The Voice I Back to School 2016

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PTA’s mission to be One Voice for Every Child cannot happen without the support of the CommYOUnity coming together. We visit one school who has achieved 100% of the campus’ enrollment in PTA Members, and learn more about the impact that can be made by truly having one voice representing every child in a public school.

With the next legislative session approaching fast, many are wondering what the situation on funding our public schools is going to look like. The future of our children depends on the quality of their education and it is our job to make it as bright as possible.

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Welcome Back! It’s amazing but summer was longer and yet passed quicker than any I have experienced before. I hope that each and every one of you had many pleasurable moments during the hot, hazy days of June, July and August and are quite ready for the cooler days of Fall. I know I am! The next year upon us means we have the beginning of another action-packed PTA calendar of events. The hustle and bustle of membership recruitment, first meetings both executive and general, fall fundraisers, Reflections planning, Red Ribbon Week and countless other specific activities to your Locals and Councils burst on the scene before the classroom bells ring and the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. My sincerest hope is that you have plunged headfirst into all the to-dos and feel a growing confidence in yourself, your abilities and your support system. The largest task that each of us have before us is continuing to invite and secure all of the commYOUnity stakeholders to be a part of this great association. Members matter! Why, you might ask? They matter because it means we reach as many families as possible when we offer programs and services that benefit our students. It means we reach more parents. It also means we make an impact when we go to Austin to advocate for increased funding for public education, safer schools, and an emphasis on the benefits of educating the whole child - academically, physically, mentally, and emotionally. In January, the 85th Texas Legislative session will be called to order. Our elected officials need to know how many people in our state care about the health and education of all children. The best way to make sure that our voice is being heard is to have a hearty membership. I know you will work hard to tell your commYOUnity how important it is to join PTA. Along with the Texas PTA Board of Directors, I look forward to calling you this year to congratulate you on the great job you are doing recruiting members who will support student success, speak up for our children, and collaborate with the community. Let’s all remember to Back the Future! Lisa Holbrook President


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


page 16 This summer has been all about Pokemon and being on the go! Check out this think piece that delves into the environmental and sustainable benefits of training to become a Pokemon Master with the whole family!

page 25 Back to school means back to being healthy! Take the time to learn about School Health Advisory Councils and the ways in which your PTA and Campus can work together to truly influence healthy lifestyles on your children.

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Legislative Priorities A-F Grade System Texas School Funding Rally Day One Voice. Every Child Pokemon Go After School Tips Recipes Healthy Apps SHAC Attack! Back to School Blues New PTAs

Back in school. The rush has begun. So was there a summer? I don’t recall. All I know is having a family meal together will be a rare occasion between homework, band and sporting activities. Recent world events and news coverage have been pretty heavy. Violence, hatred and safety uncertainty seem to fill our minds. Our children are surrounded by bad news. So, as parents, do we ignore it or embrace it? Dinner and meal times together are a great way to focus on the positive. Parents must make a conscious effort to integrate kindness and respect discussions into family mealtimes. Rather than focusing on the lows of the school or work day, we must focus on the highs and elaborate on how we or others did something that day to make the world a little better place. Parents have the greatest influence on children when it comes to mindset - accepting others who are different and embracing those who don’t always agree with us. Dinner time can be a positive or negative experience. When conversation starts going in the wrong direction, reinforce the fact that everyone has a place in the world, and our job is to figure out how to navigate coexistence with peace, humility and acts of kindness. So when you are planning your dinner menu, don’t forget to include more than just the food! When everyone leaves the table, are they further distressed about a distressing world, or do they feel valued and value others? Here’s to making your school year dinner menus positively positive! We have choices: the world is bad and will get worse, or we will do our part to make the world happier and more peaceful. PTA’s answer – the latter! Kyle Ward, CAE Executive Director


THE VOICE Back to School 2016 • Vol. 107, No. 1 408 West 11th Austin, TX 78701 • EDITORIAL TEAM Executive Director Kyle Ward, CAE Associate Executive Director Darren Grissom Creative Design Specialist Rolando Sepulveda Digital Media Specialist Kristin McCasland TEXAS PTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS President Lisa Holbrook President-Elect Sheri Doss Secretary LaDorshe Damron Treasurer Lisa Johns Vice President Programs & Resources Sylvia R. Reyna, Ph.D. Vice President Membership Larriann Curtis

