Tag Archives: school

Exclusive: USDA to Announce Healthier New School Lunch Guidelines

Taken from ABCNews/Health

Later today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce the first new school lunch guidelines in 15 years.

In that time, childhood obesity rates in this country have risen yet more.

The Academy for Global Citizenship, a school in Chicago, is one of about a thousand schools that have already adopted the food of the future.

“We serve only whole grains and fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Things like quinoa, as you mentioned, and kamut and millet,” said Sarah Elizabeth Ippel founder and Executive Director of the school. “Positive nutrition is essential and a very integral component to effective learning.”

Here’s an example of a current school lunch:

Breaded beef patty on a roll
Fruit popsicle
Low-fat milk

And here’s what a meal might look like under the new rules:

Baked fish nuggets
Whole wheat roll
Mashed potatoes
Skim milk

“The more we can reinforce the right set of choices and encourage the right set of choices, the greater the chances are that we will get a handle on obesity,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told “Good Morning America.”

The underlying requirements are based on an Institute of Medicine study: reduce saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Increase whole grains. Serve both fruits and vegetables daily. And, for the first time, set maximum calorie counts in addition to minimum ones.

“This doesn’t mean that we are going to eliminate treats, not at all. But it is a circumstance, situation where treats have a special meaning, a special occasion, a special circumstance that we celebrate with a treat,” Vilsack added.

Children consume more than half of their calories at school.

“Schools are supposed to set an example of many, many values of society and one of them ought to be eating well,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at NYU and the author of “What to Eat”. “The schools that I’ve been in that have the best school lunch programs work with the kids very closely on how the foods taste, get the kids involved in cooking, talk about where the food comes from and make the school lunch program part of the whole educational program. ”

The Academy for Global Citizenship is a public charter school that serves school meals that already meet these new USDA standards.

To continue reading, click HERE.


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Is Your Child’s Teacher A Good One?

Here in NJ, there has been some much focus on education. Budget cuts, salary cuts, should teacher have tenure, etc. etc.? There’s always that belief that tenure makes schools keep bad teachers and doesn’t open the door for good ones to come through. My teacher friends have their thoughts on it…but I think it’s hard to fire someone now-a-days without fear of lawsuits and more. is this why bad teachers are staying? Not sure. But this interesting article takes a look at how to spot a good teacher. And as parents, if you don’t feel you have a good teacher, speak up!

What do you think makes a good teacher?

Taken from imaginationsoup.net

Is My Child’s Teacher a Good Teacher?

Is My Child’s Teacher a Good Teacher?

04 JAN | 5 Comments »

Last month, a blogger friend asked me, “How do I know if my child’s teacher is a good teacher? and could you write a post?” That plus my own school dilemma (see post, Why I Don’t Want to Send Then Back to School), and sent me to Gold Rush Elementary.

My hope in public schools is restored!!!

I visited  Gold Rush Elementary in Parker, Colorado because my friend, Kristen Hyde teaches there. I wanted to take photos of her phenomenal learning environment. And (background angels break in singing, “Laaaaaa!”) I saw a school who cared more about helping students think and become reflective learners than performing on a test.

Hallelujah and sign me up!

I asked Kristen what she thought makes a good teacher. She said, Does the child like school? My main goal is that all my students LOVE to come to school.

I love Kristen. She’s a good teacher!

So, without further ado, here’s my list of how a parent can tell if their child’s teacher is good.

(Drum roll, please.)

The most important qualities which describe a
good, great, exceptional, outstanding teacher:

  • Loves kids.

Doesn’t this seem like a crazy thing to even mention? The best teachers think all their kids are wonderful in some way – from the rule followers to the booger pickers to the differently abled learners, this teacher loves them all. You’ll hear things like, “Oh, that Josh I just adore, he has trouble focusing but what a great kid.” Or “I’m so amazed at the way Amy thinks about things so deeply.”

You will not hear, “Oh, that Josh is my bad student.” Or “Amy is snotty and always talks back.” Or, “That kid will never learn anything.”

  • Connects with kids.

This teacher knows her kids – what they like, what they don’t. She or he knows each child’s strengths and weaknesses. She speaks to her students at eye level. She talks with respect to her students. You’ll see a classroom full of students learning, search for the teacher and find she’s on her knees or in a small chair conferring with a student at the student’s eye level.

That happened today when I walked into Kristen’s room. It took me a minute to find her because she was kneeling down helping a student.

