MetroFamily Magazine Jan/Feb 2022

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JAN/FEB 2022

Trending in Education Creative arts opportunities Ta k i n g a G a p Ye a r


for international travel with kids A NNUA

Teacher burnout & how the community can help


Education G uid Discover a e c ade & enrichme mic n opportunit t ies in OKC

Their first years. Our first priority. A child’s natural curiosity is boundless. By nurturing that with a thoughtful balance of play and structure, we spark lightbulb moments every day. Learn how our approach inspires a lifelong love of discovery.

Primrose School of Edmond 15000 N Western Oklahoma City, OK 73013 405.285.6787 |

Primrose School of SW Oklahoma City 1520 SW 119th Street Oklahoma City, OK 73170 405.793.6000 |

Call to set up a tour today. Each Primrose School is a privately owned and operated franchise. Primrose Schools is a registered trademark of Primrose School Franchising SPE, LLC. ©2021 Primrose School Franchising SPE, LLC. All rights reserved.

We’ve Missed You! Starting February 1, we’ll be back to full-service status, and we want to see you at our programs and events in our libraries (for ages five and up; indoor programs may have a limited number of participants). And meeting rooms? They’re ready and waiting for you too! Our computers will be back to normal usage and the kids toys and interactives will be out and ready for some play. You may have noticed that we are back to our regular hours, but our curbside options are here to stay! Visit more updates.






10 2022 Cover Kids

12 Family Mental Wellness

20 Annual Education Guide

14 Real Dads of the Metro

Meet the winners of our annual search Discover academic & enrichment opportunities in OKC

32 Teacher Burnout

The realities facing educators and how the community can help

Strategies to boost well-being in the new year Quintin Hughes on balancing work and family

16 Calendar of Events

Indoor and outdoor cold-weather family fun

62 Last Look

Students share statewide mental health needs for 2022

On the Cover Creative Arts Opportunities page 38 Taking a Gap Year page 52

52 What is a Gap Year?

38 New & Now

56 Talking to Kids About Sex

42 Exploring Beyond Oklahoma

Teacher Burnout & How the Community Can Help page 32

58 Social Media Smarts

48 Local Family Fun

Annual Education Guide page 20

Options for experiential learning before or after college Resources and conversation starters for parents of tweens 4 tips to keep kids safe & healthy online


Arts education, diversity teacher pipelines benefit students Top tips for traveling internationally with kids

The best in metro STEAM programs

Tips for International Travel with Kids page 42






Sarah Taylor

Managing Editor Erin Page

Assistant Editor Lindsay Cuomo

Contributing Writers

Kristy Blosch, April Deocariza, Michael Dickerson, Lance Evans, Emily Fischer, Brittany Keck

Contributing Photographer Bridget Pipkin

Art Director Stacy Noakes

Senior Project Manager Kirsten Holder

Director of Events Casey Shupe

The beginning of a new year for me has always signaled the promise of new possibilities, fresh ideas and hope for a bright future. As the team at MetroFamily began preparing for this issue, our Annual Education Guide, one reality kept permeating our thoughts: our public school educators and support staff are tired, overwhelmed and burned out.

inferno right now, those I’ve spoken with in the profession assure me that those small gestures go a long way in restoring joy. And I’d also ask that you take a look at what educators and community leaders around the state have to say about our responsibilities to band together as a community to provide support in grander ways on page 32.

The individuals we’re so fortunate to have teaching and leading our children are wildly capable. But circumstances, often outside their control, including the pandemic, a statewide teacher shortage and a lack of substitutes, have made it nearly impossible for many of our educators to hold on to their joy.

Thank you teachers, administrators and staff for the life-changing work you do each and every day. May the rest of us resolve to come alongside you in ways both big and small so that, together, we can build a brighter future for our children.

As we move into this new year with our personal resolutions or goals, I hope you’ll join me in also resolving to regularly thank and encourage the teachers in your life. While I’ll admit that an encouraging note or small gift card bestowed on educators feels to me a bit like throwing a cup of water on a blazing

With hope,

Erin Page Managing Editor

Editorial Assistant Emiley Bainbridge

Account Executives

On the Cover

Dana Price Laura Beam

Ethan is the winner of MetroFamily’s 2022 Cover Kids Search for ages 10-12! He attends Classen School of Advanced Studies, where he was elected vice president of student council for the 5th grade student body. Ethan is the son of Nikesia, and they enjoy trips to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, Myriad Gardens and Science Museum Oklahoma.

Contact us

Mailing address: 6608 N. Western Ave., #458 Oklahoma City, OK 73116 Phone: 405-601-2081 MetroFamily Magazine is published bimonthly. Copyright 2021 by MetroFamily HoldCo, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Articles and advertisements in MetroFamily do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the magazine or MetroFamily HoldCo, LLC. We do not assume responsibility for statements made by advertisers or editorial contributors. The acceptance of advertising by MetroFamily does not constitute an endorsement of the products, services, or information. We do not knowingly present any product or service which is fraudulent or misleading in nature.

Ethan is extremely creative, loves to draw and hopes to design his own lines of shoes and clothing one day. Special thanks to Oklahoma Contemporary for matching this forward-thinking tween’s innovative energy with a perfect venue for his photoshoot. Find out more about Oklahoma Contemporary’s current exhibits on page 39.

Proud member of

Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Edmond Chamber of Commerce & Moore Chamber of Commerce


The artwork featured on the cover is LA_129 by Invader, on view in Open World.




Join us March 12 A STEAM Festival for Kids! We can’t wait to see your family at Geekapalooza! Join us Saturday, March 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Camp Trivera, the new STEAM-focused urban camp of our partner Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma. Enjoy a full day of kid-friendly activities on subjects like robotics, coding and geosciences, plus live music, food trucks, great prizes and a Geek photo contest. Geekapalooza is an annual program of Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma and MetroFamily, and Girl

Scouts can earn badges for their participation in the event. The event is sponsored by Boeing, presenting sponsor; Google, Continental Resources, Oklahoma Oil and Natural Gas, community sponsors; Pelco and Chesapeake, supporting sponsors; Francis Tuttle, University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy, University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, Oklahoma State University College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology and Extreme Animals, STEAM partners. Purchase tickets at geekapalooza. Tickets are $8 for kids and $5 for adults in advance or $10 for kids and $5 for adults at the door. Check out many of the local businesses and organizations providing activities at Geekapalooza in our STEAM Guide on page 48.

Use our Searchable...

Education Guide If you are looking for local

Enter your baby’s photo for a chance to WIN! So much “squish” to love! No wonder parents can’t get enough of taking pics of their adorable new babies. That’s why MetroFamily is meeting new parents exactly where they are—at home and on Instagram—with our NEW Baby of the Month Contest! Parents can enter babies ages 0 to 24 months by submitting photos on MetroFamily’s website or on Instagram by using the hashtag #cutestbabyokc and tagging @metrofamilyokc in their posts. The 10 chosen winners will be announced online, on social media and in each issue of the magazine throughout the year. Find out more and enter your baby’s photo today at


private schools, charter schools, online schools, preschool programs, field trip opportunities, tutors or educational enrichment opportunities, we’ve got a guide for that! Find our searchable Education Guide, updated throughout the year, at education.

NOMINATE your favorite Awesome Mom! Our annual Awesome Moms Contest is coming up Jan. 10 through Feb. 28, and we want to hear about the inspirational moms, grandmas, teachers, mentors and other mother figures in your life. Your nominee will be eligible to win fantastic prizes, including a staycation weekend, restaurant gift cards and goodie packages like Vellabox candles, L’OCCITANE en Provence products, jewelry and other accessories!


The winner and two finalists will be featured in an upcoming issue of MetroFamily. Starting Jan. 10, submit your written nomination of 250 words or less and a photo of your nominee at Nominations must be received by Feb. 28.


11 NW 11th St., Oklahoma City | @okcontemporary Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, The Tom and Marilyn Merryweather Fund and National Endowment for the Arts. Installation view of Feng Mengbo’s Long March: Restart (detail), 2008.




Virtual Summit


eing a parent is a gift, but it’s far from easy. We strive for joy-filled moments with our kids but also recognize the difficulties and nuances of our jobs as moms and dads. And because every child and every family situation is different, there often isn’t one “answer” to the parenting challenges. We struggle to know how hard to push, where to set limits and when to let kids learn on their own. Add in the more recent phenomena of a global pandemic, ubiquitous technology, distance learning, a changing society and more, and parenting can often feel overwhelming.

To help parents navigate today’s challenges, MetroFamily is excited to announce our first FREE virtual conference, The (Modern) Art of Parenting. Nationally-known parenting experts will provide 20 sessions on subjects such as how to balance technology with positive child development and how to raise resilient kids. All presentations will feature practical and positive tips you can implement now to help with both the everyday and weighty challenges of parenting. The summit will be held online April 1-8, and each presentation will be available for FREE over two days. Other paid options will provide the opportunity to watch and rewatch all sessions anytime over the next year as well as other perks. Find more information at

Frugal family fun in OKC If your new year’s resolutions include sticking to a family budget, you can still enjoy plenty of #okcfamilyfun this winter. Check out our list of 50 Things to Do Under $5 at Plus, don’t miss our monthly list of the top 10 FREE events for families in OKC at Find the metro’s best calendar of events at


Get your tickets starting Feb. 3!

Join us Saturday, March 12 from 10 am to 3 pm for Geekapalooza, the best STEAM festival of the year! Hands-on projects, expo booths and ongoing workshops hosted by local leaders encourage kids to learn about STEAM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) such as robotics, coding, geoscience, engineering, health sciences, art, music and more. Activities will be geared to children ages 4-14. Hosted by MetroFamily Magazine and Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, this year's event is being held at Camp Trivera, the Girl Scouts' state-of-the-art urban camp located at 2508 N.E. 50th St. (east of the OKC Zoo). Many activities will be held outdoors and masks will be required. Check web page for more details about COVID-19 safety protocols.

Advance ticket sales begin Feb. 3. $8 per child, $5 per adult Thank you to our sponsors for making this event possible!

Presenting Sponsor

Community Partner Sponsors

Details & tickets at



2022 Cover Kid Winners!

The Oklahoma City metro is not short on kids with dazzling smiles, bright personalities and kind hearts! We loved meeting each and every child who participated in our 2022 Cover Kids Search contest. After the registration period, you, our readers and fans, voted on your favorite Cover Kid hopefuls in each category, selecting our top-voted finalists.

Each of the finalists was interviewed by a panel of local community leaders. Our thanks to Dr. Mautra Staley Jones, Langston University; Kylee Holland, Sisu Youth Services; Dora Evans, Sunbeam Family Services and Lance Evans, Variety Care, for serving on our panel interviews. Thank you to everyone who entered and voted!

Congratulations to MetroFamily’s 2022 Cover Kids! Ages 2-3: Katelyn Katelyn is an imaginative 2-year-old from Piedmont who loves to make up games to play with her family, tell jokes and hang out with her cat, Pretzel. She enjoys playing outside in the mud, visiting local playgrounds, fishing and attending gymnastics at Dynamo. Katelyn likes to get crafty and creative by coloring, painting and baking with her mom. She frequently requests to have her nails painted. Katelyn is the daughter of Tara and Benjamin and little sister of Bonnie and Leon. The family’s favorite places to visit in the metro are Scissortail Park and the OKC Zoo.

Ages 4-5: Sergio Sergio attends Peace Preschool in Edmond where his teacher reports his favorite thing to talk about is his little sister, who calls Sergio her “superman.” Sergio began drawing when he was 2 and especially likes to sketch people. He loves to ride his scooter and bike, build with LEGOS and magnet blocks, sing, dance and swim. Compassionate and loquacious, he is quite the host and likes to makes sure his family and friends have their favorite things to eat and drink. Sergio is the son of Cheryl and Brian and big brother of Sierra, and together they love to play and learn at Science Museum Oklahoma.

Ages 8-9: Nora In the second grade at Oakdale Schools, Nora is smart, kind and funny. She loves pretend cooking and playing with her babies. Nora enjoys being outdoors, playing tennis and baseball, riding scooters and biking on the Arcadia trail with her family of six. She and her three brothers are high-energy and love to wrestle, watch movies and have sleepovers. She’s a big fan of going to Chickfil-A and visiting playgrounds around the metro. Nora rocks an extra chromosome, and her family says she is the hardest working person they know. She is the daughter of Jessica and Brian.


Ages 6-7: Sufyan Sufyan is in the first grade at Western Gateway School and he wants to be an astronaut and deliver babies when he grows up. He’s exceptional at running track, has competed at the state level and is one of the fastest 6 year olds in Oklahoma. Sufyan also enjoys playing t-ball and basketball as well as swimming and participating in gymnastics. He’s learning Arabic and Spanish and loves all things about dinosaurs and space. Sufyan is the son of Jihan and Masood and little brother of twins Ahmad and Ma’isah. The family’s favorite place to visit in OKC is Scissortail Park.

Ages 10-12: Ethan Ethan attends Classen School of Advanced Studies, where he was elected vice president of student council for the 5th grade student body. He loves to play basketball and video games, beat his mom in Monopoly and visit his Nana in her nursing home. Extremely creative, Ethan enjoys drawing and hopes to one day design his own shoe and clothing brand and own a production company to give other kids a chance to explore their talents. Ethan is the son of Nikesia, and they enjoy trips to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, Myriad Gardens and Science Museum Oklahoma.

Siblings: Evyn

& Eryn

Twin sisters Evyn and Eryn have very different personalities but share a love of celebrating the individuality in the people around them. The homeschooled first graders are serious fashionistas and are quite adept at sketching designs and creating doll clothes out of everyday items. In 2020, the girls started a clothing company with the slogan “every child is beautiful.” The kindhearted sisters enjoy swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School, gymnastics classes at Metro Gymnastics, playing outside and filming dance videos. They are the daughters of Jayla.

Thank you to everyone who took part in our 2022 Cover Kids Search! Watch for our next search starting in early August 2022.




Ways for Parents to


Earning more money. Going back to school. Starting a new career or business. Traveling, volunteering or exercising more. Regardless of your specific goals for 2022, a new year is a fine time to reevaluate priorities and reconnect with your aspirations. Although this is necessary for personal growth, sometimes we aim a little too high. Then, we inevitably lose steam and wind up in the same rut all over again. This is especially true for busy parents, whose lives revolve around raising kids. Starting a new exercise program is already daunting enough, but when you drive your daughter to and from soccer practice four nights a week, it becomes nearly impossible. The everyday grind takes a toll on our mental health, leaving many parents running on fumes. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, all people have a desire for personal growth, but to achieve it, our basic needs must be met first. When we flourish as people, we flourish as parents. If our kids see us engaging in healthy, energizing activities, they’ll follow our lead. But how do we juggle it all? Start with these three tips!


