behavior · children · community · environment · health · learning · Nature · school

Playing in the garden: Kids learn about gardening, bugs and flowers at WSU Extension

This is a great example of how even “country kids” – all of these kids come from communities surrounded by farmland and agriculture – enjoy and appreciate hands-on experiences and learning about gardening and the natural environment.

Kids learn about gardening, bugs and flowers at WSU Extension | All Access |

About 70 classmates participated Thursday in the Washington State University Skagit County Extension Master Gardener’s “Discovery In Gardening — Is Terrific” (DIG-IT) youth education program.

“It introduces kids to how the garden works, from the growth of the plants to how it arrives in your kitchen and what to do with the scraps,” said Master Gardener Chuck Howell.

The program was started in 2002 by two teachers, Master Gardener Gail Messett said.

The format of the program has changed over the years, Messett said, but the goal has remained the same: Get kids outside and into the garden.

“They’re learning respect for insects and bees and flowers,” Messet said. “I think they go home pretty awestruck, actually.”

more via Kids learn about gardening, bugs and flowers at WSU Extension | All Access |

children · culture · education · environment · learning · Nature · school

Students Go Whole Hog with Farm-to-Cafeteria Cooking | Civil Eats

A few schools are adopting a more hands-on way of teaching about food, animal care, and science, which is actually an older technique: farm animals.

Most recently, slow roasting pork tenderloin was part of a homework assignment for a Bend, OR, high school culinary class. And the source of their pork? Mountain View High School, less than a mile away, where FFA formerly known as Future Farmers of America students are raising pigs.

These classes are complementary components of an integrated farm to school program at Bend-LaPine School District, where 29 schools serve more than 16,000 students. Bend-LaPine has students raising animals, butchering animals, and feeding a school meal program. Neatly wrapped packages of pork move from classroom to school kitchen, where they are cooked into succulent carnitas for all 29 school cafeterias.

The program breaks the normal bounds of food in school and has created a whole new arena for students to learn. “It’s a full circle agriculture education experience,” says Katrina Wiest, the manager for the Bend farmers’ market and wellness specialist for the school district.

“Agriculture is a big part of my life,” says Wiest, who was raised on a wheat farm and is married to a farmer. “I feel it’s important that kids know where their food comes from.”

For close to ten years, Wiest has been pioneering the farm to school movement in the high desert of central Oregon: sourcing local food for schools and providing agriculture, health, and nutrition education opportunities in the cafeteria, classroom, and community.

more via Students Go Whole Hog with Farm-to-Cafeteria Cooking | Civil Eats.

I think this is an awesome idea! It’s a great hands-on learning opportunity for kids. A lot of schools have shied away from having animals on or near campus, or having kids even deal with animals, due to safety and health concerns. But how else and where else are kids going to learn about being safe around animals, or safety and caring for the animals themselves, unless they get somewhat structured guidance like this? Most kids don’t have a friendly farmer they can go visit and mess with their livestock on a regular basis.

But more importantly, it is a very hands-on, real-time way of letting kids work on something and seeing the results of their labor, whether it’s a happy pig or a delicious plate of carnitas, while also letting them experience delayed gratification (it takes hard work and a long time to grow a pig). It teaches kids how food is made, which is important when making food decisions. Plus, it can be very therapeutic to pet a pig.

Where I grew up was fairly rural, and yet the 4H/FFA program was still seen as a weird club that involved a lot of horse-showing. I am glad to see it getting integrated more into school programs.

behavior · creativity · school

Need a Job? Invent it. Want to learn how to invent? Play!

This article in the NYTimes really drives home for me the need to let everyone learn how to play and create on their own. The thesis of the article and the book it’s reviewing is basically that the next generation of workers will need to be able to identify needs and figure out how they can fill those needs, and monetize it.

“Today,” [book author Tony Wagner] said via e-mail, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ”

Ok, so how do we teach kids to be innovative? Play! Play play play! Creativity! The opportunity for boredom, as one study recently found, and free play. Letting kids be kids! Letting them take stuff apart and put it back together. Letting them get messy and innovative!

So let your kids, and yourself, have some unstructured play time. It’s good for your brain, and will help you keep your job, or find or even make a new one.

education · school · youtube

Why We Need Physical Education


Dr. Thom McKenzie explains why it’s so important for children to have quality Physical Education in school and how caring adults can support it. Designed especially for parents, teachers, school board members and administrators.

behavior · children · cognition · education · learning · play · Social

Montessori Google Doodle

Friday’s Google doodle honoring Maria Montessori’s 142nd birthday.

Have you noticed Google’s doodle for today yet? It is in honor of Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori style of learning, which focuses on open-ended, free-form learning, which involves a lot of play. From PC Magazine:

Google on Friday honored Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori with a homepage doodle celebrating her 142nd birth anniversary.

The drawing features some of the tools that form the basis of Montessori’s educational methods, which emphasize hands-on, individualized learning within mixed age groups in a child-friendly setting.

After working in insane asylums with mentally handicapped children, in 1904 she began re-engineering the field of children’s education. She believed that all children have an inner drive to learn, and that children learn best when in a safe, hands-on learning environment.

