3 Creative Party Ideas for Kids (That Cost Almost Nothing)

October 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Art, Blog, DIY, Front Page, Kids, Repurposing, Slideshow

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What parent among us hasn’t scratched our head wondering what to do for our child’s next birthday party, Scout meeting, or club activity? Here’s a collection of simple projects that will spur kids’ creative juices to flow, save you money as a host, and teach both the value and fun of repurposing….

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Edible Gardens Make Summer Tasty and Fun in Iowa City

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When I first moved to Iowa City, I decided to try and conquer my terrible sense of direction by walking around and getting to know the area. Instead, I did what I always do. I found one path that took me from Point A to Point B, and I started taking that path every day.

Along my walk is the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center. I first noticed the Recreation Center because I was looking for a gym to attend while living in Iowa City (I can proudly say that I’ve been to the gym a total of one time.) But, I was more intrigued by the garden attached to the side of the building.

Normally I would ask someone about the garden, receive a short explanation, nod my head and go on my way. But, this summer I am a Blue Planet Green Living intern. I get to satisfy my curiosity by being a journalist. So, last Wednesday Hayley Noneman, a summer intern with Iowa City Parks and Recreation, took me on a tour of Parks and Recreation’s garden projects….

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Teaching Tolerance Promotes Civil Rights for ALL

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The Southern Poverty Law (SPLC) is well known for its successes in fighting hate crimes and discrimination and for shining a spotlight on hate groups around the nation. But it also works to prevent the spread of bigotry and intolerance by reaching students and teachers with a message of understanding and inclusion.

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program provides materials and professional development to help teachers “prepare a new generation to live in a diverse world.”

Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, spoke with me about how the SPLC’s program addresses pressing issues of fairness and equality with students and school personnel. A former classroom teacher and educational publishing professional, Costello cares deeply about the SPLC’s threefold mission and about her role in integrating the work of the Center’s other divisions with classroom instruction….

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Take the Itch Away with Motherlove Green Salve

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Last week, I was sitting at my computer alternately scratching my first mosquito bite of the season and trying to page through my emails. No stranger to itching, I had remnants of poison ivy dotting my left knee. My second case of poison ivy so far this summer, darn it all.

And even though symptoms of my annual battle with the toxic vine are lessening each year thanks to a concoction my pharmacist sells, the itching is enough to drive me somewhat mad.

So, when the following email came up on my screen, it immediately caught my attention:

“I’m writing on behalf of summer and all things itchy and scratchy. Figuring Iowa is full of mosquitoes after all the 4th of July rain, I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in reviewing the Green Salve from Motherlove Herbal Company. It’s saving our skin over in Wisconsin. Thanks!

Julie — the new Blog Review Mother for Motherlove Herbal Company”

No way I’d turn down that offer. I immediately wrote back….

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Pop Opera ECOLOGIC Competes for Funds in Pepsi Project

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When I was a kindergartner in an inner city neighborhood of the Chicago Public Schools, my class was bussed downtown to see Rapunzel at one of the grand old theatres. From my nearly front-row seat, the magic of the theatre left a lasting impression on this kid from an economically challenged family.

That kind of magical experience is one Jay Nagle and Dwayne Parks would like to give to thousands of other kids in the Chicago Public Schools. Their goal is to produce free performances of Ecologic, their original musical with an environmental message, in Chicago’s Millennium Park. But their vision needs funding.

Parks and Nagle have entered the Pepsi Refresh Project contest to compete for a grant that would bring their project to life. Jay Nagle is a playwright, dance teacher, and director. His partner, Dwayne Parks, is a musician and composer. Together, they own Totally New Theatre and TKATS — Talented Kids, Adults, and TeenS — a nonprofit theatre arts organization that produces original musical performances. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the team to find out more about their musical and why they think their project merits your votes in Pepsi’s Planet category this month….

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Community Colleges Offer “Green” Classes for Kids and Adults

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Teaching renewable energy at community colleges is nothing new, according to Carolyn Teich, senior program associate from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Such courses have actually been in community college curricula for about 30 years.

But there is also a wave of new courses designed for people who want to live more sustainably. For example, Kirkwood Community College — which primarily offers classes on its Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, campuses — launched a Go Green initiative this past fall in its Continuing Education department.

A team looks at trends in the market to develop new programs for the school, says Kim Johnson, the associate vice president of continuing education programming. Part of her job is to work with that team.

