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Community Treasures

 Where in southern Illinois can you find 1000 year old  Cypress trees, and enjoy nature, bike and  canoe trails?

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Kids Eat Free... or close to it

Creating with Media: Pre-Teens

Other ages: Preschoolers | Grade Schoolers | Teens

Adolescence is a time often characterized by conformity as well as self-expression. As pre-teens form close bonds with groups of friends, it’s not uncommon for them to feel lost in the shuffle or uncertain about how they fit in. Everything from the clothes and shoes they wear to the clubs and activities they join become ways to express who they think they are and how they want to belong.

Now is a good time to help your child find new creative outlets, which may involve pointing to tools he can readily use as well as places he can go for inspiration. In addition to traditional art supplies, such as colored pencils and watercolors, digital media tools, like a mobile video camera and editing software, can fuel your child’s imagination.

  • Get your pre-teen making visual art.
    Digital cameras will put your pre-teen behind the lens and get her thinking about framing a shot, while software such as Adobe Photoshop, which is used by designers and other professionals, will put her in front of the computer screen where she can manipulate her photos and design original artwork. Likewise, introducing your pre-teen to the inner workings of photography by making a pinhole camera, may alter how she uses a camera phone. Sites like Oatmeal Box Pinhole Photography or the Pinhole Spy Camera offer step-by-step instructions.
  • Introduce your pre-teen to new ways to tell stories in both written and oral forms.
    Take your pre-teen on a tour of the many online magazines and Web journals where she can publish her poetry, stories and thoughts. Help her make her own book, magazine or literary blog with photographs and construction paper or using freeware that incorporates electronic text, images, sounds and video.
  • Encourage your pre-teen to experiment with sound and to learn about radio production.
    Youth Radio, Radio Rookies and Radio Rootz are just three of the national organizations where young people are using music and words to tell their own stories.
  • Encourage your pre-teen to take a course or explore local library and web resources on film production.
    Apple's iMovie and Cyber Film School are two online tools with tips on shooting, editing and making use of visual effects. For inspiration, introduce your pre-teen to youth-produced films, like those found at Listen Up! Youth Media Network and the Educational Video Center.
  • Find out how your pre-teen understands social networking as an opportunity for creative expression.
    Whether it’s decking out a profile space with personal photos or writing on a friend’s wall, social networks are outlets for self-expression. No doubt your pre-teen is putting thought into how she represents herself among her peers and talking to her about these choices may be an eye-opener for you as well as a gateway to her creativity.
  • Let your pre-teen know that there is a larger community of youth filmmakers.
    While your pre-teen may not be ready to formally submit her videos to film festivals created for students, such as the Urban Visionaries Film Festival and Young Cuts Film Festival, it may be inspiring to know they exist.
  • Encourage your pre-teen to create original songs, recordings, and sound effects.
    There is an abundance of tools that will give your pre-teen the freedom to manipulate a recording and to share it online. Explore audio production tools from the free to the commercial, talking about what it means to try and build a following of listeners among people your pre-teen may not know.


Courtesy: PBS Parents 

Top Five Tips to Choose Education Apps This Holiday Season

If your child has drafted their holiday wish list, it’s likely that some type of tech item is at or near the top. And there’s a good chance that you’ll purchase it—or  another tech gift.
A recent survey of parents with kids between the ages of 2 and 10, found that more than half (54%) of parents plan to purchase or give a tech device to their children this holiday season. At the top of the list for all parents planning a tech purchase this holiday season are tablets. With all those tablet purchases, nearly 7 in 10 parents say they currently purchase or plan to purchase apps for their children.
To help parents navigate successful selection and use of apps for their kids, PBS KIDS is offering the following five tips:
Think about what your child is passionate about.
Look for content that builds on your child’s excitement. Media should engage kids and spark their curiosity about the world around them.
Distinguish what is truly educational. Consider whether the content of the app is curriculum- and research-based. Mobile platforms can amplify learning gains for children.
Develop a media plan for your family. A balanced media diet includes setting limits. This is also something for parents to keep in mind, too, as kids often model their parents’ behavior.
Play together. For kids two and up, apps are another opportunity to explore with your child. Talking with kids about the game or activity as you play offers both the opportunity to bond as a family and also identify teachable moments.
Avoid apps that try to sell: Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.

