total items found:279


Pollution causing premature births in cities
Detail: Expectant mothers living in large towns or cities are a third more likely to give birth prematurely because of pollution, research suggests.

Traffic fumes are the biggest culprit, with chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a by-product of petrol, producing a 30 per cent increase in risk.

Ammonium nitrate from agriculture and industry heightened the threat of premature birth by a fifth � 21 per cent � while benzene, a petrochemical, and diesel fumes caused a 10 per cent increase.

Researchers also noted the concentrations of pollutants were higher in winter than in summer, and coastal cities had cleaner air than those further inland.

Researchers from the University of California looked at 100,000 births within a five-mile radius of air quality monitoring stations in the state, where Los Angeles is notorious for car-related air pollution.

The results, published in the journal Environmental Health, revealed that an increased concentration of PAH, benzene or diesel could increase the risk of giving birth prematurely.

Study author Dr Beate Ritz: �Some pollutants were area-specific, relating to industry and urbanisation. However, overall exposure to critical pollutants such as PAH resulted in up to a 30 per cent increase in the risk of premature birth.

�Other toxic substances, such as benzene and fine particulate matter from diesel fumes, were associated with a 10 per cent increase, while ammonium nitrate fine particles were associated with a 21 per cent increase.�
Date: November 26 2011

Outdoor Play reduces risk of being short sighted
Detail: The time children spend outdoors could be linked to a reduced risk of being short-sighted, research suggests.

An analysis of eight previous studies by University of Cambridge researchers found that for each additional hour spent outside per week, the risk of myopia reduced by 2%. Exposure to natural light and time spent looking at distant objects could be key factors, they said.

The studies involved more than 10,000 children and adolescents.
Dr Justin Sherwin and his research team concluded that short-sighted children spent on average 3.7 fewer hours per week outdoors than those who either had normal vision or were long-sighted. But they said the reasons why were not yet clear.

They expected to find that children who spent more time outdoors also spent less time doing activities like reading, studying or playing computer games, but no such link was found in two of the eight studies which looked at this relationship.

"Any increase in time spent outdoors must be weighed against exposure to UV radiation - and the increased risk of skin cancer, cataracts and other cancers.

"On the other hand, increasing outdoor physical activity could protect against diabetes and obesity, vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis, for example," Dr. Sherwin said.

For full story see
Date: November 10 2011

Clean Cookstoves Campaign to save lives
Detail: Nearly two million deaths could be prevented each year by replacing cooking fires and inefficient, smoky stoves, reports a policy analysis by leaders from the National Institutes of Health published in Science Thursday.

Smoke exposure inside the home can cause respiratory diseases, lung cancer and pneumonia. These cooking methods are the leading cause of environmental death around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

The health risks of cooking fires hit women and children particularly hard because they tend to work inside the home during the day, increasing their exposure.

An international public-private partnership started by the United Nations Foundation, called the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, has formed to try to create a market and demand for newer stoves. But reaching its goal of 100 million homes adopting cleaner stoves -- which use electricity, solar power or a range of clean fuels -- by 2020 will be challenging, the authors said.

The campaign is trying to build a market for the products instead of distributing them for free, because many health efforts have found families ascribe more value to an item if they have to invest in it. But once new stoves are in the right hands, there will be a widespread need for education about the best way to cook with them.

There is also still uncertainty over the level of emissions reductions needed to improve health, and if the current campaign will help achieve that, says NIH. The authors estimate the costs of a necessary research program at between $150 million to $200 million.

Despite these costs, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Science that the huge burden of death caused by indoor pollution is a call to action.

For full story see

Talea Miller, "2 Million Deaths a Year Attributed to Pollution from Indoor Cookstove Fires", PBS Newshour, October 13, 2011
Date: October 29 2011

Pakistan flood endangering children
Detail: The lives of 2 million people over half of them children are at severe risk from disease as devastating flooding continues in southern Pakistan, Save the Children warns.

The rains in the Sindh region are the worst in 300 years, according to local authorities. Some towns are receiving as much rain in a day as they normally do in a year. Many families still recovering from last years floods have again lost their homes and possessions.

Families homes have been swept away; they are living next main roads, which are elevated and dry. Parents are struggling to find food for their children and the materials for temporary shelters.

"This is a desperately serious situation," said David Wright, Save the Childrens Pakistan country director. "The lives of children in Sindh are at risk from both malaria and new floodwaters contaminated by the sewage from several major towns. At several camps, a hundred people are sharing a single toilet. Many children in Sindh are already weak and malnourished malaria or waterborne diseases could kill them within days."

The peak of the malaria season in Sindh is October, but the vast expanses of standing floodwater are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which has Save the Children concerned about high numbers of malaria cases.

In addition, a major sewage canal, known as the LBOD canal, is at risk of bursting its banks. Most of the provinces sewage flows through the canal. If it breaches its banks, tens of thousands of people will have to be evacuated.
Date: October 20 2011

Detail: Chicklet, Parachute, Pitcher, Roundabout, Mickey Mouse are not unrelated words. These are just a few names out of the 40 odd games that children of Khirkee � a semi-urban area of South Delhi � have invented while playing outdoors. This is what urban designer Sudeshna Chatterjee discovered on a two-month long project with a non-profit, Khoj, when she got to interact with these kids and discovered that playing outdoors is often trivialized and misunderstood by adults. Moreover from the perspective of planning in Delhi, provisions for recreation, leisure or sports seem to be automatically considered adequate for accommodating outdoor play.

Says Chatterjee: �Ordinarily children provide for their own play by creating territories in accessible public space. However, in the context of a mega city such as Delhi, this right is not so obviously exercised by children anymore. Why I chose Khirkee to study play is because Khirkee occupies a unique urban location being on the margins of shiny new mega malls and corporate hospitals. Khirkee�s growing real estate potential is threatening to overwhelm the existing settlement through continuous construction activity by local builders.�

Chatterjee titled her project Play@Khirkee and believes that this study will help urban planners to make provisions for children with the goal of enhancing the latter�s social participation through play in urban space and city life.

Studying places of play in Khirkee threw up some other interesting facts as well � slum kids had a larger repertoire of games compared to those from a middle class background. Also poorer kids showed far greater imagination when it came to playing outdoors, and most importantly, they didn�t need as many equipments as the more well-off children for playing.

Talking about the future of �play� in an urban context, Chatterjee mentions that we need to consider �playworkers� who facilitate and enrich a child�s play instead of supervisors or security guards who do just the opposite to maintain �beautified landscapes in parks�.

The second suggestion, and definitely a more radical one, that Chatterjee makes is for society to facilitate the concept of �Play-On-Wheels�. �Imagine a cart containing loose parts that could set up play structures in barren playgrounds for under-privileged kids and provide interesting loose parts to middle class children in more rigid, rule bound playgrounds. Such carts can come around each day, be managed by local youth volunteers who serve as playworkers.�

While Khoj has taken the lead and has already planning such a cart that will criss-cross Khirkee area, perhaps it�s time for other members of the civil society to also lend their support. And let the play begin.

Here are some more links that talked about Play@Khirkee.
Date: October 12 2011

Protective environments for children on the move
Detail: A high level meeting on the theme: Protecting Children on the Move was organized by the International Social Service (ISS) Swiss Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare in the Gambia.

In her statement, Fatim Badjie, the Minister Health and Social Welfare, said "creating a child friendly environment requires building and strengthening a protective environment, where laws are enacted and implemented, governments and duty bearers are committed to children to empower them with knowledge and life skills to protect them selves, and attitudes, customs and traditions are favorable to children's rights and also the media reports to encourage healthy debate on issues affecting children in our society."

She said children are the most vital component or group and that their future and well being depend on the kind of treatment, care and support they received during their childhood.

Mrs. Fanta Bai Secka, Director of Social Welfare, in her remark, said the task of ensuring a better future for vulnerable children, especially those on the move and on the street in the country, is profound, particularly if they take into account the devastating risks that the children are exposed to while on the move with parental care. "Investing in the protection of children is of national interest," she said.

Delivering the vote of thanks, Abubacarr Jallow, a Social Welfare sponsored student, said he is 13 years old and currently attending Grade 8 at the Latrikunda Upper Basic School. He said he became a street child loitering and wandering about in the street as a result of his parent's inability to enroll him in school due to poverty. Abubacarr said at first he thought being a street child was normal until he came in contact with Social workers during their street outreach at the Tallinding car park, where he was just running after cars as a young apprentice and was offered counseling by the social workers through which he began to realize the dangers that he was exposed to while in the street.

Abubacarr said they assured him of their help and he decided to walk with them to the Drop-in center. He said he was enrolled in the school through the intervention of Social Welfare Department and that it is a dream which could not have come true without their valuable help and support.

Conclusion, Abubacarr said he would like to appeal on behalf of his fellow children for more support and funding and a continuation of the project so that other unfortunate children on the streets, car parks, markets and beaches, both within the Gambia and beyond are protected and given the opportunity that he has been afforded.
Source: Africa News, June 13, 2011 Monday
Date: October 6 2011

Place-Based Education
Detail: Children, Youth and Environments has just published a special theme
issue on place-based education, guest edited by Elisabeth and Robert

It contains 17 new papers from various countries, an annotated resource
list, as well as book and media reviews.

Topics cover theory and pedagogy, schoolyards and nature sites, and
community collaborations.

The issue is available on:

Date: September 28 2011

Interactive Nature Play Map
Detail: Play England, part of the leading children's charity NCB, has been awarded 500,000 for the Exploring Nature Play project to help children explore and become more aware of nature around them and the opportunities for play and enjoyment that it provides.

The grant is from Natural England's Access to Nature programme - funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Research by Natural England has revealed that less than 25% of children today play in their local 'patch of nature' compared to over 50% of their parents when they were a child. In a bid to reverse this trend, Play England and Savlon, in conjunction with Natural England, are calling upon families to share their safe local outdoor playing spaces, with the launch of an interactive online map to help children and families explore and enjoy nature where they live.

As well as finding great places to play outside, families can put their own natural places to play on the map. Once they've played there, they can go back and rate the areas, post comments and upload photos to show why they are good places to play - or why they need improving.

Play England is also encouraging play and environmental projects to use the map to promote their natural spaces to play, so that more children, families and communities can enjoy fun places to have everyday adventures outdoors.

Exploring Nature Play programme manager Mick Conway said 'It is a myth that children prefer indoor based play activities. Our recent Playday poll of 4,000 children and parents showed that playing at a beach or river (88%), playing in a park (79%) riding a bike (77%) and playing ball games (76%) are overwhelmingly more popular with children than playing computer games. Over 60 per cent of the parents said they would like their children to play outdoors more often than they currently do, but 1 in 7 said they didn't know where to find their nearest natural play space. We hope the interactive map becomes a social network around local natural play areas so that parents are happy for their children to play outdoors as an everyday experience once again."
Date: September 28 2011

Youth Community Police
Detail: Katha, a prominent Delhi based NGO has started a unique community-based police assembly involving youth in slum communities. To secure youth participation in decision making, Katha is a first Indian NGO to introduce YUVA POLICE PANCHAYAT (Youth Police Assembly), which has total of 15 members comprising of 5 youth, 5 women and 5 men representing their community.

This committee of representatives of slum dwellers and selected police team are jointly responsible for policing in a particular slum. Yuva Police Panchayats first initiation took place on 28th June at Katha Lab School, Govindpuri and is to be replicated in other slum communities as well. It is an ongoing process as the cases which will be taken up by YPP will not only include criminal cases (apart from Rape and Murder) but will also make YPP responsible for effective functioning of the local bodies, that is, working on [SHE]2 model where they take charge of sanitation, water, health, hygiene and quality education of the child.

Functioning of YPP

- The committee holds meeting at least once in a week to discuss and solve local policing related problems of the slums with a view to prevent small incidents ending in cognizable crime.

- The members of the Panchayat are given Photo Identity Card by the Police.

- The slum inhabitants can bring dispute to Yuva Police Panchayat which is open every day and under the auspices of the local police.

- They help to prevent disputes escalating into violence.

- This saves police time and allows them to concentrate on other important things, since large part of police time is spent responding to minor disputes and quarrels and preparing official documents about these.
Date: September 15 2011

Child Well-being and happiness
Detail: New research by Ipsos MORI for UNICEF UK has shown that children in the UK feel trapped in a "materialistic culture" and don't spend enough time with their families.

Following on from UNICEF's pioneering report in 2007 that ranked the UK bottom in child well-being compared to other industrialised nations, the new research gives an in-depth comparison of over 250 children's experiences across three developed countries: the UK, Sweden and Spain.

Children in all three countries told researchers that their happiness is dependent on having time with a stable family and plenty of things to do, especially outdoors, rather than on owning technology or branded clothes.

Despite this, one of the most striking findings is that parents in the UK said they felt tremendous pressure from society to buy goods for their children; this pressure was felt most acutely in low-income homes.

The research also shows that parents in the UK are committed to their children but they lose out on time together as a family due in part to long working hours. They often try to make up for this by buying their children gadgets and clothes.

Consumer culture in the UK contrasts starkly with Sweden and Spain, where family time is prioritised, children and families are under less pressure to own material goods and children have greater access to activities out of the home.

"Right now politicians are grappling with the aftermath of the riots and what they say about our society, culture and families," said David Bull, the UNICEF UK Executive Director. "The research findings provide important insights, and it is vital that those in power listen to what children and their families are saying about life in the UK."

In response to the research UNICEF UK is calling on the on the UK Government to:

Encourage businesses to pay a living wage, so parents don't have to take on several jobs to make a living, which affects the amount of time they can spend with their children.

Insist local authorities assess the impact of public spending cuts on children so that funding is protected for play facilities and free leisure activities.

Follow Sweden's example and stop advertisements being shown before, during or after programmes aimed at under-12s.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of The Mother's Union, who led an independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of children earlier this year.

Commenting on the report, he said: "If the Government is serious about creating a more family friendly society - and it has repeatedly set out to do so - then this report is to be welcomed for its thought provoking challenges."
Date: September 14 2011

Fukushima Schools Unsafe After Clean-Up
Detail: According to Greenpeace schools and surrounding areas located 60 km (38 miles) from Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear power plant were unsafe for children, showing radiation readings as much as 70 times internationally accepted levels. This is based on samples taken between August 17-19 at and near three schools in Fukushima city, well outside the 20 km exclusion zone from Tokyo Electric Power's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan's northeast.

"No parent should have to choose between radiation exposure and education for their child," said Kazue Suzuki, Greenpeace Japan's anti-nuclear project head.

The government had already taken steps to decontaminate schools in Fukushima prefecture, where the crippled plant has been leaking radiation since it was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Calling the measures "deplorably late and inadequate," Greenpeace said it had found average dose rates above the maximum allowed under international standards, of 1 millisievert per year, or 0.11 microsievert per hour.

Greenpeace urged the government to delay reopening the schools as planned on September 1 after the summer break and relocate children in the most affected cities until decontamination was complete.

Fukushima city dismissed Greenpeace's calls, saying the schools were safe under the government's norms. "We're finished decontaminating the schools, and they no longer have high radiation levels," city official Yoshimasa Kanno said. He added that postponing the opening of more than 100 schools in the city based on Greenpeace's findings of "only three" would be unreasonable.

Despite the government's reassurances, parents have removed thousands of children from schools in Fukushima since the disasters, fearing damage to their health.

Underscoring such concerns, the government said this month that 45 percent of children living outside the evacuation zone in Fukushima were exposed to low levels of radiation though it was within safety levels.

Jan van de Putte, Greenpeaces radiation expert, noted that cleaning up in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, about 100 km from Chernobyl, required hundreds of thousands of workers toiling over several months.
Source: Based on a story by Natalia Konstantinovskaya, editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Chris Gallagher, published on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 by Reuters
Date: September 14 2011

Not so child friendly Bangalore
Detail: According to a survey titled, Making Cities Liveable for Children-A Multi Sectoral Analysis of Bangalore, about 77% of children in Bangalore feel unsafe to move freely on the city's roads, while a much higher number of parents, 88%, are not ready to allow their children to travel alone in the city. Almost similar is the perceptions of teachers about the city's safety standards. About 67% of teachers feel that the city is unsafe for children.

The research was conducted by Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF) in association with HealthBridge Foundation of Canada (HB). The survey covered around 800 children in Bangalore in the age group of 8-18 years, 200 parents, 200 teachers, and 10 officials, each from government offices, NGOs, health and police departments.

For 50% of parents, heavy vehicular traffic and accidents on the roads are the prime concerns, which prevents them from sending their wards alone on Bangalore roads. Around 62% of children consider jam-packed roads with motorists a major challenge for their free mobility.

Moreover, 73% of kids in Bangalore are scared of stray dogs menace in the city, while 42% feel that several open drains on the roads are nothing less than 'killing mines', after six-year-old Abhishek died, when he accidentally fell into an open rain-flooded drain in 2009.
Source: By Maitreyee Boruah, DNA, February 1, 2011 Tuesday
Date: September 1 2011

TODs make child friendly environments
Detail: Reconnecting Americas center for transit oriented development has estimated that by 2025, 79% of TOD households in US will be childless. The implication is that families with children are irretrievably drawn to a car dependent life in leafy suburbs.

Yet well-designed multifamily TODs that de-emphasize car usage and parking can be perfectly suited for kids. Making private cars less dominant in the residential landscape lowers accident rates, noise levels, and air pollution. It creates safer and more enjoyable environments for play, in part by replacing surface parking (which consumes half the land of many suburban multifamily complexes) with green spaces.

The TODs studied by Robert Cervero and Cathleen Sullivan in Europe and Australia are specifically designed for and marketed to families. They are kid friendly in three key ways. They de-emphasize the car and emphasize pedestrian infrastructure, including sidewalks, internal pathways, and crosswalks. They require a mixture of uses in order to create an active street life. And they have high levels of transit service, which allows children to take advantage of local museums and sports venues and when they are old enough to get to school on their own.

Researchers at the Center of Cities and Schools at the University of California Berkeley, noted in the recent study for TODs designed with needs of children in mind allow greater independence for preteens and teens. Instead of creating couch potatoes, child friendly TODs foster what some call free range kids.

Kid friendly TODs are part of a larger global effort to create child friendly cities. Yet such cities are more the exception.

Many of the child-friendly TODs the authors looked at in Europe were built on brownfield sites. An example is Amsterdams GWL-Terrein , a 15 yr old TOD project built on a 14 acre site once occupied by the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

In Stockholm, another much larger brownfield redevelopment called Hammarby Sjostad was originally planned for empty nesters. Today however only 5 % of the 20,000 residents are over 65 and 22 % are families with children under 19.

A German Greenfield TOD, Kronsberg in Hanover is a young district with a high proportion of young people: almost one third of 7000 residents are under 18 and the average age is 31 (as compared to 42 in Hanover itself). What makes it so popular with families? Open space, underground parking, and lush residential courtyards with play areas are some of the attractions.
Source: TODs for Tots, by Robert Cervero and Cathleen Sullivan, Planning, February 2011.
Date: August 23 2011

Risk vs. safety in playgrounds
Detail: The value of safety-first playgrounds is a highly debatable matter. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries in such playgrounds, although the evidence of that is arguable, the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.

�Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,� said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. �I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.�

After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play: exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision. The most common is climbing heights.

�Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,� Dr. Sandseter said. �Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.�

Sometimes, of course, their mastery fails, and falls are the common form of playground injury. But these rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally. While some psychologists � and many parents � have worried that a child who suffered a bad fall would develop a fear of heights, studies have shown the opposite pattern: A child who�s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.

By gradually exposing themselves to more and more dangers on the playground, children are using the same habituation techniques developed by therapists to help adults conquer phobias, according to Dr. Sandseter and a fellow psychologist, Leif Kennair, of the Norwegian University for Science and Technology.

�There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,� said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.

�This sounds counterintuitive, but it shouldn�t, because it is a common phenomenon,� Dr. Ball said. �If children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, they will take more risks. An argument against softer surfacing is that children think it is safe, but because they don�t understand its properties, they overrate its performance.�

Reducing the height of playground equipment may help toddlers, but it can produce unintended consequences among bigger children. �Older children are discouraged from taking healthy exercise on playgrounds because they have been designed with the safety of the very young in mind,� Dr. Ball said. �Therefore, they may play in more dangerous places, or not at all.�

For full story see:
Source: Excerpted from �Can a Playground Be Too Safe?� by John Tierney, July 18, 2011, The New York Times
Date: August 19 2011

Planning education for Teens
Detail: A handful of planning focused high schools have opened recently in urban areas around the United States as more and more high schools bring planning to teenagers in grades 9 through 12. From Milwaukee to Brooklyn to Philadelphia to Los Angeles, high school kids are being given the opportunity to explore students roles in their communities, to understand the process of change that goes on in the cities around them and to consider a future career in the field.

The East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy of Urban Planning and Design opened last fall in the LA Unified School District and has currently 375 students enrolled in three grades. Its part of the brand new, five academy Esteban Torres High School in east LA, a part of the town where high schools typically cram in more than 4000 kids.

But the east LA school is just the latest example of its kind. The first such program, the New York City Academy of Urban Planning, was started in 2003 in Brooklyn. Urban Planning is a running theme within the schools curriculum, with teachers peppering it into class work rather than focusing on it intensely a model that similar schools have followed as well.

The idea was always to be very expansive in the way we think about urban planning, and to use it as a tool to get students out of the classroom and into the community, understanding how things work and how they can be involved" says Josh Lapidus, an urban planning teacher at the academy.

For a recent project students researched a new city initiative aimed at building public plazas for traffic calming. They looked into how the program is run, what traffic problems the city is trying to address, and how proposals are selected. Students then identified streets in their community that would benefit from plazas and submitted proposals to the city. Lapidus says that it was mainly the theoretical exercise, since actual projects must be maintained by an active community group, but the effort has helped students understand local decision making.

Urban planning education isnt limited to a handful of specialized schools. A mock development program created by the Urban Land Institute called Urban Plan has been used in more than 20,000 classrooms nationwide since 2004. Its 15 class-hours stress economics and government. Students are organized into groups that respond to an RFP for the redevelopment of a blighted piece of land in a fictional city.

Whether these sorts of programs will produce future urban planners is hard to say, but for most of the educators involved, thats almost immaterial. The common theme throughout these programs is that planning offers a way to approach a variety of issues and concepts that are both based in reality and related to the lives of students.

Everybody is a planner. And everybody has an idea about cities, says James Rojas in describing how to teach urban planning concepts to kids. I just want to reinforce that ideas are valid and valuable and that this is how to articulate them.
Source: Its Never Too Soon to Start by Nate Berg, Planning, February 2011.
Date: July 15 2011

Scrapstore Playpod
Detail: Wansdyke Play Association and Children's Scrapstore have created an exciting new place to play at St Nicholas Primary School in Radstocka Scrapstore PlayPod.

Head teacher Gill Sutcliffe said: "Children have absolutely loved the introduction of the Scrapstore PlayPod. Lunchtime play is such a happy, positive experience.Children really love playing together and the cooperative play is fantastic. We love our PlayPod."

The Scrapstore PlayPod is a large container full of scrap from the Children's Scrapstore and will be open every lunchtime throughout the year for children to play. The process is designed to work with schools to develop free play opportunities for children at lunchtime.

Play workers from Wansdyke Play Association and artists and development workers from Creativity Works will be on hand with a range of play and arts activities for children and their parents and carers together with information about the trust which brings 1 million of lottery funding to the area.
Source: Children's playpod opens up a wealth of opportunities for fun , Somerset Guardian, April 14, 2011
Date: June 2 2011

Childrens Environmental Health Units
Detail: The first Childrens Environmental Health Unit was created in 2005 in the city of Buenos Aires. After a little more that 5 years there are four CEHUs that have gained a lot of experience. Four more are learning their way.

Most of them (all but one) were set up at Paediatric Hospitals and all of them are located at Public Health hospitals/facilities of national, provincial or municipal domain. At four of these institutions there are Toxicology Departments with 24/7 telephone services.

The objectives of these CEHUs relate to education and information of the community, of fellow health care professionals, direct patient care or reception of referrals and research in various environmental health topics.

The teams include doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, midwives, engineers, architects and primary school teachers (from the hospitals schools for patients). The human resources are part of the hospital staff and they may vary from unit to unit.

In other institutions groups of professionals have been meeting as workgroups on Environmental Health and are dealing with issues within their hospital, such as the use of non digital thermometers, non silicon catheters in neonatal wards, management of residues and excessive use of cleaning products as part of their work towards sustainable institutions.

In order to honor and to share the experience of the enthusiastic and dedicated group of professionals that are making this possible a publication is on its way: Childrens Environmental Health Units: The Argentinean experience.

The following links (Spanish) provide additional details.
Source: By: Dra. Mara Anglica Flores, Childrens Environmental Health Units: Growing and thriving in Argentina ,
Date: May 31 2011

'Childrens Charter' for staying safe in disasters
Detail: Children make up more than half the population in countries predicted to be most affected by climate change and are facing increasing impacts from tumultuous events. It is estimated that as many as 175 million children a year will soon be affected by disasters.

To help make childrens voices heard, three young adults told world leaders gathered in Geneva what needs to be done to help children stay safe during disasters.

Andr and Tricia, both 14 from the Philippines, and Johnson, 17, from Kenya, were nominated to participate at the recent UN Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction by their local communities because of their dedication to disaster risk reduction at home.

Interests of children

In an auditorium packed with government and community leaders from around the world, the three young people seized the opportunity to put the interests of children at the forefront of global discussion on disaster risk reduction.

After telling the audience of their experiences working towards disaster risk reduction in their own countries, Andr, Tricia and Johnson launched a new five-point Childrens Charter which they asked participants of the Global Platform to sign and support.

The Charter states, among others, that child protection must be a priority before, during and after a disaster; community infrastructure be safe, and relief and reconstruction help reduce future risk; and disaster risk reduction reach the most vulnerable.

The Charter is based on feedback from more than 600 children in 21 countries who identified education, child protection and access to basic information as the main needs to reduce the devastating impact of disasters and climate change upon their families and communities.

Loud and clear message

UNICEF, Plan International, World Vision, Save the Children and The Institute of Development Studies (working together as Children in a Changing Climate), along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, say it is essential to include the unique perspectives of children and young people in reducing disaster risk and adapting to climate change.

Andr, Tricia and Johnson have now returned home, but their efforts at the Global Platform have ensured that the priorities of children affected by disasters around the world have been heard loud and clear.
Source: : By Christopher Tidey, 'Childrens Charter' for staying safe in disasters
Date: May 28 2011

Child and Mom-friendly condos in Tokyo
Detail: "We support the working mom" is the slogan used by several real estate companies developing condominiums in Japan. These developments offer facilities and services that support busy women who juggle work and homemaking.

A development in these lines in Toda, Saitama Prefecture offers a child-care center that stays open until 9 p.m. Plans are under way to also include a service that combines child care with nursing care, in which sick children will also be cared for by baby sitters. In the common areas, the condo will provide a large washing machine and dryer that can accommodate futons. The development is partnering with online supermarkets to offer a special evening and Saturday morning home delivery service for residents.

"We want to create a residence that doesn't discourage women from working," said a female marketing official at Yuraku. When planning this condo, Yuraku interviewed a group of women in Toda. Many of them were working women who were on waiting lists for public child care centers.

The condo houses a total of 923 units priced at the 35-45 million yen ($416,000 to $535,700) level. The units will go on sale in October, but the condominium has received more than 2,000 inquiries mainly from both men and women in their 30s.

Another development in Hachioji, Tokyo, was developed with amenities that offer families with an often-sick child peace of mind. On the first floor of the eight-story building are a clinic, mall and a pharmacy.

The second floor will have a certified day-care center. The pediatric clinic on the first floor will house a day-care center for sick children. The second floor day-care center will not accept sick children, but parents who have registered beforehand with the city of Hachioji can use the child-care facility for their sick children on the first floor.

Source: Based on a story by Sayaki Hayashi, Child-friendly condos that support busy working parents see hot sales, The Nikkei Weekly (Japan), September 6, 2010 Monday
Date: May 4 2011

Children in the middle
Detail: In a recent editorial in The Daily Telegraph, Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith argue that it's not just the poor who need social mobility; Children in the middle deserve better life chances too. Excerpts from the editorial are included below:

Our welfare reforms are intended to help people get on, and to get ahead. And as a Government, we have committed ourselves to promoting social mobility as the main goal of our social policy. For us, a fair society is an open society, one in which opportunities are not determined by background but by drive and ability.

That is not the kind of society we live in today. Millions of children have doors closed to them. One in five qualify for school meals - but they make up fewer than one in 100 students at Oxbridge. Poorer children do systematically worse on both cognitive and behavioural outcomes at the ages of three and five. By five, less bright children from affluent families have overtaken the bright ones from poorer homes. So a focus on social mobility means helping those from poorer backgrounds.

But it means helping middle-income households, too. There are millions of parents working hard to make the best life possible for their children. Most of them are not poor, and certainly don't want to rely on welfare payments. But nor are they rich enough to insulate their children against life's misfortunes.
Our social mobility strategy sets out a series of indicators that will measure our progress in expanding opportunities, including a measure of whether our best universities are opening up to the nine in 10 children educated at state schools. More than half the people at the top of the legal profession, politics, business and journalism went to fee-paying schools, which can only be afforded by a few. Our push to open up internships is intended to prevent the lucky few grabbing all the best chances. This is mobility for the middle, not just the bottom.

It is not about social engineering. Quite the opposite - it is about creating a level playing field. We want a society in which success is based on what you know, not who you know or which family you are born into. So our social mobility drive is aimed at helping the majority of people to move up the rungs of the ladder of opportunity.

Meanwhile our approach to social justice is focused on getting people on the ladder in the first place. Too many people are detached from the opportunities and ambitions of mainstream society. To reconnect them we need to tackle the root causes of poverty.

The pathways to deep poverty include worklessness, educational failure, debt, mental health problems and family breakdown. These are compounded by other factors such as addiction, poor housing and the criminal justice system. The root causes of poverty are complex. But it is important that we recognise that these factors affect families as a whole. That is why our child poverty strategy also introduces new, broader measurements focused on life chances indicators, putting the family at the heart of our approach to tackling child poverty.

It is also important to consider the depth as well as the prevalence of poverty. Behind the headline-grabbing, income-based poverty measures, there are more than five million families suffering from multiple disadvantages. We must not make the mistake of supporting only those who are easiest to help. That is why we will, for the first time, be properly tracking severe poverty, too.

We have set ourselves the demanding targets of improving social mobility and tackling entrenched poverty. We know there are no quick fixes. We know that progress will take time. But we are absolutely clear about our goals, and clear about what we mean by a fair society: one in which nobody is left behind, and everyone has a chance to get ahead.
Source: Nick Clegg; Iain Duncan Smith, EDITORIAL; OPINION, COLUMNS; Pg. 20, The Daily Telegraph (London), April 5, 2011 Tuesday
Date: April 30 2011

Child Friendly Guelph
Detail: The city of Guelph in Canada is already a pretty decent place for children but interested in doing more.

Members of the community and social services committee supported in principle the efforts of a local group to have Guelph declared a "child-friendly city" by UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

UNICEF has designated nearly 1,000 communities around the world as "child-friendly," with just 11 of these in Canada. A child-friendly city is considered one committed to fulfilling a host of children's rights, including their right to influence decisions about their city; participate in community life; receive basic services such as protection and education; live in an unpolluted environment; and be an equal citizen with access to every municipal service.

Daniel Moore, a member of the Council of Opportunities for Children, said that organization will do the legwork to qualify for the status. Moore said while Guelph has many strengths, there are also areas that require more work. "We'd like to strive for that designation," he said. "We're prepared to do most of the legwork."

Jim Bonk, chief executive of the Guelph YM-YWCA and a member of the Council of Opportunities for Children, stressed the council is not seeking a financial commitment at this point. "What we're looking for is a philosophical agreement with some of these principles," Bonk told the committee.

Mayor Karen Farbridge, who called the idea "inspiring," made a successful motion to support the designation in principle and to ask city staff to work with council and report on how best to move toward achieving child-friendly status.
Source: By Scott Tracey, Committee backs seeking child-friendly' city status Local group hoping UNICEF will grant designation to Guelph, committee hears, Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada), February 10, 2011 Thursday
Date: April 15 2011

Inclusive schools in Bangalore
Detail: Bangalore is all set to have two innovative inclusive schools, both believed to be the first of their kind in the city. One would provide formal education to children with disabilities, while the second aims at imparting state-of-the-art schooling to students belonging to lower income families at an affordable fee.

Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, a city-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), is planning to build a 100% disabled-friendly school spread over an area of 48,000 sq ft.

Another NGO, Sujaya Education Foundation has come up with the concept of providing the best of educational facilities similar to that offered by private schools at an affordable rate for children from the poor section of the society.

Bangalore schools are not designed to cater to children with different abilities. The few that do have some facilities for disabled children are not fully equipped in terms of infrastructural facilities and trained teachers. The Samartham school plans a state-of-the- art facility that can operate and cater to more than 600 disabled and underprivileged students.

The school will have lifts and ramps to help the physically challenged students. For visually challenged students, information will be provided through Braille, in large prints. The school will have the provision of assistive technology like interactive keyboards, touch-screen computers and interactive whiteboards. The school is likely to start functioning from June 2011.

The new and highly debated Right to Education Act does not have any mention of how to accommodate children with disabilities in schools where normal students get education. Experts feel that such a school was long overdue and will go a long way in helping the cause of education of disabled children.
Source: Based on a story by Maitreyee Boruah, Innovative schools to cater to the underprivileged, DNA, December 20, 2010 Monday
Date: April 4 2011

New childrens parks in Delhi
Detail: New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) plans to develop 78 parks in the next one year to keep the Commonwealth Games (CWG) legacy alive in the city. Shera Maidans, as these parks will be called, will have the infrastructure for at least one sport apart from changing rooms and a play area for children. The parks will bear the emblem of CWG mascot Shera and a pictorial logo of the NDMC.

To keep the legacy of Delhi's showcase sporting event alive, Sports Minister Ajay Maken had last week announced the formation of a committee of spokespersons to suggest ways for utilisation of the sporting infrastructure created by the Sports Authority of India for the Games. Based on a pilot project taken up by the NDMC at Raja Bazar in November last year, the civic agency had sent a proposal to the Ministry to develop 100 parks in this way. The Sports Ministry has sanctioned the development of 78 parks out of the 100. Of these, 67 parks are less than 2,000 square metres in area, while 11 are between 2,000 and 4,000 square metres.

The project will be executed and funded jointly by the Ministry and the NDMC. A pilot project was taken up at a one-acre park in a government colony in Raja Bazar near Gole Market last November. With volleyball courts, changing rooms, and play equipment for children, the NDMC made this pilot project the basis of its proposal to the Ministry.

Going a step ahead, the civic body has also constituted its own NDMC Play Field Association, on the lines of the National Play Fields Association realizing that the neighborhood level parks are being increasingly encroached on leaving few open playfields and to protect the Commonwealth Games legacy.

Source: Based on Shera Maidans planned to give sports a boost by Geeta Gupta, Indian Express, February 9, 2011 Wednesday
Date: March 20 2011

Childrens Places in London
Detail: Many think of London as a place for urbane adults with large credit limits and a big appetite for shopping and fine dining. While attractions like the London Eye, London Bridge, Madame Tussauds, musicals, and big museums are on the radar of most families, there are other gems that both adults and children will relish and these are less crowded too.

Kew gardens: A great place to start is the world-famous Kew Gardens in Richmond, Surrey( It requires a bit of travel outside of central London, but is still conveniently accessed via the Tube. Not only are there plenty of thematic exhibitions and activities all year-round, plus many child-friendly play areas and cafes, Kew Gardens opened a new zone for kids this April.

Mudchute Park & Farm: Still on the nature theme, a farm is not the first thing that comes to mind when visiting London, but there is a fantastic one right in the heart of the city: Mudchute Park & Farm (

Mudchute is unbeatable for families that love animals and wide, green spaces. Admission is free at this generous 32-acre site - Europe's largest city farm - which also happens to be a full working farm, with over 200 animals and an equestrian centre.

The V&A Museum of Childhood: This is a must-go for kids (and adults) of any age ( It houses the largest collection of children's toys in the United Kingdom and is fascinating for its permanent displays, which are divided into three main sections.

There is Moving Toys, which showcases an extensive collection of moving and optical toys; Creativity, featuring toys related to the development of imagination; and Childhood, which tells the social story of childhood using objects ranging from dolls' houses to childrens' clothing from the 1600s till today.

National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, Greenwich: It's also worthwhile making a trip to the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, Greenwich (

Apart from learning at the museum about waves, tides, human exploration, and how our lives are tied to the ocean, the young ones will also get to try old and new maritime skills and technologies. These include sending signals, loading a cargo ship, firing cannon, and even using a simulator with real navigational equipment to steer a ship into port.

A stone's throw away is the Royal Observatory, which is, of course, the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the World - the official starting point for each new day and year. The Observatory is also where you'll find London's only planetarium, the Harrison timekeepers, and the UK's largest refracting telescope. Admission to the museum and observatory is free.

Arsenal Emirates Stadium Tour: Meanwhile, football fans big and small, especially those who like the English Premiership's Arsenal football club, should sign up for the Arsenal Emirates Stadium Tour (

The guided tour takes you behind-the-scenes into the belly of the stadium, including the first team's dressing room, hydrotherapy pool, and physiotherapy room, as well as Arsenal's press conference room and media facilities, and out to the seats where team manager and his assistants sit on matchdays. It's an eye-opening experience, even for non-football fans.

Source: Based on a story by Corinne Kerk, The Business Times Singapore, November 17, 2010 Wednesday
Date: February 19 2011

New Environmental Superhero
Detail: George Global is a new superhero, a globe-shaped avenger on a mission to clean up the planet. "The Adventures of George Global: The Lakeside Lather" by Peter Gorin follows the main character, George Global, as he fights to teach children environmental responsibility.

Peter Gorin created George Global with John Magno. According to Gorin, "Our goal is to help people see that it is important to protect the environment, and that you don't have to be a superhero to do it; everyday acts such as recycling and small responsible actions can be a very powerful force if we all pull together and do them. As George would say, 'Every day is Earth Day."

George defends the earth from polluters, wasters and the Grimlex-creatures dedicated to destroying the environment. The Grimlex can morph into various shapes in order to trick people into harming the earth, but George enlists the help of local children to reveal the Grimlex's true nature and to aid in foiling their plans to destroy the planet's natural beauty.

Gorin said he got involved in creating the book after being approached to take a slogan written for hybrid cars and to expand it into a marketing program.

"My partner and I went through several attempts, and we were never satisfied with what we had. However, in looking at some of the artwork that we had developed, one of the sketches struck as something that looked like a cartoon superhero. It was a globe-shaped character, and we decided then and there to create an environmental superhero," he said.

Despite not having a green background, Gorin said he and Magno plan on making "The Adventures of George Global" into a full-fledged series of books. "It has been our intention from the start of this to make 'The Adventures of George Global' a book that would encourage people to be aware of the environment and to act accordingly, but to be entertaining, which is why it's an adventure story, and to avoid being preachy."

"The Adventures of George Global: The Lakeside Lather" is available online at and other channels. For more information, visit
Source: Based on a story by Megan Greenwalt in Waste & Recycling News, November 22, 2010
Date: February 6 2011

Poor Sanitation Kills Over Million Children a Year
Detail: World Health Organisation (WHO)representative to Angola, Rui Vaz informed the 2nd Inter-ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Luanda that at least 1.3 million children die every year due to poor sanitation, poor supply of drinking water, road accidents and other factors direct or indirectly associated with the environment.

"Despite the effort, there is still much work to be done if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved," he said.

Rui Vaz added that there has been a significant progress, but there is still a long way to go as about 28 percent of the diseases are associated with various environmental factors. Vaz also underlined the importance of the national plans in retaining aspects linked to regulation, legislation, research, monitoring of interventions and evaluation of the indicators of performance in health and environment fields.

The Luanda Declaration on Health and Environment will also set goals to be attained for the reduction of death caused by environment factors.
Source: Angola Press Agency, November 24, 2010
Date: February 2 2011

Renewal Promotes Youth Culture in Israel
Detail: Holon, a sand-blown Israeli suburb neighboring Tel Aviv, was once known for crime and middle-class flight. Today Holon has become an international model for urban renewal with its unique rebranding strategy that focuses on youth culture and digital arts.

Holon drew 400,000 tourists last year. Schools are rainbow-colored, street benches are child-size, and electricity poles are painted blue, just for the fun of it. Public parks have been reinvented as story gardens, with giant, colorful sculptures by local artists based on characters and plots of Israel's best-loved children's fables.

There's the Cartoon Museum, the International Puppet Theater, the School for Street Theater - teaching juggling, face-painting and hand-walking - and Israel's only Children's Museum, taking kids through interactive worlds where aliens teach tolerance, caterpillars offer lessons about life's changes and sight-impaired tour guides help them experience what it's like to be blind by making their way through pitch-black re-creations of a rain forest, a street corner and a shopping market.

The urban reinvention around kids and digital arts is all the more impressive considering the city's mayor, Sasson, 63, is a bachelor with no children and a self-avowed Luddite who doesn't use a computer or e-mail. The vision to focus on kids came from his city manager, who says she was inspired by her mother, a kindergarten teacher. Sasson was immediately sold on the concept.

It's no surprise that parents are flocking to Holon, which over the past two years has opened half a dozen new kindergartens and two new elementary schools, the first in 20 years. Most of Holon's residents are thrilled with the changes, though a few have had trouble adjusting to what one developer called the city's "artsy" image.

"I understand the importance of enriching the soul," said Sasson, who estimated the city has spent $100 million on cultural projects over the past decade. "Without the soul, there is no life. You can teach children many things, but to enrich their soul makes them happy."
Source: Based on a story by Edmund Sanders, In Israel, renewal with youthful twist, The Washington Post, October 31, 2010 Sunday
Date: January 10 2011

Art and Nature in Hospitals
Detail: Two new childrens hospitals in Australia, Queensland Children's Hospital in Brisbane and the new Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital, have integrated nature and art to create healing environments and significantly contributed to medical architecture.

Art and nature are primary sources of inspiration in both projects, woven into every element and stage of design - from the conception of floor plans and the shapes and orientation of rooms, to the integration of sustainability principles and the colors used in the buildings. These hospitals incorporate healing gardens, interactive art, performance spaces and reference the natural environments that surround them in ingenious ways. Their design principles are born out of wide research in the disciplines of medicine and architecture, and in the needs and experiences of local stakeholders and the hospitals' users - from children and their families to doctors, nurses and managers.

Melbourne's new Royal Children's Hospital draws inspirations from many sources: from the pioneering work of American academic Roger Ulrich and biologist E. O. Wilson and Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson to examine the way nature and the elements affect our moods and sense of spiritual well-being, to create a "park within a hospital, a hospital in a park" and embraces "childlike nuances", to demark itself as a building for children to engage with. The floor plan is based on the idea of a village drawing from Reggio Emilia education philosophy.

Queensland Children's Hospital won the 2010 Arts and Health Australia Award for Excellence in Architecture. It is based on the idea of a tree; from the building's "trunk", multiple branches radiate, each leading to enormous picture windows with views across Brisbane. It is a low-rise hospital with clear pathways. The exterior of the hospital wears a skin of aluminium blades, each painted to mirror the foliage and blooms of its natural setting: jacaranda and bougainvillea. The hospital's interior draws on a colour wheel, the spectrum of which derives from images of Queensland's flora and fauna. Indigenous plants also feature in the development's five rooftop gardens; places for children to do rehabilitation exercises and retreat with family. Along with prominent sculptural commissions, the hospital will also display small-scale works positioned to engage children at their eye-level.
Source: Based on Architecture turns a new leaf by Lisa Power, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), December 10, 2010 Friday
Date: December 17 2010

Rethinking School Design
Detail: A Space for Learning, organised by the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF), invited established architects and young graduates to work with transition-year students to come up with different ways of looking at schools. At the beginning of this year 120 architects were paired with 1,500 students in 90 schools across the country.

The results of their work have been published in a new book and 10 of the projects appear in an exhibition in the gallery at the National College of Art Design, in Dublin. Both book and exhibition are teeming with ideas. Athlone Community College, for example, turns prefabricated buildings into Enviro-fab ones. Its self-sufficient prefabs run on solar and wind power, which can be connected or separated as needed.

A striking number of the projects focus on the outdoors. There are remarkable gardens, an amphitheatre and a huge dome that turns one school into something like the Eden Project in Cornwall. Students experience schools in the spaces where they interact with their peers. It is not so much about the classroom itself. Whether or not we are aware of it, architecture exerts an influence on how we feel, how we act, even how we are able to move from place to place. In a school it can change the experience from being taught to learning. A central theme explored by students and their architect mentors throughout A Space for Learning is a strong emphasis on the informal areas of the school: the places of recreation, gathering and play.
Source: Can we have our lessons outside?, The Irish Times, December 4, 2010 Saturday
Date: December 10 2010

Authentic Youth Civic Engagement
Detail: What makes youth civic engagement authentic? How can cities move beyond token levels of youth participation in local decision-making toward efforts that truly prepare and empower youth to be active, engaged citizens?

Authentic Youth Civic Engagement: A Guide for Municipal Leaders published by National League Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) with support from the Surdna Foundation provides a definition and framework for what authentic youth engagement in municipal government can look like.

Expertise of more than 300 youth development experts, academics, municipal leaders, community organization partners and young adult and youth leaders from across the nation through a series of focus groups, surveys and interviews conducted in 2008 and 2009 informed the guide.

Drawing upon the experiences of communities with the most robust youth engagement initiatives, the guide offers a definition of authentic youth civic engagement (AYCE) in which young people:

are seen as valuable participants in the work of local government;
are prepared to take on meaningful roles in addressing relevant issues; and
work in partnership with adults who respect, listen to and support them.

So how can municipal officials develop or improve their efforts to involve youth in the work of their city government? The guide presents an AYCE framework consisting of four critical elements for a successful initiative:

A setting in which the civic climate of the community is welcoming and inviting to youth, acknowledging their role in public policy, planning and decision-making;
A structure in which the organization and system that supports AYCE meets both the needs of the local government and the interests of the young people;
A strategy that offers a wide range of activities and provides youth with a breadth and depth of meaningful opportunities for participation in local government; and
Support from adult allies, both within and outside local government, which enables the young people involved in AYCE efforts to have a real impact on issues that concern them.

The framework is enriched by city examples and the voices of youth and adult leaders, and complemented by a broad array of tools and resources found throughout the guide. Readers will learn about important steps cities can take to make local government processes more youth-friendly and how to develop a continuum of opportunities for involvement, consultation, representation and shared leadership.

Details: To download or order a copy of the Authentic Youth Civic Engagement guide, visit For more information, contact Leon T. Andrews Jr., at (202) 626-3039 or
Date: October 13 2010

Disaster Management for children
Detail: The newly established National Commission on Children of Disasters reported that disaster planning fails to address the needs of children even though children constitute 25% of the nations population. The commission chairman Mark Shriver called for "a cohesive national strategy that addresses the unique needs of children and incorporates them into disaster plans."

The commission in its final report documents "seriously underfunded federal programs for school disaster preparedness," a lack of necessary coordination among federal, state and local agencies responsible for children, and a private health care system unprepared for the needs of children.

The report makes more than 100 recommendations, including development of a National Strategy on Children and Disasters. It calls for establishing permanent coordination points in Federal Emergency Management Agency regional offices and elsewhere to help children in disaster situations, and more funding for disaster planning in schools, child care centers and other facilities with children.

In addition, the report suggests creating a national system to track people evacuated from disaster areas in order to help reunite children with families as quickly as possible.
Source: Based on Commission to call for better disaster planning for children by Tom Cohen, October 5, 2010 Tuesday,
Date: October 10 2010

Children's Garden wins urban design award
Detail: The Ottawa Children's Garden received a national urban design award. Created by volunteers and children in Old Ottawa East this garden is an exemplary community improvement project.

This organic garden at the corner of Main and Clegg streets in Robert Legget Park started two years ago. Children plant, play and learn about organic food-growing and ecological landscaping.

The garden has a funky design combining good graphics and great spatial design qualities. It features a brightly coloured picket fence painted by the children of Lady Evelyn Alternative school, arched cedar entrance arbour and gates, pathways, vegetable and flower beds and a woodland garden.

The garden also won a special jury award in the City of Ottawa's 2009 Ottawa Urban Design Awards last fall.

Sustainable Living Ottawa East oversees its operation.
Source: Canwest News Service, June 9, 2010 Wednesday
Date: October 1 2010

Social activism by students
Detail: The Indian city of Lucknow has recently witnessed young students championing various social causes. Lucknow girl Yugratna Srivastava, who addressed the UN summit on climate change, plans to put to good use her summer break, by planting trees. Its not just about planting trees, articulates Yugratna, Im hoping that through this particular effort, my voice will be carried to the powers that be, that saving trees is vital for the next generation. This tenth standard student sure does feel strongly about environmental damage, especially as children are a part of the future, they will face the worst effects. So naturally it is for us to initiate changes.

The case of eight-year-old Aishwarya using RTI (Right to Information) to get the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) to remove a garbage dump from opposite her school garnered great media attention in March this year.

Students from New Way School have launched a safe driving campaign to create awareness among the citizens of Lucknow.

Lucknows premier girls school, Loreto Convent, has recently come out with its survey regarding tobacco usage in the city, which it plans to submit to the authorities. The study examined issues such as Are tobacco control laws as envisaged in the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003), like the ban on smoking in public places being enforced in the city of Lucknow? Are Lucknow citizens any wiser about the hazards of smoking and tobacco consumption? Seeking the answers to these questions, students of Class XII did a random survey of the city, as part of their Environmental Education Project. They surveyed 200 persons (150 males and 50 females) of various age groups, and from different stratas of society from rickshaw pullers to executives.
Source: Based on Students give lessons in social studies: Social activism gets a younger look as students in the city champion socially relevant causes by Anjali Chandra and Akash Wadhwa, Times News Network,
Date: September 5 2010

Family-friendly housing in urban areas
Detail: Are cities and city-like environments destined to be largely child-free? Prof. Roger K. Lewis argues that given the lack of choice and affordability of apartments and houses in urban areas for middle-class families with school-age children, this may be a likely scenario.

Housing demand and the products offered by builders continue to be determined by socioeconomic and geographic pressures, not by design aspirations. Real-world behavior and reliable statistics confirm that middle-class families with kids want single-family homes in suburbs and exurbs with presumably better public schools and with more house and land for the money. Unsubsidized apartments built today are almost exclusively designed for and marketed to people without school-age children.

This situation poses a bit of a dilemma for anti-sprawl advocates aspiring to concentrate a significant amount of future metropolitan growth in more urban, environmentally sustainable communities. Through either new development or redevelopment, smart-growth planners seek to create compact, walkable communities with mixed uses, higher densities, access to transit, plenty of jobs and ample housing, especially workforce housing. Yet in plans for new transit-oriented communities, most of the housing envisioned consists of apartment buildings or attached dwellings in which families with school-age children are unlikely to live.

Accordingly, housing developers in smart-growth communities will be building few units for families with children. Promoting mixed-use development will not yield an equivalent population mix.

Given the value of urban or urbanizing land and the cost of construction, making family-size units affordable would require financial incentives. Counties would have to subsidize development by directly or indirectly reducing the per-unit cost of land, and by providing tax breaks for developers and occupants.
Of course, offering public sector support for private, middle-class housing development always invites a political and policy question: Why tinker with the housing market at public expense?

There are two answers. First, we already subsidize middle-class housing, primarily through tax deductions for mortgage interest.
Second, and most important, is that it's in the public interest to create new, sustainable communities with a full range of housing choices, among them choices for families with school-age children.
Source: Based on �Seeking family-friendly housing in urban areas� by Roger K. Lewis, The Washington Post, August 28, 2010 Saturday
Date: September 5 2010

Punishing illegal parking in Seoul School Zones
Detail: The Seoul municipal government will crackdown on illegal parking or stopping in school zones across Seoul for one month from August 30 to September 30. The city has formed a special team to control traffic violations by drivers in 1,861 school zones, including 588 elementary schools, 865 nursery schools and 361 childcare centers.

