Fortunately, the region has managed to retain a consistent snowcover for more than a week. And even though there isn't enough snow to support the usual mix of winter's pleasures, it does offer outstanding opportunities to investigate and learn about the tracks, ways and wanderings of wildlife.
In recent days, I've enjoyed following the trails left by a red fox that has been frequenting my backyard. It's always interesting to chart where animals travel, and to discover what they eat, where they bed and what other animals are tracking them.
For those wishing to learn more about tracking winter wildlife, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake will be hosting two outstanding tracking workshops this season.
Over the weekend of Jan. 20-22, renowned tracker and carnivore specialist Susan Morse, of Keeping Track, will offer her incredible multimedia presentation, on Friday, January 20 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, Morse will be hosting a full day, "In the field workshop." Pre-registration is required at www.wildcenter.org or call 518-359-7800 for more information. The event is co-sponsored by Northern New York Audubon Society.
Recess: the best part of the school day
Today, children spend more time in school than almost anywhere else, and electronic entertainment has increasingly replaced traditional outdoor fun. Often, recess provides the only opportunity that many children have to experience the outdoors.
Recess provides an opportunity for non-competitive, free play. It is a chance for children to test their skills, and to take chances and challenge themselves. Playgrounds are considered safe places, where there are no coaches or referees to interrupt the proceedings.
Playgounds offer a place for children to access their abilities and to figure out the social consequences of functioning in a group. But most of all, recess needs to be fun.
According to a recent Gallup poll sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a majority of elementary school principals surveyed nationwide believe recess has a positive impact on student achievement, learning and development.
According to the research, more than 80 percent of principals reported that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement. Seventy-five percent of principals stated that students are more focused in class after recess and listen better. More than 95 percent believe recess positively impacts students' social development and general well-being.
However, despite these apparent benefits, many principals reported offering limited recess time, with 30 minutes or less of recess per day. In addition, more than 75 percent of principals reported taking recess away from students as a punishment.
Discipline-related problems present one of the biggest challenges with recess, and principals identified additional staff, better equipment and playground management training as ways to improve recess at schools.
Rambling on childhood traditions
Last week's column certainly generated some feedback. It appears there a still a lot of "older kids" in the region, who remember The Alamo and still wish for a real Bowie Knife. Back then, we were all young, and skinny too.
In fact, I don't remember any really fat kids, because we either walked or rode our bikes everywhere. Maybe obesity hadn't yet been invented. We never considered asking for a ride anywhere, because it was always more exciting to go by yourself.
The following quotes, most of which were provided by readers, are likely to echo around for a while in older minds. For those of younger generations, take notice, you will be repeating these phrases at some point in time. It's a parent thing.
"Because I said so, that's why."
"We'll see about that when your father gets home."
"Don't make me call your father."
"You'd forget your head too, if it wasn't attached to your shoulders.
"Always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident."
"Put that down, you don't know where it's been, and don't put it in your mouth!"
"I don't care who started it. Someone's going to end up crying."
"When you have kids of your own, you'll understand."
"You're gonna fall and crack your head open."
"Go ahead, jump, but if you break a leg, don't come running to me."
"If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you?"
"Wipe that smile off your face."
"You're gonna' put your eye out."
"You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."
"Don't make me come up/down there."
"Don't make that face, it'll freeze like that."