The happiest cities in America, according to new research

I’ve spent my life traveling the world in the pursuit of health and happiness.

After pinpointing the places where people live the longest, healthiest lives (which I call Blue Zones regions), I turned my attention to the places where people are happiest.

At a certain point, I realized it’s not worth living to 100 if you don’t enjoy the journey. It also wasn’t enough to just identify these places; I travel in search of answers to why these hot spots are unique.

I spent a decade trying to reverse-engineer longevity. Now, that methodology is at work in over 40 cities as part of the American Blue Zones Project, improving the health and life expectancy of the people who live there.

Just as it is with health, where you live is a big determinant for your happiness. So how can we bring these happiness lessons home?

Defining and measuring happiness

For research purposes, it’s important to be able to measure something to study it. And academically speaking, happiness is a meaningless term, because it’s not measurable.

You can, however, measure three things: life satisfaction, or how you evaluate your life as a whole; positive affect, or your day-to-day, moment-to-moment happiness; and purpose, or whether you feel you have meaning in your life.

I call these metrics pride, pleasure and purpose, and enduring happiness is when these three strands are braided together.

There are different ways to happiness. To measure life satisfaction, or pride, we asked people to rate their lives on a scale of 0 to 10. This is considered the gold standard metric of well-being.

Surveys measure positive affect, or pleasure, by asking people how often they smiled, laughed or felt joy during the previous 24 hours. And well-being, or purpose, is measured by asking people whether they “learned or did something interesting yesterday.” This concept comes from Aristotle, who defined true happiness as a life of meaning.

Most happiness reports focus on just one of these strands of happiness, but our research (a combination of original research and Gallup data, called the National Geographic Gallup Special/Blue Zones Index) shows that they are all ingredients in the recipe for happiness.

Just like with a cake recipe or with your retirement portfolio, the right balance of ingredients is key to creating an enjoyable outcome.

You need to have some money in the bank and some long-term stocks and bonds. For example, if you’re totally broke and unemployed, then you’d probably measure low in life satisfaction and purpose.

Hanging out with your friends might improve your positive affect (pleasure) for that day, but it won’t do much to improve your overall well-being. In the same way, if you’re focused on just work all day, every day, then you might be missing out on the experience of joyful moments every day and the important relationships that bring you that joy.

The research shows that making enough money to cover food, shelter, health care and education has a big impact on overall happiness levels. But after that point (about $70,000 per year), money is less effective at giving you happiness. A lot more money doesn’t equal a lot more happiness. So once your basic needs are covered, you will experience more joy hanging out with your loved ones than spending another hour at work.

That’s why I don’t encourage a lot of positive psychology techniques, even though I think they can help in the short run. I have nothing against promoting mindfulness, random acts of kindness or gratitude journals. But I think they focus too much on the pleasure or positive affect strand of happiness.

Spending so much time in the pursuit of happiness neglects the other two important strands of well-being: purpose and pride.

Doing meaningful work and having financial security will make a bigger impact in your long-term well-being. I promote mindfulness, laughter and social activity because they have been shown to improve health, longevity and happiness, but they are not the only elements to consider. Happiness, just like health, is multifaceted.

What we can learn from the happiest places in the world

Our research pinpointed Denmark, Singapore and Costa Rica as the happiest countries in the world, and I spent a lot of time in all of these places.

Within these three and other happy countries in the world, the World Happiness Report researchers isolated six common factors: strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, quality social relationships, generosity, trust and freedom to live the life that’s right for you. And what we’ve seen is that these factors don’t happen by chance; they are related to a country’s policies, government and cultural values. So where you live has a huge impact in how happy you are.

It’s the same here at home. Just as life expectancy in the United States can vary as much as 20 years depending on what state and county in which you live, happiness levels fluctuate wildly across the country, depending on your ZIP code.

Together with National Geographic, we developed an index of 15 metrics to identify where Americans are most happy and content. We drew on nearly 250,000 interviews in 190 metropolitan areas across the United States, and the results are synthesized in my newest book, “The Blue Zones of Happiness.”

Location, location, location

Boulder, Colorado, is the happiest city in America. Second is Santa Cruz, California, and Charlottesville, Virginia, is third. (You can find the rest of the list at NationalGeographic.com and in the cover story of the November issue of National Geographic magazine.) In these places, people feel safe and secure, have a sense of purpose and have joy in their day-to-day lives.

