Classrooms and community
The entrance to the new Cornerstone Montessori School in St. Paul has two kinds of doors — one, a standard industrial door, the other a miniature version to welcome the smallest students when it opens in September.

The building, located at 1611 Ames Ave., will house classrooms for children 16 months to 6 years, along with a home for handicapped adults, teacher training rooms, office spaces, a one-of-a-kind Montessori museum, and additional space for community meetings. The goal is to make this a hub for the community around it, one of the lowest-income areas in St. Paul.

“We’re trying to have a model that can be replicated in other low-income areas,” said Molly O’Shaughnessy, director of training at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota, which runs the school. “The mission of us moving here is to have scholarships available.” In September, one-third of the students at the school are expected to be on full scholarship, and another third on partial scholarship.

Children at a Montessori school structure their own learning and work with real materials that reinforce sensory and tactile perception. From gardening to math, children spend as much time on a subject as it takes for self-mastery.  

Cornerstone Montessori School

New online option

More than 90,000 students in the United States now take K–12 classes online. Starting this September, Minnesotans will have another option: the Insight School of Minnesota.

Though virtual, the school is governed by the Brooklyn Center School District and follows the district’s academic year and graduation requirements. Students must apply to the school and transfer into the district.

Every Insight student will receive a laptop, printer/scanner, and computer headset, along with an Internet stipend to ensure they can attend classes.

The school’s 120-plus classes cover everything from the basics to honors, and students will be able to do their work 24 hours a day. “They can go to class at 11:00 at night if that best suits them,” said Valerie McCullough, Insight’s executive director. “But, of course, we follow state regulations, so they are required to attend class nearly every day and spend enough time to accomplish their work.”

Teachers will hold office hours, when they will be virtually available for discussion with their students. During office hours, students and teachers will use LumiNet software, which includes voice-over-IP communication and a live virtual white board. Teachers will also check in with each of their students with a personal e-mail or phone call to monitor their progress.

And when students are working outside of office hours they have yet another option for academic aid. Smart Thinking, a 24-hour tutoring service, is available for all Insight students. “If a student is studying algebra at midnight and they’re stuck,” said McCullough, “he or she can call a tutor and have someone who, minimally, has a master’s degree in mathematics to help them. We build in as much support as possible because we see it helps students.”

Insight School of Minnesota

A boost for school readiness

More than 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5, and yet many children don’t have access to high-quality early childhood education. To bridge that gap, some St. Paul parents will have access to scholarships starting this fall, in the pilot of the St. Paul Early Childhood Scholarship Program.

The program is funded by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation and directed by Resources for Child Caring and the city of St. Paul. Low-income families in the Frogtown and North End neighborhoods will be eligible for up to $13,000 annually for accredited childcare for children ages 3 and 4. Expectant parents can also get services through the project.  

“The first three years of the program involve family mentoring,” said Barbara Yates, executive director of Resources for Child Caring. “Then, at the age of 3 or 4 the child is eligible for the scholarship. So if a family meets the criteria and participates, they know that funding will be available for their children.”

The Early Childhood Scholarship Program is now accepting participants. To apply, please call Resources for Child Caring at 651-641-6604.
Persons wishing to speak with someone about the program in Hmong, Somali, or Spanish should call the Language Access Line at 651-665-0150.  H

Resources for Child Caring

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Banning toxins in baby bottles

A generation ago, parents worried about what’s in their babies’ bottles — formula or breastmilk — now we worry about what’s in our babies’ bottles.

Many plastic bottles and other baby products contain bisphenol-A (BPA), an industrial chemical found in most plastics that is harmful at low doses, says Lindsay Dahl, coordinator for the consumer health interest program Healthy Legacy.

A bill to ban BPA and phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics flexible) from children’s products in the state of Minnesota was introduced last year by Senator Sandy Rummel, but it didn’t pass.

“I see this bill passing this year because the public is becoming aware of bisphenol-A,” Dahl says. “There is a lot of support for this.”

The bill Rummel is proposing is limited to products for children under the age of 3. “These children are our most vulnerable population because their developing bodies are extremely sensitive to the hormone-disrupting chemicals this bill phases out,”

Rummel says.

Low doses of BPA can lead to breast and prostate cancer, obesity, and insulin resistance, Dahl says.  

“Parents don’t want to have to do a research project to find a safe baby bottle, and they shouldn’t have to,”

Rummel says. “This bill would ensure that baby products will be safe and tested long before they hit the shelves.”

