Good Halloween Habits: 5 Safety Tips for Parents and Kids

SHA Halloween ‘trick or treat’

Photo courtesy of US Army Garrison Japan

Written by Courtney Battle

With Halloween right around the corner, families are getting all geared up with costumes, pumpkins, and parties.  But with all of the excitement, it’s still important to remember safety first!  We’ve compiled some of our favorite safety tips for this weekend, and hope that you have a happy, safe Halloween!

#1 Avoid trick-or-treating alone-This is especially important for younger children, but there is always safety in numbers.  A parent or guardian should definitely accompany children looking to snag some treats for their collection.

#2 Look before you cross– Once the sun goes down, it’s even more important to be careful about going door-to-door and crossing streets.  Adults should make sure children know not to run into the street, and to make sure traffic is clear before entering a crosswalk.

#3 Restrain pets–  If Spot gets really excited when guests come over, it would probably be a good idea to make sure he is out of the way so that he doesn’t startle trick -or -treaters, or even worse– run away!

#4 Choose a brightly colored costume-Drivers will be able to spot a bright costume easily in the dark. If your costume isn’t a brighter color, you can use reflective tape, stickers, or flashlights to light the way for yourself and drivers!

#5 Inspect the treats–  Make sure children don’t sneak any candy until they get home and an adult has tossed out any unwrapped or anything suspicious-looking.  If it doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not!

Out in the Cold: Homelessness & Academic Performance

student_ipad_school - 124

Photo courtesy of  Lexie Flickinger

Written by Courtney Battle

As the Fall season gets underway, days get cooler and our clothes get warmer.  We look forward to football and Thanksgiving, but we often forget about those who are less fortunate than us, and have no homes or families to go to during these times.  Homelessness itself is a very serious issue, but can be especially difficult for children.

According to this report, 1,258,182 homeless students were enrolled in American public schools during the 2012-13 school year.  Wrap your head around that number:  1,258,182.  Now imagine what that experience is like- you and your family having no place to live, and yet still getting up every morning to go to school.  Most of us probably could never imagine this life, but unfortunately this is a reality for more than a few kids.

On top of the larger issue of homelessness, one of its side effects are poor performance in school.  The stress alone of being homeless can have several detrimental effects on how a child does in school.  Homeless students are prone to learning disabilities, emotional-behavioral disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Make no mistake, children that live in happy, healthy homes can struggle with these issues as well, but are much less likely to.  A comfortable place to do your homework that has heating and cooling, food in the fridge, and shower to bathe in are all basic amenities that many students probably take for granted, but others would give anything for.

So what is being done to address this problem?  Children’s advocacy group First Focus and several other organizations are pushing their support for the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would broaden the current definition of homelessness to include children who are temporarily staying in hotels, motels, or with others.  81 percent of homeless children do not fall under the current definition, therefore leaving them ineligible for certain services.

Across the country, Americans are taking notice well.  These Ohio students spent a night outside with few personal items to feel what homelessness is actually like, and raise awareness.  In San Francisco, the nonprofit Hamilton Family Center has a goal of raising $6 million over three years to add to city funding.  In addition, the organization plans to meet with schools with the highest homeless student populations to hopefully reach families before or right after they become homeless.

Community ONE believes that all children should have the right to excel.  It is our goal to expose students to people who have overcome various challenges, and still ended up with successful careers and lives, no matter where they came from or where they lived.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the end, only kindness matters

Photo courtesy of SweetOnVeg.com

Written by Courtney Battle

Bullying.  It’s an issue that you have probably heard more about than you ever thought you might in the past few years.  Divorce. It can take its toll on anyone, but especially more on children that are involved.  Body Image.  Young girls are struggling with it more and more as images they see of how they ‘should’ look are plastered all over pop culture, television, and movies.  Abuse.  Outside of the classroom, and behind closed doors, it happens way more than we talk about. What do all of these issues have in common?  Students are bringing them to school every single day, carrying them on their backs, and in many cases, probably having no one to talk to.  But what if they did? What if someone showed them that they cared?

Adam Sherman, a teacher at Spoto High School in Hillsborough County, Fla. inspired this post with his recent post on Education Week.  One day in class Sherman noticed that one of his students was looking kind of down, and not really engaged.  He wrote him a note reading, ‘Are you ok?’ and simply put it on his desk, so not to distract any of the other students or bring attention to his gesture.  The student returned the note with his response of ‘No,’ and Sherman reassured him that he understood and was available if the student needed someone to talk to, and that was that.  It turned out the student’s parents were going through a divorce, and he wasn’t receiving the attention he needed at home, but that simple post-it showed the student that Sherman cared- and sometimes, that’s all we really need, right?

