Monthly Archives: February 2011

In Two Hours, You Can Change a Life

(Jennifer Doak tutors in the Tuesday Night Reading program and volunteered to blog about her experiences.)

Two hours isn’t really that much time, when you think about it. Oh sure, it might be a long time to wait for a Metro train or listen to your boss talk about leveraging synergy. But two hours spent on the couch watching 30 Rock reruns or a college basketball game goes by pretty fast.

So does two hours of helping a kid learn. Sure, it might be hard to tear yourself away from mindlessly refreshing Facebook while Tracy Morgan does something ridiculous (…from what I hear anyway, because I’ve totally never done this, ever). But it’s infinitely more rewarding.

In two hours, you can help a sixth-grader understand the different meanings of the word “rig.” You can cheer when she aces a vocabulary test. Two hours spent over the course of several months will reward you with a measurable increase in the student’s progress.

I’ve been tutoring with FLOC for about seven months now. Over that period of time, I’ve probably missed 70 hours of quality comedy shows and NCAA hoops. Instead, I have the privilege of working with an awesome kid. We’re reading Lizzie McGuire books and learning about blended syllables and playing Boggle. She’s kicking butt on her quizzes and makes a genuine effort to learn every lesson—even though she’s already had a full day of school.

And you know what? I don’t really miss it. I have four other days to flop on the couch with mindless TV and a glass of wine. Taking two hours a week to set aside work stress and go back to the fundamentals of language is just as decompressing and far more gratifying. If your tutee can sacrifice two hours of Hannah Montana to boost her grades, then you can give up your reality shows and help her succeed.

Tina Fey and the Big East can wait for a little while. I’ve got more important things to do.

Advertisements

Girl Scouts and OEC Partner to Build Character

(Rob Stull is the Outreach Coordinator for the Outdoor Education Center.)

“Girl Scouts of the USA is the world’s preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls—all girls—where, in an accepting and nurturing environment, girls build character and skills for success in the real world.” (http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/)

The Girl Scout organization as a whole aims to build girls of courage, confidence, and character in order to make the world a better place. This vision is shared by the Outdoor Education Center (OEC), and something we strive for with all of our participants. It is because of this shared vision the OEC became a registered vendor and partner for The Girl Scout Council of the Nations Capitol (GSCNC) in 2008.

To date, we have offered programs to nearly 1,000 girl scouts in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington DC. These programs have included Team Building Adventures, Flat-water Canoeing, and GPS Scavenger Hunts. In 2010, the OEC expanded its Girl Scout offerings by developing environmental education, rock climbing, and yoga.

Character building is a major focus for both the girl scouts and the OEC—because of this, our Team Development Challenge Course is one of the most popular programs with the girls. This program offers various engaging, hands-on activities to improve communication, cooperation, and collaborative skills. Throughout the morning, the girls work together to solve puzzles and conquer obstacles as a team. In the afternoon, students use these skills to conquer some of their fears on the high ropes course, consisting of various ladders, climbing ropes, and wires with the culmination being the 300’ zip wire in the tree canopy.

To learn more about the variety of programs the OEC offers specifically for the girl scouts, visit http://www.gscnc.org/floc.html or call us at 304.725.0409. For more information about the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capitol, visit http://www.gscnc.org.

Tutor Spotlight: Peyton Ware, In His Own Words

(FLOC is recognizing outstanding tutors who have shown enthusiasm and commitment to their student(s) in a series of articles called “Tutor Spotlight.” Peyton is a tutor in the Saturday Morning program.)

I started tutoring because I wanted to give back to my community; I think kids are amazing (usually much cooler than adults); and I thought it would be something that my love of reading and writing would be helpful with.

Also, I think each of us, and especially myself, can recall teachers that really changed the way we view the world, or motivated us to improve ourselves, and those teachers were an inspiration for me to start going to For Love of Children (FLOC).

As for FLOC itself – I love FLOC. The staff has been very helpful. It’s interesting because the first student I had was very challenging, and the first coordinator I had (Lana) is now one of my current coordinators, and she keeps giving me helpful hints or encouragement for how to best tutor.

As for the students themselves, I have learned a lot from them, and the key for me is to always have a positive attitude. Every kid I have had, at heart, just wants to be liked and impress me. The biggest challenge is that kids will hide whatever they don’t know to impress me, or to avoid areas that might be difficult. Also, patience is extremely important.

Sometimes it may not seem like the student is really picking up that much, but I have learned that encouragement and showing interest in reading/math can really go a long way. For example, with my current student, Papa, I think showing an interest in his reading and encouraging him to write is extremely important.

Leaders in Action Students Support Local Farming

(Lydia Hastings is working at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center as the Marketing AmeriCorps VISTA. She originally joined the OEC staff over the summer as the Kitchen Coordinator.)