Form better habits. Goals are one component of personal growth, but they aren’t everything. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes: “The quality of our lives often depends on our habits. With the same habits, you’ll end up with same results. But with better habits, anything is possible.”

After reading Atomic Habits, I began laying out my gym clothes before bed every night so I could wake up and leave for the gym in 10 minutes flat! Now, I do it without even thinking about it. Why? Because it’s become a habit — and now going to the gym is part of my lifestyle.

Forming better habits enables you to improve the areas of your life where you’re lacking. At the beginning of last year, I set a goal to exercise more and become healthier. I knew going to the gym was a struggle … but why? After some thought, I realized it was partially because I hated stumbling around to find my gym clothes early in the morning.

Our small habits help us reach our big, long-term goals. Think about the specific small habits that can help you make your big 2022 goals a reality.


Once you’ve mastered a few small habits, get your kids involved. As an added bonus: When they form better habits, you’ll have less on your plate at home!


Focus on your strengths. Many of us believe obsessing over our weaknesses will help us grow, but that’s a myth. We can only become average (at best) in our deficient areas. To actually improve your well-being, pay more attention to your strengths. That in turn will improve your self-esteem and build confidence — and your kids will follow in your footsteps. As a social worker, I helped clients recover from mental health crises by identifying their strengths. Over the years, it became clear that when people understand their strengths, they can flourish in all areas of their lives. If you’re unsure of your strengths, take an online assessment. The VIA 24 Character Strengths Assessment helps you tap into your innate values, priorities and strengths. To learn more about your unique skillset, try the Gallup StrengthsFinder. You’ll discover your areas of greatest potential so you can achieve your goals and perform your best at work. These two assessments complement each other and provide a strong foundation for enhancing your overall well-being.


Build your resilience muscle. Every new year brings new difficulties and challenges. Your level of resilience determines how quickly you’ll bounce back from them. Positive psychologist Chris Peterson characterizes resilience as “struggling well,” whether in response to small stressors or major trauma. Your ability to move forward directly impacts your well-being. Research shows that resilience also improves problem-solving and moves people closer to achieving their goals — and the more you practice it, the more resilient you become. How do you increase your resilience? There are many approaches, including therapy, journaling, meditation, yoga, practicing selfcompassion, getting support from loved ones, getting adequate exercise and sleep and paying attention to your nutrition, to name a few. Start with one or two resilience-building habits and build from there. When you face adversity with resilience, you’ll discover just how strong you truly are — and you’ll feel more confident and capable in the future. Additionally, resilience is contagious. Resilient parents raise resilient kids. Ready to boost your well-being in 2022? Take it one tip at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed. Then move on to the next one. This practice may add one more thing to your full to-do list, but it will also leave you more energized for everything else on your plate — and help you flourish as both a parent and person.

Put on your

Party Boots! Looking for a unique, hassle-free party in the Wild West? All you need are gifts and a birthday cake — we take care of the rest! Put on your party boots and join the birthday fun at The Cowboy. For more information and to request a party date: 1700 Northeast 63rd Street Oklahoma City, OK 73111




Quintin Hughes


GR AND ARCHITECT “He is a rascal,” Quintin Hughes said with a huge smile. Q—as he’s affectionately called by all those who adore him—is about 30 minutes in to his interview for Real Dads. After speaking in detail on his parenting philosophy, Q is relaxed and at ease once the conversation finally shifts to the heart of the matter: his delight in his family.

Back to the beginning

These concepts frame Q’s family structure. Like generations of Black men before him, Q stands alongside a powerful woman who is his partner in every sense of the word. He’s been married to his dream girl, Sasha Hughes, for five years. The Black love story went something like this: Girl walks into a bar. Girl completely enamors boy. Salutations are exchanged. Happily ever after begins.

“My son’s name is Quintin Hughes Jr.,” Q said proudly with the same smile still lighting up his face. “He goes by QJ. He takes a lot after me with a whole lot more energy, charm and charisma. His mother’s beautiful so he’s a handsome young guy.”

“I met her at Urban Roots in 2012,” Q remembers fondly. “I was an Urban Roots regular. I wanted to be there to absorb the culture. I was there to see [Oklahoma artist] Spencer Brown and I stuck around to see him perform. She pulled up. It turned out that Spencer is her cousin.”

Q is the proud father of two amazing kids, 4-year-old QJ and his big sister, 11-year-old Nadia. QJ is an energetic preschooler and Nadia is slowly transitioning into her pre-teen years. Q says watching his bonus daughter grow into an affable tweenager has been an exciting process for the blended family.

It all sounds like a fairytale, but none of it happened by chance. This was part of Q’s plan. He’s the grand architect behind his intricately designed life. The dream family—mom, dad and 2.5 kids—was the hope and desire of a young boy in search of a strong family unit.

“Nadia is really smart,” said Q. “She’s 11 and in middle school. She’s basically a teenager, but she’s incrementally getting there.” The Hughes household is an operation. It’s a well-oiled machine where all members, including QJ and Nadia, move with purpose under guiding principles of love, family and responsibility. And it makes sense. Q is more than just a family man. He’s an entrepreneur who has used his success in corporate America as a blueprint for his home. He leads two successful business ventures in Oklahoma City: Kindred Spirits, a bar in Northeast OKC, and Northeast Renaissance Inc., an organization aimed at revitalizing Northeast OKC through ethical redevelopment. The lessons learned at work often find their way back to the Hughes household. “A lot about a household is just another operation,” said Q. “Why not apply the principles that create efficiencies? Why make it hard on yourself?”


“My family was close growing up and we had a southern Black culture,” said Q about his upbringing. “I missed having a permanent male presence as a father in the house.” To understand Quintin as a family man requires traveling back to his humble beginnings in Little Rock, Ark. The son of a teacher, Q always valued the importance of family. His mom passed down her love of community: she never met a stranger and was a friend to all she encountered. Q makes a conscious effort to pass on the traits he learned from his beloved family matriarch. “I am intentional about how I show love,” said Q. “That’s something my mom passed down to me. A welcoming spirit [as well as] love and compassion for others.” Q says his intentions with Sasha were clear from day one. It was much more than love at first sight. Q longed for the same solid family nucleus that Sasha was already accustomed to.

“My mom did an amazing job, but what happens when you have two people present to share attention, provide and offer guidance and resources?” said Q. “I’ve always wanted that for my family. I was always interested in people who had that life. My wife is West African. There is so much rich culture in her family. Her family is so big and close. Her nuclear family had two parents and looked like the American dream.”

The value of fatherhood

Nine years after their initial interaction, the Hughes are still piecing together their own version of that American dream. They’ve been happily married since 2016. Regardless of the external demands, Q makes small, intentional efforts to continue placing the home first. It’s a Wednesday evening and Q is preparing to meet with the staff at Kindred Spirits. As the meeting begins, 4-year-old QJ interrupts and asks, “I thought we were going to the park?” Q reminds his son of their plans and makes a promise he’s sure to keep: “Once this call is over, we’re headed to the park.” What’s most impressive during this hour-long conversation is Q’s patience. His attentiveness to both busy areas of his life—his demanding profession and his family—is admirable. Although both forces are pulling him during this meeting, they are not at odds. There is no competition because Q understands and values his priorities. It’s all part of the larger design he’s spent years carefully creating.



Q’s entrepreneurial efforts inform his most important role as a father. He says there’s an abundant number of lessons offered through the structure of a business. These lessons help guide his family and build a firm foundation where love can effortlessly grow through wellintentioned actions. “We have a family mission statement,” said Q. “The Hughes will practice love, positivity and promising principles daily at home and away. We will pursue purpose, strong family bonds and constant evolution. We will continue constructive traditions and leave a legacy among our family, our community and our people.” Q’s family believes in collective responsibility. It’s a guiding principle that helps each family member move into the world with purpose, always upholding their responsibility to themselves, the community and to Black folk. “I want my family to feel a responsibility to advance the culture and be a positive representation of their people,” said Q. “And to always look to others to build the culture. [I want our kids] to stand on our shoulders and elevate.” Editor’s note: This article is the first in a year-long series celebrating local dads. Author Lance Evans and husband Chris are fathers of Chrystian. Lance is director of communications for Variety Care, and he and Chris were voted MetroFamily’s 2021 Cool Pops.

Jump. Launch. Race

Performing Arts Series learning tree


@learningtree.okc •

7638 N. Western, OKC • 405-848-1415 METROFAMILYMAGAZINE.COM / JAN-FEB 2022





Jan. 11-16

Jan. 7-9

Jan. 14

FREE First Friday Gallery Walk in the Paseo District (NW 30th & 27th St, Walker & Hudson Ave) features special themed exhibits, guest artists and a variety of live entertainment, all within walking distance. 6-9pm. Eagle Watch at Arcadia Lake (9000 E 2nd St, Edmond). See majestic eagles in their natural habitat. Begin at the Arcadia Lake Park office for information about where the eagles can be found and check out the raptor wingspan display, videos and more. Dress warmly and bring binoculars. $3 per vehicle. 8am-4pm.

Jan. 8

Learn to Curl at Devon Ice Rink (301 W Reno Ave). Learn the etiquette and rules of curling. Dress warmly and wear rubber-soled shoes. All other equipment will be provided. Also held: Jan. 22. Members, $20; nonmembers, $25. 9-10:30am. Detective Day at the Edmond Historical Society & Museum (431 S Boulevard, Edmond) features interactive sleuthing activities in a come-&-go adventure. The event will end with a live reading of an original radio script by Scott Paulson, Nancy Drew Mystery: Tiki Terror. $10; day of, $15; kids under 5, free. 10am-noon. New Year’s Stickball Game at the First Americans Museum (659 First Americans Blvd) features a hands-on stickball demonstration and tournamentstyle game. All ages welcome. Free to attend. 1-5pm.


Dear Evan Hansen: A New Musical at Civic Center Music Hall (201 N Walker Ave) features a deeply personal and profoundly contemporary musical about life and the way we live it. Best suited for ages 12 & up. $52 & up.

FREE 2nd Friday Art Walk in Downtown Norman (Main St, Norman) features a monthly celebration of the arts with a variety of art and art performances. 6-9pm.

FREE LIVE on the Plaza in the Plaza District (1700 block of NW 16th St) features artists, live music, special events, local shopping and more. 6-10pm.

Jan. 15

FREE Hooked on Fishing Lessons at Edwards Park (2917 NE 14th St). Kids 5-15 will be taught basic fishing skills, including casting and knot tying. Rods, reels and bait provided. Preregister. Also held: Feb. 12 at Route 66 Park. 10am-noon.

Jan. 17

Hot Dog Skate at SkateGalaxyOKC (5800 NW 36th St). Includes basic skate rental, hot dog & drink. All ages welcome. $6. 1-4pm.

Jan. 22

Winter Games and Stories at the First Americans Museum (659 First Americans Blvd) features seasonal games such as Nuki’ Lohmi and traditional stories appropriate for the winter months. 1-4pm.

Jan. 23

OKC Phil Discovery Family Series: Pirates of the High Seas at Civic Center Music Hall (201 N Walker Ave) features a one-hour, family-friendly concert designed to entertain and educate youngsters 13 & under. Enjoy musical selections from Pirates of Penzance, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and more. $9. 2pm.

Jan. 25-30

Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Civic Center Music Hall (201 N Walker Ave) features the story of a community circling its wagons against an outsider and the frontier life that shaped America. Best suited for ages 12 & up. $36 & up. See website for showtimes.

Jan. 28

Late Night at the Museum at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (1700 NE 63rd St) features an evening of family fun. Create a painting of the museum’s logo and learn its origin story. Explore Prosperity Junction on a flashlight tour. Bring your pillows and blankets and curl up for a showing of Night at the Museum. An adult must accompany children. Preregister. Best suited for ages 4 & up. $30-$35. 6:30-11pm. Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández at the OCCC Visual and Performing Arts Center (7777 S May Ave) features Mexico’s most renowned dance ensemble. All ages welcome. $17 & up. 8pm.

Feb. 5

Kids Take Over the Cowboy at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (1700 NE 63rd St). Make

music, participate in a sing-along, experiment with the science of music and make your own castanets and Zampoñas. Free with admission. 10amnoon. Norman Daddy Daughter Dance at Embassy Suites (2501 Conference Dr, Norman) features a fun evening for little girls and their fathers or father figures with dancing, music and refreshments. $15 until Jan. 17; $20 after. 2-3:30pm, 4:30-6pm & 7-8:30pm. Midwest City Daddy Daughter Dance at the Nick Harroz Community Center (200 N Midwest Blvd, Midwest City) features an evening of dancing and special activities for dads and daughters ages 3-14. Light refreshments and a photo booth will be provided. Professional photographer and carriage rides will be available for additional cost. $15. 3-4:30pm, 4-5:30pm, 6-7:30pm & 8-9:30pm.

Feb. 24-26

Simply Indie Film Fest at Showbiz Cinemas (3001 Market St, Edmond) features a variety of independent films, screenplays, music videos and photography. Individual tickets, $5; day passes, $10 & up. See website for film schedule.

Feb. 25-27

Friends of the Metropolitan Library System Annual Book Sale at State Fair Park Oklahoma Expo Hall (3212 Wichita Walk) features thousands of books plus a large selection of music, DVDs and audiobooks. Free to attend. Members only: Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday & Sunday (open to the public), 9am-5:30pm.

March 3

Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma Fashion Show at The Criterion (500 W Sheridan Ave) features 21 self-advocate models and peer models. The models will be dressed in Nash Engineered Fashion, custom outfits made to their personalities. Price to be announced. 6pm.

March 4-6

Backwoods Hunting and Fishing Expo at State Fair Park (3001 General Pershing Blvd) features outdoor-focused vendors, attractions, exhibits and seminars as well as kids’ activities. Adults, $10; kids (10 & under), free. Friday, 11am7pm; Saturday, 9am-7pm; Sunday, 10am-5pm.

DATE NIGHT Jan. 8 OKC Phil’s Rachmaninoff Festival at Civic Center Music Hall (201 N Walker Ave) features Alain Lefèvre on piano and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. $27 & up. 8pm.

Jan. 13

Heather McMahan at the Hudiburg Chevrolet Center (6000 S Propser Blvd, Midwest City) features comedian Heather McMahan’s Farewell Tour. $43 & up. 7:30pm.

