Little Princes by Conor Grennan

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In 2004, Conor Grennan began an around-the-world journey with a two-month stint volunteering in Little Princes, a Nepalese orphanage near Kathmandu. He took on the work less as a humanitarian effort than as a way to justify spending the next ten months indulging his urge to travel, he says. He had no intention of making the orphanage or the children of Nepal his life’s work. “Volunteering in an orphanage was a one-off,” Grennan writes in Little Princes, “an experience that you would never forget and never repeat.” He wasn’t callous, just uninvolved.

But what he could not know then was how deeply these children would affect him, compelling him to return again and again to do all that he could to help them. What he also did not learn at first was that most of the children were not orphans, but victims of child trafficking….

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Iowans Take Action to Ban BPA in Baby Products

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There’s good news for the children of Iowa today — though it’s not quite a done deal yet. The Iowa Senate passed a ban on Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the manufacture of certain children’s products sold in the state, including baby bottles, baby bottle liners, sippy cups, pacifiers, and teething rings.

A synthetic estrogen, BPA is used to harden clear plastics in all sorts of products, such as water bottles, containers for storing leftovers, plastic eyeglasses, ice cube trays, beer and soda cans, baby food jar lids, thermoses, and cell phones. It’s even likely to be in the cash register receipt you get at the grocery store. And, you can find BPA in the plastic lining inside cans of food and in some children’s toys….

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Green Therapy Grows into Medical Mainstream

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Kathyrn Cummings walks along a wooded nature trail in Hickory Hill Park near Iowa City, with her patient a few steps ahead of her. She stops every so often to examine the colors in a leaf or point out the number of rings in a tree stump. It’s the third time this week that she has visited a park to walk the trails, but not because she enjoys the sunshine.

Cummings, an assisted-living counselor, works with a nonverbal, disabled woman, who suffers from severe anxiety and aggression issues. When the woman begins to show signs of an impending panic attack or begins to clench her fists out of frustration, Cummings knows it’s time to go for a walk. Taking a hike is often the only way to relieve the woman’s symptoms.

This is just one example of how interest in the therapeutic benefits of spending time outdoors is starting to gain attention in the medical mainstream….

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Taproot Nature Experience Deepens Children’s Connection to the Natural World

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Taproot Nature Experience was founded on the simple idea that kids need to have time outdoors.

Launched in September 2007 by Zac Wedemeyer and his wife, Elesa, this Iowa City-based company has several different programs that connect children with nature: an after-school program; a summer camp; and Sprouts, a program for pre-school-aged children.

Wedemeyer says that kids used to be allowed to go outside more, but now parents are afraid to let their children out of the house alone. As a former elementary-school teacher, he saw firsthand how little time kids spend in nature and how much time they spend watching television and playing video games….

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Superman Versus Supermemes

October 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Children, Education, Front Page, Slideshow, U.S.

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In the new film Waiting for Superman — which chronicles the collapse of the American educational system — a forlorn mother waits in a gymnasium with thousands of other parents for her lottery number to be called. The drawing will determine which students will attend a good school, and which will be relegated to a failing institution. The mother explains the gravity of the situation: “It’s the difference between whether my son goes to college, or goes to prison. . .”

How did we allow our educational systems to fall so far, so fast? When did the welfare of our children go the same way as healthcare, the safety of our food and the callous obliteration of our environment? How did we allow ourselves to become obese, dependent on antidepressants, and willing to wage inhumane wars over oil, land and beliefs?

Something is happening. Everyone knows we are leaving a worse world behind for our children….

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“I Can’t Walk Away and Leave Malnourished Children Standing There”

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My cousin, David Wasson, knows about childhood nutrition better than most. David is an award-winning chef who spent his career preparing meals for wealthy people and teaching their children to cook. He also taught cooking at a community college in the United States. As he approached retirement, David embarked on a completely new venture that would profoundly change his life. Today, as the Chef and Child Foundation Ambassador to the Philippines, David cooks for children who are as familiar with hunger as most people reading this post are familiar with a full belly.

His work is urgent. With every meal he cooks, he fights to save children’s lives and the health of their brains and bodies….

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Scented Cleaning Products May Harm Your Health

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Cleaning products that are artificially scented with smells like lilac, lemon, pine, and tropical rainforest may be popular with consumers, but the fragrances themselves shouldn’t be. Each fragrance is potentially made up of hundreds of chemicals — many of them toxic, according to Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE).

“It’s basically chemical soup in a lot of these products,” Switalski says.

WVE is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health. The group compiled What’s That Smell?, a landmark report that examines the health effects of hidden fragrance chemicals.

Women are disproportionately affected by the chemicals in fragrances since they use them more frequently than men. They also experience more health effects from the fragrances, such as skin rashes, headaches, and breathing problems. Plus, they can pass chemicals on to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding….