Next Generation Assessment and Accountability

Vice President Leadership Heather Ashwell-Hair Vice President Field Service Suzi Kennon Directors-at-Large Lee Guerra Fred Henley, J.D. Neil Shelby Mary Partridge Ralph Rodriguez Tim Greenwell

The Voice, the official publication of the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers, is published four times a year in fall, winter, spring and summer. Call 1-800-TALK-PTA or visit us on the web for more information. Disclaimer: Articles and advertisements in The Voice do not necessarily represent the viewpoints or policies of Texas PTA. Texas PTA does not endorse non-PTA products or services mentioned in this publication. Reprint permission: Unless otherwise noted, PTAs may reproduce and distribute the materials from The Voice without express written permission. Texas PTA materials may not be duplicated by any other organization or person without written permission from the editor.

The Commission on Next Generation Assessment and Accountability had its final meeting on Wednesday, July 27. Members reviewed and approved the draft report of their recommendations to the Texas Legislature regarding improvements to the state’s assessment and accountability system. Nine recommendations were supported by a majority of commission members: 1. Implement an individualized, integrated system of multiple assessments using computerized, adaptive testing and instruction. 2. Allow the commissioner of education to approve locally developed writing assessments. 3. Streamline the TEKS. 4. Test only Readiness TEKS. 5. Add college-readiness tests to Domain IV Accountability indicators and fund, with state resources, a broader administration of tests to determine college-readiness. 6. Align the state accountability system with federal ESSA requirements. 7. Eliminate Domain IV from state accountability calculations for elementary schools due to the difficulty of identifying appropriate criteria. 8. Place greater emphasis on growth in Domains I-III in the state accountability system. 9. Retain the Individual Graduation Committee (IGC) Option for graduation as allowed under current statute through Senate Bill (SB) 149 from last session. These recommendations will be considered by policymakers as they prepare for the next legislative session that begins January 10, 2017.


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T E X A S PTA LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES Earlier this summer Texas PTA’s Board of Directors approved advocacy priorities on which Texas PTA will focus during the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature that begins January 10, 2017. Texas PTA’s Advocacy Committee has worked for several months to identify issues impacting the children and youth of Texas. Texas PTA members were invited to participate in a survey to identify issues of greatest importance to them and these results were utilized to develop a list of the most critical issues affecting children and youth. The committee submitted a list of proposed priorities to the Board for consideration at its summer meeting in July and those priorities were approved. As issues affecting children and youth continue to emerge throughout the fall, Texas PTA’s Advocacy Committee will review them and make recommendations to the Board of Directors. Over the next two to three months the priorities will be shared in depth with subscribers to Under the Dome.

Support Student Success

Meaningful Assessment & Accountability

Funding for Growing Public Schools Ensure funding for student enrollment growth.

State Accountability System Pursue a new accountability system that is valid, reliable and balanced, focuses less on state assessment, and recognizes other attributes of a strong school program, including arts instruction and physical activity.

Adequate and Equitable School Funding Pursue an adequate and equitable solution for school funding while maintaining accountability and responsibility for educating the whole child.

Funding for Quality Pre-K Grant Program The Quality Pre-K Grant Program, initiated by the 84th Legislature, was a positive first step in providing a small number of students with the preparation they need to enter school successfully, and Texas PTA seeks to maintain or increase that funding over the next biennium.

State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness Advocate for reduced emphasis on state-mandated testing, focusing on grades 3-8, and monitor changes to STAAR for high school students, and limits on benchmark testing for all tested grades.

Charter Schools Monitor changes made to the charter school program through Senate Bill (SB) 2, as well as new legislation filed.

Funding for Full Day Pre-K for At-Risk Students Seek funding for full day pre-k for at-risk students to ensure that they are fully prepared for success in kindergarten and first grade, and for a strong K-12 school experience.

State Board of Education (SBOE) Actively weigh in on legislation impacting SBOE and monitor activity of SBOE and its quarterly meetings.

Health & Safety

Oppose Vouchers Oppose vouchers, including Education Savings Account Programs (ESA Programs), that allow state funds to be utilized in private schools that are not accountable to the taxpayer or the state.