“We have reached a tipping point on the science of bisphenol-A and phthalates, and that is why this is the year to pass this bill!” Rummel says.

— Kolina Cicero

Our bodies, our birth

In 1970, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective made a revolutionary move: It published a thick, honest, open medical guide that put women’s health in their own hands. The book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, made history and the collective has continued to publish health guides that push for social change, including seven more editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves and a companion guide to menopause.

This year, the collective has added a book on another key aspect of women’s health, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth. Local writer Andy Steiner, author of Spilled Milk, wrote the chapter on infant feeding.

The authors, along with Our Bodies, Ourselves cofounder Judy Norsigian, will present the book at a signing and panel discussion, on May 7, at 5:30 p.m., at the University of Minnesota. Watch for more details.

— Tricia Cornell

Safe health searching

Type a health issue into Google and some scary stuff can come up. Even scarier: That’s the same stuff your kids see when they do a search.

The sites below provide reliable information for teens and tweens:

At, teens can learn about health-related issues like puberty, diseases, and safety using games and personalized tools. has a section for teens that feels more grown-up and authoritative. Articles cover puberty, mental health, relationships, and more.

Kids has separate sections for parents, teens, and younger kids on peer pressure, stress, drugs, and more.


What would you do?

Hot Issues Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs (Prometheus Books, 2007) asks kids, “Would you bully someone just to fit in? How would you feel if you were the new kid that everyone picked on?”

Author Sandra McLeod Humphrey, a retired clinical psychologist from Minnetonka, presents a series of stories about kids facing difficult situations. Sometimes they are bullying to fit in, others times they are the ones being bullied. At the end of each chapter, Humphrey poses tough questions for the reader.

Humphrey visits schools and conducts role-plays to show students what it feels like to be picked on. The stories she heard from real kids became the basis for this book. “Bullying is becoming so bad, it’s just devastating,” Humphrey says. “It’s on an increase across the nation, and cyber bullying is a big part of the problem.”

Hot Issues Cool Choices is a great learning tool for kids ages 10 and up.

— Kolina Cicero

Material girls and boys

The lower kids’ self-esteem, the more stuff they want, according to a recent University of Minnesota study.

Children in their middle childhood, around age 8, have relatively low levels of desire for material possessions, the study shows. There is an increase in the materialism level when children are in their early adolescence, around 12 or 13 years, then a decline by high school.

The findings relate the high levels of materialism to low self-esteem, which tends to be most prominent during early adolescence. In other words, if a teen’s self-esteem is down, his or her craving for consumption of material goods will increase.

The researchers tested their findings in a second study. By boosting the participants’ self-esteem with compliments, they drastically reduced materialism levels for children ages 12–13 and 16–18.

So, if your kids are feeling down, simple compliments and reassurance of how great they are may boost their self-esteem and, in turn, decrease the amount of money spent on material possessions. The question is, does it work the other way: Does an emphasis on possessions lower feelings of self-worth?

— Kolina Cicero

Beware cold water

When the first warm days come, many of us can’t wait to get right into the water. But our lakes take a lot longer to warm up than the air temperature does. A Minnesota group wants to warn parents about the dangers of swimming in cold water.

On April 30, 2004, Brian Jacobson, age 9, jumped into the lake near his Minnesota home to chase a toy that had drifted away from shore. He was a strong swimmer, but he didn’t know that cold water can cause sudden shock and impair swimming ability. He didn’t make it. His family and friends formed Coldwaterwarning to prevent similar deaths.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, cold water shock is different from hypothermia. The initial contact with cold water causes an immediate gasp reflex: Your body will inhale up to 2–3 quarts of air or water. A body that has taken in that much water will not surface without a life jacket. Cold water can also cause swimming failure: You lose coordination and the ability to keep your legs horizontal and your head up. The lesson: Always wear a life jacket and stay out of cold water.

Minnesota Cold Water Awareness day is April 5, 2008. Coldwaterwarning, the Minnesota DNR, Twin Cities Red Cross, and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Water Patrol will be on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul at 10 a.m. to share information and water safety tips. Go to for more information.

— Tricia Cornell


New women’s healthcare option
Planned Parenthood has added a new state-funded program to help low-income women gain free access to health care services like pelvic exams, birth control, and family planning education. The 4NOW program is available to women between the ages of 15 and 50 who are state residents, not pregnant, not enrolled in a state-funded assistance program, and earn no more than a specified income limit (for example, less than $527 per week for a family of two). This includes students, who are considered for the program regardless of parental incomes. To enroll, participants simply visit their nearest Planned Parenthood clinic with proof of income and proof of citizenship. For more information visit or call 1-800-230-PLAN.

