Around Davidson knows so many wonderful young people. Community service is a core value of this generation—the so-called millennials. They are passionate about volunteering, they share ideas of social reform, they plan for nonprofit projects, they are cheerleaders for special-needs students, they craft homemade gifts for children in local hospitals. They do good work. They give back. Today we meet two such young people: Franny Millen who started the local initiative Eliminate Davidson’s Digital Divide (E3D) and videographer and film editor for “3,000 Miles to a Cure,” Micah Godsey of Lake Norman Christian School, who won Carolinas Freedom Foundation patriotic art competition’s Grand Prize for his artwork. Around Davidson also visits with a Duke researcher who studies dog cognition.
THE PUG DROOLING ON YOUR SHOE
Around Davidson clearly enjoys the company of dogs. While we happen to think our dogs have brains of Styrofoam, it seems that research suggests that canines are indeed quite bright and, in some ways, unique. Brian Hare, associate professor in the department of evolutionary anthropology and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University, is one of the leading figures in the quest to understand what dogs know. Founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, Hare has written a book, The Genius of Dogs (Dutton Adult, 2013), with his wife, journalist Vanessa Woods. We share some insights from a recent edition of Scientific American Digital.
Hare says people think there are “smart” dogs and “dumb” dogs, but in reality, there are various types of intelligence. Different dogs are good at different things. “Unfortunately, the clever strategies some dogs are using are not apparent without playing a cognitive game. This means people often underestimate the intelligence of their best friend. The pug drooling on your shoe may not look like the brightest bulb, but she comes from a long line of successful dogs and is a member of perhaps the most successful mammal species on the planet besides us. Rest assured: she is a genius.”
Most of Hare’s research with dogs has been about the cooperative way dogs interpret our gestures to understand us or get what they want. “It allows them to be incredible social partners with us, whether it’s hunting or agility or just navigating everyday life. Their ability to interpret our gestures also helps them solve problems they can’t solve on their own.”
Hare has created an interactive website Dognition.com to help people find the genius in their dog. The only way to find their genius is to compare them with other dogs. Hare says, “Different dogs use different strategies to solve problems. Does your dog rely on you to solve problems, or are they more independent? Do they pay attention to where you are looking before they decide to sneak food off the coffee table, or are they unaware when you are watching—making it hard for them to be sneaky?”
Dognition is all about playing fun games that will give you a window into your dog’s mind and that will in turn enrich the relationship you have with your dog. On top of that, the data that you enter will contribute to a huge citizen science project that will help us help all dogs, from shelter dogs to service dogs. Everyone who signs into Dognition will not only get an extensive cognitive profile of their own dog, but the data will also be entered into a database that scientists can use to answer all these questions we’ve never had the resources to answer, such as breed differences.
For example, there is the “yawn test.” We all know that a common form of emotional contagion is yawning. If you see, hear or even think about someone yawning, you will probably feel an urge to yawn yourself. It seems some dogs also contagiously yawn. The yawn test is just the owner yawning and seeing if their dog yawns back. It’s a really simple test, but it can tell you a lot about your dog. Every dog owner is familiar with that rise in spirits as a thumping tail greets you at the door—and from the enthusiasm dogs have for us, it’s hard to believe the feeling isn’t mutual. And studies show that dogs and humans experience a rise in oxytocin, the “hug hormone” when we embrace and pet them.
We have all heard that humans adopted wolf puppies and raised them but Hare says this doesn’t really make sense. Humans tend to have a low tolerance for fanged predators and humans were successful hunters without wolves. “The puzzle is how the big bad wolf was tolerated around humans long enough to evolve into the mutt that now sleeps on the sofa.” It took Hare a decade of research to figure out the answer and you’ll have to read his book to find out. He gives us a hint: it’s not always survival of the fittest. Sometimes it’s the friendliest that have an evolutionary edge. Around Davidson is fascinated with his site and his book.
FACES OF COURAGE
Micah Godsey, 9th grader at Lake Norman Christian School on South Street, has been awarded the Carolinas Freedom Foundation patriotic art competition’s Grand Prize for his patriotic artwork entitled “Faces of Courage.” (See our Nov. 23, 2012, School Notes) The grand prize award is $1,000 in US Airways travel vouchers. Additionally Micah’s artwork will be featured at the Charlotte-Douglas Airport as well as on the Carolinas Freedom Foundation website. The contest was open to all Christian and private schools in the Mecklenburg area. Around Davidson is so impressed with this young man.
Micah tells Around Davidson he sought to illustrate courage in the battlefield, soldiers protecting our country. His artwork displays an unidentified soldier reaching towards a tattered American flag. Micah says that History is his favorite subject in school because he believes that an awareness of the past prepares you for the future.
But his first love is making films. He really enjoys the art of story-telling and his favorite way of telling a story is through film. In fact, he hopes to ultimately find a career in the film industry, ideally as a director and producer.
Micah is currently working as videographer and film editor for “3,000 Miles to a Cure.” This project is part of a documentary involving people’s experiences with cancer. Micah has a friend whose mom has brain cancer and he has joined this organization to raise awareness of brain cancer and to raise funds to support brain cancer research. Davidson is featured prominently in his Drive Across America pilot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LchTO4W3Amg.
