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Over the past 27 years, nearly 15,000 young Pennsylvania citizens have served in the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps. Aged from 18-25, these individuals have gained valuable work skills, helped bolster their communities through a variety of conservation and disaster relief related projects, and gone on to become productive members of the workforce. Now, however, the program that served as a confidence builder and stepping stone for so many young people has been targeted for elimination.

In an effort to address a $10.4 billion state budget debt, Pennsylvania politicians have decided that eliminating funding for a program that has an approximate budget of $4.6 million dollars will be a step in the right direction (or, for those keeping track, making up for approximately 0.04% of the budget shortfall) . There are people like myself who hope that this does not happen because we think the benefits provided by the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps far outweighs its costs, especially for the 250+ people the program enrolls annually.

Keep reading on The Huffington Post

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Season 10 of American Idol is terrific. Whereas previous seasons have lost viewer interest and enthusiasm, I personally think that this might be the best season so far. Why?

In short, the contestants are much, much stronger as a group than in previous seasons. I think a lot of credit should be given to new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez for helping to make this happen. While such a declaration may provoke chuckles, there are some numbers to back it up. According to American Idol, in comparison to all previous 9 seasons, this year the judges brought twice the number of people to the 2nd round of competition. Then they vetted them more thoroughly than any other previous season. Continue Reading »

This past week, President Obama headlined an event to herald the continuing work and progress being made on his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which aims to get more Americans outside while allocating additional federal funds toward land and water conservation.

While the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO) targets all Americans, getting young people outside and enthusiastic about the outdoors is a major priority of the initiative that deserves elevated attention. For instance, one study has indicated that today young people spend half as much time outside as their parents did. Childhood obesity rates have also tripled in the past 30 years. This information suggests that while getting young people outdoors will have its challenges, it will also come with great benefits.

Continue reading on The Huffington Post

Each year The Corps Network honors Service and Conservation Corpsmembers whose accomplishments and personal stories exemplify the positive role that Corps serve for individuals and communities nationwide.

As a member organization, we proudly represent over 150 organizations that operate in a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia. Approximately 33,000 young men and women join these organizations each year so that they can make a difference. They work on a broad range of projects, viewing themselves as the modern legacy-bearers of the legendary Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Continue reading on The Huffington Post.

I will make it no secret. I’ve been asking my wife for years if we could get a glow-in-the-dark ant farm. Now that our daughter is 3, the moment is imminent when I will probably enjoy our new pets more than she will.

So when I saw news today that Milton Levine had died, “the co-creator of ant farms,”  I felt sad. Continue Reading »

These photos are from one of my family’s recent visits to the National Zoo. During the winter, the Zoo’s Amazonia building is a warm, humid, and enchanting refuge from the cold outside.

A good summary from the National Zoo’s website:

Amazonia, the largest and most complex exhibit ever built at the National Zoo, opened to the public in 1992. The 15,000-square-foot rainforest habitat of the exhibit includes a cascading tropical river and a 55,000-gallon aquarium for the display of Amazon River fish.

Within Amazonia’s dome, visitors find a living tropical forest with more than 350 species of plants, including 50-foot-tall trees, tropical vines, and epiphytes. This habitat is also home to dozens of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects typical of the Amazon Basin, all moving throughout the exhibit. Smooth-sided toads and silver-beaked tanagers breed freely, titi monkeys jump from branch to branch, a two-toed sloth hides behind large leaves, white-bellied hummingbirds zip about.

It really is as good as the description makes it out to be. But without further ado, more photographs. Continue Reading »

As the parent of a 3 year old girl,  I am seeing a lot of Disney movies these days. The latest one is Tangled, which is actually just the classic story of Rapunzel. We saw it in the theater and thought it was great.

When the opening credits rolled, I was surprised to learn that it is Disney’s 50th animated motion picture. That’s pretty impressive. Disney’s animated competition has increased over the years, so it might eventually seem like an important bookend to an era. On a more personal level, it made me wonder how many of the 50 animated films I had seen.

Luckily for me (and perhaps you too!) I just found a 2 minute rapid-fire video from Disney that shows the 50 films in order. Continue Reading »

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