Age of Adult Criminal Responsibility Raise the age for mandatory prosecution as an adult from 17 to 18, allowing non-violent offenders who are 17 years of age to be charged as a minor. Powdered Alcohol Pursue banning the sale to minors of powdered alcohol, or Palcohol, a powder that can be mixed with liquids -- similar to the way Kool-Aid is mixed with water -- to create an alcoholic beverage that can have alcohol levels equivalent to a shot of vodka. Bullying/Cyberbullying Strengthen the cyberbullying law to protect students from online, often anonymous, bullying by clarifying the role of school districts and other officials in addressing this behavior, and removing barriers to dealing with offenders.

Strengthen Public Schools

ESA Programs allow eligible parents to use a portion of the funds the state expends for their student’s public school education to fund private school tuition, tuition at eligible institutions, and distance education, curriculum. The remainder of the funds are kept by the public school the student previously attended. Support Districts of Innovation Oppose efforts to restrict the latitude given to Districts of Innovation to set their own school calendar.


Advo c a c y


by DR. GREG SMITH Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Texas PTA Advocacy Committee




t may seem a bit off base for a tenured educator, current superintendent and PTA member like myself to say the traditional letter grade system has no place in today’s schools. That is the message education leaders and researchers are sharing with parents and legislators as the Texas Education Agency grapples with the implementation of a new A-F accountability system, where the primary weight is placed on how students perform on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR). A letter grade performance and reporting system has been tried in many other states and yet the majority of systems lack authenticity and transparency. These efforts have only left teachers, parents and students with very little information or understanding on how well their school is truly preparing children for their future. John Tanner, author of “The Pitfalls of Reform”, studied this issue at length. He found that every bit of research done to date assigns A-F grading an F. I agree with him that no one in a school can ever know what to do as a result of a grade. Teachers in poor schools are going to, again, be punished for teaching in economically disadvantaged schools, and letter grades prompt blunt solutions to complex problems. One of the hallmark states with an A-F accountability system is Florida. The percentage of schools earning an A increased by 41% in three years. Actual student performance changed very little because Florida policymakers tweaked the rules on what constitutes a letter grade, essentially watering down standards.


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Adults must be held accountable for the academic success of students. This lack-of-support of an A-F grading system for schools is not intended to shy away from our moral imperative to provide children the best educational environment possible. That is why I am most impressed with the work of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. This group of educators, business leaders, parents and lawmakers have been meeting to design and recommend a new assessment and accountability system that will hold districts accountable for achieving state academic standards, increase student outcomes and opportunities for learning, identify best practices to cascade across Texas, identify underperforming schools and allocate resources to get schools on level. The Commission just released its report and recommendations which will be considered by the 85th Legislature in January. The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability’s report, in my opinion, addresses the very issues parents like you have expressed to teachers, administrators and legislators. It is through the advocacy work of the Texas PTA and the Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments (TAMSA) that the right people are at the table working together on behalf of students and with the shared goal of improving public education Texas.

FUNDING TEXAS SCHOOLS new day coming or business as usual? by Ellen Arnold


ith only a few months until the Texas Legislature convenes, many are speculating about whether policy-makers will come to Austin prepared to address the state’s system of funding public schools that the Texas Supreme Court found minimally constitutional but in need of “transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid,” according to Justice Don Willett. Another Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, while concurring with the ruling that the funding system is constitutional, wrote, “Good enough now ... does not mean that the system is good or that it will continue to be enough. Shortfalls in both resources and performance persist in innumerable respects, and a perilously large number of students is in danger of falling further behind.” Pretty strong words for a justice who concurred that the system is constitutional. The Senate Committee on Education met in August to examine ways to improve efficiency, productivity, and student academic outcomes, and to study performancebased funding mechanisms. They looked at state mandates that hinder campus innovation and productivity. No decisions were made although several senators talked about the need to address the school funding system in a meaningful way. Late in September the House Public Education Committee will hold a joint hearing with the House Appropriations Committee to discuss our current funding system. Will the admonishments of our Texas Supreme Court prompt legislators to take on the hard work of updating this seriously outdated system? Legislators have said for many years that reform is the responsibility of the Texas Legislature, not the courts. Here is hoping they will accept that responsibility. 7