Jan. 22 & 23

An Evening with an Immigrant at Oklahoma Contemporary’s Te Ata Theater (11 NW 11th St) features a poignant immigrant story of escaping fundamentalist Islam, experiencing prejudice and friendship, performing solo at the National Theatre and drinking wine with the Queen of England. Mild language present relevant to the subject matter. $30-$40; students, $15. Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm.

Jan. 27

Jeff Dunham at Paycom Center (100 W Reno Ave) features a cast of hilarious characters and the comedy of Jeff Dunham. $49.50 & up. 7pm.

Feb. 16-March 6

Head Over Heels at Lyric’s Plaza Theatre (1727 NW 16th St) features a new musical mash-up of posh and punk. This unpredictable Elizabethan romp follows the escapades of a royal


family on an outrageous journey to save their beloved kingdom from extinction. $25 & up. See website for showtimes.

Feb. 18-20

Made in the U.S.A. at Civic Center Music Hall (201 N Walker Ave) features four ballets made in the United States by famous American choreographers. $38 & up. Friday & Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm.

Feb. 25

OKC Midtown Rotary Spelling Bee(r) at Tower Theatre (425 NW 23rd St) features an evening of spelling fun, a silent auction and local brews. Participate in the bee or watch while enjoying delicious heavy hors d’oeuvres from Pub W and beer from Oklahoma breweries. $55 & up. 6-11pm. facebook. com/OKCMidtownRotary The Ten Tenors at OCCC Visual & Performing Arts Center (7777 S May Ave) features the dynamic Australian music ensemble performing romantic, soulful ballads and charttopping pop and rock songs. $17 & up. 8pm.

Feb. 25-26

The Music of Whitney Houston at Civic Center Music Hall (201 N Walker Ave) features an evening of Houston’s biggest hits, including Saving All My Love, How Will I Know?, Where Do Broken Hearts Go and, of course, I Will Always Love You performed by the OKC Philharmonic. $27 & up. 8pm.





MLK Jr. Day Jan. 17

FREE Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in Oklahoma City (various locations) features a silent march, bell ringing, holiday program, parade and job fair. The 2022 theme is “Resilient and Relentless.” See website for schedule of events. FREE Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church (419 S University Blvd, Norman) features a special performance by the Norman Philharmonic honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Adults, $15; kids (16 & under), $7. 7:30pm.

Black History Month Feb. 5

Seizing Justice: The Greensboro 4 at the Oklahoma History Center (800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr) features a screening of the Smithsonian documentary followed by a panel discussion about the Oklahoma sitin movement. Best suited for ages 12 & up. Adults, $10; students & seniors, $5. 1-3pm.

For America: Paintings from the National Academy of Design at Oklahoma City Museum of Art (415 Couch Dr) features a unique history of American art as told by many of the best-known American artists, including masters such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and Andrew Wyeth. Adults, $12; kids (17 & under), free. Wednesday-Thursday, 11am-5pm; Friday, 11am-8pm; Saturday, 10am5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm.

Through Jan. 31

FREE The Clue in the Museum: A Nancy Drew-Inspired Detective Adventure at the Edmond Historical Society & Museum (431 S Boulevard, Edmond) features a come-and-go detective adventure with puzzles, secret messages and more. TuesdayFriday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, 1-4pm.

Through Feb. 21

FREE Open World: Videos Games & Contemporary Art at Oklahoma Contemporary (11 NW 11th St) explores video games’ influence on contemporary art through painting, sculpture, textiles, prints, drawings, animation, video games, video game modifications and game-based performances and interventions by makers who self-identify as artists. WednesdayMonday, 11am-6pm; Thursday, until 9pm.


Through March 31

FREE I Remember That: Edmond in the 1980s at the Edmond Historical Society & Museum (431 S Boulevard, Edmond) features artifacts and photographs that showcase an era rich in pop culture. Look back at a decade of celebration, tragedy and growth. Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, 1-4pm.

Through May 1

Tattooing: Religion, Reality and ‘Regert’ at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (1700 NE 63rd St) explores the tradition and artistic expression of tattooing from the permanent collection. Adults, $12.50; kids (6-12), $5.57; kids (5 & under), free. Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. Santa Fe Trail at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (1700 NE 63rd St) recognizes the bicentennial of the trail. After opening trade between Missouri and Santa Fe, Nuevo Mexico, the Santa Fe Trail became a superhighway carrying goods both ways and directly affecting cultures in both countries, especially with Native peoples in the territories west of Missouri. Adults, $12.50; kids (6-12), $5.57; kids (5 & under), free. Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm.

Through Oct.

Feb. 24

National Geographic Live Speaker Series: Greenwood: A Century of Resilience at the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts (705 W University Ave, Stillwater). A native of Tulsa, archaeologist Alicia Odewale is uncovering stories of resilience in the 100 years since the attack on Black Wall Street in the city’s vibrant Greenwood district. $25$70. 7:30pm.

will close this spring and reopen with a brand-new installation in June. Adults, $12; kids (17 & under), free. Wednesday-Thursday, 11am-5pm; Friday, 11am-8pm; Saturday, 10am5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm.

Through March 27

Dale Chihuly: Magic & Light at Oklahoma City Museum of Art (415 Couch Dr) features one of the most comprehensive collections of Chihuly glass in the country. The exhibition

Sun and Silver: Photography Before Statehood at the Oklahoma History Center (800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr) features an exploration of photographic images before statehood and early photographic equipment and processes, using a selection of images by 12 photographers. Adults, $10; kids (6-17), $5; kids (5 & under), free; families (up to 8 people), $25. MondaySaturday, 10am-5pm.

Opening Feb. 9

Seed Reef at Factory Obscura (25 NW 9th St) features an immersive, sculpted paper installation of a coral reef threatened by bleaching and pollution.

Visitors can walk “underwater” through the kirigami (cut and folded paper) reef as it transitions from a colorful, vibrant section full of corals, fish and other sea life to a barren wasteland of bleached coral skeletons. Adults, $10; kids (4-12), $8; kids (3 & under), free. Wednesday, 10am-7pm; Thursday-Saturday, 11am-8pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm.

Opening Feb. 17

FREE Off the Wall at Oklahoma Contemporary (11 NW 11th St) features three Oklahoma-based artists — Sarah Ahmad, Romy Owens and Marium Rana — who create largescale works that come in stunning and unexpected forms. WednesdayMonday, 11am-6pm; Thursday, until 9pm.

Opening March 5

The Perfect Shot: Walter Iooss Jr. and the Art of Sports Photography at Oklahoma City Museum of Art (415 Couch Dr) features more than 80 photographs by iconic sports photographer Walter Iooss Jr., ranging from a girl striking out at a high school softball game to NFL players winning the Super Bowl. Adults, $12; kids (17 & under), free. Wednesday-Thursday, 11am5pm; Friday, 11am-8pm; Saturday, 10am5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm.

6 Tricks to Make Healthy Habits Stick 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Make a list of your goals. Start with an easier one. Write down your “why.” Put it somewhere you’ll see. Plan ahead for roadblocks. Lean on your loved ones for support. Keep your eyes on the prize: a healthier YOU! Got it down? Move on to your next one!

Opening March 24

FREE John Newsom: Nature’s Course at Oklahoma Contemporary (11 NW 11th St) features large-scale paintings alongside several more intimate works. The exhibition will include the brand-new 9x18-foot Nature’s Course and Homecoming, a new painting referencing Oklahoma. WednesdayMonday, 11am-6pm; Thursday, until 9pm.

Find a full list of local events at calendar. Editor’s note: Please enjoy family fun responsibly by following current CDC recommendations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend contacting each business directly to verify current offerings.

Set yourself up for success. Get free recipes, workouts & more healthy tools at

MetroFamily’s Annual

Education Guide

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly challenged schools and other education-related businesses, but one thing is clear: parents continue to seek the best educational opportunities for their children. If you are looking for a school (preschool to high school), enrichment opportunities, field trips and/or STEAM activities, you’ll find many great options here in our Annual Education Guide. In addition, you’ll find articles throughout this issue that explore educational trends and opportunities, like whether a gap year could be beneficial for your graduating senior or what local museums are providing in the way of enrichment for the whole family. Learn more about why Oklahoma teachers are experiencing burnout this year and what you can do to alleviate the problem. Plus, get tips from metro experts on educating your kids at home around challenging topics like social media usage and sexual health. Join us in making it a priority this year to thank all those who so tirelessly champion our kids’ educations – from teachers and administrators to local enrichment programs and YOU as their parents! PHOTO BY FOTO ARTS PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE OPEN WORLD EXHIBIT AT OKLAHOMA CONTEMPORARY.




t the new, state-of-the-art Oklahoma Contemporary, visitors explore art and creativity through exhibitions, performances and educational programs for all ages. This multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization is an inclusive space with most exhibitions and programs offered for free. Along with exhibitions and the hands-on Learning Gallery, kids and families can: • Attend weeklong school-break camps, including full spring, summer and fall camp itineraries that provide fun and challenging studio experiences for ages 5-12. Experienced art educators lead classes in painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics plus performance, costume design, robotics and animation. • Visit free Second Saturday programs offered from 1-4 p.m., designed for the entire family and include hands-on art making, performances and gallery adventures.

Our family of five loves learning together at Second Saturdays! Not only are the programs free, the crafts and hands-on activities captivate the interest of all three of my kids, and the educators are so intentional in engaging families in creative and meaningful ways. Erin P.

Our 8-year-old daughter enthusiastically attended camps most of last summer. The camp variety kept her engaged all summer long. Will definitely be coming back next year! Dan O.

11 NW 11th St, OKC | 405-951-0000 |

Before- and After-School Care


he YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City has a mission to provide quality out of school time programming that supports academic, physical and social-emotional development to school-age children before and after school hours. They offer financial assistance, feeding programs and value-based curriculum that focuses on character development through STEAM, health and wellness, global learning and many other topics.

The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City’s childcare programs provide support to my family in the form of childcare and mentorship. It provides me peace of mind. I know that my son is having fun, is safe and being cared for when I need it most. J. Moreno, parent

To see a list of before and after school care program locations, visit




Erna Krouch Preschool is a gift to families. The teachers and staff, some of whom have been with the school 30+ years, genuinely care about each and every student. I’m continually touched by their sincere investment in my son’s wellbeing. Jameson is excited to go to school every day. He is learning, he is happy, he is thriving. We are so thankful for EKP! Marissa Hennigan, parent


he oldest continuously-operating preschool in Oklahoma City, Erna Krouch Preschool serves ages 2-PreK. The school strives to be a first-rate example of what solid early childhood education should be by providing a safe, nurturing environment that allows for creative expression, exploration and the continued growth of confidence and self-esteem. In addition to weekly music, Spanish and Amazing Athletes programs, their students learn through sensory exploration and play-based experiences. The school encourages movement and play via their two outdoor playgrounds, an outside classroom space and a full-size gym.


arding Fine Arts Academy is a diverse, arts-integrated public charter school. Enrollment is tuition-free through a lottery system with no entrance requirements. The school offers an emphasis in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) curriculum and a robust list of fine arts and humanities courses in drama, visual arts, vocal, music, martial arts and dance. It also provides academic courses (including 14 Advanced Placement courses) in subjects such as math, English, science, social studies and foreign language. The teachers and administrators are dedicated to teaching the whole child, not just passing standardized exams. Harding is often listed at the top of “best high school” lists, including being named one of the Top 10 Oklahoma Public High Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Interested families can complete an online application or contact the school directly for more information.

Vivian Cohen, director 4901 N Pennsylvania Ave, OKC • 405-848-5926

Harding Fine Arts is the best educational experience for those looking for qualified, committed, dedicated and experienced educators and staff. The balance of quality core curriculum with the excellent selection of art-based electives equals a top-notch foundation for the high school student interested in a liberal arts college degree. I would recommend this school even to those seeking a standard high school experience because of its wide variety of electives, student activities and smaller class sizes. An A++ in my grade book. Yvonne Hughes, parent

3333 N Shartel Ave, OKC • 405-702-4322



What has changed in education the most since you started? What are the current trends and where is education going?


Nathan L. Sheldon, Head of School What is your background and how long have you been Head of School at Casady? My background is in business and finance. Until I came into K-12 education, I would not have guessed this would be the place I would love. However, in my second year at the school, our headmaster at the time asked me to teach a section of Algebra I, coach Middle Division soccer and tennis and be an Upper Division student advisor. Before the year was over, I realized my calling was to help kids become their very best selves. I am currently in my 19th year at Casady School, with this being my eighth year as head of school. I couldn’t think of a better place to be or better colleagues to work alongside.

What is your educational philosophy and how does that impact the students at your school? The hallmark of an excellent education is creating opportunities for students to develop durable skills. I firmly believe that hiring outstanding faculty who understand that student learning should be durable, engaging, authentic, relevant and customized provides the best opportunity for students to be ready and confident for whatever path life takes them down.

It is an inspiring time to be in education. For example, considerable advancements in medical technology allow us to better understand a child’s brain and how it responds best so that we can continue to refine and review our teaching pedagogy. Additionally, social-emotional awareness in a child is paramount. I believe that with social media and the immediacy of information, we need to focus more on students’ social-emotional health. Academics are important, but at the same time, we must pay attention to the social-emotional health of a child. We know that children are responding well when the teacher has high rigor coupled with high engagement. When these two come together, you will find confident, wellrounded and all-around healthy students.

What makes your school stand out among all the education choices parents have? The way students learn has evolved, and their school must meet them where they are today. That mindset inspired Casady School to embark on an evolutionary journey to create a Strategic Academic Plan that focuses on five priorities: student wellness, student engagement, durable learning, community involvement and skills and knowledge. We focus on durable learning with “peak moments” that are collaborative, authentic, relevant, engaging, interdisciplinary and customized. Ultimately we created a Portrait of a Graduate, those values we hope to see in every Casady graduate that bring them a life of balance, purpose and joy.

Tell us about your STEM programs. In our Upper Division, we are in the midst of developing a robust computer science program that will complete our strong vertical alignment of a computer science curriculum that stems from our youngest Cyclones up through our seniors. I’d like to share an example of an Upper Division project. In our machine learning course, students have just finished creating a computer model which can take information about a patient such as age, resting blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and maximum heart rate to predict if that patient has heart disease. While the initial creation of the model is a relatively simple task, the students will now be working on how to tune the model to produce increasingly accurate results. This is just one example of the many applications of machine learning and AI which the students explore in the Thinking Machines course at Casady.