Programs are planned a year in advance, she says. About a year ago, the Kirkwood team discussed the increased emphasis on “green” — especially green jobs — because of the Obama administration’s support of renewable energy technology in the Stimulus package. She also felt the community had an increased interest in sustainability and saving money….

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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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What’s It Like, Living Green? – Book Review

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More than three decades ago, when I taught first grade, Woodsy Owl, with his admonition to “Give a hoot, don’t pollute,” was one of my few tools for encouraging environmentalism. A decade later, when I taught fifth grade, I had a few more tools at my command, including the famous video of a buttercup traveling down a clear mountain stream to sink in a polluted river.

But I didn’t have near the kind of resources available today. One resource I learned about recently is the book, What’s It Like Being Green? Kids Teaching Kids, by the Way they Live. Author Jill Ammon Vanderwood has compiled an award-winning collection of real-life accounts from children, parents, researchers, and activists, who are making the world greener every day. (NOTE: Vanderwood sent me a complimentary copy of her book upon my request.)

I am impressed with the content and the quality of the information. Equally important, it’s filled with motivational examples of real people (many of them kids) taking action to help each other and the planet. When kids read about others their own age making a difference, they often get inspired to do the same. (It works with adults, too.) …

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Reynolds Scion Tells Kids the Truth about Tobacco

December 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Education, Front Page, Health, Smoking, Youth Programs

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The junior high auditorium is filled to capacity, yet the crowd is hushed. Students sit at rapt attention, uncharacteristically still. Tears glisten on their youthful cheeks, and even the tough guys listen quietly. On the stage, a few minutes earlier, Patrick Reynolds opened his talk with a promise, “Today, we’re going to get in touch with our feelings.”

Ordinarily, a tough junior high kid might rebel at such a statement. But not today — and not when Reynolds speaks it.

“I open all my talks — both to youth and adults,” he says, “with memories of my father dying from smoking, watching my dad gasp for breath.” Reynolds’ father was the son of tobacco tycoon, R. J. Reynolds, for whom the company was named…

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Travel for Change Brings Fair-Trade Cultural Tourism to Tanzania

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Soon after University of Iowa senior Stephanie Enloe graduates in December, she will be on a plane to Tanzania. Enloe, 22, is the director of sustainable projects for Travel for Change International, a small group of committed volunteers who are building an eco-lodge near Njombe, Tanzania. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) met with Enloe to find out what makes Travel for Change different from other travel venues serving visitors to Tanzania. — Publisher

ENLOE: The term for what we’re doing at Travel for Change is “fair-trade cultural tourism.” In East Africa, quite often, tourist initiatives are foreign-owned — the hotels, resorts, safari companies, and climbing companies. This is the case in a lot of developing countries. Travel venues and services are foreign-owned and really expensive. People go over there thinking that they’re getting an “African experience.” They pay huge amounts of money, which goes to foreign bank accounts and is not even remotely beneficial to the people in the area.

The first goal of our organization is to create a community-owned travel initiative, where, once the business model is intact and sustaining itself, it passes into community hands….

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Protect Yourself from Cell Phone Radiation

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Cancer, Cell Phones, Front Page, Kids, Slideshow

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We’ve all heard rumors over the years that cell phones cause brain cancer. But no one could ever point to conclusive research that it was true. So, most of us have pretty much dismissed that theory and forgotten about it. We walk, drive, sit, stand, and even (shhh!) use the bathroom with a cell to our ear. And if it’s not at our ear, it’s in a pocket or purse, or charging on the nightstand near our pillow.

Cell phones are our constant companions. But perhaps they shouldn’t be. …

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“Who Will Stay Home with the Kids When They’re Sick?”

August 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Disease, Front Page, Health, Jobs, Kids, Parenting, U.S.

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If you’re a working parent, you’ve probably faced this scenario: One or more of your kids is sick, but you’re expected to be at work. Maybe you can telecommute that day. Or maybe you have a nanny, who’s paid to stay with your kids no matter what. You might even have a willing relative, who isn’t worried about catching whatever illness your child is carrying. If so, you’re one of the lucky few.