MAKE PLANS NOW TO COME TO AUSTIN FOR RALLY DAY! FEBRUARY 27, 2017 Texas PTA Rally Day is a one-day event where PTA members from across the state come to Austin to support the adopted Texas PTA legislative priorities. For the upcoming 85th legislative session, it is imperative that we show a strong collective voice in advocating for improving the health, safety, education, and welfare of all Texas children. We have set a goal of 1,000 PTA and community members to join us in Austin on February 27, 2017 to represent all 5 million of our children in Texas. The day’s agenda includes a variety of activities, events, training and testimony. We have several training opportunities and tools to prepare you for Rally Day. You’ll receive registration information, details about the day’s events and advocacy engagement activities through Under the Dome, Texas PTA’s Rally Day Facebook page and The Voice. You can begin preparing for Rally Day by attending our 90 minute webinars that will be offered in the fall and earlY winter:

Getting Started/Planning for Rally Day

What is it and how do I plan for it? Get details about this biannual event and how to plan for your PTA’s participation with maximum success. September 27 at 10:00 AM October 4 at 7:00 PM

The Policy Issues

Become informed about Texas PTA’s legislative priorities and get tips for the day. November 1 at 10:00 AM November 8 at 7:00 PM

Setting up and Conducting Meetings

Legislators are accountable to community members such as members of PTA. Learn how to identify your legislators, make an appointment, and prepare for a successful meeting. What you say and how you say it can make a huge difference for Texas students. January 10 at 7:00 PM or January 12 at 10:00 AM Rally Day 2017 will be full of learning, advocating, meeting with your elected officials, and having a clear united voice for a united purpose – our children!

Join us! #1K4RallyDay 8

Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

RalLy DAy TExaS PtA


#1K4RAlLyDAy 9

ONE VOICE. EVERY CHILD. by Kristin McCasland Texas PTA Digital Media Specialist


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


omething magical happens when parents and teachers get together: They make the impossible possible. At a time when budgets are shrinking and class sizes are increasing, these two groups work together under the banner of PTA to get students the equipment and supplies they need, while also addressing the issues that are important to parents and administrators. In addition, they advocate for those who need it most – our children.


As superintendent of Lewisville ISD, a PTA volunteer and Texas PTA Director-at-Large, Tim Greenwell knows firsthand the importance of PTA membership. “A successful school year is dependent upon the positive and mutual collaboration of the campus and its PTA,” he said. Joining your Local PTA means you become more connected to your school, you build a network of parents and teachers who are willing share ideas and experiences, it’s an effective way to suggest change at your child’s school and you show your child how important their education is to you. It also means you are giving your child a voice at the capital. With PTA, you are able to back legislation, or fight legislation, that affects your child. You have a say in assessments, school funding, bullying and the value of education our children receive. One PTA that met the challenge head on during the 2015-2016 school year was Cox Elementary in Wylie ISD. They achieved 100% membership, giving one voice for every child. Parents, teachers, administrators, family members (in and out of Texas!) and students came together to make sure their voices would be heard. Their commitment will also amplify our collective voice during the 2017 legislative session.


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice



In order to achieve this goal, Cox Elementary PTA President Monica Munoz said they used the Power of Ask. “We asked often and at every opportunity possible. Our Board worked together as a team and continued with asking. When asking, we also shared and informed our families and communities about PTA and its importance,” she said. Munoz went on to say that she got inspired to achieve her goal while attending past PTA President Leslie Boggs’ installation speech at Family Engagement Conference in 2014. “She discussed membership and elaborated on its importance. At the end of her speech she said, ‘If your school gets 100% membership, I will personally come to your campus and we will have a membership party!” Munoz turned to her colleague and said, “She’s coming to Cox!”


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

Munoz took that experience home and shared it with her fellow Board members who supported her and her goal. While Munoz said it was a high goal, “I always said, ‘We can do this!’” In the first year of working to achieve one voice for every child at Cox, the PTA reached 75% membership, doubling their number from the previous year. “Things shifted on our Board, however [we were] still working as a team and carried on with our goal. It did take us the entire year, [but] we did it! We accomplished achieving 100% -- A Voice for Every Child in our school,” Munoz said. “We were ecstatic!” In the spring of 2016, Cox achieved their goal and had that party. PTA President Lisa Holbrook and Past-PTA President Leslie Boggs were in attendance along with students, PTA members, faculty and administrators. PTA membership is an important part of our students lives. It not only brings groups together, it also inspires communities and leaders to back the future. For more reasons why you should join PTA, check out







Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


have a love-hate relationship with smart phones. I love the apps my kids download to help them with schoolwork such as the scientific calculator, the interactive table of elements or the unit circle quiz app. But when I see that one of my kids wants to stare at that screen on a beautiful summer day, I want to destroy that phone (which of course doesn’t make sense since I was the one that purchased it in the first place.) I know I am not alone in this sentiment. I have seen a video or two of parents losing their patience over their kids’ phones and have read friends’ Facebook posts this summer about their struggles getting their kids off the phone and outdoors. When my teenage daughter caught the Pokémon Go bug, I was concerned about the possibility of her walking while staring at her screen and getting hit by a car. She has assured me that she can darken the screen and doesn’t need to look at it while she walks. Although the app was released less than a month ago, I can say I am glad she has it. One day she walked 2.5 miles in the Texas heat to hatch a Pokémon and has walked over 37 miles in less than a month! It is not just my daughter that’s walking, there are so many teenagers walking around neighborhoods trying to find or hatch Pokémon that it is getting attention from people not used to seeing kids outdoors. Typically, you can spot these kids. Sometimes they look a little out of place, like wizards trying to blend in with muggles in a Harry Potter book, not yet used to being outdoors. Yet they are going out in groups, talking face-to-face and socializing! The reason that I find this change exciting, is that if teenagers can walk 2.5 to 3 miles in the heat of August in Katy, Texas to catch a Pokémon, then certainly they can walk to school and back. This could have huge health and environmental benefits. Here is a list of a few benefits of walking or biking to school instead of riding in a car:


Great for Your Health Walking briskly for 150 minutes a week can reduce the risk of illnesses such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease and depression. Boosts Brain Function Japanese scientists report rats that exercise regularly have increased short - and long term-memory. Exercise has been shown to cause neurogenesis, the process by which neurons or nerve cells are generated in the brain. More Alert in Class Sleep is associated with low body temperature. Exercising increases your body temperature for up to 6 hours. Time for Relaxation For elementary school children, walking or biking to and from school with a family member gives children a time to relax before having to do homework or run to practice. This also gives parents what I like to call a “magical time” when children are eager to share what they did at school and everything that went on good or bad. Independence with Safety Rules and Boundaries As parents, we want our children to grow into independent adults and we want our children to learn how to cross streets and deal with strangers before they leave for college, but we want them to do these things safely. My son was in 6th grade when I finally allowed him to bike the 1.2 miles to school by himself. All through elementary school we biked together and he was probably ready for me to let go before he turned 10 but I wasn’t. When I finally did, I noticed how proud he felt and although that stage in my life was over, I felt proud too. For teenagers, having the ability to walk or bike to school allows them the independence to participate in clubs, tutorials, and other extracurricular activities and the freedom to leave for home as soon as they finish. Save Money Insurance, gas and car maintenance are expensive. It Feels Good It may be possible for exercise to happiness. Exercise boosts serotonin and norepinephrine; depression is related to low levels of these brain neurotransmitters. 18

Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

Socialize Typically, children don’t get a chance to talk with their friends and neighbors at school; walking home allows students of all ages to socialize face-to-face, something that teenagers in particular are doing less and less. Cooler Than Riding in a Hot Car When biking, air moves across your body at the speed you are riding making you feel cooler. In ninety-degree weather the temperature inside your car can reach well over 120°F. Helps Protect the Environment. Leaving your car at home two days a week will reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 lbs. /year. A survey of youth conducted by the Nature Conservancy in 2011 found that kids that had “meaningful experiences with nature” were More likely to be engaged in the environment more than twice as likely to strongly agree that protecting the environment “is cool” and ten points more likely to agree that we can solve climate change by acting now. Maybe, walking around an urban setting while playing Pokémon Go was not what the Nature Conservancy would originally had in mind as places where children can have “meaningful experiences with nature.” Yet I believe that during a 2.5 mile walk anywhere in Texas, you will encounter urban wildlife and that such natural experiences will be considered meaningful by children. I am hopeful that Pokémon Go will get more people outdoors, experiencing nature and keen on protecting the environment. Gotta catch’em all!












Questions to Ask Your Kids After School Instead of "How Was Your Day?" How many times have we asked how our kids' day was at school and in response we get one word fines, okays, and whatevers? Asking more unexpected and specific questions allows children to think more indepth about a particular topic that is more likely to result in an answer with substance. Use after school as a chance to get to know your child's life at school a little more!