In these communities, residents are able to weave together the essential strands of happiness: pride, pleasure and purpose.

Looking at the research, it seems that the most dependable thing you can do to get happier is to move to a happier place. That’s not always possible, so the next best thing is moving to a happier neighborhood.

Our data show that people tend to be happiest close to water (lakes, ocean, rivers) and when they have access to nature, green spaces, and fruits and vegetables.

Walkability and bikeability also always correspond with higher well-being. Why? An easy work commute and pedestrian-friendly streets optimize one of the most important happiness secrets: people. The happiest people socialize several hours per day.

Baltimore American Indian Center receives 2017 Maryland Heritage Award

— In conjunction with American Indian Heritage Month, Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council, is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2017 Maryland Traditions Heritage Award in the category of “Place” will be the Baltimore American Indian Center.

An awards ceremony will be held at UMBC’s Proscenium Theatre on the evening of Saturday, December 2, 2017. The public is cordially invited to attend. Free tickets can be reserved through the UMBC University Tickets website.

The Baltimore American Indian Center (BAIC) has stood the test of time in Upper Fells Point. Originally founded in 1968 as the American Indian Study Center, it once primarily served as a resettlement resource for Indians who had migrated to the city seeking employment.

“The center was created to give us a place like home so we could stay connected and keep our culture alive,” said Linda Cox, a daughter of one of the founders of the BAIC.

Today, members of Baltimore’s American Indian community have, for the most part, relocated to areas outside of the neighborhood immediately surrounding the BAIC- a neighborhood that had at one time been popularly referred to as “the reservation.”

The BAIC now functions as a cultural magnet, which draws this dispersed community back in. Offering weekly culture classes, annual pow wows, a full-fledged community museum, a multipurpose meeting space and more, the BAIC continuously sustains the living cultural traditions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives of the Baltimore region.

Each year, UMBC’s New Media Studios, in partnership with Maryland Traditions, produces a short documentary about the Maryland Heritage Award recipient in the category of “Place.” This year is no exception. The first public viewing of this new documentary will take place during the awards ceremony.

“This recognition has really come at a crucial time,” said Ashley Minner, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina who grew up in the Center and who now works as a folklorist for Maryland Traditions. “The Center is in transition and so is the neighborhood. It’s a joy to be able to present this honor to representatives of a place that has been so important to my own growth as a human being and as a member of our community.”

“The Maryland Traditions Heritage Awards are the state’s highest honor for those who teach, practice or steward our living cultural traditions,” said Maryland Traditions Director Chad Edward Buterbaugh. “By taking time to recognize the people, places, and practices that are vital to Maryland folklife, we also celebrate the diversity that makes Maryland such a unique place to live.”

Other 2017 Maryland Heritage recipients are: in the category of Person, documentary story quilter Joan M.E. Gaither of Anne Arundel County; and in the category of Tradition, the Deal Island Skipjack Races and Festival.

The ceremony concludes with a country blues concert by the Phil Wiggins Blues House Party. Bandleader and harmonica player Wiggins, of Montgomery County, is the recipient of a 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Christmas Village in Baltimore Celebrates 5th Anniversary with new Inner Harbor Tree Lighting

— Christmas Village in Baltimore will again transform West Shore Park (501 Light Street) into a traditional indoor and outdoor German Christmas Market, open between Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23, 2017 and Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24, 2017.

The Baltimore and DC metro regions are invited to enjoy holiday sights and sounds with two Christmas trees; thousands of twinkling lights; entertainment; live music on two stages; children’s activities; and 50+ vendors. Shop for high-quality, international and local gifts and decorations. Warm up with a glass of warm mulled wine or hot chocolate while enjoying the great variety of European food and drinks. Exciting additions for the season will include a new Thank You for Serving Weekend, new outdoor Santa’s workshop, new Ho Ho Happy Hour, new shopping vendors and other surprises. Christmas Village will also debut their Official Tree Lighting Ceremony in partnership with local schools and feature new decorations.

“Christmas Village cannot wait for Baltimore’s holiday season to start,” said Christmas Village project manager, Nancy Schmalz. “We are excited to introduce many new holiday surprises for our guests, including brand new decorations, a new outdoor workshop for Santa and a brand new Tree Lighting Ceremony. Our team also looks forward to honoring our veterans, and our active service men and women, with a special Thank You for Serving Weekend!”

