Thursday, June 26, 2014

Inventing for a new planet - science camp with Hands On Museum still has spaces open

Attention parents of 2nd-5th graders! Don't miss this opportunity for your child to learn how to engineer toys, tools and structures for a planet of his/her imagination. 

Our Eureka! Inventing for a New Planet camp is offered in partnership with the Hands-On Museum

Your child will...

...Enjoy a small-group, supportive environment for imagining a new planet and the toys and tools that would exist there

...Learn engineering and design processes that inventors use to generate mechanical, chemical and digital creations

...Keep a digital journal of his/her design process using an iPad

...All in a low-stakes (e.g. no test!) setting for exploring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) concepts

Eureka! Inventing for a New Planet is offered July 21 - 25, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at Haisley Elementary School. Extended care is available from 7:30 - 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

Learn more and register here. Questions? Contact Sally at 994-2300, ext. 53219 or

Please help us spread the word about this awesome opportunity for kids entering 2nd - 5th grade!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Does early sports specialization hurt kids?

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation

I've heard both sides of the sports specialization argument. Some parents say that specialization is essential for kids in today's competitive sports environment. To even think about making it onto some high school teams and/or receive a college scholarship, they say, a child needs to choose his/her preferred sport early. Other parents reject this idea, believing that a well-rounded approach to sports encourages broader skill development and decreases risk for injury and burnout. 

Rec & Ed's youth team sports staff tell me they've found this to be a controversial issue in Ann Arbor, with parents passionately advocating one way or the other. I personally have friends and family on both sides of the divide.

When I opened the New York Times recently and saw an article on this topic, I knew it had to spark community dialogue here in Ann Arbor. In "Sports Should be Child's Play," David Epstein argues that early specialization leads to more injuries and, counterintuitively, doesn't produce top tier athletes. Here's why.

Early specialization may lead to more, and more severe, injuries

Evidence suggests that early specializers are more prone to injuries. A three-year study of young athletes who specialized in one sport for eight or more months per year found that
even controlling for age and the total number of weekly hours in sports, kids in the study who were highly specialized had a 36 percent increased risk of suffering a serious overuse injury. [The lead physician] saw kids with stress fractures in their backs, arms or legs; damage to elbow ligaments; and cracks in the cartilage in their joints.
Because it's more common for middle to higher income families to be able to pay for travel teams and individual coaching, the study found that higher economic status was correlated with more serious injuries.

"Elite" programs for young athletes may have the opposite effect

Parents often believe that early specialization leads to a better chance at college-level or professional sports. But studies show the opposite pattern. 

Epstein says: 
Several studies on skill acquisition now show that elite athletes generally practiced their sport less through their early teenage years and specialized only in the mid-to-late teenage years, while so-called sub-elites — those who never quite cracked the highest ranks — homed in on a single sport much sooner.
One recent study found that varsity athletes at UCLA specialized, on average, at age 15.4. Their peers who didn't make it into college-level play specialized at 14.2. Other studies of elite athletes of different sports around the world have found the same results. 

Finally, Epstein isn't alone in calling for kids not to specialize before age 12. The American Academy of Pediatrics 2000 policy statement on intensive training and sports specialization makes the same point. 

Of course, there are adults who specialized as young kids (Tiger Woods comes to mind). I'm wondering if any studies contradict the list in Epstein's article or if there are certain sports -- gymnastics, for example -- where early specialization is critical. 

Where do recreational sports fit in?

Rec & Ed's elementary and middle school youth sports leagues are designed to help children learn the sport, build skills, and enjoy the benefits of playing on a team. In the bigger picture, our youth sports leagues are part of the fabric of the Ann Arbor community, building strong connections among families and youth in our town. 

I believe that rec sports offer something for everyone. Many kids grow up playing with Rec & Ed, some even having the same coach and teammates for several years. For kids who join club travel teams, rec sports offer a fun environment for trying a different sport and building other skills. 

What's been your experience with this issue? If you sit firmly in one camp or the other, does this information confirm or change your perspective? Please add your thoughts below. 

