Tag: activities

Finding Balance With Extracurricular Activities

Many high schools, colleges and universities emphasize their goals of producing well-rounded students. Extracurricular activities teach students important life lessons, provide them opportunities to socialize and often stimulate their minds and bodies in ways that differ from the stimulation provided in the classroom.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau states that, in 2014, 57 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 participate in at least one after-school extracurricular activity. Children are more likely to participate in sports than clubs or lessons, such as music, dance and language, but each of these activities can be beneficial to students’ development.

Students who participate in extracurricular activities may want to limit their participation to 20 hours per week. This is according to a group of professors from Stanford University and Villanova University who have been collecting data on the issue since 2007.

In their report “Extracurricular Activity in High-Performing School Contexts: Stress Buster, Booster or Buffer?”, Jerusha Conner and Sarah Miles found that 87 percent of kids who would be considered to have packed schedules were perfectly happy unless they were doing more than four hours a day.

The “over-scheduling hypothesis” may be overhyped. This is the concern that too much organized activity participation leads to poor developmental outcomes. This hypothesis also suggests that hectic schedules also undermine family functioning, detract from schoolwork and possibly increase the risk of copycat behaviors and excessive competitiveness.

However, in the study “The Over-Scheduling Hypothesis Revisited: Intensity of Organized Activity Participation During Adolescence and Young Adult Outcomes,” researchers J.L. Mahoney and Andrea Vest determined that, controlling for demographic factors and baseline adjustment, extracurricular intensity was a significant predictor of positive outcomes and unrelated to indicators of problematic adjustment (e.g., psychological distress, substance use, antisocial behavior) at young adulthood.

Even though extracurricular activities are largely positive — even when schedules are packed — parents need to be aware of the diminishing returns of too many activities. This is something called the “threshold effect.” Benefits from extracurriculars can level off when too many activities are being juggled.

If a child is experiencing anxiety, sleeplessness or depression, or seems overly stressed, it could be time to reduce students’ time spent doing structured activities. It’s essential that families use the cues given by kids to assess what students can handle. And children should be encouraged to be honest with their parents about their extracurricular activities as well.

Tips to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

Studies show that summer brain drain can be a formidable force, setting kids’ progress back over the long break from the classroom. But you can help kids avoid losing their academic mojo. Here’s how.

Take a Hike

Not all learning has to happen indoors or while sitting still. Take a family nature walk and ask kids to pay special attention to the plant and animal species you encounter on your journey, as well as any special rock formations or other geological features you see, taking notes and photographs as you go. Once back home, do some research about the most interesting things that you saw.

Make Music

Music education is important for budding minds, and learning music at home in summer can be easy and affordable. Stock your household with a portable keyboard designed for students in mind. For example, the CT-X700 boasts a high-quality sound system, as well as features that are perfect for student musicians, like a six-track recorder, a library of 100 built-in songs, and the Step-Up Lesson system, which allows students to learn the songs with the display showing proper fingering and notation. Its USB-MIDI port connects to any Mac, PC, Android or iOS device with no drivers or installation needed. The included music rest is designed to support tablets, and the built-in smartphone shelf holds your device as you use the keyboard with favorite music apps.

Read Outdoors

Summer is the perfect opportunity for students to delve deep into what interests them most. Make a day of it. First stop: the library or bookstore, where kids can find reading materials dealing with their favorite topics. Then, pack a picnic lunch and find a shady spot in a local park or your own backyard, to read outdoors. At the end of the day, everyone can discuss what he or she read.

Math Fun

Make math more fun with a free, all-in-one web-based mathematics resource like Classpad.net, that allows users to draw geometry figures freehand and input calculations as they would on real scratch paper. Geared for K-12+ mathematics students, the app is designed to be equally usable by keyboard/mouse and touchscreen-based platforms, so that students can keep up their math skills wherever their summer adventures take them.

Take a Vacation

Going somewhere new and interesting? In advance of your trip, have kids spend some time learning about the history and culture of your destination. If you’re going abroad, they can even learn some basics of a foreign language.

To keep minds active all summer long, be sure to combine learning and fun.

Eco-Friendly Outdoor Activities

Months spent indoors avoiding the harsh weather outside makes winter a difficult season for people who love the great outdoors. While skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports make it possible to get some fresh air even when that air is frigid, many people find it difficult to consistently get outside when temperatures drop.

That difficulty no doubt contributes to the popularity of spring, a season widely seen as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Time spent in the great outdoors is often its own reward. But taking measures to be eco-friendly while spending time outside can make such leisure time even more rewarding. People who want to get out and be eco-friendly at the same time can try the following activities.