Now, in its fifth season, Christmas Village in Baltimore has grown into one of the region’s most unique and charming holiday attractions. Authentic wooden huts, a huge heated tent, two Christmas trees, and festive decorations will pop-up on West Shore Park, located in between the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Visitor Center. It’s the most wonderful time of year on the Baltimore Waterfront, as Christmas Village is located just steps away from popular holiday attractions like the PANDORA Ice Rink (Inner Harbor Amphitheater), and other popular Waterfront Holiday Happenings.

More than 50 local and international merchants are already busy preparing high-quality crafted gifts. Famous German vendor Käthe Wohlfahrt will return with thousands of ornaments, pyramids and limited-edition holiday decorations. With toys, apparel, jewelry, decorations, artwork and more, there will be something for everyone on Santa’s list.

Follow the smell of gingerbread and Schnitzel to a full menu of European food, sweets and drinks, including mouthwatering German Bratwurst, Hofbrau Beer, mulled wine, potato latke and other treats. Food and drinks can be enjoyed in one of the seating areas in the large heated tent. Look for a huge food variety this year, with something for everyone!

Santa will move to a brand-new outdoor wooden “workshop” hut, custom designed by a Christmas Village artist; children and pets are invited to take a photo with Santa at his new location at all times the market is open

Christmas Village in Baltimore’s outdoor area is always free for admission. Admission for the heated festival tent is free on the opening weekend. For all other weekends, admission to the festival tent is five dollars for adults 18 and over, while kids under 18 can enter for free. For Baltimore’s Dollar or Less Weekend, on December 9 and 10, visitors will enjoy $1 admission. Christmas Village’s website will also feature weekend discount coupons available for download.

For more information, and to spread early holiday cheer, follow @bmorechristmas on Twitter and Instagram, like Christmas Village in Baltimore on Facebook and visit www.baltimore-christmas.com. Final vendor lists, food and drink menus, themed weekends, special event details and special promotions will be released on the website in mid-November.

Schedule Summary:

First Day: Nov 23, 2017

Opening Event: Nov 25, 2017

Last Day: Dec 24, 2017

Closed: Nov 28, Dec 5 and 12, 2017 (first three Tuesdays)

Hours:

Sunday through Thursday 11:00am to 7:00pm

Friday through Saturday 11:00am to 8:00pm

Thanksgiving Day 11:00am to 5:00pm

Christmas Eve 11:00am to 5:00pm

Location:

501 Light Street

Baltimore, MD 21230

(West Side of the famous Inner Harbor in Baltimore)

NAACP report on air pollution misses the mark

The health of African American communities is a genuine cause for concern in our country, but attacking the natural gas and oil industry is the wrong approach and detracts from the real work that should be done to reduce disparately high rates of disease among African Americans. Let’s be clear— the natural gas and oil industry is:

•Committed to the health and safety of the communities where it operates and to its workers.

•Leading the way on reducing U.S. greenhouse gas and other air emissions.

•Supporting millions of well-paying jobs— one of the most important factors in the well-being of Americans.

Recently, I read a NAACP paper that accused the natural gas and oil industry of emissions that disproportionately burden African American communities. As a scientist, my overall observation is that the paper fails to demonstrate a causal relationship between natural gas activity and the health disparities, reported or predicted, within the African American community.

Rather, scholarly research attributes those health disparities to other factors that have nothing to do with natural gas and oil operations— such as genetics, indoor allergens and unequal access to preventative care. The objective should be to address the underlying socio-economic factors that contribute to the disparities, and one of the best vehicles is via the good jobs the natural gas and oil industry supports.

More specifically, the paper misleads on the information associated with asthma and cancer prevalence by conflating industry-associated emissions, hazards and risks. When we review health data from the states where energy development is occurring, we see a different outcome. For example, the latest Pennsylvania Department of Health data shows asthma hospitalizations among African Americans have decreased significantly at a time of increased natural gas production in the state.

Let’s look at some facts:

•Thanks to increased use of clean and abundant natural gas, carbon dioxide emissions from power generation have fallen 25 percent since 2005, and emissions from energy use across the entire economy are at their lowest levels in nearly 25 years. The use of domestic natural gas also is playing an important part in reducing other emissions, including nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Both are important developments for everyone’s health.

