A new school year brings excitement and high expectations from students, parents, teachers, and school staff.  Sometimes, that initial enthusiasm fades as the day to day routine of school takes over. It would be great if we could harness that back-to-school energy and use it to propel students, school staff, and parents through the school year!

There are three key areas that contribute to student's success: academic performance, interpersonal relationships, and mental well-being (Schreiner, 2010). Successful students are engaged academically, socially, and emotionally. The graphic above from the Positive Youth Development Resource Manual illustrates what a young person needs in order to thrive. Students also need to experience a sense of community and sustain a level of emotional well-being while attending school. Some of the articles below address these three key areas, which play critical roles in the lives of students. We hope you find them informative and we hope that you have a great school year.
Seven things to check for back to school safety
Whether it's your child's first day or eighth year in school, parents worry.

To have a little less worry during your day, check out these seven back-to-school safety tips:

1. Playground equipment - Ask if it has been inspected and maintained before school starts.  Our research and reports of incidents find entrapment and fall hazards with different types of equipment. Your school needs to do a safety check.

2. Surfaces around playground equipment - kids can be hurt if they don't have:
  • Nine inches of shock-absorbing material, such as wood chips, wood mulch, sand or pea gravel; OR
  • Mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
3. All movable soccer goals must be anchored securely at all times.

4. Approved bicycle helmets should be fitted properly on every child, every time - same for scooters and skateboards. To be safe, helmets must fit snugly, level on top of the head, low on the forehead with chinstrap buckled.

5. There should be no drawstrings on outerwear worn by children - drawstrings around the neck and waist pose a serious risk to kids.

6. Check cpsc.gov for recalled items - especially, clothes, school supplies, and bikes.

7. Sign up at cpsc.gov for email alerts of CPSC recalled children's items sent directly to your inbox.  >>READ MORE
Preparing Your Students for the Challenges of Tomorrow
Right now, you have students. Eventually, those students will become the citizens -- employers, employees, professionals, educators, and caretakers of our planet in 21st century. Beyond mastery of standards, what can you do to help prepare them? What can you promote to be sure they are equipped with the skill sets they will need to take on challenges and opportunities that we can't yet even imagine?

Following are six tips to guide you in preparing your students for what they're likely to face in the years and decades to come.

1. Teach Collaboration as a Value and Skill Set
Students of today need new skills for the coming century that will make them ready to collaborate with others on a global level. Whatever they do, we can expect their work to include finding creative solutions to emerging challenges.

2. Evaluate Information Accuracy
New information is being discovered and disseminated at a phenomenal rate. It is predicted that 50 percent of the facts students are memorizing today will no longer be accurate or complete in the near future. Students need to know how to find accurate information, and how to use critical analysis for assessing the veracity or bias and the current or potential uses of new information. These are the executive functions that they need to develop and practice in the home and at school today, because without them, students will be unprepared to find, analyze, and use the information of tomorrow.  >>READ MORE 
Sports may be the first thing that comes to mind when many parents think of extracurricular activities for their children, but not all kids are cut out for or interested in competitive athletics. But just because a youngster may not be the next star quarterback or captain of the soccer team does not mean he or she can't find an extracurricular activity to be passionate about.
The following are a handful of things parents should consider when trying to help their children find the right extracurricular activities.

One of the easiest ways to help kids find an extracurricular activity they can be passionate about is to discuss their interests with them. Youngsters with a love of animals might enjoy volunteering at a local animal shelter or hospital, while those who love to write may find writing for the school newspaper is a great way to apply that passion in a practical setting. Even kids with a passion for video games might be interested in learning about computer graphics and what it takes to design games. When trying to find extracurricular activities for your children, resist the urge to write off any of their interests. Instead, use those interests as jumping off points to further engage their passions.

Parents know that school comes before extracurricular activities, but kids may not be so wise. Keep in mind kids' existing workloads when helping them find the right afterschool activities. Many organizations are especially flexible with teenage volunteers or employees, but parents still must keep a watchful eye to ensure kids do not overextend themselves. Kids who overcommit to extracurricular activities may end up feeling burnt out, which can have a negative impact on their schoolwork. Encourage kids to find activities they care about, but emphasize that these activities should not become bigger priorities than schoolwork. Let kids know that they can get more involved during summer vacation, but make sure kids don't devote too much of their time to afterschool activities during the school year. A couple of hours per week and even some additional time on the weekends should not distract kids from their responsibilities at school, and that's still ample time for kids to explore their interests.  >>READ MORE 
5 Ways to Engage Students
The eyes roll back, the mouth scowls, the fingers grip the not-so-secretly hidden cellphone, and the brain checks out. These are, as teachers everywhere can attest, the surefire signs of a disengaged student. And these symptoms are ravaging the educational system. Teachers know that student engagement is the key to learning retention and having a great overall classroom experience, but they often don't have the time or energy to come up with some of the outrageous things that they see other teachers doing online to keep kids' interest. Some of us just can't plan a flash mob for every lesson.

Disengaged students are unmotivated to complete their work, apathetic about learning outcomes, and resistant to participating in classwork. This behavior can become contagious - threatening the classroom dynamics and undermining the positive community you've worked so hard to build with your students. The Glossary of Education Reform says this about engagement, "In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education. Generally speaking, the concept of "student engagement" is predicated on the belief that learning improves when students are inquisitive, interested, or inspired, and that learning tends to suffer when students are bored, dispassionate, disaffected, or otherwise "disengaged."

Everyone has suggestions for improving student engagement. A quick Internet search will lead you to hundreds of different ideas for keeping your students actively interested in lessons. We've pulled together 5 of the best strategies we could find and have included information about tools that can help implement these new ideas.
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk, but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.

Lesser leather never weathered wetter weather better.

What time does the wristwatch strap shop shut?

Cows graze in groves on grass which grows in grooves in groves.

Build your school's spirit this year with a large, custom display banner. Call M. H. West & Co., Inc. for pricing and size options.    ( 804.782.1938)

M. H. West & Co., Inc. now accepts payments through PayPal for your convenience. 
San Francisco-based startup Shuddle has announced a new app that helps parents book rides to get their children to school and extra-curricular afternoon activities. Shuddle's new carpooling app means parents pay much less for their children's daily rides, which helps to make the service available to parents who cannot normally afford individual rides.  >>READ MORE 
Math and English grades are commonplace on report cards, but what about "fat" grades? Learn about obesity report cards and why public schools are beginning to measure BMI in all their students.

PE class has always been a cornerstone of a public education. However, some states are taking health concerns a step further by monitoring children's body mass index and reporting findings back to parents for further action. >>READ MORE 
Engaging families in schools and learning is vital to ensuring that all our kids get a world-class education. Which is why we're excited to announce the first-ever ParentCampUSA at the Department's headquarters on October 26.

ParentCamp is a free "un-conference" that brings together parents, caregivers, community leaders, educators, and children to have conversations about how we can best support our students.



M. H. West & Co., Inc.'s Chair & CEO, Marilyn West discusses current topics of interest every Monday in our free publication, Marilyn's Monday Morning Message (M4).