9500 N Pennsylvania Ave OKC 405-749-3100





he Academy of Classical Christian Studies is Oklahoma City’s only full-service PreK-12 classical Christian school, providing a trans-denominational offering of multiple models of classical Christian education to more than 800 students on three campuses across the Oklahoma City metro. Their mission is to assist parents in shaping students’ affections for Truth, Goodness and Beauty, for the benefit of man and the glory of Jesus Christ. Daily morning prayers, weekly chapel, a “house system” that integrates students of all ages to befriend, mentor and lead each other, and other elements of a classical education are offered at The Academy.

There are many Christian schools around to choose from, but The Academy has an organic passion for Christ. It has been an extension of what we teach in our home and at church. Jeff & Lauren Mains, parents

A high standard of conduct was held in the classroom, but the fruit of the loving, structured environment for our daughter yielded more peace and more confidence. Tony & Christy Capucille, parents

Three metro locations: North OKC, South OKC and Midtown. Blended and traditional education models available. 405-478-2077, ext 4 •


eystone Adventure School and Farm is an accredited school for children from 3 years old through 5th grade. The focus is on whole-child learning and individualized education, which is enhanced by giving kids many opportunities for play and learning on the school’s working farm and 15-acre campus. Keystone believes all children are capable learners when the environment engages their curiosity, when teachers and peers demonstrate care for them and when they are learning at an appropriate developmental level. At Keystone, whole child instruction is facilitated at individually appropriate levels rather than being determined by standardized testing. The school also offers a popular outdoor/indoor summer program called Summer on the Farm.

19201 N Western Ave, Edmond 405-216-5400


Pantone River Blue 15-4720 TPX


More than just daycare, The Goddard School in Edmond offers a childcare program that nurtures a lifelong love of learning by providing dedicated teachers in a private preschool setting.

17440 N Western Ave, Edmond

EDMOND • 17440 •N.7am-6pm Western •Avenue • 405-348-4442 405-348-4442

Harn Homestead is part of the fabric of our state’s history and who we are, and I think it’s important for children to grow up knowing that. It’s definitely a field trip that reaches the heart. Denise Fowler, Clegern Elementary

1721 N Lincoln Blvd, OKC 405-235-4058 •


Awesome Moms Contest Nominate a mother figure you love! The winner and two finalists will be featured in our May/June issue and receive awesome prizes, including a hotel and spa package, local restaurant gift cards and merchandise from Sweet Pickle, L'Occitane en Provence, Endless Summer jewelry and more!

Nominations open Jan. 10 - Feb. 28





estminster is an informal, child-centered school where children and teachers know each other well and respect each other as individuals. The school serves students in grades PreK(3)-8th and offers an educational experience in which questions are encouraged, creativity and curiosity are nurtured and academic skills are developed. Westminster students are inspired to try new things, celebrate their successes and value the lessons learned when they are not successful. All students are encouraged and supported continually. Teachers create an environment in which students have the freedom to make decisions and learn to take responsibility for their decisions. The school believes strongly in the importance of a tolerant and diverse educational community and recognizes that the educational success of its students requires the trust and support of parents, students and teachers together.

Westminster School 600 NW 44th St, OKC • 405-524-0631

MSDI Out of all the museums we have visited, this one is by far our favorite. It has so many interactive exhibits for both children and adults. Love how there are so many hands-on activities and even two huge playgrounds to keep our kids (11 and 12 years) entertained. Our baby even had a blast crawling around! Matt S.

2020 Remington Pl, OKC • 405-602-6664



trains students ages 3 to adult in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, African, pointe and hip hop. Classes are held in the fall and spring with dance camps held each summer. The studio is dedicated to enabling students of every socio-economic background the opportunity to experience the excitement of personal accomplishment through dance. I love what you guys do here. Not only is my daughter training in all kinds of dance, but here, it’s welcoming. I mean Metropolitan is like our extended family! Thank you! An MSDI parent 600 N High Ave, OKC • 405-236-5026



he Oklahoma Hall of Fame (OHOF) preserves Oklahoma’s unique history while promoting pride in our great state. Through free educational and cultural programs as well as exhibits at the GaylordPickens Museum, the organization honors the state’s rich tradition by telling Oklahoma’s story through its people. OHOF offers a wide variety of FREE programs, in person and online, that are fun for the whole family, including: • Free Family Fun Days like Spring Thing, Fall Y’all and Summer Thursdays, which feature seasonal crafts and activities, as well as free admission to the museum. • Virtual Discovery Days every Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m. offer a story time to learn about how one of the Hall of Fame members changed the world. Families can pick up a craft kit ahead of time to join in with the craft. • Free Field Trips for grades K-12 from all schools across Oklahoma. Programs include hands-on learning experiences. • Homeschool Days for children and families from all types of learning environments.

The interactive gallery on the third floor (the Legacy Map) they enjoyed the most. Being able to click on a spot in Oklahoma and see the individuals from there and learn about them really intrigued my students. This interactive part of the exhibit allows for them to learn themselves and read themselves. They loved that part! An Oklahoma teacher whose class enjoyed a free field trip

My daughter has had a chance to hear stories [and] make crafts, but most of all the virtual show-and-tell has been a wonderful chance for my daughter to talk to others and share experiences. The parent of a virtual Discovery Days program participant

1400 Classen Drive, OKC • 405-235-4458





ount St. Mary Catholic High School offers a tailored, personalized educational experience that meets students where they are and helps them become the people God has called them to be. The school is built on the foundations of faith, compassion and service to others. From small class sizes to a variety of unique offerings, The Mount’s education and environment equips students with the tools they need to thrive in life. The spirit of community that students experience at the school is paramount at MSM. Beyond the classroom, students have many opportunities to learn new skills and grow in their faith. More than 94 percent of students participate in extracurricular activities such as drama, vocal music, band, athletics and various student organizations. Students also have the opportunity to get involved in community service projects

Enrolling our children at Quail Springs United Methodist’s Early Childhood Program has been one of the greatest choices we have made for our children. We have noticed our oldest is ahead of most kids her age who aren’t in school yet, especially with her social skills. She adores her teachers and I have been blown away by their education and knowledge as they teach my children. Kandyce and Jermelle Cudjo, parents

Learn more about the Early Childhood Program 14617 N Penn, OKC • 405-755-3258 •



through which they learn about themselves by serving others. Academically, the school offers 22 advanced placement courses and a dual credit and concurrent enrollment option. The 2021 graduating class earned over $7.6 million in college scholarships. The size of the school allows teachers and staff to know each of the students and their parents well. The focus on a student’s moral development as well as their commitment to excellence make The Mount a unique educational experience where students truly thrive!

2801 S Shartel Ave, OKC •

Wonder Nature School has been a godsend to our family. Our PreK daughter loves school, especially ‘science day.’ We have seen her grow a lot both academically and emotionally and like the fact that she has a small class size, plenty of staff to help her, an individualized learning plan and low amounts of screen time if any. Wonder Nature School also offers year-round childcare, before/after care, which is a big bonus to busy parents like us. I have already referred a few of my friends to send their kids to this great school! Angelena Harris

Currently enrolling PreK-5th grade NW 122nd and May, OKC 405-295-5856 • Facebook: @wondernatureokc


Go Make Disciples Bishop John Carroll Cathedral School PreK3-8th Grade Oklahoma City 405.525.0956

Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School Secondary College Preparatory Grades 9-12 Oklahoma City 405.842.6638

Cristo Rey OKC Catholic High School Secondary College Preparatory Grades 9-12 Oklahoma City 405.945.9100

Mount St. Mary Catholic High School Secondary College Preparatory Grades 9-12 Oklahoma City 405.631.8865

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School PreK3-8th Grade Oklahoma City 405.789.0224

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School PreK3-8th Grade Edmond 405.348.5364


t. Mary’s Episcopal School is an independent Christian school educating children ages 2.5-5th grade with exceptional early childhood and elementary programming designed to help each child achieve his or her personal best. St. Mary’s is fully accredited by the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools, which is recognized by the National Association of Independent Schools and the state of Oklahoma. St. Mary’s 51-acre campus in north Edmond features outdoor classrooms, athletic fields, walking trails and more. They believe that learning through experience is powerful and strive to give their students those opportunities.

Choosing SMES for our family has meant investing in a strong educational foundation for our children. By ensuring that our children have the tools and teachers they need to begin a lifelong love of learning, we are preparing them for a bright future. Laura Peck, parent 505 E Covell Rd, Edmond 405-341-9541

I love this school! The teachers and the staff are extremely nice and are always looking for ways to help you. My children are also very happy to go to this school. It is a great place to bring your children. Claudia V., parent

Visit for more information about our five campuses in OKC and three campuses in Tulsa. 405-605-0201


Jordan loves iCode. Not only does he learn computer skills including basic coding and robotics, he is learning concepts in math and physics while having fun. It’s a win/win! Steve & Debbie Andrade

2217 NW 178th St, STE B, Edmond



rinity is the only school in the Oklahoma City metro solely dedicated to educating students with diagnosed learning differences such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. Trinity also serves students with auditory and sensory processing issues, anxiety and developmental or intellectual delays. Trinity recognizes how unique each learner is and designs its programs and instruction utilizing the latest assistive technology and evidence-based teaching methods. Students receive accommodations and modifications in their classrooms. Their licensed professional counselor with over a decade of hands-on experience in psychoeducational testing leads their academic team, and their certified school psychometrist and experienced division heads guide individualized learning plans. Small class sizes, a unique K-12 program and an expert team enable Trinity to use a collaborative approach while integrating multiple interventions and strategies that improve students’ experience and outcomes. Trinity’s campus is an encouraging atmosphere where students feel welcome and free to be themselves. Students form meaningful friendships with their classmates and participate in activities, often discovering hidden talents. Trinity offers activities, athletics and clubs for all divisions, making school a fun, exciting place to be!

Trinity should be the standard in how to best help amazing kids like Dawson! I have met other parents who have children like Dawson and love being able to tell them how amazing Trinity is. It also breaks my heart to hear of their struggles. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being such incredible educators. Thank you for being such an amazing school. Thank you for being a place of belonging when you’re feeling lost and adrift. Lucia & Chip Frohling, parents

3200 N Walker, OKC • 405-525-5600 •




Teacher burnout BY ERIN PAGE

How we got here and what it will take from the community to move forward


even years ago, Dr. Christina Kirk left behind a lucrative career as an attorney to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Now an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at Star Spencer Mid-High, Kirk can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I had been looking for how to become part of a change, and I kept circling back to education, but the deterrent was always the financial side,” said Kirk, who waited to change careers until her daughter received a full-ride college scholarship. “Once my daughter was financially secure, I was able to be more of a risk-taker with my career and do something I’m passionate about.” Like many teachers, Kirk holds a second job as a municipal judge to fulfill her financial commitments. She’s also a coach, serves as the middle school ELA department chair and heads the AVID college prep class for high school juniors. On top of that, the 2019-2020 Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year is now helping her students and colleagues navigate life and learning in a pandemic while caring for their and her own mental health. She recalls comforting a panicked student afraid he was going to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19. She’s also had to encourage colleagues who have a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings, knowing the nearly unbearable weight placed on them by society as the pandemic continues. “When you are empty, you can’t continue to pour,” said Kirk. “It’s not that teachers don’t care, but some are ‘cared out’ and don’t have anything else to give.”


Jessica Eschbach, Oklahoma’s 2021 state teacher of the year and an innovation learning coach for Norman Public Schools, says as she’s traveled the state meeting with educators, the term she hears most often is “overwhelmed.” “Teachers want to meet the needs of their kids, socially, emotionally and educationally,” said Eschbach. ”It was never easy, but coming back after a year of uncertainty, when you have kids at all ends of the spectrum in one classroom and figuring out what they need in terms of instruction and emotional support, while making sure their families’ needs are met, on top of our own families and worries … there just aren’t enough minutes in the day. That feeling of overwhelm really easily shifts to burnout.” Susan Pinson, executive director of professional learning for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, agrees the top challenge facing educators is their emotional wellness. Teachers are feeling increased pressure to assess students’ current skills and knowledge and fill in gaps accordingly, all while dealing with inconsistency of schedules and teaching formats due to the pandemic. Pinson says not only does increased stress and exhaustion lead to higher levels of illness among teachers, it’s also contributing to a lack of joy. The solution is not to place even more expectations on educators but rather to rally communities to help restore the respect and support teachers deserve, which ultimately benefits the students in their classrooms. “Teachers want to feel respected, that there is a sense of mutual trust and to really have open communication,” said Pinson. “That opens the doors for schools and communities to work together, and that’s when creative ideas surface.”


Oklahoma’s education statistics reflect the overwhelm of teachers around the state. Summertime teacher retirements were up 38 percent in 2021, compared to 2020, with more than 2,200 Oklahoma teachers leaving the profession, according to the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System. Teachers have been managing from crisis to crisis throughout the pandemic especially, amidst fickle and often negative public sentiment. “Being in education right now is heavy,” said Kirk. “Two years ago, everybody was talking about how important teachers are, and in less than 18 months, that’s switched to how lazy teachers are. That public sentiment swayed quickly.” The Oklahoma State Board of Education reports issuing 2,673 emergency teacher certifications prior to start of the 2021-2022 school year, already nearing the total of 2,801 for the entire 2020-21 school year. Oklahoma’s average teacher salary lags behind the national average by more than $10,000, according to the National Education Association. Across the United States, Oklahoma ranks 30th in teacher pay, according to Wallet Hub, with an average of $53,617, compared to the national average of $65,090. In Oklahoma, starting salaries for teachers average $36,601, or $39,381 for those who enter the profession with a doctorate degree, like Kirk. Low pay coupled with increased burdens due to the pandemic, an educator shortage and general lack of respect for the profession only serve to frustrate and undercut the individuals who are committed to teaching the next generation. “There’s a growing sentiment to undermine expert and professional expertise,” said Sen. Carri Hicks, a former educator and member of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee. “Educators are highly trained, but the mentality is that anyone can do it.” Hicks joined her first picket line with her father during the teacher strike of 1990 to support her dad, who taught for 32 years. Ironically as the Teacher Walkout of 2018 loomed, Hicks and her dad were on the picket line yet again, this time her father supporting her as a classroom teacher. “It’s frustrating that the more things change, the more they stay the same,” said

Hicks. “We’ve over regulated public school systems to the point where teachers feel micromanaged. The walkout was never about teacher raises but ultimately the result of dwindling investment for kids and a growing need for teachers to feel supported in the classroom. We have to find a way to stop telling schools ‘this is what we have left over in the budget’ and instead ask what investment they need.” Hicks said what keeps her up at night is the record number of teachers leaving the workforce in Oklahoma, in addition to fewer students interested in careers in education. “It feels like we’re not ever getting ahead in the teacher shortage to get the results we want,” said Hicks. “The strongest indicator of a child’s academic success in the classroom is their teacher. We need to be smart about investment and honest about what kids need to thrive.”

