Outdoor Education Center

Happy and Healthy New Year!

 

December brought the Health and Nutrition Unit to a close for the WV Leaders in Action students, but not before some final lessons about the body’s need for a well-rounded approach to fitness.  Not only does health and fitness include cardio and strength activities, but stretching and flexibility activities as well.  They’re not just for gymnasts and cheerleaders, martial artists or dancers. Stretching is how a person maintains normal flexibility throughout life.

A person may not be able to function normally if a joint lacks normal movement. The ability to move a joint through an adequate range of movement (ROM) is important for daily activities in general.  Tightness or loss of ROM happens quite readily in our culture with much of our education and work happening in the sitting position at a desk.  The major areas of our hamstrings, hip-flexors, back, and neck are most commonly affected.  With losses of ROM, simple activities such as walking, biking, and playing can be restricted, more difficult, or even just less enjoyable.  As a point of remedy and wellness, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.1

stretching

So with all of this in mind, of course we headed outside with our students to learn some simple and easy active and static stretches to help them maintain and improve their capacity and ability to play and enjoy life.  How much they take care of their bodies is a decision that our students will have to make. But how might their health affect their education, I wondered?  After a bit a research, I came across this article2 which gives input into that very question.  Although complex, the answer is in short… of course their educational experience is impacted by their health.

As the semester came to a close, I wondered if there’s a larger lesson embedded in all of this as well.  Maintaining physical flexibility can be helpful to enjoy life and potentially take on new types of movements and activities more readily.  Can this be a metaphor for other aspects of who we are?  Mental flexibility can help us to think in new ways, adapt to different situations, or understand new concepts.  Emotional flexibility can help us cope with a variety of experiences or be less judgmental toward our peers. These skills can be important aspects on the path towards post-secondary education success.

So here’s to a brand new start filled with resolutions of all kinds that help us to loosen up in many ways. Wishing you, and all of our students, a happy and healthy new year.

References:

  1. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise
  2. http://hubpages.com/health/Does-health-affect-education

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

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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)

Outdoor Education Center

Welcome, new summer OEC counselors!

Every June, we at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center welcome our new summer staff of counselors.  It’s an exciting and challenging time for all of us as they are run through an intensive training schedule 2 and a half weeks long that prepares them for co-facilitating our FLOC kids camps.

During this time, they end up covering everything from “hard skills” such as safety and techniques on our High Ropes course, canoeing on the Shenandoah River, or backpacking on the Blue Ridge to the ever important “soft skills” like facilitating groups of students through the Low Ropes course challenges, helping groups to think about and learn from their experiences, and building confidence and rapport with our campers through a positive culture of interactions.

Natalie pic 1

This year we are welcoming Natalie Pickett as one of our new summer staff counselors.  Natalie comes all the way from Birmingham, AL.  She attended Louisiana State University and just graduated with a degree in Child and Family Studies and a minor in Business.  She brings 3 years of experience working with 6th through 8th graders in an afterschool program during her time in college.

Being from the south, this summer Natalie is excited to explore and learn about a new place and appreciate the cultural, social, and environmental differences.  She is especially looking forward to bonding with our camp youth and watching many of them experience something new.   “This,” she says, “is the reason I took this job.”  In addition to her gifts and passion for music, guitar, and singing, she is also very interested in social issues, particularly that of social justice.  In the future, she’ll be pursuing a career in non-profit management where she looks forward to working with at-risk youth, underserved populations, and the homeless.

A big welcome to Natalie and all of our new summer staff.

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

Outdoor Education Center, Scholars Program

Trust Falls, Chicken Nuggets, and Building Community: A Day at the OEC with Middle School Scholars

On October 13th, 2014, FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center (OEC) welcomed 23 MS OEC 3Middle School Scholars and four staff members to the scenic oasis in West Virginia. Students were greeted by four enthusiastic OEC staff members who led them through engaging low-ropes course activities and games.

As Scholars slowly grew accustomed to bugs native to West Virginia woods, they also learned more about each other and how to solve problems as a team. Students enjoyed the “Trust Fall” activity, which prepared students to listen and
trust each other, two important skills for the infamous high-ropes course in the afternoon. All of that trust building left Scholars famished, and they thoroughly
enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken nuggets, macaroni, salad, and fruit.

