Help Your Children Branch Out

By Dan Olberg, Park Elementary Principal

One of the beliefs we have at Park Elementary is that everyone is a scientist. We are trying to break the stereotypical image that our students have regarding scientists. Scientists are not just those who dress up in a white lab coats and wear safety glasses all day. Scientists are farmers, cooks, hairdressers, construction workers, and much more. So when a student brought up the fact that moms and dads are scientists, I started to think about how true that statement is – especially as we know more about the brain and how it functions early in life.

Scientifically speaking, if there was one part of the brain that is more important to the intelligence of a child it would have to be the cerebral cortex. That’s where higher cognitive processing occurs. As children learn new things they are essentially changing those neurons, or nerve cells, their structure, and the chemistry in their cerebral cortices.

Human beings get an explosive growth of dendrites in the cerebral cortex, like branches, in their first 8 to 10 years of life. These branches link knowledge and experiences together. Think of it as a tree with branches and leaves. The leaves hold pieces of information and the branches link the information together. As long as new experiences and knowledge continues to filter in, the branches grow and sprout new leaves. Naturally, there is a rapid growth of branches in these early years and it peaks at about the age of 10 when it slowly starts to decrease. At this point the branches that haven’t made connections die off. This process is called pruning. That’s why there’s so much interest today in those first 10 years of life.

So we need to ask ourselves as scientists some very important questions. How can we give children the best experiences for maximum growth? What activities are our children doing that foster brain growth? What activities are our children doing to stifle or limit the growth? What are we doing as parents to engage our children in life experiences? Those questions are not hard to answer; however, acting on them can be more than difficult at times.

So the students had it right, parenting is part science. Our guidance through these important years is scientifically important. The most exciting discovery about all this research is that education should continue for a lifetime. The brain’s capacity for learning and change is limitless, depending on our willingness to seek new experiences and opportunities. Our “trees,” as well as our children’s can continue to fill out and expand with a wide variety of real-world and academic activities. “Branch out” and support children’s continued brain growth.

Online Videos – What Parents Need to Know

You may have heard about issues surrounding YouTube and challenges targeting young children. We wanted to take a moment to share some important child safety information with you through the image linked below. While the “Momo Challenge” has been unverifiable, it is important to be aware of what children are watching through video apps, and nothing is ever guaranteed to be safe. If you have any concerns regarding internet safety for your children, contact the District’s Technology Innovation Specialist Jocelynn Buckentin at 320-234-2716 or jocelynn.buckentin@isd423.org.

What Parents Need to Know about Online Videos

 

 

 

 

ECFE Garage Sale – April 27, 2019

Attention Parents – Learn About Nature Play

Thank You School Bus Drivers!

School Bus Driver Appreciation Day
February 27, 2019

Thank you to Hutchinson Bus Line and all of the school bus drivers who get students to and from school safely and also interact with students – giving them a positive start and end to their school day.

Did you know . . .

  • School bus drivers perform a 42 point pre-trip inspection every day plus post-trip inspections to make sure no children are left on the bus.
  • Once a driver is licensed, they must complete 8 hours of continuing education per year and pass a DOT driver physical every two years.
  • Hutchinson school bus drivers travel 152 routes every day! 
  • Hutchinson Bus Line has 49 drivers with over 500 years of experience!
  • Drivers work to build relationships with their students, giving them a good start and end to their school day.
  • Statewide, 760,000 students are transported 750,000 miles safely every day.
  • There is less than a .3% chance of a fatality in a school bus accident.
Thank you School Bus Drivers!

Empathy + Compassion = Kindness

By Jill Bridge, Licensed School Counselor

It is the season of hope, love and joy for many as they celebrate the holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. As people enter the holiday season they are embracing empathy, compassion, and kindness. Regardless of how large or small a gesture of kindness is, each gesture is a way to teach our kids, families and community about empathy and compassion. We shouldn’t need an award or recognition each and every time we show kindness. Knowing that you did something good and kind should be an intrinsic motivator to repeat it again and again. The goal should not be fame and fortune but about knowing that the kind act was meaningful and impacted another person’s life in a positive way.

