Lessons from Hurricane Sandy—& Save the Children

“Disasters happen. It’s how we prepare for them that makes the difference.”

It’s hard to believe that one full year has passed since Hurricane Sandy roared up the East Coast and made landfall in New Jersey, killing at least 117 people and causing $50 billion in damage—the second costliest weather disaster in American history, behind Hurricane Katrina.

Though weather models warned of the potential destruction, coaxing evacuations, closing subways, rescheduling and repositioning trains and other public transportation—ultimately saving lives along the eastern shoreline of New Jersey, New York, Long Island and New England—families had very little to work with in preparing their children for the pending devastation.

During the storm, the foremost concern for parents with homes and children in Sandy’s path was physical safety. But in the days that followed, when electricity, food, water and shelter were scarce, and survival mode stretched on far beyond expectations, parents were tasked with managing their children’s mental state to a degree never before imagined.

The volatility of nature and technology spinning out of control is frightening for adults; the fear and trauma created for children even more so. Ultimately, as portrayed in the movie, “The Impossible,” the effect of familiar surroundings suddenly looking like a war zone, can leave children fretful for years.

“When disasters like Sandy end, the impact on children doesn’t. One of the most important parts of recovery is planning for the future.”

As you tune into the news today, you’ll likely hear numerous reflections of victims’ experiences, and feel the same sense of anxiety that many of us shared during newscasts and interviews a year ago. And, if they’re watching and listening alongside of you, so will your children. They may have questions about what you would do if another storm was predicted, and want reassurance that he/she, their friends, their pets, and everyone around them will be safe. You will readily supply all the right answers, but in your mind, be wondering how exactly, you might fulfill your promise to your child that, “everything will be OK.”

Save the Children has four words for you: Get Ready. Get Safe. And, in honor of all those who lost homes and family members just a year ago, they want you to start today

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Created to help families open up positive, proactive dialogue about the possibility and consequences of a natural disaster, the project also seeks to provide awareness and funding for families still recovering from Sandy. Reliving Sandy’s memories today, will quickly remind us all that protecting our children must be a priority across the country and around the globe. 

Natural disasters can’t be prevented, but families can be prepared. By clicking on the links throughout this post, and downloading the campaign’s thoughtful checklists, you and your family will be better equipped to navigate the unthinkable. And, you will also be better equipped to help your community build a safer, more efficient emergency plan.

Spend some time on the site, and if you’re interested in advocating for larger-scale prevention, you’ll find a link leading to state-specific emergency planning standards—something we should all be aware of. 

Thank you Save the Children for helping us to provide a safe haven for our most vulnerable population.

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Pay it (fashion) forward

CCC sale dates website page updated

I don’t know about you, but my wardrobe is looking a bit shabby these days. Ever since fall officially hit, I’ve been wearing the same sweater and leggings, or jeans, blouse and blazer combinations (ignoring dresses and dress pants completely)—looks saved only by good quality boots that fortunately make everything look better.

But with warm weather and its characteristic air of informality behind us, taking liberties with fashion is a definite don’t. Wander through the high-end stores at the King of Prussia mall, or hanging at any of the boutiques in town and in the ’burbs: Fall and winter in Philadelphia means polished looks—most successfully created with sumptuous fabrics and balanced combinations of classic and trendy styling.

Now, not all of us ladies can afford to make designer purchases, even once in a while. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t if we could.

So here’s the good news: This week, every woman in the Philadelphia area has a chance to get a piece of the designer fashion pie, and at jaw-dropping prices, thanks to Community Clothes Charity’s annual sale.

The Community Clothes Charity has had a large impact on Philadelphia and the Main Line ever since its original inception in 1957 to aid hospitalized war veterans. In 1977 the organization was restructured to its present form and name. Over the years this group has donated over $3.7M to many worthy beneficiaries. By recycling their own and others’ stylish fashions, this committee’s concept has been ecologically “green” for 56-plus years.