The illegal parking will not be checked on weekends and holiday and night hours for nearby residents who have little parking space.

The central government, in order to reduce traffic accidents involving children nationwide, will double the fines on illegal parking in school zones in October. Heavier penalties on traffic violators in child specific zones across the country are part of the revised regulations by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.

The number of child casualties in Seoul school zones increased from 47 in 2006 to 67 in 2008, according to statistics available from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. In particular, as many as 92.7 percent of the total 535 traffic accidents, which took place in school zones throughout the nation last year, were caused by drivers who violated the transportation law, such as stopping or parking.
Source: Based on Seoul City to crack down on parking in school zones by Chah Kyoung-won, Korea Times, August 25, 2010 Wednesday
Date: August 29 2010

Jewish and Arab children create green play structures together
Detail: Portland, Oregon based designer Bill Fritts and dietician Michelle Ricker teamed up with Bezalel graduate students and Hand in Hand pupils in Israel to make environmentally friendly play structures. Fritts and Ricker travelled to Israel to spread some encouraging green messages by taking part in the Hybrid Design conference at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. They also spent four days at Jerusalem's Hand in Hand bilingual school for Jewish and Arab children.

"We were asked to do a project to get kids to participate with graduate design students to create structures of their design with our health-and-activity and kid-and-green outline, using simply found materials that cost basically nothing. When we found the bilingual school, we thought it was perfect. It was not just bringing together kids and grad students in design and green but also bringing together Jews and Arabs, so it elevated itself to this cross-cultural platform. We were really impressed and surprised by what we saw there," says Fritts. "Before we came to Israel, we didn't know about such things, about there being schools where Jewish and Arab children study together and play together. It was wonderful to see and very encouraging."

The idea behind the Hand in Hand foray was to gather environmentally friendly and recycled materials and, together with the children, to create structures that would improve the quality of life at the school. Fritts and Ricker went to the municipal dump and collected branches and other gardening waste, as well as a large red tarpaulin.

"The graduate design students went round the school with the children to get an idea of the children's needs," explains Ricker. "I think the students were also surprised by the harmony between the Jewish and the Arab children - and they live here, in Israel!"

The workshop at the school was based on the Fritts- Ricker Open Motion project which, as Fritts puts it, is based on his "sustainable environments and her [Ricker's] background in nutrition and health and movement, focused mostly on kids. Open Motion goes after play structures and play environments for kids to move in, using natural green materials."
Source: Based on Natural playing field by Barry Davis, The Jerusalem Post, June 11, 2010 Friday
Date: August 17 2010

Cities for Children
Detail: Singapore is often cited as one of the world's more liveable cities but according to some planners Singapore is not thinking small enough.

Dr Crowhurst Lennard, 65, the founder of the International Making Cities Liveable Council, which is based in Portland, Oregon, on a trip to Singapore for the recently held World Cities Summit, found that traffic in downtown Singapore is a bit too heavy and street- level crossings inadequate for children to wander around on their own. In her view, a city needs to facilitate independent access for children if it wants to be truly liveable.

Child-friendly cities should provide an accessible environment and rich social life. Generally, it is a bad idea to relegate children to just children's facilities because they learn best when able to freely mingle with and observe adults in an everyday setting. 'On a simple level, it is a matter of walkability. Children have to be able to get around safely on their own as early as possible and explore their environment.That means it has to be safe not only from traffic, but also a good socially safe environment where there are familiar adults along the way who recognise them and speak to them - people of different ages,' Dr Crowhurst Lennard said.

Yet, the quality of social life is all too often overlooked by city planners too engrossed with the hardware of their cities. 'Liveability' is regularly confused with 'standard of living', she says. The latter refers to better health care, educational standards and a more comfortable environment that comes with higher incomes. Meanwhile, liveability 'has more to do with quality of everyday social life, the interactions that we have every day and the quality of those interactions'.

In her view, a poor neighbourhood with abysmal sanitation could have a socially richer quality of life than a wealthier one with its plumbing systems in order. 'The trick is to try to figure out how to reclaim that rich social life and still keep our high standards of living,' she says.

Ideally, a city should also have mixed-use environments, old and young from all walks of life working and playing in the same district. Such an integrated concept is regaining currency as urban planners realise the fallacy of zoning regulations that create buzzing business districts by day and dead zones by night.

The growing complaint in Singapore that only the well-off can afford to live within or close to the city as homes are so expensive gets a sympathetic response.

According to Dr Crowhurst Lennard housing quotas for different income groups could help right the balance in the same way the Housing Board sets quotas for ethnic groups in each block and precinct. In such an inclusive environment - where young and old, rich and poor, different ethnicities live together - people learn to 'negotiate with each other...and appreciate each others' values'. And it is these environments that will best meet the social needs of children - and ultimately, society.

For full story:
Source: Based on "Want a liveable city? Make it child-friendly first" by Tan Hui Yee, Straits Times 21 Jul 10
Date: August 7 2010

Playgrounds for all
Detail: In 1994, Rockford-area businessman Dennis Johnson formed an organization with the goal of providing safe play equipment to children that otherwise did not have access. Bringing playgrounds to the children would allow victims of warfare, disease and natural disasters to have an opportunity to act like kids.
The first Kids Around the World playground was built in Brovary, Ukraine, Rockfords sister city.

After the success of this initial project, Kids Around the World worked on projects throughout the United States and the world. After Hurricane Katrina, 25 playgrounds were built around New Orleans. Other projects have been completed in an AIDS orphanage in Zambia and as far away as Vietnam.

Requests for playgrounds soon outpaced materials, but purchasing a new playground meant that fewer communities would benefit from the program. By removing and refurbishing old playground equipment, Kids Around the World discovered a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to secure materials. The first recycled playground was rebuilt July 2009 in Mexico.

Kids Around the World approached the park district at the last Illinois Park and Recreation Association Conference. With the Atcher playground scheduled for renovation this year, the park district decided to donate the materials.
"It is a great thing," said Matt Gaynor, Schaumburg Park District park planner. "Our playgrounds have around a 15-year life span before we deem them ready for replacement. The equipment is often still usable."

Tim Clauson, Kids Around the World international playground director, said the most transformative build for him occurred in Zambia at the orphanage for children with AIDS. "They had never seen anything like it before," he said.
Clauson does not know where the Atcher Park equipment will end up yet, but he knows that the donation will be appreciated.

Atcher playground will be living its second life, and volunteers will be sending updates that show the Schaumburg Park District offering a helping hand to children around the world.
Source: By Christopher Troska, Park district donates playground to Kids Around the World, Chicago Daily Herald, July 13, 2010 Tuesday
Date: July 19 2010

Children's architecture and planning exhibit
Detail: The Louisiana Children's Museum's exhibit, "Proud to Call It Home" showcases New Orleans architecture and construction, New Orleans' one-of-a-kind built environment and home building in general. The exhibit offers a primer on architecture, planning and construction for children and adults alike.

Museum directors conceived of the exhibit in a 2003 master plan, and fundraising began in 2004, but Hurricane Katrina delayed its completion until last fall. The museum and its board consulted with two local architects and a contractor to conceive the exhibit that covers design, planning and construction that allows children to explore both the basics of home building and New Orleans-specific concepts.

The exhibit prompts children raised in New Orleans to appreciate the historic architecture surrounding them in their neighborhoods and the city. The exhibit, located on the third floor of the Warehouse District museum, starts with a miniature Jackson Square and an interactive 300-year time line of New Orleans that quizzes visitors on architecture-based trivia. An enlarged 18th-century street map of the French Quarter serves as an example of a street grid but also points out the historical integrity of the near intact original plans of the French Quarter.

In the exhibit's "architecture studio," signs explain the concept of a floor plan, and a backlit easel invites visitors to create one with stencils. At the "design-a-house" station, children can decorate New Orleans house templates -- Creole cottage, shotgun and townhouse -- with magnetic stick-on building features.

At the "city planning table," children are encouraged to experiment with urban design by placing different types of miniature structures -- warehouses, skyscrapers, single-family houses, stores and apartment buildings -- along a child-sized Mississippi River crescent.

The construction-oriented part of the exhibit explains the strengths of different types of shapes used in building. Children can play engineer with either large foam blocks or Keva Planks, small uniform pieces that can be stacked to "build anything," Bland said.

Ruth Bloom, former education director for the museum said: "It's funny. I've seen kids who, they've been here once, and they'll immediately come here, put on an apron and a hard hat, and get to work."
Source: By Molly Reid, BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE: Kids get hands-on lessons in construction, urban planning and New Orleans' unique architectural heritage, Times-Picayune (New Orleans), July 10, 2010 Saturday
Date: July 15 2010

Delhi to Start Mobile Schools
Detail: There are thousands of children in Indias capital city who are out-of-school, working at traffic signals, construction sites or just begging in various parts of the city; children like Ganesh Kumar, 12 years old, who earns a living by selling magazines at a traffic signal till dusk everyday.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into force from April 1, 2010. The Delhi Education department is working on plans to ensure compulsory schooling for children like Ganesh Kumar. The department has decided to start 30 mobile schools in the city to cater to children of migrant laborers, those working at traffic signals and those from red light areas.

The city already has two mobile schools. "They were launched as part of the pilot project in February 2008," said an official of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is executing the project. "The initial proposal was for 25, but looking at the increasing number of out-of-school children, the number was been increased to 30."

The department has also empanelled 30 NGOs to run these schools. The buses will be stationed at red light areas, traffic signals and construction sites. The education ministry plans to mainstream these children at a later date.
Source: By Maroosha Muzaffar, Delhi's RTE drive starts with 30 mobile schools, Indian Express, May 7, 2010 Friday
Date: July 3 2010

Mid-East peace on teen reality show
Detail: A French reality show debuting this autumn, will bring together a dozen 18-year-olds – six from Israel, six from the Palestinian territories – and make them co-habit for three weeks in a house on the Frioul archipelago off the coast of Marseille as they hold negotiations aimed at establishing a peace deal.

French director Mohamed Ulad, has co-written the scenario with Franco-Israeli philosopher Sophie Nordmann. While the show's creators admit that achieving peace in the Middle East is more of a symbolic than a realistic target, they insist the most important part of the programme will be the process the participants will undergo in carrying out the talks.

Ulad has insisted there will be no filming in bedrooms, no live broadcasts and no 24/7 camera footage. He chose to film the show in France in order to provide a "relatively isolated and sheltered" environment in which to discuss highly controversial issues. Among topics to be debated are the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return.
Source: By Lizzy Davies, “French TV wants 12 teenagers to find a road map to Middle East peace”,, Thursday 10 June 2010
Date: June 15 2010

Child Care Effects on Teens
Detail: A comprehensive long running NIH funded Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which is the first to track children for a full decade after they left childcare, reported that teenagers who receive better child care during early years fair slightly higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement compared to their counterparts who don't. Teens who had spent the most hours in child care in their first 41/2 years reported a slightly greater tendency toward impulsiveness and risk-taking at 15 than did peers who spent less time in child care.

"Previous findings from the study indicate that parents appear to have far more influence on their child's growth and development than the type of child care they receive," said James A. Griffin, Ph.D., deputy chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch, at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute that funded the study, "The current findings reveal that the modest association between early child care and subsequent academic achievement and behavior seen in earlier study findings persists through childhood and into the teen years."

"These results underscore the importance of interaction between children and their daytime caregivers," said first author Deborah Lowe Vandell, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Education at University of California, Irvine. "We're seeing enduring effects of the quality of staff-child interaction."

James A. Griffin further adds, "High quality child care appears to provide a small boost to academic performance, perhaps by fostering the early acquisition of school readiness skills.Likewise, more time spent in child care may provide a different socialization experience, resulting in slightly more impulsive and risk-taking behaviors in adolescence. These findings underscore the importance of studying the linkages between early care and later development."
Source: Early daycare leads to smarter teens, ANI, May 15, 2010,
Date: June 14 2010

Learning Gardens across New York
Detail: "Learning gardens" are sprouting up all over New York City with the support of Mayor Bloomberg and an array of community and nonprofit groups, including TV host Rachael Ray's Yum-o! nutrition-boosting foundation. They're being built for youngsters at a growing number of schools, and off-school sites, to provide them with a two-fold lesson: how to grow healthy food and how to eat healthy food.

Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker noted that a statewide school-garden survey last year identified 377 schools that "have gardens in one way, shape or form," and 306 of those are in New York City.

Kids are involved in growing a variety of vegetables that are then used in food preparation in their cafeteria. In one of the new initiatives announced by the mayor, the "Garden to Cafe" program will expand to 25 or more schools in the new school year. Also, with support from Rachae Ray, the city will launch cooking and nutritional pilot programs this summer and fall at city Housing Authority developments, in partnership with the Sylvia Center, a children's nutrition advocacy group, and the Children's Aid Society.

In addition, mini-grants of $500 to $1,000 will be made available this fall for schools that need funds to start a garden. And a teen intern program is being launched to tend school gardens over the summer.
Source: Green thumbs in school, TV's Rachael Ray joins mayor to push growing & eating healthy by Frank Lombardi, Daily News (New York), May 17, 2010
Date: June 12 2010

Children Left in Cars Warning System
Detail: Forgetting an infant or a young child in the back seat of a vehicle can cause death by hyperthermia in a few hours. It is a tragedy that kills about 30 children a year, according to the National Safety Council. Many such deaths result from forgetfulness rather than neglect, occurring when distracted but otherwise responsible parents or caretakers inadvertently leave a child in the car.

Is leaving a child in the back seat of a car a crime? Could technical solutions from automakers save young lives? These questions have both policy and design impacts., a safety advocacy group believes that carmakers must develop reminder devices to warn drivers if a child is left behind. This group campaigned for such a requirement to be written into the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2008. But it was not among the important safety measures mandated by the legislation. is now proposing that a requirement for safety belt latching reminders for all seating positions be attached to the next Transportation Department reauthorization bill. The proposed regulation would also mandate a child-left-behind warning, which could share electronics with the belt reminder.

For the auto industry the concept is on the table with a range of other occupant-detection systems, but no firm timetable is available on when it will move closer to market. A rocket scientist, William Edwards, a senior engineer at NASAs Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., led an effort to develop a child-left-behind warning device after a child died of hyperthermia in the centers parking lot. The NASA device is simple. When a child is placed in the car seat, a sensor under the cushion, working through a module mounted on the side of the seat, establishes communication with an alarm on the drivers key ring. If the driver walks away from the car while the child is still in the seat, the alarm sounds and can be turned off only by removing the child. The NASA device was designed to be added to existing cars, and the research center is looking for a commercial partner to further develop and market a product based on the technology.

Safe Kids USA that works to increase awareness and urge parents and caregivers to never leave a child alone in a vehicle has suggestions for solving this problem: drivers should leave something they need next to the child a purse or cellphone. The assumption is that if the item is remembered, the child will be as well.

Many believe that a child-left-behind warning system is critically needed. As Janette Fennell, founder and president of said, If we leave the headlights on or keys in the ignition, we get a buzz.Somehow we have decided that its more important not to have a dead car battery than a dead baby.
Source: Based on a story by Paul Stenquist, How to Remind a Parent of the Baby in the Car?, The New York Times, May 27, 2010
Date: May 30 2010

Myplace Youth Centres
Detail: The Open youth centre in Norwich is the first of what is hoped will be a new generation of 21st-century youth venues. Open was part-financed by the government's "myplace" initiative, which is being billed as the largest ever government investment in youth facilities. Myplace is putting 270m into creating (or improving) youth venues around Britain, with some 60 projects under way.

These youth centres are largely the work of young, up-and-coming architectural firms in partnership with graphic designers. The new youth centres are vibrant, colourful and bold youthful, one could say. One of the main reasons for this is that most of the myplace schemes are being designed with a high degree of input from young people themselves. In many instances, following a precedent established by Open, local youth forums have been established to work with the architects. And these "client groups" have been pushing their designers to go further.

Open's youth forum, consisting of about 40 people between the ages of 12 and 18, had a say in everything from what activities should go on inside to the graphics, signage and furniture. They even selected the designers: Hudson Architects. Their key demands, says architect Anthony Hudson, were bright colours, decor that spoke to their demographic, plus music and media facilities, a climbing wall, and (high up the list) good toilets. "The kids wanted more radical ideas than the trustees," says Hudson. "A lot of the time you're thinking, 'Is this exciting enough for them?' We've got quite a young team but we all did things like going nightclubbing for research, just to make sure of the levels we needed to hit."

Outside, Open is a stern, Edwardian-looking building; inside it's bursting with playfulness. Funky furniture abounds; on the walls there is bespoke graffiti and Shepard Fairey's Obey artwork. The signage is big and bright. It's not a circus it feels quite calm but neither does it conform to sober, grown-up expectations.

Since it opened late last year, Open attracted growing numbers of 12- to 25-year-olds, and hosted sell-out events, as well as regular under-18s club nights and events with local bands. And it's not just the young who are flocking there: architects, politicians and community groups from across the country have been descending on the centre to see if what's been done here can work elsewhere.

For full story see:
Source: Based on a story by Steve Rose, Myplace: Putting the youth back in youth centre,, Sunday 11 April 2010
Date: May 14 2010

How Environments Influence Children's Activities
Detail: Sandercock et al recently published a review synthesizing findings of studies which compare the physical activity (PA) levels of children living in different built environments classified according to land use within developed countries. The review compares PA in children from: rural, urban and where available suburban built environments. A second aim was to identify potential explanations for differences in PA with respect to this definition of built environment. The third aim was to critically evaluate the existing literature in order to guide future research.

A systematic review of published literature up to March 2009 was undertaken. Online searches of five databases yielded 18 studies which met inclusion criteria. Studies provided data on n = 129446, 518 years old (n = 117544 from the United States).

From 13 assessments of differences in physical activity between rural and urban children one showed that rural children were significantly more active than urban children. In studies where the built environment was sub-divided further, suburban and small town children showed the highest levels of physical activity, followed by rural, then urban children. Differences in types of physical activity undertaken were evident, showing that rural children spent more time outdoors, involved in unstructured play compared with urban children. These findings were mainly restricted to children < 13 years old.

The literature does not show major differences in the physical activity levels between children from rural or urban areas. The authors argue that such a finding may be an artifact of oversimplification while classifying the built environment into urban and rural. Where studied, the suburban built environment appears most conducive to promoting physical activity. Some authors have been transparent about grouping urban and suburban children together but others have not. Grouping the most active (suburban) children with the least active (urban) and comparing this heterogeneous group with those from rural areas should be avoided in future research.

Urban, suburban and rural built environments are also geographically heterogeneous between countries. For instance, walkability is likely to be lower in rural areas of the US than in Europe. This makes cross-study comparisons difficult and highlights the need for country-specific research.
There is clear association between sample size and the likelihood of significance. The effect sizes for most differences shown were small. It may be that many European studies lack the statistical power to detect the differences they aimed to explore. Finally, children's PA is difficult to measure. Most studies used self or parental report which is open to biases.

The authors recommend that further research should use at least a trilateral division of the built environment and should also account for socioeconomic status, racial factors and seasonal effects.
Source: Physical activity levels of children living in different built environments, Preventive Medicine, Volume 50, Issue 4, April 2010, Pages 193-198, Gavin Sandercock, Caroline Angus, Joanna Barton
Date: April 22 2010

Returning to School in Haiti
Detail: Thousands of students started returning to school from the first week of April, less than three months after the devastating earthquake. The call to return to classes, led by the Haitian Ministry of Education and backed by UNICEF and its partners, is the first step in an operation that hopes to see more than 700,000 students back in places of learning over the next two months. These numbers are expected to increase towards the start of a new academic year in September.

The 12 January earthquake caused the death of an estimated 38,000 students, more than 1,300 teachers and other education personnel and left more than 4,000 schools and the Ministry of Educations headquarters destroyed. All available data on education was lost. Nearly 3 million students are believed to have suffered an interruption to or complete cessation of their education.

UNICEF and its partners has worked with the Haitian government to provide 3,000 school tents to date, along with kits of student and teachers materials and recreational items, and school furniture to assist children whose schools were destroyed, or who have moved to re-settlement camps after losing their homes. Rapid orientation has been provided to teachers and volunteers to re-start education, with an interim curriculum covering basic life skills, psychosocial support and disaster preparedness.

UNICEF has also provided seven prefabricated offices for the Ministry of Education and is working with the Ministry and partners on a model for earthquake proof schools using innovative building technologies, including environmentally friendly compressed earth blocks.

Priorities in the coming months will include engaging with the private sector - which normally provides schooling for some 80 per cent of enrolled students - development of social protection mechanisms to support the most marginalized and excluded families, improvements in the quality of education, school safety, non-formal education opportunities, technical and vocational training, and increasing community involvement in the management of education.

For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Haiti
Tel + 509 38 81 23 71 / + 1 646 6512492

Date: April 12 2010

Caring for Children in Haiti
Detail: The earthquake in Haiti affected an estimated 1.26 million children approximately 700,000 of them school-aged. These children urgently need support and assistance to rebuild their lives.

UNICEF and its partners have set up an interim care centre in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, for children separated from their parents by the earthquake. The centre serves as a temporary shelter for earthquake survivors ranging from 7 to 15 years of age. It consists of three large tents and an enclosed structure, and is staffed by professionals trained to meet the needs of children who are distressed in the earthquakes aftermath.

While the children at the centre appear unharmed and well cared for, the challenge now is to locate those who are still fending for themselves on the streets and living in temporary communities.The interim care centre itself is a temporary measure for providing physical and emotional support which is vital to the well-being of children separated from their parents in emergencies like the earthquake. UNICEF is working with Haitis social welfare agency to establish an alternative care arrangement for vulnerable children.

The country has a number of residential care centres, the majority of which are run privately or by faith-based organizations. However, these facilities remain unregulated. In the absence of legal standards, the care is often wanting.

UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Susan Bissell suggested that now would be a good time for Haiti to put into practice the alternative care guidelines adopted by the United Nations in November 2009, in connection with the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The guidelines aim to ensure that children are not placed in alternative care unnecessarily and, where out-of-home care is provided, that it responds to the child's rights, needs and best interests.
Date: April 4 2010

Bio-diesel at Youth Olympics
Detail: Nine business studies students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore are working towards converting used cooking oil into biofuel in collaboration with local biodiesel company Alpha Biofuels. As part of their final-year project, the students aim to collect 48,000 litres of used cooking oil to power vehicles, generators and other diesel equipment for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August.

The oil collected is being sent to Alpha Biofuels' manufacturing plant, where it will be converted into biodiesel. The cooking oil goes through a chemical process called transesterification, where about 80 per cent to 90 per cent of it is converted into biodiesel. Vehicles such as the buses ferrying athletes from the Youth Olympic Village will be encouraged to use this biodiesel as this can be used in all diesel engines, and retails for a lower price than petroleum-based diesel. Biodiesel produced from used cooking oil emits about 62 per cent less greenhouse gases compared with conventional diesel.
Source: The Straits Times (Singapore), February 6, 2010 Saturday
Date: March 27 2010

Accessible parks for Children
Detail: A local NGO Kilikili has taken on the task of providing universally designed parks in the Indian city of Bangalore which is notorious for not having a single accessible park. Kilikili aims to create play spaces that will be accessible to all children, regardless of their ability and in doing so lay the foundations of a more inclusive society that does not discriminate or exclude on the basis of ability.

It is Kilikilis mission to partner and collaborate with children; with parents, teachers, special educators, medical professionals and other caregivers of children; and with local Municipalities and other relevant government departments, corporate organizations, civil society groups, resident welfare associations, youth and women's groups and the likes in ensuring that children of all abilities have access to play and recreation.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) or Greater Bangalore Municipal Body recently invited Kilikili to help develop accessibility guidelines for play spaces in consultation with children and other stakeholders.

60 children with and without disabilities, with some from socio-economically marginalised communities, met on 8th Jan 2010 to discuss the issues they face in parks and what they would like the parks to be. Universal accessibility (ramps, no steps, Braille signages, no obstacles, accessible play equipment), no entry fees, no keeping children out due to their being badly dressed were some of the issues that came up. What was also striking was the need expressed by older children for adequate space near their homes that is safe and where they can play. Safe spaces to play were considered more important than play equipments.
Date: March 10 2010

UK leading in learning outside
Detail: The UK is leading other European nations in developing learning outside the classroom. In a first of its kind event, education experts from nine different countries, funded by the EU, gathered in the Lake District in November to see what they could learn about how to enrich children's education by taking them outdoors.

Geoff Cooper, who runs the Wigan council outdoor education centre at Low Bank and has more than 30 years' experience in outdoor education organized the event. "I think the UK is leading the way compared to other countries in Europe that don't have the same wealth and richness of opportunities as we do here," says Cooper. "Our whole system of outdoor education centres something like 100 in Britain is linked to the curriculum in schools and, compared to other parts of Europe, this is quite unusual."

Learning outside is becoming embedded in the education system with a number of organisations and venues accredited under the government's Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) quality badge scheme, launched a year ago. More than 500 different companies and venues from nuclear power stations to the offices of the Guardian newspaper have been awarded a quality badge under the scheme in recognition of being able to offer a high-quality educational visit within a safe environment.

However, school trip organisations, feel that the scheme is still not widely known in schools. Ian Pearson, development officer for the School Travel Forum, which represents 21 educational tour operators, and who is also a member of the LOtC committee and its advisory group, says: "The quality badge is there but it isn't fully recognised through education that is the task for today, the task for yesterday was to get it established."

As Joan Nix, school curriculum area manger from Sandhill View school in Sunderland, which won the LOtC award for excellence and innovation, says, "learning outside the classroom isn't always about the big things "like taking a group of year 10s to Washington", it can also be about getting pupils out of classroom into the school grounds and using the environment on your doorstep.

For full story:
Source: Based on a story by Debbie Andalo, Britain leads in learning outside, The Guardian, March 1, 2010
Date: March 3 2010

Citizen action prompts lead testing
Detail: Philadelphia is making lead testing of rentals mandatory and also prohibiting renting units until they are certified as safe from lead exposure. City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced legislation that would require apartments built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned for residences, to pass inspection before being rented. Units certified lead-safe, meaning no exposed lead, or lead-free would not be required to undergo subsequent inspections. The cost of inspecting one unit is estimated at $100 to $150, though the lead-free requirement could be a significant expense for landlords.

City Councilwoman Brown said she was inspired to take action by the Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), which first issued a report on children and lead poisoning in the city in 2002. According to Brown, about 2,500 children in Philadelphia are diagnosed each year with lead poisoning, an unacceptable statistic.

Philadelphias housing code states that landlords must keep their units free from hazards such as lead-based paint. 55 percent of the properties where lead poisoning takes place are rentals thus suggesting that not all landlords are following the rules. This new bill would force landlords to prove that their properties are safe. Brown said that a portion of the hearings held in connection with the bill would focus on finding ways to reduce the burden on property owners for inspection and remediation.
Source: Based on a story by Jeff Shields titled, Bill seeks lead testing of Phila. Rentals, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 29, 2010 Friday, CITY-C Edition
Date: February 17 2010

Drought endangers rural adolescents
Detail: A new study from the University of Newcastle's Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health has assessed the effect of prolonged drought on the lives of adolescents. The paper to be published in the next edition of the Australian Journal of Rural Health claim: "The social and emotional impacts of this drought have been shown to be similar to the effects of other natural disasters".

The study involved more than 100 young people aged 11 to 17 who lived in the south-west region of NSW as a follow up to a study conducted in the same area in 2004. The 2004 study showed adolescents living in rural Australia were aware of the impact of drought on themselves, their family and community. But they did not report levels of emotional distress higher than similar adolescents in the wider Australian community. It was proposed the rural lifestyle had helped these young people build up resilience.

The follow up study revisited the area, conducted a survey and organized focus groups. The young people identified positive and negative impacts of drought on their community and family: "our house tank is empty and we have to cart water all the time", "can help you realize that a lot of money is not so important, there are other priorities".

The researchers said, "The adolescents spoke of the positive aspects of their country lifestyle including having freedoms at an early age and feelings of safety.They also identified many mental health impacts of the drought such as the stress of making difficult decisions ... and loss."

People living in remote and rural communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, males aged 25 to 44 and the mentally ill were particularly at risk of suicide. According to The Canberra Times, the Federal Government was searching for a specialist to advise on how to deal with suicide hot spots and preventing copycat suicides. The Australia Suicide Advisory Council, which provides confidential advice to the Government, had identified these as issues that required "increased focus". The successful tenderer is expected to start work in a month and produce the final report in November.
Source: Based on a story by Danielle Cronin, Drought woes mar rural teens' lives, Canberra Times (Australia), January 23, 2010 Saturday, Final Edition
Date: February 13 2010

Rwandan children campaign against climate change
Detail: The Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARRI) rewarded primary and secondary school pupils in Kayonza for sensitising local communities on climate change. The prizes included cash, and scholastic materials such as books, pens, pencils and school bags. The students formed environmental clubs at their respective schools and used theatre, songs and poems to campaign against environmental degradation in Kayonza. Other pupils used art, drawings and poems indicating the causes, effects and solutions to climatic change.

John Bideri, the Director of RWARRI stressed the need for creating climate change awareness among residents: "School children were involved in the campaign to sensitize Rwandans on climate change since last year. By use of simple messages, songs, drama and poems, the children explained to residents the causes of climate change and possible measures to minimise it".

Anitha Umutesi, the district vice Mayor for social affairs emphasized that the involvement of children in environmental campaign would save the country from environmental hazards. "Being aware of the importance of protecting the environment at an early stage gives me confidence of a bright future; free from upcoming hazards due to climate changes," Umutesi said. She appealed to the students to continue the awareness campaign especially during their holidays to enlighten their parents about the dangers of environmental degradation. Human activities like tree cutting and burning that are common in villages are among the causes of climate change. Umutesi urged pupils to be role models in their villages by planting at least five trees around their homes and schools.
Source: Based on a story by Edward Mwesigye, Children Awarded for Environmental Campaign, New Times (Kigali), February 8, 2010.
Date: February 10 2010

Benefits of Active School Travel
Detail: School travel planner, Arthur Orsini, currently based in Vancouver, in an interview with shared some of his thoughts on the benefits of walking and cycling to school and the street design interventions required to encourage walking.

Besides the obvious health benefits, Orsini pointed out the not-so-obvious benefits of walking to school as well. These include reduced traffic congestion as more people start walking. Moreover according to Orsinis experience of working as a school travel planner in Auckland and elsewhere, if children walk to school in the morning, then very often they arrive a little bit early, and use that extra time for play. Orsini said, So, not only are they walking to school but they're running around, playing tag for example, and socializing with their friends. Then they walk into the classroom with their blood pumping, fully awake. For the teachers that makes a big difference in alertness, attentiveness, and also in terms of cooperation and group work.

How can we design streets and sidewalks better? According to Orsini, We should try to make street corners that are close to a 90-degree angle, so that cars have to slow down to make that corner and look before they turn. Bigger corners, and even the "bus bulges" we're seeing on many streets in Vancouver, shortens the crossing distance for pedestrians and improves safety. It would be good if all schools had these extended corners as one of their assets.
Date: January 20 2010

Child-Friendly Cities in Morocco
Detail: Morocco commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by signing a commitment aimed at creating a Child-Friendly City (CFC) by 2011. The launch of this new initiative is the conclusion of a long effort, which began in 2002, between the Ministry of Interior and UNICEF, and with the municipalities at the local level. The commitment was made during a ceremony chaired by President of the National Observatory of the Rights of the Child, Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco.

The presidents of five municipalities said they want to join the CFC to help design and implement municipal development plans that will take into account the priorities of children and youth. These municipalities include rural and urban areas to reflect the diversity of childrens various environments. The CFC will also promote childrens education and citizenship as well as community integration and participation.

Developed with UNICEF support, the CFC initiative aims to involve villages, towns and cities in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the management of local affairs. The CFC initiative provides universal references that have been adapted to the context of Morocco.

Date: January 15 2010

British youth lack nature experiences
Detail: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Europe's largest wildlife conservation charity, conducted a study to find out just how important it is for people to connect with the natural world.

The survey of 1,000 people found that only about a third (37 percent) of under 35s feel connected to the natural world, compared with more than half (55 percent) of those aged over 35. More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents said that being out in nature was a great stress-reducer and more than half (51 percent) needed time in nature to be happy. Young people in Britain seem to be missing out on the stress-relieving benefits of spending time with nature.

RSPB President Kate Humble and nature television presenter found these results worrying: "If a child hasn't ever got their hands dirty sifting though soil for bugs, kicked up leaves or been wowed by a cute baby bird, how can we expect them to care about the natural world?" "There is simply no substitute for getting outdoors and experiencing nature first hand," Humble said. "If we don't make sure our young people enjoy nature, we're taking away something that will help keep them happy and healthy."

Source: Based on a story by Paul Casciato titled, Nature Starvation Worries British Royal Society, Reuters Life January 07, 2010.
Date: January 10 2010

Australia apologizes to children
Detail: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for his country's role in a shameful episode in British colonial history when an estimated 150,000 British children were sent to distant colonies to ease pressure on post-World War II Britain's social services, provide orphaned or abandoned children with a fresh start and supply the empire with a sturdy supply of white workers. At a ceremony in Parliament House Rudd extended condolences to the 7,000 survivors of the programs who still live in Australia, many of whom grew up in institutions where they were physically and sexually abused or were sent to work as farm laborers.

The Australian apology comes one day after the British government said Prime Minister Gordon Brown would apologize next year for the child migrant programs, which lasted from 1618 to 1967. After 1920, most of the children went to Australia.

British High Commissioner Valerie Amos said her government had not yet addressed the compensation question, though Britain has been trying to make amends since the late 1990s by funding trips to reunite migrants with their families in Britain. Brown's office said officials would consult with representatives of the surviving children before making a formal apology.
Source: Based on a story Australia apologizes to Brit kids sent to colonies by Associated Press Writers Rod Mcguirk And Jill Lawless, Mon Nov 16, 2009.
Date: December 17 2009

Worst Cities for Youth
Detail: ScoopDaily has compiled a list of the 5 worst cities for urban youth while paying particular attention to high-school graduation rates, infant mortality rates, unemployment rates, juvenile justice incarceration, and the amount of jobs created in relation to funds received by the Recovery Act.

5. Cleveland, OH

At 34%, the city of Cleveland has among the lowest high school graduation rates in the country; a total of 11,254 "Deliquency and Unruly" cases were filed; African-American youth made up 64% of individual offenders, the highest of any minority group; the city's unemployment rate stands at 8.3%; and over $27,000,000 in Recovery Act funds has been received, with zero jobs created to show for it.

4. Baltimore, MD

41% high school graduation rate lands Baltimore on the list of Cities in Crisis; African-American youth made up more than 43% of those placed in Juvenile Detention Facilities, 47% of Out-Of-Home Placements, and 80% of those placed in Shelter Care Programs, the highest of any other group; African-American infants had the highest mortality rate (15.5 per 1000 live births) of any group; currently the city's unemployment rate stands at 7.6%; and over $113,000,000 in funds have been dispersed for Baltimore with some 202 jobs created for this area.

3. Atlanta, GA

44% high school graduation rate lands Atlanta on the list of Cities in Crisis; African-American youth made up over 93% of total intake for unique youth served for criminal offences, over 92% of admissions for criminal offences, over 92% of releases for criminal offences committed, over 96% of the average daily population for criminal offences, and over 95% of child care days served for criminal defences; 50 youth gangs identified in the city; the city's unemployment rate stands at 10.5%, more than the nation's current employment rate of 10.2% and over $42,000,000 in funds, but only 30 jobs have been created.

2. Detroit, MI

Dismal high school graduation rate of 38%; Detroit's Wayne County is at the top of the list of counties identified for targeted intervention due to a high juvenile crime arrest rate over a period of 5 years; Detroit is also known to be one of the most violent cities, rated as the nation's murder capital, 17,428 instances of violent crime out of a population of 905,783; Detroit has an infant mortality rate of 15.4 per 1000 live births; the city's unemployment rate stands at a staggering 17.3%; and over more than $20,000,000 in Recovery Act funds has been received, with only 67 jobs created.

1. Chicago, IL

Chicago has a high school graduation rate of 55.7%; almost 300,000 youth live in poverty in Chicago's Cook County; over 26,000 crimes against youth have been reported; over 31,000 youth in Cook County have been arrested for criminal offences; Chicago's struggle with youth violence has received national attention over the past year; African- Americans have a mortality rate of 14.7 per 1000 births; Chicago's unemployment rate stands at 10% and more than $800,000,000 in Recovery Act funds has been received, with a dismal 19 jobs created.

Date: December 14 2009

Ending School Violence
Detail: Ron Huberman, the new chief of public schools in Chicago, is trying a new approach to the violence that has killed and maimed hundreds of young people and turned Chicagos poorest neighborhoods into precincts of terror and despair. With the prompting and support of his boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mr. Hubermans ambitious plan will offer mentoring, counseling and jobs to high-risk students.

Nearly 10,000 of the citys 113,000 high school students are at risk of becoming victims of gun violence and need help. These lives follow a clear pattern. They are absent from school more than 40 percent of the time, on average. They have fallen behind and are more likely to be enrolled in special education. And they generally attend 38 of the citys nearly 140 public high schools.

The chaotic schools attended by high-risk students tend to differ from better-run schools in measurable ways. They have fewer counselors and social workers. They have higher rates of suspension and expulsion. They more often involve the police in minor skirmishes, like shoving matches that then go unresolved. The Huberman plan wants to remake the high-risk schools by beefing up the social work and counseling staff, by better training security guards and overhauling a disciplinary process that seems designed to throw out as many children as possible as quickly as possible. Most importantly the involvement of guardians and parents will be improved.

The plan, which will be started with federal stimulus money, will cost $60 million for the first two years. But it will more than pay for itself if it reduces the number of shootings and deaths and puts more young people on the road to productive lives instead of the road to prison. It deserves full and enthusiastic support from the city, community groups and from the business community, which could play an essential role by providing the young participants with jobs.
Source: A version of this article appeared in print on November 5, 2009, on page A34 of the New York edition.
Date: December 6 2009

1 billion deprived children
Detail: On the eve of the anniversary of adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, UNICEF urged the world to help the 1 billion children still deprived of food, shelter, clean water or health care and the hundreds of millions more threatened by violence. There had been a remarkable decline in child deaths after adoption of the CRC, but still 24,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from preventable causes, such as pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition. Nearly 200 million youngsters are chronically malnourished, more than 140 million are forced to work, and millions of girls and boys of all ages are subjected to sexual violence.

More than 70 countries have used the treaty to incorporate children's rights in their national laws, to safeguard children from violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation. Only two nations, the United States and Somalia, have not ratified it. The Clinton administration signed the convention but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification because of opposition from groups that argued that it infringed on the rights of parents and was inconsistent with state and local laws. UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman called the U.S. failure to ratify the treaty frustrating but noted that President Barack Obama and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice "have expressed a strong desire to move the U.S. in the direction of approving the convention."
Date: December 2 2009

Children propose Old Delhi redevelopment
Detail: 15 Delhi schools who participated in the Future of Cities India 2020 competition have been shortlisted on the basis of their proposal to redevelop Chandni Chowk, the historic main street area in the heart of the walled city of Old Delhi. Each team comprising 4 students and one teacher will now design a detailed three-dimensional concept model and a make a final presentation to the city in January 2010.

Some of the problems that plague the old city and in particular the area around Chandni Chowk are inadequate infrastructure; haphazard growth of the old walled city; congestion due to encroachments; unauthorized constructions; illegal hawking; mixing of all modes of transport; crumbling heritage structures; and the inability of the civic authorities to move wholesale markets out of the walled area.

As solutions to some of these problems, the participating adolescents have proposed underground parking, stopping all private vehicles in the commercial areas, solar-powered trams, centralized eating areas, ducting of service lines, conversion of old heritage buildings into hotels, guided tours in horse carts, and many other ideas.

Source: Based on a story by Ruhi Bhasin, Kids Redraw Old City, Times of India, New Delhi, Thursday, August 27, 2009.
Date: November 14 2009

Park Bans Children
Detail: The town of Kensington in Maryland just passed a new rule that bans kids over five years old from using a large public playground during the daytime. The resolution only allows caretakers with children five years old and younger to be in Reinhardt Park from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This directly affects the girls at Kensington's Brookewood School, a private school, that is across the street from this public park. The girls are no longer able to use the park at recess. Since that resolution passed, Brookewood students have gone elsewhere for recess. "We like to use the park because it's big and we like to run around and play games," said Basia Syski, a fifth-grade student.

The town manager says students using the park for recess created maintenance issues and damage. The mayor feels the park is for taxpaying citizens, not for abuse by a private non-profit school. The town council asked the school to pay $4,000 a year to help with upkeep but never heard back. Brookewood's headmaster tells ABC 7 News it's a public park for all to use. The school is willing to help clean the park and put down mulch but not pay $4,000 per year for use of the park.

The girls at Brookewood say they brought life to the park, a park they now watch sit empty.

Date: November 4 2009

India Lowers Child Budget
Detail: According to calculations made by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, which has been analyzing central and state budgets in India from a child rights perspective for ten years, the Budget for Children (BfC) for the current fiscal is only 4.21 per cent of the total expenditure budgeted for 2009-10. This is the lowest share accorded to children in the last four years. This is much less than the 5.31 per cent share for children budgeted for 2008-09 as well as the reduced share of 4.31 per cent in the revised estimates of that year.

Despite unveiling Indias biggest budget in history in 2009-2010, the government has forgotten about its children who constitute 44 per cent of its people. The share of childrens schemes has declined across all sectors except for a small rise in health.

The sectoral allocation within BfC as Percentage of Union Budget is as follows:

Share of Development Sector, BfC in Union Budget: 0.69
Share of Health Sector, BfC in Union Budget: 0.46
Share of Protection Sector, BfC in Union Budget: 0.02
Share of Education Sector, BfC in Union Budget: 3.03

Share of Children in Union Budget: 4.21
Source: Less Spending, More Debt for Indias Children: Union Budget 2009-10 at a glance by Haq: Centre for Child Rights,
Date: November 1 2009

Accessible Playgrounds
Detail: The town of Westford in Massachusetts is receiving its first Boundless Playground to accommodate youngsters with a range of physical abilities. Steve and Stephanie McElligott launched the effort to build this accessible playground in the memory of their young son Ronan McElligott after whom this playground is named. There is such a playground planned for the town of Beverly as well. Bostons first Boundless Playground opened this spring at Harambee Park in Dorchester. Before that the closest one was in Cape Cod.

A Boundless Playground offers not just access ramps and surfaces suitable for wheelchairs, but also swings and bouncers with additional back support for children who need it. There are activity panels designed to support child development and teach skills such as math, science, Braille, and cause-and-effect, gathering areas to help children develop social skills, and cozy spaces for a child to find a quiet spot.

Boundless Playgrounds Inc. is a Connecticut-based nonprofit corporation that has worked with communities nationwide to provide design support and other services on inclusive playgrounds for children of all abilities. There are also smaller corporations as well. The group's website,, notes there are more than 150 of its playgrounds in 28 states and two Canadian provinces, with its Massachusetts list citing facilities in Dennis, Fairhaven, Longmeadow, New Bedford, and Pittsfield.

Dina Morris, a spokeswoman for Boundless Playgrounds, said its equipment is also accessible for grandparents or others with disabilities who might want to take children to the park. Really, the concept is for everybody to be together and able to play on the playground,'' she said.
Source: Based on a story by David Rattigan, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe, Thursday, September 17 2009
Date: October 27 2009

Youth Food Policy
Detail: Toronto has the world's first youth food policy council, Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, which is now recruiting members who are interested in food policy, food security, urban agriculture, farming and related topics.

According to Tracy Phillippi, a York University student working on a masters in environmental studies and a member of the council, "For the first time, youth are being given a voice in the food policy discussion."

The council's immediate plans include creating a newsletter to connect members with food issues and happenings, joining a World Food Day conference with FoodShare on Oct. 16, and planning a winter solstice celebration.

During the Sept. 9 town hall meeting of the council, ChocoSol Traders handed out cold chocolate drinks. This youth-run business, which describes itself as "socially just," makes stone-ground eating and drinking chocolate from fair-trade cacao beans. ChocoSol, which aims to reclaim some chocolate sales from the multinational corporations that control the industry, was given a Local Food Hero award by the Toronto Food Policy Council.
Source: Based on a story by Jennifer Bain, Toronto Star, September 18, 2009,
Date: October 21 2009

Play to self regulate
Detail: Tools of the Mind is a relatively new program dedicated to improving the self-regulation abilities of young children, starting as early as age 3. Tools of the Mind is based on the teachings of Lev Vygotsky, for whom the real purpose of early-childhood education was not to learn content, like the letters of the alphabet or the names of shapes and colors and animals, but to learn how to think. And the best way for children to do that, Vygotsky believed, especially at this early age, is to employ various tools, tricks and habits that train the mind to work at a higher level.

Vygotsky maintained that at 4 or 5, a childs ability to play creatively with other children was in fact a better gauge of her future academic success than any other indicator, including her vocabulary, her counting skills or her knowledge of the alphabet. Dramatic play, he said, was the training ground where children learned to regulate themselves, to conquer their own unruly minds. When a young boy is acting out the role of a daddy making breakfast, he is limited by all the rules of daddy-ness. Some of those limitations come from his playmates: if he starts acting like a baby (or a policeman or a dinosaur) in the middle of making breakfast, the other children will be sure to steer him back to the eggs and bacon. But even beyond that explicit peer pressure, Vygotsky would say, the child is guided by the basic principles of play. Make-believe isnt as stimulating and satisfying it simply isnt as much fun if you dont stick to your role. And when children follow the rules of make-believe and push one another to follow those rules, he said, they develop important habits of self-control.

Over the past 15 years, Deborah Leong and Elena Bodrova, scholars of child development based in Denver, have turned Vygotskys philosophy into a full-time curriculum for prekindergarten and kindergarten students, complete with training manuals and coaches and professional-development classes for teachers. Tools of the Mind has grown steadily though its expansion has sped up in the past few years and it now is being used to teach 18,000 prekindergarten and kindergarten students in 12 states around the country. These scholars believe that their program can reliably teach self-regulation skills to pretty much any child poor or rich; typical achievers as well as many of those who are considered to have special needs.

At the heart of the Tools of the Mind methodology is a simple but surprising idea: that the key to developing self-regulation is play, and lots of it. But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what Leong and Bodrova call mature dramatic play: complex, extended make-believe scenarios, involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even days.

There are not yet firm experimental data that prove that Tools of the Mind works. But two early studies that began in the late 1990s in Denver showed some promising results: after a year in the program, students did significantly better than a similar group on basic measures of literacy ability. In the end, the most lasting effect of the Tools of the Mind studies may be to challenge some of our basic ideas about the boundary between work and play. In Tools of the Mind classrooms work looks a lot like play and play is treated more like work.

For full story see:
Source: Based on a story by Paul Tough, Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? in The New York Times Magazine, September 25, 2009
Date: October 10 2009

Free Travel for Youth
Detail: Durham County Council chiefs are investigating the costs and benefits of extending free local travel to everyone in the county under 19. Even though this move will be a major cost to the authority, the committee considers the issue of access to services by youth a matter of urgency, highlighting transport problems faced by many youngsters wanting to use leisure and community facilities.

This proposal is being considered in spite of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's announcement that cuts in public spending will have to be made. The council has already introduced free swimming for under-19s and free lunches for primary school children.

Children under five in County Durham travel free if accompanied by a paying adult. Children aged five to 13 pay a concessionary rate. Those aged 14 to 16 pay half-price on weekends, school holidays and after 5pm on school days if they carry an Investing in Children Travel Card.

The proposal to introduce free travel for under-19s was contained in a committee report and presented to the council's executive cabinet. The cabinet agreed to draw up firm proposals within six months. A scheme could be piloted before being extended across the county.
Date: September 28 2009

Youth on Climate Change
Detail: A 13-year-old Indian girl speaking on behalf of the world's three billion children at a UN summit held to mobilize political will ahead of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, asked world leaders including the Presidents of United States and China, for urgent action on climate change.

Yugratna Srivastava is a ninth grader from Lucknow, a north Indian city, and is a Asia-Pacific representative in the youth advisory board of United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) youth organisation called 'Tunza'.

Excerpts from Srivastavass speech:

"I am so much concerned about climate change because I don't want our future generations to question us just as I am questioning the need of more concrete action on climate change today."

"The Himalayas are melting, polar bears are dying, 2 of every 5 people don't have access to clean drinking water, earth's temperature is increasing, we are losing the untapped information and potential of plant species, Pacific's water level has risen, Is this what we are going to hand over to our future generations?!"

"We need to call for an action now. We have to protect the earth not just for us but for our future generations.If not here then where, if not now then when and if not us then who?"

When you all make policies sitting in air conditioned rooms, please think of a child suffering in greenhouse heat and think of the species craving to survive."

"Mahatma Gandhi said Earth has enough to satisfy everyone's need but no one's greed."
Date: September 25 2009

Children Plan Village
Detail: The small north Italian town of Correggio, back in 1990, made a decision to take on the new name, Andria - inspired by an ideal city in Italo Calvino's novel, Invisible Cities and transform its vision from a cooperative for abitazioni (habitations) into a cooperative for abitanti (inhabitants). As part of the vision, Andria decided that, since families comprise both adults and children, to be a true cooperative for inhabitants, they would have to listen to children as well as adults. And that's how the idea to build Coriandoline was born.

The first phase began in 1995 with a research project involving 700 children from 12 local nursery and infant schools. 50 teachers and 2 child psychologists worked together with a group of 20 architects, engineers, surveyors, builders and carpenters: talking to the children, taking them on trips to learn about architecture, encouraging them to draw, building models with them. Since there was no specific school curriculum for that age group, classes could devote the whole academic year to the project.

Four years later, the Manifesto of Children's Living Needs was published based on the research. The manifesto is a synthesis of the most popular needs and desires commonly expressed by those 700 children as to how they would like their ideal house to be. Ten essential features ranging from 'transparent', 'hard outside' and 'soft inside' to 'playful', 'decorated' and 'magical'.

Coriandoline consists of 20 homes built around a central square: 10 houses and a block of 10 apartments. There's also a community building in one corner. In Coriandoline, children are allowed to play in all the communal areas, including the garages - which double up as covered playground areas. With their entrances that look like the mouths of giant monsters, the garages are buried under hills that the children can play on. The hills have been planted with a specially selected combination of plants to give them different coloured leaves and flowers to see and scents to sniff all year round. Inside the apartment block there are slides alongside each flight of stairs and distorting funfair-style mirrors in the lift.

Emphasis has also been given to colour and decoration. The walls of the houses are vibrant shades of blue, pink, orange, yellow and green; with giant flowers, birds, butterflies and smiling children painted on them. Each house has its own, very specific identity revealed in its name, for example, The House with the Roof Held up By Trees or The House with the Studio over the Lane. Although the design of Coriandoline was limited to the buildings' exteriors, some of the residents have created interior d�cor to continue their property's theme inside.

Link to additional information:

"Soft on the inside, hard on the outside"
From children�s fantasy to living reality: the first housing development designed by kids, by Dany Mitzman, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Published January 15 2009

Date: September 6 2009

Play Deficiencies Cause Alarm
Detail: In the not-so-distant past, going out to play was the norm for most American children. However, according to a University of Michigan study, children spend 50 percent less time outside than they did just 20 years ago and the 6.5 hours a day they spend with electronic media means that sitting in front of a screen has replaced going out.

Play research has shown some frightening public health and social trends related to play deficiencies: rising childhood obesity, 4.5 million children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an increase in childhood depression and classroom behavioral problems involving violence, and an inability to interact well with peers.