THE SOLUTIONS Statewide support

The OSDE is on a mission to prioritize retaining and supporting teachers statewide. “We have announced many initiatives under our Ready Together Oklahoma plan,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “What one teacher needs to reduce stress and burnout may vary vastly from what another teacher needs. But we believe that each initiative has something to offer that will benefit both teachers and students.” A new teacher induction program provides wraparound support for early career educators, pairing rural teachers with an urban or suburban veteran teacher coach as well as a mentor in their school to help them get to know the community. The new teacher receives instructional and curriculum coaching as well as social-emotional support. Coaches and mentors like Eschbach receive professional development and support from the OSDE, building renewed dedication to the profession among teacher leaders. “The more we can support new teachers, the more they will be able to stay in the job, hone their craft and be there for generations of kids in Oklahoma,” said Eschbach.



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The School Counselor Corps program will add 300 counselors to Oklahoma schools to support student mental health. The OSDE is investing $35 million in federal COVID relief funds to cover half the cost of the program, which helps address students’ academic and social-emotional needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Pinson notes, when students receive that support, it transfers into the classroom, improving performance and allowing teachers to focus their energy on teaching. “Oklahoma’s current student-to-school counselor ratio of 411:1 is significantly higher than the recommended ratio of 250:1,” said Hofmeister. “School counselors and school-based mental health professionals play an integral role in helping students build academic, college and career, and social and emotional skills. This help, in turn, positively impacts student mental health and well-being.” Kirk is grateful for the Employee Assistance Program, which provides teachers free, confidential counseling and referral services through the U.S. Department of Education, and she’s actively working to encourage teachers in her site and district to take advantage of it when needed. “The district has put an effort into recognizing that teacher work is hard and stressful, that we can’t turn it off and that we’re thinking about our kids while we are at home, wondering if they are safe,” said Kirk. “We take on the emotional energy of our students, and knowing we have services that we don’t have to worry about how much they cost or if taking advantage of them will affect our jobs is comforting.” For the first time in 2021, Oklahoma college students in their final year of a teacher preparation program were paid during their student teaching. This initiative removes obstacles for those who have to work in addition to completing their student teaching and helps with housing and transportation costs they would otherwise need another job to fund. “Student teaching is a really challenging time for a lot of students because you’re essentially paying to work, which can be a huge burden,” explained Eschbach. “This program is revolutionary, paying student teachers a stipend and then an additional stipend to stay in Oklahoma, adding qualified teachers to our workforce.” While Oklahoma lags in terms of average pay, Pinson said the state has increased teacher pay over the past two years, with an average increase of $7,400. She said just as important as the pay raise is the message conveyed that educators are valued and respected. For future initiatives, Hicks would like to see the state invest in educators’ professional development. Currently Oklahoma has 26 professional development mandates that teachers must complete annually, on top of federally-required mandates. “We mandate professional development but haven’t paid for it in over a decade,” said Hicks. “The state professional development budget is zero, so it’s up to local schools to try to find a cost-effective way to


meet all of those mandates, like an online module, which diminishes the quality significantly. While it might have been a good idea, the execution doesn’t have the proper resources to have the intended effect.” A reduction of class sizes, which Hicks notes would increase student academic achievement and reduce teachers’ workloads, could also help reduce teacher turnover and burnout. In 1990, state House Bill 1017 mandated class sizes, curriculum standards, testing and early childhood education programs, with schools subject to accreditation and financial penalties for failure to comply. Without the necessary budgeting, though, many of the mandates couldn’t be maintained, and in 2010 a moratorium was passed. Hicks wonders what educators and students could achieve with lower class sizes if districts had the funds to invest equitably in teachers and facilities. “We build new buildings but don’t have the money to hire more teachers,” said Hicks. “We need both in equal proportions.” Kirk would like to see state university education programs require more time in real-world classroom management experiences. She also says it’s necessary to place more veteran teachers in schools with the highest need, which currently often receive the most emergency certified teachers instead. In addition, Kirk believes an increase in teacher pay should not be based on performance or student outcomes because while some students will never test at a specific proficiency level, that doesn’t mean they haven’t achieved tremendous growth, and teacher pay shouldn’t be penalized for it. At the end of the day, though, Kirk believes the current climate and negativity surrounding the education industry in Oklahoma is one the state “can’t legislate its way out of.” “Changing mindsets can’t be done legislatively,” said Kirk. “We have to promote the positives of education so communities and partners understand and value education.”

Community collaboration

Because teachers are quite literally molding the next generation of our communities, all Oklahoma citizens have a collective responsibility to support the industry. “The number one way we can help educators in 2022 is simply by offering support,” said Hofmesiter. “Each member of the community has something unique to offer.” At the beginning of the pandemic, Hicks recalls talking with administrators in the public schools in her district to ask what they needed in terms of financial support to reopen. “You could have knocked them over with a feather,” said Hicks, who adds that educators, unfortunately, have gotten used to receiving whatever is left over, not being asked (and provided) what they need most.

Hicks remembers from her classroom days when her school received a set of materials or software that either didn’t align with curriculum needs or they weren’t provided proper training to use effectively, all of which can add to that feeling of overwhelm. On the contrary, she has witnessed in both Putnam City and Deer Creek school districts what can happen when community members, nonprofit partners and corporate sponsors band together to fulfill needs or support initiatives schools are already engaged in. “Those big ideas can have a really profound impact,” said Hicks, recalling the success of a grant for a school to build a greenhouse and community garden. In Deer Creek, a parent legislative action committee, launched while Hicks taught in the district, recently worked with district leaders to secure monies from pandemic relief funds as well as ongoing investment for the district to provide dyslexia specialists and curriculum at every level in the district, a testament to the power of parents banding together to achieve a major initiative. The Putnam City Schools Foundation launched a community engagement program called Community And Schools Together in 2021, thanks to a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation. The funds allowed the foundation to hire three community liaisons, who assess needs in their school sites by interviewing teachers and administrators and then work with community partners to fulfill those needs. “In every school building in Oklahoma, there are kids and families who need hope and there are principals and teachers not trained or who don’t have the time to be social workers, community liaisons, pastors and all the different roles they try to fill,” said Jennifer Seal, president

of the Putnam City Schools Foundation. “We want to alleviate some of that burden so they can focus on teaching and loving kids.” Seal recalls a teacher spending 30 minutes of her day trying to find a place one of her students’ families could wash their laundry, and similar scenarios are on repeat for most teachers throughout the state every day. When teachers are focused on helping kids and families meet those basic needs, which must be attended to before a child can generally feel safe and ready to learn, notes Kirk, their ability to focus on instruction is hampered. So far, CAST has secured donations of water bottles, a refrigerator, supplies for grounds beautification, a little free library for an elementary school, meals for band students and more. As the program continues to develop, Seal says the liaisons are proactively meeting with community partners, religious organizations, nonprofits and businesses to create a resource pool so when they have requests from schools, they have organizations ready and willing to meet the needs. Seal is not aware of another similar program in the state or the country. “In 10 years, I’d love to have a community liaison in every building; that’s 27 schools and that would be a considerable investment,” said Seal. “It’s going to take time to build this out, but I see no end in sight to the growth of this program.” Thanks to an award from the Oklahoma School Foundations Network recognizing CAST, Seal also has the opportunity to share information about the program with other foundations across Oklahoma in the hopes they will be inspired to start something similar in their districts.



Seal adds that another opportunity for community members to directly impact their local school district is to get trained as substitute teachers, which schools are desperately lacking. “When we don’t have substitutes, teachers feel such a strong responsibility to be there for their kids that they will sometimes forgo what they need in order to be at school,” said Eschbach. “Anybody who wants to help, your presence would be so important.” Classroom support from parents is important, too, but Eschbach adds that supporting teachers does not have to translate to giving money or purchasing goods. Volunteering in the classroom or simply reinforcing a teacher’s instructional goals for your child, like ensuring they are reading and completing homework, go a long way. Taking a few minutes to send teachers an encouraging note means more than many parents might realize. “A note that says I see what you’re doing and see the positive benefits to my kid even outside the classroom … we love to see that growth and have that confirmation that parents are seeing it, too,” said Eschbach.

Moving forward

The pandemic has affected every member of the community and state in some way. Eschbach says acknowledging that impact and connecting the time and talent of community members with their public schools are the next best steps to move forward.

“People want to help, and getting community groups and support into our schools is going to be important to regain a sense of normalcy,” said Eschbach. “Despite our differences, we all want the best for kids — that’s a collective goal we can all share.” Hicks hopes to see a focus on empowering teachers to regain their joy. “There are a lot of things at the state level we can do to empower teachers to fall in love with learning all over again,” said Hicks. “They love kids and are capable of the job they’ve been hired to do. Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive and deserves a well-funded education, which means resisting the temptation to micromanage educators.” Kirk is committed to infusing her positive energy among her colleagues. At a recent review focused heavily on opportunities for improvement, Kirk made a point to end the meeting on a note of positivity, asking everyone to share something in their week that reminded them why they teach. Despite the current sense of overwhelm and burnout for Oklahoma educators, Kirk says, with the community’s help, the industry can and will continue to make strides for our children. “There’s always hope,” said Kirk “We might be tired but we’re not going anywhere. We entered this profession knowing it was challenging. We need everyone else to collaboratively get on board. Our kids are too important — so when you remove the option of walking away, all you have left is hope.”






Late Night at the Museum January 28 • 6:30 – 11:00 p.m.

Create a painting of the Museum’s logo, explore Prosperity Junction on a flashlight tour and curl up for a showing of Night at the Museum. Popcorn provided! Reservations required by January 21; to register, visit Children aged 4 and up; an adult must accompany children. $35; $30 for Museum member.

Oklahoma Heritage Concert February 16 • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Students watch history come to life with stage performances by Rodeo Opry, using an interactive program to teach Oklahoma history, music and culture. This educational music experience takes participants through trials and triumphs, including Native American heritage, the Dust Bowl, state symbols and famous Oklahomans. Preregistration is required by February 11. For registration, call w(405) 478-2250 or visit

Kids Take Over the Cowboy Enjoy activities organized especially for kids relating to current events or the Museum’s latest exhibitions. No registration required. Free for Museum members or with Museum admission. Available while supplies last.

Music Speaks February 5 • 10:00 a.m. – Noon Storytime at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Western Wears March 5 • 10:00 a.m. – Noon Storytime at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.

Spring Break Activities

March 14 – 8 • 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Drop by the Museum and participate in family-friendly activities and create a different make-and-take craft each day. Free for members or with Museum admission. Available while supplies last.

Lego Road Trip • March 14 Embroidery • March 15 Mini-Weavings • March 16 Illustrated Letters • March 17 Journals • March 18

1700 Northeast 63rd Street Oklahoma City, OK 73111 (405) 478-2250 •



Check out four unique opportunities to learn creatively in OKC.



Gain understanding under the sea Factory Obscura will open its temporary immersive installation Seed Reef on Feb. 9 by artist Emma Difani and collaborator Malcolm Zachariah. Visitors will experience the sculpted paper installation of a coral reef as it transforms from a colorful, vibrant section full of coral, fish and sea life to a barren wasteland of bleached coral skeletons, representing the threat and result of pollution. Then, visitors will be encouraged to help restore, or “seed,” the damaged reef by constructing their own corals and reef inhabitants to add to the installation, helping visitors understand the beauty and complexity of this unique environment and humankind’s impact upon the planet. Seed Reef will be open through April 24.



In addition to visiting Factory Obscura’s permanent Mix-Tape immersive art adventure, the organization provides a plethora of opportunities for kids and families to learn and play together. Pick up scavenger hunts or learning guides at the box office to enhance kids’ experiences or find free activity sheets or a virtual tour at School and homeschool groups receive special discounts.

Art education goes virtual Students can now visit the Oklahoma City Museum of Art virtually through the organization’s free Virtual Field Trip program. Students in grades 2 through 12, as well as college students, are paired with a museum educator for a live 45-minute experience. Teachers can choose from sessions like STEAM at OKCMOA, examining art for context and exploring museum careers, as well as lessons around special exhibits. In conjunction with the museum’s 2021 Painters of Pompeii exhibit, students were able to speak with a practicing archeologist who has excavated at sites around Italy, including Pompeii. “This is a great example of a program we would not have been able to offer in person,” said Rosie May, director of curatorial affairs and audience engagement. “With virtual learning, the sky is the limit, and we are excited to offer innovative sessions like this as new exhibitions open throughout the year.”



All in-person and virtual field trip sessions align with Oklahoma academic standards and encourage creative and critical thinking. Find out more at


Accommodations for those with

sensory sensitivities

The Civic Center Music Hall has partnered with nonprofit KultureCity to become a certified Sensory Inclusive Venue. KultureCity is recognized nationwide for efforts to effect change in the community for those with sensory needs, and this initiative in particular helps public entertainment venues serve guests with sensory needs and processing issues. One of the significant barriers for individuals with sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation is the overstimulation and noise in a venue like the Civic Center. “The Civic Center strives to make our shows accessible to all patrons, and this partnership will provide resources to a large but often unaccommodated part of our community,” said Ford Altenbern, project manager for the Civic Center Foundation. All Civic Center staff and volunteers have undergone training focused on awareness of sensory sensitivities, including autism, dementia, PTSD and other conditions, as well as best practices for assisting patrons. Guests will have access to sensory tools available for check out, as well as a social story to help prepare patrons for their visit. Learn more at

4 Level up! Merging STEAM and contemporary art, Oklahoma Contemporary’s exhibit Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art explores the impact of video games on modern life. With nods to favorite games through the decades, like Super Mario Bros., Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda, the exhibit showcases both the opportunities video games offer for creative expression and how gaming influences culture. Originally curated by Teresa Bembnister for the Akron Art Museum in 2019, the exhibit presents the work of 22 national and international artists.

identity and technology’s ability to create credible — yet false — imagery,” said Bembnister. “Some use their artwork as a platform to advocate for justice for marginalized people.”

“The artists tackle topics crucial to contemporary life, including the role of consumer products in shaping personal

Open World will be on display through Feb. 21. Visit to reserve free advance tickets.