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What made you laugh?

who did you play with at recess? what rule was the hardest to follow today?

What new fact did you learn today? what did you read in class today?

did you talk to anybody new today?

do you think any subject is too easy or hard?

what was the best/worst part of your day?

is there anything bothering you about school right now?

what's one thing you hope to learn this year?

can you show me something you learned?

is there someone in your class going through a hard time?

when did you feel most proud of yourself today? tell me something you learned about a friend today. what is one thing you did that was helpful?



Pizza kabobs

pizza grilled cheese

Ingredients whole wheat pita pocket 10 slices pepperoni 10 cubes fresh mozzarella 1/2 c. pizza sauce fresh veggies of choice

Ingredients 2 ciabatta rolls 1 tbsp. unsalted butter 2 tbsp. marinara sauce 4 oz. mozzarella 1 oz. pepperoni 1 c. baby arugula or spinach

Directions 1. Slice pita pocket into 1/2 in squares. Using a toothpick layer kebab with pita square, 1 pepperoni slice, 1 cube mozzarella, 1 olive & finish with another pita square. 2. Can be heated at 325 for 5-8 minutes and served warm or can be enjoyed cold. Serve with pizza sauce.


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Directions Brush the outsides of the rolls with butter or oil. Form sandwiches (buttered-side out) with the marinara, mozzarella, pepperoni, and arugula. Heat a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Cook the sandwiches, covered, until the bread is golden brown and crisp and the cheese has melted, 4 to 5 minutes per side.


peanut butter banana spirals apple race car snacks Ingredients 1/2 cup reduced-fat peanut butter 1/3 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt 1 tablespoon orange juice 2 ripe bananas, sliced 4 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas 2 tablespoons honey-crunch wheat germ 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients 4 Jazz apples 16 green grapes, cut in half You will also need:16 toothpicks

Directions Combine peanut butter and yogurt, stirring until smooth. Drizzle juice over bananas; toss gently to coat.

2. Slip 2 toothpicks into each apple wedge to become the car axles. Place grape halves on each side of the toothpick for wheels. Vroom vroom!

Directions 1. Gather all ingredients. Cut two full cheeks from each apple. Slice out the centre third so you have a wedge.

Spread about 3 tablespoons peanut butter mixture over each tortilla, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange about 1/3 cup banana slices in a single layer over peanut butter mixture. Combine wheat germ and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over banana slices. Roll up. Slice each roll into 6 pieces.


hea lth y l i f es t yl e s



NUTRITION Easy Eater 2 In Easy Eater, kids are responsible for naming and keeping a pet healthy and happy by feeding it the same foods they eat. Set in a magical forest, Easy Eater boasts a motley cast of characters that teach food groups and encourage food recognition. Kids learn that shrimp, tofu and nuts are proteins and that avocados are fruits, for example. Healthy choices earn “grub bucks” to buy app accessories and real world prizes. Eat and Move-O-Matic This app helps kids to understand the relationship between food and exercise. The app compares the calories they eat with the time it takes to burn them off with activities that range from doing homework to dancing. With a colorful and engaging design that feels like a video game, Eat and Move-O-Matic offers ideas and tips for healthy alternatives to high-calorie foods like burgers and fries. Healthy Heroes 1 & 2: Nutrition for Kids As the Healthy Heroes in this game, kids are charged with saving the city of Yogopolis from Hungry Monsters. Through 36 levels of game play, kids fend off the Hungry Monsters with healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Junk foods anger the monsters and prevent advancement. Kids learn to recognize healthy foods and eating habits throughout the game.

Perfect Picnic Perfect Picnic teaches food safety skills with a goal to create the safest picnic operation in the park. The game encourages players to wash hands, use a food thermometer to measure internal food temperatures, keep perishable foods at safe temperatures and keep preparation surfaces clean. Smash Your Food This popular app let’s you smash food to see its actual sugar, salt and oil content by the numbers compared to what’s recommended. Kids will enjoy smashing real images of a burger, imploding a can of cola and pounding a pizza to greasy smithereens. App masters can unlock or buy new food fridges to keep the learning going. Veggie Circus Farm Veggie Circus Farm helps children as young as two years old recognize vegetables. Led by Brianna the butterfly or Brian the bee, the app provides animated vegetable performances that teach kids how to pronounce the names of vegetables and basic nutrition benefits without the need to read.