Physical activity is known to lessen the symptoms of mild attention deficit disorder, and is associated with much lower incidences of childhood obesity. Active kids are also more facile intellectually and perform better academically in the long term.

Physically engaging play is actually more fun than the virtual sort, and the enlivenment one gets from it can transcend the allure of sedentary life in a two-dimensional, electronic world. But breaking away from the draw of a well-crafted, image-laden on-screen story line requires broad cultural reinforcement. It helps to be aware of how important play is to ones development. To make that happen, we need a change in public consciousness about play to show that it is not trivial or elective as well as focused community and parental support.

The full story is available at:
Source: Based on Let the Children Play (Some More) by Stuart Brown, The New York Times, September 2, 2009
Date: September 4 2009

Best Places to Grow Up in US
Detail: Low crime, strong schools, green spaces, and fun activities are key ingredients for a happy childhood. U.S. News wanted to find out if any communities like that already existedand if so, where they were located. Digging into a database of 2,000 different places all across the country they pinpointed the locales that met these criteria. These communities were then examined more closely to determine which places offered the best combination of safe neighborhoods, fun activities, and top-notch educators. The selections in the list of America's 10 Best Places to Grow Up are:

Virginia Beach, Va.
Madison, Ala.
Overland Park, Kan.
San Jose, Calif.
Rochester, Minn.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Plano, Texas
Edison, N.J.
Source: By Luke Mullins, US News, Aug 20th, 2009
Date: August 21 2009

Pollution lowers child IQ
Detail: A recent Australian study of about 250 children found those whose mothers were exposed to common pollutant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) typically tested a full four points lower in IQ.

The pollutants, released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, petrol, oil and gas, are found in urban environments around the world, according to University of Queensland emeritus professor Michael Moore, former head of the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology. Traffic sources as well as burning of tobacco release PAHs. The study defined high PAH levels as those above the average of 2.26 nanograms per cubic metre but levels of up to 30 could be measured.

Two other studies, one in China and another in Europe, had shown lower intelligence among those exposed to coal-burning power stations, he said.

Another study by researchers at the Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health targeted children in New York City to find low verbal IQ scores among children with exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the environment. The children studied scored lower in verbal IQ scores when compared to children less exposure to air pollutants in New York City. Frederica Perera, DrPH, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Mailman says, "These findings are of concern because these decreases in IQ could be educationally meaningful in terms of school performance.

However, Professor Moore said a difference of four IQ points would not be measurable in an individual child and was only picked up by researchers because they were able to average out IQs among an entire group.
Source: The Daily Telegraph (Australia), July 24, 2009 and
Date: August 15 2009

Youth fight for food justice
Detail: A new report on food deserts released by the US Department of Agriculture show areas in the United States where communities lack access to supermarkets and other outlets selling foods necessary for a healthy diet. According to the report, 2.3 million Americans live more than a mile from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle. The report goes on to say that the urban core areas with limited food access are characterized by higher levels of racial segregation and greater income inequality.

In recent years, there have been efforts by food justice activists around the country to bridge the food gap. One group in Chicago is taking back the food system online. The Umoja Student Development Corporation is a Chicago-based, youth development organization which runs a six-week summer program in partnership with youth media group Free Spirit to film a short documentary about food deserts in the predominately African American community of North Lawndale.

Through this program student interns not only learned how to grow organic foods in community gardens and polled residents about their food shopping habits, but they also kept a blog for the duration of the program about their own eating habits and the various social and environmental injustices that block access to food equity.
Date: August 9 2009

Play Streets in New York City
Detail: Lyman Place is one of several official play streets in New York City. Most of these exist in neighborhoods where money and open space are scarce. Play streets often serve children who cannot afford day camp, much less sleep-away adventures. About 75 are run by the Police Athletic League; others, like Lyman Place, are organized at a more grass-roots level.

Hetty Fox has been the organizer of the Lyman Place summer play street for 33 years. Every day for the past 33 summers, Miss Fox has made sure the cars are banished, the barricades out and the basketball hoop, Nok Hockey table, checkerboard and assorted crafts are ready for when the kids scramble onto the Bronx block where she, too, grew up. I think the play street should be ready for children at 8 sharp, she said one recent morning. They have to know were ready for them.

To create a play street, 51 percent of the residents on a one-way residential block with no businesses or parking meters must sign a petition, which can be approved by the local community board upon review by police and transportation officials. The city provides some youth workers to supervise.

For full story read:
Source: Play Street Becomes a Sanctuary by David Gonzalez, The New York Times, July 31, 2009
Date: August 5 2009

Global climate change and child health
Detail: A recent review of global climate change on child health was conducted to improve the knowledge base on how children’s health is specifically impacted by climate change. Studies were identified by searching the PubMed database for
articles published before April 2009. Publications by agencies such as UNICEF, WHO, IPPC were also included for review.

A list of references was developed that provide evidence to the linkages between climate change and health outcomes, and on specific health outcomes for children. The analysis explores the hypothesis of disproportionate vulnerability of children’s health to environment tal factors, specifically those most closely related to climate change.

Scientific and policy research has gathered substantial evidence to show that children are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The diseases that are often linked to climate change including vector-borne diseases, water-borne diseases and air-borne diseases are already the primary causes of child morbidity and mortality. For this reason further research, assessment and monitoring of child health in respect to climate change is critical.

Author(s): Akachi, Yoko ; Goodman, Donna ; Parker, David

Date of Publication: 2009
Pages: 22
Series: Innocenti Discussion Papers, 2009-03
Thematic area: Child Protection
Date: July 27 2009

Japanese Towns Luring Youth
Detail: More than 60,000 Japanese towns are at risk of extinction through depopulation as a result of declining birthrate and a surging life expectancy, currently 86.05 years for women and 79.29 for men. Japan has one of the world's biggest proportions of over-65s – 22.5% of its 127 million people – and one of the smallest of under-15s, at 13%. Demographers expect the current population of 127 million to fall to 100 million over the next 50 years.

About 200 communities have vanished in the past decade. The threat of extinction looms largest in Hokkaido, where almost 10% of towns are at risk, with half of those expected to disappear over the next decade. Kiyosato has seen its population plummet from a peak of 11,000 in the early 1960s to just 4,675 today. Almost a third of residents are over 65, 10% higher than the national average. Its five primary schools are attended by a total of 318 pupils; the smallest has just 48. Another Hokkaido town was forced to advertise several of its schools on Yahoo's auction site earlier this year owing to a dramatic fall in the number of children. Tellingly, one school was converted into a nursing home for the elderly.

Kiyosato is trying to lure back younger urbanites to rediscover their rustic roots by allowing prospective residents to live locally for up to a month at vastly reduced rents in spacious new homes. But of the several dozen people to take up the offer since last summer, none has made the move permanent.
Source: “Japan: Towns face extinction as young people desert roots and head for cities” by Justin McCurry,, Monday 20 July 2009
Date: July 24 2009

Youth Climate Summit
Detail: A revolutionary Australian youth event, Power Shift, was organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) with the support of its major sponsor, the University of Western Sydney. Power Shift is Australias first youth climate summit. It was held at the University of Western Sydney's Parramatta campus 11-13 July 2009.

It brought together over 1000 young people from around the country. Power Shift was aimed at equipping Australias younger generation to address the climate crisis, and inspiring all Australians with a message of hope and action.

Incorporating the highest profile global and local speakers, groups and businesses, Power Shift directly involved thousands of young participants - the brightest young minds, the most influential of their peer group, tech savvy, socially conscious - and reached tens of thousands more, through peer-based promotion in schools and universities nation-wide.
Date: July 14 2009

Afghanistans First Skateboarding School
Detail: Students of Afghanistan's first skateboarding school: Skateistan wore white T-shirts adorned with "Skateistan" logos, and zipped from the national stadium, which was once the scene of public Taliban executions, to another part of the city to take part in a competition in honour of world Go Skateboarding Day.

Police in a pick-up truck provided an escort. With sirens blaring, officers shouted commands through a megaphone at motorists telling them to make way for the kids. "Long live Afghanistan!" the children shouted as they skated.

The founders of Skateistan say it has proven a remarkably successful way to reach out to marginalized kids. Oliver Percovich, an Australian who co-founded the school in 2007 with just three skateboards, said, "It's more than just skateboarding.It's a way to connect with the youth of Afghanistan. These kids are the future leaders and we hope that through skateboarding it can provide a little bit of a level playing field for both the rich and the poor."

At the moment, children skate in an old disused fountain in the middle of the city. But this week, thanks to western donations, the school will lay the cornerstone for what will become Afghanistan's biggest indoor sports arena. The 1,800 square metre Skateistan indoor arena will have a skateboard park and two air-conditioned classrooms equipped with computers where students can study.
Source: Based on a story by Jonathon Burch, Reuters in The Gazette (Montreal), June 22, 2009, Monday
Date: July 8 2009

Child Friendly Wodonga
Detail: Wodonga is among a growing number of Australian cities, Bendigo and Canberra included, working towards becoming child-friendly. It means upholding children's rights to live in safe, clean and healthy environments and engaging kids in community decision making. The premise is that if a city is good for kids to live in, it's good for everyone.

Wodonga City Council asked thousands of junior citizens what sort of things they'd like to see changed in Wodonga to make it more child-friendly. About 70 kids aged 7 to 14 from schools and pre-schools turned out to the city's children's summit to speak their minds.

Topmost on the wishlist was improving the condition of public toilets as they stink, offer little privacy and are often unsafe. Children demanded more playgrounds, less graffiti on the war memorial, more sitting chairs for the elderly, and a movie centre. Children also asked for more outdoor play areas, and a place for kids to stay and play in hospitals when their mums and dads are in there.
Source: Based on a story by Genevieve Barlow in The Weekly Times (Australia), June 24, 2009 Wednesday
Date: July 5 2009

Super City Prioritizes Children
Detail: According to John Angus, new Children's Commissioner, Auckland's proposed Super City is an opportunity to give more attention to the needs of children. Angus said, "Children are big users of public transport, swimming pools, recreational facilities and libraries, so their interests as consumers need to be taken account of in any changes." Dr Angus, who replaced Dr Cindy Kiro last month, is writing a submission asking for children's needs to be considered in the bill setting up the Super City.

Picking up on a theme in the report of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, Angus emphasized on the need to tackle extreme inequalities in social services. "I think there are opportunities to look across Auckland as a whole at the distribution of services to children. The royal commission touched on some of those things - the distribution of early childhood education services across Auckland, for example, is quite skewed," he said.

The Super City which proposes putting in place a new governance structure for the city provides an opportunity to have systems for more equitable distribution of resources. Angus said his staff were consulting the commissioner's young persons reference group and youth councils in the seven Auckland council districts to help them to make submissions on the bill.
Source: The New Zealand Herald, June 10, 2009 Wednesday
Date: July 3 2009

Largest Walking School Bus
Detail: Tens of thousands of children across the UK participated to make the largest "walking bus". The record attempt is part of a national effort, and the aim was to get more than 100,000 children walking in pairs on a 500m safe route to their school, at exactly the same time.

This effort seeks to highlight the dangers of speeding drivers and raising awareness of the numbers of youngsters killed or injured on the roads.

Neighbourhood wardens and parents, all in high-visibility jackets, accompanied the youngsters on the route. Walking buses involve adult volunteers escorting pupils to school on foot, stopping at pre-arranged "bus stops" to pick up passengers.
Source: Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, UK), June 19, 2009 Friday
Date: June 20 2009

Childrens Participation in Uganda
Detail: Uganda recently joined the rest of Africa to commemorate the Day of the African Child under the theme "Child Participation: Children to be seen and heard." Uganda has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It has domestically promoted two legal instruments in amending the Constitution and in creating the Children's Act. But despite these efforts, Uganda still lacks a national framework to mandate child participation.

Children actively participated in social, cultural, political and economic life in traditional African society. But currently most Africans view the participation of children as an alien concept. Children continue to grow in an environment that does not promote participation. In the family setting, children are not encouraged to participate. In schools, they are told to listen and only speak when asked. Children also learn not to challenge ideas or concepts considered tough by their teachers. This discourages initiative and independent thinking and ultimately affects their growth and development.

To truly promote childrens participation, the Government needs to set up strong mechanisms at national level to facilitate child participation in the design, execution, monitoring and evaluation of child-centered policies and programs. Children can help in monitoring and evaluating programs like the Universal Primary Education and the Direct Cash Transfer Scheme for vulnerable families. Establishing childrens parliament such as those in Ethiopia will also be a step in the right direction.

Children who are actively involved in childrens parliaments raise awareness on child abuse and child rights. Members of these children's parliaments can grow to be transparent, democratic and accountable leaders.
Source: Africa News, June 15, 2008 Sunday
Date: June 17 2009

Growing Youth Engagement
Detail: Places to Grow Youth Engagement Project by the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure attempts to establish a blueprint for managing growth and development in Ontario while maintaining economic prosperity, protecting the environment and enhancing quality of life. This is a three month interactive project where youth aged 16 to 18-years-old from across the Golden Horseshoe plan the future of their communities using the government's Places to Grow Plan as a guideline.

This project specifically seeks to engage teens. Young participants get a chance to share their visions for vibrant, greener, and more livable cities with some of the people that will ultimately shape their urban domains. This project, however, is more educational than it is a part of provincial or municipal official planning processes.

The Ontario's Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure promote the project through letters and communique to schools and organizations to reach out to young people interested in urban planning. Students are screened to determine their level of interest and to assemble a diverse mix of participants. Seven or eight youth are selected in each of the communities. The project work begins with them gathering for an orientation and a crash course in urban planning. Students involved were paid an honorarium.

Transit, pedestrian friendliness, improving architecture, enhancing public space, protecting natural features and green spaces and opportunities for renewable energy and conservation were among the elements teams had to take into account. One of the key elements of Ontario's Growth Plan is managing projected growth. Park space, transit density and other growth issues were addressed.

Participants are required to do four individual assignments, which they post online to share with other team members and an advisor. Organizers try to help the teams get their models displayed at city hall and during public provincial events as well as involve urban planners from the local community in the student learning process.
Source: Based on a story by Robert Belgrave in The Brampton Guardian, Thursday June 4, 2009
Date: June 7 2009

Built environment and health
Detail: In the June 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics, the Committee on Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement on the built environment and children's health. The eight-page statement presents a critique of existing environmental conditions for children, with an emphasis on the United States, and recommends design principles that encourage active living.

The critique covers the inequitable distribution of parks and recreational facilities in residential neighborhoods, car dependency, dangerous traffic, air pollution, sprawl, "big box" schools on the periphery of towns and cities, a lack of sidewalks and street connectivity in many residential developments, and "food deserts" where fresh healthy foods are unavailable. Recommendations include neighborhood schools that encourage walking and biking, safe streets, sidewalks, increased density, mixed use developments, increased investments in parks and recreational facilities, community gardens, attractive streetscapes, urban design that fosters "eyes on the street," and programs like Safe Routes to School and walking school buses.

The statement concludes by urging pediatricians to become involved in local planning processes, identify barriers to physical activity in the environments of their patients and their families, and encourage parents to advocate for better environments on children�s behalf. It also suggests ways that governments can target legislation, funding, and regulations to promote the development of healthy communities for children. For everyone working for this goal, the statement signals that influential new allies have emerged among the American Academy of Pediatrics and its members.

Source: Committee on Environmental Health. (2009). The built environment: Designing communities to promote physical activity in children. Pediatrics, 123(6), 1591-1598.
Date: June 4 2009

Children's Clubs in Vietnam
Detail: Children's clubs are changing childrens lives in Vietnam. Initiated by the Christian Children's Fund and the Child Protection Program of ChildFund Australia in Vietnam, these clubs support a safe and healthy environment for enhancing the lives of children in poor communities.

The clubs offer swimming classes, educational sessions and recreational activities as well as different sporting opportunities. Children also plan community activities such as helping the elderly and the poor, cleaning the village and planting trees.

After two years of piloting the program in the Cao Phong and Bach Thong Areas, which are about 100 miles from Vietnam's capital, the children's club model was revised and rolled out in eight other communities in Vietnam. It has attracted about 5,000 children as participants this year.

The local communities help the children find a common meeting area. The clubs bring out the creative management skills of children and enhance childrens capability to organize themselves. Children have established their own management board and selected members from themselves to coordinate activities and group discussions.
Source: PR Newswire, May 26, 2009
Date: May 27 2009

Youth helps ban smoking
Detail: The President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) has been presented to OUTRAGE Anti-Tobacco Youth Group from Provo, Utah, at the EPA headquarters on May 13, 2009. OUTRAGE comprises middle school and high school students who joined together to pass regulation to ban smoking in city parks and outdoor recreational areas throughout Utah County.

OUTRAGE members recognized that many young people in Utah County were being exposed to second-hand smoke in public parks where hundreds of families gather to play team sports, use playground equipment, or just enjoy the outdoors. Before OUTRAGE began their project, none of the 219 parks in Utah County were smoke-free.

OUTRAGE worked closely with their youth advisor from the Utah County Health Department and got involved in many community activities to educate residents about second-hand smoke. OUTRAGE also surveyed Utah County residents at various community events to understand their feelings on exposure to second-hand smoke in parks. These surveys revealed that Utah County residents favored mitigating tobacco smoke in parks.

OUTRAGE held more than 40 planning and training meetings to train other youth on the harmful effects of tobacco, as part of their outreach efforts. From 2007 to 2008, OUTRAGE planned and implemented 21 major events. In total, 33 days of volunteer service were spent within the community to better understand the opinions of Utah County residents.

5,112 opinion surveys were gathered on smoking in parks and 13,474 signature cards in support of smoke-free parks. OUTRAGE then presented their work to elected officials at two city council meetings; one meeting with all the mayors in the county, and five meetings with the Board of Health over the course of several months. In response to OUTRAGE's actions, Utah County cities joined together in passing a regulation that banned smoking in all city parks, outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor mass gatherings throughout Utah County. The group is currently planning a campaign to educate Utah County about the new regulation and to spread the message about second-hand smoke and tobacco.

For more information on award winners and project descriptions: more information please contact: Sarabjit Jagirdar, Email:-
Source: US Fed News, May 22, 2009
Date: May 23 2009

Economic Downtown and Children
Detail: The severe economic downturn in America is causing poverty and family homelessness to increase, quality of public education in many communities to deteriorate, and loss of access to health care for many children as their parents join the vastly expanding ranks of the unemployed. These are factors that have long been known to impede the ability of young people to flourish.

According to the president of the Childrens Health Fund in New York, Dr. Irwin Redlener, numbers of children in poverty may rise from about 12.5 million before the recession to nearly 17 million by the end of this year. This is the emergence of a recession generation, that includes the children who were already living in poverty, but also millions more whose families had a reasonable chance of making it. Growing numbers of children are depending on emergency rooms for health care or going without care.

The number of people receiving food stamps has increased by 4.6 million, nearly 17 percent since the start of the recession according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Homelessness that had been a persistent problem is also on the rise. Social service programs are being cut coast to coast. Similar cutbacks in socially beneficial and even life-saving programs for children are in the works in many states.

As kids cant wait for the economic recovery to have their immediate needs cared for, Childrens Health Fund, in an effort to bring health care to some of the children most in need right now, while at the same time drawing attention to the plight of children in general in these tough economic times, is planning to deploy state-of-the-art mobile medical units to some of the communities hardest hit by the recession.
Source: Based on a story by Bob Herbert titled Children in Peril, The New York Times, April 20, 2009
Date: May 20 2009

Let's Cool The Earth!
Detail: The sixth International Children's Conference on the Environment (ICCE) by the Children's Environmental Heritage Foundation (or its Malay acronym YAWA) aims to empower youth to adequately face the challenges posed by global warming. The sixth ICCE, to be held at the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah from June 1-5, will bring together children between ages 10 and 16 years from different parts of the world to learn and discuss current environmental issues. As it is a "for children by children" programme, it will be led by YAWA's junior board and the Sepilok Junior Rangers which comprise teens between 13 and 18 years.

The theme of the conference is Rise Up, Stand Up, Let's Cool The Earth! The conference coincides with World Environment Day, which is also celebrated all over the world during the first week of June. The word "cool" has been used in place of the commonly used global "warming" in the theme as it has a more positive connotation.

Delegates will attend workshops, which include taking part in community work (such as growing plants and trekking pygmy elephants in the wild); playing environmental board games, and creating nature inspired batik designs. Workshops run by environmental specialists such as Borneo Bird Club's president Cede Prudente, Kota Kinabalu Wetland education officer Jocelyn Maluda, and Hutan Environmental Awareness Programme head Datu Ahbam Abulani will provide insights into how nature works and how best to manage the environment in a sustainable way.

A highlight of the conference will be the Eco Drum Circle Workshop where children learn to create rhythmic sounds using recyclable household items. Established in 1990, YAWA has more than 5,000 members locally and abroad. It has organized some 500 environmental activities and five conferences since 1993 in different parts of Malaysia. Those who enjoy the outdoors and environmental activities are invited to register for the conference.

Contact YAWA's secretariat at 03-7842-6782, fax 03-7842-6749 or visit for details.
Source: New Straits Times (Malaysia), May 9, 2009
Date: May 17 2009

Playgroups on rise
Detail: Parents in Queensland looking for new places for their children to socialise have pushed the number of Playgroups in the state to more than 5000. Playgroups are set up by volunteers to offer supportive environments for children under school age to socialise and take part in activities organised by parents.

According to Mark Brooke, chief executive of Playgroup Queensland, even more families are expected to attend as workplace changes forced by the economic downturn left working parents with more time. Under these circumstances, parents are returning to Playgroup because of its convenience and affordability.

The group's model allows volunteers to start Playgroups to meet the needs of local families. There are now groups for working parents, single parents and parents in school as well as cultural and bi-lingual groups.
Source: The Courier Mail (Australia), May 8, 2009
Date: May 16 2009

Children and Technology

Children, Youth and Environments has just published a special issue on "Children and Technological Environments." It features a substantive introduction by the guest editors, Nathan G. Freier and Peter H. Kahn, Jr., and 14 high-quality, peer-reviewed articles on such topics as interactive humanoid robots, digital libraries, virtual natural environments, video and online
games, hacking, assistive technologies for children with learning disabilities, and learning by doing with shareable interfaces. The authors include leading researchers from the U.S., Britain and Japan.

The issue is available online at:

To recommend a library subscription, download the form on:
Date: May 15 2009

Japan requires bicycle helmets
Detail: A survey by the Tokyo metropolitan government has found that eighty percent of parents have bought bicycle helmets for their children, but only half of all parents actually make their children wear them when riding bikes even though it is obligatory for children under 13 to wear helmets when on bicycles according to the revised Road Traffic Law enacted in June last year.

The major reasons that parents cite for children not wearing helmets were "the riding time is very short," accounting for 49 percent, and "children don't want to wear helmets," at 43 percent. A total of 921 people in their 20s to 40s, who had carried children aged 1 to 6 on bicycles with child seats were asked whether their children had been injured while on bicycles. Eleven percent said their children had been injured and 43 percent said their children had come close to being injured.

The Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute studied the damage caused to a child's head from falling from a bike by using a dummy that simulates a 3-year-old. It found that injuries could be reduced by 50 percent to 60 percent with the use of helmets.

These results have spurred new movements to promote child safety with the metropolitan government's Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety calling for parents to buy helmets that meet certified safety standards and ensure their children wear them properly, including having the chin strap fit snugly, when they take their children on bicycles or when children ride bicycles on their own.
Source: , April 23, 2009
Date: May 1 2009

Youth Tackle Environmental Challenges
Detail: As a developing country, Zambia is among countries expected to suffer the worst effects of climate change, according to recent scientific findings by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Despite the country being endowed with abundant natural resources, unsustainable utilization such as over-exploitation has led to environmental problems that have directly affected the livelihood of the people.

The United Nations has already warned that global warming will inflict the most harm in the parts of the world that are the poorest, the least prepared - and the least responsible for causing it. And for sure, the past few months in Zambia have clearly attested to this fact. It is now crucial for Zambia to address the issue of climate change by involving the citizenry fully through environmental sensitization programs.

Chilanga Youth Awake (CYA) has partnered with the Zambian Government to embark on programs aimed at raising public awareness on environmental issues. CYA program coordinator Sandra Chibebe observes that despite Chilanga being close to one of Zambia's biggest water bodies- the Kafue River- the majority of the youth are faced with numerous environmental problems such as poor access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.

Ms Chibebe explained that the indiscriminate cutting of trees for burners has been another huge challenge as this activity is an income generator among youth. She pointed out the need for sensitization and alternative livelihood training

CYA obtains financial support from the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources through the district environmental committee program, a poverty reduction project of the ministry. "The project we have dubbed 'Youth and Environment Community Project' aims at empowering the youth and the community through enhanced information-sharing on the environment, skills-building and promoting income-generating activities for sustainable livelihoods," Ms Chibebe explained.
Source: Africa News, April 28, 2008
Date: April 29 2009

Nature Nurture in Forest Playground
Detail: A pioneering outdoor project is providing a curative learning environment in the sprawling grounds of Camphill School in the suburbs of Aberdeen. In this Rudolf Steiner school, Waldorf education and outdoor learning is bringing a sense of calm and healing to different groups of young children.

Since its launch in 1940, Camphill has used its extensive grounds as a setting for curative education for children with special needs. Now, this expertise and over 100 acres of space is being offered as a venue for Forest School education to local schools, along with continuing professional development courses to train more teachers to use the outdoors for learning and therapy.

For some of these children, who are on the child protection register of the city and come from troubled families, this project provides a therapeutic experience. For other children who do not have these problems at home or delayed development, the project provides a wonderful opportunity to explore and play in nature.

Aberdeen City Council is funding a series of these Nature Nurture group visits to Camphill School grounds. Nurture projects were highlighted as a key to early intervention and this is one strand of the council's response to Getting It Right for Every Child.
Source: Based on a story by Jean McLeish, Forest playground is a natural start, The Times Educational Supplement, April 24, 2009
Date: April 27 2009

Farm School in Brazil
Detail: Lago do Junco, Maranhao is located nearly 400 km from state capital Sao Luis, in one of the poorest corners of one of Brazil's poorest states. Violent land conflicts have raged here between impoverished rural workers and wealthy landowners. Education never stood a chance.

Though the land conflicts have largely receded today, but challenges remain. The average wage for a grueling day's work in the fields here is R$15 ($6.55). Many have fled the area while those who remain are searching for solutions to lead a better life.

One such solution is the Antonio Fontenele Family Agriculture School, an alternative primary school geared towards local youths and named after a rural rights activist who was gunned down in 1986. This is a new type of rural boarding school that is pioneering new rural production techniques. With support from ActionAid, the Escola Familia, or Family School as locals call it, now caters for some 150 young locals, who study 15 days in the school and then return home for 15 days, taking their new sustainable techniques with them.

The school initially faced resistance from the community as it stopped some common practices such as burning the fields or using pesticides. But today few question the benefits the school has brought. The farming techniques taught revolve around environmental protection and sustainability.

The school was the brainchild of the region's rural workers who realized that to guarantee the futures of their families in Maranhao they needed to improve levels of education. Local state schools are often underfunded, understaffed and hugely overcrowded. The solution was to create their own.

For full story see:,,2198688,00.html
Source: "Education sends children back to the land",
Date: April 25 2009

Teens and Urban Planning
Detail: Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure started the Places to Grow Youth Engagement Program three years ago as part of the 2006 growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This program, which runs March to May, offers young people aged 16 to 18 the opportunity to learn more about urban planning and think of the impact of population growth.

The program begins with participants sharing their ideas about their communities and hearing presentations about urban planning. Participants also complete online assignments, such as analyzing their community's transportation services, architecture and public spaces.

Then participants are given a specific area within their city to work on and propose changes for improvements. The St. Catharines group was given a section of Merritt Street, between Lonsdale and Glendale avenues. At the final session in May, the group will present a three-dimensional model of what the envisioned changes would look like if implemented.
Date: April 22 2009

Urban Youth Fund
Detail: Urban based Youth-led organizations in developing countries who are working to improve the living conditions of their communities can now apply for financial assistance from UN-HABITAT. Opportunities Fund, as it is called, is designed to provide financial support of up to one million dollars per year to youth-led initiatives aimed at sustainable urbanization.

The Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-Led Development will give grants up to $5,000 and larger grants of $25,000 to organizations led by young people, aged 15-32 years. The Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-Led Development has been established with support from the Norwegian Government specifically to provide funds to youth-led community initiatives. UN HABITAT is seeking the support of other governments and institutions for the Fund.

The Fund is committed to support innovative youth-led projects in areas such as employment, education, environment, health and safety. Applications from organizations partnering with government agencies and the private sector are encouraged. Projects promoting gender equality are particularly welcome. Applications details are now available at (
Date: April 18 2009

Child Parliament in Zimbabwe
Detail: The selection process of child parliamentarians for this year is now underway in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Youth Council(ZYC) in conjunction with the Ministries of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment and Education, Sport, Arts and Culture are conducting the selection process. Apart from selecting child MPs for all Senate and House of Assembly constituencies in line with the real parliament, provincial teams are expected to select child governors and resident ministers for their respective provinces. In addition, provincial teams are also tasked with the responsibility of selecting other office bearers on a rotational basis.

Selection of child parliamentarians is based on speech competence through public speaking competitions held at constituency level, focusing on a selected theme. Candidates are also expected to have an appreciation of child and youth development issues. This year's selection process will be held under the theme "Child and Youth Participation in Environmental Issues for Sustainable Development".

This theme according to ZYC information and publicity officer Mr Tanzikwa Guranungo is to enhance, inspire and enable the involvement of children and young people in sustainable development particularly in the six cross-cutting thematic priorities identified by the United Nations Environment Programme medium-term strategy for the period 2010-2013: climate change, disaster and conflicts, ecosystem management, environmental governance, harmful substances and hazardous wastes, resource efficiency, sustainable consumption and production.

For full story see
Source: Based on Zimbabwe: Child Parliament Selection Process On, The Herald, Africa News, March 26, 2009 Thursday
Date: April 14 2009

School Zone Safety
Detail: A 6-year-old boy was struck by a car opposite Fairfield West Public School in Sydney, Australia and hospitalized with serious head injuries March 30th. The incident has increased awareness of the lack of precautions to protect children from traffic in school zones.

Less than 3 percent of school zones in New South Whales have flashing lights. This is unacceptable to citizen Peter Olsen who believes the Government is failing to do its job and has taken up the slack himself. Olsen has installed $20,000 worth of signs in 10 western Sydney school zones to improve child road safety.

If the Government was genuinely concerned about child road safety then I believe they should be installing flashing lights at all school zones, says Olsen.

"It's not just for the safety of the kids, it's also for fairness on drivers because, as any driver knows, it is very easy to forget what time it is when driving through a school zone."

The Government has committed $46.5 million to installing more lights and hopes to have 366 zones finished by the end of this year. But Mr. Olsen says this is still not good enough.
Source: Based on School safety knight leads charge of the light crusade by Ellie Harvey in Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Date: April 12 2009

Play in Childcare
Detail: The Australian Government has replaced its politically correct curriculum for children in daycare and replaced it with a family-friendly guide emphasizing the importance of play.

The revised early years learning framework, to be introduced nationally on July 1, replaces the original description of child's play as a space for politics and power relations, with play enables children to simply enjoy being''.

The new edition states that play can also provide opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine(They) use play to investigate, imagine and try out ideas.''

Additionally, the curriculum replaces academic jargon with user-friendly suggestions concerning children and the environment. The framework suggests children care for the environment by recycling, gardening, turning off running taps and cleaning up litter. Further, it highlights the importance of playing outdoors, storytelling, drawing and singing nursery rhymes.
Source: Based on Play in, politics out for childcare by Natasha Bita in The Australian, Thursday, April 2, 2009
Date: April 10 2009

Youth in Parliament
Detail: UK Youth Parliament will now be allowed to hold its annual meeting in the House of Commons debating chamber afterhours of debate. Members of Parliament passed the motion by a majority of 186 votes after a motion to have the UK Youth Parliament meet in a committee room instead of the Chamber was defeated. Scottish Youth Parliament already sits in the Scottish Parliament.

Jack Gebhard, 16, Member of Youth Parliament for Northumberland, said: "This is a new era for democracy. It's a great way to engage young people - you don't often hear of young people watching the BBC Parliament channel but if you have young people in the House they will watch it."

Andy Hamflett, UKYP chief executive, said: "Many young people were watching the debate live and there has been a flurry of excitement at the result and the opportunity it now provides. We very much look forward to working with Parliament to scope out the details of the event."
Source: Based on a story by Charlotte Goddard, UK Youth Parliament wins right to sit in House of Commons, Children & Young People Now, 17 March 2009.
Date: March 18 2009

Urban planning for kids
Detail: Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI), recently released "A Call to Action," which argues that to design a city that works for the young is to design a city that works for everyone. This idea in the realm of city planning is not unique. Most recently, Enrique Penalosa, the celebrated former mayor of Bogota has strongly advocated planning cities for children to work for everyone.

The authors of the report suggest that from a kid's perspective, the ideal city is one where destinations - school, park, home, stores, etc. - are close together and connected by cheap, efficient and safe transit. It also has wide sidewalks and bike lanes. Speed limits would also be lower as cars are, after all, a leading cause of death and injury for children. Were the principles of kid-friendly urban planning to be implemented, it would mean dense, multi-use communities connected by extensive public transit. It would also mean cities where pedestrians and cyclists enjoyed equal access to the streets as well as the public revenues that pay for them.

"A kid-friendly city would be a very liveable city," says report co-author Catherine O'Brien, "whether you're talking about speed limits, scale or distances. When the appropriate infrastructure is there, the fear is diminished. There are more eyes on the street; people feel safer."

The report also calls for formal mechanisms to give youth direct input into the political process. The report also offers a list of guidelines such as:

"Identify where children and youth want to go or need to go ... and provide ways of getting there by foot."

"Do what is possible to reduce amounts of motorized road traffic..."

" ...Provide separate bicycle paths or trails or, if not possible, install bicycle lanes... "

"Separate sidewalks used by children and youth from heavily traveled roads."
Source: Based on a story by Christopher Hume in The Toronto Star, March 7, 2009 Saturday
Date: March 16 2009

Technology Helps Children with Communication Disabilities
Detail: Scientists at Bloorview Kids Rehab in Toronto have developed a prototype device that allows a kind of mind-reading, using near-infrared light to decipher the brain's response when a person is offered a choice of two objects. The device is one part of a larger project to find alternative ways for children and youth robbed of communications skills by cerebral palsy and neuromuscular conditions to interact with people and their environment.

The headband-like device shines near-infrared light onto the forehead and detectors measure the light's intensity when it bounces back out again. In a study of nine healthy adults, published this month in the Journal of Neural Engineering, the scientists were able to decode a person's preference for one of two drinks displayed on a computer screen with an average accuracy of 80 per cent.

Sheena Luu, a PhD student in biomedical engineering who led the study, said "The light travels through the skin and the scalp and the bone and reaches the cortex, the top layer of the brain....We're reading the intensity of the light that has been absorbed by the brain tissue." When a region of the brain becomes active, it requires more oxygen. Increase in oxygen concentration changes the absorption of light that passes through that brain tissue. Luu explained, “...we can map out the areas of the brain that are active and non-active when a person looks at a drink that they like, compared to when they look at a drink they don't really like." A computer is used to recognize the unique pattern of brain activity associated with preference.

Supervising author, Tom Chau, a senior scientist at Bloorview, says that these individuals are cognitively capable. They are aware of their surroundings and understand what's going on. But they have no means of communicating their intentions or preferences to the outside world. The near-infrared brain-imaging device promises to open up a communication channel for children who cannot speak or move without having other people to second guess desires.
Date: March 12 2009

Schoolyard injuries
Detail: A joint one year study by York and the University of Ottawa analyzed childhood injury statistics from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and six other Ottawa-area emergency departments or clinics. The study found that 4,287 children were hurt at school in 2002, representing 18 per cent of all children injured.

Data for the study, published in the February issue of the Journal of School Health, was collected by doctors in Ottawa-area hospital emergency departments and urgent-care clinics through the Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP).

58 per cent of school injuries occurred while children were playing or engaging in informal sports in the playground. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 are the most frequently injured. Boys were hurt more often than girls (about 60 per cent versus 40 per cent) and suffered a significantly higher proportion of head injuries.

About 10 per cent of the school-based injuries that sent kids to hospital emergency departments were head injuries ranging from bad bumps to concussions. Of the 402 head injuries, seven required admission to hospital. More than 1,100 of the injuries, or 26 per cent, involved fractures.

The authors emphasized that the study does not suggest that kids should be kept indoors or not allowed to play. The authors were of opinion that outdoor play should happen in the most environmentally safe context that's possible and reasonable. The authors also called for more regular national level studies to see if injuries among school-aged children and youth are occurring more or less frequently over time.
Source: and
Date: March 11 2009

Child Rights Hero
Detail: 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 10th for the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC). 22 million children in close to 50,000 schools in 94 countries support the WCPRC. The World’s Children’s Prize program includes giving the world’s children an opportunity to present their prestigious awards for outstanding contributions to the rights of the child.

WCPRC is the world’s largest educational activity for the rights of the child, democracy, respect for the environment, global friendship and peace. It empowers children to demand change and respect for their rights, and supports their human growth as global citizens. Millions of vulnerable children are among the participating children. They include former child soldiers, debt slaves and street children, children who are orphans because of AIDS, genocide or the Asian Tsunami.

This year children will participate in the ‘Decade Global Vote’, to choose their Decade Child Rights Hero. In 2008, 6.6 million children voted. The candidates are the 14 people and organizations that have received the voting children’s ‘Global Friends’ Award’, or the jury children’s ‘World’s Children’s Prize’, during the first nine years of the WCPRC, 2000-2008. The members of the international child jury are experts on the rights of the child through their own life experiences, which include being soldiers, slaves, living in the streets or having had your rights violated in other ways. On the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 2009, children will reveal their hero of the decade on TV, worldwide.
Date: March 6 2009

Lead levels lower in children
Detail: A new government research reported in the journal, Pediatrics, show that far fewer children in the US have high lead levels than 20 years ago. The study is based on nearly 5,000 children, ages 1 to 5 who were part of a periodic government health survey.

1.4 percent of young children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2004 as compared with almost 9 percent in 1988. The 84 percent drop is outcome of efforts to remove lead from gasoline that began in the 1970s and subsequent continuing steps to reduce children's exposure to lead in old house paint, soil, water and other sources.

Lead can interfere with the developing nervous system and cause permanent problems with learning, memory and behavior. Though the government considers levels of at least 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to be elevated, research has shown that levels less than that can still cause problems including attention and reading difficulties. According to the authors, there is no “safe” level, but lead poisoning is entirely preventable.

Racial disparities among children with blood-lead levels higher than 10 micrograms had mostly disappeared by 2004. About equal numbers of white, black and Mexican-American children had levels in that range. In the lower blood-lead levels, almost 18 percent of white children had levels of less than 1 microgram per deciliter, versus 11 percent of Mexican-Americans and 4 percent of blacks. Children from lower-income families also had higher lead levels than those from wealthier families.

Recommendations for prevention include: pregnant women and young children should avoid housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation; regularly washing children's hands and toys; frequent washing of floors and window sills; and avoiding hot tap water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Hot tap water generally contains higher lead levels from plumbing than cold water.
Date: March 4 2009

School Zones and Poverty
Detail: New school assignment zones likely to hurt poorest neighborhoods in Boston

A new assignment plan, which aims to save millions of dollars in fuel costs by shortening bus routes, would scrap three sprawling school assignment zones, in favor of five smaller ones in Boston. A Globe review of state test scores and compliance with federal standards has found that the plan would create a less equitable distribution of potentially failing schools.

Access to good-quality schools has been a concern particularly in two zones that contain the poorest neighborhoods in Roxbury and Dorchester. State officials consider just under 60 percent of the schools in these zones to be in need of major overhauls. By contrast, only one of the six schools in the newly established Allston-Brighton zone would require such drastic restructuring. Even when families in Roxbury and Dorchester have access to a good school nearby, some do not feel comfortable letting their children walk there because they are located in dangerous areas.

John Mudd, senior project director of Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a nonprofit that works on behalf of the city's disadvantaged students, considers this to be worrisome as there are not enough quality schools in the city.

The three-zone system was created two decades ago as a way to divide the schools serving students in preschool through Grade 8. Students were allowed to apply to attend any school within the zone. All high schools are open to students from across the city. Eventually the idea was to expand into nine zones as schools improved, providing students with good-quality classrooms closer to home. However that never happened. Earlier attempts to increase school zones were abandoned after many parents and advocates for disadvantaged children said too many poor neighborhoods would be stuck with substandard schools. The current assignment plan is prompted by escalating transportation costs where school leaders are confronted by a projected budget shortfall of more than $100 million next year.

The present analysis of the plan by the Globe is largely based on test scores, and does not take into account efforts at improvement that have not fully materialized, and some of those schools are popular among parents. At this point it is not clear when changes would go into effect if approved by the School Committee, or if students would have to change schools if they no longer lived in the correct zone or if the new borders would apply to only new students.
Source: Based on a story by James Vaznis, "New school zone plan could hurt poorest neighborhoods", The Boston Globe, February 25, 2009
Date: March 1 2009

Children's Book on Planning
Detail: A new children's book on planning, Where Things Are, From Near to Far'' (Planetizen Press), by Chris Steins and Tim Halbur, depicts a mother and son on a stroll through a city and its surroundings. This colorful book is meant for child audiences, and is illustrated by David Ryan.

An earlier version of the text was critical of the suburbs echoing New Urbanist values. According to Chris Steins, considering that large numbers of families live in suburbs and since every type of community has value, such value judgments were removed from later drafts.

According to Elizabeth Bird, the senior children's librarian at the New York Public Library, children are increasingly studying topics like planning in school. There are comparatively few in-print titles that focus on careers in the built environment though ample children's books profile police officers, firefighters and doctors.

Interest in planning seems to be increasing. New York created the Academy of Urban Planning, a public high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with 450 students six years ago. By focusing on planning at an earlier age, Ethel Sheffer, an adjunct assistant professor in the department of urban planning at Columbia University, feels that young people can better hone their powers of observation.
Source: Based on a story by C. J. Hughes, My First Book Of Urban Planning, February 22, 2009 Sunday,
Date: February 28 2009

Children's Zone Project
Detail: The Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which according to The New York Times is one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time, grew out of a small truancy-prevention program that started in the 1970s. Today HCZ provides educational, social and medical services to more than 10,000 young people and 5,000 adults across 100 city blocks.

Under the leadership of its president and CEO, Geoffrey Canada, HCZ, does not only tackle everyday problems as they emerge. Instead this project is about an entire neighborhood, with services ranging from parenting classes to health clinics to charter schools. HCZ Project gives children an intensive experience in a succession of programs until they graduate from college. The project’s charter schools have longer school days and a longer school year. Last year, nearly all the third-graders in these charter schools scored at or above grade-level in math, better than recent citywide averages and eighth-graders outperformed the average New York student in math, according to New York state data.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal Article, the HCZ Project that had won big corporate backing is affected by the current economic downturn and now faces big cutbacks as donors stop funding. However, this project has attracted the attention of the White House and President Barack Obama's advisers met with Mr. Canada recently to learn more about his approach. Spreading the model of Mr. Canada's charity in 20 cities across the U.S, to create "promise neighborhoods", remains part of the White House's publicized agenda.

For related stories see:

1. He’s the Angel of Harlem: Geoffrey Canada leads a nonprofit that helps thousands of poor city kids. The secret: conquering one block at a time.

2. Bear Market for Charities: A Harlem Education Project That Won Big Corporate Backing Now Faces Cutbacks as Donors Close Their Wallets
Date: February 20 2009

Neighborhood affects student performance
Detail: A new study of schools in three neighborhoods where there was some sort of physical blight near the school, but not inside, by a Leicester-based research and consultancy firm, found that symbols of urban decay as far as 10 minutes away from the school had a devastating effect on student behavior, truancy and teacher morale. This study commissioned by NASUWT, the largest teachers union in the UK, and published as One More Broken Window is the first study of its kind in the UK to examine the relationship between schools and the physical environment.

This year-long study, interviewed headteachers, teachers, pupils, parents, school governors, police and community groups in the neighborhoods about its effect. Some students disagreed that urban decay affected their performance. One said the physical blight of a disused funfair 10 minutes from their school made pupils "work harder because they want to get away". Another said: "You can't say 'I live in a bad area, so I'm going to cause a riot in class'."

Alan Dyson, professor of education at Manchester University and co-director of the Centre for Equity in Education, also, is of opinion that the effects of the purely physical environment are quite small. The important thing is, he says, is that "they signal a whole set of social environmental effects". According to Dyson, what the school looks like inside is the most important. He argues that a school near a row of boarded-up homes, but in a neighborhood with few difficulties, would probably be relatively unaffected by the sight of the homes. Likewise, a school situated near a beautiful park, but in a neighborhood with many difficulties, would still have the problems of its neighborhood.

However the report's authors believe that the physical environment near a school is still very important and the local planning process must acknowledge that schools should no longer be left out of neighborhood redevelopment and regeneration plans.

Please see full report at:
Source: Based on Jessica Shepherd's "What cost a derelict Landscape?" in The Guardian, January 20, 2009 and
Date: February 13 2009

Cells: street crossing risk for adolescents
Detail: A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that talking on a cell phone while trying to cross the street can be dangerous for young adolescents. There is a sharp increase in cell phones among American schoolchildren—54 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds will have cell phones by the end of this year, double the rate in 2006.

Researchers studied 77 children ages 10 and 11, on a "virtual reality" road, to see what effect cell phone conversations had on their ability to make it across the street safety. Crossing a street is a complex task involving judgment and the ability to assess speed, distance of cars and the time needed to cross the pavement. Each child crossed the road 12 times, six times with the distraction of a cell phone conversation, six times without. The study found that all children in the study were more distracted when talking on their cell and crossing the street. When children were on the cell phones, their attention to traffic, the number of times a participant looked right or left, went down 20 percent. A delay in starting across the street right after a car passed went up 20 percent. The risk of getting hit by a car, or the number of close calls (coming within one second of getting hit) went up 43 percent.

The study, however, did not address the issue of teens texting while walking, which also causes many accidents, some of them fatal, after people walked into traffic, or fell off a curb, while texting. The researchers concluded that just as drivers should limit cell phone use while behind the wheel, so too should pedestrians, especially child pedestrians who are clearly at greater risk while walking and talking.
Source: Based on a story by Lisa Stark, “Cell Phones Pose Danger in the Crosswalk”, January 26, 2009,
Date: February 4 2009

Chinese officials: Environmental degradation behind increase in birth defects
Detail: Chinese officials told state media that birth defects are increasing
at an alarming rate and that a major reason was degradation of the environment.
"The number of newborns with birth defects is constantly increasing in both urban and rural areas," Jiang Fan, vice minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, was quoted by the China Daily's weekend edition as saying in a recent conference.

Environmentalists say that the leading culprit is China's dependence on coal and that birth defects are highest in coal-producing regions such as Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. Although Jiang did not give out new figures at last month's conference, a study by the commission released in 2007 found that birth defects had increased nearly 40% from 2001 to 2006, coinciding with the country's explosive economic growth.
Date: February 3 2009

US survey: Best places to raise children
Detail: A recent national survey by the Pew Research Center
the vast majority of whites (84%) give excellent or
good ratings to their community as a place to raise
children. In contrast, about six-in-ten black
respondents think the same. Hispanics are in
between: About seven-in-ten Hispanics give positive
ratings to their community as a place to raise
children. Americans who have earned at least a
college degree are more likely than those who are
less educated to have positive ratings about their
communitys child-rearing environment.
While nearly seven-in-ten city dwellers rate their
communities as excellent or good for raising
children, those living in other communities offer
even better marks on this question. Indeed, close to
nine-in-ten rural (88%) and suburban (86%)
residents give positive ratings to the child-rearing
aspect of their communities. On the regional front,
more than eight-in-ten adults living in the Midwest
and the South think their local community is an
excellent or good place to raise children, compared
with 76% of residents who live in the West and 77%
of those living in the East.
Date: January 31 2009

Ban on mobile phone advertising to children in France
Detail: France is introducing a new law prohibiting all advertising of mobile phones to children under 12 amid growing fears that radiation from the phones may cause cancer and other diseases. The French government will also make it compulsory for handsets to be sold with earphones to minimize direct exposure to radiation from phones.

Swedish research indicates that children and teenagers are five times more likely to get brain cancer if they use the phones. Some experts are predicting an "epidemic" of the disease among today's young people in later life.

In September, the European Parliament voted 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter radiation limits. The European Environment Agency has also issued a warning. The city of Lyon launched an advertising campaign dissuading people from buying mobiles for children as presents for Christmas, with the slogan "Let's keep them healthy, away from mobile phones!"

In Toronto, the Department of Public Health has advised that children under eight should only use mobiles in emergencies and teenagers should limit calls to less than 10 minutes. Other countries are also acting on this: the Russian Ministry of Health says that young people under 18 should not use the devices, and Israel's Health Ministry has also advised caution.
Date: January 14 2009

New Housing Vouchers and Other Measures to Prevent Families with Children Becoming Homeless
Detail: A new paper, "Number of Homeless Families Climbing Due to Recession; Recovery Package Should Include New Housing Vouchers and Other Measures to Prevent Homelessness" has been released by the U.S Center on Budget.

The key findings are:

1. 1 million more families with children will fall into deep poverty (below half the poverty line) and be at risk of housing instability and homelessness, if unemployment reaches the 9 percent level as predicted by Goldman Sachs. The housing market crisis adds to the risk of increased homelessness.

2. Housing instability and homelessness put children at greater risk of physical health problems and lower academic performance.

The report recommends the recovery package to include funding for 200,000 additional housing vouchers to prevent families with children from becoming homeless and for helping those who enter the shelter system to leave it for permanent housing and not become homeless again. At a cost of roughly $2.1 billion, Congress could provide vouchers to enable 200,000 additional families to afford decent housing.

With an additional $1.5 billion to $2 billion funding increase for homelessness prevention assistance through HUD's Emergency Shelter Grant program, states and localities, through existing networks of service providers, could provide short-term assistance to enable approximately 400,000 families to avert eviction or obtain new housing.

The report also includes state-by-state estimates of the
families that would be helped, at

Date: January 12 2009

New CABE report calls for end to KFC play spaces
Detail: The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which is the government's advisor on architecture, urban design and public space in England, has published "Designing and Planning for Play" to highlight a different approach to playground design from the commonplace bland playgrounds that rely on an identical KFC (kit, fence and carpet) approach to design. Irrespective of their location, playgrounds across England look much like each other, with uniform kit of swings and slide, fencing, and vast expanse of safety carpet. Typically over-sensitivity to risk blocks the creation of rich and stimulating play spaces.

Over the next three years, the government is making an unprecedented investment in childrens play: 235m to upgrade 3,500 playgrounds. Sarah Gaventa, director of CABE Space, says that this represents an incredible opportunity. It is a massive investment and it is essential that local authorities use it to create exciting new spaces.

CABEs report points out that local authorities need to stop relying on the catalogues of a small number of manufacturers who usually design the play spaces as well as produce the kit of parts. Natural play design, which uses landform and vegetation as well as elements such as wood and stone, encourages imaginative play. A natural environment often makes it easier for children of different ages and abilities to play together. Play spaces should also allow children to take risks to learn their boundaries.

The report also recommends specially designed artworks for play spaces instead of standard equipment to offer better play value and to impart every space with a strong local identity. This can be achieved through participatory design to develop distinctive designs by working with children, local craftspeople and local materials.

Report can be downloaded at
Date: January 1 2009

Toxic Air and U.S. Schools
Detail: To determine what sort of toxic chemicals children breathe when they go to school, USA TODAY worked with the researchers and scientists at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland in College Park to analyze exposure to industrial pollution at schools across the nation.