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Children on MiniMonos Show Adults How Sustainability Is Done

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I first met Melissa Clark-Reynolds, the CEO of MiniMonos, online. We connected through a shared love of the environment and children, as we followed one another’s “tweets”. Dedicated and deeply generous, Melissa has poured her love and values into developing the children’s website MiniMonos, a place where she hopes that children will learn and share ideas about sustainability, generosity, and caring for one another, all while having fun together.

An eco-friendly children’s virtual world, MiniMonos is underpinned by the values of sustainability, friendship, and generosity. The children assume monkey avatars and play on a virtual island, where caring for their environment forms an intrinsic part of the experience. Their in-world living treehouses require nourishment and care, including recycling to keep their treehouse tidy, and capturing clouds to power their tree’s wind turbine. The appealing games across MiniMonos Island carry underlying cooperative and eco-themes, rewarding the children for such activities as cleaning up a lagoon, using strategy, and sorting recyclables accurately….

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Fauna Extreme Coloring Book Inspires Girls

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Fauna Extreme publishes a coloring book targeted to young girls. But it doesn’t have a princess theme or a cute kitty or an adorable pony in it. This is a coloring book about power and strength and athleticism. And I’m going to tell you about it. But first, I want to go back into time and talk a bit about the world I grew up in. Please bear with me.

When I was a little girl (oh, about a million years ago), boys got to do all the cool things. They played with trucks. They played Army. They were daredevils. They even occasionally swore (swear words weren’t as commonplace among kids as they are today). I didn’t want to be a “girly-girl.” I wanted to be tough, too. I had opinions. I liked being physical and running and jumping. But I was frequently told, “You can’t do that; you’re a girl.” It didn’t always stop me, but sometimes it did.

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Wolf Trap Foundation Inspires Green Living through Theatre

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The “3 Rs” of Readin’, ’Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic have been replaced by the “4 Rs”: Reuse, Repair, Recycle, and Reduce.

For the past two years, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Washington, D.C., has been teaching children these lessons through its musical puppet show, Junkyard Pirates.

“We thought, what can 3, 4, 5 year-olds understand?” says Mimi Flaherty Willis, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. The organization commissioned some of their artists to create a show for children to teach the importance of recycling. All puppets are made out of recycled materials and pirates are the “good guys.” Their leader, Captain Spare Tire, is up against his nemesis, Land Fill….

“The arts are very powerful for children and adults,” says Flaherty Willis, speaking about why it’s so beneficial to teach lessons through musical performances. “As children, important messages are taught through games and songs — like the alphabet. We did the same thing to teach recycling.” …

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Iowa River Call – Teaching Kids to Love Their River

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How do you teach a child to love a river?

It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.

For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.

You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”

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Full-Circle Learning – Global Partnerships Unlock Potential

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After the 1992 civil unrest in South Central Los Angeles, a small grassroots group began an after-school program to show the children living in the area that diverse members of their community cared about them. Teresa Henkle Langness, who later founded Full-Circle Learning, was among them.

“Over time,” Langness says, “we began to see that what these children needed was to be a part of a community, to be a part of the solution, instead of feeling like victims of society’s ills.”

Langness adds, “When we began to incorporate character themes linked to local and global service within each lesson plan, the students’ scores suddenly began to leap. They became much better students, much better people. They began to teach their parents conflict resolution. Outside organizations in the community began to benefit from their work. Families wanted to replicate the model and began asking us for help in doing so.”

Today, Full-Circle Learning provides a full preschool-through-high school curriculum in 13 nations. Langness told Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), “The mission of Full-Circle Learning is to help young people embrace their role as humanitarians and change agents. We do this through educational programs that integrate and expand students’ character strength, academic excellence, creative capacities, and conflict resolution skills.” …

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KSCA Would “Change the Paradigm” to Protect Kids’ Health

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When it was enacted in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) automatically assumed that some 62,000 chemicals were safe, even though their effects on humans had never even been tested. Equally scary, as each new chemical is introduced, the burden of proof rests on the EPA to show that a chemical is hazardous in order to restrict its use — and that, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “rarely happens.”

If enacted, the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act (KSCA) would change the process of approving chemicals for the marketplace in several significant ways. According to CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in a recent television broadcast, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) will soon reintroduce the bill proposing KSCA, which would change “the paradigm from innocent until proven guilty to guilty until proven innocent, in the sense that [a chemical] has to be tested before it can actually come to market.” …

To find out more about the health risks facing our children from toxic chemicals and why KSCA should be enacted, interested persons are invited to attend Dr. Landrigan’s talk, sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Title: “Children’s Health and the Environment: Target for Prevention”

Speaker: Dr. Philip Landrigan

Date: March 19, 2010

Time: 3:30 – 4:30, Reception to follow

Location: Livestrong Board Room, 2201 E. 6th St., Austin, TX

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Folksinger Larry Long on Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song

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Recently, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed troubadour and social activist Larry Long about some of the many significant projects he’s engaged in during his adult life. He was the founder of the Mississippi River Revival, a group that worked tirelessly to clean up the river and celebrate the culture of the people who lived there. Long helped the city of Okemah, Oklahoma to “bring Woody Guthrie home” by spearheading an event that celebrated both Woody’s music and the community’s contribution to his life and work.

