Archive for: May 2013

Issue with your teacher? Take an active approach

By Kathryn Rea Smith, PH.D.

KSmithMay2013When my children were small, they depended on me to solve their problems. I had to “act” for them and be their advocate and voice. Now that they are older, I expect them to be “active” in handling some of their problems themselves. For parents, facilitating the journey from dependence to independence requires ongoing assessment of the child’s developmental level and skill. Parents need to determine when children are developmentally ready to take on more responsibility, and then ensure they have the skills to be successful. One important responsibility children need to assume when ready is to be active in talking to teachers on their own. Read more →

Is asthma caused by exercise?

by Marek M. Pienkowski, M.D., Ph.D.


PienkowskiArticleWith spring in the air, school children start outdoor sports activities like soccer, baseball, football, cross country, etc.  Some of them will develop, with exercise, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath.  Are they unfit?  Too heavy?  Lazy?  Or do they have asthma? Read more →

Exploring Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness

by Paul James


IjamsPicIn days of old, many of us didn’t travel far; what lay beyond was often unknown, out of reach and perhaps out of mind. Yet, the natural world was all around us; the sound of the wind, the call of the wolf or even the cry of a solitary eagle. While this sounds a little like Pocahontas’ world, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that if we put aside our multitude of electronic devices for a moment, those landscapes are still ours. And better yet, remarkably close by. Read more →

Ten terrific books about getting active

 By Erin Nguyen, Children’s Department, Knox County Public Library



May13Book1Rhinos Who Skateboard
by Julie Mammano
Rhinos spend a fun day rolling around town in this action-packed picture book filled with skateboarding lingo. Read more →

Get MOOCed!

By Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.


MSmithMay2013Last fall, I participated in a college course on Artificial Intelligence taught by Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun. I’ve taken dozens of colleges classes before, while at the University of Tennessee. This course, though, was radically different: it was free; it was offered through the Internet; and it had 160,000 students enrolled. This was the first attempt at what is now called a MOOC (massive open online course). The success of this course has led to the creation of three companies—Udacity, Coursera, and EdX—which offer hundreds of courses taught by distinguished professors. It is now possible to stay “mentally active” and learn just about anything, for free, while sitting at home in front of your computer.

Udacity (, started by Thrun, offers a variety of mostly math and science courses. These courses consist of video modules which can be viewed at anytime. I’m currently enrolled in Introduction to Computer Science and Introduction to Physics. I’m not sure I would ever use this new knowledge in my work. That’s not the point, however. I can enjoy learning new material and complete assignments at my own pace.

Coursera (, started by two other Stanford professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, has a wider selection of courses. Here’s just a sampling: Comic Books and Graphic Novels; Law and the Entrepreneur; Game Theory; Listening to World Music; and Medical Neuroscience. I recently completed a course entitled Data Analysis, taught by Jeffrey Leek at Johns Hopkins. This course taught the techniques of data mining or predictive analytics. These statistical techniques are in wide use in a variety of fields to “predict” human behavior: movie recommendations (Netflix); book recommendations (Amazon); customer buying patterns (Target); search strategies (Google); and dating ( This course was taught in an eight-week time frame with assignments that I could complete if I wanted. Although I couldn’t discuss the course with the professor, I could interact on dozens of discussion boards with the over 50,000 people from around the world who were enrolled.

“Many people around the world do not have convenient access to this level of expertise in mathematics, sciences, or humanities. This knowledge can potentially help them improve their economic condition.”


EdX ( is a collaboration between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that offers complete college courses taught by their faculty. EdX also offers courses from several other institutions. I’m currently enrolled in The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 hours, taught by Gregory Nagy at Harvard. Professor Nagy explores the concept of “hero” in Greek literature in a series of 24 lectures (about an hour each) with evidence drawn from the Iliad and the Odyssey and other Greek sources. In hour one, Professor Nagy discusses the Greek concept of kleos or “glory”: to Greeks such as Achilles, kleos came from the right way to die, so you’d be remembered forever, not the right way to live. Furthermore, the Greek term hora (season, right time, perfect time), from which we derive the English word “hour”, meant the struggle of  the hero to find the right moment for his kleos, which would result in his death. My wife won’t let me use this new knowledge at our dinner parties (“this is not the right time, dear”); however, I’m having a lot of fun learning something fascinating.