Cycling

Cycling is a fun activity that’s also great exercise and incredibly eco-friendly. While it’s certainly an enjoyable leisure activity, cycling also can provide a great alternative to more popular modes of transportation like driving. According to Bay Area Bike to Work Day, a movement dedicated to promoting cycling as a means of commuting to and from work, drivers of small vehicles (those that get 35 miles per gallon of gas) who commute 10 miles per day, five days a week can expect to consume 68 gallons of gas in a typical year during their commutes. During those commutes, their vehicles will produce 0.7 tons of CO2. SUV drivers will consume nearly double that amount of fuel while their vehicles produce nearly three times as much CO2 emissions. Cycling to work won’t consume any fuel or produce any emissions, and cyclists won’t be forced to sit idly in rush hour traffic.

Hiking

Hiking is another eco-friendly outdoor activity that can pay dividends for both the planet and the people who call it home. Lawmakers in towns and cities with thriving hiking communities may be encouraged to support legislation that preserves hiking trails and parks and prevent potentially harmful construction from taking place. And individuals can reap a number of benefits from hiking through the great outdoors. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that outdoor exercise such as hiking can decrease feelings of tension, confusion, anger, and depression. In addition, hiking provides a great full-body workout that might appeal to people who have grown tired of more traditional gym-based fitness regimens.

Fishing

Fishing devotees tend to be wildly devoted to their craft, but one need not be an expert angler to enjoy fishing and help the planet. According to the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, fishing supports wildlife and fisheries management. The DGIF notes that anglers help to set seasons and creel limits, ensuring that wildlife populations remain stable and even flourish. Many anglers also find fishing is a great form of stress relief that provides a peaceful escape from the daily grind.

Running/walking

In lieu of running or walking on a treadmill indoors, men and women can get outside and do their jogging or walking in the great outdoors. While treadmills are not necessarily big energy consumers, running or walking outdoors consumes no energy and provides a great opportunity to spend time outside, especially for professionals who spend most of their days in office buildings.

The great outdoors comes calling for many people when temperatures begin to climb. Answering that call can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your mood.

Halloween Pumpkin-Carving Pointers

Transforming pumpkins into cleverly carved creations is a Halloween tradition. Each October, glowing pumpkins take up residence near doorsteps and porches, adding to the magical ambiance of the season. Young and old spend time designing their themes and then taking knife to pumpkin to achieve the desired effects.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns can be traced back centuries to Ireland and a story about “Stingy Jack.” The tale involves Jack outwitting the Devil twice, the second time freeing the Devil from a prank in exchange for the promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul should Jack die. When Jack did die, God did not want the unsavory character in heaven, but the Devil could not claim Jack for hell. Therefore, Jack was relegated to roam the planet indefinitely with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved-out turnip. His ghostly figure was referred to as “Jack of the Lantern.” Later on it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, turnips weren’t plentiful, so jack-o’-lanterns were instead carved into pumpkins.

Today, many people carve jack-o’-lanterns, with some featuring just smiling or grimacing faces while others are far more artistic creations. These tips can help anyone carve a pumpkin.

· Begin with a fresh pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin with a green stem. If the pumpkin has been sitting around for too long or has been handled too much, the stem can get brittle and/or fall off. A thick, fresh pumpkin is best for carving.

· Plan your ideas. Draw a plan for your pumpkin before you make your first cut. Then transfer that design to the pumpkin with pen or a thin marker. Pumpkin-carving kits come with designs that can be “traced” by poking small holes to create the outline of the design.

· Don’t cut all the way through. Many professional pumpkin artists do not actually cut clear through the flesh of the pumpkin. They carve and shave off layers of the outer rind until it becomes more translucent. The level of transparency can be adjusted based on how much skin is removed and as a way to add texture and shadowing. The more air that is allowed to penetrate the pumpkin, the faster it will start to degrade.

· Delay carving until the last minute. Wait until the day before Halloween to begin carving. Pumpkins are a perishable item, and they’ll begin to rot as soon as you begin carving. Spritzing them with water can help them stay fresh, but there’s no turning back the clock once the first cut is made.

· Cut a hole in the back. According to Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, cutting off the top of the pumpkin can affect its structural integrity and cause it to rot faster. Instead, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and use an electric light to illuminate it. LEDs are advisable because they don’t generate much heat, which can cook and rot the pumpkin from the inside out.

With some creativity and a little know-how, anyone can create an eye-catching jack-o’-lantern.
 
