Fit Kids=Smart Kids.

A recent study of 70 kids aged 9-11, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that strong muscles in children correlates to better memory.  Other studies found that aerobically fit children have better thinking ability, attention, memory, and academic performance.

Bottom line: Getting kids moving with strength-building and aerobic activities during their school years will lead to an overall better school experience. Kids don’t have to join a gym.  Just make sure your child’s school has a playground with lots of equipment and that recess and gym classes are a regular part of the schedule.  Set an example by doing active things together as a family.  Taking after dinner walks, dancing to favorite songs, jumping rope, using a hula hoop, skipping and swimming.  Try crab walks, wheelbarrow races, pillow case races, and soup can arm curls to build muscles.

Activity can be fun when parents set the tone and participate as well.  The rewards are better health and a smarter brain!

DIY Backyard Activities.

There is still plenty of summer left to enjoy.  You can get kids out of the house and keep them busy by making your own backyard a fun-filled oasis for the kids.  Besides the usual sprinkler, water balloon fights, and assorted water games, check out these really cool outdoor activities from Buzz Feed.  There’s backyard dominoes, lawn twister, bean bag toss, giant bubbles and a do-it-yourself slip and slide.

Many of the activities use things already on hand, so there is no need to invest in new gadgets.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/cieravelarde/suns-out-funs-out?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Parents%20614&utm_content=Parents%20614%2BCID_04fc34111fe2dc9b39baa67b7b04ef20&utm_source=BuzzFeed%20Newsletters&utm_term=.poglK3NawX#.cdy5Aw7rVb

Happy summer fun!

Creating Friendships…One Bench at a Time.

One person can really make a difference.

Christian Bucks, an 11 year old fifth grader from York, PA came up with a great idea for encouraging friendships on the playground.  After seeing kids on his playground sitting alone or having no one to play with during recess, he asked his principal if they could get a Buddy Bench. A place where a child could sit down and be joined by others looking for friendship.   The principal agreed and a bench was installed on the playground.

It was an instant hit.  A lot of new friendships were being made.  The bench also helped prevent bullying. Since the installation of that first Buddy Bench, the concept has taken off and there are now more than  2,000 Buddy Benches at schools in all 50  states and in 13 countries including Russia, Australia, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia.

When asked how he felt about his idea Christian said, “I like how the idea has spread.  It’s a little thing, but little things can be big.”

To find out more about the Buddy Bench visit: http://www.buddybench.org

Marilyn Ostermiller Presents: Under the Radar Low Profile National Parks, Part 2

This is the second of a two-part series focused on 10 of America’s lesser known national parks. The first part was posted June 26.

Outdoor activities ranging from sedate to high adrenalin can be found at America’s National Parks.

Want to go canyoneering? Zion National Park has become one of the premier places in the country to participate in this exciting activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem solving, swimming, and hiking.

Want to meet a dog sled team?  Alaska’s Denali National Park’s kennels are open year-round, hosting the only sled dogs in the country tasked with helping to protect and patrol a national park.

Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? The following five National Park are relatively undiscovered compared to the ones that attract millions of visitors annually.

American Alps

North Cascades National Park, located about three hours drive from Seattle, offers serious mountaineering. Beat generation author Jack Kerouac captured his impression of the park in the 1958 novel, “The Dharma Bums,” where he wrote, “I went out in my alpine yard and there it was … hundred of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber.”

The park also offers accessible trails and short, scenic strolls, and steep, grueling hikes. Mammals native to the park include mountain goats and wolverines.

Annual visitors: 20,677

Glaciers Abound

North Cascades National Park, Washington encompasses more than 300 mountain glaciers,  127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain.

Annual visitors: 20,677

More Than Meets the Eye

Nevada’s Great Basin National Park boasts dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. Visitors who venture underground at Lehman Caves will find an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and more than 300 rare shield formations The park’s Great Basin is one of the darker spots in the country at night, making it a place to marvel at the Milky Way and constellations, away from the light pollution encountered by city-dwellers.

Annual visitors: 116,123

Photo Credit: National Parks Service

At Great Basin National Park in Nevada, rimstone dams cover the cave floor in the Cypress Swamp.

 

 

Discovered by Fur Trappers and Gold Miners

Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park comprises 30 lakes and 900 islands that once were traversed by Native Americans, European explorers, fur trappers and gold miners who navigated the U.S.-Canada border in birch-bark canoes. Much of the park can be reached only by water. The Kettle Falls Hotel, built by a timber baron in 1910, is the only lodging within the park.

 Annual visitors: 238,313

Keep an Eye Out for Gators

Congaree National Park is in South Carolina, near Charleston and Colombia. Canoeing or kayaking Cedar Creek takes visitors past some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. Along the way, they are likely to see river otters, deer, turtles, wading birds and even an occasional alligator

Annual visitors: 87,513

Before you go to any of the 59 national parks, visit nps.gov to check for any current warnings about conditions at the park, such as trail closings.

If you are planning to travel with children, the following books, suggested for 8 to 12 year olds, may be of interest:

  • National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA Centennial Edition: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast!
  • National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun Paperback.

 

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Roller Coasters: The Magnificent Seven.

