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Science Tots

  By Veronica Hunnicut   The early years of a child’s life are consumed by a desire to explore and experiment with objects. Well-known developmental psychologist Jean Piaget fittingly called young children “natural scientists” because of this inclination. By tapping into children’s tendency to explore and discover, parents, teachers and other adults in children’s lives can actually help nurture and extend their learning.   From the moment babies enter the world, their curiosity sparks a need to observe and classify objects and actions. Their brains actually change as a result of the new things they learn. As children continue to grow and explore, new discoveries help them enrich, modify, reorganize – and sometimes replace – their initial theories with quite different ideas. This type of hands-on learning explains why a child may scrutinize a new object in an effort to figure out how it works, or experiment with sound and movement as she learns how to use her body to communicate.   Children need safe environments where they can experiment freely and take risks without the fear of being told “That’s not how you’re supposed to do that.” When we support children’s natural tendency to try things out, we are cheering them on to discover and tackle new challenges creatively. This is an important step in helping them build determination and confidence in their own abilities.   Adults can encourage infants and toddlers to explore and learn in simple and fun ways:   Give your baby colorful, safe objects that he can examine by looking, feeling, tasting and smelling. Talk to your baby, providing a play-by-play of everything he...

Preteen Dating

Trivial Terrain or Timely Talks? By Denise Yearian   Boys and girls have always been attracted to one another. But the age attraction begins varies tremendously from one person to another. For some, those feelings of attraction start in late elementary school. For others, it’s not until high school. Although the age gap varies, experts agree when a child of 9- or 10-years-old begins showing interest in the opposite gender, parents need to sit up and take notice.   “Kids this age may have a boy- or girlfriend, but still not know what dating means,” says Shaunti Feldhahn, relationship researcher and analyst and author of For Young Women Only. “They are mimicking what they see played out on TV or by teenagers, but they don’t have a full grasp of how a relationship works.”   Parents, she says, may have a tendency to dismiss these early relationships as trivial, but they should be taken seriously.   “It’s an advanced signal of what is to come and needs to be addressed by Mom and Dad while they still have a major influence in their child’s life,” Feldhahn suggests.   Jane Bowen, director of a statewide parent education organization, agrees. “Parents should take the lead in facilitating age-appropriate discussions with their preteen regarding friendships, dating, decision making and sex. If your son says he has a girlfriend or is ‘going out’ with someone, ask what that means,” she says.   But according to Bowen, talking about it shouldn’t be a one-time deal.   “These conversations need to happen frequently so parents know where their preteens are in relationships and preteens know...

Career Ready

CTE courses across the Valley prepare students for college, workplace By Nora Heston Tarte   CTE stands for Career and Technical Education, a type of education that puts emphasis on learning concepts that prepare students for post secondary education or immediate entrance into the workplace. It achieved mass acceptance in 1926 after World War II, but the program has come a long way since then. It’s no longer limited to those interested in auto mechanics or cosmetology; today CTE includes everything from culinary courses to health science. The goal is to provide students with a range of high-wage career opportunities that will satisfy the future job market, and according to national statistics, 94 percent of high school students are taking advantage of the opportunity.   Peoria Unified School District   When school districts develop CTE programs, they often look for gaps in the local employment pool—areas where there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill open positions. That’s one reason PUSD offers courses in fire science. After all, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona could use more first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers. While students interested in fire science get early exposure through the program, the effort they put in while in high school also jumpstarts their careers. “Peoria Fire Captain Danny Comella provides students with stackable credentials, meaning college credit and various industry certifications,” explains Danielle Airey, director of communications and public relations at PUSD. And the certifications are as varied as the CTE course offerings. “The PUSD Fire Science program prepares its students to transition to the Firefighter Academy by introducing the students to all...

Parents Ask: Cell Phone Battles

Question: We are constantly having a battle about cell phone usage at our house. It seems my child is addicted to her phone. What can we do? Noelle – Scottsdale   Answer: Cell phone usage has increased exponentially over the past 10 years. Seventy-eight percent of youth ages 12-18 have a cell phone.   One major concern is that teens sleep with their phones. Most of them will tell you that this is because they use the “alarm” feature to wake up.  However, research reveals there may be another reason. There is a new kind of peer pressure to be “available” to friends 24/7. Teens don’t want to “miss out” or be out of the loop on major drama. However, this “on-call” mentality not only deprives the teen of necessary sleep, research and neuro-imaging shows that the back and forth texting floods the pleasure centers of the brain (this is the same place that lights up when using heroin). The potential for addiction is not only possible, it is a real threat.   Habits of any kind form early. When a child is first given a phone, they need to be educated about the dangers and also the appropriate usage. A child or teen’s brain is still under development, so their ability to predict the consequences of their actions is limited. They are not even thinking about the long-term ramifications of sending an inappropriate picture.   Creating a contract between parent and child will address the boundaries of what is appropriate and what is not. Some of the issues to be addressed are: 1) There is a time to...

