Education

Why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox

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Winter is nearing and we see families in search of indoor enrichment programs. Dearest is proud to announce that we have started a partnership with Equinox East 61st Street!

Here are the top three reasons why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox:

  1. Supporting modern parents in New York City
    Modern parents in NYC lead busy lives and are in constant search of quality enrichment and childcare services that support their unique lifestyle. At Equinox, parents are encouraged to pursue their own passions, stay fit, and healthy while fostering a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Dearest is proud to support this, by providing a differentiated program that helps children develop future-ready skills.

  2. Challenging the status quo
    Traditional institutions have fixed schedules, fixed standards, and fixed costs. Andrew Minigan of The Right Question Institute in Education Week says “curiosity often is not fostered in schools, especially those driven by test-based performance standards.” Learning can happen anywhere and everywhere - not just within a classroom setting. It can happen, for an example, at a gym. Equinox’s For Kids Only (FKO) programs are focused on interactive and play-based learning and are dedicated to curating an engaging experience that sparks children’s curiosity. Similarly, at Dearest, we deliver personalized and high-quality early childhood programs to families in NYC in the comfort of their own homes, and fuel children’s creativity.

  3. Letting children guide their learning journey
    Children learn best when experiences are customized based on their interests. Equinox offers diverse programs designed to further children’s development. With sessions pertaining to science, art and design, instructional swim, fashion and design, dance and movement, basketball, soccer, cooking, and languages, children have the opportunity to explore, ask questions, and discover new talents. At Dearest, we have over 300 educators with diverse expertise within the field of early childhood education. Designing the learning experience around each child’s interests is what we are all about!

If you’re curious and want to learn more about Equinox’s Winter and Spring Preschool Alternative and Children’s Enrichment programs, visit their site here.

If you’re a parent interested in in-home private sessions and/or tailored programs for your child, you can reach out to us at hello@dearest.io for more information.

Show Me What YOU Can Do: Process Art vs Product Art

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Imagine that you are walking into a classroom. Close your eyes and visualize the kind of artwork you see. It could be hanging on the wall or in the process of being created. My guess is that your mind’s eye is seeing picturesque, ‘Pinterest-worthy’ art.  Even though perfectly cut out shapes, expertly glued papers, and meticulously colored masterpieces are appealing to look at, I can bet that perfectly cut line is not the work of a 3, 4 or even 5-year old… It is the work of the teacher!  There have been countless times as a teacher and as a School Director, where I have highlighted the importance of process art vs. product art. This may be the first time you’ve heard of these terms, but you will soon be an art expert!

What is Product Art?

Product art is when the main focus of your lesson is the end result.  It is usually based off of a finished copy, with step-by-step instructions outlining how to complete the project. This typically results in an array of work that looks almost identical. For example, a preschool class at my school was studying fairy tales, specifically “The Three Little Pigs.” To make an art connection, the teacher wanted each of them to make a pig.  She showed them her example, and then cut out enough ears, snouts, bodies, and tails for her class. This resulted in 12 perfectly plump, pink piglets. While it was adorable, I had to ask her, what did the students learn? I challenged her to dig a little deeper and answer these questions: did it enhance or improve their fine motor skills? Did it allow them to think creatively? The answer to each question was “no”. While it did show their ability to follow instructions, it is also important to see what children can do with their own creativity and ability.

What is Process Art?

Process art is focused on the journey, not the destination. Process-driven art is based upon each child’s creativity, experience, and natural interests. As a result, no two pieces of art will look alike. For example, I asked my students to make pumpkins to decorate our classroom for fall. That was the only guideline given to them, and they had free range of all supplies. When the project was over I was left with some classic-looking pumpkins; some short, some fat, some tall and skinny! I also had quite a few colorful pumpkins and even a rainbow one! Each pumpkin was unique. I can tell you which work of art belonged to which student because they reflected their individual personalities SO well!  

This approach teaches students that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do art. It sets up all children for success and allows them to develop a personal connection with their work.

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How do I foster the learning through Process Art at home?