Before I dish the details, take a minute to picture yourself in some of the gorgeous clothing you’ve been ogling while flipping through the pages of Vogue. Imagine how great you’ll look and feel wrapped up in Chanel, Armani, Prada, Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Ferragamo, Gucci, Hermès, Pucci and more. Or how relieved you’ll be when you find that elusive dress you’ve been looking for, to get you through gala season or other milestone event that requires you to look like a million bucks—even if your bank account is just not quite there… yet.

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Kicking your wardrobe up a few notches is just one of the “wins” you’ll experience by attending the sale. The real reason to spend your hard-earned greenbacks, is to show support for this year’s two beneficiaries: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech and Puppies Behind Bars (PBB), in acknowledgement for their Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us program. Anyone who has experienced the joy of owning a pet, will appreciate this organization’s main function, which is to offer prison-trained service dogs, free of charge, to physically and psychologically wounded veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, spreading comfort and companionship.

Regarding the Clarke School, I’ve driven past its Bryn Mawr campus a number of times, but have never taken a tour. Based on conversations with a former trustee, with whom I spoke during Main Line Today days and again recently, this hardworking school is making a positive impact for families locally and along the East Coast.

Here in Philadelphia, the Clarke team works with families to educate schools, both public and private, about childhood hearing loss, along with the value of traditional academic placement post-on campus intervention. By building relationships with area schools and providing critical services, Clarke helps create positive outcomes for students striving to transition into traditional classrooms. Students requiring a higher level of support are equally represented. In fact, monies raised during the CCC sale, will be put toward a much-needed inclusive and accessible playground that will extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom and allow their students the freedom to play in a safe environment. Just think how much better you’re going to look and feel wearing a designer garment that has the power to make a difference.

Technologically, Clarke has some pretty neat bells and whistles; since you’re already online, why not click on the website? Or, if you would like to take a tour, contact Kate Hagarty, (610) 525-9600 ext. 110; khagarty@clarkeschools.org. Learning more might just make you feel extra motivated to get your clothes shopping on.

Now, back to the sale:

The five-day fundraiser kicks off with a Special Preview Day, Tues., 10/29, 1-6 p.m. pm. All you need to do to capitalize on the “early bird special,” is make a $30 tax-deductible donation at the door that day (this also gives free re-entry on Wednesday).

The sale continues on Wed., 10/30, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., with a $5 donation request at the door. (Entry is free all on the remaining days of the sale.)

On Thurs., 10/31 the sale runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. because of Halloween. Marked prices will be cut in half on both Fri., 11/1 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sat., 11/2, (9 a.m. -noon). 

The sale venue is The Village Hall, Eagle Village Shops, 503 West Lancaster Ave. (the intersection of Route 30 and Eagle Road), in Wayne, PA 19087. Cash, checks, Visa, and MasterCard will all be accepted.

While you’re waiting for doors to open on Tuesday, you can do a little cyber window shopping on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll see you there. Maybe wearing these…

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Sweet Smell of (hunger advocacy) Success

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In the better late than never category, I’d like to send out a not-so-gentle reminder on behalf of No Kid Hungry and Share our Strength.

…In just 10 days, this in-constant-action organization will wrap up its October initiative, spurred by two very generous “sugar daddies,” Domino Sugar and C&H Sugar.

Of course, I mean this is in the most positive interpretation of the colloquialism, because these two food industry superpowers have offered a dollar-for-dollar match on October’s Bake Sale No Kid Hungry proceeds.

If  you’ve been itching to get your baking on, NOW is the time to grease those pans, melt that butter and cover the counter in flour. (It’s a good excuse for your kids to make a mess without being scolded too!)

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Want to make a stand against hunger? A neighborhood or community bake sale is an effective—and tasty—way to get involved and make a positive impact.

The No Kid Hungry team is happy to receive your Bake Sale contributions all year long, but the promise of matching funds is irresistible—apparently to bakers across the country, who have raised $75,000-plus since October 1. Talk about “sweetening the pot;” at minimum now, a total value of $150,000. This is a big deal at a time when families are facing SNAP cuts along with a generally unstable economic foundation.