Information on about 127,800 public and private schools was collected from the National Center for Education Statistics and from more than two dozen state education agencies. The list does not include some recently opened buildings or schools whose locations could not be mapped.

Toxicity assessments for each school are based on emissions data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of its Toxics Release Inventory program, also known as TRI.

The researchers obtained data from an EPA model known as the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators, which scores chemicals based on their potential danger. The model also uses information about industrial facilities – such as the height of its smokestacks and the way each chemical disperses in the air – to estimate where concentrations of the chemicals they release will be highest. The model allows the EPA to assess pollution's impact on every square kilometer of the nation, and the agency uses that information to help identify potential problems spots. The University of Massachusetts researchers used those findings to produce lists of chemicals that contributed to the air toxicity at each of the nation's 127,800 schools in 2005, the most recent year for which the EPA has completed its model. With the help of the University of Massachusetts researchers and other experts, and after consulting with the EPA, USA TODAY used those records to create three measures of a school's exposure to industrial toxics:

• Overall toxicity: The primary measure of toxicity from industrial pollution outside a school.
• Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals: Similar to the overall toxicity measure, but includes only those chemicals known or thought to cause cancer.
• Exposure to other toxic chemicals: Shows the potential severity of exposure to chemicals that do not cause cancer.

Under the guidance of scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Public Health, USA TODAY employees and other affiliated newspapers and television stations monitored air quality near 95 public and private schools throughout the nation. The monitors were placed within about 100 yards of a school, though a few had to be placed slightly farther away. Scientists at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins analyzed each sample, and interpreted those results.

Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania had the highest numbers of worst ranked schools. But several more worst schools extended from the East Coast to the West, in 170 cities across 34 states. The 435 schools that ranked worst were not confined to industrial centers.

For a detailed report, related stories and discussions on “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America's Schools” see
Date: December 21 2008

The Child Development Index
Detail: The Child Development Index (CDI) developed by Save the Children is an index that combines performance measures specific to children such as primary education, child health and child nutrition. It combines each countrys performance to produce a score on a scale of 0 to 100. Higher the score worse are children faring in that country. Save the Children measured child well-being over 3 periods from 1990. Japan is in first place, scoring just 0.4. Niger in Africa is in 137th place, with the highest score, 58, in 2000-2006.

Overall, child well-being has improved by 34% since 1990, but progress is slow. This index tells us how children in a country are faring and is a tool for informed decision making on behalf of children.

A summary of findings for developing regions and countries:

Children are doing worse in Sub-Saharan Africa than any other region. Africa scores 35 in the Index, reflecting the high level of deprivation in primary schooling, child health and child nutrition. It is also making the slowest progress, improving child well-being by only 20% over 1990-2006.

East Asia has made considerable progress in child well-being in recent years, improving it by 45% over 1990-2006. South Asia has a high level of deprivation, scoring 26.4; this is 3 times worse than East Asia. It is also making slow progress, improving child well-being by just 32% over 1990-2006 (compared to East Asias 45% improvement).

Latin America and the Caribbean made substantial progress in improving child well-being in the 1990s, scoring 6.8 in the index of child deprivation, the lowest of any developing country region. It made the most percentage improvement of any region in the world, reducing child deprivation by 57% over the period, 1990-2006.

The Middle East and North Africa region scores 11.2 in our index, worse than East Asia but only a third as bad as Sub-Saharan Africa, and has reduced its level of child deprivation by 41% over 1990-06.

The region containing Central & Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, for which data are much sparser in the early 1990s, saw an improvement of almost 15% in its Index score between 1995-99 and 2000-06.

Summary of findings for developed nations:

Child Development Index shows that there is a low level of deprivation in developed countries in the three basic areas of child rights that it measures. On a scale of 0-100, these countries score 2.1, the lowest regional Index score worldwide. There is still some variation between these countries however; for example the United States has a child mortality rate that is twice of Japans and worse even than that of Cubas.
Date: December 19 2008

Rezoning and density bonuses add child care spaces in Vancouver condo developments
Detail: Vancouver, over the next two years, through rezoning and density bonusing will create much needed additional child care spaces. For example, a new condo complex, Atelier on Robson, added a 37-space child-care centre as an amenity. The developer agreed to build the 13,900-square-foot centre and make a cash contribution of at least $1.1 million to the citys Childcare Endowment Fund, in exchange for 68,841 additional square feet of residential density.

542 childcare spaces at 13 centres have been created through density bonuses, according to numbers obtained from the citys social-planning department. By early 2010, that will almost triple to 1,464 spaces. Another 14 centres are set to open within two years.

However such licensed child care only serves 13 per cent of children aged zero to 12. According to 2006 census numbers, Vancouver has a need for more than 50,000 licensed spaces. Vancouver school trustee Sharon Gregson said that, if the crisis is to be relaxed, the province must come forward with greater child-care funding, and the citys schools must lift the ban on using empty classrooms as child-care spaces.

Vancouvers director of social planning, Mary Clare Zak noted that childcare is an increasingly popular amenity among developers as a lot more young families are moving into condos particularly in the downtown area. Senior social planner Vickie Morris however cautions that The delivery of those really depends on what happens in the real-estate market.They may be secured in principle, in theory, but the timing of the delivery of them really depends on the market and whether the rest of the development that triggers the requirement for them actually goes forward.

For the full story see
Source: "Vancouver condo developments adding childcare spaces" by Pieta Woolley, December 11, 2008,
Date: December 15 2008

British study confirms importance of preschool, primary school and home environment for childrens learning
Detail: The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project is the first major study in the United Kingdom to focus specifically on the effectiveness of early years education. The EPPE project is a large scale, longitudinal study of the progress and development of children in various types of pre-school education. The EPPE study tracked almost 3,000 children from the time they started pre-school (around the age of 3), their development progress was monitored until they entered school (age 5), and then at key time points (age 6, 7, 10 and 11 years) until the end of their primary school careers.

The study applied an 'educational effectiveness' design to establish the factors related to children's progress. The study has also used intensive case studies and classroom observations to' un-pack' effective practices. The EPPE programme of research represents a major investment into early effectiveness research by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education study provides essential evidence which now underpins the work of the Sure Start Unit.

Key findings indicate that early schooling with quality teaching has more impact on children's academic progress than their gender or family background. A high quality pre-school followed by an academically effective primary school gives children's development a significant boost, the researchers found. Children who attend a more academically effective primary school show better attainment and progress in key stage 2 (ages 7 to 11) than children with similar characteristics who attend a less effective school. In particular, going to a highly academically effective primary school gives a boost to very disadvantaged children.

The research did not discount the importance of the home environment for child development. It suggests that a stimulating home learning environment at age 3 to 4 is linked to long-term gains in children's development and has an equal impact to the mother's qualification level. The higher their parents' qualification levels, the more likely children are to do well at school and be good socially at age 11.

For more information see:
Source: and Early schooling matters most for children by Anthea Lipsett in, Thursday November 27 2008 11.52 GMT
Date: November 28 2008

The Adolescent Girls Initiative
Detail: The Adolescent Girls Initiative is part of the World Bank Groups Gender Action Plan--Gender Equality as Smart Economics, which is helping increase womens economic opportunities by improving their access to the labor market, agricultural land and tools, credit, and infrastructure services.

Why adolescent girls? Today, 1.5 billion people are in the 1224 age group worldwide. Nine out of ten of these young people live in developing countries. Of these, approximately 625 million are girls and young women, ages 10-24. This is the next generation of economic and social actors. Adolescence is a critical time to intervene to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, by helping girls stay in school, build capital assets, resist early pregnancy and marriage and a future of low earnings. Furthermore, investing in adolescent girls economic opportunities can have a large development impact with long term benefits to economic growth.

The Adolescent Girls Initiative aims at smoothing the transition from school to productive employment by, among other interventions, helping girls complete education, build skills that match market demand, find mentors and job placements, offer incentives to potential employers to retain, and train young women to overcome some of the cultural barriers to young women's employment. These interventions will be tested and evaluated for impact.

World Bank and the Nike Foundation have been at work designing the first pilot in Liberia, due for launch in January 2009, to help smooth girls transition from school to quality work. Other partners include governments of Liberia, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the City of Milan, Goldman Sachs, The Nike Foundation, and Standard Chartered.
Date: November 14 2008

Decline in outdoor and hands-on play slowed cognitive development in British Teenagers
Detail: The findings of a new study that tested children on thinking skills show fewer British teenagers now display mature reasoning as compared to 30 years earlier. Michael Shayer of Kings College London who has been testing childrens thinking skills since 1976, in 2006 and 2007 got 14-year-olds to take some of the same tests as 30 years earlier. More than a fifth of youngsters got high scores then, suggesting they were developing the ability to formulate and test hypotheses. Only a tenth do now.

The tests explored the ability to think deeply rather than to regurgitate information or quickly go through tasks. Professor Shayer explains, Their answers indicated whether they had progressed from the descriptive thinking that gets us through most of our days, to the interpretative thinking needed to analyze complex information and formulate and test hypotheses.

The researchers attributed the overall better performance of boys in 1976 to the fact that boys roamed further out of doors and played more with tools and mechanical toys. Though both sexes now do worse than before, boys scores have fallen more, suggesting that a decline in outdoor and hands-on play has slowed cognitive development in both sexes. Other factors such as Britains unusually early start to formal education where infants are diverted from useful activities such as making sand-castles and playing with water into unhelpful ones, such as holding a pen and forming letters, and focus on coaching the weakest, rather than all children, including the most able within the school systems are attributed to the lowering of standards even though the research findings also indicate that fewer children do very badly now than did 30 years ago.

Professor Shayer further posits local explanations such as television and computers for taking children away from the physical experiences on which later inferential skills are based. He thinks these new media teach children to value speed over depth and passive entertainment over active. Other researchers have also shown cognitive gains in todays children on tasks that require speed rather than close reasoning.
Source: Based on a story titled, "Dimming" in The Economist, October 30, 2008
Date: October 31 2008

AutoSearchKID : A New Tool to Track Public School Bus Transit Systems
Detail: EarthSearch Communications launched the AutoSearchKID(TM) solution which is developed for public school bus transit systems to provide a safe travel environment for children K-12 as they commute between school and home.

AutoSearchKID, integrates GPS and RFID technologies to enable continuous tracking and reporting of not only the school buses but also the students as they go in and out of the bus while transporting between home and school. The solution tracks the routes and identifies the drivers, driving habits as well as the students in the bus to assure no unauthorized person gets on the bus. Vehicle location and student identification takes place every 60 seconds. Historical data is also compiled on a continuous basis to help the school officials in advance planning. In addition the solution creates a greener school transit system by managing routes, improving fuel efficiency, and providing other fleet management tools.

AutoSearchKID provides:
-- Emergency vehicle location in real time
-- Monitoring of the drivers and alerting on bad driving habits
-- Monitoring of the route of the students to prevent the kids from
getting off at an unassigned stop
-- Alerts when an unauthorized person gets on the bus
Source: Market Wire, 4 August 2008
Date: October 27 2008

National Commission on Children and Disasters
Detail: In December 2007, the US Congress passed the Kids in Disasters Well-being, Safety and Health (WISH) Act and paved the way for creation of a National Commission on Children and Disasters. The Commission is a bi-partisan panel appointed by the President and Congressional leaders and held its first meeting on October 14, 2008 three years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and exposed the lack of preparedness for the evacuation, shelter and repatriation of children and their families.

A Save the Children field report from San Antonio reports a cavernous warehouse, unsuitable for families with children, was used as a shelter during Hurricane Ike. There were no portable cribs for infants and small children. Young children were free to roam the huge facility. One was seen near a busy road. Many of the cots were far from restrooms, which were portable toilets outside the facility. The showers were in the parking lot. The lack of planning for the needs of families and small children added enormous strain to an already stressful situation.

Mark Shriver, Vice President and Managing Director of Save the Children's U.S. Programs, chairs the ten-member National Commission on Children and Disasters. Over a period of two years, the Commission will examine and assess the needs of children independently, and in relation to the preparation, response and recovery from all emergencies, hazards and disasters. "With the number of Presidential disaster declarations rising over the past two decades, and continued accounts and images of children in need, this Commission simply cannot take two years to develop recommendations," said Shriver. "I'd like to get practical and innovative proposals to the next President and Congress in the next six to eight months."

For further reading refer to the October 14 Washington Post editorial about the National Commission on Children and Disasters at
Date: October 20 2008

Measure K: Oakland sets aside 2.5% of the unrestricted General Fund for children and youth
Detail: Oakland voters passed the Kids First! Initiative (Measure K) to amend the City Charter for setting aside 2.5% of the unrestricted General Fund revenues annually to support direct services for children and youth. This is the Oakland Fund for Children & Youth (OFCY) established in 1996.

A Planning and Oversight Committee (POC) develops a Strategic Plan to guide decisions about what types of programs and services will be funded. Youth are represented on the POC to ensure their participation in all aspects of decision-making.

The POC oversees an open and competitive grant funding process to select programs for funding each year. OFCY releases a Request for Proposals containing the guidelines that organizations use to apply for OFCY funding. OFCY also has established guidelines that organizations must meet in order to be eligible for funding:

Only non-profit organizations and public agencies may apply for funding.
Funding is only available for direct services to children and youth age 020.
Children and youth served through funding must live, attend school, or receive childcare services in Oakland.

OFCYs 2002-2006 Strategic Plan had four priority areas for funding:
Support for Childrens Success in School (ages 0-13).
Child Health and Wellness (ages 0 13)
Healthy Transitions to Adulthood (ages 14 20)
Youth Empowerment (ages 11-20)

For more information please visit the OFCY website at
Date: September 27 2008

Minimum Standard of Design Quality for Secondary Schools in England
Detail: Building Schools for the Future (BSF) is the UK Government’s biggest-ever school buildings investment program (£45bn) and involves improving or rebuilding 3,500 secondary schools in England. The schools minister Jim Knight announced that every new secondary school building will have to reach a minimum standard of design quality or they will not be given the go-ahead. Students and teachers will join experts in schools architecture to vet designs before they are selected by local authorities. Designs which fail to reach the threshold will be sent back to the drawing board.

This new policy follows research done by the government's own design watchdog, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), that has shown that an estimated eight out of 10 schools proposed under the program are "mediocre" or "not yet good enough". Cabe discovered problems including bullying hotspots, noisy open-plan areas which make teaching difficult, and classrooms which are too dark or prone to overheating.

As BSF is a key New Labour programme aimed at promoting schools that are "the best equipped in the world for 21st-century learning", Ken Shuttleworth, an architect and former partner of Lord Foster, who leads Cabe's design review panel, has said that only those proposals receiving an overall rating of excellent or good should be considered to be of an acceptable standard. BSF presents a unique opportunity to raise the quality of design in schools. The government in demanding a minimum standard of design quality is educating clients to the power of what design can do.
Source: Based on a story by Robert Booth and Polly Curtis titled “Design threshold set for new secondary schools: Minister announces goals for £45bn programme: Eight out of 10 proposed not yet at required level” in The Guardian, September 18, 2008, Thursday.
Date: September 26 2008

No Child Left Inside Act
Detail: The No Child Left Inside Act, a pioneering bill that would devote more federal dollars towards environmental education and thus enable high-quality outdoor and environmental instruction, passed in the House of Representatives on September 19, 2008. The bill, sponsored by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), would provide $500 million in federal dollars over the next five years to enhance environmental education programs in public elementary, middle, and high schools.

The organizers of the bill hope the increasing environmental literacy gap, prompted by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which in investing more resources in math and language arts reduced the amount of environmental education taking place in K-12 classrooms, can be remedied through this new bill.

The new multi-million dollar allocation under the No Child Left Inside Act would go towards a number of environment-centric programs such as funding for teacher training to deliver high quality Environmental Education while utilizing the local environment as an extension of the classroom; incentives for states to develop State Environmental Literacy Plans to insure that every student is prepared to understand the environmental challenges of the future; encouragement for teachers, administrators, and school systems to make time and resources available for environmental education for all students; integration of Environmental Education across core subject areas.
Source: ,
Date: September 22 2008

Well designed schools as psychologically and physically secure havens for children
Detail: Are school buildings ready for the new school year? Public schools face this question annually. Physically dysfunctional school buildings are ultimately attributable to spending priorities and misguided policies that are unwilling to invest in public infrastructure, of which schools are a vital component.

Communities that depend on property taxes have especially vulnerable budgets for education as tax revenue can decrease significantly when real estate values fall. This forces budget cuts that result in deferred school construction and maintenance. The quality of a school system is seriously compromised when years elapse without essential work. Costs escalate as years elapse making it difficult to restore quality.

Roger K. Lewis, the author of this article and a practicing architect and a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland explores the consequences of lack of money for schools. He asks, So what if school buildings don't meet state-of-the-art teaching standards, need some paint, have a few toilets that don't flush properly or are always a bit too cool or too hot? After all, a good teacher can teach motivated students under a tree or inside a tent. He then turns the question around asking, Shouldn't schools, where America's future generations are being educated, be well-designed, highly regarded works of civic architecture? Shouldn't a school occupied by children for hundreds of days annually, and also serving as a focus and resource for a community throughout the year, be beautiful as well as clean, comfortable and safe?

Lewis then proceeds to explain the values of good schools as being havens for kids, as well as effective learning environments within cities, and for students whose homes and neighborhoods are less than stable, a well-built, attractive school may become a psychologically and physically secure haven. A beautiful school can motivate students to learn, just as it also can foster positive behavior. Conversely, if schools look and feel like physical extensions of dysfunctional homes and neighborhoods, students have little motivation to spend time. And when they do spend time in a structure in poor condition, they are more likely to engage in disrespectful, destructive behavior.
Source: Based on a story by Roger K. Lewis titled Restoring Schools to the Havens They Should Be in The Washington Post, August 30, 2008 Saturday
Date: September 16 2008

Cleaner and Newer Buses for California School Children
Detail: Laidlaw transit, Californias largest school bus operator, has agreed to renovate more than 2,000 buses to run cleaner, settling a lawsuit that accused it of exposing children to diesel exhaust in leaky passenger cabins. Law Foundation, Our Children's Earth and Communities for a Better Environment, three Bay Area environmental organizations sued the company in 2006.

Laidlaw will invest a minimum of $4.7 million dollars over the next five years to continue retrofitting buses in its California fleet that are more than five years old with air pollution control devices to reduce diesel exhaust. In addition, Laidlaw will invest $23.6 million more in its fleet over the next seven years by either retrofitting additional buses or purchasing new buses that meet the most stringent air pollution standards in the country. The company will also pay $6.6 million to the environmental groups and their lawyers. A San Francisco Superior Court judge is scheduled to consider the settlement next month.

Diesel exhaust, a mixture of gases and particles, has been listed as a cancer-causing substance by the state since 1990. The lawsuit accused Laidlaw of violating Proposition 65, which requires companies to warn the public about exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer or birth defects. The settlement will require the company to post those warnings in its buses.

The lawsuit said state studies have found that diesel exhaust accounts for 70 percent of the cancer risk that the average Californian faces from breathing pollutants, and can contribute to asthma and other respiratory problems, particularly among children and the elderly. The plaintiffs said some of the highest levels of exposure are in school buses, in which fumes seep into the passenger area.
Source: Based on a story, Better Buses for California School Children: Laidlaw Transit to Provide Clean School Buses in Ascribe News, Wednesday, August 6, 2008; and a story by Bob Egelko, Settlement on school bus fixes to cut fumes in San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, August 7, 2008.
Date: August 14 2008

Neighbourhood Childrens Parliament in Andhra Pradesh, India
Detail: In the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India, a consortium of a few local NGOs involved in child development projects (The Forum for Child Rights), the Municipal Corporation of Vijayawada and allied Government departments like the police and the railway police wings have set in motion the process of building a child-safety net in schools across the district by constituting Neighbourhood Childrens Parliaments.

The concept of Neighbourhood Childrens Parliament was piloted in Ibrahimpatnam and Penamaluru mandals in Krishna district with the aim of creating child-friendly environments in government-run schools and preschools. Each Neighbourhood Childrens Parliament brings together children from a cluster of 30 families to share problems and protect one another. The parliament envisions that children will be responsible for each others well being and gain confidence and competence in handling difficult situations.

Thomas Koshy, convener of The Forum for Child Rights, said, We want to give voice to every child by creating a platform for them to share their problems and views on issues that are directly related to their welfare.
Source: Based on a story by P. Sujatha Varma titled, For the children, by the children, in The Hindu, 15 July 2008.
Date: August 14 2008

Children too scared of crime to play outdoors
Detail: New South Wales (NSW) child watchdog, the Commission of Children and Young People, in its Built Environment report found children are too fearful to play outside, afraid of crime in parks and on trains, and worried they will be robbed or see drugs. Children aged 4 to 18 were interviewed for the report. Children nominated their top favourite places or things to do as shopping, bowling, roller-coasters, movies, school, Disneyland, Timezone and Questacon - a science centre in Canberra.

"It's not safe on the streets if you're alone, you can't go to public toilets, the train station's not safe. There are people doing drugs," a 12-year-old boy said. An eight-year-old girl surveyed said she didn't like playing in parks because "someone might come and do things to you ... or you could be wearing bare feet and step on syringes".

This report comes after the NSW Government failed to act on a two-year-old inquiry that warned children were missing out on play time. Nearly two years later, the NSW Government has yet to implement key findings from its report that recommended the departments of Planning, Community Services, Education and Local Government come together to create child-friendly spaces. Child experts are now calling on the NSW Government to act upon its own report.
Source: Based on a story by Clare Masters in Daily Telegraph, July 28, 2008
Date: August 4 2008

International Youth Day 2008: Youth and Climate Change
Detail: 12 August was declared International Youth Day on December 17, 1999 at the General Assembly of the United Nations where the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth endorsed the resolution. International Youth Day gives the world an opportunity to recognize the potential of youth, to celebrate their achievements, and plan for ways to better engage young people to successfully take action in the development of their societies. It presents a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to rally together to ensure that young people are included in decision-making at all levels. The theme for 2008 is "Youth and Climate Change: Time for Action."

The selection of this theme for IYD 2008 is in recognition of the fact that climate change has already begun to devastate communities and deepen the effects of poverty and hunger. This situation complicates the challenges that youth face. However, young people are increasingly adding their voices to the call for action on climate change.

Directions for Our Youth (DFOY), a non-profit organization focusing on the mission to provide exposure, inspiration and direction for thousands of New York City's teens, will orchestrate an event where hundreds of New York City youth will be joined by a thousand youth from around the world on International Youth Day. Young people will participate in an interactive art exhibit, an international fashion show, chess tournament, athletic events and roundtable discussions. In addition, there will be special performances by Karina Persian and DJ Enuff. More celebrity guests to be announced in conjunction with Tala Entertainment Services and New York's number one hip-hop radio station, Hot97.

Globally, the celebration in New York City will be joined by celebrations in Bangladesh, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mali, Mauritius, Nepal, Nigeria, Serbia, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe among others.
Date: August 2 2008

Children and adolescents target of $1.6 billion in food advertising in 2006
Detail: A new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report studied how much companies are spending to attract youth to their products. The findings show that the nation's largest food and beverage companies spent about $1.6 billion in 2006 marketing their products, especially carbonated drinks, to children and adolescents through a barrage of advertising for food and drink. Concerned about rising obesity rates in children, the FTC report recommends to industry to use their creativity to market healthy foods to children instead of unhealthy ones and to take steps to tie popular TV and movie characters to more nutritional products.

The commission found that companies spread their marketing across all segments of the media. Television ads provide a theme that usually carried over to packaging and displays in stores, and to the Internet where entry of a code on a package allowed children to participate in games or contests with prizes. In fact the commission report says, "The Internet — though far less costly than television — has become a major marketing tool of food companies that target children and adolescents, with more than two-thirds of the 44 companies reporting online, youth-directed activities."

The FTC made several recommendations as part of its report:

• Media and entertainment companies should limit the licensing of characters to healthier foods and drinks.
• Schools should adopt meaningful nutrition standards for the foods that are sold there, and companies should cease all in-school promotion of products that don't meet such standards.
• Companies that market food and drinks to children should expand public-outreach efforts to educate children about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, with particular attention aimed at minority populations that are disproportionately affected by childhood obesity.

The commission noted that its review came during a year in which food and beverage companies had committed to curtailing the marketing of unhealthy products. For example, it noted that 13 companies representing more than two-thirds of advertising spending directed toward children had pledged to not direct their ads to children under 12 unless the foods met specific nutritional standards.

For full story see
Source: By KEVIN FREKING, “FTC: Kids target of $1.6 billion in food ads”, Tuesday, Jul 29
Date: July 29 2008

Imagination Playground: A portable playground in a box
Detail: The Brownsville play center gave children a taste of what the architect David Rockwell hopes will revolutionize playground designthe Imagination Playground in a Box. Mr. Rockwell, who designed this portable playground, brought his neon-painted toy chests to Brownsville in partnership with the parks department.

The portable playground arrived in Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn in early July and will stay till Labor Day. It included about 150 pieces — the largest about three feet long, and none weighing more than a pound or so. The playground earned high marks from children, though they said it should complement, not replace, jungle gyms. The children also said they liked creating their own foam worlds, tear them down on a whim and start anew. They appreciated the cushiony feel of the pieces, which prevented scrapes and removed any shred of guilt from pounding each other with the noodles in gladiator-style fights.

In the fall of 2009, a 15,000-square-foot, figure-eight-shaped permanent Imagination Playground is scheduled to open at Burling Slip in Lower Manhattan. With the help of the nonprofit playground developer Kaboom, Mr. Rockwell hopes to replicate his playgrounds across the country.

For full story see
Source: A Playground Where Creativity Can Run Wild By Javier C. Hernandez, The New York Times, July 14, 2008
Date: July 25 2008

Declining Share of Federal Spending for Children
Detail: Kids' Share 2008, a study from the Urban Institute and New America Foundation shows that children are a diminishing priority in the federal budget. The study tracked federal spending on children from 1960 through 2018 based on actual budget outlays and projections of spending under current policies and suggests that historically children have not been a budget priority. If current spending and revenue policies continue, the children’s share of domestic federal spending—which excludes defense, non-defense homeland security, and international affairs—will be 13.8 percent in 2018, down from 16.2 percent in 2007 and 20.2 percent in 1960.

The authors of this report classify more than 100 federal programs that spend money on children in eight categories: income security, nutrition, housing, tax credits and exemptions, health, social services, education, and training. The report defines children as those under age 19 who are not in postsecondary education. The second annual “Kids’ Share” report estimates that the children’s slice of gross domestic product will decline from 2.6 percent in fiscal 2007 to 2.2 percent in fiscal 2018, while Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will rise from 7.9 to 9.6 percent.

Findings: Changes from Fiscal Year 2006 to 2007
• The children’s budget inched up 0.7 percent (1.6 percentage points slower than GDP) while the non-child portions of the three major entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) rose 5.2 percent. The rest of domestic programs declined by 8.6 percent.
• Of the major children’s spending categories, only health, which grew 4.5 percent in real terms, gained ground relative to the economy. Education, which fell 2.1 percent in real terms, lost the most ground.

Findings: Fiscal Years 1960–2007
• Between 1960 and 2007, spending on children rose from 1.9 to 2.6 percent of GDP. By comparison, spending on the non-child portions of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid nearly quadrupled from 2.0 to 7.9 percent of GDP.
• Spending on a number of individual children’s programs tended to fall behind economic growth and, often, inflation. The children’s budget maintained its share of GDP mainly through the introduction of new programs. By contrast, the sums spent on entitlement programs, mainly for the elderly, tended to outpace growth in the economy and prices.
• Real federal spending per child grew from $819 in 1960 to $4,680 in 2005. Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid rose from $3,057 per senior to $20,530.
• Spending has increasingly been directed toward low-income children through means-tested programs, rising from 11 percent in 1960 to 59 percent by 2007.

“Kids’ Share 2008: How Children Fare in the Federal Budget,” by Adam Carasso, Eugene Steuerle, Gillian Reynolds, Tracy Vericker, and Jennifer Macomber was sponsored by First Focus and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study is available at
Date: July 10 2008

Young Environmental Activists tell their story at UN Childrens Conference
Detail: The biannual Tunza International Children's Conference, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is one of the largest international children's conferences in the world. This year, the seventh such conference was held on 17-21 June, on the theme 'Creating Change' in Stavanger, Norway.

Aimed at increasing children's environmental awareness and equiping children with skills to promote environmental projects in their communities, 700 children from 106 countries took part in this years conference. This year, in partnership with the UN Children's Fund UNICEF, UNEP will show the inspiring initiatives of dozens of children from around the world through 'My Story', a series of short video clips that will be posted on the UNEP website

Remarkable examples include a 13-year-old in Australia who is making a documentary called 'A Kid's Guide to Climate Change', for which he interviewed a local indigenous leader, visited a wind farm and a wave generator, and built a model solar car. Meanwhile a 14-year-old in India is campaigning against water waste in his community, a 13-year-old in Cameroon is running clean-up campaigns and tree plantings, and a 13-year-old in the United States has helped organise a recycling drive and collect 100,000 pounds of e-waste.

"The 700 children attending the Tunza Conference are a powerful sign of the creativity, energy and dynamism that children are capable of to protect our planet," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "We can all learn from them, and we should all take heart in the fact that increasing numbers of children are becoming a force for positive change as we move towards greener lifestyles," he added.

For full story see
Source: The Guardian, Monday, June 23, 2008
Date: June 25 2008

Educated Young Adults Choose Place before Job
Detail: Findings of a U.S. survey commissioned by CEOs for Cities and conducted by The Segmentation Company, a division of marketing consultancy Yankelovich Inc. shows that two-thirds of highly mobile 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees say that they will decide where they live first, then look for a job.

The results are based on online surveys of 1,000 25- to 34-year-old college-educated men and women from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations conducted in March 3-11, 2006. This survey for the first time quantifies the urban living preferences of this mobile young group.

Key findings include:

Two-thirds of college-educated 25 to 34 year-olds choose place before job, and this preference was true across all life stages and genders (male, female, single, married, with children, without children).

Women place greater emphasis on the location decision than do men, although a majority of men also say they choose place before job.

Basic quality of life issues (clean and attractive, can live the life I want to lead, safe streets and neighborhoods, can afford to buy a home, lots of parks and green space) ranked highest among attributes that young people looked for in a city.

A place that feels welcoming, offers professional opportunities, has reasonable commute times, access to excellent schools, is a great place to raise children, is a place people are proud to say they live in were among attributes young people looked for in a city.

Lifestyle attributes are also important to this demographic. They prefer places where they can connect with others and have meaningful social interactions; that are interesting and diverse; and are environmentally responsible.

Young adults have a strong inclination to live downtown or close to downtown.

Knowledge of city attributes is limited. When asked where they would like to live, respondents were quick to answer. But when asked why, their reasons were vague.

Young adults rely most heavily on personal stories from friends and family to form their perceptions about a place. They also use the Internet and personal visits to shape their opinions.

CEOs for Cities outlines the opportunities for urban leaders to attract and retain this desirable demographic:

Make sure your city is clean, green, safe and inviting. The basic functions such as trash collection and keeping parks maintained and litter off the streets will go a long way to bringing and keeping young people.

Make it easy for young people to reach their aspirations and goals, foster their want for personal and professional success by, for instance, naming a talent czar who guides entrepreneurs through the process of starting a new business in the city. The aura of opportunity is very powerful.

Young people are 30 percent more likely than other Americans to live within three miles of a citys center. So highlight downtowns and close-in neighborhoods.

Develop a compelling narrative about the city. Define and brand the city and market that image to young people. But dont promise something that cant be delivered. And dont settle for a tagline, logo or slogan to do the job.

Work with local stakeholders to build a dynamic web presence that is appealing to tech and design-savvy young people and that accurately portrays your citys narrative.
Source: Press release College-Educated, Young Adults Consider Place First When Choosing Locations
Date: June 23 2008

New UK schools to be zero-carbon by 2016
Detail: In a multi-million pound drive to reduce carbon emissions all new school buildings in UK is envisaged to be zero-carbon by 2016. Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, has said that if the target were not met it would be a dereliction of duty. 200 energy-saving projects, that will cost about 110m over the next three years, has been outlined to work towards this zero-carbon goal.

A typical secondary school will receive about 500,000 under this plan to reduce carbon emissions in new school buildings. Efficiency measures include using low-power computers, energy-saving lighting and better insulation. Renewable energy sources include biomass-fueled boilers and large wind turbines. Solar energy is to be harnessed to heat water and provide electricity.

Noted architect Robin Nicholson has been appointed as chair of the governments Zero Carbon Task Force, which will advise ministers on how to build greener schools. Nicholson, a former vice-president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, admitted the task force did not have a straightforward job. But he added if there is one sector that must show the way then it should be schools.

Kingsmead primary in Northwich, Cheshire is a school already monitoring its carbon footprint. The project is being used as a learning tool for pupils to understand more about the environment. The school has active voltage displays for the solar panels and an electronic meter that shows how much rainwater is collected by its inverted roof. It has also installed a system (run on renewable energy) that automatically opens and shuts the windows, skylights and blinds, allowing fresh air to flow through the building and shading pupils where necessary.
Source: Ambitious plan for new zero-carbon schools by By Shafik Meghji, Children & Young People Now, 16 June 2008; and All new schools to be zero-carbon by 2016 in Monday December 17, 2007
Date: June 17 2008

Community Monitoring Yields A Dramatic Drop in Child Mortality: A Uganda Success Story
Detail: Strengthening accountability between citizens and health service providers is often considered critical for improving health care services. Yet how this is to be achieved, and whether it works, remain open questions. Traditional approaches to accountability have tended to be top-down, where someone in the institutional hierarchy of the public sector is assigned to monitor, control and reward/punish agents further down in the hierarchy. In many poor countries, the institutions assigned to monitor providers are typically weak and malfunctioning, and may have few if any incentives to effectively monitor service quality and outcomes. As a complementary strategy, it has therefore been argued that more effort must be placed on strengthening beneficiary control, i.e. strengthening the accountability of providers to citizen-clients.

This paper presents a randomized field experiment on community-based monitoring of public primary health care providers in Uganda. Through two rounds of community meetings, local NGOs encouraged communities to be more involved with the state of health service provision and strengthened their capacity to hold their local health providers accountable for performance. A year after the intervention, treatment communities are more involved in monitoring the provider and health facility staff exert higher effort to serve the community. The paper documents large increases in utilization and improved health outcomes (reduced child mortality and increased child weight) that compare favorably to some of the more successful community-based intervention trials reported in the medical literature.
Date: June 12 2008

Childrens Development Bank: A bank by and for street children in Delhi
Detail: An unusual bank, the branches of which look more like lemonade shops than a house of finance, is helping street children in Delhi to save meager earnings, and learn about saving and planning for the future. Butterflies, a local NGO started this Childrens Development Bank in 2001. Today about 2000 children have accounts in 12 branches around Delhi. These branches are located inside the shelters run by the NGO where classes and other activities are organized for homeless children.

India is home to the worlds largest population of street children, a conservative estimate of 10 million. In Delhi alone, more than 100,000 youngsters are believed to live on the streets. Many remain with their poverty-stricken families, but thousands do not. A large number cluster around the city's main railway stationsheavily trafficked areas where they can sell their wares and where passengers leave behind detritus they can pick through.

These bare-bones banks are run almost entirely by and for street children. "We see this as a life skill," said Sebastian Mathew, director of the project. "How much they save is not important. It's the habit of saving and not spending their money on sniffing glue, smoking, watching the same movie again and again." Adult staff members are always present to ensure the safety of the children and to collect the takings at the end of each day, depositing the cash at regular intervals in a dedicated account in a private bank.

But in most respects, it's the children who run the show and set the rules. At each branch, the account holders, who range in age from 9 to 18, elect two volunteer managers from the group every six months. The youngsters decided that the bank should do its best not to allow deposits of money made from stealing or selling drugs and pornography.
Source: Based on a story by Henry Chu titled, In India, a bank for street children in Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2008.
Date: June 11 2008

Hiroshima Forum Strives to End Violence Against Children
Detail: Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, commissioner and rapporteur on the rights of children at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Organisation of American States and author of a comprehensive U.N. report on violence against children in October 2006, addressed the third forum of the Tokyo-based Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) in Hiroshima. One of the themes of the Hiroshima Forum, is the ethical imperative to end violence against children. Speaking on the subject, Pinheiro pointed out that where violence is occurring, early detection mechanisms must be in place and victims must be provided with necessary assistance.

Despite the almost universal ratification of the The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) by 193 countries (except United States and Somalia) and thus pledging to protect the worlds mostly beleaguered children, escalating violence against children has continued irrespective of the fact the UNCRC obligates states parties to protect children from all forms of violence. About 218 million children still suffer the worst forms of child labor, while 250,000 to 300,000 have been forcibly pressed into military service as child soldiers. The U.N. childrens agency UNICEF says that nearly half the estimated 3.6 million people killed in military conflicts since 1990 were children.

In his study, Sergio Pinheiro says that violence against children is possibly one of the most invisible and prevalent forms of violence because it remains unregistered and unpunished, being sometimes even condoned by society under the guise of discipline or tradition. The inadequacy of justice and security systems, and the pretexts of privacy or of an incontestable adult authority over children are used to shield perpetrators and keep violence against children insulated by walls of silence, he points out. The study also asserts that violence against children takes a variety of forms and is influenced by a wide range of factors, from the personal characteristics of the victim and perpetrator to their social, cultural, and physical environments.

Sergio Pinheiro also says that economic development, social status, age and gender are among the many factors associated with the risk of violence. Although the consequences of violence may vary according to its nature and severity, the short- and long-term repercussions are very often grave and damaging.

Based on these findings, the study makes 12 overarching recommendations to strengthen the protection of children from violence. These recommendations focus on government responsibility across the very wide range of sectors relevant to the various forms of violence and settings in which violence occurs, and encourage actions with other partners. Many of the recommendations have been heard before, he said, but never before have the various sectors and issues been brought together in a unifying framework for action.

On the positive side, a number of countries have formulated new laws or amended existing laws to prohibit violence against children.
Source: Based on Despite Landmark Treaty, Children Still Under Siege. Inter Press Service via Common Dreams, May 27, 2008
Date: June 3 2008

Shootback Photo Exhibition: Giving a Voice to Kenyas Children
Detail: The Shootback photo exhibition in Paris is a 10-year retrospective of a project started in Nairobi by Lana Wong, an American fine art photographer. On display are works such as fifteen-year-old George Otieno's image Relaxing Time showing a young child crawling on garbage in Nairobi.

Wong took 31 young people aged 12 to 17 from the Mathare Youth Sports Association, and taught them photography every Saturday for two years. 15 Fuji Clearshot cameras were given to the learners and later they had the use of two single lens reflex cameras. Wong showed them how to take pictures and write about their lives.

Wong said, "We looked for kids with a sense of curiosity and adventure and the idea was to give them a voice.I taught them to be as free as possible, gave them assignments such as 'what do you like, what you don't like about life in Mathare'. Instead of foreigners telling their stories, it was getting local people to tell them."

The Paris show has exhibited 36 out of the thousands of pictures taken over two years. The pictures depicted what children saw around them in Mathare. Not all the images are however grim.There are pictures of boys and girls playing football. There is a photo of children diving into a brown river and a portrait of two children standing either side of a television with huge grins on their faces.

Many young people who participated in Shootback 10 years ago have gone on to become professional photographers themselves. One such success story is Julius Mwelu, 22, who now works as a photographer for the UN in Nairobi. Mwelu took some dramatic pictures during the recent post-election violence. A projection of 50 more recent pictures of the group features Mwelu's shot of a pregnant woman running past blazing shacks. Mwelu has created his own foundation and every Saturday he teaches kids how to tell their own stories through photography. Other Shootout successes include Mohammed Diahir, 24, who lives in London, and takes celebrity pictures; James Njuguna, 24, who is a staff photographer for Kenya's largest daily, the Nation, and who won the journalist of the year award from the Nation media group last year. Others, including Barisa are documenting life in the Nairobi slums through an offshoot project of Shootback called Slum-TV, also featured in the Paris exhibition.

Wong proudly surveys the group's work. "I am humbled by what they have managed to achieve," she says.

Source: Based on a story titled, Kenya photography: 'It gives them a voice', by Mark Tran in, Friday May 30 2008
Date: June 1 2008

Parental Fear Prevents Children Cycling on Roads in England
Detail: According to a survey conducted by Cycling England, parents are stopping their children cycling to school or using their bikes on roads because of growing concerns about safety.

Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, said: "Somewhere along the line our fears for our children's safety have overtaken the reality of on-road accidents, which are in long-term decline. Every parent will want to ensure their children are kept safe, but they can't live out their lives within the shadows of the cul-de-sac, never able to venture further away from home."

According to the survey, most parents began cycling on the roads when they were 10 but do not allow their children to do the same until they are 12. One in three were allowed to cycle to school but only one in five ever allows their children to do the same. More than half of parents used their bike as regular transport when they were school age but 81% ban their children from enjoying the same freedoms.

Most parents said their children did not have the confidence and skills to ride on the road, but just over half said cycle training would make them feel more reassured. Parents cited safety concerns as the most common reason for stopping their children from cycling, yet only 3% knew someone who had had an accident.

Though according to recent transport statistics cyclists killed on the roads fell slightly in 2006 to 146, the number of seriously injured rose by 4% to 2,296. However, total casualties among pedal cyclists fell by 2% to 16,196.

Darnton said: "This research underlines the important role of cycling training in giving children the skills and confidence they need to cycle on the roads, and in giving parents the reassurance that their child is well equipped to do so."

Today, more than a quarter of children are only allowed to cycle with adult supervision, although three-quarters are allowed to cycle for recreation at the weekend or after school. Only one in five are allowed to use their bike to get from A to B during the week.

A separate survey for sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which oversees the 12,000-mile National Cycle Network, found nearly half of all pupils wanted to cycle to school, yet according to the National Travel Survey only 2% of UK schoolchildren actually do.

For the full story see:
Source: Parents afraid to allow their children to cycle on roads by Matthew Taylor , The Guardian, Tuesday May 6 2008
Date: May 10 2008

Child Asthma Risks Lower in Leafy Suburbs
Detail: New research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found asthma rates fell by 29 per cent each time the density of trees increased by 350 per square kilometre. Previous studies have shown that living near busy roads increases a child's risk of suffering from asthma suggesting air pollution may be responsible. Based on the new findings, experts claim trees may not have a direct effect on symptoms but could provide clues to environmental conditions that improve respiratory health such as better air quality in areas served by the 'green lung' of trees and parks, or in providing outdoor spaces which encourage children to play outdoors.

Dr Gina Lovasi, health and society scholar at Columbia University said: 'Street trees may explain geographic variation in the prevalence of asthma within urban environments.Trees may help prevent asthma, either by encouraging outdoor play or through an effect on local air quality.'

Some scientists suggest exposure to pollen, dust and germs in a youngster's early years trains the immune system to be less sensitive to allergens.
Source: Based on a story by Jenny Hope in The Daily Mail, London, May 1, 2008
Date: May 5 2008

Electronic Schoolbags, PDAs: Learning on the Go for HongKong School Children
Detail: Choi Wai-kit, a teacher at Shak Chung Shan Memorial Catholic Primary School in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, dreamt up the vision of a "mobile classroom" that will allow children to learn at all times and in all places. This dream became a reality when the school launched an electronic schoolbag scheme in 2001.

First introduced for certain topics in General Studies for Primary Five, the scheme involved converting lessons, creating websites, devising interactive maps and designing games to make learning fun for students. This enabled teachers and students to learn outside the classroom environment such as during their field trip to the Hong Kong International Airport where interviews with visitors and other survey results were instantly uploaded in the online learning platforms. The electronic schoolbags also provided internet resources on the go to school children. The school currently has 42 electronic schoolbags which the Primary Five students take turns to use.

The electronic school bags scheme is part of the Microsoft Hong Kong's Innovative Schools programme, a scheme that enables local educators to work with the computer company to introduce technological innovations for education. Shak Chung Shan Memorial Catholic Primary School is also a pioneer in using PDAs as a teaching tool. The school's PDA learning scheme was introduced in Primary Four and Primary Five last year. It combined 3G mobile phone technology, the internet and lesson materials into a learning experience.

An example of the use of PDA as a learning tool was illustrated in the Tram Go! Go! Go! activity held at the school last November, when students, with a PDA in hand, had to travel from Western District to Causeway Bay along the tram route. When they arrived at a certain point, they received a GPS signal and had to answer a question about the area. Students needed to log on to the internet to gather information to answer the question before proceeding to the next point. "We were teaching the children about the history of Hong Kong Island, and we knew there were many sites that reflected the early development of the city along the tram lines," says Mr Choi, adding that the activity was part of the school's General Studies lessons.

With a goal to help students acquire the learning skills needed to cope with the ever-changing environment of the 21st century via education complemented by information technology, the school's other IT innovations include collaborating with City University of Hong Kong to create an internet platform where students can practice their English writing and oral skills.
Source: South China Morning Post, April 30, 2008 Wednesday
Date: May 1 2008

Technology moves from Mars to Soweto: Pupils use robotic camera to capture panoramic images of their environment
Detail: Going from zero technology to space exploration equipment in less than a year, Soweto schoolchildren studying in the Lavela school, who had never touched a computer until eight months ago are now learning to use technologies developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to share their world with pupils in other countries by using a high-resolution robotic camera to capture panoramic shots of their surroundings, and loading them on to a website.

This GigaPan project was developed to help children from different backgrounds understand each other. It is funded by the UNESCO's International Bureau of Education. Other project partners include Carnegie Mellon University, Google and National Geographic. The Soweto school is one of only four selected for the project. The project will also work with children in the US and Trinidad and Tobago.

The project uses the Mars Rover system developed by NASA for creating explorable images. The camera can take up to 400 sequential images and its software is capable of stitching together anything from 40 to 400 images thus creating a massive picture capturing so much detail in 600-million pixels that viewers can zoom in to read a street sign. The panoramic pictures are uploaded to the GigaPan website, which holds 4000 images from around the world.

People who view the photos can post notes on top of the image asking questions about it, opening a discussion about different worlds children inhabit. By being part of this project and using this powerful new technology, children will not only learn to examine their own surroundings and question what they see, but also learn about other countries and cultures. Carnegie Mellon's professor of robotics, Illah Nourbaksh said, "We look for ways to empower people and tell their stories with technology, and the side effect is that they become technology literate."

UNESCO is looking for an art gallery in Johannesburg or Soweto to display the images Lavela pupils will take. UNESCO webmaster Christopher Strebel says if the pilot project goes well, UNESCO will lobby to have GigaPan adopted as a method of education to let pupils communicate across cultures and share their experiences.
Source: Based on Soweto schoolchildren go hi-tech to share their world by Lesley Stones in Business Day (South Africa), April 23, 2008
Date: April 28 2008

Playhouse Disney and the Pre-school Learning Alliance Offers Preschoolers a Greener Start to 2008
Detail: Playhouse Disney and the Pre-school Learning Alliance, which is the largest voluntary sector provider of quality affordable childcare and education in England, joined forces to issue over 7300 Playing for the Planet pack as part of the biggest ever trial of educational materials to teach preschoolers about the environment through play from 24th January 2008.

Playhouse Disneys Playing for the Planet campaign launched earlier last year was targeted to help parents teach their kids about the environment through playful learning at home. This initiative was prompted by a new national study that found 74% parents wanting their children to be taught about the environment from as early as preschool, 81% of parents believing that their children will grow up to be more environmentally aware than they were, 85% of parents believing that it falls to parents to teach their kids about the environment and 76% of parents believing that kids are never too young to start learning about the environment.

Rob Gilby, Playhouse Disney Managing Director comments, our Playing for the Planet campaign helps parents teach their kids about the environment through playful learning at home. Its a natural next step to trial this content in preschool environments and Id like to thank the Pre-school Learning Alliance for their help in creating an outstanding resource for nurseries.

The Playing for the Planet guide was compiled by a team of creative, environmental and child development experts. It contains a range of fun and educational activities designed specifically to help parents teach their preschoolers to be more environmentally aware.

The new nursery pack combines key elements of the Playing for the Planet guide with expertise from the Pre-school Learning Alliance to create a useful resource for nurseries. The pack contains a range of fun and educational activity templates and games focused around three key areas play and exploration, active learning and creativity. Each activity uses Playhouse Disney characters such as Tigger & Pooh to help educate and engage preschoolers with key environmental issues such as recycling and conservation.

For more information on Playing For The Planet, or to download the original parents and preschoolers guide, go to
For information about the Pre-school Learning Alliance, visit the website:
Source: LONDON, January 24 /PRNewswire
Date: April 21 2008

LEED Platinum for Chartwell School, America's Greenest Educational Campus with a mission to tackle language challenges
Detail: Chartwell School has become the first complete educational campus to be awarded LEED Platinum, the highest sustainability rating by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Douglas Atkins, Chartwell's Executive Director, says, "Educators around the country are taking a leadership role in using green building to provide the best possible learning environments for our children .What began as a quest to give Chartwell students a campus to overcome language learning challenges has progressed into a working model that demonstrates to all schools that they can provide a healthy and environmentally responsible learning environment within a conventional school construction budget."

A study conducted by Herschong Mahone Group for the California Energy Commission found a compelling statistical correlation between the amount of day lighting in elementary school classrooms and the performance of students on standardized math and reading tests. According to a 2006 report prepared by consulting firm Capital E, while the average cost of going green is about $3 more per ft2, the average return on investment in terms of higher academic outcomes, lowered absenteeism, and reduced operating costs is about $70 per ft2, more than 20 times as high as the cost of going green.

Chartwell School, along with EHDD Architecture and general contractor Ausonio, Inc., achieved the high green building rating by focusing on energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. Some of these features included:

Daylighting/lighting controls - incorporates natural light to save electricity, reduce HVAC equipment, and contribute to an enhanced learning environment.
32kW photovoltaic system - generates onsite electricity that cuts electric bills by more than half, and avoids 54,000 lbs of CO2 annually.
Water saving features - reduces campus water use by 60% by using waterless urinals, dual flush toilets, and an 8,700 gallon rainwater cistern.
Sustainable framing design - Twenty-four inch (rather than 16") framing reduced wood use by 30%, and the majority of the wood purchased was certified for sustainability by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Construction waste diversion - Eighty-two percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills and recycled.
Waste reutilization - inclusion of slag (iron-ore byproduct) improved concrete quality while reducing CO2 emissions.
Improved indoor air quality - selection of paints, finishes, and furnishings with no VOC content reduced likelihood of irritating or toxic fumes that can trigger allergies or other negative health effects. Indoor CO2 monitors adjust ventilation rates.
Designed for disassembly - partnered with Environmental Protection Agency to incorporate features enabling cost-effective disassembly for classroom relocation or campus enlargement.
Source: January 16, 2008, Business Wire
Date: January 27 2008

Children are better at managing risk on their own than adults think
Detail: Experts from the University of Warwick and the Research Unit for General Practice in Copenhagen observed children aged 10 to 12 in a Copenhagen suburb over an eight-month period to study how children engaged with risk away from their parents in their everyday life at school and during after-school care.

The findings suggest that children indulge in a great deal of thoughtful and considered risk-taking that is invisible to adults. Children actively decided how much risk to expose themselves to, avoided harmful actions, made assessments of their own bodily capacity and even successfully negotiated levels of risks with other children by setting rules and limits to their games.

Professor Pia Christensen, of Warwick University's Institute of Education, said: "The researchers found many examples of how children actively engage with risk and daily manage situations that involve chance and risk.They actively decided how much risk to expose themselves to, avoided harmful actions, made assessments of their own bodily capacity and gauged risk in accordance with it and even successfully negotiated levels of risks with other children by setting and amending the rules and physical limits to their games and activities."

