Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Heart of the Family

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

The Heart of the Family

The heart of the family is nurtured at the dinner table in many ways. Physical and emotional patterns and attitudes of a lifetime are established and strengthened during mealtimes with people whom children love and who love them. Dinner together was an absolute must when my children were growing up, and they have carried on the tradition with their own young families. It truly was the heart of our family’s interaction about all kinds of subjects.

One of the topics for exploration in families could be a health plan for the entire family which could evolve through conversations that begin at mealtime. Knowledge about health, wellness and nutrition can be shared, explained, and modeled so that kids learn to live with intention concerning their future health.

Some of the heart tips suggested by Tara Winslow, RN, Heart Failure Educator at the Albemarle Hospital are:
  • Your heart is a muscle that needs 60 minutes of exercise every day.

  • Salt shouldn’t be added to food at the table.

  • Fish has healthy oils that keep your heart healthy.

  • Family walks will help everybody and can be fun too.

  • Kids can help in the kitchen and learn many life skills.

  • New foods should be tried often because taste buds change often.

  • Baked foods are better than fried for your body.

  • Kids should plan family meals and help to cook.

  • Kids’ health is their responsibility too.

Awareness about health issues and skills for staying healthy can be taught at home and re-enforced through programs offered at school and at Port Discover. February is heart month and the Kinectic Kids program sponsored by the Albemarle Hospital Foundation presents events like “Heart Smart,” “Keeping the Beat,” and “Body Check” where kids learn about monitoring their heart rate, taking their blood pressure, and the importance of exercise. Many future quality of life determining decisions will be based on children’s knowledge of science and health.

A recent report of the Foundation of Child Development shows that 22% of children in the U.S. will live in poverty this year. That is the highest rate in decades and leaves families at risk for not being able to provide the nutrition needed for growing bodies and brains. The cost of food is rising dramatically and will likely get worse as the cost of oil increases. As time goes by, the emphasis on health and wellness will be even stronger. It is crucial that children be taught how to make good choices concerning their own health.

All agencies dealing with children must recognize that students’ physical, mental, social, emotional health are tied to academic performance. Educators are now paying more attention to the direct effect health has on test scores, but we should make sure that parents, health professionals, and educators collaborate to strengthen the well-being of the whole child. Only when we focus on the whole child will the problems such as low graduation rate, truancy, and poor performance be solved. At the heart of that effort is the education provided by the family at the dinner table.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Port Discover Likes to “Move It…”

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Port Discover Likes to “Move It...”

“We like to move it, move it” could be the theme song borrowed from Madagascar when the exhibit for Kinetic Kids is opens at Port Discover on March 26. The new program made possible by a grant from the University Health Systems Foundation and Albemarle Hospital Foundation will focus on keeping kids healthy by teaching them the importance of movement, nutrition, and portion control in the fight against obesity in the Albemarle area.

The word kinetic itself means “energy that comes from movement.” Kids are usually in a perpetual state of motion, and if that characteristic is channeled properly, the result will be a healthier adult. That thought is the premise on which the exhibit will be based. By raising awareness in kids, the statistic recently reported by the Albemarle Regional Health Services that heart disease, followed by cancer and respiratory disease, is the number one cause of death in the area could be changed. National attention has been focused on the obesity in kids problem by First Lady Michelle Obama and recent legislation aims at fixing its causes.

Science is something kids should do as well as study. Knowledge of facts is important, but a student can only fully understand the concepts after being engaged with the subject matter. That’s why recent studies that show that participation in science fairs has declined across the country are alarming. Educators point to the strong emphasis on the teaching of reading and math along with the increase in the varieties of extra-curricular activities as being the causes of the decline.

National test scores show the United States being in seventeenth place in its ranking in science proficiency which shocked many citizens. In his state of the union address President Obama called for a “sputnik moment” referring to the large emphasis placed on science and math education in the 50s and 60s after the USSR’s launched its sputnik satellite. Parents have recognized the opportunities that exist for their children who excel in the field of math and science and many of them try to foster a love of learning in those subjects.

Soon after I began working at Port Discover, I attended the Second Saturday program given by Dr. Maurice Crawford, the Marine Environmental Sciences Program Coordinator at ECSU. Children from age 5-12 eagerly squeezed bags of pretend critters in slimy goo and then dissected the contents of the pretend fish stomach and identified the organism that they found. It was hard to believe that they had left the comfort of their Saturday morning play to experience science first hand, but there they were with giggles and sheer enjoyment on their faces. Parents and grandparents cheered them on and delighted in their enthusiasm. Port Discover works to promote that excitement everyday with constantly changing exhibits and programs. They are doing their part to create a place where the kids truly are the scientists.
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