Whipping up a bake sale is easier than you think: With one weekend between now and October 31, and plenty of football, soccer and fall ball games happening at parks and schools across the country, you’ve got a captive audience. And, who wouldn’t want to bite into one (or three) of these tasty cupcakes (or these and these!). Click here for a gluten-free option. 

Spreading the word and showing support for food-challenged families through an old-fashioned bake sale is an affordable and fun way to get your community talking about hunger. Having that time and effort rewarded with a matching gift, is the icing on the cake.

Happy Baking!

Blog talk: On the Lineup

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I can’t be the only after-hours blogger longing for an extra six hours each day, hands that type as fast as I think, or a magic pill to spin less articulate thoughts into compelling copy… getting it right—and done on time—as a blogger is a daily challenge. But when I finally get a post up, and see that actual people are reading the words that I have labored over, it’s like eating a heaping, grandma-made bowl of pasta and meatballs after a long day of inconsequential noshes—sheer satisfaction.

And now that I finally got my latest post up on womenonbusiness.com, and passed along a few deliverable to clients, I am ready to dive into at least one of my upcoming posts. For starters, I have on the editorial lineup, a Q+A with Jay Jaboneta, founder of Yellow Boat of Hope, and a conversation with Val Haller, founder of music website Valslist.com and the writer behind “Music Match”. She’s got a new app coming out that is sure to be a hit on the holiday gift-giving list—from kids to parents.

Also coming up is a trio of culinary spotlights: Yellow Springs Farm (crazy good artisinal cheese maker), Wyebrook Farm, purveyors of organic beef, pork, chicken and eggs, and Boxcar Brewing Company (hopefully onsite tours of each)—all new food and drink resources discovered at Heritage Farm Fare a few weeks ago.

And, my Mighty Writers mentee is slated to deliver a guest post on our field trip to The Free Library of Philadelphia to see, listen to and get our jam on with author James McBride and his band. One of the coolest book reading/signing events that I’ve been to, I thought it would be neat to hear what a 15-year-old took away (aside from her first-ever autographed hardcover!).

Somewhere in here I plan to squeeze in a follow up to all the tweeting and posting, and most importantly, listening, I participated in during Social Good Summit 2013 in NYC. I’ve been wrestling with a few ways to tackle the endless possible angles, hence the delay. However, I am still on the #2030NOW high, and feel a sense of duty to help keep the mojo flowing and turn people onto this amazingly optimistic and powered up initiative.

And finally, I just learned that my good friend, Research Specialist at Monell Chemical Senses Center, musician and philosopher, has launched an online video talk show “Meeting of the Minds with Christopher Maute”. I am just getting up to speed on this, but after listening to him explain the central themes discussed on the air, I am curious to tune in. And, hopefully you will too—to these posts and others, as I continue to grow read.eat.DEW.write and keep up with all the interesting (and occasionally frustrating) happenings in the world.

Thanks for listening. Er, reading.

Social Good Summit 2013

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In just a few days, I will be making my way up to New York City to immerse myself in the fourth annual Social Good Summit 2013—a truly awesome (as in the real definition of the word) gathering that has one major, collaborative goal: to meet global challenges (aka make the world a better place) using new media.

As a newcomer to the event, I have been binge reading my way across the web, cataloging links and notes, preparing my ears, eyes and typing fingers for the virtual reams of information that will surely pour out of this mass think (out loud) tank. 

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing a handful of details that I am most excited about, along with ways for you to keep pace with the conversation during the event (Meetups are planned around the world).

You can get a feel for at least one of the speakers, Matt Wallaert (BING/Microsoft), right here, as I recently interviewed him regarding Bing for Schools. Increasing digital literacy across technology-deficient schools across the country, is just one way this social do-gooder is trying to make a positive impact. I am eager to hear what he has to say about “The Struggle for the Future of Attention.” 