Christensen said parents who prevent children from taking risks are damaging their development. She added teaching stunts to children at school would be a good way of helping them manage risks. "Stunts should be taught in schools just like first aid. The study showed children will be very excited about doing something new if they can cope. Children climb up trees almost by nature and are very interested in seeing what their body can do. It is about getting to know themselves and who they are." said Prof Christensen.
Source: January 7, 2008, Monday, Birmingham Post
Date: January 18 2008

Should Sixth Grade be in Elementary School or Middle School?
Detail: The middle school intends to create a transitional period between the sheltered elementary school and the more demanding high school. However, is the current national trend of middle schools serving grades 6-8, the best grade configuration for schools to serve early adolescence? A recent study using administrative data on public school students in North Carolina (NC had led the national trend of incorporating sixth grade in middle school with 90 per cent of the states 379 middle schools serving grades 6-8 by year 2000), has found that sixth grade students attending middle schools are more likely to be cited for discipline problems than those attending elementary school. That difference remains after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the students and their schools.

The culture and environment of the elementary school and the middle school are different and are relevant to explaining the higher infraction rates recorded by sixth graders placed in middle school. The middle school provides more freedom to students who typically move from classroom to classroom during the course of the school day interacting with different teachers and different groups of students. In contrast, the elementary school provides continuity and close connection with one teacher where the same group of students spends much of the day in the teachers classroom. But most obviously, middle school exposes sixth graders to older adolescents who as a group are more rebellious, and more likely to be involved in activities that violate school rules. The results of this study show that the negative influence (behavior problems, reduced academic performance etc.) of middle school on sixth grade lingers through ninth grade.

The best school configuration in which to incorporate the adolescent grades needs to be reconsidered by policy makers and experts. The results of this study suggest separating sixth graders from older adolescents.

This study is published by the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke.

Cook, P. J. et al (2007). Should Sixth Grade be in Elementary School or Middle School? An Analysis of Grade Configuration and Student Behavior. The Sanford Institute Working Papers Series SAN07-01.
Date: December 20 2007

Academic facilitates $100 million investment in private schools for the poor
Detail: James Tooley, a professor of education at New Castle University, based on his research in China, Ghana, India, Kenya and in many other countries, has shown that fee-paying (often just a couple of dollars a month) private schools in the developing world can provide a much better education than inefficient state-run schools, which were high on teacher absenteeism and low on teacher commitment.

Prof. Tooley's essay, Educating Amaretch, summarized his work on private education for the poor in developing countries and made a strong case for investment to help improve the quality and availability of private schools that were outperforming government schools across the developing world. His essay subsequently published in an abbreviated form in the Financial Times (September 17, 2006), won the first prize in the inaugural Private Sector Development competition run by the Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation in 2006.

The essay caught the eye of Richard Chandler, the founder and chairman of Orient Global, a Singapore based investment firm, who then launched a USD 100 million Education Fund on February 14, 2007 and invited Tooley to act as President of the Education Fund and help invest $100 million in low-cost private schools for the developing world's poorest children.

To read the FT version of the essay, see
Educating Amaretch: Private schools for the poor and the new frontier for investors by James Tooley, Published: September 17 2006 16:15
Source: Based on Academic helps private schools drive for the poor by Jon Boone, Financial Times, February 15 2007; and Educating the poorest Financial Times, February 17, 2007
Date: November 20 2007

Local Law to establish Asthma Free School Zones in New York City
Detail: On October 17, 2007, Council Members Lopez, Barron, Brewer, Gerson, Jackson, James, Gennaro, Vann, Perkins and Vallone Jr. introduced legislation to protect the health of school children and improve overall air quality for all New Yorkers by reducing the time allowed for drivers to keep their engines running idle. This Local Law aims to amend the administrative code of the city of New York in relation to establishing Asthma Free School Zones.

Asthma Free School Zone is a neighborhood-based and school-centered program by a not-for-profit group of the same name. This program gives environmental health training to school and community members, and guides grassroots creation and maintenance of safe, healthy school zones in which children are protected from risks associated with poor air quality. The ultimate goal is to create greater public awareness about the importance of clean air. For the past year, Asthma Free School Zone has held covert stakeouts of schools around the city to aid the campaign against vehicle idling.

The new legislation proposes that an Asthma Free School Zone shall be established for each public school. Each Asthma Free School Zone shall include each public school, extend five hundred feet outward from the legal property line of such school, and encompass the entire area within such boundary. Currently drivers within New York City limits are allowed to keep their vehicles engine idling for only upto three minutes. This new local law would cut that allowance to one minute when a motor vehicle is parked or standing in the Asthma Free School Zone.
Date: November 15 2007

Mayor Driven School Reforms Seek Greater Accountability to Help New York City's Struggling Schools
Detail: Mayor Bloomberg in his continuing attempts to reform the New York City school system where graduation rate in 2002 was alarmingly low (51% of students compared to a national average of 70%), on November 5th, 2007, along with his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, announced the final piece in the grand school reform plan. Under the new scheme, every school run by the city will receive a public report card, with a grade that reflects both academic performance and surveys of students, parents and teachers.

Schools that do well will get a boost to their budget; the principal may get a bonus of up to $25,000 on top of a base salary of $115,000-$145,000. Schools graded D or F (about 12% of them this year) will have to submit improvement plans that will be implemented with support from Mr Klein's department. Principals whose schools are still faltering after two years will be fired. Schools still failing after four years will be closed. Mr Klein claims that no school system on earth has innovated on the scale of New York though each element of what is happening in New York has been tried elsewhere. This seems to be the most far-reaching urban school accountability initiative in America.

The ongoing school reforms took decision-making away from the patronage-heavy local school boards to accountable principals, and actively piloted experimental charter schools that could be models for others. A new “leadership academy” was created to train principals. Big schools with poor graduation rates were closed, and replaced with smaller ones, often several sharing the same building once occupied by a single big school. Wealthy philanthropists, including Bill Gates of Microsoft, Eli Broad from Los Angeles and sundry hedge-fund managers paid for many of these innovations. In seeking private source of funds for experimental reforms, political battles over public funds were bypassed.

Winning hitherto reluctant principals to sign a new accountability contract, and winning over the teachers' unions, had been crucial to Mr Bloomberg's success. In fact that teachers' starting pay is up on average by 43% since Mr Bloomberg took office may have helped. Even before this week's reforms were announced, the Broad Foundation declared New York the most improved urban school district in the nation. Last year the city outperformed other New York state school districts with similar income levels in reading and maths at all grades. Also, the gap between white and minority students has been narrowed.

Source: Based on "The great experiment", Nov 8th 2007, The Economist (print edition),
Date: November 9 2007

Clinton Global Initiative Announces Historic Education Partnership for Children of Conflict
Detail: The recently concluded third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, a non-partisan catalyst for action bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the worlds most pressing challenges, procured eighteen commitments to reach one million children in conflict, post-conflict refugee and emergency situations.

The Education Partnership for Children of Conflict has committed to placing 350,000 out of school children in school and improving the learning environment, safety, materials and teacher quality for another 650,000 studentsincluding 200,000 Iraqi refugees and 300,000 children affected by the crisis in Darfur.

Joining in announcing the extraordinary education commitments were representatives of the following organizations:

The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation Committed $1.2 million to build a boarding school in Valentinos home village in southern Sudan.
UNICEF has teamed up with Microsoft, the International Rescue Committee and Hewlett Packard to launch a new $30 million distance learning initiative that will help 150,000 displaced children, including children affected by the Iraq conflict and children in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The International Rescue Committee is also committing to expand its field-tested Healing Classrooms Initiative to help 70,000 children in Afghanistan and 41,000 children affected by the Darfur genocide.
The Save the Children Alliance is committing to expand education programs in places like Jordan and Lebanon to serve Iraqi refugees; and in Darfur and Southern Sudan.
The Sesame Workshop has committed to launch Sesame Street Afghanistan to teach Afghan children not only to read but to understand words like tolerance and reconciliation.
American Jewish World Service has reached far and wide to their grass-roots members to raise $2.2 million to support education in Darfur, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Guatemala.
The Norwegian Refugee Council will expand its innovative accelerated learning programs to serve over 100,000 out-of-school youth in Southern Sudan and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and Syria.
The Childrens Investment Fund Foundation has committed an additional $3 million to help expand the IRCs education work in Northern Uganda.
Unbound Philanthropy has committed to fund $500,000 in education projects developed through the Partnership.
The Escuela Nueva Foundation is spreading its philosophy of holistic child-centered education to nearly 9,000 children in war-affected areas of Colombia.
The Center for Mind Body Medicine commits to provide psychological counseling and support to 25,000 war-traumatized schoolchildren in Gaza to allow them to effectively learn in the classroom.
The GSM Association is working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to bring wireless connectivity to help train teachers and improve learning in northern Uganda.
UNHCR, in partnership with Nike, Microsoft and the WPP Group, is using CGI to re-launch ninemillion.organ internet portal designed to help provide education and sports to all refugee children
Source: Press release from Clinton Foundation Press Office, September 26, 2007
Date: September 29 2007

A Multi-dimensional Plan to Improve Children's Health in Korea
Detail: The Korean government plans to manage childrens health by preventing environmental disease, controlling computer game addiction and obesity, tightening quality regulation on foods, and systemizing health management.

The plan put forth by the Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development, an advisory body to the president, will regulate computer game playing time for children aged 12 or younger by making game makers to include a program to enable parents to control the time usage. When a child plays a game for more than a certain amount of time a day, a screen will appear advising the user to stop. According to the commission, around 2.6 percent of children in that age group are highly likely to become addicted to games and the Internet.

The plan will also regulate childrens dietary habits by regulating the airing of TV or radio commercials of potato chips, hamburgers or fried chicken during children's programs. Other measures will include providing children from low-income families with free subsidiary vouchers worth 57,000 won to exchange for nutrients, banning installation of soft drink vending machines within a 200 meter radius around a school in school zones, making it mandatory for schools to provide a healthy diet and enforce exercise for overweight children after classes, financially supporting schools to buy lunch materials from local farmers, providing alternative meals to students allergic to dairy or bean products, and banning transfat in children's food by 2010. An asthma alert system will be created to provide information on air quality for children suffering from respiratory diseases. Parents with children suffering from asthma will be provided with grants to buy special milk for their children.

The Ministries of Environment, Health and Welfare, Information and Communication and seven others will manage and renew the project every five years. The project is however disputed as it allegedly requires 527.6 billion won, whereas the government has only secured 63.4 billion won. This multi-dimensional plan to improve Korean childrens health and well-being will come into effect from January 1, 2008.

Source: By Bae Ji-sook, Korea Times, September 12, 2007 Wednesday
Date: September 22 2007

New Media Consumption Patterns in British Children
Detail: An annual survey of the communications market by Ofcom, Britain's telecoms regulator, shows children are consuming more media and more types of media than the previous generation. Three-quarters of British 11-year-olds now have their own television set, video-games player and mobile phone. Two years ago, 59% of those aged 8 to 15 regularly watched videos. Only 38% do so now. Two years ago 61% regularly played video games, compared with 53% today.

Old and not-so-old media such as videotapes and video games have been abandoned for the new. The internet and in particular social-networking websites are chosen over stand-alone media, such as DVDs. The trend seems to accelerate as children move into their teenage years. Nearly two-thirds of children between the ages of 12 and 15 use the internet, compared with 41% of those aged 8 to 11. This trend in new media usage has been attributed to proliferating high speed internet connections in British homes and the changing online experience from static to more real time video based interactions.
Source: The Economist, print edition, August 23rd 2007
Date: September 20 2007

Green jobs to help the environment and keep inner-city youth off the streets
Detail: The Green Jobs Act of 2007 is an innovative component of the Energy Package that is set to pass the U.S. House this week. This new legislation will make $120 million a year available across the country to begin training workers (and would-be workers) for jobs in the clean energy sector.

The City of Oakland became one of the first cities to pass a Green Jobs Bill. This meant rebuilding and retrofitting energy infrastructure and training workers to do so. The labor shortage in green jobs prompted the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights to start a pilot project called Oakland Green Jobs Corps to partner with community colleges to start training young people so that they can independently pursue careers in the new energy economy. This training program also seeks to collaborate with other community based organizations, unions and private companies to make sure that those people who most need the jobs urban youth, returning veterans, struggling farmers, displaced workers from manufacturing sectors can get all the training they need to fill those posts.

According to Van Jones, president of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the good thing about that is you teach a young person how to weatherize a building, how to double pane that glass. That young person can now join the union as a glazer. If you're putting up solar panels, you're on your way to becoming an electrical engineer. You can join the United Electrical Workers Union. That's a green pathway out of povertySo when we try to meet this energy challenges and environmental challenge trying to save the polar bears, you also have a chance to save a whole generation of African-American, Latino and poor youth in our inner cities.

As these jobs of retrofitting homes and city infrastructure cannot be outsourced overseas, green jobs provide job security to the American worker.

Source: News & Notes 9:00 AM EST, National Public Radio (NPR), July 18, 2007 Wednesday; and
Date: August 1 2007

NYC School Playgrounds as Public Spaces
Detail: Despite having one of the largest urban park systems in the United States, and adding even more new parkland in the last few years, New York City does not have enough open space to meet the needs of a growing population especially in lower-income communities. As noted by mayor Michael Bloomberg in PlaNYC, New York has fewer acres of green space per person than almost any other major US city.

Since land is finite and at a premium, innovative strategies are required to address this shortage. Mr. Bloomberg unveiled one of them -- an ambitious plan to fix up 290 previously restricted and largely decrepit school playgrounds and converting them into attractive, usable public spaces open to the general population as well as schoolchildren after school hours, during the weekend and when school is not in session.

Mr. Bloomberg said, ''On any given day, schoolyards around the city are a beehive of activity for the students. But once school ends, the gates close and yards sit empty. They represent the greatest opportunity we have for transforming an existing underused resource cost-effectively into something we can all enjoy.''

Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation group that has a considerable track record of helping cities across the country create small parks, gardens and other green spaces in crowded urban environments, is working with the city on this initiative. This ''Schoolyards to Playgrounds Initiative'' will eventually cost more than $100 million in public and private money.

Renovation involves new or freshly painted asphalt where the blacktop is broken, turf to replace asphalt where possible, landscaping, new fencing, new running tracks, new equipment. The trust will help oversee design and construction and, in some cases, will invite neighborhood residents, including children, to help with the design.69 such spaces opened last week, with the rest to follow by 2010. According to Rose Harvey, a senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land, the project will be the ''largest schoolyard transformation'' in the country.

For the full story see, Playgrounds as Public Spaces in NY/ Region Opinions in The New York Times, July 8, 2007.

Source: The New York Times, July 8, 2007
Date: July 8 2007

Playpumps: Child powered merry-go-rounds bring drinking water to South Africa
Detail: Playpumps are a simple invention that uses the energy generated by children playing on a merry-go-round to pump groundwater from boreholes. The playpump is a zero-energy water pump made from easily available windmill components attached to a merry-go-round. Playpumps pump as much as 1,400 litres of water an hour into an overhead storage tank accessible by community members.

The storage tanks are placed on high stilts, just a few meters away from where the children play on the pump, and are easily visible from a distance. These tanks carry colorful HIV/AIDS prevention messages aimed especially at young women, who are frequently responsible for collecting water for their households.

The idea for the Playpump was developed by social entrepreneur Trevor Field from a local invention, exhibited in an agricultural fair outside Johannesburg in 1989, through his company Roundabout Outdoors. The prestigious World Bank Development Marketplace Award for Roundabout Outdoor in 2000, for delivering both water and powerful HIV/AIDS prevention messages, brought in funds and visibility that enabled scaling up PlayPump system at a much faster rate. Today, more than a million South Africans have safe drinking water thanks to Playpumps.

Roundabout Outdoor created a South African NGO, PlayPumps International, to facilitate partnerships with corporations, foundations, governments and individuals. In the coming years, PlayPumps International and Roundabout Outdoor will expand operations in Southern Africa. More countries in East Africa will follow. In total, 4000 PlayPump systems will bring the benefits of clean drinking water to up to 10 million people in 10 countries by 2010, enabling improvements in health, education, gender equality and economic development.
Date: June 24 2007

Children not allowed out with friends
Detail: The charity, Childrens Society, as part of a series of reflections on childhood called Good Childhood Inquiry found out that 43% of 1,148 adults quizzed in Britain, would not allow children to go out with friends until they were 14. The over-60s were the most cautious respondents with 22% raising the age bar higher to 16 years for going out alone. The survey suggests that fear of youngsters safety leads to parental denial of childrens freedom outside home.

Curbing childrens freedom to go out and spend time with friends has serious consequences for childrens development and well-being. Chief executive of the Children's Society Bob Reitemeier said: "Children have told us loud and clear that friendship matters and yet this is an area in which we appear to be failing them.As a society we are in a real quandary. On the one hand we want freedom for our children, but on the other we are becoming increasingly frightened to let them out." Mr. Reitemeier cautioned: "If we go too far down the road of being over-protective and not allowing children to explore, to play, to be up with their peers, but also with children of other ages, then we may be influencing the way in which they look at society and social interaction later on."

Teachers too have expressed concern about the lack of play in the curriculum. There are also fears youngsters face too much pressure from national tests. Adrian Voce, from the Play England project, however said it was unfair to blame parents: "Compared to the well-being derived from being out and about and socialising and growing and developing, weighed up against real threats to your child's safety - real or perceived threats - it's a no-brainer for parentsThey'd rather their child was short of a few friends and over-weight than dead on the road."

Source: Story from BBC NEWS:, 2007/06/05 04:10:09 GMT
Date: June 13 2007

Kid-Friendly Smart Franchises: Children of working parents inspire new business
Detail: Experts say demographic swings continue to inspire new types of franchises that cope with changing societal needs. Outsourcing dealing with children is one such franchise opportunity prompted by working mothers who are unable to care for their children at home. As a result, several franchises focused on supervised recreation and early education for children are cropping up. Franchises such as Kidville, Abrakadoodle and Drama Kids International have appeared to meet parents' and children's evolving needs. Their experiences also offer valuable lessons in how to build new businesses from the ground up.

Demand for such franchises also come from parents who are unhappy with local schools and willing to pay extra to motivate their children to learn. Successful franchises offer art education in community and day care centers, private schools and summer camps. Here success is based on providing quality services to the children of highly educated parents who demand quality education programs.

Even though, children's services are recession-proof, children's franchises make safety their top priority. The background checks performed on employees are more intensive than those required at other franchises. Children's franchises also deal with issues like licensing and hiring trained teachers, not unskilled workers. Nearly all franchises are run out of the owner's home, which keeps costs down. Women constitute two-thirds of franchisees; many leave corporate jobs to raise families and then look for chances to be entrepreneurs.

Childrens franchises depends on building multiple revenue streams such as partnering with indoor soccer camps to teach art when the facilities aren't being used and also selling art kits. Several owner operated up-market franchises offer a clean, safe, secure environment with multiple facilities such as gym, art and specialty classes, indoor play gardens, salon for haircuts, cafes and retail stores, all under one roof.

According to franchise experts, in the increasingly competitive market of childrens franchising, the less capitalized franchises and ones not offering a quality product will flounder, and the strong ones will prosper.

Source: Based on a story by Gary M. Stern for the Investor's Business Daily, May 14, 2007
Date: May 15 2007

South Korean students get bodyguards to go to school
Detail: In a controversial scheme aimed at tackling bullying in schools, the South Korean government offered free police escorts to school. Growing concern about teenage gangs and juvenile crime prompted this move. Teachers and education officials have further been empowered to be watchful of young peoples behavior at amusement arcades, adult entertainment centers and other areas outside school.

Last year, about 6,200 South Korean students were punished for physical assaults against their peers. Some 400,000 middle and high school students were reportedly involved in gangs. In general, there are fears that traditional Confucian values and family discipline are deteriorating. Against this backdrop, the education ministry unveiled a plan to curb bullying on February 27, 2007. Currently trials are on in three districts where citizens are able to request police, private security or volunteer bodyguards for school journeys. Some schools will also get specialist police officers and more frequent street patrols. Teachers will get extra training, pupils counseling and violent juveniles after-school classes. Local companies are funding the project.

For full story, visit the following url,,2022964,00.html
Source: Story by Jonathan Watts, East Asia correspondent, Wednesday February 28, 2007, The Guardian
Date: May 11 2007

Smart Growth Inspired New Jersey Town Now Unable to Provide for More Children
Detail: Washington Township, eight miles east of Trenton in Mercer County, designed according to state planning goals as a remedy to suburban sprawl, has become a victim of its own success according to town officials and residents. Washington Township was the first municipality in New Jersey to build a new town center, Washington Town Center, as a high-density "smart growth" development echoing early-20th-century towns and covering 3 percent of Washington Township's land. The new development used a planning grant from the state's Office of Smart Growth and attracted thousands of families within a very short time. As a result the schools are overflowing, property taxes are skyrocketing and the main streets are clogged. Overwhelmed, town officials have turned trailers into classrooms, eliminated a separate fire district to save $900,000 and lent their construction manager to Asbury Park for a $150,000 fee. Last month, they sued the state Department of Education for money they claim was unfairly cut off when Washington Township was deemed too wealthy to receive what is known as "core curriculum aid," about $2 million a year.

According to George Hawkins, executive director of New Jersey Future, a nonprofit group that supports smart growth. "Washington Township did everything right for smart growth, but families want to live there so bad, their numbers have gone through the roof....We're going to undercut ourselves if we make it more expensive for people to do the right thing." Mayor David Fried said, We've won just about every award out there for smart growth, but we're getting no help from the state..." Some Washington Township residents, as well as town officials, have started to blame smart growth for the municipal problems. While the majority of the 13,000 residents live outside Town Center, nearly all of the 2,500 who have arrived since 2000 live there. "We're constantly hitting a brick wall because the average resident doesn't really get the benefits of a pedestrian-friendly concept," said Jodi Stephens, who has lived in Washington Township for more than 20 years and is a plaintiff in the school-aid lawsuit.

Mayor Fried, meanwhile, is considering a drastic remedy using eminent domain to seize undeveloped tracts and prevent developers from building hundreds of more homes that will bring in more young families. He has begun soliciting bids to appraise the town's undeveloped parcels that are zoned for 500 new homes, the first step in a potential eminent domain seizure. Mr. Fried said, "The last thing you want to do is turn kids into liabilitieswe were slated for another 500 homes, and if we did that, it would be catastrophic because I can't even handle the kids we have already." The smart growth concept was conceived as a family-friendly model where homes, shopping, schools and businesses are all within walking distance. Turning away children is about the last thing anyone expected in a successful "smart growth" development.

Source: Based on In Success of 'Smart Growth,' New Jersey Town Feels Strain by KEN BELSON, The New York Times, April 9, 2007
Date: April 10 2007

Federal Domestic Budget Spending on Children Declines
Detail: According to a report, "Kids' Share 2007: How Children Fare in the Federal Budget" released by the nonpartisan Urban Institute, children in the US will see their shares of federal domestic spending and the gross national product decline by double digits over the next decade. The report tracks federal spending from 1960 to 2006 and uses current policy and some assumptions to project activity through 2017. The report looks at more than 100 major programs that aim to improve children's lives through income security, health care, social services, food and nutritional aid, housing, education, training, and tax credits and exemptions for their families. Children are defined in the study as individuals under age 19 who are not in postsecondary education.

Researchers estimate that as a share of GDP, children's spending will slide from 2.6 percent in 2006 to 2.1 percent in 2017. Children enjoyed 20.1 percent of federal domestic spending in 1960;their share of the increase in spending between 1960 and 2006 was 14.7 percent. Under current law, children's share of new federal spending between 2006 and 2017 will be 5.6 percent -- $36 billion -- while other domestic programs will expand by $609 billion. The children's budget has maintained its share of GDP mainly through the introduction of 13 new programs since 1960, which, in 2006, accounted for 65 percent of the spending on children. Just three programs -- the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and Medicaid were responsible for 38 percent of the spending in 2006.

The analysis contrasts how elderly entitlement programs tend automatically to outpace growth in the economy, wages, and medical costs, while individual children's programs tend to slip behind inflation and economic growth. The researchers conclude that despite frequent rhetoric from policymakers on the priority given to children, the federal budget makes fairly clear that children are less of a priority and more of an afterthought in the budget process.

The report, "Kids' Share 2007: How Children Fare in the Federal Budget," is available at
Source: News Release, The Urban Institute
Date: March 26 2007

Digital Media, the new cultural territory for Chinese Youth
Detail: Chinese urban kids engagement with new digital media is much more intense than equivalent demographics overseas. Miriam Rayman, researching the importance of the digital arena in marketing for youth in modern China, suggests that digital media resonates strongly with Chinese youth because the online world also provides a new cultural territory where identity is less bound to the conventions of Chinese society. The present generation of youth, according to Rayman, is a very different breed to their older Mao-governed generation and yet the social, school and work systems have not transformed adequately to keep pace with the new generation. These young people communicate in a different cultural language than their elders but are still expected to conform to societal norms of previous generations (being little Red Soldiers) in school or at work.

Blogs and online forums provide a vital support system to share or vent frustrations built up in real life contexts, and even violent computer games are incredibly popular (online users have risen to 137 million in China, just behind the 210 million US users). These online forums also help in providing a sense of community to young people, most of whom, as a result of the one-child-per-family policy, grew up without siblings. Moreover Chinese cities do not have the social infrastructure necessary to look after the needs of the new generation through supportive physical places. British youth enjoy several hangout places such as the community center, pubs or music venues. Chinese youth 'hangouts' are only just starting to emerge. The virtual arena, meanwhile, is providing an easy place to come together and gain access to other like- minded people.

The article provides key learnings to better inform marketing strategies to the sophisticated Chinese Youth who are at the forefront of consuming digital information. The full article is available in the following url:'s-youth.html
Source: Published 06 March 2007 in Brand Strategy ,'s-youth.html
Date: March 19 2007

Downtown [Denver] playing catchup for families: Experts say kids key to urban vitality
Detail: [Article summary - see source for full text.]

As in many cities around the United States, developers in Denver have revitalized the downtown core, increasing loft-style housing and attractions that appeal to young members of the "creative class" and wealthy professionals. Housing options and amenities that could lure families with young children to central Denver, however, remain scant.

"While downtown has a slew of attractions for singles and tourists, it doesn't offer the affordable housing, parks and other amenities that would draw families from the suburbs," writes Denver Post reporter Margaret Jackson. Jackson adds that the city may ultimately suffer if it doesn't accommodate families with children, who comprise "a key ingredient to successful community building."

Approximately 9,000 people live in downtown Denver, but there are only 325 families with children. The dearth of families creates challenges for those who have young children, from problems finding a suitable babysitter to logistical issues in getting children to schools around the city.

Making central Denver more family friendly would create incentives for better community development, Mayor John Hickenlooper said. "Kids add a lot in terms of what you do for public safety and parkland ... People are willing to invest more when their families are downtown."
Source: By Margaret Jackson, The Denver Post; BUSINESS; Pg. C-01
Date: March 12 2007

Texas facility jails immigrant children and their families
Detail: On March 6, 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit on behalf of ten child detainees, ranging in age from 3 to 16, against Michael Chertoff and the Department of Homeland Security over conditions at the 512-bed T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Taylor, Texas.

T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility in Taylor, Texas, named after the co-founder of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was a medium-security adult prison. It was recommissioned as an immigrant detention center in May 2006 following Flores v. Meese (1997), which held that the U.S. government must provide family residential facilities for immigrant child detainees. The federal government pays CCA, the nation's largest private prison company, $95 per person per day to house the detainees who comprise of approximately 200 children (some as young as 3), and wear jail-type uniforms and live in cells in the Hutto facility.

None of the detainees has been charged with any crimes. The detainees are immigrants or children of immigrants who are in deportation proceedings. Many of them are in the process of applying for political asylum, refugees from violence-plagued and impoverished countries like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Somalia and Palestine. The facility houses no Mexicans as there are different procedures for Mexican immigrants.

Many have spoken against the appalling conditions prevalent at the center that may cause physical and psychological harm to the detained kids. For example several kids as reported by Frances Valdez, a fellow at the University of Texas Law School's Immigration Law Clinic, fell sick due to bad food. Kids are allowed only one hour of playtime a day; they spend the rest of the time in their pods in a contained area. Often families are separated at night. And there is no prenatal care available for pregnant women. According to Rosa Rosales, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), when local staff from her organization collected toys for the children at Christmas, Hutto administrators would not allow stuffed animals to be given to the children.

The Homeland Security Department defended the center as a workable solution to the problem of illegal immigrants who on being released according to them disappear while awaiting hearings. According to Mark Raimondi, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the DHS division that oversees detention facilities, such facilities deter smuggling of children and provides safe, secure and humane conditions and invest heavily in the welfare of the detained alien population."

But activists report that prisoners have been denied basic medical and dental care, education, exercise, and privacy. According to reports, guards deal with unruly children by adjusting the thermostat to make rooms intolerably cold and by threatening to separate them from their parents. Remarking on such findings, White House press secretary Tony Snow said that finding facilities for families is difficult, and "you have to do the best with what you've got."

For more details check out the following stories:
1. Tom Head, Tuesday March 6, 2007, ACLU Sues Department of Homeland Security, Citing Conditions at Hutto Center htttp://

2. Amy Goodman, Sunday March 4, 2007, Prisons that profit on humans

3. Kari Lydersen, Thursday 22 February 2007, Families Behind Bars: Jailing Children of Immigrants,

4. The Associated Press, Thursday 22 February 2007, Groups Seek to Close Immigrant Center
Date: March 12 2007

Child well-being in rich countries
Detail: The seventh Innocenti Report Card provides a comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and young people in 21 nations of the industrialized world. This report attempts to measure and compare well-being under six different dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviors and risks, and young peoples own subjective sense of well-being. Relying heavily on available data, the report bases its concept of well-being on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and suggests that this definition of well-being corresponds to the views and the experience of a wide public.

The main findings include the following:

Netherlands ranks first in overall child well-being comprising of the six dimensions.

European countries dominate the top ranks, with Northern European countries claiming the top four placesNetherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

All countries have weaknesses that need to be addressed, though Netherlands and Sweden came close to doing well on all dimensions.

The United States and United Kingdom were awarded the lowest two ranks respectively in overall child well-being.

No single dimension of well-being is a reliable proxy for overall well-being and several OECD countries find themselves with widely differing rankings for different dimensions of child well-being.

There is no obvious relationship between levels of child well-being and GDP per capita. The Czech Republic achieves a higher overall rank than wealthier countries such as France, Austria, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Measurement and comparison of well-being across countries provides an indication of each countrys strengths and weaknesses. It highlights achievable examples and provides both government and civil society with information to argue and advocate for, and work towards fulfillment of childrens rights with the ultimate goal of improving lives. Above all comparisons such as in this report demonstrate that levels of well-being are not inevitable but policy susceptible, and hence there is potential for improvement in all OECD countries.
Source: Innocenti Report Card 7, 2007,,
Date: February 20 2007

US High School Students Do Not Understand Climate Change Issues
Detail: According to a national telephone survey of randomly selected 900 high school students across the US, conducted by Hamilton College economist Julio Videras and his students in partnership with the polling firm Zogby International, the average US high school student believes climate change has no consequences for them in their lifetime despite an increasing emphasis at school and in the media on the causes and effects of global climate change. Hamilton College's Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center and Blue Moon Fund funded the poll, which has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percent.

Some of the findings indicate that students have the same level of knowledge about the issue whether they rely on science class or the media for information. However, students home life influences students' "pro-environment" behavior much more strongly than school. The study further suggests that those who discuss the environment with their friends, informally, are more likely to practice pro-environment behavior, know more about the causes and consequences of climate change, and are 16 percent more likely to believe the U.S. should mandate the reduction of greenhouse gases. Students who learn the most using the Internet do better than the average. Teaching students about climate change outside typical science courses, for example, in a special class dedicated to the natural environment, increases students' knowledge.

In addition to a limited understanding of the science behind climate change, most students don't see themselves at risk: Only 28 percent believe it's very likely that climate change will affect them personally in their lifetimes. Despite these findings, 70 percent think the U.S. should start reducing emissions of pollutants contributing to climate change rather than wait for more evidence about the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases.

The entire poll can be viewed at:

For more information contact:

Julio Videras, assistant professor of economics at Hamilton College, at 315-859-4528 or

Holly Foster, associate director of media relations at Hamilton College, at 315-859-4068 or

Source: Ascribe Newswire and
Date: January 30 2007

11 million children award outstanding contributions to the rights of the child
Detail: 11 million students at 20,000 schools in 82 countries participate in the Worlds Childrens Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), an initiative that empowers children and young people all over the world so that they can make their voices heard and demand respect for their rights in accordance with the UN Child Convention. An international child jury consisting of children who are experts on the rights of the child through their own experiences as soldiers, refugees, street children or slaves in brothels or on farms chooses the recipient of the Worlds Childrens Prize for outstanding contributions to the rights of the child. Over 300 organizations all over the world support the WCPRC, which also collaborates with many Departments of Education and youth media projects worldwide.

WCPRC attracts several high profile patrons such as Queen Silvia of Sweden, Nelson Mandela, President Xanana Gusmo of East Timor, former Executive Director of Unicef Carol Bellamy, former UN Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu, and Nobel Prize Winner in Economics Joseph Stiglitz.

The prize money, SEK 1 million (USD 140,000), is to be used in the recipients work for the rights of the child and will help some of the world's most vulnerable children. The WCPRC was founded by the Swedish organization Childrens World, and is a Swedish National Millennium Project. This years prize ceremony will be held on 16 April at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, where HM Queen Silvia will help the children to give out the prizes. All three final candidates will be honored.

This years three finalists are:

CYNTHIA MAUNG, Burma, who has fought for the health and education of hundreds of thousands of refugee children for 20 years, both under the military dictatorship in Burma and in refugee camps in Thailand.

INDERJIT KHURANA, India, who has run over a hundred schools and two phone help lines for 21 years, helping the poorest, most vulnerable children who live and work on station platforms.

BETTY MAKONI, Zimbabwe. After being abused as a child, Betty began to fight to give girls the courage to demand their rights. She supports those who are exposed to abuse and protects others from assault, forced marriage, trafficking and sexual abuse.

For more information contact:

Magnus Bergmar, +46(0)159-129 00, +46(0)70-515 58 39

Date: January 29 2007

New apartment guidelines in Ireland keeping children in mind
Detail: To make apartment living more family-friendly in Ireland, the recently published (January 9, 2007) Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for Apartments lay down minimum standards for floor areas, storage space, balconies, patios and even the dimensions of certain rooms.

These draft guidelines respond to complaints that too many of the apartments being built in Dublin were "shoebox-sized" and did not meet the needs of families with children. The guidelines are intended to replace the minimum standards for apartment design laid down by the Department of the Environment in 1995. The former president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, Toal Muire, an architect with wide experience of new residential developments, conducted a research study for the Department of the Environment to develop these latest standards.

This study recommended an increase in minimum floor areas for apartments, particularly to cater for families. As a general rule, the guidelines say, all apartments with two or more bedrooms should be designed with the needs of children in mind. This would include the private open space associated with individual apartments, small play spaces for toddlers with suitable play equipment and seating for parents/guardians, and larger play areas for older children and young teenagers. Minimum overall floor areas have been increased significantly on the standards laid down in 1995, from 38 to 45 square metres for one-bedroom apartments, 55 to 63 square metres for two bedrooms and 70 to 86 square metres for three bedrooms.
Source: Based on an article in The Irish Times, Family-friendly apartment norms published by Frank McDonald, Environment Editor, January 10, 2007.
Date: January 26 2007

A New Kind of Playground for New York
Detail: New York City is developing a new kind of playground that replaces slides, swings and other stationary equipment with things that children can move and build and creatively engage with, through an unusual private-public partnership. The playground will transform a parking lot at Burling Slip in the South Street Historic District, an area that is attracting residents with children and yet has few playgrounds. The playground will have trained play workers, a concept already popular in Europe, on hand to help children interact with the many features such as water, ramp, sand, and other objects for imaginative play.

According to the designer, David Rockwell, who conceived of the project and designed the park at no charge, play is how children learn to build community, learn to work with other people, and learn to engage with the world through creativity. Roger Hart, director of the Childrens Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York consulted with the Rockwell Group and the city in developing the project.

The playground is a figure eight shaped landscape with sloping wooden ramps that connect a zone of sand with a zone of water. A structure for housing loose parts such as foam blocks, small boats, collections of tubing, elbows, and gaskets for construction projects, will be maintained and overseen by the play workers. The design also incorporates a system of pulleys and ropes for children to lift and transport objects, as well as a climbing net and shading sails that relate to the maritime history of its location.

The idea has the support of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Park officials are considering supplying other playgrounds with loose parts ranging from foam blocks and cardboard tubes to spindles and burlap bags. The city hopes if the idea catches on elsewhere, it could market playground products. The playground is open to the public though Mr. Rockwell, who is financing the play workers, is raising $2 million to cover the costs.
Source: Based on a story by Diane Cardwell, New York Tries to Think Outside the Sandbox, The New York Times, January 10, 2007.
Date: January 14 2007

Environmental design helped Sweden achieve lowest childhood injury mortality in the world
Detail: A recently published study, titled Why does Sweden have the Lowest Childhood Injury Mortality in the World? The Roles of Architecture and Public pre-School Services in the Journal of Public Health Policy, showed that among other factors, urban planning, social welfare systems, and safety measures, played an important role in significantly reducing childhood injury mortality in Sweden by reducing transport-related injuries and drowning.

Researcher Bjarne Jansson and colleagues analyzed trends in childhood (0-14) injury mortality in Sweden between 1966-2001. The most frequent external causes of death were transport injury (48%), drowning (14%), homicide (5.8%), fire (5%), and fall (2.7%). The first half of the study period (1966-1981) recorded an average mortality of 13.0. The second half of the study period recorded a mortality of 5.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. There was a statistically significant decrease in mortality among all subgroups of children in both sexes.

The researchers attributed the decrease in injury mortality to both active behavior-oriented measures promoted by child safety programs, and passive built-in measures such as separation of cycle lanes or structural changes such as the expansion of pre-school services and organized leisure activities. The nation-wide program for child safety that created awareness about home and product safety, safety behavior in traffic environments, fire safety, poisoning control, electrical equipments, and swimming pools among other issues, showed reduction in injury mortality after a three year period. The Swedish Million Housing Program (1965-75) that embraced modernist planning and functionalist architecture, separated cars from pedestrian activities and childrens play areas. According to the researchers this reduced the risk of traffic related injuries by two-thirds in traffic-segregated areas. In addition, separation of cycle lanes from cars and trucks in the 1970s, and recruiting older pupils as traffic path-walk guards for younger school children contributed to reducing the risk of injuries in children. Transport-related fatalities in Sweden fell together with the expansion of public pre-school services in the 1970s. The authors conclude that Swedens achievement in reducing child injury mortality through a combination of policies and measures across diverse sectors such as urban planning and environmental design, health, education, social welfare, have important lessons for other nations.
Source: Journal of Public Health Policy, 27, 146-165, 2006
Date: December 29 2006

Impact of schools on housing values in Singapore
Detail: A recently published study in the Journal of Urban Planning and Development assessed how ease of access to schools and the reputation of the schools impacted housing values in Singapore. The authors, Hoong Chor Chin and Kok Wai Foong, used a Hedonic price model, which measures the value of aspects of a good that are not formally traded (e.g., a view from a residence, good neighbors), in predicting changes in prices in the housing market in Singapore resulting from the presence of schools.

Transaction data for property development in Singapore from January 1999 to December 2003 were analyzed. Property values were calculated using the hedonic model of residential property value using variables associated with market factors, structural factors, estate factors, neighborhood factors, locational factors, and proximity factors.

The findings indicate that the size, tenure, and age of the property, and the distance to the central business district had the greatest influence on property values. Additionally, proximity to a major shopping district or a subway station increased property values, while, the presence of industries decreased property values. Given a well-developed transportation infrastructure, Singaporeans may prefer neighborhood quality to proximity to a school. The ease of access and prestige of primary schools appeared to be a more important consideration when making a home purchase than that of secondary schools. This supports the common belief that quality of primary schools is one of the most important factors in home purchases when parents are trying to improve future life opportunities for their children. The findings are generalizable to all condominium properties in Singapore.
Source: Journal of Urban Planning and Development, 132, 3, 120-129, 2006
Date: December 27 2006

School Toilets not a focus of Healthy Schools Initiative in Britain
Detail: Child health is a major issue for determining school policies. However the new Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) annual report on the state of Britain's schools does not mention one important aspect of school life that seriously affects most children's emotional and physical wellbeing - the condition of the toilets. School toilets are often dirty and smelly, a haven for bullies and a no-go area for teachers. The government's Healthy Schools Initiative also does not include improvement of toilets. Yet for many children around Britain, the state of school toilets is just as important as the number of nutrients in their school dinner or the amount of PE they get. Moreover, inadequate toilets are often equated with fear of being bullied. Colin Noble, the national coordinator for the Healthy Schools Programme, admits that school toilets have been a weak link in the government's chain of initiatives attempting to make school life more wholesome.

Bog Standard, a campaign for the improvement of school toilets run by the charity Eric (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) receives hundreds of emails and phone calls from distressed parents and students each year. Sometimes these concern pupils in schools where students are not allowed to go to the toilet during lessons. It is also common for children to dislike their school toilets so much that they don't go to them at all. As schools move towards an extended day, the state of their toilets becomes increasingly important.

Bog Standard has instituted an award for acceptable school toilets. There are two levels for this award, Pioneer and Full, covering issues such as the number of toilets and washbasins per pupil, their condition, their location and ways of preventing them becoming the lair of smokers and bullies. Nickie Brander at Bog Standard talks about toilets being important to school children and about giving learners a say in what improvements they want. According to her, children keenly feel that inadequate toilets and draconian rules about when toilets can be used are a reflection of the poor light in which children themselves are held. Improved toilets mean improved morale for every pupil. Brander emphasized that school toilets should be in both Ofsted's remit and outlined in the Healthy Schools Initiative in order to give children a voice.

For the full story go to the following url:,,1952551,00.html
Source: A report by Julian Gibbs, Tuesday November 21, 2006, The Guardian
Date: November 22 2006

India Leads in Young People Wellbeing Index
Detail: MTV Network International (MTVNI) conducted a global survey to study wellbeing by focusing on the perceptions of young people themselves in different countries. The study involved 5,400 interviews with 8-15 year-olds and 16-34 year-olds in 14 countries. Young people were surveyed in Argentina, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and the USA. As part of the survey, MTVNI developed the Wellbeing Index to compare the perceived wellbeing of 16-34 year-olds in different parts of the world. The index is based on the perceptions of young people, how they feel about safety, where they fit in to their society and how they see their future.

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used including questionnaires, both online and telephone, face-to-face interviews and ethnographic immersions. MTVNI commissioned Synovate YC to conduct this global study. The MTVNI study findings show that young people in the developed world, who are materially wealthy are typically pessimistic about their futures, whereas young people in the developing world, despite facing greater challenges, are optimistic and hopeful.

Though there were some common trends amongst all global youth but the differences were greater than the similarities. One consistent finding across ages and in every country was the pressure on youth to succeed. Kids and young people worried about the same things as adults. More than half of 8-15 year-olds worried about getting a job. By comparison, only 34% were concerned about fitting in at school and only 25% worried about looking cool.

The country where young people had the greatest perceived sense of wellbeing was India, followed by Sweden with the USA coming third. The key findings are:

children in developing countries were more positive about their future than those in developed nations.

Young people in developing countries were at least twice as likely to feel happy as their counterparts in developed nations.

Young people in the developing world were more religious, and there was a correlation between youth who were actively religious and happiness levels. Over half of 16-34 year-old Indonesians, Brazilians and Indians said they were religious, compared to one in four in the USA and one in 10 in Sweden and Germany.

Terrorism came just eighth in the list of fears for 16-34 year-olds and tenth in the list of fears for 8-15 year-olds. Parents dying, cancer, AIDS, and robbery were greater fears for both age groups.

Personal safety is a major issue for young people in the developing world.

children from developing nations appear to be more patriotic.

In 12 out of the 14 countries surveyed more than two thirds of 8-15 year-olds said that getting good grades in school was their top priority. While bullying happens everywhere, it is more of a problem in the developed world.

New Digital technologies are changing young peoples friendship patterns and access to information
Date: November 21 2006

Practical new guide on prevention of violence against children from WHO
Detail: The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a practical new guide called Preventing child maltreatment: a guide to taking action and generating evidence to help countries prevent violence against children. The report represents a paradigm shift from reaction to cases where maltreatment has already occurred to prevention.

UN Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children has shown that much of the violence endured by children aged 0-14 years occurs in the home at the hands of parents, caregivers, and family members. Such violence hinder children's health and development and can last well into adulthood, often negatively affecting health and increasing the risks of further victimization and becoming a perpetrator of violence. But research shows that child maltreatment can be prevented, and the need to increase investment in prevention is urgent and global.

Promising strategies include reducing unintended pregnancies; improving access to high-quality pre- and post-natal care; reducing harmful levels of alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and by new parents; providing home visitation services by nurses and social workers to families at risk of maltreatment, and training parents on child development, non-violent discipline and problem-solving skills. The UN Study and the guide make it clear that responsibility for implementing such strategies lies with governments, and should involve other stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research councils and the international community.

The report is available in a downloadable pdf format from following url:
Date: November 15 2006

Viet Nam takes steps to protect children from accidents and injuries
Detail: Viet Nam Population, Family and Children Committee in coordination with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have initiated a project to protect children from accidents and injuries nationwide from 2006-2010. During the first stage of this project (2003-2005), local community's awareness was raised for protecting children from accidents and injuries, especially in difficult and remote areas. In the second stage, the project will help people across the nation access information for children's safety and develop models for protecting children from accidents and injuries in the community.

Traffic accidents, food poisoning, drowning, burns, abuse and violence, were the main causes of child deaths in Viet Nam according to a recent survey conducted by the Health Ministry and medical schools. Child mortality rate due to accidents represents 75 percent, while those caused by infectious and chronic diseases are 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

In a workshop attended by representatives from UNICEF, Health, Transportation and Police Ministries and the Committees for Population, Family and Children, it was recommended that protection of children from accidents and injuries would be effective only if the whole community practiced recommended measures.
Date: November 14 2006

Asthma symptoms among children linked to diesel truck emissions in the South Bronx
Detail: Results of a five-year study by researchers at New York University's School of Medicine and Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service show that soot particles from the exhaust of diesel trucks is a major contributor to the alarmingly high rates of asthma symptoms among school-aged children in the South Bronx.

Past land use decisions have placed school children in close proximity to highways, truck routes, industrial land-use areas and other environmental hazards. Several major highways surround the South Bronx, including Interstates 95, 87, 278 and 895. At Hunts Point Market alone, some 12,000 trucks roll in and out daily. Modeled concentrations of traffic-related particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are two to five times higher in close proximity of South Bronx highways than in other parts of the South Bronx. About one-fifth of all pre-K to 8th-grade students in the South Bronx attend schools within less than two blocks of major highways. The study found asthma symptoms, particularly wheezing, doubled among elementary school children on high traffic days.

This is the first study where elementary school childrens exposures to traffic pollution were measured. The results confirm that even though diesel soot comprised only 10% of all the tiny particulate matters inhaled by children in these heavy traffic zones, but it was this portion that is causing exacerbations of asthma in children.

For more information contact:

Robert Polner
New York University

Pamela McDonnell
Director, Media Relations
NYU Medical Center
Date: November 12 2006

Parents' perceptions of neighborhood safety influencing children's physical activity
Detail: A study, conducted by Lori Weir and her colleagues from New York Medical College, investigated the degree to which parents in a poor inner city vs. a middle-class suburban community limit their children's outdoor activity because of neighborhood safety concerns. Reported in the September issue of the journal Preventive Medicine, this study hypothesized that negative perceptions of neighborhood safety in poor communities may affect overweight by inhibiting children's physical activity.

Parents of children aged 510 years from an inner city family practice in a poor community and from a suburban pediatric practice in a middle-class community completed a 20-item questionnaire. Parents estimated the amount of their child's activity in various situations and indicated their level of anxiety concerning gangs, child aggression, crime, traffic, and personal safety in their neighborhood.

This study found high levels of worry about neighborhood safety in a poor inner city community and relatively low levels of concern in a neighboring suburban community. The study also found that inner city children were less physically active than suburban children. These results, combined with a negative correlation between parents' concern and children's activity in the inner city population, suggest that inner city parents restrict their children's physical activity due to safety concerns.
Source: Preventive Medicine, Volume 43, Issue 3 , September 2006, Pages 212-217
Date: October 23 2006

One-third of U.S. youth are not physically fit
Detail: According to a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, approximately one-third of boys and girls, age 12 to 19, in the United States, do not meet standards for physical fitness. Dr. Russell R. Pate, of the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health led the study that was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Pate and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Cooper Institute assessed the physical fitness of 3,287 youth ages 12 to 19 who participated in the government-conducted National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2002.

The study found that older males were more physically fit than younger males, while the opposite was true for females. Participants who reported more sedentary behavior, such as watching television or playing video games, and those who spent less time being physically active were more likely not to be physically fit. The study also found that physically fit young people are less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or other risk factors for chronic diseases. Moreover low physical fitness during adolescence tends to track into adulthood, and adults who are less physically active are at a substantially increased risk for chronic disease morbidity (illness) and mortality (death).

The study recommended supporting fitness among all youth and called on physicians to counsel children and parents about guidelines for physical activity, and schools to offer more physical education programs.
Date: October 22 2006

TV Might Really Cause Autism
Detail: Author Gregg Easterbrook reports in Slate magazine about new research into the connection between infant and toddler television viewing and the incidence of autism in the United States. The study, conducted by economics and policy analysis researchers at Cornell University, "represents a potential bombshell in the autism debate," Easterbrook writes.

Read the Slate here: Learn more about the Cornell study here:
Source: Slate magazine -
Date: October 16 2006

Libyan children to receive wireless laptops as part of One Laptop Per Child initiative
Detail: Libya will probably become the first nation in the world where all school-age children are connected to the Internet through educational computers. In keeping with its current political agenda of creating a more open Libya and becoming an African leader, the government of Libya has ordered 1.2 million wireless laptops from the US based non-profit One Laptop Per Child.

The project One Laptop Per Child was conceived in 2005 by a computer researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nicholas Negroponte to supply wireless-connected computers, costing about $100, to children in developing nations. Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria and Thailand have tentatively agreed to purchase such computers for their school children. One Laptop Per Child has struck a manufacturing deal with Quanta Computer Inc., a Taiwanese computer maker.

As Microsoft refused to sell its Windows software to the project at an affordable price, these low-cost laptops will come with the freely available Linux operating system, which is becoming increasingly popular in the developing world. The $250 million investment will secure 1.2 million computers, one server per school, a team of technical advisers to help set up the system, satellite internet service and other infrastructure for Libya.
Source: Based on a story by John Markoff in The New York Times, October 11, 2006
Date: October 11 2006

Virginia Launches Safe Routes to School Program
Detail: Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Virginia's Safe Routes to School program this week. This is part of a national Safe Routes program that provides $612 million in federal transportation funds for similar projects nationwide. Jakob Helmboldt is in charge of Virginia's grant program, which encourages localities to find ways for children in kindergarten through 8th grade to safely bike or walk to class. The program will be funded by $13.3 million in federal money through 2009 and administered by the state transportation department. An important component of the grant program is to encourage healthy lifestyles at a young age by promoting walking or biking. Obesity has tripled over the last 30 years among children 6 and older, putting more people at risk for obesity-related health problems.

Though no school divisions have outright bans on biking and walking, some schools are wary and assume they have an increased liability risk if more children walk. Parents also have the misconception that it's safer to drive their child to school. According to Helmboldt over 50 percent of all students arrive to school in private vehicles, including older students driving themselves, as well as a huge number of students dropped off by parents. He further added that up to 25 percent of morning traffic congestion is attributed to school dropoff.

