Why Urban Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature! - #outdoors

original blog posted by Adventurous Moms here at Adventurous Moms

I did not go tent camping as a kid. I grew up in the inner-city, and the closest my family ever came to communing with the outdoors was a trip to some sort of family camp when my sister and I were very little. I have hazy memories of the experience, but based on the one photograph I could dig up, we stayed in a canvas tent built on a wooden platform. There were no sleeping bags involved – we slept on cots made up like beds. Food was not cooked over a campfire, but served in a mess hall. It was very similar to the one summer I went to girl scout camp – I didn’t learn much in the way of how to set up a tent, navigate through the woods, or explore my natural surroundings.

Fast forward thirty years later, thanks to Kendra, I am an avid camper and hiker. I have gained so much from my outdoor experiences, (such as a sense of peace, increased self-esteem, physical and mental strength, and an appreciation for the beauty of nature) I wanted to expose my urban students to similar experiences. Upon the suggestion of my friend Meg, a fellow urban educator, I started an Outdoor Adventure Club at my school.

This past weekend we took 28 members of the Outdoor Adventure Club on their first overnight camping trip! We partnered with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Youth Opportunity Program which provided us with the resources, food, and gear that made the weekend possible.

We arrived at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Noble View Outdoor Center in Russell, MA on Saturday morning after a two-hour drive on a yellow school bus. For the next hour, the kids participated in ice-breakers and trust building exercises run by the AMC staff. A lot of the kids had never met before (we have a school of 3,500 students!), so it was a great opportunity to learn each other’s names.

It was very interesting to watch the kids participate in these activities – they were not easy for them. Granted, some of the issues came down to language barriers (we had four Burmese refugee students, and several newly immigrated Cambodian students, with us on the trip), but it quickly became clear to me that the kids didn’t have a lot of experience working as a team to solve a problem. Which brings me to point #1


Stumped and Fall

Urban kids can benefit greatly from the teamwork and problem-solving skills learned through outdoor activities.

Some kids develop these skills through sports, but many of my students do not have the time or the money to participate in organized sports – they are too busy working jobs to help support their families. Though difficult, these activities helped transform my students in a very short period of time. They began to work together, using their collective knowledge to find solutions.

During lunch, we talked to the students about our expectations for them, and their responsibilities. One thing we stressed was that Noble View was a Leave No Trace site, meaning we had to pack out all of our trash and be respectful of the other users of the center. It was a great moment to teach the kids a few of the basic principles of Leave No Trace principles.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  4. Leave What You Find

  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  6. Respect Wildlife

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Which brings me to point #2:

Urban kids can apply the Leave No Trace principles used in outdoor adventures to everyday life. They are more than just a set of guidelines for nature enthusiasts – they are excellent tenets for being respectful and conscientious in any environment.

After lunch, the AMC staff taught the students how to set up their tents. The Youth Opportunities Program provided the kids with their tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, hiking boots,wool socks, fleece jackets, rain gear, daypacks and water bottles. This kind of equipment is often a barrier between urban kids and outdoor adventures. The kids had a great time picking out their tent sites and setting them up.

Once our gear was in order, the kids split into three groups and went on a scavenger hunt. Again, I was somewhat surprised by the difficulty such a task posed. Very few of them felt comfortable reading the maps they had been given, nor did they know how to tackle the problem set before them. Instead of discussing what they needed to find, and making a plan, the students began wandering around the grounds. With some help and guidance, they learned how to communicate with each other, read the map, and create a game plan. Which brings me to point #3:

Urban kids can benefit from the navigational skills learned by using a map to follow a trail and reach a destination. These same skills can be applied to urban travel as well.

After dinner, the AMC staff took the kids on a night hike. Without the aid of flashlights, they were forced to use their other senses as they walked through the woods. There were periodic stops during which they learned about how bats find their prey, how owls hear, and how the human eye works differently during night hours. New words, including nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular, and triboluminescence, were added to their vocabularies. In just an hour, they learned a great deal of science.

Upon returning from their hike, the kids were rewarded with s’mores and hot chocolate. Many of them had never made s’mores before, so it was a lot of fun teaching them how to pick out a good stick to use, how to roast the marshmallow, and how to put it together with the chocolate and graham cracker. In the meantime, I gave an impromptu photo lesson to a small group of interested campers who had brought their own cameras. The “super moon” was out this weekend, so we had a great opportunity to take some fantastic pictures.Which brings me to point #4:

Urban kids can benefit from the experiential learning available in nature, including science, math, astronomy, photography, and history.

