-of-the-art “x-orbing gel technology to absorb and evenly distribute kinetic energy.” This means the case provides the massive impact protection that kids need but is a fraction of the size of those other protective cases that fit like a brick in a hip pocket and cramp the hand of talkers and texters with a lot to say. The KX case, measuring a thin 1/2 inch thick when on the phone, slides into a pocket or even stows neatly in a day-planner.

Plus, the one-piece design — a hard shell with a soft interior available in red, black, blue and midnight — means fast installation, easy access to ports and buttons, simple cleaning and less to lose.

The additional “impact x-orbing” screen armor keeps the glass screen on the iPhone looking new, preventing damage from impacts and scratches but not interfering with the Retina display. Other screen covers might slip or turn yellow but the self-adhesive NewerTech cover installs without the use of water to preserve bubble-free clarity and block dirt and dust. The armor even held up to NewerTech’s hammer-hit tough claim.

For those with an eye toward color, a stop at Poppin.com might go a long way in desk supplies, dorm storage and other gear. Among the New York City company’s back-to-school products is an 18-month, spiral-bound planner good from July 2015 to December 2016. It includes weekly and monthly views with color-coded pages by month, along with a handy translucent front pocket.

“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised in past years with how well we’ve done with planners,” said Jeff Miller, Poppin’s vice president of product design. “You hear so much about how everybody’s moved to electronic whatever but we’re very much still in a paper age on planners for students.”

Dorm rooms remain, well, dorm rooms, so space is at a premium. Poppin sells a storage unit called the Box Seat for the college contingent tired of the milk-crate look. It’s covered with fabric in light and dark gray, navy, orange, red and pool blue, and is sturdy enough to withstand 275 pounds.

At Staples, students at two middle schools will see the fruits of their labor hit shelves. They were chosen to work in teams to come up with school supplies of their own for the company’s new Designed by Students Collection.

Among the winning products: The Big Pen, a pencil case that looks like a pen or pencil and actually writes. It comes in versions that are highlighters, ball point pens, markers and mechanical lead pencils. The cases include a pencil sharpener and real erasers at one end. Refills are available for the writing-implement part.

Another of the student designs chosen is an ingenious locker organizer that zigzags vertically to create nifty cubicles. The Floating Shelf comes in color combinations worthy of boys and girls — neon green and gray, purple and pink, and black and dark blue.

Alison Corcoran, senior vice president of marketing for Staples, said the company worked closely with about 48 students in all, from Middle School 88 in Brooklyn and the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. About 14 products are included in the collection.

“They made presentations. The teams did self-criticisms and evolved their ideas as part of the curriculum,” she said. “School supplies have been around forever. We thought, let’s take a fresh look with the people who are actually using these things on a day-to-day basis and ask, `How can we make them better and more relevant?”’

Yet another of the student designs is the Back2Back School Bag, a rectangular-shaped backpack that provides wider storage space and has two oversize slots for laptops and folders. It also includes a separate, attached compartment at the bottom to segregate lunch or snack items — or smelly gym shoes — from the main compartment.

“Kids loved it. It’s a highly functional shape,” Corcoran said of the unusual design.

This year, the rambunctious little yellow Minions with the big goggles have their own feature-length film spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise, and have surfaced on backpacks and notebooks available at Target.

A new take on Charlie Brown in another theatrical release, “The Peanuts Movie” due out in November, might have something to do with two choices in Snoopy-theme soft lunch bags, including one with the famous beagle snoozing on top of his equally famous doghouse.

Givebacks have grown among companies doing business in back-to-school. Many offer buy-one-give-one programs to kids and classrooms in need, or they’ll fill donated backpacks with school supplies to donate.

At Yoobi, a spate of new supplies in that vein was curated by Usher. The Yoobi X Usher collection was designed by artist Jonni Cheatwood and features five prints for more than 20 products, ranging from blue paint drips to pink-and-green splatters in binders, notebooks, pencils, pencil cases, folders and journals. For every item purchased, Yoobi donates an item to a worthy classroom. The collection is available at Yoobi.com and in Target stores nationwide.

It’s not the first education-focused collaboration for Usher, who has two school-age sons. They, too, had a hand in the project, the singer said by email.

“I looked at what colors they were drawn to and in a very sly way, I’d show something to them and ask, ‘What do you think about this? Do you like this color?’ That helped me curate the collection,” he said.

Get schooled on UW-Madison traditions

Students are returning to campus and football fans are returning to bleachers. University of Wisconsin-Madison classes begin Sept. 2 and the first home game is Sept. 12.