You won’t see a teacher towering over a child and talking down to them or thunking students on the head while walking by with a “Get back to work, NOW.” (Last month I saw a Special Education teacher do this to a child with Asperger Syndrome in my daughters’ school!)

  • Wants to learn more.

A good teacher is teachable, and always trying to learn and grow as a teacher. This teacher takes classes, attends professional development, reads books on teaching, watches other teachers, and never thinks he’s done learning.

You’ll hear something like this, which I overheard today:

I just applied to for the White Board Training,” said a teacher at Gold Rush to the Building Resource Teacher (BRT). “I don’t know much about it.”

The BRT was shocked. “You use the White Board every day! You use it more than anyone in this school.

I just think I’ve been doing the same thing for five years and I could learn more about it.”

Wow. I would want my kids in this teacher’s classroom.

  • Knows what’s she’s teaching (curriculum, standards, goals and expectations) and WHY.

I picked up Kristen’s read aloud book by Ann Martin and asked, “Is this any good?

She said, “It’s sad, with lots of description, but my kids really need to build their stamina for this kind of writing and not just the kind of writing in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Junie B. Jones.” (This is the WHY! Kristen’s reading this book for a specific learning purpose.)

  • Creates a positive learning environment classroom. (Behavior, Physical Environment)

Behavior is managed with positive rewards (Kristen does lunch in the classroom with her on Friday) and consequences (no lunch with her) plus a school wide behavior plan. Noise is appropriate learning noise and not  chaos with students off-task and misbehaving.

The room shows student learning and group instruction with examples posted on the walls. The room does not look like an advertisement for a teacher store with cut-outs of snowmen inside store-bought borders. More on this topic tomorrow. (I just put up a bulletin board of snowmen for JJ’s teacher at her request. Why? For what purpose?)

  • Assess knowledge and uses the information.

This teacher uses informal and formal assessments to determine what to teach next. He considers each child’s assessment and uses this in considering what to teach or not teach next.


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Pyschology to Make School Lunches More Appealing

Schools are trying to make healthy food more appealing to students.  Seems bans on junk food and soda have been backfiring. And we all know, presentation matters! Schools are trying to make healthy food appear more interesting and exciting. Makes you wonder what’s going on in your schools, doesn’t it?

Taken from news.yahoo.com

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer – Tue Oct 12, 9:21 pm ET

Hide the chocolate milk behind the plain milk. Get those apples and oranges out of stainless steel bins and into pretty baskets. Cash-only for desserts.

These subtle moves can entice kids to make healthier choices in school lunch lines, studies show. Food and restaurant marketers have long used similar tricks. Now the government wants in on the act.

[Related: 7 marketing tricks you’re falling for at supermarket]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced what it called a major new initiative Tuesday, giving $2 million to food behavior scientists to find ways to use psychology to improve kids’ use of the federal schoollunch program and fight childhood obesity.

A fresh approach is clearly needed, those behind the effort say.

About one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight. Bans on soda and junk food have backfired in some places. Some students have abandoned school meal programs that tried to force-feed healthy choices. When one school district put fruit on every lunch tray, most of it ended up in the garbage.

So instead of pursuing a carrot or a stick approach, schools want to entice kids to choose the carrot sticks, figuring children are more likely to eat something they select themselves.

Click HERE to read entire article.


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Easing Back To School Jitters

Taken from scholastic.com

Going from long, lazy summer days back to the rigors of a classroom can be a bumpy road for your child. It’s normal for her to experience a range of emotions about returning to school. In fact, school tops the list of worries for kids ages 7 to 12, says Carol Falender, Ph.D., a psychologist who has worked for over 20 years with children and their families.

Your first step to addressing these fears, says Dr. Falender, is to try to bridge the gap between summer activities and the new school year. If your child read a lot over the summer, remind her that “all that reading is really going to help you with your assignments.” If she spent the summer swimming laps, you can say to her “your new strength will really help you during after-school sports.”

Though each child responds to going back to school differently, you can take steps to address jitters and make the transition time smoother. Could one of these issues be causing your child’s fears?

Life Changes
Academic Challenges
Social Worries

Life Changes
Starting at a new school can present an especially daunting challenge. Similarly, if your child has recently experienced an upheaval at home, such as moving or divorce, he may be especially susceptible to feeling stressed about returning to school.