Sunday was a shorter day. After eating breakfast and packing up camp, we led the kids on hikes through a small portion of the 34 miles of trails strewn around Noble View. We taught them more map reading and navigational skills, including how to interpret trail blazes. At one point, as we walked along a stream, I had the kids close their eyes and just listen to the surrounding sounds.

Sweat trickled down the faces of the kids as we climbed up steep terrain, hopped across streams, and squeezed through narrow trails. One kid remarked how she was tired because she was usually, “a lazy bum.” Which brings me to point # 5:

Urban kids can benefit from physical activity of hiking and other outdoor activities. As the obesity rate among children skyrockets in this country, spending time exploring nature can help urban kids stay physically fit.

Though the hike proved difficult for many of the kids, there were smiles all around when we finished. As we enjoyed lunch, the kids talked about the trip and what they had learned. One theme that echoed among all of the students was that they were surprised by how strong and capable they were. They were incredibly proud of themselves for learning how to set up tents, conquer their fears of nature (spiders, ticks, and the dark!), and physically push themselves on the hikes. One of our immigrant students expressed his delight in learning new communications skills. Which brings me to point # 6:


Thirty Five

Urban kids can benefit from the self-esteem and self-efficacy developed through participation in outdoor activities.

After lunch we had a few hours of unstructured time before the bus arrived to pick us up. During their downtime, the kids played!!! One group sat in a circle and played word games; another group found a tennis ball and using a stick as an improvised bat, made up a game similar to baseball; others read books – for fun! Because we had banned mobile phones, iPods, and all other electronic devices, the kids couldn’t bury themselves in technology. Which brings me to my last point:

Urban kids can benefit from unplugging from technology, and the unstructured play found in the outdoors. Such play develops creativity and social skills.

Needless to say, we had a great time and everyone learned a lot – about nature, each other, and themselves. It was amazing to watch the kids, who began the weekend afraid of bugs and lacking communication skills, end the weekend with a sense of calm and newly developed teamwork skills. If just one weekend can have such a transformative effect, imagine what regular nature excursions could do for urban kids!

How Not to Hang Artwork!

Nothing makes a house a home more than hanging artwork on bare walls. It adds personal style and visual interest, and it reflects the homeowner’s personality. For most of us, it is fairly difficult to hang artwork properly. If artwork—especially the popular “gallery walls”—isn’t hung correctly, everything will look awkward and out of place, causing perfectionists everywhere to cringe every time they pass the wall. Before whacking away at your wall to hang artwork, here’s a checklist of what NOT to do. 

Not Using the Proper Hanging Equipment

Sometimes, a single nail just won’t cut it—especially with heavier pieces. While using a single hook might work for some smaller pieces, most of the time, it’s extremely difficult to get the artwork perfectly straight without using another hook. Using two hooks, one on each side, ensures that the weight of the piece is evenly dispersed on each side, keeping it from shifting over one way or the other. There are also picture-hanging kits available at most retailers that include the correct brackets, wall mounts and other hardware needed to hang your piece correctly according to weight and size. Just any nail won’t necessarily work—and if it does, it won’t last for a long time before it collapses. 

Even though adhesive hooks are not ideal, sometimes renters don’t have a choice in the matter as it is common for most landlords and property managers to disallow renters to put holes in the wall. If you fall under this category, the “two-hook” method still works; however, it’s important to get the right adhesive hook for the weight of your piece. Otherwise, you’ll defeat the purpose of using the hook when your artwork falls off the wall and possibly damages it. 



“Eyeballing” the Height Placement

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to “eyeball” the placement of artwork. Yes, it may look straight while you’re up close to the wall and hammering away, but once you step away, it’s almost guaranteed that it will be crooked or too close to the floor. 

Before you begin to hang your artwork, grab a measuring tape and measure 57 inches from the floor—that’s the ideal height for the center of the artwork to be. This height is at eye-level for most people, and it is the most commonly used measurement in art galleries and museums. Using a leveler will also ensure the piece does not slope one way or another. 

Be sure not to use the 57-inch rule as the measurement for where the hook should be; that must be calculated using the placement of the wire on the back of the frame. Using our inexpensive Picture Hanging Tool is an easy way to mark the place where to put the picture-hanging hook on your display wall. 