MS OEC trip 1After lunch, the students were delighted to make their way towards the high-ropes course. Some students had attended summer camp at the OEC in the past, and excitedly shared memories from zip-lining last summer with the new students. Once we arrived at the high ropes course, Scholars helped each other with their helmets and harnesses
as they received safety instructions.
Students could choose from three levels of difficulty on the high ropes course, and everyone encouraged one another to participate despite initial uncertainty.

One student, Paola, stated she was too scared to do the high ropes course during summer camp, but with her friend’s encouragement, decided to give it a try this time. Paola gracefully made it across the first portion of the ropes course, and flew down the zip line with an enormous smile as her peers cheered her on.

MS OEC 2  MS OEC 5
All of the Scholars did a great job overcoming their fears, supporting one another, and building community. Judging from the amount of snoring on the ride home, our Scholars had an action-packed and enjoyable escape from the city!

(Kayla Blau is the Scholars Program Instructor for 6th and 9th grade)

News, Outdoor Education Center

Meet Zoe: A Leaders In Action Student

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Zoe is one of our 8th grade Leaders In Action (LIA) students. When asked what she has learned the most through LIA, she responded, “Leadership. I have learned more about group dynamics and that in order for a group project to get done there has to be leaders and followers.  I know now how to be a part of a group and how to work together, like when we do big projects, how to work with other people to get things done,” Zoe says.

One of her favorite parts of LIA is all the fun she has while learning. “The teachers are really fun, and they make the things we learn really neat because they are so goofy.” Her favorite memory from this school year so far has been “making those geysers out of film canisters because they shot out real far and also almost hit my shoes.”

Zoe3

Another favorite of Zoe is “while we are learning all these fun things we also get to earn points to go to summer camp.” Last year Zoe earned the chance to attend our summer camp at the Outdoor Education Center (OEC) and is very much looking forward to returning this summer.

Zoe’s favorite memory from last summer was “the greenhouse and all of the projects we did with natural things. Also the high ropes were a lot of fun. My favorite part was the ‘zig-zag’ crossing.” For this summer she is most looking forward to “seeing and having more fun times with Harpers Ferry and DC friends again.”

This year our LIA program is actively involved with the seven dimensions of health: physical, social, emotional, environmental, spiritual, intellectual, and occupational. Students will have many opportunities to participate in community events, visit organizations on field trips, and host local guest speakers.

To kickoff 2014 LIA students have already participated in their midyear fitness test and have shown great improvement since the beginning of the school year. Zoe says, “I like the snow, but I wish we did not have as many snow days because I miss Leaders In Action and want to get back to learning more cool things.” For more information about Leaders In Action visit: http://flocoutdoors.org/youth/leaders-action.

(Kate Nelson is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).

News, Outdoor Education Center

Leaders In Action Students Participate in Holiday Parade

Students and OEC staff during the Charles Town-Ranson Holiday Parade.
LIA students and OEC staff during the Charles Town-Ranson Holiday Parade.

The holiday season accounts for parties galore, and some of those parties are community wide events of celebration. This year’s Charles Town-Ranson Holiday Parade was very much a celebration of community and joy.

Our very own Outdoor Education Center (OEC) had a float in the parade this year, created and assembled by our Leaders in Action (LIA) students with some help from our staff. During the after school program our students painted plywood panels that were later attached to a frame, set in a truck bed, and topped off in holiday garland and bows.

LIA students paint the OEC in preparation for the Holiday Parade.
LIA students paint the OEC logo in preparation for the Holiday Parade.

On the day of the parade, the students came and joined in the march. Everyone dressed up as woodland creatures to show our enthusiasm and appreciation for our furry friends. Along the route, the students helped pass out promotional flyers and candy to spread the word about the OEC, our summer camps and other educational programs.

Though the weather was cold and brisk, the students kept a positive and enthusiastic attitude while they ran up and down the parade route. It was, most definitely, a successful day for the OEC, our LIA students, and the local community.

(Kate Nelson is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).