If this is the case for your child, “keep your eyes and ears open and really listen,” says Adele Brodkin, Ph.D., a child development consultant and author. Asking open-ended questionscan give your child the space to figure out his own feelings. If he expresses a specific worry, you might say something like: “What makes you feel that way?” and see where the conversation leads.

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Academic Challenges
A new grade brings new challenges. Perhaps your child will be expected to do homework or write a research paper for the first time. With fears of not measuring up academically, the best defense is a good offense. Getting organized and establishing reassuring routines can go a long way to making a child feel competent.

With a young child, help her to:

• Review where the school bus will pick her up or how she’ll get to school

• Visit the school grounds and if possible, make an appointment to tour the inside

• Write an introductory letter to her new teacher

• Calmly review safety procedures such as how to cross the street and avoid strangers

With a child of any age, encourage him to:

• Lay out his clothes for the first day

• Help prepare a tasty lunch (then tuck a secret note inside for him to find)

• Gather supplies and pack his backpack a few nights before school starts

• Set up an organized study area at home

Rumors of a particularly hard teacher may fuel fearing or disliking a new teacher. Do help your child keep in mind that one person’s dreaded teacher can be another kid’s favorite. While it’s okay for your child to express her dislike of a teacher, she should be expected toremain respectful. You can encourage her to be open-minded and approach this as an opportunity to help her learn how to deal with a person she finds difficult. Listen to her issues and plan to attend parent-teacher night to get your own take on the situation.

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Social Worries
A new class roster can mean adjusting without friends who have provided a social base in previous years. Try to present this as an opportunity for your child to widen his group of friends, rather than a tragic loss of familiar faces. If possible, get the class list and set up a play date before school starts, so that your child will have a new friend to look for on the first day. Establish time for him to catch up with old friends too.

A new school or classroom may spark concerns about finding friends at all. An outside class or hobby such as ballet or a sport can provide a conversation starter and the opportunity to meet kids outside your child’s usual circles. Talking to her about other challenging situations that she successfully navigated also boosts self-esteem.

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Getting Help
If your child’s anxiety impedes his day-to-day life, Dr. Brodkin recommends asking yourself two questions:

• How much of a change is this behavior from the norm?

• How long has this changed behavior been going on?

Most back-to-school anxiety is anticipatory. If the level and type of anxiety seems a marked departure from your child’s usual behavior and lasts well past the beginning of the school year, consider seeking outside help. Start by talking with his teacher. Next, a school counselor or psychologist can provide valuable tips and resources. Anxiety disorders do affect children, notes Dr. Falender, and are often overlooked because such children do not tend to act out.

Be Supportive
It is normal for every child to react to going back to school in her own way. This can make it tempting to apply your own experience to your child’s life. Although harkening back can provide insight, don’t forget that your child is not you. Be calm and matter of fact. Listen and provide reassurance, but try not to heighten anxiety with old memories and good intentions.

In the end, the most important tool you can use is to know your own child, “and most parents do,” says Dr. Brodkin. Observe the situation, but also try to keep it all in perspective. For most kids, back-to-school jitters will melt away as easily as summer slips into fall.

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Is Your Child Ready For Preschool?

A lot of the mommies in my circle are gearing up with great excitement for September. For the first time, we are sending our little kiddies off to preschool and will have 2 1/2 giddy hours all to ourselves! I guess we just know our kids are ready for preschool. But I’m sure there are others who are on the fence or just aren’t sure if their child is ready. How do you know? Here are some guidelines to help you make the best decision where your child is concerned.

Taken from getreadyforschoool.com

Just because most preschools will accept children at around 2½ years old doesn’t mean your child is ready for preschool when she reaches that age. Is she socially, emotionally and physically ready to participate in a structured educational program with a group of children? The following will help your think about some of the important skills needed for preschool.

Is your child independent?

Your child should also be able to take care of some basic needs, like washing her hands, eating her lunch without assistance and sleeping alone. most preschools will want your child to be potty trained

Has Your Child Spent Time Away From You?

If your child has been cared for by a babysitter or a relative, he’ll be better prepared to separate from you when he’s at preschool. Kids who are used to being apart from their parents often bounce right into preschool with hardly a backward glance. If your child hasn’t had many opportunities to be away from you, you might want to schedule some – a weekend with grandma, for instance, or a day with your sister and her kids. But even if you can’t work out your separation issues up front, don’t worry too much; many children leave Mom or Dad for the first time to go to preschool and they do just fine. The trick is to help your child adjust in short doses. Many preschools will allow you to drop off your child for an hour or two during his first few days there; as he gets more used to his environment, you gradually work up to a full day. Some experts believe that preschool may even be more important for kids who’ve been at home with their parents, to help get them ready for the move to kindergarten.

