Thursday, March 27, 2014

Donations in Rick Dekeon's memory will support youth access to team sports

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation

At this week's Board of Education meeting, I was honored to present news of a donation to Rec&Ed from Rick Dekeon's family and friends. Rick was a treasured PE teacher at Northside Elementary School for many years. He was also a long-time Rec&Ed coach, coach trainer and member of the Recreation Advisory Commission. 

Anyone who knew Rick understood that his passion was inclusion. He worked hard to make sure all kids could enjoy the benefits of team sports and running. He encouraged and motivated kids to participate, no matter how much money their family had, their skill level or anything at all that might hold them back.

After Rick's passing last fall, many former students and parents, AAPS colleagues and friends at Rec&Ed contributed to a memorial fund in Rick's memory. 

Keeping Rick's spirit of inclusion and accessibility in mind, Rec&Ed gratefully accepted the donation of $5,100 from Rick's family. The donation will pay for youth soccer and basketball scholarships for kids who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford our program, as well as Pay to Participate scholarships for high school students. 

So many people whose lives were changed by Rick want to keep his legacy of inclusion alive in Ann Arbor Public Schools. 

There are two ways people can do this: 

First, you can still make a donation in Rick's memory to Rec&Ed's youth sports scholarship fund. You can write a check to AAPS, with "Rick Dekeon" in the memo line. Drop it off or mail it to Rec&Ed, 1515 S. Seventh, Ann Arbor, 48103. Note "Attn: Jenna Bacolor" on the envelope.

Second, participate in a 5K run and walk, tentatively called "Rick's Run for Kids," to be held on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at Pioneer High School. An avid runner, Rick organized a kids' after school running club for many years at Northside. The run is a fundraiser for Rec&Ed's youth sports scholarship fund, so getting involved as a volunteer, a sponsor, or a participant is the perfect way to honor Rick's legacy. For more information about the race, contact Sean Williams at 994-2300, ext. 53214, or

Please consider sharing the news about how to continue Rick's legacy through your social and in-person networks. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

School Age Child Care celebrates March Is Reading Month with flair and fun

One of the things parents love about Rec&Ed's School Age Child Care program is the way it reinforces classroom learning. This month, our child care sites are mirroring school-day activities by celebrating March Is Reading Month with literacy games, contests and other fun events. 

Here's a sampling of March Is Reading Month activities happening in Rec&Ed's child care programs:

Reading goals and contests
At Angell Elementary, after school child care students have set a goal to collectively read 5,000 pages during the month of March. Special activities include weekly "bring your furry friend" days to enjoy reading to a favorite stuffed animal. As of March 19, students had read  2,050 pages! 

3rd grader Bregon has already logged many pages
toward Angell's March is Reading Month goal of 5,000 pages.
Allen Elementary child care supervisor Erica says, "I have double-challenged the children. The older children are racing me to finish a chapter book. My book is over 400 pages and some of theirs are well over 300. As an aftercare group, we are trying to read 12,000 minutes and if they reach their goal, we are going to have a party."

The child care programs at Bryant and Wines are also doing page reading contests, with special prizes at the end.

Scavenger hunt
Bach after school child care supervisor Zac reported that their scavenger hunt for books was a huge success. "In an effort to get all the children excited to read, we wrote out clues for the students (which they had to read) taking them all over the school and ending back in the child care room where they were all able to pick a donated book to keep. All children loved running down the halls and finding the next clue." 

Bach's after school childcare kids celebrate their
scavenger hunt treasures.
The prize at the end? Each child chose a book to keep from a box of donated books!

Sight word bingo
Children in the K-1 child care program at Ann Arbor Open are playing bingo to reinforce sight words they learn during the day. The supervisor created the game by writing common sight words on recycled business cards and making corresponding bingo game sheets. Children take turns being the "caller," i.e. drawing the sight word cards and saying the word. 

Sharing Favorite Books 
At Logan Elementary's before school child care program, a few students each day talk to the group about their favorite book. They give a brief summary and encourage others to read it. One child recently shared The Phoenix File series by Chris Morphew.

Kudos to all the kids and child care staff who are celebrating March is Reading Month!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rec&Ed staff share funny memes about office flood

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation

Last week, the twenty Rec&Ed staff who were displaced by two floods in early January moved back into their offices. It's been a long winter in various temporary locations both in the office and in a Pioneer classroom. 

