LEWISBURG, Pa. — The following are Bucknell University story ideas that may interest you in April.
SEEKING PLAYGROUND SAFETY – Kids are on playgrounds again and April 22 marks the start of National Playground Safety Week. An advocate of playground safety, Bucknell biomedical engineering professor Eric Kennedy is also director of injury prevention and co-scientific director for the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). In that role, Kennedy has worked with a colleague from the University of Northern Iowa to relaunch the NPPS website, which contains advice pieces for parents and other materials for governments and schools. Kennedy has focused his research on playground safety after learning about this fact: current safety standards would allow higher-levels of risk for a child falling off a piece of playground equipment compared to levels, for example, in a 35 mph car crash test. Playgrounds are the most frequent recreational activity injury for children from 1-8 years old and result in over 200,000 emergency room visits annually. According to Kennedy, one notable safety factor for playgrounds is the ground surface. He reports there are primarily two surface options: a rubberized unitary surface, which is more expensive; or mulch/wood fiber, which is cheaper but requires regular maintenance such as raking and replacement as it deteriorates. Both surfaces have strengths and weaknesses and Kennedy says parents should be aware of their child’s play environment. “Rubberized surfaces often require tree removal to prevent roots from damaging them, but this also removes shade,” he said. “As a result, surfaces can reach 150-plus degrees, creating uncomfortable or unsafe conditions.” CONTACT: Kennedy, 570-577-1405, firstname.lastname@example.org
PITCH PROBLEMS – We’ve all cringed when walking into a karaoke bar, speakers blaring with the sound of an out-of-tune rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. However, it turns out there may be another interesting difference between people singing in and out of tune. Subvocalization — or the silent, preparatory muscle movements of the face and larynx that result when singers run a song through their heads prior to vocalizing — could be nudging them out of tune according to research published last month in the journal Psychophysiology by Bucknell psychology professor Andrea Halpern and colleagues at University at Buffalo, and supported by the National Science Foundation. Singers create auditory images when they silently rehearse the tune they’re about to sing. The researchers already knew that better singers report stronger and more accurate auditory imagery. This study showed that subvocalization in muscles near the larynx are more, not less, apparent in worse singers. It’s as if people with weaker images need to engage the body in a kind of supportive compensation. The team does not know if the movements actually impair singing, though a project in progress is trying to find that out. CONTACT: Halpern, 570-577-1295, email@example.com
FINDING CANINE COMFORT – It’s no secret that being in the presence of pets relieves stress. April is not only National Pet Month, it’s also Stress Awareness Month. Two to three times a semester, the Bucknell Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC) welcomes therapy dogs to campus during particularly stressful times such as midterms and finals. The therapy dogs will be back on campus on the final day of classes, Monday, April 29, from 6-8 p.m. in front of Bertrand Library. CDSC Director Kelly Kettlewell says “the presence of a therapy dog helps someone who is struggling take their mind off of their problems and anxieties for a little while.” She also says that most people who interact with a therapy dog experience decreased stress levels and increased calmness and happiness while doing so. April specifically has proved to be a stressful month for students as they begin to prepare themselves for final exams and upcoming summer internships or jobs. However, Kettlewell believes that, “when life on campus feels overwhelming, it is our hope that some time with the therapy dogs is a welcome break for students.” CONTACT: Kettlewell, 570-577-1604, firstname.lastname@example.org