Ready for parenting?
Nobody’s ever truly ready. That’s why we rely on friends, relatives, and neighbors to be sounding boards and outlets for our worries and frustrations. Twin Cities Public Television and the United Way have teamed up to create an innovative parenting program that feels an awful lot like sitting around with your friends and hashing out the kid-related issues of the day. How do we teach our kids to love reading? How do we make bedtime more pleasant? How can we set appropriate limits for our children? How can we end the food feuds? Nobody here has all the answers, but everyone is willing to share their own experiences openly.

Notable Twin Cities parents joining the conversation include comedian Sheletta Brundidge and reporter Mary Lahammer. National parenting expert and University of Minnesota professor Marti Erickson also shares her welcome perspective. (Erickson writes the Growing Concerns column in Minnesota Parent.)

If the four locally produced episodes are well received, the United Way hopes to make a full season and take it national. Other plans include translating the program and making sets available to parents and childcare centers. Watch Parenting: Ready, Set, Go! on tpt17 on Saturdays in February at 8:30 p.m.

Shopping for health care
What if going to the doctor were a little more like buying a vaccuum cleaner: You go online, you see what people are saying about the Dyson and the Hoover, then you find someone reputable selling it for a price you like. Revolutionary, huh?

Two new web sites launched last month, aiming to give parents and other health care consumers some of that same kind of information and control when, say, their kid needs a tonsillectomy.

At, users post reviews of health care clinics and services they have used, under headings such as “Pregnancy,” “Emergency care,” and “Family doctor.” A few weeks after the site opened, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, with headlines reading: “Really great nurse at United Family Practice Center,” “Great family dentist,” and “Wonderful family physician.” Other readers can also comment on the posts.
The site is a project of Consumer Aware, an Eagan-based organization and is backed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The reviews on are not verified and the site relies on users to post honestly.

Once you’ve gathered the reviews, it’s time to go shopping. describes itself as a “shopping mall” for health care. Think of the health care providers as “tenants” in the mall. When you need to see a doctor for, say, an ingrown toenail or a well-baby exam, you shop for the provider who will give you the best value. Prices are posted for those with insurance and those without and include in-network and out-of-network costs. Participating tenants include Park Nicollet, HealthPartners, MinuteClinic, and Tria Orthopedic Center.


Thanks to legislation passed last May, every baby born in Minnesota will now receive a hearing screening as part of the panel of tests performed on newborns throughout the state. The legislation requiring newborn hearing screening also provided for expanded systems of reporting, follow-up to ensure that diagnostic testing takes place, and approaches to connect parents and kids to additional supports.

Prior to this new legislation, many hospitals were voluntarily performing the hearing tests but were not required to report the results. “Now it will be required to not only test babies but to report the results to the state so that we would take responsibility to check in, see you followed up on the screening, and make sure families are getting hooked up with the information they need,” explains Beth-Ann Bloom, a genetic counselor with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota is one of the last states to make newborn hearing screenings mandatory, and Bloom expects the new law to increase the number of children referred for further testing.

Bloom says the 54 children identified by the state’s health department as failing their screenings last year falls far short of what that number should be. Roughly one in 200 children experience some form of hearing loss and Minnesota’s birth rate averages around 70,000 babies a year.

As with all newborn screening programs in Minnesota, parents will have the right to opt out of the test. For more information, parents can visit the department of health web site at


Nature centers throughout Minnesota have banded together to make this Grandparents’ Day a special time for kids and grandparents to reconnect with nature. A number of centers will offer day or weekend programs.

“Kids have got to get out!” says Mike Link, executive director of the Audubon Center of the North Woods. “Grandparents are asking what to do with their grandkids, and we’re helping out.”

The Audubon Center’s program is one of many that focus on birds. The weekend program starts at 10 a.m. with a number of activities in the barn, followed by fun “bird calisthenics.” The rest of the weekend is filled with games, crafts, explorations, and meals until it all ends at 1 p.m. Sunday. Some programs require preregistration. You can check out what the nature center closest to you is doing at There are lots of other ways for grandparents and grandkids to have fun together on Sept. 10, and throughout the year. Make a family tree together or read a special book. For more ideas, look for Grandparents’ Day in the holiday section of or