Keeping Your Family Safe Outdoors

Summertime means more time outside, and that’s a good thing for both kids and adults. It also means making sure your family is safe from concerns that aren’t a problem other times of the year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have tips to keep your family safe outdoors dealing with:

Sun Safety

When it comes to sun safety, the primary concern is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which causes most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Excessive exposure to UV light as a child can show up as skin cancer as an adult, so early precautions to protect your child’s skin now can pay off in the future. The CDC recommends protecting skin by:

  • Seeking shade, especially during late morning through mid-afternoon.
  • Wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

The CDC has additional information on each of these points.

Mosquito and Tick Bites

Mosquito and tick bites are not just painful annoyances, but potential sources of diseases like West Nile Virus(mosquitos) and Lyme disease(ticks). While both of these diseases are relatively rare, occurrences both West Nileand Lyme diseasein Illinois have increased significantly in the last 15 years. The CDC’s recommendations for protecting yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bitesinclude:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellentcontaining DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on skin under clothing.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Don’t use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old, and don’t use repellents containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Check for ticks on yourself, your child, and your pet after being outdoors, especially if they have been near taller grasses and plants.

If you, your child, or your pet should pick up a tick, the CDC has instructions on how to safely remove it.

Poisonous Plants

The primary poisonous plants that people worry about in the United States are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. The old saying “Leaves of three, Let it be!” is a helpful reminder for identifying poison ivy and oak, but not poison sumac which usually has clusters of 7-13 leaves. Even poison ivy and poison oak may have more than three leaves and their form may vary greatly depending upon the exact species encountered, the local environment, and the season. Being able to identify local varieties of these poisonous plants throughout the seasons and differentiating them from common nonpoisonous look-a-likes are the major keys to avoiding exposure. Check out the CDC page for pictures to help you identify these plants.

All three of these plants release an oil, called urushiol, when the leaf or other plant parts are bruised, damaged, or burned. When the oil gets on the skin an allergic reaction, referred to as contact dermatitis, occurs in most exposed people as an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. When exposed to 50 micrograms of urushiol, an amount that is less than one grain of table salt, 80% to 90% of adults will develop a rash. Burning these poisonous plants can be very dangerous because the allergens can be inhaled, causing lung irritation. Exposure to urushiol can come from:

  • Direct contact with the plant
  • Indirect contact, such as touching tools, livestock, or clothing that have urushiol on them
  • Inhalation of particles containing urushiol from burning plants

The CDC has information on how to identify exposure to a poisonous plant and how to treat it.

Photo © 2010 by Stefan Jacobsunder Creative Commons license.

Handbook Helps Local Leaders Engage Districts on ESSA

Local implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the focus of many new resources for stakeholders, as school district begin to create their own ESSA implementation plan. One of the latest, which National PTA contributed to, is Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA—Issue 2: A Handbook for Local Leadersfrom Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This is a follow up to Issue 1, which focused on school district and school leaders.

The handbook focuses on how school districts, families, and community advocates can engage in three key areas:

  1. Needs Assessments and Priority-Building
  2. School Improvement Strategies
  3. Resource Alignment

The first area is designed to help school districts determine their needs for school improvement and increasing student achievement. Districts then engage with their families and communities to prioritize these needs.

The second area takes those priorities and looks at strategies schools can use to improve student achievement. The handbook covers how districts can use a “whole child” approach (like Illinois has chosen in its state ESSA implementation plan) to meet student needs. Areas covered include:

  • Improving Data Systems and Reporting
  • Restructuring Academic Assessments
  • Incorporating Technology in the Classroom
  • Introducing Advanced Coursework
  • Increasing Access to After-School and Expanded Learning
  • Creating a Positive/Pro-Social School Climate
  • Increasing Nutrition and Food Access
  • Aligning and Supporting Early Childhood Education
  • Reducing Chronic Absence
  • Increasing Access to the Arts
  • Supporting English Learners
  • Supporting Students with Disabilities
  • Supporting Students in Foster Care and Experiencing Homelessness
  • Supporting Teachers and Leaders

The final area of focus is resource alignment. After prioritizing needs and selecting strategies, school districts must determine how to adequately fund those school improvements. This section help districts and advocates with resource mapping and budgeting. Opportunities for ESSA funding from federal and state governments are covered as well.

Finally, the report provides additional resources and tools, as well as a glossary of terms that those new to the discussion may not be familiar with. Download the reportand begin discussing with your school and district how your PTA can be involved in creating your district’s ESSA implementation plan.

 

Helping Your Kid Cope

Being a parent is stressful. Increasingly, being a child is as well. One of the skills we need to teach our children is how to cope—with setbacks, with disappointment, with feeling overwhelmed, and more. Coping skills are an essential part of becoming a resilient person who can deal with life’s ups and downs.

To help you teach your child how to handle difficult times, iMomhas a list of essential coping skills for kids. Most of these are simple strategies that you can teach your child to use when things get hard. Among them are:

  • Breathe
  • Create art
  • Talk it out
  • Take a break
  • Get the negative energy OUT
  • Problem solve
  • Squeeze the lemons
  • Remember
  • Ask for a hug

Every child is different, so not every coping skill works for every child. Find the ones that work best for your child. You can get the details on the skills listed above and more in the iMom article.

Engage for Education Equity Toolkit

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Illinois’s ESSA implementation plan emphasize family engagement as a critical piece for improving student achievement. To help empower parents, families, caregivers, students, and other community members, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, Partners for Each and Every Child, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund have partnered to create the Engage for Education Equity Toolkit.

The toolkit provides resources, explanations, and processes to help stakeholders like PTAs engage with their school district’s implementation of ESSA to ensure that every child receives the quality education they deserve. The toolkit includes:

  • Fact sheets on various aspects of ESSA at the local level
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to engage with school administrators, create advocacy plans, and effectively advocate for your child
  • Letter templates for contacting decision-makers
  • Sample meeting materials
  • Case studies of effective engagement in school districts across the country
  • A glossary of education and ESSA-related terms so you can understand the terms used by school administrators

PTA has been an advocacy organization from its founding. When we advocate for children with our school districts, we can have a tremendous effect not just on our child’s school but also for all the children in our district. Take advantage of the Engage for Education Equity Toolkit, as school districts are creating their ESSA implementation plans now.