“A small minority of farmers, laden with debt and overburdened with responsibility, cannot possibly meet the needs of all the people. More and more people are coming to recognize this, and they are becoming ready to share agricultural responsibilities with the active farmers.” (1)

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) began during the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan as a result of the concerns about developing farmland. CSA consists of a community of individuals who support a local farm—assuming both the benefits and the risks of producing the food. Typically, individuals purchase a “share” of the farm allowing them to receive weekly deliveries of vegetables, fruits, eggs and even meats—all depending on the season. It took nearly 20 years for this concept to reach the United States. Today, there are hundreds of CSA farms across the country.

The Outdoor Education Center purchases CSA shares from Claymont Farms—a local farm in Charles Town, West Va. At a cost of $660, the OEC receives a delivery once a week for 22 weeks during the growing season. This delivery consists of fresh vegetables, micro-greens salad mix, and eggs. This CSA share allows the OEC staff to supplement the food served to our program participants and summer campers. Some of the summer campers are the Leaders In Action (LIA) students from Harpers Ferry Middle School.

The LIA students take their involvement with the Claymont Farms CSA even further. As part of one of their weekly activities in the Spring, they travel to Claymont Farms to meet with one of the farmers. During their visit, they learn about some of the farming practices and see firsthand how the farm operates. The students also assist the farmer with basic tasks of planting vegetables, weeding the gardens and cultivating the soil. Participating in this visit allows the students to “buy-in” to the CSA in more ways than one. Additionally, to help pay for the OEC’s farm share, the LIA students construct bird houses to sell at the local farmers market. The money made from selling these houses goes toward purchasing our share for the season.

To learn more about the LIA after-school program, please visit http://www.flocoutdoors.org. Additionally, if you would like to learn more about the Claymont Farms CSA, visit their website at http://www.claymont.org/farming.

(1) Trauger M. Groh and Steven S.H. McFadden, Farms of Tomorrow. Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities. Kimberton, PA: Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1990. p. 6

Scholars Students to Perform with Sitar Group

(Ashley Bradfield is a Program Instructor in the Scholars Program.)

I am eager to deliver some exciting news to the FLOC community. On Feb. 7, Scholars Staff paid a visit to the nearby Sitar Arts Center—a center that provides “youth the opportunity to explore and study the visual and performing arts in an afterschool safe haven” (sitarcenter.org).

The purpose of this visit was to meet with the Director of Students and Families, Rob Smith, to discuss some potential collaborative projects between FLOC and Sitar. However, we were lucky enough to get a full tour of the facilities at Sitar before we got down to business. Rob took us through the art studio, dance studio, digital media room, theatre (backstage and in the sound booth), dark room and music practice rooms—this wasn’t even all of the spaces at Sitar to create art! Perhaps the most moving part of our tour was seeing a student’s visual art show, entitled “Identity and Passion” that was on display in a central public space. When seeing this exhibit, Rob assured us that “anything is possible” at Sitar—a theme that was continued in our meeting. We felt inspired and even more hopeful about collaboration with Sitar.

Plans that are in the making include a performance by our high school theatre group during Sitar’s Performance week in May, as well as a student-run Open Mic Event, also in May. FLOC students are encouraged to get involved in the Open Mic Event, either by preparing performance pieces or helping in organizational duties.

In other news, FLOC will be participating in a Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April service event. Volunteers will help to “rehabilitate homes for low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and those with disabilities” on April 30 (rebuildingtogether.org). We hope to collaborate again with Sitar on this project to bring together students to give back to their community, but are looking for volunteers to participate along with us. The goal is to have a group of 30 to 35 participants, youth and adults combined. Anybody with skilled-trade experience is especially encouraged to volunteer! We must submit our group information by the end of February, so please e-mail me at abradfield@floc.org no later than Monday, Feb. 21 if you would like to sign up or if you have any questions.

Voices of Scholars: Poetic, Real, Inspired

Scholars Students at Race for a Cause

(Kelley Thompson is a Program Specialist in FLOC’s Scholars Program.)

I recently returned from a trip to Vietnam, where I was fascinated by the stark contrast between the serene beauty of the countryside and the frenetic pace of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). FLOC related? Yes, indeed. The period of time between when FLOC Scholars enter the building and the start of their program is reminiscent of the energetic, loud and bustling streets of Hanoi and HCMC. My office, which is adjacent to the Scholars program space, is more akin to the peaceful Vietnamese countryside.