The gaming theme continues throughout the museum, with free arcade games in the Creative Lounge, a selfie-spot installation in the lobby and quirky retro and new artist-made products in Shop Contemporary. The hands-on Learning Gallery features displays on video-game history, careers and music, and visitors can also play indie and VR games, make video game-inspired art or collaborate in a large-scale pixel project.



Diversity pipeline addresses representation, teacher shortages



When the López family moved from Mexico to Oklahoma, Linda López’s son struggled more than her other children to learn English. Linda and daughter Alexiss worked diligently with him, and, realizing they could use their talents and passion to help other bilingual students, they both became paraprofessionals for Oklahoma City Public Schools. “We know the struggle,” said Linda. “When you see a student walk into a classroom and they are just lost, whether they are new to the country or school, I just feel for them, being in a classroom where no one understands them.” When Linda was in her seventh year at OKCPS, representatives from the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, the district and Linda’s principal approached her with a radical idea — to help pilot a program that would pay all expenses for her to earn a college degree and become a certified teacher. “We were working with students in the district already, and this was our opportunity to better our education and help bilingual students,” said Linda. The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program addresses one of the district’s greatest needs: a shortage of bilingual teachers amidst a growing Hispanic student population, now at 56 percent. OKCPS has 16,500 bilingual students, with 13,000 English language learners. District and foundation leaders began to dream about how to better support bilingual students by also galvanizing the bilingual paraprofessionals already employed by the district. “We asked what would keep them from becoming teachers, and the overwhelming response was that they would need to be able to keep


their jobs and benefits and they lacked the financial resources to go to college,” said Mary Mélon, president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation. “So we said, ‘How about we cover that for you?’” The Bilingual Pipeline Program was launched in 2016, with five participating bilingual paraprofessionals, including both Linda and Alexiss. The program has grown to 61 participants, with six graduating so far. More recently, the foundation launched a Diversity Teacher Pipeline Program to cultivate more teachers of color who don’t have to be bilingual. OKCPS leaders say research clearly shows that white and non-white students perform better in school when they have the opportunity to learn from teachers of color. The pipeline programs are not a short-term fix but rather focus on improving representation and diversity in the district to benefit students, teachers, families and the community for decades to come. Participants continue with full-time employment at OKCPS and attend college part-time, paid for by the foundation. Some already have college credits or an associate’s degrees, while others have no college experience. The foundation, along with district administrators and liaisons at local community colleges and the University of Central Oklahoma, work with each individual to plan a path for success. That includes not only covering all expenses but also serving as a sort of case worker to provide help if a participant’s car breaks down, has a sick child or needs to rearrange work schedules to accommodate for classes. “They are not highly paid individuals and they are sacrificing a lot to get through college; they need the emotional support,” said Mélon. “This gives them a chance at a different life. One of our graduates was able to buy her first home when she became a teacher. We know teachers aren’t paid what they are worth, but the socioeconomic increase they get going from paraprofessional to teacher is life changing.”

Alexiss’ journey to earn her college degree wasn’t easy, and it was even harder for her mom, who was juggling her family in addition to work and school, but the support they received from Mélon, their principals and their colleagues helped them get to graduation. Linda currently teaches third grade at Ridgeview Elementary and Alexiss is a kindergarten teacher at Kaiser Elementary. They have become a safe place for bilingual students throughout their schools, who often light up when they realize a teacher speaks their native language. “It’s hard for students to relate to teachers who don’t look like them or speak their language,” said Alexiss. “When students feel safe and happy, they tend to progress much more.” Linda and Alexiss’ coworkers often seek their counsel on relating to or communicating with bilingual students in their classes, and their presence has been transformative for parents of bilingual students, some of whom can now communicate directly with their child’s teacher for the first time. “That’s why a lot of parents are not part of the PTA or school programs or even don’t sign up to take snacks; they aren’t as involved because they don’t know the language and don’t feel comfortable,” said Alexiss. “It’s hard for those parents to build a relationship with the school, and a child’s education depends on the parents and their support.” Linda recalls holding a parent-teacher conference in Spanish with a mother who had previously required a translator; the direct communication and mutual understanding opened the door for the

mother to ask more questions. Alexiss’ student was worried when she missed school for an appointment, so the mom texted, in Spanish, to check on her. The ability to build those relationships makes a tremendous difference in a child’s academic, social and emotional experiences at school. “It’s like you take a weight off their shoulders, and it’s those little details that make them feel comfortable,” said Alexiss. As the bilingual and diversity teacher pipeline programs continue to add paraprofessionals, the foundation is also recruiting OKCPS high school students who want to become teachers. Mélon is hopeful other districts will use the program as a template to create a similar mechanism to recruit and retain teachers. The OKCPS program is privately funded, and as participation grows, so does the need for community partners and innovative funding opportunities. “The key point is retention of teachers,” said Mélon. “The first couple of years of a teacher joining a school district is [when it is] the hardest to retain them; data tells us that. We believe these individuals who have already been invested in our school district will stay with our district.” Alexiss and Linda hope their experiences will inspire other paraprofessionals to take the leap so more students and families will have the benefit of bilingual, culturally-proficient educators. “We are giving people hope,” said Alexiss. “The more the program benefits staff, the more it also benefits parents and students.”

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InternAtiOnal Adventures with Kids


One of the first things my husband Cody and I did after we finished grad school and before we started our careers was hop on a plane to Europe. After two weeks in Spain, Italy, Austria and Germany, wanderlust had a firm grip, and we were hooked! Before we had our first son eight years later, we had visited 19 countries together on five continents, including trips to India and Sri Lanka, South Africa and UAE, Peru and Brazil and three trips to Europe. Traveling is where we recharge and invest in each other; it’s also how we connect to the world and get outside our comfort zones. When we began having children, we knew we wanted to keep traveling, but we had convinced ourselves that family trips would need to stay state-side and international trips would have to be kid free — at least until the kids were quite a bit older.



For years, we’d daydream about what it would be like when our two young boys were old enough to take them overseas. We wanted them to be old enough to not only remember the experiences they’d have but also to really appreciate them; for the trip to be “worthwhile.” After all, we thought, why would we want to spend all that money and effort to bring kids on a trip they won’t remember or at least appreciate?

But then I read this question: “What if it’s not about what the kids remember but about what YOU remember experiencing with your kids?” The memories YOU will cherish forever. The chance to enjoy captured time with your quickly growing and everchanging children. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the world through your little one’s eyes. And a chance to lay a foundation of adventure and education that only travel can provide.

Making plans

When that thought landed firmly upon us in spring of 2021, and with an open summer ahead, we finally said, “Why not!” and booked a month-long trip to Italy and France for all four of us. (A little disclaimer here — because we were waiting for international travel to re-open to Americans after the first wave of COVID, we were forced to book this trip very last-minute, which we were able to do because not many people were traveling at the time. So accommodations that would not typically have been available on such short notice were available for surprisingly decent rates. But normally, as you might imagine, booking trips like these as far in advance as possible is best for availability and costefficiency.) Since this was our first time taking our then 3- and 5-year-old boys overseas, we decided to visit some of our favorite places, partly

because they were familiar and we knew the locations would be great for kids and partly because those places have been special to us as a couple and we wanted to share them with our whole family. Typically, when it was just Cody and me, we would zip from city to city spending maybe just a day or two in each place so we could fit in as many sights and experiences as possible. But we knew we’d have to slow down with kids as it takes longer to get around and it’s smart to build in more down time. So we planned for approximately three to five days in each of our main stops with a few quick stops sprinkled in.

3 Locations to Serve You! Edmond • OKC • Yukon


When we finally narrowed down our top spots, we had settled on spending three weeks in Italy and one in France (mostly because our boys had watched the movie Ratatouille a lot and wanted to see the Eiffel Tower). We flew into Milan and made our way to Varenna on Lake Como for four nights, then to Vernazza, which is one of the villages of Cinque Terre along the Ligurian Coast, for five nights. We made a quick stop in Lucca on our way to spend three nights in Florence. From Florence, we rented a car to drive to our agriturismo (farm stay) outside of Pienza with lunch in Panzano. After three days of enjoying the quiet, bucolic paradise of Tuscany, we made two quick stops in Bologna and Modena before heading to Venice for three nights. From Venice, we flew to France for four days in Paris before our last stop at Mont Saint-Michel along the coast of Normandy.

Play • Learn • Thrive Call (405) 840-1686 to schedule an evaluation!



The far-reaching benefits of travel When our month of adventure came to an end, we were all exhausted and excited to be home (except for maybe Cody), but we had the time of our lives and made memories that will stay with us forever. Over the last six months, we’ve seen how the experiences we shared are shaping the way our kids see and interact with the world. It lit a spark in them that is fueling their curiosity, creativity and compassion like nothing else can, and we hope that’s a flame we can continue to feed over the years to come. When we hear other parents say, “I’ve always wanted to do a trip like that, but it seems really overwhelming. I don’t know if we can do it,” our response is, “You can!” It definitely takes planning, preparation and saving, but that can be part of the fun. Here are a few tips to kickstart your planning (or at least your daydreaming!): 1. Make the planning a family affair. Sure, the ultimate plans and decisions should probably be steered by the adults, but don’t hesitate to let your kids throw in their two cents as well. They’ll be more interested and engaged, which will make it more fun for everyone. 2. Don’t forget passports and other travel requirements. Yes, even for little ones. Regardless of age, everyone needs a passport to travel internationally, and for kids under the age of 16, the initial application must be submitted in person with both parents or guardians signing off either in person or through a notarized letter. You’ll also want to research whether your destinations require Visas, vaccination or medical documentation, custody documents, international driving permits, etc. I particularly recommend researching your destination’s COVID requirements and protocols as those vary greatly and change frequently. Travel. and are both helpful resources.

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3. Book convenient lodging. Finding accommodations that serve your family best is key. I highly recommend booking apartments or other similar vacation rentals that give you access to a kitchen, separate rooms for kids and adults and laundry facilities. Having a kitchen can help you save money on food by preparing a few meals at home, and having a separate sleeping area for the kids is nice so the adults don’t have to go lights-out when the kids have an earlier bedtime. We all know how much dirty laundry kids can generate so being able to do laundry helps you minimize how much you need to pack. And when you have to plan to return for afternoon naps or unexpected needs, a room close to the action is ideal. 4. Pack smart. Based on your destination(s), research what you’ll need to pack beforehand and be strategic about what you take. Depending on the age of your kids, there’s a chance you’ll end up carrying more than just your own bags, so you won’t want to be lugging around a bunch of stuff you don’t absolutely need. 5. Learn a little language. Three generally accepted facts: 1) locals appreciate it when tourists make an effort to speak their language, 2) kids pick up foreign languages more quickly than adults and 3) foreign language skills are easier to practice when you’re surrounded by that language. So, what better time to teach your kids a few key phrases? Hello and goodbye, please and thank you, my name is, etc. can get you a long way and might even help them make a new friend, which brings me to my next point.


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6. Play with other kids. One of my favorite things from our trip was seeing our boys play with other kids. You can almost always find a playground, beach, piazza or soccer field to let them run around and make some new buddies. It didn’t matter that the local kids were speaking broken English or giggling at our boys’ first efforts at Italian. Laughter and play are universal languages and break down barriers in ways few other things can. 7. Let them document their experiences. Two of my favorite souvenirs from our trip are the journals and cameras we gave our boys to document things they found interesting or memorable. I’ll never forget them sitting at the feet of the Statue of David sketching their own versions of the masterpiece in their journals just like the college art students. Looking through the photos they took on their own cameras gave us a glimpse into the world through their eyes. 8. Get off the beaten path, but don’t ignore the tourist attractions. One of the most common travel tips you’re likely to read in your research is to “get off the beaten path,” and that’s great advice. Branching out from the crowded and sometimes overrated attractions into a more local neighborhood can reveal hidden gems and authentic experiences. But those tourist attractions became popular for a reason, and after climbing the Eiffel Tower or pretending to be gladiators in the Colosseum, kids will feel like certified world travelers the next time they see those places in movies. 9. Be realistic and flexible, but don’t underestimate your kids. We knew we would have to keep our plans very flexible and be realistic about what we could accomplish each day, but time and time again our boys showed us they’re often capable of more than we thought. Whether you’ve got a daunting flight ahead of you, you’re considering a strenuous hike or you’re worried about getting your picky eaters to try that new food, just frame it all as an exciting adventure and give them a chance. They might just surprise you!





UPCOMING: The Daughtys discuss all things education! Watch at /raising-okc-kids or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify METROFAMILYMAGAZINE.COM / JAN-FEB 2022



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Enjoy STEAM opportunities across the metro STEAM education is the future for our state and our nation. Almost any discussion about education today includes the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and the need to introduce these subjects to kids at an early age. The metro area abounds with STEAM opportunities for learning that can spark interest and launch a child in a direction that can impact him or her for a lifetime. Now in its fifth year, Geekapalooza: A STEAM Festival for Kids is hosted annually by MetroFamily and Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma. Geekapalooza encourages kids to learn about STEAM topics through hands-on expo booths hosted by local organizations and short, interactive workshops about subjects such as robotics, the science of flight, coding and geoscience. Geekapalooza is designed to generate that spark of learning and inspire action, so be sure to save the date and join us on March 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Girl Scouts’ new state-of-the-art, STEAM-focused Camp Trivera, located in northeast Oklahoma City. Purchase tickets in advance starting Feb. 3 for $8 per child and $5 per adult at, or you can get tickets at the door for $10 per child and $5 per adult. Thank you to our sponsors of Geekapalooza and this guide: Presenting Sponsor: Boeing; Community Sponsors: Continental Resources, Google, Oklahoma Oil & Natural Gas; Supporting Sponsors: Chesapeake, Pelco Products, Inc.; STEAM Partners: Extreme Animals, Francis Tuttle, OSU College of Engineering & Architecture, OUHSC Pharmacy, OUHSC Nursing; Vendors: Baker Hughes, Cooper Project Advisors, Great Plains Technology Center, iCode, Main Event, Millwood Public Schools, Oklahoma Contemporary, Science Museum Oklahoma and the National Weather Center.



LOCAL OPTIONS FOR EXPLORING STEAM Boeing Boeing and Discovery Education launched FUTURE U to inspire and equip the next generation of STEM professionals in aerospace. FUTURE U offers hands-on learning experiences to help students in grades 6-12 embrace their potential to make an impact and innovate for the future.


(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) FIRST® is a youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education for students ages 4-18. FIRST® inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based, research and robotics programs that build science, engineering and technology skills. Students gain self-confidence, teamwork, communication and leadership skills as they enjoy handson learning, working as a team on real-life problems and exposure to STEAM-based career opportunities.