•The industry has improved its fuel products, eliminating lead in gasoline and reducing its sulfur content by more than 90 percent from 1990 to 2016.

•Ambient benzene concentrations dropped by 71 percent from 1994-2013 nationwide, according to data from EPA’s 2008 and 2015 Reports on the Environment— largely due to reductions in refinery emissions and improvements in gasoline.

•During development of its 2015 Refinery Sector Rule, the EPA concluded that the public was protected from refinery emissions, including benzene, by existing regulations, and that protection would only increase with full implementation of the final rule.

•Methane emissions from natural gas systems are down 16 percent since 1990, according to the EPA—a time period in which natural gas production has increased more than 50 percent. While not a direct public health concern, methane is an important greenhouse gas that the industry is working to reduce even more.

•The industry is committed to making continuous improvements in the environmental performance of its operations and products, spending more than $320 billion on these improvements since 1990. Between 1990 and 2015, U.S. refiners alone spent $160.1 billion on improving their facilities.

•The natural gas and oil industry supports 10.3 million jobs across the country— jobs that pay for health care, good nutrition, livable homes and more. Tens

of thousands of our current employees are African Americans, a number that is projected to grow significantly in the future.

•Natural gas and oil companies are invested in the communities where they operate. Our employees live, work and raise families in these communities.

In short, the natural gas and oil industry demonstrates its commitment, every day, to ensuring the protection of human health, safety and the environment for all Americans while providing millions of American families the benefits of affordable, reliable energy.

Our industry is a leader in reducing emissions and is committed to continuing that progress in the future through the use of data, new technologies and equipment— each reflecting our companies’ desire to strengthen the communities where they operate.

Uni Blake is a scientific adviser in regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute. As a toxicol-ogist her focus includes exposure and risk assessments as they relate to environmental and public health. She lives in the Northern Neck of Virginia with her husband and children.

BGE, Ripken Foundation Unveil Eddie Murray Field in West Baltimore

Shortly after the demonstrations and unrest rocked Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation decided it was time to step up its efforts in West Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles legends Cal Ripken, Jr and Eddie Murray at unveiling ceremony.

Courtesy Photo

Baltimore Orioles legends Cal Ripken, Jr and Eddie Murray at unveiling ceremony.

The organization has done just that with various community-oriented functions and its latest venture, a youth development park that will provide children with a safe place to play.

Along with Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), the foundation unveiled The Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park in West Baltimore on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.

The field will serve as a fun and safe place for youth and the home of James Mosher Baseball, the oldest continuously operating African-American youth baseball league in the United States, according to foundation officials.

“After the unrest, we made a commitment to helping West Baltimore because it was the most effected community in the city,” said Steve Salem, the president of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. “This is the first of five parks that we’ll be opening in West Baltimore and we’re so excited to give children a safe place to play, grow, and be kids.”

BGE officials say the park will also provide children mentorship through sports and recreation. To underscore that, Baltimore Orioles legends Cal Ripken Jr., and Eddie Murray, were asked to attend the unveiling.

“Every child deserves a positive environment where they can play and grow while surrounded by caring adults who can teach them important life lessons like teamwork, respect and personal responsibility,” said Cal Ripken Jr. “We are excited to bring this ballpark to the deserving kids and local community of West Baltimore. To be able to dedicate this park to my dear friend Eddie Murray makes today extra special.”

Ongoing programs at the field will help keep kids safe by providing a positive outlet, mentorship opportunities and a variety of activities that teach life skills.

“Like the James Mosher Baseball League, BGE has deep roots in Baltimore, and we are extremely proud to provide this legacy gift to the city we have called home for more than 200 years,” said Calvin G. Butler Jr., chief executive officer for BGE. “This youth development park will have a lasting impact on young people by providing them with a healthy environment where they can build skills and experiences necessary for success as adults.”

Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park features a synthetic turf baseball diamond equipped with dugouts, a backstop, and a digital scoreboard. Located behind James Mosher Elementary, the field will be gifted to and maintained by the Baltimore City Public School system.

BGE’s support of this and other corporate citizenship programs is made possible through the use of Exelon shareholder dollars.

