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 in the Workplace, Scholars Program

10th Grade Scholars Learn About Careers at the Zoo

FLOC’s Scholars Program offers students many field trip and events to attend. In 10th grade, students have the opportunity to visit 4 work places in the D.C. area in order to get a better sense of the work place, ask career related questions, and create networking opportunities. This year students have visited FLOC, Kube Architecture, and Omni Hotel & Resort.

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At Kube Architecture earlier this fall, Elshadie, John, and Jada learn how architects use computer graphics to create their work.

For the 10th graders’ last visit on December 2nd, they had a rare opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park. Our Scholars met 4 zookeepers who work in Asia Trail, Small Mammals, Bird House, and Amazonia. The keepers shared more information about potential careers options at the Zoo and some of their personal experiences on the job. One keeper has been working at the zoo for 24 years.

Diversity Panel & 10th grade discussion

They also talked about diversity in their workplace. For example, there are now more women and minorities in STEM careers. The zookeepers are also members of their diversity committee and they shared their own personal insights. Our 10th graders were engaged and asked many questions including:

  • What experiences prepared you for your job?
  • What would you say to a high schooler who is interested in a career in science?
  • What internship opportunities are available to us?

10th Scholars exploring the Amphibian Exhibit

After the panel, the students had their own private tour of the Amazonia exhibit and learned more about animal enrichment and conservation. The Zoo was excited to work with our students and encouraged them to come back to visit anytime!

Zoo- 10th grade & Diversity Panel

(Cassie Degener is the College Access Coordinator with the Scholars Program.)

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.)

News, Scholars Program

Junior Scholars Tour Ten Colleges and Universities over Spring Break

During Spring Break, the 11th Grade Scholars set out on an extensive college tour through Virginia and North Carolina. Visiting 10 schools in total, the students gained exposure to many different kinds of college and universities. They visited the urban campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, the closed campus of the University of Richmond, the historically black Virginia State University, and the large, bustling campuses of North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech. They met up with current Postsecondary Scholars at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Radford University, who were able to give the 11th Grade Scholars a first-hand look into the college experience following life in DC.

Students at VTECH

The tour also took students through the campuses of Greensboro College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke University. The Scholars enjoyed seeing college campuses in action—students studying, rushing to class, playing in the quad, and eating in the cafeteria. They were able to take a peek inside dorm rooms, libraries, study halls, and classrooms. They were able to walk through the different campuses, getting a sense of what size student body felt most comfortable to them.

Students with mascot

They were able to enjoy lunches and dinners in conversation with current Joe bdaystudents, learning more about the available student organizations and quality of food!

And perhaps the dinner they most enjoyed was when we surprised Joe, FLOC’s Postsecondary Program Coordinator, with a birthday celebration he won’t soon forget! We only hope he was able to wash that whipped cream off his face . . .

(Ian McPherson is a program instructor with the Scholars Program.)