A key supporter of the Safe Routes to School movement, in Virginia, is the Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, a Charlottesville group that promotes public transit and sustainable land-use policies. Some of the group's initiatives include helping schools promote bicycle and pedestrian programs. ACCT suggests that parents walk with their children to school, and also tries to arrange "walking school buses" where a parents take turns "picking up" children and walk them to school.
Source: Based on a story by Zinie Chen Sampson, The Associated Press, September 21, 2006
Date: September 25 2006

World Development Report 2007 Urges More Investment in Developing World's Record Youth Population
Detail: According to the World Development Report 2007, launched at the World Bank's Annual Meetings in Singapore, investing in better education, healthcare, and job training for the 1.3 billion young people now living in the developing world-the largest-ever youth group in history, is a way for developing countries to produce surging economic growth and sharply reduce poverty.

The current generation of youth is healthier and better educated than previous generations, and they will join the workforce with fewer dependents because of changing demographics. Training this generation today is an opportunity worth seizing to create more effective workers and active citizens. This is especially important as young people make up nearly half of the ranks of the world's unemployed. 130 million young people in the age group of 15-24 years cannot read or write. Secondary education and skill acquisition make sense only if primary schooling has been successful. This is still far from being the case and efforts have to be reinforced in this area.

Even though most policymakers know that their young people will greatly influence their national, social, and economic fortunes, strategies for effective investment in youth are lacking. The World Development Report identifies three strategic policies that may enhance investment in young people: (1) Expanding opportunities, (2) improving capabilities, and (3) offering second chances for young people who have fallen behind due to difficult circumstances or poor choices. These address five fundamental transitions facing young people and affecting their whole economic, social and family life, namely getting an education, finding work, staying healthy, forming families, and exercising citizenship.

For more information contact
In Singapore: Maya Brahmam Global Cell 44-7753-782-019
Phil Hay Global cell:(202) 409 2909
TV/Radio: Camille Funnell Local tel no: (81) 815364
In Washington: Kavita Watsa (202)458-8810
Source: Press Release No:2007/56/DEC in
Date: September 21 2006

Youth Inclusion Programs to stop children from becoming criminals
Detail: Britains young offenders' institutions are overcrowded as twice as many under-18s are locked up now as a decade ago. The obvious solution is to stop children from becoming criminals. That is exactly what "youth offending teams" are doing in searching out children considered most likely to become criminals from Britain's poorest, most crime-plagued estates and preemptively intervening to stop these identified children from committing crimes.

Introduced in 2000, Youth Inclusion Programs (YIPs), running on 110 poor estates target a "top 50" troublesome 13- to 16-year-olds. Though the teenagers' involvement is voluntary, more than three-quarters take part, committing themselves to five hours a week of "appropriate intervention": activities designed to deflect them from crime and get them to attend school more often. Educational under-achievement and criminal activity are closely linked.

With the introduction of YIPs, arrest rate has fallenof the 40% who had been arrested before joining the scheme, three-quarters were arrested for fewer offences afterwards. A similar share of those who had never been arrested retained blemish-free records. YIPs' success led the Youth Justice Board to create a similar project for younger children, Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs), to target disorderly eight- to 13-year-olds. The government believes that the earlier the intervention the better.

These projects have been criticized on the ground that by treating a group of children as possible future criminals, the projects risk stigmatizing children, some of whom have never committed a crime. Critics further say that it is the responsibility of the Youth Justice Board to provide mainstream services to meet the needs of all vulnerable children, whether they are at risk of becoming criminals or teenage mothers. Services are in need of reform if they are failing to address the needs of all children. Supporters of YIP however believe that YIPs only acknowledge the label problem children in order to peel it off.
Source: The Economist, September 9, 2006, U.S. Edition
Date: September 20 2006

Human Development Report Says Children Unsafe in Delhi
Detail: The government of Delhi released Delhis first human development report last week. The Delhi Government partnered with several civil society organizations including several non-governmental organizations working with children and youth to produce this report, which is a first of its kind undertaken by a metropolitan city in India. The primary data was based on a survey of 14,000 households across the citys socio-economic spectrum.

According to the findings of this report, Delhi has the highest per capita income in the country, almost two and a half times higher than the national average. Delhi has also recorded impressive gains in lowering the levels of environmental pollution despite having more registered vehicles than the sum of vehicles in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai (the three other leading cities in India). Tree and forest coverage has increased substantially from 16 square kilometers in 1990-1 to 268 square kilometers in 2003-04. A majority of respondents also cited higher incomes and green environment of Delhi as reasons for not moving away. However only 19 percent of respondents felt Delhi was a safe city. There is a direct correlation between peoples perception of lack of safety and crime statistics for Delhi especially for women and children.

Delhi ranks first among 35 other cities for crimes against children, and sixth in the whole country. Delhi as a city, account of 4.8 per cent of crimes against children, as against the national average of 1 per cent. The national average for child rape is 0.2 percent. But in Delhi it is 2.1 per cent. Delhi accounts for 9.2 per cent of all kidnapping against the 2.1 per cent average of 35 cities. Among the identified neglected communities of Delhi working and street children feature prominently. The report points out that due to absence of reliable data which itself is an artifact of not acknowledging the existence of child labor, adequate policies for educational and health facilities for these neglected children are difficult to formulate. The report ends with the formulation of Delhi Development Goals in the line of the Millennium Development Goals. The last goal (Goal 9) is to improve public safety in the city. The last target (target 9) of this goal is to make Delhi a child friendly city. The strategies outlined by the report to achieve this target are:

ensure universal immunization coverage
establish universal ICDS (integrated child development scheme) coverage
ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities
ensure that children live in unpolluted environments
ensure all children up to age 14 years attend school
ensure safe public transport to school and public transport
prevent and eliminate crime against children
ensure safe streets for children by building sidewalks, playgrounds and parks
ensure effective protection against child labor and exploitation
encourage participation in social events
Source: Delhi Human Development Report 2006
Date: August 30 2006

Children of the Storm: Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
Detail: One year after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, more than 125,000 children in Louisiana alone are still displaced, living in abandoned homes or FEMA trailers. New York Times photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally traveled to New Orleans to document the current housing conditions and lives of children affected by the storm. This interactive feature presents the experiences of children and their families in their own voices.

In a related essay, "Orphaned," writer Jason DeParle reflects on the impact of Hurricane Katrina on children living in public housing in New Orleans. A link to the story is provided at the end of the feature. Link to special issue of the New York Times Magazine:
Date: August 27 2006

Child labor rises in sub-Saharan Africa
Detail: New York Times writer Michael Wines reports from Zambia about children such as 9-year-old Alone Banda, who crushes stones to help his mother earn money to survive. In his story, "Africa Adds to Miserable Ranks of Child Labor," Wines reports on the growing numbers of children in sub-Saharan Africa obligated by poverty to work, earning meager wages and endangering their health.

"Child labor declines with prosperity, and so the region's economic plight -- 44 percent of sub-Saharan residents live on less than $1 a day, far and away the greatest share on earth -- is a big reason" for the growing ranks of child workers, Wines writes. Adult exploitation of children remains a major issue in the region, but poverty is a more prevalent reason for children going to work at earlier ages. Persistent hunger and health problems often plague child workers, leading to difficulties in school.

The story includes statistics from around the region, and an interactive feature related to the story is available on the New York Times website.
Source:; The New York Times, Section A; Column 2; Foreign Desk; Pg. 1
Date: August 24 2006

Escalators as Source of Injury to Children
Detail: A new study, conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) in the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Columbus Children's Hospital, showed an estimated 26,000 U.S. children 19 years of age and younger were treated in a hospital emergency department for an escalator-related injury in 1990-2002. According to this study, which is a first to describe the epidemiology of escalator-related injuries among children using a national sample, published in the August 2006 issue of Pediatrics, approximately 2,000 children are treated in United States hospital emergency rooms annually for escalator-related injuries.

Children younger than five years had the largest number of injuries (12, 000), and the highest annual escalator-related injury rate, with entrapment accounting for nearly 37 percent of injuries. Six percent (723) of injuries to these children involved a stroller, with most occurring when a child fell out of the stroller while on the escalator. The hand was the most common injury site (40.6%) among these young children, with hand injuries frequently occurring as a result of entrapment.

The most common mechanism of injury for all age groups, however, was a fall, which accounted for more than half of the injuries. Entrapment accounted for 29 percent of injuries, and the leg was the most frequent (28%) site of injury for all age groups combined.

The authors of the study suggested proper adult supervision for younger children on an escalator including removal of children from strollers by parents to prevent fall and entrapment. Parents are advised to carry their children while on the escalator, and to make sure that they have one hand free to hold the escalator railing for balance. Though the authors acknowledge that additional research is needed to determine the relationship among passenger behavior, escalator design and escalator-related injuries, CIRP director Gary Smith, who is also one of the authors of this study, suggested that escalator designs that reduce the gap between the steps and sidewall or shield against access to the gap may decrease entrapment risk. According to him, this redesign approach may provide automatic, or 'passive,' protection that is most likely to prevent entrapment injuries in all age groups.

For more information, please contact Mary Ellen Fiorino (614) 722-4595 or Pam Barber (614) 722-4595 in Marketing/Public Relations at Columbus Children's Hospital.
Source: Columbus Children's Hospital,
Date: August 16 2006

Youth WAVE Screener: Addressing Weight-Related Behaviors With School-Age Children
Detail: Dr. C.R. Isasi and colleagues reported findings of a new study that evaluated the feasibility of using the youth Weight, Activity, Variety, and Excess (WAVE) screener in a classroom setting for assessing student weight control intentions, and the extent to which students used the WAVE strategies to control their weight, in the journal Diabetes Educator.

The study was conducted in an inner-city school located in the Bronx, New York. The Youth WAVE Screener was administered to fifth-grade students. One of the goals of the study was to increase student awareness of snack foods and sugary beverages in relation to weight. 169 students completed the survey. Nearly half of them (77 students) were trying to lose weight. The findings indicate that students who were trying to lose weight were more likely to have low-fat dairy products, less likely to have sugary beverages, and less likely to eat junk foods than those who were not trying to lose weight. Healthier dietary patterns and less sedentary behaviors were more likely in students who reported exercising three times weekly as compared to students who exercise less often.

The researchers conclude that the Youth WAVE Screener can be used to quickly identify children who are concerned about their weight as well as those with dietary and physical activity patterns that may increase the risk of obesity. Health educators can use this screener to start a dialogue with children about their weight-related behaviors.

For more information contact C.R. Isasi, Yeshiva University of Albert Einstein College Medical, Dept. of Epidemiology & Population Health, 1300 Morris Pk Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.
Source: The Diabetes Educator, Vol. 32, No. 3, 415-422 (2006)
Date: July 31 2006

San Francisco Works to Keep Families in Town
Detail: By Elaine Korry

In the 1960's, children made up one-quarter of the population of San Francisco, but as housing prices have skyrocketed over the last 40 years, the city has seen an exodus of families with children. Even families earning the area median income of $80,000 per year can no longer afford to purchase homes within the city limits. But now the city is making efforts to encourage developers to build more affordable housing, and to make the city more family friendly.

New policy commitments are being matched with public dollars: the city has dedicated $44 million this year to pay for the development of affordable, family friendly housing; child care; and health care for young people. Increased rental subsidies and new requirements for affordable development are intended to stem the flight of families from the city.

Click on this link to listen to the story:

Source: National Public Radio, Morning Edition
Date: July 28 2006

Children in affluent, less dense environments at high risk of childhood cancers
Detail: According to the the largest study yet, focusing on incidence of cancer in British children, published by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment, children from affluent families in less densely populated environments are at high risk of childhood cancers.

The study used data from more than 30,000 children. The findings suggest that children in richer parts of Britain are more likely to develop many types of cancer. The findings also hold true for children living in isolated rural areas, rather than crowded cities. The researchers claim that many childhood cancers are triggered by a cell mutation developed before birth. This is followed by an infection in infancy which prompts an abnormal immune response that causes the disease.

The researchers suggest that children raised in too clean an environment develop impaired immune systems. Alternatively, "urban" viruses could be finding their way into rural populations, causing genetic damage leading to cancer. However, children living in crowded environments become immune to viruses due to increased exposure to them.
Source: United Press International,
Date: July 20 2006

Childhood asthma rise linked to indoor swimming
Detail: New research on childhood asthma, just published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, shows a strong correlation between the number of swimming pools in a country and the prevalence of asthma. The research team led by Alfred Bernard, professor of toxicology at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, reported that the incidence of childhood asthma was higher in areas with indoor pools. The chlorine smell in pools caused by the water insoluble trichloramine gas is to blame as it goes straight into the lungs when inhaled and damages the tissue there.

Childhood asthma is particularly prevalent in countries where there are enough pools (two or three pools for every 100,000 people) to ensure that children can swim at least once a week. The study concluded that asthma in 13-14 year olds rose by 2.73% for every indoor swimming pool among 100,000 of the population. The researchers also looked at the prevalence of asthma among six- to seven-year-olds. However, they found that even though asthma in the younger children rose with swimming pool availability, the increase was not as pronounced.

UK has a high incidence of childhood asthma (20% of children in the UK suffer from asthma). UK has many more indoor swimming pools as compared with other European countries where childhood asthma was also lower (4% of children in eastern European countries such as Latvia, Romania and Poland, 3% of children in Russia and 5% of children in Greece suffer from asthma). The researchers explain that high numbers of indoor pools is a major reason why asthma levels are high in parts of the UK, such as Scotland, with low pollution.

Based on the findings of this research, Prof. Bernard concluded that children who are susceptible to allergies should not be allowed to swim in pools which smell strongly of chlorine. Outdoor chlorinated pools are recommended over indoor ones as the gas is quickly dispersed.
Source: Based on a story by Sarah Hall, July 18, 2006, The Guardian,
Date: July 20 2006

Toronto Police And Province Team Up To Help Youth Succeed
Detail: Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers and Toronto Police Chief William Blair launched a first of its kind in Canada youth in policing program on July 4 in Toronto. One hundred youth will begin summer jobs this week with the Toronto Police Service.

Young people from some communities are telling us they need more opportunities to overcome the challenges they face. Thats why were partnering with the Toronto Police Service to support this new initiative, said Chambers. This program will not only provide these young people with real-life work experience, but also help them develop new skills.

Under the program, 100 youth, 14 to 17 years of age, have been placed in jobs with various departments of the Toronto Police Service, including information technology, forensic identification, community events, traffic safety and the marine unit. Six additional youth will be placed with Durham Regional Police Service.

The Toronto Police Service is pleased to be part of the Ontario governments Youth Opportunities Strategy, said Chief Blair. This new, innovative, youth in policing program will see our young people work one-on-one with the members of my service. Not only will the Toronto Police Service learn from them, but the youth will leave here with a greater understanding of the Toronto Police Service.

The Ontario government is providing $390,000 to support the youth in policing initiative this year. Next year, the government will invest about $585,000 to expand the initiative, enabling at least 50 more youth to work with other police service organizations across the province.

The youth in policing initiative is one component of the provinces Youth Opportunities Strategy, a broad plan to help young people faced with significant challenges achieve success. The strategy also includes:
Establishing an annual Summer Jobs for Youth Program for 750 youth from underserved communities in Toronto.
Hiring 39 youth outreach workers 35 in Toronto and four in Durham Region who will build relationships with youth, provide advice and connect them to appropriate services.
Helping 16 Toronto youth complete their high school education through a Learn and Work Pilot Program in the Ontario Public Service that combines work experience with credit recovery.
Piloting a new school-based prevention program in six high schools this September, including two in the Greater Toronto Area. The program will use peer mediation and role modeling programs to help prevent disruptive behaviour among students.

Because we want to make our communities stronger because we want to make them thrive economically, culturally and socially we are determined to give our most vulnerable youth the support they need to be successful, added Chambers. Every young person has a dream. We have to provide the opportunities to help them realize those dreams.

For more information see, and
Date: July 7 2006

Lessons in New Ways to See

In a room full of teenage girls, Lastarr Freeman hardly speaks, and when she does, her voice rarely rises above a whisper. Yet when it was time to pose for a portrait last month, she decided to dress up as a boxer, with trunks draped around her legs and surgical gauze crisscrossing her slender hands. All that was needed to complete the picture, and the transformation, were the gloves.

"I've always been a fighter," she explained.

Anyone who has passed much time in the Louis H. Pink project in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Ms. Freeman has spent most of her life, knows that she probably has her reasons for fighting. But by last year it had led her, at 16, to the back of a police car and the inside of a booking cell, exchanging one tough place for another even tougher. "Everything about where I live is bad," she said, an expression more of plain fact than of complaint.

Until recently she had little desire to express herself, much less the power to step outside her circumstances and see in herself the fighter that she both needs and fears.

But over the last 15 weeks, mostly in the basement editing rooms of the International Center of Photography in Midtown Manhattan, she and more than a dozen other girls who all have also been in trouble with the law have been trying to gain a measure of control over their difficult lives by looking at them through the relative calm of a camera lens. Or more accurately, as seen on a camera video screen, lighted up along the back of an eight-megapixel digital camera.

The program providing the cameras was created last year in collaboration with the Friends of Island Academy, an organization that supports the high school on Rikers Island and tries to help lower the recidivism rate for its alumni.

Art therapy has been used for years to try to give troubled youth a different perspective on their lives, and photography has long aided that process by lowering the barriers to entry: no need to know how to draw or paint, just a willingness to pick up a camera and try. But digital photography is now offering the added power of immediacy, instantaneous images that are proving especially effective for groups of girls like those in the program, mostly black and Hispanic, who struggle as much as or perhaps more than teenage boys with how they are viewed by society.

The cameras, which the girls learned to use both on the streets and in a studio, allow them not only the rare chance to channel their energy into a creative project but also to control images of themselves, a kind of twist on Susan Sontag's views about the medium and control in her book "On Photography." ("To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed," Ms. Sontag wrote. "It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge and, therefore, like power.")

Beth Navon, the executive director of the Friends group, said the idea for the photography program grew out of an overall philosophy that art should be an essential part of helping teenagers from poor urban neighborhoods find a way out of trouble.

"It's not sort of an extra like, 'If you do the other stuff, you get to take the art classes,' " she said. "It's integral to what they're learning. Seeing it as integral is key."

Lacy Austin, the director of community programs at the International Center of Photography, said that when the program began last year, she was unsure how many girls would embrace the idea as more than a novelty, a kind of recess period with high-tech electronics.

When the classes began, though, a large core group of girls became deeply involved and came faithfully, even when their chaotic lives made it hard for them to keep appointments, other than those with parole or probation officers.

"Once the door is opened, they don't want to leave," Ms. Austin said, adding, "I think because photography is so fluid and so immediate it's reflecting back to them a sense of possibility in their lives they haven't seen before."

To sit in on the most recent class over the course of several weeks was to watch a gathering that was part high-school photo club, part self-help group, part fashion show, part summer camp and running confessional.

Several of the girls had lost one or both parents at an early age. Some had bounced through foster homes or overtaxed relatives' homes, dropping out of school as they shuttled from New York to the deep South or Puerto Rico. Two of the girls already had children of their own, and a third who began the program nine months pregnant brought her infant daughter to the last class.

As much as the cameras, computers and photos were therapeutic tools for the girls, simply seeing the doors of a sleek Midtown art palace regularly opened to them and their problems often seemed to do as much for their spirits.

"A lot of these girls never get out of their neighborhoods," said Denole Taylor, director of the young-adult department for the Friends organization. "They come here and point and say, 'Wow, is that the Empire State Building?' And they've lived here all their lives."

The hundreds of photographs the girls took of themselves and of one another became a weekly window on their lives. One girl, assigned to focus on her body, took a blurry, postmodern-looking picture of her unshaved armpit. "It's my street revolution," she explained. "I don't shave."

Jessica Bennett, 18, whose mother died of cancer when she was 7, and whose father died of cancer when she was 14 she has no stable home at present, she said took a picture of herself balancing a huge basket of apples on her head, striving to look like what she called a "strong African princess" but also realizing that she was symbolizing something else.

"The way my life is," Ms. Bennett said, "I guess I'm just carrying a load on my head."

Liza Jessie Peterson, an actor and writer who works as an outreach coordinator for the Friends of Island Academy, looked over Ms. Bennett's shoulder one day in April as she reviewed her pictures in a digital-editing studio. "I like these," Ms. Peterson told her, "because you look larger than life."

Ms. Bennett laughed, in a way she usually does not about her size. "That's because I am larger than life," she said.

But Ms. Peterson shook her head. "I don't mean like that, girl I mean like the Statue of Liberty," she said, pointing at one of the pictures and wagging a finger. "That's a woman that's coming to save the 'hood."

During the classes and photo sessions it was easy to forget how the girls came to be at Island Academy and made their way into the photo program. Some had actually spent time in Rikers; others ended up at the school after run-ins with the law that landed them on probation or in juvenile centers.

Most were remarkably open about their mistakes and the consequences. "I'm tired of probation," one girl, Mary-Lynne Louisa, 18, who came back to participate in the class for a second year, wrote in an end-of-project personal essay last week. "I'm tired of belonging to the state. I'm tired of being just a number."

Ms. Freeman, who first came to the school after being arrested on assault charges, was still wearing her boxing trunks and knuckle tape after the project's final portraits were taken last month. She said she has stayed out of trouble for almost a year now and has no intentions of becoming just a number again. But at 17, she's too old to harbor any illusions even those fostered by the power of art that she will not have to continue fighting for survival.

"I'm not trying to live in a bad life anymore, but it's hard," she said. "I'm trying to make my family and myself happy. I think I can do it. I hope I can."
Source: The New York Times:
Date: July 5 2006

School foods report cards fault nutrition policies in schools
Detail: The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutrition and food safety watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., evaluated school nutrition policies across states and issued school foods report cards. Twenty-three states scored an F, and eight others received a D after school policies regarding foods and beverages sold in campus vending machines, school stores and school fundraisers were evaluated. The evaluation, however, excluded school meal programs.

Kentucky received the nation's highest grade, an A-, where school vending machines are filled with bottled water and dried fruit instead of soda and snack cakes. Kentucky limits students to milk, water, juices and beverages low in sugar from vending machines or school stores during school hours, officials reported. Regular potato chips, candy bars and snack cakes are also off limits.

Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a collaboration between the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation and the American Heart Association, brokered a deal with soft drink makers to limit the types of beverages sold to schools. Hence, soda is likely to be less common in schools in coming years.
Source: Based on a story by the Associated Press on June 20, 2006 in The New York Times
Date: June 22 2006

World forum begins with a challenge
Detail: Jonathan Fowlie
Vancouver Sun

Twenty-five-year-old Muratha Kinuthia kicked off the World Youth Forum on Friday morning with a challenge to the almost 400 young delegates from around the world assembled in Vancouver this weekend to discuss issues ranging from health care to the environment.

"We are here to decide the terms of engagement," the Kenyan youth leader told the conference. "The question is no longer whether youth should be engaged, but how."

Kinuthia, who works with an organization seeking to develop a socio-economic framework for Africa, said community and world leaders used to look on youth as "needy" people, but that dynamic is changing.

"I don't see needy people here," he said. "I see resources, I see assets. We need to ask ourselves, now that the door has been opened how do we as youth engage?"

In hopes of doing just that, delegates will meet through to Sunday to share ideas about their own work, and to prepare the core messages they want to bring to the World Urban Forum that begins on Monday.

"When we go to the World Urban Forum, [we have to say] this is what we are bringing to the table," said Kinuthia.

"This is the contribution that we can make and this is the counter-contribution that we need."

After the talk, Kinuthia said it is important for youth to go to the World Urban Forum with an organized and unified voice so it is clear what they can offer and what they want.

On Friday, Kenyan hip-hop performer and delegate Joseph Oyoo, who goes by the name Gidi, shed some light on the topics he'd like to raise and to bring forward to next week's forum.

He said he is currently working to get youth involved in arts and culture, something he thinks can help with problems such as crime and drugs.

"We're coming out with complex solutions on how government should install more lighting, police should have more force, but all that, I don't think it can bring the solution," he said.

"We must look at why the youth are doing these things and what avenue we should use to reduce that," he added, explaining why he is advocating for an arts- or culture-oriented approach.

"The reality is when you go into the street the youth know their problems," he said.

"They feel angry. They feel like they need to bring something out of themselves to express but they don't have a platform, they have never been given an opportunity."

Oyoo said music and other art forms not only give people an outlet, but also keep them occupied through what would otherwise be idle time.

Others at the conference were also supportive of getting young people involved in arts and music -- especially the Moipei family from the town of Narok in Kenya.

The 12-year-old Moipei triplets -- Martha, Magdaline and Mary -- have been singing since they were two. Now joining them is their 10-year-old sister, Seraphine.

"All of us have energy. Children have energy that can be utilized. I think a human being's energy should be utilized from when one is born," said Nicholas Ole Moipei after his daughters performed at the youth forum opening ceremonies.

Moipei and his wife Christine said they discovered their daughters' musical talents very early and have encouraged them to the point where they have developed into a group of national renown.

"These are very young children but they are able to do this," said Christine.

"Children, they have so much to [offer] if only they are given the opportunity and time and place."
Source:, Vancouver Sun
Date: June 17 2006

South African study on youth living in violent environment
Detail: A study by South Africa's Center for Justice and Crime Prevention, released on Wednesday, May 11, 2006, found that one in seven young people in South Africa have been victims of an assault, and one in 10 have been robbed. Of the 4,409 young people, aged between 12 and 22, surveyed, 41.5 percent were victims of crime between September 2004 and September 2005. One in 10 youth reported having a family member who committed crime, and more than two out of five reported having a family member who was currently, or had been, in jail.

Commenting on the violent living environment of young people, the centers research director Patrick Burton was quoted as saying by the SAPA news agency, Victimization of children and youth has also been shown to increase the risk of the young victims themselves being drawn into violent, deviant or criminal behavior." Burton further said that the levels of violence and crime that the youth were exposed to at school, at home and in their broader communities, further compounded victimization of youth. The study found that more than one in five of the young people surveyed, or 21.5 percent, lived in homes where domestic violence between caregivers or parents was common. Almost one in two young people, or 49.2 percent, personally knew someone in their community who engaged in criminal activities. More than one in four, 28.8 percent, knew people who made their living from crime.

Burton commented that not only do frequent experiences of crime at a young age increase the risk of later victimization, but they may initiate a host of related effects including the inability to form healthy inter-personal relationships, under-performance at school, depression, anxiety and social withdrawal. As there had been no previous surveys of a similar kind, Burton said, "It is difficult to say whether the country is getting more or less dangerous for its youth. ... What we can say is that there are very few safe places left for young people."
Source: Source:
Date: June 16 2006

"Youthink!" Wins Award
Detail: The team behind the World Bank's youth website, Youthink!, joined a star-studded cast including Prince and noted New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, in accepting one of the 10th Annual Webby Awards. The Webbys, which have been dubbed the Oscars of the Internet, are awarded by the International
Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a global organization recognizing excellence in web design, creativity, usability and functionality. Youththink was selected by the 500-member body of leading web experts, business figures, luminaries and creative celebrities as the winner of the Webby Award for Activism.

Launched in April 2004, with the aim of introducing development issues to a teen audience, Youthink has more than 16,000 visitors a month. The Webby activism award was for the best site for facilitating political change, social movement, human rights, public education and reform or revolution.

To access the site:
Date: June 13 2006

Community-based systems of care lead to improved mental health services for children
Detail: The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released data showing that children and youth enrolled in community-based systems of mental health care spend less time in inpatient care, experience fewer arrests, make improvements in their overall mental health and do better in school than before enrollment. SAMHSA is a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation's substance abuse prevention, addictions treatment and mental health service delivery systems.

Community-based systems of care are coordinated networks of local services and supports that are organized to meet the challenges of children and youth with serious mental health needs. Families and youth work in partnership with public and private organizations to ensure the effectiveness of services and supports, build on the strengths of individuals, and address each person's needs.

The SAMHSA data suggest that community-based systems of care are more cost effective than traditional mental health services. On average, community-based approaches save public health systems $2,776.85 per child in inpatient costs over the course of a year, and save juvenile justice systems $784.16 per child within the same time frame. These and other data related to key outcomes, such as reductions in suicide-related behaviors and reductions in juvenile detentions or incarcerations can be found by visiting
Date: June 11 2006

School bus pollution a serious threat to childrens health
Detail: A nationwide study called The School Bus Pollution Report Card 2006, researched by the Union of Concerned Scientists and endorsed by the American Lung Association, graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their school bus fleets' pollution and cleanup programs. The study found that though some improvements have been made to reduce school bus emissions, more investments are needed to replace polluting old buses and to retrofit more recent models.

About 95 percent of the nation's 505,000 school buses, which are some of the oldest vehicles on the road, are powered by diesel fuel. Compared to cleaner contemporary alternatives, older conventional diesel buses release 10 to over 100 times more soot pollution. As more than one third of the school buses in use today have been in use for more than a decade, high levels of diesel exhaust and soot expose children to higher risk of asthma, cancer, and other significant health problems. The study found that action on federal, state, and local levels has reduced national soot emissions by only about two percent. Thus school bus pollution continues to pose significant risks to children's health.

The report suggested that without a major increase in funding for state cleanup programs and bus replacements, school buses will continue to pollute more than big rigs. There are some examples of cleanup programs in California and Washington for other states to follow. In addition, several federal programs, including EPA's Clean School Bus USA, have played a large role in improving school bus pollution. The report however suggests that federal programs need to be funded at substantially higher levels to help school districts protect children's health by replacing and retrofitting their school bus fleets.
Source: School Bus Pollution Report Card 2006: Grading the States by Patricia Monahan, Union of Concerned Scientists,
Date: May 29 2006

Rwandan orphans denied land rights
Detail: The situation of the 34 million orphans in Africa, whether AIDS orphans or survivors of genocide, is typically acute with many suffering from abuse, exploitation and lack of care. With traditional support systems offered by extended families on the decline, governments are unable to take adequate legal or social action to improve the lives of thousands of orphans. The situation of orphans in Rwanda, in particular is very severe with an estimated 300,000 orphans created as a consequence of the 1994 genocide and the deepening of the AIDS crisis. Poverty and land pressures had affected Rwandan families even before the genocide. Post genocide the larger scale land crisis demands that orphans, many of whom are heads of households and without guardians, be given land rights.

Key findings of a research looking at the status of land rights of Rwandan orphans, from Carnegie Mellon University, USA, funded by United States Institute of Peace, suggest that:

Many orphans in Africa are heads of their households, yet their land rights are often neglected.
Guardians do not always respect or recognize orphans land rights. Following the war in Rwanda there have been many cases of guardians taking advantage of orphans.
The existing customary and national laws and policies provide little support for orphans, despite the Rwandan Civil Law on Property in 2000.
Orphans experience many practical barriers: these include a lack of information; time (for example with orphans returning after the war to find their land taken over); status; few financial resources to administrative and legal forums to defend their land rights.

The research had the following recommendations for the Rwandan government to help orphans who, as head of households, are struggling to survive under the current system.

Develop a legal framework that includes the concept of active legal capacity, especially for minors, so orphans are granted legal rights based on their maturity and need to be independent, rather than age
Formulate and enforce land laws specifically catering to orphans rights, as separate from adult rights
Better regulate and support traditional guardianship for orphans
Implement new forms of care giving that also provide orphans with access to information and legal and administrative aid
Evaluate orphan intervention programs, such as those involving community volunteers to work on orphans fields (this has been used in other African nations)
Broaden the definition of family in post-war Rwanda, for example through childrens villages
Design national land development programs with the full participation of orphans.

For further information contact Laurel L. Rose, Philosophy Department, Carnegie Mellon University, (
Source: Orphans Land Rights in Post-war Rwanda: the Problem of Guardianship, Development and Change 36 (5), pages 911-936, by Laurel L. Rose, 2005; id21 Research Highlight, March 31, 2006,
Date: May 26 2006

No Child Left Inside
Detail: The state of Connecticut seeks to address Nature Deficit Disorder that contributes to childhood obesity, behavioral conditions, and mental illnesses in children disconnected with nature. A new statewide initiative, called, No Child Left Inside, was launched by Gov. M. Jodi Rell on March 22, 2006, and is coordinated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in an effort to build the next generation of environmental stewards. Current DEP partners include state agenciesDepartment of Public Health, Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, and Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Other partner organizations include Connecticut Forest & Park Association, Friends of Connecticut State Parks, Connecticut Library Consortium, Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association, Connecticut Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics.

With a prime focus on simple outdoor activities, No Child Left Inside seeks to showcase Connecticuts state parks and forests through activities such as nature walks, scavenger hunts, and fishing. Several actvities are planned for the summer. The Great Park Pursuit, The Connecticut State Parks Family Adventure will take families on a tour of state parks and forests. Participants will be eligible for prizes comprising of outdoor equipment. The contest is open to families which must include one person 18 or over and one person under the age of 18. Clues to each activity in the contest will be available at the end of each weeks activity and on the campaign web site. Participants will receive points for each park they visit and activity they complete.

Additionally DEP will have 47 Park and Forest Interpreters who will serve as guides to parks and run educational and recreational programs in both shoreline and inland recreational facilities. Other program elements include, issuing of state park passes at libraries; organizing a travelling exhibit"Connecticut State Parks: Like Something Out of A Storybook", highlighting classic children's literature that relates to activities in Connecticut State Parks; organizing reading contests using summer reading material available at public libraries at state parks and forests where there are interpreters; and a statewide conference organized by Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association called No Child Left Insideat Quinnipiac University, Hamden on March 31, 2006. The keynote was given by Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder."
Source: Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection,
Date: May 21 2006

Shifting base of play and learning from real to virtual settings
Detail: The video game, The Sims, is increasingly a popular tool for children, especially girls, for playing and acting out personal themes and social relationships within a virtual dollhouse. Researchers studying the intersection of learning and gaming refer to this form of play with The Sims as writing of interactive stories while exploring personal themes. The Sims affords role-playing using different social situations through free form game play in simulated everyday settings that children can customize in the new virtual dollhouse. Children and adolescents are able to create actual characters that they can see and manipulate, and by creating real life scenarios the game becomes a tool through which young people can explore life issues and issues of identity, and test their own values and priorities.

Electronic Arts, the publisher of The Sims, reported that more than half of the games players are female, an exceptional statistic in video gaming where typically less than 25% of gamers are female, and less than 5% of intense and violent video gamers are female. Some researchers have explained the popularity of The Sims among girls as the need to create an imaginary companion who was just like them and someone they could relate to as they made choices in social situations and relationships. The observers of The Sims gaming also reported that girls stopped playing when they started living young adult lives as real life took over from the preparatory virtual one.

The popularity of the game among girls is now informing computer education strategies for middle school girls. Electronic Arts in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University is now developing a software called Alice 3.0 that uses the arts assets of The Sims to create a compelling and user-friendly programming environment that hopes to become the national standard for teaching software programming. Alice 3.0, working in an environment that looks and feels like The Sims, will engage all kids, especially girls, in learning computer programming in an effective, hands-on, and fun way where students will visually realize their designs by playing with Sims-like characters and emotional reaction animations that are integrated in Alice from The Sims library.

For more information on how The Sims' will help make computer science
education fun see, and on making programming more attractive for middle school girls see

Source: Based on a story titled Welcome to the New Dollhouse, in The New York Times by Seth Schiesel, published on May 7, 2006.
Date: May 11 2006

Indian children learn on their own and from peers using computers in playgrounds
Detail: An innovative educational experiment called the Hole-in-the-Wall moved the personal computer to a playground near a low-income neighborhood in New Delhi in 1999. Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd. (HiWEL) is a joint venture between NIIT Ltd. and the International Finance Corporation (a part of The World Bank Group). The experiment involved implanting a PC with Internet in a brick wall in an informal playground and observing how children learn on their own with appropriate technology without any adult instruction. Researchers observing this learning station found that 8-14 year old children from the neighborhood were able to use the computer within a few days, without any instruction at all. Other hole-in-the-wall learning stations were set up in two rural settings in the same year and observers reported similar findings. The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi adopted the idea in 2000 and set up 30 learning stations in resettlement colonies. A survey of the process in 2004 revealed that children picked up critical problem solving skills while freely experimenting with the learning stations. The survey also found that children organized themselves into three rolesleaders or experts, connectors and novices. Leaders and connectors connected with and taught novices. Often girls took on the role of connectors bringing in younger children and siblings to the leaders for computer training. Through a multiplier effect, a large group of children learned computing without adult instruction.

Subsequent experiments across the country demonstrated that exploratory technology enhanced environments in the everyday environments of children provided opportunities for minimally invasive education that were learner driven and self-organizing. More recent hole-in-the-wall experiments in diverse living environments across India found that unsupervised group learning in shared public spaces improved children's performance in school examinations. Rural Indian children passed curricular examination in computer science with no classroom instruction other than the exploratory group learning at a hole-in-the-wall kiosk. Rural children also experimented with digital imaging by observing and collaborating with experts at hole-in-the-wall computers. Some of these digital artworks produced in the hole-in-the-wall kiosks were exhibited at the Pompidou Center in Paris in 2005.

For more information on Children, Collaboration and Learning in Technology Enhanced Environments contact Parimala Inamdar (Assistant Professor at the Center for Research In Cognitive Systems, The NIIT Institute of Information Technology) at
Date: May 11 2006

World Development Report 2007 is on Youth
Detail: The World Bank's World Development Report 2007 will be entitled "Development and the Next Generation."

The 2007 report, scheduled to be launched in September 2006, will focus on crucial capabilities and transitions in a young person's life: learning for life and work, staying healthy, working, forming families, and exercising citizenship. For each, there are opportunities and risks; for all, policies and institutions matter.

A wide range of consultations has been put in place to create a dialogue between the researchers, young people and experts from youth-serving organizations.

For more information about the World Development Report, go to:
Date: May 9 2006

Children Living Near Major Roads Face Higher Asthma Risk
Detail: Young children who live near a major road are significantly more likely to have
asthma than children who live only blocks away, according to a study that
appears in the May 1, 2006 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study found that children living within 75 meters (about 82 yards) of a
major road had a 50 percent greater risk of having had asthma symptoms in the
past year than were children who lived more than 300 meters (about 328 yards)
away. Higher traffic volumes on the different roads were also related to
increased rates of asthma.
Date: May 4 2006

Kenya's abolition of school fees offers lessons for rest of Africa
Detail: By Victor Chinyama

NAIROBI, Kenya, 17 April 2006 Maureen Akinyi, 14, dreamt of becoming an accountant and making it to the top of Kenyas growing corporate sector. She came from a poor but relatively stable family in Kibera, a sprawling slum in Nairobi that is home to over 800,000 people.

Maureen was a bright pupil. She topped her class in math and English and, at age nine, was considered light years ahead of her peers until misfortune struck.

In 2000, Maureen lost her parents to AIDS. She and her two older siblings turned for help to their aunt, who obliged by taking them in and paying their school fees. But as the cost of living escalated, her aunt could no longer afford the fees and Maureen was forced to drop out of school. For one year, she pondered her loss, her dreams gravely shattered.

In 2003, help came from an unexpected source. The new National Rainbow Coalition, led by Mwai Kibaki, rode to power on the crest of promises that included abolition of school fees. The new governments bold move gave Maureen a second chance: She enrolled at Ayany Primary School in the heart of Kibera.

Surge in enrolment

The Kenyan Governments initiative to scrap school fees and levies was breathtaking. Kenya had joined the league of countries in eastern and southern Africa that had abolished school fees. Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda were the forerunners, having realized early on that school fees hindered many children, especially orphans and those from marginalized communities, from accessing primary education.

In a matter of weeks, 1.3 million new pupils had poured into the countrys schools, overwhelming school infrastructure and surprising ill-prepared teachers. Schools in urban slum areas found it especially difficult to cope with the large numbers. In one example, the head teacher at Olympic Primary School in Kibera had a hard time restraining children and parents from breaking down the school gate to gain entry. Reports from Kenyas 18,000 public schools painted similar scenes of confusion.

At Ayany Primary School, the student population soared from 1,200 to 2,000. We had only 27 teachers in the whole school, says School Head Ensheba Khareri. Teachers were managing a class of 90 children instead of 50.

The initial response of some well-to-do parents was to transfer their children to private schools, thereby raising the enrolments in these schools by 34 per cent.

Ms. Khareri and her staff did what thousands of other Kenyan educators did in the first few weeks improvise. Children were organized in groups and a leader appointed to prefect the others. Textbooks were shared and desks, pencils and paper, already in short supply, were stretched still further.

With time, our shock gave way to optimism, says Ms. Khareri. We began to see ourselves as part of history in the making. We were giving children, many of them poor and marginalized, a priceless chance. They had a hunger to learn, you could see it in their eyes, and we were not about to let them down.

The government immediately disbursed $6.8 million in emergency grants to provide for basic needs like chalk, dusters and exercise books. This amounted to $380 per school, hardly enough to cover the overwhelming needs for extra textbooks, classrooms, and water and sanitation facilities. The international community urgently needed to step in, and this it did swiftly and generously.

UNICEF donated $2.5 million to purchase materials for makeshift classrooms, provide water and sanitation, and train teachers in child-centred interactive methods. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) donated $21.1 million, and the following year, additional grants came from the World Bank ($50 million), DFID and the Swedish International Development Agency ($10.6 million), the World Food Programme ($13.9 million) and OPEC ($9.9 million).

Bolstered by this generous support, the decision to scrap school fees has had a positive impact on Kenyas quest to provide primary education for all children. To improve quality of learning, teachers have been trained in child-centred and gender-friendly teaching methods. Enrolments since 2002 have increased by 28 per cent, repetition rates have tumbled and more pupils are completing school than before.

In spite of the progress, however, a number of challenges remain, including the high pupil-to-teacher ratio. The total number of teachers increased by only 2.6 per cent between 2002 and 2004. As a result, in some areas, the ratio is as high as 1 teacher for every 100 pupils.

Costs and benefits

Kenyas experience, and that of other countries that have abolished school fees, was the subject of discussion at a recent international forum organized by UNICEF and the World Bank in Nairobi. Attended by education officials from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania as well as representatives of UN agencies and NGOs the meeting aimed to develop guidelines for countries in Africa and elsewhere that are embarking on school-fee abolition.

The guidelines will shed light on meeting a number of challenges identified during the Nairobi meeting, including how to:

* Implement measures to address the surge in enrolment and preserve the quality of learning after school fees are abolished

* Ensure that enrolment increases among excluded and marginalized groups, such as orphans, children engaged in child labour and girls

* Find ways to fund schools in order to compensate for the loss in revenue.

There is little question that abolishing school fees in favour of free primary schooling does require increased allocation of resources to the education sector. But for vulnerable children like Maureen Akinyi all over the developing world, the resulting benefits of school-fee abolition are priceless.
Source: UNICEF:
Date: April 17 2006

Free Underground Rides for Kids in London
Detail: The London Underground is getting more child-friendly. Starting April 2, children under 11 will be able to ride London's subway and the Docklands Light Railway free during off-peak hours. For the free travel, up to four children must be accompanied by a paying adult and ride after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, or anytime on weekends or public holidays.

The change is part of Mayor Ken Livingstone's highly promoted policy to improve young people's access to educational, sports and leisure activities throughout London. Free travel on buses for children under 16 was introduced last September and will be extended to full-time students under 18 this September.
Date: April 9 2006

Detail: SACRAMENTO, CA (October 7, 2005) -- With the passage of AB 1721, California is poised to lead the nation in environmental education. AB 1721, supported and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, allocates state funds of $7 million dollars over two years for environmental education curricula development under the Education and the Environment Initiative (AB 1548 Pavley Chapter 665, Statutes of 2003). The Education and Environment Initiative (EEI), a landmark environmental education law, involves a comprehensive state program that provides environmental principles, concepts, and standards-based curricula in all disciplines (science, history/social sciences, English/language arts, and mathematics) for all K-12 grade students in state public schools. This program supports the Governors efforts to improve Californias environment, said Alan C. Lloyd, Ph.D., Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. For the first time, Californias children will learn about the environment in the classroom in a comprehensive, sequential way, from kindergarten through high school. With the new curriculum, teachers will have the opportunity to teach students about the environment, and at the same time, reinforce the states academic content standards, said Rosario Marin, chair of the California Integrated Waste Management Board. The board leads the states environmental education effort with the California Environmental Protection Agency. Kids are natural friends of the environment and they enjoy learning about the world around them. They also have the most to lose when the air and water quality is poor. The new environmental education curricula will teach children to live and work in ways that are beneficial to their own health and the health of the planet, said Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, author of the legislation that created the EEI. California school teachers will begin field testing the new model curriculum by 2007, and it will ultimately be presented to the State Board of Education for approval. Thereafter, implementation of the EEI will be supported by the state, and by the wide-ranging EEI partnership of private foundations, academic institutions, educational groups, industry associations, and nonprofit organizations.
Source: For more information, please visit: or contact Andrea Lewis, Assistant Secretary, CalEPA at
Date: February 3 2006

Youth as City Leaders website launched
Detail: Youth-Only Website Launches This Week

by Jessica Burch Hembree

Youth who are active in city-sponsored youth leadership programs will soon have their own website to connect them to other young people across the country.

The Youth as City Leaders website, created by NLCs Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, will be a place for high-school aged youth who are involved in city government to meet, share ideas and receive advice. The site, at, goes live during the 82nd Annual Congress of Cities in Charlotte, N.C., December 6-10.

Thousands of youth across the nation take part in city-sponsored youth councils, teen commissions and youth service organizations. The new website will offer these youth the opportunity to connect and network.

The website is part of NLCs continuing effort to promote youth participation in local government.

It is sponsored by the MetLife Foundation as part of the City-Schools Youth Planning Initiative.

Site Contents
To encourage robust dialogue between youth, the website will include online discussion forums that allow users to enter the site and write messages to one another.

Users can respond to previously posted messages or start new discussions of their own.

The site will host forums for the following categories:

My Citys Programs

Help! I need some advice

Upcoming Events

Fun Stuff

The website will be accompanied by the launch of the Youth as City Leaders Listserv, which will allow email-based networking and conversation between participants in the Youth as City Leaders Network.

The listserv will allow youth to discuss innovative city programs and share advice for creating meaningful youth-adults partnerships.

Additionally, the site will include youth blogs (online diaries and opinion pieces), a calendar of events and information about new initiatives at NLC.

Youth will be able to e-mail blogs to NLC staff, who will consult with them in choosing which submissions to post to the website.

Date: January 11 2006

Students Return to Big Changes in New Orleans
Detail: NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 3 - Hundreds of children returned Tuesday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina to schools here that had survived on dry ground. Some came gleefully. Some came mournfully, and, to be sure, tens of thousands who were still displaced could not come at all.

But for those who ventured back, the educational landscape was much different from the one they had left: New Orleans is now a smaller system dominated by new charter schools in the same buildings that housed traditional public schools before the storm, as well as by leaner private schools eager for what they hope will be new pools of aid.

"We're learning as we go," said Alisa Davailler Dupr, the vice chairwoman of the Audubon Charter School, which applied for its charter only in October and accomplished what is usually a lengthy start-up process in a mere two months. "We jumped for joy, then hit the ground running."

The district's public school system, already known as one of the worst in the country, suffered a near total collapse after the storm. It has opened only one school so far - another is expected to open next week - even though many school buildings suffered minimal damage. Facing a financial crisis from the lack of a tax base, the district plans to terminate all but 61 of about 7,000 school employees who have been placed on disaster leave, although many are being rehired by the charter schools. The district was already nearly bankrupt before the storm.

So that has made this battered city an impromptu laboratory in school choice - at least for the 8,000 or so of the 65,000 public school children who are expected to be enrolled for the second semester, as well as thousands more in parochial schools that are seeking government aid.

Desperate to reopen schools, parents, teachers, principals, neighborhood groups and local universities are banding together to create charter schools, which get less state money than traditional public schools in exchange for more autonomy on curriculum, hiring and other issues.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has already issued executive orders to make it easier to form charter schools, which promise competition and experimentation. The fact that there is $20 million in federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina for charter schools in Louisiana is also contributing to the movement.

So far, state and local education officials have approved 21 charters for schools in New Orleans. Nine have opened - including some on Tuesday - and six are expected to open in the next two weeks. At least one is still waiting for electricity to be restored. The Archdiocese of New Orleans has also expressed interest in opening a charter school, though that idea has not been approved.

The hopes and difficulties were evident at the Audubon Charter School, where students lined up quietly Tuesday morning. Staff members have been working at Audubon Charter without pay, as the school has yet to receive any financing.

Most administrators are holdovers from the old public school, Audubon Montessori. The principal, Janice Dupuy, drives two hours to get to New Orleans from the town where her family is living. Ms. Dupr, a parent who had not worked in school administration before becoming Audubon's vice chairwoman, was overwhelmed by the work required to get the school ready for its 350 students.

After the charter was approved, she said: "We started to wonder, how do we hire teachers? How do we run this school?"

Many people here, still struggling to cope in a fog of grief as stifling as the humidity this balmy winter, have applauded the spirit that has led to the creation of so many charter schools on such short notice.

Without them, supporters say, there would hardly be any public education this year in New Orleans. And of all the opportunities for rebirth in the city, perhaps none is talked about with as much urgency as fixing the school system, which had suffered corruption, bad management and abysmal academic performance. But critics have also begun to question whether a near-total charter system is the best way to recreate a school system.

"It's like you're experimenting with kids who've already been traumatized," said City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a member of the council's education committee and a former public school principal. "The intricacies of running a successful school are a lot more difficult than anyone thinks."

Ms. Morrell also worries about charter schools' adopting selective criteria that will exclude what she calls "the poor, average kid."

Officials say that because the movement is largely haphazard it is not entirely clear who is being served by the new system or whether the racial makeup of the new schools raises equity issues. Reliable demographic information is sorely lacking, but before the storm, the public schools were 94 percent African-American, and black children seemed to have a significant presence in the parochial schools.

So far, schools do not seem to be rejecting anyone, just hoping that children continue to enroll. "Nobody really knows who all is going to come back," said Cheryl Michelet, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana State Department of Education.

The advocates for charter schools understand that they may have only one chance to make right all that was wrong: "We have a responsibility to rebuild it right," said Una Anderson, a school board member and proponent of charter schools. "It's not just an opportunity, it's a mandate."

But even within some of the charter schools, there is lingering resentment toward the school district for not stepping up to do more. "We never wanted to charter - that was never our intention in the past," said Carol Christen, the principal of Franklin Charter High, which before the storm was Benjamin Franklin High School, the highest-ranked secondary school in the state. "This has been a long ordeal because no one wanted to help us open up the school. This has been a nightmare, a struggle beyond struggle."

She continued: "We were determined to do it for Franklin. It would have been tragic if this school didn't open."

Franklin probably faces some of the most challenging physical problems of all the charter schools in the wake of the storm because it is far from the city's Uptown area that remained dry during the flood. Franklin, on the other end of town near Lake Pontchartrain, had more than $3 million in storm damage, and is still waiting for electricity to be restored. The school expects 580 students for class on Jan. 17, out of the 935 that were enrolled before the storm.

Ms. Christen, like others, said the charter start-up experience had forced teachers, principals and parents to deal with issues like waste management, food service and retirement benefits, taking time away from thinking about the classrooms. Still, she welcomes the autonomy.

"We're treading on new ground," Ms. Christen said. "The city doesn't know the answers, the state doesn't know the answers. We're creating the answers as we go, and we're doing the best we can."

Advisers to the education committee created by Mayor C. Ray Nagin, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, caution against an all-charter model, favoring a mix of district-run and charter-run schools arranged into network clusters run by a single manager. District schools are necessary, they say, because they have more capacity to expand as the population does, and to offer the benefit of standard curriculums to what might be a highly mobile student population.

The advisers, the Boston Consulting Group, which is working largely without pay, favor a single governing body citywide to take over from the multiple boards, state and local, that are in control right now.

