Monday, June 22, 2015

United Way of Washtenaw County funds 10 Rec & Ed camp scholarships for children in need

If you heard a cheer go up at our office last week, it was the sound of us celebrating a grant from the United Way of Washtenaw County. We received $3,800 from their Opportunity Fund to provide 5 weeks of camp free for 10 children from low income families.

Every summer, Rec & Ed offers an afternoon camp as a complement to the AAPS morning Summer Learning Institute (SLI). SLI serves early elementary students who are below grade level in reading or math. It's a powerful, engaging intervention that helps these students catch up and be successful when they return to school in the fall.

Rec & Ed's afternoon camp provides a recreational counterpart to the morning learning experience. Two years ago, funding from the Michigan Dept of Community Health supported Rec & Ed in integrating the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum into SLI Camp. Campers learn about healthy eating, physical activity, and minimizing screen time through games, art activities and discussions. Last year, CATCH campers even visited Food Gatherers on a field trip

Some children who are invited to attend the SLI come from working families with very low income. These parents/guardians need full day care for their children, but can't afford our camp. Support from the Washtenaw United Way will allow these students to participate in SLI in the morning and camp in the afternoon for five weeks. 

Thank you, United Way of Washtenaw County! 

Do you know an SLI student who needs a scholarship to our Rec & Ed afternoon camp? Download a PDF of the registration form here. To learn more about Rec & Ed scholarships in general, click here

We gratefully accept any amount of financial support for children in our Rec & Ed scholarship program. Click here to donate (you'll need to create an account in our registration system, if you don't already have one)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Good news / bad news about childhood obesity in Ann Arbor [New Data]

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, AAPS Rec & Ed
New data from Washtenaw County Public Health describes how the problem of childhood overweight and obesity affects children in our county. My focus for this post is Ann Arbor children, but I encourage others to write about other areas of the county and I'll link them here. 

The good news: Ann Arbor youth have the lowest childhood obesity rate in Washtenaw County, and also buck state and national statistics.  

The bad news: The same troubling patterns exist here as elsewhere regarding which children are at higher risk. 

The short and long term health impacts of childhood obesity are well-documented, so I won't review them here. My intention in this blog post is to highlight the factors that place some Ann Arbor children at increased risk -- factors that mirror state and national trends. 
Where does this new data come from? 

Washtenaw County Public Health worked with St. Joseph Mercy Health System and the University of Michigan Health System to create the first Washtenaw Child Body Mass Index (BMI) Dataset. Both health systems contributed height and weight data from 2013 electronic health records for over 18,000 children, ages 2 - 17 years old, living in Washtenaw County.
The analysis focused on the children who are currently overweight or obese. Factors known to affect the risk of childhood obesity were examined, including poverty, racial or ethnic status, and age group. In addition, differences in communities across the County were explored, since where children live, learn and play matters. 

Overall, Ann Arbor children have a lower rate of overweight and obesity (21%) than Washtenaw County overall (26%). Remember, this is still one in five children in the Ann Arbor community. Similar to the county, state and nation, younger Ann Arbor children (ages 2-4) have the lowest rate at 15%. For teenagers ages 14-17, 26% are overweight or obese. 

The report identifies the following factors that place some children at higher risk for childhood overweight and obesity:
1. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be overweight
Washtenaw County Public Health used Medicaid coverage as an indicator of poverty when analyzing the data set. Poverty itself is a known cause of disparities in obesity rates. (See my earlier blog post on poverty's impact on kids in Washtenaw County.)
  • 15% of Ann Arbor children in the data-set are covered by Medicaid. 
  • Overall, 33% of Ann Arbor children with Medicaid are overweight or obese, compared to 19% of children with commercial insurance.
  • Children who are covered by Medicaid have higher risk of obesity at each age, compared to children who are covered by "commercial" insurance. 
2. Some racial minorities are at higher risk

From Childhood Obesity, Ann Arbor MI 2013 
Washtenaw County Public Health
Children of African American descent, and those who belong to Hispanic or Latino ethnic groups, have the highest risk of being overweight or obese. These national trends are also reflected in Ann Arbor (ages 2-17 yrs). 

Children of all races in Ann Arbor have a lower rate of overweight compared to their national counterparts. However, children of African American descent approach national rates. 

3. Where a child lives can affect risk of obesity
Even if the first two factors are removed in order to look at the children who should have the lowest risk, the area where a child lives can increase or decrease the risk of being overweight or obese. In Ann Arbor, 18% of white children with commercial insurance are overweight or obese. If they're not in a risk group due to family income or race, could where they live be a factor in their weight status? 

According to the report, community environment factors "such as walkability and access to grocery stores and safe parks and recreation areas" can affect risk. We're fortunate in Ann Arbor to have abundant park spaces, grocery stores and all manner of farmers' markets. For some families, however, these amenities may be out of reach. 

My source for the information above is the Childhood Obesity, Ann Arbor MI, 2013 Report from Washtenaw County Public Health. It describes the weight status of 7,577 children ages 2-17 living in these zip codes: 48103, 48104, 48105, 48108. 

Rec & Ed's role in supporting children's health  
I view Rec & Ed as an organization on the front line of keeping kids in the Ann Arbor area healthy. Our mission and values focus on improving the quality of life and promoting wellness for all ages -- pre-school through adults. We serve upwards of 18,000 Ann Arbor area children each year through our recreational sports, after school programming, summer camps and child care programs. Building lifelong enjoyment of physical activity is integral to much of this programming. We've also incorporated nutrition education into our child care program and promote healthy eating through Kids in the Kitchen classes and other programs. 
Check out our listing on page 10 of the Directory of Obesity Prevention Programs in Washtenaw County

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Soapstone carving - a unique opportunity for youth and adults

By Sally Searls, Rec & Ed Lifelong Learning Manager

I love working with soapstone -- so soft, relaxing, and peaceful.
-- Participant in our soapstone carving workshop 

We receive lots of comments like this after we hold our annual Soapstone Carving Workshop for adults and  Soapstone Camp/3D Sculpture for kids. Soapstone is a gorgeous rock, with deep blue and grey hues and beautiful veining. Its name reflects the ease with which it can be carved -- even by novice sculptors. 