There is plenty of scoop online, so I don’t expect to outshine the savvy writers already “expert” on the Summit. However, for the green peeps in the (cyber) house, I hope to pique and satisfy your curiosity.

If you’re into making the world a better place, you’ll want to pull up a seat to the Internet Sept. 22-24. Together we can be the #2030NOW change.

ShopMoxie Meets Philly

(this post is part of ShopMoxie’s “Best of the U.S. by Local Bloggers” series launched 9.12.13)

ShopMoxie Feature:
Best of Philadelphia

aka The City of Brotherly (in this case, sisterly) Love

So, about this gig… I recently decided that life wasn’t busy enough, or maybe it was just that I wasn’t writing enough… Anyway, I started a new blog (you’ll find a link buried somewhere in here) and in establishing myself as an independent blogger outside of my PR/Marketing biz, answered a query for ShopMoxie bloggers. I was very happy when I received a thoughtful email from founder Tom Tovar, who actually took the time to review my writing history, and my fledgling blog, inviting me to be a part of a Best of the U.S. by Local Bloggers series. As we exchanged emails, and learned more about each other (take it from me, this guy is interesting!), he really took me by surprise and offered me the opportunity to kick off ShopMoxie’s “Best of the U.S.” guest post series. Having spent many years writing such copy for Main Line Today magazine, I was instantly game. My only disclaimer, is that Philadelphia is full of wonderful businesses to frequent, as I am certain every city across the country is. Our collective picks are not meant to slight any of these businesses. If we had the time and the space, we’d cover all of our favorite haunts. However, what you are getting today, and in the coming days, is the tip of the old iceberg… places we know and love and feel strongly that you will too. So with no further ado, I present a handful of picks for my hometown, Philadelphia, U.S.A. Forget what you’ve heard about us in the news; we love our city. And, we really love our food.

Sophisticated night on, er in, the town: Presidential Suite, Hotel Palomar

Presidential Suite | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

We’re starting our Best of the U.S. Series at the top, literally, in the Presidential Suite.

The next time someone asks me for a suggestion on where to celebrate a special anniversary, birthday or momentous life event, I will definitely be pointing them to Hotel Palomar (117 South 17th St. at Sansom, Philadelphia; 215-563-5006) This past February, I had the good fortune of being part of a milestone birthday overnighter. Before you go judging my budget-consciousness, a little full disclosure: other than dinner and drinks, this was on a free ride. Now, I don’t have many swanky suite stays under my belt, but even with limited comparisons, it’s hard to deny the Presidential Suite’s fabulousness. Stylishly dressed up in traditional with a contemporary twist furnishings, each room is comfortable without being cold; decadent without feeling pretentious; it is clearly a Best of Philadelphia. If you’re into bathrooms, the lavish glass enclosed tub/shower with intricate mosaic floor tiling and Carrera marble will have you swooning.

Presidential Suite | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

We agree, a great bathroom does make all the difference in a hotel room.

Push aside the luxurious stretches of fabric separating you from the rest of civilization, and you’ll be rewarded with an interesting perspective on the city. In my case, that was a black and blue sky, dark clouds and scattered bursts of white and yellow lights…very much like a charcoal drawing. Any plans you had to go bouncing around the city, will likely fade away once you get a taste of the Presidential. Especially during the colder winter months, I recommend booking Square 1682‘s private dining room.

Sqaure's Mama's Squeeze Box Low | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Signature cocktails are always enjoyable, when they’re perfectly made and we trust you when you say these are best.

