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I Cannot Eat This Homework

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Thomas. Thomas Wonders, “Why do dogs eat homework?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Thomas!

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You have a big, important homework assignment due tomorrow, but you're not stressed. You made good use of your study time at school and completed over half of it. When you got home, you avoided distractions, like television and video games, and worked hard until it was finished.

Then your worst nightmare happened! While you were in the kitchen making a healthy snack, your dog got hungry, too. Instead of eating his dog food, though, he made a sandwich out of your homework! Oh no! What will you do?

You know that “my dog ate my homework" is the oldestexcuse in the book. Your teacher will never buy that! Or will she?

As it turns out, dogs really do eat paper from time to time. If you explain this to your teacher — and show her what scraps remain, if any — you just might get an extension to re-do that assignment. Better yet, make use of modern technology and do your homework on the computer, so you can save it and print out a copy whenever you need it!

Remember: honesty is the best policy. If you simply forget to do your homework, don't lie and blame it on your dog!

Dogs are known to be indiscriminate eaters with healthy appetites. This means that some dogs will eat just about anything if given the chance.

Why? Some scientists believe eating paper and other non-food items may just result from boredom. Most dogs are energetic animals that need plenty of exercise and distractions to keep from becoming bored.

When bored, many dogs will give in to their natural curiosity and explore new things. This exploration can often take the form of scratching, biting, and eating. If you were eating a sandwich while you were doing your homework, stray crumbs or bits of food might even make your homework tempting to a dog that's bored!

To dogs, paper is just another “thing." It's something to chew on. If it happens to be your homework, that's particularly bad for you. However, it's probably no different to your dog than chewing on newspaper or a book. To prevent your homework from becoming lunch, be sure to store it in a safe place when you're finished with it!

It might also help to make sure your dog is well-fed. Stick to food and treats recommended by your veterinarian, though. It can be dangerous to feed your dog human food in the form of table scraps.

Over the years, veterinarians have learned that there are certain foods that can harm dogs. Here are some foods that can be particularly dangerous to dogs:

  • Avocado: Skip the guacamole! Avocados contain persin, which can be toxic to dogs in large amounts.
  • Caffeine: In large quantities, caffeine can be fatal for dogs. So stick to water and skip the coffee, tea, and sodas for your dog. Also avoidchocolate, which contains caffeine and another substance toxic to dogs: theobromine.
  • Onions and Garlic: Dogs who eat onions or garlic regularly or in large quantities can develop a condition called anemia, which results from the destruction of red blood cells.
  • Grapes and Raisins: Veterinarians don't really know why, but it's clear that grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.
  • Macadamia Nuts: As few as six macadamia nuts can make a dog ill. Larger doses can be fatal.

Tradition and technology play well together in Carrie Patterson’s high school English classes at the East Bronx Academy for the Future.

Patterson has banished the scourge of all English teachers from her classroom: gone are the stacks of essays, book reports, tests, quizzes, journals and notebooks that teachers have been lugging back and forth from school since the discovery of papyrus.

In fact, she does not use a single piece of paper or a single textbook in any of her English classes.

Everything that was formerly done on paper is now done on student laptops.

All that this English teacher with 17 years of experience has to carry home now is her slim, lightweight laptop that holds everything that reams of paper once held.

The new technology is facilitating the learning of traditional skills and knowledge. Eleventh- and 12th-grade students in a recent class were hard at work on a grammar lesson. They were intent on finding and highlighting, in the colors of their choice, the direct and indirect objects in a series of sentences viewable on their laptops.

The lesson was also projected on a large screen so the class could work on the material together and then individually. As the students worked, Patterson was free to circulate, checking, encouraging and providing one-on-one help when needed.

From the moment that students pick up their computers from the laptop cart, they know exactly what the aim of that day’s lesson is and have all the materials and notes for the work to be done and the homework that follows.

It all can be found on the attractive web page the students open to — Patterson’s Place — which has a picture and bio of their teacher, timely announcements and reminders, helpful links and entertaining graphics as well as the lesson plan.

Miller PhotographyThe "Patterson Place" web page contains all the materials for the day’s lesson. Free access online provides the literature to be studied — short stories, plays and novels.

Using GoogleDocs, students create notebooks and journals. Using school email accounts, they have learned how to attach homework assignments and classwork to send to Patterson. With the help of GoogleForms, students submit classwork via online spreadsheets that allow a teacher to color code the answers to make grading easier.

At test time, Patterson uses Smartsync software to monitor all the laptops so she is able to see what each student is doing and disconnect the Internet with a click if anyone is cheating.

Absence is never an excuse for falling behind or pleading ignorance. And for anyone who wants to review a lesson, it’s all there.

If a student does not have a computer at home, Patterson provides access to a school computer throughout the day.

Although students were suspicious of the innovation, by early October Laura Rosario and Ronnie Carmona said they gave it a thumbs up. Martin Santiago said he finds it a more helpful way to learn.

Miller PhotographyStudents are reminded to be careful as they return their laptops to the cart. The grand experiment began after Patterson attended an Apple-sponsored roundtable discussion about paperless schools. “The idea intrigued me,” she said, “because I hate dragging tons of papers around with me while I’m grading them.”

It also fits with her role as the school’s sustainability coordinator and winner of the New York City Simplicity IdeaMarket Paper Challenge for her “Paper Free School Zone” idea.

With the go-ahead from Principal Sarah Scrogin, whom Patterson describes as “amazing” because of her full support of technology and the arts at the East Tremont school, and with grant money to pay for the computers, she began last year with the hardest part of the initiative — setting up the site.

She makes no bones about it. “To get the site started took lots of hard work,” she explained. She also had to spend a week at the start of the school year to initiate students.

Patterson admits to “some hiccups along the way,” but insists that “with a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of patience, I’ve been able to make a big difference — at least in my classroom.”