A unique Rec & Ed workshop and camp only offered once a year

Ten years ago, I invited Max Sexsmith, a Canadian sculptor, to teach Quest Campers how to carve in soapstone. (Quest camp brought in artists and teachers for morning programs and provide a typical day camp in the afternoon.) Max also agreed to offer an adult workshop in the evenings.  
Max Sexsmith, Canadian artist

Since then, every summer Max has come to Ann Arbor with a truckload of Quebec soapstone to teach children and adults this enjoyable skill.

A Peterborough, Ontario resident, Max started carving this intriguing material in the mid 1990's. He took courses at the Haliburton School of Fine Arts for several years. Later he increased his knowledge by taking a course at the Ottawa Art Gallery taught by Natar Ungalaq an Inuit artist from Igloolik, Nunavut.  

His enthusiasm for carving and sharing his experiences especially with children has brought Max to school classrooms, summer camps, workshops and art shows across southern Ontario.  

Testimonials tell the story
“Working with beautiful stone is wonderful.”

“This is one of the best workshops I have ever taken.”

“I hope that you continue to offer this class each summer.”

“Teacher very helpful and clever with design.”
“Max was extremely helpful to everyone.  He is really good!”

As you can tell from the testimonials, Max is well-liked by our students. He is soft-spoken, gentle and skilled at helping students, both adults and kids, select a stone and see the sculpture in its form. 

Some people return each year to make a new dolphin, bear or whatever they choose, while others are content to make one piece. Either way, each takes home an amazing piece of art they crafted.  

Max supports each student, whether it is introducing newbies to the stone and files, giving advice to experienced carvers or helping a student create just the right shape for the inukshuk.

Whether you are an adult or student entering grades 3 - 8, you can learn to carve  this beautiful stone. Enjoy this unique, once a year opportunity through Rec & Ed. For more information go to Soapstone Carving Workshop or Soapstone Carving and 3D Sculpture Camp. Max is able to accommodate you if you can only enroll in one of the two evening sessions for the adult workshop.  Also, students may enroll in either section of the Soapstone Carving camp (afternoon session) and 3D Sculpture camp (afternoon session). 

Call Sally at Rec & Ed, 734-994-2300 ext. 53219 for more information.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Not your brother's Safety Town: 5 changes to improve this treasured program

Shanda Trent, Safety Town Coordinator and First Steps Parent Educator

Chances are, any teen you meet in Ann Arbor has "graduated" from Rec & Ed's Safety Town program. Summer for 5 and 6 year olds has meant learning about safety with Buster the School Bus, the Ann Arbor Fire Department & Smoke Simulation House, and of course, Louie the Lightning Bug. 

Riding around our child-size safety "town" is a highlight of every week
But even a favorite toy may need a bit of patching or painting. After reviewing the latest in child safety education and parent evaluations from the past few years, we've made 5 changes to Safety Town for this summer. 

1 of the changes we're most pleased to share is an updated presentation on Stranger Safety. Of course, we still emphasize the message "never go with a stranger." But what should a child do if she finds herself separated from her grown-up? Starting this summer, children will learn about "Safer Strangers" and "Tricky People." As always, parents are welcome to attend this segment of the Safety Town program, which happens on Wednesdays. 

2 new guest presenters will share their expertise:
  • Goldfish Swim School will help us learn to be safe around water -- just in time for summer fun at pools and lakes. 
  • Local members of the group Moms Demand Action will share a new Be SMART for Kids Gun Safety Presentation with parents. This non-political presentation focuses on what we all can do -- whether we own guns or not -- to prevent the tragedies that result when children have access to unsecured guns. This presentation is for parents. 
Example of the mosaic bus craft
- every one is unique!
3 new crafts (tested by preschoolers in the First Steps program!) are the Firefighter Finger Puppet, Mosaic School Bus, and Traffic Light Toss game. These crafts play to children's creative instincts while reinforcing important safety messages. 

4 "Centers" at drop-off time. Children will have safety-themed activity centers with fun games and crafts to choose from during the critical time between parent drop-off and the start of the session. Saying good-bye should be easier, and this set-up mimics what they'll see in Kindergarten in the fall. 

5 complete class sessions. Parents spoke, and we listened. New this year, children will have five complete half-day sessions of Safety Town, instead of early release on Friday. We'll still offer a brief safety program for parents on Fridays, then parents will go to their child's classroom for a presentation of what the children learned during the week. 

BONUS: We brainstormed and came up with a clever way for our outstanding Officer Tom to be in all classrooms at all times. No, we didn't clone him. You'll just have to join us to learn the mystery! 

Registration is now open for the morning Safety Town program and extended (afternoon) Safety Town Camp. Who's eligible? Children who are entering Young 5's or who have completed Young 5's, children entering Kindergarten, and children entering 1st grade. Yes, children can take Safety Town more than once! Click here for more information and to register. Questions? Call Sherri at (734) 994-2300 x53186. 

Please help us spread the word about the improvements to this well-loved community program by sharing via your own social media. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Like" Rec & Ed on Facebook for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate"Like" Rec & Ed on Facebook prior to June 9 and you'll automatically be entered to win $25 toward a future camp, class, or sports registration. 

We post frequent updates on our newest offerings, instructor highlights and exciting news. Click here to go straight to our Facebook page. 

Don't delay, like us today!