Outdoor Education Center

Empowerment and Health

Students today are faced with many decisions in their life. FLOC aims to help students understand that they constantly have many choices, even when it comes to their health and the health of their community. Part of the youth empowerment programming adopted by FLOC’s West Virginia Leaders in Action program includes the self-awareness and knowledge that they do have power to make good decisions and affect change.

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Here in WV, the statistics for childhood obesity rates reached close to 18.5% in 2011 placing the state high on the list at number 13 compared with the 50 other states. For the same year, DC youth obesity rates were just above 21% putting the district at 4th highest among other states.   Poor health and nutrition and lack of activity can also be major determining factors in a person’s ability to focus, to sleep well, and have energy and motivation. The link between education and health is well documented, but it would not be surprising that students’ health could affect their education as well.

For the second half of the fall semester, our Leaders in Action programs have been immersed in the Health and Nutrition unit. Students looked at the consequences of added sugars with the enhanced visuals of actually measuring out the numbers of teaspoons of sugar in a variety of familiar foods and products. They also discussed standard dental hygiene practices and strategies for caring for our protective tooth enamel such as avoiding sugary acidic beverages. Everyone was surprised to learn that most fruit juices and sports drinks are comparable to sodas when it comes to acidity and sugar content.

The focus this month is on the importance of movement and activity in our lives.  Learning or developing unhealthy habits as a child can set a person up for a lifetime of difficulties and disease.  Play and movement can be fun, and implementing healthy habits can increase a child’s energy and confidence.  So last week, in honor of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, we visited a local county park’s indoor playground and got active for one hour.  After learning how to measure their heart rates and get them up to beneficial levels, with the help of a moon bounce and some fun games like clothes pin tag, all those present got the recommended 60 minutes of activity in for that day.

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The health of a population is affected not just by education and awareness, but also by economic inequalities, and access to healthy food and safe, active, appropriate spaces to play, among other things.  We don’t want our young people to be limited in life by preventable health issues.  Their potential is at stake, so let’s move towards a more healthy and just society together.

(Josh Evans is the Program Assistant for FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center in WV)

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News, Scholars Program

FLOC Students Take to the Hill

On Friday, April 17th, during DCPS and FLOC spring break, 8 FLOC High School Scholars had the opportunity to be lobbyists for a day.  They began their Capitol Hill visit with a working breakfast, learning and discussing about the U.S. legislative system, how to influence decisions and reach consensus, and the do’s and don’ts of lobbying.  Then the students broke up into teams of two and headed off to House and Senate office buildings to shadow some professional lobbyists and participate in meetings with congressional staffers on topics ranging from health care to cyber security to transportation infrastructure and more.

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One of our high school sophomores got to lobby a congressional staff member on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law (or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), which sets national standards for closing the achievement gap and provides funding for state and local school districts.  Joel had the opportunity to share his own experiences with DC’s annual assessment tests and his recommendation that Congress make college more affordable for all students.

After a full morning of learning and lobbying, it was time for a fantastic lunch in one of the Congressional dining rooms, including ice cream for dessert, and a tour of the U.S. Capitol. Our tour included some of the usual interesting stops, like the Capitol Rotunda and murals, Statuary Hall, the old Supreme Court Chambers,  and the exact center of Washington, DC. But it also included some extra special behind-the-scenes peeks that the general public doesn’t usually get to see, such as visiting the Senate Cloakroom and stepping onto the Senate floor, touring the Minority Leader’s office, and a ride on the Capitol subway.  Many thanks to the staff from the offices of the National Governors Association, Senate Sergeant at Arms, Senator Bennett from Colorado  and the staff of the Democratic Cloak Room for making this tour possible, plus the Senate pages who spoke to us about their lives as high school students living and working in DC for the semester.

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Our group of students included an aspiring politician and a young woman set on being the “second Latina Supreme Court Justice,” so the insiders glimpse into our political process was such a fabulous experience to help them on their career journey!

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(Elizabeth Metz is the Recruitment and Outreach Manager at FLOC.)

Events, Neighborhood Tutoring Program, News

FLOC Book Festival: A Great Success

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Students had the opportunity to take home their favorite books.

Our 7th Annual Book Festival took place at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery on Saturday November 16th. Over 130 people attended the event including FLOC students, volunteers, parents, and board members. This year we were able to celebrate our annual literacy event by distributing over 1,170 books to the 73 students who attended.

Marc Tyler Nobleman shared his anecdotes about how he became a writer to the students and their families.
Marc Tyler Nobleman shared his anecdotes about how he became a writer.

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation by author Marc Tyler Nobleman. He explained his start into writing by winning a contest in elementary school and how his love for writing and comic books characters grew over the years into a prominent career. All students were able to walk home with a signed copy of one of his books such as Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. After Nobleman’s presentation, the students rotated through the different areas to meet and take pictures with Super Why from PBS; choose their books; and dress up like super heroes for our FLOC photo booth.

Super Why from PBS and our students.
Our students were very excited to meet Super Why.

We are extremely grateful for getting to partner with PBS this year and to receive extra activities for our students. All students were able to leave with a reading chart which they can send back to PBS after they have read a certain number of books to receive a prize.

The Book Festival was made possible by many great sponsors this year. Over 400 books were donated through book drives held by Raffa, Sedgwick LLP, SIGAL Construction, and University of Maryland’s Chi Sigma Iota Honor Society. We also received over 300 books from Books for America. We would like to thank First Book DC  for a wide variety of new books as well as providing volunteers for the event. Special thanks to JBG Companies for sponsoring the event, especially our board member, Matt Blocher, for making it possible.

Finally, we would also like to thank all of our FLOC families and volunteers for coming out to the event. We hope you enjoyed getting to mingle with some of our staff as well as meet students that are also in the program. We hope to see you all next year!

(Catherine Brenner is an NTP Site Coordinator at FLOC).

Development, Events, News

Please Join Us at FLOC’s 7th Annual Children’s Book Festival!

Save the date for the 7th Annual FLOC Book Festival taking place on Saturday, November 16th from 4-6 p.m. at Pepco Edison Place Gallery. FLOC’s Book Festival is a time for children and their families to celebrate reading and books! This year’s featured author is Marc Tyler Nobleman, writer of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. There will also be reading activities for children and parents around the theme of superheroes.  

At the conclusion of the event, students and their families will be able to take home 15 free books to start or add to their personal libraries. According to a 2007 study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 4th graders who reported having 25 or more books at home had higher scores on reading tests than children who didn’t have that many. We hope you’ll join us for this unique event that we are sure will leave you inspired by our incredible students. You can read about last year’s book festival here.

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This year, FLOC has partnered up with some of our corporate partners to host company book drives. We’d like to thank SIGAL Construction, Sedgwick LLP, The Meltzer Group, and Raffa for collecting books for FLOC students to take home. We’d also like to thank The JBG Companies for being our event sponsor. For more information about the event and sponsors, visit our website here.

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For the first time, during this year’s event, we’re offering a special opportunity for FLOC partners, friends, and supporters to participate in a meet-and-greet and discussion session with a few members of the board, along with Tim Payne, FLOC’s Executive Director, and Robyn Lingo, Director of Programs. We’d love the chance to meet with you in a casual setting where Tim and Robyn will talk more about FLOC programs and current happenings. Attendees of this portion of the event will have the opportunity to hear the featured author read to the students, and then will break off for the meet-and-greet while FLOC students are enjoying of literacy-themed activities. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to Ellie Haga at ehaga@floc.org or 202-349-3500. We look forward to seeing you and sharing more about what your support is enabling us to do at FLOC!

(Kate Fleischer is the Development Assistant at FLOC).