If a great university has great traditions, then UW-Madison must be great, indeed. And you’d better know the traditions, whether attending the university or enjoying a Badger game.

After all, “Without an identifiable tradition, a university could become an emberless place, perhaps a soulless battleground,” wrote Robert Gard, the late folklorist and UW historian.

Incidentally, the first home game will be against Miami University, of Oxford, Ohio. Don’t worry, that’s not a tradition. But these are:

Bucky Badger — The tradition most associated with UW-Madison is actually one of its most recent. The Bucky we know today was designed in 1940 by Art Evans, a California commercial artist. Before that, a live badger sometimes served as mascot. Believe it or not, so did Paul Bunyan.

Cheerleaders — Today they build pyramids and catch each other in basket tosses, but cheerleading started as only that — cheering. The first cheerleader, Johnny Campbell, led the first cheer on Nov. 2, 1898, at a University of Minnesota football game. It spread to the UW soon afterward. For decades, only men were allowed. The scales tipped in women’s favor during the 1920s, because so few other athletic activities were open to them. 

Homecoming — No, it hasn’t been around forever. The first UW homecoming was in 1911. It included speeches and, during halftime, an alumni football game. The UW had been playing intercollegiate football for only 22 years. In 1912, and at every homecoming game since, law school seniors have charged the southern goalpost, where they try to throw their canes up and over. Students making the catch, tradition goes, will win their first cases. This year’s homecoming game, Oct. 17, will be played against Purdue.

The Fifth Quarter — If you leave early, you’ll miss what some fans think is the best part of the game. In the 1970s, Madison’s football team wasn’t exactly strong. To boost morale, the marching band added a post-game performance. It built and built, becoming wilder and wilder, with stunts and choreography. By the time the press had dubbed it the Fifth Quarter, it was an institution. 

The Band — The UW School of Music actually hosts several bands, but it’s the marching band fans know best. It was formed during the 1885–86 school year. It performed with the University Military Battalion, at prom and at the “Joint Debate of the University.” In 1894 the band began playing at the newfangled football games sweeping the country. Today Mike Leckrone, director of bands, marches more than 300 students and has become a tradition himself, enjoying iconic status. He joined the UW in 1969, and developed the group’s distinctive pointed-foot marching style, as well as designing its uniforms. As for what the band plays:

“Varsity” — The somber song that brings a lump to alumni throats was originally a hymn written by Charles Gounod (1818–1893), a French composer primarily known for opera. He also wrote the well-known setting for “Ave Maria.” In 1908, UW music instructor Henry Dyke Sleeper wrote new words and a new arrangement for what he named “Varsity Toast.” The arm-wave at its close was added in 1934 by band director Ray Dvorak.

“If You Want to Be a Badger” — Like “Varsity,” it originally had another life. In 1919, UW professor Julian Olson wrote the lyrics for “The Badger Ballad.” Band director Charles Mills composed a peppy melody for the song, which wasn’t intended for students or sports, but for an alumni dinner.

“You’ve Said It All” — Older Milwaukee readers will recall when the city was home not only to Miller but to Schlitz, Pabst and Blatz breweries — and the intense rivalry with Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser, brewed in St. Louis. So it’s the peak of irony that Bud’s 1970 advertising jingle was made into the UW’s favorite brag: “When you’ve said Wi-scon-sin, you’ve said it all!” Steve Karmen wrote the original.

“On, Wisconsin!” — If it doesn’t have the comma and exclamation point, it’s not the song’s actual title. It was written in 1909 by W.T. Purdy and Carl Beck for a University of Minnesota song competition. They gave it to the UW, instead. It’s also our official state song. After singing it at the game, why not head to:

The Union Terrace — The students’ Memorial Union was completed in 1928. Campus supervising architect Arthur Peabody wanted it to resemble “a Venetian pleasure palace,” but he left its most pleasing feature to his daughter, Charlotte. A budding landscape architect, she designed the terrace, “the living room of the university,” on the shores of Lake Mendota.

College tradition: Beloit releases Mindset List for Class of 2018

Each August since 1998, Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, has released the Beloit College Mindset List, offering a look at the cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering their freshman year at colleges and universities.

So this week, the school released the list for the class of 2018 — many in the class were born in 1996, have always had The Daily Show to set them straight, always been able to secure immediate approval and endorsement for their ideas through “likes” on their Facebook page and have rarely heard the term “bi-partisan agreement.”

