The Warning Label That Should Come with Heredity Tests

heredity tests

If you hear only about happy reunions, interesting history and fun family tree developments, you don’t know everything you should about heredity tests. We’ve all heard those amazing reunion stories stemming from heredity tests like Ancestry.com and 23AndMe and the handful of other tests on the market that inform you of your ethnicity down to the single percentage, matching you with every other distant and not-so-distant relative who’s ever taken the test — all for the simple exchange of a swab of saliva and about $100. There are the adoptees who finally find their birth parents after years of searching, and they meet in a big family reunion party filmed by a local TV news station. Or there are those people who lost touch with members of their family and are reconnected after decades. It’s all so joyous — until it’s not. “Participants of genetic ancestry tests are often oblivious        …read more

Black Panther Series Teaches Kids STEM Skills via YouTube

Black Panther series

Inspired by Wakanda, educator and maker Netia McCray engages the next generation of designers with free software and a dynamic Black Panther series. For many young students, STEM careers might sound like a boring nine-to-five in a stale office environment. However, MIT grad Netia McCray has been working for the past eight years to motivate and connect young students with STEM and design. In early 2018 she and Erica Nwankwo launched a four-part Black Panther–inspired series on YouTube. Each episode includes tips for re-creating some of the film’s exciting artifacts, such as Queen Ramonda’s crown and Nakia’s ring blades. Highlighting the many intersections between art and technology, the projects and interviews inspire kids to design with technology. As the founder and executive director of Mbadika, Netia McCray uses partnerships and educational outreach to inspire young people in creative STEM fields. Mbadika is Kimbundu (a language prevalently spoken in the northern region of Angola) for “idea.” Though        …read more

RV Living and Learning: Dare to Take a Roadschooling Adventure

RV living, homeschooling

A new trend is emerging, transforming RV living into full-time schooling. Chelsea Gonzales loves to travel, and she was determined not to stop when she had children. So she did what felt the most natural to her: she decided against traditional schooling and took her son on the road instead. They started RV living over two years ago when he was about four, but they didn’t pause when he was ready for kindergarten, and they’re not stopping anytime soon. Schooling takes place in the RV or on trips to museums, zoos and aquariums. “Last summer, we were studying the Revolutionary War, and we went to a lot of the cool Revolutionary War museums,” Gonzales says. “We weave our history, language arts and science together, and it helps him and me get a better understanding of how all of these things fit into the world.” Gonzales’ family is roadschooling (homeschooling on        …read more

Annapolis Shooting: 5 Lessons from the Heroes We Lost

Annapolis shooting

After the Annapolis shooting, parents asked, “How will we explain this to our children?” It’s the refrain to the mournful, never-ending rock ballad that is our national conversation on gun violence. I usually tell my kids, ages three to 10, the truth about a tragedy in an age-appropriate manner. I try to point out the helpers (thank you, Mister Rogers), and reassure them that they are safe. But I’m not sure that’s enough. While I appreciate the importance of honesty and preparedness, I want them to experience more joy than sadness and to value life. Kids should understand that each one of us is on this Earth to do amazing things. Every human being fulfills an awesome mission that couldn’t have been accomplished by anyone else. Even though most of us don’t get to see our achievements celebrated by people outside our own circles, we do, in our small way,        …read more

At-Home DNA Test Kits and Genealogy: Maybe Keep It in the Family

DNA test kit

DNA test kits claim to trace family trees and help people change behavior to prevent disease, but at what cost? My great-uncles on my mother’s side are both botanists. In fact, along with a fun little blood disorder and esophageal issues, botany runs in my family. Perhaps that’s why both of my uncles are fascinated by our family’s genealogy. Recently, my uncle Milton sent me a robust study — his true life’s work — that traces our family’s lineage all the way from the fields of Aquitaine to Cajun Country in Louisiana. Over the decades, he’s gone through every document he could get his hands on, from birth certificates to causes of death, following our family tree from its outermost leaves to a fair number of early roots. On my father’s side, a great-aunt was the dedicated recorder of our family history, from the original immigrants who traveled from Germany        …read more

