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Tuesday, December 2, 2003

  • Snow! Rules about winter storms
  • Child language research in the spotlight
  • A previous research study from the centre
  • Teens take role of premiers
Chris Redmond

Federal government answers the Question of the Week

[Blue umbrella]

Blue on blue, brolly on snowflake: Barbara Elve of communications and public affairs caught the scene yesterday outside the Tatham Centre. It's snow shovelling season, and "we need help at 7:30 in the morning any time that it snows," says Les Van Dongen of the grounds crew. "We will supply shovels but need people to be dressed to work outside for a couple of hours. Pay is $9 an hour. We are quite willing to work around student schedules providing that they can be here for an hour at 7:30. Any questions can be directed to me at ext. 4010."

Snow! Rules about winter storms

Yesterday's snowfall hardly amounts to a blizzard, but it's December now, and one of these days the snow will fall heavily and the winds blow fiercely.

And when that happens, there's a fixed procedure for determining whether UW will be closed and classes cancelled -- as happened on the last day of classes last April -- or exams postponed.

Under the storm closing procedure established in 1994, UW will be "closed" for the day if the Waterloo Region District School Board cancels classes at all its schools. If only rural schools are closed, or if buses are cancelled but schools stay open, the university will remain open.

UW follows the school board's lead since it has "an effective system for evaluating weather conditions across Waterloo Region", and informing the public through the media.

Says the procedure: "The university will 'close' because of severe winter weather when normal operation would pose a significant danger to students, staff and faculty while on campus or would prevent large numbers of them from coming to campus or returning safely to their homes in Kitchener-Waterloo and the immediate surrounding area."

For the university to be "closed" means that meetings and other scheduled events are cancelled -- including classes and exams. In addition, staff other than those employed in essential services are not expected to be at work, but are paid for a normal day, and deadlines for assignments and other submissions are postponed until the same hour on the next business day on which the university is not "closed". The "essential services" listed are food service in the residences, policing, the central plant (powerhouse), snow removal (grounds crew), emergency repair and maintenance, and animal care.

Says the policy: "Classes will not be held during 'closed' periods, and assignment deadlines must be extended. Faculty members and academic departments do not have the authority to make exceptions to this rule."

If there is a major winter storm on a day when the schools aren't open but UW is, such as December 22 and 23, the closing decision will be made in the early morning by the provost. When work has already begun for the day, UW will close "only in extreme circumstances", the procedure says.

A closing of the university will be announced on the UW home page. And the UW news bureau will report it to local radio stations, which have been asked to broadcast it quickly and often, "since the University of Waterloo attracts a large number of people from across the region and beyond".

[Little boy with researcher]

Child language research in the spotlight

A group of VIPs will visit UW's Centre for Child Studies (right) today to learn more about the Canadian Early Childhood Language Project, headed by Daniela O'Neill of UW's psychology department.

A media advisory from the UW media relations office says the tour will start at 10 a.m. and involve UW president David Johnston, Waterloo Region chair Ken Seiling, and Kitchener mayor Carl Zehr, as well as the families of two children who are involved in the study. The centre is on the fourth floor of the PAS (Psychology) building.

The project headed by O'Neill is seeking to develop a child language questionnaire, the Language Use Inventory for Young Children: An Assessment of Pragmatic Language Development. The questionnaire will be used as an early warning measure to determine whether there are any delays in acquiring language skills in children younger than four years of age.

The project will involve more than 3,000 Canadian parents, many of them from the Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and surrounding area.

The Canadian Early Childhood Language Project is the culmination of more than eight years of work aimed at developing a questionnaire that can be quickly and easily completed by parents in order to capture key developments in their children's early language learning.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has been funding the project since 2000, and recently granted O'Neill and her research team three additional years of funding ($213,000) to carry out the large study in the community.

A previous research study from the centre

The child studies centre's web site tells about a research study about how two-year-olds learn adjectives:

"In this study we looked at whether children as young as 2 years of age might pay attention to the gestures a speaker uses when talking about adjectives in order to figure out what they mean. Children were shown 5 toys and for each toy a new adjective term -- 'roughy,' 'spongy,' 'lumpy,' 'spiny' or 'fleecy' was used to describe it.