Francis Tuttle STEM Academies 12777 N Rockwell Ave, OKC 405-717-7799

Find out how you can become a computer programmer, a doctor, a business mogul or a builder of great things in one of the Francis Tuttle Technology Center STEM Academies. High school sophomores, juniors and seniors spend half the school day with hands-on learning activities that prepare them for similar work in college. They can study in the academies of Computer Science, Engineering, Biosciences and Medicine, and Entrepreneurship. Academies are open to students who reside in the Francis Tuttle school district.

Great Plains Technology Center 4500 SW Lee Blvd, Lawton 580-355-6371

Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma 6601 N Robinson, OKC 405-528-GIRL

Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma offers STEAM opportunities in a variety of ways. From STEM kits and virtual Journeys to Badge-in-a-Box and hands-on events, there’s something for everyone! This year’s new virtual Journey is the “It’s Your Planet—Love It!” Leadership Journey where girls will lead their own way to learning about the Earth and how they can make a concrete difference in the fight against climate change. Badge-in-a-Box programs allow girls to earn badges in coding, robotics and outdoor stewardship from the comfort of home. There are countless STEAM badges for girls to earn, including brand new “Digital Leadership” and “Math in Nature” badges. Girls entering kindergarten through high school can join and participate in a myriad of STEAM-based camps and events, including Galaxy Night and GEOsciences Day at Camp Trivera.

to high school juniors and seniors. In the Biomedical Science and Medical Program, students interact with medical professionals during observation visits to the emergency room, radiology and other hospital settings. Participants also design and perform advanced laboratory experiments and perform DNA fingerprinting, genetic transformations and protein analysis. In the Pre-Engineering Program, students solve unique engineering challenges and invent, design and apply solutions to complex engineering projects from concept to completion.


2217 NW 178th St, Ste B, Edmond 405-757-0500 iCode is a family-friendly computer science educational facility for kids in grades K-12. As a technology and coding school, they equip children with the tools for success in today’s informationdriven world. Immersing kids in real-world problems enhances their understanding of math and science. This approach is effective in developing skills in logical analysis, creativity and problem solving – skills that will help kids at school and in any future career.

Main Event Play Academy

1441 W Memorial Rd, OKC 405-751-4900 Play Academy at Main Event is finally HERE! Created in partnership with Big Thought and, Play Academy is an accredited STEAM curriculum that combines real lessons with real fun. It’s all fun and games, plus a good bit of learning, because the more kids learn, the better they play.

Great Plains Tech offers two Project Lead the Way STEM programs SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION



Millwood Public Schools

6724 N Martin Luther King Ave, OKC 405-478-1336 Millwood Robotics is a middle and high school team that participates in the First Tech Challenge robotics competition to support the advancement of the students academically and socially, with grant funding from Tinker Airforce Base. Students are given different challenges to complete, and they analyze them, develop a strategy for scoring points and draft the design for their robot. Students have built functional robots with gripping claws, rotating arms, ring-shooter mechanisms and even code that allows the robot to “see” what is in front of it. Students also develop and improve public speaking skills as they provide a 5-minute presentation about their journey throughout the engineering process.

National Weather Center and OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences 120 David L Boren Blvd, Ste 3630, Norman 405-325-3095

The National Weather Center offers virtual visits to schools, homeschool groups, youth groups and other educational groups. A meteorologist visits the class virtually to discuss exciting topics like weather research and vehicles, forecasting, severe weather awareness and careers in meteorology. For college students, the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences provides a worldclass academic experience that promotes convergent, innovative and inclusive education and research at the intersection of weather, climate and sustainability. Degrees offered address important issues for the planet’s future, such as high-impact weather, renewable energy and climate change.

Oklahoma Contemporary

11 NW 11th St, OKC 405-951-0000 Oklahoma Contemporary’s weeklong school-break camps, held at their new downtown campus, provide fun and challenging studio experiences for 5-12 year olds. From painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics to performance, costume design, robotics and animation, experienced art educators facilitate camps inspired by contemporary art and artists and the exhibitions on view in Oklahoma Contemporary’s galleries. Camp Contemporary offers kids a creative outlet as well as an opportunity to learn and expand skills, improve techniques and experiment with familiar and new media. There are also programs for teens, including classes, programs and the Teen Arts Council. Members receive a 10 percent discount.

Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) 500 NE 4th St, OKC 405-942-5323

state standards as well as all the materials and equipment necessary to teach the lessons in their classrooms. The people of Oklahoma Oil & Natural Gas are passionate about investing in the future by providing quality science and math resources for teachers, students and parents.

Pelco Products

320 W 18th St, Edmond 405-340-3434 Pelco Products specializes in designing, engineering, manufacturing and distributing products for traffic and utility industries. The company is available for small tours of their facility.

Pioneer Library System’s Maker Mobile 300 Norman Center Ct, Norman 405-801-4570

The Pioneer Library System’s Maker Mobile brings STEAM-focused programming into communities across Cleveland, McClain and Pottawatomie counties. This workshop on wheels features 3D printers, laser cutters, STEAM kits and a mobile kitchen and is complete with broadband internet access, connecting to the internet from virtually any location. Schools, community groups and individuals can reserve the Maker Mobile to visit their hometown and provide hands-on, innovative STEAM programs and services to people of all ages.

Science Museum Oklahoma 2020 Remington Pl, OKC 405-602-3760

Full STEAM ahead! Science Museum Oklahoma offers hands-on science education every day, but the museum really gears up when school is out! STEAM camps for kids in Prek-6th grade are offered throughout the year. Whether your child enjoys exploring the universe in the planetarium, trying out robotics in the tinkering studio or loves to get their hands dirty with some gooey experiments – there’s a camp that’s perfect for everyone! Camp themes vary each season and camps never repeat a day, ensuring young scientists get a new experience every time. Members receive discounted pricing.

The STEAM Engine 405-652-9697

The STEAM Engine provides STEM and arts enrichment to 3rd8th grade students at community partner sites across the metro. In the after-school clubs and summer day camps, participants increase awareness about STEM concepts and careers, build confidence through mentoring relationships and develop learning and innovation skills through hands-on learning. Current themes include: Thrills and Spills Rollercoaster Engineering, Wands and Wizards (Harry Potterinspired STEAM exploration) and Fossils to Fuels. NEW themes coming in spring 2022 will be: Making PLACES (City, Planning, Design and Construction) and Build a Better Space Station.

Through voluntary funding from Oklahoma Oil & Natural Gas, the OERB provides educators with free, hands-on curriculum aligned to



Switch Classroom Switch Classroom is a free video-based learning platform that uses innovative, visual and entertaining energy education materials and tools to serve educators and students online or in the classroom. The structured curriculum includes engaging videos, presentations, quizzes and other high-level, adaptable activities with units covering topics like energy fundamentals, hydrocarbons and nuclear energy, renewable resources and sustainability and conservation. Switch Classroom is developed and maintained by the Switch Energy Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring an energyeducated future and supported by Continental Resources.

The University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy 1110 N Stonewall Ave, OKC 405-271-6598

The University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy Pharm.D. program is a four-year, full-time, professional doctoral program. Students spend the first three years in the classroom and the fourth year completing rotations in various pharmacy settings including community, hospital, clinical services and social and administrative

services. Pharmacy graduates train for careers in all professional practice settings and may also choose from diverse opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry, government or education. Learn more about the pharmacy profession at Geekapalooza.

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing 1100 N Stonewall Ave, OKC 405-271-2428

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing prepares nurses to care for patients and families, engage in scientific discovery, translate evidence into practice and drive innovation in healthcare to advance health. As a STEM-based profession, nursing education requires a strong foundation in science, math and the social sciences. As the largest healthcare profession, nurses are the backbone of every healthcare system in the world. Learn more nursing and the nursing profession at Geekapalooza.

Peace Preschool Enrolling now! 3 or 4 Day Programs Ages 2-5 • Music, Spanish, Art & STEM • Christian environment with weekly chapel • Small classes with degreed teachers • Math & pre-reading skills • Fine & gross motor activites

2600 E. Danforth, Edmond (405) 341-1659

Educating young minds for 35 years! SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION



Is Ta kin g a G ap Year R i ght for Your St udent? BY APRIL DORNIDON DEOCARIZA. PHOTOS PROVIDED.


When Eva Spohn graduated high school in Kentucky, the then-18-year-old found herself at a crossroads. She could continue her educational path as many students do by moving on to higher education. However, she felt a stirring to try something different, an ‘adventure’ as she puts it. “High school was pretty rigorous for me, so I wanted to take time to experience the world in a different way besides being a ‘student,’” recalls Spohn. “School had taught me about the problems that exist in the world, but I wanted to do something more hands-on to help people in a concrete way.”




It was that inkling of a desire that ultimately landed Spohn in Oklahoma, focusing her gap year in 2018 with the Gospel of Life Disciples + Dwellings (GOLD). Founded by Sister Maria of the Trinity, GOLD has three locations in Oklahoma City, Moore and Grand Prairie, Texas. The personal care homes offered by GOLD not only provide a place to live for the elderly but also provide a sense of community, especially for those who are terminally ill, without family or resources or are facing other difficult life circumstances. Spohn served as a “LifeGuard” (the name for volunteers at GOLD), living and caring for the residents in both the Moore and Oklahoma City dwellings during her gap year. In that transformative year, Spohn not only gained greater clarity on life but also found inspiration for her next career step.

W hat is a gap yea r? The Gap Year Association (GYA) defines a gap year as “a semester or year typically taken after high school prior to career or post-secondary education to deepen one’s practical, professional or personal awareness.” Vanessa Zuidema, associate director for GYA, also acknowledges that the pause can happen at other life phases, such as during college. While taking a gap year has been common in areas like Europe, it has only recently grown in popularity in the United States. The topic gained much press attention in 2016 when then-first daughter Malia Obama decided to take a gap year and deferred her start at Harvard University to the following school year. The coronavirus pandemic also led more students to take a break from academics to pursue a gap year. What exactly students choose to do during a gap year can take various forms. “Some students spend time on career exploration, some want to do a cultural experience internationally, while others decide to do a service-learning program,” explained Zuidema. Zuidema took a gap year herself during her university studies. “I did a gap year after my freshman year of college,” said Zuidema. “I traveled to the Caribbean for a cultural experience and language immersion program. It was an excellent opportunity to focus on something I wanted to do. I didn’t have the best first year college experience and being able to take a pause and reflect on what that meant helped me return to school with more focus and helped me define what I wanted to do for the next three years of my higher education pursuits.” For parents of kids considering a gap year, Zuidema advises families to discuss with their student what goals they have for their gap year and what they want to achieve. “Go in with some intention; state your goals and develop a plan for the gap year and after it,” said Zuidema. She also recommends looking at what the implications would be for your student’s college planning. Morgan Brammer, M.Ed., director of recruitment at the University of Oklahoma

Office of Admissions and Recruitment, says most colleges and universities will provide a deferred admission or “gap year” option. In this case, the student will still apply to the school for the year they intended, but they can defer admission for one or sometimes two years if accepted. “Alternatively, if a student simply doesn’t apply for college after their senior year of high school and just takes a year or two off, I would say the best way to illustrate the experiences they gained [once they are ready to apply] is to share stories of growth, perseverance, lessons learned and how they have bettered themselves in that time away from academia,” advised Brammer. “There are many positives to outline and their experiences should shine in that admissions essay!”

Watch at /raising-okc-kids or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Parents may be concerned about their student not continuing with school if they take a break for a gap year, but studies by GYA have found the opposite to be true. Data from their 2020 National Alumni Survey found 83 percent of respondents enrolled in or continued their higher education after a gap year. In Spohn’s case, her gap year redefined her life purpose. After completing her time at GOLD, Spohn gained a new perspective and respect for the elderly and terminally ill, a group often forgotten by society. “Our culture has a hard time grappling with the idea of growing old and being at a point in life where one might have trouble remembering things or can’t be in a job anymore,” reflects Spohn. “People might look at the elderly and say, ‘They don’t have the same purpose as I do’ since we often cling to things like our careers, but I’ve realized that you are still an amazing, dignified and fully alive human being even when you are old. Elderly people have a perspective that you can’t learn from other places, like how one can be content just by being in someone else’s presence, sharing life together and enjoying a good laugh.” Now 21, Spohn is completing a bachelor’s degree in studio art at Western Kentucky University while also fulfilling prerequisites for nursing, a career path inspired by her time working as a GOLD LifeGuard.



Find in g your pl ace in t he world While many students choose to take a gap year after high school, some also decide to pursue it after completing college and before entering the workforce. Such was the experience of Sarah Wells, 22, another GOLD LifeGuard who heard about the gap year program through Spohn. Wells learned about GOLD during the coronavirus pandemic in summer 2020. After graduating from Centre College in Danville, Ky., in May 2020, she was motivated to take time off. “The COVID pandemic made me realize that the world was in a tough place and I wasn’t ready to enter the job market yet,” explained Wells. “I also had skipped seventh grade as a child, so I already felt a little rushed academically and I wanted to take time to get to know myself better.” She sought a more hands-on path to discover how she wanted to make her impact on the world, beyond what she was taught in the classroom. “In college, we talked a lot about policies and changing the world, but it was all in very broad strokes,” recalled Wells. “But I realized that before I could make the changes I wanted to see, I needed to live in other peoples’ shoes and understand what their struggles were.” At the end of the day, living and caring for the elderly provided Wells with a fresh outlook and life lessons that transcended any text book. “What I learned during my gap year at GOLD is that you can only make the world a better place by the hearts that you touch, and often that happens on a one-on-one basis,” said Wells.


Dr. Elise Brantley (405) 562-6222


Q uest ion s to con sider w it h your st udent a s t hey prepa re for a gap yea r: • What are the financial implications? Will you have financial support or should you work for a bit to save money for the program? • What is your desired structure of a gap year program? • What support do you need in place during this experience? The Gap Year Association recommends having mentors and people you can communicate with to discuss the experience and work through problems that may arise. • If you are leaving home, will it be your first time living away? Are you comfortable with that, especially if the program is international?

Wor r ied about t ravel in g due to COV ID? The Gap Year Association has seen an uptick in online and domestic gap year attendance in response to the pandemic. Program options include: • Global Citizen Year Academy offers a 12-week semester online in leadership development. • TEFLPros is a digital gap program providing certification to teach English as a foreign language. • Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) provides programs domestically and worldwide to learn about organic and ecological farming practices.

