Thursday, September 26, 2013

Green Adventure Camp receives state environmental award



Campers strolled the beach in search 
of litter (using gloves and other equipment).

Green Camp environmental award
Robin Schultz-Purves, Rec&Ed Coordinator,
Dick Szczygiel, Environmental Educator,
and Ryan Brown, GAC Director
received the award at the State Capitol
It was a hot and steamy July afternoon when over 70 of our Green Adventure Campers headed down to Erie State Game Area for the annual beach study and clean-up. The theme of camp that week was "Watershed Moments" with educational activities related to where water goes and how we can keep our water supply clean. In other words, the perfect week for our annual trip to the Woodtick Peninsula!

Despite the heat, campers dove into the project and safely removed many bags of litter on the beach. They cooled off at Oakwood Metropark, where the learned about animals of the Huron River/Lake Erie area.  

For the past five years, Green Adventure Camp and the Ann Arbor Public Schools Environmental Education Program have partnered with the J.R. Whiting Plant on environmental stewardship programs and projects, including the beach clean-up. Together, the partnership received the Department Environmental Quality's Neighborhood Environmental Partner (NEP) Award for 2013.  

Representatives of the AAPS Environmental Education Program and Green Adventures Camp attended the award ceremony at the State Capital Building on Thursday, September 19th. We are proud to be an environmental stewardship partner with the J.R. Whiting Plant!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Scenes from Rec&Ed's Rain Garden Bonanza

After months of planning and many hours of extra work by the dedicated Rec&Ed "Mud Pit" committee, we now have a rain garden outside our front door at 1515 S. Seventh! James Gray of Vert Verde landscape architecture drew a beautiful design featuring native plants that will handle the runoff from our parking lot. Volunteer Jonathan Parker from the Washtenaw County Rain Garden Assistance Program provided lots of support as well.

This fall, we spread the word that we needed donations of about 13 different types of native perennials. The community response was amazing -- local gardeners donated almost 200 plants to the cause.

The Rec&Ed office at 5:00 p.m. on Friday

Thanks to James Gray, Jonathan Parker, Joan Lansdell, Andrew Comai, Myrna Hadwick, Karen Caldwell, Tricia Jones, Jennifer Cosey, Lise Anderson, Kathy Sample, Jack Wallace, Sally Rutzky and Second Nature Gardens and Landscape for their generous donations.

We are also grateful to Best Block Ann Arbor for their donation of boulders and free delivery.

Saturday morning, Rec&Ed staff and community volunteers prepared the rain garden (which had been rototilled and composted in late August) for planting. It was also Pioneer High School's big workday and we snagged a few student volunteers. The fun part started mid-morning, when planting began.

Volunteer Jackie and staff person Sally Searls
Planting strawberries

Pioneer students move boulders
Jonathan and Susan from the
WC Rain Garden Assistance Program
I'm always willing to get my hands dirty
Finished!

Next time you need to come to Rec&Ed or are just driving by Pioneer, stop by and see the rain garden! The overall plan is on the table in our lobby.

The Rain Garden creation has been a labor of love by a group of dedicated Rec&Ed employees and community volunteers with support from the Pioneer PTSO, Vert Verde Landscape Architecture, the Washtenaw County Rain Garden Assistance Program, Poseidon Ponds and Landscaping, A&M Services, Best Block of Ann Arbor, and Second Nature.   

A commenter asked for more native plant resources. We do offer a Rec&Ed class on Sustainable Landscaping in the spring and are talking with the Washtenaw County Rain Garden Assistance Program about partnering with them to offer some classes this winter.

This is just scratching the service, but here are a few other local native plant resources:
Wild Ones Ann Arbor
City of Ann Arbor - Natural Area Preservation Program 
Native Plant Nursery 
(Commenters: feel free to add more below.)


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Monday, September 16, 2013

Coming soon to an elementary school near you!

Last spring, almost 600 elementary parents responded to our After School Programming Survey to tell us if Rec&Ed’s classes were meeting their needs. We followed up with a focus group to get more nuanced feedback and suggestions from parents.

The survey offered several categories (Art, Dance, Sports, Classes, Music, Languages) in which parents could say "yes," they would strongly consider signing up their child for a class in that topic.  Answering "yes" opened up a submenu under each category to give more specific input. Parents could choose as many topics as they liked. 

Results showed continued support for some of our long-running programs as well as interest in new areas. Under the sports category, the top answers were basketball, soccer (our usual offerings) plus a new obstacle course after school program. The "Classes" category showed continued demand for Chess, Lego Bricks and Lego Robotics, and Yoga. Parents who said "yes" to more after school art were primarily interested in drawing and painting for their children. There was also continued interest in our Little Bands program and several languages. Many parents also commented that they were interested in after school science programming for their kids. 

All of the results led us to new community partnerships and offerings for this fall. Here are some of the new programs you'll see at our new After School Class easy registration page:

  • We’re expanding our teamwork building, physically active Obstacle Dash program to 15 elementary schools and 5 middle schools. We piloted this program at 4 elementary schools last spring using our Michigan Dept of Community Health funding
  • Many parents expressed an interest in more art, so we’re offering a new Power of Drawing class at 12 elementary schools. We also have new topics and projects for our continuing “After School Art” classes at 6 schools.
  • Another new offering is being offered at 10 schools: “Crazy Chemworks,” an after school science class focused on chemistry.
  • We also are expanding our youth Lego and Kid Yoga classes to more schools.
For all of the above (and our traditional after school programming), we’re trying out some new marketing efforts within the school district. One strategy is a new, easy-to-use webpage dedicated to all AAPS elementary after school classes. Parents can easily find which programs are offered on specific days at their children's school. 