Our meal did not disappoint, nor did our gracious server, who not only knew his food and drink, but also how to dole The Lady Treatment. You’ll be tempted to run back upstairs to the comforts of Kimpton—and the luxe tiger and zebra patterned robes that await—but take it from me: suck up the full, tired feeling that comes with a delicious meal, and hunker down at the bar for one (or three) of the restaurant’s signature, and delectable, high-minded cocktails. Great sipping, great people watching. Be there AND be Square. If you’re lucky enough to get two nights in, take advantage of the in-house yoga and bike programs, which will make a handy excuse for taking those extra bites and sips during your stay. Here’s the scoop: Hotel Palomar offers yoga mats in room and an ON DEMAND yoga channel 24/7. If you call down to the front desk, they provide a complimentary roll out service including a delivery of flavored water and trail mix to your room for after your work out. And, there are complimentary bikes on premise for a joy ride around the city.

Worth the drive or the walk in the cold, rain, sleet or snow: Bloody Mary, The Dandelion

Bloody Mary | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Bloody Marys, then afternoon tea, oh my…we love it!

Another favorite haunt in that corner of the city, is The Dandelion (124 S. 18th St., 215-558-2500), a superb weekend brunch/lunch spot that serves up a wicked good Bloody Mary, along with a few other lascivious libations. (Be forewarned, this joint is multilevel and requires strong stair negotiating skills.) The vibe is reminiscent of The Standard Tap, in Northern Liberties, with lots of warm woods and a homey feel that leaves you thinking what a cool house it would make. Afternoon Tea pose a conundrum for patrons, with tea and cocktails available from 3-5pm. I haven’t had a meal there that I didn’t like, but if you need a recommendation, the EVERYTHING is worth the bite. How’s that for Best of Philadelphia?

Perfect Pairings: Couture and Customer Service…Nicole Miller

It is not true that all women love to shop, at least for clothes. However, when a big event is around the corner, and a figure-flattering dress needs to be procured, like, yesterday, my go-to is Nicole Miller in Manayunk (4249 Main St., 215-930-0307). And my favorite reason to go is store manager, Samantha Sciolla, who can read a woman’s body type within seconds. (Yes, better than you men!) Whether you’re looking for formal (charity ball, wedding, graduation), street or contemporary career fashions and accessories, this longstanding Main Street boutique keeps up with the trends without shunning the classics and they know how to combine couture with customer service. (There’s also a store in town, at The Bellevue.)

Couture and Customer Service | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Couture and Customer Service a perfect combination in our book!

My favorite “say yes to the dress” story actually does have to do with my wedding dress. I was shopping solo, carrying on about it being a second wedding, “…still want a gown, has to cover this, hide this…” After being banished to the dressing room, I hear a knock: Samantha hands me two gowns. “This is the one you’re going to buy; this is the one you’ll try on because you feel you have to.” I didn’t even bother zipping the second dress, and I’ve been a born again Nicole Miller customer ever since (there are some sweet sales throughout the year). The wedding dress story is just one of many similar scenarios where Samantha made getting the desired dress, skirt, blouse, boots, etc., possible and guilt-free. If you go, tell her I sent you.

Romantic Dinner with a side of the Best.Foie.Gras.Ever, Bibou

Best Foie Gras | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Give me liberty AND give me foie: Bibou plates up Philly’s finest.

Bibou (1009 South 8th St., Philadelphia; 215-965-8290) is not new (opened in 2009), however it is to me. I finally got a chance to visit this petite byob last spring, for my first wedding anniversary. I’d just met Charlotte Calmels, wife and partner of chef Pierre Calmels, earlier that month. After engaging in a lively conversation about cooking, dining, sharing food experiences with children, and more, I realized how ridiculous it was that I’d not yet dined there. In comes Open Table. Happily, I can report, unlike many hyped experiences, Bibou delivers. Every morsel of the 7-course meal (Chef’s Tasting) had my taste buds doing somersaults. Especially the creamy foie gras that was perfectly seared to a rich mahogany, and so buttery that I was licking my lips all night. Gorgeous stemware and decanters elevated our wine sipping several notches (save your best bottles for Calmels cuisine). Cap that off with attentive, but not overbearing service that left us plenty of time to savor each course (embarrassingly, I think we reveled in the food far more than our first-year memories), and we were in a state of absolute dining bliss. All you need to do for a similar experience is make a reservation.