"We believe that chartering is a very good short-term intervention given our situation, but it's not a long-term solution to running a medium- or large-scale school district," said Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane University and the chairman of the education committee. Mr. Cowen's group plans to offer a formal proposal on the new school system in a week or so, he said.

State officials are taking a "look and see" approach to the new charters, which will be evaluated annually and will be held to the same accountability standards as other schools, Ms. Michelet said.

"There's not a push to say every school in the district will be a charter, it's just the method we've used so far and we've seen success in it," she said. "It's also because federal money was available, and we were able to use it to get the schools open."

The state considered New Orleans to be in "academic crisis" before the storm and has since taken over 102 of 117 schools that performed below state accountability standards - three of those schools have been given charters, many others are storm damaged and likely to remain vacant for some time. The state is expected to lay out a detailed plan for the schools it took over sometime in the next six months.

At the same time, the city's Catholic schools, which educated 25,000 students before the storm, are also coming back to life and see possible new opportunities. Besides proposing its own charter school, the archdiocese has approached the state about getting government aid for its schools. Neither idea has gone beyond the development stage with the State Legislature out of session.

The Catholic schools expect to have an enrollment of 11,000 this semester. Several Catholic schools opened late last year, and at least eight more were scheduled to reopen by mid-January, said Father William Maestri, the schools' superintendent.
Source: The New York Times, by Susan Saulny
Date: January 4 2006

EPA Launches Children's Environmental Health Database
Detail: EPA Launches Children's Environmental Health Database. In early
November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a
searchable database, called TEACH (Toxicity and Exposure Assessment
for Children's Health), with over 1,400 references to chemicals that
have the potential to affect children's environmental health. The
database is designed to improve the information base related to
children's environmental health risks by providing a listing and
summary of scientific literature applicable to children's health
risks due to chemical exposure." TEACH features a list of 16
different chemicals, including arsenic, vinyl chloride, and several

The database is at

Date: January 3 2006

Violence Against Children: The Voices of Ugandan Children and Adults.
Detail: This is a report of a multi-district research in Uganda that involved 1400 children and 1100 adults. The study asked how children and adults understood violence against children, how often it happenned, what impact it had and what should be done about the violence.
Date: January 1 2006

Kenya: Worst drought in years threatens children
Detail: NAIROBI, 19 December 2005 - UNICEF called urgent attention today to thousands of children in northern Kenya who face malnutrition due to deepening drought. The recent short rain season has been extremely poor in the northern and eastern pastoral districts. At a time of year when livestock should be healthy and feeding on new grass, carcasses are lying dead along the roadside. Many Government, UN and NGO experts meeting in Nairobi last week described the drought as the worst in years.

UNICEF Kenya Representative Heimo Laakkonen said in a statement today that rates of child malnutrition in districts like Wajir and Mandera may increase from the already alarming levels of almost 30 percent reported in assessments backed by the agency in October. The dry weather is predicted to continue, said Laakkonen. Given that situation can only get worse, it is imperative that all partners and the government act swiftly to protect the most vulnerable children and women. The World Food Programme has already more than doubled its estimate of the number of people needing food aid to about 2.5 million. It is estimated that about 560,000 people in 7 districts will require emergency supplies of water.

Malnourished children are especially vulnerable to diseases like malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. Fortunately, over 80% of children in the worst affected areas received Vitamin A supplements during the recent polio campaign and this will help boost their immunity to disease -- but with critical water shortages affecting over half a million people, the low-functioning of health services in the area and significant drop out from schools reported in some districts, conditions for children are extremely worrying. The risk of conflict is also very high. Past conflicts over access to water, pasture and livestock have erupted into brutal massacres in which children have not been spared.

UNICEF has re-issued its October appeal which calls for US$4 million to assist more than 20,000 children estimated to be malnourished or at serious risk of malnutrition. The appeal also included programmes that aimed to keep children in school, ensure safe water supplies and provide emergency health care and protection.

Reaching children is extremely challenging, said Laakkonen, because populations are widely scattered across the arid and semi-arid-districts. In response to the crisis, UNICEF supported a massive screening campaign conducted by the Government and the NGO Merlin, aimed at identifying malnourished children in 4 divisions of Wajir District. Of the 6,400 children screened, 1,792 were identified as malnourished and immediately supplied with supplementary food. The NGO Action Against Hunger is providing similar emergency support to malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers in 3 divisions in Mandera District.

Nearly $200,000 worth of emergency nutrition supplies are in the pipeline for drought affected districts. UNICEF is working closely with the government and partners to ensure that food aid provided by the World Food Programme reaches households with the most vulnerable children. The United Kingdom government (DfID) and the Swedish government (Sida) have already indicated support for the UNICEF program. The Government of Kenya is providing additional emergency food supplies and for allocated extra funds for emergency water.
UNICEF is helping the government to coordinate efforts in the non-food sector, said Laakkonen, but all of us share a sense of foreboding. The drought is very serious and is going to have a tragic impact on peoples lives. We must do all we can to protect children who are least able to protect themselves.

For further information:

Sara Cameron, UNICEF Kenya, Chief Communication Partnerships Participation,
+254 (0)722585262
or +254 (0)20 622977

Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York,,
+1 (212) 326 7426
or +1 (917) 498 4083

Date: January 1 2006

At Center of a Clash, Rowdy Children in Coffee Shops
Detail: CHICAGO, Nov. 8 - Bridget Dehl shushed her 21-month-old son, Gavin, then clapped a hand over his mouth to squelch his tiny screams amid the Sunday brunch bustle. When Gavin kept yelping "yeah, yeah, yeah," Ms. Dehl whisked him from his highchair and out the door.

Right past the sign warning the cafe's customers that "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven," and right into a nasty spat roiling the stroller set in Chicago's changing Andersonville neighborhood.

The owner of A Taste of Heaven, Dan McCauley, said he posted the sign - at child level, with playful handprints - in the hope of quieting his tin-ceilinged cafe, where toddlers have been known to sprawl between tables and hurl themselves at display cases for sport.

But many neighborhood mothers took umbrage at the implied criticism of how they handle their children. Soon, whispers of a boycott passed among the playgroups in this North Side neighborhood, once an outpost of avant-garde artists and hip gay couples but now a hot real estate market for young professional families shunning the suburbs.

"I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent," said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. "I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day."

Mr. McCauley, 44, said the protesting parents were "former cheerleaders and beauty queens" who "have a very strong sense of entitlement." In an open letter he handed out at the bakery, he warned of an "epidemic" of antisocial behavior.
"Part of parenting skills is teaching kids they behave differently in a restaurant than they do on the playground," Mr. McCauley said in an interview. "If you send out positive energy, positive energy returns to you. If you send out energy that says I'm the only one that matters, it's going to be a pretty chaotic world."

And so simmers another skirmish between the childless and the child-centered, a culture clash increasingly common in restaurants and other public spaces as a new generation of busy, older, well-off parents ferry little ones with them.
An online petition urging child-free sections in North Carolina restaurants drew hundreds of signers, including Janelle Funk, who wrote, "Whenever a hostess asks me 'smoking or non-smoking?' I respond, 'No kids!' "

At Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, Calif., the owners declare "Well-behaved children and parents welcome" to try to stop unmonitored youngsters from tap-dancing on the 100-year-old wood floors.

Menus at Zumbro Cafe in Minneapolis say: "We love children, especially when they're tucked into chairs and behaving," which Barbara Daenzer said she read as an invitation to cease her weekly breakfast visits after her son was born.
Even at the Full Moon in Cambridge, Mass., a cafe created for families, with a train table, a dollhouse and a plastic kitchen in a carpeted play area, there are rules about inside voices and a "No lifeguard on duty" sign to remind parents to take responsibility.

"You run the risk when you start monitoring behavior," said the Full Moon's owner, Sarah Wheaton. "You can say no cellphones to people, but you can't say your father speaks too loudly, he has to keep his voice down. And you can't really say your toddler is too loud when she's eating."

Here in Chicago, parents have denounced Toast, a popular Lincoln Park breakfast spot, as unwelcoming since a note about using inside voices appeared on the menu six months ago. The owner of John's Place, which resembles a kindergarten class at recess in early evening, established a separate "family friendly" room a year ago, only to face parental threats of lawsuits.

Many of the Andersonville mothers who are boycotting Mr. McCauley's bakery also skip story time at Women and Children First, a feminist bookstore, because of the rules: children can be kicked out for standing, talking or sipping drinks. When a retail clerk at the bookstore asked a woman to stop breast-feeding last spring, "the neighborhood set him straight real fast," said Mary Ann Smith, the area's alderwoman.

After a dozen years at one site, Mr. McCauley moved A Taste of Heaven six blocks away in May 2004, to a busy corner on Clark Street. But there, he said, teachers and writers seeking afternoon refuge were drowned out not just by children running amok but also by oblivious cellphone chatterers.

Children were climbing the cafe's poles. A couple were blithely reading the newspaper while their daughter lay on the floor blocking the line for coffee. When the family whose children were running across the room to throw themselves against the display cases left after his admonishment, Mr. McCauley recalled, the restaurant erupted in applause.

So he put up the sign. Then things really got ugly.

"The looks I would get when I went in there made me so nervous that I would try to buy the food as fast as I could and get out," said Laura Brauer, 40, who has stopped visiting A Taste of Heaven with her two children. "I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?"

Ms. Miller said that one day when her son, then 4 months old, was fussing, a staff member rolled her eyes and announced for all to hear, "We've got a screamer!"

Kim Cavitt recalled having coffee and a cookie one afternoon with her boisterous 2-year-old when "someone came over and said you just need to keep her quiet or you need to leave."

"We left, and we haven't been back since," Ms. Cavitt said. "You go to a coffee shop or a bakery for a rest, to relax, and that you would have to worry the whole time about your child doing something that children do - really what they're saying is they don't welcome children, they want the child to behave like an adult."

Why suffer such scorn, the mothers said, when clerks at the Swedish Bakery, a neighborhood institution, offer children - calm or crying - free cookies? Why confront such criticism when the recently opened Sweet Occasions, a five-minute walk down Clark Street, designed the restroom aisle to accommodate double strollers and offers a child-size ice cream cone for $1.50? (At A Taste of Heaven, the smallest is $3.75.)

"It's his business; he has the right to put whatever sign he wants on the door," Ms. Miller said. "And people have the right to respond to that sign however they want."

Mr. McCauley said he had received kudos from several restaurant owners in the area, though none had followed his lead. He has certainly lost customers because of the sign, but some parents say the offense is outweighed by their addiction to the scones, and others embrace the effort at etiquette.

"The litmus test for me is if they have highchairs or not," said Ms. Dehl, the woman who scooped her screaming son from his seat during brunch, as she waited out his restlessness on a sidewalk bench. "The fact that they had one highchair, and the fact that he's the only child in the restaurant is an indication that it's an adult place, and if he's going to do his toddler thing, we should take him out and let him run around."

Mr. McCauley said he would rather go out of business than back down. He likens this one small step toward good manners to his personal effort to decrease pollution by hiring only people who live close enough to walk to work.

"I can't change the situation in Iraq, I can't change the situation in New Orleans," he said. "But I can change this little corner of the world."

Gretchen Ruethling contributed reporting for this article.
Source: By JODI WILGOREN, The New York Times
Date: November 9 2005

Computer-based education:a solution to bridge social inequality in India
Detail: "Singapore has made deep inroads in the field of child literacy through ICTs. To ensure this outcome, Singapore evolved an education policy that made the Internet more outward looking and collaborative. Schools established communication and collaboration models within the school and beyond it, involving parents and other interested members of the local community. Parents were given passwords for logging in from their home or office. They could get details on grading methods, teaching methods, assignments, and homework.

They could also participate in online meetings with the teachers to offer online suggestions. Bulk of the IT spending in this project was for the less able and less privileged children."

"The 1991 census estimated that the number of working children in India was 11.28 million, of which 91 per cent were in the rural areas. These children were involved in a number of occupations, many of which have been classified as hazardous. Though the Ministry of Labour has been implementing the National Child Labour Projects since 1988, these efforts seem ineffective when we look at the size of the child-labour population. Alternative schooling has emerged as an option worth considering for bridging the duration gap as much as possible. ICTs can prove to be an important tool in this process."

This article covers a number of key children's issues and challenges facing India, from child labour, children being excluded from education, and child rights. It briefly discusses computer technology as a way of overcoming some of the social and physical obstacles to children's education in India.

Source: Digital Opportunity
Date: October 17 2005

Childcare 'Stress for toddlers'
Detail: Young children experience heightened stress levels when they enter child care, suggests research.

Researchers tracked the reaction of 70 toddlers in Berlin to their separation from their parents and homes.They found stress levels were still raised months after beginning child care - even though outward signs of distress had stopped.

The research suggests there are ways that the impact might be softened - including reducing the length of time in which children are with carers each day, more individualised attention from childminders, and childcare settings which are smaller and more home-like.

The research was conducted by Professor Michael Lamb from Cambridge University's faculty of social and political sciences:
Date: September 19 2005

Does the Built Environment Influence Physical Activity? A report
Detail: The US National Academies Institute of Medicine has released a report on the relationship between physical activity and the built environment.

It observes that:
"Research increasingly shows a link between physical activity and the "built" environment -- buildings, roads, parks, and other structures that physically define a community -- but more research is needed to assess whether the built environment affects people's actual levels of physical activity."

Although not specifically focused on children or youth, the report includes significant coverage int his regard, including the finding that in the US 41% of adolescents (9-12 grade)do not meet recommended physical activity guidelines. A pdf copy of the report is available on the following weblink:

Date: August 10 2005

Risk of childhood cancer increased by exhaust fume pollution
Detail: Professor George Knox, University of Burmingham completed a study which found that children who live close to major transport hubs are more at risk of developing cancer. They found carbon monoxide and 1,3-butadience, both of which are produced by vehicle exhausts and particularly diesel engines, were the major cause of the increased risk.

University of Birmingham researchers found those living within 500 metres of a bus station were six times more likely to die of cancer.

The study also said railways and hospitals increased the risk. For all the sites, exhaust fume pollution was identified as the primary cause.

But Ruth Yates, statistical information manager at Cancer Research UK, warned
"The results of this study should be interpreted with considerable caution and people should not be alarmed by its claims.

"Before we can be certain of any link between childhood cancer and exposure to pollution, research needs to include much more detailed information on people's levels of exposure than this study provides."

Source: BBC News
Webkink: See below
Related article:

Source for paper by Prof. George Knox:
Journal of Edpidemiology and Community Health Online
February 2005,59:101-105
Abstract weblink:
Date: August 10 2005

SpongeBob SquareMeal?
Detail: Responding to critics, children's TV shows and food giants are promoting healthy eating to kids.

Many of these steps are in response to alarming reports of obesity in the last few years among children and adults. In its last report, the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academy of Sciences, said some 9 million children older than 6 -- or 15% of kids -- are obese and that the rate of childhood obesity in the last 30 years has tripled among those aged 6 to 11.

With childhood obesity under the microscope, activists have been aggressively pointing their fingers at cartoon networks and at food companies for using popular cartoon stars to lure children into eating foods high in sugar, fat, and salts.

The US is in the forefront of the change being seen in TV adds, fast food menus and the altered, more healthy, messages of TV characters, now being requsitioned to encourage more healthy eating in younger children. Marketing of food to children is understood as a key area which contributes to the problem and therefore is a key area for change.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Health & Human Services Dept. jointly sponsored a workshop on July 14 and 15 to examine perspectives on childhood obesity and marketing. At the conference, FTC commission chair Deborah Platt Majoras warned that even though a government ban on children's food advertising is not warranted at this time, it would be unwise for the industry to maintain the status quo. "If industry fails to demonstrate good-faith commitment to this issue and take positive steps, others may step in and act in its stead," she said.

Source: Business Week Online
Weblink:see below

Source of report from the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academy of Sciences:
Title: Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
Published on 30th September 2004
Date: July 25 2005

Noise may affect children's language development
Detail: Research at Purdue University's Infant Language Laboratory found that even moderate background noise can affect how infants learn language. Sound from the television or of other children playing can pose the same problem for children that older adults with hearing loss encounter at a cocktail party.

And when it's noisy, infants use what they see to interpret sound better, said George Hollich, director of Purdue University's Infant Language Laboratory, who co-authored an article published in the May/June issue in the journal "Child Development."

Hollich's studies, conducted in 2002 at Johns Hopkins University, where he worked previously, analyzed how environmental noises affect 7-month-olds.
Seeing facial movements while hearing a person speak can help a child concentrate on the words themselves.He found that babies respond better to a word if they have just heard and seen it pronounced on a video than if they hear it without seeing corresponding lip movements -- even when there was noise in the background.

"There are a few correlations that show the noisier the household, the poorer the child's speech, but it isn't clear because that's so often confused with socioeconomic status," Hollich said. "It's not clear if it was the noise that was the problem or something else."

Author of news item: Sydney Schwartz
Source of news item: South Bend Tribune (see web address below)

Source of research study referred to as recently published:
Child Development:Volume 76 Issue 3 Page 598 - May 2005

Date: July 19 2005

Romania seeks EU-standard childcare
Detail: In a specially-built complex near the Romanian city of Bacau, trained staff look after a small group of children, amid brightly painted walls and state-of-the-art equipment.

The current government's strategy is opposite to that of Ceausescu's regime - it wants to get as many children as possible out of the big institutions.
Orphanage closure programmes and family reintegration schemes have been so successful that there are now only 33,000 children in institutionalised care, compared to 80,000 in 1997.

Mr Panait, the man charged with ensuring it stays that way, said there was "still a long way to go", but added that "the days of many children living in one bed, with bad food, and each with the same haircut - those days don't exist any more".

Author:Kate McGeown

Source: BBC World News
Date: July 14 2005

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Children's Well-Being 2005
Detail: is a forum on children and family statistics. It publishes an annual report called: America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being.

Date: July 1 2005

Poverty and Children's Cognitive and Social Development From Birth Through Third Grade
Detail: The developmental risks associated with poverty and economic disadvantage have been well documented, but the processes that account for the relations between poverty and children's development and the role of the timing and duration of poverty have not been thoroughly explored . In this article, the relations of duration and timing of poverty to children's cognitive and social development are examined using the longitudinal data from birth to Grade 3 (age 9 years) collected in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD). The quality of the home environment, parenting sensitivity, and child care experiences are analyzed as potential mediators of poverty effects.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network
Child Development
Volume 76 Issue 4 Page 795 - July 2005
Date: July 1 2005

Association of Television Viewing During Childhood With Poor Educational Achievement
Detail: There is increasing concern about the amount of time that children spend watching television.1-2 Excessive viewing has been linked to a range of adverse health and behavioral outcomes. Another concern is the effect that television viewing may have on education. This concern is not new. In New Zealand, there was controversy about the educational value of television before television was introduced.3 On the one hand, television is an extremely effective form of communication that has the potential to introduce children to a much wider range of experiences and ideas than would otherwise be possible. On the other hand, much of the content of childrens television programming is entertainment and probably of low educational value. Time spent viewing these programs may displace more educational activities such as homework, reading, or creative play.4

The results of this study set in Dunedin, New Zealand showed that the mean time spent watching television during childhood and adolescence was significantly associated with leaving school without qualifications and negatively associated with attaining a university degree. Risk ratios for each hour of television viewing per weeknight, adjusted for IQ and sex, were 1.43 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.24-1.65) and 0.75 (95% CI, 0.67-0.85), respectively (both, P<.001). The findings were similar in men and women and persisted after further adjustment for socioeconomic status and early childhood behavioral problems. Television viewing during childhood (ages 5-11 years) and adolescence (ages 13 and 15 years) had adverse associations with later educational achievement. However, adolescent viewing was a stronger predictor of leaving school without qualifications, whereas childhood viewing was a stronger predictor of nonattainment of a university degree.

Authors: Robert J. Hancox, MD; Barry J. Milne, MSc; Richie Poulton, PhD
Source: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Vol 159 No.7, July 2005
Date: July 1 2005

Children of the tsunami struggle to move on
Detail: Six months after the tsunami killed more than 178,000 people, children like Arulmozhi in Cuddalore, India are trying their best to move on. But memories haunt them. Some find it difficult to concentrate on their schooling or to make new friends. And while more than a third of the dead were children, who could not run and save themselves, 1,400 children survived only to lose a parent -- and 1,700 lost both parents, according to authorities.

The government in Tamil Nadu -- India's hardest-hit region -- opened three orphanages in coastal districts. Social workers there teach yoga, music and dance to re-motivate the children and take their minds off the tragedy.

This is a brief article which gives a small insight into life for Indian children after the tsunami.

Date: June 26 2005

The US National Childrens Study
Detail: The US National Childrens Study will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children.

The study defines environment broadly and will take a number of issues into account, including:

Natural and man-made environment factors
Biological and chemical factors
Physical surroundings
Social factors
Behavioral influences and outcomes
Cultural and family influences and differences
Geographic locations

Researchers will analyze how these elements interact with each other and what helpful and/or harmful effects they might have on childrens health.

The study will also allow scientists to find the differences that exist between groups of people, in terms of their health, health care access, disease occurrence, and other issues, so that these differences or disparities can be addressed.

The National Childrens Study will be one of the richest information resources available for answering questions related to childrens health and development and will form the basis of child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come. It is anticipated that the preliminary results from the first years of the study will be available in 2008-2009.

Source: For an overview article, see:
Date: June 18 2005

Childhood cancer in relation to distance from high voltage power lines in England and Wales: a case-control study
Detail: On the 4th June 2005, The British Medical Journal published a study by:

Gerald Draper, honorary senior research fellow, Tim Vincent, research officer, Mary E Kroll, statistician1, John Swanson, scientific adviser; Childhood Cancer Research Group, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6HJ; National Grid Transco plc, London WC2N 5EH

Quoting from the abstract:

The objective was "to determine whether there is an association between distance of home address at birth from high voltage power lines and the incidence of leukaemia and other cancers in children in England and Wales."

Conclusions: "There is an association between childhood leukaemia and proximity of home address at birth to high voltage power lines, and the apparent risk extends to a greater distance than would have been expected from previous studies. About 4% of children in England and Wales live within 600 m of high voltage lines at birth. If the association is causal, about 1% of childhood leukaemia in England and Wales would be attributable to these lines, though this estimate has considerable statistical uncertainty. There is no accepted biological mechanism to explain the epidemiological results; indeed, the relation may be due to chance or confounding."

There has also been considerable response to this article in letters to the editor and these responses and the full abstract are available on the listed website

Journal Reference for article: BMJ 2005;330:1290 (4 June), doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7503.1290

Date: June 4 2005

Playground of the mind
Detail: "Hundreds of students who entered 'The School I'd Like' competition have let their imaginations soar and their voices ring out loud and clear. From city and bush schools, five-year-olds sent in paintings and high school students overhauled the curriculum. There were scale models of schools, videos, essays, rap songs, dream catchers, newspapers, poetry, schools in the clouds and by the beach.

The students highlighted friendships as the reason for going to school, the teachers they adored and despised and the toilets they avoided. They wanted autonomy over their uniforms, calling for bright colours instead of boring brown. There were sensible suggestions: allocate homework once a week instead of daily; recycle all school rubbish; replace "rock-hard" plastic chairs with comfy ones; study life skills like how to drive rather than "how to be a good citizen". "

Recommendations made by the students are organised under a range of headings:

Teenagers of this generation are dissapointed that the age of technology which has been part of their lives all along has not made an appreciable difference to the way education and educational resources are conceptualised and managed.

Children are tired of facing teachers who have lost the joy of both learning and teaching. Teachers with "an ability to laugh and connect with students were at the top of the list."

An increase in resources to provide more comfortable and welcoming facilities

An increase in the interest taken in the whole school environment, beginning with colour on the walls of classrooms and ending with pretty creepers spilling into classrooms.

Other headings for recommendations included: no more tests, clean the toilets, and a flexible curriculum.

This article is of interest for anyone interested in school environments; children's participation in research and design; and in identifiying what kind of detail children notice in their environment and care about within it.

Author: Linda Doherty
Publication:The Sydney Morning Herald
2005 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited:

It is available for online purchase from the website listed below
Date: June 4 2005

Aircraft and road traffic noise and children's cognition and health: A cross-national study
Detail: SA Stansfeld,B Berglund, C Clark , I Lopez-Barrio, P Fischer, E hrstrm, MM Haines, J Head, S Hygge, I van Kamp and BF Berry, on behalf of the RANCH study team*


Exposure to environmental stressors can impair children's health and their cognitive development. The effects of air pollution, lead, and chemicals have been studied, but there has been less emphasis on the effects of noise. The aim, of this study therefore, was to assess the effect of exposure to aircraft and road traffic noise on cognitive performance and health in children.

The study identified linear exposure-effect associations between exposure to chronic aircraft noise and impairment of reading comprehension (p=00097) and recognition memory (p=00141), and a non-linear association with annoyance (p<00001) maintained after adjustment for mother's education, socioeconomic status, longstanding illness, and extent of classroom insulation against noise. Exposure to road traffic noise was linearly associated with increases in episodic memory (conceptual recall: p=00066; information recall: p=00489), but also with annoyance (p=00047). Neither aircraft noise nor traffic noise affected sustained attention, self-reported health, or overall mental health.

Source: The Lancet, Volume 365, Number 9475, 4 June 2005

For full article, visit the web address below

Date: June 4 2005

Researchers Use Maps to Study Obesity
Detail: When obesity researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were looking to prevent obesity among schoolchildren, they turned to an unexpected group of experts: mapmakers. The university's Cartographic Modeling Laboratory got to work, drawing maps of the neighborhoods around five Philadelphia elementary schools. What resulted were not ordinary street maps. Rather, they were maps showing "food opportunities."

Using handheld computers as they walked about, the mapmakers charted every pizza shop, corner store, deli and vendor that beckoned to students as they went to and from school.

"Are they walking by fried chicken and doughnut shops on the way to school, and mom-and-pop stores that only sell chips and sodas, or are they walking by fruit stands?" said Dennis Culhane, co-director of the Cartographic Modeling Laboratory.

The lab is making maps with unusual details to answer a variety of questions about the effects of people's physical and social environments.

See website for full story by Susan Fitzgerald
Date: May 29 2005

Environmental Health; Children at risk, says economist who helped assess the world's ecosystem
Detail: 2005 MAY 28 - ( -- A University of Illinois agricultural economist who played a role in shaping a recent assessment of the world's ecosystem and its future believes the study indicates "our children are at risk."

"Those of us who are adults will see some of the effects of current stresses on our ecosystems but it is our children who will pay the price of our drawing down of our natural capital, unless we can find ways to make it sustainable," said Gerald Nelson, a professor in the department of agricultural and consumer economics.

Nelson headed one of several teams assembled to study the state of the world's ecosystem today and construct scenarios that project 50-100 years into the future. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's Synthesis Report is available now and final reports will be published later this year ( ).

"This effort is in many ways a follow-on to the research that put the issue of global warming on the table after studies of the 1980s suggested a possible problem," said Nelson.

Nelson noted that this study looked at the environment from a human well-being perspective. In other words, how important are the services from ecosystems for human well-being? Food and clean water are obvious examples of ecosystems services but what benefits do we gain from conservation of biodiversity, marine ecosystems, and changes in climate?

"One of the first documents put out by the study noted that market-based solutions for the challenges facing the world's ecosystems are important," said Nelson. "Property rights also have a role to play. To address the problems facing the world, we need to find ways to make people realize the costs involved and that they are paying now for these problems. Then, perhaps, people will be more interested in positive strategies to overcome the problems."

And there are problems.

"For instance, we are already at the crisis point with our ocean systems," he said. "We are fishing lower down the food chain. We are catching and keeping species of fish that used to be thrown away because the better species have all but disappeared.

"Coastal and river delta areas around the world are suffering from a number of problems, including hypoxia created by effluents entering the river systems from cities and agriculture. Fresh water supplies are under severe pressure in some parts of the world."

The main frustration for Nelson was the lack of reliable information.

"What I found most shocking was just how bad our information set is on something like the expansion of agricultural land," he said. "One would think that would be relatively easy to trace but when researchers began reporting what we could find out about land-use change between 1980 and 2000 we found all sorts of problems."

The problems stem from limited data collection efforts and incorrect interpretation of data that do exist. One consequence was an early draft map indicating that areas of recent rapid agricultural expansion took place in such unlikely locales as the U.S. northern Great Plains, Ireland and Java.

"We simply don't have good information on what I thought would be the easiest changes to document," Nelson said. "It turns out that globally we have an abysmal system to collect data needed to assess the state of the world's ecosystems.

"That failure is a big problem because if you don't know what you are doing, especially the bad things, you can't fix them."

This article was prepared by Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2005, Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week via
Source: Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week: Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week via
Date: May 28 2005

Spare the risk, spoil the child?

IT appears that public liability is eroding any activity which is fun but contains a slight risk. No wonder the vast majority of kids are bored. Years ago, there were parks with public play equipment that actually had interesting and fun things to do. These days you walk into a park only to be confronted by a sorry-looking plastic structure, about four feet (1.2 metres) high, that would bore a four-year-old in minutes. There must be serious consequences of having no fun. T.W., Gladesville

ARE we, as T.W. fears, in danger of crossing the line that divides a responsible, caring society from an overprotective one, prone to litigation at the drop of a hat (especially if it accidentally falls on your toe)? Are we so intent on creating safe environments that we are reducing children's opportunities to learn how to deal with risk?

It's tempting to grow nostalgic for the good old days when kids built their own billycarts and hurtled down car-free streets, capsizing on corners and skinning their knees or dislodging the odd tooth; a time when we wandered down to the local creek after school and returned home for dinner only when the light began to fail. What fun it was, back then, to ride in the back of a ute, unprotected, to ride bikes without helmets, drink water from the hose when we were thirsty, or climb trees that tested our agility and our head for heights.

There's another side to that story, of course: people who work in children's hospitals talk about lives ruined by a fall from a bike that might have been harmless if a helmet had been worn, or young bodies smashed by car accidents in which children were not wearing seatbelts, or children drowned in backyard pools.

Yes, we need to create safe environments, but the issue is whether we may be going too far in the direction of removing "acceptable" risk. T.W. wonders how children will learn to deal with risks if we don't let them take some. That's part of a more general concern: are we discouraging people from taking responsibility for their own actions by becoming the kind of society where people look around for someone else to blame or sue whenever there's an accident?

Local councils and schools have become spooked by the prospect of being held responsible for injuries suffered by careless or disobedient kids. I know of one parent preparing to sue a school for negligence because her son was injured while clambering on a desk before school, when the rules said he should have been in the playground. What will that boy learn about personal responsibility if his parents go ahead with the case?

Every community has a collective responsibility for the wellbeing of its members. But that doesn't absolve us from individual responsibility to protect ourselves and our children. Many parents, reflecting on their childhoods, suspect a bit of risk-taking was better for their physical and emotional development than the adrenaline rush today's kids receive from blasting their enemies to smithereens on a video screen while seated safely indoors.

Yet the current surge of overprotective zeal may spring partly from busy parents' guilt about their inability to supervise their children's play. If you can't be around to do the job yourself, perhaps it's natural to set even higher standards for the school, the child-care centre or the council than you'd set for yourself.

If we continue down the path of less personal responsibility, more litigation and a more sanitised, over-regulated environment, won't we become a less generous, less tolerant, more timid society? Will that make us more or less safe?

22 May 2005, Sun Herald
2005 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited.
Source: The Sun Herald:
Date: May 22 2005

Youth care less about environment: study
Detail: Australian teenagers are less concerned about the environment than their elders, and are less likely to label themselves a "greenie", a new study has found. The survey of more than 55,000 Australians found older generations were the most passionate about recycling and most commonly felt urgent action should be taken to avoid serious environmental damage.

The report's author, Dr Richard Denniss from The Australia Institute, an independent public policy research centre, said the findings dispelled myths that youth were the most environmentally aware. "It is surprising to see that as scientific evidence about the nature and extent of the harm we are doing to the environment is growing, concern about the environment among the young appears to be diminishing," Dr Denniss said.
Date: May 17 2005

Mobile libraries for Delhi's slum children
Detail: It is a hot summer mid-morning. The temperature is pushing close to 35C. But in a narrow lane in east Delhi, the discomfort of the heat and the dust is forgotten as a group of excited children surround a young woman who is carrying a bulky bag.

As Satyavati Sharma opens the bag to reveal a collection of story books, the children get ever more excited. Ms Sharma is a volunteer with an Indian non-governmental organisation (NGO), Pratham (First), which runs mobile libraries for the children of Delhi's slums. The NGO has developed a novel way of helping under-privileged children learn to read - they deliver books door to door.

Total literacy
Only 65% of India's billion plus population is literate and among them, millions are unable even to read a paragraph. India's school infrastructure is of poor quality, and more than half the children enrolled never make it to the end of primary school. So, it is hoped that the mobile libraries may play a key role in achieving total literacy where the schools have failed.

Radhika Lyengar, programme co-ordinator with Pratham, says that every morning of the week Sharma and 200 volunteers carry a variety of books in a bag and go around the community.

"First the teacher goes house to house and tells the children that we're running a library here. And then the teacher decides on four to five hot-spots in the community where she can sit and where children can come." Ms Lyengar says there are no criteria for joining the library and all the children between the ages of six and 14 are welcome.

Applause and laughter
"They see these picture books and when our librarians tell them the stories, they want to borrow the books and try and read them. It helps build their confidence too." To sustain the children's interest, Pratham also organises lots of fun activities.

Satyavati Sharma gives out five words - boy, girl, Hindu priest, Muslim priest and village - and asks the children to weave a story around them. The boys in the group are excited by the challenge: the girls require some cajoling to join in. The final result is greeted with applause and laughter.

Through its volunteer system, Pratham libraries cater to 40,000 children in Delhi. In a country where 30m children in the age group of six to 14 years cannot read at all and 40m children can read only a few letters, Pratham's collection of picture books and big bold lettering has become a resounding success.

Kirti Kumar Bahadur is 11 and a regular at this road-side library. "I study in class four. I love reading books. They have nice stories, and great pictures. In the last three months I've borrowed six to seven books. My favourite is Suraj ka gussa [Anger of the sun]. It's a story about how the sun gets angry with all those who wake up late."

Teething problems
Ravinder Singh Air says he has borrowed several books from the library. I first thought I'll have to pay money to borrow the books. But then my friends told me it's free. They have some very nice books."

One Pratham volunteer, Suman Lata, not just lends books, she also helps children learn to read. She sits in the corridor of a run-down building helping about 50 children recite a poem from a book.

As I watch, the number of children continues to swell. "My library has about 500 children as members, and about 50 of them come every day. I take classes for three hours every morning - we do drawings, make newspapers, do a bit of role-playing. One day if I don't turn up, they come to my house to call me. They know where I live."

The first library started about eight months ago and today, there are 200 mobile libraries operating around Delhi. Although the libraries have now begun to draw in the crowds, Ms Lyengar says there were initial teething problems.

"We had a problem convincing parents about our libraries. They felt it was not directly related to the school curriculum and it was difficult explaining to them that it's part of the holistic approach to the studies.

"It was difficult to convince the parents that it will expose their children to a lot of reading material and will open their minds to new ideas. We had to sit down with parents and counsel them," she says.
Source: Story from BBC NEWS by Geeta Pandey:
Date: May 17 2005

"Babies have favourite colours"
Growing research shows that babies as young as four months show a preference for certain colours. Dr. Anna Franklin, from the Surrey Baby Lab, has studied more than 250 babies to look at which colours they prefer.

"It's a myth that newborn babies are colour-blind. They can see colour, but it does develop over the coming months."

She has used a number of tests to find out how babies see colours and which are their favourites. One involves repeatedly showing babies the same colour on a computer screen, then switching to a different colour and seeing whether this grabs their attention.
Date: May 8 2005

Dwelling Disparities: How Poor Housing Leads to Poor Health
Detail: In recent years, environmental health science has broadened the scope of its inquiries, expanding its investigations beyond the effects of single pollutants on individuals to incorporate the entire panorama of external factors that may affect people's health. Consideration of the health impacts of the built environment--the human-modified places where we live, work, play, shop, and more--has been a key element in the ongoing evolution of the field of environmental health.

Substantial scientific evidence gained in the past decade has shown that various aspects of the built environment can have profound, directly measurable effects on both physical and mental health outcomes, particularly adding to the burden of illness among ethnic minority populations and low-income communities. Lack of sidewalks, bike paths, and recreational areas in some communities discourages physical activity and contributes to obesity; in those low-income areas that do have such amenities, the threat of crime keeps many people inside. Income segregation--the practice of housing the poor in discrete areas of a city--has also been linked with obesity and adverse mental health outcomes. Lack of a supermarket in a neighborhood limits residents' access to healthy foods. Dilapidated housing is associated with exposures to lead, asthma triggers (such as mold, moisture, dust mites, and rodents), and mental health stressors such as violence and social isolation.
Date: May 2 2005

Street children and the juvenile justice system
Detail: Across the globe, children who live and work on the streets are
particularly vulnerable to human rights violations in juvenile justice
systems. Not only are they more likely to have contact with the police
and the courts, but they are also less able to defend themselves from
abuse. Experiences reported by children go against rights specified in
the UN Convention on the Rights of the child.

Source: id21 Economy and Society
Date: May 1 2005

Listening to children - the silent majority of Uganda's poor
Detail: Sixty two per cent of Uganda's poor are under the age of eighteen.
Though Uganda has made impressive progress in making poverty assessment
more participatory, the perspectives of young people have not been taken
into account. Many adults believe that children lack the required
knowledge to address the issue of child poverty.

Source: id21 Society & Economy
Date: May 1 2005

Children 'fail to name UK trees'
Detail: British children are spending so much time in urban areas that fewer than one in 10 can identify the leaves of native trees, according to a report.

Birch and hazel were least recognised - by just 4% - while holly was the most identified leaf - by 54% - in the survey of seven to 14-year-olds.

Just 14% said they spent free time with friends in woods or the countryside.

Some 76% were more likely to be outside shops or on waste ground, the Woodland Trust survey of 647 children found.

More than 40% of seven to 10-year-olds had never visited a wood, the poll found.

But given the choice, 57% of children surveyed said they would want to play in a park, 19% favoured a wood, 15% countryside, and just 11% waste land and open ground.
Date: April 29 2005

Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children
Detail: PORTLAND, Ore. - The Pearl District in the heart of this perpetually self-improving city seems to have everything in new urban design and comfort, from the Whole Foods store where fresh-buffed bell peppers are displayed like runway models to the converted lofts that face sidewalk gardens.

Everything except children.

Crime is down. New homes and businesses are sprouting everywhere. But in what may be Portland's trendiest and fastest-growing neighborhood, the number of school-age children grew by only three between the census counts in 1990 and 2000, according to demographers at Portland State University.

"The neighborhood would love to have more kids, that's probably the top of our wish list," said Joan Pendergast of the Pearl Neighborhood Association. "We don't want to be a one-dimensional place."

It is a problem unlike the urban woes of cities like Detroit and Baltimore, where families have fled decaying neighborhoods, business areas and schools. Portland is one of the nation's top draws for the kind of educated, self-starting urbanites that midsize cities are competing to attract. But as these cities are remodeled to match the tastes of people living well in neighborhoods that were nearly abandoned a generation ago, they are struggling to hold on to enough children to keep schools running and parks alive with young voices.

San Francisco, where the median house price is now about $700,000, had the lowest percentage of people under 18 of any large city in the nation, 14.5 percent, compared with 25.7 percent nationwide, the 2000 census reported. Seattle, where there are more dogs than children, was a close second. Boston, Honolulu, Portland, Miami, Denver, Minneapolis, Austin and Atlanta, all considered, healthy, vibrant urban areas, were not far behind. The problem is not just that American women are having fewer children, reflected in the lowest birth rate ever recorded in the country.

Officials say that the very things that attract people who revitalize a city - dense vertical housing, fashionable restaurants and shops and mass transit that makes a car unnecessary - are driving out children by making the neighborhoods too expensive for young families.

Other cities have tried and failed to curb family flight. In Portland, the new mayor, Tom Potter, says demography does not have to be destiny. He has dedicated his term to trying to keep children in the city.

Every child a city loses, on average, can mean a loss of about $5,000 for the school district, officials say. Children also create a constituency for parks, trails and public safety improvements, Mr. Potter said, and their parents tend to favor upgrading those amenities through higher taxes. He has been bringing children in to speak to the City Council and has pushed for incentives for affordable housing with enough bedrooms to accommodate bigger families.

A former police chief who helped pioneer community patrolling, Mayor Potter has 14 grandchildren and says a city's health should be measured by its youngest citizens. "We can't let Portland become a retirement city or a city without neighborhood schools," he said.

New York and Los Angeles, because of their large immigrant populations, have maintained their base of children, but demographers, pointing to falling birth rates among Latinos and other ethnic groups, say the nation's biggest cities may soon follow the others.

In Portland, the trends are not in Mayor Potter's favor. From 1990 to 2003 the city added more than 90,000 people, growing to an estimated 529,121 residents, but Portland is now educating the fewest students in more than 80 years.

The problem is not that children are leaving for private schools, officials said. It is that new people attracted to the city tend to have higher incomes, having already raised a family; are retiring; or are single and unlikely to have children.

After interviewing 300 parents who had left the city, researchers at Portland State found that high housing costs and a desire for space were the top reasons.

Tina Ray lived in Portland for 12 years before moving to Gresham, where her 9-year-old daughter attends school. Her family left for a bigger house and more space, she said. "It's kid friendly, with a great sense of community, and lots of sports leagues," she said.

Many Portland families are relocating to the newest edge suburbs, where housing prices are cheapest, including Clark County across the Columbia River in Washington, Portland State demographers say.

After a drop of 10,000 students in the last decade, Portland officials called in March for the closing of six schools, prompting cries of grief from three generations of adults who say that nothing takes the heart out of a neighborhood like a shuttered school.

The pool of school-age children is shrinking so fast that Portland will have to close the equivalent of three or four elementary schools a year over the next decade, according to school district projections.

"I don't think we're going to become a nearly childless city like San Francisco, but the age structure is really changing," said Barry Edmonston, an urban studies professor at Portland State, who does demographic projections for the school district. "People are not turning over the houses like they used to. They're aging in place, at the same time that prices are really going up, making it hard for young families to move into the city."

Nationally, the birthrate has been dropping while the overall population is aging as life expectancy increases. The problem is not just in cities. New figures released this month showed North Dakota losing more children than any other state.

Scottsdale, Ariz., a fast-growing Phoenix suburb, lost 571 students last year. San Jose closed three schools last year and expects to close three more soon.

Between 2003 and 2004, only six states had an increase in their elementary school population, the census bureau reported in March.

In that sense, the United States is following Europe and the rest of the industrial world, where birthrates now rarely exceed the rate needed to replace the population.

"If you took immigrants out of the equation, the United States would be like the rest of Europe," said Phillip Longman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a public policy research organization in Washington. He is the author of "The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birth Rates Threaten World Prosperity and What To Do About It."

Mr. Longman said a decline in children not only takes away "human capital" needed to sustain an aging population, but "having fewer children really diminishes the quality of life in a city."

Most city leaders seem to agree. Even in San Francisco, where officials are preparing for another round of school closings amid a projected decline of 4,000 students in the next five years, city officials are aggressively marketing the city and its schools to young families.

But what they cannot do, especially after the failure last year of a ballot measure sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to encourage affordable housing, is bring housing prices down.

"It's a real challenge trying to raise a kid in San Francisco," said Jim Armstrong, a father of two who is active in Little League in the city and rents a home. "It takes a degree of fortitude for a parent to stay with the city."

Other cities that have tried to reverse the family outflow have had mixed success. As mayor of Seattle for 12 years, until 1990, Charles Royer started an initiative called KidsPlace, which has been widely copied by other cities. It included marketing the city's neighborhoods to young families, building a small mix of affordable housing, and zoning and policing changes to make urban parks more child-friendly.

Mr. Royer said he was ridiculed for signs placed around town proclaiming "Seattle is a KidsPlace" and took criticism from social service agencies who thought bringing in more families would only place more demands on the limited money they had. Mr. Royer said he was bucking historic changes, and Seattle now has some of the nation's highest-priced real estate and its lowest percentage of children.

"I said things like, 'We don't want to be like San Francisco,' but in the end, I don't think we were terribly effective at stemming that tide," Mr. Royer said. "It's not so much a social problem as it is a demographic and financial problem."

Here in Portland, the city is bemoaning the demographic cycle as it unfolds before their eyes. On the day of the announcement to close Kenton Elementary School, which has anchored a north Portland neighborhood for 91 years, some parents and residents reacted as if there had been a death in the family.

"I feel heartbroken," said Mary Krogh, who had planned to enroll her 4-year-old son, Chase, in the school. "It's just a terrible loss."

The school and a tightknit community were among the things that attracted Ms. Krogh and her husband to the neighborhood seven years ago, she said.

But now the school will be shuttered, and improvements from Portland's beloved light rail line have contributed to rising real estate prices, defeating the broad goals of the mayor's effort to bring and keep young families in the city.

"Portland is a great city that attracts a lot of educated people," she said. "But the real estate is becoming outrageously expensive. And then you get wealthy singles and wealthy retirees. What's missing are kids. And that feels really sterile to me."
Source: By TIMOTHY EGAN, in The New York Times:
Date: March 24 2005

Designing outdoor play areas to promote physical activity and reduce obesity
Detail: Researchers at the University of the West of England are to use design techniques to reduce childhood obesity.

The team is to focus on developing outdoor spaces that encourage regular play and physical activity.

One of the biggest public health challenges in the 21st Century is growing obesity in children.

Professor Lamine Mahdjoubi said: "It is crucial to identify the barriers to outdoor play and to find effective ways of surmounting these barriers."

Professor Mahdjoubi, from UWE's faculty of the built environment, is co-ordinating a team from a wide variety of professions, including architects, landscape designers, traffic engineers, community safety experts, and child psychologists to develop healthy outdoor environments for children and adolescents.
Date: March 18 2005

The Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California
Detail: The American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted an evaluation to measure the impacts of week-long residential outdoor education programs for at-risk sixth graders in California. As described by California Assembly Bill (AB) Number 1330, Chapter 663, the Outdoor Environmental Education Program is designed to foster stewardship of the environment and an appreciation of the importance of the wise use of natural resources. This report presents the findings from the AIR evaluation.

This study focused on 255 sixth-grade students from four elementary schools who attended three outdoor education programs (also referred to as outdoor science schools) between September and November of 2004. The evaluation utilized a delayed treatment design. Within participating elementary schools, sixth-grade children were divided, by classroom, into two groups.Approximately half of each schools sixth grade (one or more classrooms) attended outdoor school between September and November of 2004 and served as the treatment group. The remaining sixth grade classrooms were scheduled to attend outdoor school after the studys data collection period ended in December 2004, thereby serving as the control group during the study period.

The specific research questions addressed in this study are as follows:
1. How does participation in outdoor education programs impact students personal and social skills (e.g., self-esteem, cooperation, teamwork)?
2. How does participation in outdoor education programs foster students stewardship of the environment and their appreciation of the importance of the wise use of natural resources?
3. How does the science instruction received through the outdoor education program curriculum increase students knowledge and understanding of science concepts?

Visit the website below for the full report

Source: American Institutes for Research
Date: January 31 2005

UK Board: Don't give cell phones to young
Detail: LONDON -- Parents should not give mobile phones to children age 8 or younger as a precaution against the potential harm of radiation from the devices, the chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board said Tuesday.

Some experts deemed the warning unfounded and unwarranted, but a company that recently launched a phone aimed at young children said it was suspending sales until it has time to evaluate it.

Sir William Stewart, chairman of the NRPB, said there's no conclusive evidence showing a clear danger, but said a growing amount of research shows that mobile phone use may have health implications, making it wise to adopt a "precautionary approach," particularly with children.

"I don't think we can put our hands on our hearts and say mobile phones are safe," Stewart told a news conference. "When you come to giving mobile phones to a 3- to 8-year-old, that can't possibly be right."

The report cited recent studies in Sweden and Germany suggesting a potential health risk including brain tumors. It also noted research showing that radio waves can "interfere with biological systems" and a recent paper suggesting "possible effects on brain function resulting from the use of (next-generation) phones" which are becoming more common.

Many experts have dismissed those studies and other research performed to date as very inconclusive.

Even the NRPB report acknowledged that some of the work cited has "limitations," and encouraged a large international study which has been proposed.

Still, while "there is no hard evidence at present that the health to the public, in general, is being affected adversely by the use of mobile phone technologies," Stewart said he was "more concerned" about the implications for health than five years ago, when he last reviewed the issue.

Studies showing the phones could affect health "have yet to be replicated and are of varying quality, but we can't dismiss them out of hand," Stewart said. "This is still a relatively new area and the divergent views show how more research is needed."

Dr. Philip Stieg, chief of neurosurgery for New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, cautioned against alarm.

"None of us would want children harmed by this technology, but at this point there isn't any evidence that would support the comments," Stieg said of Stewart's remarks.

He suggested that since most of the research done so far has focused on adults, it may be time to do a clinical trial focusing on cell phones and children.

"It's one of these things where you hate to be wrong. Do I think it's good for a child to be on a cell phone for hours at a time? For multiple reasons it's not that good. They should be doing homework. They should be getting exercise," he said. "But I would rather have my child have a cell phone and call me if they're in trouble or needed my help."

Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association, also said the weight of scientific evidence so far "does not suggest that mobile technologies operating within international health and safety guidelines cause illness."

Britain's Department of Health said its advice to be cautious in allowing mobile phones for youths under 16 remains in force.

In reaction to the report, a company named Communic8 said it was suspending sales of its MyMo phones, which were designed for children aged 4-to-8. The phones store up to five numbers that can be easily dialed in an emergency.

"We launched the product specifically because we thought it could address security concerns of parents," said marketing director Adam Stephenson. "We absolutely do not want to damage children's health."


AP Business Writer Bruce Meyerson in New York contributed to this report.
Date: January 11 2005

Cross-community garden project in Northern Ireland comes to fruition
Detail: Protestant and Roman Catholic young people in Londonderry have been planting seeds of peace. Twenty-four green-fingered youths from the Fountain's St Columb's Cathedral Youth Club and the Long Tower Youth Club are now seeing the fruits of their labour as their Wild Flower Garden Project comes into bloom. As part of the cross-community project earlier this year, the Protestant and Catholic participants unveiled a mural in the Foyleside Shopping Centre which took the form of a jigsaw linking specific garden plots. Now micro gardens, which are situated in 12 locations in both the Waterside and cityside areas of Londonderry, feature numerous species of wild flowers.
Source: Belfast News Letter
Date: January 4 2005

Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect
Detail: From the authors:

We have observed that the nature and amount of free play in young children has changed. Our purpose in this article is to demonstrate why play, and particularly active, unstructured, outdoor play, needs to be restored in childrens lives. We propose that efforts to increase physical activity in young children might be more successful if physical activity is promoted using different languageencouraging playand if a different set of outcomes are emphasizedaspects of child well-being other than physical health. Because most physical activity in preschoolers is equivalent to gross motor play, we suggest that the term "play" be used to encourage movement in preschoolers. The benefits of play on childrens social, emotional, and cognitive development are explored.

We know of few systematically collected data that describe exactly how the amount and/or nature of play in young children has changed; there is indirect evidence that children are doing less of it, less without structure imposed by adults, and less of it outdoors. Between 1981 and 1997 childrens free playtime dropped by an estimated 25%, and this change appears to be driven by increases in the amount of time children spend in structured activities.2 Within childrens unstructured time, there are sedentary and passive activities such as watching television, using the computer, and playing videogames that compete with active play. For example, compared with preschool children who watch less than 2 hours of television a day, those who watch 2 hours or more spend an average of 30 minutes less time each day playing outside.3

We aim to demonstrate why play, and particularly unstructured outdoor play, needs to be restored to the lives of children.