Other project partners include the State of Maryland, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, Under Armour, FIELDS, Bon Secours, Baltimore Health System Foundation, T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Since 2009, the Ripken Foundation has created 74 completed parks across the country in 21 states, including 11 parks located throughout the Baltimore area. Additionally, the Ripken Foundation continues to reshape the relationship between law enforcement and youth in Baltimore communities through its “Badges for Baseball” juvenile crime prevention program.

Salem says James Mosher Baseball has had such a tremendous impact on the community, which is one reason the Ripken Foundation enjoys supporting the league.

“For generations, they’ve been able to provide youth with a support system while teaching them valuable life lessons through the game of baseball,” Salem said. “Their commitment to the game and to bettering the community is truly remarkable. The coaches deserve this field, the kids deserve this field, and the community deserves this field.

Holiday Bazaar & Tea Returns to the Cloisters Castle

— Shop local this holiday season at the Holiday Bazaar & Tea at the Cloisters! Now two days, Friday, December 8 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, December 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Holiday Bazaar & Tea features 100 percent local Maryland artisans selling handmade items inside the historic Cloisters Castle.

Visitors can find unique gifts for loved ones while enjoying the beautiful interior and exterior of the Cloisters. This family-friendly event includes a free arts workshop upstairs where kids can make their own handmade gifts and decorations to take home. Inside the “Tea Room,” visitors can enjoy tea by Solo Te’ Tea, finger sandwiches, fresh fruit, scones, cheese and an assortment of pastries and desserts.

The tea times are 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, December 8 and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 9. The bazaar is free to attend and shop, but the tea is $30. Reservations for the tea can be made by contacting the Cloisters directly, at 410-821-7448.

The Cloisters is managed by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts and is located at 10440 Falls Road, Lutherville, MD.

Local Maryland artisans and crafters are still being accepted to participate in the bazaar. Interested vendors should visit www.cloisterscastle.com and submit an application by Friday, December 1, 2017 to be considered.

A Mother’s Cry holds Thanksgiving Event at New Waverly AME

Three men handed turkeys from the back of a truck parked outside of a church to dozens upon dozens of women. On the upper level of the church, hundreds of women dined on a delicious dinner that included chicken, mashed potatoes and cranberries.

Downstairs a steady stream of women were given a bag of groceries that included stuffing and potatoes. They dined, they laughed, they hugged, they cried. This was the scene on Saturday, November 18, 2017, inside and outside of the New Waverly United Methodist Church located at 644 E. 33rd Street in Baltimore City.

That day, more than 300 women impacted by violence were given all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving meal and served dinner. The event was organized by Millie Brown, founder of A Mother’s Cry, an organization that supports mothers who have lost their children to violence.

“Three hundred women, all who have been impacted by the violence on our streets attended this event,” said Brown. “There were mothers from Roberta’s House, and the State’s Attorney’s Office, along with mothers who lost sons, grandmothers who lost grandsons, and children who lost fathers.”

She added, “Others who were in attendance came to support them. We also fed and gave food to those who needed some help for the holiday.”

According to Brown, donations came from a variety of sources, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

“The Governor’s Office donated 250 turkeys and Saval Foods donated another 125 turkeys,” said Brown. “A total of 375 turkeys were donated along with 375 bags of groceries. Giant Food donated the non-perishable items. Johns Hopkins’ catering department donated the hot food that was served. Tyrone Sherrod donated t-shirts to the mothers.”

Brown also praised the efforts of Kevin A. Slayton, Sr., Pastor of the New Waverly United Methodist Church and his congregation.

“The church members served and also donated non-perishable items,” she said. “Brother Gary Cole was also a tremendous help, as was Ben Malmin of City Harbor Church.”

Malmin, is Lead Pastor of the church, which is located in Hampden.

“My favorite activity every year is giving groceries away to families who have suffered murder, because it matters to God,” said Pastor Malmin. “God said from the beginning that the blood cries out from the streets to Him. He cares when His loved ones die. How we lament matters. There can be redemption, healing and joy. There is so much pain in Baltimore City and to see these faces smiling is bigger than a cancer cure.”

Donyelle Brown lost her son Louis Cody Young on July 1, 2017. Cody, 22, was the stepson of prominent Baltimore attorney Warren Brown.

“It was a senseless act of violence at a gas station,” said Brown as her eyes welled up with tears. “Ms. Millie took me under her wings. I started the Cody Young Foundation and she is going to help me through the process. She is dynamic for the mothers. I am amazed at the amount of work she does, and truly blessed. She does a lot, and the city really needs this.”