Inconsistent Arrangement

When hanging multiple pieces, or creating a gallery wall, the 57-inch rule is even more important to adhere to, because otherwise, the pieces won’t flow together properly. Hanging all of the pieces at eye level will create consistency. When hanging an arrangement of pieces in one location, you can use the “string and pushpin method,” where you measure 57 inches from the floor, marking each spot with a pushpin and running a string between them to ensure everything is lined up.

Lack of Planning for Gallery Walls

When creating a gallery wall, pre-planning where the frames will go saves you the headache and hassle of having to continuously rearrange the pieces on the wall—creating dozens of holes in the wall during the process A commonly used and quite effective method for pre-planning a gallery wall is to use craft or butcher paper. Lay the paper flat on the floor and arrange your frames in the order that looks appealing to you. Larger pieces placed toward the left can create a sense of harmony. 

Trace the frames out on the paper, including the placement of the hooks, and tape the butcher paper to the wall with painter’s tape. Hammer the nails for the hooks through the paper on the wall where indicated. Take the paper down (without damaging the outlines of the frames) and use the butcher paper as your guide. Voila! The artwork is exactly where you intended.

How To Organize All of Your Photos

With the new year upon us, many people will make a resolution to get organized and a common focus (pun intended) is photos. How many of us have shoeboxes/plastic containers/drawers full of moments we wanted to remember forever?

By taking this seemingly endless task and breaking it into smaller steps, you’ll be organized in no time...and have fun reminiscing over photos your forgot you had!

First, LOCATE - gather all photos from closets, under the bed, desk drawers...

Second, SEPARATE - think of categories: People, Year, Events, Travel, etc. Try to keep to a few high-level headers; having too many will lead to photos applying to multiple categories which will add too much complication.

Avoid placing into piles. Use an archival photo storage box for each category & place the photos as you go. Should you need to step away during the process, this will ensure you have a solid point you can step back into easily, whether it’s 2 hours or 2 weeks.

Third, EVALUATE - Before placing each photo into their box, take a good look. Blurry? Already have 2 copies? Already saved digitally? It’s ok to discard them, it’s all part of getting organized!



Optional steps:

SEPARATE some more - In each of the boxes, feel free to break them down into smaller categories. For example, if you have a box for “Holidays”, you may want to separate further either by year or by specific holiday.

DATE - Using an archival pen designed just for photos, label the back of photos with names, dates, locations, etc.

CONTEMPLATE - What’s next?

  • Consider placing photos in an album or using in a scrapbook. These can be great ways to display and share the memories you have collected.

  • Consider going digital. With everything stored this way, you always have a back up and they are safe from elements that can damage prints (temperature, moisture)

This may be a time consuming endeavor, but you will be SO glad you tackled it!

The Best #Protection Sleeve for your #MacBookPro with #Touchbar

It all started when I purchased the new late 2016 MacBook Pro with touch bar on launch day. I needed a new carrying case/sleeve due to the new size, but quickly learned there wasn't anything available yet.  I've always purchased protective sleeves from Incase and I expected them to have something to fit the new MacBook Pro either at launch or fairly soon after. Well, fast forward two months after purchase and there’s still nothing released from Incase. I reached out to them twice on Twitter and they never replied. At this point, I decided to search for a replacement brand and product since my traveling dates were fast approaching and I needed something quickly to keep my MacBook Pro protected while carried in my Ajna Fstop Gear Backpack

This is when I came across a company called Mac-Case online and noticed something that appealed to me. I wasn't sure if it would work with the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, so I sent them a message via Twitter (@MacCasePortable) and they responded within a few hours. From there, they responded to two more of my concerns within hours. So I was off to place my order online and was excited to see upon checkout their option to use Apple Pay. It only makes sense right? How are you going to sell Mac accessories and not accept Apple Pay, the single most secured form of payment in the world?

The very next day, I received an email with shipping and tracking information for a fast USPS delivery. Impressed again! Arrival day. I was very surprised to see and feel such a quality product. The pictures on their website and the ones posted here do not give this protective sleeve it’s due justice. In my opinion, the quality of this protective sleeve exceeds anything else out there. The 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar fits into the sleeve very nicely. It's not a tight fit nor is it a snug fit, but it’s a comfortable fit. When I was told that it wasn't going to be a snug fit like I was used to having with protection sleeves from Incase, I was a little worried. There's very little movement inside the sleeve, and in fact, the comfortable fit allows for easy entry and removal of the MacBook. The padding and protective edge guard is simply wonderful and the cloth inside it Is very soft.

So if you are looking for an awesome protective sleeve to fit your MacBook Pro with Touch Bar - look no further.