Amusement Parks are often the go-to summer destination for families.  While my own taste – and constitution – are aligned with Ferris wheels and things that are high and slow, roller coasters are by far one of the most popular rides.  Here are SEVEN of the most unusual ones:

  1. Lightening Rod at Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN: 73 MPH makes it the fastest wooden coaster.
  2. The New Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA: The first steel coaster to  include a major inverting loop, now has a virtual reality experience.
  3. The Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo, CA: With three inversions, this Batman themed ride includes loads of out-of-seat airtime.
  4. Valravn at Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH: One of 18 coasters at the park, this one is the tallest and fastest DIVE coaster. Loads of inversions and loops, so ride it BEFORE you eat lunch.
  5. The Joker at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ: With independently spinning seats on the outside of the track,  this coaster is like a Ferris wheel gone crazy.
  6. Mako at Seaworld, Orlando, FL: This hypercoaster is visible on the Orlando skyline and ties the record for Florida’s tallest coaster, as well as its fastest at 73 MPH.
  7. Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens, Tampa, FL: No inversions and a top speed of only 40 MPH, this might be perfect for everyone…including those afraid of the faster coasters. Plus, you get  to see live snakes and other animal exhibits while you wait to ride.

May all your coaster rides be thrilling!  Which roller coaster is YOUR FAVORITE?

How to “BEE” Kind to Bees.

For thousands of years, honeybees have transformed flower nectar into that wonderful sweetness called honey.  Not only is honey a delicious treat in recipes or to sweeten a cup of tea, it has many medicinal properties as well.  Due to its sterile qualities, doctors used it as wound dressings during the civil war.

Honeybees are important in another crucial way – as pollinators of our food supply.  The USDA estimates that “about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination”.  Some crops, such as almonds, rely completely upon honeybees for propagation.

So what, you might ask?  Honeybee populations are dwindling worldwide from a combination of factors that contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. This happens when worker bees leave behind a colony with only a queen and a few immature bees, resulting in death of the colony. Currently the main factors are thought to be: viruses, parasites, management stressors, migratory stress and pesticides.  To view a film on CCD: http://www.vanishingbees.com

Honeybees are one of many indicators of a healthy environment.  A disturbance in their life cycle, could be a symptom of larger issues.           

HOW CAN WE HELP?

  1. Buy organic to help reduce pesticide use.  Refrain from use of pesticides in your own yard and garden.
  2. Plant pollinator-friendly plants such as bee balm and red clover.
  3. Buy local and single producer honey to support small scale bee keepers in your own community.
  4. Enjoy the wonderful taste of local honey in your own recipes.

BEE KIND TO BEES…Our Food Supply Depends on it!

 

Under the Radar: Low Profile National Parks Part 1, by Marilyn Ostermiller

More Americans than ever plan to vacation with their families this summer, according to a recent AAA survey. Many of them are going to America’s national parks. The Great Smoky Mountains expect about 10 million visitors this year, compared to five million each at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? Five low profile national parks, based on the number of annual visitors, are listed below.

Ultimate Wilderness

 Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was created to preserve and protect 8.4 million acres of the diverse Arctic ecosystems of Alaska’s Brooks Range. It serves as the headwaters for six wilderness rivers. There are no facilities, roads or trails. Visitors should come equipped to backpack, hike, camp and cruise the rivers. Transportation in and out of the park, usually by plane, must be pre-arranged.

Annual visitors: 10,047

Photo Credit: National Parks Service:  A Student Conservation Association volunteer stands on the Continental Divide in the Brooks Mountain Range, which divides the continent north and south.

Sunken Ships: Isle Royale National Park is a remote island in Lake Superior near Michigan’s border with Canada. Cars aren’t allowed in this wilderness of forests, lakes and waterways where moose and wolves roam. There are dive sites where visitors plunge into the lake to explore several shipwrecks. Ferry is the only way to get there and camping reservations are required for visitors who want to spend the night.

Annual visitors: 18,684

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink:  Dry Tortugas National Park is a cluster of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The “Dry” in its name came from the Spanish explorers who determined the sea water surrounding the islands was not fit to drink. “Tortugas” is the Spanish word for the sea turtles that build their nests in the protected sandy shores.  The waters around the islands particularly appeal to snorkelers because their coral reefs teem with interesting marine life.

Annual visitors: 70,862

South of the Equator:  National Park of American Samoa, Territory of American Samoa, is 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. It is America’s only national park south of the equator. Rain forests and extensive coral reefs are its main draw. Visitors should pack snorkel or diving gear; air tanks can be rented. The only land mammals are three types of bats, among them the fruit bats with three-foot  wingspans.

Annual visitors: 13,892

Newest National Park:  Pinnacles National Park in California was designated the 59th national park in 2013. It dates back millions of years ago, when multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form the land encompassed by this 26,000-acre park. Rock climbers and hikers are drawn to it. Another attraction are the condors. About 30 of them are tagged, but fly freely.

Annual Visitors: 206,533

A sequel to this blog post, scheduled for July 10, will acquaint readers with five more of the less-traveled parks around the country. The U.S. National Parks Service provides extensive information about the 59 parks it operates  including trip planning information. https:www.nps.gov

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.