More likely, you’re one of the millions of workers who are expected to be on the job in the office or in the fields or at the factory every day, regardless of what’s going on at home. Oh, and you probably don’t get paid sick leave for staying home with your children, do you? …

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Middle School Students to Design Affordable Housing in Future City Competition

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WASHINGTON DC, June 2009 – Designing affordable housing for those most in need is enormously complicated. But how to do it while adhering to LEED recognized green building standards, with an emphasis on energy efficiency and a low carbon footprint?

That’s the challenge for Chicagoland middle schoolers [and students around the nation] as they prepare for National Engineers Week Foundation’s 2009-10 Future City® Competition…

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Go Shoeless Indoors for A Healthier Home

August 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Contamination, Front Page, Health, Homes, Kids, Pollution

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Several years ago, when picking up my preteen daughter from her friend’s house, I was invited into the living room to say hello to the girl’s mother. The family had immigrated to the US from Korea a few years before, and the mother looked at my feet in silent consternation. Although she politely refrained from mentioning it, I followed her gaze to the shoes on my feet and realized I’d made a mistake. I’d noticed the family’s shoes lined up on a rug near the door, but had thought little about them. I was only there for a moment, and didn’t take the time to take off my shoes.

I was unaccustomed to taking off my shoes indoors. And, until that moment, it didn’t occur to me that I was being rude as a visitor in their home. For years afterward, I thought it simply a reflection of their culture that the family chose not to wear shoes inside. Now, I finally understand that there’s also a health reason for going shoeless…

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Take Action – Remove Toxic Flame Retardants from Kids’ Products

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In California, babies and children are exposed to toxic flame retardant chemicals in their clothing, sheets, and other materials nearly every minute of every day. Healthy Child Healthy World has launched a campaign urging citizens to send faxes to Governor Schwarzenegger and other government officials TODAY, with a strong message in favor of SB 772. According to Christopher Gavigan, CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, the bill would “exempt baby and juvenile products from California’s regulations that create a de facto mandate for the use of toxic fire retardant chemicals.”

On the surface, fire retardants in children’s clothing, bedding, strollers, infant carriers, changing tables, cribs, high chairs, and other products sound like a good idea. We all want children to be protected from flames. But Gavigan points out the flaws in this reasoning…

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Green Living Takes Recycled Clothing from Shabby to Chic

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Until recently, I never really considered buying used clothing, much less used kids’ clothing, but somewhere along the path of saving money and doing good for the planet I wound up in a used-clothing store. I was amazed by the buried treasures and great prices, and ever since, I’ve been hooked. I’m just one person who has reconsidered my view of used clothing shops — but I’m one of many.

Between watching the news and chatting with my girlfriends, it’s become obvious to me that many people have caught on to the idea of buying gently used clothing and other items. They not only save money, they also reduce their use of virgin natural resources. A practice that was once considered a faux pas is now common — and even a bragging right, when the discussion turns to the importance of going green…

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Holistic Moms Network – Grassroots Support for Healthy Parenting

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Parenting is tough for everyone. And living holistically has challenges of its own. But being holistic and a parent, too? You may need support for that.

That’s why Executive Director Nancy Massotto created the Holistic Moms Network, a nonprofit organization that brings together holistically minded parents to share ideas and support each other. Blue Planet Green Living spoke by phone with Massotto to learn more about this rapidly growing, grassroots movement.

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San Ramon Eco-Festival – “Good, Green Fun for Everyone”

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Want to learn how to live an eco-friendly life and have a great time doing it? You can do both by attending the first annual San Ramon, California, Eco-Festival. This family-friendly event will be held at Bishop Ranch Civic Center on August 29 and 30, 2009.

The event will be open Saturday, August 29, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, August 30, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eco-Festivals, sponsor of the event, aims to help people “live simple and cost-effective green lifestyles”…

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Healthy Kids – Yours, Mine, Ours

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With the meteoric rise of childhood and young adult health diseases: diabetes, obesity, eating disorders, high cholesterol, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, ADD, ADHD, and the lists goes on and on… Diseases once thought to be brought on by age deterioration in adults are now epidemic, even plagues, among our children. Drugs are not the answer. One definite answer is natural foods. Too simplistic? Things in life don’t have to be that complicated. You really are what you eat…

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Green Festival in Chicago May 16, 17

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If you’ll be in Illinois this weekend, head on over to Navy Pier to attend Chicago’s third annual Green Festival, May 16 and 17. Billed as the “original green consumer living event,” the weekend will provide “a vision of a cleaner, more efficient future for American businesses, homes, and lifestyles.”…

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