Can she work on projects on her own?

Preschool usually involves lots of arts and crafts projects that require concentration and the ability to focus on an individual task. If your child likes to draw at home or gets engrossed in puzzles and other activities on her own, she’s a good candidate for preschool. But even if she’s the kind of child who asks for help with everything, you can start getting her ready by setting up playtimes where she can entertain herself for a half hour or so. While you wash the dishes, encourage her to make creatures out of clay, for example. Gradually build up to longer stretches of solo play. Your goal here is to keep yourself moderately preoccupied with an activity so that she’ll get on with her own without too much hand-holding from you.

To establish routine, the Get Ready for School program has set activities that are completed in a similar order, and allow your child to anticipate what is coming up next.

Is she ready to participate in group activities?

Many preschool activities, like “circle time,” require that all the children in a class participate at the same time. These interactions give children a chance to play and learn together, but also require them to sit still, listen to stories, and sing songs. This can be very difficult for kids under 3 who are naturally active explorers and not always developmentally ready to play with other children. If your child isn’t used to group activities, you can start introducing them yourself. Take her to story time at your local library, for instance, or sign her up for a class such as tumbling to help her get used to playing with other children.

Is he used to keeping a regular schedule?

Preschools usually follow a predictable routine: circle time, play time, snack, playground, then lunch. There’s a good reason for this. Children tend to feel most comfortable and in control when the same things happen at the same time each day. So if your child doesn’t keep to a schedule and each day is different from the last, it can help to standardize his days a bit before he starts preschool. Start by offering meals on a regular timetable. You could also plan to visit the park each afternoon or set – and stick to – a bedtime ritual (bath, then books, and bed).

Does he have the physical stamina for preschool?

Whether it’s a half-day or full-day program, preschool keeps kids busy. There are art projects to do, field trips to take, and playgrounds to explore. Does your child thrive on activities like this, or does he have trouble moving from one thing to the next without getting cranky? Another thing to consider is how and when your child needs to nap. Preschools usually schedule nap time after lunch. If your little one can keep going until then or even all day like a wind-up toy, he’s set. If he still needs a mid-morning snooze, it might not be time yet to go to school. You can work toward building his stamina by making sure he gets a good night’s sleep. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you might also want to start him off in a half-day program to ease him into the hustle and bustle of preschool life, and gradually increase the length of his school day as he gets more comfortable.

Why do you want to send him to preschool?

Think carefully about what your goals are for sending your child to preschool. Do you just need time for yourself or daycare for your child? There may be other options if it seems he isn’t ready yet for the rigors of school.

To prepare your child for a group situation you could form a playgroup, limiting it to 3 or 4 children, and have each child complete the Get Ready for School program together.

Are you worried that if you don’t enroll him in preschool he won’t be ready for kindergarten?

Most experts agree that there are plenty of other ways for children to develop the skills necessary to be successful in kindergarten, including attending a good daycare facility or spending quality time at home with you or another loving caregiver. A study by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development found that children do best if they’re cared for by someone who is genuinely concerned about their well-being and development, and who makes sure they’re doing a variety of age-appropriate activities. They needn’t be enrolled in an organized preschool for that.

If you find that the main reasons you want to send your child to preschool are that he seems eager to learn new things and explore, he isn’t getting enough stimulation at home or daycare, or he seems ready to broaden his social horizons and interact with other children, chances are it’s the perfect time to start preschool.

Resource: Patricia Henderson Shimm, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in New York and co-author of Parenting Your Toddler

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9 Questions to Ask a Teacher

From childrenshealthmag.com (one of our favorite sites and publications)

Ask: After you give directions, does my child get right to work?

Here’s why: Children who stall may have trouble processing information or focusing. “They may also lack motivation or simply be defiant,” says Robin London, a fifth-grade teacher in Warrington, Pennsylvania. “Ask if other kids in the class have the same problem, which may indicate weak classroom management skills, or whether other children may be a distraction.” Ultimately, she adds, you want to learn how the teacher plans to motivate your child so you can start duplicating the effort with chores at home.

Ask: How do you encourage positive behavior?