It was during one of these ‘in between” times that I stepped away from the student-filled room and into my office to gather some program supplies before the actual start of program. Liquid Mind music was playing on my computer, and, as the name suggests, the music had an instantaneous calming effect. I paused long enough for the music to envelop my entire being and then emerged from my office more intentional and thoughtful in my observations. In my “Liquid Mind/Vietnamese Countryside” induced state, I viewed the scene of students with a profound clarity. I saw a group of young people, all of whom have infinite capacity to teach, inspire and impact those they encounter. More specifically, I was amazed by:

• The poetry Scholars speak without even trying to be poetic
• The ‘realness’ and ‘raw-ness’ (coupled with a somewhat counterintuitive innocence) with which they understand life
• The unique perspectives they offer to anyone who will listen
• Their creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness
• The ease with which they will sing and dance when the mood strikes
• The fact that some still find simple humorous pleasure in crawling under a table (come on, it’s like fort-building using the only readily available resources)
• The trusting and open way they share
• The way their smiles can change the trajectory of the recipient’s entire day

All of this was a very long-winded way of saying that FLOC Scholars have amazing things to offer the world. So, rather than my continuing to ramble, I think it’s time to hear the actual voices of the Scholars.
And thus begins part one of ‘Voices of Scholars: A Series.’ I think it is appropriate to kick off this series with an introduction to who the Scholars actually are. When asked, “who are you,” they responded……

Wolf, peace, unknown, ignorant, happiness, lost, eternity, human, silent, deep, Apollo, nature, handsome, abyss, tree, bright, poet, thought, champion, thinker, love, soldier, man, unity, darkness, boy, artist, pretty, smart, green, animal, BFF, loving, kind, outdoors, indoors, fun, friends, everything, family, cook, traveler, food, Abercrombie & Fitch, history, horses, dolphins, Spanish, singer, artist, logic, mature, mentality, movement, power, strength, comfort, Malaysia, spirit, gamer, hair, stereotype, statistic, solution, accessory, mandatory, unnatural, phenomenon, speaker, psychologist, Pandora, collision, motivator, encourager, courage, inspire, Aphrodite, sports, guitarist, musician, tall, incredible, amazing, talented, giving, loveable, sharing, daughter, granddaughter, niece, heart, friend, student, invincible, shy, pretty, occupied, film, writer, critic, teenager, fashionable, spontaneous, excited, excellent, important, sociable, forgiving, respectful, honest, loyal, girl, person, Redskins fan, puppies, successful, visitation, from God, intelligent, bashful, artist, talkative, love, hardworking, First honors, orange, FLOC, different, colorful, visi girl, creative, nature, Salt and Vinegar chips, pizza, real, fabulous, shopaholic, pink, unicorn, pony, gold, friend, St. Anthony, silver, lavender, nice, twin, caring, a boy who likes singing, Yugi-oh, comic books, drawing, nice, smart, soccer, football, writing, video games, books, silly, acting, library, glee club, rollercoaster.

Students Learn about Healthy Lifestyles

(Lydia Hastings is working at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center as the Marketing AmeriCorps VISTA. She originally joined the OEC staff over the summer as the Kitchen Coordinator.)

According to the Center for Disease Control, West Virginia is ranked the fourth highest state in obesity with 67.5 percent of its adult residents classified as obese or overweight. There are many theories as to the root cause of the obesity problem–stemming from genetics to economic means, to physical and personal habits in the way we live.

Theories and potential causes aside, there is one thing that experts can agree on; the best way to combat this growing epidemic is by making good lifestyle choices.

It has been proven that obesity and the accompanying metabolic complications can be drastically reduced or eliminated through proper nutritional choices and physical exercise. West Virginia residents face a drastic need to reevaluate current lifestyle choices to ensure a healthier future. With the decrease in affordability of healthcare, it is more and more imperative that individuals commit to making healthier living a priority in life.

While there are several factors as to why West Virginia has the fourth highest obesity rate, we cannot overlook the lack of support or education that students receive throughout their life on this topic. Education on healthy living should start at a young age. State officials see the need for reform and have begun implementing new programs to help fill this void on the education side. By encouraging West Virginia’s youth to participate in healthier habits, such as eating well and staying physically active, we can help ensure a lifetime of healthy decision-making. These habits will help prevent the major health concerns associated with obesity that plague the state today.

Education programs will help our children acquire a stronger foundation to help make informed choices on their own and prevent health complications in the future.

The Outdoor Education Center of For Love of Children is doing its part in educating Jefferson County’s youth on healthy lifestyle choices and physical exercise. The Leaders in Action (LIA) students are beginning their spring health unit, where they will be participating in various sessions designed to educate them on the importance of making healthy choices to ensure a stronger future. The students will be involved in interactive sessions, both on physical exercise and on the importance of nutritious choices. They will have the opportunity to speak and engage with inspiring local professionals in the health and wellness field. With help from the LIA staff, the students will be equipped with new skill sets to ensure a stronger chance for success and health in their life.

For more information on the nations obesity standings, visit http://calorielab.com/news/2010/06/28/fattest-states-2010/.