How old — or how young — is the class of 2018? You can get an idea from this: Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes Ciccone Leon, is a member of the class of 2018 and has enrolled at the University of Michigan, which mom attended.

And the Beloit College Mindset List, assembled by Ron Nief and Tom McBride at Beloit College and posted on the school’s website, includes, in part:

• During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.

• When they see wire-rimmed glasses, they think Harry Potter, not John Lennon.

• “Press pound” on the phone is now translated as “hit hashtag.”

• Celebrity “selfies” are far cooler than autographs.

• Hard liquor has always been advertised on television.

• Ralph Nader has always been running for President of the U.S.

• The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle.

• In their lifetime, a dozen different actors have portrayed Nelson Mandela on the big and small screen.

• Women have always attended the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel.

• Pepsi has always refreshed travelers in outer space.

• Hong Kong has always been part of China.

• Courts have always been overturning bans on same-sex marriages.

• Bosnia and Herzegovina have always been one nation.

• Citizens have always had a constitutional right to a “dignified and humane death.”

• Nicotine has always been recognized as an addictive drug requiring FDA oversight.

• Coning has always been a fact, not science fiction.

• They never tasted the “texturally enhanced alternative beverage” known as Orbitz.

• There has always been “TV” designed to be watched exclusively on the web.

• The Unabomber has always been behind bars.

• Female referees have always officiated NBA games.

• Bill Gates has always been the richest man in the U.S.

• While the number of Americans living with HIV has always been going up, American deaths from AIDS have always been going down.

• They have no memory of George Stephanopoulos as a senior White House advisor.

• The rate of diagnosed diabetes has always been shooting up during their lifetime.

• Affirmative Action has always been outlawed in California.

• Their collection of U.S. quarters has always celebrated the individual states.

The complete list is online at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2018/.

Handling bullying and campus dangers

Research suggests that one of the best ways to stop bullying – whether it’s verbal, physical or cyber – is to report it to school authorities and law enforcement, if appropriate.

But bullying also can be countered by taking the power away from the bully through ignoring the taunts or making a joke out of them. Although this might not change the bully’s behavior, it can take away his or her power.

Cyberbullying has hidden dangers. Although it can occur under the radar of parents and authorities, it can provoke or organize groups of people to get involved in a physical attack. Physical bullying is classified under the law as battery, which is the harmful or offensive touching of another person. If someone physically attacks you, alert school authorities and law enforcement.

Taking a self-defense course is a great way of self-empowerment against bullying. Good self-defense techniques are easy to learn and use. They can help you use verbal tactics to prevent violence and physical techniques to avoid injury.

Campus dangers

The most recent and disturbing trend in youth violence is school shootings. Some schools emphasize running away as the best response. While this is a normal reaction, quickly exiting older institutions may be difficult. Another tactic is to cause a flinch response in the attacker by throwing objects at him and then having the closest students tackle and disarm the assailant.

This might actually be less dangerous then turning your back on someone with an assault rifle and giving him more targets.

No school is immune to society’s growing gun violence. When choosing an educational institution, check with the institution’s police department to learn campus safety statistics. This is necessary, because some campus police don’t share their statistics with local law enforcement. 

Mugging can occur almost anywhere. When confronted by a mugger, the most effective measure is to drop your wallet or purse.  A smart tip is to keep your valuables in a money belt and fill your wallet with dollar bills that stick out. Then, if you’re held up, you can drop it and run away.

When you let someone into your dorm room who becomes “the thing that won’t leave,” use a commanding voice and short sentences, such as: “Please leave now.” If that doesn’t work, throw in a swear word. Some people were raised to believe they could get away with anything until their parents swore at them, which makes this simple strategy surprisingly effective.

If it doesn’t work, however, excuse yourself to the bathroom with your cellphone. Then lock yourself in and call for help. Remember that in Wisconsin, 93 percent of women who are assaulted know their attacker.

Parties can also lead to dangerous situations. Besides date rape drugs, which might even be hidden in ice cubes, alcohol consumption was found to be a factor in 75 percent of sexual assault cases. When you go to a party or bar, go with friends and have specific check-in times to make sure you get back safely.

Before you go out on a date, you might want to check whether your would-be suitor has a criminal record. In Wisconsin, it’s easy to find out by visiting CCAP online at http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl. Type in your date’s name and, if you have it, his birth date.

Knowledge, as they say, is power.

Wes Manko is a self-defense expert and nationally published author. He owns DEFENSEWORKS, which offers training in self-defense and Russian Martial Art training. For more, go to www.defenseworks.us.