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Let's play ball! Opening Day Celebration is this Saturday

Ann Arbor Rec & Ed will be hosting the fourth annual Opening Day Celebration and Parade of Athletes for our coach pitch Youth Baseball/Softball leagues at Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday, June 14th beginning at 8:30 a.m. 
“Rec & Ed’s Opening Day Celebration is a true community event for the younger participants in our Youth Baseball/Softball Program,” said Larry L. Dishman, Team Sports Coordinator. “We try to incorporate many of the traditions of Major League Baseball’s opening day in a kid-friendly way.”
This Rec & Ed baseball team was ready to play ball
at last year's Opening Day Celebration. 
A special guest superhero will be on hand from 8:45 - 10:15 a.m. for photos and entertainment. He will also throw the ceremonial first pitch at 9:45 a.m. to officially kick off the 2014 Rec & Ed Youth Baseball/Softball Season. 
Parents, grandparents and friends of ballplayers are strongly encouraged to bring their cameras.
Samantha West of the band All Directions will be singing the national anthem and lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Take Me out to the Ball Game.”
What would opening day be like without some ballpark snacks? New Opening Day sponsors Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt and Noodles and Co. will be on hand with giveaways. Dashing Dogs will once again be selling Michigan-made hot dogs and potato chips. A portion of the Dashing Dogs proceeds will be donated to the Rec & Ed Youth Sports Scholarship Fund.
For more information on the event please contact Seth Dodson at or visit

Thanks again to our Opening Day sponsors! 


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Monday, June 9, 2014

Rec & Ed welcomes new sponsor Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt

Rec & Ed is thrilled to announce our new business sponsor Orange Leaf frozen yogurt! Orange Leaf - Ann Arbor is sponsoring our Opening Day Celebration for youth coach pitch baseball and softball -- you can catch them there this Saturday, June 14. They're also sponsoring our summer camps located at Clague Middle School. 

Orange Leaf features self-serve, add-your-own toppings frozen yogurt. They offer delicious tried and true flavors and creative new flavors with non-dairy and Greek yogurt options. Check out their special shovel-shaped spoon when you visit! 

Orange Leaf - Traver Village at 2613 Plymouth Road 
(Shopping center at Plymouth and Nixon)

Orange Leaf - Woodland Plaza at 2216 S. Main 
(Woodland Plaza shopping center around the corner from Busch's).

THANK YOU, Orange Leaf, for helping Rec & Ed serve youth in Ann Arbor!!

Want to learn more about becoming a Rec & Ed business sponsor? See our sponsorship page

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The power of early childhood play -- on future income, for one

Guest blogger Marj Hyde, Coordinator of First Steps Ann Arbor

While I was on my way to work this week, I heard an NPR story that started with this sad and disturbing fact: due to malnourishment, some 200 million toddlers in poor countries have under-developed brains. 

The next statement almost made me slam on the brakes: "Playing with babies and toddlers helps undo the damage caused by lack of nutrition in the early years." 

Wait a minute! Undo the damage?  

The study, detailed in the journal Science, followed babies and toddlers who were small for their age with underdeveloped brains in Kingston, Jamaica, beginning in 1986. These families received weekly home visits from trained community health workers for two years. Workers taught the parents to play with their children using items found in the home. 

Over the next 20 years, these children were compared to two similar groups who were also small for their age. One of these groups received extra food; the other received no intervention. 

The results were compelling. After 20 years, the group whose families received weekly play time instruction:

  • Scored higher on IQ and self control and lower on aggression
  • Earned 25% more than the other two groups
  • Had caught up with children born without deficits in the same year

Why is this relevant to me and possibly to you, too? As the coordinator of First Steps - Ann Arbor, my job is to provide opportunities for parent-child play for Ann Arbor families. First Steps offers 30 different weekly adult/child classes where everyone plays together. 

Sometimes I hear observers say, "But they're not doing anything. They're just playing." Yes, they are just playing and playing is perfect! The stimulation of exploring and interacting through play is just what an infant, toddler or preschooler needs the most. 

If you have children from birth to kindergarten entry, come play with us! Our summer session begins June 14 and goes for 7 weeks, ending the week of August 4. More details are available on our website or by calling (734) 994-2300, ext. 53186.

Want to support early childhood play for all in the Ann Arbor area? Join us for our Friends and Family Bowling fundraiser on Saturday, June 14 from 4:00 - 6:30 p.m. at Colonial Lanes. The First Steps - Ann Arbor PTO is hosting this fundraiser! More information available here or by contacting me at

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