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Nobel Prize Winner Elinor Ostrom

By Chloe Conway | March 16 , 2010
Elinor Ostrom accepting the Nobel prize for economics in Stockholm,Sweden. (Photo: Sipa/NewsCom)
Elinor Ostrom accepting the Nobel prize for economics in Stockholm,Sweden. (Photo: Sipa/NewsCom)

For Elinor Ostrom, working hard is nothing new. As a little girl growing up in Los Angeles, California, she worked in her family's garden growing fruits and vegetables to help put food on the table.
 
Now at the age of 76, Dr. Ostrom has become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics. The award was presented in December in Stockholm, Sweden.

Winning this most prestigious award was quite a surprise, she told this reporter in a recent interview. Her first reaction was a modest, "Oh, my goodness gracious."

Ostrom works for the Center of Research for the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. Her husband, who is currently 90 and worked until he was 80, is her role model.

"We both love what we are doing," she said. "It's hard work, but if you love it you don't want to give it up."
 
In high school, Ostrom was on the swim and debate teams and participated in archery. Games that involved a ball such as basketball and volleyball were a different story and sometimes embarrassing.

"They argued about me on the school ground because I was the last person to be chosen," she said. "Both sides of the team would say, ‘you take her,' ‘no you take her.'"
 
The classroom was a different story. Ostrom excelled in geometry, receiving straight A's. She had a tough time with algebra, and her school would not let her take trigonometry. That prevented her from taking advanced math courses at the university level. She had to take those courses after she got her Ph.D. in political science and became an assistant professor.
 
Ostrom became interested in economics when she was studying how local people solved water resource issues and other local problems. Economics is important, says Ostrom, because "we are trying to understand some of the issues that people face so that we can understand why results are sometimes good or bad, and how we can change things to make more good things happen."

In her work, she is studying the role of institutions in enabling people to solve complex problems. She believes that her research and work can truly make a difference in people's lives.

"Many people's skills and knowledge have been ignored," she said. "If I can get more people to recognize indigenous knowledge (knowledge native to a region) and that talent that exists in many parts of the world, I will be very happy."
 
Ostrom recalled that many people discouraged her from going to graduate school, because women couldn't get good jobs.

"I did have some people tell me to keep going," she said. "I think all the good advice that urged me to continue on with my research program early on was very, very helpful."
 
Ostrom has some advice she for girls who are interested in math.

"Keep going, don't give up, and don't let people discourage you," she said. "There are so many things you can do. Math is not essential for all of the topics we are interested in in the world. Everyone has to pick the areas that they are really interested in and move ahead."

CELEBRATE WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

For more on the achievements and contributions of women in the United States, check out the Scholastic Kids Press Corps' Women's History Month Special Report.

NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS

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About the Author

Chloe Conway is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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    Massachusetts

    by Sarah De Capua

    Another great title from Scholastic. Detailed description coming soon.

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    Illinois

    Illinois

    by Michael Burgan

    SET FEATURES:


     
    o    New dynamic design and updated text and statistics

     
    o    "Project Room" feature offers ideas for standards-based school assignments

     
    o    Freshly designed TOC with visual annotations immediately engages readers

     
    o    Primary sources appear throughout with explanations of what they are and how to cite them

     
    o    Author's Tips and Source Notes

     
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    REVIEWS:


     
    2/1/08 Booklist
    Eight years after its last revision, the longtime library staple America the Beautiful has recently released its new Third Series. A close look at two representative titles in the series, California and Illinois, both fully rewritten by new authors, reveals changes that range from cosmetic to substantial.

     
    The most obvious is the new design, starting with striking covers that set off vibrant photos against white backgrounds. Illinois, for instance, shows an impressive Chicago cityscape, then lists sites that include Lake Michigan and the Cahokia Mounds. It's attractive, although it looks a little like a tourism brochure.

     
    Moving on to the interior spreads, the new layout is more than just attractive-it's also effective. By allowing text to wrap around silhouetted artwork and bleeding photos out to the edge of the pages, the space in each book is used to the maximum. What the books lose in spacious, white margins they gain in increased layout flexibility, which allows visual information to appear in especially close proximity to textual information. In Illinois, for example, one finds a small picture of an old farming tool directly alongside its main-text description.

     
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    Another useful formatting change is the placement of illustrated time lines at the beginning of each of four history chapters, instead of relegating them to the back matter. California's time line, for instance, starts with the "First People" chapter in 28,000 BCE and finishes with the "More Modern Times" chapter in the year 2007, with a picture of Nancy Pelosi. Each chapter also includes its own table of contents, another nice way of positioning relevant material where it's needed most.

     
    Beyond the time lines, each book's coverage of history has been expanded by a chapter and supported with lots more illustrations. Notable people are given greater exposure, too. While the previous editions mentioned a few significant figures in the main text, then listed them at the back, the new series format sprinkles numerous "Mini-Bio" boxes throughout. This feature is sure to be welcomed by students hunting for a native son or daughter to profile in a state studies report.

     
    Kids who appreciate trivia will like two nifty new features: "WOW Factor" and "FAQ" sidebars. These highlight interesting tidbits, such as "Illinois leads the nation in pumpkin production," or provide answers to questions like "How big is the famous Hollywood sign?" Last but not least, the back matter preserves previous features, like lists of professional sports teams and a biographical index, but now also includes a creative selection of project ideas in writing, art, and science.

     
    Most students should be able to satisfy their information needs with these polished new editions, and the copious extras and lively presentation will help keep them interested, too.

     

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