Just outside the city limits…I Sea-food, I Buy It, Philadelphia Lobster & Fish

Tucked in a corner of Wynnewood, just around the block from the R5 Philadelphia Lobster & Fish (333 E. Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood; 610-642-1082) is a dangerous place for my wallet. Not only will you find a sublime selection of fresh seafood—personally cherry-picked by owner John Shon each morning—this quietly humming fish market stocks its cases and shelves with pristine produce priced far lower than its neighbors.

Seafood | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Knowing where to buy the best and fresh seafood in any city is key. Thanks for sharing this pick!

It’s impossible to go in and not come out with twice as many groceries as you need. It’s practically a ritual for me to wait to the last minute (about 90 minutes before friends are slated to arrive for dinner), to race over and make a flurry of purchases. Upon returning to my kitchen, and within minutes of pulling out the goods, it’s totally plausible that I can have a gorgeous selection of house-made maki, tekkamaki, and shumai dumplings plated; a tuna steak swimming in a wasabi-soy marinade, skate prepped for a brown butter lacing, or thick-cut salmon steaks seasoned with fresh and dried herbs ready STAT—all with time to spare for a quick shower.

Seafood | Best of Philadelphia | read.eat.DEW.write.

Yummmmm – Best of Philadelphia here we come!

Talk about an easy button! When I really want to cheat, there are 15 different prepared entrees and sides available throughout the week, along with $2.99 containers of fresh, peeled garlic cloves, fully-cleaned mixed greens, baby bok choy and Brussels sprouts, sliced zucchini, cut-up mango, pineapple, honeydew, blood oranges and other quick-cook-quick-eat ingredients.

During planting season, you’ll be treated to an impressive curbside display of flowers and herbs, proudly tended to by Shon. Everyone I’ve turned on to this local purveyor agrees: it’s a feel- and taste-good shopping experience every time.

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We love read.eat.Dew.write. and its founder/author. She’s an accomplished food and local scene writer who knows great places in several towns. We look forward to her picks!

Visit GetLocal@ShopMoxie often to look for more “Best of the U.S.” picks from read.eat.Dew.write.!

Register today to get more posts from this Best of the U.S. by Local bloggers series. Or, sign into ShopMoxie to create your own Top Picks and link to this or other great posts from around the Internet!

Bing, and bling, for Schools

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Now that the 2013-14 school year is a couple of weeks in, parents and teachers have a lot more to keep track of. And, so do kids.

“Information” is a major piece of that tracking, which for a large sector of the U.S. population occurs on a computer, tablet or smartphone—something many people take for granted, but that a large percentage of families are still unable to access. This technological gap makes it hard for students to keep up with learning both in and out of the classroom, and equally so, for their parents to find new ways of sharing in their children’s educational experience.

In an effort to close this gap, Microsoft has launched Bing for Schools, a digital literacy initiative aimed at putting Microsoft RT tablets in schools that do not have the financial means to do so. Living in well-to-do communities such as Philadelphia’s Main Line, Chicago’s North Shore, New York’s Westchester, Denver’s Douglas County, Virginia’s Arlington, Dallas’ Westlake and plenty of other prime zip codes, makes this an unfamiliar reality to many students and parents who are accustomed to a houseful of personal devices across the board, as well as tricked out computer rooms at school. As a parent, it is not always easy to convince kids that not everyone has access to the latest, greatest or even a version from five years ago.

The disparity between technology haves and have-nots doesn’t sit well with today’s education, business, social and political leaders, who are well aware of the pace information is disseminated, and how quickly topics explode into conversation around the world. Moreover, knowing how to FIND information via the Internet among the many content curation platforms is also critical.

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We all know what kids hear first, “Google it.” The problem with kids using Google, is that advertising is rampant. Something Matt Wallaert, a behavioral scientist at Bing-Microsoft, sees as an unnecessary distraction that can also lead students to digital spaces they just don’t belong in.

