Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways To Connect

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Maybe it’s something in the water: Washington schools top the lists of large, medium and small colleges producing the most Peace Corps volunteers. It’s the first time one state has dominated all three categories of the Peace Corps’ list.

freefotouk / Flickr

Some 27, 390 homeless students went to public school in Washington last year — up more than 5 percent over the year before, according to new numbers released by the state superintendent’s office. In the past, increases like that have been explained by school districts getting better at counting. But spokesman Nathan Olson said this time, based on what he’s heard from district officials, it looks like there just really are more homeless students.

“The data collection is fine now. People know about this, the homeless liaisons that every district has know about this, it’s not an issue. The issue really is the economy right now,” Olson said.

Divine Harvester / Flickr

The debate over gun control may be focused on the nation’s capital, but one local official says King County will soon take measures of its own.

About 125 people die each year of gun violence in King County. Executive Dow Constantine says the way a county government can chip away at that number is through a public health approach. He announced in his state of the county address that he is directing the health department to collect new data on gun deaths and injuries.

Technology has made us healthier in a lot of ways. It’s beaten back old threats from smallpox to stillbirth to scarlet fever. But many think the march of progress has gone too far, and we need to get back to nature. 

Author Nathanael Johnson says most of us are in the middle – suspicious of technology run amok, but unwilling to trade the condo for a mud hut. He investigates whether the natural approach is really better for us in his book, “All Natural.” 

Nathanael also laid out five common myths about nature versus technology. Get the gist below, or click below and listen to the full conversation:

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A group of Seattle teachers is trying to rally national support behind its boycott of a required test, even as they face reprisals from the school district. Teachers protesting the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, asked their supporters to besiege district headquarters with phone calls and emails. They say the tests waste class time and give misleading information, and they object to MAP scores being used in their own professional evaluations.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington voters have begun receiving ballots for a special election on February 12th, with billions of dollars for schools at stake.

Seattle Public Schools is asking voters to approve more than $1.2 billion in construction and operating funds, much of which would go toward overhauling or replacing old buildings, like the 1950s-vintage Arbor Heights Elementary in West Seattle. Principal Christy Collins recently showed off a chilly special education classroom there.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The standoff over a series of tests mandated by Seattle Public Schools heated up Wednesday, as another high school joined a growing boycott of the tests and district leaders threatened protesters with suspension.

Teachers say the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP tests, assess material not covered in class, give poor results and swallow up teaching time. Four schools have rebelled against the tests, with Chief Sealth High the latest to join. Superintendent Jose Banda made clear Wednesday what the consequences of that boycott could be: up to 10 days' suspension without pay.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Not every student thrives in a traditional classroom, but changing technology and new research on learning mean Washington kids have more alternatives than ever. They can homeschool part-time or go to class online, even if it means enrolling in a district clear across the state. But that’s allowed a whole raft of questionable practices, and set up a dilemma for policymakers.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

This is the last week for a fixture in Seattle’s independent music culture, as Easy Street Records’ lower Queen Anne store prepares to shut its doors Friday. But the move may not signal, as some fear, a death spiral for local independent music stores.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The staff of a prominent Seattle high school is in full revolt over a district-mandated standardized test. Teachers at Garfield High School say the Measure of Academic Progress, or MAP test, is nothing short of a waste of time. They say it’s not aligned with state standards, it sucks up classroom time and resources, and gives shaky results. So, they voted almost unanimously to refuse to administer the test.

roceanpatel / Flickr

A group of Seattle professionals are gearing up this week to try and break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest snowball fight, and they’re doing it in a place where, typically, there is no snow: Seattle Center.

So how exactly do you get 162,000 pounds of snow into the shadow of the Space Needle? Organizer Neil Bergquist says, you just go to the mountains and get it.

Erin Hennessey / KPLU

Starting January 6, every branch of the Seattle Public Library will be open on Sundays. Library officials said it’s the first time in at least 100 years.

The extra hours come courtesy of Seattle voters, who approved a 7-year, $122 million property tax levy in August. The new money reverses years if cutbacks, and will allow every library location to open its doors from 1:00 to 5:00 Sunday afternoons. Library programs director Stephanie Chase said it’s gratifying to be adding services for a change instead of scaling them back.

TheGiantVermin / Flickr

A team led by Professor Christine Moon of Pacific Lutheran University, tested newborn babies in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden. Moon said they played recordings of a distinctly American English vowel sound and a Swedish one, and tested the babies responses by measuring the one thing a day-old baby is really good at: sucking on a pacifier. Their sucking patterns reveal that babies show a familiarity with the vowel sounds of their mother tongue even at birth, suggesting they’ve been listening carefully in utero.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle-area clergy from many faiths are presenting a united front against gun violence, demanding specific measures from elected leaders. Representing churches and synagogues, seminaries, mosques and Sikh temples, the religious leaders say it’s time to move beyond simply mourning the slaughter of 26 people in Newtown Connecticut. They say now it’s time for action.