Why would anyone take one of these courses? Many people around the world do not have convenient access to this level of expertise in mathematics, sciences, or humanities. This knowledge can potentially help them improve their economic condition. In particular, all three companies are striving to offer actual college credit for their online courses. For other people, the benefit of learning more in a chosen field could also offer practical benefits. Finally, for everyone, the opportunities to “get active” mentally have never been so rich. The MOOC has just made lifelong learning more affordable and accessible.


Michael K. Smith, Ph.D., is owner of TESTPREP EXPERTS ( ) which prepares students for standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT. He is also a consultant to Discovery Education Assessment. He can reached at

Why early orthodontic treatment?

Braces aren’t just for teens

by Jeffrey Eberting, D.M.D., M.S.

EbertingMay2013You’re with your eight-year old at his or her semi-annual dental check-up, and the dentist casually comments, “You should probably make an appointment with the orthodontist for an evaluation.”  You think, “What?!  But my child is only eight years old!  What on Earth would the orthodontist need to do to my child when there are so many baby teeth present?” Read more →

Keeping kids active

by Barry Van Over, Premier Martial Arts


VanOverMay2013Anyone who’s seen kids on a playground knows that most are naturally physically active and love to move around. But what might not be apparent is that climbing to the top of a slide or swinging from the monkey bars can help lead kids to a lifetime of being active. Read more →

Project: Think Twice

By Chief Lee Tramel, Knox County Sheriff’s Office


TramelMay2013The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has implemented a new program called “PROJECT: THINK TWICE”. The program is aimed at at-risk juveniles ages 12 – 17 and their parents or guardians. The purpose of the program is not to humiliate, shame, or terrorize juveniles, but to show how bad decisions could eventually lead to incarceration and to help parents increase their awareness. Read more →

Dear Knox County School’s Families

By Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools

Dear Knox County Schools’ Families,

This month’s “Get Active!” theme is timely because the Knox County Schools has recently received local and national recognition for making healthy strides.

Last year, our Coordinated School Health Department for Knox County Schools helped organize the community’s inaugural Let’s Move! Event, where several organizations and businesses partnered to provide unique opportunities for families to learn how to make healthier choices through nutrition and exercise.

In recognition of our community’s dedication to leading healthier lifestyles, the National League of Cities recently awarded Knox County and the City of Knoxville with a #1 national ranking in reaching its key health and wellness goals. Our community was specifically acknowledged for working cooperatively to take action to improve access to affordable, healthy food and increasing opportunities for physical activity.

The Knox County Schools has a superior school nutrition program that is transforming our menus with healthy options that appeal to kids.  In fact, Jon Dickl, our Knox County Schools Director of School Nutrition, was recently featured on the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! blog.

Finally, students from Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy were invited by First Lady Obama to help plant the White House Kitchen Garden.  The garden represents the First Lady’s ongoing efforts to engage in a national conversation around the health and well-being of our nation.  Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy students joined three schools from across the nation in helping to plant the garden.  Schools selected to participate demonstrated exceptional improvements to school lunches and nutrition.  Students at Sarah Moore Greene recently started a Jeffersonian Heirloom Garden and connected the project to 3rd-5th grade social studies coursework on America’s history, highlighting American presidents who have had a role in gardening and land stewardship.

Certainly these are magnificent honors, and I couldn’t be more proud for our students and staff. As we head into the summer months, I encourage families to continue this momentum by incorporating exercise and healthy eating choices into your daily routines.

Please do not hesitate to call us at (865) 594-1800 or visit us at if we can be of assistance to you.




Dr. Jim McIntyre
Superintendent, Knox County Schools


Mom, can I go outside and play soccer?

How can you answer this question, if your kid has arthritis?

by Marcin Gornsiewicz, M.D.

MarcinMay2013Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common form of arthritis in children. There are several subtypes of JIA and the clinical presentation varies. Unfortunately, pain is a common denominator, and is a major factor preventing children with arthritis from being more active. They fear the pain and injury due to a flare up of the disease by simply running, jumping or playing tag. Typical symptoms and components of JIA include joint swelling, stiffness, anemia, muscle atrophy, weakness and fatigue and contribute to decreased exercise level. The disease often results in a sedentary lifestyle and poor fitness even in kids with clinical remission when the joint inflammation is under good control. JIA may be carried on into adolescent and adult life. Read more →