The Team Sports, Lifelong Learning, and School Age Child Care staff who worked from alternate locations were able to run all of our planned programs and services despite being away from many of their files and supplies.

I'm so proud of all Rec&Ed staff -- the displaced staff and all the rest who managed through much tighter quarters during the renovation. 

At a recent staff meeting right before the renovation project was complete, Rec&Ed employees worked in small groups to create memes about the flood. 

Yes, we're able to laugh about it now!

As of Monday afternoon, all displaced staff were back in their renovated spaces. There's a lot more work to do -- unpacking, cleaning, etc. -- but it's good to be almost back to normal.

I'd love to hear your reactions to these memes! Please comment below. 


Sunday, March 9, 2014

5 ways Rec&Ed welcomes School of Choice families

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation ("Rec&Ed")

This month, Ann Arbor Public Schools announced the opening of 750 slots to School of Choice students in Washtenaw County. See our district website for more information about the application process and deadlines. 

Rec&Ed warmly welcomes School of Choice children and families to enjoy our classes, instructional and team sports, child care and school break camps.

How does Rec&Ed support School of Choice families? 

At Rec&Ed, we take our motto "Where community comes together" very seriously. For our youth programming, this means creating opportunities for youth to develop friendships while playing a sport, making art, building a robot or exploring nature. 

Rec&Ed will have a table of information at the School of Choice Fair on Tues., March 11, from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. at the Pioneer High School Annex. I'll be there, too, and would be happy to meet you!

Here are five ways Rec&Ed helps School of Choice children and families as they join the AAPS family:

1. Before and after school child care at your child's school
Many busy families utilize Rec&Ed's School Age Child Care program. The before school child care program begins at 7:15 a.m.; the after school program ends at 6:00 p.m.

Rec&Ed's child care program complements the K-5 Instructional program with themed activities, special programs, homework/school project help, arts and crafts, quiet reading time, and plenty of opportunities for active play. Every day, our caring staff offer several options for students to choose from. 

Our program is licensed by the state of Michigan Department of Human Services and offers easy, on-line registration and payment.

2. After school enrichment classes 
Rec&Ed offers more after school and weekend enrichment classes than any other school district in Washtenaw County. Chess, Lego, dance, art, yoga, music, languages, instructional soccer and basketball...we have something to match every child's interest. 

These classes typically run immediately after school once per week for eight weeks. Our evening and weekend youth enrichment includes ballet, ceramics, cartooning and even Irish adventure role playing. 

3. Opportunities to play team sports with classmates
Playing a sport with classmates is a wonderful way to make new friends. Rec&Ed's kid-friendly youth team sports program is focused on fun and skill development. Students in the district through School of Choice are placed with classmates from their school. 

4. Younger siblings can be part of the fun, too!
Have a baby, toddler or preschooler? Rec&Ed's early childhood program welcomes younger siblings of School of Choice students! Our First Steps program is open to families with children from birth to kindergarten entry. Find out more about First Steps parent/child classes, parent support, and more services here

In addition to the First Steps program, Rec&Ed offers many preschool enrichment classes and summer camps.
5. Get to know AAPS this summer
Your child(ren) can join the AAPS family early by coming to a Rec&Ed summer camp. Early bird registration is open now for over 150 summer day camp sessions at school buildings around our district. From Green Adventure Camp to Harry Potter, and from Math/Science to instructional sports camps, we really do have something for everyone. Entering Kindergarteners and first graders are especially invited to our Safety Town Program

Visit our Virtual Summer Camp Fair for more information. 

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

3 favorite comfort food recipes from Rec&Ed cooking instructors

Guest blogger Linda Brzezinski, Adult Enrichment Supervisor

By now most of us are pretty tired of winter with all the sub zero wind chills and shoveling snow. What better way to warm up than cooking? Rec&Ed has offered some tasty classes this winter with a few more on the horizon. I wanted to share three of my favorite recipes from the classes I have visited. See three more favorite recipes on my own Rec&Ed cooking blog.