Evoking a string of mass killings, including one in Seattle last spring, the clergy made the case for changing laws and changing attitudes. Imam Abdullah Polovina is with the Islamic Center of Shoreline.

Sometimes kids don’t react right away to a trauma, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help, says a Seattle child psychiatrist in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut. Dr. Robert Hilt, a psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says we all process tragic events in different ways, and kids who learned about last week’s shooting might not say much for days or even weeks.

School personnel and law enforcement around Seattle are stepping up school security in light to this Friday’s shooting in Connecticut. School officials say they know of no threats, but in an abundance of caution they’ve been taking some extra measures.

Seattle Public Schools

Seattle Public Schools is set to stop busing students to schools outside their neighborhood next year, but that move might cost more money than it saves. The situation dates back to Seattle's move to a system of neighborhood schools instead of district wide school choice. The district continued to give some kids rides to their old schools during the transition. 

A pack of King County school districts has won of slice of the federal government’s Race to The Top fund, worth $40 million dollars over four years. Seven districts applied for the grant together, as the Road Map District Consortium. They said they’ll use the money to beef up preschool programs, enrich science and math learning in the primary grades, and offer training and testing subsidies to high schools.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

At the stroke of midnight, adult marijuana users will no longer be lawbreakers in Washington. But lots of legal questions remain about how marijuana commerce will work, where it’s legal to use and how the federal government will respond.

Han Shot First / Flickr

When you think healthy eating for kids, you might not picture a Happy Meal. But local McDonald’s franchises and the Washington PTA are teaming up to encourage kids to make healthy diet choices. That’s touched off controversy among some parents.

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In just a few days, smoking marijuana won’t be much different from drinking a glass of wine, as far as state law is concerned. But in what may be the place most associated with pot-smoking – the dorm room – it will still be banned.

Same-sex couples can start applying for marriage licenses in Washington at midnight on Thursday, and county officials say they’ll be ready.

The King County auditor’s office will open bright and early: Couples will be able to start queuing up at 10:00 the night before. County Executive Dow Constantine will preside over a special licensing ceremony for a handful of couples right after the stroke of midnight, and the office will keep operating right through 6:30 that night.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Many jobs of the future will be in fields that go by the shorthand “STEM”: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But these are precisely the subjects where many American students are falling short. Educators are responding by creating STEM-focused schools, and in Seattle officials are breaking ground by pushing that emphasis back into younger classes, all the way to kindergarten.

Principal Shannon McKinney is in charge of figuring out how to build one of the first STEM elementary schools in the Northwest. K-5 STEM at Boren, as it’s awkwardly named, is in West Seattle, but any elementary student in the district can apply for a spot here.

As the school wraps up its first semester, McKinney and her team are still working out what a STEM education for Seattle’s youngest learners should look like.

Courtesy of Seattle Marathon Association

About 15,000 runners and walkers will wind through downtown Seattle on Sunday as part of the Amica Insurance Seattle Marathon, and this year’s event will include a special contingent of runners who had expected to be racing on the other side of the country.

Atomic Taco / Flickr

King County Metro is beefing up its new RapidRide bus lines, hoping to get service up to snuff through downtown Seattle and to prevent some of the early heartburn when they add a whole new line next year.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Now that charter school backers have declared victory, opponents are readying possible legal challenges to the new law established by Initiative 1240.

State superintendent Randy Dorn has been warning for some time that he doesn’t believe the charter school law would be constitutional. Dorn’s office is charged with overseeing public schools in Washington, while the new charter schools would largely skirt his authority.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

As voters in Washington continue to mail in their ballots this week, a group of distinctly smaller citizens is weighing in online. Students across the state are voting in a pair of mock elections, giving democracy a dry run.

At Seattle’s Chief Sealth International High School. politics isn’t exactly front and center for a lot of students. Many do have opinions about the presidential race, or whether to legalize marijuana, but what about these guys Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna?

“No one really talks about that stuff at school,” said ninth-grader Janelle Barlow.

Pedro Fp / Flickr

If Initiative 502 passes, walking around with a bag of marijuana (up to an ounce) will be legal just in time for the holidays … so take note, gift-givers (and be aware those of you who might think the law takes effect right away). 

Even though the elaborate state-regulated apparatus for growing, processing and selling marijuana would take more than a year to come online, simple possession would be legal starting December 6.

cdsessums / Flickr

One item on the November ballot might look familiar to Washington voters, an initiative to allow charter schools. The deja vu could be because charter school measures have already gone before voters three times, most recently in 2004. 

But there’s a key difference this time that could have some far-reaching effects, and that’s what parent Steve Nesich wanted to talk about when he testified before the Seattle School Board about Initiative 1240.

tpmartins / Flickr

An East Coast court case could have big impacts on West Coast fish, and farmers too. Chemical manufacturers are suing the federal government to get a rule restricting pesticide use wiped off the books.

In 2008 the National Marine Fisheries Service ruled a certain class of pesticides is a mortal threat to salmon and steelhead populations. Organophosphates are common on farms, and used to be widely used in gardens before regulators phased them out.

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