  1. Provide a variety of art materials for each project, even non-traditional art supplies.

  2. Don’t make an example for them to copy! I know this may be hard, but children have a deep desire to please. If they see your example, they will try their best to copy it. If they fail to copy it or do it “correctly,” it may leave them feeling frustrated or not good enough. Instead, guide them through the process.

  3. Enjoy the journey! Art isn’t a race! If they can’t finish in the time allotted it’s okay! Highlight the importance of the experience as opposed to rushing to get a finished piece on the wall.

Art aids development in so many ways. It grows their fine and gross motor skills, expands creativity, enhances problem-solving capabilities, and helps them to focus. I know it may be hard to relinquish control, but once you do, your "mini-Picasso's" will create amazing things!

About Ashley:

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Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.

Individualized Learning: Ways to Promote Your Child’s Success

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Individualized instruction is a hot topic in the education world today. Not long ago, this term was only associated with children who require special assistance, or students placed on Individualized Education Plans (IEP), such as those impacted by autism or ADHD. However, parents and educators have come to realize that there’s a flaw in this way of thinking. If you ask a parent if their child has the same interests and strengths as his/her peers, you will get a load of information that highlights the child’s individual strengths, weaknesses, interests, and eccentricities. We see each child as an individual, gifted with a unique set of talents and skills.

As a teacher, I have always felt that schools, both private and public, needed to arrive at the same conclusion that parents have always known: children also need to be educated on an individual basis. Luckily, the educational tides are shifting, and educators are finding the worth in modifying instruction to meet the developmental needs of all children. As the saying goes, “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole!”

So how can we practice this child-centered teaching with our little ones?

  • Get to Know Your Students

Whether you’re a parent or an educator it is important to know what makes each child tick. What do they enjoy or value? What are they capable of doing? What motivates them? All of these questions can be answered by way of a simple assessment, ‘getting-to-know-you’ activity, or my favorite way, sit down and have a conversation with each child. Adults who take the time to interact one-on-one with the child will gain a greater understanding of his/her abilities, learning style, and interests.

  • Create Opportunities for Learning

A successful educator will build on a child’s interests to create a love for learning regardless of ability. I really want to stress finding out what interests and motivates them, because that is the key to success. If they love dragons, but dislike reading, introduce books that have dragon characters or themes! It may seem like such a simple idea, but it will create a stronger relationship with the student. Having someone acknowledge their unique interests means the world to them!

  • Monitor Children’s Progress
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Taking note of their individual progress not only provides a basis to celebrate success, but it also informs your teacher’s instructional approach. It is important to create a way to assess their progress. I find that a non-formal assessment, such as observation, works the best in identifying their growth. Not every student is a good test taker, so formal assessments do not work for every child. Working one-on-one or in small groups will give you a window into their thought process, what areas they have mastered, or areas that still need to be developed. An effective educator will then use this information to modify their instructional approach, which will then help them decide when to introduce new content, or increase support for a difficult skill. Ultimately, it will allow you to meet the varying needs of ALL children.

  • Celebrate Every Success

This is the most important thing! At the end of the day as parents and educators, we are preparing these little people to do big things! It is important to keep in mind that success varies among children and comes in different forms. Whether it's tying their shoes, reading a sight word, or writing their name, it truly is unique for every child. Celebrating every success, no matter how trivial, encourages them to persevere through difficulties and creates a positive and uplifting learning environment.

My biggest successes as an educator came when I relaxed, saw each child for who they were, and threw away any preconceived notion of how school should “look.” I instead focused my energy on creating a diverse learning environment that was tailor made for each student. As a result, we are in a much more joyous and productive place.  I encourage everyone to slow down, get on their level, and have a conversation. The results will astound you!

About Ashley:

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Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.

Dearest After-School Series: BLUE at Speyer Legacy School

Dearest After-School Series delivers an insider’s scoop on after-school programs at top schools in Manhattan. We are exploring these programs in detail to provide you with the information you need to know to make the best decision for your child. This week, we are putting the spotlight on Speyer Legacy School for intellectually accelerated students. Recently, we talked to Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about all things “BLUE” (the after-school program for Grades K-4), including a new program launching this fall.