Learn more at To apply for a gap year at the Gospel of Life Disciples + Dwellings visit


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Details and tickets on sale starting Feb. 3 at






t o g K n i id k l

The Middle School Years


Talking to our kids about sex can be a very tricky topic. While it is not always easy or comfortable to discuss sexuality with young people, research tells us that kids and teens who have regular conversations with their parents and caregivers about sex and relationships are less likely to take risks with their sexual health. So it is never too early, or too late, to start these conversations with your child about sexuality.

Editor’s note: This column is the second in a series of four by the experts at local nonprofit Thrive OKC to empower families and caregivers to talk to their kids, in developmentally-appropriate ways, about sexual health. Each column focuses on a different age range of child and provides ideas of topics to cover, conversation starters and resources. Find the full series of Talking to Kids About Sex articles, plus a podcast with expert advice on how to handle topics like consent, puberty and pornography, at metrofamilymagazine. com/talking-to-kids-about-sex. Find additional resources for parents and caregivers at

Is it too early? If your child is in middle school and you have not started these conversations yet, now is the perfect time! Along those lines, there is also no need to try to “catch up” all in one conversation. That can be really overwhelming for both you and your child. Take your time and tackle individual topics over time as they come up. The key to open communication is to show your support. Be very clear that your child can ask questions or come to you for help without fear of shame or getting in trouble.

curiosity. As parents and caregivers, we have the opportunity to provide our children with accurate information in a safe setting before they search somewhere else and potentially get incorrect information or information that doesn’t align with your family values.

It is perfectly normal if you’re uncertain whether various topics related to sexuality are “age-appropriate” to discuss with your child. Keep in mind: if a young person is asking, they deserve an answer. Whether they heard about it on social media or from a friend, something has sparked their

Avoiding their questions or not answering fully can break their trust and could send a message that you are not someone they can turn to for support. But on the flip side, this is your chance to help build a foundation for healthy relationships and decision making.


Remember: it can be just as hard for a middle schooler to come to you to ask a difficult question as it is for you to come up with an answer! If a young person is asking you a difficult question, it’s because they trust your answer.

CONVERSATION STARTERS Around middle school, young people will start hearing about sex and relationships from various places, including their peers or social media. This is also the age where teens may start having more serious relationships with peers. Having open conversations about sex and sexuality shows them how important these topics are to you. Learning to use “conversation starters” rather than “conversation enders” with middle school kids can be a very helpful skill. When communicating with your tween, use conversation starter responses, which are open-ended responses that do not convey judgment. Here are some examples of how to keep the door open rather than slam it shut on your conversations about sexual health.

Instead Try this of this

“That’s a good question. What do you think?”

“You don’t need to know that.” “You’re too young to understand.” “That’s none of your business.” “I don’t care what your friends are doing.” “We’ll talk about that when you need to know.”

“Do you know what that means?” “I’m not ready to share that personal information, but what I can tell you is …” “This sounds important to you. Can you tell me more?” “That’s a good question. I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.”

Let’s Talk About... CONSENT

When addressing consent with middle school aged children, it’s important to be very direct about sexual interactions. This is the age where various “touch games” may begin (bottom-slapping, hitting one another in the genitals, pinching nipples to cause pain, snapping undergarments, etc.). It’s important to get our young people talking about the ways in which these games could embarrass or even hurt another person. Encourage them to talk it through and ask them how they would feel if someone hit them in that way or did something that made them feel uncomfortable. Also ensure your tween knows what to do if they are ever the victim of sexual harassment or abuse. Age-appropriate conversation tips regarding consent: • Begin discussing what constitutes sexual harassment. • Talk about what constitutes affirmative sexual consent. • Discuss what constitutes healthy romantic relationships.


Even if you have already discussed some (or all) of the topics around puberty, this is the time when these concepts start becoming less abstract and more real for tweens. They may start asking more direct questions as their experiences and relationships change. Now is the perfect time to have “puberty talks” with your tween. Age-appropriate conversation tips regarding puberty: • Use actual body part language for all genitals. This cuts down on confusion and will empower kids to have clear conversations in the future. • Keep conversations short and direct. • Use a resource like to help you learn about and explain topics you may be uncomfortable with.

• Remind them that all people experience these changes. Puberty is a normal part of growing up. There is nothing “wrong” with the changes their body is going through. • Be honest if you don’t know an answer to something. Look it up together or tell them you will find out and get back to them.


While a conversation about contraceptives may seem very early for middle school age children, this is a topic that there are a lot of misconceptions about. As your child gets older, you want them to feel informed and empowered to make healthy decisions when they do decide to have sex, including if they choose to wait until adulthood. If teens don’t understand how contraception works, they can easily find themselves believing one of the many myths about how to prevent a pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). While it’s important to communicate your family values, also keep in mind that when having a conversation about birth control, experts say it’s important to appear relaxed and to avoid overreacting. You want your child to feel comfortable coming to you with any additional questions. Age-appropriate conversation tips regarding contraceptives: • Don’t assume that if a tween or teen asks a question that they are already engaging (or even thinking about engaging) in sexual activity. There are a lot of myths floating around middle schools that spark natural curiosity about these topics. • Establish rules and expectations for your tween, while also being honest and realistic about using contraception methods. • Don’t forget to discuss condoms. Statistically, if a young person is sexually active, this would be first option they would choose. • Don’t force the conversation if your tween is overly uncomfortable. • Be supportive and open with your teen. Always opt for honesty.





“I’m so happy social media wasn’t around when I was raising you and your sister.” I’ve lost count of the number of times my own mom has said that to me since my daughter was born seven years ago. The comment has always ruffled my feathers because, to be honest, I’m nervous about what the future holds. Social media adds another layer of complexity to parenting. And parenting is already so hard. On one hand, social media does a lot of good. It brings people together, fosters community (no matter how far away people are physically from each other) and can be a valuable source of knowledge. But there can be a dark side, too. Countless studies and articles speak to the psychological damage social media can inflict on our children.


How do we as parents help our children learn to harness the good of social media while also being hyper aware of the dangers? How do we teach them from an early age to create a healthy digital footprint with an awareness of our own family values? Two Oklahoma-based social media experts (and parents to boot) Skye Latimer, partner and co-owner of digital and communications agency Folded Owl, and Mike Koehler, owner of digital marketing and advertising agency Smirk New Media, provide much-needed advice and direction. First and foremost on many parents’ minds: when should kids be allowed to join social media? At Koehler’s house, when his kids turned 15 they were allowed to join one app of their choosing. Similarly, Latimer won’t be letting her little one on social media until high school. There’s a reason they, and most other experts, make their kids wait — younger minds often aren’t ready for the experience. Whatever age you decide is right for your family, here are Latimer and Koehler’s top tips as you help your children navigate their own healthy, happy and safe online journeys.


Make your children work for it and keep them accountable.

Think of social media as a privilege, not a right. And one your child must earn. Have your kids prove they’re ready. Latimer has a plan for when her little one asks for a TikTok account (or whatever app reigns supreme at that time). They must do their own research and prove to her they’re ready for the responsibility. She wants them to learn the pros and cons of the medium and have an open conversation about their findings. Have your children research and report back to you about which platform they want to use, why they believe they are ready, how they will behave online and when they will come to you if they have questions or problems. Let’s be friends. Make it a rule that your child must “friend” you (and that includes on any secret accounts, if they have them). This way you can keep an eye on their activity and keep them accountable for their actions. Koehler also sees it as an opportunity to learn more about your child. I’ve yet to venture into the tight-lipped teen years where communication is typically done in monosyllabic words, but as I envision that future, I appreciate his point. Seeing what your kids are posting, their friends list and likes can shed light on their passions, ever-changing personality and world views. Use parental apps. There are several apps that monitor online activity, including for text messages, emails, YouTube viewing and social media posts. One of the top-ranked companies is called Bark. For an annual fee, they monitor your child’s activity, look for potential safety concerns and send you a convenient dashboard. But remember, these apps aren’t foolproof. It’s still important to check in with your child and see for yourself what they’re up to online.


Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Did I mention communicate? Before your child creates an account on social media, talk to them about these important issues and check in often to remind them along the way. Beware the highlight reel. Their social media feeds will inevitably include filtered photos of their fellow students with flawless skin, make-up and hair. Remind your child that what they see online is someone’s best moments (and often airbrushed at that). No one is going to post unflattering photos, the D they got on their math test or videos of them fighting with their parents and siblings. Kids need to be reminded to never compare their day-to-day with someone’s highlight reel. That’s a losing situation for anyone, adults included. What happens online, stays online. Write this down, frame it and hang it in their room. What they post online is there forever. The good and the bad. The kind words and the hurtful ones. The flattering images and the embarrassing ones. They’re all there for everyone to see, save and share. For eternity. To infinity and beyond. You get the picture. But your child may not. They need to understand the short- and long-term implications of what they choose to post in the social media universe. Something inappropriate or hurtful could, in the short-term, cost them a friend. In the long-term, it could negate a college or career opportunity.

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Stress kindness and inclusivity. Social media has brought people together, which is great. But it has also made it easier for kids to get bullied or be the bully. First and foremost, reinforce the importance of kindness. Encourage your child to appreciate and embrace everyone’s differences. And let them know they can always come to you if they’re having a problem so you can find a solution together. Speak to their teacher or principal to understand the school’s policies when it comes to student conflict online. Learn what your options are if your child is being bullied. And remind your child of the consequences for picking on someone else. Stranger danger. This phrase is just as apropos for in-person interactions as it is online. Apps like TikTok, YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat as well as various video games open kids up to people from anywhere in the world. Explain to kids that not everyone is who they appear to be and remind them not to share information or images with people they don’t know. Be clear about your expectations of who they are allowed to interact with online and talk about the dangers of interacting with and sharing information with strangers.





Set healthy boundaries for them (and practice what you preach!).

I’ll be honest, I get sucked into cute dog videos on TikTok just as much as the next person. And I’ve fallen victim to volleying with a stranger in the comment section a time or two. So this advice applies to all of us, no matter our age. Set time limits. Give your child a specific amount of time each day to spend on social media. And when time is up, the phone is left in a neutral location (meaning not their bedroom). You can also make them work for it. Maybe they earn one minute of screen time for every one minute of reading. Or 30 minutes of screen time for each chore they complete. They get their social media fix and you have a clean house and a well-read child. #winning Unplug regularly. Look at something — anything! — other than a screen. Take a 24-hour sabbatical every now and then. Pursue activities away from tablets and phones. Go for a walk. Play a board game. Have a (gasp!) face-toface conversation. Foster your child’s love of an activity like music, art or sports. Get them up and out and moving their bodies!


Both Latimer and Koehler stress the importance of staying informed. Take the time to understand the capabilities and features of the platforms you’re letting your kids use. Read the safety and privacy information closely. Sign up for whatever newsletter or announcements the platform offers. This way, you are regularly updated on their terms, any changes they’re making to the app, future plans and more. Another way to stay informed is to follow (or join) organizations dedicated to keeping kids safe online. A few helpful options include:, the Organization for Social Media Safety and Web Wise Kids. Good, bad or otherwise, social media isn’t going anywhere. And as it keeps changing, we all — parents and kids — must be both flexible and diligent. Remember that each family is unique. The rules around social media use in your house may look different from those of your friends, siblings or neighbors. And that’s OK. By consistently conversing with kids about your family values, sharing advice from experts and modeling healthy digital behavior, you are setting a firm foundation for your children to make positive choices when it comes to their social media usage, both now and in the future.

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Spring Break Horse Camp!

We do all the work! You have all the fun!

Birthday Parties made EASY!

March 14-18, 2022 9 am - Noon daily Ages 6 & Up no experience necessary.

Weekly camps all summer!

For Your Valentine Couples' Nesting Mugs & Handprint Plates

(405) 348-7469

Register at:

405-340-PLUG • 575 Enterprise Drive, Edmond (South of 15th, off Kelly)

LIFE IS A GIFT Pass it on.

Sadly, for many in our community, life can quickly feel like less of a gift and more of a burden. That’s why United Way of Central Oklahoma is here, to connect community resources with responsive and accountable health and human services agencies. Through us, your gifts truly make a difference. We respectfully ask that you contribute to our 2021 Give Campaign – and help us pass it on.




Prioritizing Student Mental Health in 2022 BY ERIN PAGE. PHOTOS PROVIDED.

In 2016, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister created the Student Advisory Council, which brings together high school juniors and seniors from across the state to discuss concerns, brainstorm solutions and affect state-level initiatives in Oklahoma’s public education system. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 council met virtually, and one of the primary topics of discussion was improving mental health resources. Kadyn Casteel, a senior, drum major and concert clarinetist for Stillwater High School, says as students and teachers are trying to acclimate to the “new normal,” more and more students are being candid about their struggles with mental health. She reports that students and staff are more empathetic to one another’s struggles. She’s hopeful that a statewide program offering grants to Oklahoma school districts to hire counselors and school-based mental health professionals will become permanent.


Oklahoma School Counselor Corps was created by the OSDE in 2021 using $35.7 million in federal relief funding and awarding grants to 181 school districts. Oklahoma’s current student-to-school counselor ratio is 411:1, but the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250:1, according to the OSDE. “Greater access to mental health professionals will benefit everyone, yet the funding is only guaranteed through the spring of 2024,” said Casteel. “For the OSCC to make genuine progress, it is essential that these professionals remain in the schools far longer. I am hopeful that [Supt.] Joy Hofmeister and the OSDE recognize this and commit to funding this program permanently. I look forward to seeing the further development of that relationship in all Oklahoma schools, for the 2022 school year and beyond.” Elizabeth Crawford, vice president of student council and choir and theater member at Latta High School, says the lack of education surrounding mental health needs to be addressed, along with providing students the tools they need to maintain their mental health. She’s advocated in her school for peer support. “Especially now, coming out of a time of isolation and uncertainty, students need the tools to help them understand themselves and to help them navigate this lingering sense of ambiguity,” said Crawford. “I believe the best solution is to provide students with the necessary information to become autonomous in maintaining their mental health. Only when we are able to support each other will we succeed in improving the state of our mental health, or, at the very least, be able to start an open and honest conversation about mental health among students and faculty.”



Listen to a MetroFamily podcast with additional Student Advisory Council members on creative solutions to address mental health, education equity and resources and funding for public schools and teachers at

FISHING k ayaking Mountain biking campfire cooking camping hiking

cyourh adventure oose today!

Spring Art Camps | March 14-18 Keep your 5- to 12-year-old creatively engaged over spring break! Topics include graffiti ceramics, digital drawing, DJ camp and more! See camp descriptions and register at

405.951.0000 | @okcontemporary | 11 NW 11th St, OKC, OK 73103

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