In this part of our conversation, we talked with Long about Community Celebration of Place, which includes Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song (EWCS). Long is the founder and executive director. We asked him to begin by describing the program, which has been implemented in schools across the U.S. and in several countries around the world….

LONG: Community Celebration of Place works with communities to use music, performance, art, and oral history to bring together children and elders, and people of different backgrounds — economic, faith, racial, and cultural — to honor and celebrate our commonalities and differences through a program entitled Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song….

A student shakes the hand of one of the honored elders at his school. Photo: Courtesy Larry Long

Through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, stories of different cultures emerge. This helps create an understanding of others and the possibility of more civil engagement and the ability to work with one another….

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Healthy Child Healthy World Provides Tips for Healthy Teething

January 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Babies, Blog, Children, Front Page, Parenting, Slideshow, Tips

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Do you remember when your molars slowly poked through the surface of your gums? They were probably pretty tender and uncomfortable. But you knew what was happening: You were growing up! You were getting more of those permanent teeth that made you a “big kid.” So even though it was a bit unpleasant, you managed to brave your way through it — or maybe you took a baby aspirin or Tylenol to ease your misery.

Tiny babies don’t know what’s happening when their teeth start to emerge. But they know they’re miserable — and they generally make their parents miserable, too. Not intentionally, of course. They just get fussy and gnaw on whatever they can find — clean, dirty, toxic, or furry; it doesn’t matter to them….

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Brooklyn Free School Plans Service Learning Project in Tanzania

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Imagine you’re attending a public school where you can determine what you will study based on your interests. Imagine planning a trip that you will take with your classmates, teachers, and parent volunteers half a world away. Now imagine that you are only six years old.

Students at the Brooklyn Free School in Clinton Hill (Brooklyn), New York, are experiencing a very different kind of education — one that teaches independence and responsibility, as well as academics, art, and all other subjects. In a few weeks, 11 students, ages 6 to 17, and 13 adults will be traveling to Tanzania on a remarkable service learning field trip — one that the students helped to plan and fund….

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Sprout Baby – Spreading by “Word of Mom”

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With the economy struggling to get back on its feet, you might think a fledgling eco-friendly baby products company wouldn’t stand much of a chance at survival. But California-based Sprout Baby celebrated its first anniversary last week, and the company is going strong.

What’s the secret of their success? And what makes Sprout Baby’s products so good that word-of-mouth advertising is their main — and highly effective — marketing strategy?

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Sprout Baby founder and CEO Jody Sherman by phone from his Los Angeles office to find out….

SHERMAN: I kept hearing over and over again that [moms'] biggest concerns were centered around feeding and chemicals and things they were going to put in, on, and around their babies. They’re being bombarded with information about how damaging chemicals are to babies’ skin and to their health. And they’re worried about hormones in foods and such…. I started talking to some of my friends about, “What if we could start a company that would help moms find eco-conscious, responsible products that are also top-notch, healthy choices for their children?”…

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Child’s Play – Curing Hospital Boredom with Video Games

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Charity, Children, Donations, Front Page, Slideshow, Youth

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After posting An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday, my loved ones responded by donating to charities instead of giving me gifts. I was gratified and delighted. Lovely as they are, I don’t need flowers or other presents to know how they feel about me. But now, my son, Jake, who had laughingly told me he wasn’t “that unselfish” to give up his own birthday, has taken the next step.

“So, you’ve inspired me,” he wrote last week, under the heading, “What I want for Christmas.” …

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The Next Right Thing – Saving Children’s Lives, One at a Time

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In Cote d’Ivoire, on September 28, a child entered the world with a cleft palate so severe that he cannot nurse. He cannot eat. If he is to live, he must have surgery. The newborn is named Leandre. He cannot be helped in his home country. But he can be helped in the United States — if he can get here in time.

Tiny Leandre has a cleft so severe he cannot eat. Photo: Courtesy Strongheart Group
Tiny Leandre has a cleft so severe he cannot eat. Photo: Courtesy Strongheart Group

Half a world away, Todd Grinnell thinks about Leandre every day.

Grinnell is just one person. He can’t save the world all by himself. But he is making an impact, one child at a time, by volunteering with the Next Right Thing (NRT). NRT is a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Strongheart Group, founded by Cori Stern. Through his work with NRT, Grinnell helps bring hope for a normal life to impoverished children who have disfiguring or life-threatening conditions. One of those children is Leandre.

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Submission Form: Picturing a Better World

November 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Children, Education, Family, Kids, Student Art Gallery, Youth

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Students: Send in your best drawing of a topic that is connected to the environment for posting on Blue Planet Green Living. Be sure to attach a completed and signed submission form. Deadline: March 1, 2009

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