Speyer Legacy School is a private school that caters to advanced learners in grades K-8. They follow a student-faculty led approach to inspire and encourage a passion for learning and questioning within each of its students.

With that in mind, they have designed an after-school program for Grades K-4 called BLUE, which stands for Build-Learn-Understand-Explore. Students are given the opportunity to pursue their passions while trying new things. To get a closer look at this program, we had a chance to speak with Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about what goes on beyond the regular hours at Speyer.

Each 75-minute class in the BLUE program aims to serve as an “exploratory time” for your child after school. At the beginning of the semester, students can choose from a variety of classes that include athletics, performing arts, visual arts, chess, reading, writing, building and innovation, and self-expression. They have the opportunity to switch classes during the first week if they feel like it's not the right fit (and if it isn't already full). Although some are restricted to certain grades, such as basketball (for 2nd to 4th graders), the school strives to create a balance between the variety of classes built for different grades.

According to Ms. Balter, the most popular choices for the lower school are soccer, chess, musical theater, fencing, and math, some of which have waitlists. Depending on the interests of the children, classes such as magic, creative drama, and painting extravaganza, are also offered. One of the new offerings is a recycling art class that combines the concepts of art and science. It develops their creativity and resourcefulness through making masterpieces out of recycled materials.

A highlight of the program is the "Makers’ Lab," which promotes innovation. The younger learners start with simple design challenges and use the materials made available to them. When students reach 3rd grade, they get to work on more complex projects involving robotics and coding.

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A child enrolled in the program begins class at 3:30 pm from Monday to Thursday. There is a total of 14 to 17 sessions per semester depending on the school calendar, costing $40-$50 per session. As Speyer maintains a 6:1, student to teacher ratio, the slots are limited -on a first-come-first-serve basis. Speyer parents can register their child(ren) online before each semester.

Behind the BLUE program’s success is their community of educators, who willingly share their time and talent with students. Teaching these classes provides an avenue for them to pursue passions outside of a formal class setting. The school only looks into third party companies if a subject requires a certain level of specialization, such as fencing.

 Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school.

Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school.

Speyer also values the interdependent relationships they build with the parents. The goal is to support them in any way they can, even in terms of childcare. That led to the creation of an extended hours after-school program called EA Jumpstart, piloting this school year. It runs from 4:45-5:45 Mondays through Thursdays and from 3:30-5:45 on Fridays. The cost (including snacks) ranges from $25 per day for the Monday-Thursday sessions to $55 for Friday sessions. A teacher from the faculty supervises and fosters a ‘study hall’ environment for the students to work independently.

After years of working with the school, Ms. Balter believes that overseeing the lower school program, together with the after-school program, works to her advantage as she gets to know the students on a more personal level. With accelerated students, it’s important to help them reach beyond their intellectual potential while supporting their learning in an environment that is collaborative, exciting, and fun.

Getting Ready for Preschool!

Starting preschool is a big (and exciting!) step for your little one. Whether or not it's your child’s first time away from home, as parents, we play an essential role in preparing them for this next phase. Here are a few tips on how to ease the transition for you and your child:

Organize play dates:

Your little one will soon be spending time with many other children and playdates is a great way to mimic a preschool environment. It will teach him to share attention, be a sport, and wait for his turn. Ask the teacher for a list of students who will be in the same class as your little one so you can arrange playdates with them or, find a local play group! Dearest works with the families in Manhattan, so contact us for introductions to like-minded families near you. 

Introduce routines and schedules:

Schedules and routines show consistency to help them adjust to the structure of a school setting. According to Rebecca Palacios, Ph.D., a Senior Curriculum Advisor for Age of Learning, Inc., "children learn best when routines and daily schedules are established. Routines provide opportunities to learn about order, sequencing, and concepts of time. Established routines make for smoother transitions and help children to prepare mentally for the day ahead while providing frameworks in which creative learning can occur.” Morning and night routines, that can include singing a song, reading a book, or "tucking in,” will also give them a sense of belongingness and reassurance. 