“Kids across the country need to have a better school experience overall,” says Wallaert. “Bing is doing its part by helping teachers and administrators bring SAFE, FREE technology into the classroom.”

He also points out that larger schools and districts benefit from bulk buying and from having a technology coordinator. Without those options, smaller schools can’t achieve optimal digital literacy.

“If you want to start making changes at a level where you can have impact, the first thing you need to do is check your toolbox…” he says. “What do you already have, and know how to use, that you can offer those in need? We have a search engine, we have tablets. Schools have students, some have no tablets, and they use a search engine. Why not work together?”

One of the main reasons Wallaert thinks Bing for Schools will quickly exceed pilot program expectations, is that it’s putting the power in parents’ hands. And nobody questions the reality that when it comes to taking much-needed action, parents go about it loudly and aggressively. In this case, it’s an easy sell. Unless of course, your school is attended by Google-employed families.

You’d think a guy so passionate about safe Internet surfing would have a negative experience with his own child as the jumping off point. This is not the case. He simply is the kind of guy who thinks about the kind of world he would want if he was a dad. (It doesn’t hurt that he as an 18-month-old nephew.) “You can’t be in the world as it is now, fast-paced and all about information, and not think about what that’s going to look like in the future.”

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Here’s how Bing for Schools gets the job done: 

Schools register (either on their own volition, or because lots of parents read blog posts, tweets and articles about the initiative, and clunked their administrators over the head with it) via the website. Both public and private schools are eligible as long as they’re serving students in K-12, and they need to have a static outbound ip address, which is generally the case. The reward: ad and adult-content free search with enhanced privacy protection.

That’s where the fun starts. Kids can go anywhere they want to on the Internet safely and without begin bombarded by ads. With the help of their teachers and parents, they can explore endless amounts of information via short activities and lesson plans designed by Bing to create an interactive experience for well, all those who interact with students. Lessons are broken down as K-4, 5-8 and 9-12, and follow Common Core standards, making it easy to incorporate these into what’s already being taught in the classroom. And, because giving away tablets is a major part of the program, many students will have an opportunity to share what they’re learning and practice search skills with their families.

One of the by proxy goals, is to increase critical thinking in kids of all ages—a skill that is being challenged by the insurgence of soundbite, “expert” analysis, repetitive messaging, videos that capture more attention than books and other short cuts that devalue individual opinion-forming and in-depth perspective. Though its Bi(n)g reward is a Surface tablet, Microsoft is challenging Internet users of all ages, to dig deeper and ask questions.

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Along with getting schools involved, parents (and even non-parents) can play a valuable role by switching over to Bing. Even a diehard Google user won’t be able to come up with an excuse not to try it out, knowing that credits earned transfer into a free tablet for their favorite schools.

You can join the Bing Rewards program through your Facebook or Microsoft account (easy to set one up if you don’t have), and begin earning credits right away. The program relies on credit pools, so Facebook works well to create awareness among your friends and family, and all build buzz as you all near that last credit—a whopping 30,000, about 60 regular Bing users a month. When your designated school hits the magic number, it will receive a brand new Surface RT (approx. $249 after current MS educational discounts).

To use a ubiquitous phrase, it’s a no brainer.

And, Bing for Schools is a smart move for Microsoft, because as Wallaert pointed out, the company is using tools it already has in its toolbox, just in a new, more impactful way.  Again,  a no-brainer.

“In a perfect world,” says Wallaert, “reputation matches action. We’re not asking for undue credit. But, we do want credit for what we’re doing. That, is enabling high-quality digital education for kids who might not receive it otherwise.”

Editor’s Note: If you spend as much time on the Internet as I do, you  and I might be able to support several schools here in the Philadelphia region. And yes, I did make the switch to Bing immediately after chatting with Matt Wallaert. However, don’t do what I did and waste three weeks not signed up for the rewards program. I think anyone in Philadelphia knows how important an initiative like this is. Any questions, feel free to email me, or Matt