Children &Media: Tech Trends You Can Use

Keeping up with the latest technology trends can be a challenge for parents. As soon as you get used to the camera on your new phone, your daughter insists on an even newer one because it can run the latest Facebook app!

And it’s not just the gadgets that are multiplying; what you can do with e-readers, smart phones, netbooks and other digital devices is ever-changing, too: communicating with sound and video; keeping up with friends and relatives regardless of location; playing games with hundreds if not thousands of other players; following the thoughts and opinions of people you’ve never met. The list is endless! At times, it can also feel confusing, especially when trying to raise well-balanced, healthy kids.

Worry not.

Although part of technology use is technical — knowing what button to push or what settings are needed — much more of it is developmental. Media habits and technology interests follow developmental needs. For example, in their quest for identity, teens are looking for ways to define who they are. Online spaces can be very useful in helping them do just that. Some websites are outlets for individual self-expression while others are meeting grounds of like-minded peers.

Adolescents, on the other hand, may be wrestling with ethics and or sorting out what it means to be part of a group vs. remaining loyal to a best friend. How they text and their online encounters will likely mirror these discoveries of right and wrong and social loyalties. And very young kids, because they’re just learning about basic behavior, can seem to have an limitless appetite for repetition. Watching an online video over and over again is their way of studying scripts and getting down how characters — and therefore people — are supposed to act.

Raising children is never going to be easy. But using technology to support your child’s development is a much better than being overwhelmed or intimidated by it.

FromL pbskids.org


When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet

By Laura Lewis Brown , courtesy of pbskids.org
ts-girlwithtabletpcFrom the time they can grasp an object in their hands, children reach for electronic gadgets of all kinds, particularly our cell phones and computers. When you start noticing more child-size fingerprints on your iPad than your own, it may be time to consider introducing your child to a handheld wireless device. 
A smartphone is a high-tech cell phone that runs its own operating system, allowing the user to talk, email, surf and take high-resolution photos and videos. A tablet computer does everything your laptop does but in a small, portable flat form with a touch screen. Here are some helpful tips on when and how to introduce your child to one or both of these technologies. 

Read more: When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet

Royal Family Kids Camp

royal familyI have had the privilege the past two summers to be a volunteer counselor at a camp for foster children.  Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) is a weeklong camp designed to create positive memories for abused and neglected children.  During the week of camp, each counselor is assigned a camper and a cabin.  When campers arrive, they decorate their cabins and make it like their homes for a week.  Every day the campers go swimming and boating at the local lake, play games at the campsite, and do crafts.  Each night there are different activities; for example, Monday might be fishing for the boys and make-overs for the girls, and Tuesday might be a birthday party for everyone.  Campers also perform in a talent show, play games at a carnival, and make s’mores at a bonfire.  

Throughout the week, each camper experiences new activities. Most importantly, the staff offers love and compassion and demonstrates positive relationships that campers carry with them throughout their lives.  It was such a great experience and the relationships we made with our campers will last a lifetime.  Based on my positive experience at Royal Family Kids Camp, I encourage everyone to get involved!  There are several ways to volunteer to help with the camp, such as:  being a staff member or guide relief for the staff, cooking, cleaning up, or just donating to the camp will do so much!  If you would like to help with camp, please go to the locator and mentor page to find a camp near you.  If you would like to hear campers’ stories, you can go to the RFKC newsletter  page and learn more about RFKC


rechelle smaller rachelleThe author of this article is Rechelle Patton, a junior from Salem studying social work at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.



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