Steve McAdams, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives also attended the event.

“It is very painful because your children are your heart and soul,” said McAdams. “We wanted them to know we are here for them. Ms. Millie is helping people through the grieving process. There is a lot of collateral damage when someone is lost to a violent act. It affects family, friends, and neighbors. Ms. Millie reaches out, brings people in, and helps them. I don’t think you can put a value on helping to stabilize somebody.”

Brown says that her son, artist Will Brown plans to give each mother a portrait of their child, and that she is planning a Christmas event for the mothers, For more information about A Mother’s Cry, call 443-303-6289 or send an email to brownmillie98@gmail.com.

Educators join forces to create new public charter school in Baltimore County

Jessie Lehson and Casey McDonough have little problem acknowledging that there are great schools that already exist in Baltimore County. However, the two friends haven’t always been sure if those schools were the right fit for their families. They also agree that private schools were just a bit out of reach.

Now, they say that they believe they’ve come up with an answer: the Watershed Public Charter School (WPCS), which they founded this year and have enlisted the help of other stakeholders.

The friends are rallying community support to bring what they call an innovative public school to the county.

“Our founding group is comprised of parents, educators and community leaders who are all passionate about WPCS for different reasons,” Lehson said. “For some of the parents in the group, it’s about creating a school they are excited to send their children to, for the educations in the group, it’s about working within the public school system to create an environment that they’re passionate about, and, for the community members in the group, it’s some of both.”

For Lehson, a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, it’s a culmination of years of work in both education and nonprofit administration. She is a passionate believer in the importance of strong and accessible public education for all and she feels that WPCS is a path to partner with the school district to effect positive change in the community.

McDonough is a graduate of Ball State University who moved to Baltimore after accepting an internship. The married mother of two future county school students is also passionate about WCPS, Lehson said about her friend and partner in the new venture.

“The prospectus was submitted and accepted in May 2017 and the board is hard at work on the full application for charter which will be submitted in January,” she said, noting that enrollment would open in November 2018 with a proposed opening date scheduled for the fall of 2019.

While the foundation hasn’t yet determined a location for the school, they are actively seeking a spot with ample outdoor space that is accessible to as many parts of the county as possible.

“We have spent the last year building partnerships with nonprofit organizations, universities, nature centers, county agencies and community groups,” Lehson said. “This past summer, we held multiple free family-friendly play dates at regional parks and nature centers all across Baltimore County.”

One of the foundations of WCPS’ educational philosophy is place-based education, which emphasizes experimental and community involvement, so outreach will continue to be a part of the school’s mission, she said.

The public charter schools receive the same per pupil allotment as a regular public school, however they don’t receive any funds for their facility, transportation and other like needs.

“The school is operated by a nonprofit foundation that will fundraise for additional costs,” Lehson said.

Further, the founders envision the school serving grades kindergarten through eighth grade when fully operational, but when the doors first open, they expect to start with students in grades kindergarten through third grade.

“The school will grow with its students and add a grade level each year,” Lehson said. “If we stick with our initial plan, we will have just under 400 students,” she said.

WCPS will use innovative, hands-on curriculum in core subjects and link disciplines together into larger multidisciplinary projects, according to Lehson.

The school’s values are play, exploration, imagination and unstructured outdoor activity and will incorporate daily recess for students at all grade levels.

“There is scientific evidence that spending time outdoors can reduce hyperactivity and has a soothing effect on children, especially those suffering from attention deficit disorder,” Lehson said. “While modern education reforms place a heavy emphasis on highly-structured, standardized curricula, abundant evidence suggests experiential education is a powerful tool for firming student understanding of core concepts, improving academic performance and attitudes toward self, school and learning.”

For more information about the Watershed Public Charter School, visit: www.watershedpcs.org.

Clarence returns with new apparel, signature wrapping paper for the 2017 Holiday Season

— Greentop Gifts’ Clarence Claus™ is back for the 2017 holiday season with a feature in the December issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Clarence— the jolly old man with the chocolate complexion, white beard and red suit is included in editor-at-large Gayle King’s column “The World According to Gayle.”

Each month, King shares items such as books, movies and gifts she loves. In the December issue, she highlights how Clarence was created to bring joy to families of color during the holiday season.