1. New Rec&Ed cooking instructor shares a Turkish delight

Ruhsar Kaplan is Rec&Ed's newest instructor. She is a software engineer by trade who has recently moved to this country from Turkey. In a recent class she made a savory filled bun called Pogaca. The dough was made with yogurt and had a wonderful soft, puffy texture. (She will repeat this recipe in a spring class that is designed for a hands on experience – watch for it!) She also has her own food blog that features many foods from her native country. Take a look:

2 cups of plain yogurt
1 cup of olive oil
3 teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt (very little)
Flour (start with 2 cups)
Cheese (I prefer feta cheese but you can use your favorite cheese)
Chopped Parsley
Black pepper
Crushed breadcrumbs

Step 1: Prepare the filling: Slice or crumble the feta cheese. Add the parsley and black pepper and mix together.
Step 2: Prepare the dough: Put the yogurt, olive oil, baking powder and salt into a wide and shallow bowl. Add flour and knead the mixture using your hands. You should have a paste as soft as your earlobe. (This is a widely used Turkish definition for pastries to define the softness.) Add more flour as needed.
Step 3: Make small balls by rolling them in the palms of your hands. Balls should be as big as an egg.
Step 4: Press each ball flat using the palms of you hand.
Step 5: Put about one tablespoon of filling in the center of your flattened dough.
Step 6: Close the sides of your dough around the filling. Repeat steps 4-6 for the remaining dough.
Step 7: Roll the filled balls in breadcrumbs and put them on a cookie sheet.
Step 8: Preheat the oven to 370 Fahrenheit and bake the pastries till they have a light brown-pink color.

2. Quick and easy Chinese comfort food

My favorite Chinese Chef Tom Lin made a delicious and amazingly simple Hot and Sour soup that really hit the spot on a recent wintery evening.

Hot & Sour Soup
4-5 oz. chopped chicken
4-5 cups of chicken stock
½ cup of sliced Wood Ear mushrooms (don’t use stems) 
1 cup of sliced button mushrooms
½ cup of bamboo shoots
4 oz tofu cubed
½ cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup chopped green onion (garnish)
2 beaten eggs
½ tsp. minced ginger
½ tsp. chili paste
dash of soy sauce
dash of white vinegar
white pepper to taste
3 Tbs. cornstarch dissolved in 3 oz. water
drizzle of sesame oil

Heat the chicken stock in a large pot over medium high heat until it boils. Add ginger, chili paste, both mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, and carrot. Cook and stir for two minutes to infuse the flavor. Now add the soy sauce, white vinegar and white pepper. Add the cornstarch mix to thicken the soup. Very slowly pour in the beaten eggs in a thin stream. Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and the green onion.

3. Warm your family with this simple, delicious Italian casserole  

There's a reason why long-time Rec&Ed cooking instructor Francesca has developed such a loyal following. The most common testimonials I see on her evaluation sheets state: “…her warm, friendly personality” and “The recipes are simple and I feel I can make them at home now.” On a recent winter evening she warmed up the class with a baked Sicilian pasta that was to die for.

Maccheroni alla Siciliana
Baked Sicilian pasta:
Serves 6 - 8:
4 - Italian sausages
2 - large eggplant cut into 1" pieces
2 - mozzarella balls, sliced thin
1 - cup parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 - lbs penne pasta, rigatoni, or ziti.

2 - 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, puree in a processor
3/4 - cup red wine
3 - cloves of chopped garlic
6 - Tbs olive oil
1 - medium sized onion chopped small
Small bunch basil
Salt & pepper.

Step 1: Using a medium sized pan add your olive oil and get it hot. Add the sausage and cook till light brown. When done remove and set aside. 
Step 2: Using the same pan add the onions and garlic. Sauté till brown and then add the tomatoes, wine, basil, salt, pepper and sausage. Bring this to a low simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours. 
Step 3: Use this time to prepare the eggplant. Cut into small pieces and soak in cold salted water for 30 minutes. When done, squeeze the water out and fry them in canola oil to a golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on paper towel to absorb the excess oil. 
Step 4: Now boil your pasta. Cook half way. Drain well and place them in a mixing bowl. Add just enough oil to coat the pasta and set aside. Remove the sausage out of the sauce, cut into small pieces and set aside. It’s time to assemble the whole thing.
Step 5: First, add two ladles of sauce to the pasta and mix this well. Add some of the cheese, mix again. Now take half of this and place in the bottom of your baking dish. On top of this add some of the eggplant, sausage and mozzarella. Cover with sauce. Add the rest of the pasta and cover with the rest of the sauce and the parmigiano cheese. 
Step 6: Place this in a preheated oven of 375. Bake for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Check out our tasty, crowd-pleasing Rec&Ed spring cooking classes!

Click on the classes below for more information and to register.