If you fast-forward, Sherman spoke to his class and after some brainstorming they came up with an entire program entitled To Be Kind, which ‘seeks to prevent bullying rather than react to it.’  Through social media compliments, positive messages stuffed in lockers, and other gestures, they implemented a ‘culture of kindness,’ at their school and inspired others to do the same.  So now, we would like to take it a step further.

What if acts of kindness took off like the #ALSIceBucketChallenge?  What if people remembered to be kind as often as they check their cell phone in a day?  What about kindness as routine as your daily Starbucks fix? We are inspired by Sherman and his students, and encourage you to get out there and perform a random act of kindness for someone today.  Let us know how you’re spreading kindness around the world, too!  Take a picture, tag @communityoneinc on Twitter with the hashtag #RAK this week and remember, no matter how small you think it is, it could make a huge difference.

Community ONE knows the power that one person has to impact another, and we strive to do so in the programming and activities we provide to students.  We all can do our part in some way, so get in on it today!

Healthy (and Fun!) Back-to-School Lunches

5th grader school lunch in Lunchbots Quad box

Photo courtesy of http://www.anotherlunch.com

Currently, 6 to 9 percent of all households do not have access to healthy food and 30 million people in the United States live further than one mile (10 miles in non-metropolitan areas) from a large grocery store.’

– A recent report by Enterprise Community Partners

Written by Courtney Battle

Did you know there is a food desert problem in the US?  Food deserts-not to be confused with desserts- are defined as ‘parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas,’ according to the American Nutrition Association.  The ANA goes on to say that these deserts usually exist because of a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets, and the like.   It may be difficult to imagine a world in which the grocery store or your local farmer’s market is more than a few minutes from your home, but the reality is that countless families are living in areas that have no grocery store in sight, but instead fast food, quickie marts, and other places that only carry processed, and sugary foods.  In fact, a recent report by Enterprise Community Partners tells us that ‘currently, 6 to 9 percent of all households do not have access to healthy food and 30 million people in the United States live further than one mile (10 miles in non-metropolitan areas) from a large grocery store.’  This lack of nutritious options plays a direct role in the food that shows up on the dinner table, and the lunches that your child takes with him or her to school.

What’s being done to address this problem? Initiatives like the Arcadia Mobile Market in DC, and Beaumont, Texas’ Get Fresh Beaumont are popping up all over the country to bring fresh, healthy foods to low-income communities and places that aren’t located in proximity to a large food provider or farmer’s market.  It’s important that these foods translate into healthy lunches for students.  So to take it a step further, we have (with the help of Pinterest) rounded up a few examples of good-for-you options that your kids can take with them to school.

 #1 Sandwich Kabobs:  A kid-friendly take on the traditional kabob, you can see more on this lunch here.

#2 Fiesta!:  To change it up a little from the normal PB&J, this Mexican-themed lunch will make all your child’s classmates jealous!

 #3 Homemade Spaghettios:  You can’t go wrong with this healthier take on a classic, paired with some fruits and veggies on the side.

 #4 Turkey/Provolone/Lettuce Roll Up:  Wrap it up!  This lunch is a win-win for your student.

#5 Baked Chicken Fingers:  ‘I don’t like chicken fingers,’ said no kid ever!  You don’t have to feel guilty about this baked version, and your child will love them too!

Community ONE believes that students can excel at whatever they put their mind to, but it starts at home.  Happy, healthy students will be more successful in and outside of the classroom.  These lunches are just one step you can take to ensure that your child is prepared to excel in everything he or she does.

Why Kids Should Play Sports

Jackie Robinson West baseball team, photo courtesy of sungazette.com

Jackie Robinson West baseball team, photo courtesy of sungazette.com

Written by Courtney Battle

With this summer’s success of Jackie Robinson West and Mo’ne Davis, kids in sports have been in the spotlight.  Both the team and Davis remind us why it’s important for all kids to be involved in sports and/or some sort of physical activity.  

#1 Teamwork

The ability to work on a team is a skill that will literally follow a child throughout their entire life- from grade school all the way through their adult career.  Fostering this at an early age is crucial.  Families.com tells us that kids who play sports ‘quickly learn that they have to work together as a team to win the game.’  Getting your child on a sports team is getting a head start on this important life lesson.

#2  Discipline

Team sports and activities allow children to also learn about setting goals and achieving them.  It may be a goal to try out and make the team at first, and then eventually it could be to ‘start’ in the game, or to improve upon a certain skill.  Setting and achieving goals not only instills a sense of discipline in a child, but also the value of hard work.  Once those goals become realities, children are also able to feel a sense of fulfillment.

#3  Angled Citizens

These days, it’s not just enough to be a student.  College admissions offices are looking for several components in their applicants, according to this article, one of which is an ‘angled’ student, or someone that has a few specific passions, rather than the traditionally ‘well-rounded’ student that dabbles in several different activities.  Once a child can hone in on those interests, it will be easier for him or her to devote attention to, and excel in the corresponding sports or activities.