Fostering Hope: Rising above Adversity in the Child Welfare System

foster, Child Welfare System

In honor of National Foster Care Month, get to know a former foster child now studying for her doctorate to help kids in the Child Welfare System. National Foster Care Month was first established by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since the creation of National Foster Care Month, it has been designated as a time to acknowledge the hard work of the individuals, organizations and communities pulling together to improve the lives of America’s most vulnerable children. Those unfamiliar with the foster care system or the Child Welfare System as a whole might associate it with unfit parents and poor outcomes. However, while it’s true that the foster care system has a way to go in terms of ensuring the safety and stability of young people, there are successful outcomes to applaud too. Below is an overview of the Child Welfare System, which at times may seem downright depressing, if        …read more

Should Science Edit out Genetic Disorders?

genetic disorders

Is a new scientific breakthrough in the treatment of genetic disorders tantamount to eugenics? Some people claim it is. Scientists have successfully modified the DNA of a human embryo to erase a genetic and lethal heart condition. The experiment, published August 2 in the journal Nature, used a tool known as CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and was the first to successfully “correct” a gene mutation in human embryos. Reactions to this news range from excitement to horror. Soon we could have the technology to help parents who carry genes for genetic disorders to conceive children free of those traits. But should we? Some of the strongest opposition to CRISPR has come from people with genetic disorders themselves. Far from hoping for a path to prevent their children from inheriting pathogenic genes, some people with genetic conditions fear science may soon “wipe out” people like them. They        …read more

5 Weird Wedding Traditions around the World

wedding traditions

If you’re thinking of getting married, you may want to consider incorporating some of these wedding traditions in your festivities. Though weddings are a universal celebration performed around the world, many of the rituals surrounding the practice vary greatly depending on the country and its culture. Listed below are five peculiar wedding traditions from around the world. 1. Kidnapping the Bride (Romania) In Bucharest, a tradition called “bride kidnapping” dates back to antiquity, to a time when most marriages were arranged. According to legend, the tradition began when Romans, wanting to populate the city, began inviting members of the Sabine tribe (famous for its beautiful women) to large celebrations for the sole purpose of snatching their wives, sisters and daughters. While today the ritual has taken on a frightening form in some countries, the tradition in Bucharest is a more lighthearted affair, often involving a party in which brides are        …read more

Love, Marriage and Sexual Beliefs in the World’s Oldest Cultures

sexual beliefs

Sexual beliefs and their social implications vary widely from culture to culture. In some cases, sexual rituals may act as a means of initiating adolescents into adulthood. In others, the practices may have a more practical, economic purpose — controlling an increasing population, for example, or ensuring that an estate survives for generations. Whatever the purpose, sexual beliefs and rituals, though sometimes shocking to outsiders, have a distinct function within their particular culture or tribe. Here are a few unique practices and rituals from around the world. 1. Polygamy (Wodaabe tribe of Niger in West Africa) In the Islamic Wodaabe tribe of Niger in West Africa, polygamy is not only accepted; it’s encouraged. In September, near the end of the rainy season, members of tribe gather to celebrate Gerewol, a festival of music and dance, which lasts for seven days and nights. The primary highlight of the festival is a        …read more

What Is Gender Neutral Parenting, And Why Does It Matter?

gender neutral

Gender neutral parenting is getting a lot of a buzz lately, but it might not mean what you think it does. Gender neutral parenting has become a hot topic in the last couple of years, with many people debating it before fully understanding it. Rather than trying to assess if gender neutral parenting is good or bad for children, I think we would do well to try to wrap our heads around what is actually happening in families with a less traditional approach to gender. At two and a half, my own kid hasn’t expressed any particular feelings about gender. Like many parents who don’t want to push gender on their kids, my approach has been something of a hodgepodge. While I’ve decided to use the expected he/him pronouns, I’m trying very hard not to push all of my gendered expectations on a two-year-old. This, for many folks, is weirdly        …read more