Empathy is feeling or understanding what someone else is feeling. It is important for kids and adults to realize that two people may have very different feelings about the same situation. Understanding this concept will help us put ourselves in others’ shoes; we take the time and energy to look at life from their perspective. Their viewpoint may not be the same as yours but it is important to realize that is ok. For example, I can like you, I can respect you, but I don’t have to have the same feelings and thoughts as you. We are all different, and as such, we need to respect those differences.

Once the person has the ability to understand another’s perspective, the person can start to develop empathy for others, which can evolve into compassion. When you have empathy for others, you can say or do many things to show care and concern. Saying something kind or doing something helpful for others are examples of showing compassion. Imagine what our community would be like if we took that extra moment to think about another’s feelings and did something to show compassion. As a family, talk about ways you and your children can show compassion for others. During the holidays, there are a variety of opportunities to show compassion-some that cost money while others don’t cost a dime. For example, you can contact the animal shelter and help take care of the animals, you can donate to the Salvation Army red kettles, shovel a neighbor’s driveway, leave a note and/or word of encouragement for a coworker, or any idea your family holds dear.

Kindness is an overall theme that emerges when we model empathy and compassion, with kindness being the end result. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. How do we decide when we are being compassionate or spreading kindness? Can they be the same thing but labeled differently? They definitely can be.  The list of ways to show compassion above are ways to show kindness. When you are being compassionate you are also being kind. In order to know the best ways to be compassionate and kind we need to walk in the other person’s shoes, and use empathy.

Empathy, kindness and compassion are skills that are taught. They are not innate traits, they are learned through discussions and by seeing/hearing examples. Be a role model that helps others understand empathy, compassion and kindness. We are role models for children, family members and even strangers. Embrace the holidays, spread kindness and cheer through using empathy and compassion. Kindness goes a long way not just during the holidays but each and every day of the year.

Holiday Celebration Outreach Dinner

Whalen Gymnasium Dedication

Screen Time and Development

Your Time is Limited: Look Around You

By Antonia Barrick, RN, BSN, PHN, LSN
Hutchinson Public Schools Health Services Coordinator

Digital media and screens have become a staple in our lives. We live in an era that we have everything at our fingertips and are forgetting how to promote interpersonal relationships and communication. Our phones are connected to our schedules, bank accounts, the internet and cameras. However, do we understand the impact screen time and digital media are having on our children’s development? Children are consuming 7+ hours of screen time per day, which is an increase of 2.5 hours in 10 years.

Ongoing research is showing guidelines for limiting screen time for younger children: no screen/digital media for children under 2 years of age, no more than 1 hour for children 2-5 years of age and less than 2 hours for children 6-18 years of age. In spite of these guidelines studies are showing children are spending on average 2 hours per day between 3 and 5 years of age and on average up to 7 hours on children over 8 years of age.

The brain is continually developing, especially in early childhood when development of emotional regulation and attachment, language, cognitive, socio-emotional and motor skills happen as well as physical development (ages birth to 8). “Middle childhood (usually defined as ages 6 to 12) is a time when children develop foundational skills for building healthy social relationships and learn roles that will prepare them for adolescence and adulthood.” This can be slowed by over use of screens and digital media. Studies show shrinkage or loss (atrophy) of gray matter especially in the frontal lobe, striatum and insula of the brain in comparison to internet/gaming addictions. The frontal lobe continues to develop and undergo massive changes from puberty to mid-twenties and is responsible for executive functioning (planning, prioritizing, and organizing) as well as impulse control. The striatum aids in reward pathways and the ability to decrease unacceptable social impulses. Lastly, the insula is an area that helps with empathy and ability to identify body signals of different emotions. The brain also develops responses to preferred activities that releases dopamine (reward/pleasure chemical). When a person is addicted or enjoys screen time the brain releases dopamine to tell the person this makes me happy, hence the addiction and anxiety to always checking the phone, tablet, TV, computer.

If children are exposed to screen time/digital media at a younger age or for excessive times the brain develops an addiction and can inhibit individuals’ ability to process face-to-face interactions. Children strive for attention and if a parent is on their phone/device the child will most likely act out to gain that attention, which some individuals may look at that as a behavior or reward the behavior with the tablet, TV, or device, thus continuing the vicious circle. The developmental periods for children who rely on digital interaction rather than face-to-face interactions or reduced caregiving from parents who are also attached to their devices can hinder school success, health literacy, self-discipline, the ability to make good decisions, healthy eating habits and conflict negotiation. The reliance on screen time can also decrease creative imagination and play time and in turn increase boredom.