14 Valentine’s Day Traditions

  By Kerrie McLoughlin Growing up, I always looked forward to Valentine’s Day. I loved making valentines for my friends at school and decorating a shoebox to collect them in. When I got home from school I could always count on chocolates from my mom and a small gift from my dad. Cards had come in the mail from grandparents and aunts. I was definitely made to feel special on Valentine’s Day. I think everyone should get the chance to feel special on this sweet day full of love, so check out the 14 traditions below and give a few a try. It doesn’t matter if your child is in school, is homeschooled, or is too young to be in school, decorating a holder for Valentine’s Day goodies is a must for holding fun stuff from the day. A cardboard shoebox works great, as does a large plastic ice cream bucket. Just cut a hole in the lid big enough to handle cards, notes and treats, and go to town decorating it with colored crepe paper, glitter glue and more! While your child sleeps, decorate his bedroom door with heart-shaped sticky notes in the shape of a wreath that say all of the things you love about him. Older kids may act like this is dorky, but inside they’ll be glowing. Cards and heart-shaped notes are a must on this day! Of course you’ll buy or make some for your own kids, but don’t forget about nieces, nephews, the friends of your kids, your spouse, the children of your pals and more. Everyone loves to get mail! A heart-shaped...

CTE Month

  Connecting each student with the right education   It is the goal of every educator to prepare their students for the next step, whatever that may be. For Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers this often means preparing students to enter the workforce and embark on their career immediately following high school. CTE professionals all over Arizona are inspiring their students and preparing them with the skills they will need to succeed. And it’s just what many students are looking for. While some youth excel at abstract thinking, others are well-suited to trouble-shoot challenges. Some may appreciate the chance to read a book on their own, while others crave interaction and teamwork. That’s where CTE comes in. Now offered in many high school districts around Arizona, CTE offers students real-world learning and preparation for life beyond high school. It’s an opportunity for youth to discover what they’re good at and what type of profession they might pursue. More importantly, CTE students often complete high school with certifications necessary to begin their career immediately. The training that students receive is irreplaceable, and allows many to work and finance their education beyond high school, while others embark on their career immediately. Best of all, programs are offered in many in-demand industries, including precision manufacturing, healthcare, veterinary science, automotive tech, aviation maintenance, business,  law, welding, construction and more. There were close to 100,000 high school students enrolled in CTE classes in the 2014-15 academic year. Notably, the high school graduation rate in 2014 for students who completed at least two or more CTE classes in a row was 98 percent, far...

The Three R’s of Parenting

By Michelle Saint Hilarie   Creating and establishing a healthy and loving relationship with your child is a key factor in supporting their development, learning and well-being. Children begin to develop emotional and social skills at a very young age. From the moment a child is born, they are dependent on caregivers to provide them with love and support to meet all of their needs. By responding to a baby’s cries, coos and cuddling with them, you are setting the foundation for building their emotional and social skills. As they grow and start to communicate with spoken words, their needs expand into making sense of their world by interacting with and watching the adults and children around them. To support their emotional and social needs, parents or other caregivers need to interact with all children in a respectful, responsive and reciprocal manner. The First R: RESPECT Respectful relationships are critically important in developing a child’s sense of belonging and how they interact with the world around them. Here are some ideas for creating and teaching respectful relationships with a young child: Give your child undivided love and attention. We live in a society with many distractions such as cell phones, social media and television. Other stresses such as work or relationships can also have an impact. Set aside time each day to show your child you care about them by respecting their needs and giving them some of your time. Model respectful relationships. Young children learn how to treat one another through the behaviors and interactions of the adults around them. When they see adults speaking and treating each...

New Year, New Attitude

by Christa Melnyk Hines   Want to bring more joy into your home this year? Try shifting your mindset. Not only can adopting a more optimistic attitude create a happier life, you’ll influence how well your kids respond to life’s daily challenges too.   “Children watch their parents. They pick up on moods and beliefs. A positive attitude is contagious–as is a negative attitude,” says Dr. Kristen Hensley, a family psychologist specializing in positive psychology.   Positively rewarding. A positive outlook boosts productivity, energy and motivation; helps reduce stress; enhances confidence and self-esteem; benefits health and even improves relationships with others.   “A positive attitude can also help us be more flexible in our thinking and make seeing solutions to problems easier,” Hensley says. “Looking for silver linings in life can help build mental resilience and general optimism.”   Practice self-awareness. Try tracking your moods to get a better sense of what you’ll need to do to better care for yourself each day.   Jessica Mostaffa, a early childhood mental health specialist and therapist who works with mothers suffering from depression, says this tactic helps her clients take a more mindful approach to their day-to-day emotional well being.   Make a happiness list. Brainstorm a list of activities that help you feel better when you’re feeling depleted. Your list might include taking a warm shower, watching a comedy, gardening or taking a walk with a friend.   “When moms start working on increasing time for themselves, it not only decreases depressive symptoms, but they also report having a better, more positive relationship and interactions with their children, partners and...

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