Here’s why: It’s important that children not be embarrassed, especially in front of their peers, says Evy Falcon-Duran, a former special-education teacher in Randolph, New Jersey. “But there must be consequences that are age appropriate,” she says. “The way students are addressed will often make the difference in their reaction or response. I make sure that students are given an opportunity to correct themselves.”

Ask: Does my kid have a hard time finding partners for group work?

Here’s why: If so, your child may have difficulty getting along with others, might be perceived as an outcast, or might just be shy. Ask the teacher if your child is bossy, lazy, or silly in group efforts. “If the teacher hints that your child might be considered an outcast, ask in what ways so you and the teacher can work to change those qualities,” London says. Additionally, if they keep to themselves during recess, this could signal a bullying situation, London explains. “Ask if there was a negative change in your child’s behavior recently that might indicate they’re either witnessing or part of the bullying—as the victim or perpetrator.”

Ask: Do you customize instruction?

Here’s why: “It’s our job to ‘pitch’ in a way students can ‘catch,'” says Frank Meyers, a first-grade teacher in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Education has moved toward differentiation, in which each child can learn in a way that suits them best–whether it’s through touching, listening, reading, or another method. “A keen teacher will identify these traits by midyear, and then adjust their delivery for each child,” Meyers says.

Ask: Does my child take pride in the quality of his or her work?

Here’s why: If the answer is no, it may indicate that your child isn’t driven to do his or her best. You’d then want to know if the teacher accepts your child’s work as is, or if they review it. “If they don’t, they should start so you can see if that improves the work,” London says. “If the child truly is doing his or her best, they might need more support with the assigned work.”

Ask: How do you establish rapport with your students?

Here’s why: There’s no right answer here—some do it through humor, others via one-on-one discussions. The important thing is that students trust their teacher and feel comfortable asking for help. “I want my students to know that they can count on me, even if it means addressing unrealistic expectations from parents,” Falcon-Duran says.

Ask: How would you describe my child’s personality?

Here’s why: Teachers often know a different “version” of the kid than the parents know, because behavior varies between home and school. “Knowing how they’re different can give both you and the teacher a deeper insight into why they may do things the way they do,” Meyers says.

Ask: What’s your unstated goal?

Here’s why: Truly dedicated teachers may maintain “hidden curricula”—values, say, or social awareness—that come as nice bonuses. “Mine is self-esteem, empowering my students to take risks, self-advocate, and do their best in and out of the classroom,” Falcon-Duran says. “If you know the teacher’s hidden curriculum, you can help nudge the kids in those directions at home.”

Ask: Does my child like school?

Here’s why: “This is a simple question that almost never comes up,” Meyers says. “But their enjoyment and motivation toward school is paramount.” If a child’s apparent enjoyment in class doesn’t match what his or her parents hear at home, Meyers says, then both student and teacher can focus on improving the school experience.

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Back-to-School Buying Lessons for Children


NEW YORK — Shopping for back-to-school items for your elementary school children, but afraid of a fight in the jeans aisle?

Parents who hope to keep a lid on spending can soften the edge by planning the back-to-school budget with kids, shopping together and teaching them how to separate needs from wants — and how to tell what’s a good deal.

“You need to involve them in the process so they understand the value of money,” says Lori Mackey, president of Prosperity4Kids Inc. in Agoura Hills, Calif., which offers material to teach kids about finance. “These are life lessons that children will need.”

Here are five personal finance lessons that back-to-school shopping can teach:

1. Spend within your budget
Parents should start by working with kids to set a limit on how much to spend on clothing and supplies. Jacob Gold, a certified financial planner in Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends using a debit card or cash so kids see how quickly the money disappears.

“They have to learn to live within the certain threshold,” said Gold.

2. Know what you have
Go through your child’s closet to find out what fits and what doesn’t — and what needs to be repaired or handed down. Maybe that jacket just needs to be patched or the shoes just need resoling. Consider recycling last year’s backpack if it’s still in good shape.

3. Separate wants from needs
Children may want five pairs of super-skinny jeans in different colors, but parents should get children to ask themselves each time they want to buy something: Do I really need that? Start by coming up with a list — before heading to the mall — of what’s necessary in the way of school supplies, shoes and clothes. Phil Heckman, director of youth services at the Credit Union National Association, suggests letting children buy something extra with money left over after they buy those necessities.

Continue to full article HERE.

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