Authors:Hillary L. Burdette, MD, MS; Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH

Source: Archives of Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Vol 159, No. 1, Jan 2005
Date: January 1 2005

One of Every Five Children Suffers From Hunger in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru
To be poor and indigenous and live in marginal sectors on city edges or in
rural zones in the sierra and the altiplano is an almost certain recipe for
hunger in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. In the Andean subregion, one of every five children suffers from chronic malnutrition (low height for age between 0-5 years), according to a study presented by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in Quito, Ecuador. Hambre y desigualdad en los pases andinos (Hunger and Inequality in Andean Countries) reveals that conditions have worsened in recent years. Vulnerable groups live in areas with little access to services such as drinking water and sewage treatment.
Date: December 21 2004

The State of the World's Children: Childhood under threat
Detail: LONDON, 9 DECEMBER 2004 Despite the near universal embrace of standards for protecting childhood, a new UNICEF report shows that more than half the worlds children are suffering extreme deprivations from poverty, war and HIV/AIDS, conditions that are effectively denying children a childhood and holding back the development of nations.

Launching her 10th annual report on The State of the Worlds Children, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said more than 1 billion children are denied the healthy and protected upbringing promised by 1989s Convention on the Rights of the Child the worlds most widely adopted human rights treaty. The report stresses that the failure by governments to live up to the Conventions standards causes permanent damage to children and in turn blocks progress toward human rights and economic advancement.

Too many governments are making informed, deliberate choices that actually hurt childhood, Bellamy said in launching the report at the London School of Economics. Poverty doesnt come from nowhere; war doesnt emerge from nothing; AIDS doesnt spread by choice of its own. These are our choices.

When half the worlds children are growing up hungry and unhealthy, when schools have become targets and whole villages are being emptied by AIDS, weve failed to deliver on the promise of childhood, Bellamy said.

The report entitled Childhood Under Threat examines three of the most widespread and devastating factors threatening childhood today: HIV/AIDS, conflict, and poverty.

Seven deadly deprivations

The report argues that children experience poverty differently from adults and that traditional income or consumption measurements do not capture how poverty actually impacts on childhood. It instead offers an analysis of the seven basic deprivations that children do feel and which powerfully impact on their futures. Working with researchers at the London School of Economics and Bristol University, UNICEF concluded that more than half the children in the developing world are severely deprived of one or more of the goods and services essential to childhood.

640 million children do not have adequate shelter
500 million children have no access to sanitation
400 million children do not have access to safe water
300 million children lack access to information (TV, radio or newspapers)
270 million children have no access to health care services
140 million children, the majority of them girls, have never been to school
90 million children are severely food deprived
Even more disturbing is the fact that at least 700 million children suffer from at least two or more of the deprivations, the report states.

The report also makes clear that poverty is not exclusive to developing countries. In 11 of 15 industrialized nations for which comparable data are available, the proportion of children living in low-income households during the last decade has risen.

A growing war on childhood

Along with poor governance, extreme poverty is also among the central elements in the emergence of conflict, especially within countries, as armed factions vie for ill-managed national resources. The report notes that 55 of 59 armed conflicts that took place between 1990 and 2003 involved war within, rather than between, countries.

The impact on children has been high: Nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in war since 1990 have been children, according to the report. And children are no longer immune from being singled out as targets, a trend underscored by the September 2004 attack on schoolchildren in Beslan, Russian Federation.

The report also outlines where the world stands on a ten-point agenda to protect children from conflict, first enunciated by UNICEF in 1995. It examines trends in child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, war crimes against children, and the damage caused by sanctions, among other issues, and finds that although some progress has been made it has been far from sufficient to ameliorate the impact of war on childrens lives.

For example, hundreds of thousands of children are still recruited or abducted as soldiers, suffer sexual violence, are victims of landmines, are forced to witness violence and killing and are often orphaned by violence. In the 1990s, around 20 million children were forced by conflict to leave their homes.

Conflict also has a catastrophic impact on overall health conditions. In a typical five-year war, the under-five mortality rate increases by 13 percent, the report states.

And with conflict aggravating existing poverty, the report emphasizes the need for greater global attention and investment in post-conflict situations, to ensure a steady and stable transition to development.

When adults keep dying

The impact of HIV/AIDS on children is seen most dramatically in the wave of AIDS orphans that has now grown to 15 million worldwide.

The death of a parent pervades every aspect of a childs life, the report finds, from emotional well-being to physical security, mental development and overall health. But children suffer the pernicious effects of HIV/AIDS long before they are orphaned. Because of the financial pressures created by a caregivers illness, many children whose families are affected by HIV/AIDS, especially girls, are forced to drop out of school in order to work or care for their families. They face an increased risk of engaging in hazardous labour and of being otherwise exploited.

HIV/AIDS is not only killing parents but is destroying the protective network of adults in childrens lives. Many of the ailing and dying are teachers, health workers and other adults on whom children rely. And because AIDS prevalence grows in condensed pockets, once adults start dying the overall impact on surviving children in a community is devastating.

Because of the time lag between HIV infection and death from AIDS, the crisis will worsen for at least the next decade, even if new infections were to immediately stabilize or begin to fall. The report details the measures that nations must employ to prevent the spread of AIDS, keep adults living with HIV alive, and provide nurturing and care for children already orphaned.

Putting children first

The State of the Worlds Children argues that bridging the gap between the ideal childhood and the reality experienced by half the worlds children is a matter of choice. It requires:

Adopting a human rights-based approach to social and economic development, with a special emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable children.
The adoption of socially responsible policies in all spheres of development that keep children specifically in mind.
Increased investment in children by donors and governments, with national budgets monitored and analyzed from the perspective of their impact on children.
The commitment of individuals, families, businesses and communities to get involved and stay engaged in bettering the lives of children and to use their resources to promote and protect childrens rights.
The approval of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was our global moment of clarity that human progress can only really happen when every child has a healthy and protected childhood, Bellamy said.

But the quality of a childs life depends on decisions made every day in households, communities and in the halls of government. We must make those choices wisely, and with childrens best interests in mind. If we fail to secure childhood, we will fail to reach our larger, global goals for human rights and economic development. As children go, so go nations. Its that simple.

For further information and interviews, please contact:

UNICEF Media, New York: (+1 212) 326-7261
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, (+1 646) 247-2975
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, (+1 917) 660-5307
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva (+41 22) 909-5712
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, New York (+1 212) 326-7452
Source: UNICEF
Date: December 9 2004

BABIZA'S STORY: Launch of a New Book Series by the MOST Programme of UNESCO
Detail: Babizas Story, by Siphelele Ndlovu:

The human race is in the midst of a momentous movement into urban settlements. The United Nations Population Fund predicts that during the next 25 years, almost 95% of the worlds population growth will be in Asian and African cities, and that by 2025, half of Asia and Africa and more than 80% of North America, Latin America, Europe and Australia will live in urban areas. To understand how urbanization is affecting nations youngest citizens, UNESCO initiated the Growing Up in Cities project, which engages children and adolescents in cities around the world in documenting and evaluating their living conditions.

The project has just launched a new book series, By Children For Children Through Books, so that young people can share their stories directly with others their age. The first publication, Babizas Story, shows children contending with the epidemic of AIDS that is sweeping communities in Africa. Babiza (a nick-name), is a nine-year-old boy in a peri-urban area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, whose mother is HIV positive. He tells his familys story forthrightly, sharing his hopes and fears and the strength that he has gained by reaching out to his family, friends and a support group organised by the local hospital. The text is in English and Zulu, with photographs of Babiza and his community and full-colored drawings by the young author himself. Other children have praised the storys authenticity, but older readers as well can learn from Babizas courage and wise counsel. Jill Kruger, Director of the UNESCO-MOST Growing up in Cities project in South Africa and Deputy Director of Social and Behavioural Sciences at HIVAN (Centre for HIV and AIDS Networking) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, captured and edited Babizas narrative.

Notice by Louise Chawla, International Co-ordinator: "Growing up in Cities". For more information about the book series and the Growing Up in Cities project, see
Source: Jill Kruger:
Date: November 5 2004

Arsenic Picked Up from the Playground
Detail: Several nations today ban or severely restrict the use of wood preserved with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), but many existing structures still remain--for example, about 70% of existing U.S. single-family homes and 14% of public playgrounds incorporate CCA-treated wood. In recent years, scientists have studied how arsenic leaches from CCA-treated wood, but they have only inferred exposure levels from measurements of arsenic concentrations in soil and sand near treated wood structures. Elena Kwon of the University of Alberta and colleagues report on direct measurements they made of arsenic on the hands of children playing in playgrounds, some with CCA-treated wood structures and others without [EHP 112:1375-1380]. The team reports that although playing on treated structures increases the amount of arsenic on children's hands, washing the children's hands after playing may be enough to avoid the health risks associated with CCA.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives
Source: c
Date: October 1 2004

Landmark Issue of Participatory Learning and Action
Detail: In August 2004, PLA Notes will publish its 50th issue. It is planning a landmark edition, with contributions from many past guest editors, to give an up-to-date picture of developments in participatory approaches in their particular fields, and to look ahead to the future to ask: what next for participation?

As part of the 50th celebrations, PLA has decided to change its name - from PLA Notes, to Participatory Learning and Action. It has also introduced new subscription rates, notably free subscriptions to OECD community/voluntary groups, and discounts of 50% on bulk institutional subs of 5 or more copies and 30% off full sets of back issues, as well as new three-year subscription rates. See <> for details.

More info about the 50th issue can be found at <>

The new website can be found at: <>

Feedback is welcomed.
Source: Email:
Date: June 15 2004

World Youth Report 2003: The global situation of young people
Detail: The World Youth Report 2003 provides an overview of the global situation of young people. The first 10 chapters focus on the priority areas identified by the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) , adopted by the General Assembly in 1995. The remaining five chapters address some of the newer issues that were later identified as additional priorities for youth and were adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2003.

The UN Programme for Youth has also created "Making Commitments Matter: A toolkit for young people to evaluate national youth policy", a resource that enables young people to evaluate action on the fifteen priority areas for themselves.

For further information, please contact: Franck Kuwonu in the UN Department of Public Information, tel: 212 963 8264, Renata Sivacolundhu, DPI, tel: 212 963 2932, e-mail: or Joop Theunissen,UN-DESA, tel: 212-963-7763, e-mail:;
Source: The report is available electronically or for purchase from UN Publications or 1-800-253-9646.
Date: June 10 2004

Back to school - but not by car please
Detail: North Shore City Council in New Zealand has won Government support for its plans to focus its efforts this year on reducing the number of pupils travelling by car to schools to ease traffic congestion at peak times and improve student safety.

As pupils return to school next week, the council will begin training a recently-recruited team of six co-ordinators who will work directly with local schools to develop customised travel plans in consultation with boards of trustees, principals, parents, students and teachers. The team will begin their work in schools next month.

The Governments pre-Christmas Auckland transport funding package stipulates that the Auckland region should put more effort into non-pricing travel demand management measures such as travel plans.

North Shore City is seen as leading the way in this area and has developed the countrys first manual on how to develop school travel plans based on its pilot work last year. The council has won now funding from a range of agencies for expanding its innovative approach that aims to reduce traffic on arterial roads and improve safety at the school gate.

The Road Safety Trust and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority are helping fund the initiative to develop a model that other cities could implement. The Auckland Regional Council, Infrastructure Auckland and Transfund are also offering support.

Over 40 per cent of peak time travel in the Auckland region is education-related. Research undertaken by the Auckland Regional Council and Infrastructure Auckland last year confirms that while most students currently travel to school by car, around 22 per cent of parents are prepared to consider alternatives.

North Shore Citys works and environment committee chairperson, Joel Cayford, says, Everyone knows how easy it is to drive around our city in the school holidays. We want to develop another 20 school travel plans over the next 12 months. This isnt high tech and costly - its low tech and cost-effective. And it makes a difference.

In partnership with schools, the council has already developed travel plans at three schools - Vauxhall, Browns Bay and Bayswater. The plans are aimed at encouraging more walking, cycling and car pooling. There are already noticeable differences with more students walking and cycling at these schools.

Were leading the way in this area of work and thats good news for ratepayers because we are now winning funding support from Government to expand our activities, he says.

Councillor Cayford says the council has employed a new full-time Travelwise to School co-ordinator, Isy Kennedy, to lead its work with schools. Up until now we have just worked with primary schools but with this new funding support from other agencies we can trial the travel plan approach with intermediate and secondary schools too. We conducted research into school travel in the Westlake/Takapuna area last year and it showed that this kind of initiative is needed, he says.

Well be asking parents and pupils for their views and talking to them about the barriers they see to making different travel choices. Actions in plans could include restricting parking, putting in new pedestrian crossings, installing safe cycle paths, secure bike parking and lockers for children or starting a walking bus.

Well be building on the success of our walking school bus programme and promoting the many benefits. We are continuing to help set up walking school buses at our schools. We now have over 40 operating around the city. Walking and cycling are great exercise. They offer a social, healthy and active way to get to school which help keep kids fit. A lot of children are not getting enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight, he says.

Sharing the responsibility of supervising a walking bus to school means parents can save time transporting their children, points out Councillor Cayford. One day a weeks commitment to the walking school bus roster can free up parents from picking up and dropping off their children the other four days of the week, he says.

Drivers should be watching out for children walking and cycling on our roads at this time of year. Its up to all of us to make it safer for children getting to and from school, says Councillor Cayford.

North Shore City schools operating successful walking school buses are Bayswater, Birkenhead, Browns Bay, Campbells Bay, Devonport, Forrest Hill, Hauraki, Mairangi Bay, Milford, Sherwood, Stanley Bay, Takapuna, Target Road, Vauxhall, St Leos, and Pinehill.

Funding is available from Infrastructure Auckland to assist schools in establishing Walking School Buses across the Auckland region. Each school is eligible for up to $1,500 per walking school bus route. The money can be used for safety vests, signs, wet weather clothing and other materials needed for a successful Walking School Bus.
Source: Contact: Council Member Joel Cayford at
Date: May 1 2004

A Tale of Two Lists: Green and Red

Manjula, Ima and Suresha - all aged below 18 - speak with a clarity about the coming elections that would put an adult to shame. These members of the working children's collective, Bhima Sangha, have an explanation for those who think that they are being a little too precocious: "We may not be old enough to vote, but we have every right to demand things of both voters and candidates. After all, it's a vote for our future."

So, as the election campaign gathers pace, the members of Bhima Sangha are all set for a campaign of a different nature. They are going to campaign among voters, urging them to vote for "good candidates", and not for those who lure them with money or a sachet of arrack. "Do you know that it's children who often fetch these sachets for their parents from party campaigners?" asks Suresha, the president of the Bangalore chapter of the Bhima Sangha. As rag picker, he has seen the seamier side of life at a very young age.

Meanwhile, the Bhima Sangha members are going to take a list of demands to the contestants too. The demands range from, "You should believe in democratic principles" and "You should disclose all your assets with honesty" to "You should not divide people in the name of caste or religion". Those who agree to these demands will go into the Sangha's "green list" and those who don't go into the "red list". These lists will be displayed prominently in the areas where the Bhima Sangha is active. "It is somewhat like the traffic signal. It gives a `go ahead' for those in the green list and a `stop' for those in the red," says Suresha.

But how sure are they that the candidates will honour these demands once elected? "You think we will let them be?" asks Ima, the Bangalore unit secretary. "We will pester them and make sure they do." She is as sure that they will not let any political party use them for their own purposes. "We are aware of these dangers and know how to handle it," she insists.

The larger aim of the Bhima Sangha is to ensure that children, specially working children, play an active role in the democratic process in this country. Manjula, the president of the State committee, says that the initiative is grounded in the success of their initiatives in Kundapur Taluk, Dakshina Kannada District, Karnataka. The Bhima Sangha units in the district work in tandem with the local panchayats. And together, they have been able to do a lot, including getting borewells dug, bridges laid, and schools sanctioned.

Manjula, who has just returned from a UN conference in Geneva on violence against children, says, "Our experience has taught us that change is possible, at least in small ways." The Bhima Sangha's effort has inspired the National Movement of Working Children to think of similar campaigns in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh too, she adds.

Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu
Source: The Hindu:
Date: April 18 2004

Oh, To Be a Kid in Naperville! Census Bureau Reports on Children and their Homes
Detail: If you were a child living in Naperville, Ill., your chances of living with two married parents, a householder in the labor force, in an owned home or above the poverty level were highest or next to highest among children in all cities with at least 100,000 people, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The finding is one of the conclusions of Children and the Households They Live In: 2000 [PDF], a special report on the social and economic characteristics of the nations 72 million children, based on Census 2000 data.

According to rankings of cities of 100,000 or more population, Naperville had only 1 percent of children living in unmarried-partner households, and only 2 percent were not sons or daughters of the householder. Also, the city had one of the lowest poverty rates for children under 18 (2 percent) and the lowest rate of children in homes receiving public assistance
(0.4 percent).

Naperville also was among the cities with the lowest percentage of children living with a householder not in the labor force.

Other highlights for children under 18 in cities with populations of 100,000 or more:

Along with Naperville, other cities with low poverty rates for children included Gilbert, Ariz.; Overland Park, Kan.; Livonia, Mich.; and Plano, Texas all between 3 percent and 5 percent. Nationally, the 1999 poverty rate for children was 17.5 percent.

Following Naperville, cities with the lowest percentage of children living in unmarried-partner households were Irvine, Calif.; Plano, Texas; Provo, Utah; and Livonia, Mich. all around 2 percent. The percentage nationwide was 5.7 percent.

Cities with the lowest percentage of children living with a foreign-born householder were Jackson, Miss.; Flint, Mich.; Birmingham, Ala.; Evansville, Ind.; and Gary, Ind. all between 1 percent and 2 percent. The national rate was 17 percent.

The report includes new information on the 6 percent of children who live in their grandparents households, and the 1-in-3 high school students who were in the labor force. Also, among 15- to 17-year-olds, around 23,000 were spouses of a householder and a similar number were unmarried partners.
The data in the report are based on the sample of households that responded to the Census 2000 long form. Nationally, approximately 1-in-6 housing units were included in the sample. Estimates in the report are subject to sampling and nonsampling error.

Mike Bergman CB04-41
Public Information Office
(301) 763-3030/457-3670 (fax)
(301) 457-1037 (TDD)
Date: March 31 2004

Haiti's Dark Secret: The Restavecs -- Servitude Crosses the Line Between Chores and Child Slavery
Detail: March 27, 2004 -- Haiti, a nation of only eight million people, is home to some 300,000 restavecs - young children who are frequently trafficked from the rural countryside to work as domestic servants in the poverty-stricken nation's urban areas.

Parents send their children away, often to wealthy looking strangers, hoping that they will be fed and educated in exchange for performing domestic work.

As poverty and political turmoil in Haiti increases, human rights observers report that the number of restavecs continues to rise dramatically.

Documentary photographer Gigi Cohen spent a month in Haiti photographing Josimne, a 10-year-old restavec. Cohen's is one of 11 stories that are part of Child Labor and the Global Village: Photography for Social Change, a project of The Tides Center and Julia Dean & Associates.

Cohen's month with Josimne evolved into more than a simple assignment - the two forged a close relationship. Freelance producer Rachel Leventhal asked Cohen if, in addition to her photographic assignment, she would also make recordings for the radio. Using Cohens recordings, she tells Josimne's story.

Josimne lives in a two-room cinderblock house outside of Port-au-Prince. Her parents, who have seven other children, are small farmers in Haiti's remote and mountainous heartland.

Among her other duties, Josimne cares for two younger children, cleans the house, washes dishes, scrubs laundry by hand, runs errands and sells small items from the family's informal store. She has lived this way for over two years, since she was seven. It has been over six months since she has seen her family.

Click here to go to the National Public Radio web site to listen to the story and to find related stories:
Source: National Public Radio:
Date: March 27 2004

Lack of vitamins and minerals impairs child development
Detail: NEW YORK, 24 March 2004 -- As many as a third of the world's people do not meet their physical and intellectual potential because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, according to a report released in New York today by UNICEF and The Micronutrient Initiative.

The report is accompanied by individual Damage Assessment Reports that present the most comprehensive picture to date of the toll being taken by vitamin and mineral deficiency in 80 developing countries.

"Everyone who cares about the future of children and the development of nations should heed this report," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "The overwhelming scope of the problem makes it clear that we must reach out to whole populations and protect them from the devastating consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiency."

Unless action against vitamin and mineral deficiencies moves onto a new level, the developing world's children will remain at risk of never reaching their full potential, the report concludes. And the UN will not achieve its goals of eradicating extreme poverty, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

The severe effects of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as anaemia, cretinism and blindness, have long been known. The report sheds new light on other problems caused by less extreme deficiencies. For example:

Iron deficiency impairs intellectual development in young children and
is lowering national IQs. Vitamin A deficiency compromises the immune systems of approximately 40% of children under five in the developing world, leading to the deaths of 1 million youngsters each year.

Iodine deficiency in pregnancy is causing as many as 20 million babies
a year to be born mentally impaired. "Resources and technology to bring vitamin and mineral deficiencies under control do exist," said Venkatesh Mannar, president of The Micronutrient Initiative. "What we need is the will, the effort and the action to fix this problem."

Methods that have worked in industrialised nations are now so inexpensive and available that they could control vitamin and mineral deficiencies worldwide, Bellamy said.

Chief among them are food fortification, adding essential vitamins and minerals to regularly consumed foods; and supplementation, reaching out to children and women of childbearing age with vitamin and mineral supplements in the form of low-cost tables, capsules and syrups. Also essential are public education and controlling diseases like malaria, measles, diarrhoea, and parasitic infections that inhibit the absorption and utilization of essential vitamins and minerals.

These methods have resulted in significant gains during the past decade. A sustained effort to add iodine to salt consumed by two-thirds of the world's households has protected approximately 70 million newborns a year, in some degree, against mental impairment. And more than 40 developing countries are now reaching two-thirds or more of their young children with at least one high-dose vitamin A capsule every year. The effort to date is estimated to be saving the lives of more than 300,000 young children a year and over time preventing the irreversible blindness of hundreds of thousands more.

The report calls for the food industry to develop, market and distribute low-cost fortified food products and supplements and for governments to create a supportive legislative environment and standards enabling environments for the control of vitamin and mineral deficiency through education and legislation.

"All children have the right to a good start in life," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam, who launched the report in New York during the 31st session of the annual meeting of the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition. "With nearly a third of the planet affected in some way by a problem for which a clear solution exists, anything less than rapid progress is unconscionable."
Source: (with link to full report); For more information: Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel: 212 326 7452 or Erin Trowbridge, UNICEF Media, New York: Tel: 212 326 7172
Date: March 24 2004

Kids on the Move: Child-friendly transportation
Detail: The report "Kids on the move" contains numerous practical suggestions, addresses and documentation references on how to address the issue of child mobility from the point of view of a parent, a school, a transport operator, a local authority and a child itself. It also includes short descriptions of some fifteen initiatives that have been taken at local, national or international level (assemblies for children and young people, safe routes to schools, walking and cycling buses, public transport adoption campaign, bicycle for young female immigrants, bicycle parties such as the Italian Bimbimbici events, car free days, etc.)
Date: February 16 2004

Early Childhood Development Is a Top Concern for US Cities
Detail: A new National League of Cities (NLC) survey shows that city leaders in the U.S. view early childhood development as a top priority. This study was released as part of NLCs Little Kids, Big Plans week, October 19-25, which recognizes that early childhood experiences strongly influence success in school and adulthood.

Some of the key findings of the survey bear out that child care and early learning opportunities stand out as critical needs in Americas cities. One in four (25%) city officials cite child care as one of the most critical program or service needs for children and families in their community. More than one in 10 city officials rank preschool or early childhood education as the most critical need for children and families in their community.

Many cities and towns are also taking steps to promote early childhood development. The NLC survey findings show that despite the fact that early childhood programming has not traditionally been a municipal function, about four in 10 (38%) city officials report dedicating funds to early childhood development. Among larger cities (100,000 or more population), nearly two-thirds report allocating city resources to early childhood development.

More than one in five (20%) cities of all sizes, and more than four in 10 (42%) large cities, are directly involved in providing early childhood education services.

Municipal officials also believe that cities and towns have a clear stake in early childhood success. According to the survey of municipal officials, the reasons cited most often for investing in early childhood development are, children who enter school healthy and ready to learn tend to get better grades and have fewer behavioral problems and children who have positive early experiences are less likely to become juvenile delinquents.

See NLC website for full report.
Source: National League of Cities
Date: October 24 2003

Great Haven for Families, but Don't Bring Children
Detail: LOPATCONG TOWNSHIP, N.J. Everyone agrees that this recently rural township, its sleepy streets fringed by old farms, is a fine place to rear children. And in just a few years, hundreds of children have arrived, each like an invoice addressed to taxpayers.

Now the town faces another expense, the legal defense of a new ordinance that will, in effect, keep down the number of families moving in. The courts will decide whether the restriction, limiting new multifamily housing units to two bedrooms, crosses a fine line between zoning meant to slow galloping development and zoning meant to keep out families with children.

The situation in this town, where enrollment in the town's only elementary school has almost doubled since 1995, illustrates a tension deeply felt in fast-growing areas from here to California as the cost of education turns the social logic of the suburbs upside down. Havens for families are expensive to run, and many of the people who run them are trying to draw childless couples, single people, retirees anybody but children.

"It shows that the economics of the suburbs are out of phase with the original purpose of the suburbs," said Robert Fishman, a professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan and the author of "Bourgeois Utopias" (Basic Books, 1989), a history of suburban growth.

That purpose was to take women and children out of the "morally corrupt environment" of rough industrial cities, Professor Fishman said. "It's still to an amazing degree the cultural assumption that this green, open environment is a better place to raise children."

But the cost of educating children, not a huge concern even in the postwar Levittown decade, now exceeds what their parents' houses yield in taxes. As school costs rise, "people get more desperate about it," said Myron Orfield, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the author of "American Metropolitics: The New Suburban Reality" (Brookings Institution, 2002).

The local governments' first line of defense, Professor Orfield said, is simply to fend off housing. "They aren't providing land for housing, especially apartment buildings. Everyone's zoning for commercial buildings. In California, auto malls are king. In New Jersey, commercial office parks are the most valuable things."

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people with children. But restrictions that have that effect but are meant to accomplish something else are usually lawful.

Some communities that may not want to increase their school-age population can embrace the elderly. That is socially acceptable, and because the federal Fair Housing Act allows senior-citizen developments to prohibit younger residents, it is legally acceptable. The fast-growing western suburbs of Boston, for example, are scrambling for developments with age restrictions and otherwise engaging in what one legislator calls "vasectomy zoning." Naperville, Ill., outside Chicago, is imposing restrictive covenants on some new developments to prohibit sales to people under 55.

Edward J. Blakely, dean of the management school at New School University and co-author of "Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States" (Brookings Institution, 1999), said some communities are limiting times when children can be on streets or putting prohibitions on skateboards and roller skates "because it supposedly does damage to the sidewalks."

In the development corridors of central and northwestern New Jersey, many towns have adopted minimum lot sizes of 5 or 10 acres.

Patrick O'Keefe, the chief executive officer of the New Jersey Builders Association, said, "The idea is both to inflate the price of what will be built and to diminish the amount that will be built."

In the fast-growing Jersey Shore area, Ocean County has attracted scores of developments for retirees. Ventnor, a shore town that sends its high school students to Atlantic City, at a cost of $12,000 a year each, recently started offering owners of apartment buildings $22,000 to convert year-round rentals to seasonal.

Ventnor has set aside $200,000 in incentive money. Mayor Tim Kreischer pointed out that if two high school students ended up elsewhere for four years, "there's half your $200,000 right there."

New Jersey's position is especially painful because local property taxes provide about 55 percent of school costs, while the national average is about 42 percent. Professor Orfield says the problem is worst in "places that are turning into bedroom suburbs, where people are not so affluent and have blinding taxes."

That describes Lopatcong, near Interstate 78 at the state's western edge. As farms gave way to subdivisions of single-family houses, the population rose to 6,991 in 2002 from 5,765 in 2000. Enrollment at the town's elementary school was 503 in 1995 and 755 in 2001, and it is expected to reach 900 this fall, when a new middle school will open.

In a state with the nation's highest property taxes per capita and the highest education costs per pupil, Lopatcong's are comparatively modest. The average property tax bill is about $4,400, half that of many Bergen County and Essex County suburbs. Lopatcong's school cost is $7,696 per pupil, while the state average is nearly $10,000.

But the numbers worry a town with few commercial taxpayers. And when the developer of a half-built condominium and town house complex applied to redesign 72 planned two-bedroom units to add another bedroom, saying that many prospective buyers needed three bedrooms, local officials denied the request. The zoning ordinance governing the 414-unit development limited the total number of bedrooms but not the number per unit, so the Township Council enacted the two-bedroom limit for all new units in the multifamily zone.

The builder's opponents cited, among other things, an estimate that the additional bedrooms would mean 88 additional residents, including 41 children of school age. At a public hearing, several residents worried aloud about school crowding. "So if you have kids, you have got the bottom line, you have got the school tax," one man said. "That is my concern."

The builder, Larken Associates, sued in Superior Court, contending that the town was discriminating against families with children. Larry Gardner, the company's chief executive, said in anger after a Planning Board meeting, "Is children coming into a township a reason not to approve? What they're saying is 41 children are going to cause such a detriment to the community."

Mayor Douglas J. Steinhardt protested that the builder was more interested in maximizing profit than in opportunities for young families. The zoning ordinance, he said, simply aimed to slow the erosion of the town's rural character.

"It's changing the makeup of what's already a high-density development," Mr. Steinhardt said.

He also said the ordinance merely enforced the builder's original agreement with the township to build one- and two-bedroom units, which the town accepted when it approved a higher density than the original zoning permitted.

If local officials hesitate to mention school costs publicly although several in Lopatcong did so in comments to local newspapers it is in part because New Jersey courts have been hostile to such arguments for restrictive zoning.

Even Ventnor, in paying landlords to eliminate year-round rentals, is offering an incentive rather than a restriction, and savings on school costs will be "an auxiliary benefit," the city administrator, Andrew McCrosson, said.

"We addressed it as a quality-of-life issue," Mr. McCrosson said. "So many people packed into such a tight area, you have more police calls, more utility problems, and it exacerbates an already terrible parking problem."

But in private conversations, local officials talk about the staggering expense of educating children.

James W. Hughes, the dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, said a desirable development is now considered to be "one that doesn't have smokestacks and doesn't generate children."

Twenty-five or thirty years ago, Dean Hughes said, industry was anathema to suburbs, so office buildings and housing were seen as desirable. "All of a sudden they realized how expensive schoolchildren are."

In older suburbs the second baby boom has not strained the schools built for their parents, he said, but recently developed towns on the periphery had tiny and often aging schools.

Costs have risen everywhere, he said. "Back in the 1950's and 60's things were so much cheaper. You were building dirt-cheap buildings. You didn't have the bells and whistles. A lot of high schools now have TV studios, swimming pools, computer labs. The schools have to be triple-wired and air conditioned. You have additional staff."

People who got property tax bills for $1,000 or $1,500 when their children were in school now pay $10,000 or $12,000 for the same house, Dean Hughes said.

Professor Orfield said that people on all sides of the issue have a common enemy: the property tax.

A few states, notably Michigan, have shifted substantial educational costs from local governments to the state, easing the competition between local governments to maximize revenue and minimize school populations.

In the suburban counties in New York State, many towns have property taxes at least as high as those in New Jersey, but planners say the band of rapidly developing suburbs is smaller and the issue of school populations less volatile.

Dean Blakely said: "Most of the people who have kids are moving to Jersey now. There's more land, it's cheaper, the transportation is good, and that's where the jobs are anyway."

Connecticut, one of the few states that ranks above New Jersey in its schools' reliance on property taxes, has similar problems, said Richard Porth, the director of the Capital Regional Council of Governments in Hartford. "The way that New Jersey and Connecticut and some other states rely on the property tax to pay for education hurts us in 100 ways," Mr. Porth said.

In New Jersey, the pressures on middle-class towns are aggravated by the state school-aid formula, which provides nearly full financing for the 30 neediest districts and scales back payments to the more affluent, including many suburban districts whose schools are most in demand.

Urban experts and politicians say it is a problem that communities will wrestle with for years.

"You cannot deal with smart growth in an environment where, in the back of people's minds they're saying, 'If we have another unit, will this cost us tens of thousands of dollars in school costs?' " said Edmund O'Brien, the mayor of Metuchen, N.J. "You can't have a town without kids."
Source: By Laura Mansnerus, The New York Times
Date: August 13 2003

Poll: Kids eager to protect Earth
Detail: Have you ever noticed how young zoo visitors widen their eyes as they pass the bears, big cats and elephants? Or how long the line is for a chance to touch the stingrays at the aquarium?

These same children also realize it'll largely be up to them to maintain an environment in which these critters and creatures thrive.

Over the past year, nearly 60,000 youngsters responded to a poll about the condition of the planet that was conducted by Proprietary Media on behalf of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

The poll was offered at zoos, aquariums, schools and at AZA's Web site.

The results show that children believe in volunteerism and they are eager to do their part to ensure animals always have a place on Earth.

"Three main things came out of the poll: One, kids think the environment has some serious problems; two, kids want to help; three, they think they really can make a difference," says Bruce Carr, director of conservation at the AZA.

The challenge now is to take this desire to make things right and parlay it into action. It will work best if an emotional connection between children and conservation is established when the children are young so they'll have a lifelong, vested interest, he says.

Programs at zoos and aquariums aim to act as a bridge to show children that their efforts can - and do - pay off. "We try to connect the animals in the zoo to the real world," Carr says.

Source: By Samantha Critchell, Associated Press
Date: May 27 2003

Special issue of Environment and Urbanization: Building Cities with and for Children and Youth
Detail: A special issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization, published in October 2002, features a diverse set of papers on children and youth in cities around the world.

Articles include two case studies from Brazil: the city of Barra Mansa's child-oriented budgeting process and an awards-based initiative that strengthened the implementation of child rights in the State of Cear. The issue features an overview of child-friendly cities in the Philippines and accounts of girl's and boy's priorities in low income settlements in Johannesberg and among Congolese refugees living in Dar es Salaam. Also included are a review of child-friendly city initiatives around the world, an overview of urban youth in conflict with the law in Africa, and a discussion of how to integrate children and youth into settlement development plans.

The feedback section of the special issue includes papers on the Porto Alegre, Brazil, environmental management system; community-led settlement upgrading in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; surveying and mapping slums in Pune and Sangli; and community participation in waste management in Bamako and Bangalore.

CYE readers may also access the Environment and Urbanization special issue articles through the Reprints of Interest link, under Resources.
Source: Environment & Urbanization, Vol 14, No 2, October 2002
Date: May 21 2003

Nature Can Help Protect Rural Children From Stress
Detail: ITHACA, New York, April 25, 2003 (ENS) - A new study finds that nature in or around the home appears to be a significant factor in protecting the psychological well being of children in rural areas.

The study, published in the latest issue of the journal "Environment and Behavior," analyzes an assessment of the degree of nature in and around the homes of 337 rural children in grades three through five.

"Our study finds that life's stressful events appear not to cause as much psychological distress in children who live in high-nature conditions compared with children who live in low-nature conditions," said Nancy Wells, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis in the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

"And the protective impact of nearby nature is strongest for the most vulnerable children - those experiencing the highest levels of stressful life events," Wells explained.

Wells and Cornell colleague Gary Evans made their assessments by calculating the number of live plants indoors, the amount of nature in the window views and the material of the outdoor yard, such as grass, dirt or concrete.

The researchers used standardized scales to measure stress in the children's lives, parents' reports of their children's stressed behavior and the children's self ratings of psychological well being. The study controlled for socioeconomic status and income.

The data also suggests that more nature appears to be better when it comes to improving children's resilience against stress or adversity, the researchers say.

"By bolstering children's attentional resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress," Wells explained.

Another possible explanation for the protective effect of being close to nature, Wells said, is that green spaces foster social interaction and thereby promote social support.
Source: Environment and Behavior, May 2003 (35:3)
Date: April 25 2003

International Children's Conference on the Environment
Detail: The International Children's Conference on the Environment (ICC) is held after every two years for children between the ages of 10 and 13. It is inspired by the recognition that children need to be active participants in environmental issues, which occurred at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 2004 Children's conference will be held in New London, Connecticut, U.S.A. on 19 to 23 July 2004 which from now henceforth will be called Tunza Children's Conference. The conference is being organised by UNEP and International Coalition for Children and Environment
Date: December 8 2002

Separating children from their rights? How Europe fails child asylum seekers
Detail: The number of children who turn up alone at the entry ports of western Europe is growing. They flee for the same reasons as adult asylum-seekers, but also for reasons specific to children. Although children travelling without their parents are among the most vulnerable, they often have even less protection and access to rights than adults.

A new programme developed by UNHCR and Save the Children seeks to change this situation by promoting best practice throughout Europe. The programme identifies a number of key concerns, including the detention of children at borders, and identifies solutions. (See source for more information)
Date: November 11 2002

How school design creates better students
Detail: The aging of schools across North America, including in Ottawa, provides an opportunity to create "21st-century learning environments" that actually improve students' marks and behaviour, says a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher.

Jeffery Lackney says studies show more windows can improve test scores, smaller schools can foster leadership, carpeting can turn the class clown into a bookworm, and the shape of a hallway can improve social skills and discourage bullying.

"Light, sound, air and temperature can have a very powerful impact on the physiology of a student, affecting their cognitive abilities and their attention," says Mr. Lackney, an assistant professor in the university's department of engineering professional development.

Kathy Lausman, Ottawa-Carleton District's board manager of physical facilities and design and construction services, notes that 75 per cent of the city's existing 153 schools are more than than 20 years old.

The Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board plans to build eight new schools and two additions at a cost of about $50 million over the next 13 years.

Mr. Lackney says the projected boom in school construction offers a chance to employ decades of research by architects, educators and environmental psychologists that point to links between design elements and student achievement.

For example, a 1999 California study, which tracked 21,000 students in three states, found students in classrooms with the most daylight improved 20 per cent faster on math tests and 26 per cent faster on reading tests over one year than students in classrooms with the least daylight.

"Natural light and artificial full-spectrum lighting has been found to minimize mental fatigue as well as reduce hyperactivity in children," says Mr. Lackney.

Air flow is another critical element in design, he says. Reading comprehension declines as room temperature rises above 74F, and addition and subtraction skills decline when a room becomes warmer than 77F.

In so-called "sick buildings" that have poor ventilation and use building materials that emit pollutants, children develop skin rashes and mental fatigue.

The experience with open-concept schools built in the 1960s highlighted the problems with noise; a noisy classroom reduces mental concentration, causes more errors and decreases teaching time. "Your blood pressure literally rises."

Mr. Lackney says schools should have sound-absorbing materials on floors, walls and ceilings; be located away from noisy urban streets, and separate active areas from quiet study areas.

Research has shown smaller schools tend to have a lower incidence of crime and serious student misconduct. They can better address special needs and provide more opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities.

"This gives students a chance to exercise leadership roles," says Mr. Lackney.

"Students are more satisfied and are more successful in employment later in life. Math and verbal test scores are higher."

Elementary schools should have no more than 200-400 students; middle schools should have 400-600 and high schools should have 600-800 students.

"Increased density can induce stress in children, thereby increasing aggressive behaviour and distraction in younger children," he says.

Furthermore, the schools should be broken down into groups of 100 students, and class sizes should be small. Mr. Lackney recommends 12-16 students in elementary classes; 16-20 students in middle school classes and 20-24 students in high school classes.

One study found children in smaller classrooms outperformed those in regular-size classes of 25 students, especially in reading and mathematics test scores.

Mr. Lackney says hallways should have areas for students to gather informally between classes, especially in high school as students develop social skills and need informal places to hang out.

"Corridors become these long scary things which are great for supervision but are not really conducive for learning," he says.

"If you don't have these crush spaces, kids run and scream to their next class.

"There's a perception among the public that money is more important than a child's education," says Mr. Lackney. "We talk about 'let's not build a Taj Mahal.' It was good enough for me, it's good enough for them. But it's not good enough.

"Education is changing in terms of its goals, instructional methods, technology, and curriculum. That's a challenge to designers to think differently about what we can do in these environments to improve them."
Source: The Ottawa Citizen, City Section, pg. D6 (Byline: Maria Cook)
Date: September 28 2002

Could do much better: Britain's treatment of young refugees under the spotlight
Detail: In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of young
unaccompanied asylum-seekers arriving in the UK. Is Britain honouring its
international obligations towards them? What do separated refugee children
think of the kind of welcome they have received? What areas of good practice
should be replicated?
Source: Email request: Further Information: Elli Free, Young Separated Refugees Project, Save the Children, Cambridge, House, Cambridge Grove, London W6 0LE, UK, Tel: +44 (0)20 8741 4054 x124 Fax: +44 (0)20 8741 4505
Date: September 25 2002

Number of poor children in USA rises for the first time in eight years
Detail: For the first time in eight years the number of American children living below the poverty line has increased, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. While the increase is slight, from 11.6 million children in 2000 to 11.7 million in 2001, the total numbers are still huge. The number of poor children living in extreme poverty has increased even more from 4.8 million in 2000 to 5.1 million in 2001.

Source: Children's Defense Fund, Washington, DC. Contact: Patricia Alford Williams, 202-662-3613; The full press release is on
Date: September 24 2002

Nigeria: NES organizes National Youth Environment Tour
Detail: The Nigerian Environmental Society (NES), a non-profit making Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), in collaboration with Tourism and Environmental Development Initiative (TEDI) an NGO that seeks to promote understanding of the environment and global challenges in relation to tourism potential in Nigeria is organising for the first time, Youth Environmental Tour for youths in secondary schools in the country.

According to the Executive Secretary of the society, Ane Leslie Adogame, the three-day tour, which is slated to hold from Wednesday August 7 to Friday 9,, will cover three states namely: Lagos, Ogun and Oyo.

He said that the focus is to bring together youths from various institutions in order to be exposed to outdoor environmental education strategy "that focuses on the total environment (natural and built) and to also emphasise attitudes, values, skills, motivation and participation to solve environmental problems. Adogame pointed out that the objective of the tour include helping students acquire an awareness to the total environment and its problems.

The tour is also aimed being to help the students acquire a set of values and feelings of concern for the environment and the motivation and commitment to participate in environmental maintenance and improvement, so as to enable students acquire a basic understanding of how the outdoor environment function thereby bringing them close to nature.

It will also empower students to improve the quality of their lives and lives of others, encourage networking abilities amongst students and their peers and helping students appreciate other cultural environments and the need for recreational activities and benefits of leisure.

The executive secretary said that experimental learning had shown increased retention, motivation for students in order to encourage group cooperation. He added that there was an increasing impetus to move students beyond awareness to environmental responsible behaviour.

"We feel that the road to an environmentally responsible behaviour is a continuum that begins with environmental awareness, knowledge and ends with students becoming actively dedicated to improving and maintaining environmental quality.

Studies have shown that classroom education programmes that stress only awareness, knowledge and skills do not help students change attitudes and behaviour that have an adverse impact on the environment," he stated.

He pointed out, that the tour will feature among other things talks, lectures, camping, sporting focus group discussion (FGD).

Adogame appealed to all youths in secondary schools from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo who wish to participate in the programme to get in touch with NES at NUJ Light House, 3/5, Adeyemo Alakija, Victoria Island, Lagos for further information.

Source: Africa News
Date: August 7 2002

NPR Program on Street Children
Detail: Sadak Chhap- or "Stamp of the Street"- is a series of four programs about some of the street kids in Mumbai's Byculla district in the 1990's. There are four programs-Ragpicking on Malabar Hill, Sadak Chhap, The Barefoot Doctor and Looting the Rajdhani-in this new series on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.

More texts and photos can be found by clicking on each of the stories. For more information on the about Sadak Chhap go to There, you will find more photos and accounts of some other activities of the Sadak Chhaps of Mumbai.

Date: August 1 2002

Excessive cleanliness linked to child asthma
Detail: HIGH levels of personal hygiene increase the risk of young children having eczema and asthma, according to a new study published today.

Researchers concluded that creating a sterile environment through excessive cleanliness could be harmful to the immune system. The research looked at nearly 11,000 children participating in a long-term study in the Bristol area.

Parents were surveyed about their children's wheezy breath and eczema symptoms up to the age of six months and then between 30 and 42 months.

A simple hygiene score was derived on the frequency of hand washing, bathing and showering, using responses to questionnaires when the children were 15 months old.

The study found that increasing levels of hygiene are associated with wheezing and atopic eczema occurring between 30 and 42 months of age, but not in the first six months after birth. For every increased unit in the hygiene score the likelihood of a child wheezing between the age of 30 and 42 months increased by 4pc. In children under the age of six months, wheezing was partly explained by the high levels of chemical products used to clean the home which can irritate the airways.

But the study found eczema was significantly associated with high hygiene scores, irrespective of the amount of chemicals used.

The authors, led by Dr Andrea Sherriff of Bristol University, conclude, "The importance of hygiene in public health should not be dismissed. "However the creation of a sterile environment through excessive cleanliness may potentially be harmful to the immune system."

The study is featured in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, which is published today by the British Medical Association.

Source: Western Mail
Date: June 27 2002

A World Fit for Children
Detail: The official outcome document approved on Friday, 10 May 2002 by the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children is also available in French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Arabic
Date: May 10 2002

Children Lose In Playground Fight
Detail: Threat of being sued means providers are denying youngsters chance to play risky games. Helen Ward reports

Playgrounds should be rated like ski-runs to protect them from closure, a report from safety experts recommends.

Lawyers seeking compensation for children injured in playgrounds are forcing providers either to shut them or make them tamer, according to Professor David Ball of Middlesex University. Professor Ball, who researches playground safety for the Health and Safety Executive, said children were being driven to search for fun in more dangerous places.

Colour-coding playgrounds like ski-runs would help children, parents, and lawyers, weigh up the risk, he said. "Using a colour-coding or numerical-ranking scheme sends out the message that playgrounds are inherently risky and should be inherently risky because that is where children learn to cope with these physical challenges."

"You could have a sign on entry, like the head of a ski trail which is marked yellow, green or red - you know that if you're a beginner you do not go down the red trail. You need a certain level of ability to cope with different grades.

"Some say that kids are hurting themselves on monkey bars, for example, so people remove them. But these are one of the few challenging things for older kids in playgrounds, so if you take them away there is nothing left for them."

The report said playgrounds present only a modest threat to children. Hospital records from 1998 show 91 per cent of the 41,700 accidents blamed on playground equipment resulted only in cuts, bruises or minor injuries. Around 550 children die in accidents each year but the death rate in playgrounds is one every three or four years.

Tim Gill, director of the Children's Play Council, said: "A lot of providers know they are not really providing exciting and attractive places for children, particularly older children, but are worried about being sued."

Chris Waterman, general secretary of the Society of Education Officers, said: "It is cheaper to close a playground than pay a fine."

The Accident Group is one of the biggest law firms dealing with personal injury claims - it works on a no win, no fee basis. An spokesperson said:

"We strongly believe that if someone has sustained an injury through the negligence of a third party, then that person has a legal right to redress."

Peter Heseltine, playground safety adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, had reservations about Professor Ball's proposal. "It's a nice idea but it won't work in practice. It takes too much responsibility away from parents."

* The Children's Play Council has published a guide this week on how to plan outdoor play areas, including how to involve children and young people in their design. More than Swings and Roundabouts, is priced Pounds 12 for members of the National Children's Bureau and Pounds 15 for non-members. To obtain a copy call 0207 843 6029.
Source: Times Educational Supplement. 'Playgrounds - risks, benefits and choices' report number 426/2002is at
Date: May 10 2002

Children's "Nobel Prize" to be awarded
Detail: The 15th of April, Queen Silvia of Sweden, will present two unique global prizes for the rights of the child: THE WORLDS CHILDRENS PRIZE and THE GLOBAL FRIENDS AWARD, known throughout the world as The Childrens Nobel Prize.

The winner of THE GLOBAL FRIENDS AWARD is elected by tens of thousands of children all over the world in the Global Vote. A jury of 16 children from around the world, with experiences such as child soldiers, street children, debt-slaves and refugees, decides the winner of THE WORLDS CHILDRENS PRIZE.

The total prize money of 500 000 Swedish crowns (50 000 US$)shall be used to fight for childrens rights as decreed in the UN-Convention on the Rights of the Child. The founder of The Childrens Nobel Prize is the Swedish organization The Children s World, which is supported by The Swedish International Development and Aid Agency and has the following organisations as members: Caritas-Sweden,Diakonia,Forum Syd, Church of Sweden Aid, Save the Children Sweden, Swedish Red Cross, Red Cross Youth and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
Date: April 14 2002

Child Rights & the Media: Putting Children in the Right
Detail: This online publication explores the need for journalistic training for
all levels of reporting in regard to the importance of children's rights.
This includes examining how media works, how existing principles of
accountability apply and how media must be free from political and
economical pressures that can limit professionalism and undermine ethical
Source: International Federation of Journalists
Date: January 31 2002

Poverty and Children: lessons of the 90s for least developed countries
Detail: A report from UNICEF looks back at the piecemeal progress of efforts in the 1990s to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of children in the 48 least developed countries (LDCs). It warns that the LDCs will not meet the 2015 international development targets and the lot of the worlds poorest children will remain grim unless additional financing and debt relief clear the way for a massive investment in education, health, water and sanitation.

The 1990s witnessed some successes. The use of oral rehydration therapy, immunisation and breastfeeding increased. Campaigns to eradicate polio and eliminate micronutrient deficiencies in iodine and vitamin A generally succeeded. Countries such as Bangladesh showed how modest increases in social services expenditure (up from 22.6 per cent of the national budget to 25.7 in the decade) can bring major benefits (female literacy increased from 17 to 48 per cent and the under-five mortality rate declined from 144 per 1 000 live births to 89).

However, the report contains some alarming statistics:

In the 1990s, the LDCs with the highest under-five mortality rates made the least progress in getting them down: one in every six children still does not survive to his or her fifth birthday.

Four million under fives in LDCs die each year from preventable causes: 40 per cent of all children are underweight.

LDCs spend 14 per cent of their national budgets on defence, 20-30 per cent on debt servicing and only 5 and 13 per cent on health and education respectively.

LDCs are not keeping up with global efforts to bridge the gender gap in education: just over half of all girls are enrolled in primary school, compared to 81 per cent in other developing countries.

Despite the ravages of AIDS, the average population growth rate in the LDCs is 2.5 per cent a year, nearly double that of developing countries.
Repeated pledges to increase the share of official development assistance (ODA) going to LDCs have not been honoured. In the 1990s, ODA to LDCs declined from 0.08 per cent of the combined GNP of donor countries to 0.05 per cent.

The report also gives evidence of the value of educating girls. Girls educated to primary school level are more likely to marry later, space their pregnancies, have fewer and better nourished children, send their own children to school, understand personal hygiene, dispose of excreta and store water safely.

UNICEF calls for:

The abolition of school user fees, better pay and conditions for teachers and more school construction.

Action to ensure that working children receive a basic education.

The acceleration of debt relief (by the end of 2000, only seven LDCs had actually received any relief): writing off LDC debts would only cost 0.15 per cent of the annual combined GNP of industrialised countries.
Date: December 31 2001

Green school yards: Reconnecting children with nature
Detail: There is a growing movement in American education that seeks to reconnect children with nature. California has vowed to put a garden in each of its 8,000 schools, and has about 1,650 so far. Maryland encourages every new school or renovation project to include natural habitats that are accessible and are incorporated into the curriculum. Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont have similar plans, and North Carolina is financing Moore's "Natural Learning Initiative" (, based at North Carolina State, which at the moment is focused on helping child-care centers build creative outdoor learning environments. A "green" schoolyard not only allows for safe, free play, but can be used as a giant, diverse classroom, where hands-on activities integrate math, science and the language arts.

Source: New York Times (Oct. 7, 1999); full article available on
Date: October 7 1999