Assign simple chores: 

Whether it’s clearing their plates from the table, picking up toys, or dressing up, these simple tasks give them a chance to act responsibly. You will be surprised how much independence your child develops once he/she starts preschool. Aside from developing self-help skills, chores can help tune motor skills. Additionally, you can do arts and crafts activities such as, modeling clay, coloring, or cutting with scissors, for dexterity and improving hand strength. It will provide practice for proper hand placement and future handwriting demands. 

Practice language skills:

Take every opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary and practice communicating what he/she would need or like to do. Ask questions and encourage them to do the same to reinforce an inquisitive nature. The better they get at self-expression, the more confidence they build to interact with others. Reading every day with your child is another great way to strengthen language skills. It even opens them up to imaginative experiences which are vital in promoting innovation and creativity.

visit THE SCHOOL WITH YOUR CHILD:

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If you haven't visited the school with your child already, ask when you can visit the school with your child or, find out if they have a visiting day or orientation. It gives you a chance to talk with teachers and have your questions answered. It will also be beneficial for your child to meet them, so he sees a friendly face on the first day. Tour the school, show his/her classroom, and maybe even play on the school playground. Experiencing the preschool with you present and gaining familiarity with a new setting can help increase your child’s comfort with this big adjustment. 

As much as we want to make this transition as easy as 1-2-3, there’s no need to over prepare. If you make it seem like it’s such a big deal, your child may end up being more worried than excited. Preschool is a time for growth. It’s about exploring things, meeting new friends, and making this whole experience as fun as possible for your little one! 

Intelligence can be developed- how we can promote Growth Mindset.

This week, we tackle the subject of the "growth mindset" - the belief that intelligence can be developed.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor and a household name in education, has taught us through her research that with a growth mindset, children can get smarter through hard work. It is contrasted with a fixed mindset: the belief that intelligence is a fixed trait that is set in stone at birth.

According to Dweck, it’s important to promote growth mindset - an attitude that allows for possibilities and promotes progress and problem-solving. By teaching them that they can try new things, learn new things and that their brains can change and grow, we show them the right attitude for life-long learning. So, as parents, what can we do to help them develop a growth mindset? 

Dweck suggests some phrases that we can use to foster a “growth mindset:”

Praise a child’s progress and strategies, rather than the effort alone. 

  • "Wow, you really practiced that, and look how you've improved." "See, you studied more and your grade on this test is higher." "You tried different strategies and you figured out how to solve the problem." "You stuck to this and now you really understand it.”

Focus on what was accomplished by the child, rather than telling them to try harder. 

  • "Let's look at what you've done," "Let's look at what your understanding is," or "Let's look at what strategies you've used, and let's figure out together what we should try next.”

Instead of “I can’t,” introduce them to the power of “yet.” 

  • “I can’t do this.. yet,” "This doesn’t work…yet,” "I don’t know how to….yet,” "I’m not good at the…yet"

Based on our research and suggestions from our educators, we have compiled great books that can introduce “growth mindset” to children. 

Here are our top picks: 

Play and Read in NYC this Summer!

Sun’s out, which also means the kids come out to play! Did you know that New York City parks offer a ton of reading events during the summer? There’s no better way to spend your time under the sun than with interactive storytelling, sing-alongs, and great views! 

Here is a list of weekly events for you and your kids to enjoy. 

