5 x 8: Learning that it’s too hot to learn

1) ARE YOU SENDING YOUR KIDS TO SCHOOL?

Minneapolis’ first day with the new idea of starting school before Labor Day didn’t turn out so well. At 18 schools that don’t have air conditioning, parents delivered water and Gatorade. The schools promised fans but they didn’t show up at some schools.

There’s an urgency to getting a head start on the school year — the latest test scores show a lower performance in reading and math among state kids — but how much learning is being done?

On the Minneapolis schools Facebook page, parents aren’t happy.

The school district can’t win, though. It canceled after-school activities today because of the heat. That came over the objections of at least one parent who said her kid’s team has a big game on Friday “and the kids have to be ready.”

Things could be worse: You could live in Chicago. It’s hot there, too, but the focus of officials was getting enough volunteers to help kids navigate gang territory to get to school safely.

The school system saved $45 million by closing dozens of schools. But it costs $15 million to set up the Safe Passage system.

Related: Heat. Schmeet. The new students at Concordia in Moorhead didn’t much care that the temperature was near 100 degrees. They participated in a day of service in the area yesterday as a way to lend a hand and get to know each other. “In a classroom setting, it’s much more nerve-wracking,” Erika Grinde told the Fargo Forum. “Here, I don’t care that I’m sweaty and gross.”

2) HOW NOT TO GET ATTACKED BY A WOLF

A teenager apparently was attacked over the weekend by a grey wolf in northern Minnesota, MPR’s Conrad Wilson reports. The attack occurred at the West Winnie Campground on the shores of Lake Winnibigoshish around 4 a.m. on Saturday.

The 16-year-old boy was lying outside a tent when he was attacked, according to Tom Provost, regional manager of the DNR’s enforcement division.

The odds of being attacked by a wolf are pretty remote, indeed. But what if you are? Here are suggestions from one wolf expert.

  • DON”T RUN! This will make you look prey, which is a bad thing. Remember, wolves are HUNTERS
  • Don’t “stare the animal down.” This looks like a threat
  • Don’t turn your back on the wolves
  • Make yourself appear scary: shout, throw stones, raise your arms over your head
  • If you’ve entered an enclosure, back away slowly, moving toward the exit with your back against the fence
  • Don’t look scared or fall, this will encourage an attack
  • If things get really bad, curl into a ball and protect your face

3) PAWN SHOPS ARE THE NEW BANKS

Perhaps the declining math ability of public school children isn’t such bad news to everyone. Some industries are thriving because of poor math skills. Pawn shops are becoming the banks of choice for more people, the New York Times reports. The pawnshop industry is growing rapidly and offering “financial services,” once the exclusive domain of banks. But loans can come with 25 percent interest rates. Nobody gets ahead financially with 25-percent interest rates.

Pawn loans are so profitable simply because of the high interest rates pawnshops can charge. Interest rates vary by state and range from 2.5 percent to 25 percent a month, the industry group the National Pawnbrokers Association estimates. So a 30-day loan on a $150 item would give a pawnshop a profit of up to $37.50, while a four-month loan could mean a profit of $150. Pawnshops may also charge fees for things like storage and lost tickets.

Yet for many customers who have been denied credit because of checkered financial histories, an instant loan from a pawnshop can feel like something of a miracle — at least at first — consumer advocates say.

Minnesota-based Pawn America is even gussying up its stores, setting up separate sections with separate entrances that even look like banks, the paper says. A St. Paul woman, quoted in the article, says she doesn’t use her bank checking account much anymore, preferring instead to cash her check at the pawn shop. (h/t: David Brauer)

Related: A College Kid, A Single Mom, And The Problem With The Poverty Line (Planet Money/NPR).

4)THE MAN WITH NO ARM MEETS THE GIRL WITH NO HAND

Bella Zizzo, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, was born without a left hand. A few months ago, the four year old started noticing people treated her differently and she tried to hide her left arm. And when she asked her mother if she could hold some seeds to grow fingers like the wild flowers blooming in the front yard, Sarah Zizzo and her husband Ryan decided to raise money to take her to Camp No Limits in Florida in January where she could meet other children with similar challenges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Gary Wetzel, who lost his arm in Vietnam, heard about the girl, so he drove his Harley from his Wisconsin home to meet her, where he promised to raise the $5,000 to send the girl to camp.

That sort of thing would make a person like Wetzel a hero. But he already is one. There are only 79 living Medal of Honor recipients. He’s one of them.

5) THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE

Fred Stobaugh,A 96-year-old man from East Peoria, Ill., entered a song-writing contest earlier this summer. He read about it in a newspaper and decided this was his chance to pay proper tribute to his wife of 75 years, who recently died. He didn’t know how to upload things to YouTube, so he mailed it in the old-fashioned way.

Bonus I: Paul Rishavy, 87, of Hugo, wanted to attend the 100th anniversary celebration of Austin’s Pacelli High School, a private Catholic school in the southern Minnesota city. He wanted to see his Class of 1946 mates. But officials learned he never graduated. He left in his junior year to go fight in World War II. At the celebration, however, he was given a diploma. The bittersweet moment: When the class of 1946 was asked to stand up, he was the only one. (Rochester Post Bulletin)

Bonus II: Delta Gives Its Flight Attendants Magic Tools (aka Smartphones) to Help Travelers (The Cranky Flier).

Bonus III: The Yosemite “rim” fire by air.

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Egypt and Syria.

Second hour: Ken Feinberg’s job has been described as “playing God”. For decades he has been in charge of deciding how victims of tragedy are compensated for their losses. He was in charge of settlements for families of the victim’s of 9/11, the BP oil spill, the Boston Marathon Bombing victims and – most recently in the headlines – the Penn State settlements in the Sandusky molestation cases. We talk to Feinberg about how in the wake of tragedy and crisis, he calculates the value of life and limb.

Third hour: How to be an empty nester.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Paul Huttner and Mark Seeley talk weather with MPR’s Cathy Wurzer.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – The coming war with Syria.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Playgrounds were not built with disabled children like Brooklyn Fisher in mind. So her parents raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to build one with ramps and other special features to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. NPR looks at changing the landscape of public playgrounds.