In the hopes of gaining experience in the professional world, Micah will be trying for a role as an extra, a minor speaking part, a stand-in, or a photo double in a new film called “Careful What You Wish For.” Filming will take place in Charlotte, and the towns of Cornelius, Huntersville, Davidson, Mooresville and Belmont. Lake Norman will be the centerpiece of the film’s locations.
Micah and his 9th grade Theater class at Lake Norman Christian School have written the upcoming spring production, “From Dust.” His mother, Rina Norwood, is the art teacher at Lake Norman Christian and says she and her students in the Fine Arts Department are busy with the set design. The play highlights the stories in Genesis “that display God’s goodness and faithfulness to all people and introduces the great plan He has for us.” It will be performed May 17 at 7pm and May 18 at 2pm. Tickets are $5 for students and children and $8 for adults; tickets are available to the public at LNCS on South Street. Micah hopes you will come.
ONE HECK OF A GOOD IDEA
Often the value of a good idea is not in its origin but in its delivery. Franny Millen has the idea and the execution. Franny’s brainchild was identifying the likelihood that economically disadvantaged students might become academically disadvantaged students because of a lack of home access to computers. Franny’s execution is E3D or, Eliminate Davidson’s Digital Divide.
Franny, a 12-year old seventh grader at Bailey Middle School says the “aha” moment came as she was sitting in the living room talking with her family. The conversation centered about her school day and she realized how unfair it was that “some people in my class were economically disadvantaged and unable to participate with the rest of the class from a computer and field trip standpoint.” She noticed her dad was interested in her idea and felt they were capable of shrinking that gap. She and parents Pat Millen and Eileen Keeley and brother Paddy soon ran with the thought. They decided to begin their initiative at Davidson Elementary School where nearly 50 families are without computers at home.
Franny remembered that even in elementary school, the expectations were that students would use computers for projects. Some folks were quick to remind her that local public libraries provide free access to computers but Franny did not think that was a fair alternative. Franny explained that, “the printer is not always available and the library is not open 24/7 so it can be difficult for people.” Teachers ask for essays typed and double spaced and they assign reading and research online. Also, for students to use the library computers they would have to get to and from the library. This is easier said than done for many economically disadvantaged families
According to Pat Millen, a sports marketer and internet entrepreneur, the numbers speak for themselves. Only 59.3 percent of economically-disadvantaged students at Davidson Elementary passed reading and math end-of-course tests compared to 95 percent of non-economically disadvantaged students. Franny soon realized that just buying a bunch of computers would not be enough. E3D’s goal is to create a long-term solution that would include regular computer help sessions at Ada Jenkins Center and technical support from Davidson College students who will work with families to teach them how to properly use and care for the computer. Franny thinks getting a computer to these kids is definitely a goal worth working for. She predicts that “ E3D will go to other communities (beyond Davidson and Cornelius)” in the future, “we hope to spread it everywhere because it is about fairness and evening the playing field.” Franny is determined that “every kid have the opportunity to get a computer.”
So E3D is in the midst of raising an initial $15,000 to buy 50 computers for the Davidson elementary students that teachers have identified. They’re also working out a deal with MI-Connection Communications System to provide internet access. The computers will arrive in July, Mr. Millen said, so families and students will be ready for the new school year in August. Participating families will be asked to contribute a nominal fee to participate – about $10 a month for a year. The fee remainder will be provided by individual businesses and grants.
Breaking news from Franny is the donation of 120 HP Mini 311 Computers by Valspar, a paint company. Before giving them to Franny, they pulled out the hard drives to make sure that their data was safe. In order for E3D to update the operating systems and buy new hard drives, they will need approximately $120 per computer. That will be a big focus going forward, to hand a perfectly functioning laptop to a Bailey Middle School student!
Eileen Keeley says that the entire experience so far with E3D has been a great lesson in civic engagements for her daughter. Franny is thrilled to be on the organization’s executive board. Her dad allows that there is likely no better place than Davidson to hone her already growing social consciousness.
Around Davidson applauds Franny for her great idea and mostly for her initiative. (See also Feb. 27, 2013, DavidsonNews.net, “E3D’s goal: Eliminate Davidson’s digital divide.”)
WANT TO HELP? To make a donations to E3D – Eliminate Davidson’s Digital Divide: Make checks payable to Ada Jenkins Center, and write E3D on the memo line. Mail to E3D; Pat Millen, PO Box 1064, Davidson, NC 28036. For more information about the project, contact Mr. Millen at email@example.com.
Miles for Marnie is this Saturday!
The race will benefit Pediatric Cancer Research. The Marnie Jude Foundation will donate proceeds from the 3rd Annual Miles for Marnie event to Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation to be used only in a grant for Pediatric Cancer Research.
Have you registered yet? If you have already registered to run or volunteer, THANK YOU! If not, sign up today at www.marniejudefoundation.org/Events. Help them reach their goal of 500 runners/walkers and our ultimate goal of funding childhood cancer research and finding a cure. You can sign up to volunteer at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/5080A48A8AF2AA64-miles
Race Details: April 27, 2013, Davidson Elementary School, 5K – 8am, Fun Run – 10am.
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