Storytelling in the Park

When: Saturdays, 11am-12pm
What: An annual Summer tradition, now in its 61st season. Gather at the famous statue for stories from a different story teller (or two, or more…). With folk stories, fairy tales, mythological fables, and more at this Central Park landmark. Come rain or shine. (For ages 3 and older)
Where: Central Park, Hans Christian Andersen Statue; 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue entrance Upper East Side, NY 10021
Website: storytelling-nyc.org

Fun in the Sun Summer Reading at NYPL Mulberry Street SOHO

When: Mondays, 11:30am (through July 24)
What: Music for Aardvarks sing songs about the summer. From the beach to ice cream, summer classics, and more. (For ages 0-5.)
Where: 10 Jersey St. SoHo, NY 10012
Website: nypl.org

Madison Square Kids Storytime

When: Wednesdays, 10am (through August 23)
What: Make your imagination run wild with exciting tales about art and nature! Every week features a different story teller who will transport you to another place and time. (For ages 0-8)
Where: Madison Square Park, Cherry Lawn - Madison Avenue and 23rd Street Flatiron District, NY 10010
Website: madisonsquarepark.org

Reading Room at Bryant Park

When: Saturdays, 12-1pm (through August 19)
What: Spend Saturday afternoons with your favorite literary characters! This program features storytelling, magic shows, and musical performances, too. (For ages 0-10)
Where: Bryant Park - 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Midtown, NY 10018
Website: bryantpark.org

Storytime at the Battery

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30am (through August 17)
What: Enjoy an hour-long of storytelling followed by hands-on activities. (For ages 3-8)
Where: The Battery Urban Farm, Battery Park - Broadway and State Street
Battery Park, NY 10004
Website: thebattery.org

Summer Reading Storytime at Brooklyn Bridge Park

When: Wednesdays, 11am (through August 2)
What: Brooklyn Heights librarians will read stories from their summer reading list and more! Listen to fun stories and sing songs, while enjoying the view of the Brooklyn Bridge! (For ages 0-5)
Where: Granite Terrace behind Pier 3, Furman Street
Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201
Website: brooklynbridgepark.org

Do you know what’s going on in the mind of a child?

We all consider our children precious, and equally so their development and progression as people. But as parents do we really understand what’s happening, at a scientific level, within the minds of our children?

Take for example one statistic: that scientists now know that around 1 million neural connections are formed every second in the developing mind of a child. This extraordinary level of brain development only occurs once in the lifetime of humans – during early childhood. Not many people appreciate the true marvel at which young brains develop.

This flurry of brain activity is characteristic of the broader cycle that occurs in the development of children. The most important thing to understand is that the brain is built up over time and because of this, experiences early on in a child’s life change the architecture of the brain and impact how it adapts and responds later in life. Like a building with a sturdy foundation, well-developed experiences early in life gives a good basis for learning later in life. But the opposite is also true: a poor foundation in a child’s early development can mean hardship for a child trying to build out their skills later in life.

As research at the Harvard Center for the Developing Child explains: neural connections grow as children get older (reaching up to 1 million new connections a second). But at a certain point in early childhood, the number of neural connections peaks and then declines. The process, called pruning, helps the brain specialize its functions along certain neural pathways and become more efficient.

Brain Development over Time (Harvard)

A result of this process is that brain pathways that developed during childhood become entrenched and are difficult to change after they are set in. You may have heard of the phrase ‘brain plasticity’, referring for the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself in response to its environment. Because the brain specializes along these pathways, brain plasticity decreases as children become older. Parents should know that the experiences in the first few years of have an enormous impact in later development.

Ultimately, the most important take away is that the development of a child’s brain is especially important and sets the stage for later life.

     For educational childcare, visit:  www.dearest.io

 

For educational childcare, visit: www.dearest.io

Workshop: Teaching Science

We kicked off the event with a warm welcome by Eiko, founder of Dearest, who was extremely delighted to see the many happy faces of providers at the company's first event.

Maya, our Community Development Manager, then led the introduction on how to use the platform and our educational session guideline to give everyone a better idea and structure of what Dearest is all about!

Adam, Guest Teacher, from NYU, who is also a provider on the platform, started off by taking us through some Teaching Practices and Strategies for STEM Educators

His Ph.D. Research at NYU is based on STEM and Literacy for young children. As an experienced teacher (both General and Special Education), his passion for teaching and learning Science definitely shone through as he took us through some hands-on science activities to do with children. 