Montessori also found that children help teach each other when put into groups with other kids of their own age range. She believed that teachers should pay close attention to students, not the other way around.

Her early efforts were so successful that she amassed a large following of parents and teachers who wanted to learn her methods. She later gained support from Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, and Alexander Graham Bell, who founded the Montessori Educational Association, headquartered in Washington D.C.

Read the full article.

Thanks Google for showcasing a great woman who was a pioneer in creating more playful and therefore better learning environments for kids.

Hope everyone has a great looong weekend before school starts up for a lot of people (appropriate timing to honor Montessori, eh?), filled with lots of learning, exploration, and playful environments.


behavior · education · happiness · health · Social

Non-Elimination Games Leads to More Physically Active Children, Researchers Say | MomsTeam

A typical game of tic tac toe English: Tic tac...
Non-competitive games also have benefits. Image via Wikipedia

Interesting article about the value of non-elimination games (the original author focused on “non-competitive” but there are many competitive games that don’t involve elimination):

A study presented in May 2008 established that the structuring of children’s games has a significant effect on energy expenditure.

A research team led by Karla Bruggeman and David Dzewaltowski, Ph.D., measured activity during both elimination- and non-elimination games, using accelerometers, in 29 children in grades four through six. Both normal weight and overweight children participated in the study, but were not separated for analysis.

In non-elimination games, kids accrued more overall physical activity due to not having to spend time on the sidelines as a result of elimination. They also accumulated significantly more moderate and vigorous physical activity than elimination games. Both sets of games were adopted from a children’s program devised by a nonprofit group that uses various pieces of equipment to facilitate non-competitive play; elimination games were modified from non-competitive versions.

Children were surveyed for self-efficacy, enjoyment, and peer victimization following both types of games. Results showed that enjoyment was somewhat higher following elimination games, although enjoyment scores were high in non-elimination games as well. There were no reports of peer victimization in either set of games, but were significant increases in self-efficacy after both sets.

“The games in this study were part of fun and enjoyable day camp,” Bruggeman said. “It is likely that a well organized and positive game experience increases a kid’s confidence regardless of elimination or non-elimination game conditions.”

Again, the article author was focusing on non-competitive sports, but really the evidence is looking at non-elimination sports. While I don’t find anything wrong with competitive sports, I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea, and I think it’s great to emphasize the fact that you don’t need to be playing on a team sport or competing against others in order to gain the same benefits from play. And there are lots of non-competitive physical activities that kids can and do partake in: parkour, running, climbing, digging in the dirt, parachute play, biking… what else? Name your favorite non-competitive physical activity in the comments.
behavior · children · learning · school

When the future becomes detrimentally more important than the present

I read this article in the New York Times a couple of days ago, and it really bothered me:

Since second grade, Nathaly has taken advantage of a voluntary integration program here, leaving her home in one of the city’s poorer sections before 6:30 a.m. and riding a bus over an hour to Newton, a well-to-do suburb with top-quality schools. Some nights, she has so many activities that she does not get home until 10 p.m.; often she’s up past midnight studying.

“Nathaly gets so mad if she doesn’t make the honor roll,” says Stephanie Serrata, a classmate.

Last Wednesday, Nathaly did it again, with 5 A’s and 2 B’s for the first marking period.

via Let’s Get Ready Offers Help for College Admissions –

At first I couldn’t figure out why; it was a story essentially about all the great programs that our K-12 education system has for getting help and getting ahead in school and prepping to apply for prestigious colleges. Then, when I looked closer at the lead picture of the article it hit me:

Nathaly Lopera in her Passport class, one of several programs she attends to help her get into college. Article by MICHAEL WINERIP, New York Times, Nov 20th, 2011

This 17 year old girl is yawning in her class, and it’s not from boredom or because she stayed up too late the night before chatting with her friends online. It’s because she is working so hard to get into college she isn’t getting enough sleep. Her health is suffering for a future prospect of getting into a “good” secondary education facility.

I find this idea horrible. Yes, it’s great that all these programs exist for kids to get help in applying to college and help in school. I was a tutor in high school, and I took SAT-prep courses which helped me immensely. I applaud this girl’s dedication to her education and her future. I absolutely appreciate the idea of staying up late to study for finals every once in awhile. However, constant sleep deprivation is REALLY dangerous, both in the immediate present (poorer performance, slowed reaction times) and in the future (delayed physical and mental growth). Being sleepy is just as dangerous and being drunk behind the wheel of a car.

I truly believe that this push to get kids into a “good” school, focusing on the future, is a really bad idea.

There was the uproar earlier this year about the self-described “Tiger Mom” and her pride in how hard she pushed her kids. Again, while I appreciate how much she is dedicated to her daughters’ success, there have been numerous studies that show kids do just as well without the focused drilling by their parents. An extra push every now and then, and support driving them to piano lessons or football games? Absolutely! But a parent does not need to be a drill sergeant, nor does the kid need to be literally killing themselves to get into a decent college. A documentary came out in April discussing the phenomenon, called The Race To Nowhere, which does a really nice job of capturing how a lot of this college-prep focus is about as useful as a chicken running around with their head cut off.