Are you an elementary parent? Let us know which method of outreach works best for you!


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

3 ways Rec&Ed will improve your customer experience this fall

I'm really excited to announce three improvements that we hope will positively impact all of our participants. We focused on your experience visiting our office and website. You’ll notice 3 big changes:

1. Drum roll, please! NEW Rec&Ed websiteWhen I took this position a little over a year ago, people I knew in the community would sometimes pull me aside and say, "You've got to do something about the Rec&Ed website!" Staff have been planning a website transformation for some time, and this fall we'll roll it out in phases. Our clunky RecNet registration process is now an easier, more modern interface  -- just in time for registration for fall classes and programs.  See picture below and click here to check it out. Within the next few months, we’ll unveil the rest of our new website. Our goal is a cleaner look, fewer clicks to get where you need to go, and more convenient registration. (Tip: registration is now smart phone friendly.)
Easier, cleaner-looking registration pages!

2. More dedicated customer parking spots. How many times have you dashed into the Rec&Ed office to turn in a registration form, drop off equipment, etc.? Up till now, we’ve only had two spots marked specifically for customers. Not anymore! Our parking lot has undergone a customer-focused transformation. The eight spots closest to the front door now are designated as customer only.


Rec&Ed's "Mud Pit" Committee

3. From Mud Pit to Rain Garden. Visitors who look to the right of our front door often notice a mucky area where run-off from the parking lot collects. Last spring we even hosted a lovely Mallard couple in our “Mud Pit.” To beautify this area and handle run-off more effectively, we’re transforming our Mud Pit into an eco-friendly rain garden featuring native plants. Of course, ducks, butterflies, birds, and human visitors will still be welcome. Are you able to donate some perennials from your yard to the cause? Click here for more information.

The Rain Garden creation has been a labor of love by a group of dedicated
Ready for plants after the first workday


Rec&Ed employees with support from the Pioneer PTSO, Vert Verde Landscape Architecture, the Washtenaw County Rain Garden Assistance Program, Poseidon Ponds and Landscaping, A&M Services and many community volunteers.  Thanks to all of the people who’ve gotten us this far! Want to help? Contact Robin at purves@aaps.k12.mi.us.



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Friday, September 6, 2013

From the Team Sports Email Bag


We love hearing from our volunteer coaches, parents and participants! Here are a few emails that brightened the days of our Team Sports Staff lately. Team Sports staff Sean Williams, Seth Dodson and Elyse Bairley hold themselves to high customer service standards with Rec&Ed coaches, parents and participants. 

To Elyse and staff, 
I just wanted you to know what a great experience I had coaching baseball this season.   All of the parents were extremely supportive and the coaches and parents from the other teams were great as well.  I expected some resistance to a female coach in boy’s baseball, but it was a complete non-issue.  I actually enjoyed it much more than coaching my 14 U girls – 10 year old boys don’t roll their eyes and give nearly as much attitude.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rec&Ed = nutrition for kids? Why, yes!

This summer we teamed up with Chartwells (AAPS Food Service) to offer healthy eating snacks and lessons to many of our campers! 


SLI Campers at the Farmers' Market
Thanks to our $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health, we incorporated lots of nutrition information and healthy snacks into the Summer Learning Institute and Rec&Ed afternoon camp. Our camp staff were trained in the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) nutrition curriculum -- a national best practice curriculum designed for children in after school programs. Campers walked to the Kerrytown farmers' market and shopped for snack foods. 

See pics and read about our smoothie demos for Summer Learning Institute students here

Our last-week-of-summer tradition at Green Adventures Camp is an "Incredible Edible Harvest" theme. Campers learn all about organic farming, bee-keeping, and how to harvest and prepare food. They work with Chartwells staff members in the big Pioneer kitchen to cook up some delicious entrees and snacks.  See photos and more here



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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What is this blog all about, anyway?

Hi, I'm Jenna Bacolor, your Executive Director of Community Education and Recreation. It's an honor to serve you, the school district and the Ann Arbor community in this position! 


This blog provides a venue for me to share big and small ideas, perspectives, and concerns -- and for YOU to respond. A partial list of what my posts will cover: ways we're trying to improve (see the Sept. 11 posting "3 ways Rec&Ed will improve your customer experience this fall"), new program ideas, stories about special people involved in Rec&Ed, and the occasional strange situation or fact about Rec&Ed.

A little about me...I joined the staff at Rec&Ed in July, 2012. I came to the organization from Washtenaw County government, where I'd worked in Public Health for 16 years. The type of work I did for the county -- program planning and implementation, community coalitions, grant writing and coordination, supervising employees and managing budgets -- was a great foundation for entering the Rec&Ed world. I've learned a ton in my first year as director, and will continue to do so every day.  I live in Ann Arbor and my two kids are enrolled in AAPS.

Want to email me separately? My address is bacolor@aaps.k12.mi.us.


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