There’s a world of options available. Before sharing an app with your child, test it. Is the content accurate? Are there advertisements? If so, are they acceptable? In little or no time you’ll find apps that not only entertain but also educate your child on health and nutrition. Written by Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD


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hat can I really do about the health and wellness efforts in my district? This is a commonly asked question by parents who would like to see changes in their child’s school. From recess to healthier fundraisers, there are ways to have your voice heard. Did you know you have a platform to make these requests? The district School Health Advisory Council is a group made up of different segments of the community and tackles all things health related. Fifty percent of the group must be parents. Some of the things they do include: enacting policies that address recess or healthy food/ non-food fundraisers, require health education as a graduation credit and develops stricter bullying policies. Each year, the SHAC is required to submit an annual report to their Board of Trustees that outlines recommendations on various health-related issues. By leveraging the research of best practices and evidence-based programs, SHAC’s can provide an awareness to Board members that allows for insightful policy revisions. When the USDA released the final rules on Smart Snacks, wellness policies, school meal program reviews, and Community Eligibility Provisions, it allowed for district SHAC’s to have even more influence when reviewing their local wellness policy. According to a press release recently released by the USDA, the Local School Wellness Policy final rule empowers communities to take an active role in the health of their children. It requires schools to engage parents, students and community members in the annual development and assessment of local school wellness policies. These policies guide a school district’s efforts to establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity. States and local communities will have flexibility in developing a policy that works best for them. While the Local School Wellness Policy is part of the four final rules of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the other rules include Smart Snacks, regulations ensuring access to healthy food, consistent nutrition standards and greater program integrity. Many of us might be aware of what Smart Snacks are, but the final rule on Smart Snacks makes modest improvements to those standards based on public comments and lessons learned from implementation including flexibility for state and local communities. This permits substantial local sovereignty and allows districts to have stricter policies (of which many can be recommended by the district SHAC). So now is the perfect time to see if your school has representation on your district’s SHAC. If not, it’s a great time to get involved. Would you like to see daily recess at your child’s school? An updated local wellness policy? Check with your district for information on how you can join and start making a bigger impact in your school community. 25


By The American Psychological Association with Special thanks to Mary Alvord, PhD


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


arents have a lot on their plate: mortgage payments, healthcare, caring for elderly parents, raising kids, just to name a few. As the new school year approaches, they face additional stressors — paying for back-to-school supplies, clothes and possibly tuition. Many parents may also be worried about their children starting a new school, changing school districts, facing a more rigorous academic year or dealing with difficult social situations. Often the fear of the unknown — classmates, teachers, the school building — is the most stressful for family members, whether it’s the children hopping on the school bus or their parents who have to wave goodbye. “The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. “While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children’s feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins. Working with your children to build resilience and manage their emotions can be beneficial for the psychological health of the whole family.” Fortunately, children are extremely capable of coping with change and parents can help them in the process by providing a setting that fosters resilience and encourages them to share and express their feelings about returning to school.

Get to know your neighbors: If your child is starting a new school, walk around your block and get to know the neighborhood children. Try and set up a play date, or, for an older child, find out where neighborhood kids might go to safely hang out, like the community pool, recreation center or park.

Talk to your child: Asking your children about their fears or worries about going back to school will help them share their burden. Inquire as to what they liked about their previous school or grade and see how those positives can be incorporated into their new experience.

Practice the first day of school routine: Getting into a sleep routine before the first week of school will aide in easing the shock of waking up early. Organizing things at home — backpack, binder, lunchbox or cafeteria money — will help make the first morning go smoothly Also, walking through the building and visiting your child’s locker and classroom will help ease anxiety of the unknown.

Empathize with your children: Change can be difficult, but also exciting. Let your children know that you are aware of what they’re going through and that you will be there to help them in the process. Nerves are normal, but highlight that not everything that is different is necessarily bad. It is important to encourage your children to face their fears instead of falling in to the trap of encouraging avoidance.

Get involved and ask for help: Knowledge of the school and the community will better equip you to understand your child’s surroundings and the transition he or she is undergoing. Meeting members of your community and school will foster support for both you and your child. If you feel the stress of the school year is too much for you and your child to handle on your own, seeking expert advice from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, will help you better manage and cope.


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