#4  Keeps Kids Active/In Shape

‘…today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese.’

-Let’s Move!

Obesity can lead to several serious health issues if it’s not addressed.  Kids that are involved in sports are getting regular exercise, and paired with a healthy diet, that makes for a person who will most likely maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their adulthood.

#5 Leadership Skills

Another benefit of sports is leadership skills.  Serving as a captain is great experience, and serves as invaluable practice for leading a group of your peers.  As a team leader, a child learns how to communicate with, listen to, and motivate others, which later in life may translate into duties as a CEO of an organization.  In fact, this survey of Executive Vice President-level professionals at 75 Fortune 500 companies found that 95% of them played sports in high school.

There are tons of other reasons why kids should play sports, but we hope these are enough to inspire you.  Make sure your child is involved on a team, and they will thank you later!

 

Teachable Moments: Talking to Students about Current Events

https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/7403731050/

Photo courtesy of www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr CC

Written by Courtney Battle

Among all of the recent headlines in the news, one that may have caught your eye was a story reported by KMOX-TV, which explained that the Superintendent of Edwardsville, Illinois District Seven schools directed teachers to not to talk about, and to change the subject, if Michael Brown or the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri came up in classroom discussion.   The story has undoubtedly sparked quite a bit of interest in the media.  For example, Melissa Harris-Perry dedicated her ‘Open Letter’ segment of a recent show to Ed Hightower, the Superintendent, and Valerie Strauss covered the story in a post for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.  Twitter has even gotten in on the action with the hashtag, #fergusonsyllabus, created by Marcia Chatelain, Assistant Professor in the History department at Georgetown University.  There’s no doubt that the news of Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent events in Ferguson has sparked conversation in our country about race, community relationships with the police, and justice.  However, it also begs the larger question of ‘Do we talk to students about difficult current events, and if so, how?’

Depends on who you ask, apparently.  KMOX’s report reads “Hightower says normally there would be an open discussion of current events.”  The Superintendent goes on to say, “However, this situation in Ferguson-Florissant has become a situation whereby there are so many facts that are unknown.”  On the opposite side of the spectrum, teacher David B. Cohen writes in a post for the InterACT blog:

I think we have to be willing to toss out the lesson plan, or revise it. This must be done thoughtfully and advisedly, of course. A teacher needs to know the students, the community, and have the skills and sense to manage whatever is about to replace the regular lesson. But certainly, if we place the lesson plan ahead of significant moments in our communal life, we not only rob students of a chance to learn something more lasting and potentially important, but we also unwittingly reinforce the oft-heard but incorrect message that school is separate from “the real world.”

We definitely cannot ignore the events in Ferguson, or any other recent headlines for that matter, as they directly impact the “real world” that Cohen references.  We live, work, and play in this world, and after students leave school for the day, they’re going out into the same world.  That said, how can we address kids when things happen?  Why is it important for them to engage on current events?

Education World tells us that there are several benefits to incorporating news into curriculums.  Not only can students gain language, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills, but they can also become informed citizens and open up a more adult-like dialogue with their parents.  

Mock trials and mapping developing news stories, are a couple of the activities that Thomas N. Turner, Professor of Education at the University of Tennessee, suggests in his 1995 article for The Social Studies, “Riding the Rapids of Current Events.”  For older students, having organized debates could also be an option.  Maybe a good place to start, as Harris-Perry suggests, is reading a book as a class or exploring how music and other forms of art are often modes of expression on politics and news.  Given, the approach has to be tailored to the specific students that you are teaching, but there are several ways to engage children on what’s happening in the world.  

Whatever the approach may be, what’s important is not pretending that something didn’t happen.  Kids know what’s going on, whether they hear a conversation their parents are having, flip past the news on tv, or if one of their classmates mention something he or she saw or heard.  In addition, there’s the internet!  Today’s children are all using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and countless other social media outlets that report and spark conversation on just about everything.  Acknowledging a difficult current event, and from there using it as a ‘teachable moment,’ will help students process what has happened, but in the end they’ll also be better for it.

Star of the Month: Daniel Bradley

Daniel Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc.

Daniel Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc.

Daniel Bradley strives to inspire, uplift, and encourage all those that cross his path.  As the CEO and Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc., he uses the fine arts as a mode of reaching youth.  The non-profit organization is designed to equip young people to face critical social issues plaguing their communities, preparing them to become “artistic activists.”

Bradley has often been inspired by song lyrics recited by his Grandmother:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along…Then my living shall not be in vain.”

Bradley has traveled extensively throughout the United States, the U.K. and the Virgin Islands to facilitate training sessions in youth development strategies. With more than 10 years of experience in youth development and community organizing, it is our honor to name Daniel as our Star of the Month!

You can find out more about Dreams Work, Inc. here.