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How to “Green” Your Schoolyard

Nature-related projects have been gaining popularity on school campuses since the late 1990s. Environmental city planner, Sharon Danks, for example, has been working to transform asphalt lots into green schoolyards for 18 years. She is the Executive Director and Founder of Green Schoolyards America and in 2011, documented 150 green schoolyard projects from around the world in her book, Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. Since then: Schools in Chicago teamed up with the city's water utilities to turn drab slabs into green schoolyards for students and families. Early learning centers across Texas are launching outdoor learning environments. Austin, Texas, started planning their first "green school park.” San Antonio, Texas started ...

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San Antonio Joins Effort to Connect Kids to Nature

Fewer than 40% of San Antonio residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park. Better local access to green spaces is critical, given that exposure to nature can boost children’s academic performance, physical activity and mental health. That’s why San Antonio has joined the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative. The initiative, which started in 2016 as a pilot project to increase equitable access to nature in seven cities, expanded to include 11  more cities in 2018. As one of the 11, San Antonio will get 2.75 years of technical assistance and $75,000 in planning and implementation grants. But just how will San Antonio increase kids’ connection to nature? San Antonio Lacks Access to Parks Most of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, where inequitable ...

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Austin Solves ‘Nature Gaps’ with Green School Parks

Austin, Texas has many "nature gaps." In these areas, families lack parks for kids and families to play, which hinders their mental and physical health. Government and school officials in this 38% Latino city wanted to connect children with nature, which can boost students' academics and health. Their solution? "Green School Parks" that combine outdoor learning in nature during school time and act as a park for the community during out-of-school time. The Fist Step to Green School Parks More than two-dozen schools across Austin have shared use agreements that help fill the nature gap. In these agreements, schools open their schoolyards to the public after school and on weekends. But not all schools have green play areas—some are just asphalt. Fortunately, in ...

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Residents Petition for ‘Complete Streets’ Rules in Phoenix

Complete Streets were nearing a dead end in Phoenix. But after 42 meetings and three years of inaction, members of the city's Complete Streets Advisory Board started a citizens' petition to finally spur city leaders to vote on new Complete Streets guidelines. The vote is set for May 2018. Phoenix's Complete Street guidelines—to design streets for all users, walkers, bikers, commuters, drivers—were originally set for 2015. In fact, the Complete Streets Advisory Board was established in 2014 to create Complete Streets design guidelines for adoption by City Council within one year. However, a lengthy review process obstructed adoption, and the city continued to build streets for cars rather than for people. Advisory board members, fed up as people continued to be killed on ...

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Latino Students: 10 Big Ideas on How Schools Can Improve Our Mental Health

brownsville students

A group of students from Brownsville Early College High School in Brownsville, Texas, worried how Latinos are less likely to report and seek care for mental health issues. The students wanted to help. So, as part of a national competition, the Brownsville students researched mental illness, observed its impact on their campus, surveyed their peers, and crafted their own 10 ideas how schools can meet students’ mental health needs. Now their effort has won them the Big Problems Big Ideas Challenge sponsored by the Taylor Wilson Thompson Family Foundation to address childhood issues. The award gives them $3,000 to continue their efforts in mental health. “As a predominately Hispanic population in times of struggle, we feel like we are one step closer to making an impact ...

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Baltimore Pushes Sugary Drinks Off Kid’s Menus

girl looking at kid's menu in restaurant booth

You soon won't find sugary drinks on kid's menus in Baltimore, anymore. The Baltimore City Council on March 12, 2018, approved a bill that requires restaurants to remove sugary drinks from their kid's menus, making it the largest American city to pass such legislation. UPDATE: Mayor Catherine Pugh gave the bill a final signature on April 19, 2018. The default drink on kid's menus now will be water, milk, 100% fruit juice, sparkling water, and flavored water without added sweeteners. Families can order other drinks upon request. "The bill is designed to address overconsumption of sugary drinks as a key factor in high rates of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. One in four children in Baltimore drinks at least one soda each day," said ...

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Group of 6 Vermont Lawmakers Introduce 4 Bills on Childhood Trauma

A bus pulls up to a school for Pre-K to eighth grade. A preschooler wearing only a diaper, carrying a lunch box (which turns out to be empty), gets off the bus. This was the shocking testimony by Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Rieber to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Working Group as he shared how childhood trauma like poverty and neglect affects what judges, educators, and social workers are seeing. The Vermont legislature established the six-member ACEs Working Group in 2017 to look at the health and human services landscape with regards to childhood trauma and science behind ACEs. In 2018, the group introduced four ACE-related bills to improve trauma support and treatment within state government, health care and education. Legislative Working ...

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How Your Organization Can Support Mental Healthcare for Foster Kids

Child advocates in California (61% Latino) are asking organizations to support the proposed Family Urgent Response System to provide foster youth and their caregivers with immediate help when they need it most. The proposed system would support a new toll-free hotline to give kids in foster care and caregivers immediate help with mental health crises, and require counties to prepare mobile response teams to provide on-site assistance. Your organization can join more than 75 others in signing a letter to support this proposal by April 3, 2018. Family Urgent Response System In February, 2018, Assembly Member Dr. Joaquin Arambula introduced the Family Urgent Response System bill (AB-2043) to the California Legislature to support foster youth and caregivers. California ...

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San Antonians Sound The Alarm on National ‘Diabetes Alert Day’

Diabetes continues to be one of the leading causes of death, affecting the lives of Texans and Latinos all across the U.S. Latinos in Texas are nearly 2x as likely to die of diabetes compared to whites, after adjusting for age. In 2017, 12.2% of Latinos in Texas had diabetes vs. 10.2% of non-Latino whites. Of greater concern is the fact that up to 600,000 of Texans do not even know they have the disease. March 27 is Diabetes Alert Day On March 27, 2018 several communities, including many health advocates in San Antonio, TX will be working to inform the community about this disease. Diabetes must be taken serious, but we need your help! To take action we invite you to participate in the following activities: Take the diabetes risk test (available in English and ...

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