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Plan Your Fall Foliage Excursion

Autumn means different things to many people. Students may embrace the dawn of a new school year, while others might embrace the crisp weather after a season of heat. One of the more widely enjoyed aspects of autumn is the chance to take in the brilliant foliage.

Although New England may be renowned for its bright, orange, red and yellow panoramas, dazzling displays of foliage can be witnessed anywhere temperatures descend enough for deciduous trees to shed their leaves.

The first step to a successful fall foliage excursion is to find the right spot. The Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York, Amish Country in Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes from Michigan to Ohio, and many other areas can be great places to witness nature at its most colorful. To make the most of fall foliage road trips, drivers can keep the following suggestions in mind.

· Get off the highway. To see great fall vistas, take a detour from major thoroughfares and visit small towns and mountain passes. Invest in some maps, as cellular networks may be inaccessible in remote locales.

· Avoid tourist-heavy areas. Drivers may prefer less crowded roadways to accompany the great scenery. Such drivers should visit areas that are not tourist meccas. Any area that plays home to forests and sprawling landscapes will do.

· Go on foot. To get the best photos, head out at sunrise or sunset. Soft, golden light dappled by leaves will bring out the golden tones in photos. Going on foot will help you discover the nuances of the season and slow down for a change.

· Don’t overlook overcast days. Traveling in the rain may not be fun, but overcast days might be ideal. On such days, the sun won’t be too warm and drown out the colors.

· Bring along binoculars. Wildlife is often mobile and abundant in the fall, as animals scurry to feed and gather supplies before the winter. As a result, autumn is a great time to spot wildlife that’s normally hiding in thickets and woodland areas.

· Plan for stops along the way. Don’t forget to bring some spending money in the form of cash so that you can enjoy the small farm stands and shops that often dot rural landscapes. Pick up farm-fresh produce or choose a plump pumpkin. Yard sales also are abundant this time of year. Small shops may not take credit cards, so if you plan to buy, cash is king.

Trees begin shedding their leaves as early as the beginning of September in Canada and the northern United States. As the days press on, the fall finery will gradually shift southward. For those who can afford to take a weekday off, do so, as weekends might be overcome with fellow nature enthusiasts.

Preserve Carved Pumpkins in Various Ways

Jack-o’-lanterns and other carved pumpkin designs are frequently the centerpieces of Halloween festivities. The twinkling lights and orange glow of jack-o’-lanterns can add ambiance to any autumn event. The trouble with carving pumpkins is that most people want to do it right away, only to discover their pumpkins wilt and decay long before Halloween.

Nothing ruins Halloween more than visiting a home to trick-or-treat and not getting candy. Equally disappointing is a sad pumpkin display withering away on a front porch. Even though all pumpkins will eventually rot, certain tips can keep carvings from collapsing too soon.

· Choose a sturdy pumpkin. Inspect the pumpkin of your choosing carefully, looking for gouges, spots and holes. Even a small blemish can quickly expand into a mushy mess. Select pumpkins with even color and firm flesh, and make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t feel tender when you push on the skin.

· Visit local pumpkin stands. Pumpkins that have been shipped miles and miles in hot cargo trucks may be overly ripened or battered. Pumpkins that were grown nearby may be fresher. Plus, buying pumpkins locally supports local farmers.

· Scrape the insides of the pumpkin thoroughly. Any moist bits inside the pumpkin will mold quickly. The pumpkin carving experts at Pumpkin Masters recommend scraping as much of the “guts” out as possible, leaving about a one-inch thickness of the wall of the pumpkin.

· Coat the pumpkin. Preservation methods may aim to keep the pumpkin hydrated and inhibit mold and other microbial growth. Commercially sold pumpkin preservation products, such as Pumpkin Fresh®, hold up well. Soaking and spraying carved pumpkins with a bleach-and-water solution also seems to preserve designs.

· Keep it out of the elements. Store carved pumpkins in a cool, dry place. This will help slow down the rotting process for pumpkins exposed to outdoor fungi, other microbes and warm sunlight.

· Use an artificial light source. Reduce the heat inside of the pumpkin and encourage hydration by selecting a battery-powered light instead of a lit candle to illuminate the carving.

· Skip the carving. Once pumpkin skin is compromised, microbes can enter. In lieu of carving, paint or decorate pumpkins in other ways if you want them to stay fresh for a long time. Glow in the dark paint can help pumpkins stand out at night.

Carved pumpkins may last a week or two, while uncut pumpkins can last for a month or more. Keeping pumpkins hydrated and mold-free will prolong your designs.