Greentop Gifts— a wrapping paper and gift company for people of color— provides families with images that are reflective of their daily lives during the holiday season. In addition to its signature line of wrapping paper, Greentop Gifts is unveiling new Clarence Claus™ apparel and gift items including dad hats, socks, onesies, collar tees, specialty t-shirts and more. The 27″ x 60″ wrapping paper— along with the apparel and gifts— is now available to order at www.greentopgifts.com.

“We are thrilled that Clarence Claus is featured in “The World According to Gayle,” especially in the December issue, said Jackie Rodgers, owner of Greentop Gifts. “Clarence has brought joy and happiness to families everywhere during the holidays and we hope that this will allow us to reach even more.”

Hidden Figures author says history cultivates not just young readers but also the next generation of engaged citizens

— Award-winning Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly didn’t start out as a history buff. However her book, a number one New York Times bestseller, revealed an innate passion for history and a knack for telling compelling stories about the events that have shaped our country— and our lives.

Her most recent accolade was the 2017 Grateful American Book Prize for her true tale about the early days of NASA. During the 1950s and 1960s, the agency hired African American mathematicians to be human “computers” at its facility in Hampton, Virginia. However, they were given menial positions as pencil pushers, a fate they overcame at a time when the inequities of racism was rampant. Hidden Figures shows that the women whose stories Shetterly reveals, proved they were as capable, and maybe even more so— than the next man— for the task of catapulting the first astronauts into outer space.

Hidden Figures is an excellent example of how “humanizing” the facts of history can be whipped into a context that young readers appreciate.

“I’ve always been a big reader, though as a kid I gravitated towards fiction,” Shetterly said. “Over time I came to enjoy epic histories. Working as an

investment banker, I spent a lot of time reading financial histories, such as Ron Chernow’s biography, The House of Morgan. I started to read more general histories as a way of filling in the blanks in my knowledge, and doing so helped me to see the links between my own life and the past. Now, history is far and away my favorite genre.”

Shetterly believes history should remain a requirement for young learners.

“But, we need to present it as more than just a dusty old broom closet; history is about learning true stories, and reliving the lives of fascinating people.

“And, the Prize has done a lot to resurrect an interest among young learners in the topic,” she said. “Planting the seed of interest in history when kids are young is a way to create a lifelong interest in the topic. And, I think the focus of the Grateful American Prize cultivates not just young readers, but also the next generation of engaged citizens.”

No one can deny that Shetterly has a way with words. As she puts it: “If you give people a choice between castor oil and cupcakes, they’ll probably choose cupcakes. History as taught in the classroom can be dense, dull, and seem irrelevant to students’ lives. What if we decided to teach it as if we were telling stories around a campfire?”

She doesn’t dismiss the importance of discipline in the classroom. She agrees: the study of history should be rigorous and require knowledge about dates, names, and places.

“We only have to look at the ‘Hamilton’ sensation to see how presenting the same information in a different format can have a galvanizing effect. Storytelling is an innately human activity, and remembering the “story” in “history” may be the first step. I also believe telling stories from a variety of points of view brings more readers into the fold, and gives us a broader understanding of America as a country and a culture.”

The Grateful American Book Prize was designed to give kids a way to learn about the events and personalities that figure large in the origins and development of our nation. It was created as an inducement for authors and their publishers to focus on authentic works of historical fiction and nonfiction that capture the imaginations and interests of young learners.

Shetterly asserts that reading a good story is a delight, and it’s “a particularly powerful thing to discover if the story that so captivated your imagination is also true. History is often taught by leading with dry facts and dates, but we need to heed the words of writer David McCullough: history is all about people. I’m encouraged by the early evidence that interest in history degrees increased sharply in the last year.”

Perhaps the 21st Century focus on science and technology can co-exist with the more introspective study of history in our classrooms.

In fact, Shetterly professes that STEM subjects [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] and the humanities are not necessarily diametrically opposed.

“The work of the best scientists and engineers is amplified through clear prose, and the ability to communicate their findings and analysis. Writers are well served by having a degree of mathematical literacy, and the abilities to employ rational analysis and critical thinking. We need writers and scholars who have a knowledge of the history of science and technology. We need scientists with an understanding of the ways in which science and technology have provoked change in our society. I think one approach to improving performance and interest might be to teach history as a required component of STEM subject fields.”