#HowTo Keep You and Your #Photography Gear Safe While #Traveling, #Camping and #Hiking

  • Get Insurance: if your able to get insurance - just do it. I have a policy that's $55.00 a month and covers $15,000 in gear away from home.
  • Purchase a Quality Backpack: lot of camera backpacks make it difficult for theft. For example, some open from the back, so you have to remove the bag in order gain access to your gear
  • Aside from protection from the rain, a waterproof cover can be a deterrent. With a cover pulled over the backpack, the pockets and zippers are not accessable. It would also help that the cover isn't branded with a name associated with photography gear.
  • If your not wanting to use a rain cover, you could maybe use small hooks or clips. This way you can clip together some of the zippers on your backpack. I use S-BINER® SLIDELOCK (see image above), which can be purchased from REI. My backpack is an Ajna made by Fstop.
  • To allow yourself to concentrate on your shot, and to not loose your gear. Simply wear your bag while shooting or safely place it under your tripod. Also, make sure everything is closed and zipped up.
  • Whenever your sitting at a restaurant, place the strap(s) of your bag underneath the leg of the chair. If you can also place the bag under the table - Great!
  • Do not leave your gear or bag in plain sight in your car. Just because your windows are tented does not mean equipment should be in plain sight. Broken windows on a rented car will mean huge loss in time and bad headache.

Your Special Invitation: #carmelIN library #art wall - #Artist of the Month

Special Invitation

You are cordially invited to Carmel Clay Public Library. Yours Truly is featured as June’s Artist of the Month, so I have some pieces on display and for purchase on their art wall. Thirty percent of each investment supports Friends of the Carmel Clay Public Library. So join me in supporting such a great cause, or just simply come by to check out the wonderful visuals and share your thoughts.

The library is located at 55 4th Ave SE Carmel, IN 46032, which is the Eastern end of the Carmel Arts and Design District.


  • Sunday 1:00 - 5:00
  • Monday thru Thursday 9:00 - 9:00
  • Friday 9:00 - 7:00
  • Saturday 9:00 - 5:00


  • June 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016

Just How Good is American Coney Island's Coney Kit? - #detroit #food #tradition

As a native Detroiter (Rochester Hills, MI) who is now relocated to a different state, I look forward to each trip back home. And no trip is complete without a stop at American Coney Island. Ok, three or four stops. American Coney isn't just a place to get a coney or just another restaurant; it's a tradition, a Detroit icon. I walk in and memories flood back: my years at Wayne State University, midnight meals during decades of attending Techno Fest’s (a three day music event & home of Techno Music) in Hart Plaza, grabbing a coney & Vernors pop before a Tigers or Red Wings game, and now returning with my own family. And it's not just me. My last visit back, I sat next to a family that now lives in Pittsburgh, but they have to stop into American Coney whenever they're back in the city.

So, when I was offered the chance to try American Coney Island Coney Kit, I was a little skeptical. I could not see how they could package up their coneys, have me put it all together, and it taste like a legit American Coney. The box came by UPS, on dry ice. Inside were coneys, buns, sauce, & an onion. Getting excited, but still not sure how this was going to go. Then, I smelled the sauce heating up. It was definitely American Coney. Steamed the buns, chopped the onions, here we go. I took a bite and was instantly back in Detroit! I had the coney and a can of Vernor's; I was just missing the fries. I ate three that evening & went to bed looking forward to coneys for lunch the next day.

While having American Coney delivered to my house turned out to be delicious, it doesn't replace the real thing. I'll keep going back to the original because it's just not the food, it's the tradition, the memories. It's Detroit.

Thank you much American Coney, for offering this opportunity to me via Twitter and now I’m an in-house and online customer! I wish my tee shirt made the trip.

UPDATE: The awesome tee shirt arrived on May 25th

So what’s with this Vernors Pop?

Just prior to the onset of World War II, Vernors built a 230,000 sq. ft bottling plant and headquarters, encompassing an entire city block on Woodward Avenue, one block from the Detroit River in Downtown. In the late 1950s, when the City of Detroit proposed construction of Cobo Hall and other riverfront projects, a land-swap was negotiated, and Vernors moved its bottling plant and headquarters to the location just up Woodward Ave. to the old civic exhibition hall at 4501 Woodward Avenue, incorporating many of the popular features of the old plant. Tours of the Vernors plant old and new were major tourist attractions. This Woodward Avenue plant was later demolished and replaced by a parking structure on the campus of Wayne State University.