The first station revolved around The Phenomena of Inquiry: Why Structures Stand or Fall? Providers got their hands busy by building structures with different materials in various ways. 

The next station explored the Concepts of Floating and Sinking. Adam explained how using different cultural tools and words can stimulate thinking in each child and best practices on teaching. 

The third station was focused on Exploring Light Phenomena as providers learnt how to use a pin-hole camera to teach concepts related to light and creating shadows.

Up next was our STEM Competition! Providers came with a brainstormed STEM Activity with a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card! It was amazing seeing how some providers came prepared not just with activities but props too! Congratulations to Rebecca for winning the prize! 

It was a really close call given the thoughtful educational activities suggested by other providers. This was also a great way for everyone to share ideas to grow and learn from each other. 

To wrap up the event, we handed out goodie bags - with activity inspiration and some handy materials to use during sessions.

Before we listed those activities however, we made sure we could do it too. So we experimented, tried and failed and put those that succeeded on display!

We hope everyone that attended walked away with great ideas and inspiration to teach and we just wanted to thank all of our providers and people who contributed to making this event a success. 

We can't wait to share with everyone more about future workshops that are currently in the pipeline. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook to stay tuned for updates!

6 Fun Activities You Can Do with Your Child for Earth Hour

Every day we sit in well-lit architectures, stare at electronic screens, or breath in and out artificially conditioned air. Don’t you just miss the natural light -- or even natural darkness -- once in a while? If so, you’d probably want to join the Earth Hour this year, which is coming up on March 25, 8:30 p.m.

Organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Earth Hour is a global movement for saving energy to protect the planet. This annual event encourages individuals, households, and businesses to turn off their lights for an hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in one day in late March, to raise awareness of preventing climate change.

If you’re staying at home with your children, Earth Hour is an excellent opportunity to tell them a bit about environmentally-conscious lifestyles, as well as to have a fun family time! Dearest has compiled a list of inspirations on what you can do during Earth Hour this year.

Camp outside or sit in the balcony, and gaze at the stars.

You may know what Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night looks like at MoMA, but not the night sky right above you each day. Put aside your work and daily chores for a bit, and lie down with your children in the balcony -- or in a camp outside if possible -- to enjoy the darkness, the spring breezes, and the stars. And if the weather is nice, maybe you can even see the milky way and the constellations. Are you feeling that awe of nature?

Play hide-and-seek.

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Hide-and-seek is exciting, but what's more exciting is hide-and-seek in the dark. Without clear sight, you and your children would need to listen (and even smell) to find one another. Make sure you’re in a safe room with enough space to move around!

Hold a family poetry recitation contest.

“The dark night gave me dark eyes, but I use them to seek the light.” Sounds good? Maybe your child turns out to be an even more talented poet. Darkness is often inspiring, and you as a parent can be inspiring as well by giving your child the opportunity to start writing and imagining. Dearest also features quite a few providers that have creative and literary specialties, and they are always ready to help you achieve that.

Play board games with candle light.

Board games are always a good pastime, and candle light creates the dramatic environment where you and your children can ruminate on your king, queen, knights, and bishops in a chess game. In fact, board games such as chess greatly stimulates children’s intellectual development. What’s more, if your kids are too young to play chess, we actually have a stress-free way for you to teach them how to play.

Look at old picture albums and tell stories.

Candle light also goes well with a bit of nostalgia. Remember when you were a child? Share your stories with your kids by flipping through old picture albums; your children would definitely appreciate it to get to know you better.

Meditate or practice mindfulness.

Last but not the least, one hour with lights turned off is a perfect time to practice meditation and mindfulness! Darkness is very powerful in encouraging introspection. Take a deep breath, and think quietly with your loved ones. Not sure if you’re meditating in the right way? No worries, you are always welcomed to join our educators’ event in a few days, where you can learn all about mindfulness and child education!

That's it! We hope you have a wonderful time with your little ones during this year's Earth Hour. If you have other fun activities, make sure to tell us and other parents about it! After all, community of caring and loving parents is a cornerstone for giving our children a bright future.