I understand this kind of drive starts as early as preschool in many communities, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it! Yes, of course I want my future children to get a good college education. Yes, I want them to receive quality primary education. But focusing so much on the future is absolutely detrimental to the health of the child and to the parent.

I would love to hear back from people who have either dropped out of this school rat race to focus more on developing and spending time with their child now, or from people who feel this kind of dedication is essential and worth the health risks.

children · community · design

Kids paint South Seattle mural for safety | Seattle Times

Hajiyeva Aysha, a volunteer from Harborview Medical Center, foreground, and Keith Harrison help paint a whale mural near Graham Hill Elementary School on Sunday. The mural is meant to improve walking conditions for child pedestrians in the Graham Hill Community. Photo credit Ellen Banner. Seattle Times.

Flashing lights or a “Slow Children” sign are common sights around schools, but now a local school has put in a “a huge, round, sea-themed mural right smack in the middle of South Graham Street in South Seattle,” to alert drivers to pint-sized pedestrians:

Some of the kids who had helped earlier talked about what the painting was supposed to accomplish.”It’s there so people will notice it and think they should really, really slow down so they don’t get into accidents,” said Maya Garcia, 8, one of the students the mural is meant to protect at nearby Graham Elementary School.Her friend Lilly King, 9, had another concern. “I hope they don’t crash into each other when they’re slowing down.”

The mural, part of the Safe Kids Seattle project installed this weekend in the 5100 block, is thought to be the fourth in the city and the first south of Interstate 90, according to Graham Elementary Principal Christina Morningstar. Each year, according to officials, more than 244 children under the age of 14 are killed in pedestrian accidents in the nation. All the Safe Kids projects are designed to alert drivers to the presence of children in school zones.

In addition to the mural, which features a whale and several fish, organizers installed speed bumps and school-warning signs using $35,000 in grant money from FedEx and the Seattle Department of Transportation.

via Local News | Kids paint South Seattle mural for safety | Seattle Times Newspaper.

I read this story in the office lounge while I was waiting for my leftovers to warm up in the microwave, and immediately thought this was a good idea not just for schools, but for any place that pedestrians frequent. Often cities will put in colored bricks or tiles at busy crosswalks, but for areas with less options and/or funds to renovate, this is a great solution!


community · education · environment · Nature · school

School cuts out food waste with help from a pig | The Bulletin

A World War II poster encouraging kitchen wast...
A poster from WWII showing this is not an original idea for urban dwellers. Image via Wikipedia

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and didn’t make a pig of themselves (sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad joke). But speaking of food and pigs, this story popped up in my alerts today and it was just too good not to share.

Theodore is a potbellied pig at Sage Community School, a Klamath County School District charter school near Chiloquin.

He was born on the first day of school and moved in about two months ago, said school director Sandra Girdner.

Now he spends his days meandering around the school’s garden and being doted upon by students and teachers. But his real purpose — and favorite part of his day, kids said — is eating two buckets of lunch scraps each day, effectively eliminating the school’s food waste.

Abbey Peterson, 13, pitched the idea. Her family gives food scraps to their potbellied pigs, and she thought it would be a good way to take care of the lunch waste from the school’s 77 students, aged kindergarten to eighth grade.

She and Sam Ekstrom, 13, recruited donated materials from Grange Co-Op; Peterson’s dad built the pen; the Henley High School shop class built a shelter; and the charter school’s 4-H club painted it white with green trim.

Ekstrom and Edgar Ortega, 12, took the waste-reducing initiative a step further by building a compost pile next to Theodore’s pen.

more via School cuts out food waste, with help of hungry pig | Local/State | The Bulletin.

Americans throw away soooo much food, and while composting is definitely a great option, that might not always work, plus there are other options, like livestock who have lived off of our table scraps for 100’s (some probably closer to of 10,000) of years. Schools have shied away from bringing in live animals (I’m still peeved at the school that wouldn’t let a couple of its students ride horses to school instead of drive!), so I’m thrilled to see one school take advantage of its resources by allowing the pig to help cut down food waste, AND teach kids about food, animals, farming, and all other kids of great lessons they wouldn’t get out of a science textbook!

behavior · community · education · environment · school

Mountain View to offer Ferndale Fries as pilot farm-to-school program – Local News –

Where I live is incredibly fertile farmland, with lots of kids having to get up to milk cows, feed chickens, and so on before they catch the bus to school. It’s nice to see that connection to the land follow them into the classroom, and teach their classmates where their food comes from:

Mountain View to offer Ferndale Fries as pilot farm-to-school program – Local News –

Students at Ferndale’s Mountain View Elementary School will soon be treated to freshly baked potatoes from northwest Washington as part of their school lunch.

On Jan. 27, the french fries and tater tots at the school are being exchanged for locally grown potato wedges, as part of a pilot farm-to-school project.

“This is something that’s good for the students and it’s good for the local farmers,” said Alex Singer, Ferndale School District’s Food Program director. “We have students who may not have ever had french fries that weren’t frozen before.”