"For one group of 20 children, we just pointed to the toy as we said 'This is a spongy cow.' But for another group of 20 children we used a more descriptive gesture such as squeezing the cow as we said 'This is a spongy cow.' Would the type of gesture make a difference to children this young? Would they learn the meaning of 'spongy' better in one case?

"The answer was clearly yes. Children given the more descriptive gesture, were better able later to choose another toy that was also 'spongy' than the children only given a point gesture.

"Interestingly, the children given only the point gesture were much more likely to ask whether the other similar toy they had chosen possessed the relevant property: 'Is this the spongy pig?' . . . The more descriptive gesture allowed them to zoom in on the right property and they could just concentrate on learning the new word. So gestures do matter, even for children only 2 years old."

Miniature art sale winds up, 9:00 to 4:00, East Campus Hall.

Pre-departure session for co-op students going overseas, 4:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1302.

Society for Technical Communication meeting with presentation on internal communications, 7 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

'Understanding the Learner' workshop by teaching resources office, Wednesday 9:30 or December 11 at 1:30, reservations ext. 3132.

Faculty and Staff Tech Fair at Campus TechShop, Student Life Centre, Wednesday 11:00 to 3:00.

Ricoh office equipment brown-bag seminar at UW Graphics, Wednesday 12 noon, reservations ext. 2210.

Gerald Stortz, St. Jerome's University professor, memorial service, Wednesday 12 noon, Notre Dame Chapel, St. Jerome's.

Concert and carol sing, Davis Centre great hall, 12:15 to 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Faculty association general meeting, Wednesday 3 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302, reception for new faculty follows at 4:30.

Truckload citrus sale, Wednesday 4 to 8, East Campus Hall parking lot, benefits Warrior swim and track-and-field teams.

Teens take role of premiers

About 315 high school students from Waterloo Region will participate in the annual Federal-Provincial Conference Simulation at UW today and tomorrow. Sponsored by UW's department of political science and the local History Heads Association, the simulation has been an annual event at UW for more than 30 years. This year, 16 delegations from 14 regional schools will participate.

John Milloy, MPP (Kitchener Centre) and parliamentary assistant to the minister for intergovernmental affairs, will speak to conference participants on Wednesday morning.

The role of Canada's prime minister will be handled by Kyle Mack of Waterloo Collegiate Institute. Other students from WCI will serve as federal ministers. Different schools in the region have responsibilities to chair meetings of provincial and territorial ministers.

In addition to First Ministers meetings, ministerial delegations will participate in committees devoted to finance, justice, transportation, urban affairs, environment, Aboriginal affairs, social services, industry and natural resources, and health. Two schools -- Grand River Collegiate and Waterloo Collegiate -- will produce newspapers during the conference to provide information and promote debate on events over the two days.

Working sessions will be held in several rooms in the Arts Lecture Hall, Humanities and the Modern Languages building today and Wednesday. The concluding plenary session will be held in the Theatre of the Arts on Wednesday, from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

One-day IT event: Computing staff across campus will be away from the usual grind today attending WatITis, a one-day conference on "collaboration in a distributed environment". Ian Howard of information systems and technology, says 187 pre-registrants are expected. The day starts with some introductory words by Alan George, associate provost (information systems and technology). Later, session topics include "Experiences Using IT in Teaching", "Student Computing Environments", "Linux from a Windows Perspective", and (according to the agenda) "Chicken Cacciatore".

Proficiency exam: The English Language Proficiency Exam will be offered tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7 p.m. in the Physical Activities Complex. Says Anne Barrett of the English proficiency program: "Students should note that the only form of identification we can now accept is the WatCard. Arts students should note that the pass for ELPE is changing to 65 as of September, 2004. Students should bring their ideas and their writing implements, but no electronic dictionaries, and they should arrive on time."


Communications and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
(519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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