So what can we do?

10 questions to Consider:

  1. What kind of screens are in your home (i.e. TV, tablet, computer, smartphone)? Which does your child use? Which do you use?
  2. Is watching TV or programs/movies on other devices a shared family activity and a common way to relax? How often is a screen on in the background although no one is really watching?
  3. Does anyone in the family use screens during meal times?
  4. What do you watch with your child and what does your child watch alone?
  5. Do you encourage or discourage conversation with your child while using screens?
  6. Do you ever watch adult content with your child around?
  7. Does your child use screens while you do chores around the home?
  8. Are there any screen-based activities in your child’s day care program? Do you know how much these are used?
  9. Does your child use any kind of screen before bedtime? How long before bed? Is there a screen in their room or charged in their room?
  10. Does your family have rules/guidelines for screen use that everyone understands and follows such as “device free times”?

 

Information obtained from:

Healthy People 2020
https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/early-and-middle-childhood
NPR.org Kids and Screen Time: What does the Research Say?
TruceTeachers.org
Mayo Clinic
Canadian Paediatric Society
And Psychology Today
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Is Your Child Vaping or Juuling?

By Daron VanderHeiden, Superintendent

Vaping, or as some teenagers refer to it – juuling, has become a national epidemic. Vaping through an e-cigarette device has been around for about ten years. However, the use by teenagers has skyrocketed in recent years. There are an estimated 3 million high school and middle school students currently vaping in the United States. A portion of those 3 million attend the Hutchinson Middle School and the Hutchinson High School.

Doctors and other health professionals generally agree that vaping may be safer than smoking a traditional cigarette; however, the nicotine (a toxic chemical) and other harmful chemicals like the heavy metals contained in vaping are dangerous and unhealthy for teenagers. The long-term effects of vaping are unknown at this time.

The following is a list of things parents should know about vaping:

  • Vaping is the act of inhaling a vapor produced by the e-cigarette device and exhaled as a fine vapor mist, which dissipates quickly, and is mostly unrecognizable after a very short period of time. Unlike traditional cigarettes, your child could be vaping in his/her bedroom and you would not be able to detect it through smell.
  • Vaping can be just as addictive as traditional tobacco products due to the addictive characteristics of nicotine.
  • Vape cartridges comes in a variety of flavors and chemical mixtures. There are flavors like bubble gum, mango, apple pie, and watermelon. Chemical mixtures may include different levels of nicotine or marijuana. As an example, you can purchase different levels of nicotine ranging from 3 milligrams to 50 milligrams in a refill cartridge.
  • According to the Journal of the American Medical Association research, teenagers that vape are up to 5 times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes than those teenagers that do not vape.
  • E-cigarette devices come in a variety of models, shapes, and sizes. Some have been manufactured to look like other common electronic devices, like a flash-drive for a computer, a pen, or an ipod music device. These devices are very hard to identify if you do not examine them closely. This is one reason it is so difficult to identify and address the issue with kids.
  • E-cigarettes and vape cartridges are very easy for teenagers to purchase.
  • According to the FDA, tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death in the United States.

Hutchinson Public Schools recognizes and treats e-cigarette possession and use as we would traditional tobacco products and act accordingly.

I liken this epidemic to teenage cigarette smoking back in the 50’s and 60’s. Teenagers at that time thought cigarette smoking was harmless. Both of my parents smoked as teenagers and adults, and I recall them talking about when they started to smoke and how unaware of the health risks they were taking. There was little to no regulation, nobody seem to care about teenagers purchasing cigarettes, they were easy to get, and there was little to no law enforcement back then trying to curb the use. Of course, both of my parents regretted ever starting to smoke. The commonalities between that era with cigarettes, and present day vaping, seem eerily similar.

Let’s work together as a community to end teenage vaping in Hutchinson for the sake of our children’s long term health. Our children will thank us later!

Hutchinson Public Schools

Hutchinson Public Schools