Children Needn’t Go from School Days to Summer Daze

Take Advantage of the Many Summer Learning Opportunities Available in Central Indiana
By John Brandon

This is the time of the year when lots of folk’s minds turn to planning how they and their children will spend their summer vacation. To succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months. Many of us have an image of summer as a carefree, happy time when “kids can be kids,” and take for granted the prospect of enriching experiences such as summer camps and family trips to museums, parks and libraries. When you are making your summer plans with the children you care about, be sure to take advantage of the many learning opportunities available in central Indiana.

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Don’t Let Rainy Weather Stop You from Turning Off the TV

It’s international Turnoff Week. So turn off your TV, iPhone and Xbox, and say goodbye to Twitter and Facebook. Are you up for the challenge?

I don’t even have cable, so TV definitely doesn’t rule my life. I should be able to turn it off for a week no problem, but a rainy start to the week makes me think that it may not happen. If I can’t work in the yard or go for a bike ride, why shouldn’t I just watch a few programs or spend a few hours on Facebook? I do have a few pounds to lose, some spring cleaning to do, and a few books that have been sitting on the nightstand unopened. Come to think of it, I have more than a week’s worth of non-TV and non-computer things I’ve been wanting to do for ages. I guess I’m willing to give a try…are you?

There are tons of stats out there about how TV is bad for you (and for kids). Parents miss out on meaningful conversations with kids. People who watch alot of TV are more likely to get fat. Computer, TVs and video systems waste energy and $$$. Children who watch TV may be more likely to have ADHD symptoms. If you need more reasons or stats to get you moving, here are a few sites that might persuade you: Ten Financial Reasons To Turn Off Your Television – And Ten Things To Replace It With. Trash Your TV contains tons of stats – some seem plausible, others are questionable, but they might just get you moving. Some recent articles question Is google making us stupid, or is it the computer screen that’s doing us in?

For me, all the statistics in the world don’t make a difference. What is most important to me is that watching TV (with the exception of a few really good, thought-provoking shows) makes me feel like I am wasting my life. I live in a great neighborhood and city. I have an awesome (and awesomely large) family. I can make a difference in the lives of the people around me, but not if I’m watching TV or sitting in front of a screen. At the end of my life, I definitely will not be saying, “I wish I had seen more episodes of Family Guy” or, “If only I’d spent a few more hours searching the web, who knows what I could have done with my life.” Seriously, I know that there are better things to do with my time.

Getting Started. Take baby steps…cut out 1 program a day (or a week). Then go from there. If you need something a little more concrete, here are 7 Ways to Cut TV Time. And here are some ways to help your kids reduce their TV time.

You’ve turned off the TV, now what?
Get outside, read a book, play a game with the family, create a scrapbook from all those digital pictures that are just sitting on the computer…the possibilities are endless. Here are some sites that the whole family can use to fill those 4.5 hours a day that are now available: Check out the library. Here’s what’s going on at the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library this week. Get healthy. Take advantage of the We Can online resources or the Subway Kids Healthy at Home tools. Get creative inside and outside. Make a difference. Check out how to volunteer as a family and go to Volunteer Match to find volunteer opportunities in your area — just key in your ZIP code and click on “advanced search.” You can specify the kind of opportunities you want to pursue and find organizations that are kid-friendly.

Lastly, be committed to living the best life possible – with or without TV.

Souder Reconsidering Sponsorship of the Federal Youth Coordination Act

Community Support Was Key – And Still Is Key

On March 18, MCCOY sent a sign-on letter in support of the Federal Youth Coordination Act (H.R. 7004) to Representative Mark Souder of Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District. The letter was signed by 38 organizations and 109 individuals from across Indiana and urged Souder, Indiana’s only representation on the Education and Labor Committee, to support the creation of a White House Office on Children and Youth by signing on as an original co-sponsor of the bill.

Souder originally declined co-sponsorship, but after receiving the sign-on letter a week after the Indy Star Online published an article on March 11, he is now reconsidering. “You are indeed having a great effect,” said Thaddeus Ferber of the Forum for Youth Investment, who has been working intimately with the Souder and his staff in Washington D.C. on this initiative. Ferber reported that because of MCCOY’s great advocacy, “Souder’s office changed their tune from a ‘no’ to a ‘maybe.”

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Childhood Stress and Poverty Reduce Working Memory

A study led by Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., recently linked childhood stress and poverty to reduced working memory function in late adolescence. Reading about it in the Washington Post (you may need to register to access the article), I started thinking about the impact that our current economic situation may have on young people, as well as how caring adults and family members can limit the negative aspects of that impact.

The study concluded that (1) when poverty conditions were present in a 9- to 13-year old’s life and (2) when that young person had high levels of stress-related hormones, they demonstrated reductions in working memory (basically short-term memory). As poverty or stress levels increased in study participants, working memory function decreased in later adolescence.

As our community faces higher unemployment rates and Indianapolis consistently ranks in the top three metropolitan area for foreclosure rates, youth are surely being impacted. After a quick internet search for research-based practices to support youth during difficult economic times, I found a great overview and list of related articles from the American Phychological Association. One article is all about talking to children about the economy and inviting them into a discussion. It’s amazing how small discussions can go so far in mitigating negative results in youth!

Of course, this article also provokes some thought about how our community as a whole needs to address underlying social and economic issues if we truly want equal opportunities for all our youth. Discussions are important, but quick-fixes might not go far enough to fight the long-term impact on memory among these youth.

A related quote from the study’s author:

“It’s not just ‘Read to our kids and take them to the library,’ ” he said. “We need to take into account that chronic stress takes a toll not only on their health, but it may take a toll on their cognitive functioning.”

Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels today announced the state will hire 2,000 young adults to spend this summer and next improving Indiana’s parks, trails and natural habitats. The program, called the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps, will use federal stimulus funds designated for employment and training of people 16 to 24 years old.

The jobs will pay $8.50 per hour. According to federal requirements, the jobs will be for Hoosiers who are 24 years old or younger and whose family incomes are at or below the poverty level (approximately $23,000 for a family of four).